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Need $1.3m to retire? Depends how you live

Ask yourself: How do I plan to live after retirement and how can I plan for it?

Tan Ooi Boon on 15 Mar 2020

The Straits Times


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Three friends are out fishing in a boat on a lake when one of them says they should travel to the world's best angling spots when they retire.


Before they can say "what the fish", their catch in a cooler box suddenly speaks and dispenses financial advice: "Do you know how much you need to retire at 60? To retire in 20 years and live on $3,000 monthly, you need $1.3 million."


This funny scene is from a video that forms part of OCBC Bank's ongoing Life Goals campaign, which aims to make its customers think hard about the need to plan for retirement.


While most financial institutions have similar campaigns, OCBC's message is a bold one because it makes people sit up and wonder how they can retire happily if they don't have over $1 million.


Not surprisingly, some people feel that the sum is way too high for them to achieve and so the campaign turns them off.


But really, OCBC deserves applause for addressing the elephant in the room - that retirement planning is a serious matter and people should work hard at it if they want to enjoy their golden years.


After all, the sum is derived based on the wish list of customers who say they want to have at least $3,000 to spend every month after they retire.


Yes, it is not the end of the world if you don't have more than $1 million at 60.


But the bank is entitled to push people to aim high and do better, because it is the dream of most if not all working adults to live comfortably and to see the world when they retire.


The reality is that good things do not come free and people have to work hard for them. Indeed, if you want to increase your spending power to $5,000 a month, OCBC says you will need $2 million.


There is nothing wrong in aspiring to be successful. After all, these are qualities that propel Singapore to be one of the world's best and safest cities. This in turn has attracted many rich and famous people to come to live here.


But do you need to worry if your savings are not even close to the bank's target?


Yes and no - if you have not done anything that will remotely make you financially stable when you stop working, then you better start to worry or you can forget about even going for a holiday outside Singapore, let alone to "the world's best fishing spots".


If you have been planning and saving, there is a saying that will cheer you up - it ain't over till it's over. Based on its observation, OCBC finds that 73 per cent of Singaporeans need help with their retirement plans and that these folks have a chance to do well if they start to do something.


So there is nothing scary about not having enough money - after all, overseas fishing trips are not everyone's cup of tea. What people should do is to ask this question: How do I plan to live after retirement and how can I plan for it?


The good news for most Singaporeans is that even if you have not thought about this, thankfully the Government has, with its Housing Board and Central Provident Fund (CPF) policies, which are inherently very sound retirement plans for families.


Take the CPF. If you are a professional in your early 50s who has been working hard for over two decades without a break and has been conservative in not over-stretching your CPF for home loans, you should have close to $500,000, if not more, in your Ordinary and Special accounts.


Don't believe? If you fit this profile, go ahead and check and you will be amazed at how much money has been accumulated in your CPF over the years.


The CPF is something that most young workers would complain about at the start of their careers, as a portion of their salaries will be "untouchable" when the money is banked into it. When they get older, they will see the benefits of having the CPF, which is really a very solid retirement plan.


Even if you aspire to fish overseas, thanks to the CPF, half your battle has been won. You just need to work hard on getting the other half.


I have another take on retirement: Don't just plan for it, enjoy the journey as you plan for it. I don't mean you should start to spend like there is no tomorrow, but we can all spend more on things that really make us happy.


Guess what? As people grow older, many things that will make them happy don't cost a lot.


Take food. Older folk tend to be more health-conscious and the tag showing the ingredients of food is probably more important to them. Even when they do buy, consumption will be a lot less.


Also, unlike when they were younger, they seldom splurge on expensive buffet meals at top hotels that can cost up to $100 a person, simply because they can't eat much and so, it's "not worth it". Instead, many would opt for comfort food that they are most familiar with - Singapore's famous and wide selections of hawker fare that are still priced very reasonably.


Shopping habits will also change with age. I have a friend who used to buy an expensive handbag whenever she travelled in the past 10 years. These days, she not only doesn't buy any, but also has been selling those that she still has, to get back her money. "I have had enough of bags," she said.


Finally people should view retirement as not the end but the beginning of another life adventure. And money, while important in this journey, is not everything. After all, the happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything they have.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.



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