2020 is the Year to Start Being Retirement Ready

Why is this so important?

Retirement is EXPENSIVE.

Retirement = Housing + Healthcare + Food + Leisure + Taxes

Housing


The first – housing – being one of the most common ‘first-goals’ in every Singaporean’s life, is probably going to be the least of your concerns. The house that you have purchased in your mid thirties stands a 70% of becoming your retirement home i.e the home you will live in..until you go.

Chances are, you would have pledged a certain portion of your home to CPF in order to meet the CPF LIFE requirements for the basic annuity payout (what is this?! Book an appointment with me and I’ll explain this to you)

So it’s likely that your home situation would be more or less settled by your retirement years. Ideally, your retirement home is also retirement-friendly: amenities around the area makes it much more convenient for you to purchase groceries, accessible public transport to make traveling around the city much less of a hassle, and perhaps child-friendly amenities for your future grandchildren.
A HDB housing could set you (and your CPF) back easily by $500,000 SGD. Aim to pay off your loans (and loans from your CPF, which is equal to the capital amount PLUS interests you would have earned…) before you hit your fifties so that you will be better prepared for the other factors that make up retirement expenses!

Healthcare


One of the biggest expenditures in retirement years is healthcare. You and I both know how insanely expensive it can be to fall sick and stay sick here in Singapore. Common illnesses that never shook us in our youth could easily see us hospitalised for a good week when we’re older. Weaker immune systems and aging in general leaves us prone to a whole swathe of new viruses strains and bacterial infections.

Over-60s suffering more with chronic diseases than a decade ago: Study (Straits Times Article)

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/over-60s-suffering-more-with-chronic-diseases-than-a-decade-ago-study

Healthcare costs in your retirement years commonly consists of emergency healthcare funds + long term care funds (disability / elderly care / etc) + major illnesses, which in totality can easily amount to $500,000SGD.

If you’re constantly making excuses why you should not set aside money (e.g: you’re currently “in debt” and paying off housing and car loans), then you’re going to wind up shooting yourself in the foot when you’re in your fifties and setting aside $500,000 SGD will seem even more a daunting task than it was in your thirties.

Food, Leisure

Retirement years are also the time where you can really kick back and relax a little more than you’ve ever had since you entered the working world. Spending money on food and leisure would easily set you back $3000 – $4000 a month, depending on the lifestyle you want for yourself.

Single elderly Singaporeans need $1,379 a month to meet basic living standard: Study

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/study-finds-1379-a-month-needed-to-meet-basic-living-standard-for-single-elderly

Just meeting the basic standard of living as a retiree couple would need $2351 SGD per month. Taking inflation of 2% per year and assuming you’re 30 years of age this year, this would be $4,701.74 SGD by the time you’re 65 years old.

$4,701.74 SGD

per month, for every year you’re alive after declaring that you’re retiring.

(I had to ensure this number is large and bolded and in-your-face)

The good news? How you’re going to ensure you have $4,701.74SGD EACH MONTH for the amount of years you’re going to live for is still within your control.

The bad news? You have to start now. Tossing aside 15%-20% of your current monthly income for your future retirement income is a good start (but only a start).

A sliver of hope resides in the fact that you can contact me to find retirement-ready options for you. Book your appointment with me by clicking here.

Taxes

They don’t go away just because you’re old.

Taxes are one of the very few constants in our lives.❤️ Let’s embrace it (with proper tax planning in place – yes, you plan how you pay for your taxes as best you can, through a qualified financial advisor, like me (click))

https://www.iras.gov.sg/irashome/Individuals/Locals/Working-Out-Your-Taxes/Income-Tax-Rates/

As you can see, so long as you draw an income, you’ll have to pay taxes* If you’re shoving cash into your Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) now (and hopefully doing something with the monies), the amount you’re withdrawing in your retirement is still treated as income and therefore taxable*

*some are exempted. Learn more by setting an appointment with me.

Conclusion

Plan now, AND start now. Your plans don’t get you anywhere until you execute them. Choose an advisor with the right qualifications, not someone with big ideas and an enticing brand marketing message. Your advisor’s there to give you the real, hard truth. It’s a rather thankless job, but I anticipate gifts and thank-you’s in my retirement years from clients I help today.

