11 hard truths on retirement - Inspirational Agent of the Year finalist Damian Pang

| 08 Jan 2019

Damian Pang, top five Inspirational Agent of the Year at the 3rd Asia Trusted Life Agents & Advisers Awards, shares with us the 11 hard truths that are painful but crucial to a retirement journey that you can share with your clients and prospects too.

1. Make more money

Wealth accumulation is actually simple math. The more we earn over our lifestyle needs, the more we can save. Making more money sounds obvious but is often ignored in the name of passion, inertia or ignorance.

Imagine the savings process as running water from a tap into a bucket with holes at the bottom. You can either increase the volume of water going into the bucket (better paying job, skills upgrading, passive income) or patch the holes (cut down on expenses, choosing a simpler lifestyle).

2. Manage your expectations

Simplicity simplifies retirement. A little reality-check on our expectations and ideal retirement lifestyle is the fastest shortcut to retirement.

Instead of wanting that luxurious $10,000 a month retirement lifestyle, could you settle for a comfortable $5,000 a month? The impact is instant, the effort required halves immediately.

3. Modernise your expertise

Structural unemployment can derail our retirement plans. Have the foresight to learn, upgrade and prepare now.

I met an ex-colleague from the cosmetic industry who is 61 years old now. Back then she was asking me for help with Microsoft Excel and Power-point. Today, she's a business consultant for online cosmetic marketing!

As brick and mortar companies are being rapidly replaced by online shopping, she has kept herself relevant and excelled by learning and upgrading digitals marketing skills, rather than feel sorry for herself and gave the convenient excuse of age.

4. Macro over micro

Exercise prudence when making life's big choices instead of micro-managing small daily ones. Enjoy the present while saving for the future.

For example, one major decision of choosing a $600,000 HDB 5-Room flat over a $1.5 million private condominium trumps a lifetime of sacrificing your beloved Starbucks for 3-in-1 coffee. (Putting aside potential property investment gains or losses.) Think big, save big!

5. Maximise your Central Provident Fund benefits and tax reliefs

Loans/taxes are like bad cholesterol, interests/reliefs are like good cholesterol. Here are some ideas to explore, but always with professional help and consultation from financial advisers as they would be able to tailor accordingly to your needs and situations.

  • Cash over CPF for home loan
  • Try to pay back accrued interest in CPF
  • Voluntarily CPF top-ups
  • Irreversible transfer of CPF Ordinary Account to Special Account for higher interest rates
  • Refinance home loans when due for the best rates
  • Contribute to Supplementary Retirement Schemes for tax benefits then use it to invest

6. Memories over materials

The lesser we desire to own, the more money and time we have to pursue what’s truly meaningful. Time and undivided attention are the most precious gifts to our loved ones.

A cottage filled with love is better than a castle filled with emptiness.

7. Miracles are seldom real

Our journey towards financial freedom is like a game of Snakes and Ladders. While rolling the dice to reach the endpoint is important, we need to watch our greed which puts us at risk to scams and investment pitfalls, or we may find ourselves back at square one.

8. Building a future together with your partner

Running together is faster than piggybacking your partner. When both partners agree to contribute and commit towards a common goal, the task at hand gets easier to achieve like a nitro-boost in a car race!

9. Focus on doing a few things well

Focus on doing a few things well instead of doing many things averagely.  This promotes excellence, prevents stress related burnouts, reduce the need for retail therapies and getaways, ultimately allowing us to thrive in both our careers and relationships.

10. Map Financial yardsticks

What you don’t track, you don’t improve. I set little financial milestones to attain by a certain age. I remember proudly print-screening my bank account after hitting my first $10K before setting out to reach my first $100K.

Each time I made a promise to myself that I will never fall below that amount. Set small advancing net worth goals and celebrate every victory!

11. Monitor your insurance

Always review your policies with a trusted adviser as your needs change over time. Some questions to bear in mind:

  • Review regular investment link plans as mortality costs rise with age?
  • Lock in investment profits?
  • Downgrade hospital coverage?
  • Reduce coverage if kids are grown up, and loans are all paid?
  • Could your child take over the payment of their policy?


Damian Pang is a 9-time consecutive MDRT Qualifying Member. He was among the top-five Inspirational Agent of the Year at the 3rd Asia Trusted Life Agents & Advisers Awards in 2018 and also among the top-five Insurance Agent of the Year at the 1st Asia Trusted Life Agents & Advisers Awards in 2016.

Nominations for the 4th Asia Trusted Life Agents and Advisers Awards is now open. The Awards with an independently-audited judging process is organised by Asia Insurance Review and Asia Advisers Network, with co-organiser LIMRA and Strategic Partner AIA.