Let’s face it—as Singaporeans, taking a critical look at our values isn’t exactly our strong suit. We’re much better at playing monkey see, monkey do. Is everyone else trying their darnedest to buy the most expensive apartments and houses they can afford? Looks like you have to do the same or else you’re going to “lose out”.
Unfortunately, way too many Singaporeans have no blinkin’ clue what their values are and what they really want out of life, other than not losing face in front of their peers and living a luxurious life. That’s why so many people are getting into crazy credit card debt or reaching their golden years only to realise they’ve got to continue working, and working, and working.
Reexamining your values in 2016 might actually lead to a few revelations as to how you should be organising your finances. Here are three big questions to ask.
What do you really look for in a home?
For cash-poor, asset-rich Singaporeans, property is going to be the biggest investment most make in their lives. While many think of buying a condo as a sign that you’ve “made it” and are one step above HDB dwellers, few really think about what they really want out of that home.
Ask yourself what’s really important about owning a home, and the most appropriate options for you become clearer.
Is your priority living on a property that’s close to work or the city for added convenience? An HDB resale flat in an estate like Kallang might be your best bet.
Do you plan to raise a large family and need more square footage? The only affordable options might then be larger HDB flats in suburban estates like Punggol.
Do you swim, go to the gym or play tennis every day and want to live on property with such facilities? Then you have a stronger case for shelling out the cash for a condo.
Are you a single who just wants to move out of your parents’ place? Renting a room with flatmates is a much more affordable option than getting a studio.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options to what suits you and your budget best, and not just searched for the most luxurious accommodation you can afford, it’s easier to find more affordable options. Making sure you get the right home loan is also a key part of this, which you can do easily on MoneySmart’s Home Loan Wizard. The point here is to make sure that what will probably be the biggest purchase in your life doesn’t turn out to be a huge financial mistake.
Are you hanging out at expensive places because you’re just following the crowd?
Ever since Singapore transformed itself into the sort of city where rich Chinese tourists flock to buy branded goods, Singaporeans have been spoilt for choice when it comes to pretentious, overpriced places to spend their money.
If you regularly find yourself hanging out in bars that charge you half a day’s salary for a cocktail or at restaurants where the quality of the food is nowhere near the level of the prices, why are you doing it? Are you spending all your time and money in such places because your friends are suggesting them, and you’re just passively going along with it?
If you can no longer afford to hang out with your own friends, you can either take the lead and start suggesting some less ridiculous places to spend time at, or start making some new friends who don’t insist on hanging out in bars and restaurants filled with bankers.
Do you want to prioritise making more money or enjoying better work life balance?
The poor work-life balance Singaporean employees enjoy is an established fact here, as are the hideously long hours people work.
While there’s no denying that employers get to call the shots in Singapore, nobody is forcing you at gunpoint to work in a job that requires you to sit in the office for 14 hours a day. You can always choose a more relaxing job—if you’re willing to revise your pay expectations.
For instance, while most young lawyers work crazy hours and leaving the office at 10pm is not considered unfortunate, I do have friends in the legal industry who get to leave at 6pm on the dot. These are people who choose to work in small firms that pay less than big, fancy firms because to them, work-life balance is preferable to working double the number of hours for a higher salary.
Ask yourself just how important work-life balance is to you, and what salary level is acceptable to you. Once you’ve set your boundaries, it’ll be easier to find a job that fulfils your requirements.
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