Kelvin Chong is a manager in the transactional services division at Robert Walters in Hong Kong.
I have spent a lot of time over the last six months trying to decide whether to retire or continue working. Thanks to a relatively successful career in finance, if I retire now – at what is a relatively young age (early 50s) – I could do so comfortably. It’s tempting, as I have some big travel plans, but I’m quite worried about being bored and unfulfilled for the next 20-30 years. I also feel I still have something to offer my company and industry. Do you know people who have retired early and regretted it?
Many people find it difficult to determine their optimum retirement age. The current average retirement age is between 60 and 65 years old, and most consider two major issues before making a decision: their financial situation, and the quality of life they are looking to have after retirement.
While most face the dilemma with financial and health concerns in mind, your greatest consideration is more philosophical in nature: Are you ready for a different stage in your life?
To make a decision, you need to consider the possibility of giving up further professional success, as well as the impact that staying in your role will have on your quality of life.
Unfortunately, the further you move up the corporate ladder, the greater the responsibility you will be forced to take on, and the result is likely an increase in stress levels.
To combat this, it’s crucial that you allow time for relaxation and restoration by taking holidays and travelling abroad. If you choose not to retire early, you can schedule time off by planning your holidays for the year. Work-life balance is crucial to having a successful and fulfilling career.
Should you decide to stay with your company, I suggest you have a conversation with your direct supervisor with regards to the direction of your career. Never be afraid to ask for advice and what the next step for your career is, no matter how senior you are.
As a senior executive or head of department of an organisation, it is also important for you to transfer skills and knowledge to your team members, while at the same time keep learning and challenging yourself to stay engaged in your career.
If you decide to retire at a relatively early age and subsequently attempt to return to work after a couple of years, you might find it difficult to re-enter the job market.
However, professionals in similar situations sometimes choose to become business consultants. They use their expertise to contribute to their chosen industry, and yet need not take up a full-time position.
This may not be the most lucrative decision, but it could offer a fulfilling alternative. Many companies in Hong Kong are keen to hire industry experts to share their knowledge and skills.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as That old question: Should you retire early if you can?