30 July 2006

Money & Material Things

Sunday Times, July 30, 2006
Make more money by spending less

Michael Masterson, Author

CARLOS, one of my jiujitsu instructors, is living the American dream. He came to this country and earned his fortune as a champion fighter.

For the first three years of his time here, he managed to support himself and his wife on less than US$15,000 (S$23,850) a year.

Now he fights at the top level. His typical payday has gone from US$500 to US$25,000.

'The problem with making more money,' he told me, 'is that every time you make an extra dollar, you spend two'.

How true. The first couch I bought cost US$400. I remember thinking, 'It doesn't get any better than this.'

And it never did. The couches I buy today give me no more pleasure, comfort or space. Yet they cost much more.

What happened? The truth is that my own success victimised me. In earning more, I allowed myself to spend more on things like couches.

If I had gotten more out of it, that would have been fine. But I didn't. Master wealth builders understand a secret that took me years to learn: You have to keep your spending down while your income increases.

Why do we feel the need to spend more when we make more?

Here is what I think. When you are poor, you are surrounded by things you think you would like to own but cannot afford to buy.

After a while, you equate the feeling of unsatisfied desire with poverty.

If your idea of being wealthy is filled with images of mansions and sailboats and expensive watches, you are going to have a difficult time saving money.

And saving money is another one of the common habits of people who know how to build wealth.

You must teach yourself to feel the truth: that every time you buy a depreciating asset, you become poorer. Remind yourself that most of the junk you buy becomes unused after a few months and does not provide you with that much value anyway.

Heheh. People are often surprised to hear that I live in a HDB flat. They tend to have assumed that because I'm an investment banking lawyer, I must surely be living in some swanky condo.

They are even more surprised when I tell them that I travel by MRT and taxi (I don't own a car - I never have). These people then assume that I'm living thriftily because I'm the sole breadwinner and my wife stays at home to look after our kids.

Then they hear that my wife works too and she isn't exactly drawing a puny salary either. She's a lawyer too and she heads the legal department of one division of an MNC. She oversees that division's legal matters in Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Cameroon and Nigeria.

"But surely you must be planning to move to a condo sometime in the future, yes? And buy a nice car? Or even a not-so-nice-but-cheaper-and-still-decent one?" those people ask.

No, no and no, I answer.

Then they notice that I'm wearing a Casio watch, and that my handphone belongs to that long-gone era when handphones didn't have cameras in them ... and they start wondering whether it's true that lawyers earn a lot of money, or maybe my kind of job is at risk of being outsourced to India, or something like that ... because why else would I living the way I live?

Heheh. I don't bother to explain anything to them.

The simple, "nutshell" kind of answer is that I prefer to save my money and invest it (which is true - I am quite conscientious and disciplined about investing my money).

Going a little deeper, however, the reason why I'm such a disciplined investor is that it's such a waste of money to let it just sit idle. You should either spend it or invest it. And since I spend little of it, I end up, by default, investing a lot of it.

But that only brings us back to the question of why I spend so little of it, in the first place.

Right around here, I could launch into a long, rambling, philosophical discussion about money and life and happiness. But maybe I'll just refer to this old post of mine.

masai
What do these two Masai people have to do
with Mr Wang's post? Click on image to find out.


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41 comments:

A Simpler Life ... said...

Mr Wang,

glad to know that my family was not alone!

Our 'thrifty' ways were miscontrued as many things by well-meaning friends and were frowned upon by our in-laws for they thought that we brought shame to the family for not living in a condo, in the least!

In the end, we packed our bags and moved to Adelaide, Australia.

I did not wish for my child to grow up having many things outside, but nothing inside of him.

PC said...

I came from a broken home and was brought up in a rather poor environment, materially speaking.

So when I started making money, I started splurging... then I entered the banking industry, where much of my work focused on evaluating customers' financial needs.

I realized that many (tho not all) with big cars and huge houses also have humongous debt... something I did not realize before.

