Retirement In Diaspora: Are You Preparing For It? Feedback From Nigerians – Part 2

The feedback received provided insight you might find useful. The reader must know that this information is not scientific and has not been put through in-depth statistical models or evaluations. Please do your own research before adopting any of these suggestions from fellow Nigerians.

In the previous Ezine article fellow Nigerians were asked to share their plans and preparations for “The Big R,” retirement. Many responded, and thanks to everyone who took the time to write.

James (last name withheld) wrote: While we struggle to live up to expectation, (Not that I know who’s expectation) a lot is wasted on things without tangible future value. I have often seen that mansion in the village as a waste of valuable money but we did not grow up with the culture of investing for the future.” Children are often our retirement. We need education if we don’t want to become a burden to the kids or start packing in preparation for a final trip to the village as we head towards retirement.

Some Nigerians who implied or expressed that they are domiciled in Europe took the stance that the governments there will take care of their retirement, and therefore they did not have to worry about saving additional funds. “Those in Europe and Scandinavia may not have much to share, as their retirements are relatively better secured as long as they have had active working lives and have paid into the better managed retirement purse – unlike the American 401K,” remarked a reader called Ayookun.

While some readers who responded have totally lost faith in Nigeria for various reasons, there are more people whose belief in Nigeria is rock solid. Those who have written Nigeria off as a place to retire or invest for retirement cite common complaints of Nigerians overseas: swindling by family and once-trusted friends in Nigeria; and terrible governance. In their experience, they have been pitched great investment ideas, only to be taken to the cleaners once their hard earned money is sent to Nigeria. Jabolondon wrote this about an uncle who was duped when he invested for retirement in Nigeria: “He appointed his brother as “Project Manager” and, since 1994, has diligently repatriated funds for the project. Fast forward to today. His house is one level of concrete blocks in a rubbish-strewn site. His brother, meanwhile, is the proud owner-landlord of a block of 4 x 4 plush apartments.”

This has been a serious and perennial compliant of many Nigerians working overseas. It is quite detrimental to all parties in obvious ways: the person who is cheated not only loses his scarce retirement investment, but may inadvertently ignite eternal family feuds that do no good. Those overseas who hear these (often exaggerated) stories are dissuaded from investing or planning to retire in Nigeria. The person doing the cheating loses too, because ori otu mgba a bughi ezi – he who eats all the food at once starves once the food in his stomach digests.

However, for every five respondents who have had enough of Nigeria and don’t intend to retire there, there are eleven that urge a second look. The latter group espouses the benefits of investing in Nigeria as a retirement vehicle. One prolific commentator named Patcho made a point that is very appealing to most Nigerians in Diaspora. He stated, “Eventually when retirement age comes, I’ll like to retreat to my village because I want to walk around, feeling the soil barefooted in my compound and welcoming visitors who did not need to call or write me before they knocked.”

Using the money Patcho said he sent home over the years, his relatives in Nigeria have helped him amass real estate holdings around his home town. Wouldn’t it be great for most of us, both in Nigeria and overseas, to have the realistic option of retiring in our villages in peace and security; bringing our retirement funds to enjoy and to help further develop Nigeria?

Cajetan Nwagbara has this edited recommendation: “Go to any city in Nigeria, and buy a parcel of land. Develop it, build at least 12 flats, and rent them for N25,000 each flat per month. One can conveniently live on N300,000 income, if one has a personal house and a decent car.” It is a good idea. Frankly, a retiree in a medium- to low-cost part of America can survive on $2,000 (plus Social Security income) if the Nigerian funds can be religiously sent here and the person is in relatively good health and has no mortgage on the home in the States.

Valteena summed it up this way: “Haba!!! onyeije Naija can’t be that bad for you to want to erase it off completely. I beg no erase. Nigeria may yet go better.” That was in response to Onyeije who wrote as if Nigeria should be wiped off the map. He said ” I am just waiting for my parents to join their ancestors, then I [will] erase and obliterate that name NIGERIA from all available lexicon.”

Those are heartfelt words from someone who obviously loves Nigeria but is deeply disappointed in what Nigeria has become. It is a sentiment discreetly shared by many Nigerians, especially those in Diaspora. These Nigerians resent the leadership at home who fostered the conditions that forced them to abandon their familiar environment and reside overseas, even as many who wish to leave Nigeria look up to those abroad as the lucky ones.

