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Retirement blues

The Manila Times logo The Manila Times 11/7/2019 BENEL D. LAGUA
a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Benel D. Lagua © Provided by The Manila Times Publishing Corp. Benel D. Lagua

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

I remember a salawikain (proverb) I learned during my younger years, “kung may isinuksok, may madudukot.” My generation is now facing one of the exciting yet challenging phase of our lives – retirement. For those who have prepared for this eventuality, they might have practiced a financial independence program. For example, a disciplined 80-20 spend-save scheme back in their prime working years would have built a nest for future requirements. These savings, when invested in securities or bonds, make for a revolving fund that supplies a steady passive income.

However, for others whose salaries were barely sufficient, impending retirement can be a stressor, a challenging and dreaded day they never looked forward to. In the Philippines, retirement years is between 60 to 65 for private companies and a mandatory 65 for government employees. The pension provided by both the Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to its retiring members somehow ease their financial needs but may not be sufficient, especially the former. One particular issue in the country is health care. A major illness during the later years can drain even those who believed they have enough set aside.

There is also the emotional toll it can give to the retiree. Brazil’s Diario de Pernambuco reported that they are vulnerable to problems such as “dissatisfaction, irritability, insecurity and loss of identity to depression, and the feeling that their world is falling apart.”

How does one combat the problems of impending retirement? It helps to embrace the change by creating a new routine like enjoying more “dates” together with the spouse. With having more time to do nothing, then one should do just about anything. It can be volunteering, taking a class, launching a new career, and taking an interest in a new hobby. Retirement is just getting out of the day job. The retiree must keep himself meaningfully occupied. Skills can be recycled to other interests.

It is essential for people to find purpose in life no matter what age one is. To quote Friedrich Nietzsche, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Stay active, strengthen your family ties, fulfill your dreams, and develop a schedule for yourself. Be pragmatic and simplify your lifestyle.

In terms of economic readiness, let’s accept that preparations for retirement should have commenced on the first day of a person’s gainful employment. But if you are now due for it, there is still hope. Start with your debts and loans. Make it a goal to start retirement debt free. Estimate the pension benefit you are getting, the savings accounts and investments you do have, and figure out the maintenance needs as well as taxes you still need to pay every year. Find investments that are reliable or establish a business (from excess funds) you can tend on your retirement. Find inspiration in Colonel Sanders who began his KFC business during his retirement. But be wary of the risks involved.

At retirement, one has to manage his expectations. We all want to stay forever young. Reality bites though as everyone ages and the once center stage we take should be turned over to younger ones in favor of the backstage. But with careful planning, readiness and positive thinking, bidding adieu to our workplace need not to be a hassle. It should be as it should: a commencement of your real life outside work.

Live your life to the fullest even if you are now a senior citizen. Enjoy what you have worked hard for in the past decades, and spend more time with your family and friends. Remember you cannot take to the afterlife the fruits of your labor. Some of my friends make the most of their “apo-stolate.” Finally, explore the new you and find exciting ways to contribute to society in your new role.

Change has come. The blues will pass and make each moment count. This is the time to accomplish one’s bucket list. After all, life is short. At least you’ve reached this far as not many are as lucky.

Benel D. Lagua is executive vice president at the Development Bank of the Philippines. He is an active FINEX member and a long time advocate of risk-based lending for SMEs. The views expressed herein are his own and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of his office as well as FINEX.

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