“I want to know how to prioritise and manage my debt.”

Being in debt when your finances are unstable is particularly stressful.

 

If you think your cash-flow may be disrupted, it will help to plan ahead so you can continue to make good on your regular repayments, such as a property loan, car loan, insurance premiums, and credit card bills.

Tip

To manage debt, it helps to have a clear idea of all the loans you have. List down all your loans with the following details:

• Total amount owed (including late payment charges)

• Interest payable

• Whether any legal action has been taken

 

Plan which loan to pay off first:

 

• Start with the loans that incur the highest interest rates (usually credit card bill) or those which are overdue. This will prevent late payment and interest charges from accumulating.

 

Use our calculator to estimate your monthly repayments and how long it will take to clear your debt.

If you are already behind on some payments, acting fast is important as interest charges can snowball. Prioritise repaying debts with the highest interest rates first.

 

Pay credit card bills in full and on time

Remember that your credit card is intended for short-term payments. It is a form of borrowing. It should not be used as a long-term credit facility.

 

If you do not settle your credit card bill in full, interest is charged on a daily basis for the outstanding amount.

 

Any new purchases you make on the card will also incur interest.

 

So, if you are facing issues paying your credit card bills, approach your bank as early as possible. The bank may be able to work out other repayment options, such as lower-interest term loans or a debt repayment plan, where you can repay your debt instalments.

Note

Credit card bills usually incur the highest interest (26-29% p.a.) among your loans. If you have suffered a loss of 25% or more of your monthly income after 1 Feb 2020 and are at risk of accumulating substantial debt on your outstanding balances, you can apply to your lenders to convert these to lower interest term loans (capped at 8% p.a.) before 30 September 2021. The term of the converted loan can be up to five years.

Quote “Special Financial Relief Programme (Unsecured)” to your bank when requesting for this assistance.

If you are on a term loan and continue to face difficulties repaying, ask your bank about restructuring plans, which can ease your cashflow burden.

Take note: The rule of thumb is to continue paying off your loans, unless you really cannot afford to. This is to avoid snowballing of interest and accumulation of debt that results from rolling over your outstanding balances
.

 

If you really have to take a loan…

Before you take a personal loan, consider alternatives such as financial assistance schemes offered by various government agencies or social service agencies.

 

If you really must take a loan, take note of these tips:

 

  • Borrow only what you need and can repay. Understand the details of the payment plan (e.g. how much interest you need to pay and how long it will take to clear the loan). Be mindful that if you cannot meet the contractual terms of the loan, it may result in more interest and fees, which will lead to further financial strain.

  • Do not take up loan offers through SMS or messaging apps like WhatsApp. They are either scams or unlicensed moneylenders – licensed moneylenders are not allowed to make any cold calls or send any unsolicited text messages to advertise their services. Refer to the Ministry of Law’s website for a list of licensed moneylenders.

 

Tip

Use our calculator to estimate your monthly repayments and how long it will take to clear your debt.

Note

There are other avenues to get help beyond the relief schemes and payouts that the Government has announced.

 

The Courage Fund has a scheme for lower-income households affected by COVID-19. (Apply here).

 

You may approach a social service office near you. You can find a full list of government payouts that you may be eligible for here.

Seek help for debt matters early if you feel overwhelmed

Do not borrow from other sources to pay off your debt, without first comparing the interest charges and fees.

 

Discuss your options with your lender(s) early to find out if there is any form of assistance that may be useful to ease your financial difficulties – one option you have is to ask to extend the tenure of your loan, such as those for renovation or study loans. The longer tenure will reduce monthly instalments but take note that it means that when you finish repaying, you would have paid a higher amount in total interest.

 

 

 

 

Check with your bank for more details; quote “ESS - Renovation loan relief/ Student loan relief”. You may also refer to MAS’ website for more information.

 

Alternatively, approach Credit Counselling Singapore (CCS) for assistance with restructuring your loans. CCS assists individuals to address their unsecured debts problems (e.g. debts from banks, credit card companies, and licensed moneylenders).

 

You can contact CCS via the following modes:

 

Debt Consolidation Plan could be an option if your unsecured debt is more than 12 times your monthly income, among other criteria.

Note

If you are already on a Debt Consolidation Plan (DCP) but cannot repay, one option you have is to extend your loan tenure - by up to 5 years. Application is currently open and will end on 30 September 2021.

Check with your bank for more details; quote "SFRP-DCP loan tenure extension". You may also refer to MAS' website for more information.

Find out more

 

Download : Managing debt during COVID-19

 

 

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OTHER ARTICLES IN OUR "FINANCIAL RESILIENCE" SERIES:

 

“My finances have taken a hit. How should I manage?”

 

“I have issues paying my mortgage.”

 

“I have problems paying my insurance premiums.”

 

“My income has been affected because of COVID-19. What financial support is there for me?”

 

“Where should I go to look for a job or upskill myself?”

 

“Should I invest now?”

 

“How do I protect myself from scams?”

 

 

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