It's Chinese New Year again and as a typical Chinese Singaporean, I make time to accompany my mum to visit my relatives and have those once-a-year conversations.
Maybe it's because I've been writing on this blog for several years and have been writing a lot around the topic of retirement planning that makes me think more about this subject from the perspective of my older relatives.
You can view this article as my personal reflection since I'm still single, have no plans in the near future to get married or have kids. As someone who has a high potential to live the rest of his life on his own, I'm seriously contemplating how to make the best use of the next few decades of my life in a meaningful way.
Having a life companion makes retirement life easier to get by
Taking love out of the picture, having a life companion makes retirement life easier to get by because your children are all grown up and are living their own lives now. Having a life companion means you have someone to care for, and in turn cares for you too.
Your day passes faster with conversations and even casual banters with your life companion. Sure beats talking to empty space.
Having a life companion also gets you out of the house more frequently. Whether it is to explore the latest food craze or have a stroll in the park, you're much closer to clocking your 10,000 steps than lazing at home all day.
Friendship plays an important role for interaction
From a probability point of view, I'd say that friends are probably more important than a life companion, if I'm asked to choose one of the other, and I can't have both.
Because if you have a life companion and no friends, there's a 50% chance that you would outlive your life companion and end up living on your own. But with friends, the probability of you outliving all your friends becomes relatively low.
Friends are perfect reasons to leave your house for. You will be more motivated to exercise when you are exercising with your friends, improving your physical health and mobility. They also give you emotional support when you going through a hard time.
Of course, it's much better to have both a life companion and friends, if possible.
The ability to socialise becomes more important than ever
It's easy to say that having friends and a life companion is important but in reality, even the best of friends could drift apart and there's a 50-50 chance of us outliving our life companion.
What happens then?
That's where our ability to socialise and make new friends plays an important role, as we get older.
Many folks in our parents' generation are too focused on the family and stop socialising with their friends in order to spend more time with us. Once we get older and move on to live our own lives, our parents often struggle to find purpose in their lives now that they have an empty nest.
There are many things we can start doing ahead of time to prepare for a meaningful and enjoyable retirement life.
Apart from keeping ourselves fit and healthy, we need to also maintain our mental health and ability to socialise with the wider community. For some, it means re-learning how to socialise if out of practice.
We could start small by inviting 1-2 friends home for a cosy dinner. That way, we can control the environment that we see them in, and with it only being two people, we can manage ourselves well without feeling overwhelmed.
From there, we can progressively move to meeting friends outside in quieter places on quieter times of the day. Gradually, we can build up on the number of people we meet, the length of the meeting duration, and the busyness of the places we go to, and the frequency of the gathering.
Retiring is more than just having enough money to pay for our annual expenses. It's about living life in retirement meaningfully with purpose. No man is an island. We all need to be part of a community in order to thrive.