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Our package - think I made a big mistake...

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Minerva
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Our package - think I made a big mistake...

Postby Minerva » Thu, 31 Jan 2013 2:55 am

Hi all,

We're moving to Singapore this year on what I thought was a good package but am really alarmed after reading responses to others on this forum. We did online research, spoke to some expats over there so weren't totally ill-informed.

Can I get your brutally honest thoughts on a package of SG$210K for a family of four? We have two kids 6 and 4 and my spouse won't be working. The company does not pay for any extras except health coverage or all of us.

We figured nursery for our youngest for next couple of years and International School for our eldest. Ideally we'd like a 3-br condo and live-in home help and a cheap car. Is this doable or delusional?

Thanks in advance for your time - much appreciated

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Re: Our package - think I made a big mistake...

Postby JR8 » Thu, 31 Jan 2013 4:09 am

Minerva wrote:Hi all, We're moving to Singapore this year on what I thought was a good package but am really alarmed after reading responses to others on this forum. We did online research, spoke to some expats over there so weren't totally ill-informed.


Hi and welcome to the forum!
First thing: Take a deep breath, you’ll be fine.
Second thing: People here will respond to a ‘How much is enough’ question by gauging the general lifestyle and expectations of the person or family concerned. So one discussion does not really correlate to another’s situation.


Minerva wrote: Can I get your brutally honest thoughts on a package of SG$210K for a family of four? We have two kids 6 and 4 and my spouse won't be working. The company does not pay for any extras except health coverage or all of us.


I’m not sure where you see the squeeze as being. You will easily find a nice condo from $5k+ a month (3-4 bedroom). Be careful of not falling into the ‘We must live in D9/10/11’ mindset, simply because you are perhaps not very familiar with the country. The equivalent for a person moving to London would be ... ‘I must live in Knightsbridge, and/or off Sloane Street’ [no offence intended at all, just trying to make a parallel].


Minerva wrote: We figured nursery for our youngest for next couple of years and International School for our eldest. Ideally we'd like a 3-br condo and live-in home help and a cheap car. Is this doable or delusional?


I’m not an expert on local schools/fees/options thereof so I’ll leave that to others. But my impression is that even for a say c14-16 year old expat in a decent private school, $25k would be very high-end. But your children are infants. Put another way, if you were SGn and posted to the UK, would you require your children to attend Eton or Harrow when there are plenty of other perfectly good but slightly less rarified alternatives available? Indeed, do your children currently attend Eton or Harrow.... I expect not, QED.

Last thought, why do you intend to have live-in help, a maid, if you’re not working? Do you have live-in domestic staff in the UK?

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Postby Mi Amigo » Thu, 31 Jan 2013 2:35 pm

I concur with my learned friend's comments above - I'd say that you should be fine provided you 'cut your coat according to your cloth' as the old expression goes.

There are people who come here on packages 2x or 3x yours, spend all their money and then leave as broke as they were on arrival. Equally there are many families on far lower packages (probably the majority of 'expats' if you take the term in its widest sense) who manage to have an enjoyable life here and save up a sizeable sum in the process.

We've never paid more than $5k per month for any of the (3 or 4 bedroom) places we've lived in here; in fact we're paying significantly less than that right now for a decent 3 bed apartment in a nice condo in Tanjong Rhu. As JR8 implies, by being flexible and eschewing the idea that you 'have to' live in one of the most fashionable and expensive districts, you can find some decent places at (relatively) attractive prices.

The standard piece of advice we tend to give out to newcomers here is to stay in a Serviced Apartment (ideally paid for by your employer) for the first 1-2 months; that will give you time to get to know the various areas and then hopefully find something reasonable to your liking. Rushing into a rental contract on arrival can be lead to a mistake that you regret for the next couple of years while you wait for it to expire.

As regards schools, with your children's ages you could of course look into the local school system. As you can imagine, there have been many discussions on this in the past, so a search will bring up various threads on the pros & cons, practicalities, etc.

If you do want to go down the International School route (which is what we did), then you need to get their names on the waiting lists for the appropriate entry years as soon as you can. Most (but maybe not all) International Schools tend to be over-subscribed, which is why you'd probably need to budget around $30k per child per year for one of the most 'popular' ones. Again, this is a topic that is much discussed on this and other forums (sometimes with a fair amount of bitchiness thrown in unfortunately), so a liberal use of the search function above is highly recommended.

Good luck for the move and don't worry - you'll be OK!

