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One in three people in Singapore loses sleep over money: Survey

One in three people in Singapore loses sleep over money: Survey

Published on

30 Oct 2022

Published by

The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - This will sound rather obvious but if you don’t want to lose sleep over money, make sure you have a plan to save, invest and spend within your means. Banal it may well be but the disturbing truth is that around 30 per cent of people in Singapore are losing sleep due to the constant worry that they do not have enough money.


And 46 per cent of residents here also encounter some kind of anxiety that affects their health and mental wellness due to stress related to their income and finances. Most feel this way because they are not just fending for themselves but have close relatives such as spouses, children, parents and siblings to take care of as well.


These are findings from a HSBC survey that polled around 1,100 residents earlier this year. Respondents were asked a series of questions relating to their financial habits, knowledge, planning as well as their security practices that could make them easy targets for scammers.


Each time they answered “yes” to questions such as whether they watched their expenses or were actively planning for retirement, they earned points that determined whether they were financially fit, moderately fit or unfit.


Only about 30 per cent of those surveyed passed the test with flying colours. About half scraped through and 20 per cent failed. Not surprisingly, those with lower scores were the ones who complained that their money woes were taking a toll on their mental health.


Why money problems can affect mental health


Associate Professor Mok Yee Ming, the senior consultant and chief of the Department of Mood and Anxiety at the Institute of Mental Health, says it is not unexpected for people to suffer from anxiety and worries over financial problems. However, the anxiety and insomnia may not be entirely caused by money woes but could be due to other factors as well, such as the fear of not being able to achieve career goals as well as other life aspirations such as owning property or retiring early.


“The truth is, we are living in an unstable and uncertain world. With the pandemic ongoing, the geopolitical uncertainties leading to rising costs as well as the spectre of a global downturn, it can be difficult to not be worried about the future,” Prof Mok adds.


Top financial concerns


The survey found most participants were increasingly worried about unexpected expenses, echoing the sentiments of many people that the inflationary pressures causing pricier consumer goods and higher interest rates are making it harder for families to save and keep to their budgets.


When the same survey was conducted a year earlier, in the middle of the pandemic, the top concern was the prospect of pay cuts and job losses as businesses struggled to stay afloat.


But job losses and pay cuts were not even cited as a concern in the latest survey as many employers are on a hiring spree now and paying more to keep their staff. The survey also highlighted four other financial concerns that reflected how global events have changed consumer sentiments in just a year.


Rising education costs


With many overseas universities raising fees, it is not surprising that more parents have begun to worry about whether they can afford to send their children for studies abroad. This new concern has been brought about by the steep rise in costs due to runaway global inflation that is hitting all sectors of the economy.


The chief concern of parents here is whether they have to pay more for their children’s tuition as many centres face the twin blows of possible rental and wage hikes.


Supporting parents


Those with elderly parents face the most financial stress on two fronts.


Many elderly people do not have adequate medical insurance coverage.


Even if they do, they may not have enough savings to pay the premiums, which can cost up to $10,000 a year for those in their 70s and 80s.


It is vital to start retirement planning early so that you can be self-sufficient and will not need to rely on your children or relatives to take care of you in your old age.


Not enough money for retirement


Many people aspire to retire early but don’t realise retirement means you not only stop having an income – you also still need to pay the usual expenses.


Say you retire at 60. There is a high chance you will live beyond 85 so you must have enough money to last the next 25 years or more after you stop working.


So how much would you need?


If you spend about $3,000 a month now, chances are you will still need this much after you retire – so the total sum for 25 years would be about $900,000. Even this is a conservative estimate because it does not take into account unexpected expenses, holidays and inflation.


Property and inheritance


With rising property prices and mortgage rates, it is not surprising that many people feel their dream home is getting out of reach.


You can help yourself by reworking your numbers and find one that is within your means – it is better to live in a modest home than to live in one that you cannot afford and worry about the bills.


Similarly, instead of worrying about leaving sufficient money to your children, how about passing on wisdom and good values so they can become more successful than you? If you have been a good parent, you should not need to worry about their future.


Finally the purpose of such surveys is to jolt you out of your complacency so that you realise that a good life does not come cheap.


Ms Alice Fok, head of customer, international and marketing at HSBC Bank (Singapore), says: “When it comes to managing your money, inertia is our greatest enemy. Active financial planning can help you make the most of your assets and generate better long-term returns.”


If you are one of those who are losing sleep over money troubles, Prof Mok says you can help yourself by taking care of your own health first, such as ensuring that you have sufficient rest, exercise and good nutrition.


“Avoiding excessive stimulants like caffeine and alcohol and keeping to a healthy sleep routine also helps with sleep,” he says.


You can consider sharing your problems with support groups that can offer solutions to your financial issues.


If you have a debt problem, for example, consider approaching support groups such as Credit Counselling Singapore, which can advise you on how to plan a budget that enables you to slowly pay off what you owe.


Prof Mok notes that studies by overseas experts appear to show that while people tend to feel happier when they make more money, they will not feel so continuously.


“The point that these studies make is that having more money doesn’t necessarily bring about more happiness. Rather, beyond a certain amount, meaning and purpose impact happiness much more,” he says.



Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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