Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Rant of a Young Singaporean (TV Character).

From a Facebook post (13 Nov 2014) by ChannelNewsAsia Singapore:
"Taken from Episode 15 of "118", Channel 8's 7.30pm drama.
A translation from one of our viewers Gavin Neo :
Do you think I'm the only one anxious to earn money?
Go ask around among the youngsters today, who isn't anxious?
After serving NS, graduating from university around 23-24 years old, we'll turn 30 at the blink of an eye.
During this short period of time, we have to get married, get a house, have baby(babies), can we do all of these without money?
The cost for a HDB is at least $300K-$400K now. Let's talk about the most basic need for spending, if we were to work in the city(town), a trip back and forth via MRT is $5-$6. Sometimes we take a taxi if we're rushing for time, ERP alone is $6-$7. Having lunch, we need at least $5-$6. Grabbing a cup of coffee from a cafe (I'm guessing he's talking about Starbucks and/or Coffee Bean etc) is $6-$7!
As if that's not enough, we have to follow what the government want us to do, to get married earlier, to have baby(babies) sooner. I have to get a girlfriend first. If I don't grab a meal, have a drink, watch a movie and go overseas occasionally with her, plus gifting a few branded goods to her, even if I have the face of a superstar, no girl will want to be with me.
Some of us still want to further our studies, what about loans and helping out with the family's finances? And when it's time to get married, it cost at least $1000 per table. A wedding photo shoot will cost at least $3000-$4000, and all of these requires money money money!
My generation of young adults don't demand a quality lifestyle. Is it even possible to not earn some money now, even if we were to live a life of the absolute basic? You don't want to have a son to have to ask you to pay for his wedding and his house, do you?
Yes, I admit that what I did to earn money is a little extreme (I don't know what he did). I've made mistakes and I'm at fault, but my fault is because of what this society has made it to be!"

Setting the Rant in context.
In the episode, 23-year-old Shun Shui, who dabbles in a variety of jobs including selling cars and property, is reprimanded by his father for trying to convince an elderly neighbour to sell his flat. In his own defence, he rails about high transportation fees, the cost of a Housing and Development Board flat and how expensive it is to take a girl to the movies, much less hold a wedding dinner... 
The show’s scriptwriter Ang Eng Tee (of The Little Nyonya fame) said he had written the monologue to represent the views of a certain type of young person.
“The character is focused on branded goods and flashy cars. He represents that sort of young person’s values,” Ang said. “He feels life is stressful because a cup of coffee from a popular chain costs S$6 and he needs to buy his girlfriends branded gifts.”
The 54-year-old writer said when he was writing the character of Shun Shui, he spoke to many young people, including friends of his 23-year-old daughter, to get their views. “I know a lot of young people feel a lot of stress and can relate,” he said. “(But) the clip that was uploaded to Facebook probably provoked a bigger reaction because it was an isolated 90-second bit of dialogue.”
If you watched the clip in context, added Ang, it would reveal a different dimension. “His parents were chiding him about his credit card debt, but this young person didn’t care.
“I think he represents some of the people in Singapore. I don’t think there are a lot of them. 
The Rant hit home with many Young Singaporeans. But while there is probably some "truth" in the rant, the character was not intended (by the writer) to be a character you would have sympathy for.

Certainly there are exaggerations in his "basic expenditure". You would be hard-pressed to pay $5-6 for a return trip if you work in the CBD. Fares are capped ($1.90, if I am not wrong). Even with feeder services.

So closer to $4, not $5-6 for public transit. Minor point.

And yes, $6-7 for coffee. Of course. Necessity. Basic needs really.

And the wedding costs. And before that, dating costs. And "buying" the love of the woman. While there is probably some truth in some of that, I think women should on the whole be insulted by his rant. Or he needs to find better women to date. While money is important, certainly one's ability to manage one's finances is perhaps even more important? Certainly, some women will appreciate thrift over profligate and unjustifiable  spending? 

As this young graduate noted:
"We buy things we don't need, with money we don't have, to impress people we don't like."
The best thing about getting a little older is learning not to care what people think. At least that's the best thing for me.

As for the fictitious young man and his Rant, he is a composite character that the writer put together from the young people he knows. He may be an exaggeration, an avatar of the worst traits of young people.

