Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A conversation with colleagues and my thoughts on poverty

Money, money, money is what a lot of us are concerned on. When we enter adulthood, money becomes an essential and a common topic too. Had an interesting discussion on the comments section of my blog on my previous post: 35 and totally broke or $100K savings by age 30?. There were lots of comments by a few other bloggers which really set my mind thinking. Coincidently, i was having a long chat with a few of my colleagues on the topic of money too.

I'm single now and have a simple and low maintenance lifestyle. A few other people commented that it's easy to save money when you're single but it'll be hard when you get married. This i agree and this is also what i've been thinking about. If your future wife and in laws wants to have a lavish banquet, can you refuse it? If your wife wants to buy a 5 room flat can you refuse it? If your wife is pregnant and wants to buy a car for more convenience will you refuse it? Most probably you will give whatever you can.

With the cost of buying a house and starting a family increasing, it is hard for these people to save money. It is hard to even plan for retirement when all your salary goes into household expenses. I really don't want to be just surviving for the sake of living and end up working my whole life still having not enough. Let me share with you a little bit on the family background which i come from then you will know why i have this thinking.

A little story on my family background

I come from a normal family with simple lifestyle. My parents are both not highly educated with my dad having only an O levels cert. As my parents income are not high, often they had to work long hours just to provide enough for the family. When i was young, i remember always seeing my dad asleep whenever i was home. He was working the night shift also. Of course i didn't understand back then but now i know how tough it was for him. My mum had to work all the way even when she was pregnant with me.

The reason why my dad was not educated is because he had to give up his education to work and provide for his family of 8 siblings. Yes, my dad's family had 10 members. Life was tough for all of them and i heard stories of how 10 of them stayed together in a 2 room flat back then. My dad went out to work and all his salary went to the household expenses. Yes, all his salary went to his parents and nothing was left for him. Not a single cent. With this, the rest of his siblings manage to get the education and most of them went on to university. Today, my uncles and aunties have a fairly high income. One of my uncle earns $12k a month and another uncle stays in a million dollar condo and drives a luxury car. In fact, all my uncles and aunties own at least a car. My dad never had the money to buy a car. Which means my family never had our own car before.

I know my dad feels inferior when talking to my uncles and aunties now. Of course they are grateful for my dad who sacrificed to see them through their education and they always treat my family for dinner and also offer to give us a ride. But still, it's never the same of owning your own car plus you feel bad when troubling other people to give you a ride. My mum had gone through all the hardship with my dad and they are still together till now. I know they put their hopes highly on me that one day i will be able to give them a good life. That's probably why i'm looking at ways to have more money so one day i could give my parents the good life they desired.

My parents are getting old but they are still working. I know in my heart that probably in a few years time, they will be too old to work. I have the responsibility to take care of them. My parents definitely do not have money to retire. I also know if i get married, i will have my own finances to take care. Will i have enough money to handle all these? This is probably why i'm thinking so much. If i do not have enough, i'll probably end up like my dad and sacrifice so much for the family and in the future, my kids will go through the same thing. This is what i do not want. That's how the poverty cycle happens.

Conversation with colleagues

My conversation with my colleagues was on how some rich people can don't work and still be rich? In the course of my work, i get to visit luxurious condos and private properties. One thing i always notice is most of the people staying there are at home. They are either swimming, enjoying their time at their balcony, or wearing shorts and getting ready to drive out in their big cars to shop or have afternoon tea. I thought i was seeing wrongly until one day, a security guard at the condominium told me that he too always see the people at home. They seem like they never had to work. He also wondered where they get their money to stay in these condominiums. One unit there is not just 1 Million. It's 7-8 Million dollars per unit.

Today, as i was telling this to my colleagues, one of them then said his neighbour drives a Mercedes and seems like he never works. He was curious so he asked his neighbour where he got his money? His neighbour replied he manages his own investments and owns a few properties. This brought us to the point that these people make money work for them. They don't work for money. Many of us know this but how many of us can really do it? Can we make money work for us instead of working for money? If we can do that, then we might be one of those people who don't work but still have money. Oh yes, one more thing my colleague said. He said seems like those people who worked the hardest have very little money and those who don't work much have a lot of money. To think of it, it seems quite true. Working smart is better than working hard in this world.


