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Retirement Myths Busted

A lot of retirement myths have been passed down, usually with good intentions. But the longer we consume them, the tougher our own retirements will be.

Retirement Myths Busted

Retirement. Everyone has something to say about it. Colleagues lament over lunch about how expensive their housing and care expenses are. Taxi drivers dream of moving to Kuching for a slower pace of life, or Australia to be near their grandchildren. Then there are motivational workshops promising participants their first million to retire on.

But this fixation with retirement also means a lot of myths have been passed down, usually with good intentions. However, the longer we consume these myths, the tougher our own retirement will be.

Myth #1: I won't spend as much once I retire.

There is a saying that we will spend only 80% of our last-drawn salary upon retirement. Peak-hour travel prices will be a distant memory, and lunches will be much more affordable. Not having to chip in for birthday presents or play Santa to colleagues can mean saving $200-$300 per month.

But retiring is more than staying home, tending the plants and watching the grandchildren. Retiring means having all the time to do what we want to do, whether it is playing tennis, line-dancing, or going on a safari to see lions and giraffes on the African plains.

In a sense, retirement is like enjoying a weekend that never ends. Even before retirement, we fill our weekends with activities, most of which need money. What more when we retire.

Then there are medical bills. Unless we have some elixir, growing older means creakier bones, more medical conditions and more visits to the doctor. While a good insurance plan helps lower these costs, there is no denying the larger medical bill.

Myth #2: Planning for 20 years of retirement is enough.

20 years sounds like a long time. Young couples wait six years for keys to their new flat. Students take around 10 years of studying to get their O-Level certificate. Punggol residents waited seven years before they could take a direct train to Dhoby Ghaut.

But two decades is not too long when it comes to retirement.

A study we conducted with Nielsen shows most Singaporeans look forward to retiring at 58, and planning for 20 years of retirement at most.  Thing is, advances in medicine and technology mean we are now living longer. The average Singapore male lives till 80.2, while the average female lives till 84.6.

Myth #3: There's plenty of time to start saving before I retire.

According to research by AC Nielson, 5 out of every 10 people have saved a tidy sum for household emergencies, health issues and possible retrenchment. In addition, only 4 of 10 Singaporeans have started to squirrel away for retirement, the rest have more immediate necessities.

Those in their 20s are worrying about their first house, wedding and babies.

Those in their 30s are looking at upgrading, enrichment classes for their children, luxury items and holidays.

It is usually only when one is in their 40s that retirement starts becoming more real.

Nearly half of our working lives are spent thinking about things other than retiring.
The problem with saving only for rainy days is that only 15% of Singaporeans are confident they will have enough to meet their financial goals. Over a third of Singaporeans - 35% to be exact – don’t have confidence that they will have enough to retire on or even pay for their children's university education.

Myth #4: I just need to save enough in the bank.

Planning for the future can be daunting. There are budgets to work out, financial products to understand and thousands of products to choose from. The barrier can be so great that 6 out of 10 Singaporeans delay saving for retirement.

Therefore the money lies in savings accounts, earning interest rates so meagre it is just a little better than when our grandparents hid their savings under their pillow or in cookie jars.
Meanwhile, inflation eats away our savings. Inflation is the same reason why Grandpa paid 50 cents for his coffee, and we now pay $2. A dollar we save today will be worth much less by the time we retire.

Keeping money in the bank will not be enough. Hence financial advisors say it is necessary to invest. But before buying, make sure your investments are safe and help you beat inflation which has averaged 2.8% in the last 10 years.

Myth #5: I should invest in very safe assets for retirement.

The thing about investing is we reap what we sow. Leaving our money in our CPF accounts is very safe as they offer a guaranteed return. But this return is low, at 2.5% for the ordinary account and 4% for the special account. Once inflation comes into the picture, the gains fritter away.

A wiser way of investing is dividing the monies up among a variety of safe and risky assets. Safer assets (like our CPF and bonds) can help to offset losses from riskier assets like stocks.

Some rules of thumb:

  • If you need the money now or in the next year, keep it in cash
  • If you need it in the next 3-5 years, invest in safer assets like bonds or bond funds
  • Any money you don't have to touch for at least 5-7 years can be considered for the stock markets.
  • But because you'll never know how long your retirement will last, always try to keep a portion in stocks to get potentially higher returns

It is never too early or too late to start planning for your retirement.

We can help you get started. To find out more, simply make an appointment with us or contact your DBS Treasures Relationship Manager.

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