For the past few weeks when Congress has not yet resumed session, one of the rooms in the Senate remained busy amid the silent halls. The hardworking Sen. Richard J. Gordon had a series of technical meetings with Social Security System (SSS) officials for the 2017 SS Charter Amendments that he is championing in the Senate.
All throughout the meetings, Gordon would inform us that his mantra in life is “Work, Save, Invest, Prosper”. One time, he recounted how he used this as a battle cry to push people in Subic after the Americans left the base. He patiently talked to his constituents to work hard, save more and invest intelligently, because they have no one else to depend on except themselves.
Nobody can argue the accomplishments of Gordon in Subic’s metamorphosis, from a decommissioned military base in 1992 to one of the largest economic and tourism zones in the country today. Changing the general mind-set of Filipinos—from the usual norm of asking the government to provide for basic needs to assuming individual responsibility for the future—is what the senator hopes to instill among us.
It is this philosophy that has prompted Gordon to espouse the pension fund’s charter changes. SSS is one with him in securing a better future for its members, through adequate pension that could provide for basic needs, like food and medicines.
He even mentioned that aside from basic needs, retirees should enjoy the luxury of traveling, which many, during their productive work life, could not afford due to time constraints. Now, free from the pressure of work, retirees should have the chance to travel, and to experience Philippine tourism.
Admittedly, a comfortable retirement is a product of years of savings.
The senator was quick to note that it is easier to be poor when you are still in your productive years, because you can always look for extra work to add to your income and savings. It is pitiful to be a poor retiree who has no option to find for a source of income.
One may argue that the standard of living is relative. A retired bank executive will definitely need a higher pension to sustain even a snippet of the lifestyle he enjoyed while at work. A retired office clerk will likely have a simpler lifestyle.
A sad fact is that only 4 out of 10 Filipino workers have savings, based on the 2015 study of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas national baseline survey on financial inclusion. Ironically, 9 out of 10 Filipino workers worry about their retirement.
The good news is that 80 percent to 90 percent of Filipinos want to save. The personal desire to save money is present. But the challenge is to make it happen.
Truth is, saving for retirement is doable with a few lifestyle adjustments. For instance, the average cost of a cigarette pack is P60. If a smoker consumes one pack a day, that sums up to P1,800 a month. So, by just kicking the habit of smoking, one saves P12,600 annually.
Speaking of smoking, now is an opportune time to quit this deadly habit. In his State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Duterte cited the critical importance of the nationwide smoking ban that he signed into law. Smokers are banned in public places. Given the limited or lack of smoking areas, it is better to quit than face apprehension from police enforcers.
Savings from buying cigarettes could be diverted to retirement. The annual P12,600 savings would definitely go a long way in providing a comfortable life for a retiree.
Today, SSS is the most affordable, accessible savings facility. It offers easy terms to save for life’s contingencies, such as sickness, maternity, disability, funeral, retirement and death or survivor benefit. It is a defined benefit system, which means that every contribution has a corresponding benefit.
At P15 per day or P440 a month, SSS is the most feasible way to save for retirement. Unlike a typical insurance policy, SSS contributions do not expire. Contributions have a corresponding benefit. With only 120 contributions, a member is already qualified for a monthly pension. But, of course, if one pays higher and longer, the amount of pension increases.
SSS is truly fortunate to have Gordon as its champion for SS charter changes. He walks the talk, so to speak. The pension fund is truly in exciting times with the ongoing Senate hearings.
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