Sunday 7 July 2013

Why are you still driving a taxi at age 73?

Johnny, a 73 years old Singaporean Cabby.

“Johnny, why are you still driving a taxi at age 73.” I asked bluntly

“Why not!. Healthwise, I’m ok. Do you want me to stare at four great walls that surround me, daily”, Johnny answered jocularly with reference to aTom Jone’s song.

At 18, Johnny joined the Singapore Police Force with a secondary two education and retired at 45 as a detective sergeant. After 27 years of police work and upon retirement, he took up cab driving in 1985 as he had no commercially marketable skills. Today, he still drives a cab at age 73, a 28 years driving carrier.

While in the police force, he, fortunately, made the right decision in choosing the Pension Scheme instead of the CPF Scheme. Now,  he receives from the Pension Scheme about $1,500 monthly plus free medical benefits for himself and his family till his death. If he had chosen the CPF scheme, his retirement fund would have been lockup with a token sum of about $500 monthly from a CPF Life Insurance Scheme and no medical benefits whatsoever.

In addition to the $15oo from his Pension Scheme, he gets about $1,000 “pocket money” from his five grown-up children. His 4 room flat is fully paid and he has no major financial commitments. Therefore, by all accounts, Johnny is financially comfortable and should not have to drive a cab at his ripe age of 73, right?

Given Johnny's stable financial position, I was initially intrigued by his decisions to continue driving a cab even at age 73 but on further probing, I discovered that Johnny was, in essence, a product of LKY’s relentless indoctrination of the right work ethics and anti-welfare agenda.

LKY  said “You work as long as you can work and you will be healthier and happier for it. If you ask me to stop working all of a sudden, I think I’ll just shrivel up, face the wall and just that,” he said.

On another occasion, he said “Government subsidies on consumption are wrong and ruinous…for however wealthy a nation, it cannot carry health, unemployment and pension benefits without massive taxation and overloading the system, reducing the incentives to work and to save and care for one’s family—when all can look to the state for welfare”. 

From these two LKY’s quotes, I simply rationalized that LKY subtly encourages his people to work as long as possible so that our government’s coffer is not ruined by unemployment and pension benefits.. However, though I’m a non-admirer of LKY, his preaching that one should work as long as one is able holds some truth.

Many bloggers have written excellent posts on why elderly Singaporean had to slog for a living in this 6th most expensive country in the world. But for this post, I would like to expound on the benefits of work after retirement on a personal level and not why Singaporean had to work after retirement due to social and economic factors or government policies.

Over a coffee talk with my taxi buddies, the subject of how we pass time when we cannot drive cab surfaces. It was agreed by some that it will indeed be very worrisome and fearful to sit or lie and desire for time to speed away when you have nothing to do. I can understand how some of our wheel-chaired or "retired" buddies feel right now. They are in the state that I might find myself in the not too distance future. Some have no interest in television, reading, or simple pastime like chess, singing and enjoying listening to music.

Being filled with time you cannot use when you are old is quite frightening. We never worry over too much time when we are young. Rather we wish for more time as we have so much to do.  We need time to complete our school work or jobs. And we certainly want more time to discover life and enjoy ourselves more and more. Hadn't we all wished once upon a time that there are more than 24 hours in a day? For some elderly people especially bedridden or invalid they actually wish for less.

But time is the same throughout life. The perception of having more or less time comes from our awareness of its passage. Albert Einstein in explaining his theory of relativity used the illustration of how fast our time passes in the company of someone we love but the opposite when we dislike doing something. He said, “When you sit on a hot stove for two minutes, it feels like two hours. But, when you sit with a nice girl for two hours, it feels like two minutes. That's relativity!”

I know why many older people are grouchy, difficult, attention seeking, hypochondriac, or just sleep and sleep. In their own ways, they are trying to use up their daily quota of time. That's because they don't have interests to keep themselves occupied. That's the reason why they ask, sometimes demand that friends and families visit and talk with them often. They are using others to help them pass time.

I am poor at 65 but better off than many older people. I drive a cab to pass my time productively and I am not bored with too much time. Fortunately I am not a physically active person, indulging more in sedentary activities like blogging, singing, listening to music and watching the world go by. My Internet is my window to life beyond my house. That I confess makes me exceedingly glad to be growing old now. To be a recipient of real-time global connectivity and enjoy all the privileges of knowledge, opinions, images and videos, social networking and various interests the Net offer.

Now, Johnny still drives a cab at 73 because that’s the only way he knows how to pass his time and not to be bored to an early death within the four great walls of his flat. He had spent almost his entire life working and surely he would just shrivel up like LKY if he stops working suddenly. 

Sadly, Johnny also has a “sinful” indulgence ---buy 4D…a lot. So, needless to say, he needs to drive to get that "extra $$" for his 4D addiction.


Anonymous said...

LKY said “You work as long as you can work and you will be healthier and happier for it. If you ask me to stop ........

Wat a hypocrite! With luxuries n people at his beck n call, talk is easy.
Seriously after 55, we must slow down n enjoy the fruits of our labour. Our senior citizens deserves better that this.
Some ministers said our senior citizens do not want to accept handouts. Ofcourse they wont since the elites/ministers are a shameless lot.
Hv u ever been in a taxi driven by someone over 60? I hv n its a huge difference my friends. I just leave my fate unto God's hands. Those elites will be questioned in the afterlife.

