Monday, April 19, 2010

Is Singapore really that bad?

Today a colleague told me she wants to migrate to Australia. Initially, I thought it was just a passing remark. However, as I probed further, she has actually obtained PR status through an agent here, after spending about $8,000. She has also taken an English test to demonstrate her proficiency in English and will be moving over to Western Australia by December as a skilled worker.

My first question was, why leave? She is in her late thirties and has worked in the same line as me since graduation. Her grouses are the same as mine: No work life balance, working over weekends, no time for herself to consolidate and “talk to herself”. She feels the sheer volume of work is making her out of breath, only by leaving Singapore can she regain her sanity. She has a lot of health problems, possibly attributed by her career.

I applaud her courage. She is single, have aged parents and living alone. She will only look for accommodation and job when she reaches there. I would probably sink into depression if I go to a foreign land with no friends and job.

Is Singapore really that bad?

Over the weekend, there are extensive reports on the Singapore Dream. It states that to attain 5Cs has become increasingly impossible over the years. This is extremely true even for me and everyone around me. I earned an average of $6,500 a month. However, I can only afford a Japanese car (5 year old now) and stay with my parents. Unless I get married, there is no way I can afford a roof over my head alone. Well I can, if I use up ALL my savings and investments. That would mean an opportunity cost of at least $1,800 a month as the dividends from my investments generate roughly that amount on average.

I would need to pay for utilities, property tax, maintenance, gas, groceries, electricity and many other costs associated with living alone. My living cost will shoot up and I will be stuck to my job, forever.

Lately, I feel the strained in my workplace. It has become increasingly competitive as every other colleague competes to outshine each other. Workplace has become a place where working hard is no longer enough; Competition breeds office politics and other hypocritical acts. Nobody is my friend now. I am an economic unit of my office which is a subsidiary of Singapore Inc.

Not many people seem happy in my workplace. Many are stuck and resigned to fate.

“This is Singapore”

“It is the same everywhere”

“Some places are worse!”

“I can only do this”

“I have a family and mortgage to service every month”

My Singaporean readers, are you entrapped in the vicious cycle as well? Do you pursue wealth to attain happiness only to lose happiness while pursuing wealth?

Why are you feeling like that?

I believe it is an issue of comparison. Below was an excerpt I posted 2 years ago on my blog:

Robert H. Frank, professor of economics at Cornell University, says that most people find the first option more attractive. When it comes to salaries, we care more about relative size than absolute size. What matters most is earning more than our neighbours.

The same holds true for all sorts of things. The actual size of our apartment matters less than its size compared to everyone else's. And most of us will settle for a modest car - provided our neighbour is driving something worse.

It is a sobering thought. We assume that getting a pay rise, or moving into a new apartment, or trading-up to a better car will bring us increased levels of happiness and satisfaction. In fact, many of us simply raise the bar on what counts as adequate.

We work longer hours, earn more, spend more and consume more. Meanwhile, everyone else does the same. So, by comparison, we are no better off, and therefore no happier.

How true?

(I actually enjoy re-reading my blog sometimes. It is like talking to someone about my past. It makes me philosophical and happy.)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

When you can hear

Today a new admin staff came to my office. When I wanted to speak to her, she passed me a black colour remote control like device and asked me frantically to speak into the device. I was quite taken aback as I didn’t know how to use it until she demonstrated it to me. That was when I realised that she was having a hearing aid on her ear. Every time we want to communicate to her, we have to speak to her listening device and it will amplify our conversation to her ear piece.

I was actually quite overwhelmed by her disability. Even though it was not as serious as not being able to see, smell, taste or feel, yet I feel so much for this young lady.

Over the past few years, I spent a large part of my time pursuing wealth, work and academic studies. Even on a Saturday night, I am clearing my work from home now, hopefully I can have my Sunday free. Yet as I listen to the wonderful music playing from my laptop, I taught of this (near) deaf girl.

What she wants in life is so simple. To hear us clearly. To answer the telephone. To use an ipod. To drive.

Sometimes when I look at the misfortune of others, I gloat at myself. Every day I struggle to juggle between societal expectations of a 30 year old graduate, yet within me, all I wanted was a simple, low paying, brainless job to get by the day happily.

So what if I manage to reach $500,000 assets by December 2010? So what if I get the Masters in Applied Finance? Will that warrant a passport to happiness?

I guess it is time to take life slowly now. As I listen to beautiful music, I feel blessed to be even able to hear them. Something that Beethoven couldn’t even enjoy.

I will tender my resignation by the end of this year and enjoy being unemployed. Perhaps I would just be the clerk next door.

Stay tuned. J