5 Things to Consider Before You Pop the Question

So you think you found the person to spend the rest of your life with and you want to put a ring on it. 

The Queen said it. (I hope this song is not too old for you to get the reference)

Before you go shopping for that diamond ring, here are some questions to ask yourself (and the relevant part(ies) involved). No, we won’t be debating about natural vs synthetic diamond in this post, but if you’re interested, you can read about it here.  

The purpose of this post is to (hopefully) help you figure out if you should be popping the question. 

Why are you popping the question now?

We together so long already, want to BTO?

Whether you’ve been together since you were in Secondary School or if you just matched on a dating app 6 months ago, the first question to ask yourself is: Why now?

In these, are you proposing because you just want to settle  former case, are you proposing because “you’ve been together for so long already” or your BTO is coming or you’re just sick of people asking “when are you getting married”? In the latter cadown or you’re just sick and tired of dating someone new?

While getting married for the above reasons does not mean that your marriage will not work out, these reasons are largely external motivations that are driving you to make a very important decision of your life.  

Take some time to be alone with yourself and really ask yourself why are you thinking of proposing at this point in time and at this stage of your relationship. This brings us to the next question.

 

Are you ready to be married?

These guys know that a marriage ain't no walk in the park.

Although this question may sound duh but hear me out. There are various aspects to being ready for this important decision. 

While age should not be a conclusive factor to decide when you should propose (unless you’re under 18), it is nevertheless a good indication of your readiness.  

As a matter of practicality, you should be financially stable before you invite someone else to commit to spending eternity (hopefully) with you. Chances are, you won’t be that financially stable until you have started working for about a year or two. 

Another important aspect of readiness is your emotional readiness. Marriage is not a static process. You will go through various life stages and crises as a couple, that is why it is important to know that you and your co-captain will be able to navigate through the storms of life together. 

Like life insurance, marriage should ideally be for life. This means that you have to be ready to commit to contributing regular premiums (not just in the monetary sense) to the marriage in order for it to work. However, unlike life insurance, instead of getting a larger payout, the penalty for the termination of a marriage gets heavier as you go along. You don’t just risk losing your assets in a divorce, you also risk hurting the ones that you love (especially if you have kids) in the process as well. That is why you should be sure that you are ready to commit before you bend the knee. 

Are your values and goals aligned?

If she hasn't killed me after all these years, I guess it's worth a shot.

Another important thing to consider is whether you and your partner are aligned on your core values and goals. 

Of course you don’t have to agree with everything he/she says (unless and until she becomes the wife, but that’s a post for another time) but there should be some form of agreement or understanding on certain fundamental issues. 

Some important issues to discuss, if you haven’t already done so, include: religion; whether and when to have kids; financial/life goals; and your parents. 

Of course there are many other things to discuss, but these are four core issues that we think you should discuss before deciding whether you are ready to commit to a life with your other half. 

If you’re going to choose a partner for life, you would want to be with someone who shares your views on these issues or at least both of you have an understanding about your respective stand on these issues. Otherwise, it will be very tiring for either of you to have to revisit these issues time and again without being able to resolve them. 

This brings us to our next consideration. 

How do you resolve conflicts?

You left the toilet seat up again!

It is impossible for couples not to have disagreements. Even if your fighting does not involve screaming and yelling, disagreements and conflicts will take a toll on your relationship over time if they are not properly resolved or managed.

It is one thing to avoid conflict and another to know how to resolve or manage them. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all method to do so. However, we do have some conflict resolution tips that we think might help. 

Listen. When your partner is speaking, don’t wait for your chance to speak or plan your rebuttal. Seek to understand his/her point of view and resist the urge to pre-judge the validity of the point being made. 

Watch your tone/volume. Arguments can quickly spiral out of control when one party starts to raise his/her voice or adopts an aggressive/accusatory tone. If you catch yourself doing this, pause (and apologise for your tone or raising your voice, if necessary) before continuing. If you notice him/her doing so, seek to deescalate the tension by calmly requesting him/her to not address you in this manner. 

Address the issue. Talk about the issue, don’t attack the person. There is no place for ad hominem attacks unless you’re a six-year old bully at a playground. If you have never accepted someone else’s viewpoint after they just insulted you, we don’t see how you will be getting your point across by attacking him/her. 

Pick your battles. There are some fights that cannot be resolved. Instead of picking these fights over and over again, which will inevitably cause a strain in your relationship, learn how to manage them as a couple together (especially when you’re not in the heat of the moment). If these fights revolve around core values and/or goals, then you might really have to seriously consider whether or not this relationship is the right one for you. 

Don’t generalise. Two words to avoid here are “never” and “always”. It may be tempting to make sweeping statements like “you never do romantic things for me” or “you always leave the toilet seat up” even if you think that they are true. However, consider if such sweeping allegations were made against you during an argument. It is likely that you would start becoming defensive and before you know it, you start fighting about the use of these sweeping statements or how he/she doesn’t remember the times that you did or did not do such a thing or does not appreciate the effort that you have put in to change. Focus on the immediate issue and don’t bring in irrelevant issues. 

At the end of the day, different couples have different dynamics and before you commit to a lifetime with your partner, it is very helpful for both of you to establish a conflict resolution / management process which works for you. It is impossible to avoid fights but ultimately, it is how you fight (and make up) that really matters. 

