Personal finance and health insurance policy cover: “At 50,” said author George Orwell, “everyone has the face he deserves”. The aging face tells a tale — and no story does it tell more eloquently than the story of financial security. Worry lines are almost always incumbent upon financial problems and no Mona Lisa smiles possible under brows burdened by money worries. Thus, the retiree or the impending retiree shows his preparedness for retirement in worry lines or smiles.
Amit Chandra (not his real name) returned home from a dinner one Saturday about six months back when he felt a sharp twinge in his stomach. A visit to the family doctor the next day did not result in any relief to the persisting discomfort; it led, instead to a referral to a specialist at one of Mumbai’s best known hospitals. Just 48 hours after he was being toasted by friends at his retirement party, Amit was arranging for funds for an emergency operation — to stop the bleeding from an ulcer.
Sufficient coverage under health insurance policy ensured that Amit could afford the best treatment. But the worry is about the subsequent incidental expenses — among other things, the expenses of the special diet now needed the cost of repeated visits to doctors, and the higher electricity bills from the demands of the increased use of the juicer, mixer, air-conditioning and geyser. His daughter and son-in-law are anxiously re-organising Amit’s(small) investment portfolio, hoping to ensure that Amit and his wife have enough to live on and pay for the ongoing medical expenses. It’s becoming clear to them that they will have to help support the older couple. The worry lines have begun to appear also on their faces, extending from the faces of Amit and his wife, who, incidentally, suffers from asthma.
Retirement planning is rare in India, where financial dependence on children is high. Pension plans set up by employers are considered sufficient — though, all too often, these packages take a miserly view of inflation.
Amit was with a university for most of the 32 years of his working career; his monthly pension is around Rs30, 000, a meagre sum for living in Mumbai, and an impossible sum for their health-related needs, care that no health insurance plan will cover indefinitely.
Perhaps late for Amit, his experience has been a lesson for his daughter and son-in-law — benefit plans ordained