Many years ago, if you graduated from university or even a technical school in some cases, you automatically landed a job in the public sector.
A house in one of Kampala’s leafy suburbs was a given. If you worked outside Kampala, still the organization you worked for had houses in the “senior quarters” or Kizungu areas.
Life was good!
Then things changed. Retirement and/or retrenchment happened. The house would be passed on to whoever was replacing you before such people sold the same houses to themselves on the cheap.
But many people retiring at the time had not planned to build their own houses. Many didn’t know where to go. Children who were used to eating bacon and sausages for breakfast now competed for roast cassava. Those who had bedrooms to themselves were now to live with willing relatives in rooms smaller in size than their former walk-in closets.
These changes in lifestyle are fairly recent as they happened largely in the 1990s. Many of the people reaching retirement age today still have vivid memories of their parents and relatives reaching retirement age to go and spend the rest of their lives in squalor conditions.
Of course, not all those who were retrenched or retired suffered such fate. Some had planned for life in retirement.
Today, many people in public offices do everything in their power to delay retirement. Petitions to the president, ministers or boards claiming to be super achievers and, therefore, shouldn’t be retired when they reach the mandatory age of retirement in their organisations.
Some even swear affidavits to change their age so they could remain in office (cue in the former chief justice). Some other people in organisations at the initiation and formulation of acts of parliament that set up their agencies and authorities gave themselves 10-year terms.
They probably thought 10 years in CEO’s office is such a long time only to realize that time flies when you are having a good time. Many have tried to lobby to change the acts so they could stay in office longer.
Others have used loopholes in the law to remain in office. If a country of more than 44 million people can’t replace a CEO, it points to systematic failures. The argument that one is a performer shows lack of planning. What happens if the person collapses and dies?
Wouldn’t a public organization be able to continue?
The fear to retire could be linked to studies that show that many Ugandans who retire die within five years due to failure to cope. Yet that shouldn’t be the case. Many people should be able to enjoy retirement from both public and private offices.
The fear to retire for most people is linked to earning an income to sustain certain lifestyles. A festive season holiday in exotic locations, children in expensive schools, a mistress here and there and such other things. But that again shows failure to plan.
If one is a key performer in any organization, they should be key performers in their personal lives as well. If one asks for a contract extension to stay in office because he is a wonderful performer, in most cases they aren’t being honest.
As one plans for their employers, they should be planning for themselves too. That means having children in affordable schools (where one gave birth late in life), having put aside money for their retirement and the ability to adjust to new realities.
If one plans well, they don’t need much in retirement. The most important is medical bills because as we age, treatment becomes more frequent and expensive.
So, if you build a small house that you can manage in retirement, have medical bills sorted, and not worried where to buy a bunch of matoke at Shs 30,000 a week, then there is no need to fear retirement.
Because public transport is non-existent in Uganda, just have a small car to move you around—to attend a nephew’s wedding, go to church, participate in some social activities or attend some burial in the neighbourhood.
You don’t need a V8 biturbo SUV in retirement. If you are male, avoid using your retirement package to sire babies.
So, if you turn 60, having worked for 30 to 35 years and then start running around for contract extension for 2-5 years, you are just postponing the inevitable — a bad life in retirement and possible death within a few years of your retirement.
The writer is a communication and visibility consultant.