PLANNING for retirement is proving increasingly popular in Hong Kong as well placed locals hedge their bets and long-term expatriates find their jobs localised ahead of next summer's handover, an independent financial adviser says. There is no rush for the door, but the numbers of mid-ranking civil servants and locals of means who are quietly checking their options and determining whether they can afford to retire has noticeably increased, according to William Tatham, the divisional director of Towry Law International. 'They're saying to people like us: 'I don't want to go. I'm not planning to retire for five years. But just in case, let's talk',' he said. 'All they're doing by talking to someone like us is getting the theory in place.' Mr Tatham said the ranks of such clients, who were planning for the worst but hoping for the best, had swelled. Hong Kong Chinese now accounted for nearly a quarter of Towry Law's customers, up from only 10 per cent five years ago. 'I think these people have been thinking about it for a while. They just haven't been doing anything about it,' he said. 'People have just become more focused on the '97 issue.' The numbers of expatriates making retirement plans is also on the rise. Some have been making arrangements to return home for the past decade. Others are those whose jobs have been localised or contracts renewed on local terms, making it difficult to keep their families here. Mr Tatham said: 'Nineteen ninety-seven is not just a focus for people like Hong Kong government civil servants. 'Nineteen ninety-seven is not driven by Chinese politics - in many ways it's driven by local Hong Kong business, who gradually want to be more and more localised.' Increased interest in retirement planning among locals and expatriates alike had sparked a surge in this form of advisory work, which now accounted for 50 per cent of Towry Law's business, he said. Ironically, just as many locals and expatriates consider plans to leave, even more expatriates are pouring into the territory. The new arrivals - largely Americans and Britons - tend to differ from the long-term residents now leaving in that they are often younger and on less-lucrative, shorter-term contracts, he said. Many do not consider themselves candidates for retirement planning. But they do need advice on how to nurture their assets and provide for taxes, Mr Tatham said.