Govt has done well to plan for the aged
- Letter form Gilbert Goh Keow Wah
I refer to the PM's National Day Rally Speech.
Mr. Lee Hsien Loong's ortorical skills are admirable. His regular injection of jokes, warm and persuasive stage persona are hallmarks of a good speaker.
The Government's future plan for the country's ageing population is commendable as it not only tackles the financial aspects by tweaking the CPF but also enables retirees to work longer via legislation.
I am glad that concrete action is being taken to deal with these issues.
However, the population will not take well to a later draw down age as it would mean depending on their own savings till the age of 65 for retirement.
More needs to be done to persuade them to leave their own savings plan for retirement instead of depending solely on their CPF.
Some of my friends are already lamenting that one has to till the age of 65 instead of 62.
I do not blame then as our work culture here can be very demanding and stressful.
Some may personally prefer to stop working even before they reach the age of 60 to enjoy their retirement years - if they are capable of doing so financially.
With the high cost of living here, I foresee a sizeable number of our elderly retiring abroad.
They could rent out their HDB flat for income and lead a comfortable lifestyle either in Malaysia or Indonesia, where the living standard ismuch lower.
I also wonder if the employment legislation will work well when it takes effect in 2012.
Already, we hear of age discrimination, where some employers are unwilling to hire older workers in their 50s and 60s.
The issue of having enough suitable jobs for them is also one that needs further discussion.
Nevertheless, I feel a great sense of comfort knowing that the current Cabinet is on a mission of planning ahead to resolve possible problems.
As a worker in my 40s, equipped with a few upgrading courses, I hope, with optimism, to work till I am 65 years old or beyond.
With the Government backing, I am sure this is feasible.
Review CPF scheme as it doesn't seem to benefit retirees
- Letter from Chia Hern Keng
Since the Governement seems determined to raise the retirement age beyond 62 - to 65 and then to 67 - its time to ask some important questions.
Why, despite several decades of CPF savings, do retired Singaporean seem to have difficulty sustaining their lifestyles? Has the CPF scheme failed them in some ways?
For the younger generation, I can see that their CPF savings will be significantly invested in HDB flats given the high prices and this could create future problems.
However, the older generation would have bought their HDB flats at much lower prices in the 70s.
So, is the CPF savings scheme with its low interest rate now proving to be an inferior one given current inflation in the cost of living?
Could our CPF savings, which easily runs into several hundred dollars each month, been better invested in insurance schemes that pay far higher dividends? If so, it is still not too late to change to the latter for the younger generation.
Another question on the issue of extending the retirement age is whether the old will be healthy enough to continue working?
PM Lee Hsien Loong mentioned that Singaporeans live rather long, including 500 centurians here. These are just absolute figures that do not tell us about their state of mental and physical capacities.
By implementing laws to keep people working, would the Government be discriminating against those who are unable to do so for health reasons?
Even though they want desperately to retire because of ill health, they know that the higher retirement age means that they cannot retrieve their CPF savings to see them through monthly expenditures. As a result they would to toil on.
Mr Lee wants to create for us, lives filled with 'security and hope'. But for some who might have to work till they die, I'm not sure this is the kind of 'security and hope' they look forward to.
Therefore, may I suggest that the extension of the retirement age should be one of personal choice rather than one that is an across-the-board policy.
Please consider that some might find pleasure in leisure provided by earlier retirement when they can occupy themselves in hobbies and past-times or even in further education for the sale of self-development.
It is wrong to think that retirement is synonymous with doing nothing. It is really up to the individual how he or she spends time. There is a time to work and there is a time to rest; there is a time to earn and a time to retire, as King Solomon of Yore would have said.
But if the Government foresees a welfare crisis for the elderly looming ahead, then what it has to do is to deal with the cause and not attempt to treat only the effects.
This cause lies, I surmise for the lack of sufficient information, in the inferiority of the simple saving scheme that the CPF represents.
What can be done to revamp the scheme, given that it is not delivering to the people what it had promised to do?
Conversion of whole life policies to annuities
- Letter from Jane Wong
The hot topic of late is how to ensure that Singaporeans, especially older ones, have sufficient income for their golden years. Solutions were unveiled in the PM National Day Rally speech, including buying annuities, a delay in the draw-down age for CPF monies, et cetera.
Another way is to allow whole life policy holders to convert their policies to annuities. A whole life policy benefits the beneficiary when the policy holder dies.
Although the policy owner can choose to surrender his policy when he is in need of money, the return value is very small.
If policies are allowed to be converted to annuities, the insurance company can invest the surrender value and pay a higher annuity 20 to 30 years later.
Some firms do not allow such a conversion. However, they should re-examine the matter now tht the investment environment has changed, as more people now turn to endowment policies or term insurance.