Food security & retirement planning — The financial implications

THE United Nations Committee on World Food Security says food security “means that all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meet their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life”.

But many factors have threatened global food security, including rising food prices and climate change. A new study by the International Research Policy Institute recommends that yearly global investments in agricultural research and development should be increased by US$2 billion or 120 per cent “between 2015 and 2050”. This measure would prevent an estimated 78 million people from suffering severe hunger by 2050.

The world is at risk of food insecurity, which refers to an inability to access adequate quantity of nutritious food for healthy living. Globally, seniors are being challenged by food insecurity due to reduced earnings, lack of income and inadequate resources to provide healthy meals. Studies show that a higher rate of food insecurity exists among older adults who are low-income earners, less educated, unemployed or disabled. Health care has been compromised because of food insecurity. Research indicates that up to 50 per cent of older adults are at risk of becoming malnourished.

Food insecurity has costly financial implications for health care globally as older adults who are food insecure have frequent hospitalisations and regular doctor visits when compared with seniors who are food-secured.

COVID-19 crisis and retirement funds

In a 2020 report, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that “the COVID-19 crisis has compounded the challenges facing retirement savings and old age pension arrangements”.

The pandemic has reportedly created new challenges for seniors.

The “OECD Pension 2020 Outlook” showed that defined benefit and defined contribution schemes were negatively impacted by low interest rates, an ageing population and low growth prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The financial blow to health sectors and economies globally is expected to adversely impact economic growth for the long term. Retirement funds are at risk, as the working population is unlikely to save adequately for the twilight years base on future outlook. A report by the Pan American Health Organization revealed that less than 20 per cent of retired seniors are receiving a pension.

Pension regulations in some countries allow persons to access their pension funds prior to retirement, but this measure has implications for the value of retirement income in the future. Former OECD Secretary General, Angel Gorria noted that “allowing access to retirement savings should be a measure of last resort and based on hardship circumstances”.

The way we view investing has to be reviewed in light of the of lessons learnt from the pandemic. It’s very important that the working population of all ages ensure that while investing for the long term one should bear in mind that emergencies happen throughout an individual’s lifetime. Therefore, an investment in an emergency fund should be seen as a long-term investment, otherwise we would have failed to learn the lessons from COVID-19.

The OECD Pension 2020 Outlook report proposed that policymakers encourage people to save for retirement and not to realise losses when markets experienced sudden declines. It is therefore necessary to be patient and disciplined and allow your long-term investments to recover losses over time and reap compounded investment growth. Time and compound interest are important in ensuring financial freedom in the future.

Policymakers are asked to develop a framework that can examine retirement income shortfall, as well as vulnerable groups and implement measures to counter any deficiency. COVID-19 presents an opportunity for governing authorities to contemplate how to encourage part-time employees, contract workers and self-employed persons to participate in retirement programmes. Financial literacy is relevant now more than ever to communicate investment strategies, risk analysis, cost and benefits of saving long term for a healthy and prosperous retirement.

Communication geared towards at-risk groups should be in language that is simple and specific to the target audience. Public-private partnerships are crucial in solving the myriads of challenges that the pandemic brings.

Grace G McLean is financial advisor at BPM Financial Limited. Contact her at gmclean@bpmfinancial or visit www.bpmfinancial.com. She is also a podcaster for Living Above Self (livingaboveself@gmail.com).

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