How Much Do You Need To Earn To Survive In Singapore?

Do you earn enough to survive in Singapore?

I did some calculations to try to find out. (Note: This is by no means a scientific study. You can also do your own calculations to draw the conclusions.)

A Low-Income Earner Won’t be Able to Save And Retire In Singapore

First, I looked at someone who earns a low income of $800 monthly (Chart 1).


Chart 1

I had used these assumptions about the person’s expenditure:

  • Around $100 goes to CPF monthly
  • Spends $10 everyday on food ($300 monthly)
  • Spends about $3 everyday on transport ($100 monthly)
  • Spends about $200 monthly on rental (if able to apply for subsidised housing)
  • Pays bills of around $100 monthly

You can see that if a person spends on the most basic things, and if he/she earns only $800, he/she would not be able to save at all.

But there’s more. The real incomes of low-income earners are likely to keep falling, as they had over the past decade (Chart 2).

Uneven Real Income Growth

Chart 2

Also, over a person’s lifetime, if he/she is a low-income earner, his/her income will also fall as he/she ages (Chart 3).

Incomes Of Low Income Earners Drop Over Lifetime

Chart 3

So, for a low-income earner, he/she won’t have enough to save, will most probably fall into debt, won’t have enough to pay for the debt, won’t be able to retire and will be scared for his/her life if he/she falls sick. If he/she gets hospitalised or needs an operation, he/she will have no money at all to pay for the bills.

So, for a low-income earner, they will never be able to save and retire (Chart 4).


Chart 4

A Middle-Income Family Wouldn’t Be Able to Save And Retire In Singapore Either

What if we look at another scenario, of a family with 2 children?

In Chart 5, we see Zheng Tian Zhen, who starts work at 25 and earns a starting salary of $2,500. Her boyfriend, Ye Bei Pian, also earns a starting salary of $2,500 at 25.


Chart 5

I had worked with these assumptions:

  • Their salary increases 4% annually until they are 39. At 40, their salary increases by 1% annually. At 55, their salary decreases by 1% annually (Chart 6). (In comparison, this is already better than the income growth pattern of a low//middle-income earner as in Chart 3.)
  • 20% of their salary is deducted for the employee CPF contribution monthly.
  • All expenses (food, transport, bills, miscellaneous things) increase by 2% annually, to account for inflation.
  • They spend 20% of their monthly salary on insurance.

Slide 20

Chart 6

Based on what they each spend in Chart 5, assuming that they are very thrifty, they should be able to save $500 monthly in the first few years.

Say 5 years later at age 30, they get married and buy a flat for about $300,000. After another 5 years, at age 35, they give birth to a set of twins. Assuming that they use their CPF to pay for the down payment of the flat, and a proportion of their housing loan, they will pay $500 every month, from their salaries, on the housing loan. Their expenses on food will double for each of them (for each children), and they will start spending 25% of each of their salaries on insurance, to buy insurance for their children. Their expenses on transport will also double in a few years’ time.

Chart 7 will be what their expenditure will look like in 2023, at the age of 35, 10 years from now (note that the figures are after accounting for inflation). From now onwards, they wouldn’t be able to save for the next 25 years, until their children reach adulthood, graduate and start working. Hopefully, the insurance that they buy will be able to cover for their children’s education.


Chart 7

Chart 8 shows what their expenses will look like in 2048, at age 60, when their children finally graduate (note that the figures are after accounting for inflation). They will be able to start saving again for the next 5 years before they retire at 65, but most of the new savings will go towards paying the accumulated loans over the past few years. They would also move to start paying 35% of their salaries into insurance, to purchase the more expensive hospitalisation plans – which Medishield wouldn’t fully cover.


Chart 8

So, at the end of it all, Zheng Tian Zhen and Ye Bei Pian would not be left with any savings. They would have spent most of their CPF paying for the housing loan that they would have so little left that they wouldn’t be able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum, and wouldn’t be able to take their money out.