  1. Hi SGYI,

    I can totally empathise with you as I came from a lower middle class family as well. People with this kind of background are likely to either save a lot like us or use their salaries to buy the material comforts they missed out on when young. Security vs material comfort.

    Knowing that money could work for me was a revelation when I was in my late teens. We probably still have to work hard. But it feels so much better if you know working hard now means you can amass a stash that works even harder than you.

    1. Hi 15HWW,

      I bought material comforts when I had my first taste of earning my own money at age 16. Now I save a lot to have a better life. Looks like I want both just that when do I want it?

      We definitely have to work hard to save the cash then use this money to grow it. Those people I said who had money but didn't need to work probably did that too before they reach the stage they are at now.

  2. SGYI,

    1. Nice "peeling the onion" post on your background ;)

    2. Have you noticed you like to compare a lot?

    3. And convert everything into $?

    Hmm.... Why are we here?

    1. Hi SMOL,

      You hit the nail. I used to compare even more. Now I've learned to tone down a little. Just a little bit by bit. People generally like to compare a lot and want things that others have. Your friend has the latest phone, you also want it? Your friend has a car you also want it? Never ending....

      My mind is full of numbers. $ numbers. Sometimes I talk numbers too. Probably because of my econs course always talk statistics. And the finance modules always got $ sign.

      Why are we here? That's a good question. Most people live to work and work to live. In the end work to die or die to live? Lol survival mode?

  3. Hi SGYI,

    Read my post on the 3 bombs? :) haha, here's a link for you:

    Haha, one day you'll realise that all these might not be what you want :) People lived their lives and you lived yours and that's it. You might admire them, but others might also admire you. I think you still have to train your mind to have a financial independence mindset, lol ;)

    I can guarantee you that in the end, it's not the money that matters the most, but rather, it's how you are at peace with yourself. You no longer yearn to be like the rich, and you're at peace with the lifestyle with the income that you earn. If you reach financial independence, so be it. If not, you'll try your best. Either way, you will strive to be happy and contented and not worry about money, regardless of your situation. Then, and only then, will you be free from money :) Well, don't believe me, just watch how you'll evolve as you mature :)

    Try not to think too much; most of life will take care of itself when the time comes. Of course, I'll not telling you not to plan and save money. I'm merely telling you that you should not worry too much abut the future and live more on the present. Enjoy what you are doing and be happy as much as you can. I do hope you'll have a wife who isn't as financially frugal as you (I say that with no malice) so that you'll have your eyes opened to another side of life. You two will definitely be able to strike a balance that will be greatly beneficial to both of you ;) That will bring out the best in the both of you, lol!

    1. Hi LP,

      Your comments manage to set me thinking again. You're probably at a stage much further than me. I'm still a young chap trying to find the balance in life and not miss out on anything.

      I will read your inspiring posts to learn more about life from you. I'm really humbled by all the comments I've received so far. So much to learn from more experienced bloggers like you.

      I can tell you that most of the things I write on are concerns of young people. Money is kinda the centre of most young singaporeans life. When I started working, I suddenly realise most of my friends start to sigh at the mention of money. Not enough and things getting more expensive are the common phrases. Wanting to be rich is another common thought. When I go reservist, most conversations I hear are also on money. So you know what has happened to our society? I used to want lots of money too and fast. But now I know I have to take things slowly and enjoy the process.

      Finding a wife who isn't as financially frugal shocked me. But come to think of it, it makes sense too. But I hope you know how most young women live their lives now? Its totally different from the past generation where the wife is willing to live through hardship with the husband. They are highly educated, they have their own thoughts and they have their own life. This is the government's concern too when the marriage and birth rates are getting lesser and lesser. Not to say its just girls but guys too. That's why probably a lot end up in trouble.

  4. Thanks for both your articles on personal finance; they are written very well! I sympathize with your situation but am very heartened to see that you are pro-actively trying to improve your financial situation and also by not succumbing to peer pressure. Having $100,000 at your age is quite a decent achievement, but like LP said don't get too fixated on a number!

    Which brings me to the topic of investing - you need to invest in order to grow the money more quickly. Savings alone can ensure you never go hungry but it's tough to achieve financial freedom unless you have an IB's salary and bonus (no kidding!). I am not sure how much you have in your equities portfolio but I'd advise value investing with a focus on protecting your capital and to earn a decent yield, while watching your companies' businesses grow.

