Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Sunday January 14th 2018

22-Year-Old Jobless Singaporean Caught In Sandwiched Generation

Hi, I am Shortcake, Singaporean, thank you very much for reading this, any helpful advice, comment or feedback will be sincerely appreciated thanks.  Sorry also for being longwinded and for the poor language used.

I have been facing the following problem, it’s causing me much stress   and sometimes I am  angry with myself whenever I think about it. This is sadly a daily affair because it concerned  my parents and I cared for them alot. The situation is so bad that  I have many sleepless nights thinking about it.

My Background info:
Father: 60+ years old, only primary school education, working as a private school bus driver earning about 3+K/mth or maybe a little more. He is going to retired in about a few years time as his bus is going to reach its maximum usage age thus needs to be scrapped. And it cost too much to buy a new or secondhand bus as business is not as good as before, too many competitors and the COE is sky rocketing now also. Not sure what he is going to do after that or just retire and enjoy his old age as he should deserve it, he has been working hard for most of his life, wakes up 5am comes back at 8+pm. I am proud and thankful of him.

 Mother: 50+ years old, only primary school education, housewife and follows my dad’s bus as a conductor, sadly about 4/5 years back she suddenly gotten Kidney Failure due to the cause of taking too many medicines since young as my mum has not been a very healthy person, she for example has asthmas. She now can only live if she has a kidney transplant or do not miss her kidney dialysis sessions every week which is very sad. She now has to go Kidney Dialysis 3 times a week at a private dialysis clinic, which cost about $200 each time so tats about $2400/mth excluding medicines, checkup and monthly doctor appointments. Luckily she has a government insurance called “Medishield” I think to subsidize her maximum of $1000 every month, but this subsidization has a limit of I think 200K then we are on our own. So, for now my dad still can handle her bills. We tried asking about NKF, but due to my father’s earning it will only be just a little lesser than the private one she is going now which has a good professional doctor and staff and also I heard that NKF staffs are sometimes volunteers in my opinion is not good as it’s a matter of life and death if you what I am trying to say, I believe Life > Money.

 Elder Brother: Late twenties, Married, earning about I think 3 to 4K/mth excluding his wife, not sure how much she earns. Has a flat with his wife far away from us. But problem is that his wife controls as in really control all his cash and him, so he has never contributed to the family income since he worked. I am not very close with him due to the age gap, to me he is the root to my main problem as being the eldest son he doesn’t even contribute a single cent even when now my mum has such a serious and expensive illness. But, my mum is ok with that as he is her most favorite son as long as he comes back home to see her or calls home she will be very happy already, but sadly such as a easy task he also can’t do due to him been overly controlled by his wife, he doesn’t come back much like only 1 or 2 times a month that’s all. So when my dad retires my parents only has me to depend on, which I don’t think I can handle such important and heavy responsibilities on my own.

Lastly Me: I am Chinese male, single, 22 years old this year, just ended my NS/ORD. Currently studying full-time at SIM, for my RMIT Bachelor of Business in Marketing, it is a 2.5 years course and I am in semester 1 now. I have a Electrical and Electronic Diploma (DEEE) from the Singapore Polytechnics with a GPA of 2.8. But, I do not like engineering, just got into the course because I followed my friends, which was one of the bad decisions I made in life. I know I do not want to sign on as a regular for the SAF as I need to be in Singapore at all times in case of an emergency at home as my brother is either very hard to contact or nearly impossible to get to.

 Thank You again for your patience for reading the above, I just wanted to be clear and accurate and not miss out on anything important. Please leave my brother out of the solutions thanks, as I think he is hopeless unless he leaves his wife, but that is impossible as he love her a lot.

Now for the problems I have been facing:-

1)      Have nobody to talk to  about my problems and worries, thus I keep everything to myself causing me to be depressed, stressed, sad and even starting to have anxiety. As I can’t talk with my parents about it, my mum is the type that thinks too much easily and it will affect her health, my dad is a strong man I don’t want to affect is pride and worry him more with his already mountain load of worries. My brother is out of the question, can’t even call him (wife checks his calls) and he rarely comes/calls home, so we became no as close as before his marriage. My parents also don’t want to let my relatives and cousins know about my brother’s problem, so I can’t tell them too. I have don’t have much close friends and telling them this will be weird and embarrassing even to let them know about my brother’s situation. What will their reaction be? Will they change their image of me after knowing my problems? As I believe I usually portray a strong image and someone who is carefree.

