Singapore; Where being 20-something is no fun at all
- The twenties is a time in your life that is usually filled with
optimism and elation. The world is your oyster, you slogged through
Uni and have just commenced work with marriage to the significant
other just round the corner.
Not so in Singapore where being 20-something is no joy at all. Small wonder
that many are departing this highly represive city state.
They've had a bumpy ride - two recessions before they turned 30. ANGELINE SONG
reports on a situation many Singaporeans in their late 20s are facing today -
and gets experts' advice.
The New Paper
10 Sep 2003
By Angeline Song
JOBS were scarce when Mr Roger Ng entered the job market in 1998.
Even armed with a business degree majoring in property, 'I couldn't
find a job for six months,' he recalled.
Mr Ng, now 29, grabbed the first job he could, even though he thought
the salary - at slightly over $1,000 a month - was low.
One year later, as the economy picked up, he landed a job as a
property analyst with Land Lease Real Estate Investment, an
The pay was better - over $2,000 a month.
Confident that things were on track, he and long-time sweetheart
Mavis, 29, also a business-property graduate, applied for a five-room
HDB flat in Sembawang that year. They got married in 2000, got their
keys in early 2001 and moved in in May 2001.
Then the 911 disaster struck - and the property market crashed.
Mr Ng's company decided to shift all its operations to North Asia -
and he was retrenched.
His immediate worry was the mortgage payments on his new flat.
He called the HDB and found out, to his relief, that he had enough
money in his CPF to continue paying his $200 share of the $400 monthy
instalment on his 30-year loan. The flat cost about $238,000.
His wife, who had started work in a property development firm six
months ago, paid another $200 a month with her CPF.
The loan on their second-hand 1995 Toyota Corolla, which they bought
in 1999 and cost over $30,000, had also almost been paid off. (They
had paid about $900 each month on its loan.)
300 JOB APPLICATIONS
For the next six months, Mr Ng spent his time doing housework - and
sending out 300 job applications.
'Every day, I would go to my parents' house to use my brother's
computer to send out applications through the Internet and also by
'It's not a good feeling when you wife heads off to work every day at
7am, and you're home without a job.'
Their lifestyle changed.
'For instance, my wife and I had this pact where every Friday, she
would go out with her friends for dinner and drinks and I would do
the same with mine.
'But we couldn't do it any more. Friends who knew my situation,
stopped asking me out because they knew I wouldn't be able to afford
He also put away his collection of action figures; he reckons having
spent 'a five-figure sum' over the last eight years on this hobby.
His wife and family helped pull him through.
Mrs Ng, who was then earning about $1,500 month, constantly told her
husband that she was behind him.
And his parents never nagged him.
'In fact, my father, who is a businessman, continued paying for my
insurance premium of $2,000 a year when I was unemployed.'
Mr Ng finally found a job with a logistics company.
But four months down the road, he found he couldn't meet the sales
targets, felt stressed all the time - and was given the boot again.
But this time, he didn't mind because 'the time spent in that
unsuitable job was more stressful than my time spent at home without
It took another six months before he found his present job as a
property officer with United Engineers.
'It's been fantastic so far,' said a clearly elated Mr Ng. 'My bosses
know exactly what they want me to do, and they give me all the
freedom to do it as I long as I bring in the results.'
He is paid around $2,500 a month, and he and his wife are slowly
getting back into their old lifestyle.
But the couple, now with a combined income of slightly over $5,000,
are not sure whether to start a family.
'You never know what might happen around the corner!' said Mr Ng.
'We would also love to go on a decent honeymoon - but that might set
us back some $10,000.'
The couple are also not sure how to plan for their retirement and for
emergencies, especially with the new CPF changes.
Ditch the car, says expert
From financial adviser Benny Ong, founding director of Life Planning
1) Get rid of the car!
Forgo the car and you will save up to $15,000 in depreciation and
maintenance in just two years. A car like yours depreciates by $8,000
to $10,000 in one year, not to mention repairs and insurance.
If you sold it off for say, $20,000, you can save or invest that cash
in hand wisely; you will never use that much on public transport. I
have been taking public transport for 15 years; I use the BMW model:
which is Bus, MRT, Walk and tompang. Only buy a car if you can afford
to write it off.
2. Save up before investing.
Don't rush into investing until you have enough savings. For someone
who spends over $1,000 a month, you should have about $20,000 in
savings first. Start investing when ONE of you earn about $5,000
monthly, as one person can lose his job easily. You cannot determine
the outcome of your investment, but you can control your expenditure,
so try to cut down on your expenditure first. And use cash to pay,
not credit card, unless travelling.
Burdened, but can't surrender
Comment/ Tan Mae Lynn, 28
I MADE all the right moves to save up for a rainy day when I started
Or so I thought.
I entered the workforce during the Asian financial crisis in 1998.
Six months after graduation, I found a job with a small management
company and earned about $1,800 a month.
I immediately set about investing in what I thought were prudent
I bought an investment-linked insurance policy where I have to pay
regular premiums. I've paid about $4,000 so far.
In mid-2000, I moved on to another job which paid about $2,500 a
month, plus allowances. Just before Sep 11, 2001, I moved on to my
third job, earning about $3,500 a month.
I was able to buy a computer, take holidays at least once a year, and
eat at restaurants once a week.
Again, I did what I thought was the prudent thing.
I bought another whole-life insurance policy, which covers major
medical illnesses and also pays out to my family when I die. I've
already paid about $1,600 into this one-year-old policy.
I also bought two unit trust savings plans, with the view to saving
up for future emergencies and my retirement.
In total, I pay about $400 a month in insurance premiums and unit
trust contributions. The insurance premiums come up to about $250.
Then, 911 struck.
The company I was with went bankrupt.
I was unemployed for a year. My savings were almost wiped out. I
cancelled one of my unit trust savings plans.
Today, I work as a reporter on a temporary contract.
Now I'm feeling the burden of paying my insurance policies, but I
cannot surrender them now as I would make a huge loss.
For instance, the surrender value of my first policy now would be
about $1,800 compared to the $4,000 I have put in so far.
Luckily, I'm single and have no big payments like mortgage or a car.
I eat out at mostly at coffeeshops and take public transport, and my
monthly expenses come up to about $500.
Until I can become financially independent, marriage - and starting a
family - is out of the question.