    It took me about 8 years+ to build up a decent sized portfolio and it was through savings and investing.

    Hope to see you blog more about investing!

    Keep up the good work!


    1. Hi Musicwhiz,

      I haven't reached 100k yet. Probably in the next 2 years based on my current salary and lifestyle. I don't have to purposely try to achieve that as its more or less on auto pilot now.

      Yeah, investing is the way to go. I have about 20k in my stocks portfolio now which will give me dividends of $1000+ this year. Value investing and investing for income works together. I would like to blog more on investing but the current market conditions seems like there isn't much for me to buy now. Also, I don't think I'll be adding more stocks to my portfolio for the time being. Need a war chest to prepare in case a crash happens. I'm 2 years into building my portfolio. Slowly and steadily I'm growing it.

  5. Hi SGYI

    Your post and the accompanying comments really inspired me to try blogging and investing again. I just posted again in my blog after a 3.5 year hiatus. Like you, I came from a lower-middle income family and always compared myself against everyone. I worked super hard in school in the hope of landing a job with good cash. alas, life does not work this way. Anyway i digress - all the best in your investment journey, looking forward to more of your articles!

    1. Hi gagmewithaspoon,

      This post was more or less a grumble from my side. Sometimes life just makes me think so much.

      Life is not always smooth. I acknowledge that. Even if we plan everything, things could still happen. It's what we do to solve all those problems which is important. Problems do make us stronger don't they?

      The comments inspired me too. I feel so blessed to have other more experienced bloggers giving their advices.

  6. Hi SGYI,

    Thanks for sharing. As per advised, we should not compare or tag everything with a dollar sign, but I know it's Difficult! Our society can be very unforgiving.

    I'm ten years older than you and I'm still buoyed down by the same insecurities. I don't have a 100K, I don't have a property or own a car but at least I'm more content –in a better financial shape and have learnt to appreciate other things in life.

    Let's meet up for coffee. We share a similar background and I believe we have much to talk about.


    1. Hi Derek,

      $ sign is everywhere. But I know life is more than the money. To me happiness is more important than money. But I know deep in my heart that if we don't handle the money aspect well, it'll come back to remind us one day. If you can't pay your bills how to be happy?

      I'm actually quite an easily contented person. I don't go for material possessions and I don't fancy all those luxury stuffs. A simple life is more than enough for me. I do find joy in doing simple things.

      By the way, you're the owner of right? I hope I didn't get it wrongly. Haha.. anyway, contact me through email and we can share more. A meet up is possible too even though I'm anonymous.

  7. Hi SGYI,

    Actually nothing much is new in this world. You might have thought that the older generations are more thrifty and wise? Nah, not true. You might have thought that the girls of the previous generations are less concerned with branded bags and guys are happier and not so worried about finances? Nah, not true too. Perhaps the only difference is that with the social media, the pple of this generation are more vocal and more likely to speak their mind. Most of everything stays the same.

    Keep up the good fight!

    1. Hi LP,

      Seems like its a misconception which my parents implanted in me. Haha.. they keep saying young people nowadays..... maybe their generation was also same but they say we're different.

      I will continue pressing on!

    2. Hi LP,

      I agree with your point. To add on, I find that we often see things that we want to see. For instance, if we have the conception that a certain group of people are of a certain character or nature, then our mind tends to look for evidence to reinforce it. And, social media helps to reinforce it as it provides more instances of such behaviour.

      WG Leo

  8. Hi SGYI

    You may be fixated about money but at least you do know whats going on early in your life. Many people who has not learnt that early will have tougher days to cope at the later stage of their life.

    SMOL is right. Try to stop comparing as we will neither be the worst or best. One thing certain is you will be amazed by how you grow maturely as the days and years pass by, whether you are losing or earning money in your portfolio ;)

    1. Hi B,

      I was fixated about money because I started working and saw so many of my older colleagues can't retire as they did not plan for it. They had to continue working even though they don't like.

      I'm happy with what I have. At the same time I look at what is possible to achieve and strive to improve myself. I don't know is that consider comparing? Some how I set my goals base on what others have achieved before. This gives me an assurance and also makes it easier. I will never do anything extreme just to get money so I set measurable goals.

      I've indeed learnt a lot through investing. The experience is really great.