2)      Money problem: When my dad retires, how am I going to pay for all the bills (house, medical, and their daily expenses)? Though I think my dad has some savings, but I think it’s not much to last long as for the past 4/5 years I would say at least about 70-80K have been used up already. How much saving he has left I don’t know and is awkward to ask also. For now as a diploma holder I can only get like a starting pay of below 1.8K/mth and after like 10 years I think I can’t even hit the 3K/mth mark without a degree. With my private degree, I will be 25 years old when I graduate, with a starting pay of only about 2 to 2.3K.

3)         Should I change my full-time studies to part-time to earn some extra income? With this extra income I can save for future rainy days which will come eventually and maybe even contributed a little to my mum’s bills.  Problem is that I am currently already struggling in my 1st semester with full-time, there is so many things on my mind, I know it’s sounds like an excuse but it makes me can’t seem to concentrate in class and on my studies. Those sleepless nights spent thinking and worrying and cause me to be tired in e morning or afternoon when I am in school for long hours of lectures. Will getting a job and part-time study be worst? I think of getting a job also because I feel like immerse my time in it so I won’t think too much.

Gilbert: My gut feeling is that you wont be able to complete your degree programme with so many issues on your mind chief of which is financial. It will be a waste to drop out mid way through the programme. Is it possible to ask for part time studies citing the problems that you have? I am sure that the institution is sympathetic to your reasoning if it is valid.

4) How to stop worrying and thinking about the future and concentrate on the present (my studies)? As I am a person who tends to analyze and think too much when facing a problem. How to cope with my stress and problem?

Gilbert: Your fear is normal but it is best to manage them. All of us live in a society that has stressors but the better ones manage them with some easy steps.

For example, do you have a destressing programme? Some people exercise to destress – I exercise thrice a week as I find that this is my best destressing method plus it helps me stays slim and active. I am 50 already this year and still run the half marathon yearly. Some people read or blog away their blues to destress. Others talk to their friends or engage in something that they like.

Do what is best for you as this personal. The important thing is to do it regularly over time so that you benefit from the programme.

Moreover, always change your thought patterns deliberately. Psychologists call this “cognitive behavourial theory” or CBT in short. It can be done easily by anyone with some practice.

For example, if you are out of work, think of the things that you can do on your own during this period. You can go out with your parents during the day time, catch a movie mid day or even go to the library to do some study. When you start to work, your time will be constrained and your activities restricted.

In every situation, there is the up and down side but most of us are trained to think of the down side especially if we are the negative type.

I used to think negatively until I was introduced to CBT. Nowadays, I train my mind to think glass half full in every situation. It is  not always successfully done but at least I try!

Do also set aside time to worry about your stuff as they deserve your attention. For example, set aside ten minutes every day to think through your problem. One way is to write them out like what you have done now. Once you have done that, go through your day without thinking through them again. Again, this is easier say than done and need some practice before it can be perfected.

5)      Where can I get further free counseling or consultation or advice on my problems? I can’t afford those that have very high fees as I am a student with no income and don’t want to waste my parent’s money too.

Gilbert: I can see you some time next week if you are available. Its free of charge. Take care.

Any helpful financial advice or past experience will be appreciated also, thanks a lot.

Thank You.




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11 Responses to “22-Year-Old Jobless Singaporean Caught In Sandwiched Generation”

  1. chillax says:

    you are only 22 years old, why are you so worried about stuff. Who say you will only be able to earn such miserable amount of money with or without a degree. dont limit your earnings power by having a mental ceiling.

    but seriously, why dont you just sign on to a uniform service if SAF is out of the question. firemen, police, ICA. everything i go for golf in malaysia, i always see guys or gals so young i wonder if they are 18 or over chopping my passport. some even ask me about the car i drive, the serious no nonsense image of ICA is now tween friendly.