Edit to add: Regarding a car, I can understand the attraction of this considering you have young children, but you might want to try without one for a while - you'll probably save a small fortune in the process, even if you use a lot of taxis. We've never had a car here as I just think the cost is outrageous - I'd much rather save and/or spend the money on other things. Plus it's better all round for my health - see the comments from me, SMS, et al in this thread for context.
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Postby Minerva » Thu, 31 Jan 2013 5:02 pm

Thank you very much for your comments - I tossed and turned a bit last night let me tell you but you've calmed me down.

Just a couple of things for clarity - we're Canadians and don't live in the UK so definitely not interested in an Eton/Harrow education :) We've enrolled both kids in a nursery over the summer and they're both enrolled at OFS for August (to save on costs, thinking to keep younger in the nursery for another year)

We don't live an extravagant lifestyle AT all and don't expect one there. We'd like to live centrally only so the kids don't endure very long commutes to and from school. We need live-in help for family reasons - long story short, my spouse has a disability and we do have someone with us now - so it wuld be just continuing that.

Mi Amigo - where is Tanjong Rhu, in terms of district? And can you recommend other areas, relative to OFS? Thanks

The company is paying for a one-month stay in service residence so will take your advice on looking around carefully then. The car - with small kids, we're just more comfortable having them in car/booster seats but definitely sounds like we should see first if we can do without one.

I'll definitely do an intensive search of this forum - wish I'd found it sooner! - for various threads..Some of the posts, eg someone who said "all my self-funded expat friends have left", scared the bejeezuz out of us. I know Singapore is v expensive and we expect/intend to live within our means.

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Thu, 31 Jan 2013 6:27 pm

Minerva, aside from schooling costs, Singapore is as expensive or as cheap as you want to make it. As long as you remember that your most expensive items here will be transport (if you insist on a car), housing if you insist on districts 9 & 10, and schooling which will cost you, at the most, probably less than 50K/annum and the least control over. once you subtract those figures, see what you have left. The least you will get by with for a car will be in the neighbourhood of 2K/month counting all incidentals to the vehicle. So, the way I see it, 4k/mo for schooling & 5K/mo (Max - should be around 3.5K) for housing. 11K/mo. That leaves around 78K for everything else, which if you have searched our forum for average monthly costs, probably would fit inside of 2K/month. That leave around 50K in the bank. The only other sizeable expense to come out of that would be income taxes of approximately 22K. So that leaves something like 25~28K in the bank. Now, ditch the car and you add 20K to your savings. Ditch districts 9 or 10 and you can add another 18K OR MORE to your savings. You can reach the Central Business District from any point on the island in 45 minutes or less. If next door to an MRT station, you can reach the CBD in 35 minutes or less.

I don't regret ditching my car all those years ago at all, and I ditched them when my youngest was only around 3 years old. You adapt real fast and when you don't have to get frustrated riding around in circles trying to find a parking place every time you go shopping, you actually start to enjoy it. Or at least I did.

Good luck. You package has the ability to save a good 30% or more. You could even cut down the schooling if you went the local route (I put mine through the local system and they've never stopped thanking me for allowing them to learn Mandarin. It sure gave them a leg up.

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Postby Mi Amigo » Thu, 31 Jan 2013 11:19 pm

Minerva wrote:Mi Amigo - where is Tanjong Rhu, in terms of district? And can you recommend other areas, relative to OFS? Thanks

Tanjong Rhu is in district 15. We live quite near the end of the road; it wouldn't suit someone who wants to stroll to the nightlife every evening, but we like it as it's a quiet area - lots of open space for kids to run around, etc. More relevant discussion in this thread. I expect an OFS school bus would serve that area - our girls went to a school in the West (Commonwealth / One North area) and their school bus journey wasn't too bad.

Obviously there are many more areas to consider. I'd suggest you use the facilities of our hosts on this forum to search (no, I'm not on commission ;-)) - click here.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.
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Postby JR8 » Fri, 01 Feb 2013 1:22 am

I'm a LBYM ('Living Below Your Means') kinda guy: Probably due to my parents having endured WW2 and rationing etc. and the general perception of unnecessarily showing-wealth as being rather vulgar.

I spent a year in SG back in the 90's living very happily but very modestly, and had saved something like £40k at the point of leaving.

I used those funds as 15% deposits on a handful of flats (an underpriced job-lot) in London. In the subsequent 15-odd years they have quintupled/sextupled in value, so my cash-down is now what ... who knows/cares... a lot more.

My point in recounting this is that there is virtue in saving. Consider sending your children to local schools, and use the savings to fund a buy-to-let flat in London. If and when they get to go to uni in London it will be a serious leg-up. If they go elsewhere, well fine, the income stream is good.


