Opinion

The 5 People In Your Life Who Are Secretly Draining You of Your Money

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Joanne Poh

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You might be dressing in rags and eating flaccid pieces of sliced bread at every meal, but why is it you’re still broke? If you have a decent salary, haven’t been spending on yourself but still have no idea where your money is going, the following five people in your life might hold the answer. Here are five people in your life who are keeping you poor, whether they know it or not.

1. Your significant other

After a devastating break up, the typical Singaporean guy wipes the tears from his eyes and then shrugs, “At least I get to save money now.”

Whether or not your other half proudly describes him or herself as “high maintenance”, being part of a pair is going to cost some money no matter how eagle-eyed you are about your expenses.

Unless you have above-average culinary skills, having a partner usually means eating out at least some of the time. And then there are birthdays, anniversaries and Valentines’ frickin’ day.

When you’re married, this gets even more complicated. Your choices of housing and car (if any) are likely to be influenced by what your spouse thinks. You might be just fine and dandy driving a Proton Saga and living with your parents, but your spouse might have other ideas.

What to do: One of my friends screens potential girlfriends by taking them to hawker centres in their first weeks of dating to see what they’ll say. If they remark with disdain that they “never eat at hawker centres”, they automatically get the boot.

If you’re past the stage where you can screen potential dates to filter out those who are too high maintenance, you’d best get creative. That’s because your partner doesn’t need you to spend millions on dates, but DOES care if your weekly dates consist of watching Channel 8 dramas at home and not much else.

With big purchases made as a married couple, other than communication and compromise, there’s not much else you can do. Making sure you have compatible financial goals even before you get married can help to reduce problems.

 

2. Your kid

Before they buy a dog, most people calculate how much it will cost to feed and upkeep their new pet. While you might be loath to think of your child in such terms, it’s just as important to know how much having kids is going to cost you.

Medical bills, the cost of food, milk and diapers and the price of putting your child through school are just basic expenses that you’ll need to pay to ensure your kid makes it through childhood in one piece.

Then there are the tuition sessions, ballet classes, kiddie yoga lessons and junior MMA training that kiasu parents are going to put their kids through. When you get to that stage, you’ll need to make the effort to push away the feelings of anxiety that your own kids aren’t going to become the next Mozart/Ian Thorpe/Einstein/The Rock.

What to do: I don’t claim to be a parenting expert. Heck, I have trouble differentiating 2 year olds from 6 year olds. But there have been countless studies showing that overloading your kids with activities and nagging nonstop are not the ways to help them succeed in life. Tiger parenting does not work, contrary to what Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother would have you think.

Instead, work on raising self-motivated kids with the autonomy to explore their own interests (not interests you’ve chosen for them) and they’ll have a better shot at being great at whatever they choose. That doesn’t mean turning a blind eye when they get zero on their math tests. But it does mean giving them the time and space to explore their own interests instead of forcing tuition and activities on them.

At age 12 they might, to your dismay, choose skateboarding over piano. But there are enough mediocre pianists in Singapore anyway. The upside of this is that you’ll be saving money for something more important, like university.

 

3. Your parents

Most young people in Singapore feel responsible for supporting their parents in their old age, even if it might be beyond them financially.

However, few people actually take a collaborative approach with their parents to maintaining them in their own age, preferring to quietly shoulder the costs.

To be fair, most Singaporean parents are extremely cognisant of the financial pressures their children face. What many lack, on the other hand, is knowledge of how best to manage their finances in retirement. This can cost their children and themselves a lot of unnecessary money, which some smart planning can prevent.

For instance, when you and your siblings move out of the house, your parents might decide to sell their HDB flat and move to a smaller place. But if they buy and sell at the wrong time or choose a condominium that costs much more than their previous flat, the financial burden might be too much for them in retirement or be shifted to you and your siblings.

Making dodgy investments or getting addicted to gambling are other mistakes many elderly people in Singapore make, so keep your eyes and the lines of communication open.

What to do: Ultimately, your parents’ money is their own and they can do whatever the hell they want with it, even if that means becoming a member of the RWS casino or investing in worthless penny stocks.

But discussing their finances with them will help you to stop them from doing anything unwise that could potentially cost them—and you—lots of money.

 

4. Your employer

Your boss’s smile might look like a scary clown’s, but you probably don’t think of him as someone who takes your money. Your soul, maybe, but not your money.

But remaining with an employer who refuses to increase your salary from year to year or severely underpays you will keep you poor. As inflation erodes your salary, you’ll find yourself actually experience a falling income even as your experience and abilities at work accrue.

What to do: As the cost of living rises each year, it is your responsibility to monitor your salary and make sure you’re not getting shortchanged.

If you’ve worked at your current workplace for some time and have realised that your increments are making you poorer each year, it might be time to have a chat with your boss, or to look for greener pastures.

 

5. Your friends

While not exactly one single person, your friends as a whole are probably costing you more money than you think.

That is not to say that spending a bit in the name of friendship isn’t a good choice, since languishing alone in a vault filled with sacks of money with no one in the world you care about does not a happy life make.

But there’s a difference between having friends who try to find an activity that everyone can afford and is comfortable with, and being pressured to update your wardrobe or buy rounds of overpriced drinks just because the people you hang out with will ditch you if you don’t.

What to do: You’re old enough to think for yourself and to judge the worth of the people around you, so we’re not going to nag.

Can you identify any other people guilty of making you poorer? Expose their identifies 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.