I read an NYT article about financial planning a few nights ago, and it revisited the perennial question of “How much is enough?”

I found the article reassuring, but it cited a classic rule that I haven’t been following:

Spend 50 percent on needs, 30 percent on wants and 20 percent on savings.

Lately, Alf and I have been talking about reassessing our enrichment spending. It makes no sense that we’re working all the time, only to fund lesson after lesson. (Note: I do take a number of FB breaks; my girlfriend told me to regard those as watercooler time i.e. necessary for sanity preservation.) I have a friend, a mother of three, who told me they set aside a fixed sum for enrichment every month, and if one kid has more needs for a particular month, the others go with less or without. I think that’s a sensible idea for families with a smaller budget–we too put a fixed sum into an account dedicated for monthly payments, but we’re just as likely to say, “OK, you think this is useful? Let’s see how we can make more to cover it.” We’ve made it happen, but it’s the less prudent way.

Of course exposure is important, and we’re still leaving some leeway for exploration. Layla starts a new class next month where I hope she’ll find herself engaging in discussions and sharpening her critical thinking skills, but we’re also cutting back on other classes for both kids. Chinese tuition will probably be a fixture in our lives until the secondary school hurdle is crossed, but we’ll say goodbye to science tuition after the PSLE is over. Layla’s been responsible for her schoolwork–I’m hands off–and it shouldn’t be too difficult for her to enter the school of her choice, so I’m really not worried about next year.

I’ve also ceased to be overly concerned about her grades in her daily work and tests; I’m starting to look at the big picture, and what she needs most is space to be curious, to assert herself, and to discover new passions. I’m heartened to see that she’s challenging herself–at the beginning of the year, she told me there were openings for reading volunteers to help the younger kids in her school, but she wasn’t keen. A few weeks ago, she told me that she’d signed on, and I was surprised, and very proud to see her growing in this way.


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