Opinion

If You’re Holding on to These 3 Beliefs About Money, You Could be Shooting Yourself in the Foot

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Joanne Poh

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We all know people enjoy religious freedom in Singapore. But, well, sometimes it seems like the biggest religion of all is money. We talk about money all the time, and it is the driving force behind some of our most idiosyncratic behaviours—kiasu parenting, the cult of tuition, people hating their jobs, and employers overworking their employees.

So you’d think we’d have it all figured out when it comes to money, since it’s about all we ever think about. Yet many Singaporeans continue to cling to unhealthy beliefs about money that not only give themselves unnecessary stress, but also have a negative impact on their finances. Here are three:

 

1. I’ll never have enough money

One thing I’ve noticed is that no matter how much Singaporeans earn, they never seen to think it’s enough. While it’s true that this is a damn expensive country to live in, I sometimes wonder if we haven’t been conditioned to always be in the grip of this fear of not having enough.

I have friends who are earning healthy five figure monthly sums and are yet always complaining that they need to earn even more money.

While there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging you need to raise your income, if you constantly tell yourself you don’t have enough to save, invest and plan for retirement, it becomes an excuse and a self-fulfilling prophecy.

No matter how much we earn, we should do our best to maintain budgets that are appropriate to our income level. Except in unfortunate of circumstances, there should be no such thing as not paying your credit card bills in full because you don’t have enough. For most middle-income Singaporeans, it just means you didn’t plan well enough.

 

2. I need this money to upkeep my lifestyle

Singaporeans are some of the world’s most miserable employees. Most people slave away in jobs they hate just for the money, blaming the high cost of living.

But if we’re honest with ourselves, many decently paid Singaporean employees stay in jobs they hate because they believe they need the money to upkeep their lifestyles. It’s funny that nobody thinks of changing their lifestyles; instead everyone resigns themselves to the fact that they need to work harder and harder.

While we’re advocates of spending money wisely in ways that will improve your life, when you’re a slave to an expensive lifestyle, you really need to ask yourself whether the way you live your life is really making you happier overall when it means you’re made to work long, punishing days in a job you don’t like and experience constant anxiety about not having enough cash.

 

3. Taking the safest route is best

Now, I’m not suggesting everyone should quit their jobs and try to realise their hazy entrepreneurship dreams. But when Singaporeans say they prefer to “play it safe”, they often take the phrase to the extreme.

For instance, one of my friends has been complaining about how much he dislikes his job… for the last 5 years.

As a single, well-paid professional who is living with his parents, has no financial commitments and a fair amount of savings, he can well afford to quit his job and join a different company, look for a related job in a different industry, or even branch out to something new. Heck, he can even afford to stop work and take a break for a few months.

But he does none of that, because he’s afraid to take risks, preferring instead to “play it safe” by staying in his job until a better job that provides better work-life balance and still pays him more comes along. To date, he’s still waiting. But what he’s missed out on is the opportunity to find a job that really interests him and that he can excel in, or a company that he enjoys working in. Until that happens, he’ll remain a mediocre employee who dislikes his job.

Similar stories play out all the time. The best and brightest Singaporeans take on the safest and most boring jobs. Then they spend large chunks of that money on lavish lifestyles to justify their life choices.

If that works for you, then well and good. But a good many Singaporeans would do well to realise that taking risks, however small and calculated, and forcing yourself to leave your comfort zone can pay great dividends.

Do you subscribe to any of the above beliefs about money? Share your views 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.