Rethinking Social Security

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By Lekpele M. Nyamalon

Monrovia– The assurance of a quality life after a lifetime of work is the preoccupation of many professionals, civil servants and ordinary people. A random survey of working professionals, market women, civil servants about their top needs after retirement and their primary saving motivation points to access to housing, affordable medical care and transportation as post retirement issues.  About 80% of market women, civil servants and other professionals spend a good portion of their active lives trying to build a home, educate their children and in most cases, retire without a savings account to take care of medical and other living expenses. Many have no investment; no life savings and their social and financial security after retirement become a responsibility of their children. At worst, about 60 % of working professionals retire without a home or retire to a home in a low-scale rented community. Most employees in concessional areas who are assigned housing units in upscale neighborhoods often retire to rented homes far below the level of comfort they had grown accustomed to during their days of gainful employment.

A bizarre approach to mitigating this foreseeable nightmare has led to the indulgence in corruption as a means to secure financial security to build a home, at least, to retire with something. What if Social Security could remodel its approach to guarantee employees’ benefits in an organized way that benefits employees everywhere? This would take place through nation-wide stakeholders’ consultation to inquire of employees of their top three priorities during retirement. The top three priority areas could inform the direction of strategic investment that would preserve social and financial security for majority of working class people.

Let’s be hypothetical for a moment and place Housing, Medical and Public Transport on the list as top priority areas.  The National Social Security and Welfare Corporation could invest in housing estates for different categories of employees, building duplexes, projects and apartment complexes to cater to the housing needs of different salary grades of employees and allow employees pay for those homes over the lifetime of their careers. At the point of retirement, every worker in Public or Private sector could go to a home in his/her name. Similarly, a provident fund scheme could ensure that a minimum savings scheme drawn from National Social Security taxes could set cash aside that are matched by investment interests and given to an employee over the stretch of his employment, Reports of such monies should be sent to the employee annually via email to give a feel of what his savings portfolio looks like. A portion of this could go towards medical insurance for seniors and other citizens at state-owned medical facility. National Government could match this investment in health care through a savings match scheme.  

Thirdly, strategic investment in public transport by investing in buses for seniors to cater to transport needs, taking them for shopping to supermarkets, local markets or to attend medical trips. This could work through a retirement/pension membership scheme. These gestures would help seniors to maintain their dignity in retirement and to embrace the fullness of a new life. Random survey around the country through interviewing retired employees indicates that less than 2% of retirees own a vehicle and the current public transport model is chaotic, disorderly and poorly organized.  The buying of land to build Housing Estates for workers in the economy, would help to mitigate the looming confusion over land tenure and help in the city planning of new communities. This would help to raise the standard of living of many people who live in squalor in communities affected by environmental degradation, crime, pollution, etc.  City planning is a catalyst for development and useful in the planning of electrical and sewer lines and helps in the prevention of crime.

By rethinking social security, government can ensure that seniors also have access to emotional health by investing in recreational facilities like parks, gyms and other fitness programs for seniors thereby keeping them fit, mentally active and healthy for many years after their retirement. This will ensure continued employment for youth by increased spending through the building of homes and recreational facilities across the country.

80% of retirees spoken to indicate that they are victims of neglect, often ostracized from regular societal activities due to age or health conditions thereby becoming a liability to close family and friends. A strategic investment in recreational and fitness programs would boost the spirits and ensure the longevity of seniors around the country. Social Security should form an integral part of the retirement plan for almost every citizen. It provides replacement income for qualified retirees and their families. Social Security should also adopt innovative ways in which retirees can apply for retirement and access retirement records through a digital system to reduce the hassle, stress and sometimes humiliation of onsite visitation.  Adopting a digital approach for employees to have personalized online record checking would ensure that there are no surprises of what to expect when retired and gives an assurance of the financial future for workers and their families. Every employee should know ahead of time how much will be earned in retirement. By rethinking our approach to Social Security, we could increase the standard of living of working-class Liberians and a potential trickle-down effect on the family structure of the Liberian society. Let’s try that.

The Author: Lekpele M. Nyamalon is a Poet, Writer Author, Thought leader and can be reached at nyamalon23@gmail.com and www.lekpele.com. His recent book is Scary Dreams: An Anthology of the Liberian Civil War.

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