Today.. I live in a HDB flat, don't belong to any country club (the last one being Fort Canning Country Club, which was closed). I have a car and a helper and recently spent a good sum on renovations. I have sufficient materially now to enjoy the good life... but because of the excesses of my youth, I have to work harder to build my retirement nest egg... But I'm better than most I guess, I found out what I was doing wrong before I was 40 while others only find out the truth WHEN they retire.

Radikaz said...

Mr Wang, you are so right.

Most friends of mine who made quite a tidy sum of money usually flaunts on cars and condo without realising what are investment & cost benefits they are stepping into.

Why? It's made them looks good and feel good among the peers. The status quo's feeling acting up all over them.

Coupled with a consumerism driven society, people tend to guage you based on material gain than valuing a person based on their virtues. Easy access to credit card also another triggering factor as well. I not totally surpised how fragile our middle class citizens can be. Likes they all said, asset rich and cash poor.

Anonymous said...

You invest your money, which can only mean one thing - to generate more wealth.

But why generate more wealth when you aren't spending it?

Why live in a flat when you can afford a condo?

It's a bit like a hyper-prudent driver. This hyper-prudent driver is afraid he'll use up his petrol before he reaches his destination, so he pushes the car half the time. He even refills whenever he can. When the destination becomes visible, he decides it's quite safe to drive. He drives for remaining journey and reaches the destination soon enough. He has no more use of the car. But there's that unused three-quarter tank of petrol.

hugewhaleshark said...

There are always two ways to look at owning a property: consumption and investment. As a consumption item, a condo clearly may not offer more bang for the buck compared to public housing.

But property ownership is also an investment. This is true whether you view it as such or not, simply because it has the potential to create or destroy wealth.

IMO, private property ownership has a place in one's investment strategy. But there are several complications.

First, with an attached mortgage, property is a leveraged investment, with the obvious risk of negative equity in the event of a significant loss in value. There is also the question of whether expected gains can offset financing costs.

More importantly though, is the psychological difficulty in cashing out of the investment when the time comes to do so. Many people will simply be too attached to their home to sell, or downgrade.

I live in a 4-room HDB flat, and am locked out of the private property market because we recently took up a SERS replacement flat from the HDB. Oherwise, I quite frankly might have bought a private property because I am positive on Singapore property prices.

A car though is clearly another matter altogether. Even then, we are in the process of getting a modest car to ferry the family around. Yes, it is OK to spend within limits if it won't wreck your retirement plan.

trisha said...

To Anonymous:

One can generate more wealth to share with others, instead of spending on an indulgent lifestyle.

I figure a more fulfilling way to live your life is to simplify it, and whatever extra one manages to save should be used to help others, whether it be to give good education to your children, treats for your parents, donations to charity...etc.

Your example of the hyper-prudent driver is not a valid example for this issue. Mr Wang is not living on the streets while he has money to get a roof over his head. His point is, once you have a decent roof over your head, should you splurge on a butler, chandeliers,..etc. even if you can afford it, just so you can look good?

Anonymous said...

To trisha,

quote:
I figure a more fulfilling way to live your life is to simplify it,...
endquote

Taken to the extreme, that implies people of the past who had a much simpler life (no TV, cars, phones, etc) lived a more fulfileld life than us. Or for that matter, tribal people who live in jungles and forests.

Radikaz said...

Property investment is always a double edged sword, either you profit or u lose your wealth from it. As for personal consumption, as long as you are happily paying the installment and enough $$ to tide you over a difficult period and retirement, i still believed it is a good plan than splurging on property which you think you should owned based on your current drawm salary.

Bear you, an investment of a property is a long term, so u need to see out if your career is able to sustain that montage rate given that you do not get retrenched half way. Hell, no one can know what future lie aheads especially our labour's door is so widely open that any FTs can come in and do your job at a cheaper rate. That's taking into a global account that doing business in Singapore is getting harder as years pasts.

sngck said...

