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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Mitigating challenges of old age: Set your priorities before retirement

20th March 2012

According to CIA World Factbook’s 2011 estimates, life expectancy in Tanzania is at 52.85 years (men: 51.34 years and women at 54.42 years). This means many Tanzanians die when they are in their 50s and only a few of them are lucky to reach old age.

In developed countries, life expectancy is at least 60. The Public Service Retirement Benefits Act, 1999 [s. 17(1) & (2)] puts voluntary retirement age in Tanzania at 55 years old and statutory retirement age at 60. So, one must think about and prepare well for one’s retirement otherwise it will take one by surprise and regret for the rest of one’s life.

In light of this, the Tanzania Global Development Learning Centre (TGDLC) has organised a five-day Public Retirement Workshop on preparation for retirement (Kujiandaa na Maisha Baada ya Kustaafu) for public and private employees in Morogoro Region from Monday to Friday.

The workshop, which will be conducted in Kiswahili, aims at preparing participants psychologically, socially and economically for life after retirement, teaching them how to plan well for life after retirement, exposing them to entrepreneurial skills, enabling them to expose their personal development and educating them about health issues.

They will also have an opportunity to share their experiences on what they know about life after retirement and how are prepared for it.

Various studies show that most employees in the public and private sectors find life difficult after retirement due to lack of awareness of opportunities that can be utilised before and after retirement and lack of preparedness, while in employment.

“Preparation for retirement is extremely important. It means reflecting on one’s retirement time more realistically and knowing how to cope with it positively. Many people fail to cope with life after retirement because they did not prepare themselves for it and it is because of this that we have organised this workshop. If you don’t decide what your priorities are, the priorities will decide for you. At the end of the day, one has to enjoy one’s life after retirement and not curse it,” said TGDLC Training Coordinator Dickson Mwanyika during an interview with this paper in Dar es Salaam on Thursday.

Mwanyika was expounding on the significance and relevance of this TGDLC’s newly introduced workshop to employees approaching retirement age and how they could utilise it.

He said the workshop was designed especially to make employees in their 40s aware that a time would come, when for reasons of health, old age or any incapacity would stop working in the formal sector and so they needed to learn how to cope with life after retirement and avoid being taken by surprise and regret.

He noted that some employees died of shock or developed health complications because of unpreparedness and did not know how to spend their pension intelligently and so ended up being frustrated and depressed for the rest of their lives.

“Sometimes employment fools. When you see a person retiring, you may think it doesn’t concern you. You forget that you will also one day retire. The bad thing is that many employees do not have a culture of saving money for old age. They just spend whatever they get until they finish it and face financial hardships in the future.

You don’t save money because you are well paid or you have plenty of it but because you want ti spend intelligently. In fact, even if you have millions of Tanzanian shillings, if you don’t know how to save, it will not help you anything. So, people must learn how to save from whatever resources they have,” he said.

He noted that one had to decide what one’s priorities were otherwise one would end up spending on anything and when they retire, they curse it. “Priorities change with time and the environment in which one lives.

So, you have to establish a scale of priorities at a particular time and ensure you stick to them. However, you may review your priorities whenever circumstances require it. This will enable you to avoid spending money extravagantly,” he explained.

Old age has many challenges like limited regenerative abilities, health complications, lack of financial possibilities and support and lack of social integration skills. In some parts of Tanzania, some people especially elderly women are killed on superstitious grounds. When one is aging, one has to think also he or she could be a victim of this mob psychology, which is taking root in our society. So, thinking about retirement and old age, causes real or apparent fear that has to be dealt with realistically.

Financial security in retirement doesn’t just happen. It requires planning and commitment if one wants to prepare oneself for a happy future. According to Mwanyika, one must not to touch one’s retirement savings if one wants to benefit from them for the money is meant for life after retirement and not before. There is no shortcut for this but one’s discipline.

In our consumer society today there is always a tendency to spend more money than one can save because we want to show others that we also earn money and we have to spend it.

Although in theory the government of Tanzania is committed to ensuring Tanzanians lead a decent life, in practice this is still far from the truth.

For instance, social security schemes operate too inefficiently to uplift members from the poverty trap. That is why it is important not only to have good social arrangements but also one has to have ability to manage them well so that they meet people’s needs and expectations.

The public and private sectors should utilise workshops and programmes like this one so that Tanzanians grow up knowing the importance of saving and spending intelligently whatever resources they have at their disposal. This will make a difference in their lives and reduce poverty.

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