The mention of retirement homes in the previous article sent shockwaves to most readers. Studies show there are many great retirement homes all over the western world, but most of them also come with hefty price tags. From the feedback, it was obvious that the prospect of going to any nursing home is too hot or raw for most Nigerians abroad to deal with. Truth be told, many of us have to get serious with retirement and estate planning and funding if we are to avoid the dreaded poor nursing home dilemma.

The original article was written to awaken and bring to forefront the importance of retiring with dignity, and the need to save the necessary funds to achieve this golden age goal. You need quite a lot of money to do that, so stop wasting and start saving as if your life depends on it – because it just might.

Many of us have children, and children everywhere love their parents as much as children anywhere. Let’s not lose that point in this whole healthy discussion. However, we have not come this far, worked this hard, and weathered so many storms to depend on anyone else, including our wonderful and loving children. We should spare them the worry of our finances. We should be leaving estates for them to cushion their lives, not saddling them with the financial hardship of caring for us in our old age.

Rokijola has an outside-the-box, albeit utopian, solution: “One option will be to have retirement homes in America that cater to Nigerians, and have sister retirements homes in Nigeria. These retirement homes can be operated something similar to time-share holiday homes. The greatest challenge will be managing healthcare needs, which is a given with old age.”

That is one great idea, especially if restaurants serving authentic Nigerian foods are located on the premises like those near Highway 59 and Bissonnette in Houston, Texas. That area is the closest you can be to Aba, Calabar, Benin, Owerri, Jos, or Lagos without leaving America. The only food better or even close would be home cooked meal prepared by one’s spouse. Sorry to digress, I just want to give a shoutout to those Houston restaurateurs; none of whom I know personally.

F. Scopion made elaborate and logical points, taking into account inflation, deflation (which is more serious), low interest income, American 401K plans, and Roth IRAs, as well as global and long-term (30-year) views. F. Scopion wrote: “Best bang for your buck, and almost the only sane option left, is to invest in an emerging economy. A lot of savvy middle class Americans are already investing in BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, and China] countries using financial instruments. Some even travel there to buy real estate. Nigeria isn’t on the list yet, because its financial system is still too opaque. My point? Investing in property in Nigeria is more than just a good idea: there is no earthly reason why you shouldn’t do it, if you can. I can assure you that well-to-do Americans would jump at that chance”.

Idi-ogi made a rather extreme appeal against retiring overseas but softened it by suggesting investment in Nigerian real estate. He wrote this: “Retiring abroad is not as rosy as it may first appear. When I lived in England, my wife carried out a survey involving old retired people. She met an elderly Nigerian whose wife had returned to Nigeria while he stayed in Manchester. This gentleman was unkempt and disheveled. He was malnourished because his meals were pushed over the door with no opportunity for him to make his choice known. Same for his other supplies. The workers simply left things at the door and notified him by knocking on the door. By the time he opened the door, they have disappeared into thin air.”

“Investing in real estate is the way to go. The return on investment is far better in places such as Lagos and Port-Harcourt. The drawback is that there is very little opportunity to finance the huge amount of money needed. A similar investment in the US will yield minimal returns at this time, but may be easier to finance with good credit rating,” he concluded,

I also receive responses that were either too personal to publish or the emailer did not want me to quote them or use their names. Those responses made me think this topic has deeper roots than I first thought. Brothers and sisters, retiring in poverty is hellish. Retirement planning and funding is neither a husband’s thing or a wife’s thing; it is a family jewel. One has to think about one’s self and spouse first. When you REALLY need them, you cannot Western-Union back the funds you should have saved and invested in your working years.

It might be prudent to diversify and not put all your retirement eggs in one basket by investing only in Nigeria or solely in your base overseas, or in emerging markets. Those governing Nigeria should capitalize on the pull of funds held overseas by both Nigerians inside and outside the country by making conditions more attractive for these Nigerians and their funds to come home to roost.

Finally, retirement is something positive to look forward to. While it will take a long time planning and acting to achieve good results, excessive stress over saving for tomorrow could rob you of the joy and blessing of treasuring today. And too much stress might cause an untimely end that makes retirement a moot point! So thanks again to those whose responses made this article possible, and I wish all of us success as we continue preparing for retirement in prosperity, not in abject poverty.

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