Have you spoken to the relevant part(ies)?

Auncle, can I marry your daughter please?

Getting married isn’t just about spending the rest of your life with him/her. You also need to consider his/her family. 

Generally speaking, parents would like to have been informed / consulted before you pop the question. Although it might not be necessary to ask his/her siblings, I have personally heard of people who expressed their disappointment of not being consulted before someone proposed to their sibling. 

Of course, this is not a requirement and there are no hard and fast rules about this. However, it’s always good to maintain a harmonious relationship with his/her family members and it really doesn’t take much to just tell them that you’re about to pop the question. They might even volunteer to help out at the proposal. 

Go forth and get engaged!

You can never be fully prepared for married life. Don’t treat whatever we’ve written above as the rules of engagement (hur hur). The purpose of this post is to help you to consider various aspects of your relationship so that you can prepare yourself to take the plunge. 

It’s not difficult to have a wedding but it is not easy to maintain a marriage. If you think you are ready to pop the question, then go put a ring on it! 

After you have done that, you might want to consider these 4 things before your wedding.

Before you say I do, have you considered these 4 things?

So, you’ve popped the question or said yes to that sparkly diamond ring, now it’s time to plan that perfect wedding. Where do we begin planning your happily ever after? 

I’ve been married for a few years now and I can now, with the benefit of hindsight, ask you to consider these 4 things before you say, “I do”.

What's your budget?

After wedding still need to buy house leh. How?

Let’s start with the most unromantic but most practical question – how much money do you have? I’m not talking about how much do you have for the wedding, I’m talking about how much money do you have for your life after your wedding. 

You see, a wedding is no doubt an important day in your life but it should not define your marriage. You do not want to start day 1 of your marriage in debt because you blew all your money on your dream wedding. 

Please don’t budget your wedding based on your projected “returns” from your guests’ contribution. This is not only financially irresponsible, but can also be very risky. If the actual contribution received from your guests fall short of your estimate, you may end up having to sacrifice other things after your wedding.  

For a typical young couple in Singapore, chances are after your wedding, you will need to pay for your new house, renovation, furniture and electronics etc. If you plan to go on a honeymoon, then you need to set aside even more money. In the grand scheme of things, your wedding is but the introduction to your life’s story as a married couple. You might want to consider budgeting your post wedding expenses and the timeline when they become payable before working backwards to derive a realistic budget for your wedding. 

Honestly, even if your wedding is so amazing that it goes viral, people are eventually gonna forget about it. If your  budget is such that you had to choose between getting a photobooth for your wedding or buying a sofa for your new home, I think your friends can take their own photos at your wedding la hor? This brings us to the next consideration, how much does a wedding actually cost?

How much will your wedding cost?

Definitely not what you want to be saying for your vows.

Closely linked to your budget is the actual cost of the wedding. 

If you have no clue what are the common expenses in a wedding, you might want to check out this comprehensive list of 21 common wedding expenses (number 2 will shock you) from our friends at The Wedding Vow. 

You can find other lists through a quick google search so that you can have a rough idea of how much each component of your wedding is going to cost. 

You might also quickly come to the realisation that there are a lot of these things that you see at your friends’ weddings that you can do without at your own wedding.  

Our suggestion is not to start with the minor details (e.g. which wedding photographer or designer wedding gown or wedding band you “must have” for your wedding just because some influencer had them at their wedding #sponsored #blessed #nomoneynohoney) but plan around the big ticket items. After you have settled the largest expenses then check how much do you have left for your budget. This way, you will be less tempted to spend beyond your budget simply because you “must have” that [insert expensive item] for your wedding to be perfect. Remember, nobody really remembers your wedding until Facebook reminds them about 5 years later.  

For most people, the most expensive part of the wedding would be the wedding banquet. In order for you to find out how much this is going to cost you, you will first need to ask yourself how many guests are you going to invite to your wedding. In this connection, you may soon realise that the answer to that question may not be entirely up to the both of you. This leads us to the next consideration. 

What do your parents think?

Unless both of you have super chill parents who are totally cool with anything that you plan for your wedding, you would be well-advised to include them in the planning as soon as possible. Pro tip: even if your parents tell you that your wedding is “up to you”, it is rarely the case. 

The last thing you want is to have everything planned out  only for your parents to ask you to change this or add that. This can come in many different forms. For e.g. the number of guests that they want to invite; any auspicious date for the wedding / inauspicious dates to avoid; any custom / tradition to adhere to etc. 

While we understand that you may think that this is YOUR wedding and you should be in charge of deciding these things, we think it is best to (hopefully) accommodate everyone so that everyone will be happy on the day of the wedding. 

Yes, you may feel that you should have complete control over the wedding – it is your big day – but your wedding is also an important day for your parents too! It may be difficult to accommodate everybody’s requests but do at least hear them out and if what they want cannot be done, explain to them nicely. 

At the end of the day, your wedding is a joyous occasion to celebrate the union of two people and their families so don’t sacrifice kinship over the minor details of your wedding. You also don’t want to piss off the parents because you might still be staying with them after the wedding, which brings us to our next consideration.  

What's your housing plan?

Married already stay where ah?

For many of us, we do not have our own house to move into after our wedding. It could be because our new house is still under construction or that we have not found a suitable place to stay. 

