Treating Our Senior Citizens With The Respect They Deserve

It has come to the attention of BU that a few companies in Barbados have been  ‘firing’ long standing employees for questionable reasons. The objective behind what BU labels an unethical action is to avoid paying ‘severance’ to longstanding employees. In one case that we know of the person was employed at a St. Michael company for over 20 years. The only reason BU is withholding the name of the company is the reality it would prejudice the matter which is the subject of litigation for the employee involved. Regrettable the role of the unions in the current environment has become redundant. or so it seems.

There is another concern which BU has, here is a scenario:

My partner is rapidly approaching her 60th birthday and she wanted to find out what her options were for retiring (“comfortably”) when she attained that “wonderful” milestone. So with this in mind I went to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) Office and spoke with an officer. He explained to me that the earliest anyone could apply for an NIS pension was at age 60. However, he said, by the time my partner reaches 60 the official retirement age at that time would then be 67 years.

He continued to say that theoretically my partner could still opt for retirement at age 60 BUT would lose 6% for each year up to the age of 67. Some simple maths would reveal that at that point 42% of the total pension would be lost by ‘cashing in’ early.

Is this the result of a caring, considerate government for its senior citizens? Consider that at age 60 my partner (or most workers for that matter) would have been working and paying NIS contributions (and helping to build this country up) for 40 or more years (33+ with one company!) of their productive lives and because they would like to retire just 7 short years before the “official” limit that they stand to lose nearly 50% of the NIS pension that they would normally get at age 67! Can you actually believe that? Their pensions would now be cut by almost half because they are feeling a bit worn out and tired and wish to retire a bit before the “government” says that they should!! Is there any reason for penalising these older folk so drastically as they enter the “evening” of their lives? Don’t misunderstand me, I understand that one could not expect to receive the full amount of pension at an earlier retirement age but almost 50% less just for not working an additional 7 years!! Why such a drastic reduction?

The above scenario is one which is playing out everyday across Barbados. BU understands the pain of our senior citizens illustrated in the above scenario. Barbados is an ageing population and this reality has placed the NIS Fund under serious threat. Under the last government some actuarial work was done which informed the decision to shift the retirement age to 67. Harsh economic realities is making retirement for our senior citizens a very uncomfortable experience. Many have to life on inadequate pensions, work well into the time their feet should be “up” are in dire scenarios retreat to the District Hospitals. Modern societies in pursuit of ‘First World’ status are treating our senior citizens like ‘samon tot retrievers’.

  • Charles S.Cadogan Sr

    This is a very sad situation, and a bitter pill to take. Here at home in the US,the retirement age for Social Security is 62, but if you go to 65 you would get you full amount. I am sure that’s about to be changed also; What quite a number of people are doing is allowing them to take out more for Social Security from their paychecks the last couple of years before the retire.
    But what you’ve mentioned that was told to you isn’t making that much sense either; How long is it before your partner turns 60?

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  • The writer is correct, this is a slap in the face of senior citizens in this country, we are being panelised for living long. It appears that many employees who are now tired and longing to retire, find themselves under pressure from their employers. Obviously, they cannot perform as good as they used to when they were younger, yet the employer tends to place more work on them and threatens to or sometimes fire them for poor performance, hence no severence. Imagine working for 30 or 40 years in a particular business and being fired for simple matters? The more fortunate ones are offered an early retirement package, which sometimes is way below what should have been given had the retirement age not changed, if it is refused, the employer finds some means to get rid of you at the nearest opportunity. There is little the unions can or will do about it.

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  • Barbados’ birth rate has been too low for 2 generations and yet the common myth out there is that “the young women nowadays getting tummuch children” The truth is Bajans have not been getting enough children for 30 years or more.

    The retirement of elders is funded out of the earnings of young workers.

    Not enough youngsters, then later retirement for everybody else.

    Or we can import some young workers, yet a good number of the contributors to this blog are virulently anti-immigrant.

    So not enough babies and not enough young immigrants leads to retirement at 67 for all of us.

    And a good number of us will die between 60 and 67 and will NEVER collect any pension at all.

    We can’t change it now, so suck it up.

    Or we can have the youngsters give up half their paychecks to Income tax and NIS so that thier parents can go home at 60.

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  • And yes I am one of those who cannot retire with a full pension until I am 67, by which time I would have been working for 49 years.

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  • I wonder if the writer of the scenario is a civil servatn. Civil servants have been accustomed to retiring after 33 1/3 years if they have reached the age of 55 or 60. For those of us in the private sector it ain’t so.

    I too have a partner, a civil servant who went to work at 17 and can retire at 55 with a full pension, that is after 38 years at work, or at 60 after 43 years at work.

    I have to put in 49 years before I can get my full pension, that is I have to work for 11 more years.

    A non civil servant who went to work at 17 cannot retire with a full pension until age 67, that is after 50 years of work.

    My questiion is why should a private sector worker have to continue working until 67, so that his or her taxes can pay the pension of a 55 year old retired civil servant?

    It seems unfair to me for people of 67 to have to continue working so that they can pay the pensions of people who are 10 years younger than they are.

