Archive for New Chapter

Christmas 2014 and New Years 2015

Well they say that if you blink you miss it, and this has certainly been the case of 2014, as it has certainly flown by. It has been a bit of a topsy turvy year – quite a bit of highs, but a couple of low moments.

The highlight has to be the bits outside of work, both my continued adventures in and around South East Asia (holiday), and the personal scene (romance). I’ve been fortunate to visit the UK in March this year – visiting my family, friends and ex-colleagues – and it was a great trip… I also decided to do a holiday in Phuket to relax and enjoy a bit of ‘me’ time, I went to Kota Kinabalu with a work colleague – which was quite enjoyable indeed, went to Hanoi on business, enjoyed an amazing adventure with some great friends to Myanmar (Burma) which was something I definitely wanted to do whilst I was in the region, a Bali holiday and then a final trip to Sri Lanka. Wow! What an adventure it has been. But the highlight has to be making the acquaintance with a special lady here in Singapore – she is one amazing lady, a great smile, a great character, great humour, great companion and a great body. This happened in late May 2014, and we have spent some enjoyable weeks and months since then with each other…I really wanted a great companion that I can chat too, have some similar interests and tastes, and more importantly share life’s adventure with…we went to the Bali together and then did a group=trip to Sri Lanka holiday together with 2 others.

The work side of things is pretty much same ol’, same ol’, it has been a bit challenging because of the projects and partnerships that I am leading – I’ve definitely got to really reflect on some of the issues that I directly or indirectly faced during a project – and observed how people dealt with these…I’ve definitely seen some interesting approaches, and personally some which I would say I am not that comfortable with – I have had to provide timely feedback a few times. I am still pushing for my new promotion, and feel that this is getting more tricky here in Singapore, especially when many opportunities dried up over the past few months…but lets see what 2015 has in store – there is always the opportunity to look outside, as I’ve now been in Amex over 11 years now (wow!).

It has been great to see my family twice, when I was in the UK, and around November/December, as both of my parents had the opportunity to visit me in Singapore. This was great fun, and I am so happy to have been able to spend some time with both of them. I am hopeful that I am able to visit the UK again in 2015, so fingers crossed it happens 🙂

I really want to focus on the fun bit next year, and maximise the adventure whilst I continue to broaden my horizons during my Singapore adventure. The future is new, the future is unknown, the future is what you make of it – so lets make it even better than before!

Tax Return – a Nightmare!!

I always knew moving between Countries where there is a different calendar tax-year was going to have some challenges – but I really didn’t know it would create such a nightmare.

I previously came out on my work secondment in the second half of 2011 – and this was called a tax-neutral status between the UK and Singapore – noting that I remained on the UK pay-roll, and simply had to return within 183 days to avoid any tax declarations in Singapore. I obviously adhered to this to prevent any immigration or taxation issues – and I thought it would be smooth to return back to Singapore. What I didn’t realise is that a form submission was not provided to the IRS (Singapore tax Authorities) which meant that they felt I owed the Singapore tax for 2011. I received a letter shortly after my arrival in early 2013, stating that they estimated my overdue tax was approx S$9100. Of course, I knew this was an error – but when they threaten that I can’t leave Singapore until I settle this tax liability, it did frighten me.

Anyway, I had to go through a bit of hoops to close this out – and my employer was very good to supporting me to get HMRC (UK Tax Authorities) to declare that I was a UK resident and paid and settled my taxes in the UK, during the time I was in Singapore. This was sent to the IRS and they accepted this and provided me an exemption declaration – phew. Unfortunately, during this process, the HMRC then felt I had to manually complete a 2011/2012 tax return, as they then felt I had paid too much tax. I have now requested that this gets closed out, as I do feel this is not the case, and I settled the right taxes during 2011/12 in the UK.

Then there was another issue, as I moved out in 1st Jan 2013, the HMRC thought I had to provide a UK tax return for 2012/2013 (which tax year ended in April 2013), because they felt I earned money after leaving my UK employer in the first quarter of 2013. I didn’t, so had to go through another round of hoops to get this closed out by the HMRC. They accepted this, luckily! Phew.

