Nobody can fault Singaporeans for being lazy. After all, we work longer hours than almost any other nation in the world, and students are just as industrious, spending the third highest number of hours on homework in the world, and that’s not even counting hours spent in private tuition each week.
Now, given the fact that all this hard work is usually geared towards securing a high paying job and earning as much money as possible, you’d think people would be more careful about how they spent that hard-earned cash.
But we can be surprisingly lazy when it comes to managing our money. Here are seven totally avoidable money mistakes that we tend to make out of pure laziness.
Not tracking our spending
Everybody wants to spend less, but nobody wants to put the work into figuring out exactly how they can start saving more.
The first step is to track your spending, the easiest way being to download an expense tracking mobile app and enter all amounts you spend, making a note to indicate what you spent them on. At the end of the month you can see where your money went to.
Easy, right? Well, ask around and you’ll find that most people don’t bother doing it at all.
Not planning for retirement
Retirement is going to be a big problem for many Singaporeans in a couple of decades, when people realise they no longer have 10 kids to financially support them. Yet only 1 in 3 working adults has started planning for retirement, with 6 out of 10 only starting to save when they hit the age of 45.
Retirement planning might sound troublesome, but it has to be done, and the earlier the better. Figuring out how much you’ll need and how much you must put aside every month is the first step. Then you’ll want to start to figure out how to invest your money so it doesn’t get decimated by inflation.
There are lots of free resources on the internet and at the national library branches that can point you in the right direction. The government’s MoneySense website is a good start.
Not figuring out your insurance needs
When you finish your studies and enter the working world, the first thing you want to do with your first paycheck is to treat your friends and family, buy that designer handbag or get drunk. We totally understand. But another thing you should do ASAP is to research your medical insurance needs.
You can contact an insurance broker or agent to understand the basics, but ultimately the onus is on you to compare plans and prices offered by the various insurers. You can do this online for free using MoneySmart’s health insurance wizard.
Not finding out how to invest your money
People often use the fact that they’re broke as an excuse for not investing their money. But there are many others who do have cash but simply have never bothered to figure out what to do with it—just ask any 30-year-old bank executive or lawyer, and you’ll be surprised by how many haven’t started investing.
For most people who are investing for the long-term, it’s not rocket science. You don’t have to monitor the stock market every day. It could be as simple as investing through STI ETFs, or even a Regular Savings Plan. You just need to figure out how much cash you want to invest and how often, and that’s that.
Not making a will
The most valuable thing you own might be your pug Ah Kow, but that doesn’t excuse you from making a will. Should something unexpected to you happen, you want to ensure all your assets go to the people you wish to ensure are taken care of.
If you die without a will, your assets will be distributed according to intestacy laws, which might not be exactly what you want. For instance, if you have a spouse and no kids, 100% of your assets will go to your spouse. This might be a problem if you want to provide for your aged parents.
Making a will is ridiculously easy. You don’t even need a lawyer (although you should probably hire one to make sure you instructions can be carried out), so long as the will is properly signed and witnessed.
Not discussing your financial goals with your spouse or spouse-to-be
Even if your spouse isn’t the kind of person who’d suddenly turn 45 and spend your retirement spendings on a Porsche, he or she is going to have an impact on your finances.
To ensure you’re both helping and not hindering each other in reaching your financial goals, it is crucial to have a talk early on in the relationship about what these goals are, and what you can do together to achieve them.
A couple who are committed to working towards the same financial goals can achieve great things—early retirement and financial freedom are much easier to reach on a dual income. On the other hand, if your goals are out-of-sync then you’ve got a lot of compromising to do. So have “the talk” once it looks likely you’ll be spending the rest of your lives together. The potential awkwardness or conflict are preferable to a lifetime of regret.
Not being pro-active about your career and income
You work hard every day and come home dog tired, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being pro-active about your career. Like it or not, boosting your income through work often requires a lot more planning than just showing up every day and working hard.
It could mean finding out how much you’re really worth on the market and changing jobs strategically to ensure your salary doesn’t stagnate. It could mean taking the initiative to ask for new responsibilities at work so you become a more valuable hire. It could mean starting a side business or side job to boost your income. Whatever it is, you have more power to influence your income than you think.
This story was originally published in Moneysmart on June 8, 2017.