You are truly a man after my own heart Mr Wang. Except that I don't know anything about investing so whatever little money I have sits idly by.

I never had a handphone while my parents have already changed theirs 3, 4 times. Don't need it, don't buy it. Happiness is not caring what other people think.

And yes, people in the past, and those in the forests, do live a much fulfilled life than mant Sinkieporeans.

Anonymous said...

When I first started working, I naively thought that having credit cards was a prestigious thing. So at one point in time, I held about 5-6 credit cards. Then reality sinks in when I found that I could not control my spending, which was mostly on partying, good food, entertainment. Because I don't see the figure plunging from my account until it was time to pay my bills, they were sliding by the thousands. Today, I have cancelled all my cards save for 2 which provided more sales promotions..

To me, nothing is worth more than paying for an experience while it's within my means.
I went sky diving last year, it cost me SGD 620 and was worth every single cent.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for not following the discussion thread. Another point is that you don't want to be stuck in a job or situation where you and your wife have to work for a sustanied period of time in the same jobs to pay off significant amount of debt. For example, if you live on a one person income, either of you can choose to take a break from work to pursue other interest. Flexibility is an option value too.

Kwee More said...

Just to add one perspective to this whole discussion. Besides property, car, enjoyment, retrenchment, etc etc, remember one important word : MEDICAL.
When we retire, we probably will have 15-20 more years to live, and by that time, medical costs would be a lot higher than now. There's no health insurance deal that will ever cover everything, so if you contract a major disease like diabetes, kidney failure, cancer, or have to undergo major surgery that requires extended hospitalisation, tens of thousands of dollars can be wiped out in just a year or two. So, if you don't want to burden your kids with the medical costs, taking a conservative approach like Mr Wang is the wise thing to do.

Anonymous said...

While I share similar sentiments with you Mr Wang, ( I carry a Nokia 8350, and will probably be debt free in 3 yrs, mid 30s, - car and condo fully paid up.)

What Anonymous said carries more than a grain of truth.

Anonymous said...

But why generate more wealth when you aren't spending it?

Taken to the extreme, what/who does it profit to be excessively miserly? Money has a value only if it is spent - whether it be on ourselves or to bless others.

Anonymous said...

To each is own.

The political and/or cultural setup has made S'poreans spend so much time working, accumulating wealth. We have become chasers and not livers. No, not Mr Brown's tur kwa, but knowing how to live with joy and inner bliss. Yes, getting a life!

"People lose their health to make money and then lose their money to restore health.
By thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such that they live neither for the present nor the future, and they live as if they will never die, and they die as if they had never lived."-Confucius

"The greatest love you can give those you love is to stay healthy. The Art of Living is to Die Young as late as possible, if possible"-AMI&VF Survivor

FiftyFiveFogey

lau min-tsek said...

Off the top of my head:

I find this post a bit contridictory.

What is the purpose of saving and then investing money again?

If it is to plan for retirement, this indicates a desire for MATERIAL things -- such as a roof over head, enough for a decent life, good medical care etc. In other words, it is simply planning and allocating monetary resources. It isn't about not wanting material things.

If it is to not let the money sit around and do nothing, this seems to indicate treating the whole investment thing like a game. Like saying..... it is not the money, I just want to see how much more I can get if I reinvest it. In other words, the money is value in itself, even if you don't use it to buy things.

You know, I often wonder why billionaires like Soros and Buffet still work after making their first..... oh.... 10 million dollars? It is not the money. The money is an indication of their success and how far they can go..... far far far in excess of what they would ever need for material things, which is why they are making plans to give most of it away to charity. So the money has an intrinsic value to itself, even if it is not used for material things.

Of course, I know nothing about Mr Wang, so this post is not meant to be personal.

Anonymous said...

You are right of course but you must spend some of the money you accumulate (at least on things that you enjoy) or else where is it going? you can't take it with you.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Heheh, well, I warned you that this could turn into a long, rambling, philosophical discussion about money and life and happiness. Comments below relate only to myself - I appreciate that others may have different philosophies / needs.

