Winging Adulting

In Singapore, young adults hardly ever think about moving out from their parents home after completing college education and starting their first jobs. It has nothing not much to do with the attitudes and culture of Singaporeans. It’s mostly because rent and housing is bleeping expensive. Unless you have a car, which by itself is an expensive luxury to have in Singapore, or you were born into a golden cradle (or silver, take your pick because you have a choice), you’d very likely look for an apartment closer to civilisation downtown.

Which means, unless you have roommates you feel comfortable living with that you wouldn’t attempt to toss out of the window, you would be looking at spending an upwards of SGD$1000 per month on rent and utilities. That doesn’t seem so bad, if you’re fine living in a smaller shoebox within yet another shoebox, and if you’re earning a decent wage. (These are two “if’s” that most people can’t really realise, though.)

Regardless of your choice, if you’ve successfully moved out of your parents home in Singapore and into another home/flat/room as a single, working professional, congratulations. You are just about as crazy as I am. Or, perhaps we share similar circumstances that kind of almost makes moving out a requirement, not an option.
If we’re in the same boat, I feel you.

Personally, this experience of moving out at an early age in life has been nothing but a painful agonising filled with self-doubt expensive rewarding experience. Over the years, this capacity for responsibility of every aspect of my life has grown tremendously. But the initial process, in retrospect, was not merely speckled with mistakes. It was more or less a complete and utter disaster (I’m not my worst critic, though.)

When I first moved into my ensuite room in a bungalow, with things in cardboard boxes still unpacked, I felt a surge of exhilaration. It was empowering and exciting.
I can finally chill out on my bed in my work clothes at the end of the day, with pizza and gummy bears spread across my bed, a glass of red wine in hand, and watch Netflix all evening. I could even exfoliate myself with the cookie crumbs I left on my bed the night before, yay!

Except, well, I couldn’t. I still had the same business to run, exams to study for, job to do, clients to entertain, and somehow find a way to fit “dating” and entertain the possibility of a “relationship” that would (with God’s blessing) lead to a marriage where I’d not want to douse my husband in bleach the second I’m in my first trimester.

What seemed like more freedom was really just an illusion. I signed myself up for an expensive, two-year long lease, way more chores, and not being able to come home to warm, cooked food prepared by my ever-so-loving mother. With each passing week, however, I managed to ease into this nightmare idea of adulting and actually began to enjoy it.

Initially, though, I let simple, daily tasks accumulate. Starting with laundry. If you don’t know what a Laundry Chair is, grow up. Grow the heck up, because the Laundry Chair is part of every adulting experience.

Image result for laundry chair meme

Thing is, I only have one chair in my room. It started with tossing a jacket or two onto the chair, which I thought, hey, I could use these guys whenever it gets too cold in my room and I’m too lazy to reach for my AC remote situated a whopping 2 metres away from me.

In a short span of three days, however, it was no longer a chair meant to be sat on. I could hardly recognise my chair under the Mount Everest of clothes.

Next came food preparation. Thank the Lord (and the late James clerk Maxwell, Heinrich Hertz and Percy Spencer) for the invention of the microwave oven. It has saved me from potentially eating my own hair or starving myself to death on many occasions.

Image result for microwave meme

I love my mother’s cooking. She doesn’t have a particular style or cuisine. It’s just those couple of dishes that, no matter where else you go or however hard you try to replicate the recipe, you can never come up with the exact, familiar and comforting taste. Or warmth (literally, when without a working stove or microwave), for that matter.

On days when my microwave oven decided to take vacation days off, I was left with a slightly broken heart, empty stomach, and food delivery options.

Food delivery options in Singapore are varied and plentiful. Also, have I already mentioned how expensive it is to live like a millennial in Singapore? Probably not. So here’s my best shot at trying to describe what it’s like in three words in order of significance:

Unrealistic.

Exorbitant.

Gratifying.

 

Whenever I find myself busting my food expenses budget (as always), I’d dabble with the thoughts of taking a 10-minute evening stroll to the nearest Hawker Centre (not sure what this is? Wikipedia has a page on what a Hawker Centre is. Click here!).
Usually, my thought process on the acquisition of my dinner goes as follows:

What do I want to eat?
How many calories does it (the entire meal) have?
Have I busted the max calories I can consume each day?
Have I busted my food expens—yes.
Do I feel too tired to walk to the Hawke—yes.

I end up going to bed hungry, 99% of the time, when my microwave is broken, or when I’m in my room, which is one long and tiring flight of stairs away from the kitchen (this is a serious consideration and determining factor on whether or not I will have food that evening, or not).

Boohoo.

But the exhilaration of moving into my own place hasn’t waned. For a few times a week, I spontaneously decide I’m ready to be a real adult, knowing very clearly it could very well be my last attempt before I pick up the phone and dial “mom emergency”. But I do it anyway.

