Did you read that the middle class in Singapore is feeling more insecure?
December 3, 2014
Last Friday, a group of academics spoke at a forum that focused on the state of Singapore’s middle class. As reported by the Straits Times, the members noted that the middle class folk (MCF) – those defined as the middle 60% of income earners – are feeling the squeeze as real incomes are not increasing, and government support has been given only to the lower income segment. With the cost of living increasing ever faster, and the “dreams” of more middle income people quickly getting out of reach, the question begs, what can one do? In this article I take a holistic view of the situation and offer a way out.
Before we start looking at how not to feel insecure, we should first look at who the middle class is. According to Singstat’s household income survey report of 2013 (http://www.singstat.gov.sg/publications/publications_and_papers/household_income_and_expenditure/pp-s20.pdf), the average household income per household member for MCF is between $1,268 and $3,837. Assuming a two-income four-person household, that would put each income earning person within the MCF class as earning from $2,536 to $7,674. Normally, earners of such income levels are:
non-sales, non-medical, professionals within the first 5 years of employment
Characteristics of MCF
It is very likely that our MCF:
have been used to a fixed income;
expect to get a salary increment each year, and a promotion every 3 years;
don’t like to take risks;
want to “enjoy the good things in life”;
keep up with the Joneses every now and then;
want more than they can afford (at least sometimes)
Why would our MCF feel insecure today?
When real incomes rose only 0.4% last year, our MCF has found that there has not been as much buffer as they would have expected from previous years. With most of them being fixed income earners, they do not have much influence in the amount they are being paid, unless they made a conscious effort to find new employment with higher salary. However, it is not likely that they would do this because many of them don’t like to take risks. They would rather stick it out with a bird in hand, than for two in the bush. It also means that they might not be too satisfied in their role, but with nothing else going for them, they would “bite the bullet”.
They would also start having self-worth issues when they can no longer keep up with the Joneses. As fortune smiles on the bold, income gains will come only to those who take more risks, and are willing to put themselves out there. Unfortunately, this is not part of the make-up of our MCF. Hence, their ability to keep up with the Joneses becomes significantly impacted. And this makes them more insecure.
What can MCF do now?
Work differently. Find ways to be promoted, so that they can enlarge their fixed salary.
Scale down on expectations and expenses. After all, not everything in life is expensive. Instead of going to the movies, (where a movie ticket is $10, and popcorn combo costs $5 each, making it a $50 outing for 4 pax), rent DVDs and watch it at home. Or instead of eating out, learn to cook and make a wonderful feast at home!
Realise that no one is looking at you. Many of us are so self-conscious and want to have everything that everyone else does because “it is expected of us” will find it a surprise that, frankly, nobody cares! After all, they are so self-absorbed themselves that they cannot see what’s happening with you. So, why bother?
We are the product of all our past decisions. And our decisions are a product of our points of view. So if we changed our perspectives, we can change our circumstances. And that is what we need if we want to feel secure in this changing environment!