Can we ever retire?
Let’s do the basic maths first with the “best-case scenario “. Apple starts work at twenty-three years old, and for some reason, earns $5,000 a month. Since that is the maximum CPF contribution based on original wages, that is $1,800 of CPF per month (includes employer’s contribution). That will be $21,600 annual. Presuming that Apple wants to retire when she is sixty-two. That would be a grand total of more than $800,000—and we’ve yet to take interest, bonus and AWS into consideration. With those, that could be a whopping one million dollars.
We all know that thirty-nine years later, one million dollars is going to worth much lesser. I’ve yet to even touch on buying houses or whatnot. Authorities have realized that inflation, higher cost of living and rising expectations will shrink those one million dollars. While it’s commendable that all this is taken into consideration, and changes are made regularly, one ambiguous change will still occur: The cost of living in Singapore. It is rising fast—maybe a little too fast. Can we afford to retire?
I’m using the best-case scenario as an example. Apple earns at least $5,000 a month since she graduated and is always employed. The truth is that fresh graduates get merely $3,000 a month. And people without a degree? $1,000 a month is common. While my calculation is extremely general (and generous) and based solely on basic formulas, a walk on the street would reiterate the story.
See elderly working as a coffeeshop assistant, or clearing dishes in a coffeeshop? On the surface, or to a tourist, it looks like they’re working because they want to contribute to society. While there are many who do so, some would disagree. “Retire?” they will say. “Bo lah, tham jiak eh lah.” It means “no, it’s for three meals a day.”
It’s common to read articles about people knowing that retirement is difficult to achieve. Our tiny country is developing so fast—very fast…no, make it extremely fast—that the word “retire” seems to get further from us. Cost of living is one thing; have anyone in the 70s expected Singapore to become so developed that youngsters no longer want to do labour work?
I mean, thirty years ago, our parents do labour work so that they can retire. Not a lot of money? Can “tham jiak” in the future can already. However, now, it’s a different story altogether.
I might have made a wrong conclusion, but so far, I’ve seldom come across people who have retired. Even if they have, they are supported by their children. Maybe my circle of friends is limited—or maybe I’m just looking at the wrong angle. However, I’m certain of one thing: I read the newspaper regularly, and it seems like “retiring happily” is an oxymoron.