Breadwinner Series : If I could turn back the clock…

Having to take over the “Bringing the Bacon Home” responsibility since graduation has never been easy for me.

Although I have always been earning my own pocket money (teaching piano, tuition, part time jobs) since young, I didn’t have a clue how much I really need to bring in to feed a family of four when I first started. I remembered juggling between 3 jobs after graduation (full time job, teaching piano/tuition, weekend job). My friends were always complaining that I had no time to join them for social gatherings and that I am too obsessed with earning money.

My family never had the habit of talking about money openly. It didn’t occurred to me to really sit down with my mum and asked her to list down the expenses needed for the family. As I was only a daughter, I didn’t want to make my parents feel that I have taken over the authority of the family just because I was bringing in the bacon. I gave them my atm card and let them help themselves to my account. It was a disaster, for a year or two, I had no savings and finally I opened a separate account for my mum and decided to give them a monthly allowance instead.

Over the years, on top of the monthly allowance, my parents and sibling would come to me occasionally asking me to help them clear the bigger bills e.g. my sibling college and overseas education, their holidays etc.. I would also shower my sibling with little luxuries that I didn’t have when I was young e.g. mobile phone, holidays, makeover for prom, eating out at fancier restaurants etc.

Deep down, I had this feeling of liberation and somewhat satisfaction that I am bringing my family out of the financial rut that we were facing since young. We are finally enjoying the little luxuries that we never had the chance to experience and we never had to worry about not having food on the table.This is probably what a lot of breadwinners are facing today. Shouldering all the responsibilities and feeling the pride that everyone in the family depended on you.

If I could turn back the clock, I wouldn’t do what I have done before. I should have focused in getting the family involved in taking responsibilities in money management. Every Saturday, I watched this show by Suze Orman in CNBC. She has this segment called “Can I afford it” where she will review the financial status of the audience and tell them whether they have been approved to buy something that they always wanted to buy. Check out the video clip below for example :

Can I Afford a $70K Tesla?

Denied 2013.

I thought this was a brilliant show for the family to sit down together to jointly debate whether to approve or disapprove a buy . In fact, I think a family (including the kids) should have a monthly meeting to share with one another their financial status and expenses and jointly work towards a common goal for the family e.g. their vacation trip of the year. Everyone should work towards that vacation that they will be going together (including the kids). Habits starts young. If you start imparting financial literacy and good money management habits since young, you no longer have to shoulder that heavy weight that is not doing any good for your family.

There was this saying “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. What do you think ? I want to hear from all the breadwinners out there…

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi Createwealth8888,
      Nah, I am not that great ! Anyone in my predicament then would probably do the same. Anyway, you haven’t replied on that cryptic message that you sent last night !

        • Lady, You Can Be Free

          Oh…..Haha I was there :). It was an awesome event. All the blogger speakers were so fluent and professional. All wearing suits. Thought they would come with just t-shirt and jeans. Thank god I didn’t accept Roland’s invitation to speak. Else, siah suey :).

          • Lady, You Can Be Free

            According to SMOL, I am those zebra who are not fat, feeds on the leftover grass and has no bites on my backside 🙂

          • Lady, You Can Be Free

            WAH…The storyteller has just visited my blog ;). You did well yesterday! It was a great intro. Setting the stage for the rest of the speakers. It even ties in well with the ending when all of you were sharing your portfolios. I thought the message was “You need to know who you are to determine the portfolio and strategy that suits you, there is no one model! “.
            Was I right ?

          • My perfumed Lady,

            My self-appointed role yesterday was to be the little dot of “Yin” in Yang 😉

            Let’s say I have a cheeky grin when I saw your Starhub concentration and how you poked fun at those “others” who found out you bought your temple of serenity. That’s a good one!

            Some people may think having 1000 stock symbols is diversification.

            Well, isn’t that 100% concentrated in equities? How did that do during 1997, 2002, 2008?


      • How did save over a $100k with the heavy expenses. As shared, you was drawing a salary of $2200 upon graduation.

        I assumed you subsequently found a much higher paying job?

        • Lady, You Can Be Free

          Hi Ad,
          To be honest, I cannot remember how I reach $112K. I only started investing at 31 so I have a couple of years to reach $112K. I think reaching $112K over a duration of 8 years shouldn’t be difficult, in fact, I think it’s quite a lousy record :-p ?! One of the key reason I started investing is when I saw that I ONLY had $112K after 8 years of working! I was contributing $1500 monthly to the family then and still managed to go on at least 1 overseas holiday per year. I also didn’t have a discipline way of savings at that time. I guess the trick is living within my means and understanding what you can or cannot afford based on your paycheck. I also worked hard to negotiate for higher salaries when I move between jobs. Hope this helps.

  1. Hi Lady!

    Im currently paying about $500/mth for family which I think its necessary for an elder son to do his part contributing to the housing loan, electric and water bills, town council charges and general groceries.

