Work to re­tire

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FAMILY - By JAY TAN

Writ­ing in re­sponse to our story last Wed­nes­day on how to go from worker to home­maker, a former high-fly­ing exec tells us how she planned for the end of her ca­reer at the start of it.

IFINALLY bid farewell to my of­fice col­leagues last year and made the bold move to re­sign and re­tire at the age of 45 and be­come a “Do­mes­tic Min­is­ter” – a po­si­tion be­stowed me by my chil­dren. To be able to do this was not with­out proper plan­ning and fore­sight, es­pe­cially when I came from an av­er­age fam­ily and did not marry a wealthy hus­band!

Re­tir­ing at 45 had been my tar­get since I started my ca­reer 22 years ago. Why 45? You may ask. To me it was a per­sonal chal­lenge to be fi­nan­cially able to re­tire 10 years ear­lier than the of­fi­cial re­tire­ment age. At 45, one will still be young and en­er­getic to in­dulge in other in­ter­ests or sports, be­fore be­com­ing too old, that is.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from a lo­cal univer­sity, I started to plan for what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I wanted to have a ca­reer that would en­hance my life ex­pe­ri­ences, al­low me to travel around the world, earn me big bucks AND most im­por­tantly, al­low me to re­tire at 45. I know, not quite what peo­ple usu­ally do – plan­ning for the “end” of one’s ca­reer at the be­gin­ning of it.

With a lot of luck and de­ter­mi­na­tion, I worked hard, and saved even harder. How­ever, three years down the road, I re­alised that my re­tire-at-45 goal might not be a re­al­ity by merely plug­ging away at a nine-to-five job – my wealth ac­cu­mu­la­tion was not in­creas­ing fast enough with the many com­mit­ments I had.

I then started to look for ideas to earn pas­sive in­come. In­vest­ment in prop­er­ties was on my agenda. With some luck most of my in­vest­ments paid off hand-hand­somely over the next few years. Unit trusts helped to make my mon­ey­money grow. Cap­i­tal ap­pre­ci­a­tion and div­i­dends de­clared have ena-en­abled me to in­crease my wealth, on a long-term ba­sis.

In or­der not to risk all my eggs in one bas­ket, I also de­posited some of my ex­cess and unutilised funds in EPF (Em­ploy­ees Prov­i­dent Fund) via self-con­tri­bu­tion. “Why EPF? Your money will be tied up there un­til you re­tire,” com­mented some of my friends. Well, that’s the whole idea, isn’t it?

More­over, the div­i­dends paid out by EPF were al­most al­ways slightly higher than most banks’ in­ter­est rates for fixed de­posits.

Ca­reer-wise, I was de­ter­mined to reach the top of the cor­po­rate lad­der where the big pay cheque lay, in the short­est pos­si­ble time. I made sure my su­pe­rior took note of all the good work I had done, in or­der to im­prove the chances for in­cre­ment and/or pro­mo­tion come an­nual ap­praisal time. My pro­fes­sional life ran smoothly, and I con­tin­ued to dili­gently save for my re­tire­ment.

Along the way, I got mar­ried and had three won­der­ful chil­dren with my very sup­port­ive hus­band. Life has been “good” with the house full of the lat­est tech­no­log­i­cal gad­gets, but there was never enough time for my fam­ily. Hav­ing to jug­gle house­hold chores and long hours at the of­fice left me with lit­tle time and en­ergy to even have a proper con­ver­sa­tion with my fam­ily.

Just be­fore I reached my 46th birth­day last year, I be­gan to keep ask­ing my­self which was more im­por­tant now – fam­ily or my high-pay­ing job? A de­ci­sion was re­quired as the chil­dren’s school and so­cial lives were be­com­ing more de­mand­ing.

I did one fi­nal “bud­get” cal­cu­la­tion to as­cer­tain that our sav­ings and fu­ture re­turns from our var­i­ous in­vest­ments would be suf­fi­cient to see us through the chil­dren’s ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion and even post-grad­u­ate stud­ies should they wish to pur­sue them.

In or­der to main­tain the life­style that we have got­ten used to, I also fac­tored in costs of an­nual va­ca­tions, out­ings and din­ing out, not for­get­ting, too, the costs of house and car main­te­nance, trans­porta­tion, util­i­ties as well as first cars for the chil­dren, etc.

My hus­band and I were quite sat­is­fied with the es­ti­mated bal­ance amount.

Now, one year on as the Do­mes­tic Min­is­ter, see­ing how the chil­dren have grown and the whole fam­ily be­com­ing closer, I know I can con­tinue with this role and will never call it quits! n The writer had, dur­ing her 21year ca­reer, held many high-level po­si­tions in­clud­ing coun­try project man­ager, and vice-pres­i­dent and di­rec­tor of fi­nance and busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion, in multi-national cor­po­ra­tions. She now free­lances as a train­ing con­sul­tant and is en­gaged by the Malaysian In­sti­tute Of Man­age­ment as a free­lance trainer.

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