Saturday, October 19, 2019

Real issues in retirement and how to deal with them.

Image result for the psychology of retirement

Most financial bloggers deal with only the financial aspects of retirement. Even my course, as it attempts to build a generation of early retirees to dot the commercial landscape in Singapore, requires a laser-like focus on personal finance so that a person can get out of the rat race which is going is still good in the workplace.

If you are an actual retiree, however, you will soon find that retirement is a game of multiple dimensions and you will to play all of these aspects of the life game well to enjoy a great life in your personal winter. The Psychology of Retirement by Rosenthal and Moore discusses all these issues in detail. 

Here's what missing from most articles on FIRE about Retirement :

a) You need to be healthy to retire well.

This can be so cliche but folks are surprised at how hard this is. Our Singaporean healthcare system has enabled citizens to live up to an average of 85 years but it has capped our Health Adjusted Life Expectancy to around 74 years. This means that 10 years of our lives are spent being ill before we pass away.

Making matters worse, when you read literature on nutrition and wellness, they are typically from the US and may be biased by commercial interests.  Even as I started on intermittent fasting, I am confused by so much conflicting advice - is coffee with butter cheating on your diet ? Governments do not have an incentive to cover this well so we're stuck with using our feelings to determine what keeps us healthy.

I've learnt that chiropractors can call themselves doctors in the US and spawn a new class of health advice that I prefer to verify with scientific evidence. Worse, in the US, scientific papers can also be sponsored by commercial interests.

Personally,  I think diabetics should avoid listening to anyone outside the formal medical fraternity unless it is endorsed by a specialist.

b) You need develop good social relationships to retire well

The scientific literature say that loneliness is a bigger killer than obesity for retirees so you need to find ways to improve social relationships post-work. The fact that many FIRE aspirants are introverts make things worse.

I am lucky that I have a family of my own. Imagine a large number of singles achieving FIRE and then realizing that they are mostly on their own during weekdays when their pals are at work. They can't even find others to holiday with them with all the money they have because so few succeed in FIRE in real life.

Even in the FIRE discussion I have on WhatsApp, the number of actual FIRERs are small and generally have yet to succeed in organizing an activity together.

I think we have to up our game because most of us are guys and guys generally only bond by taking part in common activities. As we get older, we lose touch because we become too old to participate in activities together.

c) You need to reinvent your personal identity to retire well

The worse way to retire is to do it involuntarily. Cold turkey does not buy time to figure out what role you need to play in society and this can be painful after the few weeks of honeymoon period.

A better way is to work part-time, maintain your connections and self-worth while figuring your life out. Once again, I am very lucky because I bought 4 years of time to retool myself as a lawyer before this amazing opportunity came to let me transform into an investment trainer.

Even today, I struggle to explain what I do to an layman audience.

  • How can a guy retire at 39? 
  • If he does, how is it even possible to teach it to others? 

An explanation is so complicated, sometimes I just say that I'm unemployed because it's easier to understand and salespeople avoid me upon hearing that.

If you get retrenched in your middle age, what you will experience will be even worse than what I had to go through because of the loss of self-esteem and the lack of time for you to retool how you see yourself. The lack of a middle-gear for careers that allow part-time work is strangely absent from our workplace,

Perhaps while many of you are actively trying to achieve FIRE, remember that you need a plan to maintain your health, relationships and personal identity while you are attaining your journey towards financial independence.


  1. Hi Chris,

    Working part-time may be one of the ways to ease the impact for one going into the retirement mode. Having said there, I believe that it varies from one to one. Some individuals prefer to be on their own and enjoying being alone and involved in the things of his/her interests. They aver liking their own life at the present juncture.

    To each of one's own.

    My two cents worth of views.


  2. Your statement "Personally, I think diabetics should avoid listening to anyone outside the formal medical fraternity unless it is endorsed by a specialist." was a LOL moment for me.

    I have gotten myself into type 2 diabetic remission by NOT listening to my doctors. Following their advice got me deeper into diabetic complications. Today, I live meds-free, eating to satiety at every meal and happily planning for new experiences as I grow old.

    I hope you (and all type 2 diabetics) can put yourself into remission too.


  3. Hi Chris. I read that you have a FIRE whatsapp and would very much appreciate if I could join. Like you shared, good social relationships are very important in our journey of life. Appreciate much.