By TAN POH KHENG
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
Many senior citizens said that one must at least have a companion, a friend and a sum of money to live comfortably and happily in his or her old age.
It is a kind of spiritual consolation to have a companion, even if it brings bickers and quarrels. Meanwhile, a friend fills life with joy and a sum of money is the key deciding the quality of a person's retirement life.
It would be regretful to lack one of the three, and money is indispensable.
Generally, in addition to saving money in bank, wage earners have a larger accumulated sum of money in the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), which will be the support for many of them, after their retirement.
According to the current system, once employees in the private sector reach the retirement age of 55, they can withdraw all EPF savings or continue to keep their money there and only withdraw a certain amount to repay housing loans or children education fees.
Originally, there should be no worries as the EFP is managed by professionals and we can enjoy an annual interest twice the amount of fixed deposit interests. For example, we enjoyed 6% of interest rate last year, which is also the highest in the recent 10 years. It is secure and profitable.
However, a doubt about whether the age to withdraw all EPF savings would be raised to 60 after the Minimum Retirement Age Bill 2012 was recently tabled in the Dewan Rakyat.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam even said that to ensure a secure life for private sector employees after their retirement, the government proposed a special pension scheme forbidding retired employees to withdraw all their EFP savings at once but on monthly basis.
The proposal has caused worries among EPF members, particularly those who have reached 55 years old but have yet withdrawn their EPF savings, and those who are about to retire and have planned to withdraw the money to start up small businesses.
The government is worried that retired employees might not have enough money and live in destitution in their old age. Indeed, for many low-income earners, they are able to save only less than RM200,000 even after working so hard the whole life. The sum of money is not enough to support themselves for 20 years.
However, if the government wishes to help retired employees with little EPF savings, it should be done through other welfare measures like providing free medical care or housing allowance.
It is infeasible to make it a mandatory to withdraw EPF savings on monthly basis as EPF savings are personal property. Does the government have the power to forbid employees who have reached their retirement age to withdraw all their EPF savings?
In addition, among the 12 million EPF members, although there are only RM5.45 million members having less than RM150,000 in their accounts, there are more than half of the total members having RM150,000 to RM1 million and these people might need a sum of money for a better life plan.
Any decisions related to the EPF brings wide and far-reaching effects and thus, the government must think twice before making a decision. Otherwise, it might affect the people's confidence in the government.