The New Savvy | Stay Empowered; Be Financially Savvy
The New Savvy is the definitive financial and career guide for women. The New Savvy aims to empower smart, modern and independent women through meaningful content that are relevant, practical and interesting.
As we get ready to end Women’s Month 2019, here’s one thing to consider. In order to have a better world for women, we have to build it. This involves helping the men in our lives to become better men. We can help them become better allies to all of our sisters.
Someone once said that in order to build a better world for girls,we have to help build better boys. If this is true of boys, it is definitely true of men. And we can certainly influence our sons, brothers, fathers, our other relatives and friends. We can help point them in the right direction.
But perhaps the men with whom we have the most influence are our partners—the men we love and who love us. Because that’s the key right there. It’s love—the man who cares about us the most, cares about the issues that matter to us.
We can talk to the men in our lives about gender equality, and about the pay gap between men and women. We can tell them about not feeling safe, and equality representation in politics, media, arts, etc. We can enlighten them about sexual harassment, and the #MeToo movement.
Our partners can become better men as they learn about these things, and they make the world better for women and men everywhere.
A good ally to women is someone who makes women feel like they’re not alone, that someone is standing up for them and with them. Also, an ally is someone who comes alongside you and fights for the same things you are fighting for.
Most importantly, a true ally believes that what you, as a woman, are fighting for, is good not just for you, but for the future of everyone.
What can men do to be better allies?
The following is a list of qualities found in men who are good allies to the women in their lives.
1. Allies listen.
Male and female experiences are very different. Some men like to fix problems, and they certainly try. But a lot of times, women don’t necessarily want to be fixed, we just need to be listened to. In other words, allies don’t mansplain everything through their own lenses.
2. Allies speak up for the women in their lives.
For example, in the workplace, when other men behave inappropriately, allies call them on it. When a co-worker, for example, makes remarks that are suggestive, or get touchy-feely, an ally says something. Whether he does it in private, one-on-one, or at the moment it occurs, even if it’s in front of others, he does not keep silent.
3. Allies acknowledge women’s experiences.
When a woman feels uncomfortable in a situation and expresses this, an ally won’t just brush her feelings aside. Although he may not understand how she feels at the moment or be unable to empathise with her, he can choose to validate how she feels.
4. Allies are unafraid to get uncomfortable.
When men listen to women, they will very likely hear stories about their fellow men that will make them cringe, wince and shudder. They just have to lean in, remember it’s not about them. And they choose to keep on listening.
5. Allies educate themselves.
They don’t wait, nor do they expect, the women around them to enlighten and educate them about women’s issues. Instead, they take it upon themselves to stay ‘woke’ by keeping abreast of the times through the news, social media, etc. They take responsibility to be informed about women’s issues.
6. Allies refuse to police women’s actions, bodies, and even their voices.
They also call out those who do so. They trust that women dress in the way that they choose, act how they feel and speak in the way they feel like they should. They don’t pressure the women around them to be more ‘ladylike,’ ‘feminine,’ or ‘proper.’ In other words, they understand that there’s more than one way in life to be a woman.
7. Conversely, allies refuse to hold on to traditional ideas of masculinity.
They know that men don’t have to be strong, silent types who don’t show emotions. They’re unafraid to show how happy or sad they are, or any other feeling that falls within the spectrum of the human experience.
8. Allies don’t expect to be the conquering hero or the knight in shining armor in their relationships.
It’s not a question of someone rescuing someone else, and there’s a big power gap between the two of you. Allies know that in a relationship you are partners, you stand together shoulder to shoulder in life.
9. Allies take care of their relationships with the other women in their lives.
They have good relationships withtheir mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, and other female relatives, friends, and co-workers. They recognize the value in each of these women and know they have a lot to learn from every single one.
10. Allies treat all women equally.
Her age, race, economic status, gender at birth, or any other identifier do not determine the way she’s treated. She deserves respect, period.
11. Allies mentor, sponsor and support women in the workplace.
They fight for their female co-workers’ promotion and success. Providing guidance and advice to young professionals is important as they navigate their way through their careers—for both men and women. Also, allies make sure that women have as many opportunities for career advancement as men do.
12. Allies advocate for equal pay for men and women.
Recognizing what makes a man a good ally to women should help you determine how to help your partner get there. After all, we are all works in progress. We are all growing into the best version of who we can be.
Why freelance, you might ask? Well, why not? There are advantages and disadvantages to working as a freelancer in Singapore. Maybe it’s not for everyone. But you may be feeling a little antsy in your job right now. Or maybe you’re wondering whether it’s time to shift to something more flexible. If this is true for you, read on.
Who knows but by this time next year (or even six months from now), you may find yourself in a totally different place, and loving it.
What is a ‘gig economy?’
Putting it simply, it’s a labor market that can be characterized by how common freelance work or short-term contracts are, instead of traditional, permanent employment. In short, in a gig economy, everyone’s an independent contractor.
You may be surprised, but more and more traditional employment is now hired out to independent contractors, since the gig economy is advantageous to both employers and employees. Even jobs that we didn’t think could be done as a freelancer, such as teaching, or customer service, can are now part of the gig economy.
Like all things, being a freelancer in the gig economy has its plusses and minuses. It also has plusses that can be minuses at the same time. For example: as a freelancer, you are your own boss. The advantage? You get to make all the executive decisions. The disadvantage: the buck really does stop with you, you are fully responsible for everything in your business.
One major advantage is its flexibility. You own your own time. As long as you get the job done, what you do with your time is entirely up to you. You can take time off for events and even vacations. Many millennials are choosing to be part of the gig economy, some of whom most likely don’t want to follow in the footsteps of the workaholics they know. If done right, being a freelancer can afford you a better work-life balance than traditional jobs.
