Singapore's top-earning millennials not confident of financial success

Millennials who are in the top 20 per cent income bracket in Singapore have the least confidence in achieving their wealth aspirations among peers in 10 economies, a study found.

Of the 213 polled in Singapore with an annual income of at least S$100,000, only 44 per cent were confident of achieving their wealth aspirations, way below the global average of 63 per cent.

Those in India (77 per cent), Mexico (72 per cent) and China (72 per cent) were most confident of doing so.

This was a key finding in a UBS global study released on Wednesday on changing attitudes to wealth on the top 20 per cent earners in their respective markets aged 18-34.

The online poll was conducted in October on more than 2,000 top-earning millennials from the United Arab Emirates, the United States, the United Kingdom, China, India, Germany, Singapore, Mexico, South Africa and Russia.

How millennials are different from their parents

  • Once upon a time, small businesses made money by setting up shop somewhere in town, prettying up their storefront and then waiting for people to come in. But that's not how you make money out of millennials, who have consumption habits that are different from the previous generation.
  • They do a lot of their shopping online

    One reason for the downfall of Orchard Road malls is that many millennials' idea of a shopping spree isn't rampaging through an air conditioned mall, but checking out a virtual cartful of stuff on websites like Asos, Modcloth and Amazon.

  • They do a lot of their shopping online

    It's quick, convenient, you get to browse through a lot more stuff within an hour than you would fighting through crowds in malls.

  • They do a lot of their shopping online

    Millennials in Singapore spend almost 3.4 hours a day on their mobile phones. Retail businesses need to realise that without online shopping options, they're going to miss out on a lot of business from millennial customers.

  • They are eager to participate in the sharing economy

    While their parents might have turned up their noses at the thought of buying people's old stuff online, the sharing economy is alive and well amongst millennials in Singapore.

  • They are eager to participate in the sharing economy

    Millennials are used to interacting with others online and savvy enough to ensure they don't get cheated, well most of the time anyway.

  • They are eager to participate in the sharing economy

    Not only are they selling their old stuff and buying other people's at an unprecedented rate, they're also totally open to the idea of staying in the home of someone they've only ever interacted with on Airbnb, or being chauffeured by an Uber driver their own age.

  • They are suspicious of advertising

    Millennials are so used to being bombarded with ads on the internet, they tend to be a lot more suspicious.

  • They are suspicious of advertising

    Just look at the number of scandals there've been regarding "influencers" who are paid by companies to endorse their products, the most recent involving PeelFresh juice. Businesses now need to demonstrate authenticity, build trust and spread the word in a more organic manner.

  • They are willing to pay for experiences, not just stuff

    These days, more and more young Singaporeans are willing to spend not just on material goods, but also on experiences. A recent report shed light on the fact that Singaporean millennials love to travel and prioritise travel spending.

  • They are willing to pay for experiences, not just stuff

    It's clear that the Singaporean millennial wants to spend their money on numerous overseas holidays, at nice restaurants and bars and fun activities, whether they be paintball sessions or art jam sessions.

  • They are willing to pay for experiences, not just stuff

    Retail businesses who manage to turn their stores into the site of experiences, such as by organising events as yoga apparel store Lululemon Athletica has done, could be on to something.

It found that those in more mature markets - Singapore, Germany, the US and the UK - prefer experiences to possessions, prefer the stability of a permanent job and are increasingly insecure.

Those polled in these four territories feel their progress is stalling compared to their parents' generation, are less likely to consider starting their own businesses, and are least likely to venture abroad to pursue opportunities.

In Singapore, one in four surveyed named limited technological skills as a barrier to success. About one in three said they are most likely to see themselves as less entrepreneurial than their parents.

The study also found that 37 per cent of those polled in Singapore consider their limited social networks to be holding them back from financial success, compared to the global average of 28 per cent.

Globally, almost one in nine polled aspire mostly to something other than being rich in possessions or cash; more than one in three consider exciting experiences to be the embodiment of a wealthy lifestyle; and less than two in three are confident of being financially successful, or consider themselves already attaining such success.

The study also said that London, New York and Dubai were the top three cities cited as places where millennials could seek new opportunities, even as there is less room in these traditional economies for modern way of working.

Renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said world leaders need to acknowledge they have failed and are failing many.

"With not only jobs but entire industries disappearing, we must help people to retrain for a new world and support them financially while they do so.

If communities and economies cannot cope with current levels of migration, we must do more to encourage global development.

We need to find new ways for young people across the globe to feel optimistic about the future. The whole world has a part to play if our planet is to thrive in the long term," he said.

Millennials at work

  • When you work at online cashback rewards site ShopBack, you do not have to worry about wearing proper office attire or checking your social media channels during working hours.
  • ShopBack, which gives shoppers a portion of their online spending back when they shop through the portal on sites such as fashion e-tailer Zalora and online grocer RedMart, was started by six founders under 30 years old in September 2014.
  • For the youngest of them, Ms Samantha Soh, 23, enforcing the punctuality rule has been an important way to build team spirit.
  • Its millennial employees enjoy working in the office so much that the company has "shopcations" - particularly busy periods when staff opt to stay overnight at the office rather than go home.
  • Working for Deliveroo, Mr Tristan Torres Velat has on many occasions driven a motorbike to deliver food.
  • It may be hard to imagine, but he is the general manager of the Singapore branch of the British- based food delivery firm Deliveroo.
  • He does not have a separate office and, instead, constantly rotates where he sits among his team at their shophouse space in Tanjong Pagar so that he can talk to them informally.
  • Don't be surprised if you walk into fast-fashion business, Love, Bonito's spanking new 13,000 sq ft office in Tai Seng and find half the staff surfing social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook.
  • After all, every member of the 47-person team is encouraged to be on social media to better understand the Love, Bonito customer.
  • This plugged-in and lively work culture has been 10 years in the making for the founders Viola Tan, 32, and Rachel Lim, 29. The third co-founder Velda Tan is no longer involved in the daily operations of the business.
  • Five-year-old home-grown events management firm Savour Events is opening its first international office in Shanghai.
  • The person who will be setting up the branch? Project director Andrea Yeo, 26, who has been working with the company for four years. As a project director in Shanghai, she will be handling a budget of $3.5 million.
  • Her boss, Mr Darren Chen, 37, executive director of Savour Events, has no qualms about letting her take charge of the portfolio. This sort of age-blind management is, in fact, what he was gunning for when he started Savour Events in 2012, after leaving a corporate sales position at Formula One.
  • The company, which runs Savour gourmet food festival in Singapore, comprises a millennial team of 11 who handle more than 15 large- scale gourmet events, held in Singapore as well as in places such as India, Hong Kong and China.


This article was first published on December 01, 2016.
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