  2. Tony says:

    I used to be in your shoes few years back and I am still. Why, because currently my mother is a Dialysis patient, blindly handicapped and I used to be the only person taking care of her when I was 22yrs old. About me, I am 32 years old male, a diploma holder, eldest in the family and married with kids.

    I was brought up from young with my parents like any other normal Singapore children. I have a younger brother & a younger sister of a 2 year gaps between us. Luxury was not a privilege in the family as my mother was just a housewife and my dad is the sole bread winner. Living expenses was a day to day event.

    During my NS times 10 years back, my mother became blind due to her diabetic illness, my brother and sister move out of the house due to them mixing with bad company then. My father was constantly not around due to his work commitment but still unable to bring enough cash back home. Life was a struggle for me, I was working part time during my NS off days, while also attending to my mum’s need since she got blind. Cook for her a whole day meal in the morning; and escort her to bathroom in the evening. I just carry on with life and I do broke down several times thinking why this hardship happens to me.

    After NS, I started working full time with a very low starting pay as I was advice to accept whatever amount been offered as a start. Later, I manage to get married, get a maid dedicated for my mother’s care and live life happy. Then my mother was diagnosed with a kidney failure, and that put a toll on my income. I have no choice but to ask NKF for help. Her medications intake is at my fingertips now. She is now living day by day and I just happily smile with her when we met. My siblings are back to their right path now and help out wherever they can.

    I am now living in Australia with my family and I miss my mother very much, but for the good of me and my family, my parents give the consent and blessings to me to go and leave them and seek a better opportunity elsewhere. I am depending on my siblings and father to take care of my mother now.

    Just to inform you, when I was still in Singapore, I only manage to visit my mother twice a month due to my work and family commitment. About your elder brother, I may understand his situation as it is a different league for him now. Things will be very much different once you are married and have children’s of your own. For him to visit your parents twice a month is considered good comparing others who just chunk their parents in old folk homes and ignore them. Talk to your brother nicely about your thinking and feelings upon his behaviour. Ask him nicely that you need him to help out where necessary. Have a think and suggest some plans on where this family can be more united and help each other out happily.

    What I can advice you, is that you must be patience in life struggle. Treat your difficulties now as a learning path, experience the hard truth and strive for a better future. About your mother’s bill, not to worry as there is a lot of help can be found from SG govt (they are not as cruel though; although I did not vote for them in the past election). I know because I live poor before.

    Just stay focus on your degree studies now as this is an opportunity that many average Singaporeans are yearning and that includes me. It will be a different situation once you are in the work force, as normally your degree or qualifications is just a piece of paper. Normally the degree is just to shortlist you for a seat in the office. It’s the positive attitude, smart thinking and hard work that you have to portray to your superiors for your career advancement. I know because I have degree graduates working under me now.

    Don’t make money as a tool for happiness, in my opinion; it is the good behaviour attitude that will pay at the end of the day. You only live once, make use of this opportunity to be good while you are still healthy.


  3. BEEN THERE, done that says:

    I agreed with Reply above. $$ is always there to earn, but opportunity will slip by ig you did not grasp it. Reply above has… even it means heartache of leaving parents in Singapore.

    My mum pass away at 20, dad retires when I was 16 yo. I pay my own way through education. Dementia and strock set into my dad when i was 24…

    Each one of us will have our own story. this is wat make life interesting

  4. p says:

    Sadly, you are one of those Singaporean caught up in the oddities and expectation of others.
    You don’t even dare identify yourself but ‘Shortcake’!
    Above advices given are all good and real.

    Whoever tells u you need a degree to be successful? Clear that from between your ears. Alot of successful businessmen has little or no education. So, what so great about Uni degree?

    Like many, I did my studies part-time, juggle time with family commitment, succeed in my career. It is as easy as that! Without brothers/sisters help!!
    If you think you can’t, you loss. Go for it, follow your dream…

    Stop worrying. Your father, mother, brother problems will NOT go away because you worry.

    Money?? No Money??? then why worry about money??? Go work and find it… I am not being harsh. I encourage you to be REAL.

    When I was young, my teacher said’你要江山,自己去闯’..he gave me this poor student a lesson better than any degree you can get.

