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Career Q&A - How to increase my income amidst a high cost of living?

Given how inflation, GST is going to increase our cost of living, what can I do to increase my income? - Jonathan, Office Professional

The recent announcements about an increased good and services tax in Singapore, along with higher energy and food costs, due to supply restrictions caused by pandemic controls and the disruptions in supply chains from Europe all points to the inevitable outcome of higher cost of living.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit which has been publishing cost of living in cities for the past 30 years, Singapore is ranked 2nd in its 2021 list of top 10 expensive cities. Mercer's Cost of Living report in 2021 has Singapore ranked in number 7 in terms of expensive cities to live in.

Salaries on the other hand can also be expected to rise. Willis Towers Watson's recent study points out that a 3.8% wage increase can be expected in 2022 from local employers, mainly due to the shortage of workers and tighter manpower inflow restrictions. For specific sectors like the Pharmaceutical, High Tech, the wage increase could be even higher at 5%. In the recent Budget 2022 announcements, the Government has also announced a new co-funding of pay increments for local low wage workers earning up to $2,500 each month over the next 5 years.

At AVODAH People Solutions, we know from our clients that salaries and income security is often a trigger for career transition thinking. However, is leaving for greener, richer pastures the only way we can keep up with higher costs of living?

Here are some perspectives for you to consider towards managing incomes and cost of living.

Review your cost of living

It is important to remember that our cost of living is influenced by our standard of living . Standard of living refers to our lifestyle choices and our expectations. For example, whether to spend $50 on a meal in a restaurant or $5 on a meal at a coffeeshop. The finance blog MoneySmart estimates that $1,200 per month is required for a basic lifestyle while about $10,000 per month is required for a more lavish lifestyle (as of Dec 2021).

Before you fret or worry about the cost of living, do a review of your expenses and your lifestyle expectations. Identify areas that can be reduced or adjusted while not severely compromising on your overall quality of life. The pandemic has already shown many people what is truly essential for living.

While some people would prefer to upkeep their high standard of life as a motivation to increase their incomes, remember that this could also cause unnecessary worry and concern around having financial security at all times, especially since lifelong employment is not guaranteed.

Deliver value for what you are paid

Our salary is the renumeration for the work we do. So if we hope to get more salary, the work we do should therefore be greater, either in volume or in value.

Stop to reflect on how you have been doing your work. If you have been dragging your feet to work, putting in the minimum effort to complete your work then perhaps it is time to adopt a new attitude and perspective towards your work especially if there are inherent issues or problems you face daily at work.

Instead of lamenting, complaining and viewing your job as just a pay-check, choose to make the best use of your time at work to make a difference, to manage or solve the issues and problems you see at work . This would help you be viewed as an effective worker and you will also feel more engaged at work.

Equip yourself with new skills for new roles

There has been a convergence of skills, termed as "skills hybridisation" which had been in place since early 2010s which saw digital, mobile influences merge in with more traditional areas of work such as banking, retail, manufacturing (commonly known as Industry 4.0). This convergence is still taking place today and accelerating faster into Web 3.0 where virtual spaces and artificial intelligence is gaining prominence.

Amidst all these changes, jobs have been created, evolved or been made obsolete because of changes to the business, work roles. To adapt and stay relevant, new skills, new mindsets are required. You will need to improve your digital literacy, have a high sense of learnability and an attitude of adaptability to keep up with these new trends, pick up and apply new skills.

To pick up skills, speak with your supervisor about your work performance to identify growth areas. Refer to competency frameworks from your company or the Singapore Skills Future Frameworks to identify skill areas to build. Make a learning decision to sign up for courses, learn from others at work or even by self learning through YouTube and books.

The more skills and experiences you pick up, the higher your value and output to the company. It will put you in a better position to negotiate for more income as well.

Explore side hustles, gig work

If more income is needed but a job change is not possible, you may want to explore secondary income from side hustles, gig work. Beyond food delivery or private hire transport gig platforms, there are other platforms such as Fiverr, Upwork for you to offer professional services ranging from translation, video editing, graphic design and more. There are also interesting gig work offer by websites like UserTesting that offers website testing as gigs and ShutterStock, GettyImages that offers revenue sharing for photos uploaded.

Side hustles are also good ways for us to be more entrepreneurial and translate our interests into useful and revenue generating endeavours. The time saved from home to office travel can be used to explore interest areas and the feasibility of generating revenue from it. Over the past 2 years, many people have started micro businesses in home bakes, home cooks, craft and design and more.

Pursuing side hustles and gigs will allow you to enhance your skills and build your confidence. These could spill over into your job, helping you be more effective at work or serve as evidence of your skills and abilities for future jobs.

Your time is your money. Use time to build your value proposition towards work, the money will naturally follow.

At AVODAH People Solutions, we provide career guidance services to people who are considering career changes, making a job change or currently in a transition to find a job. Share your career situation with us so that we can support you.

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