From The Straits Times    |

‘Can We Just Talk?’ is a series which aims to debunk the idea that it’s difficult to talk about money. In this episode, our Features Writer, Cheryl Lai-Lim, sat down with Digital Editor, Cheryl Chan, and Associate Editor, Chelsia Tan, to discuss whether you should give your parents money.

Why give money to your parents?

Giving money to your parents is typically a way to show gratitude or respect. After all, they spent inordinate amounts of time, effort and money raising you. In Singapore, there is a strong culture of filial piety. This creates an expectation for children to give back money to their parents when they start working.

“It was instilled within me from birth,” says Cheryl Chan. Chelsia concurred.

While the idea of filial piety is often associated with Confucianism, this practice is common amongst Singaporeans from all races, since ideas of communalism and giving back to your family are prevalent in many cultures.

How much should you give each month?

“It boils down to what you can give, right?” says Chelsia.

It ultimately depends on your financial situation, as well as the context of your relationship with them.

“There are times when I was retrenched, and couldn’t afford to give them a fixed amount every month,” recounts Chelsia.

It could depend on if you’re staying in their home. “My parents ask me to give a certain amount each month as household expenses like it’s rent,” says Chelsia.

“It can also depend on your situation”, Chelsia continues. “If you’re asking your parents to provide a service like taking care of your kids, taking care of your dogs, taking care of your husband, then you should give them money.”

It may also depend on if your parents have enough savings for retirement.

Regardless of the context, “nothing we give will ever be enough,” laughs Cheryl Chan.

Does this financial commitment create a cycle of resentment amongst you and your family?

According to the 2023 What Women Want survey conducted by Her World, 46% of women want to cut down their expenses, while 38% indicated ‘maybe’. Yet, when asked about reasons deterring cuts, family commitments were amongst the most cited factors. In these economic conditions, especially for the younger generation who are still trying to find their footing financially, there may be some resentment at the obligation to still hand parents money.

“My first salary was very sad, I begrudgingly gave”, said Cheryl.

She recounts feeling resentment. “I think the resentment came from comparing myself to other friends because many of them were still in university or their parents didn’t instil that [idea] in them. It makes you feel like, how come I have to give but they don’t have to give?”

She needed to retrain her thoughts: “[It’s] also kind of unfair if my mother still pays for me even though I’m working already. It isn’t an allowance for her, it’s actually me just paying for the fees I’m incurring by living at home.”

“No, I think there are ways to work around [the cycle of resentment], you just spend it in your means,” says Chelsia.

Is this idea still relevant today?

“My mom would say, ‘You know when I went out to work, I used to give to your grandfather'”, recounts Chelsia.

The idea of giving back a portion of your income was especially prevalent in the past. Many families were poor and parents required their children to pay for their retirement. In contrast, many parents nowadays are better educated and have higher-income jobs than their forebears. Meaning, they are more likely to have the funds to tide them by.

“My mom is financially savvy enough that she doesn’t depend on this money from me to pay for things. It’s just more of a principle thing for her,” says Cheryl.

Chelsia reflects: “For me, if I have children, I don’t expect them to give me money. But I don’t think it’s right for me to readjust the values my parents were brought up with.”

The parents of the future may be more laissez-faire in their approach, but the practice and the values underpinning it are unlikely to die out.

What else can you do besides giving them money?

Underpinning the practice is ultimately the idea of filial piety. Of taking care of your parents, and showing gratefulness for their parenting.

“Just be a decent child,” says Cheryl. “If I wasn’t living at home, I would try and go home for dinner. Not because it’s free dinner, but just to spend time with family.”

“Sometimes they like to go on their monologues right,” says Chelsia. “Making them feel seen or heard [is important].”

There might be other ways as well. From reconciling with your parents, to finding ways to make their lives more convenient, showing your filial piety doesn’t only mean giving them cash.

Take it from Chelsia: “I mean, at the end of the day, your relationship is not a transaction.”