If you’re lost at how to get started on your own without an advisor, just think for a second how you’re going to get $4,701.74SGD EACH MONTH for the number of years you’re going to live for:

https://www.todayonline.com/big-read/big-read-dreaded-r-word-why-singaporeans-need-start-thinking-seriously-about-retirement

(Just, FYI, your children are do not form part of your retirement plan. They can be incredibly unreliable.)

What to Do with Your First Paycheck

You’ve landed your first job and your first ever paycheck has just come in. It’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment, self-sustenance and independence, all mixed into one. Before you start your shopping spree to celebrate, hold on to your money a little longer and start planning on how to spend it wisely – make that amazing feeling last!

Depending on your own financial goals and obligations, you should have a financial plan as soon as you receive your first paycheck. It’s all right to reward yourself for your hard work but being smart with your spending can give you a jump-start to long-lasting financial independence and wealth. Here’s what you should do to maximise your first paycheck. 

Creating a budget: Follow the 50/30/20 rule

Creating a budget is an excellent way to set a healthy financial habit moving forward with your professional career. Establishing a spending and savings budget allows you to see and account for where every dollar is going. The best way to start is to follow the 50/30/20 rule: 50% of your salary allocated to your bills and monthly expenses, 30% set aside for savings and emergencies, and 20% specifically for investments. As you progress in your career and you gain a better understanding of your lifestyle needs, adjusts those numbers to propel you towards your financial goals.

Book your financial planning and goal setting appointment with me by clicking here!

Spend 50% on monthly expenses: The lower, the better

If having a steady income is something new, you may need to adjust your attitude towards money. Suddenly being flushed with cash takes getting used to, especially when exerting self-control. Ensure that you do not spend more than 50% of your paycheck on your monthly expenses. First, pay off any outstanding bills and loans, then look at your other expenses. If your variable expenses such as food, transport and social activities are pushing you beyond this 50% budget, you need to reassess your financial decisions. Occasional splurges – such as birthday gifts, a hearty meal or weekend staycations – or the daily spending – such as coffee or Grab rides – all add up and could affect your financial health. Keep track of all your expenses and minimise where you can, ensuring that you do not spend more than 50% of your salary – or the lower, the better.

Allocate 30% for savings: Have a solid savings plan

After prioritising your monthly bills and expenses, it’s important to set aside a fixed amount for savings. Establish how much you can afford to save and lock in that number – at minimum 30%. If possible, set up an automatic transfer into a dedicated savings account. This savings account should be left untouched and set aside for your retirement and emergencies. Try to aim for a savings sum that can cover three to six months of living expenses for times of emergencies (imagine that you have no income in that time).

Setting financial goals will also encourage you to stick to a realistic budget and savings plan. 

You should set your short-term goals (less than six months), intermediate goals (up to three years), as well as long-term goals. Plan ahead for big-ticket items such as a long vacation, wedding or home renovation, saving from your very first paycheck is the way to go. With these goals in mind, you can increase your savings and readjust your expenses. Having a solid, tangible plan and an attainable goal will help you make wiser decisions and get the best out of your paycheck.

Book your financial planning and goal setting appointment with me by clicking here!

Invest 20%: Making your money work

You’ve worked hard for your money, so it’s time for your money to work for you. It’s never too early to start investing, and you do not need a large sum to start. Some banks allow you to invest in bonds or mutual funds from just $100. Know your options and find the best way to grow your money while you sleep. Although you won’t be able to count this as an alternative source of income, it’s an excellent way to build your wealth for the long-run.

Having a plan to manage your money right from your first paycheck will cultivate a healthy attitude towards money.

Achieving long-term financial independence and reaching your goals will not be a struggle if you start planning right from the get-go. Similarly, getting an in-depth understanding of how money works early on in the game can make you a wise saver and investor, so it would be worth sitting down with a financial advisor to learn more. Make appropriate adjustments according to your lifestyle and goals, and develop a financial plan that is most achievable, realistic and right for you. You’ll be off to a great start in your career.

Book your financial planning and goal setting appointment with me by clicking here!

Five Common Financial Goals for Women

I’ve heard that it is challenging for many women (including myself) to know or even think about what targets we should be aiming for —like how much to save if we want to start a business or how much we’ll need to tide us through child-bearing and child-rearing years.

