Ex-GIC Head’s Retirement Model: What You Need to Know about it [Chills 170 ft Ashok Samuel]

Retirement Unfiltered: Ashok’s Candid Journey to His “Happiest Years”

In the latest episode of the popular “Chills with TFC” podcast, host Reggie sits down for an unfiltered conversation about retirement with his guest Ashok, a former private equity veteran at Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC. What unfolds is a refreshingly candid discussion that pulls back the curtain on the realities of retirement from the corporate grind.


Ashok Samuel – A retired Former GIC Head, with 30 years of experience, known for his work in private equity risk.

Retirement: A Liberating Identity:

Ashok introduces himself as a retired individual, emphasizing the liberating nature of not having to define oneself by a profession. He humorously mentions that when people ask what he does, his response is simply “nothing.” This shift in identity brings a sense of freedom and allows him to explore life beyond the confines of a career.

Journey into the Financial Services Industry:

Ashok shares his journey into the financial services industry, explaining that he was initially drawn to the field due to his comfort with numbers and his engineering background. Although private equity was not as popular during his early days, he stumbled into the industry and discovered a genuine liking for it. Ashok fondly reminisces about his colleagues and the joy he found in his work, which spanned three decades.

Transition to Singapore and GIC:

Ashok discusses his transition to Singapore, highlighting a challenging period when he decided to leave his previous employer. Joining GIC, a local sovereign wealth fund, marked the beginning of his 22-year tenure with the organization. He worked in GIC’s private equity business, where he made investments and later took on strategic, risk, and HR-related roles. Ashok’s professional journey in GIC was a significant part of his career.

From Finance to Freedom:

Ashok’s journey to retirement began with a realization: he wasn’t cut out for the relentless climb up the corporate ladder. Instead of fighting against his strengths, he embraced them, focusing on his passions and building a fulfilling life outside of work. This decision, made seven years before his actual retirement, allowed him to meticulously plan and curate a post-career life filled with activities and pursuits that brought him genuine happiness.

The Journey to Retirement:

Ashok shares how he “stumbled into” the then-nascent private equity industry in 1990s India simply because he was “comfortable with numbers” and looking for an engineering-meets-finance career path. After 8 years at his first firm, an integrity clash prompted a move to GIC in 1998 where he spent the next 22 years.

As the years rolled on, Ashok realized his colleagues were progressing faster on the corporate ladder. A pivotal moment came in 2003 when he had an honest reckoning:

“I figured out at one point that my colleagues were smarter than me. They were more hardworking than me and they were more motivated than me. So they were going to go up faster than me.”

This sobering realization became oddly “one of the best things that happened” to Ashok. It freed him to redefine success on his own terms beyond an endless trudge up the corporate rungs. By 2007, he was “completely comfortable” with his lack of career progress in that conventional sense.

Planning the Next Phase:

With his attitude reset, Ashok began intentionally planning his post-FI life over 7 years out from his 2019 retirement. He gave years of heads-up to GIC, who helped facilitate some of his retirement objectives.

One major realization? The common media narrative pushing incessant work toward corporate ascendancy, and consumption of more stuff, experiences and money wasn’t for him:

“Once you kind of break out of those shackles, you actually see there’s so many other things happening in life around us…Money is a tool. So as long as it’s working for you, it’s fine.”

With that mindset, Ashok aimed to build a “portfolio” of interests and activities to occupy his time in retirement — not just consuming more leisure.

Challenging the Corporate Narrative:

Ashok challenges the societal narrative that defines success solely based on climbing the corporate ladder. He emphasises that life encompasses much more than a linear career progression. Breaking free from this mindset allows individuals to discover alternative paths and prioritise personal fulfillment over materialistic pursuits. Ashok encourages listeners to view money as a tool rather than the ultimate goal.

Embracing a Multifaceted Retirement:

Ashok shares his philosophy on retirement, emphasizing the importance of creating a diverse portfolio of activities and experiences. He suggests that individuals determine the amount of money they truly need, beyond which they can explore their passions and interests. Ashok believes in pursuing a range of endeavors before health or time limitations hinder the ability to do so.

The Retirement Reality

So how has reality matched up with the plan? According to Ashok, better than expected in many ways. He outlined the major pillars of his days:

⭐ Reading 2 hours daily
⭐ Socialising 2-3 hours – meeting friends, former colleagues
⭐ Teaching & prep work 1-2 hours
⭐ Fitness like walking and badminton 2 hours

But it’s not all lesiurely hobby-filling. Part of Ashok’s week involves “working” activities he tried but didn’t pan out as hoped, like editing for an edgy book publisher and government policy work.

The biggest surprise? Despite all the intentional planning, some of Ashok’s most cherished activities like teaching came out of happenstance: “I stumbled into teaching post retirement. I find that’s absolutely brilliant. I love it.”

Crucially, Ashok notes a major adjustment was giving his wife daily “space” by getting out of the house solo each morning. This stemmed from advice that abrupt togetherness can strain some marriages post-retirement.

Finding Your Path:

Ashok’s retirement journey is a testament to the power of self-discovery and intentional planning. He encourages individuals to start planning early, even if their financial situation isn’t ideal. By focusing on building a life you truly want to live, the financial aspect will eventually fall into place.

The Happiest Years:

Looking back at his journey, Ashok calls his retired life “the happiest years” — even happier than the professional joys of his GIC career.

His candid insights offer a refreshingly transparent window into the reality of retirement from an upper eccleston of society. From honest struggles with lifestyle expectations to thoughtful architecting of a purposeful next phase, Ashok’s story inspires readers to plan zealously yet remain open to possibilities.

For those pursuing the entrepreneurial dream of financial independence, episodes like this can be a welcome compass for navigating life’s “What’s next?” Embracing a portfolio of interests, activities and pursuits one is passionate about is ultimately what Ashok credits for his golden years being his happiest yet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Retirement is not just about finances: It’s about finding fulfillment and purpose in your post-career life.
  • Start planning early: Even if your financial situation isn’t ideal, start planning your ideal retirement lifestyle.
  • Find your passions: Explore interests and hobbies that bring you joy and meaning.
  • Don’t be afraid to change course: If your career path doesn’t align with your values, don’t be afraid to make a change.
  • Build a support system: Surround yourself with people who support your decisions and encourage you to pursue your passions.

Ashok’s story is a reminder that retirement can be a time of immense personal growth and fulfillment. By embracing self-discovery, planning intentionally, and focusing on what truly matters, you can create a retirement that is both meaningful and joyful.

You can check their full interview on Chills with TFC, Episode 170 on Spotify, YouTube, Apple podcast for a thought-provoking podcast episode, Reggie and Ashok shed light on the transformative journey of retirement from the perspective of a seasoned professional. Ashok’s candid insights challenge traditional notions of success and encourage individuals to consider a more holistic approach to life after leaving the corporate world. By embracing a multifaceted retirement and prioritizing personal fulfillment, one can embark on a fulfilling and purpose-driven post-career journey.

Share us your thoughts on this episode and let us know what do you want to hear next.
You can now be our community contributor and make a pitch to have your favourite personality be on our show.
Join our community group and drop us your insights on this topic.

Tune in to the episode