Friday, September 30, 2011


At long last, the government has agreed to raise the retirement age. But it will take many more months of waiting before we can pop the champagne bottle. The new retirement age has yet to be fixed, and the Bill has yet to be debated in Parliament. Still, it's heartening news.

However, not everyone is in favour of a higher retirement age.

Young working professionals are concerned that it would be harder for them to rise through the ranks if the seniors are still occupying the top positions in the company. Their fears are understandable.

But they should look at the big picture. One day they too will reach 55. With the mandatory new retirement age, they will have several working years ahead of them to remain financially independent. They will have more years to build a bigger retirement nest. Another plus point is adult children can delay having to support their elderly parents for at least a few more years.

Click here to read the original letter.
There are also protests from soon-to-be retirees who have been waiting to punch out for good at the work-place. Some have saved enough for their retirement, others are impatient to start their own business venture. Whatever the reason, they can't wait to say bye-bye to the daily grind of working for others.

A government pension does not necessarily translate into lifelong financial security. (Source: The Sun 29 Sept)

Let's face reality. How many among us can honestly say we have sufficient funds to last us till our final years, given the longer life span we now enjoy, and the escalating healthcare expenses?

Here are some figures to put the issue into perspective. The EPF was first set up in 1951. At the time life expectancy of the average Malaysian was 55 - the same as the retirement age then. Now, 60 years later, the average life expectancy has gone up to 75, but the retirement age has remained at 55. That means we have to save enough to live on for another 20 years.

Source: The Star
In an EPF survey conducted in 2003, 50% of retirees had depleted their savings within five years of retiring, and 70% within 10 years. These figures should sober up anyone thinking of retiring in a hurry.

Related posts:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


For those who drive, it's a daily grind on the city roads.
My answer is YES. But the question I am more often asked is "HOW can you do without a car!" Indeed, coming from my friends, it's not even a question, but rather, an incredulous exclamation.

I gave up driving in 1998. At the time I was driving a blue Chrysler Alpine 1300. Before that I had a Volvo 121. These were imported vehicles that were heavy to drive, and costly to maintain. Both cars had no power steering. I remember working up a sweat everytime I manoeuvred my car into a parking bay.

Driving in the 1970s and 80s was really stressful. There were more STOP signs than traffic lights. You had to take your chances at junctions. Busy roundabouts were for the brave-hearted or the reckless. I was neither, and often the cause of a minor traffic build-up behind me. Added to all that stress was the high cost of keeping my car in running condition. Just replacing the tyres took a huge chunk from my modest teacher's pay.

I didn't have a choice then. I needed a car to go to work, and to ferry my girls to school. As soon as they left to further their studies, I found little reason to hang on to my Chrysler. I sold it for a song, and gave my parking bay to my neighbour.

It's been 13 years now without a car. I've survived mostly on public transport and on kind friends who give me rides. I still have a valid driving license which I renew faithfully in case I have the urge to get behind the steering wheel again.

So far, that urge hasn't surfaced. I've been quite content to remain a passenger in the bus and let the driver take on the stress of getting through the traffic gridlock. I make sure I have a book with me or a notepad to jot down ideas and thoughts that come into my head.

I've become quite good at keeping my mind busy while waiting for the bus to arrive. Patience has become my middle name. No point complaining about delays, queues or congestion. It only raises your blood pressure. I've learned to bear with the inconvenience. I look at it positively. I'm saving money, enjoying peace of mind, and contributing to a cleaner environment!

Sure, the bus doesn't drop me off at my front door. But I regard brisk walking as good exercise for my legs. Carrying shopping bags and groceries is part of my strength-training regime and a little daily exposure to the sun is great for health.

I get all these benefits at a fraction of what I would spend if I still owned a car. With my senior citizen's Touch n Go card, I get to travel anywhere in the Klang Valley by RapidKL bus at half fare. Of course, our public bus system leaves much to be desired. And I can write an entire book about it, but I shall leave my grouses to the next blog post.

So there, I've done my small part to reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, and fuel consumption. I know it won't be easy to convince city dwellers to give up their cars. At least not until they see significant improvements in the public transport system.

Related post


Tuesday, September 27, 2011


CEO of EPF, Tan Sri Azlan Zainol giving the keynote address at the conference. (Pic: The Star)
I would like to share some of the messages I took home from the 2011 Conference on Private Pension and Healthcare which concluded yesterday.