Using the #WomenWealthJourney methology and as an associate wealth planner (AWP,CFP), I provide my female clientele with a financial plan with recommendations for achieving and protecting each of financial goal of yours which we will identify and iron out together.

For each goal you choose, I provide recommendations for:


● Your goal target amount (how much you want for your goal) + safety nets to be implemented
● Your time horizon (when you want to achieve your goal)
● An amount to deposit when you fund your goal
● An ongoing amount to save toward your goal
● A tailored and customised wealth growth and preservation portfolio recommendation

Curious about these goals? Here are five common financial goals for women in Singapore:

GoalEstimated Target Amount & DescriptionDefault Investment Horizon
🏠 My Cozy HomeWe use the average price for a home of your choice (private / public housing) and apply the relevant loan rates and down-payments required, on top of the other factors to be considered: ABSD (if any), loan tenure, tenancy type, inflation, etc.)
With professional home loan experts and property agents, we will work together to identify and plan this goal of yours.
5 to 15 years / potentially longer.
👩‍💼 Start My Own Business 24 months of your salary minus taxes (your take-home pay) + 6-9 months of expenses as liquid savings (to serve as a buffer).
Inflation will be taken into account.
With a network of business strategists, you can be assured that you’ll be able to find the right business mentor to connect with.
5 years
👶 Kiddy KiddosCost of childbirth, hospitalisation stays, childbirth expenses.
Childcare costs, 24 months of your current salary (minus taxes).
Child education costs (up to local / overseas university) will be taken into account
Inflation will be taken into account.
5 to 20 years
👵 Retire on My Own TermsUsing the Income or Expenses method, we will project the retirement fund you need to continue living your expected lifestyle and retirement medical funds, retirement travel funds, and others.
Inflation will be taken into account. CPF retirement amounts and CPF plans will also be taken into account.
Your defined retirement age & statutory retirement age.
👛 Build & Preserve My WealthVaries depending upon your resources,
other goals, and goal priority
20 years or more
5 Common Financial Goals of Women in Singapore

These are five very real financial goals of women in Singapore.

Life is uncertain and being unprepared leaves women at the effect of, instead of being in control of their circumstances. It’s also common for women to be fearful about their future, especially when they’re unclear about their financial reality.

Perhaps fear is warranted among women considering some of the health statistics related to female-specific illnesses and rising divorce rates.

Put structure around your goals: As with any goal-setting process, writing down your goals is an important first step in planning for the future. Schedule an appointment with me to get started on your financial plans, or learn more about the #WomenWealthJourney here

Why Your Financial Advisor, Lawyer, and Doctor, Will Not Be A Robot In This Lifetime.

Medical and law students undergo a series of prolonged academic studies to achieve recognition of their capabilities and earn the respect of their peers and clients. Doctors and lawyers invest heavily in academics and education for the benefit of their clients and their work for their clients, in spite of the apparent threat from technology and, specifically, artificial intelligence.

What is law and medicine but a series of algorithms? Codified instructions, systematic procedures and diagnoses – ifs and thens. Sounds like a lot of computer programming, doesn’t it? It is no wonder then, to most people with little experience in the field of technology, that this should seem like a career-crushing monster looming in the corner of their minds.

However, in reality, we know nothing is ever the ideal situation. The medical and legal systems are just not as straightforward as coding. Just consider for a second the complicated state of justice and add the human factor into the mix, whether it be problems stemming from backlogged courts, overburdened doctors and swathes of disproportionately defendants (in the medical field, so seems the trend in 2019) accused of negligence or crime. It gets pretty ugly and complicated, because humans are involved.

The same applies to financial planning – the current state of technology is insufficient in providing quality advice that works for each distinct and unique human life. I concede that routine work can be taken on by machines. Many of the tasks that traditionally involved routine and process-based tasks, that do not call for judgement, creativity or empathy, will undoubtedly be replaced by technology.

The Human Aspect

I’m sure, by now, that we have all recognised that humans are outgunned by a combination of brute processing power, data, and unparalleled algorithms – things which a simple human mind and body cannot replicate.

We are witnessing the work of high-performing machines, beating the best humans at difficult games and predicting the decisions of court or a medical diagnosis or in identifying a financial gap.

