Monday, May 1, 2017

A colleague's financial woes

Recently, a colleague of mine has been experiencing an increased amount of financial stress in his life. He is going to get married soon, have to pay the down payment for his flat, and commence paying the monthly installments like all budding home owners.

Besides the looming mountain of debt, he also has to service a whole life policy a "friend" sold him. Having read up a little on insurance after purchasing the whole life policy, he realized he got a sucker's deal. He is hesitant to terminate the policy as he would not get back the full value of premiums paid thus far. Hence, he is intending to continue paying the premiums for his whole life policy.

Add to that that both he and his wife-to-be only have contract jobs, the huge financial load that they would have to shoulder together as a couple seems all the more intimidating. From my conversations with him, I learn that he and his wife have bright dreams ahead of them. They both intend to further their studies. However, with their current situation, he has been thinking of shelving his dreams aside.

A female colleague was quick to point out that his wife-to-be would also be able to contribute financially. Shouldering the debt load was not his alone. He swiftly called her out on her bluff. After all, there is still the female expectation for males to support them financially even though ladies have surpassed men in earning power. Why touch your own savings and investments when there is a loving boyfriend/hubby that willingly and unconditionally provide for you? ;) Only touch your principal when there's no choice mah!

The female colleague then rubbed it in with the bride price and the 四点金 (si dian jin). For non-Chinese readers, the si dian jin is a 4-piece jewellery set presented to the bride. This meant additional savings on his part.

I realized that my colleague has been spending more time on his hobbies to unwind.....

On a separate (yet related) note, he is also concerned about job stability and career progression in our industry. As I have shared in my blog postings before, you need at least a Masters degree before you can get a permanent job in my field of social science research. With rampant paper qualifications-inflation these days, sooner or later you would need a PhD just to get a job. (In fact, this is what is happening in my previous work place. PhD holders are applying for Masters level positions).

Upon some reflection, social science graduates can also be broadly categorized by what they intend to do with their degree following graduation. There are those that get a degree to satisfy the basic requirements of jobs available in the marketplace today. Therefore, what jobs they take up after graduation may or may not be related to the field of their degree. Hence, you have people working in banking, human resource, finance, consulting, business services, etc.

Conversely, you have those that do want their jobs to be an extension of their degree programme, applying what they have learned in school to the workplace. Here you have the social science researcher or the social science practitioner.

When posed with "am I in the right place/career" questions from interns and colleagues who are newer to the workforce such as said male colleague above, I am always unable to answer their question adequately. It is a personal question that is best answered by the questioner himself/herself.

If you want to be a social science practitioner, you have to either save a lot or come from a rich family (spend $100000 or so for both Bachelor Degree and Masters). You must be willing to accept a low pay even after many years of studies as well as the exorbitant tuition fees you fork out. Those who seek this path do so out of helping others self-actualize. Cost of studying and low remuneration should be a non-issue to them; what brings satisfaction is seeing the joy on your client's face.

For those who gravitate towards the former, the requirements and expectations are indeed different. Paper qualifications are not the be-all and end-all. Your job experience is much more esteemed by your employer. You work in vastly different environments and have a higher base pay and pay progression to boot.

There is no right or wrong answer. And this is why the person is in the best position to answer the question themselves.


  1. Unintelligent Nerd,

    Reading your post, it seems educated have your own challenges to face.

    Just like less uneducated have our own demons to face.

    Rich got rich issues; poor got poor problems...

    Even though I'm agnostic, I do pop-in to temples and churches to say my thanks.

    Its illogical; I guess it makes me feel better.

    1. Hi SMOL,

      Agree. That's life.

      One differentiator is to see how the person adapts and makes the best out of their given situation. When they succeed, that is where you see them shining at their brightest! :)

    2. Some people even think it's better to believe there is a GOD; if there isn't, there is nothing to lose.

      This means some people think they can buy insurance from whom?

      From GOD?

      These are the people who think they can outsmart God, if there is one.

      Ha! Ha!

  2. Moral of the story:

    Some female colleagues are horrible people.

    1. LOL. Trust you to come up with that conclusion :P

  3. It seen that most men who is getting married may have this financial woe without their parental financial support.

    1. Yah lor. As a student, need to start saving already if one expects heavy financial commitments up ahead.

  4. Hmm is it social science or social services sector??

    Anyway, much of the pressures are due to social, familial & peer pressures. One needs to set boundaries that he is comfortable with & understand the various repercussions. And doing it together with your significant other so that both are united & committed.

    For e.g. your colleague could have foregone the expensive traditional marriage rituals & dowry gold; for matrimonial flat can go for 3-rm BTO in non-mature estate. As for the lousy wholelife, either treat as sunk cost & terminate, or continue for time-being as a lousy low-to-no return savings.

    At end of day, one needs to decide that with limited resources, do you want to use up those resources in the short-run to appear normal and typical, or to husband the limited resources & set your own path?

    1. Hi Spur,

      Agree with you. It depends on the couple's priorities in life.

      My colleague is not so much a traditional person, but his wife-to-be is. Hence, he is accommodating to her family's preference. From the looks of it, he seems resigned to his fate and is willing to go with whatever her family prefers...

  5. Maybe marriage is the real sucker's deal here... But of course I can say that as I don't know the whole story ;P

    1. I have an inkling that you would comment.....and you did!

      I think you have enough pieces to form the complete story ;)

  6. "i see the worries on your face, you got your troubles i got mine".

    Especially for asians (maybe some caucasion too), a marriage is not only between 2 persons but the whole 2 families behind it.

    Whose marriage didn't had a small disgreements here and there between the 2 families of the couple to be married?

    And even between the couples?

    If everything is amicable and agreeable, the couple must be the luckiest couple indeed!

    Yet we got married!

    1. Uncle Temperament,

      Yah sia. That's why "meet the parents" session is also important. Must get a "feel" first