I was supposed to be in some form of self-imposed hiatus for this blog but some recent articles have got me thinking, and of course writing. Thoughts on my generation’s aspirations and concerns below:
Why Goh Eng Yeow Is Unrealistically Optimistic
Long-time Straits Times money correspondent, Mr Goh Eng Yeow wrote an article last Sunday. It attempted to encourage youths like us to start saving early so as to allow the 8th wonder of the world – compounded returns to work its magic. This would then give us a good chance to emulate the previous generations and enjoy the material wealth that they currently have.
There’s nothing really wrong with that advice, but realistically, in terms of catching up with the previous generations, the odds really ain’t in our favour. As Mr Goh also noted in his article, there’s a strong likelihood that a 75 year old retired teacher stays in a landed property, his 50 year old counterpart might live in a condominium and the 25 year old NIE trainee would probably be assessing the affordability of a 4-room BTO.
Due to our nation’s high home ownership rates, strong economic growth for the past few decades, and government policy of asset enhancement, it’s increasingly difficult for the 50 year old teacher to own a landed property and the 25 year old teacher to own a condo now, not to mention the landed property. Well, unless their father or grandfather was a teacher too. 😉
As an example, even if I were to increase my saving rates to 70% and continue working for another few decades, it’s still quite unlikely for me to be able to afford a landed property (>$2 million?) like those young civil servants 50 years ago.
Why My Generation Is Better Off
But then, so what? If we exclude housing and car in our comparisons, we are way better off than our forefathers in almost every other area.
Security and nutrition was a real worry 5 decades ago and the average families didn’t have that much disposable income to be able to dine out at restaurants once a week. Holidays and honeymoons were limited to Southeast Asia for most then, not the Europe or Maldives that’s increasingly common these days.
If given a choice, would you be willing to trade the internet for a bigger house? Or forgoing the cell phone for a car? The choice seems obvious to me, even if I am the rare few who is not addicted to technology. (I doubt it would be that difficult not to log in to FB for a week.)
And well, it’s interesting to note that the comparisons between the different generations earlier was also not exactly fair. The average teacher was probably the among the top 10 percentile earners 50 years ago, the top 20 percentile 25 years ago and possibly just above the median these days. If you’re a top banker/broker like Jordan Belfort, the landed property is probably still only a couple of annual paychecks away.
The Obsession with Housing and Car
But it seems like most of my peers doesn’t share my sentiments. During the NTU Ministerial Forum that was held about 2 weeks ago, we found out that 9 out of the 15 interviewed were concerned that they won’t be able to buy a flat and a car. And then PM Lee had to REASSURE young Singaporeans not to “worry that they will have a tougher time than their parents because they were born too late and missed out on opportunities”
Seriously, are they really sure they want to be born a few decades earlier? Ever heard of dentistry back in those “good old days”, guys? Be careful of what you wish for!
And then, don’t you think that it’s a joke that our “best” talents don’t have bigger dreams other than owning a condo and a car. Yeah, it’s not even about climibing to the top of the corporate ladder anymore.
Concerns about the flat is probably reasonable and kudos to the government as Minister Khaw has helped many young couples with the huge BTO launches in the past year. But if they are talking about cars, then there’s really some appalling entitlement mentality lying around. Haven’t they read this article?
In my opinion, these people just want to have their cake and eat it too.