Having children & Sandwich Generation

I am a father of 3 kids, and I am also part of the sandwich generation*.

*A generation of people, typically in their thirties or forties, responsible both for bringing up their own children and for the financial care of their ageing parents.

This post is inspired by the multiple CNA articles touching on married couple remaining childless recently, and other house-husband articles and facebook posts along the way.

First of all, my stand if it is important to the readers, i believe in respecting others decision and being non judgmental. To the people who do not wish to get married, it is their choice. To the people who do not wish to have children, it is their choice. I do not think that we need to change them, to impose the burden of the whole society on a certain group of individuals. We should be helping those who wish to get married, who wish to have children, who face certain hurdles to get there.

Childcare/Infant care is the 21st century solution to maintaining a local strong workforce, in increasing dual income families, for people who need that dual income, or for people who wish to have children and have career ambitions & advancement.

The cost of Childcare/ Infant care has decreased drastically for low to middle income family who stick to ECDA ANCHOR OPERATOR SCHEME (AOP)​​, i blogged about my experience previously. It is mainly the combination of CDA $1 to $1 matching and enhanced Kifas introduced last year. My expenses per child went from a low 3 digit figures to 2 digit figures, this is partially also due to my family size of 5 which allow my family income to be calculated on per capita income (PCI) basis, and also my very low income. Childcare under the Anchor Operator Scheme (AOP) is capped at $720, with CDA 1 for 1 and working mother subsidy, this can go to a middle/low 3 digit figure for low to middle income families.

I have heard stories previously of mother going out to work, and using most of their income, if not all of their income to pay for the infant care and childcare fees, that was few years back. If you do the basic calculation, the number stands true for low income working mother. And when your expenses is so high, you will go into a vicious cycle if anything happens along the way. Now with all the subsidies, it is much more possible to earn and save along the way, without compromising the kids education. This is one big aspect which the government has done well, balancing a strong workforce which is vital for Singapore survival, yet reducing one of the biggest expenses in the early years of family creation. This is beneficial for parents, who has no issues with putting their children in school, and has more ambitious career aspirations.

I think the signal is strong, if you want to work, the government will help you as a whole. But having children is a very personal decision. It is one big responsibility, lifetime. Is the environment cohesive? Is our housing suitable to raise big families?

No individual should bear the whole burden of the society, as it is too heavy to bear. As politician, aging and shrinking population will always be the bread and butter issue, they will encourage more couples to have children and if possible at optimum child bearing years too.

As a father of 3, i think it is tough having children, you will be sacrificing a lot of your personal time, aspirations, freedom and sanity. You can throw alone time out of the window if you are the stay home one. And as you experience the terrible 2, horrible 3 and incorrigible 4, you start to question yourself, am I a bad parent etc.

I do not think one can ever be prepared enough to be parent or good parent. If i consolidate all my bad parenting behavior, i think i can publish a book called “How not to raise your child.” At my best, i advocate good and positive parenting, and tell my children how much i love them everyday, words that i never heard from my parents, as they belongs to the traditional era of parents, which i deemed it the freestyle parenting – 放养式. We just present parental love differently. My parents was not really involved in my education, as they are not well versed in english, they were the forsaken generation when Singapore govt changed the education system from mother tongue to english, it was for the greater good, but suddenly one whole generation find themselves suddenly not good enough for many jobs. They did not have lower IQ than we do, but with that environment, they did not have much choices, as majority of them too experienced the freestyle parenting. Every generation will have their limitations.

I grew up in a Chinese speaking environment, most of the chinese in neighbourhood school spoke mother tongue when interacting with each other. As you can see/read, my english is really bad. If you take away 1 or half a mark for every grammatical mistake that i made in my blogging, all of my articles would be below the passing marks. Yet the content that I wish to bring across is still there, it does not mean that my knowledge is in anyway inferior to people with really good english grades, but yet my english results continue to pull me back in life, i wish that Singapore english would be graded differently from Cambridge or Oxford, as we are a bilingual country, would a person who is talented in a field that require higher grades of english be held back, just because of the balancing between 2 languages. Yet like the mandatory 2 years National Service, the males are held back in their life, career and family planning for those that wish to. It is for the greater good of the society, understandable, but full of sorrow at the same time. Sorry i digress again, it happened for all my posts. Too much ranting.

