Friday 24 October 2008

How to afford growing old? By not retiring

I have a friend who used to be an insurance salesman, then a 'financial planner', then a 'wealth manager'.

Next week, I expect his job title to be simply 'money god'.

He was trying to sell me some long-term financial product and said that while it was good that I already had a life insurance policy (which he had sold me), he added sombrely: 'The bad news is that you're likely to live for a long, long time.'

That was bad news? Since when was living for 'a long, long time' bad news? What was good news then? My death?

I was deeply creeped out by his morbid sales pitch.

Now I realise he was right. You know why?

Growing old sucks.

Your eyesight leaves you. Your grown-up children will leave you. And eventually, your employer will ask you to leave - except it's called 'retirement'.

As if to add insult to creaking bones, with the collapsing world economy, nowadays your life savings could be leaving you as well, thanks to some long-term financial product you bought from the likes of my friend.

But even if your life savings aren't saying bye-bye, how many of us will ever feel financially secure enough to retire anyway?

Which is why we make such easy prey for the likes of my friend.

In a recent Government survey, about half of Singaporeans aged between 43 and 60 said they want to work for as long as they can. Only half?

Right on cue, the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort started its massive recruitment drive on Monday with retirees as one of its main targets.

So if you want to spend your remaining golden years as a security guard, waiter, butler, bellman, doorman or restroom attendant, you're in luck. The website is

If only there were openings for wealth managers.

So, did I buy that long-term financial product from my friend?

How could I not?

What if - the horror - I do live to a ripe old age? How do I afford it?

Is it too late for me to start smoking now? I could stop exercising and eat all the oyster omelette I want.

Last week, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan wondered aloud if the Government should legalise euthanasia.

I can take a hint.

- Published in The New Paper, 24 Oct 2008

Hi S M Ong,

I refer to your above article dated 24 Oct 2008.

I do not know who you are, male or female? I am a 52 year old lady working in a hospital and my husband, 62 is retired. We have a son, a daugher-in-law and very young 3 grandsons.

I wish to commend on your great sense of humour. My husband and I cannot help laughing with what you have written. We do not know how true in terms of your friend who has sold you so many many products. It made a lot of sense of what you have written. It ended so nicely/coincidentally about legalising euthanasia.

After reading everyday of all the bad news, your article is quite a change to bring some laughters to our lives. Personally, we are fortunate enough not to be stuck with any Lehman, Minibond or jubilee products.

After having sold our 2 houses (fortunately, we sold before the collapse of Lehman), and started renting a house in mid 2007, we thought we were very smart but now realise not so smart after all because we bought too much unit trusts. The senior relationship manager of a foreign was very smart in selling their products and we were greedy enough to take the bait. We are now down by more than 40%. We are also stuck with a couple of share counters which we bought a long ago. Therefore, a big chunk of our cash is gone.

We are now renting a house and hopeful that the property prices would go down real low so that we can buy them at a good price. This way, we can say "you win some, you lose some".

SM Ong, keep up the good work. We look forward to reading your article so that we do not have to feel so gloomy.

Kind regards,
Rose Goh