Monday 14 July 2014

The Middle Income Trap

In the past 3 decades, Asia witness the rise of the middle income families. Due to a booming economy, massive job creation and raising salary levels, the major Asia economies created a burgeoning middle class. These middle-income earners had stable careers, high spending power and plenty of disposable income.

These gave rise to a mushrooming commerce of premium lifestyle products and services to supplement the insatiable demand and appetite of these middle-income earners. Everything from soap, coffee, bread, noodles have all gone “artisan” and “premium”! In Singapore, a local coffee would cost about $0.80 to $1.00. Coffees sold at these “artisanal” lifestyle coffee joints cost anywhere from $4.50 to $7.00 a cup!

The fast food generation demands instant gratification, with the disposable income they have, they want the advertised lifestyle now. These middle-income earners today are spoilt for choice and indulge in lifestyle products and services, simply because they can afford it!

In the Asian culture, well meaning parents have always thought their children to spend only what they can afford and save their extra for a rainy day. The truth is, these middle-income earners are doing precisely what their parents thought them. They are saving up some money for emergencies, while spending within their means.

As their income rise, they raise their living standards to match their income. Instead of raising their savings rate, they raise their expenses in an effort to show they have made it. While they have a fair amount of savings, they are oblivious to the fact that the buying power of their money is constantly being eroded through inflation.

The Asian education system in general has also neglected to teach this fast food generation the management of their personal finances. The importance of maintaining a prudent lifestyle, constantly increasing savings, putting those hard earned savings to work for through investment and reinvesting the profits to achieve compounding returns have little emphasis in the secular education system.

True financial freedom can only be found through hard work and delayed gratification. If you are prepared to do the hard investment work now, the hard investment work will pay you back for years to come.

T. Harv Eker in his book, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind best summed up this concept in a quote:

“If you are willing to do only what is easy, life will be hard.
But if you are will to do what’s hard, life will be easy.”

Do you really need to upgrade to that new property now? Do you really need a new car? Do you really need do that renovation now? Do you really need that $6 cup of coffee?

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