Another advantage is the possibility of a bigger income. As a regular employee, your pay pretty much stays the same until such a time that you get your next raise, which can sometimes take years. As a freelancer, the number of jobs you take on can mean an exponential growth in your income.
But let’s talk about some disadvantages as well
One definite disadvantage is that you don’t get employment benefits as a freelancer, which means you have to be responsible for getting your own healthcare plan and retirement package. This will mean sifting through a lot of information before you get to the one that suits you best.
Also, along with flexi-time comes the reality of “no work, no pay.” As a freelancer, you only earn when you work.
Another thing that can be negative for freelancers is that it takes time to build a reputation. You may not be able to command the price you want for projects at the beginning of your freelancing career. You may have to take jobs at a low salary at first, and then charge higher prices as the demand for your services grows.
Most freelancers do not need to register for a business license in Singapore, including those who offer creative services such as photography, graphic arts, writing, and design. For technical services such as software development and engineering, no business license is required.
What matters to clients is the work you’ve done already, so be ready with a portfolio of your work to show clients when you pitch your services to them.
Now, if you are running a food business you will need a license from the National Environmental Agency (NEA), and if you become a freelance real estate agent (or open your own agency), you’ll need a license from the Council of Estate Agents (CEA).
If I have clients overseas, how do I get paid?
The simplest and easiest way to get paid from overseas is a PayPal account. You can also go old school and employ the services of a remittance agency such as Western Union. However, both PayPal accounts and Western Union often offer low exchange rates plus charge an administrative fee. This is why many clients don’t choose Western Union since these fees are often charged to them.
Banks are probably your least expensive option when getting paid by clients. When DBS, OCBC, and UOB are your receiving banks, for example, they only charge a minimal fee plus the fee of the overseas bank that remitted the money.
Paying taxes as a Singaporean freelancer
Ahhhh… taxes. How much you’ll pay for taxes will depend on how much you earn, of course. According to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, the progressive tax rate of the country is between 2 percent to 22 percent.
Professional services such as consulting or coaching can be taxed at either 15 percent of your gross income or 22 percent of your net income. If you’re a freelancing public entertainer, you will be charged 10 percent of your taxable income.
In keeping with this month’s theme of the empowerment of women, because March is women’s month, I decided to look at one specific aspect of our lives as females, and that’s dating. Many of us have partnered up and are pretty happy in our relationships. Others who are looking to change their relationship status, why not take advantage of this historic month and make the first move?
Okay, so maybe you feel a little bit uncomfortable with the idea. I can definitely understand why. We’re used to the traditional way that dating and courtship are carried out. That is, the man makes the first move, and if the woman is interested, she responds positively.
This is all well and good, but it does involve a certain amount of waiting. However, some of us may be beginning to feel that we don’t necessarily want to wait, right?
What if the guy we’re interested in is actually interested back, but needs a gentle nudge in our direction? Maybe he’s waiting for you.
Time to assert our agency, ladies. We no longer live in the olden days of having to wait around. I’ve made a list of surefire ways of making the first move, and the rest is up to the object of your affection.
After all, what’s the worst that can happen? You could find out that he’s not into you, and that’s perfectly all right. We have the freedom to be attracted to who we choose.
But at the very least, you’ll know for sure. And what’s the opposite of that? Number one, wondering if something beautiful could have happened between you. And number two, regretting that you never took the chance to find out.
Ways to make the first move1. Type your contact information into his phone.
Let’s say you strike up a great conversation with a guy you meet at a party or at an event. You hit it off pretty well, find out you have a lot of things in common, and the evening ends but you just know you’d like to see him again to find out where things might go.
Our smartphones are always with us these days, am I right? At the end of your time together, ask to borrow his phone. Write down your phone number and your name with a short descriptor (+65 XXXX XXXX ‘Rachel—biggest Harry Potter fan next to you’, or Emily—loves 80s music). Something that will make him smile every time he sees it.
This is pretty bold, I know. But sometimes you just have to go for it.
2. Slide into his inbox with a conversation starter
Ahhh, social media, what did we ever do without you? Everybody can send messages to the people they meet and friend or follow across different platforms.
So you meet someone, and you think they’re attractive, and you want a chance to get to know them better. Send them something—a link to something you have in common, or had a conversation about. An interesting quiz. A gif that you know will make them laugh. A video of a cat playing the piano.
This sends the message that you want to keep the conversation going. And if he feels the same way, he’ll bite.
3. Ask him out on your birthday or any other special occasion
If you are hoping to take a friendship with a guy to the next level, wait for a special occasion and then take advantage of it by asking him out.
It will be very hard for him to say no to you on your birthday or an occasion like a good friend’s wedding or your grandparents’ golden anniversary, wherein you need a plus one for the celebration.
Who knows, you might start out as friends, and end up as something more. After all, you have each other’s undivided attention for at least a few hours and it’s a perfect opportunity to get to know each other well.
This is one of the oldest ways to get to know a guy you’re interested in a little bit better. After all, what are besties for? Tell a few of your friends that you’re interested in someone, and you’d like an opportunity to spend some time with him.
Get a group together, maybe not too big of a group so that it’s easy to break off into smaller conversations, but it shouldn’t just be you, your BFF, and the guy either, since that could turn out to be quite awkward.
Let it be a few couples and singles getting together, it could be for a movie or a concert, or a quick trip to the beach, or a meal together, A casual setting where there isn’t a lot of pressure should give you a chance to get to spend some quality time with the guy you have your eye on.
5. Use the “I have an extra ticket” gambit
Also an old and tried and tested method that works like a charm. Let’s say you just happen to buy an extra ticket to an event that you know he’d be interested in. What better way to get together than to invite him to come with you?
