Retire, reinvent, or reassign?

The weekend edition of our local papers often carries interesting articles. One regular column provides advice on money matters, and usually features a successful individual dispensing know-how on managing one’s assets. One article that caught my attention a few weeks ago featured a young entrepreneur who stated that her goal was to retire by the time she reached her thirties. This was absolutely shocking to me, since the current retirement age is double that.

In my counselling work, I often hear my clients talking wistfully about their plans to slow down and quit the rat-race. Many had their lives scarred from years of abuse due to their hard and stressful work. These wounds can take the form of early onset of heart attacks or strokes, or even broken marriages. So it is no surprise to hear people talk about retiring early. What I have noticed, however, is that the target date keeps getting sooner. Talk of retiring when one reaches their fifties has been replaced by aiming for the forties. But retiring in one’s thirties? Now this is exceptional.

The planned retirement many people aspire to have is to leave paid work, and to live the remaining years in relative ease and comfort. In today’s era of rising costs of living, and especially with high medical bills that could practically give one a cardiac arrest, this aspiration appears to be more of a pipe dream. In fact, many worry that they cannot afford to retire, much less have a comfortable life!

However, if you are amongst the fortunate who have managed to set aside something for your later years, what are your plans for the ‘second stage’ of your adult life? Many retirees report that the formerly idyllic picture of endless golfing and leisure soon becomes boring. Others, as grandparents, get drawn into caregiving and spend hours shuttling kids around – usually lasting a couple of years until the grandchildren become too hard to keep up with.

There are growing numbers of retirees who join activity classes like qigong, or pick up games like bridge and mahjong, all in an effort to stay active and perhaps keep dementia at bay. Another idea some retirees have is to reinvent themselves. From once being bankers they become business consultants; from engineers to volunteers; and from teachers to counsellors. This can be a good development, especially if the next career was one’s dream job which was not pursued earlier.

Perhaps another way of thinking about retirement is to think of it as being ‘reassigned’. For 30 or even 40 years, we may have been ‘assigned’ a job, perhaps as a draftsman or a teller. Now that this job does not need us, maybe we should go back to the One who first assigned us that job, and ask God what is our next assignment!

If indeed during our brief time on earth, we are to be custodians or stewards of what God has entrusted us with, then until He retires us permanently, we should keep on with His work. His next assignment may be a ‘job’ as a befriender, a Sunday School teacher, or a caregiver. God knows best our abilities, and what is best for us at each point in our lives.

Perhaps in this last stage of our labours on earth, we can truly experience the joy of work when we do not need to work – the satisfaction of having our efforts recognised by our Heavenly Master, and not have to worry about the whims and fancies of our human bosses. Viewing retirement as reassignment then means we need not be anxious about what we should aim to do, but stand ready and wait for His call.

Editor’s note: Read about some inspiring examples of ‘reassigned retirees’ on P7 of MM June 2017, or!

Benny Bong –
has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award in 2011 and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.

Picture by tashatuvango/