How to Deal with Money-Related Stress in Singapore

Joanne Poh


Poor people are seldom thought of as happy people, especially in Singapore. But the situation might be even more serious than you think. A recent news report revealed that people living in poverty can adopt a ‘scarcity mindset’ that has profound psychological effects, which leads to bad decisions, a lack of confidence in their ability to succeed, depression and anxiety. Children in poverty may perform poorly at school not because they lack intelligence but because they lack confidence in their own capabilities.

While you might not exactly be begging on the streets, this scarcity mindset permeates Singapore society. We’re always being told we lack resources and there’s not enough to go around, so stab the person next to you in the back or you won’t survive. If all that is getting you down and affecting your performance, here’s how to deal.


Be proactive, not a victim

Feeling chronically insecure about money zaps a person of his confidence. And we all know how important confidence is to achieve success and make the most of opportunities. When you feel down about your financial situation, it’s easy to end up blaming your circumstances and feeling like a victim. The irony is that this mindset will mire you even deeper in your circumstances.

Make a conscious decision to be proactive, no matter how much misfortune you think you’ve suffered. If you’re struggling to pay off credit card debt, take a good hard look at your finances and come up with a plan to start paying it off, no matter how austerely you’ll have to live, instead of simply trying to roll over the debt from card to card. If your employer is underpaying you, actively look for other opportunities instead of just sitting there and complainig.

It sounds like a cliché, but when you start really taking charge of your own life, things are that much more likely to shift.


Seek help from every avenue

Singaporeans are so concerned about “face” that they’re often unable to bring themselves to seek help—even when they really, really need it. If you’re in trouble, just gritting your teeth and seeking help from every possible avenue can be the key to getting yourself out of the hole you’re in. Taking that first step to ask for help also gets you in the habit of being more proactive about solving your financial problems.

While Singapore is still very far from being a welfare state, there are some ways in which needy families and individuals can get help. But surveys have shown that the take-up rate for social assistance is still way lower than it should be.

The first thing you need to do if you’re struggling financially is to find out where to get help. If you’re part of a low income family, you’ll want to check out the Community Care Endowment Fund. If you’re having trouble paying off credit card debt, check yourself in to Credit Counselling. If you’ve got family and friends who are willing to extend a helping hand, don’t be too proud to accept—but make sure you make every effort to pay them back as soon as you can.


Readjust your expectations

One reason many Singaporeans can’t handle financial setbacks is because they expect to still be able to uphold their previous standard of living even when they fall on hard times. We’ve grown used to expecting a ridiculously high standard of living. People feel bitter when they can’t afford $100,000 cars, and expect to be able to afford to eat out every single day.

If you’ve got financial woes, you really need to adjust your expectations if you want to get out of the jam you’re in. Know when to admit to yourself that you just can’t afford to upkeep your current standard of living. If this young real estate agent had done that earlier, she wouldn’t have found herself in $100,000 of debt.

It’s only when you’re willing to accept that some hardship is necessary to improve your situation that you can really make progress. Otherwise, you’ll just be running in place on the ol’ hamster wheel.

How do you deal with money-related stress? Share your tips 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.