Rising interest rates and returns for Singapore Savings Bonds (SSB): Is it still worth investing in?

PHOTO: Unsplash

What is SSB?

The Singapore Savings Bond (SSB) is a bond fully backed by the Singapore Government. No capital loss will be incurred and you can always get your investment amounts back.

The SSB is a long-term bond offering step-up interest, meaning that the longer one invests in it, the higher the interest income. It is also flexible, and one can exit the SSB at any time without any penalties.

The SSB has a step-up interest rate system, where the interest rate gets progressively higher for each year of funds staying invested in the bond.

This means that, the longer you remain invested in the SSB, the higher interest rates and average yearly returns you will enjoy.

Features of the SSB

1. Very minimal risk

The Singapore Government’s credit rating by Moody’s, S&P, Fitch and R&I are Aaa, AAA, AAA and AAA respectively, which means that the Singapore Government’s investment offerings of SGS bonds, T-bills and Savings Bonds are some of the safest investments to hold, with a very low risk of default, and high creditworthiness.

With near-zero risks of losing your money, the SSB can be a good way for Singaporean investors to diversify their investment portfolios to manage overall risk.

It is also a good investment to hold for more conservative investors with its provision of relatively good returns considering its low risk.

2. High liquidity and flexibility

Investors may wonder what the difference between SSB and fixed deposits are, since both are low in risks. Well, here is where the shining point of the SSB comes through – investors can exit the SSB without any penalty for early redemption!

Unlike fixed deposits where a penalty fee is usually charged for premature withdrawal, the SSB allows investors to extract their funds anytime, with a waiting period of one month.

At the initial stage of investing, there is also no need for you to decide on the intended period and duration you wish to invest for. This gives you an opportunity to use the SSB investments as a sort of rainy-day fund, as the money invested can always be taken out anytime should unforeseen circumstances occur.

3. Ease of investing in SSB

The SSB is also one of the easiest and most accessible investment bonds to invest in. Unlike many other bonds or investment instruments which require you to sign up for accounts on specific trading platforms in order to gain access to certain markets, the application process for SSB is much simpler.

Any individual above the age of 18 is eligible to apply for the SSB. All you need is a local bank account (DBS/POSB, OCBC, UOB) and a CDP (Central Depository) account that is linked to the local bank account. Investors can also invest in the SSB via either cash or SRS.

Simply scroll down for a step-by-step guide on how to start investing in SSB!

4. Low minimum amount

The investment amounts for SSB range from a minimum of $500 to $200,000, and the investment sum should be in multiples of $500. With such a low entry point of $500, the SSB does make for a readily accessible investment opportunity, especially for beginners and conservative investors.

5. Non-transferrable

SSB is non-transferrable and cannot be traded in the open market, traded on the Singapore Exchange or pledged as collateral.

Only in certain situations, such as the death of the bondholder, can the SSB be transferred to the rightful beneficiaries under the bondholder’s will or under the intestacy law.

6. Relatively low interest rates

At an average yearly return of 2.53 per cent for a tenure of 10 years, the SSB may not have the highest interest rates and returns for an investor looking for high capital gains.

However, the return rates have been steadily increasing over the past few years as the economy is bouncing back. An average yearly return of 2.53 per cent is close to the peak in 2018-2019.

Additionally, coupled with its very minimal risk, the SSB’s rate of return could already be seen as rather ideal.

Illustration of SSB June 2022 interest rates

This month’s bond, SBJUN22 GX22060F, which has an Issue Date of June 1, 2022 and a Maturity Date of June 1, 2032, will have an interest rate of 2.71 per cent and an average yearly return of 2.53 per cent, if an investor holds the bond for 10 years.

This is the highest return in the past few years, surpassing even the rates of pre-covid 2019, which signals to investors a healthy recovery of the Singaporean economy.

The below table illustrates the interest per cent for investors who are invested in the SSB for the specified number of years.

