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5 Sep 2023


Influencer and entrepreneur Ms Ong Bee Yan

What does retirement mean to you? For some, it means no longer needing to work. For others, it’s a time to pursue hobbies and passions that they couldn’t make time for while they were working.


For Ms Ong Bee Yan, retirement is certainly no time to slow down. Instead, she uses her time not only to improve her physical and mental wellness, but also to actively contribute back to society. We spoke to her on how she has made these all possible, as well as how she approaches life and retirement in general.

A purposeful retirement

Bee Yan defines a purposeful retirement rather simply – living a contented and active lifestyle, and one that’s meaningful and engaging.


To many retirees, being contented is not easy. Some worry about the uncertainties of retirement, while others face family, financial and personal challenges. So how can retirees be contented? Bee Yan suggests that a good place to start is our own mindset – we should not always compare ourselves with others. Next is to be more self-reliant, and build up a sense of independence, be it financially, physically or mentally.


“I keep myself financially independent, so I don’t have to rely on my children for allowance. I also don’t require them to take care of me, as I keep myself physically active via regular exercise and eating healthily,” she said.


In addition, Bee Yan plans many activities to keep herself mentally independent. For example, she has an entrepreneurial spirit, and used to manage her own cold-brew coffee business with her husband. Not only did this provide a source of income in her retirement, it also kept her mentally engaged and active. Coupled with managing her Instagram account, which she updates frequently to encourage other seniors to live out their best lives in retirement, she certainly is leading a purposeful retirement!


“Having a purposeful retirement also involves staying relevant to society, and contributing back to it through donations, charity work, and empowering others,” shared Bee Yan, adding that in helping others, we can all play our part as a community.

Entrepreneur Ms Ong Bee Yan

Never too late to upgrade or learn

When it comes to life, few things are as unforgiving as the passage of time. As time passes, we might find our perception of ourselves changing as well. While change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s important not to lose sight of your inherent value.


Bee Yan notices that as one grows older, there is a tendency to become more and more ‘invisible’ to society. For seniors, there are also certain expectations of them which are defined by the society, such as being the ones to look after their grandchildren. These expectations can also be reinforced by the seniors themselves.


The fact is, there aren’t any fixed ‘roles’ awaiting anyone in life, much less in retirement. One perspective that Bee Yan advocates is for seniors to recognise that they are still more than capable of doing anything they put their mind to. Age is not a limiting factor!


“Contrary to what one may think, it’s never too late to upgrade your skills or learn a new one,” she stressed. As an advocate of lifelong learning, Bee Yan puts this mindset into practice by leveraging initiatives such as SkillsFuture for self-improvement. Just this year, she has used SkillsFuture to apply for courses on English proficiency, so as to write better posts for her social media channels.

Planning ahead to be financially independent

For the younger generation, Bee Yan has an important piece of advice, which is to start thinking early about how you want to live your life when you retire? If you wish to be financially independent, ask yourself how you plan to achieve that. One straightforward way is through savings, with regular top-ups to your CPF accounts where the compound interest can make a significant difference. “The earlier you start, the more years CPF’s interest rates can ‘work its magic’ to grow your savings,” she quipped.


For Bee Yan herself, she started saving early, from the day she received her first pay cheque. Every time she received her pay cheque, she would set aside 10% to 15% of it for savings, and she would not touch this amount no matter what. She also topped up her CPF accounts regularly, and her retirement funds grew swiftly over the years.

Persevere to tackle setbacks

When Bee Yan ran her cold-brew coffee business, things weren’t always smooth sailing. In the beginning, she and her husband operated the business from home due to the prevalence of home businesses like home bakers then. However, three years in, the authorities caught wind of her flourishing business and told her that such operations were not allowed, and the business had to stop. Instead of feeling dejected, Bee Yan sought the advice of her friends and gained confidence from their words: “if you can run your business from home well for 3 years, you must have done something right, so why not give it another try?”


And so, she and her husband started looking for a space that they could run their cold-brew coffee business from. But just as they had found a suitable space, another setback in the form of COVID-19 came about, and threatened to stall their business yet again. However, COVID-19 turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as online sales went up as a result.


As inspirational as this is, Bee Yan’s success would not have been possible had it not been for her perseverance. To her, it’s only by picking yourself back up that you can stand strong against life’s whimsical challenges, and emerge victorious at the end of it all. And this is especially true in your retirement years when you have the option of just giving up and doing nothing at all.

Influencer Ms Ong Bee Yan

Preparing for retirement

When one approaches their 50s, retirement is no longer something distant. Even if you have actively prepared for it up till this stage, this is a turning point where you look at it more seriously and consider what your retirement lifestyle would be like.


For Bee Yan, she set up four major goals for her retirement life: managing her Instagram account, having work engagements such as modelling as a form of passive income, managing her capsule wardrobe collection (a small collection of clothes that can be put together in different ways to form different looks) in collaboration with Yacht 21, and organising charity events such as Fashion for Cancer 2023. All these stem from her own goals of achieving independence, as well as her passion for inspiring others and giving back to the community.


"As a parent, it’s important to share with your children your retirement plan and goals, so that they are aware and you won’t have to compromise your desired retirement lifestyle,” she said, reiterating that it’s important for retirees to plan for themselves first, before thinking about how they can support their children in one way or another.

Your legacy to your children

As parents, it’s normal to always worry about your children, regardless of their age. For some, they might even feel an obligation to leave as much money as possible for their children after their passing, to ensure that they continue to be taken care of. While this is understandable, it is equally important to recognise your own needs and wants as an individual as well.


For Bee Yan, legacy is more about the values she has imparted to her children, rather than the money left behind, “which is a good-to-have”. For example, she had developed her children’s money management ability early on by helping them set up their savings accounts at a young age, and teaching them how to spend prudently. She would consciously set aside their Chinese New Year red packet money and other monetary gifts into their savings accounts for them. This way, the good habit of saving is instilled in them.


Today, all her children can manage their finances well on their own, and do not rely on her. When it comes to spending money in retirement, Bee Yan believes it’s okay to spend on the things that bring you joy. “Should you really want something, just go for it! Of course, this doesn’t mean not watching your spendings at all, as it’s always important to consider if you really need an item and your budget, before you buy something,” she said.


Retirement is the time to relax, not fret. With a proper retirement plan in place, you can ensure that both your and your children’s needs are well taken care of, without having to compromise your desired retirement lifestyle. After all, it’s your retirement, so you should get to enjoy it!

The information provided in this article is accurate as of the date of publication.