The Blue Collar Worker Who Lost $250,000

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned in this blog before, I actually had a very short stint with a Japanese manufacturer before I turned full-time freelance. The reason why it was only for a short period was partly because they went back on the terms of the contract and I’ve seen them do it to another Japanese staff so I decided to leave before I get screwed over.

Anyhow, during my term with the company, I had to spend the first two months at their factory learning the process of manufacturing their product and get down to making them myself. At the factory, apart from Japanese staff, there were a number of members from China and one from Myanmar, with all of whom I had developed friendship.

Now, this Myanmarese had been in Japan for over 20 years and speaks Japanese well. He used to work at shipyards welding metal for several years before getting this job. One day, while talking with him during our short break, he suddenly told me that I should learn how to save money, and revealed that he had wasted some 20-over million yen the past 20 years because he was so into cars and wanted to show off to the girls he dated back then.

Granted, a car is much cheaper in Japan than in Singapore, but because it was so affordable and his salary here was so much better than what he could’ve received in Myanmar, he began spending a lot of his money on flashy sports cars. A Japanese sports car typically costs between 2 to 4 million yen (about SGD$25,000 to 50,000). And a decent second-hand one is probably about half the price.

Back when he was younger, he changed cars once every 2-3 years, each time paying off the full sum not taking much loan probably because it wasn’t easy for foreigners to take out loans. He mentioned that he had easily changed 10 cars through the years and now he doesn’t own any because he realised how big of a waste of money it is, and that if he hadn’t gotten the cars or haven’t changed that often, he would’ve had $250,000 in his savings now. Although I doubt that the benefit of hindsight would change how he leads his life if he were given another chance (because after all, he’s enjoyed that part of his life and just wants the money back now like how one can spend the money gambling and then later wish they hadn’t lost the money), I do agree that the way he used his money wasn’t very financially sound.

But if I take an objective view of him as a 50-over-year-old man, who didn’t have Internet access nor easy access to information outside his circle of friends, I think one cannot really blame him. I feel that we are much more fortunate to be living in this time where information is easily accessible; that we can learn about money management online and get our personal finances in order. And despite so, there are still people leading the life he used to, so what more someone who didn’t have the privilege of such tools? Of course, the other side of the spectrum would argue that Internet access has also brought about more temptations to spend money. Ultimately, I guess it’s up to one’s own control for delayed gratification that really decides one’s financial health.

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