Read Also
Global crypto regulation body likely in next year, top official says
Global crypto regulation body likely in next year, top official says

For example, if you have invested a certain amount, say S$1,000, into SSB and redeemed it after one year, the interest on the $1,000 would be 1.43 per cent, and your average return that year would also be 1.43 per cent, meaning that the amount you can get back would be approximately $1,014.30.

This table applies to the SSB with the issue date being June 1, 2022, SBJUN22 GX22060F.

If you are interested in investing into the SSB, and wondering how much returns you can get for your desired investment amount, feel free to navigate to this nifty calculator for easy visualization of your future yearly earnings.

Simply select the month of bond issuance, then input the amount you would like to invest. The calculator returns the yearly payouts depending on the cases where you hold to maturity or make a decision to redeem early.

Alternatives to SSB

How does the SSB compare to other alternatives? Here we have a chart to illustrate some of the key differences between the SSB for June 2022, a Fixed Deposit Account offering one of the highest interest rates and returns, as well as the Singapore Government Securities (SGS).

Features SSB Fixed Deposit (Hong Leong Finance) SGS
Interest Rates 2.71 per cent from year four to year 10 1.33 per cent p.a. Varies
Tenure 10 Years 15 months Two, five, 10, 15, 20 or 30 years
Liquidity Redeem anytime, no penalty Bank charge may be imposed No early redemption
Minimum Deposit Amount $500 $20,000 $1,000
Maximum Deposit Amount $200,000 15 months $3,000,000
Risk Level Low

From the above, we can see that the SSB offers both higher interest rates at 2.71 per cent and a much lower minimum deposit amount, at $500, than the Fixed Deposit Account which has an interest rate of 1.33 per cent and a minimum deposit amount of $20,000.

However, the tenure for the SSB is also much longer, at 10 years, as compared to the tenure for the Fixed Deposit Account which is 15 months.

SGS, similar to SSB, is also a type of government-issued bond issued by the Singapore Government. There are various categories of the SGS, each with different tenures, interest rates and coupon rates. Some key differences between SGS and SSB are as follows:

  1. SGS can be funded by Cash, Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) funds or CPF Investment Scheme (CPFIS) funds, unlike the SSB which does not support funding by CPFIS funds.
  2. SGS is transferable and can be traded on the secondary market – at DBS, OCBC, or UOB branches; or on SGX through securities brokers.
  3. No early redemption of SGS is allowed, unless SGS is sold on the secondary market.

The fixed income investment vehicles as above are all viable options for any investor. Depending on your risk appetite, desired tenure and preference for liquidity, any of the alternatives could be a good addition to your investment portfolio.

Step-by-step guide on investing in SSB

PHOTO: Unsplash

Decided to invest in the SSB but not sure how? We have all the steps and what you need laid out below, so that you can invest in SSB easily and on the go!

Any individual can apply for the SSB. However, you need to be 18 and above in order to have a Central Depository (CDP) account, which is required for the application.

A new SSB is issued on the 1st business day of each month. The minimum amount to invest is $500 and the maximum is $200,000.

There are two simple ways to apply – either via Cash (DBS/POSB, OCBC, UOB ATMs or Internet Banking and OCBC’s mobile banking application) or via Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) by the internet banking portal of your SRS operator.

By Cash

  1. You Will Need: a) A bank account with DBS/POSB, OCBC or UOB. b) An individual CDP Securities account with Direct Crediting Service (DCS) activated.

  2. Apply either via ATMs or Internet Banking Portals a) Log in to your respective bank’s internet banking, ATM, or OCBC’s mobile banking application. Do remember to have your CDP account number with you. b) Once you apply, the amount invested will be deducted from the bank account tied to your ATM card or internet banking account. c) A $2 transaction fee applies for each SSB application request.

Do note that making the SSB application request does not equate to having a guaranteed allotment of the SSB.

  1. SSB Allotment Results a) MAS will allot the latest SSB to the applicants on the 3rd last business day of each month (Allotment Day). You may check the application results on MAS’ website at 3pm on the Allotment Day. b) The SSB will then be issued on the 1st business day of the following month. c) CDP will notify you by mail, of the amount of SSB that has been allotted to you. You may also choose to check your allotment and holdings through the CDP internet service or by calling 6535-7511. d) You can also manage all your SSB holdings on the My Savings Bonds portal.

