Month in Review

Month in Review: October 2019

As we hurtle towards the tail end of this year, I find myself taking stock of the four areas of life that I value; money, career, health and personal growth. Often, in the effort to progress in one area (eg: career) I end up sacrificing another (eg: health). It is a never-ending balancing act that I’m sure is a common human struggle. These month-in-reviews showcases these struggles. Ultimately, I hope you can find solace in the fact that we’re all going through shit together. Let’s get into it.

Money

Singapore Expenses

Hitting the S$3k mark frequently in the last months has been a worrying trend. I expect that my privilege as a single working professional with very little obligations has put me into a false sense of security. Honestly, I have been very cavalier with spending because I’m starting to enjoy the appeal of trading money for 1) time 2) health and 3) enjoyment. It’s getting harder to discipline myself on these occasions. I am still abiding by my 30% savings ratio but a part of me feels that I should be aiming higher regardless.

Singapore M-o-M Change

Food – S$ 507.19

In October, a lot of socializing was had and I ate out practically the whole month. My birthday turned into a week-long affair where I insisted to spend time with every single person in my life, even going so far as making a trip back to KL. I enjoyed every single cent of it, no regrets.

I’ve also taken to picking up the bill during meals a fair few times last month. This is a skill (yes, skill) that I’m gradually mastering. Growing up in Chinese culture, the whole fighting for the bill ritual always made me supremely uncomfortable and awkward.

Imagine, me, an introverted pacifist, in a situation where someone aggressively insists on paying for dinner. Trying to avoid conflict as much as possible, you’ll hardly ever see me put up a fight. Naturally, after the meal, I end up worrying that I’ve acted rude for not trying hard enough to offer to at least split the bill. Next thing I know, I feel super indebted to someone who paid for my S$4 nasi lemak that I’ll basically fall on my own sword for them.

The good thing is I’m learning! I’m getting quicker at snatching the receipt out of the waiter’s hand. The funny thing is I enjoy doing it. I feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I see that it makes other people feel special and happy.

Medical – S$ 148.24

Getting prescription medication in Singapore can get hella expensive. Unlike Malaysia, Singapore does not subsidize public healthcare fully, much less for foreigners. Even though my doctor’s consultation was covered by my company’s insurance, my drugs were not. Please remind me to eat my vitamins and take better care of myself.

Entertainment – S$ 112.00

Went to see Daniel Sloss!

I dropped money on a ticket for a comedy show (S$98) and went to the cinema to catch The Joker (S$ 14). The former was an incredible treat to witness live and the latter made me fall asleep halfway through the movie.

Malaysia Expenses

At least I managed to reduce expenses by 50% in Malaysia. The most notable expense was in the Gifts category coming in at RM347.50. Besides myself, a number of my friends also celebrated their birthday in October (shoutout to October babies!), which called for presents!

Malaysia M-o-M Change

Career

As work starts to wind down during my last months at my job, I’m starting to see my workplace through rose-tinted glasses. Despite the high stress of a sales role and a political environment, I’ve been blessed with a great opportunity to learn and grow at this company. The skills I’ve acquired will be immensely useful in the next steps of my career. At every job, I had the good fortune of working with amazing colleagues and this time is no different. I will miss them dearly.

In recent weeks, I’ve been asked countless times why I’m making a move so soon. After all, it’s only been a year since I moved to Singapore for this job.

When I decided to go back to full-time work last year, there were only two criteria I looked for: 1) stability and 2) a job that allowed for a high savings rate. While I managed to fulfill those criteria, I have since yearned for my work to benefit more than just myself, something that adds value to other people’s lives. The aspect I enjoyed the most at this current role was helping small businesses improve their digital marketing. This “helping” was sometimes in direct conflict with my KPIs.

Truth be told, I also miss working in finance. I miss being at the forefront of market turmoil. After the CFA exam, I have barely kept up with the industry and the ever-evolving market news cycles. God knows I’ve tried but I’m always putting myself at risk of burnout.

An opportunity presented itself to work in a finance-adjacent capacity and in a role helping people enhance their personal finances. Effectively ticking the two new boxes; 1) meaningful work and 2) in the finance industry.

After countless rounds of interviews in which both parties assessed our fit, an offer was made. I thought about what I wanted for myself for the next 5 to 10 years and the answer was a no brainer. I seized the opportunity.

Health

Is it just me or does your body start to betray you as you get older? I’m only 28 but I feel like I’m 50 years old. Just the other day I bend down and I hear a crack at some godforsaken part of my body that I never knew could crack before.

My mental state has improved since I stopped pressuring myself to “do things” which is a fucking shame because I like doing things. I don’t know why I’m built this way. It frustrates me to no end. I read stories of people functioning on 4 hours of sleep successfully building a business empire and think to myself, why isn’t my brain wired that way as well?

My journey to a meat-free diet is becoming easier despite my many stumbling blocks. At home, I cook vegetarian dinners and at work, I eat at the same lunchtime spots I’ve been going to all year. However, I give myself leeway at social meals. This reduces hassle for both myself and other people when it comes to picking restaurants.

