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Taxi Uncle Wealth Talk: A $100,000 credit card debt on $7000/mth salary, how retirement is like, and the economy

I am one of those engineers that make a lot of trips around Singapore.

The mood on those trips vary but one of the mood that takes time to grasp is when you entertain a site visit when the solutions to the problems are touch and go. They might or might not work. Or that the problem seems so new that it might turned out to be a very long day.

You just feel the anxiety all round.

I would rather be left to my own devices when you board a cab, but on this day I am a bit less anxious. This solution have a high probability of working.

So when the taxi driver started a conversation with me I am less irritated. You do not know what you will get with taxi drivers. Most of the time they just yearn for someone to talk to. A lot of the time their view of things is so warped that it became the reason why you dread this kind of conversation.

This one is good. And it gives me a perspective of three things.

Of how bad the economy really is

This taxi driver is definitely driving after the retirement age. I thought his main language is mandarin but I was mistaken.

He was telling me how problematic this economy is, that a lot of people ask them, as taxi drivers, how do they see the economy. He says the rides are less and it could be due to the periods of Ching Ming and also when jobs are tough people tend to be more vigilant about their money.

I can never get the logic how he determines that the people on the ground is suffering.

However, he did share with me a case study of just one unemployment that his ex colleague encountered.

I told him, I don’t believe things are that bad. Usually we extrapolate one example like this, or what we read on the news, that because we have one case, there are a lot of these cases around.

If 10 of your close friends, 2 of them have mentioned to you their job is getting wobbly then things are bad. Ask your colleague about his 10 closest friend to get a bigger sample.

The economic figures for Singapore is out and unemployment managed to hold steady at 1.9%.

That is a rather low figure. We are adding less jobs and year on year the unemployment inches up.

Still it is a very low figure. I refuse to believe things are bad.

When you need a maid and have a $100,000 unsecured debt

The case study the uncle shared is not a happy one, and touched me a bit due to what I am going through.

He met up with an ex colleague, who shared with him that his younger brother lost his job in September 2015 and till today, which is April 2016, have not managed to find a comparable job.

The brother is 40 years old. This is a sensitive age considering I am moving close to this age.

He was earning $7000 to $8000 a month, the brother shared, and when times are good, the brothers really see this brother having a good time.

I didn’t manage to find out what this brother worked at, but I do know his wife doesn’t work, owns a car, have children that depended on him.

That is a challenging profile even if the salary is $7000-$8000.

So the parent was having some issues, and 4 brothers had a meeting and want to hire a maid. So naturally the brothers would share the cost.

That is when this brother dropped another bombshell, that he hasn’t manage to find work for the past 7 months.

To add to that, he showed his brothers statements of outstanding credit card debts of $100,000. And he cannot afford to pay his share of the maid.

This is when the brothers broach the idea that this cannot continue further and that he have to take a vocational license to be a taxi driver.

Prior to this I heard from one taxi driver of his $30,000 credit card debt. I finally heard of the $100,000 credit card debt.

If you piece this whole profile together, it is a case much akin of the Financial Impotence in human beings. Most of the actions is very ego driven, even to the detail of not calling out for help due to the libido.

Of the Typical Retirement

It took me a while to notice that uncle, the taxi driver was more eloquent and have a better thought process (that is aside from his Ching Ming analysis) than a lot of the taxi drivers I met.

He retired from a marketing and buying job with Revlon some years ago. His wife passed away due to breast cancer 6 years ago and both his sons are grown up, have their own family and homes.

The first few weeks was fun. Then retirement became agonizing.

There is just so many places you can go before holidays become like a job.

So he decide to get a Taxi and start driving. It keeps him from having funny thoughts.

All he have to do is take care of himself, don’t drive too hard and things will be ok.

With a 5 room flat, he could rent out the rooms if things become narrow, but he doesn’t like the idea of renting out, managing a tenant, where there is every chance it will be more problem than lucrative.

I find that thought to be as prevalent as the money making one.

His idea is perhaps in the future to downgrade to a studio flat.

Before I alight, I provided to him the following perspective:

  1. You don’t have to rent out, but you could try it for 1 year to see if you can live with it. This is a bit like testing your life goals before they actually happen for the long term
  2. He needs to be very aware of his magic expense number, or the amount monthly he requires for survival. If the figure is $12,000/year, he can become very aware how much he requires to live a very secure semi-retirement with a rich life on top of this security.
  3. If his downgrade from his 5 room woodlands flat to a $110,000 studio flat happens, he could free up potentially $340,000. If the survival expenses is $12,000/yr, not counting inflation this sum could last 28 years give or take.
  4. Since he is also getting a stream of cash flow from the sons, and his taxi driving, it makes a good situation to be in

I hope I can repay him a little bit for taking my mind off this work anxiety.

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Friday 29th of April 2016

I seriously think he is doing fine. How much does one person need, if he is alone,driving a cab and sons contributing some "pension"

Even if the can just break even expenses, he should still go fine


Friday 29th of April 2016

hi Sillyinvestor, i think so too. its just that i feel one person living in a big house.. it drives strange ideas in old mans head.


Friday 29th of April 2016

The 1.9% is unemployment rate. This indicator even though use widely by many countries especially America is rather misleading. Folks that are not active seeking employment or have given up. How many actually give up is a guess but if I feel if we are drawing high salary and can't get a job, chances are we will give up looking for job as taking 1K or 2K salary to them is not sensible compared to a low salary WP or PR holder. Having say that if one go ob such as private tuition teacher, returns are no longer in the system as well.

This also give the false assumption that base on relative unemployment rate between countries translates proportionally to unemployed people between countries. I suspect impact is significantly higher for developed countries.


Friday 29th of April 2016

hi Cory,

thanks for explaining. from what i read there is a real and false unemployment rate. The reason why i find I trust the rates is that generally i been actively asking this question around and everyone seem to have the idea that things are ok.

how is the scene in taiwan now?

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