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Opinion: Is it OK to have a big family in Singapore?

It’s no secret that having a big family isn’t on the radar or status quo for most married couples in Singapore. According to statistics by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, 2-child families are the norm, with childless or 1-child families increasingly significantly as well.

In general, household sizes are becoming smaller over the years, with their overall average size reducing from 3.70 in 2000 to 3.30 in 2017. Some couples are even choosing not to have any children at all. In fact, the proportion of households comprising married couples without co-residing children – out of all resident households – rose sharply from 10.6% in 2000 to 15.8% in 2017.

Why couples are having fewer children

So why the lack of enthusiasm for raising more kids?

In an article published by The Straits Times, expert Dr Tan Poh Lin from the LKY School of Public Policy reasons that many Singaporeans have higher parenting standards now.

Many feel that being a good parent requires significant investment in terms of time and money, and are wary about their ability to provide both financially and emotionally for more than one child.

The rising costs of raising kids are another contributing factor. In fact, a new study conducted by AIA Singapore reveals that many parents spend 20% or more of their income on kids alone. This figure is 2.5 times more than on their retirement. As such, it’s understandable that parents may feel they just can’t afford the financial expectations of a big family.

The upsides and challenges of raising multiple kids

With all these figures and facts in mind, is it a good idea to have a big family? Parent Daniel Choo, father to two boys and two girls aged between 9 months to 7 years, seems to think so.

Choo himself comes from a family of three other brothers, and his wife Faith is the oldest of 6.

“Because I come from a big family myself, I knew the importance of having many siblings,” he relates. “We laughed and cried together and many experiences were forged. As such, I also wanted my children to have other siblings to bond with.”

Also read: Two Singaporean parents get candid on the importance of financial planning

Choo also shares how much joy his little ones have brought him. “Logically, more kids would bring more joy!” he laughs. “I would say the memories from the happy times outweigh the bad ones. There is really never a dull moment, thinking of the hilarious things they do and say.”

Of course, Choo also acknowledges that having multiple kids comes with its struggles, especially in light of unforeseen circumstances. He had a scare earlier this year when his youngest son had to go through a major operation at only 3 months old, and was hospitalised for close to a month.

“I must admit I was financially worried about at that time, but we took several measures to help keep the potential costs down, like staying in a subsidised ward,” he shares.

Other challenges include not having much time to socialise with friends (weekends are reserved for family outings), and having to constantly plan activities to keep all his little ones entertained.

Tips to survive and thrive with a big family

Choo also offers some practical advice for couples thinking of having multiple kids. The first is to ensure that one plans financially and has the ability to save.

“As long as I am able to save something each month after taking into account all the various expenses, all is good,” he says. “We will also utilise these savings and other investments to cover our children’s tertiary education.”

As Choo notes, it’s pivotal to be prepared for rainy days too. His children are all covered by medical and life insurance, in case the unexpected happens.

Another tip is to set a budget and conscientiously keep track of day-to-day-expenses, a habit Choo has adopted since he started working in 2009. He categorises all his spending as well, giving him an overview of where he is spending too much and whether he is saving.

“By doing so, I can for example, decide if I can send my kids for enrichment classes, go for a staycation or eat out less often,” he explains. “It gives me security to know that I am in control of what I am spending.”

Managing your family finances made easier with Autumn

Granted, having a big family isn’t for everyone. And while the concerns about the financial and emotional sacrifices of having a big family or the cultural expectations of high-intensity parenting are valid, one shouldn’t be put off by it. Interestingly, happiness researchers find that people with kids are less than happy than otherwise identical people without. Perhaps the takeaway isn’t that there isn’t an “optimal” number of kids and way of evaluating how many kids is best for one family. But rather, there are ways to make parenting a less stressful or “dreadful” affair.

For one, having a big family is much less daunting if one has the right financial planning. Thankfully, plenty of tools today exist to simplify the financial planning process. If you’re looking to stay on top of your family finances and well-being, Autumn can help you get started. Backed by SC Ventures, the innovation arm of Standard Chartered bank, this wealth, health and lifestyle solution allows users to seamlessly manage their finances and goals. Here are a few reasons why you’ll love it:

  • See your family finances clearly with Autumn’s Finance Dashboard. Juggling household expenses may be stressful for parents with many kids. Tools like Autumn can simplify the process. This single-view Finance Dashboard aggregates your net worth across your savings, investments, properties, CPF, insurance and more, taking the hassle away from juggling multiple statements or spreadsheets.
  • Say goodbye to manual tracking. Parents with multiple kids – and various insurance policies – will appreciate the Insurance Dashboard, which lets you add and manage your family’s policies in one single place. It’ll also give you timely reminders on upcoming payments and policy expiration dates (no more late fees!)
  • Set aspirations and visualise working towards them financially: Parents can use the Aspirations Graph to list out different aspirations for your kids. For example, a college fund or piano enrichment lessons for your budding musician. This feature lets you set up to 5 different goals, and visualise the trade-off between desired expenses and your retirement readiness.

Autumn is now available in open beta. Download the app here. We’ve got more features coming up in Q4 ’21, so be the first to know when they do!

This article was originally posted on The New Age Parents. 

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