Retirement to me means these three things all at once:
• no longer having to work for a living
• being the boss of my daily schedule 100%
• doing what I want to and not what I have to
One of my main retirement goals is to stay in different cities every three months in a year. As a resident, not a tourist. I want to live simply like the locals and immerse myself in their culture and lifestyles. These goals drive me to plan my financial fitness and also motivate me to be mindful about keeping physically healthy to enjoy these experiences.
My retirement goals are on track, but the roadmap is not something I am developing on my own. As a veteran Financial Consultant, I’ve helped many clients with their retirement planning and I understand the pitfalls of being human. That is why for my own retirement roadmap, I engaged another trusted qualified financial planner. Let me explain why I choose to do so.
When we plan ahead, we are making important decisions. There will be blind spots we don’t see, and tough questions we might ignore, avoid or sit on because they are hard, messy or complicated. These little things can delay or even derail our most passionate vision of the future we want. An experienced financial consultant makes the process and the resulting plans more futureproof.
3 things an experienced financial consultant gives you
People tend to take the easy way out instead of the correct (but more difficult) way. As humans, we also tend to procrastinate. A professional can analyse issues from an arm’s length perspective through a systematic approach.
It takes a lot of courage and insight to be brutally honest with oneself. An experienced consultant knows the right questions to ask to get an accurate and complete picture and point out planning gaps.
We often find excuses, arguing that other activities are more urgent or critical (e.g. saving for a Child Education Plan at the expense of our own retirement financial security). A qualified financial planner takes a holistic view of your circumstances and competing demands to offer a practical course of action with clear goals.
Understanding the 3 phases of retirement
In my view, retirement is not just a huge chunk of time in the later part of our lives. There are three phases to it and the lifestyles in each phase are typically different and requires dynamic financial planning:
Active Phase: First 5 to 10 years
The immediate transition from full time work—the best time to dive into all the activities we never had the liberty to do when tied to our hectic jobs and family obligations. Enjoy the most physically demanding activities like travelling to exotic/further destinations, doing volunteer work or taking up a new sport while we are still in good health. This is an exciting time when we can reinvent ourselves with newfound passions we couldn’t indulge in before.
Activity: Start Your Wish (Bucket) Lists
Create two lists: one for activities you would like to do on a regular basis and another for those on an ad hoc basis.
Relax Phase: Next 5 to 10 years
After “chiong-ing” and ticking off the bucket list, most people tend to select more “chill” activities. For example, we may prefer a relaxing cruise over hiking up a mountain trail. Others may be happy to forgo regular trips abroad in favour of dedicating their time to their grandchildren. Some gain much satisfaction being a mentor and sharing their wealth of knowledge and experience with the next generation. Achieving a good quality of life is the focus here.
Activity: Add To Your Wish Lists
Define the kind of lifestyle you desire (e.g. lavish, quality, simple?)
Beyond yourself, how do you wish to pamper your loved ones and friends?
Steady Phase: Dignified golden years
During this phase, most seniors cherish the time at home with family. Simple pleasures like peace, serenity and the company of dear friends give the most joy.
Activity: Prepare Your Ultimate Wish List
List down the kind and quality of care you would like to receive in your daily life, including medical care if necessary and write down what you would like to leave your loved ones.
Ageing gracefully takes planning
We need to be mentally, emotionally and financially well-prepared to age gracefully and comfortably. It doesn’t happen magically. It takes a conscious decision, a concrete plan and sustained efforts.
Coupled with the increasing cost of living and expectations in the quality of life, the only way to secure a financially comfortable retirement that matches your aspirations is with a concrete plan.
So, when’s the best time to start?
Practically, in Singapore, one should start retirement planning soon after the following are in place:
1. Insurance needs for family and self
2. Owning a property (high priority for most Singaporeans)
3. Setting up a family
4. Not later than 40 years old if one chooses to remain single
A person can start taking small steps to prepare for retirement when they start working. The earlier you start, the easier it is. Let compound interest work for you, instead of against you. You don’t have to complete each phase of life to start planning for the next.
Leave the hard work of reviewing and planning to a professional. With clear and informed choices, it saves you time and removes the guesswork so you can be confident of achieving your dream retirement lifestyle.