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Monday, 6 January 2014

Queenstown Hawkers - Alternative Financial Independence

When I was in my primary school in the 70s, I had the impression that hawkers work 7 days a week with no rest days one - especially those that I frequent in the coffee shop near my place.

The only rest days are the 15 days during Chinese New Year. 

Now after returning 2 years ago, I noticed quite a few hawkers in Queenstown close for 3 days of the week - work 4 days only!?

The stall selling "pao" (Chinese buns) at Alexandra Village Food Centre, the stall selling chicken feet hor hun at Mei Ling Street Food Centre, the fried fritters (you zhar guey) stall at Tanglin Halt Food Centre, for eg.

Most of the other hawkers work a 5 day work week - even better than the full-time sales colleagues I work with currently; we have a 6 day retail work week schedule (and we wonder why most  Singaporeans shun retail and service work).

For those living in Queenstown, did you notice during the school holidays, more and more hawkers close their stalls for 1- 2 weeks too? Not just June and December, but during March and September months too!

Before some of you may lament that hawkers today are not as resilient or hard working as the old days, let me point out the hawkers I mentioned are those from the old days.

They are the first generation hawkers who are mostly in their 70s and 80s now. And those helping them are the second generation who themselves are in their 50s. They have been working at their stalls for the past 30-40 years!!! 

These hawkers were here ever since our Queenstown estate was built.

Initially, I find it quite irritating. Mom would ask for certain food for breakfast or dinner, and its not fun going out and finding the stall is closed. After 2 years, it's not a problem.

"Lor mee closed today mom."

"Nasir lemark OK? No?" 

"You want chicken rice. The one at Mei Ling street not open, the one at Alexandra can?"

And so it goes in our daily routine back and forth.

These elderly hawkers have paid their dues. Children are all grown up with their own families.

It's a grass-root microcosm of the Singapore dream.

Work hard; raise your children well.

Evidently, these hawkers who can afford to take 2-3 days off a week and frequent holidays (with grand children abroad?) throughout the year are working not because they HAVE TO; but because they WANT TO.

Their children and grand children are probably the ones who are constantly coaxing and nagging them to retire!

I am not sure whether anyone have pointed out to these hawkers that their CPF are inadequate for their old age, they are not sufficiently covered by medical insurance, and horror upon horror! They have not even started on their retirement planning at all!!!

No passive income? No investments to hedge against inflation? No emergency fund? What were these hawkers thinking!? No make my first million goal? No aim in life? Content to be a hawker all their lives?

I'll stop right here. 

You decide who is envying whom. Over planning and worrying too much can distract us from what's really important. Especially if it's always me first perspective...

This post is an expansion to a previous remark I've made about emergency fund does not have to funded with money... 

Sometimes it's good to pause and ask:

"Where is the love?"


  1. Hi SMOL,

    Emergency fund not funded by money? First time I've heard of this, but I like the idea already!

    1. LP,

      What are the odds both of us writing about the same thing but from different angles today?

      No offense; but uneducated people like us like to make fun of "educated people" at work with this Hokkien saying:

      "Study too much until brain damaged already. Do things straight straight; cannot bend."

      Education has not damaged you; it probably has something to do with your drawing and guitar playing skills? Maybe. LOL!

      Bend it like Beckham!

      P.S. I'm not surprised Scott Adams is THE cartoonist. However, I guess mainstream would prefer Peter Drucker than to listen to a cartoonist....

  2. Similarly to old taxi uncles. Right?

    1. All vocations can develop scholars.

      Of course that includes taxi shi-fu and da-jie ;)

  3. Hi SMOL

    Classic undervalued post :)

    Small-Time Investor

    1. Small Time Investor,

      Thank you! (Face redder than ang ku queh)

  4. Hi SMOL,

    I know what you are saying about emergency funds not funded by money. :)

    My mum used to run a hawker stall and she worked 28 days a month or 1 rest day every alternate week, leaving the house at 6am and coming home past 10pm. Those were the days, long gone! Thankfully!

    Her retirement plan is us, so if her emergency fund. And she has been saying she is grateful that all three of us turned out well. Credit to her for being a great role model and for 'scaring' us that if we flung out of school, we would have to become her full time hawker assistant! *Shudder* Hahaha.

    By the way, I also don't have an emergency fund specially set aside. I have leverage - husband and brother! :P

    1. Oh btw, I went to Mei Ling Hawker Centre today. My favourite lor mee stall and the chicken rice stall were both closed! The char kway teow had a long queue. In the end, I had a not-so-fulfilling lunch and I bought cheng teng as dessert to 'compensate' myself! LOL~

    2. Endrene,

      You are one special lady!

      Thanks for sharing so openly once again. Before your comment, I think some readers may be wondering what kind of weed I was smoking... LOL!

      My favourite stall at Mei Ling now is the Broadway Fishball noodle stall that moved from the torn down Commonwealth Market to here.

      Welcome to Queenstown!

  5. Another FI Hawker at Bendemeer Food Centre selling Beef Noodle.

    Mon and Tues officially rest days. Operating hours on other days from 10 am to 2 pm.

    I asked the owner why some day on other days, I came to eat but you no open leh.

    The owner replied me: "Some day, buay song. No open!"

    When we don't work for money anymore; it is like that.

    Same as some opic workers too. Right?

    The owner

    1. CW,

      If we own our own business of course we can do whatever we like! The most bankrupt only mah!

      I throw the question back to you - if you are the business owner and your worker buay song don't come to work, will you still hire him/her?

      1) Most seek to escape the treadmill (opic workers seeking FI).

