Last month, OCBC Bank launched its OCBC Financial Wellness Index. The outcomes of the index caught the interest from the public.
If you do not already know relating to this Financial Wellness Index and the insights from it, here is a reading list I suggest to help you get started.
The Straits Times: One in 3 adults doesn’t invest: OCBC survey
The Edge: Singaporeans taking small stages in long route to financial wellness: OCBC
Today: Most Singaporeans behind on retirement plans, many unsure how to grow wealth: Study|
InvestmentMoats:OCBC's Financial Wellness Index 2021: A Deep Dive
Fire-Path Lion: “Average Singaporeans” cannot retire early – findings from OCBC Financial Wellness Index
For those of you who choose keeping score, Singapore respondents scored typically 63 for the index. This coincides using what we'd consider a “B” grade with an exam paper, or as how OCBC terms it, the “started but behind” stage from the financial journey.
The results didn't surprise me. In general, most adult Singaporeans I know understand about the need for financial wellness, that we would define as how healthy you are financially. This is similar to how most of us would agree that it's vital that you take care of our overall health.
At the same time, not many Singaporeans would consider themselves finance experts. We might did a few things to get started on our financial planning journey, but we'd also recognise there are probably many areas for improvement.
The Issues that Singapore's Sandwich Generation Will Face
One area of the survey that really caught my attention – perhaps because I identified with this group – is the segment concerning the Sandwich Generation. This is defined within the study as working adults who've to support both their parents and children.
This portion is insightful. The Sandwich Generation has to cope with more financial gaps than other segments of the population (e.g. those who married without kids, singles) using more than 1 / 2 of these respondents (51%) admitting they find it difficult to financially support both their children and parents. 31% of these even said they've unsecured debts.
Many couples I know who fall within this Sandwich Generation face a range of challenges, either financially and/or having to deal with the multiple pressures and expectations in life. A number of them are can not cope with raising their own families on one income, typically when the mother stops working after the arrival of her second child. Others need to juggle between navigating their corporate careers whilst finding enough time (and) to be present in their children's life.
And if you add-on the necessity to support one's parents, financially and perhaps physically, it's easy to understand why the Sandwich Generation would seem like they are caught in between, discovering it a challenge to support either important parties.
What (We) The Sandwich Generation Can perform To Help Ourselves?
The problem we face isn't a problem that is simple to solve. But merely sitting back and not doing anything won't help our situation either. To get away from being sandwiched, here are some things you should think about tackling in your life.
Actionable Item 1: Take a look at Budget Regularly
When you've kids and elderly parents to support, you rack up additional expenditure every month that lots of your friends without kids wouldn't need to incur.
For a start, the price of hiring a maid in Singapore can easily add up to $1,000 a month. Should you include childcare, meals, diapers, insurances and other necessities, you could be easily spending another $750 to $1,000 or even more each month, per child.
While you can travel around on the wallet-friendly option like the MRT and bus, even a few hours out could tire both you and your children out. You might find yourself incurring substantially higher transport costs whenever you rely more on taxi or private hire services. On top of that, if you are giving your parents an allowance, this could easily add up to several thousand dollars every month.
When you become a parent or gaurdian, your variable costs each month will also be ever-changing. You will see what seems to be an infinite amount of wants and needs to invest on as well as your meagre salary can look hardly sufficient to cover the additional expenses that you need to pay for.
Consider prioritising and implementing cost-cutting measures sooner rather than later. Thankfully, with more e-commerce stores available today, it is simple to do your own comparison of which site offers the better deal for the same pack of diapers in the same brand. Saving a few bucks on each purchase goes quite a distance to help you bolster the money you have available.
Also consider the kinds of products you are prepared to pay a premium for. Maybe you are reluctant to compromise on the type of milk powder you purchase your child, but you could reduce your expenditure with regards to their day-care backpack or clothing that they'll quickly outgrow.
It's good to observe that according to the OCBC Financial Wellness Index, 59% of people that are part of the sandwich generation do review their financial plans yearly, when compared with Singapore's average of 49%.