Looking at Chart 9, assuming that a person would need to spend $1,000 to $1,500 every month in 2013, by 2053, this would be around $2,200 to $2,300 every month, which means annual expenses would be between $27,600 to $39,600. If a person lives until the life expectancy of 81 years old, he/she would need enough savings for another 16 years, which means that when he/she retires, he/she would need to have saved $450,000 to $640,000.


Chart 9

So, assuming that Zheng Tian Zhen and Ye Bei Pian have no savings but each receives a payout of $100,000 from their insurance, this might only last them for only a few years before they have to start working again. Or they might have to delay their retirement until past the age of 70 or 75.

So, you can see that for low to middle-income earners in Singapore, it would be very hard for them to survive in Singapore with their low pay.

Most Singaporeans Won’t Have Enough In Their CPF To Retire

But that’s not all.

In 2013, Singaporeans need to set aside $148,000 in their CPF before they would be able to take their CPF out. According to the CPF Board, “cash balances can only be withdrawn after setting aside both the CPF Minimum Sum and Medisave Required Amount.

Not only that, there is also the Medisave Minimum Sum of $38,500 that a Singaporean needs to also set aside. In total, together with the CPF Minimum Sum, a person would need to set aside $186,500. Working backwards, does this mean that if you don’t earn $884, you won’t be able to meet the minimum sums at all?

However, currently, 16% of Singaporeans earn less than $1,000 – which means that around 15% of Singaporeans will never be able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum and will never be able to take their CPF and Medisave out. Also, considering that the incomes of the low-income earners drop over time, would more than a quarter then not be able to meet their CPF Minimum Sum? Will this figure be 20% or 25%?

It is stated by the CPF Board that, “the Minimum Sum was set at $80,000 in 2003 and will be raised gradually until it reaches $120,000 (in 2003 dollars) in 2015 (Chart 14). These amounts will be adjusted yearly for inflation. ” What happens after 2015? What if the government decides to keep raising the Minimum Sum again? Then would we need to earn minimally $1,500 or $2,000 now to be able to meet the Minimum Sum when we retire in 40 years’ time?

photo (4)

Chart 14

This throws up some questions:

  • Why did the government make the CPF and Medisave minimum sums so high that at least 15% would not even be able to meet these minimum sums in the first place, no matter how hard they work?
  • Why does the government insist that Singaporeans need to have a minimum sum in their CPF if the money gets locked in and trapped inside, and at least 15% of the people would never be able to get their own money back?
  • Why does the government not implement a minimum wage, knowing that the low-income earners won’t be able to meet the minimum sums without a minimum wage paid to them?
  • Why does the government continues to call the CPF a retirement fund or a golden nest, when at least 15% of Singaporeans can forget about the money that they set aside in the CPF?
  • Why doesn’t the government implement a more progressive contribution structure on the CPF where the rich pay more and the poor pay lesser, so that the poor would be protected by the so-called “national insurance scheme”?
  • How does the government expect the large proportion of Singaporeans to be able to retire if they wouldn’t have any savings or retirement funds? If so, what is the government’s responsibility to the people?

Singaporeans Need At Least $2,000 To Live Even A Basic Lifestyle In Singapore

So, all in, how much would Singaporeans need to earn so that they would have enough to save and retire (if they were to spend on the most basic things).

Based on my rough calculations, for a person who is single, he/she would need to earn at least $2,000 every month in order to be able to do so (Chart 15). And this is if he/she lives a very basic lifestyle, with no holidays, no further education and no upgrading.


Chart 15

For a family of 4, each parent would need to earn at least $3,500 every month, and that is if both of them are very thrifty, and again, on a very basic lifestyle (Chart 16).


Chart 16

But how many Singaporeans currently would be able to earn these amounts? As can be seen in Chart 12, nearly 40% of Singaporeans are not even earning $2,000. And if they have children, the $2,000 wouldn’t be enough at all.

Also, as can be seen in Chart 17, around 65% of Singaporeans are earning less than $3,500, which means that only a third of Singaporeans earn more than $3,500 and can afford to have children somewhat comfortably.


Chart 17

So, Is The Government Helping? 

