Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Allocating edu-chest resources

I have done some additional thinking after my two posts on the Skillsfuture Qualification Award and the Post-Secondary Education Account. These are resources for us to utilize, to upgrade ourselves in the face of even greater uncertainty in the job market.

Besides the SkillsFuture credit, I have found other resources which could be used as well. As a whole, this pool of resources could be conceived of as an "edu-chest", a war chest of sorts to deploy for education/professional development purposes. In this piece, I will delimit "education/professional development courses" to refer to courses which range in cost from a couple of hundreds to maybe a couple of thousands.

Is there any optimal way in which the edu-chest could be used? Which resource should be used first, to give us the greatest bang for the buck?

Before proceeding, I have to highlight some assumptions I have made while writing this piece. First, you are under 30 years old. If you are above this age, you have one less resource to play around with (PSEA). Second, your company offers you a "decent" level of employee benefits. Third, you are as bo liao as me; some of the resources could be utilized for non-educational/non-professional development purposes.

Without further ado, I present the resources available:
1). SkillsFuture Credit
2). Employee training benefits
3). Company flexible benefits
4). Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA)
5). SkillsFuture Qualification Award

SkillsFuture Credit
If you do not know by now, the government has provided all Singaporeans aged 25 and above a sum of $500 to be used for learning purposes since January 2016. The government will be periodically topping up one's SkillsFuture credit at regular intervals (see MOM's website here). There is a lot of misinformation circulating around. I have heard from some that the $500 is a one-time thing. However, if you refer to the link above, that's not true.

I assumed the top-up will be done annually. However, don't quote me! I have yet to find any references to year 2017's SkillsFuture Credit top-up. Readers, if you do know, drop me a comment. Thanks!

As the SkillsFuture Credit is not interest-bearing (unlike the funds within the PSEA account), I am inclined to prioritize its use over the PSEA funds. If the top-ups turn out to be annual, I might not even have to use my PSEA funds at all if the courses I am interested in are affordable enough.

Since the credits are given by the government, you have the freedom to select the type of courses you would like to attend. Hence, you have the option to use the SkillsFuture credits to beef up your work-related skills or to pursue a side interest you are keen to develop. Remember, you have the flexibility here.

Employee training benefits
This are the training courses that your employer sends you to. As your employer will send you on training courses that are directly relevant to your job, you have less flexibility in determining the type of courses you enroll in.

I'm not sure how often your employer sends you for courses. Obviously, the more, the better right? (Okay....maybe it's just me who thinks that way....).

Company flexible benefits
Fine, fine. I know most people will use the flexible benefits on holidays and what not. For me, I choose to spend it on education/professional development.

Since flexible benefits are guaranteed renewable each year, use it fully! Prioritize using it over the SkillsFuture Credit as well as the PSEA funds. After all, flexi benefits are tied to your employment. Once a person ceases to be an employee, the organization will immediately cut off the flexi benefits.

Again, like the SkillsFuture Credit, you have the flexibility to use the flexible benefits in whatever way you want, provided it is within the stipulations of your company.

Post-Secondary Education Account
I have blogged about the PSEA account before, so I won't be explaining what it is here. The only thing that is worth highlighting is that the PSEA funds are interest-bearing. Therefore, I would encourage you to use the other non-interest bearing options first. This will allow your PSEA funds to compound for as long as possible.

If you overdo the education/professional development thing, you will eventually have to touch your PSEA funds though.

Since the PSEA funds are provided by the government, you are given the freedom to select courses based on your liking. You do not necessarily need to pursue courses that relate to your work.

SkillsFuture Qualification Award
I've also blogged about this before. To recap, you are entitled to some cash reward if you complete some courses recognized by WDA. Before enrolling into courses, just do a simple check with the course provider or WDA as to whether you are entitled to the cash reward upon course completion.

If have? Go for it.

If don't have, are there any similar courses that you could consider which will net you the cash reward?

If you don't really fancy the alternative, then forgo the alternative lah! Sure got opportunities in the future to take courses one mah!

Do note that the SkillsFuture Qualification Award is a one-time thing.

You can use the SkillsFuture Qualification Award for anything. Maybe additional courses? :X

That's all for now. In my next post, I will be sharing how I allocate these resources in my life. In the interim, do share if you know of any other resources which I have not considered. Thanks!

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