Whatever the reason, make sure you and your spouse-to-be have discussed your housing plan ahead of time. Whether it is moving into your parent’s place, renting a place or maintaining the status quo, it is important for you and your partner to agree on such an arrangement. 

Please also make sure that the relevant part(ies) have been consulted on this issue. For example, if your partner plans to move into your parent’s place, the least you can do is to seek your parent’s permission. If there are other people living in the same house, you might want to let them know as well. It would also be good to keep them updated on your plans so that they will know whether this would be a temporary arrangement or if it is going to be a long-term arrangement. 

Needless to say, there are no strict rules about this but it would definitely help to reduce any friction if everyone involved is on the same page, especially if they are all going to be in the same house. 

Setting Your Financial Goals

Setting your Financial Goals

Financial Goals


Having an idea of your financial goals, splitting them into short vs long-term is the first and most important step to financial planning. There’s another article providing the overview of financial planning but here’s the article with more details on setting your financial goals. 


Start with setting your Life-Goals

Taking a step back, it is key to realise that money is simply a (really important) means to get you to your other life goals. As such, it is key to take some time to think about your life goals (if you haven’t already), prior to setting your financial goals. 


Everyone is unique and will have different life goals but to start the ball rolling, I’d list down some of the more common ones, especially those that largely depend on money to achieve them below. However, I can’t stress enough you should take some time to consider which are the ones relevant for you and what other goals not in the below list is important for you.


  • Financially independent (i.e. not have to work for money) by Age 50
  • Settle Down with a partner by Age 30 
  • Have 2 Kids and be able to fund their (local) university education so they won’t have to take a study loan
  • Take a year-long sabbatical at Age 35 to travel the world with kids before they start school


A better understanding of your own life goals can then guide your financial goal setting. Each financial goal should be specific, stating clearly the amount of money you need and when you need it. With the latter, the goals can then be viewed in terms of short-term (<5 yrs) and long-term (>5 yrs) which would subsequently guide your financial planning (e.g. saving cash for short-term goals, investing in various type of products for mid/long term goals. Once again, here are some sample goals to help you start the ball rolling!


Short-term Goals (<5 yrs)


Table showing life goal > Financial Goal > How much $$ > At which age

  • Settle Down with a partner by Age 30 
    • Proposal, wedding
    • House
  • Build buffer/rainy day fund



Long-term Goals (>5 yrs)


  • Financially independent (i.e. not have to work for money) by Age XX
  • Have 2 Kids and be able to fund their (local) university education so they won’t have to take a study loan
  • Take a year-long sabbatical at Age 35 to travel the world with kids before they start school


Conclusion

The above is a sample overview of setting your financial goals, starting from your life goals. With a good understanding of how much money you need and at which juncture of your life you need it by, it is then time to continue to subsequent steps of financial planning – see more in this article. 

From Wikipedia:

In general usage, a financial plan is a comprehensive evaluation of an individual's current pay and future financial state by using current known variables to predict future income, asset values and withdrawal plans.

You’d soon realise that like many others things in Financial Planning, the definition above is made overly complicated.  

In this blog post, after muddling in murky waters for the past 5 years (e.g. reading countless articles on what is the best bank account to start with, what is the best credit card I should use), I’d like to share with you my simplistic take on what Financial Planning is and the 3 key steps I wished I started with that would have helped me focus on the more important items, putting myself (and my family) in a better financial state.   

So what is Financial Planning to me? It is evaluating what we need to change (e.g. increasing our income, reducing our expenditure, investing more) to help us achieve our Financial Goals in life. 

This can sound very daunting to any young adult and you may begin to wander why there wasn’t a subject or module on this in secondary/tertiary education but fret not, here are the 3 steps (and a excel template) to begin Financial Planning using my 25 year self as an example.

 

3 steps to begin Financial Planning (Excel template provided)

 

Step 1 – List Down Your Financial Goals

 Financial goals are your big-picture (money-related) objectives in life. For example, my financial goals when I was 25 were as follows: 
  • Be able to retire (i.e. be financially independent) by 50
  • Be able to settle down with my partner by 30 (have enough money for engagement, wedding, house)
  • Be able to have 2 kids and fund their educations in local universities without having to take study loans

Some of the above goals may not be important to you (e.g. you may not want to have kids, especially when you find out how costly they can be) while you may also have other goals (e.g. it was always your dream to get that BMW by 35, or to go for a year long backpacking trip at 30). Regardless on what your Financial Goals are, it is key to begin your financial planning by listing what your goals are, so as to know what you want to work towards. 

After listing down your financial goals, the natural next step is to estimate (i) how much money that is and (ii) when you need that money. 

For example, how much money do you need if you want to be financially independent? In my case, I have defined financially independent to be being able to generate enough income from my investments (at low risk tolerance) to fund a monthly expense of $4,000 per month. Hence, this would work out to be requiring $1.6m worth of investments (at 3% returns). See more details in the excel file template you can get at the end of this blog. 

The above is just the tip of the iceberg for setting financial goals, read more here for a full article on how to set your financial goals for the short, mid and long term. 

Step 2 – Project if you are on track to hit your Financial Goals

Based on the data you have today, project if you are going to reach the financial goals you want to achieve in Step 1. As with any projections, this is simply an estimate but is very useful to give you some idea if you are currently on track to reach your financial goals. Once again, you can reference  the excel template provided at the end of the blog post for this. 

