4 Mistakes Singaporeans Make When They Feel Broke

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Being broke in Singapore sucks, and that’s not just because everyone here judges people based on the amount of money they have (the way bankrupt people are treated in Singapore, it’s like they’re below algae on the food chain).

I’m not even talking about the fact that everything in Singapore is expensive or that government help is usually only available after you’ve exhausted most of your savings and are basically desperate.

No, one of the worst things about being broke is that you are that much more likely to make lousy decisions that end up putting you in an even worse position years down the road. Here are four mistakes to try to avoid no matter how much you’re struggling.

1. Neglecting preventative healthcare and dental care

While MediShield Life and private health insurance can save you from financial ruin if you get hospitalised, one area where the Singapore healthcare system doesn’t seem to be performing so well is preventative healthcare. That’s why so many people end up with preventable diseases like diabetes (we’re #2 in the world, yay) and kidney failure.

When you’re struggling to make ends meet, the last thing you want to do is to see a doctor unless you absolutely have to. If your employer does not reimburse you for visits to the doctor or dentist, it’s easy to see why you wouldn’t want to check yourself into a clinic unless it was a matter of life or death.

For instance, private dentists usually charge over $70 for cleaning. Obviously a broke person would not want to cough out the $140 a year to go for checkups every 6 months, as is usually recommended. Polyclinics are cheaper but still not that cheap at over $40, but wait times can be so long you’ll have lost all your teeth by then. This could cause problems later on in the form of expensive treatments like fillings or, worse, root canals.

Broke people also tend to avoid the doctor when they have health problems they think are minor–and let’s face it, anything other than an emergency usually qualifies as minor when you’re on a budget.

2. Not upgrading your skills or trying to earn more

One big problem about being poor in Singapore is that your self-esteem takes a huge blow. Some people are just plain rude to anyone they consider beneath them. Just ask anyone who works as a cleaner, construction worker or waiter and see what they say.

Even if you’ve got an office job, if all your friends are earning more than you, it’s all too easy to start feeling lousy about yourself. Singaporeans tend not to be concerned about whether everyone can afford a particular restaurant or bar when they’re organising outings with friends, and sometimes it can feel like everyone around you is trying to show off their wealth.

That can be immensely demotivating to people on unsatisfactory incomes. They start to pick up from their environment that they’re worthless or incapable.

The problem is, that can cause you to neglect upgrading your skills or stop thinking of ways to boost your income. If you work long hours, you might not even have the time or energy to think of such things.

In addition, when you have no cash, the thought of spending money on a skills-building course is really onerous, although you are one of the people who needs it most. As you struggle to build up your savings, try to set aside some money to invest in yourself so you can boost your earning power.

3. Accepting the first crappy job that comes along or not daring to ask for what you deserve

When you’re desperate for the cash, it’s all too easy to accept the first crappy job that comes along. You’re also a much worse negotiator than you would be if you had a decent salary, since you’re too afraid a potential employer will withdraw the offer if you ask for more.

Everyone who’s not being paid a living wage in Singapore needs to know that in order to survive here, they’ve got to find some way to move up. You absolutely cannot afford to stay in that crappy job.

You’ve probably heard about that guy who worked as an intern for 3 years on a salary of $500 a month. It’s clear as day he was being exploited and should have done something to improve his situation, yet he did not. When you’re broke, you become much more vulnerable to such situations.

4. Not wanting to risk any cash to invest

Not everyone who considers themselves “broke” is necessarily on the streets. Fresh grads can save money by packing their own food to eat at lunch and rely on their parents for accommodation. Technically, they’re not exactly destitute. Yet the feeling of never having any leftover cash can be a huge deterrent to a budding investor.

For many Singaporeans, it’s so hard to save money that they’re too afraid something will happen to their savings should they try to invest. In fact, many surveys have pegged Singaporeans as very risk-averse investors.

That’s an attitude that could cost many people their retirement. There are many low cost investment options out there, such as smaller minimum lot sizes for stock purchases.

No matter how little you earn, if you can save, that means you can invest. Don’t make the mistake of thinking otherwise.

Have you ever been guilty of any of the above mistakes? Tell us in the comments!

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.