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3 Uncomfortable Money Moments Filial Singaporeans Might Face

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Joanne Poh

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Filial piety is highly valued by mainstream society in Singapore. Without a proper pension system, it falls upon adult children to support their parents in old age if the latter aren’t retirement-ready. Heck, we even have a Maintenance of Parents Act that compels adult children to give their parents financial support.

A significant proportion of working adults give their parents allowance every month, whether or not they’re still living with them. According to proponents of so-called Asian values this is the perfect system—parents bring up kids who then show their gratitude by supporting them in old age.

But in reality, it’s not uncommon for Singaporeans to get embroiled in inter-generational conflicts with their parents over money. Here are three uncomfortable situations you’ll hopefully never find yourself in.

 

Parents insist their children give them $x, but the latter can’t afford it

It’s one thing to voluntarily give allowance to your parents as a sign of gratitude for your upbringing, or because you feel a sense of responsibility.

But some people complain that their parents insist that they give them an allowance, even going so far as to specify the amount of money they should receive.

This is obviously a recipe for conflict, and can also be very stressful if you can’t afford to give your parents the amount they’re demanding. You can end up feeling trapped if you lose your job or want to voluntarily take a pay cut for a career change or better work-life balance.

What to do: Be transparent about your salary and financial situation with your parents, and if there’s any chance you’re going to take a pay cut or lose your job, inform them immediately. You also want to let them know how much you’re forking out for liabilities like your home loan, student loans and so on. That way, your parent won’t worry you’re trying to get unfilial and save on their allowance if you need to reduce your contributions.

 

A parent has gambling problems

Hit up the casinos at Resorts World and Marina Bay Sands, and you’ll see hordes of elderly Singaporeans staring blankly at baccarat tables or slot machines.

Most of these people are somebody’s parents, and their children are probably stressing out about the fact that the people who brought them up are so terrible with money.

Don’t think this can’t affect your own finances, either. A friend of mine has had to fend off his father, who has a gambling problem and who constantly comes to him asking to borrow large sums of money, while another complains that her family was forced to downgrade to a smaller apartment because of her father’s gambling debts.

What to do: This is a sticky situation as your parents are technically free to do whatever they want with their assets, but you aren’t free from the consequences as it falls upon you to support them if they lose all their money. If you have a parent who’s addicted to gambling, the first thing to do is to apply for exclusions from the local casinos. Try to convince them to seek treatment for their gambling addiction at IMH, with a counseller or at a facility like The Cabin Singapore. You might also want to threaten to withhold allowance if they don’t seek help.

 

Your parents are getting old and need care, but living with them isn’t an option

Nursing homes in Singapore are, quite frankly speaking, very third world. You’re looking at paying over $1,200 a month before subsidies for a very basic place that’s run like Changi Prison and in which your aged parent will be stuck in a dormitory with many others and have no control over his/her time.

So, even if you put aside the issue of filial piety, it’s highly likely you won’t have the heart to put your parents in one of these facilities when they can no longer look after themselves.

For private rooms, you’ll be shelling out $4,000 to $6,500 a month, which is out of reach for most Singaporeans.

But with a growing number of duel income households in Singapore, having a full-time caregiver look after your aged parents isn’t an option for many. For many people, the solution is to hire a maid who’s not a trained eldercare professional and hope they can cope.

Then there’s the question of where your parents will live. Don’t forget that if you’re married your spouse might not be too keen on living with your parents. Even if they have an okay relationship, being a caregiver is very stressful, and your spouse might also have his/her own aged parents to worry about.

There’s also the issue of space. With HDB flats and condo units shrinking over the decades, it’s possible you won’t even have the space in your home to house your parents when they need to be taken in. This is a conundrum you’ll want to consider early on, preferably before you purchase your first home.

What to do: Don’t put off preparing for the day you need to make care arrangements for your parents. Decide early on what will happen when your parents can’t physically manage anymore, and start planning financially ahead of time. You might want to consider making their home senior friendly, such as by installing railings, as this can reduce the likelihood of accidents. You might also want to consider senior or silvercare insurance, which can offer coverage for things like accidents and hospice care.

Have you ever faced any of the above situations? Share your survival tips in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.