Sunday, May 11, 2008


Did you know that 98% of EPF members withdraw all their money at 55? Of these, 80% exhaust their savings in just three years? (The Star: 24/01/08)

While some retirees won’t be losing sleep over this piece of information, the majority will need to re-think their spending habits. With food and fuel prices soaring, it is just a matter of time before the price of everything else follows suit. Retirees have to look at ways to stretch their limited funds.

Here are some practical Do’s and Don’ts.

Patience can be a money-saver. If you are planning to upgrade your cell phone, pc, digital or video camera, don’t. Wait for hand-me-downs from your children. They are always eager to own the latest models, and will be happy to pass on their almost-new discards to their parents.

Cut down on eating out, and that includes eating at food courts and food stalls. Nothing beats home-cooked meals for better nutritional value and savings.

Go for cheaper alternatives. A RM200 watch serves the same purpose as a RM2000 one. Forget about losing face. At our age, there’s not much face to lose anyway. Ladies, this also includes pricey cosmetics. Go for the more affordable brands. It’s good to remind ourselves that often, less is more.

Resist the temptation to keep up with others. Your relatives just spent RM100, 000 on renovating their house. Good for them. Your best friend just bought 200, 000 shares in a public-listed company. Congratulate him, but you don’t have to do the same. Be mindful that pride and greed often precede many a financial downfall.

Be prepared to make small adjustments to your lifestyle. For example, take fewer holiday trips abroad, or travel economy class and stay in budget hotels. If maintaining a car eats into your funds, opt for public transport. I got rid of my car 14 years ago. Taking a ride on the air-con buses or LRT is cheap and comfortable. Those days of terror rides on stuffy, overcrowded pink mini-buses are long gone.

Buy bulk or economy-size. Do the maths before you make a purchase especially at the supermarket. It makes more sense to buy a 10-kg bag of rice at RM33.90 than a 5-kg bag at RM19.90, never mind that there’s only you and your spouse to feed.

Look for special offers and sales. If you enjoy reading, check out publishers’ warehouse sales. I recently paid RM16 for a brand new copy of Tony Buzan’s “Age-Proof Your Brain” (2007) at a warehouse sale. The normal price is RM69.90.

Before you part with your money, don’t be embarrassed to ask if there’s any special concessions for senior citizens. I pay only RM7 to see a movie at Golden Screen cinemas at MidValley. Guardian Pharmacy issues Golden Privilege cards for senior citizens that enable them to pay 10% less for pharmaceutical products and healthfoods. You can enjoy lunch or high-tea at Coronade Hotel at 50% off. You can enroll for a degree course at Open University Malaysia at a 75% discount. You can enjoy a fun-filled day at CosmosWorld, Berjaya Square, with your grandchildren at half the regular ticket price of RM30, or catch a performance at Istana Budaya, KLPac or Actors Studio at less than the normal ticket price. The list goes on.

Make use of the free facilities at your condo pool and gym. Most exercises like tai-chi, qigong, and yoga, can be done at home for free. Using the stairs several times a day at my walk-up apartment on the third floor gives me a good workout. So does the daily 15-minute brisk walk to the neighbourhood supermarket. Carrying the bags of groceries home is strength-training for my muscles.

Keep just one credit card. Get rid of the others. This will curb excesses in spending. It’s a good idea to collect privilege cards like those issued by hypermarkets, departmental stores, book chains, and restaurants. The cards allow you to accumulate points with your purchases that you can exchange for gifts or cash vouchers.

The more fortunate among us may have access to multiple sources of income or rely on generous financial support from their children. But when your only source of funds is your pension or EPF savings, every ringgit counts. Keep a record of every purchase you make, and total the numbers at the end of the month. You will be amazed at how much you have spent, and where all the money went. 

There’s no need to make big sacrifices or put a lid on our favourite pastimes. We can still have our cake and eat it – but without the icing, which isn’t good for our health, anyway.

1 comment:

Starmandala said...

Sound advice indeed, darling El-F! Have been doing exactly that for 31 years - beats working your butt off and scattering your brain just to maintain a Hollywood lifestyle!