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Retirement – a transition into a different chapter of life

The stark reality currently is that many Malaysians still have to work for many years after retiring

MAS retirees at a reunion dinner - PATHMA NABAN

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More than a century ago, the word retirement did not exist for people engaged in full-time or part-time employment. Many worked until they were medically unfit or made redundant through business downturns or until their demise.

As conditions evolved and gradually improved with society’s affluence, the modern-day concept of retirement developed. Some factors included increased life spans, the growing popularity of private and public sector pension plans, the development of provident funds and investments in unit trusts, stocks, bonds and other forms of savings mechanisms offered by banks and financial institutions.

Scores of people have to work till their mandatory retirement age, while others, due to various commitments, still work full time after retirement. Many seek gainful employment, not for financial reasons, but to keep their brains working, which averts diseases that may emerge due to idleness.  

A few may opt out of service earlier than the mandatory retirement age and work in different capacities or pursue hobbies and passions.

Some, perhaps, feel morally obliged to undertake a different kind of national service to the country. One such person is Patriot’s retired Brigadier-General Mohd Arshad Raji, who is still doing yeoman’s service for the country.

Ensuring financial security

Start your retirement planning when you begin your first job. It is best to start saving young when you are in your 20s or early 30s. Never feel ashamed to seek advice from friends or people known to you. Just the other day, I gave a young bank officer some tips on investments in shares as he seemed interested in learning more.

One of the biggest worries for retirees is managing personal finances.

For civil servants on the pensionable scheme, your income will be slightly less than half your last-drawn salary.

For those with Employees Provident Fund (EPF) savings, you need to spend prudently in the absence of a regular monthly income. Currently, EPF savings for most Malaysians are barely enough for a decent life after retirement. Many spend their entire EPF within a few years after retirement.

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Money kept in fixed deposits now earn low returns as the present interest rates are abysmal. Dividends from unit trusts, too, have been falling over the years.

The stark reality is that many Malaysians still have to work for many years after retiring.

Based on current statistics, Malaysia’s ageing population over 65 will be 15% of the population by 2035. Deepening this predicament, the life expectancy of Malaysians is getting higher. The life expectancy for Malaysians in 2017 was 75.8 years.

To ensure retirees have a sound quality of life after retirement, the government should explore the possibility of converting the EPF into a pension scheme just like the civil service.

Stay fit, relish leisure interests

Since my former colleague from the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (Mida) and friend, Noor Aieda Ahmad, requested me to share my thoughts about retirement, I have to give her my candid views on spending her time after retirement.

Once your financial security can be sustained, and solely from my experience, retirement is a time for you to enjoy holidays or hobbies that you haven’t been able to indulge in during your working life.

The priority for retirees is to keep in good health. Wake up by 7am and begin your day with brisk walking around your neighbourhood for about an hour.

Seniors execising in Bukit Kiara – PATHMA NABAN

If time permits, no harm in doing another round of exercise in the evening. The lack of regular exercise often leads to health problems.

If possible, get a full medical check-up at least twice a year. 

Try to use less of your car or motorbike and do more walking. Whenever I go to the heart of Kuala Lumpur, I walk from my house in Bangsar Park to the LRT station about 1.2km away. I always make it a point to stop one station before my destination. I do my errands in town and this will be another three kilometres. Once I complete my work, I return using the LRT and then walk from the Bangsar LRT station back to my house.

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Always remember: once you retire, you control time, which is in sharp contrast to your younger days, when time seems to control you.

Some retirees pursue activities they are passionate about, making up for the times they were unable to pursue them due to work, family and other commitments.  

Some play golf, others go fishing, many like farming and a few sharpen their culinary skills. Before the lockdowns, some went on holidays overseas and locally. Collectively with like-minded people, I am now involved in a project to develop an organic farm in Kuala Lumpur.

It all depends on your interests. Just do what makes you happy or anything that gives you pleasure in life.

I have done quite a number of things since my retirement. Besides being a contributor to Aliran and travelling, I have been a postman and quiz master, and I also did some work for the Bangsar Park Residents Association. Postman? Well, inserting our association’s newsletters into the mailboxes.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the air fares of low-cost carriers were at times incredibly cheap. Complementing these cheap air fares were low-priced hotel rates, especially through online booking.

I feel holidays should be mandatory for all retirees. Such sojourns broaden your horizons on many issues, whether you are travelling locally or overseas. You observe, indulge and enjoy the different facets of life. I have always felt refreshed and invigorated after such trips.

That is why 2020 was the most boring year since my retirement, as I was denied my regular overseas holidays. Hopefully, things get back to normal soon so that I can continue with my holidays.

READ MORE:  Only 3% of EPF contributors have enough retirement savings!

I recommend domestic tourism as well. Explore the lesser-known towns in Malaysia like Teluk Intan that are outside the tourist radar.

Even more established places in Malaysia, like Malacca, can spring a surprise. Last July, my friends and I were walking along Jonker’s Walk when the owner of a Nyonya restaurant stopped us as we were passing by and invited us to try his unique cendol. His challenge to us: a money-back guarantee in case we did not like it.

So, we took up his challenge and true enough, the cendol was distinctive. A small bowl cost only RM4, but with a scoop of musang king durian, it cost RM12. Par excellence! It was so tasty we returned for a second round the next day!

That is the uniqueness of Malaysia which I have not experienced anywhere else in the world – the warmth and friendliness of its multi-ethnic mosaic. And I have travelled a fair bit globally.

In August my friends and I revisited Fraser’s Hill, marvelling at nature’s exquisite beauty. Once nightfall set in, we enjoyed a sumptuous western meal with Chilean wine at an old noted restaurant. On our return to KL, we stopped on the outskirts of Bentong and had some mouth-watering musang king durians.

What a refreshing break Malacca and Fraser’s Hill were for us, especially after being confined to KL during the lockdown. And no harm in pampering yourself once in a while with some delights like good meals, chocolate and ice-cream.

After all, you have worked hard all these years and deserve the rest.

Thanks for dropping by! The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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