Thursday, Dec 13, 2018
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Woes of a Bahamian senior citizen

When I was a wee bit younger I definitely took part in conversations about older people, saying ‘Why don’t these old people retire and give us young folks a chance; all they doing is stopping our growth and advancement!’

Now that I have almost reached the age of respectability – “three score and 10” – I am singing a different tune.

I humbly realize now that I am a senior citizen myself, that we do have a lot to offer! It really is a crying shame that more often than not senior citizens are being pushed out to pasture because of our age. Some of us are late bloomers, but the fact is that we do have a lot to offer.

Take a moment to really think about it – imagine all the experience one gathers in 70 years. They say that experience is the best teacher and the lessons we have learned are often not taught at Harvard or any institution of higher learning.

One of the drawbacks of being a senior entrepreneur is obtaining bank financing, as it is common knowledge among us “golden-agers” that oftentimes banks will not touch us with a 10-foot pole.

Again, banks in The Bahamas operate a lot differently than how they do business in their home country. Unless you have security, and I mean convertible security like double or triple what you are asking to borrow, you stand a good chance of being turned down.

As I mentioned in one of my earlier columns, banks need to consider reverse mortgages to create a necessary opportunity for senior citizens to borrow money against their homes.

Let’s face it – some of us have done a poor job in planning for our future and before you know it, you are retired and what you have saved for is not much to live on and your lifestyle is severely curtailed.

For the most part, insurance companies’ premiums astronomically skyrocket when you reach a certain age. If you are lucky you can afford the monthly payments and be covered. On the other hand, if you are unable to afford insurance coverage you are stuck in a position where you pray you don’t get a major illness, in which event you would have to rely on families and friends to assist in addition to our good ole faithful cookouts.

My question posed to our banks and their respective systems: Considering all the push to get us to use online banking and debit and ATM cards, why don’t you do some creative banking and start the reverse mortgage program, allowing seniors to cash in and use their homes as collateral?

Most of us have spent our life savings in providing the best for our children, making sacrifices through putting them through the best schools and those who have paid these hefty school fees know exactly what I am talking about.

At the end of the day you are an empty nester living in a house that is much too big for you and your spouse; the kids and the house are your most major assets, and as the Chinese say, “House don’t make no money!” That’s why most of them have their business on the ground floor and live upstairs.

Now I am not advocating that you should turn your house into a business as you would have some issues with the authorities and the zoning in your neighborhood, however what I am saying is this – consider selling your home and moving into something smaller. Save the remainder of your sales money and now you can enjoy the sunset of your lives knowing that you have a nest egg to fall back on.

• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation and two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association. William Wong is a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. E-mail: williamuwong@gmail.com.

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