WB said...

This is an interesting post but sends the wrong message. That message is that if you are retired, you will shrivel up, face the four walls, have nothing to do and just wait for death, if you do not work even if you are financially independent.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In life, everything has a season. In our childhood days, we enjoyed our lives as children do. We study hard to excel in school in our teens and adult life so that we can have a good career later. Having secured a good job, we married, raised kids, see them properly educated and the next cycle of life develops. There are many things in life we want to do but were unable to because we were too busy bringing up our children and earning a decent income to put food on the table and shelter over our heads.

In our twilight years, to work when you don't need to is to say the least silly. There are countless books we wanted to read but didn't find the time. There are concerts to go to, countries to explore, people to meet and even if time and money permits, a romantic fling or two isn't asking too much. All of which takes time and you wouldn't be able to do it if you had to drive a taxi for more than 8 hours a day. You may not even have the desire or energy to want to do the things you like most if you had to spend a big chunk of the day negotiating heavy traffic, competing for fares, brave rain and sun and God forbid encounter the unreasonable fare who would cause violence against you. No way!

So to say that if you are healthy and financially independent and you still have to work, I think I like to take it with a spoonful of salt before I believe it.

People who needs to work mostly have to do it for the money and that is the truth.

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Hi WB,

Thanks for your honest comments.

I totally agreed with what you've written. Frankly, I don't want to be like my buddy, Johnny. I hope to be able to do all those things you've written in a year or two.

My motto in life is : Earn more, spend more. Earn less, spend less.
Spend with what I've and be happy.
James Lim

Anonymous said...


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Anonymous said...

The old man is power crazy. And of course he don't retired. Good food good salary and prima donna existence.

Anonymous said...

Ideally, work for a fulfilling life, work to make good use time.
Unfortunately, work to survive. Yet, more spurs in your hide.

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

The editor of TRE (TR Emeritus) commented that:

"At an old age, if one has to work, it ought to be for the reason “one lives to work rather than one works to live”. This is indeed very much like what Johnny is going through now, living to work with a nice welfare support from the Govt at $1,500 pension benefits per month plus free medicals. So, Johnny should be thankful that he has welfare."

Pension was a legacy of the British colonial master and was removed almost immediately when PAP came to power and replaced by CPF. However, Ministers pension was scraped only recently. Is this fair?

Gintai_昇泰 said...

Excellent post.

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Hi. Gintai,

Thanks for your wonderful compliment. I miss you. When are you coming out from your "hibernation".

Do you know you're my favorite celebrity blogger at

I miss all your excellent writing and insight thoughts!

Hope to see you in cyberspace soon.

Take care behind the train. Good Luck. God Bless You.

Unknown said...

Hi, My daughter will be starting her preschool next year and i am looking for a responsible taxi driver to ferry her and my helper from thomson to novena every morning and back thomson in the noon. Can you pls help advise if you can recommend any of your taxi buddies.


Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Hi, Fion,

I'll pass your request to Comfort as most of my buddies stay in western part of S'pore.

Honestly, the chances of getting a driver meet your request is very slim because most drivers do not like to be tired down to a fixed trip.


TaxiTaxiSG said...

Excellent bit of writing. We agree. There was this taxi uncle we spoke to recently, driving a taxi for 30 years. Gone are the days where taxi rentals are a mere 10 dollars.

Anyway, he's quite elderly but clearly very spritely still, wakes up early enough just to hit streets 8 or 9am. He says, even as the traffic got worse the last few years, he enjoys his job.

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William said...

Johnny is my relief driver and he is living happily everyday. He does not need to drive the twelve hour shift like others. Basically he drove about 4-5hours a day to kill time in the weekdays. And he "own" the taxi in the weekend where he can bring his family out, especially his grandson while cover a bit of rental in the evening.

He does not have any pressure in becoming my relief as the "taxi sharing scheme" is one that I design to suit both our needs.

To get more taxi on the road, this scheme should introduce to all taxi companies who face shortage of taxi driver on the weekend.

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Hi, William

You forgot to mention that he drives 4/5 hours on weekdays WITHOUT having to pay any rental to you. It's free.

Only on Sat & Sun, he "own" the taxi by paying you the full rental of $105/day. Basically, you let him drives when you're not driving. Good scheme.

Linda said...

I see no problem with someone 73 still working...if that is what they want to do! Health and happiness are the most important. You have a nice blog.

PSS said...

@ Linda 16 Jul 2013 10:52

"I see no problem with someone 73 still working...if that is what they want to do! Health and happiness are the most important."

I tend to agree with what you wrote.

PSS - ProSustainableSg

Anonymous said...

I will also not retire if I'm paid millions for doing nothing. What a senile joker he is!

Kim said...

I was in shanghai recently.
A tour bus driver said the Singapore Govt treat our seniors shabbily compare to China's. In China, the taxi drivers are all young ones, not senior citizens.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

your 2nd painkiller will not work... u think LTA so free meh....

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