There are many things that Mr Wang would disagree with in the above article. Where should Mr Wang start?Dec 12, 2005
Marriage? Not if it lowers quality of life
By Christopher Choo
GETTING married here costs an arm and a leg. Doing so without adequate financial planning is foolish, in my view.
Take this for example: An HDB flat today is likely to keep a couple in debt for more than 10 years. An extravagant wedding dinner and an exotic honeymoon will sink them further in the red.
The situation deteriorates when children come into the picture.
There is the notion that children complete a family: Complete? Yes, complete chaos.
Usually, the family income is insufficient to allow one parent to stay at home.
So when the do-it-yourself method is not economically viable, Singaporeans choose the second-best course of action - outsourcing. And so Junior goes to childcare and families employ maids. And a car becomes an attractive option.
The couple remains in debt for the next decade because their assets are locked in what they own. This is why marriage is a roller-coaster ride that goes beyond glitter and romance, down into the dungeons of financial distress.
Whether couples can navigate the financial labyrinth and emerge stronger is questionable, and the proportion of divorces attributed to financial problems is evidence of this difficulty. Why lead a married life fraught with financial worries if it means giving up the carefree life of a bachelor?
Until this problem is addressed, many would rightfully defer marriage because it risks lowering their quality of life.
Firstly, the high cost of housing in Singapore is precisely that - it is the cost of housing. It is not the cost of getting married. Everyone, married or single, needs a roof over his head, unless he or she wants to live out in the streets.
In Singapore, many adult single persons continue to stay with their parents even when the single person has started work and draws a stable income. Lest you be mistaken, the cost of housing still remains high. It is just that you make your parents pay for it. Naturally, it also means that you get less space. Physically, and mentally.
Single persons may also want to purchase their own apartment. For many years in Singapore, this wasn't much of an option due to HDB rules. Now those rules are being relaxed, to the great happiness of many singles. However, this simply means that flat-buying singles will now also similarly have to pay for the high cost of housing. It's just that unlike married couples, the single person will not have a spouse to help him or her meet the mortgage payments.
Christopher's next point is about children. This is somewhat a non-point for me because marriage does not necessarily mean children. In fact there are many married couples who do not want to have children. Leave it sufficiently late, and they wouldn't be able anyway, even if they wanted to. Infertility rates in Singapore are extremely high.
Nevertheless, let's consider the young married couple with children and a mortgage and a maid and childcare and a car and _______ and ______. Certainly, some married people handle their finances rather badly. However, the perspective I offer you is that some single people handle their finances just as badly. Many single persons go bankrupt, for example, because of their credit card addictions. In the end, Mr Wang thinks that your financial stability or otherwise depends much more on your attitude towards money, than on your marital status.
Marriage, in fact, can offer a kind of financial stability which singlehood cannot. Suppose for instance, that Mr Wang is suddenly retrenched - he can depend on Mrs Wang to support him. Now if Mr Wang were a bachelor, it is unlikely that he would obtain such support. Unless he was an extremely charming Romeo with many rich girlfriends.
At a more philosophical level, Mr Wang suspects that he thinks quite differently from Chris, on several fundamental points. Firstly, Mr Wang sees money as a tool, as a means to your ends, whatever your ends may be, rather than an end in itself. Money is to be used to achieve what you want. Thus, to Mr Wang, it is sensible to say, "I intend to save $500 a month, to fund my children's future education." It is not sensible to say, "I shall not have children, so that I need not save $500 a month to fund their future education."
To put it another way, if you choose not to raise a family because you do not wish to spend money raising a family, then you are being silly - unless you know very well what other purpose you want to spend your money on, or save it for. Singles who spend their money on frivolous things and unnecessary luxuries and then say, "I cannot afford to get married" sound rather strange to Mr Wang.
Mr Wang is also a little startled when he reads these words by Chris Choo:
This makes Mr Wang feel a little dumbfounded. Personally, however, marriage does not put Mr Wang's quality of life at risk - marriage CONTRIBUTES, and greatly, to Mr Wang's quality of life. And I believe that this applies generally to the human race. Here are the studies to back me up:... many would rightfully defer marriage because it risks lowering their quality of life.
Better Financial Picture
The old saying "Two can live as cheaply as one" isn't exactly true. Two do appear to be able to live as cheaply as one and a half persons, though. That means sharing furniture, food, insurance benefits, a car, etc.... And, when one person becomes ill, loses his or her job, or needs emotional support due to stressors, the spouse is there to help. This is cheaper too, as in home nurses, credit card debt, and therapists cost more.
Married men are more successful in work as well, getting promoted more often and receiving higher performance appraisals. They also miss work or arrive late less often (Kostiuk and Follman, 1989, and Shaw, 1987). As for women, white married women (without children) earn 4% more and black married women earn 10% more than their single peers (Waite, 1995). While some point out that house work for married women (37 hours per week) is greater than that of single women (25 hours), half of that is due to having children (South and Spitze, 1994).
Married people live longer as well. Single men have mortality rates that are 250% higher than married men. Single women have mortality rates that are 50% higher than married women (Ross et all, 1990). Having a spouse can decrease your risk for dying from cancer as much as knocking ten years off your life. Single people spend longer in the hospital, and have a greater risk of dying after surgery (Goodwin et al, 1987).
Married women are 30% more likely to rate their health as excellent or very good compared to single women, and 40% less likely to rate their health as only fair or poor compared to single women. Based on life expectancies, nine of ten married men and women alive at age 48 are alive at 65, while only six of ten single men and eight of ten single women make it to 65. Married men may have better immune systems as well, either from support or from nagging to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, etc... and may be at less risk to catch colds (Cohen et al, 1997)
Better Mental Health
Married men are half as likely to commit suicide as single men, and one third as likely as divorced men. Widowed men under 45 are nine times more likely to commit suicide as married men (Smith, Mercy, and Conn, 1988). Married people report lower levels of depression and distress, and 40% say they are very happy with their lives, compared to about 25% in single people. Married people were half as likely to say they were unhappy with their lives.
Single men drink twice as much as married men, and one out of four says his drinking causes problems for him. Only one of seven married men says the same. One out of six single men abstains from alcohol, but one in four married men do (Miller-Tutzauer et al, 1991).
About 40% of married people have sex twice a week, compared to 20-25% of single and cohabitating men and women. Over 40% of married women said their sex life was emotionally and physically satisfying, compared to about 30% of single women. For men, it's 50% of married men are physically and emotionally content versus 38% of cohabitating men."
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