Finding your second wind

by | August 29, 2009

When a retrenchment hits, it can be a tough time for an individual but it does not spell an end to a career. The next step is to bounce back – re-assess your life and find new opportunities that you can be a part of.

BY: Cheok Mei-ing & Brian Goh

Whilst there are now some positive signs that the economy is starting to pick up, the past year has been brutal in terms of number job losses. Since the second quarter last year, over 30,000 jobs in Singapore have been axed. In times like these, a simple “How are you?” can weigh very heavily on a friendly conversation. With a constant stream of news announcing job cuts and restructuring practices, it can be quite awkward when reality hits closer to home, finding out that your friend or neighbour is suddenly out of a job – or receiving an announcement that your company is reviewing the possibility of restructuring.

For the majority of baby boomers who have worked for the same employer most of their lives, being asked to leave suddenly can be a huge shock. Apart from boomers’ trademark employee loyalty, factors such as financial commitments have kept them at the same company, some for many, many years. The transition from a routine profession to forced retiree can be a jarring displacement, perhaps because of the fear of the unknown, especially for those who do not have a plan in place yet.

The first – and probably most important – step is to think hard about what the next chapter of your life should look like. For those who have been fortunate enough to be provided outplacement services by their companies, make the most of the career coaching services to ensure that you are not making impulsive or highly emotional decisions. 

Some may view a forced early retirement as a complete disaster, while others may embrace this opportunity to finally get off the treadmill and do something different. What better time to reflect, refresh and re-engineer your life? This is an opportune moment to bring back to the fore your aspirations – starting your own business, immersing yourself in volunteer work, or even going back to work.


Money matters

A fresh start also requires a framework; you also need to look at immediate and long-term money issues in the interim. The fact that you will be without income and certain benefits, either temporarily or permanently, means that you need to take stock of what you have and also ensure that your cash flow is sufficient to see you through during this career transition. It is critical at this stage to address immediate financial issues. The checklist below is a simple guide to help you take stock of your current situation:

Your career transition money audit:



Do I know how to optimise my ‘final payout’?



Do I know how to manage my expenses and budget during transition?



Do I know how to generate adequate cash flow during my transition period?



Am I aware of the insurance benefits available to me and those that need 
to be replaced?



Am I clear about what to do with my share plan and any other company benefits 
available to me?



Do I know how to maximise the value of my next job offer?



Am I clear about my future goals and aspirations; do I have a plan?



If you answered “NO” to any of the questions, consider getting professional advice to help you make the right choices.




Next, no matter what your aspiration is, you need to determine if you can afford that decision. For instance, if you decide to go back to school, can you afford to go without income and pay the school fees for the course of your study? These considerations are illustrated in the following table:

Next step

Lifestyle and financial considerations

Similar job

  • Can you get a job that doesn’t require as many hours and has less travel so that you have better work-life balance?
  • Are you prepared to take a lighter workload and lesser pay?

Different industry

  • Be prepared to start in a more junior position and to take a pay cut.

Go back to school

  • If your spouse works, there will be income to support the family expenses.Otherwise, be prepared to go for a few years without income and the expense of paying school fees.

Volunteer work

  • You will have little or, more likely, no income. Do you know how much you have in the bank? Again, if your spouse works, this helps the family expenditure greatly.

Start-up own business

  • How much do you need?
  • How much can you afford to lose?
  • Remember that starting your own business is risky and that the capital you invest should be money that you are prepared to lose. Make sure that you have a Plan B.

Stop work

  • Do you know what you want to do for the rest of your life?
  • Do you have enough money to last you for the rest of your life?


If cash flow poses a potential problem, look at ways that you can supplement your income. Keep in mind that retirement funding and healthcare are top priorities as you grow older. You also have your retirement fund to build up too.

Addressing immediate financial issues during transition plays a key role in getting you to the next stage in your life and career. Having a financial plan that addresses your long-term goals will provide you the confidence and focus to work towards that next leg in your life journey.


Year of opportunity

For some people who have been retrenched, this year may be a difficult time, but with the right approach and attitude, you can change for outlook and make the year a year of opportunity than one of despair.


Cheok Mei-ing is head of corporate consulting services and Brian Goh is senior vice-president and a licensed financial adviser representative with ipac financial planning Singapore. For more information, send your comments and questions to Mei-ing or visit

NOTE: In preparing this information, we did not take into account the investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any person. Before making an investment decision, you should speak to a financial adviser to consider whether this information is appropriate to your needs, objectives and circumstances.




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