“Frugal living means being conscious of your spending and focusing on a few financial priorities. A consumer who wants to live frugally should think about their main goals and how changing their finances can help them reach that goal.” — www.clevergirlfinance.com
Last Friday, the National Pension Scheme [Occupational Pensions] Act 1998 was amended in the House of Assembly. The changes allowed for persons under the age of 65 who have a private, defined contribution pension plan to withdraw up to $12,000.
This amendment, which enjoyed bipartisan support, was prompted primarily by the economic carnage of Covid-19.
With approximately 11,000 persons, or 33 per cent of our workforce, temporarily unemployed because of a variety of factors, Bermuda’s economy is facing something that no one has encountered in 100 years.
Thousands of persons are now unable to do any basic commerce such as purchasing groceries, paying rent, paying mortgages, keeping up with health insurance policies, paying utility bills and paying school fees.
It is safe to say that not only are personal lives being disrupted, but our economy has come to a near-standstill in many areas.
For two going on three months, retail outlets have seen no foot traffic, beauty salons have seen no clients and many landlords have not been able to pay their mortgages.
Essentially, a recipe for economic turmoil.
Ironically, for the month of February, there was an almost 5 per cent rise in the sales of new vehicles and the volume of food sales had increased by nearly 6 per cent, in comparison with 2019.
Without a doubt, apart from food sales, all other economic indicators will be in sharp decline for the foreseeable future.
Added to the logistical impossibility of any real 2020 tourist season, our island home will see no significant amount of foreign currency coming to our shores, apart from what the international business sector generates.
So, with all these mitigating factors, the decision was made to allow Bermudians to withdraw up to $12,000 each. The cut-off date will be June 2021.
Obviously, not everyone will need to touch those funds.
Many have already voiced that they will make do with what they have and allow their pension plans to grow.
My Facebook friend, Anna Pereira, says that she may take funds out to buy gold depending on how the economic landscape is looking. For those that do withdraw, it should be strongly suggested that the funds go towards needs versus wants.
Needs versus wants
If ever there was a time for us as Bermudians to be frugal in our spending, now is the time.
Let us look within and ask ourselves some pertinent questions. Do we need a new car, ranging in price between $30,000 and $50,000, or can we take some funds to fix the one we already have to make it last a few more years?
Do we need to spend money on a shopping trip or should we put it towards our children’s school tuition? Should we expand our wardrobes or put on an extension to our homes?
No one can dictate to anyone else how money should be spent. However, we are living in extremely abnormal times and, truly, every penny counts. Such is the volatility of our economy that those employed today can very easily find themselves out of work this time next week.
With unemployment, underemployment and furlough days being a high probability for many, it is incumbent on those in any form of leadership or influence to speak both publicly to the masses and privately to individuals about financial frugality.
A penny saved
Next month will see the start of the hurricane season.
We know not what climate change has in store for our island and our finances. What we do know is that a “penny saved is a penny earned”.
For those making withdrawals from your pension plans, please spend or invest wisely.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail email@example.com