Walking the Tightrope of Financial Survival in Singapore


Survival is the name of the game today as we set out to explore what an ordinary hard-working Singaporean needs to earn to ensure his financial security in this new age uber-expensive capitalist utopia.

Every household has different needs and a unique financial benchmark for a comfortable living; however, we can all agree that there are certain bare necessities that none of us can survive without. And survival is the name of the game today as we set out to explore what an ordinary hard-working Singaporean needs to earn to ensure his financial security in this new age uber-expensive capitalist utopia.

Various surveys have revealed that the average salary in Singapore falls in between the $4200-$4500 range. Unfortunately, this is an insufficient criterion to reflect the true financial status of its entire citizenship, because a country’s real economic comeuppance is encapsulated by how financially empowered its lowest earning workers are.

While highly skilled and well-educated professionals can make a comfortable living netting between $4400-$6400 per month, Singapore’s blue-collar class still stands on shaky financial ground for most of their lives earning somewhere between $800-$2100 per month. So there we have it, the lowest of the lows in the wage spectrum – an unnerving and extremely meager $800 per month!

Now we are truly ready to commence our journey into the underbelly of Singapore, implement the finest financial acumen and examine whether $800 a month is enough to survive our daily expenses and secure our long-term future.

Considering the current costs of living in Singapore, let us assume the following breakdown of expenditure made by the low-income worker earning $800 a month with zero savings apart from CPF contributions:

  • Housing Rental – $225
  • CPF – $100
  • Food – $300
  • Energy bills – $100
  • Transport – $75

Now you may exercise a plethora of nifty frugal living tips like shopping for groceries using Fair Price, opting for a shared HDB flat, availing the best credit card schemes, using the public bus transport, buying cheap Big Macs, etc., but the fact of the matter is that you can only do so much to cut down your daily expenses.

It has been widely demonstrated that blue-collar workers suffer a progressive decrease in income as they age, which means that not only is the prospect of a comfortable retirement a statistical impossibility, but their struggle for daily sustenance will be an even more uphill battle in the future.

One of the major bones of contention for financial security for low-wage workers in Singapore is the ludicrous pre-requisite of having at least $148,000 in their CPF before they can access it. This means that nearly 16% of the Singaporean workforce that earns a monthly wage below $1000 will never be able to reach the mandatory CPF Minimum Sum milestone.

According to various research studies on the cost of living in Singapore, it has been proven that a single working class citizen kicking off his career in his early 20s must earn around $2000-$2500 to enjoy a sustainable frugal lifestyle without putting an axe in their financial future.

Assuming a yearly salary increase of 4% and accounting for inflation, here is what an estimate monthly expenditure breakdown should look like for an average single Singaporean working professional who makes $2500 per month:

  • CPF – $500
  • Insurance – $500
  • Energy bills – $300
  • Transport – $100
  • Food – $300
  • Miscellaneous – $300
  • Savings – $500

On the other hand, married Singapore workers who are planning to start a family must earn at least $7000 as collective income per month to family of 4 to enjoy a similar minimal, penny-wise lifestyle.

Unfortunately, since almost 40% of Singaporeans make less than $2000 per month and only 35% earn equal to or more than $3,500 per month, this means that only a third of the Singaporean workforce can enjoy a financially stable lifestyle throughout their life.

Low-income workers with a paltry monthly income below $1900 are entitled to qualify for the government-sponsored Worker Income Supplement scheme. However, even if you are over 60 and make $1000 per month to qualify for the highest possible yearly WIS payout of $3500, you will still only be able to net approximately $117 per month as $2100 will automatically be credited to your CPF account first.

In conclusion, we have deducted that the only way for Singaporean individuals to survive the exorbitant costs of this city and keep their financial boats floating is to make at least $2000 per month if they are single and $3500 if they are ready to have children.


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