There are 3 key components in this projection:

  1. Income (Salary and/or other side businesses)
  2. Expenditure (Daily expenses, Insurance Premiums, Big Ticket items such as down payment for Housing)
  3. Investments (Money to be set aside for investments to reach your retirement goal)

From the above 3 components, you would be able to project your cash flow and check if you would be able to reach your financial goals.

Step 3 – Make adjustments to increase chances of reaching your Financial Goals

Once you have completed Steps 1 and 2, you would be able to check if you are likely to achieve your goals. More importantly, you would be able to evaluate what are the key areas you should work on to increase the chances of you reaching your goals. With reference to the 3 key components in step 2, here are the ways to increase your chances:

  1. Plan for increases in income (e.g. plan to get promoted in current job, find a better paying job, find ways to make income outside your day job) 
  2. Reduce Expenditure (e.g. do you really need an extravagant wedding, or make that car purchase?)
  3. Invest more of your savings, or look for other ways to increase rate of return for your investments

Conclusion

Looking back when I got my first job, I dived straight into details such as what is the best bank account and credit cards to use, what insurance I should get, etc. 

However, if I could turn back time, I would instead start with the above three steps to first make sure I am clear on what my Financial Goals are (i.e. my target board) and what I should focus on to increase my chances of achieving those goals (e.g. focus on starting investing earlier rather than trying to reducing my monthly expense by $50). 

So, take some time to download the excel file (if you haven’t already), and follow the three steps above to identify what are the key areas of focus you should work on to help you achieve your financial dreams! 

Planning Your Career – An Overview

Post-graduation, you will make your first foray into the working world. You might be confused as to how to proceed from there and how your first job might fit into the larger picture of your overall career. Fret not! In this article, Uncle Ng will share some tips on how to plan your career and get where you need to be.

The Big Picture

As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. But how do we plan? The future is often so murky and we can only control so much in our lives. This is a fact. However, with proper planning, we can still make the most out the limited information that we have. The first step in planning is to step back and take in the big picture. Ask yourself where you want to be in 5 or 10 years’ time. Sort out your priorities in life and your goals. Work out your interests, values, skills, qualifications, etc. At this stage, it’s very important to make sure that you are honest with yourself. A useful guide to self-introspection can be found here!

The future of our lives is like a landscape covered in fog, we can vaguely see some landmarks that will give us our general bearing but the path there is never clear.

Once you have completed your review of the big picture, collate the options available to you – this may or may not be straightforward depending on what you studied in your formal education and your grades. You should try to find out more details of the roles and industries so that you will be able to make a more informed decision. Try to discern the trajectory of the industry – is it expanding in Singapore or is it on its way out? Find out what the roles entail so that you can assess if they are aligned to your interests. Most importantly, look a few steps ahead and assess the prospects for each role – how can this role prepare you for the next one? Is there even a next one available?

Once all these inputs are ready, you can then proceed to start planning.

Step 1: Lay Out the Information

Visualise the parameters of your plan and what routes are available to you. For some, the options will be very limited by virtue of what you have studied (e.g. if you studied medicine, you can only go into healthcare), however, for the bulk of us, the options available can be quite large. At this stage, it may also be useful to sieve out those options that do not align with your interests and values.

A useful way to visualise the inputs to your plan

The information can be visualised as something like this where your present circumstances determine what is available for you which is further constrained by where you want to be. Of course, be realistic, your immediate goals in the next 5-10 years should be something within reach. If you aren’t able to fit in any options short of winning the lottery, you might want to revisit your goals. You don’t have to give it up completely, just maybe move them to a longer time horizon, say in 15-20 years’ time instead.

Being realistic with your goals expands the space of available options. Try not to end up in a situation where you have no practical option. That’s just wishful thinking!

Step 2: Map Out Your Plan

If you map out the possibilities for your career from now till retirement, it’ll probably look something like an MRT map. Your skillsets and qualifications will be your passport to get to where you want to go. Your career options are possible stations where you can get on the train and your goals are your destinations.

A key factor in planning is risk management. So make sure contingencies are covered. Do proper financial planning to make sure you’re adequate insured and are saving enough for your retirement! Try to choose a role that allows you to develop multiple skillsets simultaneously as this will allow you to pivot to other industries/roles in the future, if necessary.

New MRT map
Just make sure that your set of skills, experience and qualifications is an EZ-Link card and not a single-trip ticket! Otherwise, if you need to change line or go to a different station due to changing circumstances, you won’t be able to get there.

Step 3: Execute Your Plan

Go out, apply for those roles and as importantly, make sure you network effectively in the industry and professional circles relevant to the jobs that you’ve identified. Even after you’ve landed a job and started working, continue to nurture your networks and review your circumstances and plans so that you can adjust as and when required.

Carpe Diem

The future is out there. All the best as you move out and seize the opportunities of the day and I hope that you’ll land a role that will meet your expectations and help you achieve what you want in life. Onward and upward folks!

Four Key Differences Between School and Work

At the end of the conveyor belt of education lies employment. However, our schooling has at best only been an approximation of the working world. In this article, I’ll break down four key differences that I’ve learnt over my short career that you will hopefully find useful as you embark on yours!

