Most citizens begin their formal lives with the below steps.
Primary education between 7 - 12 yrs old,
Secondary education between 13 - 16.
From here, the road splits.
17 - 18, Junior college, this is still considered secondary education and equivalent to grade 11-12 in other western countries. From here, it seems that it is easier to get into Universities. However, due to changing times and more Universities in Singapore, Folks from the 2nd path also stand a good chance of entering University.
17 - 19. Polytechnic to get a diploma. Polytechnic provides more specific technical skills which are closer to the working environment to prepare these students for employment. This is considered tertiary education. Graduates from polytechnics usually go out to work. However as mentioned a few lines ago, there are more opportunities for them to move on to University since the last decade.
19/20 - 20/21. After Junior College or Polytechnic, Males undergo compulsory conscription. Maybe I'll do a post to talk more on the military life in future.
19/20 yrs old (Females) 21/22 yrs old (Males) - University.
The above is the usual path for about 80-90% of Singaporeans, I reckon. There are other paths like ITE (Institute of Technical Education) but I'm not too familiar with it so I'll not comment on that path.
Thus, most people start their working lives about 20 after polytechnic or 22 after University.
Typical starting pay of a Poly graduate would be around SGD1500 - SGD2400
and Uni graduate would probably be around SGD2400 - SGD5000 depending on industry, etc etc.
These are just my own estimates. Yes some folks could get more, some folks less. Pls leave comments if you have better data and I will update this accordingly.
Let me introduce some other aspects of Singapore.
Typical costs of meals for lunch and/or dinner.
Basic meals at food courts cost about SGD3 - SGD5. Some places charge more due to higher rents at prime areas.
But usually you can get a decent lunch at SGD5 or so. It may not taste great, but its basic and no one really eats steak everyday. A better lunch would cost about SGD10-15. This probably would be a nice treat after payday.
A canned drink would cost aboout SGD1.50 so that's a real killer to the cost of a meal.
Breakfast is usually some bread item purchased at around SGD1.50 and a drink at around SGD1.50. There are cheaper alternatives like buying your own bread and ham and preparing it yourself before work. But I'm not sure how many people do that as I see many people buying bread items in the evening in preparation to consume it for the next morning's breakfast.
The real interesting thing about Singapore is that IT IS CHEAPER TO EAT OUT THAN TO COOK AT HOME!!!
Compare this to other countries, this is a significant difference. The cost of buying multiple ingredients is expensive not to mention preparing the ingredients, cleaning up, gas and all the other misc stuff like seasoning, sauces etc. Thus, it is extremely common, for people to be buying food for dinner rather than cooking at home. Unless someone is permanently staying at home like a parent, helper, housewife. However, it is generally accepted that homecooked food is usually healthier as less oil, salt is used for cooking at home.
Most people stay with their parents until they are married. This is also a stark difference from other countries where teenagers move out early in life for study or work. As Singapore is small and it takes only abouot 40mins to an hour to travel end to end, many people stay with their parents until they are married and decide to move out. Others continue to stay with their parents for convenience so that parents might help take care of their children or help out with cooking, etc. Parents of a fresh grad would typically be about 55 yrs old and still working.
(People from other countries who are reading this might consider this free loading as they are not used to adults living with their parents. My response is, well, this is the common life in Singapore. This is how things work around here. Furthermore, children typically provide an allowance to their parents once they start working of about 10-20% of their salary. Not sure if this is common in the western society.)
Getting married and moving out. Citizens of Singapore are entitled to get some subsidized housing from the government usually referred to as HDB (Housing Development Board). These apartments are constructed by the HDB to encourage home ownership in Singapore so that citizens would have a vested interest to stay in Singapore and grow with the country. The size of a HDB unit would be around 70sq metres and cost about SGD200K-500K. Yes there is no typo here. For foreign readers, this should be a startling amount for housing. On top of that. Not all citizens are entitled to this subsidy as there is an income ceiling of (I think couple combined income of SGD12k). Only married or soon to be married couples (1 of which needs to be a citizen) are entitled to apply for a HDB unit and their combined income must not exceed the income ceiling. This is considered as "buying the unit from HDB at a subsidized rate". HDB units can also be purchased in the open market at SGD300k and more for folks who exceed the income ceiling, this is the only option.
