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50 Year old Lady’s Vagabond Life Living in Changi Airport for 8 Years – What I Learned

We depend a lot on our take home pay to fund our lifestyle.

When you have a problem with your cash flow from your take home pay, what would you do?

Many would:

  1. Try to borrow from friends and relatives. This is difficult because its not often that people are in a better financial situation then yourself and are likely unable to lend you the money
  2. Find a job that pays better, or pay at all. Usually when it rains it pours. In periods of unemployment, finding a better job or even a job that fits your skill set may be difficult

People become despondent and demoralize.

However, one last resort that many are reluctant to do is to rent out their HDB rooms.

We all treasure our privacy. Ask many that have rented out rooms they stayed in and they will raise that point.

So one lady took the more extreme route.

In 2008, when she was hit with cash flow problems, she had to raise cash flow fast.

So she took the drastic step to rent out her 3 room Tampines HDB flat and live elsewhere.

She choose to live in Changi Airport.

Back in 2008, when things are rough, the news agency reported many squatters that pitch tents in Changi Beach to stay.

What this lady did was unique because:

  1. There are trolley where she can put her clothes, toiletries, food and other daily necessities
  2. There are food court to get her daily food
  3. There is air conditioning for sleeping
  4. There are shower facilities
  5. There is Free WIFI

She basically one up those living in Changi Beach with much better amenities , courtesy of our Singapore government’s push for world class facilities.

She wanted to stay for a few nights, but it became 8 years. Her plan is to apply for a 2 room flat to make life easier.

While it was not revealed much,  the article reveal that the place rents for more than $1000/mth. 3 Room flats used to rent for $1700-$1900/mth. In 2008, when you need the cash flow perhaps renting it out for $1300/mth makes it easier to secure tenant.

Separating Survival and Rich Life

What I find interesting about this very short article was that on a survival level how much we actually need:

  1. Food
  2. Lodging (with air con!)
  3. Basic Hygiene
  4. Very little personal stuff
  5. WIFI
  6. Basic clothes

She live for 8 years on a very minimal form of items.

Minimalist Lifestyle

how much items do you really need in your life?

In this day and age, we get very confuse between what are things we needed for survival and what we need as part of the rich life that we live. (read how you can work out how much is your survival expenses)

Everything to us becomes a need when some of them are really are our want.

It is only during hard times, when you are forced to choose what you really need.

This means that, absent of hard times, you can have a minimalist lifestyle, and then focus on 3 rich life segments.

You could have an extremely satisfied life if you could just focus on a few things that you are interest in. If you are interested in something else, you have to reduce one existing rich life event.

You can afford many things, but you cannot afford everything.

How much does it takes to fund your survival?

She answered that question by giving us the answer is around $1000/mth.

Many have question if CPF Life, the single premium immediate annuity scheme we have, provides enough for our survival in old age.

If you put in $161,000 at age 55 and it grows to $250,000 at age 65, this provides for one person:

  1. Basic Retirement Sum: $700-$750
  2. Full Retirement Sum: $1280-$1380
  3. Enhanced Retirement Sum: $1860-$2000

Note that I am not saying she is an old lady (she is 50) but the cost of living face by a 65 year old retiree in Singapore should not be far off from a 50 year old single woman.

If you have work out your annual survival expenses, you can built resilience by knowing how much you need to protect yourself in case things gets so dire.  (find out the formula to work out how much you need to achieve financial security)

Saving up money requires a purpose, and I suppose having a wealth machine that guards you against situations like this, in this age where employment is more uncertain.

Build a life of Ingenuity and Flexibility

My friend often tells me, it is a really shitty thing to be comfortable.

When you are comfortable, you stop growing, because you do not get challenged.

Perhaps this is why I think retirement and financial independence is where you get to a place where you step down so much, it may be detrimental to you.

Working allows us to be challenged with problems, and then we grow.

This lady, like many during that situation, have a problem, and then sought a solution that worked out much better than the others in her similar situation.

At Investment Moats we profile other people that life their life in the same vein:

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Karen kong

Thursday 12th of January 2017

Remarkable lady who could stay in the airport for 8 years. Her story could be made into another touching local film.

She could survive on 1000SGD per month. I am curious how she spent her money per month.


Friday 13th of January 2017

i think it will not be allowed by our G.


Friday 13th of January 2017

Since she does not have to pay for any house related expenses and assuming the $1000 is just for daily expenses, that would be approx $33 per day. More than enough for 3 basic meals daily even at the airport food court. If 1000sgd purely for survival, surely can....unless she need the money to repay relentless debts.


Friday 13th of January 2017

Hi Karen,

If you were her, how would your 1000 be like? note that she probably take in a little more than that.

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