[Photo: Mathieu Stern on Unsplash]
By Hope Lock
Should I give my parents a portion of my salary? If so, how much?
A common question posed by many young adults who are stepping into the workforce, robust discussions surrounding this topic are not hard to find.
In one such thread found on Reddit’s r/singapore, opinions range from: “Anything more than 1/3 of your salary is ridiculous,” to: “I think I’m responsible for making sure that my parents have enough to stay alive; after all, they gave up so much for me.”
What is the rationale behind either camp? What gives rise to such strong opinions on either side of the fence?
Yes, of course!
One big reason that motivates one to give their parents a monthly allowance is the ideal of filial piety, where one shows respect and gratitude to their parents for bringing them up.
Filial piety has its roots in Confucian teachings; the notion behind such teachings is that we should repay our parents for providing for us when we were younger.
In the context of Singapore, traditional values of filial piety still hold importance.
24-year-old healthcare worker Amy shares, “my parents paid for my school fees (even for university), and living expenses in general, so I’m alright with contributing money.” She adds, “It only seems right since I live under [their] roof. I feel like I would have contributed even if they hadn’t asked.”
“My parents don’t expect me to contribute money, as both of them are still working. However, I still [do so] as a token of appreciation for all that they have done for me. When I [earn more] in the future and when they retire, I will give more.” notes Kylie, a 24-year-old underwriter.
For some, contributing money to one’s parents stems from a sense of duty, as well as a desire to show appreciation to their parents for bringing them up.
No, it is not a must
However, a monthly allowance is not the only way to show love and appreciation for one’s parents. For example, Syahindah Ishak, a writer at Mothership, shares how her mother did not require nor want her children to give her a monthly stipend. For her mother, what she valued more was the quality time spent with her children.
Similarly, Kylie shares: “I also treat [my parents] to small things like drinks, meals and massages.” These little things make up part of the multitude of ways one can express appreciation to parents.
Additionally, there is also the argument that children never asked to be born; hence, it would be unfair to be expected to support one’s parents in old age, since they had no say on whether or not they wanted to be born.
“Some parents think of their kids as an investment for their retirement days. I don’t necessarily agree with this because I think raising a child is the parent’s responsibility and parents should love unconditionally anyway — without expecting anything in return.” Kylie adds.
There is some weight to the argument; it is, after all, a parent’s choice to bring a child into this world. Hence, it is also their responsibility to bring them up and ensure that their child has everything they require growing up. This duty is something that comes with the job description of being parents, and not something to be “repaid” for.
An important caveat
Of course, not all families are the same; different individuals have vastly different family circumstances and lived experiences.
For instance, not everyone would have grown up with a loving and supportive family. Some were not blessed with parents who contributed in any way to their well-being growing up, and might have even grown up in abusive or manipulative households.
In situations like these, an individual understandably does not feel the desire to “give back” in any way, shape or form, and cannot be faulted for their decision.
Contributing money to your parents does not necessarily have to be a headache. A plethora of online resources are available to aid in personal finance management.
The Let’s Talk CPF Podcast by the CPF Board answers common questions and delivers a wide range of financial tips and tricks for those looking for advice on managing finances. Topics range from working towards retirement, investing for the future, and starting early in financial planning.
Having a strong foundation in personal finance management can help to ensure that on the occasion that one does want to provide for their parents, there would not be a strain on one’s personal finances.
Websites such as MoneySmart and Seedly also provide a wealth of resources and articles on finance management. Additionally, there are also YouTube videos by independent creators that talk about personal finance and budgeting – one such example is a video titled “How I Live on a $3200 Monthly Salary in Singapore”.
For those who like a solid benchmark on exactly how much other people give to their parents, there is even a survey on the amount of monthly allowance that Singaporeans contribute to their parents which can be found on the Seedly website.
Family is a touchy and sensitive subject for many. When our parents make requests, it can be hard to say no.
What might be helpful would be to communicate honestly and openly with them. Amy shares her thoughts on being expected to contribute money upon starting work: “My mom wanted [an allowance of] $800 per month, but I managed to negotiate down to $500 per month.”
Sometimes, it might help to highlight your own needs in a transparent and straightforward manner, making communication easier for both parties.