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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

I am humbled (Lucky I'm not salaryman in Japan and Singapore)


It can be fun and games until I found out recently how fortunate and lucky I am.

A new reader to the bleeding heart's blog shared his recent retrenchment; and the shame and anguish that ensued... Glad his nightmare is over, albeit taking a 1/3 pay cut at his new job.

The new reader is just one year my junior at 48; and he has 3 teenage kids. In an alternate universe, I could be him...


In Japan, its the senior who "screws" the youth.

With their seniority based system, youth can only secure part-time positions or be temporary contract workers - do the same work as regular employees but for much lesser pay and benefits.

It was meant to be a temporary arrangement until the economy recovers. But after two lost decades, you can see graduates in their 40s living at LAN shops - eat, live, shower there.

Why? That's the cheapest accommodation they can find in Tokyo. Too ashamed and too proud to return back to their hometowns.

To dull their dreary existence - no, they did not seek financial freedom through investing or trading - they pursued their favourite idol groups and stars. I know. I have a bit of otaku blood in me.

Don't judge. We all have our own opiate.


In Singapore, notice there's a difference?

It's youth that triumphs over seniority! 

Those of you who are in your late 40s or early 50s, you constantly worry right? All of sudden, those fat annual increments you have gained in the past now work against you.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that younger employee sitting next to you is able to do the same job as you for less pay and benefits.

So when a company needs to shed some excess fat, where do you think they will target?

And you probably thought as a "senior" or "old bird", you can relax a bit...

What's the opiate of choice for weary middle-aged executives in Singapore?

Yup, you've guessed it!

What we decide, we become

We can't choose where we are born. But we can make our own decisions in other aspects of our lives:

Where to live and work

Work for others or for ourselves

Whether to get married or stay single

Have children or not

What to spend money on

What to save money on

And so on.

Luck important or not?

You bet you!!!

But no harm in giving Lady Luck a helping hand by making it easier for her to find us.

You think why in my profile pic I'm stretching my arms wide wide (slip in a bit of Singlish for spice) with palms facing up?

To catch stardust, it helps to spread ourselves as wide as possible!


  1. Ya SMOL,

    After reading the article, I wonder how long I can last with my savings of R come to me.

    Make me grateful for my job. Lol, and also make me speechless when my older colleague told me earning 10K per month is peanuts for the work we do.

    I smile. Inside me, seriously huh. 10K is a lot of money to me ...

    1. Sillyinvestor,

      When was the last time we heard teachers being retrenched?

      Hence the rewards OUTSIDE the teaching profession have to be more enticing to balance things out.

      Something is not quite right when public sector pays better than private sector.

      Some who left to be tuition teachers are making more as self-employed or tuition centre owners. (Your senior colleague is right on this count)

      Some may earn less but happier in their new adventures totally unrelated to teaching. Teaching is not their ikigai.

      Some regret ever leaving and realised the world outside academia is most frightening; and have returned. Teaching is just a job; and it pays the bills. Period.

      Our own karma; our own paths.

      One thing we know for sure, the saddest sound a man makes is the sound of him being chained to the ground...

    2. ;)

      If teaching is their "I" and it pays well.

      Thanks ... Never felt better...

    3. Anytime!

      I lousy teacher (no patience for stupidity) but good cheerleader ;)

    4. Who say that?
      10k is a lot money leh

    5. yeh,

      Everything is "relative".

      And that's one of the biggest stumbling blocks to defining "Financial Independence".

      Often we hear newbies ask how much in precise dollars to achieve financial independence?

      Some financial advisers may reply $1 million?

      Some will pooh pooh maybe in the 70s that would be enough. Now? You need at least $10 million! Singapore standard of living so high!

      And those born into old wealth may give everyone a puzzled look, "Shouldn't it be at least $100 million?"

      If you ask a philosophical grasshopper, I would throw the question back to the questioner:

      "How much is enough for you?"

    6. seriously, i didn plan how much is enough for retirement. i dun even know how many years i can live, how to predict how much i would like to spend for my entire life.

      plan 来 plan 去, 人算不如天算。

      no need plan so much, i plan and plan then now got money got what use.

      i even wonder whether i should go china for kidney transplant. it cost me about 180k sgd. but the problem now is, it is illegal and somemore if i able to find a donor and doctor. then we cant do operation at hospital. only do operation at donor house. if any infection and complication, i may lost my life.

      dunno la. very烦

    7. yeh,

      Careful now... You are beginning to sound like grasshopper ;)

      In China, what you mentioned is common. More likely than not, you could be scammed.

      You can't go to the police in China to seek legal redress for what you are doing is ILLEGAL.

      Even if they find a willing donor, you want to risk doing organ transplants outside of a hospital?

      If got medical complications after your return, which hospital can you go in Singapore or Malaysia that will not report you to the authorities?


      There are 5 stages of acceptance:

      1) Denial

      2) Anger

      3) Bargaining

      4) Depression

      5) Acceptance

      Postpone major decision makings until your heart and mind are both calm and quiet.

      Talk to fellow kidney patients and other support groups that your doctor may recommend.

      Peace be with you.

    8. Hi yeh,

      You said it yourself, "plan 来 plan 去, 人算不如天算".

      Take care and stay positive:)

  2. Ah yes yes. LAN shops in Japan are amongst the cheapest places to spend the night for budget tourists!

    In life we're dealt a set of cards, that we can't choose e.g. Big2. How we play the game is up to us. But for every move we make, there is an opportunity cost to it - we lose some ability to play this game differently!

