This article was written in collaboration with Gov.sg. All views expressed in the article are the independent opinions of DollarsAndSense.sg
We all have goals and dreams. Some of us may aspire to have specific careers when we grow up. Others may have family goals, such as starting our own families and being able to take care of our parents when they are older. Or we may wish to further our studies or to attain new skills that will allow us to do something we love.
Regardless of what they may be, they give us something we can focus our energy on and to work towards.
In this article, we will discuss some common goals that many Singaporeans have and share tips on how we can achieve them.
We’ve also included a quick visual guide to the common goals that Singaporeans aspire to, if you prefer to see the bigger picture of a Singaporean’s game of life.
Getting A Good Education
In some countries, getting access to education is not a given for the majority of young children.
Thankfully in Singapore, getting access to good education is not only easy but also affordable. When a Singaporean child reaches the age of 7, they begin at least ten years of compulsory education from Primary 1 to Primary 6, and Secondary 1 to Secondary 4 (or 5). All Singaporean, regardless of their circumstances, will have access to education opportunities.
Public schools in Singapore are heavily subsidised. The government subsidises over 90% of the total cost of educating our children. This means that a child entering primary school in 2018 will receive over $130,000 in education subsidies by the time he or she completes secondary education. Children from lower-income families get even more support, for example, through the recently enhanced MOE Financial Assistance Scheme.
For those who pursue tertiary education, subsidies are given to each Singaporean student. For example, Full-time Nitec and Higher Nitec students pay $446 per academic year (about $37 per month) and $626 (about $52 per month) respectively. Degree courses are also heavily subsidised.
Beyond just academic successes, many Singaporean students today may also want an educational experience that goes beyond what they learn in schools. For example, overseas internship experience and exchange programmes are starting to become the norm for many tertiary students in Singapore, rather than the exception.
To support these aspirations, there are numerous bursaries, scholarships and financial assistance schemes available to encourage good performing students to continue pursuing excellence in their education journey.
The bottom line is that no Singaporean will be denied the ability to pursue education and fulfil their fullest potential because of their financial background.
Securing A Good Career
After our schooling years, we enter the workforce to make a living and pursue our career goals and dreams. This would include finding the right job that pays well, a company that appreciates us and opportunities for us to develop our skills and to expand our experience and network.
The task of finding a job might be easier if one has the right grades, great internships, or a network they can tap on. Others might find it more challenging, particularly if they do not have the appropriate qualifications or relevant experience.
Finding the right job also requires us to know how to search for the jobs we want at the right places and communicate our experience and skillsets effectively. Statutory board such as Workforce Singapore (WSG) help Singaporeans by connecting them with the right employers based on their skillsets and experience. WSG offers a variety of resources and help such as MyCareersFuture, Career Support Programme and Career Connect – all of which are available for Singaporeans to tap on to receive job search tips and referrals from curated community jobs listing, as well as 1-to-1 career coaching at no cost (at WSG’s Careers Connect centres).
During our careers, our interests and aspirations may also change as we become older. What we enjoy doing in our 20s and 30s may no longer appeal to us in our 40s. Unlike the past, mid-career switch is now a lot more common these days. The Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) also offered by WSG help PMETs to undergo skills conversion so that they can successfully move into new corporations and sectors that provide better opportunities for progression.
Under SkillsFuture, Singaporeans are also encouraged to pick up new skills and upgrade themselves to better equip themselves for jobs in future. To foster the spirit of lifelong learning, all Singaporeans aged 25 and above will receive $500 credit from January 2016. With these credits, one can sign up for any SkillsFuture-approved course(s) that is of interest to them.
All these initiatives and schemes will allow all Singaporeans to improve their lives at every stage of their career.
Setting Up A Family
Being a parent is one of the greatest joys (and biggest responsibility) one can experience. Your (new) life will revolve around feeding the newborn baby, changing diapers and hoping the baby falls asleep without a fuss – this happens every few hours. With the fertility rate at just 1.14 in 2018, the government is understandably supportive of every Singaporean child.