Just thinking aloud :)

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Postby alittlerisky » Fri, 01 Feb 2013 3:29 pm

I've just got here and my pacakge is sameish/more than you have. But on the other hand I am single, have no kids and currently live in a very low price but clean hotel in Geylang ($50 a night, err... don't bring your kids here, I moved here without knowing what it was), and I spend maybe 1/4 of my salary on living/eating out/going out after work. So you should be fine.

Like other posters have said, from what I can see you should be looking at about $5k/month on rent, and if you want to live close to your kids schools and your work, I dont really see the point of a car. Rent one for odd weekends where you and your family would like to take a trip. If you don't smoke (I do) and don't drink (I do, alot), then that's pretty much it. You can take your wife and little one's out for dinner every night at a local foodcourt and everyone can eat well for say... 20 bucks.

As for a maid. I'm in two minds about this. I have a friend here he has a maid (he's married with a 3yo and 6month old) . I feel very uncomfortable when I visit him and and his family's attitude to the maid. She does all the cooking, cleaning, looking after the kids etc, but it seems like in their eyes she doesn't actually exist. I seem to be the only one who talks to to her. She's a really lovely girl. I had a maid when I was a kid growing up in India, and 20+ years later I still keep in touch with her. My mother and father left me in India while they went to Europe to get themselves and my (then) baby brother to I lived with my grandparents for 5-6 years, and my ayah (nursemaid in indian) was basically my mother during that time. Funny really... now I look after her...
Who? What? How? Why? Where? When? Merde...

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Postby PrimroseHill » Mon, 04 Feb 2013 11:16 am

Miverna, we moved here from London nearly 10months now. When we lived in London we were less than 1.1km from Oxford St; so your Knightsbridge equivalent. Our daughter went to a private/independent secondary school in London and we had a cleaner whom we paid between GBP10-12 per hour, 8-10hours per week. We were a double income etc etc. Reasonably comfortable lifestyle in UK albeit the taxes.

Here in SG, we live in D10, yes, the dreaded D9-11. However, the rental market is now softer than before. I suppose too many sellers hanging on to their perceived asking prices, therefore, now the supply vs demand is to your favour.
Daughter goes to OFS as well, as she is older, she travels on the public transport on her own. Even in London she travels to school on her own. Just as in London we have a cleaner or a part time maid, weekly for the same 8-10hours per week at $15 per hour.
I use public transport like I do in London. Whilst living in London, taxis are a luxurious treat, here, I use them frequently. Daughter has a tutor just like in London but in London it was for GBP40 per hour, here it is $45 for 1.5hours. Like London we eat out most weekends and cook Mon-Friday, we dont eat at high end restaurants in London nor do we here either. Whilst we arent compromising our lifestyles, we found that (a) we are saving more and (b) we even take more hilidays albiet short ones around the region.

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Mon, 04 Feb 2013 12:37 pm

Nice post. :wink:

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Postby movingtospore » Wed, 06 Feb 2013 8:55 pm

sundaymorningstaple wrote:Minerva, aside from schooling costs, Singapore is as expensive or as cheap as you want to make it. As long as you remember that your most expensive items here will be transport (if you insist on a car), housing if you insist on districts 9 & 10, and schooling which will cost you, at the most, probably less than 50K/annum and the least control over. once you subtract those figures, see what you have left. The least you will get by with for a car will be in the neighbourhood of 2K/month counting all incidentals to the vehicle. So, the way I see it, 4k/mo for schooling & 5K/mo (Max - should be around 3.5K) for housing. 11K/mo. That leaves around 78K for everything else, which if you have searched our forum for average monthly costs, probably would fit inside of 2K/month. That leave around 50K in the bank. The only other sizeable expense to come out of that would be income taxes of approximately 22K. So that leaves something like 25~28K in the bank. Now, ditch the car and you add 20K to your savings. Ditch districts 9 or 10 and you can add another 18K OR MORE to your savings. You can reach the Central Business District from any point on the island in 45 minutes or less. If next door to an MRT station, you can reach the CBD in 35 minutes or less.

I don't regret ditching my car all those years ago at all, and I ditched them when my youngest was only around 3 years old. You adapt real fast and when you don't have to get frustrated riding around in circles trying to find a parking place every time you go shopping, you actually start to enjoy it. Or at least I did.

Good luck. You package has the ability to save a good 30% or more. You could even cut down the schooling if you went the local route (I put mine through the local system and they've never stopped thanking me for allowing them to learn Mandarin. It sure gave them a leg up.


Except - these days - local schools are not so friendly to foreigners. We tried to get in and got a big fat cannot-lah. So don't count on it. It's not the kind of place where you can just move here and enroll at the neighbourhood school.


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