  9. Hi young man, let me tell you when i was at your age i knew nuts about anything. You are considered super to me already.
    Most bloggers know this old man of 65+ who only have the guts to plunge into the SGX Market at a quite advance in age of 40. (Sorry, i think there are people older than 40 who first take the plunge).

    i bet if you can succeed in making investing in the stock market one of your lifetime's calling, you will be able at least to retire comfortably if not a millionaire.
    Sorry, i am still trying.

    But nobody no matter how rich (aka WB. or Stanley Ho) will know money has no meaning at the end of his journey on this Earth. Most people will regret about some of their human relationships but not about their money. i do already.

    1. Hi temperament,

      You're right. Money has no meaning anymore at a certain stage. Especially when we're old. I know very well that if we chase money when we're young and sacrifice other things for example time with family, kids, friends etc, then we would have miss out all those great relationships. All these are missed out when we're too busy making money.

      But what if we could have money and also have the time for all the relationships? Is it possible? Do we have to really work so hard and use up all of our time just to earn more money? I believe that we can have both the time and money. Maybe I'm greedy but I think its possible. Investing young is one of the keys to building wealth. Don't have to work so hard if built properly.

  10. I have survived with single household income to feed five mouths and not even high income earner.

    Read? Not high income earner

    We shouldn't worry too much!

    We are more likely to get through in our life but being single or DINK is lot easier on money matters as you can spend your own money without worrying too much or feeling guilty of not feeding enough to other mouths.

    1. Hi Uncle CW,

      Glad you manage to survive. Life must have been tough for you to feed so many mouths but it is worth it to see yor family healthy and your kids grow up.

      My parents went through a lot too sacrificing every bit of their income just to get the best environment for us. We may not have the luxuries of life but we're happy nonetheless. I'm confident to say that my relationship with my family is closer than most young people out there. I appreciate and am grateful for all that I have.

      I think as long as we live within our means, life shouldn't be too bad for us. Its when people want something that they cannot afford that lead to trouble.

    2. Hi CW8888,
      My respect to you again.
      As a parent nothing is too great a sacrifice for our children.
      Respect from me, wholeheartedly.

      Hope you don't mind.

    3. Hi temperament,

      Of course I don't mind. Feel free to chat around in my blog ;)

  11. Hey, I thot im the only Siao crazy guy in late 20s that keep think about money number, calculating here and there and comparing this and that.. after reading your post, I feel contented that im not the only one. hahaha.. I've live so called frugal and simple lifestyle without buying any branded stuff( I don't fancy it anyway) was also worrying what happens if I were to have gf and get married and settled for a family, all my warchest for investment would be depleted. by then will I be able to achieve my financial freedom. all this stop me from finding a companion to settle down unless I build an income portfolio decent enough that I can stop setting a portion of salary into the portfolio.. there are people that think we are crazy but I think we r the type that wanna choose a much safer and comfort road..


    1. Hi Pips,

      That's my exact sentiments. I'm a worrier by nature but I've learnt to slowly not get too worry about stuff. I was a perfectionist and want everything to be perfect but life is never perfect. This is what I have to understand.

    2. Hi Pips,

      You got a fellow 20-year old in me too.

      WG Leo

  12. Singaporeans are damn shallow. Our measures of success in life are always in term of money, car and house. You wrote that your father don't own a car so your family feel inferior to your uncles and aunties? Oh come on, get a life. So many people grew up not having family cars, me as well. A lot of our parents are also not well educated or have zero education as well.

    SG Wealth Builder

    1. Hi Gerald,

      I'm ok with myself not owning a car. Taking bus and MRT is alright for me. But the thing is all my relatives own a car and if we go out together, its troublesome for us if they drive and we don't. Taking bus and MRT will never catch up with driving a car.

    2. In my office, I am among the rare few after working XX years still don't own a car.

      In Singapore, BMW can reach anywhere. The last leg of your journey will be covered by W.

      Who are those people having the luxury of not having to rush to save on their traveling time?

    3. Hi Uncle CW,

      Many people bought their cars much cheaper 5 years ago when there's a financial crisis. Probably will be a good time to buy once there's a crisis again. Having a car is a luxury but I think if we can afford it then why not? I do drive in my course of work and the convenience it brings about is unmeasurable.

    4. For official traveling I call or book Taxi. Now with GrabTaxi Apps, it is easier to call taxi. Sure ComfortDelgro will counter with better apps.

    5. That is true. Renting a car may be another option.