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My hypothetical plan to semi-retire in Singapore at 35

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Being able to choose what to do at 35 — awesome. Working till you’re 60 and being unable to stop because you need to pay off debt? Not so awesome.

BIG CAVEAT: This article applies to people who don’t want to raise kids in Singapore. Raising a child immediately makes your goals of retiring at 35 unrealistic.

Also, don’t feel offended if you feel this article doesn’t relate to you — it’s okay for people to have different values and needs.

At 35, my ideal life would be travelling the world six months, and working six months in a job that I love — for example, saving pangolins, assuming they haven’t gone extinct in 2025.

That of course, for now, is only a dream. But here are some of my ideas to achieve it. Some are hard to swallow, some are ambitious — and some are pretty realistic.

To save you some time from scrolling to the bottom, they are in principle, just these four things:

  • Save a lot of money while also investing it.
  • Move to a more affordable country to reduce your living costs.
  • Rent out your home in Singapore to unlock your CPF and get an additional source of massive income.
  • Continue to support yourself with a job that you truly love doing so you don’t deplete your savings

But if you manage to do all of these, I’m pretty sure you can stop slogging it out at 35…maybe 40.

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Save a lot of money while also investing it

The sooner you get your money to work for you, the more it’ll make for you.

Difficulty: Super hard. But not impossible.

Mandatory?: Sorry man, there’s no way around it. You need your savings to reach a critical mass before it generates enough income for you to stop working.

According to TODAY, you’ll need some S$736,000 generating 4% interest if you want to working completely by 40 (assuming the money will last you till 80).

Well yeah, I don’t know about you, but I doubt my ability to save $736,000 at 40.

But that’s why this article has three other methods to help you retire early remember? These will reduce (not remove) the need to save bucketloads of money.

  • Move to a cheaper country to reduce your living costs.
  • Rent out your home in Singapore to unlock your CPF and get an additional source of massive income
  • Continue to support yourself with a job that you truly love doing so you don’t deplete your savings

I’m making the argument that instead of S$736,000, you can go for the significantly more achievable S$400,000.

Which brings me to my next point….

Move to a more affordable country to keep living expenses low

Your Singapore dollar is actually pretty mighty overseas. You already know this when you go on vacation.

Difficulty: Depends on your personality.

Mandatory?:Recommended, if you really wanna stretch your dollar.

Investopedia says you can live 20 years in Malaysia (also amongst their top 8 countries to retire in) with US$200,000 (S$270,000). You can be assured that same amount won’t last 20 years in Singapore.

That said, I can probably imagine some readers squirming their face in disgust. For many Singaporeans, this will be the hardest one of all. Giving up Singapore and all its developed, first-world comforts is definitely difficult.

But perhaps this analogy will help you leap over the mental barrier:

New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world, amirite? Like Singapore, it’s also crazy expensive. People struggle to pay rent, they work long hours, it’s crowded, etc etc.

When people can no longer afford New York, or are looking for a different pace of life, they move to somewhere cheaper within the US.

Singapore is effectively the New York in Southeast Asia. It’s tiny, it’s expensive and it’s people can be rude and snobbish. Main difference? Singapore is also a country.

You can’t realistically save a whole lot of money moving from Ang Mo Kio to Punggol, but you can if you relocate to Bangkok, somewhere in Malaysia or even say, Ho Chih Minh.

For decades, Filipinos, Mainland Chinese, Indonesians, Malaysians and Indians have understood Singapore for being a great place to earn money, but a shitty place to save money.

It’s time we all see that.

Unlock CPF by buying a home– then, rent it out after it’s MOP

It might make sense to rent out your home and benefit from Singapore’s (relatively) high rental rates (they’re not as high as they used to be).

Difficulty: Arguably high.

Mandatory?: Nope.

Rental yield is the ONLY way for you to get tangible access to your CPF funds before the minimum retirement age of 65 (or maybe 70 in the future, who knows)

Last I checked, a 3-room HDB can get your approximately $1,800 in rental income a month. Assuming your flat cost $400,000, that’d take 16 years to pay off.

This period will be less if you and your partner can keep working a little more to direct some of your funds into paying that off. Once it’s paid up, voila!

You’ll have a source of passive income.

As for where you’ll stay while your home is rented out? Go back to see point 2 — move to a more affordable country to keep living expenses low.

Remain productive in your semi-retirement

Don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure if I stopped working completely I’ll be bored to death even if I travelled every day.

Difficulty: Easy. We’re workaholics anyway.

Mandatory?: Recommended.

Retiring at 35 to travel the world for the rest of your life might sound like a great idea, but you’d probably be bored after one year. I don’t think I could travel 50 years without working — humans just need that sense of purpose.

You can look after adorable pangolins once you’ve looked after your own financial security. Jobs in wildlife conservation are very important, but they don’t pay well.

My plan is to work in something more meaningful/enjoyable albeit with less salary. Instead of working to pay the bills, you can work just to support your monthly living expenses.

With that dynamic in play, suddenly a whole bunch of ‘dream jobs’ will start being realistic because you no longer work for money.

For example, I would like to get into wildlife conservation. Or maybe a bicycle mechanic. (Both jobs pay way below the median salary)

By continuing to work, your savings will last longer. And your mind also stays active –so you still remain a functioning member of society. ̶(̶A̶n̶d̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶f̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶p̶r̶e̶y̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶W̶e̶C̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶S̶e̶x̶ ̶S̶c̶a̶m̶s̶)̶

Which is always great, especially if you are forced to return to the workforce.

Remember:

  • Working to survive till 65 or 70 can be depressing. Fuck that.
  • Singapore is a great place to work and earn money. It’s more developed than the rest of Southeast Asia. But this might not be the case forever — the rest of the countries are catching up real fast.
  • Capitalise on Singapore’s stronger economy (while it lasts) to enjoy more spending power in more affordable countries. I implore you to see beyond this tiny island.
  • Unless you spend it on a home, your CPF will be largely inaccessible to you till you’re old and wrinkly.
  • Keep working for your mental health’s sake. But not at the intensity that sacrifices your physical health.
  • This article is not the only way to lead life. It’s just one way. No need to get fired up about it if you disagree.

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