Then the third twist, inadvertently I was entered in the Employer payroll as starting my SG employment on 2nd Jan 2013, and not 1st Jan. This meant that when I received my bonus in April 2014, one day of this was actually taxable in the UK payroll. This also meant that I received one-day pay from the UK too. The bonus has now been subsequently reversed out (although I now need to receive this from the SG payroll), but I also need to retrospectively refund my UK pay, and receive the extra day pay in SG. More importantly, as I have just filed my 2014 tax return (for Jan – Dec 2013), this meant it was missing 1-day pay. Man – this is such a complicated issue, and such a trivial matter can cause a huge problem. Lets hope this last bit gets resolved.

Morale of the story, stay very very close to your tax affairs as a simple admin glitch can cause huge problems later on.

Happy Christmas 2013 and NY Greetings for 2014

Dear all,

This year’s Christmas post is going to focus on my new life in a new a country, something which was on the cards for a while, but only became reality at the beginning of 2013!

This year has been quite a strange year, full of a few ups and downs (then again that is like most years), but as we end 2013, we must consider how fortunate we are and how we must value our life and our love ones.

This time last year, I was getting ready for a new chapter in my life as I prepared for my new job and new life in Singapore. Whilst I had previously spent 6 months here, I w still a bit apprehensive, as I didn’t know when I would return back to the UK for holiday to see my family and friends. At the same time, I was excited upon what 2013 and the future was in store for me, and I wanted to grab this opportunity with both hands and make the most of it.

I started my new life sorting out the logistics of my move – which actually started in early December 2012, so as i started my one-way taxi journey to London Heathrow, I was actually pretty excited. By the time I arrived, I had already got myself booked into a hotel for a couple of weeks, with the aim to find my condominium apartment – the tough part, but with the help of an agent assigned from work, and my mum to support me, I finally managed to get a pretty nice place. It was based on Novena, about 10 minutes to the MRT, and was within my price range. similar to my service apartment in my 2011 secondment, my apartment was split-floor, with living quarters on the lower floor, and sleeping / washing quarters on the top floor.

I started work without much stress, and got straight into it, with a clear head and with the aim to focus on doing well, building upon the work relationships that I had developed during my previous secondment and more important have fun in the process. I started with a couple of strategic projects, one of which launched during the year – called Amex Express Checkout, and another one that continued to plod along. I also took onto 3 partners from a Partner Management relationship role. Three months in, I actually started to build great relationships with the Banks and internal teams. Then a massive shock to the system occurred, and the Company set upon a massive re-structuring and re-engineering exercise, which impacted the very division that I was located in. Luckily for me, I survived the cull, but a number of my friends and colleagues weren’t as lucky – both here in Singapore and the UK. It was a shock to the system, but a bit of a reality check. This once came very close, and the uncertainly stayed around us for a large period of 2013. What was scary was that if I was impacted, I had 3 months to then leave the Country and return back to the UK – which would have made my move the shortest period I would have every envisaged! Luckily, it didn’t come to this, so I managed to clear my mind and focus my mind back into the new team structure and with the new Partner responsibilities. But it was sad to see so many faces leave the organisation – both in Singapore but also in the UK – even people I joined the company with were also impacted 🙁 A real shock to the system indeed.

Anyway, I end the year at work surviving, but there was certainly several months of anxiety and uncertainty, and this caused me quite a bit of stress throughout the majority of the year.

On the life type of thing, well I tried to enjoy life whilst I was here…even amongst this period of uncertainty. I managed to visit my school friends in Taiwan, I did a trip to Tioman island (Malaysia), Krabi (Thailand), Penang (Malaysia) and joined a fun wedding in Langkawi too and finally a trip to Hong Kong for Christmas and NY.

I also socialised well, joining Internations expat group. This was a great way to network and get to know other expats in and around Singapore, and was actually quite good fun. I continued to attend a local pub quiz and also met a few good chums from that, in some cases getting to know some quite a bit too :). I continued to my cycling and fatal football, going weekly to both – but started to wane as I approached the last few months of 2013… I must get back into the routine to really get healthy again.

On the health side of things, I did suffer a worrying eye infection in July, which stressed me of big-time. It made my right eye very red, and blurred my vision. Very scary indeed! But after visiting the Mount Elizabeth Novena Eye Specialist, I took some strong meds and antibiotics and finally got rid of the infection. I just hope it never returns – the real annoyance is that they was no clear cause of the infection. Around this period Singapore suffered a period of Smog from Sumultra in Indonesia. This didn’t help with the eye infection recovery, but I managed to get a few days medical leave rather than walk outside in the smog! On a more positive note, I did a Biometrics Health Screening at work, and the resulting report was largely positive, my cholesterol, BMI and overall well-being was within the ranges, although I was mildly underweight (no real surprise)!!

