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How has retirement changed?


Central Provident Fund Board


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Have you ever wondered what retirement was like during your Ah Gong’s time? Like many Singaporeans, you probably grew up hearing your parents or grandparents reminiscing about the past and how things have changed. However, as nostalgic as memories of yesteryear are, your retirement will probably vary from that of past generations. With access to better healthcare, your retirement will likely be longer and most probably involve a better standard of living. At the same time, it may not be as predictable given how fast technology is changing the way things are done. Take a look at how retirement activities and lifestyles have changed over time – from the 60s to the present.




With the rise of the sharing economy, you get to enjoy the convenience of different transport options, like the recent trend of bike-sharing companies in Singapore. So much so, that it may be hard to imagine how people used to travel only by foot or trishaws!


Powered by a trusty cyclist and capable of ferrying up to 2 adults at a time, the trishaw was a popular mode of transportation with an official rate of 15 cents per mile when it started off in 1943. These days, all you need to catch a ride is to scan a QR code, unlock a dockless bike and off you’d go at an average rate of $0.50 for 15 minutes.




In the past, television serials and Chinese operas were a popular weekend pastime amongst the young and old. People would flock to the theatre to catch the latest opera stars in all their painted glory. That weekend pastime has now been replaced by the latest premium cinemas at an equally premium price tag.


Food culture


Wonder how you ever survived before food delivery apps and services came along? Well, in the 60s and 70s you’d wait for travelling hawkers to make their daily rounds past your doorstep – in the hopes of satisfying your kolo mee, rojak, putu mayam, or nasi lemak craving!




In the past, merchants would set up roadside stalls every morning, with rows of goods waiting to be purchased by retirees and housewives checking off items on their shopping lists. These roadside stalls are a distant memory now, having been replaced by towering shopping malls with shiny facades and pricier goods. In fact, these days, with online shopping, people no longer need to step out of their house!



Can you recognise the old flats in the photo above? For decades, our forefathers lived in crowded slums and squatter settlements in houses built out of attap leaves and scrap metal. These eventually gave way to Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT)’s public housing projects, like Tiong Bahru’s three to five-storey tall flats. What a stark contrast to the high-density, high-rise Singapore skyline of today! These days, popular HDB estates like the award-winning Pinnacle @ Duxton can fetch over S$1 million per unit in the resale market.



When the nation’s first hospital, Singapore General Hospital, was opened, retirees who needed medical attention faced issues such as a severe shortage of staff and hospital beds. The lack of adequate healthcare facilities continued to affect retirees in the 60s, who probably relied on traditional medicine and home remedies to cure any ailments. With the latest medical technology and treatments on offer today however, retirees in the present have access to much better healthcare facilities and many more hospitals of course!


Family Size


Hands up if you remember the ‘Two is Enough’ slogan. Part of the nation’s Family Planning initiative in the 1970s, the campaign was so effective that Singapore’s fertility rates fell from over 4 children per female in 1965, to fewer than two in the 1980s. And of course, the birth rate has declined since then, with a growing number of modern families choosing to have fewer children, or none at all.


What does all this mean for future retirees? For one, with the above 65 year olds projected to reach 27% of the resident population by 2030, healthcare and long-term care spending will likely increase. In addition, as the workforce starts to shrink, the dependency ratio (the proportion of working age adults to dependents), will drop – placing more pressure on the working population. In fact, retirees may need to be increasingly more self-reliant in terms of planning ahead for their future expenses that ranges from basic healthcare to their daily expenses.




Unlike the past, Singaporeans today have unlimited travel options and greater spending power to explore previously inaccessible and far-flung countries. The introduction of budget airfares, broader accommodation options and a stronger currency may encourage travel-savvy Singaporeans to delay retirement planning in favour of holiday goals.


Decades ago, retirement was fairly predictable: you lived near your children in the same estate you’d grown-up in, watched Wayang on the weekend with your other retiree friends, and lived to the age of 70. However, those days are long gone; future retirees must now assume a greater degree of financial self-reliance.


You probably carry more debt than your parents or grandparents did as it has now become easier to borrow money (and live with outstanding credit card debt) than it was in the past. With changing social norms and a rising divorce rate, future retirees also face the possibility of retiring unmarried with a single income to meet daily living costs.


In addition, with an average life expectancy of 85.81 years, you will probably live longer than your grandparents did – which spells a longer retirement period and therefore, a need for a lifelong retirement income.


In conclusion, retirement has changed and it will change again. With the advent of technology, lifestyles and activities will continue changing, and it will become even harder to foresee the future. No matter what life stage you’re currently at or how you perceive the concept of retirement, it is always important to be prepared.


Which is why it is important to consider how your daily expenses in retirement could change over the next 20 to 30 years. It is for this very reason that the CPF LIFE Escalating Plan was introduced in January 2018 to provide members with an option that helps preserve the purchasing power of retirement payouts. If you would like to find out more, head to our feature article on the CPF LIFE Escalating Plan.


Alternatively, you may also visit our website.


Source: CPF


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