Question is, does the government know that Singaporeans would need to have at least $2,000 to be able to even have a basic standard of living in Singapore? The answer lies in the Workfare Income Supplement.

According to the CPF Board, “The Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme was announced during the 2007 Budget Speech as a permanent scheme … to supplement the wages and retirement savings of older low-wage workers as well as to encourage them to stay employed.” To qualify for the WIS, the worker must be a Singaporean who “earn(s) an average gross monthly income of not more than $1,900”. And note that the definition of “average gross monthly income” refers to the “basic salary and additional wages like overtime pay and bonuses”.

So, indeed, the government has calculated and knows that someone earning less than $2,000 would face massive difficulties surviving in Singapore. But, how much is the government actually helping? To be fair to the government, let’s look at the worker earning $1,000, because this is the wage range where the WIS payout is the highest. If you are 60 and above and earns $1,000, the government will give you $3,500 for one year. But out of this $3,500, $2,100 will go into CPF. The worker will only receive $1,400 in cash. What does this mean on a monthly basis? This means that the worker will only receive $116.67 every month. So, in total, the worker will receive a grand total of $1116.67 in cash every month.

What about a 35 year old who earns $1,000? He/she will receive only an addition of $46.67 every month, which will amount to only $1046.67 every month. A worker below age 35 won’t receive anything under the WIS.

Is this even enough? A Singaporean would need to earn at least $2,000 monthly to be able to have a most basic standard of living in Singapore. But even with the WIS, even with the highest financial assistance, a person would still earn only $1116.67 montly, and this is only when you are pass 60. But this is no where near $2,000!

Prof Lim Chong Yah Was Right. Wages for Low-Income Earners Need to Grow By At Least 50%

Do you remember Prof Lim Chong Yah’s Shock Therapy to our wages last year? I haven’t seen his actual proposal, but according to Yahoo! Singapore, he had “urged the raising of salaries of workers earning less than $1,500 by 50 per cent over three years while imposing a moratorium on the country’s highest wages during the same time”.

And you know what, Prof Lim was right. His proposal is exactly what needs to be done in Singapore.

In Chart 18, I tried to do a rough calculation of our wages if we had followed this proposal.


Chart 18

If we follow Prof Lim’s recommendations, there would be a lot more Singaporeans who would be able to save and retire. If you are earning $1,300 now, your wages would at least increase to nearly $2,000, which would at least allow you to be able to save and retire, if you live on a shoestring budget.

If you earn $2,500 now, with the uplifted wages, you would be able to earn $3,500 and it would be more affordable for you to have children.

Also, as wages spike at the bottom, and the growth at the top remains small, as Prof Lim had recommended, this will have the effect of equalising the wages across the board and reducing the income inequality. Prices might rise a little but with more people having higher incomes, the effects would be more manageable.

So, instead of nearly 40% of Singaporeans who earn less than $2,000, this would be reduced to a quarter. Instead of 65% of Singaporeans earning less than $3,500, this would be reduced to about half of Singaporeans.

What this also means is that there will also be an increase in the number of Singaporeans who would be better able to afford to have children and who would be more likely to do so (Chart 19). This will have the effect of increasing Singapore’s fertility rate as well.

So, now do you also know why Singapore’s fertility rate has been dropping? There’s really no point in bringing a child into this world if you cannot provide adequately for the child, let alone for yourself.


Chart 19

But then, Prof Lim’s proposal was slammed by the government. Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress Lim Swee Say had said that the proposal was “risky”.

From this article, you would see that far from it, Prof Lim’s proposal is necessary. If anything, Prof Lim had also been conservative in his proposal. To be able to protect all Singaporeans, wages for the poorest in Singapore would need to be increased by 100%, not just 50%!

Clearly, the wages of Singaporeans and the workers in Singapore have been depressed for far too long. As Chart 2 had shown, the real incomes of low-income earners have actually dropped over the past decade. Also, for the majority of Singaporeans, they have seen very slow growth in their incomes. However, the incomes for the rich have shot up.

