facebookWhy I Regret Not Giving My Mum an Allowance


Why I Regret Not Giving My Mum an Allowance

profileMing Feng

Do You Give Your Parents Money, Like an Allowance?

The practice of giving your parents a monthly allowance has been in the Asian culture since god knows when.

This was a tradition that was passed down for generations, where parents worked hard to raise their children towards a certain level of financial independence and reap the rewards they sow.

Source: Pinterest

As time goes by, this particular act of demonstrating filial piety is currently being debated in modern societies such as that of Singapore.

The Awkward Phase

How much allowance should you give your parents?

Is giving the allowance in form of money the most efficient way to exhibit filial piety?

As our parents go on and engage in conversations with their friends these topics, the amount becomes a benchmark for how filial you are. If the amount pales in comparison, your parents technically lose their bragging rights to how successful you are in your career too.

You can be a Bill Gates level of entrepreneur, but if you are giving less allowance than that child of your parents’ friend, you are ‘dead to everyone’.

Source: giphy

In my case, I give my parents NO allowance, making me probably the lowest life form in the eyes of most Asians.

Source: giphy

Why Would You Do That?

For some context, my mum was a stay-home housewife ever since I was born.

She left her job to bring up this ‘siao eh’.

Source: giphy

I graduated with a Bachelor in Economics and Finance.

Armed with 3 years of textbook knowledge from extensive mugging and investment experiences from my university days, I thought I knew it all. I received my first paycheque and immediately know what I needed to do with it.

What Did I Do?

For the number of years that I have been working, I set aside an amount of money that was meant for my parents’ retirement.

But instead of giving it upfront in form of cash, I invested their “allowance” into Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and Singapore Savings Bonds (SSB). This amount of money can be easily liquidated whenever they need, in future.

There are a few reasons for doing so:

  • My parents were pretty comfortable at that moment. My dad is still having a good constant flow of income.
  • Passing them the allowance would also mean that they put it in the bank to earn minimum interest. This, in my point of view, is a less efficient way of making money work for you.
Source: giphy

Stubbornly, I tried to make my point that my way is the better way of personal finance (Mathematically) and continued for years. Not really affected by how my relatives and my parents’ friends view me, I believe I am helping my parents with their retirement plan in future.

But I was wrong!

The Revelation

I lost my mum to lung cancer two years ago after a two-year battle.

Just me chilling with my mum

As I was going through my investment portfolios last week, I chanced upon the portfolio that was made up of my parents’ allowance.

And then it hits me.

For the longest time, I thought I was preparing for my parents’ retirement in my own way, but it may not be what they really want.

My mum did not live to see the day where she can travel or spend the money that I set aside for her.

She will no longer be able to enjoy the fruits of that portfolio I built.

She could have been much happier having allowance in cash where she can pamper herself.

My stubbornness in my way of doing things might have deprived her of the additional happiness which she could have enjoyed while she still can.

The Mindset

You see, for millennials in Singapore, some of us are faced with this awkward challenge of having to balance the mindset of our parents while being educated to adopt a slightly more progressive mindset.

As a nation, we progressed too quickly and gave rise to many different phases and sets of mindset in the population.

If my household can be split between going to a doctor and putting onion at the sole of our feet to cure the flu, I believe most households will have the same problem.

The act of investing my parents’ allowance makes sense to me conceptually, but it forgoes one of the most important factors of giving our parents a monthly allowance. Their happiness.

Given that we are on different mindsets, there is a mismatch in how we define happiness.

I assumed that my parents will be happy that I am setting aside a pool of rainy day funds for them. To my parents, who are on a different mindset, receiving an allowance in form of physical money is happiness.

Balancing Between Big Picture and Instant Gratification

An opinion on Seedly talked about the need to balance and communicate with our parents.

Allow me to quote a part of the opinion which I fully agree with.

” She meant that she feels insecure if she doesn’t have a monthly stream of cash coming in.

And I respect that. Because I understand her story and the experience she went through in her early years.

Not all financial decisions can or should be made using a spreadsheet.

So we work out an amount that puts her at ease while not impeding my efforts at compounding our wealth…”

Extremes are always bad. In my case, I made my decisions very mathematically like a spreadsheet. I overlooked the intangibles such as emotions. The happiness of receiving allowance (no matter the amount) is immeasurable.

The gesture of passing allowance to your parents can be an invaluable interaction which reminds your parents that they are constantly on your mind. This is critical in a modern society like ours, where work and social life away from home take up a huge portion of our time.

As we progress economically coupled with the ageing population, the pressure on our cost of living will increase.

The stress on the sandwich generation will increase and it is on us to make things work.

Here are some of the things I learnt which I thought can be useful:

  • You are not alone!
    Do not think that your parents do not understand what is going on. Your parents understand the increasing cost of living and the pressure you face.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
    No parent in the world would like to see their child do badly in life. Have a mutual understanding with your parents. Be transparent about your salary and any upcoming spendings which you are looking to spend on (such as BTO, wedding or starting a company).
    Pretty sure they got your back!
  • Take their preference into consideration
    Remember some of the gadgets you grew up with, such as Gameboy and Digivice?
    Like whatever you are feeling right now, your parents probably did not understand the happiness of owning those gadgets. But they took your preference and happiness into consideration and got you one anyway.


About Ming Feng
A stint in Bloomberg gifted me with a beer belly, which only grew larger when I moved on to become a Professional Trader. Now I turn caffeine into digestible finance-related content.
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