Personal Growth

Ever since I started taking a step back from doing things, I feel more relaxed than ever. This gives me time to think and reflect on my progress thus far in 2019 and at this stage in my life. I feel a little underutilized at the moment but I don’t expect this to last very long once I start working at my new job.

I’m Funemployed is now just over a year old. I never imagined that this space I created on the Internet would have amounted to anything, much less have readership and followers.

As much as I want to give the people what they want, it’s not a secret I have a hard time maintaining a consistent posting schedule. Lately, I’m questioning the direction I want to take this website in. I struggle to find a balance of what to write here.

Now that I live in Singapore full time, I’m starting to lose touch with Malaysian money issues and struggles. I don’t feel money weighing on my mind the way it used to when I lived in KL. I don’t count every cent, skimp on every dollar and chase discount codes like I used to. That’s largely due to the decision to uproot my life for a better opportunity abroad. Very few Malaysians will ever get the chance to do something like I did.

Feeling this disconnect from our Malaysian struggle makes anything I write on the subject feel empty and without substance. Things like Budget 2020 and policy changes have come and gone without much input from myself because there’s little relevance of these subjects in my situation at the moment.

There are so many things that I don’t get to participate in as well. I loved networking and going for conferences and seminars when I lived in KL. Granted, there’s plenty of these in Singapore as well but this website isn’t catered to Singaporeans. It’s for us, Malaysians, who, let’s be real, struggle way more than they do.

And so I find myself in a conundrum. How do I write for an audience that can no longer relate to me? It’s something that I have to figure out.

Recommended

Here is some interesting content I’ve come across in October:

  • Comic: Why I’m Shamelessly Downgrading If you’ve not heard of The Woke Salaryman yet, I recommend checking out their Facebook Page. The personal finance comic gained huge popularity among young Singaporeans that are struggling to achieve the facade of the “Singapore Dream”. It’s an entertaining, no-holds-bar critique of the traditional Singaporean mindset of materialism and in this case the outright rejection of that mindset.
  • Article: Depression in the First Person In conjunction with World Mental Health Day, I shared this article on Facebook to describes a firsthand account of what it’s like to be diagnosed and seek treatment for depression. There are still many who go through life without treatment, not knowing how effective the right tools are in helping you get to a place where you can cope better. You can check this article for more information on seeking treatment in Malaysia.
  • Article: Pay Interest to Earn Interest: What the Rich Knows about Debt that the Rest Misunderstand? The debt-free movement is pretty new and radical. I’m amazed at the staggering numbers people are able to reduce in that journey. However, this article makes the case that some debt can actually benefit you. For instance, I have a Share Margin account in which I borrow funds to invest in the stock market. Although a risky move, the dividend I earn is able to cover the interest I pay on the loan, effectively earning me a return on borrowed money.
  • Video: My Decluttering Diaries: What I Learned From Getting Rid Of 75% Of My Clothes. A great way to earn extra cash is by selling unused clothes. This video gives you tips on how to motivate yourself to start decluttering. Some key takeaways: 1) Outsource the selling of your clothes to create accountability for yourself, 2) Find donation spots near you to know exactly what is going to happen to your clothes once you declutter them. 3) Make Excel sheets to help map out your wardrobe mentally.

How’s your October been? Are you looking forward to closing out this year with a bang? Come say hi to me on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

6 Comments

  • Suraya

    So casual you drop the fact that you have a new job in finance. Congrats! Can’t wait to hear more updates about it!

    Re: writing for Malaysian audience. Wouldn’t worry about it too much. We’ve been consuming american/western pf content and that still makes sense. plus its fun to follow the adventures of someone working outside malaysia. Like escapism, almost. Many of us nak je but have commitments preventing us to leave

    • Nicole

      Thanks Suraya! Okay, you’re right, we read western pf content also. I’ll keep working at it then 🙂 thanks for your words of encouragement

  • Helena

    Hey Nicole, always happy to read these monthly digests. As for your commentary on the Malaysian personal finance universe, I still think it’s a joy to read about your personal anectode in Singapore as a Malaysian expat. So don’t worry about falling off the rails here. If anything, I am still here and I’m interested in reading what you have to say!

  • Harper

    Hi Nicole,

    I can relate your struggle on the disconnection as I’m a Malaysian working in China, sometime I feel so left out in the conversation held whenever I going back to Msia, people tend to think how glamour you’re as you’re an expat, you cant really share the real struggle and seems I can‘t fit in their conversation …..

    Nevertheless, back to the topic… you shall follow your passion & think of what really inspired you in the first place of starting this blog, all you share here is a written journey on your own self & overtime it will reflect how much you grow over the years….

    You will be surprise that what you wrote (even thought u feel it so insignificant) have touched someone & make a differences to someone life…. Ability of story telling & sharing thought is a gift that shall not be taken as granted 🙂

    I enjoy reading your blog, please keep it up 🙂

    • Nicole

      Hi Harper,

      Omgosh, thank you so much! This gives me so much motivation to continue writing for you guys. I will try my best to tell stories and share my thoughts, hopefully, there is some value that you can find in the things that I write. I feel really blessed to have you read my writings. All the best in China <3

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