He’ll be grateful, which will put him in a good mood. And you’ll have the advantage of having him all to yourself for a good few hours and seeing where it goes from there. You can even extend the evening by asking him out for a drink or some coffee or even a meal, afterward. Why not? You ’re already out, you may as well make the most of it.
Just do it.
Of course, you’ll feel nervous and uncertain at the start. Nobody wants to feel rejected as they put themselves out there but the object of their affection didn’t feel the same way.
But, this happens to everyone. We all have to face this in one way or another. And we can’t take it personally, but we have to know that when a guy doesn’t like us back, it’s not a reflection on our character. It doesn’t mean it’s because of our shortcomings or flaws. The heart, as they say, simply wants what it wants.
But it’s 2019 and we have a choice to live as empowered women who step out and go after what we want. Trust me, this is a wonderful way to live!
“Women’s history month to me is an opportunity to further highlight the achievements of women of all types and every kind, and the importance of women’s rights in the world. And it should be of course be carried on throughout our lifetime.” –Power woman Theresa Goh
Theresa Goh has amazed and continues to amaze many people. Singaporeans now celebrate her as a national treasure. She’s a much-bemedaled international athlete. But more than this, she is an inspiration to those who may have felt they don’t belong anywhere in the world.
How could someone born with physical limitations turn out to be one of Singapore’s most renowned swimmers?
Theresa Goh was born at a mere 7 months, and like most premature babies, she initially suffered from various health issues. Her parents were worried about her survival. To make matters more complicated, doctors also told her parents that Theresa was born with spina bifida. This congenital medical condition caused her to be paralysed from the waist down.
But fortunately, Theresa’s parents looked past her physical disability. They had medical experts and therapists make sure she received the best treatments for her condition. Theresa underwent countless surgeries by the time she was 10. She’s been blessed to have such supportive parents.
Growing up, Theresa was bound to notice that she was different from others. People would stare at her in public, making her feel upset. However, she learned early in life that the world does not adjust for her ease. She realized she needed to face difficulty head-on. Her parents made sure she was not spoiled or disciplined differently from her siblings just because she was physically different.
Perhaps Theresa got her defining tenacity from her parents.
Learning to swim
Photo: Facebook screengrab/Theresa Goh
Since she could not use her legs, Theresa had to learn how to develop her upper body strength. Her father was the one who first taught her how to swim before she was enrolled in formal swimming classes. One could say she as a natural in the water as if she was born to conquer it.
In the water, Theresa was unbound.
She started entering and winning swimming competitions at the tender age of twelve. Theresa bagged gold and silver medals at the ASEAN Para Games and represented Singapore in the 2004 Athens Paralympics. All while Theresa was setting and breaking records left and right. She has participated in and won more competitions as a young athlete than we ever could, at a time when she wasn’t even old enough to vote yet.
The 2008 Beijing Summer Paralympics
Coached by another Singaporean swimming legend, Ang Peng Siong, Theresa quit school at 17 in order to focus on her training for the 2008 Beijing Summer Paralympics. Even though she disliked how people would always emphasize the value of medals and trophies, her time in Beijing felt different. Stakes were high and the pressure to take home medals for Singapore was almost too much to bear for Theresa.
On the day of the finals for the 100m breaststroke, her pet event, Theresa was nervous and nearly overcome with dread. Her mind was flooded with thoughts of failing the people who believed in her. She dived in but missed her chance at bronze by a fraction of a second.
Lessons from defeat-how to power through
Theresa was devastated by her defeat. Everyone was still so supportive and tried to console her, but Theresa’s first actual encounter with failure hit her hard. She wanted to avoid swimming, like a once beloved song that now stirs up feelings of regret. She quit the sport for 9 months and tried to reset herself through other activities such as powerlifting.
What happens when you fall short of becoming what people have defined you to be? Strangely enough, she had to learn how to fail before she understood what it meant to actually win.
It was a tempestuous road to recovery for Theresa, but she made it through. Armed with the power of newfound confidence, she was no longer held back by the fear of failure but now embraced life more fully, coming to understand that there is more to life than swimming.
Theresa once again represented Singapore for the 2012 London Paralympics but fell short of making it to the finals. It was only in the 2016 Rio Paralympics did she finally have a taste of that sweet victory upon clinching a bronze medal at the 100m breaststroke event. But she did not see her win in Rio as an endgame nor did she feel the need to be complacent now that she has joined the ranks of Singapore’s celebrated athletes.
Theresa used her victory to push herself further and advocate for others like her. Even without the validation of competitions and medals, she is already an inspiration to other persons with disabilities, and her athletic prowess could put the able-bodied to shame.
Using her power as an advocate
Photo: Facebook screengrab/Theresa Goh
What is most admirable about Theresa is her purposeful determination to continuously improve herself. Despite having an already illustrious athletic career at the age of 30, Theresa is still grounded and never forgets her humble beginnings.
She has also learned to confront another part of herself that she locked away or was forced to hide when she was younger. While everyone sees her as a Paralympic young athlete, Theresa also identifies as a queer woman. She came out and chose to advocate for local LGBT rights group Pink Dot. In doing so, she has declared that her queerness is an important part of her identity as a person and tells the public that they cannot just cherry pick what they want to see in people they admire.
Theresa recognized her power and used it to speak for others who are not as fortunate. While others may view a physical disability as a misfortune, Theresa Goh embraced it as a welcome opportunity to prove her worth not to anyone but to herself.
Have you ever considered the relationship between money and happiness? This is something I’ve been thinking about recently. Are happy people happy because they have more money? Or are people who are happy simply more satisfied with what they have?
If you are like me, and the relationship between happiness and money is something that piques your curiosity, then this book may just be for you.
Let me just cover some of Leong’s salient points, and tell you what stood out to me.
Money CAN buy happiness
Surprise! I’m sure that you weren’t excepting to see that sentence at the very start of this article.
