It’s me, or you—depending on how you look at it—writing from the year 2058. What’ve you been up to?
Still single? Still stuck in your dead-end job waiting for your next article to go viral?
Anyway, I wanted to tell you a funny story.
Just yesterday, when I was at the mall, I caught the 27th sequel of Crazy Rich Asians. In it, 76 year-old Fiona Xie reprises her role of “Kitty Pong”. Remember when she was so youthful and energetic in the first movie? Back then, her skin was as smooth as a bowl of tau huey. Now, there are more rolls on it than a piece of tau kee—a reminder that time flies, and that I too am not getting any younger.
Back to the point. As I was in the mall, I noticed a long queue outside the Apple store. As it turned out, the new iPhone Millennium was being released.
Right away, I was reminded of the time when we walked into a telco and blew $2000 on an iPhone XS Max, all because our then 6-month old iPhone X didn’t take flattering selfies (actually, it’s just that we were a little more than chubby at 25). It seemed like there was always a reason to purchase big-ticket items.
Thankfully, those days of irresponsible spending didn’t last long. It helped that the whole thing with Ah Ma happened.
Remember that? When she fell at home and had to get a hip replacement?
She refused treatment at the hospital because she thought the surgery would cost a ton of money; money neither she nor our parents had at the time. When father then told her that he could pay for it with his MediSave, she literally shed tears of joy, as though Ah Gong had come back to life.
“Heng ah, I thought I cannot walk forever already. Looks like give birth to you got use after all,” she said to father, god bless her hilarious soul.
Yet funny as this episode was, it didn’t change the fact that for a moment, we were all terrified by what could have happened. What if Dad didn’t have that money? What if we didn’t have that money either?
After all, not everyone is lucky enough to have kids who can help pay for their needs.
Now Shaun, I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking things are going to be fine, that there’s no way you’ll be tied down by ungrateful, money-sucking quintuplets. As this runs through your mind, you’re probably also wondering, “Why the hell is future Shaun even talking to me right now?!”.
But here’s the thing. As you’re reading this, you’ve been single for 25 years. You haven’t found a girlfriend, so chances are you’re not going to have children to manipulate for unlimited financial gain.
And so I’ve arrived with good news—good news that comes at a time when you’ve just done something that feels completely irrational.
At the age of 65, I am now both financially independent, and a silver-haired fox. I’m still single, but I’ve learned to embrace it (the other good news!).
More importantly, I’m here because of the $100 top-up you just made to our CPF Special Account (SA). It’s a decision you made with your first paycheck, and you’re wondering what the hell you just did.
You don’t know if it was the right thing to do. In fact, I know you’ve always wondered if the government would take this money away, and if you’d ever see it again.
But here’s something crazy. If you keep depositing $100 each month, your savings would have grown to over $14,000* in just 10 years.
Thank god you decided to do the smart thing. Because since then, it hasn’t just been that one-off $100 top-up you made to your CPF. And I can’t believe how proud I am when I say this: you did it regularly on top of the monthly contributions from your salary. You realised that the 4% interest rate destroys the 1% or less that banks offer.
Because of this, I was able to retire with a good amount of CPF savings and lead a fulfilling post-retirement life. Even though I languished in the same position of Staff Writer for over 30 years with no substantial pay jumps (okay fine, some bad news), I built a comfortable nest egg for myself.
Remember Alex? The pompous fellow who teased us in school, and who made a fortune playing the stock market before spending everything on cars and expensive sound systems? After paying for his fancy house, his children’s overseas university fees, and his private hospital medical bills, he has hardly enough to feed himself.
In fact—and you’re going to love this—he’s now working as an admin assistant for his wife’s boss just to make ends meet. Back then, he had the mindset that retirement was still a long way off. By the time he started to save, it was already too late.
To be honest, I understand why he would think this way. Most of us enter the workforce in our mid-twenties thinking we’re invincible. We think we’re going to be amazing at life.
Yet having the foresight to plan ahead never hurts.
Now Shaun, I know you would rather spend that $100 on 40 packets of chicken rice. But trust me, it’s not worth it.
Just like that famous experiment where a kid can have one marshmallow right away or two if they wait ten minutes, would you rather have 40 packets of chicken rice now, or 4800 packets of chicken rice in 20 years? The very nature of compound interest means that the earlier you start to save, the more you gain. By contrast, the later you start to save, the more you stand to lose.
Thanks to you, I’ve been able to enjoy this second wind in life. I have so much free time I may even pick up line-dancing.
Just kidding! I actually signed up for a parkour class. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, and since time is all I have, I expect to be a master in no time.
So, Shaun, I look forward to you being able to reap the benefits of your financial know-how. They say that life begins in your 20s, but that’s a lie. It might be hard, but it is possible to save, so long as you start early. You’re living proof of this.
So don’t get too caught up thinking life is shit now because you’re earning so little yet saving so much.
Fret not. I’m 65 and living my best life. If Chow Yun Fat can live to 120, so can I. Trust me, the future is closer than you think.
Disclaimer: the opinions reflected in the above article are from the writer himself.
*Based on the base interest of 4% p.a. on your Special Account (SA).