I begin cleaning every nook and cranny of my room, dousing it with chloroxylenol (antiseptic), removing every stain, every rust and every speck of dust. I would proceed to remove the covers of my bed, replace them with sparkling clean sheets, and send the soiled laundry into the washer, dousing with more chloroxylenol, some softener I grabbed off the shelf in a grocery store, oh and laundry powder. Though I believe I forget this, or one of the additions, sometimes. Anyway, adulting.
Schedules are drafted neatly into the day-planner I purchased. Fancy food stocked up because I also planned to somehow or rather mysteriously find time to be a master chef for myself and an imaginary boyfriend who would lick the plates so clean I wouldn’t need to wash them any more.

I was basically preparing for what seemed more like a How To Be A Housewife 101 Examination. I think I scored pretty well, even for a beginner. I’m Asian. I aim to score the highest grade in ANY examination and usually do. I cannot fail unless I wish to face the Asian vitriol back home, which is an unthinkable consequence.
Thank you Asian genes and culture. 

During the first month of my moving out of my parent’s home in Singapore, the first day or two of my plans to become Grade A Housewife usually went okay. For pockets of time, I actually felt grown-up and responsible within my own home and while away from work (where I had to be grown-up and responsible every second).
And it felt great, a far better gush of pride than coming back to my parent’s, where my mother would instinctively clean up my mess for me, arrange my books in alphabetical order, and magically turn my soiled laundry into sparkling sheets of fabric in less than three hours. I started taking pride in my ability to adult, strutting around my own place with my head held up high, telling my cats, “I’m responsible too. Look at my fancy groceries, and clean kitchen.

But that’s kind of a once in a month sort of thing. Eventually, I began gloating my own successful accomplishments a little too much. I started indulging in this adulting high a little too often. And with the daily, brutal onslaught of relentless work, I started to wear myself out. Somedays, I felt like I’ve earned the right to hire a helper. Somedays, I actually do hire a helper, so I could slack off and recover.

I’ve already exceeded the capacity of responsibility of maybe twenty Singaporean millennials combined, with such diligence my Asian parents would laud me for, I thought.
I could slack off this week. Just this once.

This is exactly when it all resets the spiral into guilt and procrastination starts.

To hire a helper, I generally pay anywhere between SGD$20 – $35 per hour, for a minimum of four hours inclusive of ironing and changing of sheets (not sure why this was explicitly stated as an additional job, but whatever). Which means I was spending at least SGD$80 per week for someone else to clean up my laundry.

It doesn’t seem like much, except I forget that whenever the helper’s around, I feel a sense of urgency and need to actually be there to watch my helper complete my chores for me. Not only do I see someone doing my chores, I also see my bank account go down by SGD$80 that week because I’d rather pay to watch someone else do what I ought to be doing for myself. Guilty-spiral? Yeah, totally.

The pesky guilty-spiral doesn’t really end here, like I hoped it would.

It started seeping into every aspect of my life. The more I allowed myself to procrastinate on house chores, the more I procrastinated on things like emails and phone calls. All of this adds to the burgeoning mountain of guilt.

Image result for guilt meme

This intensification and deepening of guilt eventually became too heavy a responsibility to carry on my shoulders, along with the other responsibilities I already have.

I was reduced to two options: Call Mom, or Clean Up Mess.

So I stealthily reach out for a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, as if I didn’t want my responsibilities to catch me red-handed, and put Netflix on.

~

For most of the first year of living on my own, I relied on my Laundry Chair, prayed for my microwave to never fail on me when I needed to it to work, and somehow manage to restock my kitchen and cleaning cabinet with cleaning necessities in between my already cramped and busy work schedule.

Somehow, my freezer always has the tub of Ben and Jerry’s ready for these rather depressing days.

I got the hang of adulting eventually. It’s pretty dang awesome. You will too, eventually. Hang in there!

Somedays though, my chair starts to take a semblance of the old Laundry Chair it once used to be. But I have a larger laundry basket now. The chair’s good as it is.

 

2019

Instead of striving to be on Forbes 30 under 30 or curate the sexiest Instagram feed, I strive to remind you that your life has more to it than validating your existence with likes, media coverage, and online stardom. I block motivational Twitter and Instagram accounts, if you don’t already know what kind of person I am.

Instead of a cheesy personal new year’s resolution we all know that you and I will never even remember after your second hangover this year, here are some practical tips to help you start your year on a better note:

  • Achieve your dreams, by dreaming small. Feel good about it.
  • Want a good relationship? Date yourself first.
  • Want to feel less anxious about your finances? Speak to someone who actually has control over their finances.
  • “Fake it till you make it” ain’t going to get you far. It won’t bring you inner peace. Strive to be real and accept that you are flawed.
  • Everyone has flaws – you’re not special. Get over yourself.
  • Drama is fun, but when you’re ready for reality, let yourself know by quitting it for good.
  • What doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger, but it can make you a better biatch / A hole against life’s torrential bullshit.