These are remarkable systems and innovations, but they are also unthinking and unfeeling machines. These systems do not replicate human reasoning and thinking, critical in the legal, medical, and financial planning fields.

I am certain that human experts will always be needed for the tricky stuff that calls for judgment, creativity, and empathy.
Technology will replace a lot of doctors, lawyers, and financial planners, who’ve never done more than their routine work and who fail to embrace tailoring customised solutions that fit a client’s peculiar and unique needs (that are so necessary and so essential).

There is a distinct value in working with a professional financial advisor than simply counting on the robots we have today to handle our financial plans and financial journeys.
Yes, the argument could be made that robots will “eventually take over our jobs” as financial advisors, akin to the threats made to doctors and lawyers, but the real professionals in these fields would embrace technological advancements as a tool which complements and supports our work. Such technology will serve to remove the mundane processes and work systems that has traditionally curbed the time we have for our clients and value we can add to our clients.

Our inclination to believe that technology is going to “take over” our jobs is nothing but a brand positioning and marketing technique that leverages on the bubble and hype of the advances we are making as a human species.

This belief so easily persuades the millennial generation who are born into the era of technological advancements. This belief, as organised and as hyped as they are, is creaking.

Humans, without technology?

As humans working without technology, we are unaffordable and incredibly inefficient, and we often fail to deliver value evenly across our communities. Increased costs of healthcare, lack of access to justice, inadequacy of current personal financial planners and the failure of auditors to recognise and stop financial scandals from spiralling deeper are real problems, problems where technology can come in to aid and resolve.

Technology: An Enabler

By taking away imminent and real impediments in our systems, technology acts more as an enabler than the aforementioned looming giant in the corner, waiting to take over our jobs. It allows experienced and creative professionals to go one step further for their clients.

So in this lifetime, I’m pretty sure that your doctor, your lawyer, and your financial planner, are still going to be very much human and very heavily invested in their profession.

They will simply be a new breed of professionals who leverages on technology in order to give you more accurate results and detailed analyses in the most efficient manner possible.

The Value Of a CFP Certified Planner

I’m an advocate for on-going professional education and lifelong learning. As such, I’ve made it a point to dedicate a good part of my week investing in my education as a certified financial planner (CFP):

“CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (CFP) professionals are trusted financial professionals who work with individuals and families to review all aspects of their financial affairs and recommend practical, easy-to-understand solutions for every life stage. FPSB’s research with more than 19,000 consumers worldwide showed:

  • Those who work with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professional feel more strongly confident about their financial situation than those managing their own finances or working with a different type of financial adviser.
  • Consumers who have a written, comprehensive plan are nearly three times more likely to feel strongly confident about achieving their life goals.”

More about the CFP: https://fpas.org.sg/cfp-certification/value-cfp-certification/

As a trained professional financial planner since 2018, every prospect I’ve met has had their financial portfolio successfully reviewed and restructured. I’ve busted many myths that insurance sales people, who have little to no professional training in financial education, share with them under the guise of a caring and competent advisor.

If you wish to speak about your financial plans, you may book your appointment with me via this calendar (click here). I look forward to meeting you.

Bad Money Habits That Are Leaving You in the Red

Do you find yourself running low on funds days or even weeks before your next payday? Spending money is so easy that it makes saving money seem hard. Taking a step back to assess your money habits can help identify and eradicate the bad ones that are causing you to have too much month at the end of your money.

Not Keeping Track of Your Spending and Expenses

Today, we spend money without even blinking an eye to the amount that we are paying. Just swipe your card or automate your payments to have fewer worries – instead, get one big surprise any time you check your bank balance. Small purchases will accumulate over time, so it’s best practice to keep track of all your spending either in writing or electronically – as long as it is an easily accessible and tangible record. This will help you plan your spending and ensure that it doesn’t get out of hand and take you by surprise at the end of the month.

Ignoring Your Budget

To successfully set a budget, you need to compare how much you earn with how much you spend. Setting a wild budget that doesn’t realistically cover your expenses will only set yourself up to fail and eventually ignore your budget completely. Firstly, set money aside to take care of your essential expenses – such as rent, transport, food – and then set aside savings for your retirement and emergency fund. From there, you can – and should – earmark a reasonable amount for the fun extras, such as the movies, shopping, or any other indulgences. Allocating for these three areas will give you a realistic budget to work with.