You know the old saying, “Money can’t buy you happiness.” And to a degree, we all know this is true since money can’t buy peace of mind, satisfaction, delight, or any of the feelings that come with happiness.
But Leong’s point is this: in order to be happy, we need to feel secure. And this includes financial security. Her story starts this way, when she was newly-married, her husband got depressed. And so she went on a personal journey to find out what brings happiness to people’s lives, because, as she said, she needed to be happy for both of them.
One of the things Leong was so thankful for was that her husband’s condition came at a time when they were financially secure, and so she was able to concentrate on what she needed to do for their lives, instead of needing to worry about finances at that time.
I love it that Leong’s points are evidence-based, taken from the latest studies on finances, psychology, happiness studies, etc. One of the studies that she cites is from Purdue University, showing that when people reach a net worth of US $65,000 to $75,000 (S $88,000 to S $101,000).
This is a level of peak satisfaction, and believe it or not, additional money after that can actually cause a decrease in happiness.
I was pretty shocked at the Purdue Study, to be honest. But Leong explains it this way.
The people who have more money often have more work. This means they have less time for their relationships, which is a huge factor in personal happiness (more on that later). It can also mean more stress, more competition, a sharper focus on material goods instead of relationships (again) and meaningful life experiences.
As people say, the things you end up owning you, instead of you owning them
And speaking of things
The truth is, things can make us happy—for a while. The new phone we wanted for months, designer jewelry, a brand new car with its brand new smell. We all know this, right?
Except that human beings experience a phenomenon called hedonistic adaptation wherein we get used, sometimes very quickly, to the new things we have. They become our new normal pretty quickly. And then we want the next new thing…which is why things don’t really make us happy, in the end.
Find out what really makes you happy
What’s the big secret then? Step one to striking the right balance between money and happiness is this: we must realize what makes us happy and spend our money on that, instead of the other way around. We should not spend our money chasing happiness.
So what does make people happy?Social relationships make us the happiest
The biggest predictor of happiness is social relationships. And I know this to be true, based on everything I’ve read in my own happiness research.
Now, I know that not all relationships make us equally happy. Toxic relationships certainly don’t. Let’s reserve our resources (time, money, energy, etc.) for the relationships that bring us the most joy.
Experiences are important because they bond you to people. Which brings us back to relationships again.
One of my good friends took his 85-year-old mother to her favorite vacation town when they were young, just to have ice cream and sit in the city square. He knew that she may not be around for much longer, and so he didn’t mind spending on a trip that they would both enjoy.
People who spend their money on things that save them time end up with more happiness. For example, if you can afford to hire a cleaning service for your house so you can spend more time with your kids, you’ll experience a jump in personal satisfaction.
Give (some of) it away
People who give to charity, no matter how much money they actually have, experience more happiness than those who don’t.
Healthy eating and exercise
Makes perfect sense. Health is wealth, after all, and so I can totally see how making decisions to live healthier lives make us happier
3 ways to be happier NOW
Leong also outlines certain ways that we can choose to be happier now, in relation to money. It’s up to us to be proactive with our own happiness and well-being, and it’s good to know that there are things we can do in order to get happier.
1. Stop the comparison game
Apparently, social media is a big culprit in this case. If comparing your life to others only makes you miserable, stop. What you can do is to find someone you admire for their qualities and not necessarily their wealth or possessions. Finding out how they got to where they are in life can help inspire you as well.
2. Stop the negative language
Negative talk only leads to more unhappiness. For example, having to decline a dinner invitation because you’ve decided to budget your money elsewhere. Instead of saying outright “I can’t afford to have dinner with you” to some friends, which would make you feel bad, how about saying, “You know, I’m going to have to pass on that because I/m paying off some debts”? This is pro-active and responsible, and your friends will admire you for it.
3. Look at your last 3 unplanned purchases
What are the last three impulse buys that you made? Leong would almost bet money that you bought those things because of something that you were feeling, most likely, stress. Look for better ways of dealing with stress—exercise, a hobby, a conversation with friends, etc.
Build an ‘Oh happy money’ tribe
One more way to stay on track with your money and happiness goals, according to Leong, is to build what she calls an “oh happy money” tribe. Since peer support is important for success, it’s advisable to have your best people around you cheering you on when you’ve achieved your goals and encouraging you on days when it’s tough.
Your “oh happy money” tribe will cheer you on, and celebrate your successes with you.
It’s March—which means that women are celebrating women’s month all across the globe. It’s our month when we get to enjoy our successes and look back in warranted pride to see how far we’ve come. So, I am raising my glass to all you wonderful women out there—cheers to all of us. At the same time, let’s also look at areas where we could get better. There is always room for improvement, as they say. And I’d like to zero in on the particular area of being strong mentally.
Think of this as a checklist for yourself as you evaluate—am I mentally strong? If you are, fantastic. If there are areas where you could get even stronger (as there are for us all), then you will find this list helpful.
She writes that gender can play a part in developing both good and bad habits, and she tackles the habits that women are more prone to adopt. “Cultural expectations, societal pressures, and the subtle differences in the way we raise girls are just a few of the factors that encourage women to engage in these unhealthy habits.”
Cool, right? So let’s dive in into Morin’s checklist to see how mentally strong we are.1. Do you compare yourself with others?
Social media can be our worst friend in this aspect. But keeping your eyes on everyone else means your view is away from your own goals—that’s how counterproductive it is.
2. Do you insist on perfection?
Morin emphasizes that perfection causes us to experience great levels of stress, and ironically enough, sabotages our performance. She outlines that high expectations are good, but perfection is a big no.
3. Do you see vulnerability as a weakness?
This is hard for so many us, I know. But it does us only good to admit our weaknesses and to ask for help when we need it. We don’t always have all the answers.
