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3 Bad Money Habits Singaporean Millennials Have Inherited From Their Parents

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Joanne Poh

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Enough of all that Millennial bashing already. Sure, we may have been born into a prosperous society, and never had to live through a war or experience life without electricity and the MRT.

But Millennials were born just a few decades too late to be able to reap the immense gains to be had from buying a cheap home and then holding on to it till Singapore became wealthy. We know only a world that’s been competitive, stressful and materialistic from the get-go. We’ve never really experienced that kampong spirit the older folks are always going on about.

So it’s no surprise that what worked for people in our parents’ generation may not necessarily work for us. And the way many baby boomer parents handle money is definitely not something their millennial offspring should learn from.

Here are three bad money habits many baby boomer parents in Singapore are unknowingly passing down to their kids.

 

Upgrading to show that you’ve made it

Baby boomers grew up in a different Singapore, often against a very humble backdrop. After decades of toil, they finally “made it” and are now safely middle class. So it’s no wonder that many of these people are proud of all that they’ve achieved, and think nothing of showing off.

That’s why you see so many middle income Singaporeans driving luxury cars, and, unfortunately, also why so many older workers who get retrenched from their $20,000-a-month jobs find themselves in big trouble if they don’t find work, any work, immediately.

All this upgrading to show you’ve made it is not something financially-prudent millennials want to mimic. There’s evidence to show that credit card debt is a huge problem for many highly paid young professionals, and most Singaporeans score poorly when it comes to retirement-readiness.

By all accounts, millennials need to be saving and investing more money, not less, and yes, that includes those who work at Raffles Place in Ferragamo shoes. Yet rampant materialism and a thirst for the high life continues.

Millennials need to face up to the fact that all that spending is going to catch up with them at some point. They’re not going to experience the sort of meteoric growth their parents might have. Those days are over. In addition, even with a cushy office job, retrenchment is an ever-present threat due to Singapore’s vulnerability to business shifts overseas.

 

Got a problem? Throw money at it

I bet there are many Singaporeans who don’t even know what “DIY” stands for. That’s because we’ve become masters at outsourcing. The kids of many baby boomer parents were raised by maids, and the tuition industry is now worth a staggering $1 billion. Many baby boomer fathers are totally clueless when it comes to cooking and cleaning.

Given the high-and-rising cost of living in Singapore, millennials really need to start cultivating more pro-active mentality when it comes to learning how to do stuff for themselves, instead of always resorting to paying others to do it.

One classic example is learning how to cook instead of always relying on hawker centres and restaurants. We’re some of the biggest spenders on dining out in the Asia Pacific. As a result, 65% say their cooking skills are “limited” or “disastrous”. Living with parents till marriage is also hampering the learning of basic skills like cooking and cleaning. These people miss out on the benefits of being able to control your diet and save money by eating at home.

Speaking of paying people to do everything for you, a recent newspaper report shed light on the fact that Singaporeans are spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars to hire fake friends or groomsmen to make up for years of having no time to cultivate real friendships. I can’t even….

Singapore is getting more expensive, and millennials can reduce the financial burden of not only keeping themselves afloat but also potentially having to support their own families and aged parents by being open to learning how to solve their own problems instead of paying others to do it.

 

Taking it for granted that they can rely on their children for financial support when they retire

Okay, we already know that retirement readiness is a big problem in Singapore. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many 80-year-olds collecting cardboard or wiping food court centre tables, yah?

Many older Singaporeans used to think of their children as an investment, sparing no expense to ensure their kids made it through the education system. In return, their seven kids would see to it that they were well looked-after in old age.

In fact, a 2015 report shed light on the fact that Singaporean retirees are highly dependent on financial support from their adult children.

Things have changed. The birth rate has fallen to the point of no return, making it extremely onerous for people from small families to have to look after not only their own future offspring but two sets of aged parents.

There’s evidence to show that young Singaporeans are emulating their parents’ attitudes towards retirement. In a 2015 survey of Singapore mothers, 75% said they had not yet started planning for retirement, while 44% planned to rely on their children.

Young Singaporeans are able to see first hand the consequences of not being retirement-ready, in the form of the many elderly people who continue toiling away today. It’s time to take more responsibility for our own retirement.

What financial habits have you picked up from your parents? Tell us 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.