Relying on Your Credit Card

Credit cards are a good way to spend money, considering the merchant discounts, miles, points and rebates you earn. Many local banks even provide better interest rates to the savings account that is linked to your credit card. Despite the perks, it is important not to rely on your credit cards and overspend. If you find yourself using the credit cards to cover the last one or two weeks of the month to tide you over until the next paycheck, then we have a problem. Tapping your credit card is so easy and seamless that you accumulate debt faster than ever before. Hence, it is up to you to act quickly in your payments to avoid the high interest rates and killer late fees. There is nothing wrong with using credit cards but be sure to use them wisely.

Accumulating Excessive Debt

After you set money aside for your expenses, savings and fun extras, you need to look into your debt-to-income ratio: the ratio is achieved by dividing the total of all monthly debt payments by gross monthly income, giving you a percentage called the debt-to-income ratio. Find out how much your debt-to-income ratio is by clicking here & booking an appointment to speak with me.

Credit card bills and loans can be incredibly daunting and many of us do not want to face the truth. Dedicate some time to sort out all the debt you have – be thorough in noting down the amount, the terms of payment, and the incurred fees. Have a full understanding of the penalties if you put off paying your credit card debts or loans. Having the complete picture of your obligations will help you make wiser financial decisions.

Falling Behind on Your Payments

Falling behind on your credit card or loan payments can lead to a debt cycle that is difficult to get out of. For one thing, you are incurring late fees and other charges when you don’t make payment in time or in the minimum amount needed, hence, increasing your debt. Again, it’s daunting to look at the amount you owe every month, but fully understanding the consequences of late payments are key to kicking the bad habit. Tackle the late payments first, then address any spending, budgeting or income issues that have caused you to fall behind with your payments. Keep a reminder on your phone for important payment dates, and keep in mind the exact costs of late payments.

Not Setting Long-Term Financial Goals

Financial goals give you something to work towards. They should be attainable long-term goals such as home ownership, retirement fund, starting your own business, taking a course to upgrade your skills, or even an expensive vacation. Setting goals help you determine the necessary or unnecessary expenditures that take you further away from your desired goals.

Take time to make a financial plan to achieve these goals and review them each year so you can be sure that your spending matches your priorities. Book your appointment with me and I’ll be happy to work this out together with you.

Making Financial Decisions Out of Pressure

There may be social pressures beyond our control that affect our spending choices. It could range from purchasing a luxury item to keep up with trends and fashion, or making life decisions such as having a wedding or starting a family due to the behest of the parents.

When you feel cornered, you may not be considering all the options available to you and end up making a mistake or spending more than you should. You may not be ready to purchase big-ticket items or make life-changing decisions, so giving into pressure will not benefit you financially.

Make sure you make decisions based on your own timing, goals and needs.

Finding a good financial planner with the professional pre-requisites is not easy. Thankfully, you’re reading the blog which belongs to one.

As a certified Associate Wealth Planner gunning for her Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation, I’m one of the youngest candidates for this prestigious recognition in the field of Financial Planning. 💪

💋 Kiss goodbye to those days of pushy insurance sales reps and arrogant know-it-none’s! Click here to book your appointment with me.

3 Tips Smart Investors Will Tell You

After several discussions with my partner about investments, I decided to give this blog post a go. Much like other investment advice out there, this one’s going to give you an extremely broad idea on how you should approach investments in stocks, shares, bonds, REITS, and the like.

I spent a considerable amount of time in 2018 doubling down on investment knowledge and education as part of my investment planning and financial planning studies. Having exposure to the business and technology world, my take on investment tips is (thankfully) not as narrowed as the typical analyst advice would be.

So, as usual, I assumed control and decided to take it by the reins, and put some skin in the game, purchasing several REITS, blue chip stocks, bonds, and index funds.

If I could summarise my advice for investment into one sentence, it would be this: “The stock market is not your friend.

The stock market’s biggest allies, who are also not your friends, are excitable news, investment sentiments, and obsession of your portfolio.

The stock market is not your friend.

