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3 Ways Young Singaporeans and Their Parents View Money Differently

Joanne Poh

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The constant struggle between headstrong millennial employees who value work-life balance and flexibility and their old-school baby boomer bosses who like lots of face time and unquestioning loyalty plays out in the majority of Singaporean workplaces.

This isn’t the only example of the huge inter-generation differences that stand out not only in terms of work but also attitudes towards money. Here are some ways the young people of today think differently from their parents.

 

A stable job is no longer a ticket to success, thinking out of the box is

Baby boomers lived in turbulent times, and to them, a stable job that would take care of you for the rest of your life was the definition of success. Stability was one of the most important things to consider when picking a future career. The professions like medicine and law were viewed as the pinnacles of success.

These days, however, millennials understand that times have changed. In order to really make it big, one can’t just get line together with the rest of the rank and file employees. Thinking out of the box and entrepreneurship is often the way to get rich and live a life that others can only dream out.

Benjamin, a 32-year-old private tutor, says, “I have been self-employed for many years and I can’t imagine ever going back to work for other people, even though I studied engineering.”

 

The 5 Cs are no longer what people want

Once upon a time, Singaporean baby boomers made it their life goal to attain the five Cs: car, cash, condo, credit card and country club membership. So strong was the drive to become a full-fledged five C-laden citizen that in primary school I innocently thought it was normal for all families to belong to a county club and was genuinely puzzled as to why my family didn’t have a membership.

These days, millennials in Singapore still crave cash, but that’s not the only thing they want. Work-life balance is becoming increasingly important, and a recent poll indicated that 57% of Singaporeans would pick better work-life balance over better pay.

Marissa, a 30-year-old bank executive, says, “To me, it is important that I have the time and freedom to travel often. I usually go on a short holiday once every month or two. I would pick that over a country club membership or a car any day.”

 

The phenomenal success of the past is no longer possible today

Baby boomers coming into their prime in a rapidly growing Singapore stuck it out during the hard times and many came out on top. For instance, many of my friends whose parents own successful businesses started out in the 70’s or 80’s from very humble beginnings but are now quite wealthy. Those who were lucky enough to buy or inherit landed property way back when saw their property values increase manifold.

Millennials in Singapore today were born into a society that was already prosperous and competitive. The average 20- or 30-something does not see Singapore as a land of opportunity but one where competition is coming ever-fiercer, especially with an influx of talented foreigners vying for jobs and spots at university. As such, many Singaporeans, especially those born into fairly comfortable circumstances, do not expect to be able to repeat their forebears’ miraculous success stories.

27-year-old Leanne, who works in marketing, says, “My uncle and auntie are property developers and are very rich. My cousins grew up in the lap of luxury. I feel fortunate that I was able to obtain a good education and a stable job, but I know it’s impossible for me to achieve that level of wealth in this lifetime.”

That doesn’t mean they’re incapable of hard work, though. But it also means that making big bucks are’t the be-all and end-all of their career goals.

Sarah, a 32-year-old social worker, says, “My parents are upper-middle income professionals and thanks to them I lived in a condo growing up and was able to study overseas. I know I will never reach their income level as a social worker, but that doesn’t bother me as money isn’t the main reason I do what I do.”

Are you a millennial and what is your attitude towards money and work like? Tell us 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.