Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Invaluable Million Dollar Investment with No Monetary Return for a Long Time!

What is our one major investment that we will have to endure no monetary return for a long time? 

Oh yes…. For parents, this investment is unquestionably on your child/children! 


It not only includes the money spent on them, it is the time and energy on them, and the undivided love and attention for them guiding them during their grow up years. 

SPENT MORE THAN 1 MILLION IN THE LAST DECADE 

Recently I told some friends that so far, me and my wife has definitely spent more than SGD 1 million of expenses directly or indirectly because of our four kids. 

It sounds unbelieving, but it is definitely not bragging. 

I have been recording my daily, monthly, and yearly expenses.  Recently I extracted and compiled all the proof of spent. To my astonishment, our expenditure for the last decade on kids easily surpassed the million-dollar mark. 

In the following articles, I will just cite a few examples, and you can do your own math to see if I am lying. 

The more than 100K amount includes the direct kids spending and our household expenses such as all expenses spent within the household, including expenses on my helper and my parent-in-law staying with me mainly for the kids too. It however does NOT include mortgages, household vacation and car expenses, which in many ways are also indirectly for the kids. Hence, the actual expenses may be even higher.  

How can the expenses be so high?  Maybe you will think that we are a family that probably splurge on expensive education, unnecessary expensive meals or toys or apparels for our kids? 

Certainly not! 


WE ARE NOT SPENDTHRIFT!

Apparently, we are cautious spending on restaurant meal, and normally eat at home. Even when we eat out, my kids love to eat only pizza and Encik Tan drumstick rice!  We will try to share for most of the time in order not to waste food and money! I have little preference on food myself. I prefer Hawker or Kopi Tiam food, so low cost actually. 

For toys, my kids also have lesser toys compared to my friends. They also recycled some of their clothing, handing over from siblings to siblings. For phones, they also use our old and used phones. 

Yet, the expenses are still so high? 

Welcome to Singapore! 


TIMES HAVE CHANGED

In the old days, there are very little competition in enrichment classes. It will be rare that your friends are going for tuition, or swimming lessons or other paid sports or art lessons. Furthermore in the 80s and 90s cost of living in Singapore is really much lower, and everyone live a much simpler life. Parents care less for their kids’ education. After taking my PSLE and O Levels, my parents don’t even know I already taken these major exams. Instead, my mum’s primarily focus is for me to eat well! 

Therefore, back in those days, raising 5 or 6 kids is probably even cheaper than 1 or 2 kids of present times, taking into account all sorts of inflation, and average peer and environmental pressure. 

Let me cite a few examples in the following to prove my point. 


KINDERGARTEN COST

During my time, most of us will be schooling in PAP kindergarten at the age of 5 and 6 only. School fees and uniforms and books must be dirt cheap. This is because even our bottom few percent low-income parents can afford. 

Today, most kids go for N1, N2, K1, K2. Yes 4 years! Most with both parents’ working and no helper nor parents helping, it will be 6 years even. 

At the lower end, you will spend SGD5K per year just on school fees. That is approximately what I spent for my kids for half a day session in Church school. And this is definitely one of the cheapest in the entire Singapore. 

Before government subsidies, I reckon most parents will on average spend at least SGD1K per month and that will be SGD 12K p.a. Nonetheless, many pre-pri-schools are already charging SGD1.5 to 2K per month. MindChamps is charging close to 2K monthly for full day although working mum can have some few hundred subsidies provided you fulfil income criteria. 

It is hence inevitably that for just 4 to 5 years, your one child school fees can already hit 50K to 100K or more. 

It excludes school uniforms, books, materials, and all sorts of extra costs that many schools will be charging. There is also extra school enrichment and year end concerts, all requiring $$$. Sometimes, it is difficult to explain here, but once you experience it, you will know what I mean. 

On yes…. School buses are not cheap either at SGD100 to 150 per child monthly, depending on distance.

Baby Bonus does help, but that can cover partially only the expensive pre-natal, delivery, confinement etc expenses. Of course you can choose public hospital, but I think among almost all my friends who are middle-class, it is almost unheard of that anyone choose public hospital delivery services. 

In the old days, only the top income can afford private hospitals, and all rest of Singapore are all going to the very affordable public hospital. 


INSURANCE COST

As healthcare cost increase, we as parents also worried and started buying insurance for our kids once they are born. During my younger days, where got parents buy health insurance for their children?