Basically I am a very practical person. For example, I had mentioned that I wear a cheap Casio watch. To me, the main purpose of a watch is to tell the time. So if a watch tells me the time, it basically fulfills its essential purpose. On many days, I do not even wear a watch. That's because I have a handphone. A handphone already tells the time. Therefore a watch is not needed. I do own one relatively more expensive watch (a birthday gift). I still usually prefer to wear the Casio. That's because (a) the Casio is water-resistant, and (b) it has a stopwatch. I swim and I run. For those two activities, the cheap Casio watch fulfills a purpose which the expensive watch cannot.

I just mentioned that I swim and I run. That's how I keep fit. Depending on the time of year, I can be fairly zealous about it (Mr Wang was, ahem, into competitive biathlons and road races in his younger days). However, I've never plonked down any money to join a gym. Why not? The practicality / functionality idea applies again for me. Click here to read an previous post of mine. Oh, never mind, here's the relevant paragraph:

I've never joined a gym. I figure that if you combine running, swimming and yoga, you can pretty much put together a complete, all-round fitness programme. And you don't even need any fancy gym equipment. So why join a gym? It costs money. Which would be money well-spent, if you actually went regularly to the gym. But would you? You know what happens to most people who sign up for gym memberships. Before long, they give up and stop going.

I don't consider myself a miserly person, because I do not hesitate to spend on the things I want. However, I am very clear about the things I want; what exactly it is about that thing I want; and why I want it. For example, I like books, for myself and my kids, and when I do my rounds around Times or Kinokuniya, I easily spend $200+ each time on books. However, if there are books which I will most likely want to read once and be done with, I go to the library to borrow. Why? Not only to save money, but also to save space - I do not want to clog up my home with books.

Why do I invest? Well, firstly I think that investing is very interesting and it's also quite natural, given the industry I work in (the investment bank industry) that I develop an interest in money matters. I know many people find finance technical, dry and full of jargon. Hey, but it's my industry.

More importantly, of course, I want more money. For what? Longer-term goals like retirement, kids' university education etc. And also, the practicality/functionality idea again. Since money can be used to make more money, why not? Not to do so would, to me, be like buying a book and then not reading it. It's a waste.

Anonymous says:

"You are right of course but you must spend some of the money you accumulate (at least on things that you enjoy) or else where is it going? you can't take it with you."

This is true, of course, but so is the old adage that money can't buy happiness. Well, actually, it can, but people make the mistake of not seeing how.

Anon says that I should spend at least on the things that I enjoy. I do, and I would. The truth is that most of the things that I enjoy cost nothing or very little - and I suspect that the same is true for most people. The sad thing is that most people don't ever realise this. Some things I enjoy:

blogging
swimming
running
playing the guitar
doing art & craft with my kids
taking my kids to the park
my wife's pasta dishes
writing poetry
reading
listening to music
meditation

The guitar is perhaps a good example. I spent $300 to buy it when I was a student, and that was not a small sum to me then. Up to today, this same guitar is still something I love. The possibilities in music are so vast. I still amaze myself with new discoveries of what can be done with six strings on a piece of wood. $300 amortised over so many years is peanuts, yet the amount of happiness this instrument has brought me is very great.

Another example - some parents buy their kids very expensive toys and they think that this brings the kids happiness. The truth is - if you spend a little time with your kids to guide and encourage their creativity, the simplest toys will be the best toys and will keep them happy for the longest time. 12 crayons and one large piece of blank paper - that's all the raw material they need to create a separate universe.

One thing that I think money is very important for is that it purchases certain kinds of freedom. It can purchase time, certainly - for if you have money, you can outsource many activities that you may not want to do or may not be able to do efficiently; thus freeing your time up for things that you do want to do. For example, you can engage the services of a maid; a financial adviser; a secretary; a drycleaner; a tuition teacher for your kids; a gardener; a plumber.