4. Do you let self-doubt prevent you from achieving your dreams?
We are big second-guessers, right? We don’t believe that we are good/smart/talented/competent/experienced/attractive enough to get what we really want. Don’t let your own thoughts trip you up. Just go for it.
5. Do you overthink everything?
Oh, I have been guilty of this so many times in the past! I used to overanalyze a thing half to death, staying awake at night wondering if I have said the right words to my boss in an email. Morin is right, it’s a terrible waste of time, and just adds more stress to life.
6. Do you run away when the going gets tough?
Do you go into flight mode when challenges arise? I’m not talking about physically leaving. More like avoiding situations like being given a chance for a promotion, or needing to have an honest conversation with someone close to you. Put on your big girl pants and just take the plunge.
7. Are you afraid to break the rules?
This is not about driving at 100 kilometers an hour in a 40-kilometer zone—you understand that, right? It’s just that we women are conditioned to be very good girls who keep all the rules. But sometimes you just have to stick your neck out and break a rule or two. Think of all the women who broke through glass ceilings when they were told they couldn’t.
8. Do you put others down in order to boost yourself up?
Maybe you don’t mean to, but sometimes we end up putting a spotlight on someone else’s mistakes because it makes us look better. It’s not worth it, and if you look deep inside, that’s not what your authentic self really thinks is worth doing.
9. Do you let someone else set limits on your potential?
It could be your parents, older siblings (who think they know you so well), or maybe even your significant other. They may say something that dampens your passion for something, and you find yourself discouraged from pursuing it. Don’t allow this to happen. Be the mistress of your own destiny.
10. Do you blame yourself when things go south?
Self-blame is one of the best ways to stop you from progressing. Let’s face it, bad outcomes happen to us all, it’s part of life. And yes, sometimes, things are your fault. But be able to draw the line between your character and your mistakes, forgive yourself and move on.
11. Do you refuse to speak up?
Oh my—this is still part of our ‘good girl’ conditioning, isn’t it? We are trained to sit back and let the others (many times the men) do the talking. You have something important to contribute to every conversation, to every meeting that you’re in. Not that you want to hog the spotlight, but when you do have something to say, speak up!
12. Are you reluctant to reinvent yourself?
Here’s another truth nugget: you won’t be the same person in your 30s, 40s, or 50s that you were in your 20s. People evolve, it’s part of the beauty of life. You updated your look regularly, right? The same goes with your personality, career choice, lifestyle, etc.
13. Are you afraid of owning your success?
There’s modesty, and there’s the fear of coming across as over ambitions or even arrogant. But you know that your successes are hard-earned. Own that. Bask in it. That’s far more truthful than denying what a success you are.
Member of Parliament Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency Joan Cheng Sim Pereira is a force to reckon with. Ms Pereira isn’t just your regular MP. She’s a mother of two young adult daughters and a wife to a businessman in the shipping industry. She’s one of our power women for Women’s Month.
Ms Pereira has been a champion for families and for the elderly for quite some time now. Ours is an ever-changing world. In Singaporean society, the issues of the aging members are a growing concern. This is why it’s good to have someone such as Ms. Pereira around.
Photo: Facebook screengrab/ Joan Pereira
A brief backgrounder
As a young girl, Joan Pereira was a student at both the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus and the Catholic Junior College. Afterward, she went on to get her Bachelor of Arts degree at the National University of Singapore. As a student, she was part of the NUS Catholic Students’ Society.
Ms Pereira speaks glowingly of her time in university. She said this to The Ridge magazine last year: “NUS gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams and empowered me with the necessary tools to find my way in whichever path that I chose to take. The learning does not stop at university education. In fact, it is really only the beginning of many lessons that I have learned throughout my career.”
Deep Roots in Community Work
The Tanjong Pagar MP has deep roots in community work. She managed programs for the community at Queenstown Community Centre more than 25 years ago.
Her deep desire to help the elderly is evident. From 2007 to 2015, she implemented the Wellness Programme in more than 80 communities. Elderly residents were encouraged to stay healthy and fit. This program also emphasized how important keeping their social ties strong within their communities.
She told Yahoo a few years ago, “Having served people all my working life, I believe in the benefits of strong bonds. When deep bonds are formed among families and neighbours, they look out for one another. They share one another’s joys and challenges, resulting in strong families, a strong community and a strong Singapore.”
Ms Pereira worked as the director of Family Life and Active Ageing at the People’s Association. Later on, she became the assistant general manager at Temasek Cares, the philanthropic arm of Temasek Holdings. This is Singapore’s sovereign fund, which Temasek Holdings established in 2009.
Serving the Elderly
Last year, Ms Pereira explained why she was so passionate about helping the elderly. “I subscribe to the belief that family is an important building block of our society. Taking care of our elderly, whether they are our grandparents or are single elderly living alone, is a natural extension of this perspective. Only by respecting and caring for the generations before us can we build up strong family values and bonds. And this is what will make us a caring and nurturing society. In my previous role championing family life and active ageing at the People’s Association, I have had the opportunity to spearhead and support programmes all over Singapore. This gave me a national-level perspective on our population’s needs and about effective utilisation of resources to achieve social outcomes.”
Photo: Facebook screengrab/ Joan Pereira
Celebrating Women’s Month with Joan Pereira
In celebration of International Women’s Month all over the world, we asked Joan Pereira about the status of women in Singapore today.
TNS: All month long we are celebrating Women’s History Month, who do you admire most and why?
Joan Pereira: I admire my mother the most. To many of us, our mothers are the women that we admire the most in our lives because we see first-hand, on a daily basis, the sacrifices that they have had to make, the never-ending demands of taking care of the family while juggling work, and the struggles that they have gone through. Therefore, I truly admire my mother’s steely determination and selfless love in keeping our family and home in order.