From Tan Sri Azlan's speech:
  • 7% of the population (almost 2m) is aged 60 and above.
  • 73% of EPF contributors had less than RM50,000 saved.
  • Only 17% had over RM100,000 at the point of their retirement.
  • 70% will use up all their money in three years.
  • Only 15,000 contributors have more than Rm1m in their EPF accounts.
  • Longer life span means Malaysians today need to save enough for at least 20 years of retirement.
  • Demand for healthcare and medical expenses for the aged is expected to rise significantly. The federal government's health expenditure is expected to reach RM13.2 billion.
  • To help EPF members, the number of critical illness eligible for EPF withdrawals has been raised from 36 to 55.
Salient points from other speakers:

Faced with such challenges, it's never too early to start preparing for one's retirement.
With lower mortality rate and lower birth rate, the end result is a shrinking younger population looking after a rapidly growing older population. It's not difficult to imagine a ratio of 1:1 in the foreseeable future.
Some advice to take note of.
Women, especially single women with no children, take note. You are the most vulnerable and at risk if you don't start saving for your retirement NOW. Curb your expenses on lifestyle shopping.
Issues that need to be addressed, and quickly.

The following slides are taken from Dr Rahimah Mohd Arifin's presentation on "Health System Transformation". Dr Rahimah is with the Ministry of Health and is currently involved in planning for the Transformation of the Malaysian Healthcare System.

My personal take on any plans and initiatives from the government is that they always look good on paper, but take forever to move to the implementation stage. As one speaker put it, "20 years have passed, but nothing much has changed." If you have questions about 1Care, click here for some answers.

Panel speaker Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Khairuddin Yusof kept driving home the message that ultimately our health is OUR responsibility. His advice (and I've got his permission to quote him) is DON'T see a doctor if there's nothing seriously wrong with you. The right diet and daily exercise are the keys to good health and longevity. He's 72, and in person, doesn't look anywhere near his age. Proof that his advice should be taken seriously.

Access to affordable healthcare is the fundamental right of every citizen. That is the huge challenge facing the government. Introducing 1Malaysia clinics and 1Care System is a step in the right direction, but so much more needs to be done. We have to be responsible for our health too. We cannot expect the government to deliver all the time, for the simple reason that it CAN'T!

What about the financial aspect of the equation? How can Malaysians be encouraged to save? How can investment products and insurance packages be made more affordable so that Malaysians have more opportunities to grow their money for retirement?

There's so much groundwork to be covered - family support, caregiving, trained medical staff, nursing homes, retirement housing, insurance, tax relief incentives, the list is endless. It would be a tremendous boost if parliament passed the Minimum Wage Act and raised the retirement age in the private sector to 60. MTUC has been championing the latter for 12 years!

Conferences such as this one organized by Smart Investor and Abacus for Money help to draw attention to the issues and challenges facing the country as the population ages. The urgency of the situation should be impressed upon all Malaysians. Everyone ages and everyone retires at some point of time. There are no exceptions. The price to pay for ignorance or indifference to these issues is to retire in poor health and even poorer living circumstances.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


The Straits Times 24 Sept. (Click on image to enlarge.)
Familiar? If you are retired, and thinking of applying for a credit card, forget it. Retirees and pensioners in Singapore have long complained that banks practise age discrimination when it comes to approving credit card applications.

Whenever a complaint like this surfaces in the print media, the banks will issue a public statement denying such a discriminatory practice. But the above letter in today's Straits Times (24 Sept) is proof that any denial by banks is merely a PR damage-control exercise.

It is a similar story with banks in Malaysia. The irony is those who default on credit card payment are not retirees. In an article in The Star "Shocking reasons why Malaysians are living beyond their means" (22 Sept), the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (FOMCA) discovered that on average 41 Malaysians are declared bankrupt EVERY DAY, mostly due to credit card debts. What's more shocking is most of these defaulters are below 40 years old, and they do not care about the consequences.

Many young people hold multiple credit cards. Banks are ever ready to offer them even more credit cards.
Despite such statistics, banks still discriminate against retirees. They don't welcome people who don't have a fixed income from employment. You can produce a portfolio of all your income-deriving assets and proof of a healthy retirement fund, but banks remain unconvinced.

Well, their loss is our gain. They are helping us spend less on shopping at the malls and saving more for our retirement.
Related article:

Credit card discrimination against retirees

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


In this day and age, and with the Internet, what's the point of censoring anything?
One of the censored pictures in full colour (and spread) from The New York Times.
It's annoying, and that's putting it mildly, to open your morning subscriber's copy of the International Herald Tribune and find the black-marker zealots have been busy at work again, blotting out anything they deem offensive to the readers.

