Career

Planning to Work For as Long as You Can? Here are 3 Tips

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Joanne Poh

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When former MP Lim Boon Heng urged Singaporeans to “work for as long as you can,” his comment was met with sneers. Singaporeans already know that in a couple of decades many will be working till they die or their health gives out due to a lack of retirement-readiness. Was he trying to rub salt into the wound?

But hey, hold your horses and read the comment in context. What Lim was actually saying was that we should work for as long as we want to. He didn’t mean that we should continue working if we can and want to retire.

And given the fact that it seems so darned hard to be retirement-ready in Singapore, knowing that you can potentially work till a later age should actually be a comfort, not a curse.

Actually, judging by the fact that an estimated two thirds of Singaporeans won’t be able to retire at their desired age, you might not have much of a choice in the first place.

But even if you love your job and want to do it for as long as you can, or wish to switch careers and do something you’ve always dreamed of when you’re older, the spirit might be willing but the flesh weak. Here are three things you might want to consider doing if you want to max out your working years.

 

Learn how to do your job on a self-employed basis

Just because you want to work forever doesn’t mean you’ll be able to find someone to hire you, especially when you’d be the oldest person at the office.

Workplace ageism is still rife in Singapore. Just ask the many middle aged PMETs who were retrenched in 2016 and failed to get jobs because their age and experience actually worked against them.

Want to be sure you can work when you’re 68 or 70? Then you’d do well to learn how to work on a freelance or self-employed basis. For instance, if you’re an accountant, start doing freelance accounting work for clients. As a web developer, you’ll want to work on a few projects outside of your day job, too.

If your job isn’t something you can do on your own, try branching out into consulting or hone another skill on the side that you’ll be able to do should you eventually get retrenched or forced to retire.

James, a 26-year-old software engineer, is currently working for an MNC, but his ultimate goal is to start his own company or work on a freelance basis. “I wouldn’t mind working past retirement age, but only if it’s on my own terms and if I can set my own schedule,” he says.

 

Find something you like to do and build up your skills alongside your day job

You might rather die than be stuck showing up at the same job you’re forced to do right now in 30 years’ time. But when you’re older and no longer have to hustle as hard for the money, you might want to try your hand at something that interests you more.

It’s never too early to start building up new skills that you can parlay into a new career. Keep up with your interests and maybe take on assignments on the side in a field that you might consider working in when you’re ready to wind down your current career.

Helen, a 33-year-old MOE teacher, has a diploma in piano performance and teaches piano on the side during weekends. While she intends to stick with her teaching career for a while longer, she is considering moving on to becoming a full-time piano teacher when she is older for a more relaxed schedule and to pursue her interest in music teaching.

 

Think of your career as a marathon, not a sprint, and pace yourself

Many young employees go overboard during their first two decades of work, working punishing hours, totally neglecting their health and sacrificing their social lives and mental health for their jobs.

That could be why so many young professionals are suffering from burnout and landing in psychologists’ offices or dropping out of their jobs altogether. Workplace stress seems to be on the rise, just when you thought Singaporeans couldn’t get any more wound up.

If you’re already burned out at the age of 28, the thought of working till you’re 70 could be just the thing you need to ensure you never make it to that age.

Those who are planning to work longer should aim to build sustainable careers. That might mean taking on a less stressful job with better work-life balance so you don’t crash and burn. What’s the hurry anyway, since you’ve got so many decades of work ahead of you?

Enjoy the ride and make the most of your working years to live life to the fullest, and you’re that much more likely to have the stamina to continue later on in life.

Do you plan to work past retirement age? Tell us why or why not in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.