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Retirement: Risk now and live large in future

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A 2008 research carried out by Ernst & Young in the US indicated that 60% of the middle-class lived the same standard of life in retirement as they used to when working, without needing to cut back on expenses.

What is considered the middle class in the US could pass as the lower upper-class or the upper-middle class in Kenya. As such, if the figure were to be adjusted for local use, it would come to something like 30% of the middle class and worse, 10% of the population. In the past, our folks used to work and spend it all then move to the rural areas to retire while farming and waiting for support from their children. Not anymore.

The population is growing fast and the cost of living is skyrocketing. It is difficult to pin your hopes on your children as a retirement plan. One truth is for sure, if the good Lord gives you more years on earth, you will reach retirement age when you can’t work.What will happen then?

Let me go western again and point out that many baby boomers in the US are frustrated because their investments in the stock market and unit trusts went down the drain during the recession.

Further, there is a feeling that the US government might not be able to support such a high number of referees for even five years given the weak economy and high cost of pension.

Many have been forced to do odd jobs long after retirement, for a fault purely not theirs. One of the most popular investment vehicles for retirees has always been treasury bonds. In Spain, the notion that bonds are a safe haven was challenged when the government said it was broke and couldn’t sustain its loan commitments.

An old English friend who used to do what I do today does telemarketing to try and stay afloat in the economic murk after his investment got devalued at the London stock Exchange. It’s a painful reality.

And this makes me wonder, can we survive a recession as a country? Many Kenyans make money and spend in parties, Nyama Choma, beer and flashy things, putting their trust in the NSSF, which is heavily invested in the stock market. Others have their retirement plans with local fund managers and insurance companies who are also major players at the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

What happens if the market experiences a real recession, not just aftershocks of the American recession? All this creates a case for the working class to aggressively take their retirement plans into their own hands. I think the only antidote to the risks in the market is to be heavily invested. This sounds philosophical but, yes, the only remedy for these risks is taking the risk.

Today, retirees are running agriculture. It will pay more for one to invest in agriculture now and grow their capital, than to wait until after retirement when the contacts in the market have dried up and the energy levels are low.

Further, it might also help to invest in real estate given the high demand in urban centres as opposed to waiting to access funding later on in life. This can be done individually where possible, or in groups of like minded individuals. And for those with a high appetite for risks and a knack for dealing with the government, the transport sector looks very rewarding.

It would seem like living an average life on a well paying job while paying for your retirement package monthly is now high risk. What seemed to be risk-free, quite and simple is no longer so safe.

Rather, those who choose to take up substantial amounts of risks earlier in life, and have grown their capital through businesses are safer and better off. The businesses seem to be able to sustain them in the long-term as opposed to government or insurance policy. In conclusion, this boils down to the point that one should take care of their own future by planting seeds of investment now.

A sense of entitlement from the government might not help in the long run. Further, avoiding risk now, could be more risky in the long run. Embrace some risks now, so you can be safe later.

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WILLIAM ODHIAMBOhttp://www.elim-consult.com
William Odhiambo is the Managing Consultant of Elim Consulting. Elim Consulting does training, advisory and research on Finance, enterprise development and Economic Policy. Email: [email protected] Twitter @odhiamboramogi
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