Lesson 1: The Problem Has a Context!

School teaches you to solve the problem in front of you, but your employer is looking to resolve issues beyond the immediate problem. Therefore, before embarking on any problem-solving endeavour at work, it is always useful to take a step back and ask who you are solving this problem for and why they want it solved. This helps you to contextualise the problem and provide more meaningful solutions. It’s not something that comes naturally to us and especially not so after more than a decade of indoctrination in schools, but it is something vitally important to working life!

Lesson 2: There Are No Method Marks!

Ahh… method marks, the saving grace of many a student in science and maths exams. Schools are focused on training students to imbibe thinking frameworks and processes and thus reward following the method. Employers however, are after results. Of course, there are still processes and frameworks to follow with regards to compliance and quality assurance but apart from these, it’s really open season on how to solve the problem. Remember the time you forgot how to solve that maths problem in an exam and lost all the method marks because you used trial and error instead? Well, in work, you’ll still get the credit for the result – though you might have been working a lot less efficiently than you could have. So, in work, don’t be too focused on the process and lose sight of the result. The rewards just aren’t dished out the same way as in school.

Lesson 3: The Boss Doesn’t Have the Answer

The teacher calls your name. All eyes are on you as you walk to the whiteboard to write your answer to the question on the board. You don’t have the right answer, but your teacher certainly does! We’re all used to the trope of the teacher knowing all the answers in class, and it is mostly true since teachers do a lot of hard work preparing for lessons and setting questions. At work however, we are paid to answer questions that haven’t been answered yet.

Your boss certainly hasn’t already worked through the problem before you and most definitely isn’t trying to test if you’ll get the right answer. Employers pay you to make things easier around the work place by taking some of the load. If someone could already solve the problem that you’re trying to solve without you, you might want to start looking for another job as you’re probably redundant. Of course, some work environments which require a high degree of precision may have employees checking each other’s work, but by and large, your boss isn’t your teacher and most of the time he or she won’t have the answers to the problems set to you – it’s your job to work that out and convince him that your answers are correct!

Lesson 4: Your Career is in Your Own Hands

Teaching is truly a noble profession, teachers and education professionals invest a lot in helping their charges to grow as individuals and to reach success in their later lives. Employers and bosses on the other hand, are a different bunch with different objectives and priorities. In school, we may be used to teachers nagging you to study, arranging remedial classes for you or guiding you through your projects. We might also remember heart-warming stories of teachers going the extra mile for wayward students to bring them back to the right path.

At work however, the boss is typically much less invested in your success. You are hired to perform a role, and your own professional and career development is typically secondary. The sooner you accept this fact, the faster you’ll get to doing something about it. As Singaporeans, we often find it difficult to ask for things or to make our aspirations known since we’re worried about coming off as arrogant pricks. However, we have to realise that this is a very important action that we’re going to have to take if we want to exert some control over our careers and get to where we want to be! Performing your role well is one thing, but it is equally important to let your boss or HR know where you hope to be and to ask for feedback and assistance in charting your path towards that.

Press on folks! The road ahead is long and full of challenges and we’re only at the start!

And that’s it! The four lessons that I’ve learnt about the key differences between school life and working life. I hope that you’ll find them useful. All the best as you embark on your careers and keep on learning! Till next time folks!

Buy Car or Grab Car – A Cost-Benefit Analysis

A perennial question of the newly employed in Singapore for the past 30 years, buying a car is indeed a significant decision in any young person’s life. Singapore is infamous as the world’s most expensive place to own and operate a car and is clearly a depreciating asset to hold. So is the decision so clear cut? In this article, I’ll share some of my thinking on this issue. In full disclosure, I must admit that I bought a car with my wife two years after I started working.

In the US, you could probably get this for the price of a Toyota Corolla Altis in Singapore!

Cost

Many people have written articles on the financial implications of owning and operating a car. Here’s a pretty detailed assessment from moneysmart that’s worth a read. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that owning a car is going to cost much more than the other options available in Singapore, namely – bus-mrt-walk (BMW), taxi/ride hailing and car-sharing. The additional cost is usually to the tune of at least $500 – $1000 dollars a month for a basic car vs the other options. Therefore, from the onset, we should be framing this issue as one of an expense rather than considering any possibility of it being an investment. In other words, treat it like buying food, or paying rent. As with all expenses, the benefits you get in return must justify the cost. So what benefits are there?

At around $30/day of additional expenditure, owning a car had better give you as much happiness as that fat, juicy burger that you could otherwise have bought

Benefit

Convenience

This is the most commonly held benefit of owning a car. The convenience has two components: one is the ease of travelling with large amounts of baggage – this is particularly pertinent if you have kids, and the other is the ability to reach inaccessible places in and around Singapore like Sungei Buloh, the Zoo, JB, etc. While this all sounds enticing, don’t forget to add some discount here for the hassle of finding parking – this is especially annoying in the city areas!

Time Savings

Next is time savings. For some people though, this will matter more than others. Imagine if you live in Pioneer but work at Changi for example. The daily to and fro commute by public transport would take around four hours a day! A car would probably allow you to cut it to a quarter of that – a sizeable amount of time savings! Or if you have to work in multiple locations islandwide (e.g. as a insurance or property agent). Of course, this benefit will not be the same if you live and work in convenient or nearby locations.   

