Next year my son goes to primary school. It's a very good school - not the best, but very good. Importantly, the school has strong Chinese traditions (being affiliated to a SAP secondary school).
I don't care whether my son soaks up the Chinese culture. I do care whether he learns the language and becomes fluent in it. His world will be in the era of a very significant China. For general career purposes, Mandarin may well be the most important language that he'll ever need to know.
In two years' time, my daughter will also go to primary school. Since my son's school is all-boys, my daughter has to go elsewhere. Fortunately, there is a girls' school in the neighbourhood which is also quite good. To increase her chances of admission, I am toying with the idea of moving house (applicants who live closer have higher priority in the admissions process).
The plan would be to move somewhere halfway between the two schools. That way, both children can walk (in opposite directions) to school every day. This is a daily convenience for the next six years. After primary school, if they choose to go to the respective affiliated secondary schools, they get to enjoy another four years of convenience each (because, in both cases, the secondary school is right next to the primary school).
All in all, it could be a very good idea to move.
What about the costs of moving? The area between the two schools is mostly terraces, bungalows and one or two condos. It is rather costly. I could afford it (fingers crossed), but my strong preference is to live with as little debt as possible.
According to my crystal ball, residential rentals must fall sharply this year. A host of new, big residential projects (all of which were launched in the recent bubbly years), will get completed soon. What happens next? The market will be flooded. At the same time, due to the economic slowdown, many expats might predictably pack their bags and go home. This would lead to a further collapse in residential rentals.
The stock market has also crashed very badly. Many Singaporeans would have lost serious money. Bonuses will shrink. Thus many potential property buyers would be eliminated. Furthermore, a real recession is very likely to be on the way (the technical one is already here). Some people will lose their jobs. And among them, the highly-leveraged home-buyers of the past few years will be blown apart.
In these days of uncertain liquidity, local banks will be quicker than usual, in deciding to foreclose on defaulting borrowers. There may be much less tolerance for alternatives such as rescheduling the borrowers' payment schedules etc. In other words, if a borrower fails to pay on time, the bank will be quick to say, "Sorry, game over", to grab the property and to put it up for public auction at a firesale price.
All this points to a crashing Singapore property market. I am sorry for all those who will suffer. However, it does bode well for a genuinely interested buyer like me. Furthermore I don't have to buy immediately. I can adopt a wait-&-see approach. My deadline is around June 2010, when my daughter is to register for primary school. That gives the property market slightly more than 1.5 years to hit bottom, which seems quite ample.
In other news, Mrs Wang and I have been talking about having a 3rd child. In economically uncertain times, most people tend to err on the side of caution and put off such "projects". However, the logic of such putting-off is somewhat dubious to me. Why?
Well, if a couple has a child, they might expect to financially support the child for at least 21 years. However, there is no such thing as a business cycle that stays good for 21 years. In other words, if you have any child at all, you must expect that in the first 21 years, the world will go through several cycles of good and bad times.
And it is not evident to me that going through bad times with a baby is worse than going through bad times with a 5-year-old, or a 11-year-old or an 17-year-old. To put it another way, all parents must expect the world to go through some bad times, regardless of when exactly they first become parents.
So the key question still remains the same - do you want a child or not?
I think I do. I will think more about it, but I think I do. My kids are growing up so quick. I do miss having a really young one toddling around the house. :)