Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Beware of the rug under your feet

I saw a newspaper article on Straits Times regarding JC students shunning geography as a A lvl subject here. These are the articles that represent one of my grave concerns with my career as a tutor. Major changes like these can make or break my livelihood, and it's very important for me to stay up to date.

Imagine if I'm a pure geography tutor who specialises in this one and only subject. Geography tutors are fairly rare, unlike the more ubiquitous maths/science tutors, so I suppose they can charge a premium in their rates. But structural changes that affects the cohort of people taking A'lvl Geography will affect them in massive ways. No matter how good you are, you're going to have to face headwinds in the declining number of students you can teach, so the pie gets smaller for everyone teaching Geography. And how much can you raise your rates to offset the drop in the number of students? I'll be a little stressed if I'm a Geography tutor.

The issue is that such major changes might happen every 5 or 10 years, and I don't know whether it'll hit one of the core subjects that I'm teaching. Perhaps there will be a shift in the focus away from the sciences towards the arts? Who knows? Long ago when I just began, I remembered seeing a lot of chinese tutors and tuition centres closing down because there is a fundamental shift in the way Chinese is included in the raw score for entry to JC. And students in Singapore are pretty pragmatic - they have to be since society focuses so much on education and having that degree.

I don't want to be caught in this situation.

Here's what I'll do:

1. I'll teach several subjects at several levels. If the stars are not aligned properly, I'll switch to other levels and/or other subjects. That will ensure the longevity of my career as a tutor. I think I still need a job that pays the bills for the next 15 to 20 yrs, so I have to do the necessary hardwork to juggle all these subjects at all these levels. The call is for tutors to specialise in just one subject i.e. to be a subject specialist. I'll resist that, thank you very much. It's boring and it's not good for the long term and it's not robust enough for my comfort.

2. Focus building up on passive income. There'll come a time when there might not be work even if I want to. Ageism in tutors is a mixed bag - some say matured tutors are better, some say younger tutors can click better with the students. I don't want to find out the hard way, so it's good to have multiple streams of income. My way is the stocks/bonds way, not the property way. To do that, it's back to the fundamentals with savings, then investing. This will take greater and greater focus in the next 10 years as I seek to replace my active income with the income streaming from my financial assets.

3. Pay off the debts as soon as I can. This is reduce my overhead to the barest possible and will greatly relieve the stress of not being able to earn as much as before due to policy and structural changes in my macro work environment.

Better don't stay so comfortable. The rug under your feet may be pulled by external forces that you may not be able to control.


Singapore Man of Leisure said...


It's not the rug you should be watching out for.

Look out for a plastic sheet underneath your feet ;)

I love the scene in Lethal Weapon 2 where the South African henchman looks down to check after telling his boss bad news.


Createwealth8888 said...

Beware of our wear-out shoes too. :-)

la papillion said...

Hi smol,

Haha, probably watched that movie before but can't remember already :) I think like Rolf, I keep looking at the writings on the wall to anticipate before the actual situation comes in. Better to be prepared in advance!

la papillion said...

Hi bro8888,

Hahaha! I still rmb our cbox talk about shoes :)

I no longer buy cheapskate shoes anymore! Waste of time and energy! haha

SMK said...

look around and make sure no one nearby pulling your rug.

la papillion said...


Haha, the problem is no one is pulling it...the ground that the rug is on shifts and suddenly your feet is dangling in empty air, like those cartoon characters before they fall :)

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