Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Maybe Singaporeans should just lie flat and give up on their ambitions ?


We're seeing a lot of bloggers talk about "Lying Flat" movement which goes to show how much traction this idea has. This is going to be a discussion on how to actually execute it in Singapore.

The basic idea behind the movement is to just give the middle finger to your dreams and ambitions and give up, not so much to preserve your mental health but as a protest against society. There is a certain hint of privilege behind this movement as folks who can live with their parents have a huge leg up as they do not need to pay any rent, nevertheless, some government data can assist us in designing this lifestyle.

a) Model the expenses of a retiree

The first step we need to do would be to model the expenses of a retiree. Fortunately, I've already done this research that resulted in a Dr. Wealth article I wrote on what happens to retiree's expenses when they get older. (Link is here

If you spend like an ordinary person in a HDB household ( not counting rent ), you will need $1,627 a month which is not really conducive to lying down. A more reasonable expenses target would be $1,154 which is a median retiree's expenses per head. I suspect to meet these, you have to forego bulk of your entertainment and really go BBFA, focus all your effort playing computer games and stream movies.

So let's impute $1,154 as monthly expenses.

b) Model the earnings of a food delivery driver 

The second step is to figure out how you can earn $1,154 per month. I've decided that the lifestyle should not invest because we'd just end up with another bland flavour of FIRE. Whoever lies flat would still have to work for it, albeit the work would be really minimal.

So the work that gives the worker the most control is the gig economy and fortunately, Seedly has a great article on delivery riders here. If you read the article, a reasonable salary would be $600 a week, but it is 40 hours of back-breaking work. Furthermore, you would still have to contribute to Medisave, which can take out 4-8% of your earnings. Take out 5% in our example and your take-home is about $570 a week. 

c) Now lie flat like you owe nothing to society

So with a top-line and bottom-line established, we know that two weeks of food delivery work at 80 hours will subsidise a month of expenses at $1,154, so the default position is that to lie down sustainably, you will be working about 50% of the time compared to average Singaporeans - a 20 hour workweek.

This is not exactly something I'd like because I work way less than that in real life thanks to FIRE.

But there are obviously ways to improve that ratio. 

One is to lie down so much that you spend less than a median retiree in Singapore. If you can miraculously live on $600 a month (possibly by dumpster diving), then you would only be working 25% of the time. If you can find a short and interesting gig at rates higher than $15/hour (like becoming a sugar baby) then you can relax even harder.

Therefore, a sugar baby who does food delivery and dumpster dives occasionally might be the iconic symbol of the "Lying Flat" movement in Singapore. 

If such a person does not exist, maybe we should invent someone like that. 



  1. From the various salary & household income surveys over the past 20 years, it still appears that people can lean-FIRE after 10-15 years of conscious & focused effort, and subsequently being able to work far less than Lie Flat.

    Lie Flat is just a symptom of expectations being slapped in the face by reality. In previous generations it used to occur later i.e. mid-life crisis. Today, perhaps with much higher expectations, it's occurring much sooner.

    It's pretty much a phase or fad, especially since it's mostly a younger age group. When a 20-something Lie Flat-er eventually sees peers having higher standards of living, he/she will start doing things to get onboard.

    They may also play geographical arbitrage. Going to countries where the same or less work/effort translates to higher pay and/or QoL. Language requirements & work visa clampdowns in many Western countries have cut off a large escape route for many Uni-educated Chinese. Singapore may get to see influx of such potential Lie Flat-ers.

  2. I will never choose to lie flat if I ever know about FIRE. I do see folks wanting to do it if they are not equipped with the right skills to qualify for the middle class and lack the mathematical instincts to understand how finance works.

    Lie flatters also has a biased towards the more privileged. Most working class Singaporeans can't even afford it.