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I have an exercise I always conduct in my pre-marriage class. I normally ask the participants if their parents are still alive. If the answer is yes, I will ask if their parents have health challenges, faulty or old cars, leaking roofs or broken walls or other problems the parents need money to solve. Normally, they also answer “yes”.
Then I will ask why they are Â”here preparing for a wedding that will cost huge sums of money instead of channelling the money to solve their parents’Â problems”.They normally look at me bemused (Recently I insisted on an answer and one of the participants told me that Â”life has to move on”). Then I will add, Â”You know why? It is because your parents are no longer your priority, that is, if they ever were. But this is not really about your parents; the issue is you. The treatment you are meting out to your parents now should give you a foretaste of what awaits you. I am not cursing you, but you may also not be your children’s priority. So, start preparing for your retirement/ old age to save yourselves the experience your parents are now going through.”
Some still do not get the message because old age/retirement is something young people (some of them are in their early 20s) see as Â”distant future” and so they have Â”all the time in the world.” But retirement planning experts advise that preparing for retirement should start from the day you start earning an income. Starting early has benefits: your little drops of water can become a mighty ocean of wealth to float on by the time you retire or are old. It also eases pressure as you get older because a sense of panic can set in once you get into your late 40s and early 50s and you have not set aside anything reasonable yet, either in the form of investments or cash in a retirement account.
Retirement planning is not simplistic and straightforward, especially in a volatile and unstable socioeconomic and political environment where changes occur with the rapidity of desert sand dunes and a change in government policy can turn a comfortable person into a pauper overnight. You need a lot of knowledge and expert advice.
I also advise my marriage course participants who are in paid employment to be wary of investing in transportation, restaurants and fast food, supermarkets and other forms of retailing because the owners of such businesses need to devote time to them and they do not have such time. Even when the owners are around and systems and processes are in place to drive the operations, some workers still circumvent the system and pilfer, steal or loot. I advise them to rather invest in property, stocks, money market instruments and other investments that do not require their daily attention. It is up to each investor to thoroughly educate himself and understand the sector he/she is investing in before plunging in.
The need to make personal arrangement for retirement/old age [you can call it Plan B] has even become more urgent with what we read and hear in the media. From Abuja to Oyo State, billions of naira of pension funds have been stolen by civil servants and their collaborators, so that people who spent all their lives in government hoping to fall back on pension in old age can get stranded. From military, police to civil service retirees, we have been reading about how they die in queues waiting for their pension over the years. This is no way to spend retirement or old age (The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, recently said there is a positive change. The Pension Reform Act 2004 also gives workers some hope).
Old age is a delicate and critical time of our lives. It is dangerous to make it another person’s responsibility, whether government or children. Oh your children are not Â”another person?” That is true, but do you have control over their money? Can you sign their cheques? Some of us treat our parents like everybody’s property and so everybody thinks somebody is going to sort out daddy and mummy, and they end up not being sorted out because everybody ends up not doing something anybody or somebody could have done.
The Bible says we should take care of our parents, but do not bank on it. The same Bible also says thou shall not steal, thou shall not kill, thou shall not covet and many other don’ts, but do we obey everything? If we did Nigeria will not be in a mess.
Nigeria, as it is now, is ill prepared, ill equipped and unwilling to take care of its senior citizens and what the current senior citizens are going through in the hands of this generation is what will likely befall the next set of senior citizens.
Unless urgent and genuine steps are taken to stem the tide, what our children are going to inherit is a massive mess of a country (I pray and hope Nigeria will still be intact by that time. I am for a strong and united Nigeria with strong federating units and a less powerful centre). If they manage to fix it, I get this sinking feeling that they are going to make themselves and the future generations their priority. The implication is that it is not only at the family front that many senior citizens will not be priority; even at the government level they will also not be priority. See why it is terribly important that you have a Plan B for your old age/retirement?