Some time back, at a workshop organized by RCSC for civil servants with 10 years of service left and then at a closing session of a YPLP forum organized by RIGSS, I had the opportunity to share some of my thoughts on retirement, mostly based on my own experience.
Something disconcerting happened when I retired from civil service in 2016. As an officer in a government office, it was enough to just mention your position and people respectfully knew who you were. Your ministry or office was your address, so it was never a problem locating you. The moment you leave that position, those two labels are gone. That’s what happened to me. Suddenly I did not have an identity and an address. In my opinion, people who retire from service face some common adjustment issues.
When you are in service, you have an office, there are colleagues working with you, there is a time to go to office, time to leave office, travels, meetings, have access to a number of facilities in the office. You leave all those behind on the day you retire. How do you then get yourself engaged? Suddenly, there is no office to go to, your office friends are no longer around you, it is difficult to get anything done. Even the privilege of sleeping late and not being bothered by time, gets difficult to adjust. Senior officials who had everything done by other people suddenly find themselves lost. Going to the fuel station or the car workshop, getting the gas refill, vegetable shopping, etc. are chores you have to now carry out yourself.
When in service, there was a credit entry going into your bank account every month. Occasionally, more credits in the form of LTC, LE, and for the luckier ones, savings from foreign trips. On retirement day, there is a fat deposit from gratuity, PF, and several other welcome sources but the monthly credits stop. The lumpsum payments may last for a while, and many will continue getting their pension, but this will be small compared to the regular payments you get when in service. This is where a major financial conditioning is called for.
This may not seem serious at the moment but I see this as some cause for concern for not just future retirees but most people. Ten years ago, people communicated one to one. Smartphones were still beyond reach of many, we had not fully got used to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, chats, etc. Nowadays, two friends may be walking together but both are busy on the mobile. Verbal communication is becoming rarer. Especially at home. Imagine in 10 years’ time, when technology is so advanced that there is now need to even talk! Retirees will suddenly find that while they have left behind their friends and colleaques at work, they have none to replace at home. Technology, with all its benefits, could be a major cause of loneliness in one’s life. Our handwriting skills are already bad, soon we may be ‘aping’.
Given the inevitable changes that will happen as people retire from active service, I offer few words of advice, for those willing to hear me. Our life expectancy is now 70 years. So, for planning purpose, you could estimate that you will live upto 70 years, that means 10 to 12 years from your retirement day (unless you retire young). No need to panic, this is just an average.
It is generally estimated that for somebody to maintain a lifestyle close to the one pre-retirement, you will need about 70% of your pre-retirement income. Or that your savings should amount to 10-12 times your current income. Unless you have a separate income source or rich parents, be very careful with your spending. Especially, those of you retiring in the next 5-10 years, try not to avail large loans with maturity going much beyond your retirement year. Your post-retirement income will be too little to cover loan servicing. For those of you young, remember you are getting older by the day but the younger ones have the best opportunity to save. Start saving, keep saving.
The security and peace of having a house of your own to live may outweigh any other consideration when you retire. In 2016, when about 10 senior secretaries retired from service, I was the only one still occupying government housing. When I started building a small house a month before leaving service, close friends wondered why I didn’t do that many years earlier. After you have decided where you will want to settle after retirement, try to mobilize resources, effort and motivation to build a house for you to settle. This is an investment you just cannot side-step while you have a job, an income and most of all the energy and drive.
Good human being
At the end of the day, what people will remember most will be how good a person you were while in that position. You will know when you call your ex-colleaques or ask for their help. Somehow, while in service, we always forget that it is the position you hold that is important and not you, the person holding it. That is where the three poisons of mind come in. For people donning colorful scarves, patangs and titles, generous pay and perks, power and authority, often times, we forget that those are there as long as you hold the position. Once out of it, we are the same human being, same people. Faithfully serve your King and country by shouldering your responsibility well, doing your job properly and for politicians, delivering on your pledges as best as you can, but don’t get too carried away by the power, status and symbols you have at the moment. Late Margaret Thatcher used to remind her ministers “Only the Queen can get used to it”.
If you were to end this reading with only one takeaway, I hope it’s this: start retirement planning today. It’s never too early, never too late.
Contributed by Lam Dorji
Formerly with MoF and briefly with BKP