There is clearly very uneven growth in incomes in Singapore, such that a growing number of Singaporeans are no longer able to live adequately in Singapore. A growing number of Singaporeans are not able to save and retire and that means that YOU will also very likely have to work until you are pass 70 or 75, or even until your death. Is this what you want?

Meanwhile, healthcare continues to be very expensive because the government spends the lowest on healthcare, as compared to all other developed countries. So, when the government says that they believe in self-reliance, they are pretty much saying, “We have not paid you well but from what we are paying you, you better learn how to make ends meet by yourself. Not that we want to make life difficult for you, but life will be – because too bad, you are poor, and there’s not much we are willing to do to help you.”

In Singapore, if you are single, you should minimally be able to earn $2,000. If you want to start a family, you and your partner should at least earn an average of at least $3,500 each. If not, life will be tough. Yet, the government and businesses lament that Singaporeans do not want to take up service jobs that pay $1,300 when it’s obviously not enough to survive in Singapore. Yet, the government tells us that it is not necessary to get a degree. If we don’t get a degree, who’s going to pay us $3,500, or even $2,000, at the current state of our policies?

So, before the government makes fanciful suggestions that degrees are not important, they should take a look at their policies and change it to ensure that even if a person doesn’t have a degree that they would be able to earn enough. If the government doesn’t believe people need to be paid higher wages, then they should to increase the interest paid to the CPF of the low-income earners so that they would be able to accumulate even that little amount of wealth.

Clearly, what needs to be done in Singapore is to drastically increase incomes for the low-income earners in Singapore, increase public spending, especially on healthcare, and to also increase the CPF interest rates, at least for the poor and elderly, so that they would be able to live and retire respectably.

But then, this is nothing new, is it? This is what we have been telling the government for many years now. But why hasn’t the government acted on it? And if so, why does the government continue to think that it is acceptable that we would need to work till our deaths or that life would be difficult for us?

You had voted for this ruling party for the past few elections, despite the many reminders and warnings that had been given. You have another chance to set things right in 2015/2016. It’s all up to you now. It’s in your hands. Whether you will be able to live adequately and retire comfortably, it’s all up to you now.


Following this article, do you know that not only are Singaporeans paid the lowest wages among the high-income countries, what Singaporeans actually have to fork out of our pocket to pay for taxes, CPF and for basic necessities (healthcare, education, transport etc) is actually almost the same as what the Nordic citizens pay?

But do you know that because Singaporeans earn only half the wages that the Nordic citizens earn, this means that we deduct a much heftier proportion of our wages into paying for these things and have a much lower purchasing power after that.

In fact, for the poor in the Nordic countries, they can still save enough to retire. However, in Singapore, not only the poor but a large part of Singaporeans will never be able to save enough to retire.

You can read more in this 10-part series written by Leong Sze Hian and I on the tax that Singaporeans are paying here, and how we are actually getting the short end of the stick. We voted for this ourselves.


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  3. Singaporean

    Dear Roy,

    Let me tell you something. You can be born in the poorest country in the world and STILL earn a lot of money and become rich. If a person is driven, resourceful and resolute, he or she can succeed richly in life even if the president is a crook like Marcos or Joseph Estrada, and the country suffering from ineffective governance, like Brazil, Mexico, India, etc.

    You see, the problem now in Singapore is that Singaporeans have lost the habit of reading(books).

    Ever since the Internet was invented, Singaporeans have slowly but surely become rabid consumers of Internet content, with a huge percentage of that being on-line entertainment, games, and other fluff. In other words, Singaporeans are no longer getting themselves upgraded in terms of serious knowledge.

    So, what has all of this got to do with your topic at hand? A lot.

    You see, the thing is, being able to earn a lot of money is not really so much dependent upon who the president or prime minister of the country is, which political party is governing, or even if its policies are leaning left or right. It really all boils down to the individual.

    Do you know that there are S’poreans who are earning only $800 a month, to whom when you try suggesting that the PAP is to be blamed for their low income, these low-income earners will instead turn around and scold YOU for even suggesting that the PAP is to be blamed for their low income and financial situation in life. There are many such low-income earners in Singapore who believe that their earning only $800 a month has more to do with personal ability than it being the PAP’s fault.