Instead, it’s this looming, stinking goblin residing behind the veneer of the financial freedom dream. It awakens the most dangerous emotions in any human: excitement, and fear.

We are either too fearful to invest into the market, or having taken the plunge, we become excited and brim with ambition, thinking we’re invincible when the stocks are in the green the next day, resulting in a sudden and undesirable increase in our risk tolerance.

Being a successful investor requires emotional balance, diligence, and discipline.

Emotional Balance

Managing your emotions is key to becoming successful in investing.

A word of advice: don’t constantly check your portfolio. It could be in the greens today and switch back into the reds after certain prominent figures decide to hash it out on Twitter.

Stock prices change every single day, but it doesn’t mean the long-term value of the company has changed. Prices move for many, MANY reasons. Usually, it reacts to market’s sentiments before it really levels out.

Diligence

As an investor, you hold a certain interest in these companies and funds in which you invest in. As such, you are responsible for keeping up to date with the company’s plans and movements, their deals and acquisitions, and most importantly, the company balance sheets.

Diligence requires effort and time, which technically strips away the meaning of “passive” in the term “passive investing”, as it still requires a fair bit of effort and a lot of analysing (of the firm, not so much market sentiment and definitely not what the media portrays the situation to be).

Which brings me to the last point:

Discipline

Ignore your friends (who’ve little to no background in financial education) and the media messengers / outlets:  Media in particular encourage you to think about the stock market as a game. Influential figures who have no professional experience in financial planning or investment portfolio planning, or anything finance (aka. self-proclaimed, self-made millionaires raking profits by selling books and courses…)

If you play along, you’re at risk of nullifying all the research you’ve done as your time horizon dwindles from years to minutes.

Remember, media also holds the danger of stripping from you the humility that is so needed in investing. Influential figures, social media, and media outlets are incentivised one way or another to project an image of infallibility (the opposite of humility).

You are never going to hear from them the words that are the essence of investing: “I don’t know.” And, honestly, this is dangerous. It’s a red flag. If you stop thinking, if you start assuming you know everything, you may believe you can be an expert on everything. And no one can. Especially not influential figures whose main source of revenue comes from selling you courses or workshops on “how I made my first million” (I hope you know the people I’m referring to.)

If you start to believe that the future has only one path, you may ignore other paths and thus other risks in your portfolio construction. You may start to feel as though you know better than financial planners do about personal finance and investment portfolio planning (which, honestly, like, no.)

When you tell yourself you’re an expert in stocks after having gone for a workshop, then your circle of competence has zero boundaries, resulting in you taking this overconfidence and baseless audacity to places and into investments where you have no place being, where you’d be spit out faster than the cat food accidentally ingested by Charlotte my rabbit.

Are you an Investor or a Trader?

Cut the B.S labelling on “short term investors” and “long term investors”. If you invest, your time horizon is and should always be long-term.

Remember: investing is not just about time horizon (the ability to hold); your analytical process over time is equally important.

Being an investor means viewing all news about a company, all its information on upcoming mergers and acquisitions, reviewing and keeping tabs on its balance sheets, questioning media intentions, and analysing how every move would impact the value of the business.

This perspective is rather liberating, I feel. Before I started working my way up as a Certified Financial Planner, I’ve always thought investing in the stock market was an exciting yet confusing money-making journey to financial freedom, that only expert analysts could wrap their heads around.

After graduating from the program, I realised what an idiot I was, and what idiots these analysts could be, too.

When you start to process the news flow differently, you begin to filter out the noise of the everyday news dump, baseless advice and sentiments from friends, family, analysts, and yes, even traders.

A simple question,

“How does this impact the value of the business?,”

filters out 90% of the market’s noise and puts you on a solid investment ground to start your investment journey — no matter how volatile the market itself may be.

The Kind of Holiday We Should Be Taking

Holidays and vacations are what we dream of most. It is the topic to bring up during water-cooler chats, and the kinds of images that fill up most of our Instagram feeds.

I’m continuously fascinated by how oblivious we allow ourselves to be, indulging in our fortunate circumstances that we are to live in this time and in this country, to be living the way we live, to then think and behave the way we do as a result. As I observe people around me, what I often see are comfortable, coddled children (including myself). A little hardship sends us on a downward spiral of discomfort and shame. A little criticism sees us firing away comments verbally or digitally, all to defend our perfect image, our pristine pride and dignity, because what right do they have to criticise our perfection and our blessed fortune?