For my kids, we bought NTUC income health insurance. For reference purposes, one is close to SGD500 and the other is SGD780 per annum. 

ENRICHMENTS

For Chinese enrichment classes, we sent them to Berries/Busybees. In a classroom setting primary school student, we pay ~SGD750 per 16 lessons per pax. 1 lesson per week. In one year, there are 52 weeks, so yearly charge will be 3.25 x SGD750 = SGD2.4K. Enrolment fees and materials for lessons are separate.  

By the way, this is just for Chinese hor….! Still have Maths, and other subjects. 2.5 to 3K per year is very common for each weekly enrichment classes subject. We only go for Chinese! 

You can find some of the pricing in this blog: https://blog.moneysmart.sg/family/best-tuition-centres-singapore/ 

For sports on my two kids now, I easily spent 1.5 to 2K per month, excluding shoes, apparels and rackets, courts booking fees, competition fees etc. Recently, I heard from my friend that his friend spent 4K per month just on one sport for his primary school kid. Crazy! Yet, this is how competitive the parents can be nowadays!  

Of course, you can also spend nothing on your kids. It is totally up to you. 

Personally, I do have my own reason in giving my kids this foundation of sport. 

Again, looking back to my old days when my parents spent nothing on me, and I am lucky to learn myself the sport I love and, in some way, excel in it without paying much! 

Nowadays, if you spend nothing on coaching, it is almost impossible that your kid can go up to national level in any racket sports or swimming or whatever popular sports! Tell me if you manage to find any example, unless the sports require only in-born talent! Very very rare! 


MISCELLANEOUS 

Then you have children’s shoes or apparels that are always needing to change as their feet and body grow so fast. The price of shoes, even those white ordinary school shoes without brand are at least SGD25 to 30. Those white shoes of Nike/Adidas are normally SGD50. 

During our time, panda white shoe is SGD5 maybe! Who wear panda to school nowadays? 

Clothing, school bags, pencil boxes, lunch boxes, water bottles are all very expensive nowadays compared to the old days. Toys are also more expensive! 

When you have more household members in the house, more aircons will be running incurring expensive electricity and maintenance fees. FYI, when I was young, I have no air-cons, no washing machine, no heater, no bed in my house until I am young adult. 

To be honest, we are still living frugally today, as I will not waste electricity unnecessary due to my humble upbringing. Still, our expenses are very hefty as everything in Singapore is really getting more and more expensive. 


FINAL THOUGHTS

Many years ago, when my kids are still at younger age, I use to tell my wife, 

any schools for my kids, who cares? They will grow smart themselves and character building is more important!”. “Don’t need tuition lar…! “Don’t need to buy insurance lar!” 


However, once you are in it yourself, and you experience today’s ever increasingly expensive and competitive Singapore, then you will understand that sometimes, it is inevitable! 

You are really NOT that kiasu parent, but it is just that you really love your kids and wanted them to have a good foundation to start with. Of course, I emphasize again that character building is even more important! 

Finally, raising a kid in Singapore today is totally different from in the 80s or even 90s, let alone, two, three or four.

I did a post last year on, 

How Much Does It Cost in Detail to Raise a Child in Singapore for Low, Middle and High Income Households

For middle-class, I suspect It can easily cost more than ½ million to raise a kid in their life time.  

Then there is also the intangible part of it. The huge amount of time you spent on the children, teaching them, driving them around, loving them, are all “pricey intangible expenses” that otherwise your time can be used to earn more money?  

To be honest, I sometimes feel that it is better during our childhood days when there are fewer material comparisons, and the masses are all not so well to do, aside from the top few percent. 

Even when I belong to the bottom few percent lower income family, I still grow up in a very very decent environment comparatively without inferior complex. 

During my childhood, I did not feel “lacking”, because I did not have tuition or enrichment lessons. Even, when our family cannot afford to eat MacDonalds or take the occasional taxi, I still find it pretty normal as a kid without much complaints. 

It is so different today! 

How about you? 

How much are you spending on kindergarten? 

Will you spend on enrichment classes for your kids and how much?  

Will you spend to groom your children? 


Undoubtedly, kids are definitely one major investment that we will have to endure no monetary return for a long time? That said, the intangible returns of investments of the indescribable joy are huge for any parents!  






