The other day, someone asked Saffy why she was still renting.
“Isn’t it better to pay a mortgage?” Lucy asked as she leaned in to take a spoonful of the ginger pudding at PS Café.
Saffy paused in mid-chew and gave the matter some thought. “Why is it better?”
“Well, say your rent is $3,500 per month. At the end of five years, you will have paid… uhm…” Lucy paused as she stared into space. “…Uhm, that’s $210,000.”
Saffy held up her spoon. “Wait, you just did that sum in your head?”
Lucy glowed with the kind of self-satisfaction you’d expect from someone who got a first in maths from Cambridge. “I’m a banker, dear. That’s an easy sum. Anyway, so at the end of five years, you’ve spent $210,000, but you have nothing to show for it whereas your landlord is $210,000 richer. But if you’d paid that amount into a mortgage, you’d have equity in your flat.”
Saffy sat back in her chair and stared at Lucy. “Huh,” she said eventually. A thought occurred to her. “But I don’t actually pay that much for rent. I split it with my flatmates.”
Lucy shrugged. “Whatever the amount, at the end of five years, you will still be in deficit for that exact amount, with no upside in your equity.”
Saffy couldn’t wait to get home to share this bit of financial wisdom with us, only to discover that Amanda was well ahead of her.
“It’s why I’ve used the amount that I’ve saved in sharing rent with you guys to buy bonds and gold! The ROI has kept pace with inflation or been ahead!” Amanda tossed her lustrous hair with satisfaction.
Saffy pursed her lips, now more convinced than ever that she was going to die poor. “It’s so unfair!” she complained. “Everyone around me is making money and making retirement plans! Except me. Seriously, I have nothing to show for all my years of working except a great collection of Victoria’s Secret underwear!"
“And even they are shutting down their show!” Amanda said.
Saffy’s bosom inflated. “I know, right!”
Of course, it hasn’t helped Saffy’s precarious state of mind that James Dyson just splashed out $41m on a mansion near the Botanic Gardens.
“Forty-one million!” Saffy repeated when she read the news. “Who spends $41m on a house? More to the point, who has $41m just lying around?”
“Can you imagine how many maids you’d have to employ for a house that big?” Amanda wondered.
“Helpers,” Saffy corrected automatically, her HR radar for a potential lawsuit razor sharp even in the midst of an existential financial crisis.
“And that’s not counting that penthouse he just bought for $74m !” Amanda added. “Which makes me wonder why you would need two massive homes when Singapore is so small. What, he stays in Tanjong Pagar during the week and on the weekends, he escapes to the Botanic Gardens?”
“Maybe he’ll AirBnB one of them?” I suggested, though even I could tell, as soon as the words were out of my mouth, what an absurd idea that was. What would James Dyson do with a weekly rental on AirBnB? What a hassle of paperwork. Besides, how much would a house that size fetch on the AirBnB market? And as Amanda pointed out, if you could afford that kind of money, you might as well rent out the whole top floor of the Ritz-Carlton and call it a day. “They’d probably even give you exclusive access to the Club Floor!”
Meanwhile, Saffy’s eyes were fixed on the ceiling as her lips moved. “Four plus one, five… seven and four is… uhm… eleven… So, eleven point five…$11.5m!” Her bosom expanded to a dangerous volume. “How do you just spend $11.5m? How much money does he have?”
As Sharyn would later observe, “Wah, how many vacuum cleaner must he sell to have $11.5m?”
“The mind boggles. And that’s just spare change, Shazz,” Saffy told her. Clearly, she’d been giving the matter some thought. “You’d still need to furnish the place. And I bet James Dyson doesn’t shop at Ikea!”
Amanda barked out a laugh. “Can you imagine Dyson shopping at Ikea and stopping at the deli for Swedish meatballs?”
“Or maybe later he go Sheng Siong buy grocery,” Sharyn suggested, at which the girls fell about hysterically.
“Ay, dohn laugh,” Sharyn said after a while, still hiccupping from the hilarity of the image of James Dyson bulk-buying toilet paper and Prima Taste. “Dat’s how rich people get rich. They save a few cent here, a few cent there. Sah-dun-ly, they got eleven million dollar to buy real estate.”
Saffy says even if, for the rest of her life, she drank coffee every day in our local kopi-tiam instead of Starbucks, she’d be lucky if she could ever afford to live in the bomb shelter of an Orchard Road condo.