Thursday, April 19, 2012

What's the minimum salary to live comfortably?

I was wondering what is the salary that one would need in order to survive life here in Singapore. It would not be surprising to hear a wide range, perhaps from as low as 1k/mth to as high as 20k/mth. That's because we want different things in life and for certain things, we really do not want to do without because if these basic comfort levels are gone, then our quality of life also decreases. After all, we do not want to merely survive; we want to live a life. Knowing that this would be a subjective topic, let's just start with me.

Here's some of the basic things that I need to pay on a monthly basis:

1. Food $200
2. Parents $650
3. Insurance $400
4. Mortgage for house $1000 (my part alone)
5. Phone and internet bills $80
6. Groceries $80
7. Car expenses + loan $360 (my part alone)
8. Water and electricity bills $100
9. Conservancy charges $60
10. Overseas holiday $100
11. Entertainment $50

Total: $3080

This amount does not include tax yet. But tax on a monthly basis would not add much to the overall figure. To avoid underestimating some variable expenses and to account for tax, let's just put a blanket figure of $3300. That should iron out all the variation in certain expenses and include tax too, which would make the figure a pretty good estimate of how much I need to live comfortably.

I think the median salary per month in Singapore in 2011 is $2700 and the average salary is $4,100. That should make the $3300 a pretty average kind of salary for a comfortable life here. But bear this in mind, if you really earn that much and spend it all, you won't have much savings, if at all. If you are retrenched, or just simply retired from work, you won't have a drop of money to last you a month. That means that if you plan to retire, you need to earn more than this amount. So how much is a good salary that can cover my expenses and to include savings?

I think savings 20% is too low for my liking, so I would say a minimum of 50%, which puts the income at 6.6k per month. With that kind of salary, I can pay my expenses plus save up another month of expenses for the future. This makes things a lot easier to calculate. For every month that I'm earning a 6.6k salary now, I'll  be able to NOT work for another month in the future. So, if I still have 20 yrs of working life left, then I don't have to work for 20 yrs till I'm dead. Of course, this simplistic back-envelope calculation does not include the eroding effects of inflation, but neither does it take into account what I can do with the savings that I stashed aside.

I mustn't let my income drop below 6.6k. But this year is a hard year for me, so far. Bearing in mind that in the future, the expenses might go up or down, so it's good to do this kind of calculation in the future again. My target of 100k savings is still in-the-works, and I still want to push my income level towards 12k. If that happens, hor say liao, haha :)


Createwealth8888 said...

Is $3K for one or two person?

Anonymous said...

Car expenses cannot be $360/month lah. Did you include road tax, car insurance, servicing/repair fees?

What about repair of household appliances, furnitures, renovation/repair needs (eg. electrical/sanitory/other fixtures) Although they may/may not come, still have to budget in at least yearly.

And you have no children right?

la papillion said...

Hi Bro8888,

For one.

Hi anonymous,

For the car, included everything except road tax and servicing fees. Okay, road tax add another $57 per month then. Servicing fees not included. That's something that needs to be taken from savings. Just like how I didn't include going to the doctor, or for emergency operation. Perhaps the normal maintenance of car needed to be included. Any idea how much it'll be?

No children.

Anonymous said...

Hi Papi,

For the car you probably need to include car repayment, petrol, season parkings, adhoc parkings, ERP, road tax, insurance and maintenance. I imputed some assumed costs personally and it worked out to be around $1,370 for me. Assuming per head it would be $685 per person. Of course, much of these items are variable and depends on your assumption.

I think it is fairly reasonable to assume an average cost for medical expenses also, though that said I had problems 'assuming' a good reasonable figure which is conversative at the same time. That became the biggest uncertainty in my own provisions. I prefer to factor this is as cash outflow instead of assuming it will be covered by savings though.

Let me know if you managed to work out a reasonable estimate and how you did so!


la papillion said...

Hi blackjack,

For the car, I did include everything. After adding in the road tax, it'll be 390 per head. I still don't know how much to put into the maintenance. Can you give me a rough figure?

I didn't include medical expenses because I've not seen a doctor for years. It's also super hard to put in a rough estimate of the kind of medical attention needed that isn't covering by my existing insurance.

