“Not easy ah…”

I say this with no intention to disrespect whatsoever: My father is a typical boomer parent. Every time I suggest that he pick up some investment lessons with me or explore a potential business idea on the side, this phrase “not easy ah…” comes up. That’s not to say that he is lazy or does not bother about his personal finance at all. Quite the contrary, he is in full control of his financial plans for retirement in the coming years and barely even needs his pension payout to keep him going. In fact, he planned so well that neither me or my siblings have had to worry about our financial status in our growing years, and we had the fortune of seeing through tertiary education without being saddled with college debt. It is a real blessing indeed and I am forever grateful of having a father who had the foresight to make those plans as a sole breadwinner of the family on a blue-collared worker’s salary, even if he may have started later than most.

But this phrase comes up many times when my siblings and I suggested ideas to my father, not just to financial ideas, but anything in general. It could be suggestions to make my DIY wedding props – “not easy ah… just engage somebody to do and pay for it la…”, or to renting out the spare bedroom – “not easy ah… later the tenant give so much problem… not worth the effort”, or making plans to go on a cheaper DIY holiday since he has so much spare time on his hands – “not easy ah… must coordinate the flights and hotels… just book tour and let them tell you all the details”. As I reflect on this, I guess he has arrived at a financial position where coughing up money is often the more convenient thing to do instead of spending time and effort when he does not see meaning in it.

He also uses it when I bring up suggestions to learn about other ways of making money besides working a full-time job. He then takes on the perspective that we are looking at an investment opportunity that does not guarantee his principal and that could be scary enough to him that he blocks his mind off it almost immediately. He too admits this – if it were a fixed deposit, Singapore Savings Bond or an endowment fund with guaranteed capital, he is more than willing to consider it as a viable option. He is also confident to share all his knowledge about the various CPF top-up schemes and SRS policies, and how to avoid tax legally (note: tax evasion is illegal but tax avoidance is fine) in Singapore. He takes the effort to find out more about any updates to CPF policies and CPF life because it was particularly important to make the necessary payout arrangements to pay as little in taxes on his pension as possible. So actually, not too bad lahh… From his various sharing, I also picked up the desire to learn more about minimising costs to myself too.

However, when it comes to the stock market or some business idea, he finds these endeavours too high-risk and admits that he does not have the intellect nor the drive to pursue it such that he can make a profit at the end. In his mind, he has already put in the hard work over the many years to secure his own hard-earned retirement and it should not disappear because of investment decisions that he feels is not easy to keep tracking. Perhaps at his age, it is by far one of the sounder things to do, rather than take on risks unnecessarily. But I would also say that not having any exposure to the market, when one has already set aside enough in low-risk instruments also means that inflation will only erode those savings over time.

At the same time, he gives the same boomer advice most other parents his generation also give: study hard, get a good and secure job and work your way up one career ladder to guarantee yourself an increasing monthly payout to support your expenses. He will soon retire from the first job he took right out of NS, and the company took care of him, his career progression and our family along the way. His well-intentioned advice was borne out of his experience, which is also only representative of the world of work from a distant past.

In the past, when he said the phrase “not easy ah…” and bring up all the various challenges, I would try to convince him of my thinking, but almost to no avail. These days, I am more understanding of where he is coming from. So while he still uses the phrase after I share an investment opportunity that I am hopping on, and I will take note of all the possible hiccups that can happen along the way, I sometimes turn it into a challenge that some things are worth doing perhaps because they are difficult to begin with.

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