Build that nest egg, but don't forget 'to plan a life'

Council for Third Age CEO Soh Swee Ping suggests planning early to fill the time freed up in retirement.

People should not just focus on building a nest egg for retirement, but also plan to have lifestyle options such as hobbies lined up as well.

The advice came from Ms Soh Swee Ping, chief executive of the Council for Third Age (C3A) on Tuesday.

Ms Soh told a conference on pensions and retirement planning: "Financial institutions and insurance companies have programmed many of us to believe that we are set for a happy retirement so long as we follow financial advice. "But retirement talks do not look at how retirees should spend their time after leaving the workforce."

The local population is not just ageing, but rapidly so, she noted. From 2000 to 2010, the number of residents here aged 65 and above grew 49 per cent, well above the global rate of 26 per cent. In stark terms, Singapore has been ageing twice as fast as the rest of the world.

The number of residents here aged 65 and above is tipped to grow 74 per cent between 2010 and 2020, while the global rate will be about 35 per cent. This means the biggest mistake that people can make with their retirement planning is to focus only on the financial aspect, Ms Soh added.

Years are spent building, or trying to build, an impressive nest egg, but many forget about all the free time they will have after retirement. While retirees do require money, it is a modest amount for "essentials and a few luxuries from time to time", Ms Soh noted.

She stressed that good health, friends and close-knit family relationships need to be nurtured with time and cannot be bought with money. Ms Soh suggested that an active and healthy retirement lifestyle could include a person developing more interests and taking on challenges to replace those from the workplace.

"Breadth of interests refers to a variety of things that you can be involved in, to occupy your time," she added.

While retirement brings an abundance of spare time, some people will find a sense of loss as they are no longer tied down by the workplace routine and structure.

"Plan for something that will challenge you," said Ms Soh, "because ironic as it seems, you will miss the challenges that your career provided and the element of stress."

She later told The Straits Times that planning for retirement, beyond the nest-egg aspect, should begin as early as possible, even in the 20s. "For example, volunteer and you'll see other aspects of life besides work. You have to start somewhere," she noted.

"Typically, Singaporeans do not prepare for retirement. They are busy at work and don't have time for it. We plan for everything else instead - to get married, our careers, to have children, but not for retirement."

rachaelb@sph.com.sg

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