Thursday, December 19, 2013

The hogwash that is 成家立业.

You don't need to spend 4 years in ACS to know that most Chinese proverbs are hogwash.

After failing every Chinese paper since leaving Secondary school, I have developed a natural tendency to be skeptical when someone tosses a mysterious proverb at me.

Today I will discuss the proverb 成家立业 or to settle down and establish a career. A variant of this proverb, duly expanded to six characters, interprets this as an act of settling down before establishing a career.

Chinese culture and language has a history spanning thousands of years. If we really think about the context for the creation of these proverbs, it does not take a lot of thought to know that they probably came about when China was still an agrarian economy.

In such a situation, a farmer should prioritise family before career because children act as extra pairs of hands in a farm. Having children earlier provides more cheap labour to be able to harvest more crops and earn enough to expand the farm or even have more children.

Fast forward to this modern day, Modern Chinese balk at the idea of starting families before they are ready to do so. Children requires more than 2 decades of nurturing before they can contribute to a knowledge-based economy.

But because folks naturally like the idea of starting a family and having children, they don't really spend a lot of time to think about the concept of readiness when it comes to having a family.

Yes, you can get married in your early thirties, the Government even wants you to do this. There are many banks who want you to get a mortgage along with that car. You are young, fabulous and upwardly mobile. You are worth it. YOLO !

Early marriages with a house, children and a car means financial liabilities in your 40s.

You would'nt feel it in your thirties because you are open-minded, sharp, dynamic and paid relatively lowly in the workforce so managers will tend to leave you alone.

When you get to your forties, your actions will bite you the ass. You need a high income to sustain your liabilities. As you have school-going kids, you hunker down and take whatever the corporate world tosses at you but you are no longer as fast as the younger guys in their 30s or as cheap as foreign talent.

A society with debt laden men in their 40s who willingly take anything the corporate world tosses at them will only create a management caste that would not relent on the workforce. Managers will be able to commit wanton acts of abuse as they know that for your salary, you will accept any terms the company has to offer. Don't believe me ? If your office as mid-life workers, go have lunch with them and find out how many actually feel that they are prisoners in the current job roles that they have ?

One of the ideas that Authorities would like to spread in Singapore is that car ownership should not be an aspiration. Hence COEs inflate the value of a car to about $150,000 or more. Cars are a luxury and have no place in the 5 Cs. You need to be very exceptional to be a car owner.

If you follow this train of thought and agree with the Authorities, then you will be able to accept my bitter realization and come upon this conclusion:

a) A wife, who has a right to co-own a flat with you and can potentially have your child, is not an aspiration.
b) A child, which cost upward of $1,000,000 to raise,  is also not an aspiration.

Like cars, a family is a luxury. You need to be very exceptional to be a family man.


Based on my opinion, this should be the Mantra moving forward. Put career first, resolve all your mandatory expenses by land/equity ownership before moving on to start a family. If you can secure your family's basic survival by capital ownership and passive investment income, no company or abusive manager can put you in chains.

If you are a young male who wants to take on the world based on your own terms, start by imposing a Certificate of Marriage Entitlement (COME) of $300,000 on yourself. Work hard until this target is reached, then determine if you are willing to delay financial freedom by starting a family.

You'll never know where this approach to life will take you in the future.

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