Sandwich Generation
You cannot choose whether you want to be part of the sandwich generation or not. Your parents will be making the decision, unless you choose not to have children to avoid being the sandwich generation, with the sheer determination to let it end with you. But i do not encourage that thought, if you wish to have children, please do not let the sandwich generation burden be in the way.

I am lucky to have siblings to share the financial liability, what i have contributed so far, is quite minimal at the moment, so i cannot comment much on it yet.

But I am determined to stop it at my generation, to be financially responsible for my own life, my retirement and my healthcare costs. What is the point of being educated, if you cannot use all the knowledge gained to take control of your lie, many of our uneducated parents did not have the choice, but we do. If you can afford a car and choose not to, save the money and invest logically, you will have quite a sum of money for your retirement, get that hospitalisation insurance if you have not, it is the single most important insurance ever. Have dependant? Get a term/life insurance, do not commit too much. Read up, ask around, visit as many financial blogs as you can, get the whole feel of the financial blogsphere.

I do it, so my children will not need to be the sandwich generation. They can have their own aspirations, their own life plans, they will not be held back financially. When i am old and frail, their company will be all I need to know that I have lived well.

My greatest forte is creating value, unlocking value. I earn very little, yet I learn how to invest, I produce reasonable and sustainable returns, and plow them back to the portfolio, I ensure that the family finance is well taken care of. Even if I am not working, I continue to generate income for the family, a strong financial safety net is the most basic foundation block to a family, you cannot really prepare yourself to be good parents, but you can start creating a strong financial position, so when life throw you lemons, your savings will be the flask, your investment returns will be the sugar, the actions the you do to build wealth will be the shaking, insurance will be the mat, in case you drop it, it might spill but it will not crack. There you have it, lemonade. It is sweet, sour and slightly bitter at the same time, just like life. Only when you acknowledge that it will be sour, it will be bitter, then can you really taste the sweetness of life.

Last but not least, I do not think that anyone is qualified to advise you whether you should have children or not, it is very personal, between you and your spouse or you alone. All I can do is to share my experiences and you see if it makes sense to you and your life planning. If you are thinking of having more than you can cope, then maybe you can discuss with your wallet, or the people who will be helping you, if they are ok with helping, is their health still going strong. It really takes a village to raise a child nowadays. Home based learning coupled with Work from home has further strengthen this thinking, for lower primary home based learning, the parent became the teacher, while the teacher became the facilitator. The nation is stretching itself to deal with the pandemic, the parents are stretching themselves balancing their rice bowl, the children’s well being, and whatever sanity there is left at the end of the day. Every generation has their own problems.

If you are planning to have a child soon, i wish you the very best. Godspeed.

Perhaps the most important book i have ever read in my financial journey.

The Richest Man In Babylon.

I have read a lot of books when I was starting my investment journey, big big thanks to the neighborhood library, where wisdom of all sorts, in different genre can be found in written form.

From REITS investing in the local section, value investing, growth investing, trading, reading annual reports, financial reports, how to look for fraud, books that focus specifically on ROE, PSR, P/B, P/E etc and many many more. I cannot emphasize enough that reading is a very big part of investing, in all stages, and even if you are already a veteran in investing, you still have to keep on reading, the annual reports, financial reports of companies that you have invested in.

But first of all, before we start on our investing journey, we have to learn how to manage our money.

We do know that we need to save our money from a very young age, the rich will teach their offspring the importance of money and how to preserve their wealth, while the poor will also teach their offspring the importance of money through their own experience and plight. Parents will teach their children to save money for a rainy day, regardless of their own education level, their own savings rates, or their uncontrollable expenses.

The question is how much, how early, and what differences will it make?

Does saving 10% your whole life from all the money you have collected make a big difference and allow you to pursue the life you want at an earlier stage?

