We could use some advice...

Discuss about life in Singapore. Ask about cost of living, housing, travel, etiquette & lifestyle. Share experience & advice with Singaporeans & expat staying in Singapore.
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dpot
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We could use some advice...

Post by dpot » Mon, 16 Nov 2009 8:17 am

I'm expecting an offer letter of around $65,000 (sing) for a college teaching post (this includes the 13th month bonus btw)...though this represents less buying power than I would have for a similar position in the States, jobs in the academic world are soooo scarce right now that I'm planning to accept their offer. However, the position is located in District 13, and I'm trying to narrow down a couple locations where my family and I can settle. I don't mind a 45min commute to work, and since my wife will be home all day with our baby boy, I think it is important to find a location that has a pool/gym/etc. so they have something to occupy their time while I'm gone. In short, no HDB flats. I've been looking at places to the north, but I wonder if something to the west might be as good? I've even considered going as far as Malaysia (my wife is a citizen), because I'm curious if there is anything across the 2nd link (I don't think I want to live across the causeway) that would make the extra commute time worth my (and my wallet's!) while. That said, unless the cost/quality of life is so different across the bridge, we'd probably rather be in Singapore. We're trying to conserve cash, so I'd really like to stay close to the $2,000/mo level.

My wife has a number of relatives in Singapore, and after hearing nightmare stories about agents there, we were wondering (half jokingly) if it would be better to have her relatives come along for viewings instead of going on our own (wife is Chinese, but I'm a white American--I've heard that rental prices for people like us might be higher). Any thoughts?

Also, I am wondering how one makes a counter-offer in Singapore without appearing rude/pushy. I think if the employer agreed to an extra $5k/yr, it would make our lives a lot easier given the cost of living (I'm also repaying a student loan in USD, so the exchange rate kills me).

Furthermore, my wife has thought about doing some part-time tutoring in business subjects (she's got an mba in finance from an american uni, as do I, but I don't really want to do more teaching beyond my workplace). We're wondering if anyone out there has a 'feel' for what might be more lucrative/in greater demand in Singapore; business studies or english lessons?

So there we have it: questions about location, renting, negotiating for more money, and possible part-time/work-from-home options...I've probably covered the gamut. ;-)

Any answers to one or more of these questions would be greatly appreciated--thank you in advance! :lol:

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Post by Pepijn » Mon, 16 Nov 2009 3:37 pm

Location wise, if you find accomodation close to a MRT station and work would be close to one as well, I doubt you could have a commute over 45 minutes :)

Currently I am also in the process of looking for accomodation. If you want to rent a private condo, as you suggest, and you have to house a family, S$2000 might be a bit hard, but I am sure you will be able to find something. Just don't expect spiffy, brand new and full of luxury, but a 2 bedroom place with pool should be possible.



Hope this helps a bit, the other questions I leave to the others to answer ;)

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Post by earthlynn » Sun, 22 Nov 2009 4:10 pm

I'm providing this advice to you on my personal capacity - as a Singaporean who has lived here for over 20 years, and have studied and work in the USA. You should always ask around for more advice, but here is mine - to you - point by point. (Sorry to seem so 'German') :)

1. It is a common misconception among expats that staying in HDB is not as good - sure it has no facilities and the place may not appear as 'swanky' and you save alot of money. HDB flats are not neccessarily 'boring' - in fact there is more to do - there are HDB that are located near to public facilities - pools, community clubs, playgrounds, parks. And often they are near eating places and very well connected by public transport. At your salary, you are not going to afford staying in a condo, ok, maybe you could afford a small one - but in the end, you will be left with no savings.

2. Staying in Malaysia (2nd Link) is not a bad idea. There are people who do it. There are many options there and you could get a landed home for say $1,000 Sing dollars (if memory serves me well). Since your wife is Msian, she should have no problem settling there. However, I believe that the commute could 'kill' you. Prepare to devote 2 hrs (one way) travel every day. That's 4 hrs travel a day.

3. Definitely have your wive's relatives along for the viewing. (In fact, you should probably view it 'seperately') And avoid the temptation of getting intimidated/threatened by the agents. They are a crafty bunch. Do your homework, know the market, before you make the offer. Don't do things like give a blank cheque or sign the option without the seller being there.

4. I'm not sure how to advise you on the counter offer. So many variables exist - but I think Singaporeans work on reason and logic, so if you can supplement your asking with a good one, do it. Also (of course), ask with politeness and humility, make it clear that it will not affect you taking or not taking the job. At $5K a year more, it should not matter to them.

