When it comes to marriage and kids, everyone has a different take on when’s the right time. The typical Singaporean position is that one should have an established career before even thinking of committing to the task of childrearing.
On the other hand, dissenting voices cry out that there is no better time than the present and familial happiness shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of one’s career. Or something. Well, whichever camp you fall under, here are three huge reasons you should delay marriage and kids, no questions asked, Baby Bonus be damned.
1. One (or both) of you is still heavily in debt
It is one thing to delay marriage because you want to claw your way to the top of the career ladder so you’ll be able to send your kid to a childcare centre that costs as much as an ivy league college. It’s quite another to have a child or organise a wedding when one or both of you are heavily in debt.
If you’re forced to borrow money to pay for a wedding or pregnancy-related medical fees (not even taking into account the HDB flat), your existing liabilities will be compounded thanks to the power of interest. And if you slip up and start defaulting on your loans your relationship might end up being more short-lived than that dry-ice display at your wedding dinner. Just ask this Singaporean couple who borrowed $110,000 to pay for their “dream” wedding.
No matter how strong you think your relationship is, putting yourself in more debt just to get married when you’re already struggling with your existing liabilities could be the start of a long nightmare.
Arthur, a 29-year-old marketing executive, got married and bought his own HDB flat, all at the tender age of 26. “We didn’t have a fancy wedding celebration, just a small dinner with a few close friends,” he says.
Does he think an early marriage is for everyone?
“Neither I nor my wife is from a rich family, and when we got married I had only been working for two or three years, so it’s not like we already had tons of cash at the start,” he says.
“But we did want to make sure that we were free from heavy liabilities before going ahead with it. I paid off most of my student loans and we had no credit card debt when we tied the knot. If one of us had been heavily saddled with credit card debt we would have chosen to pay that off before getting married. It would really have affected our ability to afford a home,” he says.
2. You don’t have an emergency fund
Even if you don’t have mountains of savings at the time you tie the knot, you and your partner should at the very least have built up an emergency fund, one that’s large enough for the specifics of your situation, and one that you’re able to maintain consistently over a sustained period of time. This means you do not need to draw upon your emergency fund whenever you want to send flowers to your partner or add an extra egg to your economy rice.
Falling into credit card debt when you’re single is hard enough to deal with, but when you’ve got a spouse, the responsibility of running a household and, if you choose, a child, being unable to handle crises is a million times worse.
Malcolm, a 34-year-old banker, has about $10,000 in credit card debt and no savings. This is the main reason he cites for not having proposed to his girlfriend of 3 years.
“Getting married means you have to be responsible for another person. At the moment if we were to get married and she were to get pregnant or one of us were to fall sick or get fired, we’d both be screwed,” he says. “I would at least need a bit of extra money sitting in the bank just so if anything bad were to happen we would be able to use it.”
3. You don’t feel ready
Proponents of early marriage and childbearing tend to reassure young couples with the jitters by saying that no one ever feels ready. But there’s a difference between feeling anxious about the challenges to come, and having a gut feeling that this isn’t the right choice. And in Singapore, spurred on by societal pressure and the need to ROM before the looming deadline set by the HDB, it seems a lot of people are jumping the gun, and then regretting their hasty decision. And the repercussions are probably the most severe when it comes to your home purchase, as we wrote about here.
Eileen, a 31-year-old business owner, started balloting for an HDB flat two years into her last relationship.
“My ex hadn’t proposed to me yet and I hadn’t really seriously thought about what it would be like to marry him. But because of the long wait for BTO flats we started balloting early. That’s what all of our friends were doing. I called it off one month before the ROM. We hadn’t started to plan for a wedding yet so thankfully we didn’t lose money for that. But we lost the deposit which was very painful,” she says.
“My advice to couples who are balloting for flats is not to be too kiasu and really consider whether the relationship is right for you before you commit to the property. It seems like people nowadays are doing the opposite, worrying about the flat first before thinking about the relationship.”
Have you ever had second thoughts about marriage due to financial issues? Let us know in the comments!