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29 Mar 2024

SOURCE: CPF Board

a young couple putting their money in a jar

Is it really “happy ever after” after you find the one? As a young couple, merging your lives brings excitement, but also the complexity of navigating finances together. From budgeting, shared goals to financial spending, financial planning with someone else comes with its challenges.

 

But whether you're in the honeymoon phase of your relationship or navigating the start of your commitment together, learn from these three Singaporeans as they share their financial planning experience.


Trent Ong (23) is an undergraduate currently working as a marketing temp in Singapore. With his girlfriend, Rachel (23), working in Australia, he grapples with the challenges of a long-distance relationship and long-term financial planning.

For Trent, it's about having early conversations about money

Trent: I’m currently in my final semester of my bachelor’s degree at the University of Sydney. 

 

I’m now back in Singapore spending time with my family, while working as a temp at a marketing company for three months. This means that I’m doing long-distance with my girlfriend of 7 months, who’s an Operating Room (OR) nurse back in Sydney. But it isn’t as difficult as anticipated so far, thanks to our busy schedules! 

 

I’m in the camp of believing that it’s never too early to start planning for one’s finances. While the relationship is still relatively young, I appreciate how we are mature enough to comfortably talk about our finances.


Finding a balance between couples

It gets challenging sometimes as there is a certain social pressure on the guy to foot the bill for the girl.

 

While I am blessed to have my tuition and rent sponsored by my parents, I still work part-time at a restaurant to pay for my living expenses like groceries, the cheeky pint down at the pub after a long day of school, and yes, the not-so-occasional $20 plate of chicken rice in Sydney.

 

But I am also fortunate in the sense that Rachel has never put the onus on me to pay for anything in our relationship, as she understands that money can be spent more wisely like going towards a house or travelling. This reduces the strain on my finances, as we split the bill equally. Budgeting as a couple has been a learning experience, as we have to control our eating-out tendencies and going on fancy dates less to cut down on larger expenses.

While she never expects me to pay anything for her, I just do it out of goodwill sometimes. I feel that new couples need to find their balance – being too prudent take a toll on your relationship, whereas being too exorbitant in your spending might cultivate bad financial habits in the long run.

 

I’m in the camp of believing that it’s never too early to start planning for one’s finances. While the relationship is still relatively young, I appreciate how we are mature enough to comfortably talk about our finances.


Setting short and long-term financial goals, with CPF as a safety net

We have talked about starting a joint account once I graduate and am settled into a stable job, to start saving up for our future together. One of our immediate financial goals is to rent a place together. This is quite daunting for us, due to the sky-high rental prices in Sydney. 

 

We have considered other expenses that are attached with renting a place like utility bills and household supplies. Long-term financial plans like starting a family are also part of our conversation. 

 

Even though my current plan to build my life in Australia, I do think about my CPF often. It is my safety net, as there is always a chance that things may not work out for me overseas. CPF will be crucial if I eventually decide to settle down in the Lion City as it will help me with my home purchase. That’s why even if I get a job and live overseas, I’m considering setting aside a portion of my monthly salary to top up my CPF.


Is your money her money? And is her money yours?

I do think my money is her money, but her money is also my money. What’s important is to have candid conversations and review our finances together regularly.


yasmeen and jonathan

Yasmeen (25) is laying the financial groundwork for her future with her boyfriend, Jonathan (25). With a BTO on the way, they are navigating their life together and finding a balance between present wants and future needs.

For Yasmeen, it's about not fighting over money

Yasmeen: I graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in April last year, and am currently working as an event organiser. I met my boyfriend, Jonathan aka JLo in 2018 while we were both ambassadors at Ngee Ann Polytechnic!

 

Since then, we’ve been through lots of milestones together - his National Service, university, and our first jobs – and it feels like both of us have changed and grown from these life experiences in the past five or so years.

 

At the start of our relationship, we never discussed our finances in detail. We were very different in terms of spending money. I was more “YOLO” and would just go to the convenience store to get a drink even if it was priced around $3, but JLo would rather bring his own bottle. 

 

We only started to be serious about financial planning after we decided to commit to a future together. Our application for a BTO flat was successful in March 2023, which is our anniversary month by the way – what a cute coincidence!


CPF helped with their home financing

Initially, everything house-related was quite foreign to us – we didn’t know where and how to even start because there was so much information out there.

 

The CPF First home calculator was something that we used to determine how much we could reasonably afford for our first home.

 

Thankfully, about 40% of our downpayment is currently funded by our CPF savings – it really helps a lot financially. We do not have much cash on hand as we just graduated. Both of us also feel that, as long as we keep working, part of our CPF savings can pay for our housing costs which comes in handy. CPF contributions coming from our employers are like extra income to us!

 

To help with the downpayment for our home, we’ve started putting 50% of our take home salary into a joint bank account. Even after paying for the downpayment, we will continue with this practice as there are more long-term purchases on the horizon, such as our second downpayment* in five years, and other costs like wedding, renovation etc. 