The other useful thing about money is that it provides options to change your life in big ways if your life is not going in directions you like. For example, suppose I hate my job and my boss but I already have ample money in my bank account to last for a long time. I would know that if things get really bad at work, I can just give one day's notice and quit; I do not have to worry about the bills. I may not actually do this - but just knowing that I have that option will in itself make my working life more tolerable, even enjoyable.

If you desperately need your job because you always spend so much money, who knows what that might do to you at work - you could degenerate into a nervous wreck; or a sycophantic yes-man; or a dirty little snake who backstabs people because you so desperately need to look good and keep your job. Or even one of those embezzling or CBT types.

Anonymous said...

hehe. Actually, the question is whether we view money as a "mean" or an "end"?

Should we get a big car? A big house/condo? (Let's assume for a second that we ALL have the same concept of what "big" is)

Well, it depends. Can we adequately afford it? Are we ready when financial crisis occurs? Are we able to pay the medical bills when our health fails? There is nothing intrinsically wrong with either wanting or not wanting luxury items. It is just a matter of knowing what we want in life and then having the responsibility and courage to face up to whatever consequences that surface due to our choices.

Money should be viewed as a tool and nothing more.

Are ALL rich people UNHAPPY with their luxurious lives?

Well, the answer will be the same for the question below.

Are ALL poor people HAPPY with their simple lives?

Was Mr Wang trying to tell us not to buy big cars or big houses?

I think not. (the word 'big' is relative anyway)

I believe that his point of view was that we do not NEED these luxuries to be happy or feel fulfilled, regardless of whether we are rich or not. Nothing more.

But if we want these luxuries while we can well afford it. Why not?

Just be sure that we are aware that the source of happiness and fulfilment achieved from the possession of these luxuries will be at best, fleeting.

Chonghan

Mr Wang Says So said...

It is not necessarily fleeting. For example, suppose you have a deep love for gardening and plants - buying a big house which has a big garden may bring you quite long-lasting happiness. Or you may have a large dog that you love very much, and you may feel happiness in having a large house with a large garden that the dog can run around in.

If however you buy a big house so that you feel a need to "keep up" with your friends or relatives, then the catch is that your happiness becomes dependent on the difference between:

(1) what you have;

(2) who you choose to compare with; and

(3) what the chosen ones have.

Then logically speaking, if you ever feel unhappy, it could have been a much neater solution if you either:

(a) stopped comparing; or

(b) changed the people you are choosing to compare with

(for example, you could compare yourself with your poorer relatives, or those relatives of yours who live in small houses).

Approach (a) is neater to me, because the problem with comparing (whether with richer or poorer folks) is that there will always be much richer or much poorer folks than yourself.

How then do you select your benchmark? You may have selected your brother or your sister-in-law or your ex-classmate as the benchmark. But you have to realise that this benchmark is, in a sense, as arbitrary as selecting, say, an owner of a two-room HDB flat whom you do not even know, or the owner of a Sixth Avenue bungalow whom you also do not know.

For all these people - your brother or your sister-in-law or your ex-classmate, or the owner of the 2-room HDB flat, or the owner of the 6th Avenue bungalow - are ultimately living separate lives from yourself. Might as well not bother.

One danger of the comparison approach to life & material things, as Chonghan has succinctly stated, is that if you are over-concerned about reducing the difference between what you have and what others have (assuming you have selected "others" who have more than you) is that you may be tempted to make decisions that aren't good for your real, long-term needs (maybe even your real short-term needs). Simple example would be the fools who incur large credit card debts on consumer discretionary items which they don't really need and really cannot afford.

And ironically, of course, at the end of it all, you may then realise that many of the best things in life are free. If not free, then at least they are very cheap - like a $300 guitar amortised over 12 years.

