At the start of the week, I came across an article which made my “Monday blues” feel bluer than usual. The title of the article is “HSBC Gives 5 Reasons Why Millennials Can Forget About Retirement”.
Upon skimming through the first paragraphs of the article, I had a sudden urge to march up to my boss’s office and demand a pay raise. I also wanted to tell each person in the office who is from the previous generation(s) that I could not retire in peace, and this was all their fault.
But nope, of course, I couldn’t do that because I’m a spineless coward.
After reading through the full article and the HSBC report that the article was written based on, I realised that the real takeaway from the article is the opposite of what its title has suggested.
While it has been found that millennials (i.e. those born between 1982 and 2004) are seen as less fortunate than previous generations when it comes to retirement, this does not mean that millennials should simply throw their hands up and scrap their retirement plans.
On the contrary, the retirement problems and concerns that HSBC has highlighted are what millennials should be working hard to address and resolve by themselves and for themselves.
We look into two primary key concerns below:
1. Rising Healthcare Cost
According to HSBC, 82 percent of working age people in Singapore believe that retirees will have to spend more on future healthcare costs, and 85 percent are concerned about being able to fund their healthcare.
It is not hard to see how an ageing population plays a role in this: An ageing population might mean a shrinking labour force which results in less tax revenue to finance Singapore’s healthcare, despite an increasing number of patients who face age-related diseases.
Other factors that cause medical inflation include advances in medical technology and product design of insurance.
Speaking of insurance, it is perhaps needless to say that the best kind of “insurance” is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, though we cannot assume that every one of us is blessed with healthy DNA that makes us resistant to age-related health problems. In reality, more people are getting illnesses such as diabetes and cancer.
Thus, a more specific measure to combat rising healthcare cost is to get health insurance. (Gentle reminder: Medisave is not a health insurance policy). Here’s another reminder for millennials especially: Get health insurance while you are still young and healthy.
If you apply for insurance after you have developed some health conditions, the insurer may exclude those conditions from coverage. Most policies also have the last entry age after which you will not be able to apply for coverage.
On a side note, here are a few insurance plans that you might not know that you have already owned.
2. Running Out of Money
There is a stereotype that millennials like to “live in the present”, or even adopt a “You only live once (YOLO) financial mindset”. Didn’t UOB launch the YOLO credit card last year to target millennials?
But contrary to the stereotype, millennials don’t always seek instant gratification and forget about the future. According to the HSBC study, 79 percent of millennials are concerned about running out of money affecting their retirement, and 65 percent are prepared to cut back on their present expenses to save. That is not too ignorant.
While it seems unfair to label millennials “the avocado generation” (i.e. a generation that is high-maintenance, splurges on luxuries and is incapable of surviving in the long-term), millennials should probably re-evaluate the feasibility of their plans and the sustainability of their current lifestyle. In other words, millennials need to set realistic expectations.
However, the HSBC study also found that millennials in Singapore expect to retire at the age of 60 while working age people on average expect to retire at 62.
The hard question is: Can millennials afford to retire earlier?
To be able to enjoy an earlier retirement, we would need more savings and more returns from the money that we’ve put aside for investments, and these would depend largely on our lifestyle choices. The idea is that you cannot save your cake for later when you are already eating it now.
“How much savings is enough savings?” one might ask. Channel News Asia suggests that $1,200/month is basic. Of course, some might need more than that.
There is never one answer that suits all, just like how there is never one simple way to look at millennials. Even the HSBC study gathered some mixed views that people hold towards this generation.
Some are more sympathetic, believing that millennials are paying for the economic consequences of previous generations. Some are less so, and they say that millennials, who are enjoying a better quality of life than any generation before them, don’t know how good they have it.
Pointing fingers is always easy but taking full responsibility is also hard. For millennials, planning for something so far away is certainly no easy matter. Some of us may even find it impossible to think about retirement when we have not even had our housing/marriage/kids’ college funds settled.
But the sad fact is that age spares no one. So millennials, do spare a thought for the older, retired you.