5. There are many educational institutes in Singapore, and I think there is a good chance that your wife can get a job with part time teaching in an institute - although that is less flexible and takes up more time. The other option is for your wife to be a student tutor in common school subjects like Math, Science and Economics. This is flexible and can be lucrative, particularly if teaching at the 'A' Level or Uni level. I know a friend's wife who makes $4,000 (sing) a month tutoring. All Singaporeans speak english (many do), doubt there is any money in that.

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Sun, 22 Nov 2009 4:43 pm

earthlynn wrote:All Singaporeans speak english (many do), doubt there is any money in that.
Was a good post until your last sentence. That ruined it. The whole world knows that the country is supposed to be able to speak English but in fact speaks, for the most part, the majority speak an almost intelligible form known as singlish. :P
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Thank you

Post by dpot » Mon, 23 Nov 2009 9:30 am

Thanks so much to everyone who has posted advice thus far. My strategy for asking for $5k more is based upon my assumption (correct me if I'm wrong) that since I'm not a PR or a citizen, the college is saving $ on the CPF to the tune of about $650S/mo. In addition, we cannot qualify for certain tax breaks for this reason as well. Thus, it seems only reasonable to me that by paying $5k more, they would still be ahead compared to what they typically pay Singaporeans in the same position.

I will give the HDB a thought, but we're living in a large period flat in a major UK city, able to own a car, etc (but the weather stinks!); so the idea of going to an HDB is difficult. However, because the market for academic jobs is almost non-existent in the UK and US...Singapore looks attractive.

We've found some reasonably decent $2000-2200/mo flats in Singapore on some websites, but we're not sure if they are either too good to be true or whether they reflect the fact that they are a bit further out of where the action is.

I hope that others who may have thoughts on this will feel free to post...

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Post by Girl_Next_Door » Mon, 23 Nov 2009 10:39 am

HDB flats are nothing like the public government housing in most developed countries (or London). Like some previous posters had mentioned, the older ones are actually quite big whereas the newer developments have mickey mouse rooms and living rooms. Most HDB are mainly owners-occupied, hence the condition might be a little better than rental units. Of course, this theory vary from unit to unit.

The general rule is, the older the apartment (or less-maintained), the lower the rent. Its impossible to have a brand new private apartment/condo that is 2000sf for $2K (unless you are staying in Malaysia). I would say $2-$2.2K is possible but the condition, is really something you have to see for yourself. property agents are not the most reliable people around, so they tend to exaggerate on the actual conditions. Of course, you might want to take a look at the surroundings as well (i.e. you don't want to stay next to a whore house right?).

With regards to your salary, $65K for a college teaching position, seems a little on the low side. Is it for a private or government college? Of course, I am not sure how many years of experiences you have. Maybe you can elaborate on that?

Do note that there are a few private colleges that are not financially stable, so you might want to dig a little deeper on the financials of the college. If you are working for a government college, I think you might be able to have a better idea of the remuneration (i.e. including benefits) the local lecturers are receiving by googling a bit.

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Post by carteki » Mon, 23 Nov 2009 11:40 am

earthlynn wrote:but I think Singaporeans work on reason and logic
Funny, that is the one thing that I have not found in Singapore. Like the owner who refuses to rent an apartment for $100 less than the asking price and then has it standing empty for the next 3 months!

The question to ask your employer is "Do they encash your CPF" (they probably do) rather than ask for a bit extra. You can check out how much tax you will be paying on the IRA's website - www.ira.gov.sg - but remember it is only paid AT THE END OF THE YEAR and you need to budget for it during the year.

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Post by irvine » Mon, 23 Nov 2009 11:57 am

Looking at the possibility of a pool/exercise amenities, somewhere near a sports complex may be good, for example Bedok. It's not too far from District 13, and the area offers housing, food, and convenience in grocery, transportation, and recreation.

http://www.wikimapia.org/#lat=1.3268453 ... dok%20pool

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Re: Thank you

Post by sundaymorningstaple » Mon, 23 Nov 2009 12:28 pm

dpot wrote:Thanks so much to everyone who has posted advice thus far. My strategy for asking for $5k more is based upon my assumption (correct me if I'm wrong) that since I'm not a PR or a citizen, the college is saving $ on the CPF to the tune of about $650S/mo. In addition, we cannot qualify for certain tax breaks for this reason as well. Thus, it seems only reasonable to me that by paying $5k more, they would still be ahead compared to what they typically pay Singaporeans in the same position.

This assumption is entirely wrong. Don't you think that they would have already factored that into the offer? If they didn't, then they obviously don't have a HR department (which I strongly doubt). Any locally based company has to take into consideration the Employer's CPF contributions or lack thereof when negotiating contracts with those who are not subject to same. Good luck with your negotiations - hope you don't demand yourself out of a position.

