By Rafiq Punjani
Retirement – How often in IndoPak you hear this word; yes, sometimes it’s used in context of somebody retiring from Cricket or from Politics! – but to say people have awareness about Retirement Planning, is no more than a wishful thinking.
Have we ever pondered why a subject which is of such significance in West, is of little or no importance (at least until now) in this side of the world; lets understand main reasons behind this ignorance:
1. Joint Family System:
Culturally, in East, the norm is to have three generations living together under one roof. For example sake, lets see family of Ahmed living in Mumbai or Karachi. Ahmed’s parents (1st Gen), Mr & Mrs Ahmed (2nd Gen) and lastly their Son with his wife (3rd Gen), all live together. In this scenario, even if Ahmed’s parents did not plan for their retirement, they are in the safe hands of their caring son and beloved grand son – this is the way it has been for ages; why this needs to be changed now, we will see below.
2. Investing In Children:
This one is linked to aforementioned; in East we believe in investing in our children, with firm reliance that they will be the old age caretaker and financial savior during our retirement. Even if there is nothing in the retirement account, a well-educated son / daughter is the “Hope”. I am nothing against raising kids well and with best education, but should it be at the expense of your own future? Currently it is.
3. Marriage of My Daughter:
As much as most prevalent religions in East preach “Beti To Rehmat Hai” (Daughter is a Blessing), her marriage is something which induce nightmares to parents even before conceiving the child, mainly due to financial effect a Daughter’s marriage has. Middle class families save for years and years for their princess’s wedding, and after the big day – they are into a big debt, which they repay for rest of their years to come. This is the way it has been for ages. With this commitment, who has time and energy to save for their own golden years?
4. Average Age:
Historically (mid 1950s), average age in IndoPak has been below 50 (source – http://www.efmoody.com), mainly due to lack of medical facilities / war fatalities, hence years in retirement were few. By every passing year, and with sophisticated medicine around, the average age has gone up to 70 years. With Retirement age at 60, now there are more living years post work – this brings more challenges to an individual, and to the society as a whole. But the baby boomers of East have not seen their parents planning for retirement, nor their governments provide retirement benefits; they are the Adams of East as far as Retirement Planning is concerned. This is a new concept, and slowly making its inroads.
So what should be changed to have a better prepared next generation – first of all a change in believe system. Below, I have written my thoughts on each of the above mentioned difficulties:
– Joint Family System:
With global acceptance of workforce from other countries/cities and internet providing these opportunities right in your inbox (via recruiters, websites etc), we see more brain drain from countries like India, Pakistan, Philipines etc. Young professionals go to developed countries/cities for better living and earning opportunities. Those days are gone, when next generation was there to hold the hands of their parents and grand parents. Now most elders spend their late years, either living alone or with similar bodies at an old age home. This distance (or lack of Joint Family System) has reduced the warmth of that once known Family Values. This calls for today’s youth to start preparing for their retirement years, as their children most probably will be in some other city or country, if not in some other continent (or another planet! who knows.)
– Investing In Children:
As I said above, warmth of Family Values (of which once East was proud of) is fading by every passing day. Educated children today are often heard saying to their aged parents, “You gave us education (and did not save anything for your own self) because it was your duty”. “Investment” in children is losing its glitter with every other horror story we hear from a crying soul at an old age home. The lesson to learn here is, we must take care of our children and provide them best possible education, but there has to be a parallel plan for own retirement. Please “Pay Yourself First” – your children may do the same (hope not), when they have you to take care of.
– Marriage of My Daughter:
Daughters Are Blessing – no doubts. We have two in our family and we all love them. But to say that we will forego every thing in life and not plan for our retirement, to plan for their weddings, is something we are not up for. There is no limit to a high-end wedding – for some 50gms of Gold is too much, for some even 50KG is cheap. Keep sanity – make plans, both for wedding and for your retirement. To me retirement is even more important, as your daughter may end up getting married in a courtroom (or in Vegas) OR a loving family may accept her without much ornaments, but without a solid financial base, your retirement will certainly doom and then nothing can be changed.
– Average Age:
With increasing average age, we should keep a portion of savings for later non income generating years. Some say, we will be at home, and there will be less expenses with compared to today. I agree there will be few items on which you spend today, which may not be needed at later age (educating your children, paying for rent provided you have own home by that age etc). But at the same time there will be more avenues of spending due to revised scenarios (medical bills from dentists, presents for grand children on their birthdays etc). Which income source will pay for this? Your Educated Children, living in a 12 hour different time zone? I wish!
With higher education now up to 35 years of age, our income generating years are now reduced to not more than 30 years (from age 35 to 65), with many years in retirement. Effectively, we are only working for up to 40% of our living age – this asks for drastic savings Now!
In my next blog, I will bring more worrying facts for youth of today, with an aim to be an eye opener in this regard.
A Well Wisher!