Living With Many Fears Part-2

(Sreenath H S)

The senior population in India is steadily rising. Unlike in the west, where the state takes responsibility for the welfare of the elderly people, the elderly in India have to fend for themselves. Of course, the traditional Indian joint family system and, to some extent,traditional-Indian social values do come to the aid of these people in India and make up for total lack of support from Government. But a host of factors such as nuclear families, rising affluence of senior citizens, the desire among the elderly for independence and personal space have, of late, prompted senior people to opt for specialized senior communes, where their needs are taken care of by dedicated service providers. These communes also, at the same time, provide them with the much-needed companionship that is sadly lacking in regular residential developments. This blog discusses various issues that matter to and affect senior people. The author of this blog Sreenath H S is the promoter of Sree Senior Homes that develop luxury retirement communes in Karnataka, and promote senior communities in India and provide senior care. Sreenath H S is also a published author and a public speaker. His published works include Sir.M Visvesvaraya – His Economic Contribution and Thought, Partition and other Divisive Issues, Secularism and National Identity and a numerous essays on topics ranging from literature to litterateurs, law and architecture

Living With Many Fears Part-2

My previous blog posting discussed thanatophobia or the fear of death. In this post let me discuss chrematophobia or the fear of spending. This phobia is so widely shared among the elderly that it certainly merits a discussion.

Old people are, as a rule, economically not productive and they have to necessarily fall back on their pension and (or) savings. Since these people are no longer earning, their aversion to spending is understandable and their frugalityis justified, to some extent. Moreover, senior people do feel they are entitled to concessions and freebies, because they are old.

This sense of entitlement is partly because governments,too, extend some concessions to them by way of tax cuts and discounts on train and bus fares,and partly because our culture expects children to take care of their parents, in their old age.

But chrematophobia is not frugality, but a deep fear of spending. I know a certain elderly gentleman, who is financially very sound, but he is always complaining that everyone is out to help themselves to his money — electricians and plumbers who visit him demand too much for their services, vegetable vendors (who are really poor) ask too much for vegetables, doctors are out to cheat him. This list is endless. In fact, he hates spending so much that when he occasionally takes his grandchildren out to lunch, he makes the youngest of them (a child of seven) to eat from his plate, so that he doesn’t have to pay for what the child eats. This fear,apart from making the person suffering from this phobia feel miserable all the time, also makes him an object of ridicule.

Psychologists attribute this fear to a variety of reasons, most of which can be traced to theiryounger years.

a) As a rule, these people were brought up in families, where money was revered or feared andgrew up seeing their parents constantly squabbling about money.

b) The circumstances they grew up in were so difficult that money had always been a sourceof worry and anxiety.

c) These people may have lost money in some transaction in the past, and decided, albeitunconsciously, that society is in their debt and they are entitled to getting things and servicesfree or at concessional rates. They complain when others deny them these benefits.

Whatever may be the cause of this phobia, these people are well advised to seek professionalhelp to get rid of this phobia, so that they can live a life free of anxiety and ridicule. Meanwhile,it doesn’t hurt them to ponder the following points.

1. Do my savings last till my death (or the death of my spouse)? This is not at all a difficultquestion, especially for someone who is in their seventies, with no dependent children. Let usassume that this family comprising a man and his wife, both in their seventies, is living in mysenior commune Sharadindu, in a spacious two-bedroom apartment.

Let us also assume thatthese people are not on any pension. The living costs in Sharadindu include monthlymaintenance charges towards security, power backup, common area maintenance, commonarea power, water and housekeeping (work inside the house such as cleaning, washing,mopping etc.), food for two of them. Currently, these expenses come to Rs.20,000.00 a monthfor both of them. Add another Rs.5000.00 a month for miscellaneous minor expenses. Thus,Rs.25,000.00 a month is all they need to live in great comfort. If they have a savings of onecrore rupees, this saving will last for 33 years, or well past their 100th birthday. They may needanother twenty-five lakhs for medical emergencies and such. So, if they have savings ofRs.1,25,00,000.00, they can live comfortably for the rest of their lives, without ever having tobother about money. (I have not factored in inflation, because I have not taken the interest theirsavings earn every year). Savings exceeding this amount is actually excess baggage!

2. Should I really have to leave a huge bank balance behind? After a person passes, their estatenormally goes to their legal heirs. But why should someone really have to leave a life offrugality, depriving themselves of little luxuries, including the luxury of being generous, toleave behind a large bank balance, especially when their children are well to do themselves. Itis really not required. One has to be large-hearted when one can, finding happiness in beinggenerous to people around – helpers, plumbers, electricians vegetable vendors, servers, liftoperators and many such people who make our lives so much more comfortable. It does notreally cost much, but the little money spent tipping these people earns the gratitude and respectof these people, and they, in turn, become more helpful and caring, making the little generositya worthwhile investment

3. What do I do with my excess baggage? Once the money required for your lifetime is investedwisely, it is time you looked at options of supporting charities. Countless people are engagedin works of charity, trying to make some difference to the lives of less-fortunate fellow humanbeings – orphanages, initiatives like aksahayapatara of ISKCON and many such activities.Identify one charity that resonates with your predilection and support it. It gives you immensesatisfaction to see how your money is transforming the lives of the truly unfortunate ones, badlyin need of a leg-up.

These are a few simple things that can make senior people happy and keep them relevant.

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