TNS note: Ms. Pereira’s admiration for her mother was evident in an interview she gave last year. She said, “My mother is one of my most important role models – as she has taken good care of us while we were growing up and now continues to shower her grandchildren with unconditional love. She insists on being very independent at her age of close to 80 and loves all of us in her own quiet ways. She is the kind of mother that I have modelled myself after.”
TNS: Has sexism ever personally affected you in your career trajectory? If so, could you tell our readers a little about it?
Joan Pereira: I don’t think I have experienced sexism in my professional career. However, I do wish to share about the responsibilities of childbearing and caregiving that fall to women. I myself have 2 daughters, and I must acknowledge that it could be difficult for me to juggle both family and career at times. I am very thankful that I have my husband and the grandparents who have helped out, and I cannot emphasise enough the importance of family support.
We have pushed for greater support for caregivers in Parliament this year. We hope that this will also help many working mothers as well.
TNS: In terms of equality, where are women in Singapore today?
Joan Pereira: Women in Singapore do enjoy a substantial level of equality, in terms of rights. That being said, while there is equality, there still exists a pay gap in the workforce between men and women. We still need to work harder on having more women in our companies’ senior management teams and on boards. This is something that we still aspire to do and there are other developed nations which are ahead of us in this aspect.
TNS: What would you consider as women’s biggest victory in this country in our recent history?
Joan Pereira: I think the biggest victory is also our biggest concern as well. Our women are really superhumans who readily take on both family and work responsibilities, and are willing to sacrifice their careers for the sake of their families.
TNS: Any pro-women initiatives you’re doing that we can help spread the word about?
Joan Pereira: Not a specific pro-women initiative, but I have always been advocating for pro-family policies, and pro-family initiatives will definitely benefit women as well.
To be perfectly honest with you, the first time I heard of the FIRE movement, I felt like something in me lit up.
FIRE stands for Financial Independence Retire Early
Sounds neat, doesn’t it? For me, the idea of slaving away at day after day in a repetitive job until I’m in my sixties is not the future I envision for myself.
If it’s possible to quit while I’m ahead—so they say—why not? If I can stop working while I’m still young and energetic enough to do what I want—why not?
It’s not as though I hate work. I started working at 14, and I have always loved it. But let’s face it, not every aspect of one’s job is always enjoyable, right? You might love talking to clients and doing presentations, for example. You might hate writing reports. (Or vice versa. You do you, hon.)
So I took a deep dive into what the FIRE movement is all about, and this is what I learned.
So what is the FIRE movement exactly?
In a nutshell, the principle behind the FIRE movement is saving as much as you can on your income, and letting your assets accumulate over 10 to 15 years until the passive income you have is enough to cover your living expenses for the rest of your life.
How much savings you might ask?
It really does depend on your income, and what you can afford. You may want to start at 30 percent and work your way up to the ‘golden number’ of 50 percent. Some people actually only live on 30 percent of their income and save 70 percent toward early retirement.
So, the number one principle of the FIRE movement is practicing frugality.
The goal of the FIRE movement is to put aside 25 times your annual living expenses. So, compute what you need monthly x 12 x 25, and voila! That’s the amount you are aiming for. When you reach that amount, you can retire.
The FIRE movement is actually empowering because it gives you control over an important area of your life—spending. This gives you agency. You can actually impose a difference in your life in the way that you spend.
As with many things finance-related, joining the FIRE movement starts with tracking your spending. Either you use a simple Excel sheet or a Google spreadsheet, or you can kick it up old-school and use a pen and notebook.
List down what you spend. And then, see where you can cut costs.
For example, if the area where you live is expensive, consider moving. Remember: FIRE means practicing frugality. We’re not saying move to a dangerous but cheaper area. Be smart. But if you are living somewhere where real estate is much pricier than other areas, then, why not plan a move?
Or, look at your travel costs. How many of us are guilty of using Ubers and Go-Jeks because it’s more convenient than the MRT or bus? (Or walking, for that matter.)
Jonathan and Brad talk about food, in particular. Surprisingly enough, food is one of the biggest expenses people have. As Jonathan says, “Food is where people hemorrhage money.”
Do you eat out? How often? How much do you spend on eating meals in restaurants versus if you would cook at home?
You may think these are little things. But everything adds up. And having the goal of early retirement in front of you makes all the home-cooked meals worth it. (PS: It’s healthier—less salt, fat, and sugar—and you learn cooking skills. Win—win—win.)
“Lean Fire” vs. “Fat Fire” vs. “Barista FIRE”
Now, I just explained to you a few basic principles of the FIRE movement, but there are actually different ways to do it.
“Lean FIRE” is extreme frugality— saving as much as you can and really going without. This is the most extreme form, obviously.
“Fat FIRE” is still living a more or less normal standard of living, but being mindful of your savings and investments.
“Barista FIRE” is continuing to work part-time at say, Starbucks, even after you retire, in order to avail of health insurance. Which is a nice segue into the next point.
In the FIRE movement, work is optional
One common misconception about the FIRE movement is that it means people retire in their 40s and just loll around the beach all day, doing nothing. This is not the point, according to one of the proponents of the movement, Tanja Hester, whose book Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way was just released by Amazon in February.
Tanja says that in achieving financial independence early, she gets to do the kind of work that she has always loved to do—giving, creating, writing, for example—without being a slave to her employment.
Advocates of the FIRE movement believe that as long as work adds value to your life, by all means, do it. But if all it adds is stress, or conflict, toil, and sorrow, then the joining FIRE movement could be your way of escape from these things that suck the joy out of life.
The truth is, you are the only one who can answer this. I do remember a time in my life, early in my career, when this lifestyle would have been impossible. Because let’s face it, it starts with frugality and radical savings make up a lifestyle.
