National Service is a pain in the keister, we get that. But here’s the kicker: while you’re busy defending the country from invaders more imaginary than your CPF money, you’re getting free room and board. In fact, you’re getting free room and board while being paid. Here’s what you should be using the cash for instead:
1. Invest It In Blue Chip Stocks
Yes, we know most NS men can’t afford to buy full lots of blue chip stocks. But you don’t have to buy them in lots of 1,000 anymore.
OCBC and POSB have programmes that let you start investing with small amounts. Just set aside a monthly sum you’re comfortable with (minimum $100), and the bank will accumulate as many blue chip shares for you as it.
So if you set aside $300 and the shares are $1 each, you get 300 shares that month. If the shares are $2 each, then you get 150 shares, and so on. You get dividend payouts from the shares, and can sell them as normal.
It’s possible to generate returns of 5 – 9% from blue chip stocks, which will equal or outperform many insurance policies.
2. Buy Your Textbooks and Start Reading Them Now
Tertiary level textbooks provide public information, but at a price generally reserved for state secrets. And having to buy all your textbooks at one go can beggar you for months.
So if you know what you’ll be studying, start buying those textbooks now. Scour Bras Basah Complex for affordable copies, and accumulate one or two every month. If you’re not too lazy, you can also start reading them right now, and go in with an edge.
3. Buy an Insurance Policy
If you’re 18-21, your insurance premiums will be significantly lower than when you’re in your 30s. On top of that, the policy will grow your money way faster than if you stash it in a bank.
Consider getting a policy that matures toward the end of your studies. That’s when you’ll be looking for a job, and in need of income.
Also, NS tends to involve a lot of physical exercise. Exercise is bad for your health – you might get injured. That’s why I never do it, and now need one chair for each butt cheek. But my point is, private insurance is a great idea for anyone climbing walls and crawling under concertina wire.
4. Upgrade Your Employability Skills
The hardest job to get is often the first one. Even after you land it, you’ll be facing a cultural challenge.
First-time employees often struggle because they’re not vocal, don’t understand the full extent of their authority, or can’t express their needs well. On top of that, most workplaces are not as micromanaged than the army – no one tells you exactly what to do, because part of the reason you’re paid is for you to figure it out yourself.
So in the army, if you can’t get the supplies you need, you raise the issue and someone requisitions it. In the office, if you can’t get the supplies you need, you raise the issue and get called an idiot.
Try to get around it with employabilty skills programmes. Some of these are run by the Workforce Development Agency (WDA). If your schedule doesn’t permit it though, you might want to consider private institutes and weekend courses.
Yes, do nothing with it. This is the least productive thing on the list, but it’s still better than blowing it at a club or on an Xbox. What I’m really trying to say is – save your money.
NS is the only time in your life when the government provides you with food, lodging, medical care, and sometimes free training. There is little you need to spend money on during this time, so you’re better off saving it when you need it.
Besides, think of it this way: Do you really want to blow the money on entertainment now, when you have limited time outside of camp to enjoy it? If you stash $500 a month for about two years, you will have $12,000 after NS.
$12,000 to blow on games and a console that you can play every day for as long as you want, until work or school starts. Or $12,000 to go clubbing until a puke stained silhouette of your passed-out body is etched on the dance floor.
Mind you, that’s still not a good use of money. We suggest anything from points 1 to 4. But at the very least, stash the money till you’re out of NS.
How did you use your NS pay? Comment and let us know!