Being one of eight siblings and not one for classrooms, Jimmy Yap always knew he would have to work hard to pave his own way to success. He left school at 16, and started work at Jurong Shipyard as a hull fitter, assisting with the repairs of pipes and fittings in various sea vessels.
“This was around 1967. The British were pulling out of Singapore and we were also going through separation with Malaysia, so it was a difficult time and everyone just took whatever job they could find,” said Jimmy.
A year later, a neighbour introduced him to a less physical role of sales clerk, taking home S$150 a month at a German chemicals company. A job in sales seemed to agree with his sociable nature and Jimmy found himself spending the next 40 years in the industry. When he finally retired in 2012, he was handling the sales and marketing efforts for 16 countries in Asia Pacific, as well as setting up operations in China.
“I didn’t really think about retiring while I was working. I think many people in my generation just focused on working hard till the age that Mr Lee Kwan Yew said was the right age to stop working, which at the time was about 55 and then 60. I really enjoyed the job and the responsibilities I had,” said Jimmy. “I only decided to stop working because I was getting older and wanted to spend more time with my family back in Singapore.”
Family is the reason Jimmy started planning his finances in the first place. He was in his 30s when his daughter was born, and he wanted to give her the world.
“I wanted to do my best to ensure I could provide her the monetary support in her education and life that I never had,” said Jimmy. “I feel that if you only depend on a monthly salary, there’s a limit to how much you can make. But if you invest in other assets like property or financial instruments, you have the chance to make a lot more.”
It was a decision that paid off.
Shrewd investments over the years, combined with sensible planning and careful spending, have afforded Jimmy and his wife a very comfortable lifestyle in retirement. Rental from two private properties provides income even in their retirement years, while the endowments plans he took out in his 30s fund his wanderlust.
Like 48 per cent of Singaporeans, Jimmy dreamed of travelling the world when he retired. He’s managed to make that dream a reality. In the last three years, he and his wife have travelled to numerous countries in South and Latin America (including Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Cuba), taken a trip on the Grand Trans-Siberian Train (from Beijing to Moscow), and visited both Antarctica and the North Pole.
In fact, this interview was conducted while Jimmy was on a trip around Australia, just as they returned from visiting Ayers Rock and Kangaroo Island to spend time with family in Sydney.
“Family was a big reason I wanted to make more money to have a good life when it was time to retire,” said Jimmy. “While I focused on earning more money for the family, my wife was a great support in taking care of the family, keeping our finances in order and our monthly expenditure in check. Where we are now is definitely a team effort.”
What is Jimmy’s advice, as he enters his fourth year of active retirement, for anyone looking to retire great?
“Love what you do and work your hardest at it. Don’t limit yourself to a single source of income. And have a sensible attitude towards your money, now and in the future.”
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