And even if you could afford it, do you have the discipline and vision to stick to it? You will see your peers enjoying themselves because they have more disposable income than you have chosen to give yourself when you’ve joined the FIRE movement. Can you handle that?
Here’s one piece of advice. I have given some principles, but there is so much more to the FIRE movement (or the FI movement, as some prefer to call it). What can you do?
Read up on it. Tanja Hester’s blog ournextlife.com has won the FI blog of the year for a few years and can really inspire you to adopt this lifestyle.
2. Listen to podcasts. I particularly enjoy listening to Jonathan and Brad’s ChooseFi podcast when I’m out for a run or when I’m driving because it helps me understand why financial independence is so valuable.
3. Join a FIRE community. The ChooseFI community on Facebook has more than 36,000 members from all over the world. If your IRL friends aren’t into the FIRE lifestyle (yet!), going online is a great way to have a support group of people who are headed toward Financial Independence and will Retire Early.
What do you think? Are you someone who’s set to… ready, aim, FIRE?!
March is International Women’s Month—and we at The New Savvy celebrate YOU. Make sure you take a moment to realize how far you, and we all have come. However, as much as we all glory in the successes we’ve already attained, it’s good to get a grasp on the situation of women in our very own background.
In this article, let’s answer the question: How are women doing in Singapore? Specifically, let’s look at the situation of working women.
The stats are out
A study came out last month that gives us a good look at how we’re doing. Finder, a finance site based in Australia compared the situation of women in 16 countries that are perceived to have a high level of gender equality.
It’s good to know what countries are best for working women, isn’t it?
And while yes, the gender pay gap is a huge consideration, the study from Finder looked at other metrics—specifically financial ones. These include comparing the amount of retirement savings between genders.
Factors such as the number of working hours per week or the days of paid holiday leave per year are two of those metrics. I am particularly thrilled that the number of hours women spend on household chores compared to how long men are at it is another metric in the study.
It seems that countries in the north of Europe are really, really good for women. Denmark took the top spot, followed by Norway, with Finland in third place.
Spoiler alert: 11 out of the 16 countries on the list are actually in Europe.
Only Canada (ranked 9th), New Zealand, (tied for 12th place), Australia (14th), the United States (15th) and Singapore (16th) are the non-European countries on the list.
Yes, Singapore is ranked the lowest on the list—ouch. But, if it’s any consolation, our little red dot is the only Asian country on the list as well.
The good news: Where Singapore does well
There are two metrics where our country rated pretty high. Singapore is third on the list in the difference between what women and men have put away for their retirement. And since Sweden and Austria are tied in first place, we could actually consider Singapore to be number 2.
Singapore’s rank for female participation in the workforce is also decent since we come in at sixth place. A little over sixty percent of women in Singapore are part of the workforce, which is a better rank than Australia (at 59.18 percent) and the United Kingdom (at 56.86 percent), according to data from the World Bank.
The not-so-good news: Where Singapore needs to do better
Brace yourself: this is a longer list.
Unfortunately, Singapore comes in last in three metrics: the gender pay gap, the total number of holiday leave days and number of working hours on average per week.
Consider this: Singaporeans only enjoy 17 days of holiday leave with pay. This is but a fraction of the 43 days off that Austrians have every year. That’s more than a month! They have 13 days of public holidays plus 43 days of holiday leave.
Are you jealous yet? I am, when I think of all the traveling I could do in 43 days a year. I dream about traveling twice a year, or maybe take a month-long vacation.
Let’s talk about maternity leave. In our country, we get 20 weeks combined maternity and paternal leave. Sounds great, right? But when you consider that the Finnish get a whopping 161 weeks of maternity and paternal leave, you may want to cry. Or pack your bags for Finland. Or, maybe, start lobbying for change.
Oh, new parents in Finland also get a maternity package to take care of their baby’s needs, too.
Okay, moving on to the number of hours of work per week. In Singapore, people work 45 hours a week and are used to it. It’s no big deal to us. But take a deep breath, because in the Netherlands people definitely have a shorter work week. How long, you might ask? A nice 20 hours.
The pay gap issue
Perhaps the biggest issue women have fought for all over the world concerns salaries. We want to make sure that we are making the same amount of money for the same amount of work that men do. This should just be normal, shouldn’t it?
Unfortunately, the pay gap between men and women in Singapore is at 20 percent, the lowest of all the gender-equal countries. Denmark tops the list with only a 5.73 percent gender pay gap.
Don’t get me wrong: no pay gap is every woman’s dream. But a little more than 5 percent is much better than 20 percent.
Unfortunately, there are two more metrics where Singapore got low scores. For the cost of living, our country ranked 14th out of the 16 countries, and for women filling board positions, it’s even worse. Singapore is in 16th place.
And finally, Singapore’s ranking in two metrics could not even be measured, for lack of data. These are ‘extra household hours compared to men’ and ‘job security.’
More women in the workforce
However, all is not lost. According to Josephine Two, the country’s Manpower Minister, more and more women in Singapore are actually staying the workforce.
Ms Teo said earlier this month, “When compared to the OECD countries, we rank well – having improved from 17th to 9th place in the decade.” OECD stands for Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Ms Teo said that in the last ten years, the percentage of women professionals in the workforce has gone up from 56 percent to 60 percent. This figure has held steady since 2016.
Reasons for optimism
We’ve come a long way, and there is much to celebrate. But we and our sisters cannot rest on our laurels. There is much to fight for so that we safeguard the future of our daughters and granddaughters.
March is women’s history month in many places in the world, with March 8 celebrated as International Women’s Day. It’s a day to remember the achievements of amazing women and be proud of how far we’ve come.
It’s also a good day to honor the examples of strong women in history and in our lives—our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, teachers, community leaders and others who have inspired us to walk in our own power as well.
