You know how sometimes you get a mosquito bite and you just can’t stop scratching it? Especially if it’s on the heel of your foot? Even when you draw a little blood, you just keep scratching because that itch is all you can think about?
That’s kind of like the obsession I’m currently having. From the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep, it’s all I can think about. All day, it sits there at the back of my head, irritating and nagging me.
For once, I’m not obsessing about ‘24’. (For those of you who came in late, I’m currently on a box-set binge. I started with episode one of season one and I’ve just not been able to stop watching. As we speak, I’m a quarter of the way through season seven. Then I have one more season to go and I can claim my sanity, life and eyesight back.)
So, the other thing that’s obsessing me right now is just when can I retire?
In my parents’ time, you started work in your early twenties and you basically stayed with that firm, growing noticeably older in the mirror with each passing year. Forty years later, you retired with a gold Rolex and a big office party. Then you went home and spent the next twenty years of your life progressing from mahjong and babysitting the grandchildren to adult nappies and a walking frame.
I’m not sure that’s exactly how I want the script for my life to read, but I know with absolute certainty that it’s not this.
“But how?” was Saffy’s question when I announced at lunch that I wanted to retire early. “We need lots of money in order to retire early!”
I paused. “Uhm…‘we’?”
Saffy’s breasts inflated. “Well, you certainly don’t expect to leave me rotting all alone in this flat, do you, while you swan off into the sunset with your CPF?” she demanded. “I’m coming with you!”
Barney Chen looked up from his plate of chicken rice. “I’m coming with you, too. I think I’m going to be doing drag shows till I’m eighty-five. I can barely afford a tube of eyeliner these days.” He paused as his thick eyebrows knitted together. “It’s so depressing.”
Amanda looked gloomy. “Just think of all the money we’ve spent on rent over the years. I could have bought so many Louis Vuitton bags!”
“You’re a lawyer, Amanda!” Saffy snapped. “You make more money each month than Jason and me combined!”
Amanda bristled. “Excuse me, but do you think it’s cheap to step out the door each day looking the way I do? I have a lot of expenses!”
“Imagine if you also had to factor in fake eyelashes, glitter, wigs and sequins!” Barney growled.
When my parents were my age, they’d already had their three children and a big house with two cars parked in the driveway. My father was president of his company and my mother was well on her way to becoming a champion mahjong player. There was enough savings to put each of us through school and plenty left over for family vacations. Retirement, though still decades away, was a rosy glow in the distance.
As Amanda pointed out, these days, we’re lucky if we manage to make our rent payment on time.
“How did our parents do it?” she wondered as she sipped a glass of chablis. “I don’t even think I could afford to buy car let alone an HDB flat! Everything is just so expensive!”
Leave it to Sharyn to put things into perspective. “Aiyah, must ma-lly, first! Don’t ma-lly, cannot buy HDB! But first, hor, must have boyfriend. Don’t have boyfriend, cannot ma-lly!” She stared owlishly at Amanda who later said that Sharyn had just shot to the top of her list of People to Push Down the Stairs.
These days, every spare moment we have, we stare at our bank statements and obsess. Saffy says she can’t believe that after all these years of working, she has saved just enough money to buy a purse from G2000. “Last season’s!” she clarifies.
Of course, it doesn’t help that according to www.globalrichlist.com, she’s among the world’s richest 1%. “Whoever came up with this list sure doesn’t live in Singapore!” she shouted when her number came up.
Meanwhile, Amanda says she has saved up enough to buy a three-storey mansion in Angola.
“Where’s that?” Saffy asked this morning.
“It’s in Africa. Where they have all those bloody civil wars!”
Me, I’ve probably got just enough money to buy a book on how to retire early.