    I personally know of many Singaporeans who possess not even a Sec 4 education, yet they are now easily earning ten times more than a degree holder.

    At the end of the day, you can discuss, write long essays, and argue, rant and rave passionately on the topic, but, as long as the individual is not resolute, driven, resourceful, street-smart, and knowledgeable, all that academic discussion about elevating income levels of Singaporeans will only amount to that – talk only. You see…you can only lead the horse to the water. Whether it wants to drink or not, is another matter.

    The way I look at it is this – you want Singaporeans to be able to earn high salaries, with good job dignity, no exploitation, good year-end bonuses yearly, with good medical and dental benefits, job security, a comfortable working environment. But have you ever heard of this Hokkien phrase before: “Ai chi, ai pi, ai dua liap ni”?

    Let me share a true story with you.

    In 1971, a young girl from a very poor family in Singapore joined the Mandarin Hotel as a trainee. During the job interview, they told her that they could only pay her a monthly salary of $400 a month. The young girl felt that the salary was too low, so she opened her mouth and negotiated. In other words, she bargained hard for a higher salary during the interview. She got the job. Mandarin Hotel hired her as a trainee. The salary she got was not $450, or $500, or $550, but $650 a month. The name of the girl is Jennie Chua, who later became the CEO of Ascott Group.

    When a person is resolute, inner-driven, resourceful, street-smart, and knowledgeable, the country can be headed by a plundering crook and its national policies flawed to the core, and yet he will still be able to find the means and ways to earn a higher salary, come hell or high water.

    • Jacq ng

      Hi Singaporean , very very well said . This article and many other in this blog has too much self pity .

    • QingXingXing

      Yes, please let him understand with that it is not about the low pay but more of expertise,if half of these Singaporeans have these entitlement mentality as Roy, nothing is enough.

    • Rex

      Driven? Opportunities? Rags to riches? We all do agree that certain percentage of the population will be able to do that but defintiely not the majority due to various reason and limitation. Does that equate to such group of people don’t deserve help while doing their job still contributing to the country and support elite to propose with so called driven mentality coupled with excellent opportunities… Think before you comment and I wish you well for your future, continue to be driven, blessed with opportunites and a happy ever environment for you…..

    • sadlife

      A “very basic lifestyle” is definitely most young singaporean don’t look forward to. They can spend $30 to $50 per weekday and $150 to $200 on weekends and mini travel every 1 to 3 months(Jb, bangkok etc) and large scale travel every 6months. Owning branded stuff and following fashion comes into place too and with the addition of nightlife + parties…..etc.

      Most of them are lost with what they want in life and just complain about the gov and enjoy being in the “anti gov” parties, looking at it like a trend. They complain about how things are cheap and affordable in other countries while neglecting the fact of our big currency which make it cheap. They also did not think about how much less those people earn compared to us. They complain about the need of freedom of speech when they can’t take simple criticism. They complain about travelling time in singapore and yearn to stay in big countries. They claim that the media and papers are all propaganda but they choose to read and believe 3rd parties sources which use the “propaganda”. They want the gov to treat them when they are old but do not want to pay tax. They always want singapore to be a 1st world nation but compare singapore with 3rd world nations at the same time saying is better to be born over there etc, always contridicting themsleves not knowing what they really want.

      • Emmanuel

        Indeed, Singapore progressed rapidly and became a developed and bustling city within 30yrs.
        And with the emphasis on education, what is being taught is really important. To spearhead in global economy
        for a nation that started not long ago is definitely challenging, but has to be prepared to take on the same global
        economical trend, of higher earning and higher purchasing power (as taught in geography) in first world countries.
        So if Singapore education cannot expose the real life challenges out there when we grow up and get these young people to think how to provide for themselves in the future, then all I can say is education has taught them nothing at all.
        Our forefathers pave the way for the country to independence and build a prosperous nation – thus it is always gd to know our roots; but to maintain this status of prosperous nation is another different story altogether.
        The world also have this idealistic belief that a higher income earning, will lead to greater welfare with higher standards of living and better quality of life.
        Remember this: Singapore’s economy doesn’t stand on it’s own – it’s greatly influenced by China and US currency and market trading. If earning and savings determines the happiness of on’es life from cradle to grave, then I think life is meaningless just to fall into this vicious cycle:
        Child (full energy, alot of time, no money)
        Adult (full of energy, reeling in money, but no time)
        Senior Citizen (alot of time, alot of money, no energy – health depleted)

