Retire? Don’t you even dare think of it. Don’t even listen to those so-called financial planners who ask you if you want to retire early. Come on, in the first place, you probably can’t afford to. Secondly, somehow you won’t be able to. If you somehow managed to retire early, then there may be something wrong with your taxes, or you must be getting some undeclared sources of income from somewhere. What?! The financial planners said that it’s actually possible? Then they must have done insufficient amount of homework. It’s not feasible at all. 

Of course, what was mentioned above is probably not a real scenario. It *is* possible to retire early – just that everyone has a different perception of what retirement is all about. To MM Lee, there’s no such word. In fact, retirement almost seemed like a dirty word to him, judging from the excerpts from him.

Extrapolating from that statement, I’d want to think that we have to work till we die – that if we had to die, it’d either be at the mills, or while we are preparing to go for work; not in our sleep, not while we are resting. In fact, this is what I told a potential financial planner, which she rebutted that it’s possible and that it all depends on how we define it.

For a moment, I started thinking of taking on a casually job that I enjoy, getting to work slightly later and knocking off slightly earlier to join my other aging friends in old folks activities – which may include a leisurely evenings in the park and enjoying gourmet red win and cheese and biscuits. However, I was brought to my senses when one of my shifu told me that in reality, it means staying on the same job on 1/2 pay or less and doing almost the same sh*tload of stuffs. Needless to say, he was complaining about it but there’s nothing much he could do. Working in his old age was assured since inflation is high and everything is becoming more expensive by the day.

So at the end of the day, I guess I’d work till I die, pretty much literally.

THE three words ‘retirement means death’ reverberated around the Suntec Convention Centre theatre yesterday as Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew addressed the problem of an ageing society at a dialogue.

‘We’ve got to educate those about to retire: Don’t retire, work. Retirement means death,’ said MM Lee with a laugh.

And he meant every word of what he said to participants at the Silver Industry Conference and Exhibition (Sicex).

‘I would not be able to speak to you in this way if I had not led a very active life, connected with many people throughout the world and tried to interpret it to make sense for Singapore,’ said the elder statesman, who turns 85 this year.

Like many developed and fast developing countries around the world, Singapore has an ageing population due to longer lifespans and declining birth rates.

‘Maybe if we had not started family planning, it would not have been so bad. But then we would not have (economic) growth,’ quipped Mr Lee to much laughter from conference participants.

Earlier in the 70-minute dialogue, which revealed a light-hearted and more personal side of the MM, he said that Singaporeans who believed they could stop work at 55 to drink wine and play golf were ‘done for’.

‘If the mindset is that ‘I’ll reach retirement age at 62, I’m old, I can’t work anymore, now is the time I enjoy life,’ I think you’re making the biggest mistake of your life.’

Research has shown that those who retire and lead sedentary lives ‘die off very quickly’, said the man who started jogging regularly in his 50s and now also keeps fit by swimming and cycling.

‘With nothing to do, no purpose in life, you’ll just degrade, go to seed. The human being needs a challenge.’

He maintains a packed schedule of international travel, including official trips every year to regional powerhouses China and India.

MM Lee was sharing his experiences of active ageing with Sicex participants.

The four-day conference, which ends tomorrow, explores ways to grow the seniors’ market in Singapore and the region.

Asked by Dr Kanwaljit Soin, who runs a non-profit organisation for older women to age successfully, if Singapore could do away with its retirement age of 62, Mr Lee said he personally did not believe in such a concept.

However, he said it was very difficult to deviate from international practice.

He suggested that a senior citizen ‘go on working for as long as he can, but changing the nature or the intensity of the work as he ages’.

Mr Lee also defended Singapore’s Central Provident Fund (CPF) scheme and argued against pensions for the elderly, which have to be supported by tax revenues.

The CPF scheme, he said, helps Singapore to remain competitive, saying it aims for ‘minimum tax rates and maximum self-sufficiency’.

‘This way you are not passing the burden (of caring for the elderly) to the next generation,’ he added.

Article obtained from on 13th January 2008

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