There will come a time when we realise the true cost of those designer bags and the hipster coffees we’ve been consuming daily. And that will come when we receive our senior citizen EZLink cards and realise that we’re nowhere near ready to retire.
Retirement-readiness is a huge problem in Singapore, and this isn’t limited to the pioneer generation, who saw their savings eroded by the sharp rise in the cost of living. The way things are going, it looks like many Generation X and Y folks are going to be working way past retirement age, too.
In fact, a recent report revealed that Singaporeans are going to have to save 9 years longer for retirement than the previous generation.
Now, you might love your job and want to be economically active all your life, or think retirement sounds boring. That might mean you feel less financial pressure to build up a huge retirement nest egg by the time you hit a certain age.
But at the same time, some planning is needed to ensure that you can continue to do what you love when you reach your golden years, and live comfortably while you’re at it.
Your health must become a priority
The longer you intend to work, the more you need to prioritise your health—even if it comes at the expense of your work, ironically. You’re going to need to be in good health if you want to be strong and energetic enough to continue doing good work when you’re older.
By contrast, if you want to retire early, say in your forties, you might be able to get away with chionging for 15 to 20 years and then dropping out of the rat race before your health completely gives way.
You know you’re not making your health a priority, if you’re constantly failing to exercise when because work or life got in the way, or you find yourself eating hawker food and junk food way more than you’d like because it’s the fastest and most convenient option.
Make sure you’re adequately insured
No matter how much you love your job now, you most definitely won’t be loving it if you fall ill and end up having to work like a dog to pay your medical bills.
While MediShield Life offers basic coverage, it’s important to understand the limitations of the plan. For instance you’re limited to non-air conditioned wards in public hospitals with 6 to 8 beds, cannot choose your own doctor and must ensure your claims do not go above $100,000 a year.
Make sure you stay relevant
Wanting to work beyond retirement age is one thing. Actually being able to do so is another. If your skills become obsolete, you’ll be hard-pressed to find people who want to continue paying you to use them.
We all know those older workers who are blissfully still stuck in the 90s and yet refuse to adapt, since they’re basically biding their time until they can finally retire.
You, on the other hand, will need to ensure you’re still employable (or, if you’re self-employed or in business, that your products and services are still relevant). Using your SkillsFuture credit is a start, but you’ll also have to make sure you keep yourself updated on developments in your industry and be adaptable enough to pick up new competencies or even change career tracks if necessary.
Think of ways to scale down your job when you get older
Unless you’re immortal, your energy levels will most certainly decline as you get older, and if you’re in poor health your productivity will fall even further. Working hours in Singapore are very long and workloads heavy, and this makes it hard for older folks to cope.
You want to make sure there are ways for you to scale down your job as you age if you’re not able to work as much or as intensely as before. Planning should start years in advance.
For instance, if you are working as an accountant, you may be able to retain your job on a part-time basis after a certain age. You’ll want to start building up relationships with your existing company or clients so there’ll be a higher chance they’ll be willing to continue offering you work on a part-time basis.
Another example is transitioning to tuition if you’re a teacher with the MOE. Tuition will enable you to work fewer hours with some flexibility of schedule, enabling you to continue educating the young without the punishing schedule schoolteachers face.
Those in the creative or technical industries, such as software engineers and graphic designers, might choose to offer their services on a freelance basis when they get older so they can work from home and have control over the volume of assignments they take on.
Don’t neglect proper financial planning
Working past retirement age doesn’t give you a free pass to disregard financial planning altogether.
Even if you never plan to fully retire, it’s a good idea to make plans to obtain a certain amount of retirement income by a certain age.
With some retirement income, you’ll have the option to take it easy and transition to a less demanding role when you get older. That will ensure you continue to enjoy your life even as you continue working.
The original version of this story was published in Money Smart on Feb 2, 2017.