Many years ago when I was still a little boy, a granduncle of mine passed away. He was in his 50s. An aunt on my mother’s side also passed away at about the same age. Back then, the retirement age was 55 and one could withdraw the full amount of one’s CPF savings. With these standards, perceptions and experiences in place, I have tried imagining myself as a 55-year-old. I figured that I would be a tottering old man who would have trouble getting around without a walking stick.
Fast forward 40 years and I’m just a tiny hop from 55. It would have surprised the little boy back then that I’m nothing like what I had imagined myself to be. I think the same goes for many people out there. Is there cause for celebration? There are two ways to look at it. In a society where welfare is a dirty word and taking back your own savings can be considered a source of income (if you can take it back at all), the official “good news” is that you can continue working till 62 (and beyond).
Unofficially, this would certainly be bad news if not downright tragic if one still needs to slog 70-hour weeks to pay the bills and mortgages. The cost of living has soared over the years and our working lifespans have also increased. To me, the real good news is that at 55, many of us are still fit (reasonably presentable) and able to enjoy life. Most of us at that age don’t even need walking sticks, let alone wheelchairs. We are still far from having a foot in the grave.
Sadly, after decades contributing to this society, certain quarters of our society are still reluctant to see us slow down, let alone leave the workforce. Sure, people live longer nowadays and while it’s OK to continue working, we owe it to ourselves to start living the life we deserve. One should not be working 70-hour weeks upon reaching 55. One should slow down, take time to exercise, take up hobbies, cook proper meals and go on holidays at least 2-3 times a year.
This is a state of semi-retirement and at 55, anyone who has been earning a good income, investing wisely and basically debt-free (no car loans or mortgages) should have no problems adopting this wonderful “new” lifestyle at “old” age. Even those with modest means can afford to slow down and adjust their lifestyles towards one that is less strenuous and more fabulous.
I’m seriously thankful for my good health. With that, I cultivate fitness and with that, I trek in the Himalayas, climb volcanoes in Indonesia and visit exotic places I’ve not been to. Not in my wildest childhood dreams have I thought that all this is possible. There is no way I’m going to let this opportunity slip by.
Strangely, there are still folks out there who are thankful for their adequate health and mediocre fitness to pursue dreams of living in a bigger house and driving a bigger car. The ability to enjoy life is equivalent to the ability to work. When one is no longer able to work, he is also no longer able to enjoy life. Isn’t it foolish to retire when you can’t work anymore? Why are so many people still so proud of working 10 hours, 7 days a week when they are already 55? Don’t they realise that they are missing out on the best years of their lives?