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Making Retirement Planning Accessible In The Hinterlands

Retirement planning in Ghana, about a decade ago was the preserve of a certain class of people. However, the pension reform of 2010 has changed that, allowing anyone and everyone to adequately prepare for their retirement. Despite the significant strides being made, the industry is relatively young, and coverage is not as expected. It is the reason why our focus as an organization is to bridge the gap between the formal and informal sectors in both our product and service delivery. 

Therefore, we stop at nothing in our quest to make pensions accessible to all. Neither the enormous challenges of reaching the hinterlands nor literacy and language barriers is an obstacle to our vision. In today’s edition, we assess the work we are doing on the field through the eyes of a retired teacher turned farmer. He is the lead in one of our Farmer-Based Groups in Heman, a remote town in the Fanteakwa District in the Eastern Region of Ghana. 

We start by asking him about his experience with the government-sponsored scheme and his motivation for signing up for a personal pension scheme with a private trustee after retirement.

Tell us about yourself, your family, and your early life?

My Name is Apori, I am a retired teacher. I live in Heman in the Fanteakwa district with my family. I retired from teaching in 2006 after teaching for close to 35years. I am currently a cocoa farmer. Teaching was my formal profession, but I’ve always been a farmer. I was born into a family of farmers. Both of my parents were farmers, so farming is something that came naturally to me. I was still farming whiles I was teaching, and it proved to be a very lucrative venture for my family and me. That is what I used to take care of my children through school all the way to the university level. 

I farmed cocoa, taro roots, and palm nut, especially taro roots, I was one of the biggest producers in Ghana. My wife used to sell the produce in big markets in Accra like Malatta, Kaneshie, and Madina too. I started teaching in 1967, my first post was a village in Kwahu in the Eastern region. Then, teachers had free accommodation and food from the town folks and the cost of living was relatively lower, so out of about 5 dollars that I was paid then, I could save about 4 dollars. Thankfully, my pension contribution was done at the source too to SSNIT, under CAP 30, so I was covered on that front too.  

Was contributing to your pension in the formal sector helpful?

Yes, it was very helpful I must say. My contribution wasn’t much, I think it was the equivalent of 1 dollar today. However, because it was invested over the years, I got a lump sum of about 3000 dollars when I retired in 2006 and it helped me a lot. I was able to complete my housing project in Accra with that money. Due to that, I am a firm believer in pension schemes; it won't go wrong. You are better off saving your money there than in a savings account. 

Why are you still working then if you saved enough? 

I’m still working because I just love farming, it's lucrative but it is not like I need the money to survive. I think it's good exercise for me even at this age, even though I don’t actively farm like I used to. Also, I contract people to work on my farm, so I actively supervise that. I think that is important. If you can’t do the work yourself, make sure you supervise those you’ve contracted to. That is all the work I do now. Recently I harvested about 2 bags of cocoa from my farm. So, I don’t do it on a large scale like I used to, but I haven’t neglected it completely. At least when I die, I will have a legacy to leave generations after me. I’ve been able to cater to my children’s education with the proceeds from farming through to tertiary level. 

Why did you sign on to the Personal Pension Scheme even after retirement?

The lumpsum I got during retirement showed me how important contributing to your pension is; so, I chose to continue even after I retired. There were no private pension schemes when I was working, I’m sure I would have joined them too. I got to hear of you when you came to educate us on retirement planning in 2017, I think, then I joined the scheme. Unfortunately, I haven’t been contributing as much as I’d have wanted, but I still contribute when I can. Pension schemes are good. They are safe, at least I can attest to that. I believe that if I don’t benefit from the scheme now, my children will when I die. 

How has the Personal Pension Scheme Impacted your life?

It gives me some peace of mind that I have money saved up somewhere, that I can fall on. I know I can make a withdrawal when I want to, but I’ve decided not to because I don’t need it now, it's for my future. I think it’s a good initiative. We heard that the government was starting something like that for farmers, but that hasn’t materialized yet. So, we all must join this scheme. When I was the Chairman of the farming association here in Heman, I encouraged others to join too, because I have experienced the benefits firsthand, and I know it will help them too. 

Any regrets about not joining the Personal Pension Scheme earlier?

I don’t call them regrets perse, because they weren’t there when I was working, but I’m happy you came here to encourage us to join the scheme and I haven’t regretted it after joining. I know it will eventually pay off. With such schemes, you must be truthful with us, and so far, I have not had any reason to complain. If I had known earlier, I would have joined then, but I will still contribute now that I can.

We just celebrated May Day; do you have any advice for workers especially for the young ones? 

For someone like me, I worked both in the formal and informal sectors, so I have experience in both sectors. The formal sector has SSNIT but until quite recently, there was nothing for the informal sector. So, I am happy your company has taken that up. I’m happy that the ordinary market woman can now save for their retirement wherever they are because we can here in Heman. 

To the young ones, I would say that retirement is when you would need money the most. There will be an increase in medical bills, to say the least, so you can not be over-prepared. You must start saving as soon as you start work because you may think you have time, but you don’t. It will be terrible if your water supply or lights are cut during retirement because you can't pay your bills, and that shouldn’t be the case. If you have time now, use it to your advantage and save for your future. 

Indeed, retirement planning is for all workers and we will not relent on our efforts to make it accessible to people even in the remotest parts of the country. 


Pension Weekly Newsletter - May 2021 - Edition 17

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