Singaporeans are an angry bunch, or at least that’s the way it looks on the Internet. Nary a day goes by without thousands of Internet trolls lashing out on forums and hoards of bloggers making impassioned posts about the sorry state of their lives.
And at the heart of at least half of these rants is money. Whether they’re complaining about how foreigners depress wages or how housing is getting too expensive, Singaporeans are driven by fears of not having enough.
Here are some of the most common complaints that most Singaporeans should be able to empathise with:
1. Not Being Able to Retire
A lot of Singaporeans’ frustration stems from the rising cost of living and the relative stagnation of wages. This doesn’t mean just mean you might have to start drinking Tiger Beer instead of craft beer or shop at Value Dollar instead of Jasons.
To many Singaporeans, the rising cost of living is a huge warning sign that they’ll be working until the day they die. Look at old folks on the streets collecting cardboard boxes or wiping tables at hawker centres and you can see where many Singaporeans envision themselves a few decades down the road.
Janice, a 29-year-old editor, laments, “I’m not even 30 yet and I already feel like my life is consumed by work. I often work late into the night and can go days without speaking to anyone other than my colleagues. I’m considering migrating to a cheaper country as I don’t think I can continue working like this for the rest of my life.”
2. Not Being Able to Afford a Home
Telling someone property isn’t cheap in Singapore is like giving a blind man an iPad. But young Singaporeans coming of age in the 21st century are realising just how unaffordable housing has become.
While upgrading to a condo was the dream of the baby boomer generation, the prevailing sentiment amongst Singaporeans in their twenties and thirties is that condos are unaffordable that HDB flats still cost a bomb.
No matter what you think of news reports claiming that most Singaporean households can afford HDB flats, the sentiment on the ground remains that housing is a huge burden they’re not sure if they can shoulder.
Lionel, a 29-year-old civil servant, does not even aspire to own property anymore. “The financial burden of being tied to a 25- or 30-year mortgage is too limiting, and obviously there’s also the problem of having to be married before you can buy HDB property. At this point it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice I’ll be able to make anytime soon.”
Arnold, a 32-year-old entrepreneur who intends to get married next year, looks at his coming nuptials as a huge financial burden. “Our BTO flat is going to be ready in 4 years’ time, and I’m already dreading having to make the repayments. Since I am self-employed, I don’t have as much CPF savings as many other Singaporeans my age. Of course, I am worried I won’t be able to make my loan repayments. It looks like I won’t be taking any long holidays for many years to come.”
3. Not Being Able to Afford Medical Bills
Hands up everyone who’s heard the saying “It’s cheaper to die than to fall sick in Singapore”. Thought so. One of Singaporeans’ biggest fears is not being able to afford medical costs as they age. In a recent survey, 72% of Singaporeans expressed the belief that they couldn’t afford to fall ill.
Singaporeans pay less in taxes than those in most countries with a social safety net, and this means the average spending on healthcare (whether indirectly through taxes or directly by paying one’s own medical costs) is actually lower than in countries such as Australia, Finland, the UK and the US.
However, an average is just an average, and if you’re unlucky enough to contract a serious illness, you’re on your own. The hard truth is that in Singapore, if you’re not properly insured, a serious illness can result in bankruptcy—something that would be virtually impossible in a country like Germany.
For Elaine, a 29-year-old videographer, the high cost of medical care has been prohibitive, and she never goes for medical or dental check ups in order to save money.
She says, “I have medical insurance in case I get hospitalised, but otherwise the only thing I can do is try to live healthily and hope nothing happens to me. I would really like to spend more on check ups but money is tight.”
What are your greatest money fears and how do you deal with them? Let us know in the comments.