Sunday 19 April 2015

Retiring at 40

Most people hope to retire before the age of 40. I just reached my 40th birthday 2 months ago, but no, I did not retire before that day. The idea of retiring before 40 does not sit well with me. Even when I am on vacation leave, I would try to fill up the day with some activities so that I would not feel the day is wasted. Hence, the thought of having to think about what to do everyday for the next 40 years really shudders me. In fact, I am actually thinking of working beyond the retirement age of 65 to keep myself occupied!

If you have been following the Tree of Prosperity blog written by Christopher Ng, you would know that he succeeded in retiring before 40. He is actually my senior in secondary school, junior college, university and post-graduate studies. Compared to him, I knew that I was not ready to retire before 40. He has been growing his dividend income steadily, and has written not 1, but 3 books on that topic! As for me, I am new to dividend investing, preferring to fish for multi-baggers and occasionally ending up with salted fishes. He has settled down with a family while I do not yet know the financial demands of a family with kids. So, really, retirement before 40 is out for me even if I had wanted it.  

By right, the story should have ended here, if not for the fact that it is the 40th birthday. The 40th birthday is a funny milestone. It represents the mid-point of your life. You could also divide 40 by 2 and look back at the time when you were 20, when you were just stepping out into the world, to see if you had made the right decisions then. You could also look forward to see if you wish to continue your life the way it is now. 

As I think deeper on the topic, I realised that retirement is not about leaving the workforce and enjoying life. True, you might relish the luxury of waking up later in the day and spending time doing things that you really want to do but could not find the time to do while you were still working. You might even go on a round-the-world tour with your family. But how many times could you tour the world? Even the best things in life could get boring if they are repeated too many times. So, what do you do after you finish touring the world 5 times over? 

You get back to an "occupation", something that will soak up your time. But there is a difference between the work that you do before 40 and the occupation that you have after 40. Before 40, work is a "chore". Something that you need to do to put meals on the dining table. The work that we do sometimes might not be what we really want to do. It could be because we did not know what we wanted to do when we were 20, or it could be the circumstances that forced us to take the jobs available to us then. After 40, if you have attained financial freedom, occupation is a "choice". Something that you do, not because you need to bring the bacon home, but to fulfil the purpose in your life. It could be something that you are deeply passionate about, such as a hobby or a charitable cause. It is the sort of things that will form your legacy. For example, your legacy could not possibly be "I worked at XXX company, helping to grow sales by 20 times over 20 years!". Instead, your legacy could be "I wrote a blog that helps to promote financial literacy" or something bigger. So, when I heard that Christopher is studying for a law degree, I did not think that he is coming out of retirement because he has "no choice". On the contrary, I think he is pursuing his retirement fully. 

It is interesting to note that Christopher and I could not have been more different in actions. At one end, he has retired before 40 while at the other end, I am thinking of working beyond 65. Yet, both of us reached essentially the same conclusion on what retiring at 40 means.

P.S. Special thanks to Christopher for allowing me to discuss our views on this topic.

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  1. Welcome to 40s!

    Your eyes will begin to show the sign of long sightedness.

    Normal eye sight folks will need reading glass.

    Short sighted folks will remove glass to read or need to change bi-focus glass

  2. Hi there,

    Hope you have built up your wealth by now.
    Life at 40 can be fun, but it can also be stressful.

    SG Wealth Builder

    1. Hi Gerald,

      It should be manageable if I don't retire any time soon.

  3. Chin Wai, (hope I can call you this as adding a Lee in front seems to be scolding you!? LOL!)

    If Christopher has to come out of retirement because of "no choice", he wouldn't have gone back to school with more cash burn...

    I half suspect he is going back for the 2nd bite of the cherries - mature gentleman, financially secure, have time and leisure on his hands; tell me that's not sugar daddy material!?

    And did I mention he can croon? Chris is a babes magnet ;)

    If I got A' levels, I would have joined Chris! LOL!

    OK, jokes aside, I like your diversity of view on "financial freedom".

    Having found and to be doing something we LOVE is not something we should take lightly. It's a blessing and joy.

    The same persons with goals and planning on financial freedom maybe the same lost souls who have no clue what to do next once they have reached their destinations....

    There is no herd in follow you heart ;)

    1. Hi SMOL,

      No problem, you can call me Chin Wai.

      Yes, like what you mentioned, Chris definitely has a choice! In fact, he probably has a lot of choices!

      Yes, finding that meaning in life and pursuing it fully is what keeps us alive!

    2. Hi SMOL,

      Chris has left a new comment in this post for you ;)

  4. Reaching financial freedom is more like getting your Passport ready. it doesn't mean you must travel soon. Good to be ready. Any time. Any where.

  5. Going for full time study is also known as going into retirement. That guy taught me something new about retirement planning.

    Unemployed is same as retirement?

    Full time students also retirees?


    1. Retirement is a state of mind. 2 persons can be enjoying life, but the one who can truly retire will enjoy it more.

  6. SMOL !!!

    You damn free come and troll me here !

    1. Hee hee.

      Ah ber then?

      Just checking whether you got read your friend's blog :)

      You know, some bloggers can be quite narcissistic. Never mingle.

      Must follow the Army advice:

      Can do anything you want at U; but don't get caught!


      I envy. Got chance I would love to go to NUS Arts faculty. Heard the girls there quite havoc?

  7. Hi,

    Life after 40 is about enjoyment and knowing what one desires and embark on such interest as per my perspective.