Oct 13, 2008

Family, Home, School and Money

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. :)


hojiber said...

Mr Wang, some of those property market items in my opinion (I not expert):

1) Dec and Jan has 2 sets of private properties coming up in the market.

2) SOME of those who benefitted from expensive en-bloc will buy back. Many will be also have been burnt in buying expensive HDB and playing the stock market with their itchy fingers full of cash.

3) Gov may increase foreign ownership to float the market (bad for us).

4) Property (speculation?) funds like SC Global have shrunk in price, ie force sell to service debts. So more good units coming out from these areas.

5) New developments delayed. It takes 3 years to complete a project, so effectively, the next launch will be 4 years later. So there will be a property crunch (undersupply) in about 3 years.

What you think of my analysis?

hojiber said...

O, since you post, and it gave me an insight from your post. Isn't the "nearer school more priority" scheme a flop in this sense?

It only encourage property speculation. People with more than 1 kid will be moving house after getting the first one into the school they one. Hence, the "market subsidy" of our dear HDB becomes artificially inflated, which in turn sabotages genuie buyers and newly weds.

Very lousy and superficial scheme which has an inverse effect on overall SG economy don't you say? Good old balloting is best isn't it?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Well, the large majority of primary schools nowadays are actually co-ed.

And under the registration system, if one sibling has got in, the younger sibling has top priority in getting in to the same school too.

So as a matter of practicality, in families with two or more kids of primary school-going age, the kids usually end up going to the same school.

This is also because at that age, (especially lower primary) parents have to think of the logistics of getting the kids to school. Easier if all the kids attend the same school.

At an older age (eg secondary), it doesn't matter so much because the kids can move around on their own using public transport.

. said...

>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.

Actually, I think it's the other way round. When cultural affinity is there, the learning becomes "automatic" - a painless self-motivated process, where the child look forward to the formal lesson, and more importantly, outside school, the child is interested in reading Chinese novels eg. Louis Cha's (Jin Yong) famous martial art novels, or Qiong Yao's equally famous romance, or watch their TV equivalence, all of which are informal ways of learning a langauge.

When language is acquired without soaking in the culture, well, that's what we get in our failed Suzhou project: a bunch of Singapore technocrats who can all speak the Chinese language, but who are ignorant/disrespectful of the Chinese culture and thus cannot get along with the people in China.

Culture is to a language what roots are to a tree, or what solid foundations are to a building. I submit that if you make sure the roots/foundations/culture are ok, the tree/building/language will take care of themselves easily, painlessly, and with self-motivation.

the virgin undergrad said...

I'm guessing that your son is enrolling into Catholic High? Good choice =)

Anyway, it'll probably be easier to enroll your younger daughter into St Nicholas if your son is already enrolled into CH. Years ago, priority was given to applicants if they had an elder sibling studying in either brother/sister schools.

Assuming that this system is still in place, you can probably secure a place for your younger daughter at SN without having to resort to proximity balloting

Well in any case even if you don't find a house located strategically between the two schools, there's always the school bus. You'll probably be surprised at how effective busing can be in toughening your kid up ;)

And yes, like what 無名小卒 said, you'll be better off making your kids become interested in Chinese culture rather than force-feeding language proficiency into them. With interest, proficiency will come naturally. Attending a SAP school itself does not guarantee a good command of Chinese. It may provide a more conducive environment for learning Chinese, but that being said, there is still a fair share of students from SAP schools who end up speaking atrocious mandarin too.

Daniel Ling said...

Thanks to Mr Wang for interesting thoughts. I share the thought that prices of property will drop but i think Mr Wang surely has explain it beyond wat i can =D. He also added interestingly that expats may pack up and go home. I wonder if that happens, i wonder what will MM say regarding the FT policy?

I wonder whether Mr Wang is able to hmm make a prediction?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Unfortunately I can't help with the culture bits. I myself do not read Chinese classic novels etc. And my Hokkien is still superior to my Mandarin.

(My best claim to Chinese culture is being able to play & sing a few Emil Chau songs on the guitar, heheh).

Wai said...

Hm...after living with a Chinese roommate for awhile, I'm not sure that soaking up Singaporean Chinese culture necessarily makes one any more well-equipped to deal with the Chinese in China on their terms. Being able to speak the same language definitely helps.

Ser Ming said...


I was just watching a lot of old Emil's mv on youtube!

Law of attraction!


PANG said...

may i know which schools are you looking at for your son and daughter?

Vincent said...

I was also preparing to enter the property market with minimal debt. Was targeting 2010 for properties around District 15.

With the recent crisis, it really made me rethink whether Singapore is a stable country for long term stay. It is the first Asian economy to enter into recession. Being a small country, if there were to be any major political or social changes, it may be detrimental to our assets.

All the major global developments in the future will be in India and China. Singapore is too far away from the action. If Indonesia or Malaysia were to be serious in development, Singapore will be also be affected. It is too small and too vulnerable to changes in the global economy.

Now I am also having second thoughts purchasing a property here. Might invest in other countries instead.

joontrader said...

What school do you intend to send your daughter to attend? Care to share?

alencoope said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Oh, I plan to write a lot more about my kids' schools in future. Stay tuned. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hope you realize a lot of people want to buy back into property and think in terms of a 2 yr property market crash?

Yet from historical prices, both in Singapore and elsewhere, residential home estate takes at least 4-5 yrs to bottom from the peak. Quick example - Singapore instituted the anti-speculation moves in 1996.. prices bottomed in 2001/2002, with most of the drop in the last 2 yrs. The US 1989 recession, properties in the most desired areas only bottomed in 1995 (even as the DOW was making new highs yearly). There's a lot of reasons why this has been so and true across various markets, yet people always think a property market crash will happen quickly.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Aha, let's wait & see then. In one year's time I may pull up this old post and write about the market again. ;)

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Over the weekend, I saw two that I like quite a lot.

One is a penthouse with big roof terrace. Unfortunately, the TOP is in 2010 itself, not sure whether it will be in time for me to register my daughter for the primary school and claim the 0-1 km advantage.

The other is the ground floor of a confo, so it has a garden at the front and a backyard at the back. Unfortunately it's in the 1-2 km from the girls' school. But even closer to the boy's school.

However, the timing is not quite right yet .... for me, I mean.

Miao 妙 said...

Hm, I think I know which boys' school your son is going to. :) It does have a very strong emphasis on Chinese culture, so it is a step in the right direction. However, like wai said, it is not clear "that soaking up Singaporean Chinese culture necessarily makes one any more well-equipped to deal with the Chinese in China on their terms". It might help to let your son watch more Hong Kong drama serials - the Mandarin voice-overs are professionally done, the plots are usually rather entertaining, and the acting is generally good - and he won't be influenced by MediaCorp artistes' abysmal pronunciation.

I really do hope your son will take an interest in Chinese - not just the language, but the culture as well. There is a lot to be gained from China's 5000-year history - Chinese classical literature is really enriching and beautiful as well. It would be great if he can appreciate it. :)