    Cards lousy cannot win nevermind. A skillful player can still settle for not being the biggest loser :)

    I see you good. You see my grass greener.

    1. Kevin,

      Yup, we focus on things we can control or have influence over.

      No point worrying or whining about things we can't control.

      In the days of old when I were helping out in the Steering Group, we filter out those who can't make it.

      And its easy - you'll be surprised how many team leaders set goals on things they have no control over???

      We make sure they don't go further in the organisation least they do more damage...

    2. so What's the opiate of choice for weary middle-aged executives in Singapore

    3. tong,

      I've written it in my post, albeit obliquely ;)

      I don't do full nudity; I'm more into erotica.

  3. Hi Jared,

    I m just back from the Western Hemisphere. A very dreadful business trip as I heard more jobs will be shed in my office and they were in their 40s. I m the lone survival left albeit the most expensive one. Even if I am prepared for more than one year now for this crisis to happen both financially n mentally, it feels just darn bad to know this is gg to happen to my colleagues.

    I m determine not to have this happen to me when I m ur age ... hahahaha... so the only way out is to have a career of my own. Fail or not, it does not matter as long as I m gg to do it one day for sure!

    We live the life we want, I still believe no matter how much constraints there r!

    1. Rolf,

      Welcome back to rain and cloudy skies...

      I survived 2 rounds of retrenchments in my first 6 months when I was at Montgomery Ward Trading as a purchaser.

      I was the youngest and cheapest :(

      Your colleagues probably had career plans, vacation plans, spending plans on cars, properties; etc.

      Pretty much like an investor has financial goals, investing plans; etc.

      The British also had plans for the defence of Singapore during WWII...





      What good are plans without some of these key spices?

      I was laughing when someone equated Singapore is where we are because we had plans?

      You mean other governments and countries don't have annual budgets or 5 year plans?

      Quality of the people making plans don't matter?

      How about traders and investors? Just as long we have plans we will never lose money?

      Silly rabbits.

      Do plans exist in isolation and in a vacuum?

      The Japs cared little for the British's defensive plans for Singapore, did they?

      Some will cry foul! Not fair!

      They never studied Chaos Theory.

      In the words of our Singlish University of Life:

      "My fault lah!"

    2. aiyo... nowadays, everyone's so bleak in their blogpost... (in fact, even the weather is so dark and gloomy now)
      early morning, caffine havent kick in yet. but this post/comments, even more cheem that the normal.. need time to digest

      sometimes, there are forces that are beyond our control...we can only look for opportunities in crisis.. call me naive or ignorant..

      ending on a lighter note, potential fireworks England vs wales tonight and Game 6 tmr morning for CAvs to tie the nba series 3-3!
      yeah baby! give it to me baby! uh huh , uh huh!

    3. foolish chameleon,

      Don't think too much.

      I'm a blur sotong; just muddying the waters with ink ;)

      Where got bleak?

      Its gloomy and depressing only when everything is beyond our control...

      But there are lots of things we can CONTROL and INFLUENCE.

      So it's still good :)

  4. Hi SMOL,

    Being a lady you don't even have to wait till you are in your 40s to get retrenched or pushed out...as long as you get pregnant, you could potentially lose your job. I've heard of stories before regardless of industry or blue collar or white collar jobs.

    1. Joyce,

      My Swedish colleagues have 480 days of parental leave per couple. Of which, 90 days are reserved for dads.

      Big daddy likes to benchmark best practices from all over the world.

      Something for AWARE to tap on big daddy's shoulders?

      For recalcitrant employers, we don't want to be a litigious society like US, but we can always name and shame by reporting them to MOE.

      Its not because I'm a turncoat to men, but because all men have mothers, and possibly sisters, wife, and daughters.

      Misogyny has no place in the 21st century.

  5. Hi Jared,

    You made an insightful observation. In Japan, the senior worker "screws" the youth while in Singapore, it is the other way round. I think the Singapore way is healthier. Japan's lost decades is very much due to the zombies created because of their refusal to let bad companies go bankrupt as well as lay off undeserving workers. The zombies caused the more competitive and deserving companies and workers to be killed instead. When survival of the fattest prevail while the fittest die, lost decades is the result.

    Talking about getting "screwed". I was "screwed" a couple of times when I was younger. There is always a risk that I am going to get "screwed" again in the near future as I grow older. When that day comes, I hope earn the qualifications to be your equal as an eligible SMOL. On that count, you are a successful Singaporean in an enviable position :)

    By the way, you mentioned about working on weekends and I vaguely remember it was something to do with retail. Is the retail business seriously declining based on your observation? Recently, there were a few news reports about empty shopping malls. A sad sight indeed.

    1. hyom hyom,

      I encourage travelling to get exposure the world around us - not for that bucket list meaningless mumbo jumbo - but more to understand and appreciate there are alternative "realities" out there.

      I like your attitude. It's not about arguing the Japanese system is better or the Singapore way is more superior.

      It's more about focusing on what we can CONTROL and INFLUENCE and making decisions and taking actions ;)

      OK, give me some days to organise my thoughts. I think I can do an update on my weekend retail work.

      How's that to get a sense of the economy from the ground up?

      Peter Lynch would approve. LOL!

    2. It was a casual question on my part about your observation on the retail scene. I have no intention to give you work. Sorry about that but thank you very much for the thought.

    3. No. It is NOT work when it is a passion! :-)

    4. hyom hyom,

      Its not work; its having a conversation :)

    5. CW,

      Passion my foot!

      Passion as a word is so inflated and over used that its quite meaningless.

      It's having fun!


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