    But not a political party or union is willing to touch this one.

    The civil service is too large and too powerful.

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  • … theoretically my partner could still opt for retirement at age 60 BUT would lose 6% for each year up to the age of 67.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    This IS a pill that’s hard to swallow and digest but we have to be careful not to choke on it. I’ve heard the excuse it is the period of the baby boomers and they are living much longer so we have to figure in for longevity and set aside for those to follow…

    This seems to be happening all over so Bim is not the only one. No one knows how long he is going to live. The seven year difference is promised to none of us so it is better to start collecting as early as allowed, cause by the time that 7 years creep up the maths could be adjusted that there is not much of a difference if had accepted 7 years earlier. (A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush)

    These government officials have a way of changing things around when they crunch numbers and look at probability.

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  • @ David

    My concern here is why should the pensioner lose as much as almost 50% of their expected pension because they might wish to retire just 7 years earlier? I know that they could not expect “full consideration”, but why penalise them by a reduction of 6% for each year that they retire before age 67? What about 1%, 2% or even 3% for each year? 6% definitely seems a bit harsh to me. If the worker decides to opt for an age 60 retirement that means that their pension will be reduced as follows, 7 years X 6% = 42%. That works out to a reduction of almost 50%, I wonder how many people in Barbados realise this is the real case! So if an employee in the private sector was to have received a pension of $1600 per month at age 67, if that employee decided to retire at age 60 instead, he/she would only receive $672/month because they wanted to retire 7 years earlier. Does this sound morally right when we, the taxpayers, are expected to pay parliamentarians a full pension after only serving (I believe 2 terms) 10 years in parliament? How can this compare with a private sector employee being penalised after putting in 30 and 40 years of drudgery. I think perhaps all Bajans should then become parliamentarians! But, you would remember from history, David, what occurred in France after Queen Marie Antoinette told the starving people “that if they did not have bread that they could eat cake”! Remember she and the king lost their heads subsequently. What I am trying to point out, David, is that an oppressed population will only take so much and no more! How long is too long if it is not good?
    Now, what is your take on the subject at hand, David?

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  • Quoting de hood “So if an employee in the private sector was to have received a pension of $1600 per month at age 67, if that employee decided to retire at age 60 instead, he/she would only receive $672/month”

    Early retirement is not always a good thing. If you come from a long lived family it is better to retire late. I’ve know a headteacher who retired at 55 and by the time she hit 95 her pension was so eaten up by inflation that she was living in squalor.

    A word to the wise.

    Neither the politicians or the acturies drew the 6% per year reduction out of a hat. The calculations were very carefully done. The 6% per year penalty is DESIGNED to DISCOURAGE early retirement.

    And it WILL discourage eraly retirement.

    In the scenario above is the male partner willing or able to subsidize his femal partner as long as she will live so that he can enjoy her company at home at 60?

    If not she should NOT retire early, as it can happen that he may die when she is 61 and leave her with a meagre pension, no job, no hope of returning to the work force, and nothing to look forward to except 30 or more years of poverty.

    Same if the enquiring partner was a female.

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  • @ RT
    So tell me then, Sir, just why should we encourage the situation where a parliamentarian in Barbados could expect “full pension” after only 10 years on the job???

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  • @ RT
    Correction, wrong calculations. The figure should have been $928 not $672. I inadvertently quoted the 42% instead of the 58%. (100%-42% = 58%). 🙂 My apologies to all for the reversal of figures.

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  • Quoting de hood “just why should we encourage the situation where a parliamentarian in Barbados could expect “full pension” after only 10 years on the job???

    WE SHOULD NOT.

    MP’s like other people should contribute to NIS and when they reach 65 or 67 depending on thier age now they should get a pension like anyboody else, but not before.

    I think that we let our MPS’ pull a fast one on us, when they made thenmselves eligible for a pension after only 10 years of service. And BOTH parties are in on this sweetheart deal (sweetheart for MP’s that is, while ordinary tax payers have to wuk until they brek down, or suck salt on a meagre pension)

    A good number of the MP’s currently collecting pensions are YOUNGER than I am. And I have been at work for 40 years with no hope of a full pension until I am 67 or any pension at all until I am 64 by which time I would have been working 46 YEARS.

    The way I look at it this is a case of younger MP’s unfairing ordinary citizen/tax payers who are much OLDER than the retired MP’s.

    But trust me rolling back the MP’s benefits will not be on ANY party’s agenda.

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  • @ RT

    It may not very well be on ANY PARTY”S agenda, but don’t let us forget the lessons to be learnt from history! A population is a very fickle entity. Ah Lie?

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  • @ RT

    Alternatively, RT, we would have to make dammed sure that no MP serve more than 1 term (5 years, no more!). How ah talk?

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  • The current Dean at the USA college where I studied received his first degree in 1961; this is 2011, fifty years later.
    New Brain Research, which was one of the areas I studied, suggests that persons peak academically/intellectually at different times/ages. My academic performance …after the age of forty …. during my studies overseas was better than when I studied for my first degree in my twenties.

