Thursday, 27 February 2014

S'pore on its way to 'super-ageing'

By Lim Yi Han, MyPaper, 26 Feb 2014

SINGAPORE is well on its way to becoming a "super-aged" nation, with two back-to-back reports coming as a stark reminder of the silver tsunami.

A super-aged nation, according to the United Nations, is one where over 20 per cent of the population is aged 65 and above.

Japan is the first country to be accorded the status, and the Republic looks set to follow. By 2030, about one in five people here will be 65 or older.

And by 2050, there will be only two persons of working age for each person aged above 65, according to a report by Allianz Global Investors on Monday.

The investment company, which conducted demographic research, said in the report: "By then, Singapore will not be able to avoid the problems super-aged Japan is already facing. The difference will only be in terms of the timeframe."

Meanwhile, another survey has found that nearly four in five Singaporeans plan to rely on their personal savings and investments as a primary source of income after retirement.

Ironically, many still aim to retire early. The poll by global survey firm Nielsen, released yesterday, found that three in 10 Singaporeans want to retire before 60.

Some 500 Singaporeans took part in the Internet poll between August and September last year.

The survey also found that Singaporeans' biggest fear about ageing is not having enough money to pay medical bills. Other worries include not being able to look after themselves and losing physical agility when they age.

Saving up for the golden years instead of splurging on a lavish lifestyle before retirement is important, said Mr Gerard Ee, chairman of the Council for Third Age, which advocates active ageing and lifelong learning.

"The worrying thing is that people are not doing enough to save for the future," Mr Ee told MyPaper. "We need to strategically plan, what do you live on to support yourself for the next 20 years after retirement?"

Singapore is not like Hong Kong, which also has an ageing population. Hong Kong is dynamic and is supported by people from China, said Mr Ee. "Singapore is very contained."

He added that dealing with the situation is a "work in progress".

On Friday, in his Budget speech, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam gave details of the Pioneer Generation Package, which consists of lifelong health-care benefits for some 450,000 pioneers.

The pioneers are defined as Singaporeans aged 65 and above this year, and who became citizens before 1987 if they were not born here.

Benefits include subsidies for outpatient care and Medisave top-ups, all to be paid for from an $8 billion fund set aside in the Budget.

Meanwhile, MP Lee Bee Wah, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development, said that she hopes there will be more non-governmental organisations, and more entrepreneurs, willing to set up non-profit organisations looking into the needs of the elderly.

She added: "When the Government has to set up old folk's centres, we hope people understand and not cry out 'not in my backyard, don't put them there'."

Medical bills top fear about retiring: Poll
Other concerns: Inability to look after themselves, loss of physical ability
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 26 Feb 2014

NOT having enough money to pay for medical bills during retirement is the biggest fear among Singaporeans when it comes to ageing, a survey has found.

Besides that, being unable to look after themselves and losing physical agility with age made up the top three worries, all cited by nearly three out of five in a poll of more than 500 Singaporeans by global survey firm Nielsen.

Carried out online between August and September last year, the research was part of a worldwide survey on ageing which covered 30,000 respondents in 60 countries. Some 480 respondents in Singapore were working adults.

The survey findings were released yesterday, four days after Budget Day, when the Government announced a 1 percentage point hike in employers' Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions to go into their employees' Medisave accounts in a bid to help Singaporeans save up for medical needs.

The survey also found that two out of three Singaporeans plan to retire before the age of 65. Three out of 10 plan to do so before 60. But about half said they would ideally like to retire before their planned or actual retirement age.

The vast majority - nearly four out of five - said they will rely on personal savings and investments as the main source of income in their twilight years.

Mr Luca Griseri, Nielsen's head of financial services in Singapore and Malaysia, said the poll shows Singaporeans' "desire to be self-reliant and self-sufficient".

Nielsen told The Straits Times that CPF savings were not a specified response in the survey, but it would expect respondents to consider CPF as the "government-run plan" option rather than "personal savings and investments".

The poll also found that most Singaporeans want to be with their families when they grow old. Nearly three out of five said they plan to live with their spouses or children.

Retirees told The Straits Times how they try to stay active to keep healthy so they do not have to fork out for medical bills.

Former zookeeper Francis Lim, 59, who retired four years ago, lifts weights three times a week and takes regular hikes. He relies on personal savings and investments.

"There are no more monthly salaries or bonuses, so it is important to live frugally," he said, adding that it is also important for retirees to plan their time. "I now spend more time in church and I also wrote two books after I retired."

Retired Singapore Airlines steward supervisor Eddie Chew, 64, and two other retired stewards put some savings into Happy Crab, a crab speciality stall in a coffee shop, two years ago. He now spends his evenings there serving customers.

"When I see that the customers are happy, I feel happy and it keeps me active and, more importantly, healthy," he said. "At our age, staying healthy is more important than anything else."

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