If you haven’t already heard the advice of Australian millionaire Tim Gurner to cash-strapped millennials, it’s this: the reason you can’t afford a home is because you’re spending all your money on avocado toast.
While you would have to eat tens of thousands of plates of hipster avocado toast to afford the average home in Singapore, the truth is, many Singapore millennials do have financial habits that might, decades later, be viewed as a form of self-sabotage.
Here’s how Singapore millennials are unwittingly sabotaging their ability to retire and afford homes.
Spending a lot on dining out, entertainment and travel
Singaporeans love to complain about how there’s nothing to do in Singapore, but based on the spending patterns of many millennials, there is no shortage of things to spend money on.
Singaporeans spend more on dining out than people almost anywhere else in the Asia Pacific region, and are also some of the world’s most frequent travellers. When it comes to shopping, we are most definitely a throw-away society, and people think nothing of replacing smartphones and wardrobes at the drop of a hat.
For some millennials, discretionary spending on the finer things in life goes overboard, and renders them unable to build up savings or, worse, lands them in credit card debt.
It is only later, when they start to think of retirement or when their long-term financial commitments pile up, that they start to realise the need to cut back, by which time they’re already in a much worse-off position than they could have been had they lived more modest lifestyles.
Failing to plan for the future
For all the prescriptiveness of the Singapore Dream, many of us aren’t that good at planning for the future once free from the education system. That’s why so many people think CPF is useful—because without it, a lot of people wouldn’t be able to plan/think for themselves.
It’s alarming how so many young Singaporeans are putting off retirement planning until they’ve fulfilled goals they deem more pressing, such as a nice home, a car, a dream wedding and so on.
There are countless surveys and reports which show that Singaporeans are in trouble when it comes to retirement readiness, including, amongst others, a 2016 survey showing that 1 in 3 working Singaporeans weren’t planning for retirement, and a 2016 report that very soberingly claimed that too many Singaporeans were putting off retirement planning till too late.
Millennials would do well to start planning for retirement from the moment they start earning an income, instead of deferring retirement planning in favour of more pressing concerns. It takes sacrifice and a willingness to live more modestly, which is what many aren’t willing to accept.
Getting ripped off by businesses looking to profit from trends
In a country as expensive as Singapore, it makes sense to always analyse whether you’re getting good value before handing over your money.
Unfortunately, many millennials are all too willing to pay for well-marketed goods, services and experiences that offer little value without really considering whether they’re getting their money’s worth.
That can only explain why so many people rush to hipster cafes and pay $25 for what is essentially egg yolks on toast. Or why juice cleansing has taken off so well amongst Office Ladies and tai tais. Or why people who hate running pay $100 to join fun runs just for the goodie bag.
There’s nothing wrong with using money (in moderation) to make your life better and pursue your interests. Just don’t do so uncritically, and always ask whether the value you’re getting in exchange is worth the hard-earned cash.
This story first appeared on Moneysmart 22nd May 2017.