Hwangap: Planning your retirement the Korean way

If you’re approaching retirement, then you may be both excited and nervous about the next stage of your life.

It’s only natural that you may be looking forward to giving up work, but anxious about losing your employment income. So, could adopting a tradition that is common across East Asia help you to focus on what comes next?

Hwangap – planning your retirement the Korean way

In Korea, Hwangap is a traditional way of celebrating your 60th birthday. Known as ‘Kanreki’ in Japan and ‘Jiazi’ in China, it is a symbolic step where you enter a new phase of life.

Using the traditional 60-year cycle of the lunar calendar, reaching your 60th birthday means that you complete one 60-year cycle and begin a brand-new cycle. Reaching this milestone means that you are ‘born again’ and can start anew.

In Japan, Kanreki involves a ceremony where the person celebrating their 60th birthday sits on a red cushion wearing a red vest and hat (the red symbolises youth, celebration and reflects being born again in Japanese culture) – perfect if you’re planning your retirement.

In the past, when life expectancy was much lower than it is today, Hwangap was also a celebration of a long life. The celebration is typically prepared by the children of the person turning 60 and involves a big party with plenty of food and drink.

Time to reflect on the past and think about the future

By tradition, Hwangap and Kanreki are a time to reflect. The celebrant looks back on his/her five trips through the zodiac, weighs their achievements against missteps, and then plots a fresh course for a new beginning.

The traditional questions are:

  • What to build on?
  • What to leave behind?

Learning from mistakes you have made in the past can stand you in good stead for the future. And, focusing on the financial lessons you have learned can help you to get more from your retirement.

When you’re planning for your retirement, your thinking should be about much more than ‘Will I have enough money?’ It’s an ideal opportunity for you to think about questions such as:

  • What is important to me?
  • What do I want to do in my retirement?
  • What am I looking forward to?

Once you have established what your goals and aspirations are, you can start looking at how your retirement provisions can be used to help you achieve them.

While retirement goals often focus on the short term – you may want to travel or buy a new car – planning your new beginning should look further ahead. You’ll need to consider how your day-to-day life in retirement will look, and what you’d like to do in the future. This might include helping your children onto the property ladder or planning the transfer of inter-generational wealth.

Only by thinking about how you want to spend your retirement will your financial planner be able to help you come up with a plan for how you will fund these years.

How ‘ikigai’ can help you to enjoy a long retirement

Another factor to consider as you’re approaching Hwangap is how you can ensure that you enjoy a long retirement.

Another East Asian concept to consider here is that of ‘ikigai’. In Japan, ikigai means building purpose into your life, which is critical if you want to keep active after you retire.

In her book, Extra Time, David Cameron’s former policy director and crossbench member of the House of Lords, Camilla Cavendish, sets out some suggestions for how you can get more out of your retirement.

As well as ‘ikigai’ – having a purpose – she suggests:

  • Realising how much ‘extra time’ you could have. Most people base their guesses of their life expectancy on their parents and grandparents – often leading to wild underestimates.
  • Maintaining relationships. With strong social connections, you can live a happier, longer and physically healthier life.
  • Don’t give up your day job. Older people are typically much more capable than they, or many employers, believe. Older workers’ skills that look redundant in one place can be valuable somewhere else.

Inter-generational planning

In east Asia, Hwangap or Kanreki also signifies a changing of the guard. Fathers have traditionally stepped aside and let the first son run the family business, while mothers passed the rice paddle — baton-like — to their daughters-in-law.

Whether you plan to hand over the reins of the family business or not, this approach is still relevant to modern retirees. Setting out your estate plan should be considered a priority.

It might not be in keeping with the celebratory feel of Hwangap, but it is important. As you prepare for retirement taking steps such as updating your will and Power of Attorney are key, as is considering whether your estate will be liable for Inheritance Tax.

Get in touch

If you’re planning your retirement, whether you are approaching or past Hwangap, please get in touch. We can help you to get the most out of the next stage of your life – perhaps for the next 60 years or more!

Email or call us on 01454 416653.

What do our clients have to say?