The concept of retirement is a relatively new one – less than 100 years old.
BY: Tony Ong
I was right for 49 years of my life that “only those who are crazy and have nothing better to do will choose to run a full marathon” – getting up before the sun is up (Standard Chartered Marathon), or running through the night (Sundown Marathon), putting the body through a grueling 42km trot.
I was also right from 12 months ago that “most people can complete a full marathon with proper guidance” – I completed my first half marathon in December 2011 at age 50, another half marathon in April this year, a full 42km Sundown Marathon in May, a 30km run in October, and Standard Chartered full marathon in December 2012.
A mindset shift
You may ask, what triggered this paradigm shift?
A survey from Barclays Wealth Insights called “The Age Illusion” in 2010 challenged my retirement paradigm and caused me to embrace risky as my new safe. Within the next two years, I moved from a corporate career to a failed partnership, and am now an entrepreneur. I decided to be a “nevertiree”. I even went further and incorporated a company called The Nevertiree Pte Ltd and launched a website to facilitate legacy planning.
The same survey found to their surprise that more than two-thirds of 2,000 high-net-worth individuals interviewed had decided never to retire. Hence, a new word was coined “nevertirees”. Key reasons for their nevertiree mindset are that:
1) People are living longer;
2) Medical costs are getting higher; and
3) Investment returns are becoming more uncertain.
Hence, they have decided to continue to be economically productive, paying taxes, creating jobs and growing their wealth.
Singapore is facing the challenge of a ‘silver tsunami’ – the population is ageing and retiring. Retirees have more time on their hands than the sum total of activities that organisations can possibly provide. The solution is not to create more activities but to reduce the time in people’s hands through gainful employment – turning them from liabilities to assets in the nation, turning the ageing population graph of an inverted pyramid to an ageing economic graph in the shape of a diamond, and turning the traditional retirement mindset to the new normal – a nevertiree mindset.
The concept of retirement is a relatively new one – less than 100 years old. It all started during the Industrial Revolution, where older workers were slowing down the automation process. Hence, the need to encourage these older workers not to work while still getting paid was birthed, and most of these workers were lucky to live just a few more years after stopping work. The future cannot be a linear extrapolation of the past. In Singapore today, you won’t be paid if you do not work, and increased life expectancy means that today’s retirees are often enjoying 20 to 30 years of leisure at the end of their working lives.
The new normal – nevertiree
There are three retirement mindsets in Singapore:
1) The Cannottiree – National Concern: Speaking in Parliament in March, Deputy Prime Minister and Manpower Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam revealed that 55 percent of Singaporeans still could not meet their CPF Minimum Sum at age 55 last year.
2) The Retiree – Traditional Norm: According to the “Future of Retirement” survey by HSBC 2011, people in Singapore see retirement as both a new chapter in life and one during which they intend to relax and rest. Over half see retirement as a time of freedom (59 percent). Individuals also equate their later years with a time of happiness (50 percent) and wealth (34 percent). However, these positive connotations are mixed with some concerns about poor health (33 percent) and about potential financial hardship (26 percent). When considering what elements contribute to achieving a happy retirement, three quarters of respondents said that “not having to worry about money” is the most important element for a happy retirement.
3) The Nevertiree – New Normal: According to Barclays Wealth Insights “The Age Illusion”, “most of the people we work with resist retirement like mad”; “I can’t really conceive of doing nothing”; and “Stop counting the years – just make the years count”.
These are some of the benefits I have discovered to being a nevertiree: Ageing is no longer ageing, but maturing; technology favours the individual; ownership of wealth has moved to stewardship of wealth; leaving a legacy is about looking beyond personal needs; work-life balance is achievable and desirable; and the best is yet to be, just to name a few.
Tony Ong YH, 51, has more than 20 years in training and coaching, legacy and estate planning, and financial advisory.
(** PHOTO CREDIT: Grandfather on porch, hortongrou, stock.xchng)