TNP takes down article on family who are “suffering” despite earning 5-figure income after public outrage


The New Paper appears to have taken down an article featuring a family of five who are hoping for more financial help from the upcoming Budget 2018, after netizens took issue with the fact that the purportedly middle-class family describe that they are “suffering” even though they draw a 5-figure income, monthly.

The article, entitled ‘Middle income family hopes for more help from Budget 2018’, described the family as “struggling to make ends meet” and quoted Serene Lee – the mother in the family – as saying, “There are many middle-income families like us who are suffering despite seeming to make enough.”

The article was published on Monday, 12 Feb

Lee said that her husband earns a 5-figure salary each month and that she, too, works a part time job although she did not disclose how much she earns.

Lee explained that their income is “spread thin” due to their financial commitments, which include paying for their eldest child’s $1,800 polytechnic tuition fee each semester and paying for Lee’s life-long medication, following a heart transplant. which costs about $2,000 after subsidies each year. Her medication actually amounts to about $9,000 to be paid every six months but she only pays over a thousand dollars every six months due to subsidies.

Besides other bills, Lee pays $300-$400 annually for her daughter’s sailing extracurricular activity and has also employed a domestic helper.

Hoping to send her primary school-going daughter to private tuition so she could catch up with her peers, Lee wishes for a higher income cap for financial assistance and subsidies for larger families, along with additional Edusave allowance for her children, from Budget 2018.

She added: “Specific sports CCAs cost more, and as parents we want to support our kid’s interests too, and if the school offers it, then cost should not be a barrier…”

Instead of garnering sympathy, Lee’s comments were met with widespread hostility from netizens who found that they could not relate to her woes:

The public outrage was perhaps so intense that TNP took down the article from Facebook and made the article private on their website:


  1. Assuming her husband earns exactly $10,000 per month (he likely earns more), and assuming that all expenses are paid by cash without using Edusave and Medisave and so on…. his annual income would be $130,000 per year (including 13th month pay). The expenses she described make up about 10% of his annual income. And we haven’t even added her part time income. What the heck is she talking about? What is the remaining 90% spent on? Annual winter vacations and two luxury cars? Maybe a second rental property and luxury handbags? Seriously? She wants taxpayers who earn less than that to subsidise her family’s luxury lifestyle??? Tone deaf, the upper income tier in Singapore. I note that the picture posted is taken in a country of cooler climate. Nice holiday, huh?

  2. I also very suffering! Every month i had to pay for my condo loan mortgage, maintenance fees, my bmw series 3 car loan and i can only drink 2 cup of cuppocino from starbuck everyday. Do u know how much i suffer? All u who stay in hdb got so much suffering as me ma?

  3. Need to detail how much income goes to mortgage and loan, which are personal choices, education and health. Can’t play around with blanket statement. If you have 5 figure salary and no loans but want to pay a lot for enrichment classes, outcome is also the same.

  4. I would like to invite Ms Serene Lee and her family to visit my neighbourhood in Yishun where some residents live in HDB rental flats, have as many or more children, and earns less than $1000/month.
    There are many occasions where we get last minute call to assist as some families do not have food, no milk powder for babies etc.

    Tell me who is “Suffering” please?

  5. Just a thought. Wouldn’t most netizens who earn a 5 figure salary be lured into a lifestyle they feel befits that income? This family obviously did. Wasn’t it our Govt that marketed those dreams to them and other Singaporeans…study hard, work hard, vote for PAP and you’ll live the good life?
    This family is merely sharing the challenges they face living within that income bracket. The problems they face sound real albeit extravagant.
    Perhaps rather than roast them, we should be cautioned by their tale to BEWARE the road our leaders would have us take.