And in honor of Women’s Month, we’ve come up with a list of our favorite movies that show some amazing women. It would be a great idea to have a night with your favorite gal pals, order some pizza, pop some popcorn and open a bottle (or three) of wine together. Sit back and just enjoy some of the best portrayals of strong and inspiring women in recent cinematic history, in films from all over the world.
This year, International Women’s Day happens to fall on a Friday. Set aside date night with your partner, get him to take care of the kids, and have some sister-friend time. It will be great!
1. Erin Brokovitch
I officially forgive Julia Roberts for Pretty Woman which is probably one of the least pro-women movies ever, because of Erin Brokovitch. It’s the true story of a single mom who is struggling to make ends meet, but who leads an investigation of how people in a small town were getting poisoned by the water supply. The title character, played with lots of grit and gumption by Roberts, wins a lawsuit and is given a full-time job at the law firm where she works. You’ll be cheering for her at the end, I guarantee it.
2. Legally Blonde
On the outside, Legally Blonde looks like a cutesy movie about a wannabe lawyer with a little dog who likes to wear a lot of pink. But underneath that persona is a tough and smart woman named Elle Woods who excels in law school, and like Erin Brokovitch, cracks a tough case.
This movie is valuable because it’s not a typical happily-ever-after romantic comedy where she’s reunited with the man she loves. But she does find a good man at the end. Elle Woods is unashamedly feminine and cheerful and ends up winning people’s hearts.
3. Crazy Rich Asians
Who didn’t love Crazy Rich Asians when it came out last year? Aside from being set in our very own Singapore, it is a fabulous, swoon-worthy romance with not just one but several amazing female characters.
Representation is everything. And seeing a strong female Asian lead, a strong female Asian mother, a strong female Asian leanest friend, etc., must have made all of us Asian women truly happy.
Funnily enough, the romantic aspect of the movie is almost secondary to the relationships and interactions between all the strong and determined women in the film. From Michelle Yeoh as the steely matriarch, to Constance Wu as the ingenue, to Awkwafina as her funny and wise bestie, to Gemma Chan as the woman scorned—these women stole the movie and we cannot wait for the second and third novels in the series by Kevin Kwan to make it to the silver screen as well.
4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
This movie made me say, “When I grow up I want to be Michelle Yeoh,” when I saw it many years ago. The woman is brilliant, gorgeous, and all levels of bad-butt (keeping my language clean here). Even the film’s director, Ang Lee said, “This movie has magic. I feel I was blessed to do this movie.”
Characters literally fly in this movie. The fight scenes between the two female leads, Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi, were unheard of at that time and took people’s breath away. Women as action stars—yes!—complete with grace, dignity, and elegance.
5. Sister Stella L.
Since we’ve been talking about representation, we may as well visit a little known but acclaimed film from the Philippines about a young nun, the title character, Sister Stella Legazpi, played by noted Filipina actress Vilma Santos. The film follows the young woman from her early days of political indifference, to when she gets ‘woke’ and embraces activism fully, taking to the streets to protest oppression and fight poverty.
This movie, released just a few years ago, is a deeply moving telling of how women fought for the vote in England just before the First World War. It’s family-friendly, and so if you bring your daughters along on your gal-pal night, that’s perfectly fine. They’ll appreciate the lengths the women who went before us went through just to get us to be allowed to vote.
Carey Mulligan plays the young protagonist with thoughtfulness and courage. And watch out Meryl Streep’s cameo as the suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst. Meryl elevates everything she’s in, which makes this movie doubly worth it.
7. Charlie’s Angels
I loved watching re-runs of Charlie’s Angels when I was younger, but the movies I loved even more. They showed smart, attractive, athletic women who got the bad guy in the end.
And this is a light-hearted, feel-good movie that is completely empowering at the same time. The women all look like they’re having the time of their lives making it, and so viewers end up enjoying the movie a lot as well. It’s by no means a perfect movie for budding feminists, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable romp that will leave you with a smile (and maybe even a high kick or two.)
8. Hidden Figures
This isn’t just a story about smart women, it’s a story about smart black women. And this movie is a surefire winner in my book. I loved the three central characters, especially Janell Monae’s turn as the sassiest of the trio. In a world that tried hard to keep them down, these women simply would not agree to that.
Yes, it’s about smart women in rocket science, but they are also down-to-earth mothers and wives who are all too human. Except of course for their almost superhuman IQs. We hear all about John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and all of these male astronauts, but we never knew about the women who, because of their mathematical abilities, got them safely on the moon. Powerful and inspiring.
9. Bend it Like Beckham
Yes, I wanted a sports movie to make it on this list, and this is my choice. Starring a very young Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley as working-class girls in England who love football, I must have watched this movie several times, and it never failed to uplift my spirits, particularly on days I felt blue.
As a girl from a loving close-knit Indian family, Nagra has to walk a delicate balance between pleasing her family and playing the sport she’s passionate about. Plus, in the midst of it all, she falls in love with her coach.
The plot thickens when the girls’ parents are unhappy with their love for football, but all’s well that ends well and they receive scholarships to go to college in the US.
10. A tie between Frida, A League of Their Own, and Thelma and Louise
To be honest, I did not want to leave any of these women-centric movies out. They are all pretty amazing and inspiring, in different ways. If it’s a bold and passionate artist you’re looking for, go with Frida. Salma Hayek’s turn as renowned artist Frida Kahlo is fantastic.
Want another sports movie? A League of Their Own is all that, and with an all-star cast, including Madonna (yes, she acts as well) Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell and Tom Hanks.
And if it’s a true-blue gal-pal friendship movie you’re looking for, you won’t go wrong with Thelma and Louise. Geena Davis (again!) and Susan Sarandon have such obvious affection for each other, it will remind you to call your bestie ASAP. Plus, Brad Pitt (sigh).