“My husband Shawn and I had a pretty smooth road to getting our own home and starting a family. We applied for our Build-To-Order flat before I graduated from university and within two years ― just a few months before we tied the knot ― we got the keys to our own house. We had Scarlett the following year. The transitions seemed pretty crazy for young couples like us and I won’t deny that I felt that way, too.
I can only imagine it would be so much harder for young couples who are not ready for kids to be caught in the same situation as us, or those who are ready for kids but aren’t lucky enough to have a personal space of their own to build a family. We see and hear a lot of such rants from our peers ― the latter being a very common outcry of theirs, especially if they come from larger families and have siblings they had to share a room with.
Many factors contributed to our decision to start a family early and I think our government policies have helped heaps. I was 21 and Shawn was 23 when we applied for our BTO. First and foremost, you must be ready to move to the next level of your relationship before buying a house together. Back then, we had already been together six years. I was in the last year of my studies in university while Shawn has been working for about a year right after National Service (NS).
You must be wondering how we could afford to buy a home under these circumstances. If you look at the numbers, a 4- or 5-room flat comes with a down payment of $40,000 or more ― I think not a lot of people my age can afford this if they don’t receive any help from their parents.
The public housing schemes and grants really made a difference for us. We managed to get the Additional Housing Grant because only Shawn’s income was taken into consideration as we applied for the flat before I graduated. That helped to defray the first half of our down payment. Still, it was not enough, but we were fortunate Shawn had some savings from coaching part-time before and during his NS. The staggered down payment also made the financial burden easier for us to bear. Now that the CPF Housing Grant has been increased to $50,000 for a 4-room or smaller resale flat, and $40,000 for a 5-room or large resale flat, I think it will definitely make public housing more affordable for young couples looking to settle down early.
When we conceived Scarlett, the first question that came to our minds was who would take care of her since both of us work. The three common caregiver options are the grandparents, a domestic helper, and infant care centres. For us, the first was not an option because our parents are either still working or are not in the best physical health mind our child for us. Thanks to maid horror stories we heard from various sources, including our close relatives, we became the paranoid parents we never expected ourselves to be.
At the same time, we were pretty reluctant to put Scarlett in an infant care centre from fear that she may fall sick easily. As if things aren’t complicated enough, I am required to do shifts because of the nature of my job and there is zero flexibility of bringing my work home.
Eventually, when Scarlett was born, Shawn made the difficult decision to leave his full-time job at an international school and set up his own swim school to accommodate the need for flexibility in our household. I am forever grateful for his timely decision. When I had to return to work after my maternity leave, Shawn took care of Scarlett all on his own whenever I was away. Whenever our working schedules clashed, he had to shuttle frequently between his classes to drop off and pick up our baby at his parent’s place (they had a helper then).
I know that not many people would be able to leave their jobs as and when they want to. We were blessed that the nature of his profession allowed him to venture into his own business. If we were not given this option, we would have sent Scarlett to an infant care centre, which is heavily subsidised by the government.
Fast forward, just after Scarlett turned 1, I was selected by my boss to take an eight-month-long full-time specialisation course. This meant that I would now have to share the free time I used to have for Scarlett with the piles of schoolwork I would inevitably bring home.
I knew then that I would need additional help at home once school commenced. We struggled to come to a decision to hire a helper and hit the jackpot when Shawn’s parents graciously acceded to our shameless request to transfer their helper to us!
Having a helper at home really eases one’s load, especially if you have young children at home ― we can divert the time set aside for household chores to spend it with the family. The Enhanced Foreign Domestic Working levy concession helps us to save $205 every month. Without the concession, it would have cost us over $800 per month, which can be hefty for some families. I know the concession may not be a lot, but in our opinion, it does make the pinch easier to bear.”
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