A recent poll conducted by a wealth management company St James’s Place Asia (SJP Asia) found that one in two high-income earners in Singapore are facing money issues.

This result was derived from a poll conducted with 1,000 Singaporean respondents aged 25 to 54 with monthly salaries of at least S$6,000 to over S$20,000.

Now the big question is: How are individuals earning almost four times the national median salary still struggling with money problems?

According to data from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the median gross monthly income for a full-time employee in 2020 is S$4,535 – which is almost four times higher than S$20,000.

It turns out that being rich and wealthy has less to do with how much you earn, but more to do with what you do exactly with the money you have.

Elaborating further on the financial issues, the poll revealed that the monthly income of these high-income earners is in fact insufficient to cover their expenses, resulting in them having to dig into their savings just to pay the bills.

Given that they have to take out funds from their savings just to pay for their monthly expenses, 46 per cent of them revealed that they don’t have the confidence that they have enough cash to support their desired lifestyle once they retire.

However, there is a sense of urgency in them now to start planning for their retirement.

Although this is their plan, in reality more than half of those polled have problems just maintaining their original saving plans as they have had to redirect funds that were meant for their retirement days due to the current pandemic.

“The pandemic has had a significant financial impact on many Singaporeans and we see that many are more cautious with their money as a result,” said SJP Singapore chief executive Gary Harvey.

He added, “It is concerning that within this trend we see people borrowing from the future to pay for their costs today, with a reduced focused on retirement planning.”

The poll also discovered five main factors that are stopping middle-and high-end income earners from saving more for their retirement.

High living cost

The poll found that the first factor that is stopping these individuals to save up for their retirement is their high living costs. SJP reported that almost 50 per cent of survey respondents struggled to keep up with their expenses.

This is not necessarily because high-income earners splurge on luxurious items during the current recession, but rather about how once they choose to live beyond their means, their expensive lifestyle will come back to haunt them even if they are staying at home and cut all spending except for food and utility bills.

For instance, if they have monthly loan repayment for their multimillion-dollar home and a S$500,000 car, they will find it extremely difficult to pay back these loans when their regular income is affected.

The need to support family members

Over a third of high-income earners who were surveyed felt that they find it an added burden to support their family members – either their retired parents or younger siblings who are still studying.

For parents who are in their 70s and 80s, there are high chances that they’re not adequately insured. This means that if they fall sick, the medical expenses can be very pricey, especially if they choose to be treated at private hospitals.

Another factor is that a third of high-income earners who polled admitted that they cannot control their spending and have poor discipline in money management.

Failure to control spending

Another factor listed in the poll is that a third of high-income earners admitted that they cannot control their spending and have poor discipline in money management.

The main reason why people end up in debt is not due to investment or business failure but overspending, the poll stated.

While these individuals can afford to purchase items that they desire now, but if they fail to plan their budget carefully, chances are they might not be able to much such expensive purchases upon retirement as they have will not be getting their salary anymore.

Poor financial planning

The fourth factor is poor financial planning and this usually occurs to those who suffer from “Peter Pan syndrome”, which basically means that they think they can work and earn a high income forever and don’t see the need to plan for anything.

Due to this, 40 per cent of such individuals have short-term goals like buying a car or home and just focus on such goals without worrying about other future needs like retirement.

Large debts

Lastly, the poll by SJP discovered that high-income earners have large debts, resulting in them facing money issues.

In fact, around 20 percent of those polled over-leverage and have a high dependency on loans, either for their business or for their lifestyles.

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