Retired, but will still support kids

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Dec 18, 2013

Ms Yao Yanchun and her husband are having second thoughts about buying a new car that would cost them at least 100,000 yuan (S$20,700).

Instead, the couple who live in Inner Mongolia are thinking of saving the money for their 22-year-old son so that he does not have to struggle with buying a home and other expenses like many young Chinese do these days.

"We won't need so much money when we retire. But for him, it will be so expensive if he wants to move to a big city after he graduates next year, get married and buy a house. So we decided to save the money instead," the 47-year-old engineer told The Straits Times.

Unlike some retirees abroad who move into vacation homes or travel in their golden years, many workers in China, like Ms Yao, are saving up to support their children - and even grandchildren - financially after they retire, according to a new survey by HSBC Life Insurance last week.

The insurer found that 76 per cent of wage-earners in China expect to significantly fund family members after their retirement. This figure is the highest among the 15 markets HSBC surveyed, including France and Malaysia, and ahead of the global average of 49 per cent and Singapore's 52 per cent.

Countries like Britain and Australia were tied at the bottom of the table at just 26 per cent.

Of those already retired, 40 per cent of Chinese who responded in the survey are supporting their children, 28 per cent their parents and 9 per cent their grandchildren, the survey found.

HSBC polled more than 16,000 people in the markets, including more than 1,000 from the Chinese mainland.

Mr Jim Costello, HSBC Life's appointed chief executive designate, said in a press release: "There is a gap between what Chinese retirees expect and the actual reality of their retirement, which has led to many sacrificing their personal desires."

Observers say there is a cultural factor to this trend. Chinese parents are keen to ensure the well- being of their children, and pressures such as sky-high property prices and a poor social safety net have led to more young people turning to their parents for help as they start families of their own.

Renmin University sociologist Zhou Xiaozheng said that in the light of the one-child policy, it is "very common" for parents to assist a married couple.

"Property prices are just too high in big cities. It is also very competitive for new graduates to find high-paying jobs in the market now with more than seven million graduates this year," he told The Straits Times.

It could also be a problem if the young become overly reliant on their parents and thoughtlessly siphon away their hard-earned retirement funds, Professor Zhou added.

But it seems, for now at least, that Chinese parents are more than willing to make the sacrifice.

Ms Yao said the couple are also prepared to give one of their two properties to their only child if he decides to return to Inner Mongolia after graduating from a private university in Singapore. She declined to reveal how much the couple have saved up for him in all.

"We don't see it as a sacrifice," she said. "He is not spoiled and prefers us to save the money for our own use, but he is our only child and we want the best for him, especially since he is a boy and will bear greater financial burden in the future."

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Dec 18, 2013

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