One of the readers of AK71 solicited his views on Eldershield in his blog, “A Singapore Stock Market Investor”. In his post, the author wrote that he don’t need the Eldershield protection but nonetheless, had not opted out of the scheme due to his “friend’s persuasion” (Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs) with Medisave accounts are automatically covered under ElderShield at the age of 40).
In his article, AK71 also downplayed the importance of Eldershield, stating that he don’t need disability insurance as he is a “Superman” with self-generating assets. After reading the article, I was unimpressed and thought it was ridiculous that a finance blogger could write such warped immature material on Eldershield without even having first-hand experience with the scheme. Such an article only serves to reinforce the ignorance among Singaporeans on insurance.
Make no mistake, I hope that none of my readers would ever suffer the ill fate of being eligible for Eldershield payouts. Neither am I trying to sell insurance policies from this article as I don’t work in the financial sector. But I feel that it is important that Singaporeans have the correct mindset on disability insurance. So today, I am going to share my late father’s experience with Eldershield. Read on to find out if you are keen to know my late father’s destiny.
Like many Singaporeans, my father didn’t believe in the merits of insuring himself and had a typical old-fashion understanding of insurance. He felt that buying insurance was a sheer waste of money, after all, he was young and healthy. So why bother to waste money? Like many Singaporeans, he worked hard. In fact, he worked so hard that every weekend, he had to work at various construction sites. In the early nineties, Singapore’s construction industry was booming and my father’s small truck business was thriving. Because of his single-mindedness to make more money, he often skipped his cholesterol medication.
I remember one night, my father didn’t return home. My family was anxious and could not reach him (in the nineties, cellphones were not common). Then the next day afternoon, we were relieved when my father’s workers carried him home and they said he slept in the lorry overnight. My father had complained of numbness in his left side of his body and was immobile. Yet, he refused to go to hospital because of his fear of being warded. After two days, his condition remained the same, so we called for ambulance to send him to hospital for check-up. It was only then that he was diagnosed with a major stroke.
The stroke changed our lives for the next twenty years. My family suffered a lot of financial hardships because my father was the sole breadwinner. My mom was a full-time housewife with only Primary Three education. My grandmother was staying with us and my elder brother, myself and my younger sister were still schooling. Just imagine, a person who suffered a major stroke and still had to support five dependents. How to survive?
Furthermore, in those days, our Singapore society is much less compassionate. Apply for social welfare? We don’t even know how to read simple government letters, let alone find a social worker to help us. In any cases, it was not so easy to qualify for the social assistance schemes. In those dark days, we practically have no one to turn to and had to fend for ourselves. Most of our relatives distanced themselves from us, thinking that we would borrow monies from them. But we never borrowed a single cent from them at all and I often felt sad that this disaster had to happen to my family. What had we done wrong to go through this? My father was a hardworking and thrifty man, a responsible husband, father and son. He don’t deserve this.
On thinking back, in spite of our ordeal, I am grateful for my father’s business acumen and investing foresight. Credit to him, even though we were poor, we did not have to borrow monies and my parents always ensured that we had enough to eat and received proper education. One of the blessing in disguises was that my father was self-employed. On looking back, if he was working for others, my family would be finished and would never crawled our way out of poverty.
I would never forget those days. One of the biggest mistakes made by my father was not insuring his earning ability. All of us would never appreciate the importance of insurance unless your loved ones or yourself went through the ordeal of being sick and unable to work. This is human nature. After all, when we were young and healthy, we believe that we are invincible from any major illness. But we don’t realize that life is actually unpredictable and is very fragile. In my father case, he was damn fit and healthy when he was in his thirties. But alas, he suffered from a major stroke at the age of 38. After his stroke, we tried to apply for several insurance but was rejected. One of the private insurers even rejected him for the private Medishield coverage.
So when the government rolled out the Eldershield in 2002, we were apprehensive and wondered if my father would qualify for coverage. We decided to try our luck and was happy that his condition was accepted. In 2007, his condition worsened and he was unable to carry all the three daily activities of living. The insurer promptly issued the monthly payouts of $300 after the appointed doctor confirmed his eligibility. The payouts were handy because it helped us to pay for the elder care fees for my father.
In 2007, the government enhanced the scheme to make Eldershield an opt-out scheme and also enhanced the payout amounts and period. This is a good development because people like my father had benefit from this policy.
From this painful lesson, my views of life changed. I realized that health is important and we should strive to have healthy lifestyle. Making money is important but what can be more important than staying alive to fight another day? But having stated that, it is also naive to assume that we would be free from any major illness or accidental death throughout our life stages. So buying insurance is not an option. To me, it is being responsible to my family and to ensure that my family’s welfare is taken care of in the event of me being disabled or terminally ill. Insurance is a form of contingency plan and should always feature as part of our personal finance strategies.
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SG Wealth Builder