Who appointed them guardians over what Malaysians can read or view in international papers? Who are these people anyway? What's so offensive about cleavage if shown in the right context, as in a fashion show or magazine? Heck, even works of art are not spared.

Babies' genitals get the black marker treatment too!

The Straits Times recently carried a picture of a huge poster that was put up along Orchard Road, Singapore's famed shopping street. Apparently, many people found it in poor taste, while others say it's just an advertising gimmick. In other words, no harm done.

What is your reaction to this ad?
Since mid-September The Star has been posting on a daily basis photos of beautiful ladies taken from its 1970s archives to mark the paper's 40th anniversary. These photos recall a time in our country when minds were more open, and laws were less repressive. Those were the good old days, weren't they?

The old-timers among us couldn't agree more! It's just eye-candy. And if some folks don't like what they see, they can just look away or close their eyes, and their minds as well. (Pic: The Star)
What can be so subversive in a culinary demostration that requires blacking out?

Friday, September 16, 2011


In 1961 when Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-haj first mooted the idea of forming a wider federation of Malaysia made up of the federated states of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak agreed to join on the understanding that they would be embraced as EQUAL partners in the new federation.

Slide taken from the presentation on Sarawak by young activist, Evelyne Tina Tawan.

Instead, in 1963, the two territories were absorbed into the new federation as the 12th and 13th states of Malaysia. Brunei did not join, and Singapore later left the federation rather acrimonously, in 1965. Now 48 years down the road, despite their vast natural resources, the two East Malaysian states, especially Sarawak, remain the least developed in the country. No wonder the people of Sabah and Sarawak feel aggrieved, even today. No wonder there are many who feel they have been 'conned' into joining Malaysia.

The documentary "Hak Dinafikan" screened at the Malaysia Day Belong or 'Lelong' event SABM (Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia) was a strong reminder of the plight of the orang asal (original people). As one gentleman said at the end of the screening, "It not only opened my eyes, but also my heart."

A section of the crowd that turned up at the event on Malaysia Day.

Panel discussion with orang asal film directors (from right) Abri Yok Chopil and Shafie Dris who made the documentary "Hak Dinafikan", and young activists  Amanda Leonie (from Sabah) and Evelyne Tina Tawan (from Sarawak) who spoke about lack of development in their states, especially in the rural areas.

Some of the orang asal who attended the event.

The indigenous people are taking their protests to Putrajaya to stop the government from taking away their ancestral land. The land titles given to them by the government is a travesty of their rights, as the land belongs to them in the first place.

Tijah Yok Chopil, takes the mike to speak on behalf of the orang asli. 

In the latest case, the Temiars of Pos Belatim in Gua Musang is taking the Kelantan government to court for contracting out their ancestral land, without their negotiation or consent, to be developed by a private company, Sigur Ros Sdn Bhd, as an oil palm plantation on a 99-year lease.

Click here to read more about the struggles of the orang asal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


That's how many baby boomers there are in the US alone.
Shopping can be a most frustrating experience if you are a baby boomer. Retail businesses are still focusing on the youth market. Either they haven't read the statistics or are slow to respond to the changing market demographics.

Baby boomers (those born between 1946-64) wield significant purchasing power, both individually and collectively because of their numbers. This trend is not going to reverse anytime soon.

Yet why are businesses and industry stakeholders not paying attention to the booming baby boomer market?

Take clothes for example. It is virtually impossible to shop for attractive clothes that fit the shape and taste of the boomers. Why do retailers assume that most women above 60 go only for frumpy, auntie-type clothes in funereal shades of grey and black?

Baby boomers want to look young, feel young and be independent. They want to enjoy life, travel, learn new things, pick up new hobbies and make new friends. Entreprenuers who understand what baby boomers want and can deliver will stand to make money.

Retirement housing, recreation, restaurants, travel and hospitality, entertainment, healthcare, beauty and fitness, financial services, transport, technology, lifelong education - these are just a few of the many industries that are set to prosper as the population ages.

If investors can capitalize on the needs (and wants) of baby boomers, they can be assured of handsome returns.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Click here to visit the portal.
Let's face it. Age discrimination still exists when it comes to hiring new staff. So whether you are an older worker who has been laid off, a homemaker eager to return to the work force, or a retiree seeking a career change, you might want to read this first before you begin your job search. It may have been a number of years since your last job interview.