The Formula One Grand Prix was another highlight, and I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle across the 3 days. I still am amazed how a City can transform into a race circuit, a brilliant show indeed.

Lastly, I was meant to have gone to Boracay in the Philippines in mid-November, but the Typhoon Haiyan struck right at the point we were scheduled to fly in, so the airline cancelled our flight, and we cancelled our holiday. I think this was the right call, seeing the effects reported in the news. I certainly did not want to add to the misery, and I felt valued to respect our lives more than the risk of flying into a natural disaster zone.

I ended celebrating my 10 years with Amex in November (officially I marked it on 1st September 2013). It still feels amazing (or should that be remarkable!) that I managed to enjoy a decade with Amex, after setting myself up for a couple of years tops (don’t they all say that?). I was really keen to get some experience and then start the commute to London, but that didn’t exactly go to plan did it. I ended up having quite a bit of fun at work, doing pretty well, got one promotion, but focused on the hunt for another promotion – which I still remain confident is on the cards. I am not sure how long I am going to remain, but let’s focus on the here and now and see what life brings to the table…especially if I am changing my priorities a bit (more focused on the life bit, rather than work…!!)

The year ended pretty well, work continued to be quite pressurised with one of my projects having some major issues, but I managed to work through them, and we finally saw the light at the need of the tunnel. I then was able to focus on my Christmas and NY break – which once again, deciding to visit my family in HK (with my mum who came out to visit). I was then set in my mind that I needed to focus on my holiday breaks in 2013, ranging from Vietnam, Laos, Burma/Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and of course, a return to the UK :). I better get cracking.

Lastly, I am still keen to settle down in 2014 and finally get around to starting a family, let’s see what happens…sometimes the best things come to those who wait, but I think I am best placed to really maximise this aspect in 2014 🙂

On that note, I wish you all well for the festive season, and I hope 2014 brings much joy and success for the future. Think of the best of the year, and stay close to those who love you… I will raise a Guinness to toast you all over the coming celebrations.

Stay safe and stay happy!!

Best wishes,

Aaron

Biometric Health Screening

On Monday, 25th November, we had a biometric health screening session scheduled for MBFC, so I was keen to do a check-up to see how I was doing – health-wise. I previously had one done in early 2012, so was keen to check whether I was still alive and kicking!

The Biometric screening was basically focused on a few quick checks – your height, your weight, your waist, a quick prick on the finger to check your blood sugars, your blood pressure and then a quick profile check. The great news is that I passed with flying colours.

Having been ill over the weekend prior (I had a stomach bug) I was a bit worried that this could impact my results, but in a way, it could have helped in the sense that my body was clear of any toxins 🙂

My weight was 53.8kg (8stone 6lbs), my height 176.8cm (5feet 10 inches) and 72cm waist. My BMI was 17.21 – which basically means I am slightly underweight, so I need to eat more, do more exercise, have a balance diet and eat protein etc – to puff up a bit.

My blood pressure was okay 126/75mmHg, my total cholesterol was 100mg/dl – so VERY good (and low), my glucose is 5.1 – which is in the health range, although my heart rate was in the low rate of 72bpm, so I definitely need to do more exercise.

Anyway, it’s not all bad – so I am pretty happy with the results!

The second intermediary and advance screening – was also done, and they took some blood for these more detailed tests. The funny thing is the clinic staff advised us that the costs were covered by the employer, but we then received an email later in the morning stating that there was a cost incurred for the intermediary and advance tests – I complained to them stating that we had volunteered our blood, and I felt that there was some miscommunication. Finally, they accepted this error, and they advised us that the checks would be free for those that gave the blood, and they corrected the communication for the other new tests from the afternoon onwards. Yay – more free tests 🙂

I am hoping to do a more thorough health screening to do additional checks and discuss in more details what plans I can deploy to improve my overall health and wellbeing.

My tenth year anniversary at Amex

10 years ago to the day, I embarked on what would become a new life adventure. Never would I have thought of the work style I would have encountered during this period – and fun of course!

I initially joined Amex on an IT Graduate Scheme on 1st September 2003, a scheme that was piloted in 2003 after a period of absence in the Amex Tech (AET) division, due to the dot com crash in 2000. The then CIO, Glen Salow, commented that after an absence of graduates in IT, it was important to bring in and develop new talent into the AET division, and the IT Graduate Scheme was developed with this sole purpose in mind.

