Opinion

Singaporeans, Say Goodbye to Early Retirement!

early retirement Singapore

Peter Lin

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A bunch of data that was released earlier this month regarding employment in Singapore. Naturally, our mainstream media tried to spin it positively by saying there were more people joining the Singapore workforce. Yay!

Here’s why it’s nothing to celebrate.

What the statistics show is that a greater proportion of people aged 55 to 69 are staying in the workforce compared to 2004. This means that less people are retiring in Singapore. In fact, in 2004, 18.9% of adults aged 65 to 69 were still working. In 2014, this percentage rose to 41.2%. That means the proportion of people who are still working after retirement age has doubled in just a decade!

But maybe it’s because salaries are getting better, so more people are staying in the workforce. Actually, no. According to the same report, real median income only increased by 0.4% in the past year. That’s a terribly low number, in case it wasn’t obvious. Considering that income has been growing at an average rate of 1.9% per year over the past five years, 0.4% is pathetic.

So, let’s face it. This is going to be our reality moving forward in Singapore. Early retirement has long been a pipe dream for us. Now, even retirement at 65 is starting to become a rarity in Singapore.

So, if you’re just entering the Singapore workforce, you can expect to remain working for at least 50 years. With that kind of morbid prediction, here are 4 practical ways you can prepare yourself for the future.

1. Pick the Right Career

It’s no longer smart to go for jobs that pay the most but make you work ridiculously long hours. The last thing you want to do at this point is to waste your youth chained to an office desk. When an extended working life is unavoidable, you’ll want to pace yourself. Find a job that allows you to experience life the way you want.

Want to start a family? Look for employers who have good work-life balance policies. Want to pursue your passion? Look for jobs that complement your hobbies.

Also, be sure to watch out for employers who will jump at the chance to sabo you as soon as you hit 62 and “retire”. Companies have at least 3 ways to screw you under the guise of “re-employment”.

The other thing to consider when picking a career is that some careers tend to lead to spending more in retirement. Some jobs encourage you to spend every other weekend of your working life on the golf course or entertaining clients in bars.

Chances are, you’re going to be doing that even more often once you’ve retired and find yourself with even more free time to do whatever you want. Except this time, you won’t have the income to support that lifestyle. Here are three other things you may not have thought about regarding retirement.

2. Insurance

With your employment lasting past your 60s, it’s crucial that you’ll need sufficient insurance coverage to protect you. You might find yourself falling sick more often, especially if you don’t start taking good care of yourself right now. In fact, good health should be your priority right now, especially if you still want to be able to afford health insurance when you’re older.

In particular, the insurance covers you should be looking out for are critical illnesses, disability and accidents. Unfortunately, because you’re still working past 60, these are probably going to affect you more, since it’ll impact your income too.

Here are some tips on choosing the right insurance policies for your long-term goals.

3. Education

Whether you’re a doctor, a lawyer or a garbage collector, one thing’s for certain – you’ll need constant upgrading to stay relevant. Your diploma or degree is not going to be worth anything ten to twenty years down the road. And that period is even shorter if you’re in the IT industry. So if you’re going to be working till the age of 65 and beyond, get into the habit of finding ways to upgrade yourself. After all, life-long learning is not just a catchphrase, it’s a reality of our current situation.

Always be on the lookout for courses or workshops to attend. Consider it a bonus if your company is willing to subsidise some or all of the cost of the class! Not only will upgrading help you take on more responsibility, you would probably get a small raise too.

When you move on to your next job, mentioning these skills in your resume can actually help you command a higher salary.

4. Investment

You may never get a chance to retire, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still set aside some money to grow while you’re still young.

As we’ve said before, don’t rely on selling your current property to make you rich.

Learn about stocks and bonds, build an emergency fund and invest in something other than CPF. Of course, when we say “learn”, we mean from someone other than your cousin’s best friend’s car dealer, no matter how good a stock tip he might seem to have. The last thing you want is to be interviewed for an article about regretful retirees.

A great place to start your investing journey is to educate yourself. As we mentioned earlier, learning is for life, so there’s no better time to start than now.

How do you feel about having to work till you’re 69? Share your thoughts with us.

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Peter Lin

I am the poster boy for reinventing one's self. I've been a broadcast journalist, technical writer, banking customer service officer and a Catholic friar. My life experiences have made me the most cynical idealist you'll ever meet, which is why I'm also the co-founder of a local pop culture website. I believe ignorance is not bliss, and that money is the root of all evil only if you allow it to be.