    In Barbados, we still believe that, when you reach the age of 60+, you should be “staked out” like a sheep to pasture until you die. Rather than reTIRING, our people should be reTYRING; putting on “new wheels” and using the experiences and knowledge accumulated in earlier years to keep focused and motivated. Far too many of our people are “drying up/out” after retiring at 60 or 65 years of age. As long as you are alive, you can continue to learn and acquire new and greater knowledge.

    You cannot pay for that new, dream house out of a gratuity or retirement pension; inflation and stress can kill you off. Furthermore, if you retire before the age of 60 years and still have outstanding loans to look after, the pension you get here in Barbados, cannot enable you to live the same way you did on a full salary.

    I am familiar with a grandfather who was keen on playing a musical instrument, as a boy, but never got the opportunity to do so. I encouraged him to go to the NCF and join a class. He did, bought his own instrument and is now revitalised. One 75 years old acquaintance I met while studying changed jobs twice during the past three years.

    After years of hard work, retirees should enjoy their pension, travel, etc. I, however, would like to see them writing down their experiences in book form, sharing, and have recorded, the oral history of their communities. They can also be used to mentor youth who are willing to listen …. and learn from the knowledge these persons have acquired. Maybe, some might not have financial wealth to share, but the intellectual wealth they have is priceless.

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  • Barbados is dealing with a national pension issue that is common in all countries with increasing aging populations. The original pension plan infrastructures and dynamics, which were established to support and maintain these plans, no longer hold true. Whose fault is it that these pension plans were allowed to degrade to the situation that now exists and drastic measures are required in order to keep the plans solvent.

    In reality it’s the pensioners fault and yes the pensioner will pay. The terms older retirement ages, less retirement pay etc. will be common.

    True, I’m a pensioner and I’ve personally been caught in these various pension issues, however careful planning and keeping myself informed and abreast of the pension issues allowed me to adjust my personal savings, insurance etc. such that I was able to meet my personal retirement goals and maintain my lifestyle. You cannot expect anyone, at least not the government, to look after your personal welfare in your old age except yourself, and maybe some well meaning children.

    If you believe the government will look after you in your age, then your surely putting your eggs in the wrong basket.

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  • A slight digression for which I apologize.

    Another area which should cause concern us, is the dishonest practices which elderly people are subjected to, with regard to finance. I have it on good authority, that elderly people in Barbados are repeatedly fleeced of their money by – I regret to say it, family members.

    This is often done by coercion, threats and the withdrawal of basic attention, which allows the perpetrators to get access to their bank accounts; or manoeuvring them into situations to make decisions against their interest.

    We should be honest in our dealings with the elderly – family members or not – and ask ourselves, if the decisions we encourage or influence them to make, are honestly in “their” own interest.

    Before they die their property is theirs…..and that must always be clearly understood.

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  • As a retiree, try getting a post paid phone from LIME.

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  • @de hood

    As you know actuarial science is used as a means to manage pension funds by applying all kinds of complex mathematical models. Under the previous government an actuarial study was done and in response to an ageing population the study concluded that to protect eligibility for all the pension age had to be extended. That is the hard reality and as a commenter earlier stated it makes sense in the current environment to supplement pension income with private plans and/or be prepared to scale down your lifestyle.

    There is the other side if viewed with a philosophical slant that a country should look after its elderly and by any means necessary the government should ensure that social security funds are adequately funded. This is true in light of government’s tendency over the yearsto utilize social security funds as a cheap source of funding, especially when managing cash flow crises.

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  • @ David
    I understand what you are saying about the pensionable age having to be extended etc but what I do not understand is why a pensioner should have to forfeit almost half of their pension if they wanted to retire a few short years earlier. Do you follow what I am saying?

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  • What don’t you understand Hood?

    if a person retires at 67 and lives for 15 years earning $X per year in pension they will be paid $15X

    If that same person retires at 60 and lives to the same age the same total amount paid out will come to 15X/22 per month or 68% of the full pension. Seems quite fair.

    Who do you propose should pay the extra monies required to allow some to retire early at near full pension?

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  • @Brothe de hood

    Life is unfair isn’t it?

    There was a time a man could pack his shaving cream and finger nail clippers in his carry-on luggage when taking to the air.

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  • Bare shite gwine on in this place called Bar- bad- os , now renamed Warbados.

    People are being treated worse than dogs in the public service and in the private sector and the only reason that it is not being discussed every day and taking a bigger profile nationally is that Bajans are proud and long suffering and somebody might say “foolish”.

    I do not support the”foolish” label but Bajans need to get wid de programme and this thing needs to be fully investigated and ventilated.

    It is serious !

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  • In a few days we will be seeing all stops being pulled in St John to have every voter in that riding taken to the various polling stations,as is done in every election. The aged are lifted out of their homes and carefully taken to mark their X’s. Come the hurricane season and a storm is threatening these very same pensioners, the poor souls have no one to assist them. Like a cigarette end they are used and tossed away.

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  • THE COMMENTS by some people on this Blog about ‘old’ people have not be nice and is an indication of how people are prepared to treat senior citizens. They have called Owen all sorts of old this and that . These are the same people who would throw their parents to the district hospital.

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