If you have a kid (or multiple kids), you can look forward to receiving grants and subsidies such as the 1) Baby Bonus Cash Gift, which gives you $8,000 (1st and 2nd child) or $10,000 (3rd and subsequent children), the 2) CDA First Step, where all Singaporean children will get an initial $3,000 in their CDA and a dollar-for-dollar matching of up to $3,000 (1st and 2nd child), $9,000 (3rd and 4th child) or $15,000 (5th and subsequent child) and 3) initial MediSave grant of $4,000.
Besides the direct grants and benefits that young families can receive, there are numerous other tax relief and rebate schemes that you could also qualify for as a parent. These include the Qualifying Child Relief (QCR), Handicapped Child Relief (HCR), Working Mother’s Child Relief (WMCR) and Parenthood Tax Rebate (PTR). If you need a foreign domestic worker, you also enjoy a lower levy. These income tax reliefs and rebates help reduce your income tax and cash outlay, giving you not only more cash on hand to support your little ones, but also to encourage you and your spouse to have more kids!
Buying A Home
As a working Singaporean, having our own home is something that most of us will aspire towards. Having our own home means being able to move out of our parents’ homes and build our own space where we can raise our own family.
In Singapore, the majority of Singaporeans live in their own HDB flat. At the cost of a few hundred thousand dollars (in general), buying an HDB flat is a major financial decision.
Thankfully, there are multiple housing grants that Singaporeans can tap on to help them afford an HDB flat, be it BTO or resale. First-timer families can receive up to $160,000 in grants when buying a resale flat, and up to $80,000 when buying a new flat. The grants include the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant, which gives a grant amount of up to $80,000 for those who are buying a new or resale flat, the CPF Housing Grant of $50,000 for those who are buying a resale HDB flat, and the Proximity Housing Grant, which gives you $20,000 if you live within 4km of where your parents/child are staying or $30,000 if you stay with your parents/child.
These grants significantly help those who qualify for them to substantially reduce the cost of buying their first home, making home ownership a realistic goal for many Singaporeans. Of course, as we grow older and our families become (ideally) bigger, many of us may also look to upgrade to bigger flats. Some of us may even want to buy 3Gens flat, offered by HDB, so that we can accommodate our elderly parents as well. For those looking at private properties, a landed property or a dual-key condominium unit may be a more expensive option.
With the longest life expectancy rate in the world at 84.8 years, retirement planning is one area that Singaporeans cannot afford to ignore. Retirement planning might appear daunting, but it doesn’t have to be, if you prepare yourself well for it.
All Singaporean Citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs) in Singapore would be enrolled into CPF LIFE, a lifelong annuity scheme that pays you a monthly income during your golden years for as long as you live.
With CPF LIFE, Singaporeans are cared for and have a safe retirement income floor. CPF LIFE hedges us against the risk of running out of money in our retirement years since we don’t have to worry about outliving our CPF savings. This forms a good base of income during our retirement, which can be used to cover our basic expenses such as food, transport, telco bills and more.
Beyond just CPF LIFE, there are other retirement-related schemes that we can also consider. For those who want higher payouts each month so that they can pursue interests such as to travel overseas regularly, the HDB Lease Buy Back Scheme allows elderly homeowners to sell the extra years of the lease that they are unlikely to need for their retirement while being able to continue living in their HDB homes. This allows them to unlock the value of their properties and receive cash and higher monthly payouts via CPF LIFE.
An example of how the Lease Buyback scheme works can be seen below.
It’s unrealistic to expect everyone in Singapore to have the same goals in life. We’ve only highlighted some common ones above, and explained how we can tap on external support such as government grants to achieve them. You’ll probably have many other goals for yourself, such as to start a business, spend time volunteering for causes, or to travel the world.
Regardless of what those may be, always remember that for us to have the best chance to achieve them, we should try to plan for them in advance and taking stock of the various resources available to us.