25 August 2014, by Tan Yi Lin
This is going to be a tricky topic to write about, but let’s give it a shot anyway.
At the very least, it’s going to be an honest one – which is what this blog has always been about.
Let’s talk about money.
I was chatting with my IVF girlfriends on Whatsapp while heading home from work one day. We were talking about buying stuff. It happened to be one of those days where work went well, and I had left the office feeling happy, efficient, productive – and in the mood to give myself a small treat. (Oh, who am I kidding – both good days AND bad days at work justify giving myself a little treat!)
I texted the girls, “This is going to come across as sounding materialistic. But I have to admit that I enjoy earning a salary – and having money to spend.”
My phone buzzed with a reply: “It’s not materialistic at all. I do like the freedom of being able to spend my own money too.”
That’s why I love these girls. Honest, real answers. No preachy lectures about how time spent with children is worth more than money, or about how no amount of money can buy your children’s love, etc etc.
Before we get judged as a bunch of irresponsible money-worshipping women, let me explain: We know that life isn’t about earning as much as you can. We don’t lead lives dictated by money. None of us are in our jobs solely for the remuneration that it provides, especially not my friends who are both educators.
But beyond the small (because we’re not exactly filthy rich!) enjoyment that money brings us, I recognise that money is important. Not THAT important. Definitely not the MOST important. But needed nonetheless. And never more so than now that I’m a parent.
While I feel bad about leaving Coco in school and Claire in my mum’s care for most of the day, and while I bask in their every hug as affirmation that they don’t hold it against me, I also find comfort in knowing that my time away contributes towards growing, or at least maintaining, my family’s financial security.
There, I’ve said it: I like earning money. I like seeing the numbers in my bank account grow month on month.
Let me explain why.
It’s said that money can’t buy happiness. But for us, it did. And much more. It paid for fertility treatment, without which we would not have our daughters. It’s paying for the annual storage fee for our remaining frozen embryos, within which we harbour hopes of having another child. Of course, government grants come in handy and money alone – without a huge degree of luck and divine intervention – would not have made us parents. But it has made our journey to parenthood slightly easier knowing that we have the financial resources to pursue this route.
It’s said that money can’t buy health. The best medical treatment that you can afford probably won’t erase whatever health problems you have overnight, but at the very least it may contribute to keeping them at bay. Until I wean myself off the treatment, these TCM accupressure sessions that have kept me seizure-free for almost 3 months now are well worth every cent spent. Because being in good health puts me in a better state to take care of my family.
It’s said that money can’t buy freedom. At $80 a week ($150 if I opt for a doctor’s consultation and if he prescribes health supplements), treatment is not cheap. While I cringe inwardly every time I fork out such sums for each 45 min session, I do appreciate being able to spend on these TCM sessions, free from worries about whether I can afford the next session.
It’s said that money can’t buy peace of mind. Dannie and I have various health insurance, investment and education policies in place for our family. We didn’t have the financial resources to buy all these overnight. We started with establishing comprehensive insurance coverage for ourselves, gradually took on some modest investment policies as our income grew and lastly, put some of our money into education funds for our children. While we recognise that it’s possible to provide sufficiently for your children within your means, the ability to invest in our children’s future does offer us some degree of security – and peace of mind – in knowing that our kids would be alright in the event that we’re not around to provide for them. Beyond providing for them in their growing years, buying insurance for ourselves also means that we’re less likely to be of a financial burden to them – and their own families – in our old age. Kids aside, I would also want to contribute towards a comfortable retirement for my parents too given how they have provided – not without sacrifices – for us.
So, yes – I like having the freedom to spend on these things and – if the finances allow – more. I like ending a day at work knowing that I’ve earned a little more to put into the family piggy bank, in particular, for education and medical expenses – and just knowing that I have ready resources for a rainy day.
The talk of money often brings to mind the idea of materialism and the 5 ‘C’s – cash, condominium, car, credit card and country club – which clearly one does not need to accumulate before becoming a parent. Still, one can’t ignore the fact that money is a valid, if not very important consideration, when starting a family. One sensible way would be to sound out your financial planner on your family plans, set your financial goals and expectations for your family, and chart out a manageable financial roadmap to get you there – step by step. Dannie and I still meet our financial planner regularly, and conduct an annual review of our financial health to factor in changes in family income and expenses.
Go ahead, talk about money. Be honest about your views on money. It’s okay to take pride in earning your keep. It’s okay to recognise that you like spending money. You’re not being materialistic. You’re being normal – just like any other parent out there.