Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Monday March 12th 2018

59-year-old breadwinner thinking of killing himself after two years without work

What do you tell someone who is 59 years old, jobless for two years, a breadwinner, owed HDB almost $10,000 with 6 months of mortgages, used to earn a good income and constantly think of killing himself so the family can live better with the insurance money?

Raj never smiles once when we met for two hours and twice he broached the subject of killing himself and it is all serious though his face betrays the agony of having to resort to that horrible thought to make things better for the family. He later agreed with me that it will destroy his family if he commits suicide and his children will not feel proud to have a father who kills himself though the reasons are laudable.

His HDB home mortgage of $1800/month – now payable in cash is the main irritant and HDB is already pursuing him regularly to pay up through nasty legal letters and phone calls. I feel that it will only take one simple big push for the 59-year-old veteran to end it all as things have being going downhill two years ago since his return from a cushy overseas posting.

“I feel better after talking to you, Gilbert” he qulped as we went through his re-employment options and current situation in a 2-hour whirlwind session.

“But when I am back home, the dark thoughts will surround me again. It has always being there – thoughts of killing myself.”

His situation resonated with mine as I too struggled with a 18-month unemployment marathon and there are thoughts of ending it all as often there is seemingly no light at the end of the bleak tunnel. Unemployment has no deadline and it can seem to go on forever.

For the faint-hearted, prolonged unemployment is a torrid period whereby our emotions and psychological health can be severely tested. There will be fleeting moments of optimism after a good interview follows by endless periods of darkness when nothing seem to go right at all.

“I have to cancel my children tuition lessons recently and we tighten up considerably especially when it comes to eating out and the usage of utilities at home.”

They cease to use the air-con at all now and rely on the fan to sleep at night. They don’t eat out anymore and there are days that they only have rice and tomato sauce for meals together as a family.

He told me how he can only give a dollar to his school-going son each day and that he struggles to do that as he knows he can’t give much given his current dire straits condition.

“What can you do with a dollar now Gilbert?” he asked expecting a answer from me but I kept quiet. When the breadwinner is jobless, the whole family suffers and sometimes that hurts a person more than anything else.

As he married rather late in his forties, his young family will not be able to help out much with the household expenses at least for the next 7 to 8 years. His wife is also sick and unable to contribute much to the family.

He has tried to seek for assistance from CDC but the fact that he lives in a executive flat automatically disqualifies him from many channels of help. Most government aid agencies only assist those living in HDB 4-room flats and below.

Fortunately, he has attended many upgrading sessions with other government-aided agencies and manage to get his security qualification recently. He has even attended a interview to be a security guard the day that he met me and hopefully that employment avenue won’t be blocked as well.

It pays only $2300/month for a 72-hours work week and with CPF contribution from both sides, he only needs to fork out another $1200 for his mortgage payment of $1800 leaving him with only $600 for personal and household expenses.

Its nothing to shout about but at least there will be some cash coming in rather than the current slow attribution on whatever cash he has right now.

We also discuss at length on downgrading to a smaller flat so that the mortgage payment can be drastically reduced as $1800/month cash is a hefty amount even for those who earns $5000 salary a month.

Given his age of 59 years old, he is only eligible for another 6 more years of loan as our loan tenure will end at the retirement age of 65. How much mortgage loan can he borrow if he downgrades and chances are given the short tenure period he may need to pay alot each month to clear off the new mortgage which will bring his financial stress to square one.

As he only has another 7 years to go on the current mortgage, we both conclude that it is better to stick on with the current mortgage plan though it will be a very tough period of belt-tightening for the young family.

Downgrading is a taboo word for many as there is the issue of ego and pride that is attached to it. Attachment to a home is also a strong factor for many people struggling to downgrade to another smaller home. There are emotions and sentiments in a home environment for a family living together in the same roof for many years and many find it difficult to detach and move to another house.

Of course, there are also the constant squabbles with the wife about finances and being the sole breadwinner it is never easy to face up to the fact that one is ill-equipped to provide for one’s family.

It destroys one’s self-confidence and often the person will also question’s his own self-worth further worsening his current position. Without much positive vibes, the jobless PMET will approach every new avenue with much doubt and apprehension as he constantly doubts his own judgement and usually is reluctant to take even a small step towards any new venture.

There is no easy solution to Raj’s problem and my gut feeling is that his current dilemma is faced by thousands of jobless Singaporeans struggling with the new economy and the two next best career options for the jobless right now is to be a security guard or a Uber driver – regardless of your solid work experience and educational qualification.

Ageism is also a huge issue here and Raj mentions a few times about how employers will never want to consider him even if he is able to contribute much and slash his salary to only $3000/month – just because he is 59 years old.

As we finished our chat and Raj prepares to take the bus home, I passed him a small amount of cash so that at least his next one week of meals and transportation cost can be covered.

I told him before departing that we will keep in touch again soon as personally he is on the high-risk suicide category and regular catching up will be healthy for his well-being.

Two years is a long time to be unemployed and no matter how strong one can be, it will eats into our psyche and more importantly our cash reserves.

He disappears quickly into the escalators after we say our goodbye and my prayer is that he will ignore all the doubts and take up the security position next week so he can approach the future with a new dimension and hope. Sometimes, it is that tiny small step that will bring us out of the abyss.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

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3 Responses to “59-year-old breadwinner thinking of killing himself after two years without work”

  1. john tan says:

    all the best to you, raj.


    Dear Raj,

    Would you consider meeting up with One Hope Center to thresh out problem? They have helped a lot of people in the same boat as you are and has good results. Though they do not shell out financial help but with the support group they have, they find better solutions and options for cases. All are triumphant with joining and never ceases to attend the every Tues sessions. They also have pray over sessions and has helped a lot. To be calm and still is to bring back the faith that our Creator is there to extend us help…just be hopeful and trust the faith in Him.


  3. Faith says:

    Dear Raj,

    God is watching and you are not alone. I hope your experiences will give you more courage and be bold to vote for the opposition party who can guarantee you a better life ahead. 59yo is not old, take note.

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