Retirement Planning Stories

What Singapore's Oldest Skydiver Can Teach Us About Living Big

byViolet Zhang
  • Mar 09, 2018
  • 5 mins

At 92, Mr Tan Kok Sing has done it all: he has skydived four times, gone white-water rafting, run two marathons and even abseiled down a building.

While the thought of undertaking his adrenaline-fueled hobbies is enough to make some quake at the knees, Mr Tan considers them no more dangerous than walking.

"Even if you're old, it doesn't mean you should be scared. Most of the time, what stops you from living aren't physical limitations, but mental ones."

For his fourth skydive in 2015, which he did to celebrate his 90th birthday, Mr Tan made good on his statement by skydiving alongside 13 members of his family, many of which were first-time skydivers. 

Photo courtesy of Tan Kok Sing

"I wanted to show them that there is nothing to be scared of - after all, crossing the road can be dangerous too, and even if you're very very careful, accidents can still happen. That doesn't mean that you're not going to cross the road, right?"

Fearlessness starts with taking control

Mr Tan's fearlessness stems from his decades-long love for fitness. After being diagnosed with rheumatism in both knees at just 35, Mr Tan started running at 5 am every morning to improve his condition.

From then on, Mr Tan has made it his goal to help others take control of their lives through fitness. In 1977, he founded the Tiong Bahru Garden Joggers, a jogger's club for his fellow Tiong Bahru residents. The club continues to meet daily for runs and basketball games, covering distances of up to 12km on weekends.

In 2009, Mr Tan faced another health scare - he suffered a stroke that left him with little to no mobility in his legs. Instead of taking it easy, he was determined to keep himself in tip-top shape. Despite not having the use of his legs, he continued to perform push-ups and sit-ups daily during his recovery.

"I didn't want to let the condition control my life. I wanted to be in control of what I could and couldn't do. At that point, I'd both tried Western and Chinese medicine - nothing worked; but running improved my condition in just three months."

Photo of the Tiong Bahru Jogger's Club - Photo courtesy of Tan Kok Sing

Apart from keeping fit, Mr Tan also lives a frugal lifestyle - he doesn't own a car - but spends money where it counts. He focuses his spending on his friends and family, including paying for shirts for his jogger's club, treating them to meals, giving them vouchers when they complete fitness milestones and taking his family on vacations. He has also cultivated a habit of investing, making a point to monitor Singapore stocks on a regular basis.

Retirement isn't the end - it's the start of another adventure

If your image of the ideal retirement lifestyle consists of long strolls in the park, it's time you reconsidered your options. Unlike most retirees, it was the extra time that Mr Tan had on his hands that sparked his love for extreme sports. 

Photo courtesy of Tan Kok Sing

In his early 60s, Mr Tan ran two Mobil Marathons, while his late 60s were marked by white-water rafting activities with his family in New Zealand and Australia.

Throughout his 70s and 80s, Mr Tan undertook three skydives and even abseiled down the Kenyon Engineering Building. Now into his 90s, Mr Tan shows no signs of stopping.

"Even though I no longer run and play basketball because of a knee injury, I still do situps daily to keep my upper body strength."

Want to live big too? Here's how:

Even if you don't share Mr Tan's love for extreme sports, making the most out of your retirement is simple. These are what you can do to make retirement more rewarding:

1. Take charge of your retirement

Retirement can last decades. The best way to live large is to set milestones and plans for what you want to do - whether it's taking on your next big skydive, or finally taking the vacation of your dreams.

Don't feel pressured to do something just because you've got time, or take on everything that you want to do all at once! Settle into your expectations to sieve out bigger priorities.

2. Try something new

Age is never an excuse to stop learning. Take on some fun cooking classes with your spouse, learn a new language or dabble in a new hobby. A good avenue to polish up on your skills is through signing up for subsidised Workforce Skills Qualifications courses. Wes Moss, the author of You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think, suggests that the happiest retirees often engage in three to four activities regularly. Trying different things allows you to discover what you find truly fulfilling and rewarding.

3. Go back to work - no, really

The movie The Intern addressed a fear that many may have when deciding whether to re-enter the workforce: that we'll never catch up to younger, more energetic workers.

While it seems ironic to enter the workforce again after leaving it, your golden years are the perfect opportunity for you to explore new and exciting careers. Without the burdens of their younger years, retirees can seek out jobs that they wouldn't necessarily dare to try out in their youth. Don't let a lifetime of expertise go to waste - turn your hobbies into a business, or seek out flexible or part-time work options.

Businesses who hire older workers now earn 8% of employees' wages in Special Employment Credit, while older workers will be offered the option for re-employment up to the age of 67.

Living big starts from planning big, too

If health and family are lifetime priorities, planning for retirement should be too. While goals such as getting a house and car may preoccupy us in our younger years, accumulating our savings will save us the trouble of worrying about retirement later on. 

Not sure where to start? Connect with an advisor today for a more in-depth discussion. With selected savings and protection products now available online, there’s no excuse for not planning your retirement, starting today!


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