I will give the HDB a thought, but we're living in a large period flat in a major UK city, able to own a car, etc (but the weather stinks!); so the idea of going to an HDB is difficult. However, because the market for academic jobs is almost non-existent in the UK and US...Singapore looks attractive.

We've found some reasonably decent $2000-2200/mo flats in Singapore on some websites, but we're not sure if they are either too good to be true or whether they reflect the fact that they are a bit further out of where the action is.

I hope that others who may have thoughts on this will feel free to post...
sms
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Very helpful!

Post by dpot » Mon, 23 Nov 2009 9:13 pm

Thanks sundaymorningstaple,

However, as far as I can tell, they did not factor in CPF. They asked me what I would expect, and I asked what their budget range was for the position, and they turned to a table, explaining that they pay based upon two variables (both pertaining to a different type of experience).

From what I could tell during the video-conference, it was a prefabricated pay scale, and not nuanced to include CPF payment-in-kind for non-Singaporeans.

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the little details here like what phrases to use 'encashing the CPF' and matters concerning locations, HDB vs private, etc.

I do not want to give too much info away about the employer, but it is a private college, and relatively new. However, my Ph.D. is in a field called 'systematic theology'...as you may deduce, it is a Christian college, focused upon training clergy and counselors. Hence, the modest pay. While my degree is from one of the oldest universities in the English speaking world, there are so many people like me (believe it or not!) out there with similar qualifications, but who cannot find a position in the field. This college would allow me to get on the academic ladder, which many of my colleagues are unable to do (after £35,000 in tuition and 3 years of independent research).

My family really appreciates all the advice, everyone...the more the better, and no detail you've shared is unimportant to us.

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Post by drakka » Mon, 23 Nov 2009 9:31 pm

Look around near your workplace. Best places to stay in District 13 is near Potong Pasir MRT. There are quite a couple of condos there. One new one that just completed is Casa Meya. You might try to see if there is anybody having anything to rent there.... though $2000 is quite hard to get a condo unit. HDB is a more sensible choice

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Mon, 23 Nov 2009 10:13 pm

Obviously you did not think about the fact that the "prefabricated" pay scale could have been for expatriated personnel while another 'prefabricated' pay scale would have been used for a local/PR applicant. They already know you are foreign so why should they trot out a local based rate table? Anyway, good luck. I only been here a few years and am an HR Manager, so what would I know....... :wink:

sms
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Post by dpot » Mon, 23 Nov 2009 11:30 pm

SMS, I hope you do not feel as if I hadn't respected your opinion, perhaps you are correct. However, since they based the 13th month pay at the rate of 5,000/mo, it seems like a reasonable assumption to make.

Also, it would be quite surprising for an odd number like the encashed CPF to make the total pay a nice round number like $5,000. In addition, they told me that the range for the position was between $4,000-5,000 (those represent the extremes, naturally), which leads me to believe that they were simply talking about a baseline salary rather than modeling their template based upon what would have to have been a highly personalised CPF--(since the differences in background/experience/age/etc for incoming applicants would vary by a great deal...this would mean that they were making an offer based upon a standard template for non-citizen or non-pr employees where they treat us all the same--again, highly improbable since there are many variables which drive CPF). :-)

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Tue, 24 Nov 2009 12:19 am

Fair enough. I'm glad you you have such in-depth knowledge about how the Asian mind works here. You will do well. Indeed, they will love you. =; :wink:
SOME PEOPLE TRY TO TURN BACK THEIR ODOMETERS. NOT ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHY I LOOK THIS WAY. I'VE TRAVELED A LONG WAY, AND SOME OF THE ROADS WEREN'T PAVED. ~ Will Rogers

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Post by irvine » Tue, 24 Nov 2009 10:07 am

I would make a counter offer if I were you. 4-5k in academics would be more of a scale for Master holder here in Singapore.. generally. Phd should get more simply bcoz they are smarter. But again, this is a theology school so the pay may be slightly lower you're right.

Realistically 5000 per month,
- Rent 2000
- Tithes 500 (assuming you're going to tithe)
- Diapers and milk powder x amount
You'd have less than 2500 left.

Tight.

However, if you don't mind sharing an apt with 1-2 others like we do, it may get cheaper. We pay 850 for the Master room, and get to share the kitchen and living room with the others who are usually out anyways. The downside is it sometimes feel like college days - with housemates, although I must say they're mostly responsible and clean folks, so it's great.

The issue is, it's not easy to find this arrangement though. Keep praying and things will fall into place soon.

Can your school provide housing?

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