Comfort and Enjoyment

I think it is undeniable that being cocooned in your personal air-conditioned space is more comfortable than taking public transport. Additionally, if you are like me and like driving, then you will also derive pleasure from partaking in an enjoyable activity! Think of it like paying for a paintball game or to rent a badminton court – except you don’t get any exercise.

Status and Signalling

Now for the general population, this might not be such an important point – myself included. But I think an often-overlooked point is how status symbols and signalling of success is actually quite important in certain industries, particularly in sales or client facing roles like selling property. There therefore should be some awareness of the utility of a car from this perspective in those situations.

Analysis

Now that we know the components of cost and benefits, the next step is to perform our analysis. The first step here is to determine how much cash you can spare. A useful guide to basic financial planning can be found here. If your financial situation doesn’t allow you to spare enough cash for a car, then either you will have to re-evaluate your financial goals or forego owning a car altogether. After all, you can’t have your cake and eat it too! But let’s say you are able to spare the cash for a car. Then it becomes a matter of cost vs benefit and we can go through each in turn.

In my case, I was never going to drive to work since I start work at 9am and both live and work near MRT stations. My wife on the other hand starts work very early and gets rotated to different locations across the island, some very far from any MRT station. Furthermore, we make frequent trips (at least once or twice a month) to JB to see my in-laws. So, on the convenience part, we gained quite a bit. Time savings wise, however, there was not much of a gain since public transport was not always significantly longer than driving during peak hours. As for comfort and enjoyment, I gave this segment high marks since I love to drive and it was definitely more comfortable to have your own space when travelling. The last point on status and signalling had not been very relevant to us as my wife and I were both not in client-facing roles and didn’t have anyone to impress.

Despite my own personal analysis coming down on the side of the benefits, it was difficulty to part with such a large sum of money. Arguably, you could meet the convenience and comfort to a large extent with taxis or car-sharing. What eventually tilted the balance for me was my previous car rental and taxi hailing experiences. I recalled numerous instances of having to rush to work but not being able to find any taxi to take me. When overseas, I had also rented cars with high damage excesses as some companies were not willing to reduce the excess amount and returning cars were always a stressful experience.

Conclusion

We eventually decided to go for a second hand car that we have now been driving for almost four years. Looking back, it has been an expensive purchase but I’d say that it’s been worth it for us and even more so in the last one year with the birth of our little girl. I’ll leave you with this parting thought: owning a car is certainly an expensive endeavour, but if it brings you enough value, then surely it would be money well spent.

3 Things You Should Do to Clinch that Job Interview

Becoming Auncle

3 Things You Should Do to Clinch That Job Interview

Applied to hundreds of job postings, only to miss out on the roles that you’ve always wanted? Maybe this article could be what changes your game.

by your friendly neighbourhood

Uncle Liang

I am here to teach you the ways of the uncle.

You’re qualified for that job you’ve applied for. Every single line in the CV that you have painstakingly made is exactly what is written in that job description. Feeling hopeful, you send an application in, and wait for a response… That never comes.

It’s super frustrating, and I know exactly how you feel. Uncle Liang was interviewing for more than 6 months starting from November 2019, up to July 2020! In between, I sent over 600 applications to various positions both within and outside of my comfort zone. But after 6 months? Only some random offers that didn’t even match what I wanted!

So Uncle Liang did a lot of thinking, and asked around his recruiter friends etc. for advice. What you are about to read is the crystallization of those 6 months of blood, sweat, tears and frustration… and the eventual moment of light that comes from actually having learnt something useful from the grueling unemployment experience.

Don’t give up – you’ll get there! I really hope that these tips will help in your job search!

Tip 1: Make (and use!) your connections

A lot of people talk about the value of networking (including our own Uncle Teo – read his amazingly useful commentary here)!

I won’t say too much about networking here, but let’s just say that your connections could be one of the most valuable factors in determining whether or not you could land that next role. Especially if you’ve been around – making connections in the industry not only helps you get a referral into the role you want (not to mention referral incentives for your contact), but it could also be the edge you need to get to the top of the list for highly competitive roles or popular job listings.

An added perk is that having industry connections would mean that you might be able to get intel about less-publicized roles, or maybe even submitting your application in way before other qualified candidates catch wind of the role.

I have friends who – when looking for a role – literally just comb LinkedIn for their University alumni in prominent positions, and then send them InMail or even connection requests, indicating that they are seeking career advice. For a more targeted approach, find online communities that focus on your industry, and then begin to network from there. Of course, the best way would be to start from the networks that you (should) already have!

Even your ex-classmates might be able to introduce you to a relevant role – never underestimate the power of human connections!

Tip 2: Create a Bespoke Resume

You’ve done all the layouts, cleaned up your resume, and your resume is all ready for battle. But is it?

Imagine you’re a recruiter who has just received 200 resumes for the same Marketing Manager role – most of them are formatted in a similar way, and mention generic achievements that have not been tailored to the role. How would your resume break through to the recruiter?

1. Design

Canva has a good collection of resume templates, and I would recommend the ones here. I mean look at these minimalist beauties:

2. Customization

Now that you have your recruiter’s attention, the next step would be to impress them with something customized to the role they’re looking for.

