3 Money Ruts Singaporeans Often Find Themselves In, And How to Get Out

Joanne Poh



Have you ever had the feeling that you were just running in place on the great hamster wheel of life? Every day you go to work, ostensibly to grow your wealth and attain career advancement and, hopefully, satisfaction.

But each day passes in the same way as, or even worse than, the last, and your goals are as far away on the horizon as they ever were. You, my friend, are stuck in a rut. Unlike the cost of living in Singapore, you’re going nowhere. Here are three common work and money ruts Singaporeans face, and what you can do about them.


You work, work and work but your financial status stays the same

Singaporeans are working longer hours than ever, but thanks to the inexorable rise in the cost of living, we never seem to be getting richer, even for those who are lucky enough to be paid wages that are increasing faster than the inflation rate.

No matter how hard you work, you never seem to be able to save and invest much. You fear having to work till you’re on your deathbed, because at this rate the only way you’ll be able to retire is to bow out of life altogether.

Goals to set: When you’re stuck in a financial rut, it’s likely you’re not making explicit enough goals. If you’re going to work to get out of that rut, you need to know what to work towards. So set clear financial goals each month: set a monthly budget and determine exactly how much you need to save. Whenever your income rises, adjust your goals to prevent lifestyle inflation and make sure you’re saving and investing even more. If your problem is being underpaid, your goals should involve renegotiating your salary or finding a new job.

Actionable steps: Once you’ve figured out your budget and savings goals, identify actionable steps you can take to achieve them. For instance, if you find you’re spending too much on food each month, commit to cooking dinner at home every day from Monday to Thursday. If you need to find a way to invest your cash, commit to opening a brokerage account and spending every weekend in a month attending seminars and reading up on investing.


You’re mired in credit card debt

Credit card debt is becoming a more serious problem here, and many of these debtors actually earn decent, or even high salaries, at least relative to their fellow Singaporeans. The scary thing about credit card debt is that interest rates are so high that that debt you took out to pay for one Chanel handbag can soon morph into a different beast altogether.

Paying the minimum sum means nothing. If that’s really all you can manage each month, you can expect the bank to slap you with a bankruptcy order sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Goals to set:  The sooner you pay off credit card debt, the better and the less money will be lost to interest repayments. Set a clear monthly goal so you know exactly how much you need to set aside. Due to the super high interest rates, you want to make sure your goals are placing you outside of your comfort zone—meaning you should definitely not be allowing yourself to live your usual lifestyle until your debt is paid off.

Actionable steps: When paying off credit card debt, you should put yourself in emergency mode. This isn’t just normal debt, it’s debt that could bankrupt you. That means drastic steps should be taken to ensure you get rid of that debt as quickly as possible. If it means not eating out till your debt is paid off, so be it. In order to make this achievable without the discipline of a Spartan, break things down into small, easy steps. Don’t tell yourself you’ll cook at home every day. Instead, schedule every single grocery shopping trip and come up with a meal plan, so you’re less likely to fall off the bandwagon due to poor planning or laziness.


You’re stuck in a dead end job

So you’ve been slaving away for your current employer for a couple of years, and you can’t help but get the feeling that remaining in the job will lead to financial ruin. Not only are your annual increments barely enough to keep pace with inflation, your boss is also quite happy to let you do the same, repetitive work for the rest of your life.

Goals to set: You have two options when it comes to goal-setting. If there is room for you to grow in your current company, your first port of call will be to speak to your boss and see if it would be possible for you expand your skillset and to transition into a new role. Should your request be denied, or if you’re in a company you’ve outgrown, your next set of goals should involve applying for new jobs.

Actionable steps: Don’t just tell yourself, “okay, I need a new job” and then hope Santa brings one for Christmas. Applying for jobs is a job in itself and should be approached as such. Set yourself a quota for the number of posts you find and apply to each day or week.

Are you currently stuck in a money rut? Tell us what you’re experiencing 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.