Singapore has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. Why? Ask any young parents and they will tell you it is because the cost to raise a child in Singapore is too high. In our local phrase, “money not enough”.
But the ironic truth is that it is not only because Singapore has replaced Tokyo as the most expensive city in the world, but most parents have overspent on their children.
How much does it cost to raise a child in Singapore?
In a Straits Times article last year, Joseph Chong, ex-CEO of a financial advisory firm, estimated that it takes about $600,000 in real dollars per child for a one-child family, and about $500,000 per child for a two-child family to raise a child.
While the figure may look exorbitant at first glance, I will show you the real cost is even higher. Singaporeans are spending way too much on their children. This has only jeopardized their own financial well-being but also setback most people’s retirement.
Pregnancy and delivery: $10,000 to $20,000 + Much More
Period: 10 months
The cost of bringing up a child starts from the pregnancy stage. This cost varies depending on the type of hospital (governmental subsidised vs private) and wards selected for the new mother. Not only is this inclusive of pre-delivery and delivery expenses, but the cost also covers all sorts of new ‘gears’ that comes along with a new baby.
I still remember when my wife was carrying our first child, she was excited about all the beyond-my-imagination products such as maternity pillow, tummy and hip binders sort of stuff, not to forget a variety of stretch mark cream.
And for those who have no experience, most of these fancy stuff, especially branded, cost at least 50% more in Singapore than in US or Europe.
Of course, you definitely need help from a confinement nanny, who will charge at least $2,000.
Infant care: $20,000 to $30,000 + Much, Much More
Period: 2 to 18 months (one and half years)
Most parents in Singapore are both working and full-time help is needed to look after the newborn. Parents have to engage help from domestic workers ($900 a month) or infant care centres.
Even with governmental subsidies, on average you still need to fork out at least $800 each month for a basic government-run child care, not to mention Montessori or this “Land” or that “House”. I just don’t think $1,500 per month fee is justifiable as an “education booster” for a less than one year child.
And yes, this is the time you start to become a bit “generous”. You start to buy $40 baby shoes, $60 baby Helmet, $400 stroller and $1,000 baby cot.
Childcare: $30,000 to $80,000 + Much, Much, Much More
Period: 18 months to 7 years old (6 and half years)
The basic childcare centres and kindergartens, in fact, cost a bit less than infant care centres. Prices can start from $350 for a half-day programme and $550 for a full-day one.
However, that is not the main expense at this stage. It is hard to find a Singapore family that don’t send their children to enrichment classes. Most parents will not be satisfied with just academics like phonics and Chinese, the billion dollar tuition industry in Singapore also includes ‘genius’ programs from piano to ballet, from kung-fu to karate. Now even letting the children jump up and down in indoor playgrounds can be “scientifically proven” to help brain development.
Nowadays kids don’t go to the outdoor playgrounds any more, their parents spend $15 to $20 an hour for “Cool De Sac”, “The Polliwogs” and “Hokey Pokey”.
Needless to mention, without help from grandparents, a foreign domestic worker is often engaged, which can increase costs by another $900 per month.
Primary to pre-university education: $300,000 to $500,000 + So Much More
Period: 7 years old to 18 years old (11 years)
Education is one of the most heavily subsidised areas by the government. However, education for this stage of a child’s life is still likely to be costly due to the all too common enrichment classes and private tuition sessions.
Joseph in his article mentioned above estimated costs of approximately $1,000 a month for tuition for 11 years amounts to a total of $132,000. This is a simple sum without adjusting for inflation and does not even account for daily necessities such as food and clothing.
It is also not surprising to hear parents throwing $1,000 birthday party nowadays. ‘School holiday’ is a synonym for an overseas holiday. If you want to go for an overseas trip during the school holiday period, good luck to you.
University education: $100,000 to $500,000 + So, So Much More
Period: ages 19 to 23 for girls and ages 21 to 25 for boys (due to National service)
Most parents are aware that tertiary education will cost a bomb. For a degree in the local Singapore universities, costs will approximate $100,000. If it is done overseas, costs go up again, ranging from $200,000 to over $500,000 depending on the destination country. Last year, it was reported that even an Australian degree cost $262,000.
What people do not account for is that nowadays university students are not just studying. They own the latest electronic gadgets, go to parties and go on overseas trips to ‘see the world’. Theirs is a “champagne lifestyle”, and not necessarily on a “lemonade budget”.
Most parents have already exhausted their savings by this stage and have to resort to taking out an education loan for the child, but the young ones may rather spend $150/month for a gym membership.
Many will argue that at the end of the day, it is the intangible benefits such as the joys of parenthood and the achievement of raising a child that matters. But spending too much for the kids, and not saving enough could be your biggest retirement regret.
As one of the retirees said, “on hindsight, there was no need to have spent so much. We might have gotten a bit carried away. If we had invested the money instead, we would be able to give her more financial support today.”
Is this the true cost of raising a child in Singapore? What do you think, leave your comment and I would love to hear from you.