No, a person who have not saved a single cent in his youth, but 50% in his prime earning years, and invest his money wisely and steadily will have a lot more towards the end.

So does it mean we do not have to save since young?

No again, if you do not learn how to mange small amount of money and manage it well, how do you think you will cope with big amount of money?

Some good example which I always like to bring up, are the NBA players and the big lottery winners. The NBA players are extremely talent in their own crafts, and the sports are well liked across many countries, many basketball players around the world have given their whole life to basketball and their achievements can’t even match up to the second tier standard in America , and the lottery winners are some of the luckiest people in the world, until the money started to control them.

Starting young and starting small, might not play a very big part in terms of the amount of money, but never underestimate, the amount of understanding you will amassed along the way in understanding yourself and the investing environment which you wish to be in. You can go into trading, and learn about the importance of stop loss, or your character can be more suitable for a balanced portfolio, which you dabble in bonds, precious metals and stocks. You could perhaps be more interest in emerging markets than your local market, or in the US market, where the P/E ratio can go into the thousands for companies that the whole world has high hope in. Or the dividends focused/ REITS group which is more interested in the amount of money they are getting out from their portfolio each year, or every month. Perhaps a contrarian, a value investors, or solely property investor.

It is always about understanding yourself, your temperament, starting with small amount of money, making mistakes along the way, and slowly picking yourself up, and finally finding a steady path to your investment journey, there are many roads that leads to Rome, some faster but riskier, some slower but steadier.

In the end, it is about reaching your destination, regardless of how far or near, how slow of fast, if you take into consideration, the amount of people not reaching the end destination. To reach, you would have already won over the mass majority.

Lets bring us back to money mangement, the important rules we can take a leaf from The Richest Man In Babylon.

7 golden rules.

1. Start thy purse to fattening – For each ten coins i put in my lean purse, to spend but nine.

In today context – Pay yourself first. Do not save what you have left, but save first then spend. Normally in your prime earning years, the expenses are often the greatest too, as it coincides with getting married and having a child or children. For the singles, some of the biggest expenses in life like getting that car, or investment property, being filial piety and contributing more to your parents allowance, going for your yearly holidays. There will always be something to buy, which bring us to our next rules, but before that, pay yourself first.

2. Control thy expenditures – Budget then thy necessary expenses. Touch not the one- tenth that is fattening thy purse. Let this be thy great desire that is being fulfilled. Keep working with thy budget, keep adjusting it to help thee.

There are many good points in the second rule, and for anyone that is interested, you can purchase the e-book online, or visit your local library.
In today context, this is perhaps one of the hardest rule in all the seven rules, yet we do have to be responsible to our money, to tell ourselves that we should control the money, and not let the money control us. For most if not all job, we are trading time for money, for top athletes, soccer players, basketballers, most retire in their 30s, while they are past their prime for that particular sports, their life have just entered into their prime. With reducing income, can they reduce their expenses proportionally too? Or their expenses will increase with higher upkeep to their image, and ego?

3. Make thy gold multiply – Behold, from my humble earnings I had begotten a hoard of golden slaves, each laboring and earning more gold. As they labored for me, so their children also labored and their children’s children until great was the income from their combined efforts.

Some people are better at managing money, some are better at investing, while some are better at earnings, and some lucky few who are good at multiple aspects if not all. No matter what, there is a common goal, to multiply our savings(idle money) Before we start to invest, please set aside an emergency fund, as it is hard to predict the short term fluctuation of any investing environment, or to predict that black swam event like covid19, that seems to be happening more frequently ,a black swam event is not that uncommon after all.

Investing is a personal journey, you can seek help, go to classes, or stand on the shoulders of giants, but ultimately you are solely responsible for the rise and fall of your investment values, not the someone who told you about one particular stock that is sure bound to rise, or that hot hot stock where all the people you know have put in some money and are enjoying the first wave of a rising tide brought on by the rising liquidity that is flooding the market.

