The elderly look for ways to keep up with their expenditures and stay afloat.
When homemaker M. Pushpa Devi’s husband passed away of a heart attack in 2010, she wept in despair. The Kluang-based widow realised she had tough times ahead as her odd-job worker husband left behind minimal savings.
Despite living frugally and having her two grown-up children chip in to pay for additional expenses, the grandmother-of-four struggled to stay afloat.
“My two children have their own families to feed. Both are factory workers and their salary is just enough to make ends meet. Despite their contributions, there wasn’t enough money to pay the monthly instalments for our low-cost house and daily necessities,” says Pushpa.
To improve her finances, she took up a job as a cook in a restaurant in 2011.
“It was a challenge to adapt to a new environment outside the comfort of home. While the salary is small, I am glad I have a job to help me pay the bills and housing loan. I save a small portion for emergencies,” says Pushpa, who seeks medical treatment at government clinics and hospitals.
Widowed homemaker P.H. Yap, 71, was more fortunate. After her husband’s passing six years ago, she could fall back on his savings and insurance payout. Her biggest financial commitment was settling the housing loan.
“Thankfully, the loan was relatively small and the savings were substantial to pay off the outstanding amount. As my children are now working, they pay for the utility bills, groceries and my vitamins and supplements,” says Yap.
As Yap does not have any medical coverage or insurance policies, she takes good care of her health and is careful with her diet. She exercises regularly, too.
“The key is to eat in moderation and keep fit. I eat out less and cook at home so I have better control of my diet. I have diabetes, so I control my salt and sugar intake. Regular medical check-ups are a must to keep health problems at bay,” shares Yap from Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
According to the Employees Provident Fund 2013 Annual Report, about 70,000 of its active members (at 54 years old) have an average savings of RM167,000. EPF statistics state that 68% of members – at age 54 – have savings of less than RM50,000. This is worrying as the basic savings quantum that EPF recommends for members at 55 years is RM196,800.
While the recommended amount by EPF may be relatively high, it could be much lesser for individuals who have made withdrawals to buy houses, for their children’s education, for health reasons or to perform the Haj.
Sales manager K.S. Chaw, 66, took out a portion of his EPF savings to put his four children through college.
“While I considered the need to save for my retirement, my priority was to secure a good future for my children,” says Chaw, who spent between RM40,000 and RM70,000 on his children’s studies.
Having used up a substantial portion of his EPF money, Chaw continues to work to increase his retirement nest egg. Although his salary helps to pay the bills, Chaw says his job keeps him busy and helps him stay mentally alert and active.
“When our children see the driving force in us, they will be inspired to follow in our footsteps and work harder. Most of my retired friends have to request financial aid from their children. I prefer to work to be financially independent,” says Chaw, who has insurance policies and medical benefits to meet any contingencies.
“My children are mindful of their elderly parents and give a fair amount of money to my wife and me. Each month, I fork out money for expenses such as utility bills, groceries and the upkeep of my old car,” says Chaw, who saves about one-third of his salary every month.
To increase her savings, retired administration executive Rohani Ismail, 59, prefers to invest in Amanah Saham schemes.
“I prefer such schemes as the returns are higher. To obtain better returns, I always look out for bank promotions which offer higher interest rates for fixed deposits,” says the grandmother of six, who also receives extra money from her four grown-up children for her daily expenses.
However, she does not invest in insurance policies or medical benefits, as she finds them too expensive.
“For any emergencies, my family members and I seek treatment at government hospitals and clinics,” says Rohani.
Government pensioners are luckier as they receive half of their last drawn salary after retirement. However, they are mindful of their savings, especially with the rising cost of living.
When retired teacher Cecilia Pereira receives her pension each month, she sets aside a small sum as savings, and allocates a percentage for utility bills, groceries and extra expenditure.
“My three daughters also deposit money into my savings account to ensure my husband and I have ample funds. A certain portion is placed in fixed deposits as the interest rates are better. Every year, we treat ourselves to an overseas holiday,” says Pereira who is in her late 60s.
She has also signed up for endowment plans to grow her savings.
On some days, the former Mathematics teacher also coaches her friends and relatives’ children who are sitting for major exams. While the extra money helps to pay for odds and ends, Pereira explains the extra classes keep her mind alert.
“Teaching is a fulfilling job. I gain satisfaction from passing my knowledge to children and encouraging them to develop a thirst for life-long learning. The most rewarding part is when these students tell me that they have done well in their exams. Besides, my daughters have all flown the nest and it can be rather quiet at home.
“Having students around adds more noise, fun and laughter to the house,” says the Kuala Lumpur-based lady, who enjoys mentally stimulating pursuits such as puzzle games and watercolour painting during her free time.