By Rajen Devadason

W-O-R-K. To some it’s a four-letter word of the worst kind!

I understand…

About 30 years ago, soon after graduating, I was a trainee chartered accountant for KPMG in Basingstoke, England. Once the relief of securing a work permit passed, and after being on the job for just a few months, I awoke each workday morning with my stomach in knots.

It had dawned on me there was a Grand Canyon-like chasm between the realities of the job I had strived to secure and the specific contours of the life I desired.

So, less than a year after starting (around mid-1989), I mustered the courage to resign. It then felt as though a metaphoric boulder had rolled off my soul. After leaving KPMG, then the largest accounting firm in the world, I secured a short-term, much happier stint as a technical writer for Wellcome Biotech in England’s beautiful Garden County of Kent.

A few months later, 36 hours before my original work permit expired, I flew home from Heathrow Airport.

What followed in Malaysia was a series of jobs in business journalism and investment analysis that slowly morphed into today’s financial planning practice that helps people fund their eventual retirements.

I was fortunate to make that transition from a job I was constitutionally unsuited to while in my mid-20s.

Since then, I have met older people who detested their jobs, yet felt trapped in them. Often, they yearned for eventual retirement with a potent blend of anticipation and trepidation because they craved to stop working but feared running out of money during retirement.

Retirement Realities

In the old days, the official retirement age (ORA) in Malaysia was 55. I’m glad that’s no longer true because:

  1. I now love my work; and
  2. As I write this, I am 54 and ¼ years old!

In the Malaysian public sector, the official retirement age or ORA crept up in stages starting in 2001 to 56; then in 2008 to 58; and in 2012 to 60.

As those public sector changes occurred, Malaysia’s private sector bided its time, watching and waiting. Then in one fell swoop, on July 1, 2013, the Minimum Retirement Age Act 2012 was passed and the private sector caught up with the public sector.

While this important legislation is called the Minimum Retirement Age Act, what I have observed in many companies over the last five years is immediate termination of most employees the moment they reach 60. Contract extensions are becoming increasingly rare.

For those who have endured jobs they grew to hate over decades, such a cold-blooded stance by employers is welcomed. But for those, like me, who have been fortunate enough to craft a career they love, losing a major reason for joy because a round-figure birthday is celebrated would be tragic. Unless…

How to work longer

… those who love their work crack the code on how to stay employable and employed way past whatever ORA applies to them. Even though Malaysia’s ORA is now 60, most countries have set their ORAs beyond ours to between 62 and 68.

Furthermore, global demography suggests every country’s ORA is set to rise throughout the 21st century because of the greying of humanity.

In this era of lengthening lifespans, often into the 80s and 90s, and when the fastest growing demographic slice of humanity is the centenarian (100+) group, it is easy to comprehend why the biggest risk in personal retirement is longevity risk. Too many of us have a high probability of running out of retirement funds before we run out of breath – permanently.

So, working longer for active income in the form of a salary or for personal business profits is beneficial to employees and business owners.

For conventional employees who work for a salary derived from a business owned by others, the best way to stay relevant and needed by your bosses is growing so outstanding at your job that it would take, say, five younger people to inadequately replace you! It would be better if in addition to being practically irreplaceable through sheer excellence, you also love what you do.

Admittedly though, it’s easier to keep working for money if we are ensconced in the driver’s seat.

Translation: Those who are self-employed or who control the companies or businesses providing them with a livelihood may keep working for as long as their bodies and minds hold out and for as long as their customers and clients desire their services.

My father, who passed away more than a decade ago on April 4, 2008, kept working successfully as a lawyer till just past his 85th birthday in late 2007.

Regardless of whether you’re a conventional employee or an owner of a business, two factors – excellence or competence and love or passion – must be present if your goal is to keep working a long time. Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize winning novelist Pearl S. Buck once observed, “The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.”

From a Christian perspective, there is much in the Bible that reinforces Buck’s viewpoint. For instance, Apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians made it clear that regardless of what our jobs may be and who our earthly masters are, ultimately we are to work diligently and with integrity for Jesus our Lord. (Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…”)

American civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., best describes the way each of us should live out our vocation:

“…if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well’.”

Rev. King’s main point wasn’t sweeping streets excellently, even though that is an important job; he advocated aspiring to world class excellence.

Someone else who understood this was technology icon Steve Jobs. Before his death from pancreatic cancer in October 2011, Jobs said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Loving our jobs and setting sheer excellence as our goal are not always easy. Thankfully, the Bible makes it clear that Jesus is alive and eager to help us through life’s rough – and roughest – patches. (Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”)

We would be unwise to not covet His help.

© 2018 Rajen Devadason

Rajen Devadason, CFP, is a Licensed Financial Planner, professional speaker and author. Read his free articles at; he may be connected with on LinkedIn at, You may follow him on Twitter @RajenDevadason

My Work My Joy


by Rob Parsons

Is success an illusion? Is it possible to carve a thriving business career and still have a life? Over a series of memorable evenings, a retired professor shares seven principles to turn life around. This book spills the secrets to achieving a balanced life.

Normal Price: RM36.90

For Asian Beacon readers: RM29.50

Offer expires on 31 December 2018. While stocks last.


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Asian Beacon: Oct – Dec 2018 (Vol 50 #4, p40-41)

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