Career, Opinions, Self-Improvement, Vanessa Tai

Coping Strategies for the 20-something Working Adult – Vanessa Tai

As working professionals, we are forced to grapple with stressful situations daily, but many a time, we feel like we haven’t quite shed our adolescent selves … the one that’s tempted to sweep everything off our desks and declare, “Screw this. I quit!” Sometimes, we may even look up in the middle of some menial task, and wonder to ourselves, “Is this all there is? Whatever happened to my life-changing, golly-gee-whiz-awesome career?” If you’ve ever felt forlorn about your job or career journey, you’ll know what I mean.

Back when my friends and I were still bright-eyed undergrads, we used to spend hours dreaming of our fabulous careers. One wanted to be a successful PR director, another wanted to be a war correspondent … and me? I fantasised of being an award-winning creative director (feel free to laugh.) However, as we all know, real life is rarely how we envision it to be. Over the five years that I have been working, I’ve gone through extreme career highs and lows, taking me to places and situations that I couldn’t even have dreamed up. And you know what? I wouldn’t have had it any other way. All these experiences have taught me many important lessons such as humility and perseverance, traits that are relevant to both work and life.

The following situations are experiences most 20-somethings would be familiar with. At times where nothing seems to be going your way, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Others have gone before you and succeeded, and you’ll definitely ride through whatever crisis you’re experiencing right now.

1. Having your work thrown back at you

"Make changes AGAIN?!?!"

“Make changes AGAIN?!?!”

How to deal: Don’t take it personally. Yes, of course it sucks to have to re-do your work after slaving over it for hours, but this is to be expected, especially if you’re just starting out in the industry. But instead of grousing, make notes on the type of mistakes your boss calls you out on, and take care not to repeat them.

2. Dealing with difficult people

How to deal: Focus on the job at hand. Even if it seems like these people are out to get you, just remind yourself of the things that actually matter; for example, the fact that you truly enjoy your job scope. When you channel your energies into doing a good job, you won’t have time to worry about petty colleagues or cranky clients. However, if the situation starts getting out of hand, confide in your supervisor or a trusted colleague who will be able to help address the issue.

3. Coping with your friends’ success 

How to deal: Remind yourself, “I am not defined by my job.” With Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, there are now multiple channels to feed our insecurities about our friends’ career success. I get it –  it’s hard to feel happy about your friend’s promotion when you’re still moping around the lower rungs of the career ladder. But there’s one thing you need to remember: there is more than one way to scale the proverbial ladder. It’s not always an upward climb. There are times where you may have to do a side-step or go a couple of steps backwards only to take a great leap forward. Just concentrate on doing a good job at whatever rank you’re in, and eventually your hard work will pay off.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets

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Character & Soul, Health & Fitness, Self-Improvement, Wellbeing

Living A Fully Engaged Life – Vanessa Tai

Do you feel tired all the time? Do you often find yourself checking the clock, counting down the hours till you can leave the office? And when you finally leave, do you find yourself squashed in public transport, getting increasingly miserable by the minute? The daily grind can be absolutely draining, both physically and emotionally. Sure, you may hit the gym every once in a while or even go on short vacations with your friends, but if you’re honest, your life feels pretty automated, without much passion or inspiration.

Are you going through life half-asleep?

Are you going through life half-asleep?

If the above sounds like you, don’t beat yourself up. It’s all too easy to live life on auto pilot. In fact, in a 2011 study of 5,000 adults in the UK, 52 percent of the population admitted to turning back unnecessarily on a journey because they could not remember locking the front door, and about one in five said they have drank a cup of tea … but have zero recollection of making it.

Automated behaviour is not always a bad thing. When your brain becomes accustomed to certain habits such as brushing your teeth or taking the trash out, performing these tasks become automatic, freeing your brain up for more important tasks. However, it’s when you find yourself falling into a rut at work or in your relationships that an autopilot life becomes a problem. So are there ways to be consciously engaged to your life? Sure there are!