Actionable Item 2: Clear High Interest Debt Quickly
The OCBC Financial Wellness Index also reported that about 22% of respondents who're in the sandwich generation and have personal debt, end up behind target with regards to paying down this unsecured debt, as compared to Singapore's average of 18%. Personal debt could make reference to credit card debt or personal loans taken.
This is dangerous because these unsecured loans have a tendency to incur hefty interest fees. When left unpaid, they can easily compound to become a large sum quickly, making the debt even harder to pay off. For this reason one of the first things you should be doing would be to clear these unhealthy high interest debts as soon as possible.
Actionable Item 3: Plan in advance For The Future
One of the biggest advantages the sandwich generation can claim on their own is that we're all still young and also have time on our side.
Sure, we might not be in our 20s, but it's not too late to get started. While many people like to embrace the YOLO lifestyle, the fact is that living only once also means it's vital that you plan early on anything that we wish to achieve in our lives.
This can often mean 1) starting our investment journey early while we are still young to ensure that we are able to build up for ourselves a stream of residual income for future years (based on OCBC Financial Wellness Index, about 48% of Singaporeans do not have passive income).
It could also mean 2) making a conscious option to purchase a more affordable HDB flat, maybe even securing a set that is nearer to where our parents live so that it's easier for them to allow us to when we have children.
Or it might mean 3) testing ourselves by living on one person's income, to ensure that we know there's a viable choice to live on one income as a family in the future if the need arises.
Actionable Item 4: Help make your Spouse (And Your Parents) Your Biggest Ally
If you plan what you need to do for the family without the support of your spouse, you will be in for any rough ride. You need to decide together, and not separately.
For example, if you have kids and both you and your spouse will work, you need to discuss and decide who should be taking childcare or urgent leave whenever your little one is ill and not capable of going to school or childcare.
These seemingly easy questions are not that straightforward, since any decision you make would modify the body else and his/her work. So, discuss and when necessary, take turns on who must take A few days off work whenever it is necessary. The last thing you want will be caught between your parents and children, as well as between your career and spouse.
If you are receiving your folks involved, be aware concerning the dual role they play as both caregiver, and loving grandparents. Many arguments between adult children and their parents start due to disagreements over the way a child should be looked after, the way they should be raised and just what they should be doing or not doing.
Action Item 5: Strive Towards Work-Life Integration
If time, energy, health and money permits, many of us who're in the peak of our career today would strive to be the best parents we could attend home, filial children to the parents and great colleagues and bosses at our office.
However, we live in the real world where we are restricted to these constraints. We may desire to spend more time with our children but they are physically drained after each working day. Alternatively, we might desire to stay late at work to get along with our team as we prepare for an essential presentation but have parental responsibilities that people need to handle in your own home.
Like it or otherwise, your job and the people that you train with every day can (but shouldn't) impact a state of mind and how you feel about both your work and your loved ones. Much more than in the past, having the ability to handle work-life integration will probably be important for us.
Having supportive colleagues and bosses around us is important. If you do not obtain that, you will feel “sandwiched” between your career and your loved ones. So, strive towards work-life integration, or find a company that's able to support you within this important endeavour.
Just Like Our Health, We Should Make Gradual Improvements For the Financial Wellness
Regardless of our current financial health today, we are able to always find methods to begin to make improvements for our own financial well-being. Financial wellness, just like our own health, isn't something where drastic changes can be created overnight, and results will show immediately.
If we have unsecured debts which are currently incurring high interest, we should make it a point to clear them as quickly as possible. When we already started investing but aren't confident of our investments doing well, we are able to try to learn more about the investing world, to create better investment decisions for ourselves.
That's the good thing about it. No matter how well (or how badly) you think your present financial state is, there's always something can do to enhance yourself.
To assist you in this financial wellness journey, OCBC has created a series of Financial Masterclass videos that you can watch to learn about the best way to manage your money, manage your debt, safeguard your wealth in order to grow your wealth.
These short 5 to 10-minute videos can present you with the fundamental introduction of what you should know, following which you could test your knowledge with the simple quizzes that follow to ensure that you have the basic foundations right.
Get started today, because any procrastination won't place you in a better situation for the future.