Real stories about money from real people. Money Confessions, a SingSaver series, will excite you, inspire you, and leave you wishing to get financially woke.
SingSaver talked to three super mums and acknowledges their achievements in the realm of personal finance.
It’s no secret that the most important job in this world is being a mother. This applies to working mothers who need to juggle their career and family, and those who take on the full-time role of a caregiver for their children.
This Mother’s Day, SingSaver pays tribute to three super mums, not with flowers and cakes, but a nod towards their achievements and insights about personal finance management.
What does personal finance mean to a super mum?
For Yuki Liu, a newly-minted mother with an 18-month-old daughter, personal finance is about managing her finances well, such that she does not live paycheck to paycheck.
“It’s especially important to me now that I have a family, and we are planning our finances not just for ourselves, but for our daughter too,” she says.
Other working mothers echo this sentiment, especially Eva Tan, a freelance tutor. As she does not have a stable income, she tries not to spend too much during the lull periods.
“That being said, I do have insurance coverage to ensure that I'm covered if I need to pay for medical expenses. I don’t have a lot of savings but I am planning to boost my CPF savings as my goal is to have a reasonable monthly payout from CPF after I turn 70 years old,” says Ms Tan.
The common theme behind personal finance, evidently, is taking care of themselves and their family as they grow old. For Lynn Sim, whose daughter is now working full-time, her goal is to ramp up on her savings for her retirement.
The secret behind budgeting for the family
For Ms Liu, a bulk of her salary (up to 50%) is used to support the family expenses.
“I work with my husband to manage it together. I am responsible for purchasing baby-related items and general household supplies for the family, while my husband is responsible for internet, cable, utilities and general household repairs,” Ms Liu shares.
In some months, this is supplemented by her husband, who makes one-off monetary transfers to share the load on groceries and baby items.
Likewise, Ms Tan sees at least 65% of her salary going towards family expenses.
“On top of the usual family expenses (which includes food and utilities), I spend quite a bit on petrol and car maintenance, but it is essential for me to drive due to the nature of my work, and I also drive around to help my family,” Ms Tan explains.
For Ms Liu, savings and personal expenses get equal weightage at 20% each, though she admits that the latter can pose a challenge.
“I try to spend less on my beauty regime, dining out, and online shopping. It helps that my husband tends to spoil me with treats ever so often so I spend less while enjoying a cooling cup of bubble tea,” added Ms Liu.
Ms Sim takes quite a different approach, with a heavier emphasis on spending less and saving more by allocating 20% of her salary to personal expenses, 20% to family expenses, and 45% to savings. Like both Ms Liu and Ms Tan, Ms Sim also invests, though she devotes slightly more of her salary to it (15%).
Ms Sim is a strong believer that both investments and savings should be tackled concurrently as savings is a fixed and safe form of wealth growth.
“I only invest when I have extra funds and can potentially risk losing or growing my money,” she says.
10% of Ms Liu's monthly salary is devoted to investments. Her portfolio comprises a retirement plan with Singlife, unit trust / ETF investments made via the POSB digibank mobile application, and CPF investments using the CPF Investment Scheme.
Ms Liu is cautious in investing, often observing how market forces can go against her investment decisions.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that things can go south quickly, and that I’m glad I factored manageable risks into my financial planning,” she expresses.
For Ms Tan, she does not rely on her investment portfolio to get by, she focuses on relatively stable products recommended by her brother. After deducting her investment amount and personal expenses, she deposits the remainder as savings for rainy days or spends it on what she feels is necessary.
Collaborative financial independence
All three women clearly display a strong level of independence in managing their personal finances. Both Ms Tan and Ms Sim are of the sentiment that they should be fully responsible for their finances and not rely on anyone.
For Ms Liu, who is financially independent, she also believes in taking a collaborative approach towards financial planning with her husband.
“It’s a team effort," she says. "There are months when our expenditure is higher than usual, so we will discuss and adjust our spending together to live within our means."
Striking a balance between hustling and family time
As a relatively young mother, Ms Liu realises that she has a longer runway to hustle for side income for rainy days.
“However, that does not mean that I will engage in hustles that require me to sacrifice a lot of family time. With the rise in digital transformation and change in the job delivery landscape, it is possible to develop a side hustle without the constant need to leave the house,” she says.
Seasoned mothers Ms Tan and Ms Sim, however, have earned their stripes and now focus more on being with the family.
“Money can be earned anytime, and there’s no point earning all the money in the world but you don't have enough time to spend with your loved ones,” says Ms Tan.
Getting to the personal finance goal
Managing your personal finance is the easiest thing in the world, said no one ever.
This is why Ms Liu is acutely aware of the challenges, especially when she has just started her family and has to look at a 20-year financial plan. Her goal is to ensure that her family is taken care of financially, and more importantly, that she has the financial resources to help her daughter pursue her goals, regardless of what they are.
Being content and happy is a common goal of all mothers, Ms Tan says.
“As long as there's enough for me and my family, that would suffice. I don’t need to be filthy rich to be happy and content.
“I try my best to make sure there’s sufficient resources for the kids. I spent quite a bit on enrichment classes for them - the idea is to not only focus on their studies, because there is more to life than studying,” she says.
When her children were young, she signed them up for classes that impart life skills such as swimming, and anything that helped her children expand their knowledge, passion and interest.
“In any case, the enrichment classes also served as a back up, so that if my children didn’t do well in their studies, they could turn to their passions, such as being a piano teacher,” Ms Tan adds.
Sharing a key insight of being a super mum
As mothers, they have had their fair share of learning experiences through the years. One key lesson from Ms Liu is in having difficult conversations about finances with her other half.
“Push through the tough part, and both of you will come out stronger,” she advises.
Ms Tan also also shares her key takeaway: “I am not rich and I don’t have sophisticated means of managing my finances but I do think that life is more than being rich." She also questions if one would truly be happy if they had to scrimp ridiculously (e.g. eat meagre meals) to have all the money in the world.
Perhaps the most important and universal advice that applies to both mothers and fathers out there is this one offered by Ms Sim: “Save as much as you can. Enjoy life, love yourself. Live your life like you only live once. Children are only a stage of your life. Do what you can, and always have faith in yourself."
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