Retirees share tips on how to stretch the ringgit

26 October 2015

The cost of living is rising even as we speak. For those who are in their golden years, cutting out little luxuries may seem like the only way to stretch their retirement funds.

One thing is for sure: every little bit counts, even if you’re lucky enough to have children who chip in for your daily expenses.

For seniors, a great way to start saving is to keep a keen eye out for discounted goods and services.

There are many cost-free ways seniors can keep busy. For Kuneswari Thevathasan, it is tending to her garden of edible plants and flowers.

 

As Noor Aini Rahim, 67, puts it, a little goes a long way. The retired personal assistant says a big chunk of her household savings come from buying discounted non-perishable goods in bulk.

“There are promotions from hypermarkets advertised in the newspapers every day,” she says.

Preparing meals at home can be a challenge when you’re just cooking for two. Not so for Noor Aini.

“I only cook once a day: I’ll cook for lunch, and my husband and I will have leftovers for dinner. If I’m preparing something more elaborate like rendang, I’ll cook more and freeze some portions for later. That saves both time and money,” she adds.

As someone who enjoys travelling, Noor Aini is quick to identify special senior citizen rates, with discounts of 50% off the regular price. For instance, senior citizens aged 60 and above are entitled to a 50% discount on KTM Komuter, regardless of destinations. But first, they would need to apply for a senior citizen membership card for an annual fee of RM10.

“When it comes to travelling, don’t book your air fares too far ahead. I did that once and something cropped up and I could not use the tickets. I ended up paying more to change the travel dates. So now I just look out for promotions that cover dates that are closer to the time I want to travel,” Noor Aini shares.

For hotel bookings, she finds it useful to compare prices on Agoda.com and Booking.com. To be on the safe side, Noor Aini chooses hotels that do not impose immediate charges upon reservation so that she will not have to spend extra on any last-minute changes.

Retired school teacher Kuneswari Thevathasan, 77, recently learned that she can apply for a special privilege card to enjoy monthly cash rebates from selected petrol stations. In fact, the discounts are not specific to senior citizens and can be enjoyed by anyone who has such a card.

“I spend the most on food and petrol daily. The rest is taken care of by my daughter,” says Kuneswari.

The pensioner has a thriving garden of home-grown vegetables. Among them are long beans, eggplants, curry leaves and lemongrass which come in handy for cooking. Kuneswari says a hobby like gardening helps her to cut down on entertainment expenses.

“I don’t go out a lot. Even if I do, it’s to church and there I can join all kinds of activities – like line dancing, and Japanese and Mandarin classes – for free. When you get older, the simple things are enough to get you by,” she says.

Pensioner Tay Kim Tee agrees on that last point. He encourages seniors to be active in associations and meet up with friends often.

“We need to communicate to keep our minds active. I know a lot of retirees who do nothing the whole day but sit in front of the computer or play mahjong. That’s really bad,” he says.

There are many ways seniors can keep busy, and it need not cost anything at all.

“My daughter volunteers to distribute food to the homeless at night. I think that’s a great activity for senior citizens. And if you’re an ex-professional, you can always volunteer to share your skills with the orang asli community. There are many kinds of volunteer work you can do,” Tay observes.

The 69-year-old is the president of the Taman Desa Senior Citizens Association. He previously worked as a civil servant in the landscaping sector.

Apart from dinner, Tay has most of his daily meals at value-for-money eateries near his home. He prefers a leisurely walk over a drive-out anytime, to save on petrol and to keep himself fit.

When it comes to grocery-shopping, Tay takes advantage of the special discounts offered by his neighbourhood supermarket De Market, between 8.30am and 11am.

As for medical expenses, Tay advises seniors to make full use of the government facilities to cut down on overall costs.

For seniors like Tay, cutting out on the little luxuries can greatly help to stretch out the retirement funds.

“There are special counters to speed up the waiting time for seniors and almost everything is free. For those with heart problems, you can easily get referrals to see a specialist at the National Heart Institute (IJN), which is much cheaper than going to a private hospital. Tay’s neighbour, Goh Pai Nyap, 74, enjoys paying the minimum for services and medication from the government hospitals.

“When you go to a private hospital, the consultancy fees can be in the hundreds and not many seniors can afford that. At a government hospital, you may just have to pay RM10,” says Goh, a retired electrical engineer. For savings, both Tay and Goh utilise the 1Malaysia Retirement Savings Scheme offered by the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). The scheme is designed to encourage the self-employed and those without a fixed monthly income to contribute voluntarily based on what they can afford.

Tay says the scheme operates like a savings bank account with a high interest rate.

“You can deposit up to RM60,000 a year and enjoy a yearly interest rate of 6.75%. For senior citizens, you can withdraw once every 30 days. It’s a great savings plan for seniors,” he says.

Tay says those who are approaching 55 should consider leaving some savings in their EPF account to enjoy the high interest rate.

“Many people think that they have to take out all their EPF money when they turn 55 but that is not true. The smarter plan would be to take out only what you need and leave the rest in the account to earn some interest.”

Another good piece of advice for senior citizens? “Live within your means,” Tay says. “Don’t try to show off. If you can’t afford it, don’t do it.”


Here’s a quick checklist to help senior citizens trim costs and maximise savings.


 

There are many restaurants and cafes around the country that have senior citizen discounts so keep a look out for these offers.

1. Eat for less

Selected cafes offer senior discounts and special promotions between 3pm and 6pm.

2. Watch for less

Seniors can watch a movie at GSC cinemas at a discounted price of RM7.50. This promotion applies for movies before 6pm on weekdays.

3. Commute for less

Seniors can apply for a concession card to enjoy a 50% discount for KTM Komuter, RapidKL LRT, Monorail, BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) and bus services.

4. Buy more for less

Wherever possible, buy discounted non-perishable items like detergent or shampoo in bulk.

5. Cook once, eat for several meals

Save time and money by cooking more and freezing the rest for later.

You don’t need to join a gym to stay fit and healthy. Get a group of friends and head to the park for some fresh air and exercise together.

 

6. Talk for free

Join senior citizen associations and enjoy a good talk in the company of others.

7. Exercise for free

Keep fit by taking morning strolls in the neighbourhood park or join a senior citizens’ exercise group.

8. Plan a little, save more

Boost your retirement funds by contributing to the 1Malaysia Retirement Savings Scheme offered by the Employees Provident Fund (EPF).

 

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