2 Lessons From the Pioneer Generation That Can Help Millennials Get Ahead Financially

Joanne Poh



It’s clear that what worked for the Pioneer Generation no longer works in Singapore, especially when it comes to money management. Back in their time, regular people didn’t know the importance of investing in order to survive in an expensive future nobody knew would come to pass.

When CPF started in 1955, many assumed it would be enough to see them through their retirement and no longer saw the need to manage their own money.

Many assumed they should invest as much in their kids as possible so they would get a good education and then support them in old age.

People also tended to stay much longer in their workplaces because fewer worried about factors like inadequate annual increments and company culture.

Times have changed, but despite the mistakes of the previous generation, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some lessons that Singaporean millennials can still learn from, and apply to their own lives in order to improve their financial future.


Resilience and hard work

While it is definitely not a good idea for the majority of millennials to stay with their first employer for life, young Singaporeans could learn a thing or two about resilience.

We’ve been brought up in a system that always encourages taking the safest route—at secondary school and JC, students choose subjects that give them the surest chances of scoring As, which is why nobody is taking literature anymore. Fresh grads pour out into the employment market, all looking for jobs in finance, where a high salary and a smooth career path are practically guaranteed.

The problem is that this kind of thinking leads us to always be looking for shortcuts. Instead of choosing career options that engage us and then committing to working hard and owning our choices, we instead look for the easiest, safest options.

Because of that, our local workforce is amongst the world’s least engaged, and our education system for all its supposed merits has just churned out a bunch of bored office workers. It’s no wonder, then, that job hopping is so rampant.

Instead of always looking for the easy way out and giving up when it seems like we can’t win, we need to learn to think for ourselves, make decisions according to our own values and not what society thinks we should do, and then have the gumption to own those choices.

The Pioneer Generation came of age at a time when it was either sink or swim. They may not have had as many options as we do today, but they put their noses to the grindstone and survived.


Being determined to always drive a good bargain

Don’t laugh at those aunties at Sheng Siong rushing for the last sale item. The Pioneer Generation has tasted poverty, and that’s why they’re not shy to ask for discounts and haggle shamelessly. Heck, they’re the ones behind our famous kiasu psyche.

Now, I’m not saying you should start threatening the folks at Citibank with death if they refuse to reverse the late payment charge on your credit card. But many millennials are so cost-unconscious they do not bother to pay their credit card bills in full even when they can afford to, nor do they even think to analyse whether a certain lifestyle expense is worth the money.

I mean, if you really think paying $200 for that terrarium making workshop is worth it because you’ve always had a deep interest in terrariums, then fine, but lots of people just end up spending that money because their friends are going, without even bothering to evaluate their decision.

Millennials are also all too ready to shell out the cash on trendy crap without even thinking about whether they can get the same utility while paying less. I’m talking about those people who spend $7 on takeaway coffee so they can sip it at their desk, when the only reason they’re drinking it is so they can stay awake.

Not saying you need to start scouring the newspapers for supermarket discounts or buying all your clothes at This Fashion. But if a bit of that auntie spirit helps millennials stop spending so much money on useless crap just because they think it’s cool, we might be able to curb the nasty habit of overspending that’s landing so many Singaporeans in credit card debt.

In what ways do you think the Pioneer Generation should and should not be emulated? Tell us in the comments!

Keep updated with all the news!

Tags: ,

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.