"I'm a 35 year-old trader in Singapore. I can't afford a good life"
London bankers may be struggling to pay their bills, even on managing director salaries, but they're not the only people in financial services who are finding the lifestyle they'd imagined is out of reach.
I'm a trader at a major bank in Singapore in my mid 30s. My friends here are a similar age, and although we pay less tax than bankers and traders in London and much of the Western World, life is not easy.
When you go into banking, you aspire to the big houses, the fast cars, fine dining and top schools. Increasingly, this is out of reach for most people in the industry.
Inflation is high in Singapore and the cost of housing has been explosive here in the past few years so that it's now on a par with London and Hong Kong. This is one reason why hedge funds in particular are moving to Dubai, where the lifestyle has become much better than Singapore's.
It's not just housing. Cars are also enormously expensive in Singapore. A BMW 5 series sedan costs SG$500k ($373k). But top bankers and traders don't just want a BMW, they want a Ferrari or McLaren. Those now cost SG$1.5m to SG$2m. That's hardly achievable for most of us, even the ones on MD salaries. And yet the waiting list for the latest Ferrari remains.
Nor can we eat out. There's been a huge expansion of fine dining restaurants, from super high-end Indian restaurants to Japanese Omakase in Singapore. We all love the food, but each meal costs at least SG$500-600 per head. It's hardly something we can indulge regularly, even though we are on 'high' financial sector salaries.
And then there are the expensive school fees in Singapore. One of the top international schools here, UWC is now approaching the SG$50k mark per year. It is the most expensive in Asia, but there is still a long waiting list.
If we can't afford all this, then who is are living in the big houses, buying the fast cars, eating fine dining, and sending their kids to the top schools?
It's mostly people from old monied family businesses, entrepreneurs, and doctors. Traders and bankers are like secondary citizens by comparison. There are some of us who can achieve those aspirations, but we're very far and between, and it's mostly the older generation who were paid well in the past.
So what's the remedy? Staying on and working for a bank can only get you a nice salary that pays basic bills with a pay-check to pay-check livelihood. The only way to break out and achieve what we aspired to when we chose this industry is to join a hedge fund and take the % on performance.
This explains the large exodus of bank traders to HF in recent times, and there will be no let-up.
Avi Rai is a pseudonym
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