Unlike the previous approach which resulted in 1-2 graduates being recruited as part of the wider company wide scheme – which continued, but focused on sales, operations, project management, marketing etc, the IT one focused on IT only (you could have guessed that from the title of the scheme) and with an increase intake of 30 graduates a year, with the intention to convert about 10% as full term employees at the end of the 2 year scheme. They event sponsored a Masters of Science as part of the programme.

I succeeded in completing the graduate scheme and got a distinction in the MSc degree as well…bonus! … and enjoyed the experience in the Project Management field.

After 18 months I managed to secure a permanent position in the GNS business (jumping from Tech to Business) on 1st December, and actually the timing resulted in me attending the Global employee conference in Miami. Wow that was a spot of luck and a great opportunity to meet and great all of my fellow colleagues in the division. I had some really enjoyable experiences, including working on some really high-profile, challenging but enjoyable projects, and did a few business trips as well. In March 2008, I was prompted to a Senior PM in the same team. I continued to do well in my role, including driving consultancy placements in Greece, Latvia and in 2011 in Saudi Arabia – the latter involved providing PM training to the Partner Bank organisation a that was an experience.

I then managed to secure a secondment (as part of a Global Rotation Programme) in the second half of 2011, and did well on this. So much so, I managed to secure an Internal transfer into the JAPA region, based on Singapore starting on 1st January 2013. I continue to do well in my role, helping to implement key initiatives, and take on a more operational role too (which is certainly different to my role in the UK).

And as they say the rest is history. 10 years on, I don’t know what the future will have for me. I have seen many interesting experiences (some good, some ‘different’), and I have managed to bypass several retrenchments over the past decade as well…phew!

Let’s see what happens in the next 10 years…where will I be, what will I be doing? Who knows!! One thing for sure, I will still be having fun and more importantly smiling strong 🙂

Imagine Prepaid Card and Amex SIA KrisFlyer Credit Card

I managed to receive two more credits cards now – the EZ-Link Imagine American Express Prepaid Card – and the American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Gold Credit Card.

I will start to use the Imagine one (which combines a prepaid Amex purse and EZ-Link purse on the card) once my current EZ-Link card has depleted to zero. My KrisFlyer one will be used to help me start to increase my KrisFlyer status and mileage – I just hope I get to the next grouping of the Frequent Flyer Programme. Then again, I tend not to go with SIA or SilkAir (SIA’s low-cost arm) as they are usually very expensive for short-haul trips. Good to have the card anyway, as you get 5k free bonus miles on the first purchase 🙂

Air Conditioning Servicing

Well one of the stipulations of my condo contract, like the vast majority of rentals here in Singapore, is that you have to perform quarterly servicing of the Air Conditioning unit.

The previous tenant provided me their invoices from a company – and this was for $70 each time.  I have two units in my apartment, so that worked out to be $35 for each unit.  I knew this was quite expensive, having asked around.  I was told that I should be able to get it between $15-$20 if I shop wisely.  I also knew that an annual service contract would be cheaper.

Anyway, I wanted a bit of consistency in the paperwork, so first contacted the ‘Atlantic Engineering Air-Conditioning’ company, who previously serviced the units for the previous tenant.  They told me that an annual service would be $200 – which equates to $50 a visit, or $25 a unit.  I still wanted it slightly cheaper, so told them about a comporative price where it was quoted as being $17 a unit for an annual contract.  They couldn’t match this, but rather than the inconvenience of phoning around to get a cheaper quote, I accepted their slightly discounted offer of $180 – or $45 a visit, or $22.50 a unit.  That will do 🙂  I am sure I could have found one slightly cheaper, but alas I’ll be happy with this – a few bucks spare to spend on the Guinness!!.

The first visit was scheduled for 21st March, and they came and serviced the units very efficiently.  In 20-30 minutes it was all done.  Sorted for another quarter and sorted for the next year at least!

Home Insurance – Peace of Mind

Well I finally sorted my home insurance – well that should be really content insurance – for my condo apartment. I was concerned about things like my electronics, and clothes etc – and as such I feel it would be good to have peace in mind.

I decided to go to Expat Insurance – and it only cost me S$154 for the appropriate cover that met my needs (another quote was over S$500 – so I got a bit of a saving, by reducing the cover to what I need). I wasn’t keen to go for a huge cover, just enough to come by personal effects.

Regardless, I just hope that nothing happens whilst I am here!