 

While costs may differ in the future, we estimate a figure based on current market rates and try to save as much as we can to alleviate our stress in the future.

 

*Under the Staggered Downpayment Scheme, which splits the downpayment into two instalments, 5% of the purchase price is paid upon the signing of the Agreement for Lease, with the remaining 15% paid upon key collection.


"Rules" when it comes to money

One of the guiding principles instilled by our parents is to never fight over money. Talk openly, disagree respectfully, but never fight over it. Our parents have always demonstrated healthy communication over finances, showing us how to listen, compromise and find solutions together.

 

We’ve started tracking all our expenses, and we do monthly reviews to make sure we don’t exceed our budget except for months with special occasions like Christmas. 

 

These are our basic ground rules:

  • Say NO to expensive restaurant dates because they are unnecessary (our love for each other is enough)
  • Our go-to dinner date is Sukiya, affordable but super good
  • Indulge in Hai Di Lao (our favourite place) once in a while. It’s about the balance. While we are usually thrifty, it’s ok  to indulge ourselves occasionally
a Hai Di Lao meal

Rewarding themselves with the occasional HDL


Is your money his money? And is his money yours?

JLo says “ya duh, my money is your money”. But I feel that as long as there is clear communication on our financial boundaries and spendings, and we don’t fight about money, that’s good enough for us.


Ismail (32) just moved in together with his fiancée Tana (30) into their newly renovated resale flat. 

Ismail: I am a full-time content writer, engaged to my girlfriend of over 6 years. We just moved into a lovely 5-room resale unit a couple of weeks ago and will be getting married later this year in August.

For Ismail, it's about communication and compromise

For our home, we started with a wish-list: walking distance to MRT, high floor, not facing main roads, and a flat under 10 years old. Obviously, as we’re still young with a limited budget, we had to compromise (especially after multiple failed BTO attempts!).

 

The house hunting process was tedious, and we spent many weekends visiting many flats. I always think that you have to somewhat “fall in love” with your flat and the many houses that we viewed just didn’t give us that feeling. We also submitted bids that were turned down due to the high asking prices.

 

Eventually, we found a relatively new flat in Upper Serangoon that was somewhat facing the main road. Since we planned to give the home an extensive makeover, the flat’s condition wasn’t a deal breaker. 

 

I also wanted to stay in Upper Serangoon to be nearer to my parents. A lot of people have advised that having your parents to care for and dote on your kids is deeply invaluable. I want them to be involved as well too.  My partner was initially not too keen to move to a new neighbourhood as she has lived in Woodlands all her life, so it definitely took some convincing. 

 

Even now, she still complains about the airplanes flying daily and I just smile weakly at her.

Ismail’s home before renovation


Tana earns slightly around 10-20% more than me but works much longer hours and in a much stressful job than I do. However, she tends to be quite traditional when it comes to gender roles and expects the male to take the lead on financial matters.

This can be quite sticky because even though I earn less than her, I am generally expected to pay for many of the things in our relationship such as meals and the house upkeeping.

We have spoken about this multiple times and she shared that she likes to be treated well. I want to add that it’s not that she doesn’t pay, but she doesn’t pay 50-50. More like 30-70 which kind of grinds my gears because she earns more than me. This something that we have to definitely work on as a couple.


To be or not to be...a parent

Another challenge is that Tana is very interested in having children in the next few years - but I am nowhere financially ready for it. At the early stage of my marriage, I would like to spend my money on other things such as travelling or buying fancy things.

 

It's not that I don’t want children, it’s just that I’m not sure if I am financially ready. After all, I want to give my best for the kid.


Separate accounts and sharing thoughts (eventually)

For now, we maintain two separate bank accounts and just track things via an excel sheet. This actually gets quite taxing to update and there are times when I feel paiseh* to put things in if it is just $10 so I usually just forget about it. 

 

Not having a joint account bothers me sometimes as I feel conflicted when updating the tracker with items that she hasn’t paid me for.

 

I always believe in open communication. There have been certain situations where we will have a serious conversation about our finances. The stuff that I mentioned earlier that grinds my gears, I will address them when the time comes (doesn’t sound too likely, it’s most likely that I must accept it). But for now, as they say, happy wife, happy life.

*Feeling embarrassed or sheepish


Proactively planning for the future

Naturally, this makes me think a lot more about my finances through both short and long-term planning.

I hope that in the future, my partner and I can retire at a respectable age and use our savings to travel the world and enjoy the fruits of our labour.

 

I believe that CPF can play a big part in that future, so I am actively topping up my Special and MediSave Accounts to make sure that I have enough for my retirement and healthcare needs. My partner is not doing this yet, but I am actively trying to convince her so that we can have a much more comfortable retirement.


Is your money her money? And is her money yours?

Not yet. But I know that spending some of my money can make her super happy and that is more than worth it. 😊


Planning your finances together as a couple can and should be an exciting adventure. It's a chance to work as a team, align your goals, and make your dreams a reality!

 

Check out this article to learn how to lay the groundwork for a more secure future together.


Information in this article is accurate as at the date of publication.