I don’t think I need to say much here – if you’re looking to hire a digital marketing person, just imagine the difference between receiving a resume that says:

I handled an account base of digital marketing clients, and ran campaigns for the business.

VS

I handled an account base of 25 clients and increased it to 45 within 6 months, generating average of $200,000 revenue per month through digital marketing.

3. Cover Letter

Needless to say, always submitting a cover letter could be the difference between going 1 month without an interview, and actually getting 5 interviews in a month. Make sure to customize the cover letter’s comments to each role, and what you think they’re looking for!

Please note that this much customization means that you will end up with what others would call “wasted” resumes and cover letters. It’s true, because often the job listings that you see are just for show (e.g. they already have a candidate in mind and were just trying to hit an interview quota). Don’t give up and believe that it will all be worth it!

Tip 3: Make sure you are applying to the right jobs!

It might be quite an obvious tip from us, but I personally feel that the importance of aiming for the right role is often overlooked in the job search. Whether it is your dream job, or something to aspire to, you need to aim for something that is ‘within your reach’ – and by that I mean a role that you can do well in, with fair remuneration. 

I have applied to so many roles where it seemed like a perfect fit from the JD, only to find that I never get called up to interview. Of course this might be a factor of the job’s popularity and the number of resumes received by the recruiter (I have heard of recruiters who, when they receive too many CVs, cuts the stack in half and throws the rest away). Expect this to happen, and often. Just make sure that you’ve done all that you can do to catch their attention, and don’t get yourself down.

However there are also situations where you are overqualified for the role. My experience is that if you are overqualified, recruiters would often put you through but the hiring managers would be unlikely to hire you under fair terms, leading to a ‘wasted’ interview. I know, because I have had many of these interviews. They either end with, “keep in touch! We’ll need somebody like you down the line” or “We’re pleased to offer you $X” (where X is exactly half of your previous salary). Unless you are going into a new industry/role altogether, or if you are absolutely destitute and need the cash… Never rank yourself downwards!

Passion's important. but don't forget that getting paid is important too. You've gotta take care of you!

And that’s that for now! I wish you luck in your job search and I hope these helped!

Please tell us what you think in the comments below – our resident uncles would love to respond to your comments!

Share this on:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Read more

Setting Your Financial Goals

Setting your Financial Goals Financial Goals Having an idea of your financial goals, splitting them into short vs long-term is the first and most important step to financial planning. There’s another article providing the overview of financial planning but here’s

Read More »

Follow Us

Networking – Possibly the most underrated skill for an Adult

The understated Importance of Networking

Listening during class, studying hard for exams, doing your part in your groupwork (possibly with pre-assigned-groups) served you well in your school years. Networking, meeting people outside your immediate social circle or class, was more for leisure purposes and was not crucial in helping you get your grades. Hence, it is tempting to think that networking may not be that important for your career either, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

Let’s start with from the very start of your career life – job search. You might think the best way to begin would be to go to the usual job portals and LinkedIn to find available job listings, work hard to research more about the company, prepare a tailored CV and write a one-page cover letter. However, the truth is that the job that was listed might already have been reserved for someone else and the job listing was largely for regulatory purposes. How did these people jump ahead of everyone else, know about the job opportunity and have one foot in the job even before it was listed on the job portals? As you might have guessed by now – these people had friends/acquaintances in their network in the hiring company, referred them for the job before it was listed on the job portal and the hiring manager liked what they saw when he/she saw. If you think this can’t be right and/or shouldn’t be happening that often, think again. Read more in this article, highlighting two often cited statistics related to networking and job search:

  •     At least 70% of jobs are not even listed
  •     Upwards of 85% of open positions are filled through networking

Networking – Building mutually beneficial, long-term relationships

So what exactly is Networking? For me, networking is building mutually beneficial, long-term relationships through the exchange of information and ideas amongst people with a common interest, usually in an informal setting. With the long-term view of the benefits of networking, similar to financial investments, it is hence extremely beneficial to start networking earlier rather than later. There would then be increasing returns for both yourself and the person you are networking with.

 

Besides the above example on job search, networking can also help you in your current job with the strengthening of knowledge and industry opportunities through your business connections, gain new perspectives and ideas in your personal life and may even help you develop long-lasting personal relationships.

My 3 principles for networking

  1. Be sincere and authentic – Authentic networking may sound like an oxymoron, but it shouldn’t be. Find out common interests, have genuine conversations and always remember to think more about what you can give than what you can receive. Authentic networking develops long-term mutually beneficial professional relationships that would bring you rewards when you need it most.

  2. Actively plan to network – Just like any other goal, create your own action plan for networking. Outline the people you would like to build genuine connections with and how you plan to do it. For example, if you are interested in the e-commerce industry, make a list of people and make sure you consider both people you have already met and people you have yet to meet. For the latter, it could be friends of friends, second/third connections on LinkedIn or simply those in a certain job function you are interested in. Once you have this list of people, note down your action plan on how and when to begin networking with them.
  3. Leverage both digital and physical networking options – For me, I personally like to begin with digital options such as LinkedIn and Shapr (Tinder for business networking) to do a quick evaluation if there is potential of a mutually beneficial relationship and follow it up with a personalized message with request for a face-to-face meetup over coffee. However, do also keep a look out for other physical, networking opportunities/events such as industry conferences, school alumni events, etc!