    I was shocked to see you passing your ATM card to your family, and even more shocked to find your account empty after a year or two after passing them the card. Although I don’t know about your family back ground.. I think you shouldn’t had do that, but you managed to learn the lesson after that 1 or 2 years later which is still not too late.

    But for your family they are not learning, the only think they learnt is how to spend the elder sister money happily. How i wish my sis passes us an ATM card for my entertainment and leisure…! As you separates your financial accounts with them, that’s when they started learning and understanding what is money about.

    I guess most of the people who blogs about investment were used to be poor before thats why they started understanding money and how it works. I guess, the point when you cut off that, your siblings would start to learn, and i guess they should be quite successful now and even more if they read your blog here.

    I strongly encourage people to use real life experience to teach their sons and daughters and not just spoon feed them with everything that makes them a spoilt brad/lass in the future. Let them go through and life will teach them everything where you will only be beside them giving advice, though your own experiences.


    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi Jeffrey,
      Thanks for sharing. Good conclusion 🙂

  2. Susan

    I understand how you feel because I am almost in the same predicament as u.
    I agree that families should have financial talks but sometimes I feel that parents don’t want to admit that their money management hadn’t been good (which led to u being the breadwinner with no savings to fall back on)
    Sometimes I feel that when we’re thrown into such situations we are forced to learn how to manage our money wisely, effectively. See how far you’ve came! Kudos that you’re such a filial daughter and awesome sister. U’re an inspiration..
    I hope that I will be a financially smart parent and impart the knowledge to my kids.

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi Susan,
      True, blessing in disguise maybe if you look at it positively. :).
      I am sure you will be able to impart financial literacy knowledge to your kids since you already have this awareness in you. I wonder why schools are not adding this in their curriculum yet. This is such a vital life skills.

  3. Hello my fair Lady,

    I guess I am blessed with the good fortune of being the middle child – I’m the after-thought.

    What bonded the 3 of us together is having gone through a difficult period together. I guess I was luckier. I had my elder and younger siblings to share the load.

    Come to think of it, I’m the one that gave my poor elder sibling worry, especially after my NS when I went through a period of quick succession of jobs… Was trying to discover myself mah!

    I guess things didn’t turned out too badly…

    I definitely not a planner!

    I’m a leaf in the wind 🙂

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi SMOL,
      Remember to give your poor elder sibling a BIG HUG next time you meet him/her !!!

  4. Hello Lady!

    Good post. Though I’m still young, I understand your point and hard work due to my recent sponsoring of my family a trip overseas!! (I sure am still proud of myself that I learned so much with this one activity)
    Simple solution if you family really can’t control their savings, it will be best to let your family see how the savings are stacking up with their own eyes, through monthly bank statements for example. Or if you can afford and want to, promise them to you’ll upgrade their accommodation/flight class for the vacation once they hit a certain target amount of savings! There are many ways to go about and I agree money is a very very sensitive topic for my family as well. Not easy, but I sure am trying to slowly change their idea.. :-/

    The IA

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi IA,
      How’s army and the bucket list checkoff coming along ? Not sure whether this carrot rewarding model will work well. Would they still be able to practice good money management habits when the carrot is not there ?

  5. Hi Lady!

    I am veryvery interested in investing and earning a passive income just like you. I truly believe in investing but the problem is I do not really know where to begin! I have already read some books localised ones even but all they do is tell me vaguely on how I should go about investing. Is there anyway I can get some valuable tips or advice from you on how I can get started? I am thinking along the lines of how and where I can open an acc e.t.c.

    I am currently in my mid 20s in my final year of undergrad studies.

    Hope to hear from you soon I am raring to go!


    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi Fmy,
      I am happy that you would like to take actions in investing and earning a passive income. Here’s a high level guide :
      You may want to first set a financial goal for yourself (long term and short term). Analyse your current net worth and your spending habits. Determine your investment risk profile. Start reading a couple of investment books e.g. “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, Any books that documents different style of investment etc.. (e.g. warren buffett, andrew hallam). Check out the financial blogs available in Singapore Watch CNBC to get into the vibes of the market and jargons but please take a pinch of salt when they ask u to buy or sell something. Find an investment model that resonates with you most before you proceed to set up a trading account. Then set up a small sum “investment tuition” fund to learn the market. This fund should be money you are prepared to lose to learn the market. Then you are ready to start . To start a trading account, you need to choose a broker and check out this site who has done a comparison But please please please don’t start trading until you are sure what you are getting yourself into. Hope this helps.

  6. Dear Lady,

    Thank you. I can totally relate to your post that one can have savings almost wiped out due to family crises, wanting to shower younger siblings with little luxuries etc etc. And also not ensuring that the elders are covered with adequate medical insurance coverage.

    I am in my early 30s, and am just starting saving up all over again and building up some passive income for myself. I am lucky to have a pretty comfortable salary, no car, no housing loan to pay off yet etc. Thank you for setting up this blog that has inspired me (and many others). Looking forward to read more posts from you 🙂

    Can I just ask, is your passive income solely from dividends from stocks or do you buy/sell stocks on a regular basis?