Here are some tips on how you can increase your chances of getting job offers.
  1. Leverage on your wealth of work experience and achievements. Find out the company's needs, and convince them you can deliver results. But guard against coming across as "over-qualified".
  2. Draw attention to your key strengths. Older workers are mature, responsible, loyal, meticulous, trustworthy and reliable. Convince the interviewers that you are the best person for the job, that you can also be a mentor to younger co-workers.
  3. Be prepared to accept lower pay, lower position and reduced employee benefits.
  4. Exude confidence and enthusiasm, whether it's in the image you project or in the handshake at the job interview. Don't be apologetic about your age.
  5. Be current. Find out about the latest developments in the industry that you plan to enter, and some background about the company.
  6. Revamp your resume and bring it up to date. Discard old formats of job application letters. Submit a recent and decent photo of yourself. Don't be happy with half measures.
  7. Be internet-savvy and computer literate. Know what skills are required for the job and learn them.
  8. Be open to receiving constructive criticisms. Acknowledge that you may not always be the Ms Know-All, or Mr Have-Seen-It-All.
  9. Learn to listen more and talk less. Older folks have a tendency to go on and on relating their experiences and anecdotes. Guard against this especially at interviews.
  10. Don't make assumptions or take anything for granted. Always be on your toes and remain alert. You don't want to be labelled 'clueless', 'slow' or worse, 'senile' 
In the meantime, you might want to start working on your health and fitness. Remember you are competing against younger job-seekers for the same vacancy. If you need an image makeover, go for it. But, ladies, go easy on the make-up and accessories. Less is more when it comes to grooming.

Be pro-active in your job search. If you sit around expecting people to come to you with job offers, you will end up waiting forever. Unless you have already made a name for yourself in your previous career, no head-hunter will come knocking on your door. Cover not only the classifieds in the papers, but more importantly, online job agencies as well.

Join social networking circles. Attend talks, seminars, conferences where you get to meet people who might be able to offer you a job or recommend you to someone who is hiring. Market yourself at every opportunity. To save on costs, seek out free avenues to get your name mentioned or listed, for instance, sign up on Linkedin, write letters to the papers to comment on an issue, or contribute articles to magazines.

Never pass up an opportunity to give a talk or volunteer your service pro bono. One thing may lead to another, and you might get lucky. Make sure you leave your name card if you want to be contactable.

Wear a smile always. It wins you more friends, and removes at least 10 years from your face. When you are ready, commence on your job hunt with a positive frame of mind.

Good luck!

Friday, September 9, 2011


Ever tried broaching the subject of retirement planning with our adult children? Expect the usual responses:
  • "It's too early. I'm not even 30 yet."
  • "Not now." I've too many financial commitments at the moment.
  • "I'm earning only Rm2500. That's barely enough to survive on, what more save for retirement?
  • "Life is so uncertain. Better enjoy now."
  • "Dad, I'm sure you will leave me enough to live on."
  • "Don't worry. I've everything under control." (This response is just to get you off their backs.)
Click here to start using NTUC's retirement calculator.
Well, maybe they have no clue what's in store for them if they don't start saving for the future. You'll be doing them a huge favour if you share with them how much your monthly expenses come up to in your retirement.

If you are still working, and have no idea how much you will need when your salary stops coming in, make use of the retirement calculators posted here to help you get a rough estimate.

Click here to start using the Prudential retirement calculator.
Financial education should be introduced in our schools. Rather than wait for the Ministry of Education to take the lead, we can do our bit with our grandchildren. They are better listeners and followers than our adult children. Start by teaching them how to spend wisely at the school canteen, Then move on to Budgeting 101 with their weekly allowances.

Children learn quickly to spend within their means if they have good role models. Get them to save any small change left at the end of the school day. Good habits instilled at an early age often carry into adulthood.

Generation Xers who are in their 30s and 40s subscribe to the credo of instant gratification. It doesn't help that banks make it so easy for young people to sign up for credit cards, and also give them the option to pay the minimum on the amount outstanding each month.

We don't have a choice. It's either financial planning now or financial woes later. Ten years down the road when we are just beginning to enjoy our retirement, don't be surprised if our adult children come knocking on our door for financial assistance. Or move back in with us to save money. Will we have the energy and funds to support our (adult) children all over again?