I hope so. The young people I know are of course a little "foolish", but it is to be expected because of their inexperience. But they are not stupid. Well, not stupider than I was when I was at their age. Maybe even a little smarter.

Or a lot.

But financial literacy is a problem at any age. For many people. 

Here are some advice.
And here are Five Myths about Retirement.

Caveat: That is an article by MoneySmart. They would like you to invest. Preferably with them. They generally pooh-pooh safe investments because safe investments don't need salesmen. All these investors tell you that for higher returns you need to invest in riskier investments. Of course. That's what the higher interest or returns are for. And of course riskier investment needs sales-persons to sell them.

But there are some good point in that article. And you shouldn't just believe me. Or believe the article. Or this other article.  Make up your own mind. 

On the one hand, they have a vested interest in getting you to invest. On the other hand, I am not rich (so why listen to me).

Anyway, here are 5 "rules" for youth just starting to earn an income.

1 Establish a reserve/emergency fund. Besides being for emergencies (all kinds that can be solved with money), it also provides you with a safety margin so you do not feel stressed or pressured to make decisions under poverty conditions. Expect the unexpected. Life is not fair. Be prepared for unfairness. Insure yourself, your property, your assets, the things you need most, rely on to work. Insure them against disaster. Not just with insurance, but also with a back-up plan. Plan, and then make contingency plans for when your plans don't work or when circumstances change, or when your goals, targets, objectives change. Planning for best case scenarios is not planning. That is hope and fantasy masquerading as plans.

2 Don't live on credit. The first time you are eligible for a credit card is almost like a validation that you have arrived. One is tempted to live on credit. Don't. It is expensive and ultimately, unsustainable. If you find yourself looking forward to payday to pay off your credit card bill (or worse, paying off the minimum), you are in trouble. At at early stage in my life when I got credit cards I was living off credit, and then waiting for payday to pay off my credit card bills. Which wiped out my salary for the month. Then I would ingeniously arrange to go for lunch with my colleagues to expensive restaurants (they would take credit cards) and when the bill came, I would "volunteer" to pay with my credit card ("Sorry, I have no cash with me, okay with you guys if I pay first with card? You can pay me later.") Basically, I used my friends as ATM machines.  And I could live off their "repayments". If you are doing this, be aware that you have a problem. Treat a credit card as a convenient form of payment. And possibly the channel for some good deals or offers.

3 Plan for your retirement. Retirement is not 55 or 62. Retirement is when you have attained financial freedom or security for the rest of your life, and do not need to work for  a salary. This can happen at 65, 62, 55, or even 30. Or for some people, never. If you don't plan for it, you may never retire. So how do you plan for your retirement?
That is too complicated to cover in a few short paragraphs. But for a start, try to have enough for the minimum sum to get a full CPF Life. $1200 a month is not much, but it is something.

4 Simplify your life. Focus on the Essential. Too often, people are distracted by the non-essentials, the frills, the silliness. Like Weddings. They have a lavish wedding dinner at a grand hotel, a spectacular church wedding with flowers and decorations to the ceiling, a designer wedding gown, a photo shoot at exotic locations with faux memories, and a fabulous honeymoon. And then they return and start their married life with depleted savings, or worse, indebted. And will this make their marriage stronger?

What can you do that is affordable and independent? What can you do to reduce your recurrent costs, minimise your financial commitment. 

For example a car is huge money pit. COE, Road Tax, ERP are all avoidable taxes. Avoid them.
5 Live Honestly. Get what you pay for and pay for what you get. If you hear any stories about scams and con artist, usually what happens is somebody thought they could get something for nothing, and they got conned. Live honestly. Save for the things you want. Use credit cards for convenience, but pay the bills in full when it arrives. Know what you are paying for. Sometimes you pay for quality. Sometimes you pay for convenience. Sometimes you pay a premium for status, branding, or marketing. Nothing wrong with any of those as long as you are conscious of your choice and why you are choosing it. Nothing is for free.
I wish someone had told me those things. Or maybe there is no way except to make the mistakes and learn the lessons firsthand.

What are your key lessons about finance and money management you would tell young people?

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