        The most important factor neglected in everyone’s life is to be able to TAKE TIME to enjoy life
        to its fullest, regardless of income gap, age, race, religion, gender.
        Of course this is another ideal again, but is life too short to take time to appreciate people that really care for us?

    • neo niliocke

      S$600 spending on food is considered extravagant to me. You can get a decent meal for $3.50 and if you spent that on 3 meals a day for a month, that comes up to about $315/mth. If you travel from pasir ris to jurong east to and fro everyday, transportation would amount to about $120/mth. You can get a term insurance that covers you for half a million (enough to cover the cost of a 4-rm HDB flat) for less than $50/mth. Including bills and other miscellaneous of about $800/mth,the total spending would amount to about to about $1200-$1400/mth. The expected life expectancy in Singapore is roughly about 85 years and assuming you retire at age 55, you would need at least $400,000 to live a comfortable lifestyle for the remaining 30 years. The CPF minimum sum of about $140,000 grossly falls short of it. Our cost of living is mainly dependent on the prices of imports from other countries as Singapore does not produce any natural resources and we eat the food imported from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and China. With inflation, our cost of living can only go up. So rather than grousing about your incapability to cope with the rising costs, your time is better spent on improving your work skills and getting a stable job so you can earn a decent salary to live comfortably in a country that is barely keeping up with positive economic growth, which is commendable in my view for a country that lives on food produced by other countries.

    • Daniel

      Dont talk cock la. how u expect every old n poor people to be like small girl work in hotel $650 n become CEO? u should pack your elitist mindset n go away cos roy ngerng blog simply talk about societal issues. But sadly it dont matter to u cos u dont give a bloody damm.

      Shoo. ur unable to even show an ounce of compassion unlike our hero Roy. What have u done instead of being a keyboard warrior? Roy is taking the fight up to a next level by contesting for politics. U should jus go ahead n do your shopping, fuck your wife/ gf / husband/ bf, n enjoy your life of luxury instead of coming in here n telling people what to do.

      Cos apparently you have a narrow heart so much so that u suck up to successess of other people n misguidly forget n ignore the less fortunate ones.

      Shame on u.

  4. saveus

    Roy is arguing largely for the middle/lower middle class and specifically for the average individual or couple who wants to survive or make babies comfortably. The situation now is that many people are priced below the curve of stagnated wages, it affects the birthrate, people’s happiness and general well-being of individuals of the country, whom the politicians serve. One should not confuse that with the individual who feels that socioeconomic well-being is unrelated to politics, corruption and inequality.

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  9. anony

    Why doesn’t the government implement a more progressive contribution structure on the CPF where the rich pay more and the poor pay lesser, so that the poor would be protected by the so-called “national insurance scheme”?

    You must be out of your mind uttering such rubbish. Ever heard of a saying you reap what you sow? Everyone should be taxed equally, no matter how much you earn monthly. We preach about equality always, now it’s time to practice it.

    • lol

      Food $300. seriously? means 1 day $10. Each meal limited to $3.33. Food must be cheap at whichever place he dines at.This couple dont go on dates.