1. Be More Appreciative 

You don’t need to start a gratitude journal to start appreciating the little things in your life you’re grateful for. One easy way to start is to offer a sincere “thank you” whenever someone does something nice for you. It could be your boyfriend who fetches you to work every morning, or your colleague who helped buy lunch back or even the bus driver on your daily commute home. Taking the few seconds to smile and offer gratitude will warm both your and the recipient’s hearts.

2. Shake Up Your Routine

Even if it’s something small like taking a different route to work or something major like visiting a country you’ve never been to before, it’s important to jolt your senses every so often. Not only will you feel reinvigorated, you start to view your life in ways you’ve never had before. Check out our guest writer’s post on how she goes on one adventure every single week!

3. Me-Time

15 minutes of daily quiet time does wonders for your wellbeing

15 minutes of daily quiet time can do wonders for your wellbeing

Our hectic lifestyles are often packed to the brim with work and social obligations, so much so that very often, the only time we’re truly alone is when we’re sleeping or on the can! Sad, but true. No matter how busy we are, though, it’s worthwhile to take 15 minutes out of your day to sit in quiet contemplation (no smartphones or tablets allowed.) Even if the bathroom is the only place where you can get a bit of privacy, it’s still very therapeutic to have that few moments alone where your mind isn’t wired to complete a task or engage in conversation.

It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit. – Denis Waitley

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets

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Money, Self-Improvement

What Your Financial Consultant Isn’t Telling You – Vanessa Tai

Most of you probably know the importance of savings and diversifying your financial portfolio. You’ve probably even engaged a financial consultant or an insurance agent to help you get the relevant financial products, be it insurance or investments. But because most of us aren’t trained in Finance, we tend to only half-understand whatever is being sold to us. We spoke to a financial consultant with five years of experience in an independently-owned financial advisory firm, who let us in on some industry secrets …

1. Cost of Insurance

This is in relation to investment-linked plans. Many young Singaporeans opt for this plan as they think they are getting the best of both worlds: insurance coverage and investments returns. What many do not know is there is a yearly renewable term, which escalates the cost of insurance when the client hits the age of 55. Here’s why – as you grow older, your risk of debilitating diseases increase, hence the risk to the insurer also increases. At this point in time, there may be a possibility that a portion of your accumulated investment amount may be used to pay off the increased cost of insurance. So if you’re not aware of this and your financial consultant does not remind you to re-adjust your portfolio, you may end up with much lesser investment returns.

Conclusion: Before you commit to an investment-linked insurance plan, you need to be clear about what kind of results you want to achieve. If you’re buying into this plan as an investment, you’ll need to be prepared that your insurance coverage will decrease as you grow older so as to maintain your investment returns. If it’s for insurance coverage, you cannot expect to have high investment returns. In any case, it’s always recommended to diversify your portfolio with other programs as you grow older (and more affluent.)

2. “Guaranteed Returns” vs “Projected Returns”

This is in relation to long-term savings plans, such as endowment plans. Financial Consultants typically gloss over the guaranteed returns as this amount is always lesser than projected returns. What you must understand is, projected returns are subject to market conditions, and the projection is calculated based on the assumption that you have a constant return on investment every year, which is near impossible. It will be more prudent to see if the guaranteed amount is something you’re comfortable with, instead of being enticed by the projected amount (which you should view as more of a bonus, than a guaranteed.)

Conclusion: Before committing to a savings plan, always ask your Financial Consultant what the guaranteed returns are.

3. Agents with Ties

No, not neckties, but ties to a particular company. Agents that are tied to one company may try to sell you a product that’s not quite tailored to your needs, simply because they want to close the deal, or because they can get a higher commission from selling you a different product. It might be a better idea to shop around and get a feel of the products available on the market, so you’ll know what type of products suit your needs best.However, it can be exhausting (not to mention, confusing) to figure everything out on your own. This is why more and more people are turning to independently-owned financial advisory firms. Because these independent financial consultants are not tied to any specific companies, they can provide unbiased advice on the best financial products to suit your specific needs.