      2) A small minority seek to build treadmills (entrepreneurs)

      3) And then there are those who only know how to love (law of increasing returns)

    2. opic workers buay song. Take MC leh

  6. Hi SMOL,
    i think no one on his last breath will think Money is most important in life. Yet on the nitty-gritty of daily living, most of us can't help and be reminded to think it is.

    How much it is and when how much it isn't? i don't know until i have to come face to face with a difficult financial situation; Especially one that involves relations and closed friends. To help or not to help?
    i really don't know now.

    1. temperament,

      Crash got sound (Long dio wu xhia)

      We'll know ourselves a little better when we face our "test".

  7. an hour had pass and i'm still speechless (about food)!

    ever since very young i think eating is a waste of time, i still think so as of today.

    1. Ask wife to ta pao. Eat whatever

    2. you want me to die is it?!!

      my wife loves food and very choosy, so i just follow, she knows where the good food are, and better still, she don't mind to Q for it. i'm her puppet on the string haha.

    3. food la, shopping la is very much like my trend following trades!

      nothing to talk about, just follow blindly where ever she is leading me, not so much technical, just pure mechanical.

      if i do as what i like only, my family will fall apart, if i trade only my counter trend trades, my equity will also fall apart.

      as much as i don't like it, i have to do it nontheless. trend following is for the sack of my equity, shopping and food, for my family.

    4. coconut,

      Of course you think food is a waste of time.

      You just stand in the sun with spread out hands. There! Instant photosynthesis!

      Oh! Remember to put on your no.4 green camouflage uniform!

    5. Ha! Ha!
      i have almost similar thinking.
      And i wonder what we are working for if we don't have to eat to live. So Chinese saying..."Wan Sek, or Dan Chiat".
      i mean do i really want to work at all if i don't have to eat?
      Most probably i don't. At least not so much.

    6. smol, you call me a vegetable?! at least use something that can moves.

      haha, temperament, i don't mind eating bread everyday but somehow i learn to play some expensive games like golf and billiard (yes, it cost like $80 every time we played) and cars (change cars every now and then), char lat lio!

    7. and yes temperament, we have our family to thank for, if not for them, you and i will be sitting in coffeeshop whole day long spending our retire time since in our 30s.

      no, in our 20s haha.

    8. this post is about emergency funds right? at least you know how and where is yours, i don't have a clue where is mine!

    9. coconut,

      It's OK.

      Just hold you wife tight tight tonight and tell her.

      Don't just tell temperament only ;)

    10. tell her about what?

      i used to report, yes report to her about our finance, very simple, this plus this plus this plus this = this. she used to be very attentive.

      now her attitude is "don't come and bark me!"

    11. coconut,

      "and yes temperament, we have our family to thank for,"

      Hmm.... Maybe it's true. Men are different before marriage and after marriage.

      What do I know? I live with mommy dearest. LOL!

    12. smol, immagin all the s'pore guys are discharge from the duties as husband and father (and grandfather as well) and given the money that they had earned, what will happen to s'pore?

      scary right?

      i'll go back to my entertainment line and open lots of coffeeshops!

    13. and retirement age (for men) will crash from 60 to the lows 30s haha.

      lets see, smol, my buddy, another friend, one more classmate, all have early retirement. all single!

    14. remember "pattern recognition"?

      this is the kind of patterns i'm talking about, they are all identical. not the pattern we see on the chart but the combination of more than one.

      building your equity is like building your family, same pattern that require them to be successful.

      in trading, you have to have at least 2 or more strategies (in marriage thats husband and wife) in place, with muture respecting each other and not interferring with each other with each has its own "unique" features and "expertise". then you can start create profit or in the case of marriage, children and happiness.

    15. so if another guy appear who is single and is 40+ years of age, retire or not retire?

      you know where to put your money.

    16. Those inside the city want to get out; those outside want to get in.

  8. Ha! Ha!
    Your emergency fund is your in your head. i think you had said so in the past. You need all your assets to trade ma?

    1. thats true, but if i don't have the (all my) capital require to trade, i still wouldn't know whats emergency funds is and how much to keep. i don't even have insurance policies, no CPF funds, no nothing!

      i though of putting most in stocks (or property) collect passive income like CW and AK, can't stand them anymore haha ! but that will greatly affect my trading. i will most likely do it when i decided not to trade any more.

      can't do 2 things at one time, one will definately affect the other.

    2. "can't do 2 things at one time, one will definately affect the other."
      Ha! Ha!
      coconut i know, i know. i am a lousy trader. But i never says i am a good investor hoh!

    3. oh temperament, please don't be misunderstood, i use CW and AK cos they wrote a hell lot on investing and they are correct. you didn't write so we have no idea of your investing and trading. i can only say what i can see haha. maybe you are those that never show hands?

      anyway i'm not here to compare or compete with anyone, thats stupid things to do. how strange we have learn to compete since young and i'm very competitive myself.

      as far as trading is concern, i only compete with myself, my yesterday and yesteryears self. thats all i care.

    4. see if you understand these guys are saying, very good.


  9. Ha! Ha!
    coconut Relax. Relax.
    i really know i don't have the passion for trading. i did try but just don't feel the "oomps. But i still very intrigue by how people can make a lot of money shorting. i guess my temperament maybe not be suitable. i like to be the tortoise rather than the hare in their race. And i think when i choose something, i like to go all the way. Therefore it's really hard for me to be the tortoise and hare simultaneously.
    Anyway, a tortoise is a tortoise. So is a hare is a hare.


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