Live long and prosper, say the Vulcans. Well, in Singapore, people are certainly living longer, at least.
Singaporeans’ average life expectancy has risen to 83.1 years, making us third in the world behind Japan and Switzerland.
But Singaporeans aren’t exactly rejoicing. Instead, people are now worried about not being able to save enough for retirement, or having to fork out the cash for hefty medical bills that plague the very old.
Here are four tips that can help Singaporeans survive living longer, as bitterly ironic as that last part might sound.
1. Go for regular health screenings
Singapore’s healthcare system has been praised by foreign media for being miraculous. But that’s not the full picture.
While the healthcare system is great for those who have already fallen ill, it doesn’t do so well when it comes to preventive health. The public healthcare system does not assign individual doctors to patients, so each time you go to a polyclinic or public hospital you get new doctors. That means your medical history is not monitored by one single doctor who can flag problems early, such as pre-diabetes.
This means that many Singaporeans do not go for screening in the absence of a doctor who can advise them on what needs to be screened for.
The government has tried to subsidise the cost of screenings, for instance by offering $5 health screenings to 1.8 million Singaporeans aged 40 and over. But many are not showing up after receiving initial screening results, mistakenly thinking their results are not serious enough.
The onus is on the individual to educate themselves on what screening they should go for at what age, and then to actively take steps to make that appointment at the clinic. There’s no point in living longer if you’re living in poor health.
2. Make sure you are adequately insured
The longer you live, the higher the likelihood that you’ll face financial ruin should something unfortunately happen to you.
Private medical care is extremely expensive in Singapore, so medical insurance is a must once you start working. Should you be hospitalised for whatever reason, the financial burden can follow you for years.
As you get older, you might also want to consider insurance targeted at the elderly, such as silvercare insurance, which can cover the cost of accidents or home modifications, or senior citizen health insurance.
3. Taking responsibility for your health
All the health insurance in the world can’t make up for being irresponsible with your own health. This means making sure you eat well (normally that also means learning to cook, since that’s the best way to control what we put into our bodies) and get regular exercise.
And doing so begins at a young age. For instance, did you know that Singapore is not just the second most diabetic country in the world, but that 30 per cent of diabetics in Singapore actually get diabetes before the age of 40?
That means you can’t wait till you’re retired before you can dedicate time in your day to exercise or cooking at home. It starts now.
4. Start planning for retirement early
Living longer means you need to have a bigger retirement nest egg, or continue working longer. And since there is no guarantee you will be physically able to do the latter, it is all the more important to start retirement planning early.
Thanks to compound interest, the earlier you save and invest for retirement, the less hard you will have to work to be retirement ready.
With the majority of Singaporeans unprepared for retirement, this is a pressing issue that could escalate into a crisis as our population ages, especially given the low birth rate, which means there will be far fewer young Singaporeans to fund the retirement of the next generation of retirees.
So don’t be lazy, and make a concrete effort to save and invest money for retirement right now. If you live as long as the average Singaporean, you’re going to need quite a bit of cash in future.
This story was originally published in Moneysmart.sg.