  2. Refunds for Partially or Non-Filled Applications a) You may not be allotted the full amount you applied for, as there is a possibility that in a particular month, the total SSB application amount exceeds the total SSB amount on offer. b) The excess cash will be refunded by the end of the 2nd last business day of that month. c) Take note that the $2 transaction fee charged by the bank is non-refundable.

  3. Interest Payments a) Interest will be paid into the bank account linked to your CDP account. b) It will be paid out every 6 months, on the 1st business day of each month. c) The cash payments will be reflected in your CDP statement.

By SRS

  1. You Will Need a) An SRS account (you can open an SRS account by visiting one of the three SRS operators (DBS/POSB, OCBC, UOB).

  2. Apply via Internet Banking Portals a) Apply for SSB via the internet banking portal of your SRS operator. b) The SRS funds will be locked or earmarked when you apply. c) There will be a $2 transaction fee charged for each application request.

Take note that application requests cannot be amended and canceled. SSB also cannot be applied for at the bank counters.

  1. SSB Allotment Results a)MAS will allot the latest SSB to the applicants on the 3rd last business day of each month (Allotment Day). You may check the application results on MAS’ website at 3pm on the Allotment Day. b) The SSB will then be issued on the 1st business day of the following month. c) Your SRS operator will notify you by mail, of the amount of SSB that has been allotted to you. You may also choose to check your allotment and holdings with your SRS operator. d) You can also manage all your SSB holdings on the My Savings Bonds portal.

  2. Interest Payments a) Interest will be paid into your SRS account. b) It will be paid out every six months, on the 1st business day of each month. c) The cash payments will be reflected in your SRS statements.

If you are planning to buy in the SSB this month, be sure to take note of the below application and redemption timelines. The closing date for the June 2022 SSB will be at 9pm on May 26, 2022.

How to Redeem If you already have holdings of SSB and are wondering what the process is like for redemption, feel free to refer to the below steps, whether you want to redeem your SSB or hold till maturity.

Read Also
How did the crypto Terra UST and Luna coin crash happen?
How did the crypto Terra UST and Luna coin crash happen?

Hold To Maturity When you have held your SSB for the full term of 10 years, the principal amount and the last interest payment will be credited into your bank account (cash applications) or your SRS account (SRS applications).

No action is needed and there will not be any $2 bank transaction fee charged.

Early Redemption You can redeem your Savings Bonds in any given month before the bond matures, with no penalty for exiting your investment early. Early redemption of SSB before its maturity will not result in any penalty being imposed.

1) If you have made a cash application for your SSB, simply log in to DBS/POSB, OCBC, or UOB internet banking or ATMs, or OCBC’s mobile banking application. 2) If you have made a SRS application, log in to the internet service provided by your SRS operator. 3) Submit the early redemption request by the closing date. You can redeem in multiples of S$500, up to the principal amount. You can redeem more than 1 bond every month.

The Redemption Timeline is as follows, with the important dates highlighted for your attention, should you wish to make an early redemption of your SSB.

Who should invest in the SSB?

Anyone can invest in the SSB, as it undoubtedly offers many benefits for different groups of investors.

Read Also
How this 12-year-old started investing at age 7
How this 12-year-old started investing at age 7

1. Peace of Mind with Low Risk of Losing Money You may be an investor desiring high flexibility and liquidity, especially if you are a retiree. The SSB being an investment bond having nearly no risk would be a great choice for you, lending you peace of mind as it secures your capital and maintains its value.

2. Ability to Access Funds Anytime Deciding where to park your money is never easy. With the SSB offering the option to redeem and access your funds within a month without any penalty, it makes for an ideal rainy day fund for the more conservative investors.

3. Acts as a Source of Risk-Diversification For active investors, allocating some funds to SSB could help you hedge against the volatility and risks associated with stocks and other investment classes.

This article was first published in ValueChampion.