Most of us don’t think about or worry about basic comforts:

  • Air-conditioned work spaces, restaurants, shopping malls, public transportation systems
  • Appliances that prepare our food and keep them from rotting, appliances that wash our clothes, appliances that heat up our water so we can shower ourselves in comfort
  • Widely available and super reliable public transportation systems
  • Food options that are made affordable (sacrificing on the fancy aspect of it, of course)
  • Toilet paper and sanitary pads.

You might have found the last point funny, but if you start wondering just how homeless women go through their periods, you’ll understand.

All of these are wonderful, as long as we remember to notice and appreciate them. But we often don’t. I often don’t either. So much of these things that we take for granted today were not made available just a decade or two ago, yet how often do we stop to appreciate what we have around us that is made available to us? Nearly every basic desire is available and increasingly affordable and convenient to get and use.

Some of us like myself have acquaintances of similar age groups spending ridiculous amounts dining out, eating fancy, dressing fancy, making purchases that encourages envy and garners them their much needed attention. It can make us feel that the most basic option for food and clothing shouldn’t be compromised, and that we ought to buy the best, the most expensive, the most lavish and most popular choices out there.

How often do we stand in awe of our clean, running water, our paved roads and infrastructure, our public transport system, our communication services, our air-conditioners, our washing machines, our $3.50SGD economy rice meals we could purchase from the hawker across the street?

How often do we think about what it takes to have a computer made available for us to use? How often do we stop and appreciate the clean air around us, the safety and security this country does a fantastic job at maintaining, the nearly-free education we as citizens gain access to?

Not often enough. And definitely not enough.

I’m ashamed I used to be blind to much of it, too busy with my life and my priorities to take a moment and appreciate just about everything I have access to. I felt entitled almost, without realising that I only have these made available to me because I struck the birth lottery: born at the right time, right country, to the right people, and circumstances.

While I’m pleased by my healthier life and financial choices now, and my awareness at just how amazing it is to have clean water made available to me in my home, I find that sometimes, I still need to work to maintain and sustain this level of awareness and attention towards just how fortunate my life is, how great things and services are here in this country, even when life throws me multiple lemons and curve balls.

In order to stay thankful, I go on a holiday.

Yes, you heard me right. I go on a freakin’ holiday.

No, not the kind where I fly to Bali and spend countless days at the beach consuming bucketloads of freshly pressed juice, dine a full vegan diet and yoga 24/7.

I meant a financial holiday.

Since I know humans tend to only yearn for warmth when the sun is gone, I take a holiday from using the things I’m used to using.

I take what I call a Money Holiday:

  • Instead of eating out, I prepare a basic peanut butter sandwich and two boiled eggs for lunch.
  • Substitute my favourite shampoo for a brand I can buy from the dollar store.
  • Stop “catching up over drinks”.
  • Completely wipe my shopping wish list of anything that costs beyond $20 per article (bags, shoes, clothes) and buying from the neighbourhood marts or thrift stores.
  • Taking cold showers instead of hot ones.
  • Not using my car.
  • Limit my grocery shopping to a select few necessities and spending less than $20 a week: bananas, eggs, bread, milk.

…and yes, even swapping out fancy 3-ply toilet paper for the cheapest stuff available as a reminder that my grandmother used to use pages from newspapers or scrap paper when she was a young girl.

A money holiday from frivolous items and 21st century luxuries keep me extremely grounded and frugal, reminding me that wealth is not meant to be spent away but to be accumulated, and that one can either look rich or be rich (health, wealth, happiness).

If you’re planning to take a money holiday, you’ll find yourself in an insanely uncomfortable position if you work obediently within your money holiday limits.

Remember, money buys options.

It buys you the luxury to mourn when your loved one is injured versus having to fret about money in despair, trying to figure out how the medical bills will be settled and by whom.

It buys you the luxury to come home and have a peaceful, simple meal with your children and wife when everyone else is scrambling to recover from a financial crisis.

It buys you the worry-free days, even when days can be worrying for everybody else.