It is actually quite remarkable the way people usually know what they really enjoy - yet enjoy it so irregularly or infrequently (and not for the lack of money), and then wonder why their lives often seem rather unenjoyable.

Yesterday, I had a great time playing soap bubbles with my kids. They had a great time too. Of course soap bubbles are not very exciting to me, but it is to them, and it brings me happiness to see them happy.

And how much do you think soap bubbles cost?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang

Kudos to you for not falling into the trap of keeping up with the Joneses (or in Singapore's case, the Lees or Wees or Singhs).

From your description of your job, I presume you're probably working in a large law firm and working with other high-powered lawyers and well-renumerated investment bankers (I'm unaware of your real identity).

I can imagine in such an environment, it is always tempting to constantly compare yourself with your colleagues who draw the top 3% percentile income and opt to live in swank condos in Holland Road or Bukit Timah. Hell, some of them probably come to work in Boss suits.

The fact you should choose to ignore these status traps and live a "simpler" life points to your very practical and utilitarian nature.

As one wit told me, 99% of the things you buy depreciate in value (that includes Mercedes cars)the moment you leave the shop. A greater proportion of one's income should be allocated to things that at least have the POTENIAL to appreciate in value.

Kwee More said...

I can't stand those individuals who prefer spending their money to enjoy life now over using the money to do the "right things", e.g. filial piety, charity, saving up for their kids. Case in point : a distant relative who is in serious credit rollover debt and continues to buy cameras, flatscreen TV, big fridge, Dyson vacuum, etc etc BUT SNAKES HIS WAY OUT OF GIVING HIS PARENTS A MONTHLY ALLOWANCE. (he would give them $50 on an occasional month) Way to go (to hell).

Geok Seng said...

The car in Singapore, overpriced and overtaxed, is still an essential when one has a young family or is in sales. Our train/bus system does not have the convenient strategic stops near shops, supermarkets, hospitals or workplaces (factories/shipyards/offices) as in Tokyo or even HongKong. With the tricks taxi drivers resort to nowadays, I even have to drive to the airport and park overnight there. At peak hours, one cab driver was honest to tell me they prefer to cruise the streets to pick up passengers rather than respond to a booking. In other words, I would have better luck carrying my luggage to the roadside and flag down a taxi than wait for a favorable response from the automated telephone booking. Sometimes I get the feeling that the Singapore public transportation system is intended to be a big screw up so the automobile users can be taxed to the limit. The amount of monies collected from vehicle related taxes seem to add credence to this postulate.

John Riemann Soong said...

I tend to be an altruist...or at least a pragmatist. I'm not sure if it evolved out of a sour grapes attitude.

I don't see how a condominium for example is worth so much more than an HDB flat. If you ask me, it's giving up the communalism for ... nothing, basically. Of course, no swimming pool or tennis courts, but hey, I could visit my *school* for that.

Is it just my mistaken perception, or do people living in condominiums interact *less* with their neighbours?

Of course, my ideal HDB home is going to be torn down in 2010, thanks to En Bloc "Upgrading" (which is more like "the gahmen needs your prime space to build commercial properties on it and you pea-sized Singaporeans shouldn't be obstructing our way") and moved slightly further away, to my chagrin. But IMO, an HDB New Town tends to have plenty of amenities anyway, even a three or four room apartment.

Even in the US, I romanticise about living an HDB apartment because I find all these faults with low-rise housing.

Of course, sometimes the government is chiding us with their propaganda newspaper. "Don't complain about your falling income! It's your fault you're so poor!" which is also what we should accept as a message from this article.

Travelling by taxi is a bit expensive.

Perhaps as a student we learn the ideal lifestyle, because MRT travel becomes quite the pleasure after a while - especially when travelling with friends.

Now, if only they allowed bicycles on MRT trains, it would be the ultimate freedom.

Buying a car is pretty much a needless thing in Singapore.

There are some things which are a tad expensive but provide way more value. A computer (or a wireless laptop for that matter, so one can still be blogging from Iraq) is valuable...in comparison to jewelry.

