4 Reasons Why Retirement in Singapore is Like That Big Exam You Didn’t Study For

retirement CPF singapore

You would think in Singapore that, by our mid-20s and early 30s, most of us would’ve forgotten about how stressful it was to take the PSLE or the O-Levels. At least until our children are old enough to go through that same traumatic experience.

Rushing to finish studying at the last minute? Realizing then that there’s actually way too much to make up for? Don’t even know where to start because you never really went for class? Yeah, I know this sounds familiar.

The truth is retirement in Singapore can be a very similar experience for a lot of folks. Like when you don’t prepare in advance or don’t even know how to start preparing, chances are you’re going to have an epic fail.

While we celebrate Singapore’s 50 years of independence this year, the biggest SG50 question isn’t “Is Singapore going to survive another 50 years”. Instead, the real big question is “Can I afford to survive another 50 years in Singapore?”

Here are 4 reasons why retirement in Singapore is like that big exam you didn’t study for:


1. Cramming it all in the last minute!

Ever tried cramming 6 months of lessons into the last week before your exam?

Retirement is the same way – Singaporeans want to retire by 65, and want to be able to live relatively comfortably. But if you don’t start preparing for that amount, either through savings or investments, it certainly isn’t going to magically happen overnight when you start at 64.

The point is, you’ve got to start now.

You can’t rely solely on the best savings account or the best fixed deposit account to grow your money. The interest rates are just too low to be worthwhile. If you’re not comfortable with the higher risk of most investments, consider lower-risk investment options like Regular Savings Plans or Singapore Savings Bonds. In fact, Singapore Savings Bonds are practically risk-free, because it is principal-protected, much like the funds in your CPF Accounts.


2. Didn’t go for class, now there’s too much study debt!

Most times, it’s not that you don’t understand what you’re studying, it’s just that there’s too much left to cover when you let it all pile up and don’t deal with it on an incremental basis.

In the same way, preparation for retirement also means not struggling with a ton of debt in your later years as a result of poor financial planning. In fact, debt is the worst thing you could head into retirement with, especially since it’ll only get worse once you don’t have a steady income.

In other words, be realistic. Don’t take out a home loan or a car loan that will last longer than your expected length of employment. More importantly, don’t ever fall into the trap of credit card debt or personal loan debt. If you already owe the bank money, start taking immediate action to become debt free. You’ll make your retirement a whole lot easier if you don’t have to worry about owing people money once your career has ended.


3. Didn’t bother doing the past exam papers?

It’s obviously a good idea to do past exam papers as they give you a sense of what the exam structure is going to be like. It also gives you a strong hint of what types of questions to prep for so it doesn’t hit you like a school bus on your actual exam day.

If you don’t even know how to begin structuring your retirement plans, or even what sort of questions to ask yourself in preparation, here are some tips:

Start by asking yourself questions such as: Do you know what kind of investor you are? Or how much you should be setting inside for investments? Or maybe you need to start at the very beginning, by asking yourself questions like: What kind of life do I want to have after retirement? How much would I need a month when I retire?

The earlier you ask yourself these questions, the earlier you can start planning ahead. And don’t worry about changing your expectations down the road! By starting your retirement planning early, you’re actually giving yourself more time and opportunity to change your plans.


4. What’s the point of taking the exam? Sure fail!

How many of you have skipped an exam because you thought you weren’t going to pass anyway? That has got to be one of the stupidest decisions you’ve ever done. Whether you’re prepared or not, by not showing up at the exam hall, you’ve already failed the exam. However, if you do show up, you still have a slight chance of passing. You won’t get an ‘A’ grade, but at least you haven’t failed at life.

And it’s never too late. Sure, things might seem bleak right now, but as long as you don’t give up, you can still turn things around.

Here are four things you need to do right now:

  • You need to learn about insurance – find out what’s the difference between term insurance and life insurance. Choose what’s most appropriate for your current situation and sign up for it. This is literally going to be the difference between life and death.
  • You need to learn how much you should be saving – start setting aside money for your retirement. Cut down on any unnecessary expenditure today. You’d be amazed how much you save by reducing the number of cabs you take, or even the number of cups of coffee you drink.
  • You need to learn about investments – it’s never too late to start putting your money to work. Find an investment product that’s within your risk profile and start earning dividends and interest.
  • You need to lean debt management and planning repayment schedules – don’t wait till you’re deep in debt before asking for help. The longer you wait, the deeper you get.


In conclusion…

Retirement is probably the last big exam you’ll take in your life. Make sure you’re prepared for it. Many Singaporeans think that planning for retirement means making all sorts of grand plans and life changing decisions.

But it doesn’t have to be that complicated. It starts from something as simple as a conversation with someone you trust or care about.



CPF’s Big R Chat is a campaign that serves to encourage Singaporeans to get the conversation on retirement started, with insightful tips on how you can do just that, as well as the topics to address if you aren’t sure of where to start.

Are you ready for retirement? Why or why not?