    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi D,

      Thanks for sharing your story and I am glad you have been inspired. 🙂

      What I document in my blog are passive income soley from dividends although I am searching for other passive income sources as well.
      I rarely buy/sell stocks on a regular basis and my blog doesn’t document the profits/losses generated from stocks I sold.

  7. april

    Hi Lady

    May I know what platform are you using for trading? I am employed but seeking out for a new job with no avail. I felt quite demoralised but got inspired by your post!

    Can i also ask if your passive income is from mid term or long term trading?

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi April,
      I am glad you are inspired :-). I am currently using DBS Vickers. Not the best platform though, I just stuck to them coz it was my first platform and was too lazy to change. I don’t use any tools they provide except for the one you saw that presents my portfolio. You may want to check out this link for broker comparison I don’t trade actively, thus the passive income are typically stocks that I invest and hold for long.

  8. april

    Do you learn any technical on trading like candle sticks movement? those look really tough!

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi april,
      No candle stick for me :). Don’t understand them.

  9. april

    Thanks for yr reply :))) Because I thought all traders would have known how to analyse technical stuff from trading but I didn’t understand. I almost give up the idea of trying to invest.

    By the way i saw your total employment is about 100k. Is it annual income? You have really come a long way! My grad pay is about the same as yours but I don’t think I will ever earn this much in my life. Looks too hard to attain a 6 figure~

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi April,
      Don’t have the time to learn them yet. But not saying that they are not useful. 🙂

  10. Kanyon



    First time reader of your blog. I see strong similarities between uourself (at the start of your financial journey) and myself now. Im 31 and at almost the same income level.
    Amazed and inspired by your journey as i started mine at 24 and only has $4k of annual dividends last year.
    One thing im curious is, your investment/net worth jumped alot year on year, did u do it more by:
    – reinvesting your realised capital gains
    – your bonus is quite significant and u use them for investment?

    The problem i have is i find it hard to increase the amount i can invest every year as i dun really realise my capital gains nor do i have significant bonus. Would like to get some inspiration from u , thanks!

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi Kanyon,
      I do both. Hope this helps.

  11. Pingback: Breadwinner Series : Are your aging parents ready for retirement ? | Lady, You Can Be Free

  12. Hey there, nice post! Although my philosophy is quite different.
    I don’t really talk finances with my family. More talk, more questions, more defences/excuses.

    I give my family a fixed allowance that increase based on need. I pick up the utilities bill, etc and if there are any medical expenses….no issue. Amount i give is not based on my salary increment, not based on what my mother thinks I shld give her, not based on how much so and so’s daughter’s giving to her family.

    I don’t tell them how much is my salary.

    Heck! I didn’t even tell them that I just bought a flat, 3 days passed my 35th birthday. Eventually before I move out, I will tell them.

    Ppl hv diff values abt money and how to use them.


    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi Pf,

      Wah… you finally bought your flat!! CONGRATULATION 🙂
      We need to throw an online house-warming party !!!

  13. Kevin

    Hi LYCBF,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights. They are really educative and inspiring. I am curious about one thing, you mentioned about being the sole bread winner to support your family members of 4, while earning a humble salary and doing additional jobs such as giving out tuition and doing weekend jobs.

    My question is, from the moment you graduated and started working and providing, how did you reach $112k that you used as your starting investment capital that you managed to grow? While I believe saving and putting aside a certain % of your income for investment is a great habit to have, but I also figured that it could take a very long time to reach that amount for your starting capital for investment.

    The reason I am asking is because at the moment I am at that stage where I am starting to look to grow my wealth by trading and looking into growth investment as well as investing for dividends, but I feel at the moment my capital is too little and i would like to hear more about your experiences and strategies of growing your capital at that early stage in wealth building.

    Thank you very much,

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi Kevin ,
      To be honest, I cannot remember how I reach $112K. I only started investing at 31 so I have a couple of years to reach $112K. I think reaching $112K over a duration of 8 years shouldn’t be difficult, in fact, I think it’s quite a lousy record :-p ?! One of the key reason I started investing is when I saw that I ONLY had $112K after 8 years of working! I was contributing $1500 monthly to the family then and still managed to go on at least 1 overseas holiday per year. I also didn’t have a discipline way of savings at that time. I guess the trick is living within my means and understanding what you can or cannot afford based on your paycheck. I also worked hard to negotiate for higher salaries when I move between jobs. Hope this helps.

  14. ning

    Hello:) I am 20 this year but my parent is going to become a senior citizen soon so I wish to help her to retire. I had just graduated not long from Poly and was planning to enter Uni but got rejected. I think I will probably be working instead while trying to apply again next year.
    May I know if you have any advice for me to help my mum to retire? I have quite a bit of savings as I started part time early so I thought of doing bonds as well as investing. But it is not that much so is it better for me to just save up around 20k before I invest?
    Thank you so much in advance for your help!
    Have a great weekend:)

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