Monday, April 11, 2011


I confess I get cold feet every time I think about withdrawing a lump sum for investment purposes. My savings are for my old age and for emergencies. My mother's recent surgery and hospitalization, plus her on-going medical expenses are a grim reminder that it's always best to be prepared for possible contingencies.

My well-meaning friends have long given up trying to make me part with my money. "You need to make your money grow," they tell me. They paint rosy pictures of what my money can do for me if I invest in real estate, shares, gold, artworks, etc... They promise me guaranteed returns of 8% or more on my investments.

But I remain unconvinced. I have few needs. I live a simple life. I am frugal by nature and by circumstances. And I am quite happy with the modest interest I'm getting from my retirement funds. For good or bad, I'm adverse to taking risks, especially financial ones.

But starting a business might be a different story altogether. You are in control. You know what you want, and you make all the decisions. If you can channel your expertise, experience and passion into your first business venture after retirement, you might just succeed. Make sure you also pick up the necessary entrepreneurial skills.

That's exactly what these enterprising retirees have done.

Jennifer Chung, 58, and her husband Simon Yuen, 60, sold their chocolate manufacturing business last year. With the six-figure proceeds from the sale, they could have retired comfortably. Instead they started a taichi school in January with an initial student enrolment of 300+. Participating in the recent 50plus Expo boosted their student intake to almost 1000. Their students range in age from 40 to 82. Teaching a healthy lifestyle makes good business sense as the couple have been practising taichi for 12 years.

A desire to help older men and women improve their self-confidence and image led Amy Chua, 72, to start the Age Management and Enrichment College in 2007 after attending a course on entrepreneurship. A retired senior librarian at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Chua has her days full conducting classes on grooming, etiquette and the performing arts. She took a risk when she pumped in S$83,000 of her savings to set up the education centre. But her investment has paid off. The institute will be moving to bigger premises next month to cater to a bigger enrolment of students who are mostly older folks aged 48 to 95.

William Liu, 63, former CEO of an IT and e-commerce company retired in 2007 to a life of leisure playing golf, reading and travelling. Boredom soon set in. "You can't play golf all the time or travel every day,' he says. So when two of his former business associates, aged 45 and 55, approached him to start an IT venture catalyst firm, he saw it as an opportunity to put his years of IT experience to good use. He invested S$100,000 of his savings to start the company with his partners. To date, it has mentored 15 IT start-ups and invested in five of them. "Working keeps me mentally and physically fit, especially now that I enjoy what I am doing. It gives me satisfaction to be able to offer my experience."

Last July Sylvia Lee, 53, and her former colleagues Ms Lee Pak Kheng, 60, and Ms Woon Lai Har, 55, set up a non-profit organization called Lotus Culture. It supports a Cambodian NGO in areas of education, mental health care and employment. All three gave up senior management positions in public-listed companies to do something more meaningful with their corporate skills. They are aiming to raise S$260,000 to support their projects in Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Precaire (Acting For Women In Distressing Situations), an NGO set up by Cambodian human rights advocate Somaly Mam to rehabilitate young girls sold into the sex trade. (Photos: Straits Times)

Retirees who turn entrepreneurs still remain a minority. According to Jim Then, 65, an associate trainer and consultant for retirement planning and financial literacy at the Centre for Seniors, of every 20 seniors he teaches only one shows interest in entrepreneurship.

Most older folks are adverse to risk-taking, especially if it means dipping into their retirement savings. There's always the fear of failure and of losing all the money that they have sunk into the business venture.

Then's advice for those who want to start a business: "Decide on how much funds to set aside for your lifestyle needs. Whatever is excess is what you can afford to lose. The capital outlay should not eat into one's retirement nest egg."

In other words, to generate more money, one needs spare cash to start with. No wonder, the poor remain poor, while the rich have it easy - they have the means to become even richer.

Fortunately, banks in Singapore are willing to approve capital loans to retirees planning to start a business provided they can convince the banks that their idea or product has commercial potential.

There are infinite opportunties for enterprising retirees to tap into the rapidly growing silver-haired market in Singapore. The challenge is to know the needs of this niche market and to meet these needs.

Time to do some serious research and brain-storming. You might want to check out this link for some tips on starting a small business after retirement.


Drew Harrison said...

It's really hard to decide what to do after retirement. It's true that one way of having a good retirement is starting a business. Those who are having a hard time deciding what to do after their retirement will find this helpful.

Cara Larose said...

Most people know that once a person retires, he'll just stay home in spending his remaining days. I never would've guessed that having a business after retirement would still be possible, but nonetheless, I like the idea.

Ivo Merlos said...

When you want to start a business after retirement, you have to think of the stuff you need to do ahead of time. Everything should be ready once you've stepped into the stage of retirement. All of the resources you need should have been allocated well before you get things running.

Sonia Roody said...

Some people may think that retirement is the end of their careers. But it's actually a new chapter to start something, enjoy the money that you earned, and invest in a business. It can be challenging. But if you have courage and great passion, you may succeed in the business that you choose. Good tactics can be learned from a coach or from people who have gained a lot of experiences in the business. You can outsource people who can help you market the services of your business.

Steve Berke said...

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