Conclusion: No matter which financial product you choose, there will always be a list of pros and cons. There is no perfect financial program. This is why it’s crucial to know what your intention is (save? invest? protect?) as well as the must-have features in a program before you commit to one.

To use a simple analogy, it’s just like getting married. No man is perfect … but you need to be certain what are the traits that are important to you and what are absolute dealbreakers. Everything else, you’ll have to learn to live with (and even embrace!)

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets


Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask Your Taxi Uncle – Vanessa Tai

Hands up those of you who often tweet passive-aggressive tweets about your cabbie – “If this cabbie jams his brake one more time, I’m gonna f-ing puke”; “Taxi uncle, please just shut up and drive.” It seems like we passengers have a million and one grouses when it comes to taxi drivers in Singapore – “Why are they always On Call whenever it rains?”; “Why does he get so pissed off when I tell him I need to go to more than one destination? Doesn’t he want more money?”

To clear the air on some of your most common gripes, I sat down for a chat with Mr Vincent Tai (yes, we’re related), who has been driving a taxi for the past 10 years.

Q: Do taxi drivers intentionally activate the “Busy” sign just to avoid certain passengers?

“These drivers probably have a prior appointment to pick up their own family members, or with their regular customers. Some drivers, like myself, prefer to have a pool of regular customers because it ensures a more steady income.”

Q2. In London, taxi drivers are required to take a topographical test to prove they know how to go everywhere in the city. Do you think it’s necessary for taxi drivers to take such a test?

“While it would be ideal that our local drivers have an intimate knowledge of the city’s roads, there are many small roads in Singapore that make it almost impossible to know all the directions by heart. Thankfully, most taxis these days come outfitted with a GPS. Having said that, I know plenty of older-generation cabbies prefer to completely do away with the GPS or any other computerized system for that matter. They find it too stressful. I think more should be done to train up our drivers. Currently, the training sessions for these new systems only take half or one day, which is hardly sufficient for the less tech-savvy drivers to learn anything.”

Q3. When presented with a big note ($50 and above), a lot of taxi drivers will show their displeasure. What are your thoughts?

“The onus should be on the driver to always have sufficient small change with him. Reason being, we cabbies are in the service industry after all and should always strive to give the best possible service. Even if the driver receives plenty of big notes consecutively, he should take the initiative to go to the nearest coffee shop or petrol station to get change.”

Q4. Some taxis reek of pee. ‘Fess up – do some taxi drivers lose control of their bladder because they’ve held it in for too long?

“My cabbie friends and I don’t believe in holding it in – we’ll relieve ourselves whenever we have the urge to pee. That’s because we know of the long-term health problems that arise from controlling one’s bladder. Of course, we don’t always go to proper toilets! (laughs)”

Q5. Is there anything we passengers should take note of?

“If you intend to go to more than one destination, please inform your driver before your journey starts. Sometimes, the driver may need to rush off after sending you to the first destination, so if he doesn’t know about your other intended destinations, conflict may arise.

Another very important point? Please, please inform your driver if you feel unwell or feel like throwing up. He can quickly pull over to let you throw up, and even offer you a plastic bag. I’ve had many passengers who threw up in my cab without warning, and my entire evening was ruined because I had to spend time getting rid of the mess and stench. In my opinion, there should be a law implemented where a flat fee is imposed the moment a passenger throws up in the cab. I usually ask for about $20 to cover my loss of income and car washing cost, but I know of some drivers who demand for up to $50. Despite creating a big mess, some passengers still refuse to pay extra and will only give you $3 to cover the car wash.”

Ever ready with a grin

Ever ready with a grin

During his 10 years as a cabbie, Mr Vincent Tai has consistently received letters of accolades from his passengers. If you wish to experience his sterling service, drop him a call at 8490 0223. 

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets