SINGAPORE (Oct 23): Noreen Wee has been working with Prudential Singapore for 18 years as a lead writer in policy contracts. Now 62 years old, she was set to retire in December this year. But Wee is happy to hear that she can now continue working at the insurance firm – with the same wages and benefits as before.

Prudential Singapore announced Tuesday it has scrapped the retirement age for its employees. In a first for a financial institution in Singapore, the move will give Prudential’s 1,100 employees here – including Wee – the option of working beyond the statutory retirement age of 62.

See: Who wants to live to 100?

“I’m pleasantly surprised to hear about the change in the retirement policy as I want to stay on and continue working in Prudential for as long as I can. What makes it better is that I won’t get a pay cut and will continue to enjoy the same employee benefits as before,” says Wee.

According to Prudential Singapore CEO Wilf Blackburn, the company recognised that retirement at 62 may no longer make sense for an ageing population that has an average lifespan of 83.1 years and which is edging towards 100.

“If we stop work at 62, we are looking at nearly 40 years of retirement if we live to 100. Such a long retirement period may pose financial challenges should you outlive your savings. A prolonged period of inactivity may also lead to health and social problems,” says Blackburn.

“With this in mind, we decided to scrap the retirement age so that our employees can continue to work in Prudential for as long as they are able to perform their jobs well. We want to empower them to decide when they want to retire, or if they wish to retire at all, rather than specify a work expiry date,” he adds.

Prudential’s new retirement policy, which came into effect on Oct 1, was introduced on the back of its Ready for 100 report launched last month, which explores the readiness and aspirations of Singapore residents to live to 100.

See: Live to 100? No thanks, say Singaporeans

The report revealed that more than half of Singapore residents were not financially ready to live to 100 years of age. This is despite Singaporeans being ardent savers and having strong safety nets in the country’s Central Provident Fund (CPF).

Additionally, the report showed that most Singapore residents, in fact, do want to continue working. Only 4% of the 1,214 respondents surveyed indicated they want to retire as soon as possible. Meanwhile, close to two-thirds of those aged 55-64 said they still enjoy their work.

Prudential’s latest move to eliminate the retirement age is in line with Singapore’s ambition to leverage its rapidly-ageing workforce. In May this year, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo announced the formation of a new work group with high-level representatives from the unions, businesses and the government to address older workers' retirement and re-employment age, and review the longer-term relevance of these policies.

“There is a lot that businesses can gain by tapping on the experience and knowledge of the more mature employees. At Prudential, we see this group of employees as valuable assets and are committed to support them in extending their productive years by offering them re-skilling opportunities and flexible work schedules as we scrap the retirement age,” says Blackburn.

“To retire at 62 is really too young as I’m still healthy and know that I can still contribute to the company. More importantly, I want to have the choice to retire at any age and not be forced to stop working simply because I’m 62. After all, age is but a number,” Wee adds.