Retirement, an unattainable luxury for Kuwait's expats
Usually, after retirement people rely heavily on their pensions to sustain a comfortable life. For expatriates in Kuwait, retirement means either saving up during the time of employment or working till the last breath – an option one expat from Egypt suggests. “Simply, the word retirement does not exist in our dictionary. We work till we die. I think there is no age limit for working in the private sector where the majority of our community works, so we’ll keep working,” Osama from Egypt admits. People of different nationalities, backgrounds and social status have different retirement plans.
According to Ashraf, 45, from Egypt there are two ways of managing his financial needs back in Egypt after retiring and leaving Kuwait. “I can either depend on myself and continue working when I’m old or live from the interest coming from a fixed deposit account in which I saved previously,” said Ashraf adding that although this is not a common way for Egyptians – the country has a social security program. “My father was part of this program, which was designed by the government for Egyptians living outside of Egypt. Here they pay in US dollars and receive the payment after retirement in the local currency.
The amount and period is customised according to the applicant’s needs,” Ashraf said. He stated that he is not saving any money due to the increasing expenses. “I know many Egyptians who are saving great amounts of money as they are spending the bare minimum. They don’t eat well and drive old cars or use public transport and buy cheap outfit,” he said. He claims that Egyptians who were raised in Kuwait have got used to a comfortable lifestyle. “We spend a lot.” He explains that he is unable to save due to the expenses including the rent which increased, installments, fees for his son who studies at university and other expenses. “Before, people were able to save money here but now life is harder,” he said. “Also the recent situation in Egypt is very hard. The rebellion there can destroy any business or even houses,” he added.
Mazen, 52, from Jordan views retirement differently. “I invest in my children. I was raised this way and after my father got old, he lived in my house and we – his children – took care of him till he died here. It’s not possible to save in order to live a respectful life,” he pointed out.
42-year-old Mary from India insists that saving up is the key to retirement. “We have to save even if it is little. In the end, we will go back to India and have to find something to live on when we are old. We have to cut spending on shopping and travelling for instance. I managed to buy a house back there so I have a place to go, and I’m trying to put together a little savings at least” Mary said.
Joana, 41, of the United States arranged to have a retirement plan back home. “I have to secure myself after going back as I don’t plan to stay here forever. People have different ways of saving and solutions for living when getting old. Many people buy properties back home, while others don’t plan to spend the rest of their lives in their home country like a British family I know – they rather plan to live in Thailand,” she stated.
Jonathan Field from Globaleye is a private wealth manager based in Dubai who provides financial solutions for expats living in the UAE and other GCC countries. “We organize a plan to allow the client invest his savings after retirement. We have regular saving plans – long-term and short-term – to have something for themselves after retirement. We set the plan according to the client’s objectives, for instance buy a house or other property. Also we have children’s education plans. We put the goal they aim in place and achieve that goal,” he explained.
Globaleye is one of the largest offshore financial advisory firms in the Middle East with a multinational presence, including offices across Europe and Asia. While their head office is in the UAE, they have satellite offices around the region and are in the process of finalising their latest office in Kuwait. “I think it’s very important for expats living in the Middle East to start saving on a regular basis. Most expats working in GCC countries came for tax-free salaries and the time to start investing for the future is today.
When it comes to saving for retirement, too many people are putting away too little and leaving it too late. Sitting down with a professional will help set objectives and put a plan in place to achieve them,” Field added.