I just now need to get my Travel Insurance sorted – and possibly consider enhancing my Medical Insurance (that I get from Amex) to cover any additional coverage needs that I should consider…remember there is no National Health service here – so everything costs $$$ – which is totally a culture shock for my head!

Singapore Credit Cards – Amex of Course!

Well after using my DBS Visa Debit card for several weeks of my new life in Singapore, I decided to focus on which credit cards I should get – Amex of course!  I looked around and there was a few on offer.  What makes Singapore quite different is that all credit cards charge membership fees – which is something the UK market is trying to introduce.  It seems to work here in Singapore – although it is diluted when you get the first year free etc.

Anyway, there were a few options available:

DBS Amex Altitude Card

DBS Amex Altitude Card

DBS Altitude Card (Amex) – you get 1.6 miles for every $1 spent and received 10k bonus miles each year. Complimentary DBS Altitude Butler Service – nice touch!

Annual Fee – S$192.60, waived for the first year.

DBS Visa Altitude Card

DBS Visa Signature Altitude Card

DBS Altitude Card (Visa Signature) – you get 1.6 miles for every $1 spent and received 10k bonus miles each year.  Complimentary DBS Altitude Butler Service – again, nice touch! But the Visa card has Priority Pass lounge access for free for the first year, whilst the Amex card doesn’t…hmmm!!

Annual Fee – S$192.60, waived for the first year.

UOB Prvi Miles Amex Card

UOB Prvi Miles Amex Card

UOB Prvi Miles Platinum Amex Card – you get 1.6 miles for every $1 spent locally and 20k bonus miles each year and unlimited airport limo service (VERY tempting).

Annual Fee – $256.80, waived for the first year.

UOB Singtel Platinum Card

UOB Singtel Platinum Card

UOB SingTel Platinum Card – you earn up to 4% SMART$ (UOBs reward programme) on your SingTel bill and an additional rebate of 0.5% on all other spend.

Annual Fee – Free card for life (longing your charge the SingTel bill to the card).

Amex Krisflyer Gold Card

Amex Krisflyer Gold Card

Amex Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Gold Card – 50% + 50% bonus KrisFlyer miles with 5k bonus miles upon the first use of the card.

Annual Fee – $110, waived for the first year.

I ended up getting the DBS Altitude Card (both Amex and Visa), but I am very tempted to get the UOB Prvi Platinum Card (Amex) and the KrisFlyer one, but awaiting to see if there is an acquisition/marketing campaign before I do…I can stagger the sign-ups in any case – to maximise the first year annual free approach 🙂  haha!

 

Old tenant picked-up their furniture

I must admit, it should never be advertised as ‘fully furnished’, as the items that belonged to the previous tenant should not be listed on the property listing.  I think the landlord’s agent wasn’t that truthful, or really understood the definition or the difference – but alas, I gave the feedback 🙂

Well the agreement that I reached with the previous tenant was that they would pick-up their furniture by 15th January, having giving them about 2 and a half weeks grace period.  The challenge is that I didn’t make the purchase straightaway, as Ikea give you a date for delivery which you cannot choose – well at least if you change it, they charge you, so I had to make sure the apartment was clear of the previous furniture before I committed the purchase.  The previous tenant wanted to sell me their second-hand items – the sofa-bed, dining table, 2 dining chairs, 3 cabinets, a book case/side unit, and tv stand – for S$1k – but I said no to this.  Luckily, I didn’t make this purchase, as the items I am looking for only equate to about £$650 which is a nice saving 🙂

So before the Ikea delivery – the apartment looked a bit empty…

On the positive, I was able to use their items (dining table and sofa primarily) whilst they were in my apartment, but I also now need to make a purchase 🙂  So have already looked at the Ikea SG website, and think I know what to buy.

  • Solsta Pällbo Footstool for S$10.90
  • Bjursta Extendable Dining Table S$149.00
  • Lycksele Lövås 2 Seater Sofa-Bed S$315.00
  • Lack Side / Coffee Table S$12.90
  • Börje Dining Chair (x2) S$130.00
  • Laiva TV Bench S$25.90

All for S$643.70 exc S$65 delivery charge.  And I get a S$50 voucher for spending over S$500 🙂

I even managed to build the items myself without major issue…it finally feels like home, and I have some nice new items that make it personal to me now – perfect 🙂

© 2012-2017 Aaron Brigatti - Brigatti Online   ® All Rights Reserved.