I already put in a blanket figure to raise the expenses up to 3.3k, so I hope that is more than enough to cover such stuff, haha

I'm actually more interested to know what the min expenses that you all needed per month, for yourself, using whatever assumptions that you had. Let me not be the only one sharing here :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Papi,

For car maintenance, I used a ballpark of $150 per month, or $1,800 a year. This includes tyre change (full set, economic brand kind not sports tyres), servicing (including random replacement of parts), and a small portion to cater to genuine repair. This should be good enough I guess. Anything less I take it as bonus that goes direct back into 'savings'. =D

For medical expenses I agree it may not be easy to do a good estimate, but I felt it was good measure and practice to do so minimally. For instance I had done a minor procedure which cost me $900 recently. This may not be covered by H&S policy. It was something unplanned for as a normal doctor visit for something else but turned out to be slightly different. We never know thus I felt it prudent to factor some 'costs'. But I have problems fielding a reasonable amount here too.

Let me share my costs here which I did previously:

1) All insurance - $500
2) Handphone - $50
3) Parents - $600
4) Public transport - $50 (in case)
5) Weekdays meals - $280
6) Weekdays dinner - $50 (in case, I usually eat home)
7) Weekend meals - $50
8) Common joint account with wife - $1000 (this pays our common expenses and outings, including car cost. this will increase most likely as I have a child too)
9) Leisure - $100
10) Personal purchases - $100
11) Buffer - $100 (in case need to eat expensive meals with colleagues)

This does not include CPF contribution which I use to pay for my housing loan. Most items above err slightly on conservativeness too except for item 8, which i track separately via a different bank account, so its easier to see. So far its still manageable.

la papillion said...

Hi anonymous,

Thanks for sharing! Hmm, I like your item 8), maybe I should do that too, so that it's easier to keep tabs on those shared expenses. I also keep a joint acct with my wife, but she puts in a lump sum once every few months. That's because both of us have lumpy income, so it makes it a bit harder to implement this on a monthly basis.

Looks like if I also include in $150 for the car maintenance, it's still within the 'blanket' increase to top up to my figure of $3,300. I think that figure is quite inflated by myself...i seriously don't think I even spend $100 per month on overseas trip. Nvm, let's keep it that way :)

I'm still unsure regarding the medical fees...let's see if anybody will share with us how they factor in such ad-hoc medical expenses.

On the whole, I think it's a good exercise to do to know what's the minimum level to maintain your current standard of living :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Papi,

sorry the above anonymous post is me. Forgot to sign off :)


la papillion said...

Hi blackjack,

I guessed as much :) No prob, haha

Createwealth8888 said...

Total medical exepneses for my two elder children since they started their uni study since Aug 2009 till today = $1,186

Seeker said...


nice post. I've a spreadsheet for my own as well.

Btw just wanted to highlight, your table should read (ratio) or change the figures to reflect the savings percentage...

It's either 0.5 or 50%, not 0.5%

la papillion said...

Hi bro8888,

Ok, that's not much :) haha

Hi seeker,

Thanks! Yup, you're right, it should be 50% and not 0.5%...but nah, too lazy to put it in excel and retype again, ahha :)

Thanks for pointing out the error!

Createwealth8888 said...

Actually the choice of home will determine how hard the couple will need to earn.

la papillion said...

Hi bro8888,

I agree. Since a property loan will easily be at least 10-30 yrs, that's where it's going to affect how much you earn for the long term.

Newbie said...

Newbie estimates it is $8-9k a month for a family of 4 living in a 1000 sq ft mass market condo and driving a small japanese car. No savings left.

la papillion said...

Hi newbie,

Yup, I know he estimates it at 8 to 9k per month for 4. I think that's about right. If you treat the 2 kids as 1 adult, then family of 4 with 2 kids is equivalent to 3 adults, which will be around 9k to 10k already. Some items will be taken off (like there's no parental maintenance for kids), but there'll be others added to too (like enrichment for kids).

It's about right.

Payroll Services Guelph said...

The main problem is the cost of labor has really only risen a small percentage the cost of the same goods that could be obtained with that salary is now out of reach. so min wage needs to be raised.