An mp3 player is also probably far more pleasuring (and I think I remember Mr. Wang saying he bought one himself) than a TV set. In fact, I could do without TV.

It's all about technological nomadism. The true things of value are those you can pack along with you.

To be content in life only four things are needed really: a bicycle, a wireless laptop, supplies and a tent. A weapon if you need protection. This excludes immaterial things like friends, of course.

John Riemann Soong said...

I've always been able to get anywhere using the public transport system - perhaps even more come the Circle Line.

What you salesmen need is a bicycle.

Anonymous said...

During peak hours, it is difficult to catch a cab, but it is just as difficult to find a parking lot (if you're driving).

If you're taking a cab, you hop off at the front of the building that you want to get to. But if you are driving, you might have to spin round and round in the car park waiting for a space.

palmist said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Permanent Resident said...

Mr. Wang,

Just want to share my way of life:

1. I live in a condo which I bought at rock bottom price. Main reason is that this is a good investment. Furthermore, what can I do better with my CPF money? Someday I may give up my PR and sell my condo at high price. Buying freehold property theoritically makes better investment than leasehold one.

2. I drive a car. Not luxurious one but good enough to fetch my family here and there. No need to worry for not getting taxi in rainy day. The COE and car price is now reasonable. I also can claim for petrol and cash card top up to lower my spending. Oh, since I live in a condo, I got free parking lot. The car saves much of my time too. Time is money, so I save money.

3. My wife is a degree holder, but we agree that she better stay at home. Not because I have a lot of money already, but I believe mother's care is the best for my children. As PR, I don't have parents or relative to take care of them. Even if I do, I still want my wife to take care of my kids. Our children is our best investment.

4. At least your wrist wears a Casio. I don't wear any wrist watch. But I do use high tech PDA phone that can tell time, it also helps me keep in touch with my clients and make more money.

5. I earn money and I spend it for quality of life. But I don't like to overspent, overdoing something is not good. I do saving and buy insurance to cover in case of bad situation.

Again, I respect your way of life and I just want to share you mine.

Anonymous said...

I do agree that it might be rather myopic on my part to suggest that luxuries are at best "fleeting".

But if you want to own a big house for your passion in gardening or so as to let your large dog run around then it is no longer getting a big house just solely for the sake of owning one.

Under such situation, I will no longer consider it a luxury item because this purchase becomes totally worth its price as it allows me to attain a more lasting source of happiness. And since money is but a tool, what better way to spend it than buying the things that gives you lasting happiness? hehe
(of course the quantifier in this case is "lasting happiness" and just as long anything significantly unhappy results from this purchase, then it is no longer worth the money lor)

Well, what I did also was an acid test. I asked myself this question.

What can I buy with money that can be a long-lasting, stable source of happiness, so stable that if I were to get berated by my boss, kena sued for committing a seditious act, kena bang by car, fall very very ill or lose a loved one, and all I needed to think to myself will be "AAHHhhhh, at least I own that thing." which can then instantaneously make me feel happy again?

I thought about it for a long time. But due to my lack of imagination, I was unable to come up with anything. Therefore, I said "fleeting" lor. hehe

But I do understand that this is just me and there may be others who are more able than me to find a more stable source of happiness from these material things. And for those situations, I totally agree that those luxuries are not necessarily "fleeting pleasures" =)

Chonghan

pennythots said...

Sometimes, you need to get nice shiny things like the apartment and the car, and the reason is not merely just to keep up with the Joneses (or Lees or Tans or whatever the local equivalent is).

Sadly, even if you are aware that you are throwing money down the drain in an impractical way into a depreciating "asset", your loved ones may not.

Hence, servitude to the fancies of your loved ones, or more accurately you become the proxy victim of their social conditioning.