Life is short. We live, we die. If we’re lucky, we get some good shopping, good friends, and good times in between. Instead of wasting your time capturing these moments on Instagram, capture these memories with your mind and your heart. You don’t need to share these precious moments with your viewers. Immerse and indulge in these precious moments wholeheartedly.

Young women in tech are alarmingly ignorant of their finances

I trudged up the stairs and into the next conference room, with a panel of women set to speak about their tech founder experience and journey. I groaned inwardly, knowing exactly how the entire panel experience will be conducted like some sort of banal, insipid script for a play that by now seems trite and almost clichéd.

The entrance to the conference room was left wide open. Women of all walks of life filled the space with laughter and ebullience. The women founders in the room, women who’ve founded some sort of movement, charity, company, or their long-lost cat, were flushed with excitement, chattering away with eager attendees who’d stop at nothing to snap and upload wefies onto their Instagram stories and feed, and race their fingers across the screen of their smartphones, ferociously typing out captions and hashtags with such ardor.

“Cherieeeee,” screeched a familiar voice from behind. A slightly inebriated woman the host of this conference— teetered towards me with a microphone in her hands. She clearly was in need of assistance, also, flat shoes. As the host of the conference, she probably felt obligated to be decked out in an arresting outfit – the striking contrast between mandarin orange and ivory complimented her apparent zeal.  “You can’t imagine how glad I am to have you here. You need to be up on stage! You need to promise me that you will speak at my events again, especially since you’ve taken such a unique path in your work!”

The breathiness of her voice made it sightly difficult to discern the level of seriousness she had in her tone. I returned a quick nod and flashed a smile, knowing exactly how things would play out from here. It was like clockwork, with everything pre-planned to the minute: I got to speak with women who attended the conference, shared my work and purpose.

I talked to a lot of women under thirty who, when they found out I was a financial planner, said things like, “Oh, I should talk to you” or more alarmingly, “Oh, yes I know, I need to plan. I’m so bad finances. I’ll think about it”

Needless to say, I felt nauseated.

Now, of course, this is an observation that likely only I would have made at this conference, as I was the only financial planner there (that I know of), who rose from an intensive background in software and business. Perhaps my experience transitioning from a software business into the world of financial planning was the answer to addressing this alarming lack of financial knowledge in the world of tech, particularly so for women.

The specific questions I got from these women were about stock investments, or “investments”, and crypto. Which, frankly, scared me a bit. Surely these investments are interesting, but on the priority list of “What You Need to Focus on to Strengthen Your Financial Health and Wealth”, they’re so freakin’ far down they could almost fall off the bottom.

Here are these young, promising women who in just a couple of years were propelled into a career that was financially rewarding and purposeful, which could give them so much power and choice in their life in a mere 10 years down the line..and they’re too distracted and intimidated to see further than what media and society has painted out for them.

Imagine if all the women in tech, all the people in tech, started learning about personal finance: how they could control their finances, and taking full advantage of the financial opportunities they had going for them. What could happen if all of these women had the financial muscle to make decisions they needed to make, decisions they wanted to make, and not just decisions that were unfairly and disproportionally influenced by the likes of media and society? I have a good feeling it would change things for the better — for women, for the industry, for our society.

Who runs the world? Uh, clearly not girls. Yet.

Money and Marriage

(Using this time between appointments and meetings to pen my thoughts down on the relationship between money and marriage. Specifically how the third-party — in this case, Money — plays a crucial role in the make-or-break of every relationship, but not in the way I expected.)

While income had an impact on one’s well-being, it was the perceived financial security that leaves a significantly larger impact.

I got to know of a lady who was married to a rather eccentric fellow. No matter how much her ex-husband earned, no matter how grand the vacations they took together were, her anxiety was ever-present and strangely exacerbated whenever more money was spent. It took me a while to realize that it was the spending habits and personal beliefs around money that her ex-husband held on to that triggered her anxiety attacks. Long story short, this marriage didn’t last and ended up in an divorce.

A couple’s relationship with money is indeed much more nuanced than one might think. In many cases, more money doesn’t necessarily lead to more marital peace and contentment. The presence of financial security (or the lack there of) perceived by each partner can make-or-break relationships, and unfortunately it seems these problems only surface two to three years into a marriage. In comparison, successful couples have shown that they were capable of keeping the relationship together by addressing the topic about money as they would about each other’s terrible hygiene habits and morning breath — by talking about it openly and honestly. 

When a couple has shared financial beliefs to serve as a neutral ground for them to retreat to and discuss methods to face the financial problems together, it helps them focus on the problem than rip each other apart. (Marital arguments about money escalate pretty quickly!) When this common ground is lacking, either one or both partners can be easily tempted to take reckless measures (further and unnecessary borrowing) and actions (filing for a divorce).

