Ace the PSLE/O levels/A levels/IB and the world will be your oyster, they said. Study hard and you’ll secure yourself a bright future, they said.
So why is it that Singaporeans fare so dismally when it comes to surveys that try to measure employee engagement and satisfaction at work? If they’re to be believed, lots of people hate their jobs and are miserable at work.
So what happens if you’re earning a high salary that your parents brag about to relatives during Chinese New Year, but are still unhappy? No, don’t believe that YOLO stuff and quit your job right away. Now is not the time. Here are some things you should do to put yourself on a better path:
Every Singaporean should be saving money the minute they enter the working world, but for high earners who are unsatisfied with their jobs, saving aggressively is even more important.
On the one hand, you’ve got a high-paying job that could be the ticket to an early retirement or at least give you the stability your lower earning peers can only dream of.
On the other hand, if you are foolish enough to inflate your lifestyle to the point where you’re struggling to make ends meet and upkeep a lavish way of life, you’re in the unhappy position where your inability to leave your job for greener pastures is entirely of your own doing.
Whether you decide to eventually change jobs or learn to love your current one, saving aggressively during this period will increase the options available to you. You’ll have a nest egg that can serve as a buffer to tide you through more uncertain career choices.
In addition, whether you decide to stay or go, you’ll be doing so out of choice. That psychological boost is very important and can help you to grab opportunities that would otherwise have passed you by—after all, nobody wants to hire the guy whose only reason for applying is to get away from a job he hates.
Treat yourself to relieve stress but spend within reason
Money can make your life less stressful if you use it wisely. The problem is that many Singaporeans think owning a Chanel bag or opening champagne bottles every night is stress relief.
If you’re a miserable high earner, save aggressively till you know what your next career move is, but don’t forget to treat yourself every now and then in ways that can help you relieve stress and think clearly. We make poor decisions when we’re stressed out.
That doesn’t mean dropping a ton of money on expensive spa visits or a new car. The trick is to get as much as you can out of every dollar you spend.
If you just worked a 15 hour day and don’t drive to work, it’s probably a good idea to just take a cab home instead of forcing yourself to duke it out on the MRT. Going to nice restaurants and spending on yoga or fitness classes are great when done in moderation without affecting your savings goals. Just don’t exaggerate and check yourself into some $1,000 a night meditation retreat.
It’s always worth remembering that many things that raise the quality of our lives don’t cost much, or anything at all. A 20 minute run in the morning before work is free and will have you feeling more alert and refreshed than a million cups of coffee, while hanging out with people other than your colleagues doesn’t have to cost a lot… well, unless you’re actually hiring people to spend time with you.
Spend money to upgrade yourself or alter your career path
While this is not the time to spend tons of money on yourself, spending a little to upgrade your skills or alter your career path might in fact be justified. Your unhappiness might stem from doing the right job for the wrong company, serving the wrong clients or applying your skills in the wrong industry.
For instance, mid-level back office bank executives are often able to switch from managing a department like compliance to working on business development, which is quite a different kettle of fish altogether. At this point in your career, you no longer need to worry too much about your pay, and lateral switches or inter-industry moves might be what you need to help you find more satisfaction at work.
How big a change you plan to make really depends on your current interests and skills. I know people who’ve gone from being managers at companies to real estate agents, as well as teachers who’ve left to start their own businesses.
One thing is sure—if you can keep your spending low while continuing to earn an above-average salary, you’re very well placed to groom yourself for whatever new role you’d like to try. Apart from using your $500 SkillsFuture credit, you might choose to spend a little money to give yourself the training you need to make your career more fulfilling.
That’s a way better use of that hard-earned cash than splurging on quick-fixes like retail therapy or excessive alcohol.
Are you an unhappy high earner? Tell us how you plan to improve your life in the comments!