Opinion

3 Big Things on Singaporeans’ Minds About Retiring and Growing Old

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Joanne Poh

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One of the most striking sights to first-time visitors in Singapore is the number of elderly people working in menial jobs.

While younger Singaporeans have the advantage of having access to information on retirement planning (or at least we like to think it’s not too late for us), many who are close to or past retirement age don’t have it so good.

So it’s not really that surprising that 8 out of 10 Singaporeans worry about growing old (talk about living in the moment!). And, other than the fear of not being able to look after themselves, Singaporeans’ biggest worries are money-related. The second biggest worry plaguing people here is having their savings run out, while the third is finding appropriate old-age care.

Recent reports have been quite revealing about how Singaporeans feel about their futures. Here are three things we should know… policymakers, are you listening?

 

Singaporeans are afraid they won’t have enough money when they retire

It’s quite clear most Singaporeans do not think of CPF as a scheme that can tide them through retirement. This is especially so as many Singaporeans are now treating their CPF funds as a way to purchase property, rather than retirement savings.

Right now, most retirees receive allowances from their adult children, but the next generation will find it harder to do so, since families are so much smaller these days and the cost of living is so high that even if you do have a kid or two, there’s no guarantee they can afford to upkeep you.

Singaporeans have also shown themselves to be quite poor in terms of retirement-readiness. So it’s no wonder many fear running out of savings when they’re old.

In fact, a friend and I were recently discussing this, and I asked him what he planned to do when he was too old to take care of himself at home, given the high cost of nursing homes. His response was that he hoped he wouldn’t live that long.

 

While many Singaporeans don’t mind going to nursing homes, our current infrastructure isn’t enough

Old folks’ homes used to carry a huge stigma in Singapore. But now that more and more Singaporeans are not having kids, having to live in an aged care facility is a very real possibility.

So it’s a good thing that, according to a recent surveyed, nearly half of the Singaporeans polled declared that they are fine with living in a nursing home when they’re too old to look after themselves.

What they’re not okay with is living in Singapore’s current nursing homes, which cram 6-8 people into a room and function more like institutions for the disabled than retirement homes.

While many are already heading across the Causeway, where they can live in homes with single and twin-share rooms, younger Singaporeans who still hope to retire in their own country can only pray our current aged care infrastructure improves drastically over the next few decades.

 

Most people still prefer to grow old with their families

The government has long tried to promote familial responsibility in order to ensure we don’t end up with hordes of destitute elderly people, while still keeping government spending low.

Singaporeans in the past popped out seven children with the assumption that they could grow old surrounded by their large family in their happy kampong.

Well, we’re not exactly having that many babies right now, but there is evidence to show that young Singaporeans still prefer to live with their children when they’re old.

While most young couples feel that having their own flats is essential when starting a family, when they are too old to take care of themselves, most still want to move in with their children—according to a 2013 survey, 63.4% younger married residents hoped to do so, as opposed to 37.8% elderly residents.

Of course, the low birth rate means that for many Singaporeans this will not be a possibility. Even those with one or two kids might not be able to live with them for reasons such as their children moving abroad, living with in-laws or not having enough space or money to put them up.

The answer, of course, is to factor in caregiving and where you’re going to live in your retirement plans. Your (future) kids (if any) may be angels, but that’s no excuse not to take responsibility for your own life.

What are your biggest fears related to growing old? Tell us 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.