For couples who’re newly weds or recently married, it would be good to allocate some time to discuss each other’s personal beliefs and internalised assumptions or rules about money. These assumptions and personal beliefs are what subconsciously drives our daily actions and decisions that we make with money from what we buy, how we live, how we save, and how we plan for our financial future. These assumptions and personal beliefs are also unfortunately commonly outside our conscious awareness, and takes a teensy bit more effort to become aware of and to be emotionally detached from, in order to prevent them from dominating our minds and taking control of our decision-making process in times of financial peril. Finding a common ground can be difficult, and most of the time, it’s not something that magically resolves overnight. Take time and effort to sort out the intricate relationship between money and your marriage, as this will help you and your spouse with larger life transitions expected in the future — a bundle of joy (or two!), family business succession planning, and retirement planning.

The Sense of Cents

It can be difficult to accurately imagine and feel what life is going to be like when we retire. Variable factors, risks and associated (possible) returns, and the “what-if’s” tend to make it even more difficult to articulate or express what life in the next decade or two would be like in the most realistic sense. Sometimes, we refuse to grasp the difference between our ideal future and the (often bleak) reality that stands before us. Planning for our financial future can also be overwhelming. Our day-to-day lives consume so much of our time and energy. Taking on the additional burden of planning for a future that’s “so far away” seems quite unnecessary.

So most of us kind of just default to dealing with it later. Or, we make irrational assumptions of what our financial future will look like while we allow our bank accounts to go down on us every day.

How much longer can you wait though? How much risks are you willing to stomach for the potential returns it can realise, if it does at all? From mismanaging our savings in the good times to indulging in materials and experiences that bring instant gratification, we’re reducing our abilities to provide for the rest of our lives, especially in our silver years.

No, it’s not difficult. But it does require some getting used to, especially if you have to stay within a spending budget lower than what you’re currently used to. No, it doesn’t always mean you have to give up your wants and desires. We all want to have our cake and eat it too.

Start with small, baby steps. I like to spend an hour or so of my weekends looking through my expenses for the week and how it falls into my personal budget. A small tweak like that can help you make sense of the money that goes in and out of your accounts on a weekly basis. If anything at all, you’ll gain comfort by understanding the inflow and outflow of your money. Trust me, it helps you start the new week on a good note.

Women Empowerment, Generally Speaking.

Women have increasingly taken upon themselves promising new roles in our society. The stark differences in the views of most women today about work and career pleasantly surprises me each time I speak with a millennial woman about her financial plans and goals. Often career-driven and purpose-driven, these women are embracing new responsibilities, without compromising their innate nurturer / care-taker characteristics that the female species are blessed with. This is not possible without the males in the workforce actively taking part in households and sharing the responsibilities that once belonged solely to women.

As our women flourish in the new age, we also begin to value the importance of independence. This sense of independence boosts esteem, and it is one of the driving factors that has shaped how we look at our roles and responsibilities today. To achieve such independence requires thoughtful planning and execution, and although a lot of us take pride in our innate capabilities to multitask efficiently while balancing sound personal and household finances, humans are also prone to being blind-sided and biased.

One of the observations I’ve made when working on the financial plans with women of all walks of life are is the misconception that there is a one-sized-fits-all financial and empowerment plan for women.

As the female species, our thought processes and emotions differ slightly from the males. This often results in making vastly different choices compared to our male counterparts when facing the same situation. A classic example: in a situation of danger, women express tendencies to seek measures to provide safety and security, while males express tendencies that reflect the desire to remove or at the very least diminish the source of the threat. Moreover, each woman’s upbringing and personal experiences shape their thought processes and ultimately the choices they end up making.

Given the different financial responsibilities of her household and of her own, and that each woman’s characteristics and goals for herself and her family differ so greatly one woman to another, it is suffice to therefore conclude that the umbrella term “women empowerment” and the “women empowerment” thought bubbles, workshops and events needs to be scrutinised, or at the very least, analysed carefully. In terms of financial planning, financial plans ought to be carefully crafted and curated to meet her individual needs. Awareness of this matter will help her discern generic advice from what is truly beneficial to her, likely motivate her to seek personalised advice to review and bolster her own financial plans, and ultimately find comfort in knowing what exactly she could do that truly sets herself on the right path towards her goals.

Change

It’s been a long while since I made any substantial changes to my personal website, cherietan.com. On the evening of 22nd November 2018, I decided to hit “delete” and restart on WordPress.com, where I first started three thousand years ago.

Yes, still me, Cherie. ☺️ Decided to embrace simplicity and focus my efforts on larger business projects and serving my valued clients as their dedicated financial planner.

I find it incredibly refreshing to have a diminutive online presence.