Are Singapore’s Young Seniors Prepared for Retirement in a Super-Aged Society?

Annual ROSA Symposium on Successful Ageing unveils insights from ROSA’s latest study on cross-generational social and financial adequacy, and spotlights ideas to leverage the potential opportunities of a super-aged Singapore
By the SMU Corporate Communications team

Singapore, 12 October 2023 (Thursday) – Retirement may be one of the biggest worries for most Singaporeans[1], yet just 34% Singaporeans rate their retirement preparedness as good, while another 27% do not have a retirement plan. These findings were revealed in a new study published by SMU Centre for Research on Successful Ageing (ROSA), “Singapore’s Three Generational Packages” to examine the health and economic characteristics across Singapore’s Pioneer, Merdeka and Majulah generations, including financial adequacy, within the context of the impact on successful ageing.

Researchers at ROSA polled 6,430 Singaporeans between the ages of 53 and 78 (inclusive) in January 2023, drawing data from the Singapore Life Panel® (SLP). In a first with this study, ROSA is leveraging its vast database to cross-examine financial adequacy and characteristics across generations, with a focus on ‘young seniors’[2] - Singaporeans who are born in 1973 or earlier.

“Societies conventionally view ageing populations as a problem and it is only of late, that we are reframing the super-aged society as an asset for all. ROSA is committed to analysing the traits of silver societies and how we can better reap the dividends of longevity from an evidence-based approach. With this study, we gain a good grasp of the main concerns of each generation and the areas where interventions may be most effective. Concurrently, our annual Symposium convenes stakeholders across government, academia and industry to discuss changes that can move the needle in helping Singapore’s seniors adapt, from their physical living spaces, to the nature and type of work in which they engage,” said Professor Paulin Straughan, Director, ROSA.

Key findings and practical implications for society:

1. Most young seniors were somewhat engaged in some form of retirement planning, with more than one-third citing a gap in sufficient endowment plans to meet retirement needs

  • About 80% of the respondents agree/slightly agree that they have sufficient knowledge about how to conduct their retirement plans. A similar percentage of respondents agree/slightly agree that they regularly save for their retirement (78%).
  • About 22% reported having a robust retirement plan, another 50% some form of a retirement plan (i.e., partial plan, etc) whilst the remaining 28% do not have a retirement plan.
  • About 74% agree/slightly agree that their retirement savings are on track.
  • Approximately 63% agree/slightly agree that they have enough endowment plans needed for retirement.

2. Demographic distributions across generations show that older adults in the Pioneer Generation are more likely to live alone, compared to those in the Merdeka Generation or young seniors

  • 12% of older adults in the Pioneer Generation live alone, compared to 9% and 6% of Merdeka Generation and young seniors respectively.
  • About 19% of older adults in the Pioneer Generation are widowed, compared to7.6% and 3.55% of the Merdeka Generation and young seniors respectively.
  • Broadly, CPF amounts decrease with increase in age cohorts across generations, but healthcare expenditure increases.
  • As expected, chronic diseases and disability also increase with age across cohorts. However, it is worth noting that approximately 20% of young seniors experience some form of disability of varying severity.

Policy recommendations:

Pioneer generation: Pioneer generation may experience a greater sense of isolation from a smaller social circle as their peers pass on, and be more likely to live alone, or be widowed or separated. Policies must be able to support social initiatives to combat isolation and empower this group with their self-agency. Additionally, consider how the built environment supports their social inclusivity.

Merdeka Generation: Approximately half of the Merdeka cohort is employed, offering potential societal benefits. To promote gainful employment, policies should promote part-time work, retraining, and financial incentives. Skill development programmes and tailored initiatives can empower them for suitable job opportunities and community engagement through volunteering.

Young seniors: As young seniors are actively preparing for retirement, a balance between their needs and prevailing narratives of extended employment is needed. Policymakers and researchers might consider the changing meaning of work and retirement, as well as the broader psycho-social implications. Additionally, there is a need to educate this group about more up-to-date wealth management strategies beyond traditional legacy insurance.

This study was made possible through the generosity of The Ngee Ann Kongsi and the support of the Ministry of Education.

Full details of the study can be accessed here.

3rd Annual ROSA Symposium on Successful Ageing

The findings of this new study were discussed at ROSA’s third annual Symposium on Successful Ageing on 12 October 2023 on SMU campus, where Singapore Minister for Health Mr Ong Ye Kung delivered a keynote address.

Themed Supporting Active Ageing in Our Communities, this year’s ROSA Symposium on Successful Ageing was attended by close to 280 members from government, academia, philanthropy and industry. The discussions at the symposium addressed the opportunity that ageing represents by diving into the emerging concerns highlighted at Singapore’s 2023 National Day Rally. Concurrently, the insights gleaned segue into ROSA’s continued efforts to translate applied research into evidence-based policy interventions.

The Singapore Life Panel (SLP)

By 2030, almost 1 in 4 Singaporeans will be over the age of 65[3]. ROSA’s applied research aim to shed light on the optimal ways to enhance the well-being of older adults in Singapore and promote successful ageing.

ROSA’s studies are drawn from a rich repository of data known as the Singapore Life Panel®, a population representative monthly survey of Singaporeans that started in 2015. The SLP has an average response rate of about 7,200 respondents per month and is web-based. With the SLP, ROSA undertakes one of the largest high-frequency surveys in the world, collecting data on a monthly basis to understand ageing trends in Singapore.

Housed in SMU, ROSA’s research underscores SMU’s strategic priority area of Sustainable Living. Through this area of focus, the University seeks to drive solutions in managing climate change and sustainable city living, and enhancing quality of life.

The ROSA Symposium was made possible with the generous support of The Ngee Ann Kongsi.

[1] Rozario, P. A., & Pizzo, M. (2022). Political discourse and aging in a neoliberal Singapore: Models of citizenship, older adults and policy initiatives. Journal of ageing & social policy, 34(1), 58-72.

[2] Singapore National Day Rally 2023

[3] Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the book launch of ‘Singapore Ageing: Issues and Challenges Ahead’.