    Above all, you are encourage to read some of my write-ups on positive life/lifestyle at

    20 years from today, you will thank me!!

    • You were very luck to have a teacher who said to You my ’你要江山,自己去闯’..

      Throughout my Younger days, all teachers only know how to say “study hard! study hard! then got future! get a job … blah blah”

      Only during my 16yrs old time.. only my 2nd grandma (grandpa married 2 wives) said to me “study well.. in future .. strike out your own , be a successful businessman and marry a young , beautiful wife”

  5. The Independence says:

    Hi Shortcake,
    you are still very young. It is indeed unfortunate to hav in this situation that is not any fault of yours.
    I was also doing my part time degree while working FT and giving tuition. My parent could not even help me in pay just a small part of my degree fee but i preserved and came through after 3 years. In my final year of study, my company closed down and i was retrenched. After my dad passed away of cancer later, i went to Canada and more recent , working in China.

    Be patient, diligent, and street smart and you will find your own path. Yes, I used to be impatient and thinking about ust $$$. But i can tell you. money is only one of the sources of Happiness in life…embrace your surrondings, make real good friends, pick up some hobbies, have your own great family are even more important and likely sources of Happiness. Material pursuit will only last you pleasure as soon as you consume it.

  6. Larry says:

    I read Tony’s advice and thought it was a good advice. 100 failures is but 100 steps towards what you want to achieve. It may be tough along the path but it will polish you to be a better human being. Like the saying goes, there is always 2 sides of a coin. Look at the positive side. It may not be easy but it is achieveable.

  7. Andrew says:

    Hi Shortcake, all the above replies are very real and practical so use them wisely and not ponder too much abt your problems. Focus on the important task on hand now which is your studies, get your foundation right. If you are so eager to start building up some future income and start working then switch to part time studies, I have classmates that are such. And since you have a Dip so ain’t so bad but be prepared that working life nowadays are just as tough so you must be mentally and physically prepared to be able to juggle work and studies as long working hours are very common and no one gives a shit if you are studying part time cause many of your colleagues will probably be doing the same.
    Remember nothing venture nothing gain. You win some and you will have to loose some. When your dad stopped work then you can apply for medifund for your mum to help in her medical expenses and you can also use your medisave to help out if you have started working already. So ain’t that bleak after all. If you still need a counsellor to talk to or help in charting your path, go to a Family Service Centre, their staff can help to guide you.
    As for having someone to talk to about your problems, you need to expand your network and build trust just like you having the courage to share here. Be a volunteer at old folks homes, senior activity centres or even disabled homes, the beneficiaries there will open your eyes to a whole new world out there and they too needs a listening ear. By doing so, you can also tap on their fighting spirits and gain advices in your problems, so why do you think nowadays so many young executives starts to do volunteer work? You have a long way to go and this is not the way to start your exciting and colourful life ahead.
    Hang in there, perserve and you will make it.
    BTW, I used to study JC and work in 7-11 then gave tuition when I was serving my NS, got my Dip and BBBA part time too. I’m now 40yrs old, worked in 8 jobs, got unemployed for more than a year last year, just started working in a non-profit organisation for half of my old pay. Got a pacemaker and a bone marrow transplant, have a wife and 5 year old kid and ageing parents too. We just have to stay focused and seize the day.
    Good luck and take care. Check in here often as helping and talking to others here can be just as rewarding too.

  8. Inspired says:

    After reading all the comments, I am so inspired and touched.

  9. sad and loney says:

    First of all,It is indeed good to see you are thiking ahead.Many of the singaporen’s,in your age does not seem to care.Being a chinese and a singaporen,would have it advantages in singapore,over other races.If,you have the physical fitness,you can sign on to uniformed group.I am sure u can get in.

    For,me Being a Indian ,in my Late 30′s,had not been a breeze.I have Diploma in Information Technology.For the Last seven years’s,I am unable to get a permanent position,mostly short term contract position…It is always a challenge paying the bills,I have tried taking part-time degree,have to disrupt the course several times,due to lack of insuffient funds..Sometime,I have even think of ending once and for all……The discrimmination which is vetted out is indeed taking toll on the minority population….I wish you all the best for your future

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