Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Retire Old

The Malaysian government has agreed to review the retirement age from 55 to a yet undecided figure, probably 60, according to THIS report. This step puts us in the league of developed nations where people work very late into their life, whether by necessity or optionally, at least seniors now have a choice, given how many have felt frustrated and isolated being forced out of the job market on their 55th birthday. Most of them, given a choice, would rather work an extra year or two, at a slower pace and in a less demanding environment in preparation for their eventual step-down from a world they committed more than half a lifetime building self, family and nation. Shouldn't their thoughts count in preparing for what can be the final leg of life's itinerary on earth?

Ask any normal person if he will choose early retirement and probably the answer is yes, if I can afford it. It is human nature to choose pleasure over pressure, i.e. work, and why not? Especially with the philosophy that life is for enjoyment and that we have only one life to live. Personally I find nothing wrong with this approach except that it must be balanced with responsibility to self, society and environment. The sad state is most people cannot retire securely, not with spiraling cost of living eating away the savings, nor sudden serious medical scare within striking distance to upset a well planned financial emergency fund. Or an unknown financial or political crisis that turn hard earned investments into craps. Living in a mobile and volatile world is not a sane experience for seniors who prefer firmer footings rather than excitements. For me, yes, no roller coaster ride please.

Choice is a luxury to a lot of people who cannot make ends meet. In fact the irony of their lives is the ends get further apart. Many choose to work not for the joy or pleasure of it but to put the next meal on the table. Retirement is a joke and a fallacy as well as an illusion that only the privileged enjoy. For the self employed work is not a dirty word but the only way they know how to live. And they even feel embarrassed when they have nothing to do, perhaps that's the reason why idle old people picked up a new trade, nagging others. One reason is they suddenly discover friends are no longer around to pass time with them. They either pass away or moved away leaving them alone to needle away in self pity. Retirement in a way is destructive if one is not prepared to face it positively.

I have digressed. Now that the government has thought of the welfare of the seniors as far as continuing to let them work for a few more years, will they also learn to listen to them before their lips are permanently sealed? Seniors may be prejudiced and bitter and we mustn't blame them for their disappointments but they have insights and wisdom younger leaders lack. I wish to exclude a particular venomous 80 something political has been who refuses to stay on the sideline but continue to provide unwelcome commentaries that are divisive.

The danger of a nation that loses her best talents to other developed nations and extending the working life of the aging employees is a regressive society. It reminds me of abandoned villages that were once thriving but now owned by creepers and stray animals because only the very old still live there. The young men and women have all migrated away or moved into the cities. Some towns in Europe have already fallen into such pitiful states because they are no longer attractive or economically sustainable. Perhaps they should all be made into retirement towns.

There is wealth and opportunity in managing retirement and senior lifestyle. Someone can study this seriously and make us older people feel secured.

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