Sunday, July 2, 2017

Of sweet potatoes and tapiocas: what the young has not experienced

My grandmother lived through the Japanese Occupation. During that time, life was difficult and food was scarce. What is taken for granted today, such as meat products, were a luxury in those times of trials. To subsist, my grandmother relied on the lowly sweet potatoes and tapiocas. It is not much, but it could keep the hunger pangs away for another couple of hours. Come lunch or dinner, she is greeted with the same source of nourishment.

From a third-person perspective, these situations evoked a reflective response in me. First, there is a sense of gratitude and thankfulness for what I currently have. I have never experienced a situation similar to what my grandmother experienced and I sincerely hope I never will! When was the last time my breakfast-lunch-dinner were sweet potatoes and tapiocas? Uh....never? Similarly, when was the last time I had plain rice with gravy (or curry) only? Also never. What about white bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Okay, you know the answer by now.

Second, knowledge of such experiences forces me to confront the reality of the dining table in such trying times. It seriously doesn't matter what kind of food there is on the dining table, just that there is food to eat for today. Food to nourish, food to grant the body enough life force to live and fight for another day.

Fast forward to today, I don't see the same grit, force of character, moxie, determination (and various other synonyms) in some of my peers around me. As I have shared in my last post, there is a possibility that I might be retrenched due to the questionable work ethic of my fellow contract staff. After that episode, they have yet to buck up in their work. Just this week, there were a few more potential research participants who could have entered the study but failed to enter because of their inaction.

In this post, I hope to distill the underlying attitudes that some of these peers have towards work, their financial health, and life in general.

1). "There will always be someone to bail me out": One of my colleagues (the same guy from this post) remarked that it is impossible for us to get retrenched. After all, our bosses are kind souls from the social sciences and would redirect us to another project in the event of the current project's demise. Another remarked that they could rely on their parents or their boyfriends. As for myself, I rather stand on my own two feet. Everyone has their fair share of financial commitments and it would not be appropriate to dump them on your loved ones.

2). "We are young, so it is easy to find jobs": Sure, you could count on your youthfulness, but are you sure that the jobs that are available in the marketplace are the jobs you would want? From my conversations with my peers, remuneration is THE MOST important thing. My field is known for its low remuneration. The higher-paying positions in a low-paying field are, obviously, over-subscribed. These jobs tend to go to people who are either well-connected and/or academically qualified. No connections/skills? No higher-paying jobs lor! Don't like the remaining jobs? Too bad!

3). Extrapolating earnings into infinity: My fellow contract staff/colleagues really lucked out on this one. Despite not having any research experience, they were awarded with this job as their first job out of university (data collection personnel are not required to know the theory/research design/hypotheses/etc of the study anyways). As I have shared before in this post, my current company pays very generously (for social science grads anyway). Still, there were a couple of times where my colleagues lamented that their pay, bonuses, and benefits could be even higher. Mind you, they did this in full knowledge that their peers had far suckier pay than them.

I'm quite certain that when they do have to leave this organization and their pay regresses back to the social science mean, they won't be feeling like Pixar's Buzz Lightyear anymore. To infinity and beyond? Nah, can stay afloat (inclusive of lifestyle inflation) should be quite good for them liao.

4). Confusing reading about money as saving money and saving more money by spending even more money: Unintelligent Nerd, what talking you? Let me unpack that. Does liking the Facebook page of some popular finance websites result in financial literacy? You mean there's no hard work involved in learning how to manage your personal finance?!?!

Some *cough* personal finance *cough* site says that Restaurant A is having $5 discount today. Tomorrow, Restaurant B is having 5% off. A day after, Restaurant C is having a 1-for-1 promotion. Fast forward 13 days later, Restaurant Z is serving a complimentary dessert for every main course ordered. How could you not have restaurant meals everyday? If you don't seize the opportunities presented, quite "stupid" right?

Me? I'll just continue taking a measured approach. My emergency funds + war chest + work ethic + qualifications spamming + my attempt to learn from my elders should serve me well.


  1. Hi UN, unfortunately we cannot filter out people like them in the workplace. But these are millennials who will be the bulk of the workforce. The only way is to move up ahead so that we would be managing them instead of being their peer

    1. Hi Cheryl,

      That would work to some extent. I'm not a people person and navigating the contours of human emotions (if they are my underlings) would be another new challenge for me.

  2. It is more important to identify what is important to you and stay focused. Don't let these noise distract you from what you want to achieve.

    Lifestyle inflation will erode your wealth no matter how much you earn. There is no point to keep up up with Jones.

    1. Hi INTJ,

      Thanks for your words of encouragement. Yes, you are right; I should stay focused on what is important to me.

      Btw, I'm an INTJ too