Before you invest, what is the definition of the stock market to you? How do investors earn money from the market, and what do business owners have to gain from listing in the stock market, understanding these fundamental issues will make you understand your path, whether you are more attracted into dividends investing; one of the best way to partake in the business profits, or that cash rich, yearly increasing book value company that refuse to return back any money in the company to shareholders, waiting for years for other shareholders to push up its price, and only after you have sold your holdings after losing all hope in the company to realise its value, then it’s stock price rises dramatically after that. There are many reasons why a stock price will rise or fall, many reasons worse than the others, and on hindsight, the vision is often perfect, but not when you are prodding forward.

We have come to the end of this lengthy and wordiness post, there are 4 more rules to this series, which I think are slightly less important to the first 3 rules but if you wish I highly recommend you to borrow or purchase the book for a good old reading, you will not be disappointed.

If you mastered the first 3 rules, I think you are set for a relatively successful investing journey, yet the first 3 rules are often the hardest due to individual temperament. For money management and that a-ha book, the financial camp are often divided into two major camps, one of which is The Richest Man In Babylon & Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, with most preferring the latter, both are great books, which will set a strong foundation in your financial literacy journey.

Last but not least, i would like to add in some personal words which I feel strongly for.

Savings is more of within, while spending is more shown externally. In life, almost everywhere we are more judged by our spending powers, countries are listed by their spending powers. And it is true, by how spending and powers comes together naturally to form a phrase, spending do give us powers, and make us feel in power, it is a very very fine and delicate process, one misstep and we are lured into this false sense of power, which vanish into the thin air when our money are gone. The whole world is chasing after money not you. Take good care of your money, and be in control of it. It is easier for others to judge you by the clothes you wear, the car you drive, and the house you stay in, and very seldom will people know how much you have in savings unless you wish to reveal so. Spending is essential to the economy and savings is essential to your personal well being, it is a delicate balance with no right or wrong. Remember there are many paths that lead to Rome, and it is not how fast you reach it, but whether you will reach it. In the meantime, do enjoy the journey and not be penny wise and pound foolish. It is perfectly fine to buy the things that you fancy from time to time, but always spend within your means.

Socash 1.5% rebate July 2020 promotion

Earned a total of $41.35 for the month of July, and an additional $15 for the month of August, total $56.35

Free cash with minimal hassle, except for the many trips. A total of 7 trips, averaging $8.05 per trip.

1. Smartphone to download Socash app
2. DBS/POSB bank account
3. Nearby Sheng Siong Outlet with $tm machine.

I enjoyed this kind of free cash rebates promo with no spending needed.
I happened to have Sheng Siong near my house which is almost hassle free with it’s $tm machine, very few people used it.

There is not much information from Socash side, everything that i know comes from the other websites and hwz forum where people tested personally and shared how much they are able to withdraw, socash kept changing the monthly limit from $2500 to $2000 then to $1500, probably due to overwhelming reponses, however will be good if some announcement is make transparently.
If you need to queue together with people paying for their purchases, i feel that the effort might not be worth it. Feedback has been given by other users that, socash withdrawal are not really welcome at some stores, especially during peak hours, as it adds to the cashier workload, and increase the queue duration for everybody.

Singapore has a very good and plentiful ATM network, you can find ATM almost anywhere, so i can’t really see Socash as an essential app, or a game changing app.
The $tm machine has a specific icon for Socash, so it was pretty simple, though the Qr code scanner was not that prominent, it is that mirror looking like box below the screen, put your phone screen with the Qr code near it to scan.
Sheng Siong is the clear winner here, as i am already there, might as well do some late night groceries shopping, with some non-essential items here and there.

All in all, i feel that this is a good promo, and highly recommend people who meet the requirements to give it a try. The cash rebates are just in time for the durian season peak in August, for me to enjoy a pack of MSW durians which is getting crazily expensive, when has durians become a luxury item?

15/08/2020 – Seems like they extended the 1.5% cashback promo for another 3 more Fridays, well it was announced on 14th 5:55pm the first friday which i already missed, but i will try for the next 2 Fridays, i tried finding more infomation about the T&C and how much i can withdraw, but there was no information anywhere again.

Socash, you got to do better!