Six months into dating, my girlfriend and I found ourselves talking about spending our lives together. With her, it felt natural. There was no sudden jolt of panic when she casually mentioned one day that she’d want a KitchenAid standmixer in our future home. “Our future home?” I asked, smiling happily to myself, and teasing her a little. I still remember the smug grin spread across her face as she calmly said “Yes”. After that exchange, I gave our relationship more serious thought, and with each passing day, I became convinced that I wanted to spend my life with her. The question was: how do I go about it?

As a consumer of popular media, I grew up with the romantic notion that I’d fall in love with a girl, date for years, propose, get a house and get married. How extremely naïve. After doing some research, I realised there was no way I’d be able to start a family that way in Singapore. Circumstances made it a little more complicated.

At the time, I was a 25-year-old undergraduate surviving on a monthly allowance from an internship. I barely had enough to support myself, let alone save for an engagement ring. Where housing was concerned, I learnt that it could take up to a staggering four years for me and my girlfriend to collect the keys to our home. So, if I wanted to stick to my original romantic plan, we’d probably only get our own place way after we’d turned 30. That didn’t seem ideal to me. So, after lengthy discussions with my equally pragmatic girlfriend, we decided we should apply for a flat as soon as a desirable BTO project was announced, even if I hadn’t popped the question.

Many people didn’t like this idea. An old friend of mine was absolutely appalled when I told her about it. She pleaded with me to propose first and then apply for a flat because it was the “right way” to do things. Of course, it was easy for her to say that because her fiancé was six years older than she, and had held a stable job for a long time before they even met each other, so cash flow was no issue to him. To me and my girlfriend, there wasn’t a right way to do things. There was only the logical way. We spent hours discussing our situation and what would make the most financial sense, given our circumstances.

And it is clear that the government is nudging young couples to plan early. New initiatives introduced by the Ministry of National Development this year will help young couples get a flat earlier, and with less hassle.

Under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme, families will be able to move into their BTOs in as little as 2.5 years, and they’re also given the option of renting a unit at a lower rate while they wait for their flats to be built.

Of course we know what these measures are trying to do. Get us to procreate earlier and faster so that we can have 2.1 children per family, which will maintain Singapore’s economic growth. But hey, we’re not about to start complaining about cheaper rent. With the fiancé/fiancée scheme, unmarried couples are able to apply for flats and use the four years it takes for their homes to be completed to save up for engagement rings, weddings and renovations.

What I’m getting at that there is no longer a so-called “right way” to go about starting a family in Singapore. Perhaps that worked in our parents’ time, but these days, it no longer applies. In my books, proper planning is more important than abiding by social constructs. So if you’re a young man looking to start a family with your significant other, worry less about what’s the “right” way to do it, and focus on reaching a mutual understanding with your significant other. Your bond and readiness to meet life’s challenges together matter more.

This article was first published in the July ’17 issue of AUGUSTMAN

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