Financial Planning | Personal Finance | Article

Why Worry About Retirement, When the World is Going to End?

by Sophia | 20 Aug 2019 | 5 mins read

At the end of the world, what does it mean to prepare for retirement?

In the age of hyperconnectivity, headlines constantly scream of the doom of rising sea-levels and political conflict.

So, do we need to care about retirement when the world is hypothetically going to end? Let’s enjoy our hard-earned money while we are alive, right?

So I was curious: What do millennials think of their financial future when it looks bleak?

Not like the boomers

“Retirement for us,” said Sarah, over 30, “will not be like what baby boomers are experiencing.”


And it’s easy to understand why she thinks that way. In Singapore, the cost of living has soared over the years. According to a study conducted by ValueChampion, higher education cost has risen by 16.65% in the last five years, and healthcare has also increased by about 7% in the last 10, contributing to a sense of worry that the generation will have a tougher time in keeping up with inflation.

She guessed that “we’ll still have to work even in old age – if there are suitable jobs to be had then, that is.” Perhaps she was alluding to another portent of doom that hangs over millennials, the advent of artificial intelligence. Where even jobs like copywriting have the potential to be funneled into AI solutions – maybe putting masses of people out of work in the future.

To get a fuller sense of the spectrum of opinions, I spoke to an elder-millennial. At 38, and armed with two degrees from an Australian university, Carol isn’t pressuring herself to find a relevant, high-paying job and instead settles for a handful of part-time jobs and the occasional odd job to get by and fund her travels. Once, she was asked by an interviewer about her five-year plan. Her response: “Hopefully, I’m not dead by then.”

Despite her family’s worries, Carol says she’s fine just the way she is. She has a list of priorities, and making a family is not one of them. Instead, she has chosen to take things day by day, and works in F&B, believing that staying away from stressful, toxic office environments will help to protect her mental health.

And in the face of a world that is ending, keeping herself happy is what’s most important – long-term financial goals be damned.

“It’s getting hotter and hotter,” Carol went on. “Don’t people think of the future? Will Earth still be around? Do people realise that in fifty years, the earth might not be around – that we’d be dead by then?”

Amid these gripes and beliefs, it was hard not to think that perhaps it was just the millennials and younger Gen X’ers that were more jaded and cynical with age. So I asked a couple of people who were slightly younger – only coming of age into adulthood at 21.

Ashe, 21, an intern for NewCampus, has already gone through two internships. Yet she is still undecided on a solid career path.

She confided, “The indecision is partly because of the state of things right now. I think I might bum around for 10 years before the world really goes to shit.”

“I don’t know if I can save for retirement, or live to retire. People aren’t even taking climate change and saving the environment seriously,” she went on, recounting the time she attempted to dig up a quantifiable number for environment-saving efforts, only to repeatedly hit dead ends. No one had an answer for her.

“How do we know we can reverse things like climate change, then?”

Alarmingly, everybody I talked to seemed to have taken a healthy dose of pessimism.

Digging deeper

But my line of questioning begged the next question: what if shit doesn’t actually happen? And so I posed this thought to the people I’d spoken to.

As it turned out, most of them told me that they still had retirement funds in the works. Sarah revealed that she worked at saving and investing for the future.

So I’d caught them, then – they don’t actually believe in what they just said. They have hope!

“Not exactly,” Sarah said. “I just don’t have hope for a smooth retirement, considering what’s happening in the world. I just don’t want to take any chances.”

Doomed to fate – or maybe not

That is probably the wisest thing to do. If we take a step back and wrack our brains a little, we’ll remember that several clarion calls of the end of the world have since come and gone. In the 20th century alone, 63 predictions of the end times were made. These predictions, have of course, not aged well.

Many of these predictions were made by religious folk. In fact, we can borrow an argument from them, called Pascal’s wager, that rationalizes why one should logically believe in divinity. But instead, let’s modify it to speak of retirement planning.

“If god retirement does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas he stands to receive infinite gains (as represented by heaven a nice retirement) and avoid infinite losses (an eternity in hell working at McDonald’s).”

It’s almost the same thing, really.

So while a meteor hitting earth might be an attractive retirement plan for some, it’s best to figure out how much you need to retire, if not, a less attractive fate certainly awaits.