     

My personal networking story

While confident in social settings, I’ve always been more of an introvert and often saw networking as an insincere activity. It was only a couple years after I started working where it became clear to me the tremendous benefits of networking – be it helping you get your work done better and faster, helping you get the next job in your career or even being roped in as a partner for a potential new business idea. With the believe in its importance, I begun planning the people and network I wanted to establish and with the principle of being sincere and authentic during
networking I have tremendously enjoyed each networking opportunity. Being an introvert, I favour one-on-one meet-ups (e.g. lunch with a colleague in another department/division, lunch catch-ups with ex-colleagues, coffee meet-ups with new people on LinkedIn/Shapr) and most, if not all, of these sessions were thoroughly enjoyable, filled with active sharing of ideas and opportunities from both sides. Some of these networking sessions then developed into authentic relationships, with regular sharing of ideas and opportunities and the occasional
catchups. Similarly, if you have not started actively networking, as long as you follow the 3 principles above, I believe you would find it surprisingly enjoyable and tremendously rewarding in time to come. 

Don’t Compromise on Your Financial Goals

Financial Planning - Don't compromise on you Financial Goals

What is Financial Planning?

From Wikipedia:

In general usage, a financial plan is a comprehensive evaluation of an individual's current pay and future financial state by using current known variables to predict future income, asset values and withdrawal plans.

You’d soon realise that like many others things in Financial Planning, the definition above is made overly complicated.  

In this blog post, after muddling in murky waters for the past 5 years (e.g. reading countless articles on what is the best bank account to start with, what is the best credit card I should use), I’d like to share with you my simplistic take on what Financial Planning is and the 3 key steps I wished I started with that would have helped me focus on the more important items, putting myself (and my family) in a better financial state.   

So what is Financial Planning to me? It is evaluating what we need to change (e.g. increasing our income, reducing our expenditure, investing more) to help us achieve our Financial Goals in life. 

This can sound very daunting to any young adult and you may begin to wander why there wasn’t a subject or module on this in secondary/tertiary education but fret not, here are the 3 steps (and a excel template) to begin Financial Planning using my 25 year self as an example.

 

3 steps to begin Financial Planning (Excel template provided)

 

Step 1 – List Down Your Financial Goals

 Financial goals are your big-picture (money-related) objectives in life. For example, my financial goals when I was 25 were as follows: 
  • Be able to retire (i.e. be financially independent) by 50
  • Be able to settle down with my partner by 30 (have enough money for engagement, wedding, house)
  • Be able to have 2 kids and fund their educations in local universities without having to take study loans

Some of the above goals may not be important to you (e.g. you may not want to have kids, especially when you find out how costly they can be) while you may also have other goals (e.g. it was always your dream to get that BMW by 35, or to go for a year long backpacking trip at 30). Regardless on what your Financial Goals are, it is key to begin your financial planning by listing what your goals are, so as to know what you want to work towards. 

After listing down your financial goals, the natural next step is to estimate (i) how much money that is and (ii) when you need that money. 

For example, how much money do you need if you want to be financially independent? In my case, I have defined financially independent to be being able to generate enough income from my investments (at low risk tolerance) to fund a monthly expense of $4,000 per month. Hence, this would work out to be requiring $1.6m worth of investments (at 3% returns). See more details in the excel file template you can get at the end of this blog. 

The above is just the tip of the iceberg for setting financial goals, read more here for a full article on how to set your financial goals for the short, mid and long term. 

Step 2 – Project if you are on track to hit your Financial Goals

Based on the data you have today, project if you are going to reach the financial goals you want to achieve in Step 1. As with any projections, this is simply an estimate but is very useful to give you some idea if you are currently on track to reach your financial goals. Once again, you can reference  the excel template provided at the end of the blog post for this. 

There are 3 key components in this projection:

  1. Income (Salary and/or other side businesses)
  2. Expenditure (Daily expenses, Insurance Premiums, Big Ticket items such as down payment for Housing)
  3. Investments (Money to be set aside for investments to reach your retirement goal)

From the above 3 components, you would be able to project your cash flow and check if you would be able to reach your financial goals.

Step 3 – Make adjustments to increase chances of reaching your Financial Goals

Once you have completed Steps 1 and 2, you would be able to check if you are likely to achieve your goals. More importantly, you would be able to evaluate what are the key areas you should work on to increase the chances of you reaching your goals. With reference to the 3 key components in step 2, here are the ways to increase your chances:

  1. Plan for increases in income (e.g. plan to get promoted in current job, find a better paying job, find ways to make income outside your day job) 
  2. Reduce Expenditure (e.g. do you really need an extravagant wedding, or make that car purchase?)
  3. Invest more of your savings, or look for other ways to increase rate of return for your investments

Conclusion

Looking back when I got my first job, I dived straight into details such as what is the best bank account and credit cards to use, what insurance I should get, etc. 

However, if I could turn back time, I would instead start with the above three steps to first make sure I am clear on what my Financial Goals are (i.e. my target board) and what I should focus on to increase my chances of achieving those goals (e.g. focus on starting investing earlier rather than trying to reducing my monthly expense by $50). 

So, take some time to download the excel file (if you haven’t already), and follow the three steps above to identify what are the key areas of focus you should work on to help you achieve your financial dreams!