Mr Tan Yean Leong, 46, has been single for the last 26 years. However, he has no intention of finding a girlfriend anytime soon. The reason?

He thinks he can’t afford one.

Tan Yean Leong, 46, in the house of his good friend.
Tan Yean Leong, 46, photographed in the house of his good friend. Photo by Tan Li En.

“I don’t have a tertiary education, so I won’t get a raise in salary,” Mr Tan said in Mandarin. He’s a factory storekeeper who graduated with a Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) certificate, which is the O-Level equivalent in Malaysia.

The Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) has been living on a monthly salary of just above $1,000. He spends about $250 on his monthly rent, which leaves him with $750 to spend and save.

Mr Tan had one girlfriend when he was 18 years old, and their relationship lasted for 2 years. However, she broke up with him and left for a richer boyfriend, which traumatizes him till this day.

He also doesn’t think he’s ready to provide the best for his family. estimated the cost of raising a child until he or she turns 22 to be at least $670,000.

“Deep down, I really want to start a family because I would love to have my own children. However, I don’t think I’ll be able to do so because of financial issues,” Mr Tan added.

Chart URL:

According to a study by Ministry of Trade and Industry Department of Statistics, the median age at first marriage for men with educational qualifications of secondary and below increased from 26.6 years old in 1984 to 30.3 years old in 2017. It peaked at 31.8 years old in 2005.

Mr Lim Siew Kee, for example, got married to his wife Chow Soo Foong when he was 32 years old. They have been married for 14 years now.

Lim Siew Kee (Left), 46, and Chow Soo Foong (Right), 49, during a family vacation to their hometown in Malaysia in December 2018.
Lim Siew Kee (left) and his wife Chow Soo Foong had a vacation in their hometown in Malaysia in December 2018. Photo Credit: Kimberly Lim

Like Mr Tan, Mr Lim is also a Singapore PR and a factory worker. The 46-year-old used to face pressure from his friends and family to get married early and start a family.

“I felt inferior because I was already over 30 and still not married. It doesn’t help when I didn’t graduate from secondary school so there will be more reasons for people to look down on me,” said Mr Lim, who completed education till Secondary Three.

After dating for 3 years, Mr Lim and Mdm Chow were certain about marrying one another. However, they just had to wait until they were financially stable to do so, which was 4 years later.

“The reason why people like me get married later is that we need to earn enough money before we can start a family. Our job is not high paying, so it’ll take a longer time than those with higher education,” Mr Lim added in Mandarin.

He also revealed that delaying the marriage was the only option, and he is grateful that his wife was willing to save up with him.

“Looking back, I felt silly. It is more important to be ready for the marriage than to worry about age,” he added.