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Retirement nightmare

Retirement marks the end of a person’s working career. Many expect that retirement would be a breeze life and its purposes would be clear, decisions would be easy to make and all the tough parts like work would be in the past.

But in our nation, being retired is far from trouble-free. It’s a totally different world for those of our citizens who toiled for their motherland. It’s a disaster!

Other than Social Security, many retirees have no source of guaranteed income other than retirement savings.

On Monday, retirees in the Ministry of Health at Arthur Davison Children’s Hospital in Ndola asked President Edgar Lungu how they can go to the village and farm when they have not been paid their terminal benefits.

According to the retirees, 10 years have passed without them receiving their terminal benefits and that others have died while others are experiencing stress and hardships.

Spokesperson for the retirees Muzeko Milungo says the old men and women feel used and neglected by the government.

“You are saying retirees should go to the village and start farming, how can we go now? What are we going to use in the same farming? We are dying of stroke, stress and poverty. We are suffering as peasant farmers without support. That support should come from our money we worked for. Why should the government treat its own people like this? When it comes to other issues, they have money [but] when it’s paying retirees, there is no money,” complained Milungo.

“Don’t do politics with our money. When an election is near, you start asking for our names, pay us now! I am one of the retirees who is struggling because of not being paid my reliable terminal benefits, which was twisted backward in 2014 by the government. By twisting the conditions of service, meaning there is a culture of donating years to the government if you retire. When are we going to start reducing poverty, criminality, unemployment and general diseases because of suffering? Where are we going with this new culture of donating years to government when you retire after sweating for many years?”

Why should this be the case?

Those of our citizens who, in their prime, toiled and gave their best towards the development of our nation deserve a dignified life.

These retirees spent decades working loyally for the system, the public service, which they had implicit faith in.

Unfortunately, for many years after retirement, when they should be rewarded for good work, they are receiving pain and anguish. They are being tormented by the non-payment of what rightly belongs to them.

What happened to their money? Why has it become difficult to pay them those meagre pensions? How do we expect our retirees to subsist on?

While retirees languish, our politicians are awash with ill-gotten wealth. They live in plenty. Not a single day will you hear that politicians have not received their allowances, gratuities, and other extravagancies they have awarded themselves.

What’s wrong with our country? Where is decency? Who has bewitched us with this disease of treating our retirees with such indifference?

There is urgent need to redress this situation particularly that our country offers no alternatives.

In other countries, where possible, retirees have radically redefined what it means to be retired. They are often active in a variety of areas and may even pursue part- or full-time employment after retiring from a career of many years.

When we stop working, our major source of income dries up.

As KCLau argues, for the retired the reality is that life is even more challenging now than it was when they were working. Unless the retiree has prudently managed his or her finances while still in employment, the issue of money will pose an immediate challenge upon retirement. It will not be easy to adjust financially to a situation where one no longer has a fixed or reasonably stable income every month.

Further, even the most financially-savvy individual cannot accurately predict how long he or she will live, or what state of health he or she will be in say 10, or 20 years down the road. This makes budgeting for the future, extremely challenging.

Those who are still in the workforce tend to long for retirement as they see it as utopia, and endless period of leisurely bliss. But they rarely stop to ponder the question as to what they will do to stay focused and connected with the world, after they stop working. It may seem surprising, but amongst the top challenges facing today’s retirees are feelings of isolation and lack of purpose, loss of identity and the feeling that they are “no longer of use to society”.

Clearly, the government has a role to play. Lawmakers have a clear role to play. And we wonder how they feel that they will walk out of their termly duties with hefty gratuities while those others that retire after years of serving the government languish.

Our retirees need to be treated humanely. It should not be a nightmare for them to leave employment.

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