Breadwinner Series : Are your aging parents ready for retirement ?

As the breadwinner of a family, I noticed that when I planned for retirement. My biggest challenge is to determine how much buffer I need to factor in my retirement to fulfill my dependencies (aging parents) daily and special needs. As shared in my earlier post, money has always been a sensitive topic within my family. Thus, I needed a way to broach this topic in the least destructive way so that I could get the information I need to build my buffer. Else, I would never dare to retire.

This is what I did to get started which actually worked out quite well. Thought I should share it with you. Note that I haven’t completed all the steps. I am still finding a right moment to carry out actions 6-9.

1) Start A Conversation

Use an article to start a conversation with your parents on retirement. I found that this was useful as it makes the discussion less personal.

Check out The Straits Times “She’s Retiring Comfortably” by Linette Lai and “New Survey gives snapshot of typical retiree household” by Linette Lai and Janice Tai on 20th September 2014 . You can also find the articles here :

 2) Create Awareness of Retirement Planning

Use the article to ask them how much they think they need to retire as compared to the average retired household.

3) Create Mindfulness in Spending Habits

Get them to list down their current expenses and ask them how do they foresee their expenses will look like when they retire using the article’s average retired household expenditure as reference. If they have no clue how much they spend per month, share with them how you have been keeping track of your own expenses. Demonstrate to them how you have been actively weeding out the WANTS from the NEEDS and of course the savings and benefits. Do it in a light hearted manner. See here for illustration and the tools you can use.

Ask them to join you in this exercise or maybe even start a competition where the family can review this on a monthly basis for the next 3-6 months. You may want to make this a yearly or quarterly affair after that. The purpose of this exercise is for you and your parents to be more mindful of their spending habits.

Set goals to improve the spending habits and compliment one another when a goal is met. You can even consider having a short celebration when a goal is met.

 4) Generate Awareness of CPF Life

Share with them the CPF Life that the government has just introduced.
Highlight to them that everyone should at least achieve the minimum sum before they should even consider for retirement. Get them to share with you their views.

5) Generate Awareness of Medishield Life

Share with them the Medishield Life that the government has just introduced. Discuss with them whether they think it is of sufficient coverage. Get them to share with you their views.

6) Review their Assets (WARNING : this is a sensitive topic so do it gently)

Run through the assets they have. Ask them gently whether there are any assets that they believe are no longer relevant e.g. should they downgrade their property, are their stock portfolio still relevant etc.

7) Explore avenues where they could generate retirement income 

Example rental, investment, doing part time jobs that they love to do like teaching, volunteering etc. Discuss intently whether their income could fulfill their retired expenditure. Review their assets again to explore whether these assets could actually help increase their retirement income. Now, ask them based on the numbers presented when do they believe is a realistic timeline for retirement.

Sometimes it may be helpful to show them your own retirement planning numbers so that they could appreciate the challenge you may have especially if you have a family or plan to have a family so that they can start taking more responsibility in their own retirement planning.

8)  Set a Retirement Goal and Timeline with them. 

Now that your parents and yourself have a very clear view of the income and expenditure needed for retirement and timeline. Share with them your bucket list and ask them whether they too have bucket list that they would like to fulfill in their lifetime. See here for illustration. I feel and learnt that active aging is extremely important for the mental and healthy well-being of a retiree.

Set retirement goals. Work out the steps needed to reach these retirement goals. Review these steps quarterly or yearly with them. Celebrate when a short milestones have been reached.

9) Seek blessings from them to take responsibility in their own retirement.

What do you think? Any suggestions in fine-tuning these steps. I would like to hear from all the breadwinners out there.


Check out my Breadwinner Series :
Breadwinner Series : If I could turn back the clock…


  1. This is a great series. While I am not at such a stage in life yet, I would be very interested to know how you get along in your progress with the remaining stages. Do continue to keep us posted!

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi RetailTrader,
      Thanks. I am glad you enjoyed it :). BTW, the earlier you start your conversation with your parents (even if they are not old or retiring yet), the higher your chances of not getting a shock when the time comes.

  2. We should be better in retirement planning than our parents as we are definitely more informed than our parents in this cyber world.

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi Createweath8888,
      Actually my parents spend more time on this cyberworld than me :).
      Financial wise, I think our generation are much more savvy. Thus, we need to pull them along.

  3. Wah seh, Lady.

    U really care abt your family a lot hor. Everything so gentle.

    For me, its about the hard facts.

    One hard fact is that if one thinks too hard for the family members and to provide each and every need and/or want, the family members ceased to think for themselves.

    My parents have to think for themselves whether they can or cannot retire comfortably or not.

    My plan for them is to take care of their medical expenses in their old age and even my own. Which they have no idea About at this moment.

    If they think they have a resource which will never deplete, of coz they will just use it generously. Once get used to certain comforts, they become necessities.

    So they better just learn to take care of themselves.

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi Pf,
      I am not very gentle lah. Just add in that to remind myself to be gentle :-p. You know, the longer you avoid the conversation fearing that it will strain the relationship. The bigger risk you are putting on yourself as you and your parents grow older. When they are young, you can at least put in some remedy and coach them along. Else, if anything go south and they are already too old, it will come back and bite you eventually. Unless you plan to be completely ruthless when things go south, then that’s a different story. At the end of the day, they are still family.

  4. Already they know that I have limits.
    When my father told us to pay the bills, I stopped giving him his allowance.

    When my mother asked for increase in allowance without reason, I asked why the allowance is not enough.

    The last round I increase her allowance is for her to see doc as she complain her legs are aching. Doc told her to pick up swimming lessons. Increase her allowance also to cover those lessons. Although she stopped her lessons now.

    Nevertheless, I didn’t revert her allowance back. Just no more increase. Need to stand firm about money. Or else Asian parents will shake the children like money trees.

    If there is no limits set, then quite difficult. I’ll be filling a bottomless pit.

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi Pf,

      Thanks for sharing. Interesting Insight.

      Recently, I went Europe on a solo trip and joined their tour. My tour mates consist 70% retirees from the US and Europe. They were all living such an active retirement life and they seemed to be taking responsibility in their retirement. Many of them travel 4 times a year and when I secretly asked them how they managed to do this financially. They told me that they will look for the best deal in groupon and whichever good deal pops up on groupon, that would be their next destination. When I talked to them, the conversation is not limited around their kids and grandchildren, they would be sharing their lives after retirement, helping out at schools, volunteering and their travel adventures. Of course one may say that they have pension and social security. However, it struck me that the ASIAN family structure seemed to be somewhat crippled maybe due to our over emphasis in family values and filial piety. In the US and Europe, the kids are kicked out of the house once they reach 21. They are suppose to take care of themselves. The parents will then focus on living their own lives and plan for their own retirement. In Asia, you see that the parents don’t seemed to have a life after they have kids. If you go around Singapore and take pictures of the old, most of the elderly or retirees in Singapore looks sad and angry. They looked as though the whole world owes them a million bucks. They thought that since they have invested so much on their kids, it’s payback time. They would be staring into the sky waiting. Waiting for the kids and grandkids to come and talk to them, waiting for kids and grandkids to bring them on holidays. Instead of questioning why these folks are wasting their life away like that, we instead blamed it on the kids and grandkids for neglecting them. Many of my friends shared with me concerns that their retired parents esp. the men doesn’t seemed to have a social life or hobby. Thus, they worry for their mental and social well-being. Makes me ponder sometimes whether the Asian family values that we are pushing so hard is still relevant for today’s society and context.

      • Hi lady,

        That’s a great observation about the Asian parent mentality. This can definitely be a post on its own!

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