SERVING THE FILIPINO COMMUNITY SINCE 1993
AUGUST 4, 2018

COVER STORY

COVER STORY

Are We Ready...(cont.)

 

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First, many retirees haven’t accumulated enough savings from their long years of working. Recent retirees go through what is called a period of “compression,” a situation in which their income (now “fixed”) is overtaken by rising costs needed to sustain a minimum level of living.

Second, retirees face an almost built-in difficulty because of inflation. Retirees’ planned budget falls short as inflation and the economy changes. Pensions (are more rare today as companies no longer offer retirement benefits) and Social Security and Medicare assistance cannot keep up with rising inflation. Many retirees’ fixed income is insufficient to maintain a decent quality of life that often means having to do with less just to survive.

 

Some who can afford long-term insurance find little relief as the cost of monthly premiums can reach up to $400 to $500 monthly. Even retirees with higher incomes are hard pressed to meet premium costs. There are cases where seniors have incomes that are too high or too low to qualify for any kind of assistance at all. The classic case of “neither here nor there” kind of category.

Even seniors who are still working in retirement age and earning a decent salary are unable to afford long-term care.

Health is among the main concerns for seniors because of the accompanying expenses of health care. They worry about health care insurance co-pay, cost-sharing and high premiums.

Medicare

About 60 million older Americans rely on Medicare to help with health costs. The number of those over 60 years old and above is expected to double.

Health care expenses will likely escalate to proportions above the rates of inflation.

Government assistance programs or safety nets that seniors rely on are always in jeopardy of being cut. The proposal to convert Medicare into a voucher system or “Premium Support Program,” would likely pass on additional cost burdens to beneficiaries already struggling with the current system.

President Donald Trump’s administration, no friend to government spending for the poor or disadvantaged, has proposed expanding the availability of “short-term” and limited benefit insurance policies for people who don’t get enough coverage through an employer or government program. This could prevent many 50 or 60-year old seniors from receiving assistance.

Lindsey Copeland, federal policy director of the Medicare Rights Center, said in an AARP issue: “These people will age into Medicare with poorer health than if they had continued access to affordable health care.”

The future of both Medicare and Medicaid as last resorts for ill or disadvantaged seniors is not promising, given the vagaries of governmental policies and implementation of intended programs. Not to mention that programs that seniors rely can be cut.

It is not the way of the future to make our kupunas enjoy their last days.

Is retiring in the Philippines an alternative?

For many Filipino families in Hawaii, retiring in the Philippines is an attractive option. They are familiar with the culture, have extended family there, and can speak Tagalog or another major dialect. English is also widely spoken in the Philippines; the tropical weather is hotter, but similar to Hawaii’s.

It’s estimated that to live comfortably in the Philippines, it’s possible at $700 to $1,200 a month, or about $8,400 to $14,400 a year.

According to International Living’s 2016 Annual Global Retirement Index – which measures, among other things, climate, healthcare, benefits and infrastructure – the Philippines ranks 10th (in a three-way tie with Portugal and the Dominican Republic) in cost of living for retirement destinations in the world.

As in anywhere in the world, individual comfort-levels vary so retirement costs is based on one’s lifestyle ability and preference. For example, choosing where to live in the Philippines will impact cost. Living in Makati, Manila or Cebu is twice as expensive than other parts of the country such as Davao. But on average, retirees can find a one-bedroom apartment for as low as $150-$300 a month. Contrast that to Colliers International estimate for a three bedroom home in ritzy parts of Manila that can cost $1,250 a month.

Food there is far less expensive than Hawaii. According to Numbeo, a typical combo meal at McDonalds can cost less than $3. Eating at a typical Filipino restaurant for two can be $15 or less.

But the biggest comparative savings from Hawaii to the Philippines comes in healthcare costs. Regular checkups with English-speaking doctors rarely cost more than $12. The cost of prescription medication is also low, especially if drugs are not brand-name imports. Some public hospitals offer free general care and dental services.

Expats can join PhilHealth, the government-owned national health insurance program. What many expat retirees do is put aside money for health expenses in a personal account that could come out to be cheaper than paying private health insurance premiums. But choosing to buy insurance all depends on the retirees’ health needs.

Healthcare in the Philippines has some drawbacks. Some retirees in the Philippines end up coming back to Hawaii or the U.S. where medical assistance, while more expensive, are more readily available. Medical benefits like Medicare or Medicaid are not carried over to the Philippines. The cost of care there, in many cases, is not uniformed. Health care homes or hospitals charge expats in dollars rather than pesos thinking retirees from abroad can afford it.

“Retiring in the Philippines is an option. Halftime in a year, not full-time. Traveling back to the Philippines at least three times a year for my import business gave me the chance to weigh things (between Hawaii and the Philippines). Like anything, there are pros and cons.

“My husband and I don’t think we can be away (in the Philippines) from our kids and grandkids for a year or so. We enjoy babysitting when we can,” said Constantino.

Colmenares, Jr. also said that retirement in the Philippines is only a part-time option. “Most probably, we will be spending our retirement shuttling between Hawaii and the Philippines.”

Mull talks highly of the Philippines as a great retirement destination. She says, “Retiring in the Philippines is an option for us. It is a very nice place. The cost of living is affordable. The medical and dental are affordable. Everything we need is there – lots of things to do and the people are great.”

Save and Plan

Wherever you decide to retire, planning and saving should start years before actually retiring. Seeing a retirement investment planner can help steer you in the right direction. Adjusting to a lifestyle similar to how you anticipate to live in retirement could also give you a better idea as to how much would be needed.

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Dr. Belinda Aquino is a Professor Emeritus at the School of Pacific and Asian Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa where she served as Professor of Political Science and Asian Studies and Founding Director of the Center for Philippine Studies. She is also a free-lance journalist and is currently Contributing Editor to the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle.

 

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