It would be morally wrong if parents have to endure hardship in their twilight years just because they spent all their money on their children’s education, says Benedict Lopez.
A friend and former colleague of mine at the ministry of human resources, Ganapathy Ramasamy, wrote an interesting piece in The Star (17 June 2016) about the dilemma and challenges facing retirees.
In his article, Gana offers some useful advice for all public and private sector employees who will eventually retire one day.
Planning for retirement should not start a few years before retirement but the moment one’s working life begins.
When civil servants retire, they must learn to live within the lump sum gratuity received and their monthly pension.
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For the others under the Employees Provident Fund scheme, it is a question of managing the lump sum money received upon retirement. EPF contributors also have the option to leave any amount in their account and to only withdraw the interest portion.
Gana, who retired as director of industrial relations after more than 25 years’ service, is the author of the book Discipline at Work. He highlights the need to have limitations on parental obligations towards children wishing to pursue tertiary education.
A pragmatic decision should be made based on the financial considerations of the parents. If the parents cannot afford it, then children have to try and find alternative sources of financing for their education. It would be morally wrong if parents have to endure hardship in their twilight years just because they spent all their money on their children’s education.
Children too have a moral responsibility to support their parents if they know that their parents have exhausted all their savings on their education.
Gana cites the example of a person who spent his EPF and sold his house to educate his children for medicine in anticipation of their supporting him financially. But that individual was disappointed when his hope was dashed, and he was ultimately forced to live in a low-cost house.
It is important for a retiree and spouse to be able to live a reasonably good life after retirement with basic necessities and perhaps even occasional inexpensive pleasures.
Besides ensuring financial security, Gana advises retirees to ensure they spend their time productively, perhaps by engaging in social work. With time at their disposal, they should also exercise regularly to sustain a healthy lifestyle.