Managing your money isn’t rocket science. You don’t need to be able to predict the movement of stock prices or have an exhaustive knowledge of credit card rewards programmes to get your act together and start preparing for the future.
In fact, it is often the simplest truths that can have the biggest impact on your finances in the long run.
Here are four small truths that can go a long way in helping you to improve your financial future.
TRUTH 1: Small expenses add up
Here in Singapore, we tend to gripe a lot about the big expenses in life—homes, cars and kids.
Then we go and spend $25 on brunch at a hipster cafe, buy yet another fast-fashion item from H&M and forget to pay our credit card bills on time.
The truth is, if you’re not careful about curbing those small expenses, they really do add up.
In order to ensure you meet your saving and investing goals, you need to have a monthly budget in place, one that takes into account unnecessary spending and that challenges you to not spend in mindless ways that don’t improve your quality of life.
When we’re vigilant about smaller expenses, making smart decisions about the bigger things in life—getting the right home loan, or deciding how to invest our money, for instance—come naturally.
TRUTH 2: Everyone is out to get your money
If you don’t figure out what to do with your money, other people will decide for you.
Advertising screams out at you from every corner from the minute you get on the MRT in the morning and are made to watch adverts on that little TV screen above the seats, to your weekends spent in shopping malls where you dodge aggressive salesmen hawking dead sea salt cosmetic products.
It’s not just corporations that are out to get your money, either. The people around you can also make you poorer if you’re not careful. From spendthrift friends who urge you to spend all your time at expensive restaurants to freeloaders who jump at a chance to take advantage of your generosity, be wary.
TRUTH 3: The average person sucks at money management
Whatever you do, do not take the average Singaporean as a role model when deciding what to do with your money.
Just because everyone else thinks it’s normal to spend an entire month’s paycheck on a designer bag or goes on more than five overseas holidays a year doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fine for you to do the same.
There have been multiple reports indicating that most Singaporeans are unprepared for retirement. According to a sobering 2016 report, 1 in 3 Singaporeans adults isn’t even planning for retirement yet, and two thirds of retirees think they’ll run out of money before they die.
So if all your friends are making certain financial choices—taking out a bank loan to finance a $50,000 wedding, blindly spending more than $500 a month on tuition for their kid or replacing their smartphones every year, that’s a big sign you should NOT be doing the same.
TRUTH 4: If you don’t ask, you don’t receive
Singaporeans tend to be rather low-key folks who prefer to keep their heads down, work hard and hope they’ll get noticed.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s certainly a lot less annoying and in-your-face than the self-promoting characters that tend to dominate in some other cultures.
But one problem is that it often makes us passive types who aren’t pro-active about improving our lot. That means missed opportunities and getting short-changed.
Not asking for a raise when your boss has been underpaying you for years and not trying to negotiate your salary when you’re offered a job can cost you thousands in the long run. So thicken your skin and open your mouth.