10 comments:

  1. How much % of total household expenses are related to kids?

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    1. Guess diff household diff. It also depends on if you have other big commitment like car or mortgages. I think on average in SG, it can be as 30-40-50-60%! How about you? What is your kids expense wrt household? Or what you expect it to be?

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  2. Having children will definitely slowly down our journey to financial independence or freedom if our future earned income didn't accelerate faster than their increasing expenses.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, especially in SG where it is really too competitive for kids.

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  3. Rolf.

    Funny how different people read the same post but see differently ;)

    All I see is an inspirational application of the "Parable of Talents" - on your part ;)

    After gifting talents to your 4 children (more than your parents gifted you), you can only hope none of them would get "seduced" by the idea of digging a hole
    in the ground...

    Yeeks!





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    Replies
    1. Wow, parable of talents (Matthew 25)! Actually, there is also parable of minas (Luke 19).
      If you delve in, they are different.

      Parable of talents is 3 servants receiving diff amount base on their capability. One 5, one 2 and another 1 talent. Parable of minas are 10 servants receiving 10 minas, all equal amount to start with.

      So it should be Parable of Minas in this case, as I am not bias against anyone of them, and they all receive same to start with.

      :-)

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    2. Hi Rolf,

      Letting kids receive the same amount from parents would be ideal situation since it has least chance to cause dispute. Unfortunately, God has designed our kids to be different in strengths and weaknesses. I don't wish to question God's design but the distribution of human talent/assets in nature is unfair. This is how things are. We cannot change it. So, the rational approach for parents is to give each kid unequal share. To each according to his needs (all other things being equal), that's what I will do. And when parent is no longer around, we can only hope the stronger sibling will help out the weaker ones. From each according to his ability, that's what I hope the stronger child will do.

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    3. Hi hyom, both are in the bible, so guess both are applicable.
      Yes, diff capability. $ and time, and knowledge, maybe can distribute accordingly among diff of them. '

      E.g. one give more $, then other more teachings.... depends on their character...

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  4. Hi Rolf,

    I hope there are more Singaporeans like you. You are highly productive with 4 kids and you are willing to invest a lot in each of them. Thank you for your contribution to Singapore!! :)

    If couples were to view kids as investment, then it doesn't make sense to have kids because odds are low that the "investment" will pay off. Kids give sense of purpose to our lives. I can see you are doing financially well. Imagine a financially successful person had lots of cash surplus. He can keep re-investing his surplus cash to constantly grow his money but there comes a point when piling money on top of money is no longer satisfactory. Law of diminishing returns sets in. It will reach a point when he wants to spend it on something meaningful which gives him great personal satisfaction. Where better else than to spend it on his own flesh and blood, investing in the human capital of his own future generation?

    Having surplus money to spend on kids doesn't mean one should just throw it on the kids. I'm careful not to fall into the trap of guilt and spend because other parents are spending. If the kids are already scoring As and Bs in their school-work and manage to get into top schools, I don't see a need to spend thousands on tuition. If kids are in danger of repeating one more year in school or even dropping out, then spend big on tuition if spending can help fix the problem. As for enrichment courses, the kid should express strong interest in the topic first. Don't send him to enrichment courses simply because other parents are doing so without checking with the kid first whether he likes it or not.

    I do not like to talk about private family matters in public. Maybe some day if we meet up.

    I am so glad to have kids. Many young Singaporeans regard kids as burden but some burden adds purpose to life. I won't regret even if outcome is bad.

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    Replies
    1. Hi hyom,

      Thanks for your well written comments as usual.

      There is always pro and cons. Wow… law of diminishing margin return. 

      I know of two Asian friends with 9 children in each of the family. One in Singapore and the other migrate to Australia. And the one in SG is a security guard and his wife is not working (or working part-time) with children age of 25 to 4 at the time of telling me. He is working two jobs though.

      Frankly, having one or two or more, we should never indulge in numbers. Let it be natural…. Hahaha.. I never plan too much…

      Yeah, agree with you. Cannot be over. We are quite balance in their enrichment and in fact at the lower end. Just that we are doing more on sports than the typical.

      Definitely not the kiasu parents, but sometimes it is really “bo bian” (no choice), considering most of the kids are really having trouble to keep up with the school curriculum. At least mine are not as smart to catch up quickly.

      Burden or not, it is personal choice.

      Every gain, there are losses! Some losses now can translate to gains in future, just that maybe now we will never realise.

      Definitely look forward to coming out! PM me please. Maybe arranging another reader to be out too!

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