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  11. csl

    By eliminating various detail, there is no accuracy in the calculation.
    Eg. $800 earning, zero saving? will it turn into negative? will he/she required handphone/mobile to be contactable? What type of bills, miscellaneous, electric, network, telephone,…
    What about clothing etc.

    parents with children, usually children at age 0~7 spends more, nursery and kingdergadent can drive the amount to negative, milk powder, pamphlet etc. But after going to primary,.. the expense might start to reduce significantly, unless they go to special school.
    and if both parent are working, then maid might be required,…
    But why when get to 60 the transport increase so much, unless you still need to work, elderly will have transport subsidies also,…

  12. Eric Lee

    Overly simplistic calculation, bold & flawed assumptions, self-serving idealogy with a HUGE mentality of entitlement (i wonder where it stems from). From the onset, the article looks to be well written. However, 16% of singaporean earning below $800?? I wonder where did that come from. Or issit 16% of the workforce which includes all the foreign donestic helpers, construction workers etc, which the writer wants to get rid of/ or fighting to increase their wages.

    Wake up your idea Roy, its people like you who exemplify the lacking in our education system, self deserving attitude thinking that you deserve much more then the effort you put in and ultimately everyone else especially the government is at fault for bad things that happen to you. Its sad to see people like you and worse still, more people with this self entitled mentality like you around. Why don’t you migrate to our neighbouring country, Singapore can be better without you.
    Cheers EL

    • WM Lee

      Roy Ngerng either doesn’t know anything about financial planning or the numbers he puts here are just to justify his arguments.
      1. No sound person spends 25-35% of their salary on insurance, unless its a very aggressive investment linked insurance and a form of savings. But he already classifies savings into another category. This is the biggest flaw in his assumptions.
      2. A HDB flat @$300,000 only costs less than 1k monthly repayment after paying 20% deposit and a 30 year loan. He states that the couple would not have any CPF savings left after paying the housing loan, which looking at his chart means that they utilize all of their monthly CPF and an additional $500 each to pay a combined $2500!!! Did they upgrade to a condo halfway or take a 10 year loan? LOL
      So if you were to recalculate the couple’s expenditure at the age of 35 based on the scenario he had painted, and assuming about 10% of their income is spent on insurance (basic and endowment), and they’re still staying in that $300k HDB flat (LOL), they can actually save $2k a month, which makes it $24k a year! Set aside $8k for the annual family holidays and treats, they still have more than $15k in savings!!! Hip hip hooray! Fast forward 10 years later, with a combined income of $9k plus, the family can now opt to sell their flat for $400k (I’ll assume the couple bought 1 of those BTO flats) and upgrade to a midsized condo in Sengkang or Punggol!! Pop the champagne bottles!!!!

      Roy Ngerng, your calculations are shit. A couple earning median wage can well support 2 kids with an average, stable life if they do not indulge in unnecessary luxuries and overspending. And half your article written to support your shit calculations is to support your argument that wages need to be increased across the board. Which comes to the 2nd part of your article, which is even more unbelievably nonsensical and flabbergasting as I wasted my time reading through it. But I had to for the sheer amazement.

      You used Professor Lim’s paper (which you confessed you didn’t even read) and totally misused them for your own interpretations and to cloud the readers’ opinions together with your charts which have no references. Prof Lim was arguing that the LOWEST INCOME GROUP’s wages had to be systemically increased and a minimum wage needed to be set, not for you to impose your ideas that all wages need to increase so that you can have more money to visit love parades overseas. And do you have any idea what will happen to the economy if we followed your genius proposal??? “Prices might rise a little…..” Hahahahahah. Here’s a quick run through what exactly happens, workers’ wages increase by 50% which immediately translates to increases in operational costs to all SMEs and MNCs, thereby DEFINITELY forcing an increase in prices for all goods and services. Meanwhile some of the labour intensive companies find themselves unable to sustain these high costs (and they don’t have quota to hire FT cos guess what, you preached against those too) and have to fold or downsize thereby increasing unemployment. So there are now people out of jobs, folded companies, skyrocketing inflation, but Roy Ngerng is happy cos he has 50% payrise. What a hero.

      I’m not a big PAP supporter or something. My point is to highlight to the good people who have read this article that Roy Ngerng and his articles are really not worth your time. He’s more entertaining when he’s being sued.

      • Michael Jackman

        Hi WM Lee,
        I was wondering if you could help me to verify some figures. I have a job offer in Singapore but need some help to work out true affordability.
        Many thanks,

  13. Rizuan

    You forgot to mention, what about those who do not have any annual increment? That’s what my colleagues and I are facing at the moment. No annual increments, no aws. This seems to be quite the norm lately. Only way to have an increase in your pay? Switch jobs. No stability at all.

