Many people often believe that retirement planning is the sole process of putting away emergency funds to sustain oneself after reaching retirement age.
But planning for retirement is far more than just putting away emergency funds for a later date, it is the holistic steps that people take to promote good physical, social and emotional well-being.
Retirement coach and author Patricia Reid-Waugh, who was speaking on the radio programme Sunny Side Up, shared her personal experience of being denied health insurance due to her pre-existing health conditions.
At age 63, Waugh had six major surgeries and was suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease and glaucoma, which made it challenging for her to receive health insurance.
“When I came back to Jamaica and tried to get health insurance no one would insure me because of all these pre-existing conditions. So, all my medical costs had to come from pocket, and it was crippling because you spend your funds on prescriptions, medications, blood tests every three months, scans, the MRIs, there was hospitalisation and this can wipe out the funds you have for retirement,” she explained.
As Jamaicans plan for retirement, the coach says a major part of this process “should be to get into retirement healthy, which means that you should be taking better care of yourself now. You need to drop the unhealthy eating habits with the abundance of salt and sugar and fatty foods. Not eating on time, inadequate rest, and inadequate exercise because all these things will manifest in serious health issues later on and they can ruin your retirement experience”.
An important part of the retirement process, Waugh said, is to secure a health insurance policy from an early age.
“It is better that you lock in some sort of health insurance in your earlier [age] rather than waiting until later on when your health problems get critical. For instance, if you are a member of a credit union, go join a credit union because credit unions have good health policies. You may not have health insurance through your employer, but you can join a credit union and get on one of those health plans,” she said.
She also noted that persons who are 40 years and older can now join the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP), a non-profit, non-denominational and non-political membership organisation that provides health plans and insurance policies to seniors.
“The CCRP has health insurance, they have two plans-comprehensive health and major medical. There are options there. In addition to that, the great thing about the CCRP is they have almost eighty discount partners including a number of pharmacies, diagnostic services and medical facilities- so you can get discounts on your health card through them in addition to the health insurance,” she added.
Additionally, she encouraged Jamaicans to register with the National Health Fund (NHF), an agency of the Ministry of Health and Wellness that provides subsidies to Jamaicans at any age for the treatment of 17 chronic illnesses.