Oh yes, another controversial article by The Straits Times. I like such articles, because it gives me an opportunity to write.
It’s easy to say that we should save 20%, or even 50% and I must say: I’ve been there and done that.
The way for a fresh graduate to achieve $100K in savings within five years (saving ~$1,666/mth) is, unfortunately, to make more money and I really mean going quickly from a $3K base salary to $5K with a pretty boring lifestyle. I ain’t going to eat $2 carrot cake and $3 chicken rice for 2 meals a day just to scrimp and save because at the end of the day I’ll really have to pay the price of medical fees from eating crappy, oily, salty hawker food when I’m old and grey.
You see, many of these financial advises are usually too generic and flawed. First of all to really save 50% of a $3K/mth salary means having only $1,200/mth to spend on average. That is possible only when somebody else is paying for a large part of your life, and that applies if you are living with parents OR leeching off a boyfriend, i.e. you don’t need to pay for a house mortgage, education loans, dinner at home, electrical and water bills, Internet, TV, insurance, taxes, and for stuff that randomly breaks down at home. And that also means the person bearing the bulk of this unfortunate unbalance in earnings-to-savings ratio would be the parents who are hopefully scheduled to retire sooner than the young teen trying to save $100K.
Articles like these need to take into account the entire household’s income to make a proper judgement. If an under-30 shares the cost of household expenses, $1,200 is probably way too low a figure for monthly expenses per capita — I’m talking about a healthy middle income family and lifestyle here, with occasional movies, maybe an annual trip, dinners and drinks with friends, taxi rides to work on rainy days and shopping for new clothes and shoes. If they (The Straits Times) did instead consider the scenario of a young couple financing their own home then they’ll realize that even trying to cook at home doesn’t make sense because the economics of cooking for 1 or 2 persons just sucks; it’s just cheaper to eat $3 chicken rice out.
So how is it possible to spend only $734/mth ($2,400 take home minus $1,666 savings)? This guy must be a monk! Besides that, not many graduates even earn $3,000/mth.
I would say everybody needs to strike a balance, but a for a young person under 30 sure, save some money — as much as you possibly can in fact, but just don’t forget to spend some of those earnings on what makes your life better. I’m not talking about an LV bag, or a brand new iPhone 6 the moment it launches, but things such as traveling, meeting people, trying or learning new things essentially shouldn’t take a backseat because you may not know when you’ll be on an unfortunate flight across a de-militarized zone. There must be a balance between living in the now or saving for the future, and this is the hardest part to get right.
My final word on this is that while we are all here happily reading and discussing issues like these on blogs and Facebook with our iPad or MacBooks, we need to acknowledge that we are in a social group that is likely to be already spending beyond $1,000/mth so this discussion is almost completely irrelevant to start with, but irregardless I must emphasize that many young people especially in Asian countries like Singapore spend too much money on luxury goods and are not spending enough to get themselves better educated and/or acquainted to social settings that is the saddest thing about where money is going to waste. People can get terribly upset about a $0.10 increase in their Kopi-C but will buy a $2,000 bag in a blink of an eye. I’m not sure what to make sense of that; while everybody had their pound foolish days (that’s why we call ’em “young and foolish”) it’s only helpful if there’s people (“old and wise”) around young teens to help guide them along so they’ll learn from their mistakes. It doesn’t help if their parents and teachers are buying these expensive luxury goods themselves. It all starts by leading by example.