The Big “R”
Have you ever thought of what you would like to do when you retire? In Singapore, the current official retirement age is 62. Many continue to be re-employed while there are others who are caught in the doldrums because they have to stop working between the age of 50 to 55.
Dedication of Civil Servants
Every male citizen in Singapore has to undergo National Service (NS) in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) where they will dedicate 2 years of training to serve the nation. It is mandatory because as a small country, human capital and resources are limited, hence every inch and ounce is required to defend its sovereignty.
At this point, while the majority of the enlistees prefer to complete their NS liability, there is a group who prefer to sign-on as a regular for the SAF, hence becoming a full-time employee serving the nation.
They prefer the regimental and stable lifestyle that SAF provides. Even some women would take up a full-time role in the Armed Forces, undertaking different kinds of job scope, ranging from combatant vocation to backend and office administration support.
Many contracted staff in the Armed Forces typically work till they retire. They rarely think of changing jobs for commercial roles because the skill and experience they acquired are very niche, which most of the time are not applicable in the commercial industry.
However, the retirement age for SAF officers and specialists is set at 50 and 55 respectively instead of 62. The average lifespan of a person is 70 to 80+ years old, which is still a long way to go. Yet, to transit back to work outside the Armed Forces at the age of 50 is going to be very challenging.
For many, it is essential rather than by choice. Even though they could save up a sum over years of prudent lifestyle and savings, they have to continue working because of the high standard of living.
There is also the risk of medical conditions in the future which may deplete their retirement nest fund, and nowadays children are still depending on parents even in their 20s because of further studies and the ever-appreciating property prices. And yet, for a 50-year-old to start over again, what are the options available?
What is Next?
The common path is to take up commission-based roles like being a property or insurance agent or becoming a taxi or Grab driver, which is a respectable job. Some opt to invest money to start a business.
A friend of mine recently retired from the SAF a few years back. He shared with me his intent to start a spa therapy business and is sourcing for a location to start operations. I asked him about his marketing strategies, human resource arrangement, and operation budget. If it were a paper test, he would get a Fail with conviction.
He did not even have a proper business plan on paper and, furthermore, without prior business working experience, I found it absurd when he divulged the 6-figure investment he wanted to make.
The truth is, even at the age of 50, having just retired from the Armed Forces or even other commercial roles, we do not necessarily need to take a drastic plunge. We should be more prudent than before.
Take 1 or 2 years out to train and learn, understand the evolution of the business environment; how the digital and gig economy is taking over from the traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, and enhance business connections through networking and training sessions.
A New Beginning
In the end, after a sharing session, the retired officer put this spa business plan on hold. Instead, he pursued his hobby in photography and took up some photography projects through an online platform like Bridge.com.sg.
He initially undertook smaller-sized projects, and as his portfolio grew, he started getting offers to collaborate with partners from digital and media agencies to provide visual materials.
It grew from strength to strength, and now he helms a successful photography and videography agency, and he even wishes to establish his brand presence overseas.
I joked with him that if he had embarked on the business from the beginning instead of signing on for the Armed Forces, he could have already built a hugely impressive business empire.
He replied that he was wise enough to listen to opinions and advice even at the age of 50. That is why he was able to take small and calculated steps to build his business. Had he started when he was 20, he would probably be too bashful and end up botching up everything.
For him, age is just a number. The attitude and willingness to learn and act are ever so critical, whether retired or not.
Retiring in the 50s is not a full stop. It is merely the end of a chapter and depending on how it eventually pans out, we are the writers of our own story.