Work to retire
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.