Condominiums or private housing cost SGD700k onwards so a fresh grad/newly married couple usually would not be able to afford such a place.
Rentals cost about SGD600 for a room in a HDB unit.
To rent the whole HDB unit would cost about SGD1500-2500 depending on location and size.
Rental of a condo would be around SGD3000 - SGD5000 or more.
There is no social security in Singapore so retirement funding is based on the individual. There is a CPF (Central Provident Fund). This is a scheme where 20% of the salary if an individual is automatically deducted to "save" for a person's retirement. The employer will contribute 16% top of this. So about 36% of the salary is "saved". This deduction is automatic and compulsory. More on CPF in later posts. Foreign readers can choose to ignore as this may get too technical. CPF can be used to pay for housing. Thus, many Singaporeans do not have much in their CPF as it usually has already been withdrawn for payment of the house.
Hospitalization and Medical Insurance
Medical costs. There is some subsidy from the government for low income folks. However, Singaporeans are generally on their own when medical costs strikes. There are quite affordable healthcare options for folks under 55 yrs old but after 55, the cost of Hospitalization and Surgery insurance gets pretty costly. Younger folks (30+) can get insured at about SGD300 per ann. Whereas costs can go up to SGD1200 per ann in the later years.
Public transport is generally affordable at around SGD1 per trip on bus/MRT (city train system).
Cabs are quite EXPENSIVE. Cheaper than most countries though. At about SGD10-15 to travel from City centre to where most people stay. Although there are surcharges during peak hours which push the cost up to about SGD20.
CARS!!!! Are a total mess. There is a tax on car ownership as Singapore is a small country. There is a quota on the number of cars being allowed on the roads every year. And the method of allocation of the cars to the buyers is via a bidding process. A new Audi would cost about SGD200k onwards. (Search "Van Diesel Cars in Singapore" on Youtube). You can watch more on the Youtube. But basically, a car is an ultimate luxury in this country. I don't really want to go into details how this works but essentially, early retirement = no cars allowed unless your income is really great. But in that case, you should still dump the car to retire even earlier. However, many people still desire the car as a form of status/convenience. The mentality of many younger folks is "drive a car you can get the girl" (In other countries, the perception is you need to drive a Ferrari to get the girl. In here the perception is you just need ANY car.)
Monthly expense for a car + depreciation + insurance + road tax would be around SGD1000-1200 if driving to work and parking at work area.
There is also a "toll (ERP-Electronic Road Pricing)" when driving into the city area during peak hours and we're talking of about SGD4 per day if you enter the city area during peak hours. Most people do not wake up before the toll starts. More on this in a future post on "Getting Used to Nonsense"
Direct taxes are considered low with most people having the effective tax rate of less than 20%. Estimated about 15%
Indirect taxes like GST/VAT is 7% on consumption.
COE, Tax on car ownership is exhorbitant.
ERP, Toll on roads to "redirect" traffic during peak hours
Tax on alcohol, tax on luxury items
Basic handphone subscriptions are about SGD30-50 per month
Utility bills cost about SGD60 - SGD500 depending on how large the house is and how often the air-conditioning is turned on. Singapore is a hot and humid country and many households keep the air-conditioning on at night when sleeping.
Cable TV cost about SGD60 per month.
Ok I think that should be enough on the standard/cost of living in Singapore.
Food, housing, transport, handphones, medical, retirement funding.
This post is more to introduce any foreign readers on the life of typical Singaporeans, on what we usually expect in our lives, how we live and what we hope to own/ typically consume.
Fellow Singaporeans, can you think of other basic items which we consume that I have missed or mis-represented?
Many of these numbers and estimates are based on my own impression and experience rather than data research. Pls comment on other aspects which I have missed out and I will add to the typical consumption of a Singaporean.