For example, your wife may have always harboured the lifelong dream of staying in a bungalow (and that one-carat solitaire diamond ring!). Or your son may have always wanted to drive a fast car. Or your parents always dreamt of your marriage at the Ritz. And your cat loves fresh atlantic salmon...

These things, silly expenditures though they are, are unfortunately what you need to work towards in order to keep your loved ones happy.

Even more unfortunately, you cannot just replace your loved ones with a new more practical set.

Hence, one's dilemma. I try to re-educate whenever I can, but it seems a lost cause...

Have to work harder then.

Anonymous said...

So sad ... you definitely love your loved ones very much.

But, they don't love you that much if they did not notice you struggling to provide all those luxuries...

Wants are insatiable. Take care, my friend.

A Simpler Life ... said...

I must agree this social conditioning in Singapore is really quite bad.

My child (Pr 3) came home from school one day and started asking about his faher's job title, salary and savings in the bank. Apparently, his friends were comparing amongst themselves who had the richest dad!

Anonymous said...

Hi a simpler life,

Comparing dads? It would be nice to let them know that his dad is a freegan.

That may just make them give up. Hehehe ;)

fiftyfivefogey

A Simpler Life ... said...

Fiftyfive fogey,

Haha... never knew about freeganism. Had to search internet for it :(

Looks like a potential lifestyle choice that the government might consider hard sell to those old, unemployed and 'can't conveniently die off' Singapore citizens LOL

Especially the practice of dumpster living or something like that? I had came across an old man doing just that ... looking for food in the rubbish bin at a shopping mall. In Singapore.

Contrary to what Mah Bow Tan believed, I gave him a free lunch. But, I felt sorry I couldn't do more. I was leaving Singapore in a week's time.

I was puzzled that the 15% income tax that I paid yearly could not help that old man though.

Anonymous said...

Hello again, a simpler life,

It is painful to know and hear a top civil servant wanting the old & unemployed to "conveniently die off'

It hurts like hell when you are unemployed and had a heart attack and ventricular fibrillation at age 48. Maybe where Pay And Poo's (oops, PAP) MIW and their uncivilised civil servants are concerned, if you are 48 and unemployed, you are over the hill.

And if you have the bonus of a heart attack & VF at that age,, you are as good as six-feet-under!

Well, this born again 7-year-old is not a freegan yet but may be one soon. Meanwhile, count me out of the 4 million smiles.

I'm too busy searching for SM's "more good years" which somehow got lost along the way. Or did I miss it?

If it's to be, it's up to me.

fiftyfivefogey

John Riemann Soong said...

Achievement, not title. If your father was Mozart, it would be hard to be proud of him if you are going to compare by amount of savings in the bank. Then again he was a partygoer anyway.

Better a $30,000/yr researcher with dozens of published papers to one's name, then a six digit corporate executive with a meaningless life.

Why do people need country clubs anyway? It would seem a walk by public beaches and parks would do the trick.

lee hsien tau said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hock Seng said...

It's just not true that executives earning more than $100,000 don't have a meaningful life. With that level of income, one can go on overseas holidays at least once a year, e.g. skiing in Korea, jet boating in New Zealand, riding the cable car to the Great Wall of China. The kids can be driven to school instead of having to struggle to board the crowded bus or train. Each can also have their own room to study in air-con comfort instead of hanging around at McDonalds or Changi Airport. Instead of movies, they can enjoy concerts and plays at the Esplanade, on top of watching original DVDs with a home theater system. The wife can do volunteer work when the kids are at school, since she won't need to work. On weekends, the whole family can enjoying swimming at a private country club instead of the public pool. Anyway, that's how I spend my money.

amatu said...

Bhutan is the only country in the world that uses The Happiness Index instead of GDP for her society. Check it out.

http://www.bhutanstudies.org.bt/publications/gnh/gnh.htm

Mr Yap said...

I surprised to learn that you live a "less materialistic lifestyle"

My ex-boss who a corporate laywer for a Japanese MNC drives a van!

Henry Leong said...

Nothing is permanent.

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