Mental models are something really useful to take note of when understanding why people do the things they do.

Have you ever known or met someone who’s dissatisfied with life in his/her country of birth, migrated to another place only to keep bitching about how the state of things back where they used to call home is terrible and how their life is so much better now?

Such oddity can only be described as ‘Rationalisation‘ where someone tried his/her darnest to explain why they did something- sometimes it’s to absolve themselves of blame or to convince themselves that their decision was right (not that many other people actually care anyway).

Well, I recently read about one fine example here. If you read the post (not by the character about to be discussed), it’s basically about how a Mr Cheong (or is it Wing? or Lee?) who’s now a Canadian receives free healthcare. No biggie here for me- different countries, different systems. The odd part came in the comments section where Mr Cheong then gave his two cents worth on why living in Canada isn’t as expensive as Singapore despite the much higher income tax. His premise is that Singaporeans pay hidden taxes, such as:

1. COE – $60,000 every ten years assuming that a Singaporean changes his car every 10 years.
40 years needs to buy 4 COE = $240 ,000.
2. Cost of car like Honda Civic – $75,000 in Singapore vs $25,000 in Canada.
4 cars in forty years at the difference of $50,000 = $200,000
3. Road tax – $1,300 per year for 40 years = $52,000
4. Higher petrol price – $100 extra a month for 40 years = $48,000.
5. ERP – $100 extra a month for 40 years = $48,000.
6. Maid levy – $300 per month for 20 years (assuming a family only has the maid for 20 years
instead of 40 years or more) = $72,000.
7. General medical bills for 85 years at $1,000 a year = $85,000. (less than $100 a month)
8. Cost of housing, the difference between a similar house in Singapore vs Canada is $300,000 to as high as $1 million and more. We shall take the lower end of the difference = $300,000.
9. The water/gas/electricity bills are only one-third of Singapore’s making a savings of at least $102,000 based on a saving of $100 per month x 85 years.
The total savings for a Canadian is at least $1,147,000 or more depending on how many cars, maids and children he has.
This amount is more than adequate to offset the Canadian tax of $855,360 at 29.7%.

Looking at that list, I think any reasonable person will tell you that if you don’t drive a car, Mr Cheong’s whole argument falls apart. While he goes on to list some other benefits that Canadians also enjoy, my view is that this fella’s totally missing the point.

If I cherry-picked reasons to live in Singapore, I could easily say things like:

1. $0.80-$1.00 kopi/teh in Coffee shops that open bright and early and stay open late at night.
2. $0.80-$1.00 prata kosong available 24hrs/day.
3. Availability of cheap airfare to travel destinations as diverse as Bangkok and Tokyo.

You get my drift. Not everyone wants a life like Mr Cheong’s- in fact, I’d rather not get a stroke than get one even if the medical treatment was free. And it’s pretty clear from Mr Cheong’s own website (not going to give him free publicity by linking it here. Aha, not that he’s going to get much from me anyway) that he’s got some beef with his former motherland. Either that, or donkey years after moving on, the poor guy’s still trying to convince himself that he did the right thing.

Endnote: If you really read this piece properly and think I’m arguing that life in Singapore is better than Canada, then you’ve totally missed the point. BTW, this kind of rationalisation can be detrimental to one’s wealth too, sticking to losing stocks for too long is a harmful exercise.