My Starting Salary is Less Than The Average Singaporean. What Do I Do?

| 30 Nov 2019

If you ever felt like you’re overworked and underpaid, you’ll definitely need to read this article.

$5,596. That’s the average monthly salary of Singaporeans in 2019. Obviously, this figure has to be taken with a grain of salt, as you’d need to factor in things like your job scope, your skillset or if your job’s in demand etcetera. 

The average monthly salary of $5,596 is vastly higher than what most jobs offer at entry-level. Your starting wage would most likely be in the ballpark of the $4,437 median gross monthly income. However, the median income indicates the 50th percentile hence it is the average of everyone’s salary. Hence, this doesn’t mean that you’re being underpaid, as there are just as many people making that income in the lower range as there are above that range.

You’ll find out more in this article as we explore why your starting salary is less than the average Singaporean, and what you can do about it. First, let’s talk about what factors can influence your starting pay.


Looking for Fresh Graduates with 2 years of work experience

Getting your first job means that you’ll probably have to take a pay cut. It’s an undeniable fact that entering the workforce with zero previous work experience (like most do) would equal a lower starting salary. Unless your skillset is in high demand or you’re just that good at what you do, fresh graduates usually have a lower salary than an experienced worker. 

In any case, you’ll need some legitimate workforce experience under your belt before you can haggle your starting pay with HR. Experience is priceless when it comes to working and taking a pay cut to be able to experience working in a big-shot company usually pays off. With big companies, the reputation and experience they provide can help boost your chances of getting a fatter paycheck. However, that’s not to say that you should ALWAYS be willing to work for less than the market rate. You should consider your finances and weigh the sacrifices you might have to make before taking a pay cut. 


Work Titles

Some fresh graduates think that a fancy title significantly improves their value so they join a small firm just to be the “Head of Communications”. Contrary to what you may think, HR managers aren’t that superficial so make sure that your work adds value to the company. 

Before looking for a job, read up on the meanings of most job titles. Nowadays, it’s become a common practice to list jobs with elaborate titles that might not be as important as it may seem.

Of course, the right title can still distinguish your position in your company which can give you an edge at your next job. Needless to say, your actual job scope will be better at showing your competence and capability. For example, if you led a successful campaign that generated a huge increase in sales for the company by 30% or if your project managed to help the company cut cost by 40%. These achievements help to quantify your contributions to your company, which will inevitably give you more negotiating power for a higher pay in the future.


Big dreams, unrealistic expectations

Studies show that most overestimate their starting salary by at least 23%. Of those interviewed in the study, business majors tend to overestimate more than their non-business degree peers. Understandably, the financial sector is full of success stories and tall tales of fat paychecks which could’ve influenced the preconception of high salaries from the get-go. A high salary is not as commonplace as one might think, and there are many roles that pay about the same as non-business degree roles too. Therefore, if this is your first job, you should not feel too disheartened at your current pay as there are most likely many other people with the same pay as you.

If however, you have been in a company for several years and have yet to see a rise in pay, it is perhaps time to reflect on the significance of your contribution to the company or if there are better opportunities to excel elsewhere. 


So should I quit my job?

Well, you shouldn’t just decide this based on your pay. Try to find out what your company is offering you that you won’t get anywhere else or better yet, if you’re doing what you love. As you spend more time in the working world, you’ll start to realise that having a better work-life balance is much more than having a pile of money. You’ll lose out on time that could’ve been spent with your family or close friends, making your life much more fulfilling. 


Work Place Benefits

Companies know this, which is why their benefits are sometimes incredibly generous. Things such as long annual leave, education sponsorships, flexible hours are all rare in companies. That’s the reason why sometimes even though your friends may complain that they’re underpaid, they’ll still stay with their company. 

The benefits even extend to things that isn’t provided by your company. Co-workers that are easy to work with, an understanding boss or a great company culture can be what makes your work life much more bearable. Remember, you’ll spending the next 40 or so years working and there will be plenty of opportunities to make more money in the future if you advance in your company or elsewhere.


Negotiating a Pay Raise

Bonus season is rolling around soon! So now is the best time to sit down with your boss to prove your worth. If you’ve shown that you’ve been improving and adding value to the company, there shouldn’t be a reason why they can’t reward you for your efforts. Another way you could get a pay raise is by improving your skillset. Employers do pay more for skills that are essential in a work environment. They also pay more if you have mastered more advanced technical skills.


It’s important to know your worth because only then can you be truly satisfied with what you’re earning. If you feel like you’re worth more, fight for better pay or a better work environment, through constant upskilling and delivering results. Having a work-life is balance is sometimes more important than just having a stacked bank account, because you can always work to earn more money but you cannot get your time back. 

If you want to know more about financial planning you can read up more on our blog here or email us at [email protected] where our friendly advisors are always ready to help.

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