The par­ent plan

do young Malaysians plan for their folks’ se­nior years?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R.AGE - By CHRIS­TINE CHEAH and VIVI­ENNE WONG allther­age@thes­tar.com.my

THE phrase “fil­lial piety” seems to have been go­ing around more of­ten than usual over the last few weeks.

Af­ter The Star uncovered the story of five old folks who were aban­doned at an empty home, there’s been quite a bit of soul-search­ing among Malaysians on how we treat our el­derly.

So we de­cided to talk to some young peo­ple, and find out just how im­por­tant plan­ning for their par­ents’ fu­tures is to them.

Univer­siti Pu­tra Malaysia com­puter sci­ence un­der­grad­u­ate Luqman Ramli, 21, said he’ll def­i­nitely take care of his par­ents when they’re old, but he just hasn’t got down to plan­ning it yet.

Luqman has a good ex­am­ple from his par­ents, who visit his grand­par­ents reg­u­larly and give them money to help with house­hold bills.

“The ris­ing cost of liv­ing might be get­ting higher, but if I have to work harder to sup­port my par­ents (fi­nan­cially), I will def­i­nitely do it,” he said. “And if my par­ents need me to phys­i­cally care for them, I’m will­ing to take up the task. If my work­load makes it im­pos­si­ble, then I’ll ask my chil­dren and sib­lings for help.”

Grow­ing pains

While most young peo­ple we spoke to were happy to care for their par­ents just like Luqman, the sta­tis­tics we found make for un­com­fort­able read­ing.

An alarm­ing 675,000 old folks did not re­ceive fi­nan­cial sup­port from their chil­dren in 2004, and on top of that, The Star re­vealed just two weeks ago that 10 el­derly Malaysians are checked into old folks homes ev­ery week (based only on cen­tres reg­is­tered by the Wel­fare Depart­ment).

The high in­take at old folks’ homes is not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing, as ac­cord­ing to Venssi Kasi­nathan, owner of the Venssi Old Folks’ Home in Pe­nang, the 25-30 old folks at her home are mostly happy.

“Their fam­i­lies bring them in but the old folks are happy be­cause they un­der­stand their chil­dren need to work, and they are well taken care of,” she said.

How­ever, in a wel­fare so­ci­ety in the Klang Val­ley where old folks are housed free-of-charge, the sit­u­a­tion is quite dif­fer­ent.

“This is a ho­tel where peo­ple check in, but never check out. The peo­ple who come to us are usu­ally fam­i­lies that are not well-off and have fam­ily squab­bles,” said the so­ci­ety’s full-time man­ager Kelvin Wong.

“If you asked the old folks here if they’re happy, they would say yes. But deep down in­side, would you be happy if it’s Chi­nese New Year and you’re stuck here?”

He added that the so­ci­ety has now reached its max­i­mum ca­pac­ity of 120 old folks, and yet they still re­ceive calls from hos­pi­tals ask­ing them to take in old folks who have been aban­doned by their chil­dren.

“There are two ma­jor groups of peo­ple here – the less for­tu­nate, and those who planned for their re­tire­ment ear­lier and do not want to bur­den their chil­dren,” said Wong.

Plan­ning ahead

As much as young peo­ple should plan for their par­ents’ later years, fi­nan­cial plan­ner Yap Ming Hui be­lieves that they should plan for their own re­tire­ments first – and rec­om­mends that young peo­ple en­cour­age their par­ents to do the same.

“Young peo­ple in Malaysia on av­er­age salaries hardly earn enough to save for them­selves,” said Yap.

“It would be bet­ter for them to save for them­selves first, and just make sure their par­ents have a good med­i­cal insurance pol­icy.

“They can share the pre­mium among their sib­lings to lessen the bur­den.” Choo Choon Sian’s par­ents, for ex­am­ple, were never ed­u­cated on the im­por­tance of med­i­cal insurance, and now it’s up to him to pick up the pieces.

“I’m wor­ried be­cause my dad has passed the age to buy insurance, and my mum has two more years to go but I can’t af­ford it now as I’m just start­ing my own busi­ness,” said Choo, 24, an only child.

Nev­er­the­less, Choo is adamant that he will never send his par­ents to an old folks’ home.

“I may not be able to pro­vide for them fi­nan­cially at the mo­ment, but I’ll make sure I’ll be phys­i­cally there to take care of them.”

Role re­ver­sal

Ac­cord­ing to Yap, most work­ing young Malaysians do fac­tor in an al­lowance for their par­ents when they’re plan­ning their fi­nances, but it’s a trend that’s slowly dy­ing.

“With the cur­rent cost of liv­ing, it’s just not pos­si­ble. When I got mar­ried, I had no car, no hand­phone, no credit card; so set­ting aside RM400-500 for my par­ents wasn’t a prob­lem.

“Now young peo­ple have smart­phones, data plans, car loans, hous­ing loans. How much do they have left to save?” said Yap.

In fact, Yap said it is in­creas­ingly the par­ents who are help­ing their chil­dren now, es­pe­cially with things like prop­erty down-pay­ments.

“The roles are re­versed now. Many of my older clients tell me they don’t think about al­lowances from their chil­dren – they’d be happy enough as long as the chil­dren don’t ask for money!” he said with a laugh.

All young peo­ple can hope to do now, said Yap, is to start plan­ning their fi­nances as early as pos­si­ble.

On that point, KC See, CEO of wealth cre­ation com­pany MasteryAsia, rec­om­mends a sim­ple for­mula – put aside 20% of your in­come ev­ery month, and force your­self to sur­vive on what’s left.

He added that Malaysia’s house­hold debt is cur­rently at an all­time high – 83% of the coun­try’s gross dos­mes­tic prod­uct – and it’s the younger gen­er­a­tion that’s pil­ing the debt on it­self.

In other words, start sav­ing now.

With the ris­ing cost of liv­ing, it is be­com­ing more im­por­tant than ever for young peo­ple to plan for their par­ents’ se­nior years.

plans to buy said that he Choo Choon Sian en­tre­pre­neur qual­ify

for she doesn’t his mom be­fore insurance for insurance in two years.

CeO KC See

says that young Mas­tery asia Wealth cre­ation monthly.

of their sav­ings put aside 20% peo­ple should

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