…𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒉𝒂𝒓𝒔𝒉 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒚 𝒐𝒇 𝒇𝒊𝒏𝒂𝒏𝒄𝒊𝒂𝒍 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒖𝒈𝒈𝒍𝒆𝒔, 𝑩𝒆𝒅𝒂 𝒈𝒓𝒂𝒑𝒑𝒍𝒆𝒔 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒊𝒏𝒔𝒖𝒇𝒇𝒊𝒄𝒊𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒚 𝒐𝒇 𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒑𝒆𝒏𝒔𝒊𝒐𝒏, 𝒐𝒓𝒊𝒈𝒊𝒏𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒚 𝒊𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒅 𝒕𝒐 𝒔𝒖𝒑𝒑𝒐𝒓𝒕 𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒑𝒐𝒔𝒕-𝒓𝒆𝒕𝒊𝒓𝒆𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝒍𝒊𝒇𝒆, 𝒂𝒔 𝒊𝒕 𝒇𝒂𝒊𝒍𝒔 𝒕𝒐 𝒌𝒆𝒆𝒑 𝒑𝒂𝒄𝒆 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒆𝒔𝒄𝒂𝒍𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒍𝒊𝒗𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒄𝒐𝒔𝒕𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒊𝒏𝒇𝒍𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏
By Krishna Kumar Sanyasi
In the twilight of their working lives, many retirees in Bhutan grapple with challenging economic conditions and a profound sense of isolation. Retirement, often envisioned as a time of leisure and independence, presents a markedly different reality for a significant number of retirees.
In 2002, the government implemented a rule mandating that civil servants, public enterprise workers, and soldiers save money for retirement. The goal was to ensure they had sufficient funds to sustain themselves after ceasing work. However, these savings plans seem to have fallen short in protecting retirees from financial challenges and feelings of isolation. Retirement, a period meant for relaxation and freedom, has transformed into a time of financial hardship and loneliness for many.
Beda Nadhi Chimariya, a former Deputy Chief Administrative Officer with thirty-eight years of public service, faces the harsh reality of financial struggles. His pension, intended to support his post-retirement life, is insufficient to keep up with rising living costs and inflation. Beda’s dream of owning a secure home remains out of reach due to modest pension funds. Despite his significant contributions to society, Beda now copes with meeting basic requirements, ensuring his children receive a proper education, and securing a permanent residence.
Beda Nadhi Chimariya’s post-retirement life has presented notable challenges, particularly in the financial aspect. He said, “Reflecting on my own circumstances, the difficulties are compounded by the fact that my wife dedicated herself to caring for our children during my working years when they were still young. Now that I am retired and my children are in college, I find myself solely responsible for supporting their education with my pension, which is very challenging.”
“The aspiration to provide my children with the best education possible is juxtaposed with the daunting reality of managing their educational expenses on a pension. The palpable financial strain is further complicated by the challenge of meeting the rising costs of education, set against an economy grappling with inflation. Additionally, my wife, who was not part of the workforce during our children’s formative years, faces the current difficulty of securing employment,” he added.
Similarly, Kamala Tamang, a retired educator and civil servant, shares in the financial difficulties of retirement. Her pension barely covers high rental expenses, compelling her to adjust to a lower standard of living. The challenging economy with increasing prices and inflation adds complexity to her retirement planning. Kamala Tamang’s narrative mirrors the broader economic challenges confronting retirees. The surge in commodity prices and the impact of inflation have significantly eroded the purchasing power of pension funds. Managing day-to-day expenses, particularly high rental costs, becomes an arduous task. The evolving economic inflationary pressures intensify the struggle to plan for a financially secure retirement.
Sonam’s experience of post-retirement loneliness is relatable, yet it is accompanied by an additional layer of financial concern. She said, “The absence of a robust professional network not only contributes to a sense of isolation but also poses challenges in seeking potential avenues for supplementary income or financial advice during this pivotal phase of life.”
The emotional toll of retirement is equally significant. Beda reflects on an intense sense of loss, feeling that his identity has diminished in the eyes of society. Once highly respected for his contributions, he now finds himself on the sidelines, his worth possibly diminished. The lack of recognition weighs heavily on his spirit, leaving him feeling adrift in a sea of indifference.
Sonam’s transition to retirement introduces an unexpected surge of loneliness. The lively office environment that once filled his days with purpose and fellowship has been replaced by haunting silence. Stripped of his professional network, he longs for meaningful connections and a sense of belonging.
Kamala, too, grapples with the seclusion that retirement brings. Without the physical activities and social interactions that characterized her days, she yearns for a sense of community and purpose. Her vision of an “old age club,” a place where retirees can find solace and companionship, offers a glimmer of promise in an otherwise desolate landscape.
According to Yeshi Choden, Media Focal Person of National Pension and Provident Fund (NPPF), the monthly pension for civil employees is determined by a calculation involving 40% of their final salary divided by the number of years served. While pensions are provided based on employees’ contributions, the financial challenges faced by retirees can vary significantly based on their salaries, potentially impacting the livelihoods of public servants.
Furthermore, the trend of many individuals voluntarily quitting their jobs before reaching the 20-year maturity period for the pension system has raised concerns about the fund’s sustainability in the long run. This trend has significant financial implications for both the NPPF and the government, prompting questions about the long-term viability of the pension fund.
Beda identifies the need for revisions to the current pension scheme, particularly in the provision for surviving spouses. He notes that the current policy only allows the surviving spouse to receive 50% of the deceased member’s pension until they reach the age of 50, which he deems inadequate. Beda argues that the surviving spouse should be entitled to 100% of the pension amount without consideration of age.
After years of hard work and dedication, Sonam and Kamala find themselves in a challenging post-retirement phase, a situation not unique to them but shared by many retirees in the country. Despite their diligent efforts, their pension fund falls short amidst rising living standards, inflation, and a yearning for a sense of belonging. Actively seeking housing security to establish a retired life, they earnestly appeal to the NPPF for the implementation of housing security schemes. These initiatives would alleviate the burden of finding suitable housing during their retirement years. In their plea, Sonam and Kamala emphasize the critical need to address the housing requirements of retirees, underlining the significance of ensuring a secure and comfortable living environment for those who have dedicated their lives to contributing to the nation’s workforce.