Can You Depend On Your Children in Your Golden Years?


Article from BERNAMA dated 11 Mar 2014


Financial management is not only about spending your monthly salary wisely, but planning for your retirement as well.However, many are ignorant of the latter and find themselves in a financial quagmire in their retirement years. 


The first part of these two series will discuss on the importance of good financial planning for the golden years.


KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- The clock on the wall at Ward 3B of Hospital Putrajaya showed midnight. The patients have long been asleep, while the doctors and nurses were occupied with their respective tasks. An old woman in a green and white uniform was seen walking along the ward corridor, her hands clearing up rubbish and debris along the way. Hunched with age and visibly tired, she carried on with her task quietly. She attracted the attention of several visitors who were still in the ward accompanying their loved ones. 


A nurse told the writer that the woman was only known as Ah Soh (Hokkien term for auntie) and was 62 years old. In the daytime she would work as a gardener. This begs the question: when does this elderly lady get her rest? We expect those in their twilight years to be able to rest as early as they wish, not awake in the dead of the night trying to make ends meet. Sadly, her story is all too familiar. The sight of the elderly still working to support themselves and sometimes their families is so common today. Some perform menial jobs as security guards and janitors while others are lucky enough to hold professional positions. 



Some of these elderly workers have to engage in heavy tasks, and often chided, manhandled and are sometimes forced to work through ailments to eke out a living. Such a life is different from what they have probably envisioned in their retirement age - a life of relaxation and leisure after decades of toiling for a living. In fact they should have plenty of time to play and bond with their grandchildren or to travel to the places they had always wanted to go to. However, the reality is that not everyone has saved enough for retirement.


This is why many, in their retirement age, are forced to join the workforce once again, said Mohd Adnan Anan Abdullah, the Head of Financial Education Department at the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK). 


There are two types of people who rejoin the workforce in old age. One are those who still need to support themselves and their families while the other are those who are committed to their careers. They want to work because they want to contribute to society, to remain productive and to keep their minds active, said Mohd Adnan Anan to Bernama.



The other group of senior citizens are the ones driven to work not by choice. They may have to keep on working due to reasons such as outstanding car or house loans or marrying and having children at an older age, subsequently having to support them through their golden years. Some are in the position because they failed to realise the importance of saving while they were young, while others who wanted to, could not, perhaps due to low income, rising cost of living or having too many commitments. Perhaps the most disconcerting mentality is when a person's idea of retirement planning is living with the children. 


These people feel confident leaving the matter of their retirement entirely in their children's hands, without a backup plan. Although the common perception is that it is the children's responsibility to provide for their parents, the parents themselves must realise that by believing so they have placed their future in a jeopardy, said Mohd Adnan Anan. 


Things would be fine and dandy if the children understood the meaning of filial piety. But what if they felt burdened by the responsibility and chose to opt out? There was even the possibility that the parents would be sent to an old folks home or worse, left by the roadside, such as in the cases reported by the media lately, he added. The Malaysian media once highlighted the plight of an old crippled woman who was left alone in a budget hotel by her only child. 


And in January this year, Malaysians greeted the new year with the expose on four senior citizens who were found in an abandoned old folks home. Two of them were emaciated. Both sad scenarios is indicative of the dire need to have one's own retirement fund and placing only little to no reliance on the children.



Another reason against depending on children during the golden years is because of the difficult disposition of today's younger generation. 


Referred to as the sandwich generation , today's youth live in a family system where they are saddled with a variety of responsibilities at the same time. 


Mohd Adnan Anan said: The sandwich generation is one where a working person has to support not only his wife and kids but the parents, siblings and even grandparents as well. 


Can you imagine the kind of salary that is needed monthly to support them? On top of the ever-rising living costs, today's younger generation is also faced with the skyrocketing cost of basic necessities such as shelter and education. 


It is perhaps due to this that many of those from low-income families feel compelled to send their aging parents to a shelter, in hopes that life will be better there. On the other side of the spectrum, there are also grown-up children who are still relying on their aged parents for financial help. The amount of financial aid requested may run into the thousands, subsequently jeapordising their parents retirement fund, said Mohd Adnan Anan.



Retirement may be a long way for some people but it is important to equip themselves with knowledge of the subject as early as possible. A study by financial institution HSBC conducted from July-August 2012 revealed that 43 of 1,000 Malaysian respondents were not adequately prepared to face retirement. The ill prepared 18 percent were in the 55-64 age group and their lack of retirement planning was probably due to poor knowledge of its importance. The Employee Provident Fund (EPF) Board Chairman Tan Sri Samsudin Osman has once brought up the issue of poor knowledge of financial management among Malaysians.


In his speech at the seminar Towards Ensuring a Comfortable Retirement , he voiced his concern over the majority of Malaysians who did not spare a thought about their retirement even though there were only five to 10 years left before their retirement. Among the reasons for their reluctance was poor financial knowledge. 


Mohd Adnan Anan said it was only when they realise how quickly their EPF savings deplete that is when they realise the importance of a retirement fund. By that time, it would have been too late. They would have no choice but to return to the workforce, he said, adding that those interested in the getting advice on financial management can contact the AKPK. -- BERNAMA