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    • Johnson Lock

      At least you don’t have kids. Can still laugh.

      Average people should not have kids.

      Monthly preschool fees here are a horror story.

  15. Matthew

    Hi Roy,
    I do admire your courage to stand up for the poor and the needy.
    But in life, we cannot make too much of a generalization based on one or two “singular” personal experiences alone.
    The issue of “money not enough” is a multi-faceted problem, one in which statistics alone cannot be used to accurately and fully explain.
    As an accountant for close to 2 decades, as well as being reasonably frugal, I can still survive well enough by managing my personal lifestyle and expectations. But even for myself, I admit to feel the heat of rising costs and living standards.
    Something is no longer working and needs to be resolved. And that is when the current Government is not seeing to it that the interests of the commoners are well taken care of.
    If it takes a political breakthrough to turn things around, then it is back to winning the minds and hearts of every single voting Singapore citizen.
    Rising costs of living is but one of the many issues faced by the common Singaporeans. The need for political maturity and education among citizens is vital if they were to make wise decision with their votes.
    If it means an overhaul of our existing political systems and structures to really get things right, it is worth sacrificing so-called stability to begin “rocking the boat”

  16. Dennis Chew

    Dear Roy,

    Among your calculations, you did not include especially nowadays for the young generation on the part where they have to repay back for their education fees (if they are not selected for scholarship program – which many will not or qualified for). If they go Polytechnic, Universities, many of these young generation will pay their fees through their parents CPF as loan which they will have to repay back once they join the workforce. These repayment will have to be return back to their parent’s CPF account in form of cash (including accrued interest). It cannot be deducted from their CPF contribution, it can be repaid either one lump sum or in installment basis. So, Many in short will not be able to save initially even if they desire to start a family, resulting in later marriages eventually maybe childless so to speak. Many parents instead pays back to their own CPF.


  17. Amelia nah

    Dear Roy,

    You’re just complaining here. You’re not giving any suggestions. You’re just a whiner. Come up with some solutions before you crticise the government. What do u suggest?

  18. Ash

    It is my personal opinion that CPF (at least to me) is the greatest money sink in Singapore. I really hope this system will be abolished one day. I have no intention to live beyond 60 years old (I will kill myself once I reach that age, because I do not believe in living a life just for the sake of living, when I will most likely be riddled with disease, sickness, disability, incapacity), so I have zero need for CPF because I will not need to retire since I will be dead by then. I want to live my life enjoying every moment, and spend all the money I earn indulging in the present, because I do not know when unfortunate circumstances may rob me of my ability to enjoy my life, through accidents or unforeseen events. I absolutely hate to save up for the future when I know I won’t be able to spend that money in my utmost capacity for indulgence to personal enjoyment, and the money saved for CPF will merely be used to prolong a life that has already expired (meaning, living just for the sake of living, existing for existence’s sake). CPF eats up the precious money I need to live in the present, which is all that matters.

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  26. Economics Tuition

    This article is very helpful and provides a broad insight into Singapore’s economy and government policies. Which really shows the effect of CPF on the income of a common man who earns below average for such a rapid growing economy. Also shows the importance of saving in such a time where inflation takes a major toll on the income of the people. With which I believe from my perspective that there should be a minimum wage plan introduced by the government of Singapore so as to curb the down the alerting size of people (15%) who will end up without any saving after retirement. Singapore is a developed nation with high per – capita income but your article clearly points out a high unequal income distribution pattern, which clearly hampers the standard of living for the people.

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  33. Anon

    On what basis do you think that voting for the opposition party will help change low-income household’s salary. Look at the opposition parties in Singapore, do they look like they can do a good job? Take workers party for example, they promised to help improve the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council. But look at the state it is in right now, plagued with record discrepancies and missing money. I’m not saying that all opposition parties are bad but do you think that voting for opposition partiers just for the sake of it will help anything?

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