    • Not really. My boss earns 5 digit pay. Super ngiao. When she buy mini tarts on promotion for her family, she buys one for each person. The tarts are the size of our $1 coin. And when she goes on vacation, it’s to Malacca. Once every four years. No car, lives in HDB. Brings office laptop home to surf internet (not work) because she doesn’t want to buy personal laptop. Christmas gifts for us are an assortment of unwanted things she scavenged from home. Last year, I got a travel sized body lotion of dubious brand. The expiry date was over. I think despite her pay, the office cleaner has a better lifestyle…

    • WaiSee, your boss is obviously an exception. But I bet if you asked her she’d tell you she could do with some tax assistance and relief too.
      Let me clarify my point…if MOE puts sailing (an expensive sport) on the CCA and a parent puts their daughter in it but realises only in 2 years down the road it’s more of an expense than they can afford, is it abnormal for the parent to seek help to keep her child in that CCA (bear in mind the 2 points it will give to get her into JC)? Do you agree that MOE should offer subsidies where it’s needed or not offer the CCA option to begin with if they aren’t prepared to? You see, the Govt dangles carrots and it’s only natural people will aspire to acquire them. But when these people are caught short but fully committed, it’s only natural to ask for assistance.

    • Yes, but not the same kind of challenges we plebians have. To most of us money buys us food, necessities, even niceties…But to the ultra, it’s power and control. And they stress over making and keeping it possibly more so. Hence the saying…money can’t buy you happiness.

  6. Wah piang, like that is ‘suffering’ then many including myself is living in poverty with no dignity to speak of. Wouldn’t be surprised if this horrible woman comes out later to say she has been misquoted by TNP.

  7. Probably this mentally ill family longing to upgrade to a Rolls Royce from a Ferrari but: ‘Money Not Enough’ due to High Class Over Commitments.
    IRAS ought to track down this family & impose Luxury Tax increase on them for begging for higher Govt Subsidies. Real Sick Family!

  8. You want to live it up. No wonder five figures not enough. I have seen six, seven member family living comfortably on dual income of 5,6 K. Everyday lobsters, branded goods sure not enough. You don’t seem able to sell differentiate between needs and wants, must haves and good-to-have. Do an re-assessment of your expenditure and you should find you can live very very comfortably with that income.

  9. Dear commenters. My name is Mark, the father of the late Carmen Mark whose heart were donated and given to Ms Serene Lee. It was sad to read so many negative comments about her recent interview on the budget. Unethically, she was used by the media to comment on the budget and she merely asked the government to consider helping the middle income group. It will benefit all of you if the government were to give a consideration on her plea. Do you all really know her plight? Understand her personal financial standing? Why there is a maid at home? Why she have to worked as a clinic assistant with a SGD17 salary an hour? Would you spend every single Friday at the National Heart Centre to help patients with serious heart conditions as volunteer?….Pls get the fact right why TNP withdrew the article?

  10. I laughed my head off when reading this article. And please, SPH, you want to capture trend showing middle class malaise, at least use your brain. Where are your editors and chief editors? All busy pleasing higher-ups? It is lower middle income who might be suffering. But then why are they called middle income? Are government and unofficial statisticians fooling them and the world by calling them so? See, you have a potential story here. No content creation fee needed.

  11. Guys. The heart transplant is not cheap. All those doctor’s follow ups are surely not cheap as well. The medications too. I do agree that she can do without those unnecessary life pleasures to balance out. I’m sure the family is as much cost cutting as they can.

  12. Why the ire? This family in the article has 3 school-going children and the wife is recovering from heart transplant. Each family has its problems. Irregardless of how much household income, we are all different levels of middle-income and we need govt assistance.

  13. Just suggesting. Can use CPF to pay for kids polytechnic fee? One semester is $1.8k. One year two semesters if not wrong. Pretty sure that $10k per month salary can afford $3.6k per annum fee? Or even $7.3k if it’s four semesters a year

  14. damn joke… my dad and my mom earn less than 2k per month together and have to raise 2 kids and this mudafucker come in and say they not enough when they are already having more subsidise than what my family got ? joke go fuck urself

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  16. I guess a big bulk of their expenditure goes into medical, education and household (domestic helper). If they are struggling to meet end’s meet, how about giving up domestic helper and also other “wants” like private tuition and expensive education curriculum? I can understand that as a parent, one wants their kids to keep up with other kids too… wanting the best for their education, but do it within one’s means. Poly school fee can use their CPF to pay for and kids can repay next time. Also, household chores can get their kids to do (poly should be old enough). And if they have a car, it would be more expenditure too. Just a saying… if they have a certain comfortable lifestyle they need to maintain, then don’t ask for more external help. But I must say that medical in SG is very costly. So one needs to have medical insurance as our Medisure, Medi Life etc is not sufficient to cover major illnesses… hence one can die but can’t be chronically sick in SG….

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