A number of readers have expressed concern they may not reach retirement age and may fail, therefore, to benefit from contributions they are making to the national pension fund administered by the National Social Security Authority (NSSA).
“The retirement age you talk about (60) is weird. How many people are living to that age?” one reader asked.
“I started taking anti-retrovirals at 35 years, so am I going to reach pensionable age? I am 38,” said another.
It is true not everybody will reach retirement age. That will always be true, no matter what age might be fixed for retirement.
However, a contributor, or the contributor’s family will always benefit, in the sense that, if the contributor dies before reaching retirement age, the contributor’s immediate family will be entitled to a survivor’s benefit and a funeral grant.
While the contributor may not live to claim his or her retirement benefit, the contributor’s spouse or other dependant will be able to claim a pension or grant. The pension is normally 40% of the value of the pension the contributor would have received had he/she been retiring.
However, if the pension the contributor would have been entitled to is the minimum pension of $40 then the survivor receives half of this.
The person to whom the survivor’s benefit is paid is normally, in the case of a married person, the contributor’s widow or widower. Other possible surviving dependants are; dependent children below the age of 18 or below the age of 25, if still in full-time education; permanently disabled children incapable of supporting themselves regardless of age and, if the contributor has no surviving spouse or children, parents or any other dependant.
The same benefit is payable to dependants of a pensioner. However, a pensioner’s widow or widower must have been already married to the pensioner before he or she retired in order to qualify for the survivor’s benefit.
The benefit has to be claimed by submitting a P9/P10 form completed by the claimant and the contributor’s employer together with certified copies of the death certificate, marriage certificate, if it is the spouse who is claiming, long version of the birth certificates of children under the age of 18 and certificate of guardianship, if a guardian is claiming on their behalf, and the claimant’s national identity card or valid Zimbabwean passport or driver’s licence.
The $200, funeral grant is payable to whoever meets the deceased contributor’s funeral expenses. It can be paid while the claimant waits. What is required for this are a P9/P10 form completed by the claimant and the contributor’s employer, a certified copy of the death certificate or a burial order and a certified copy of the claimant’s national identity card, passport or driver’s licence.
So, while most people would hope to reach retirement age and benefit directly from the pension scheme, those who do not will still be able to receive the benefit of a funeral grant to assist with their funeral costs and the payment of a grant or pension to their closest surviving relative.
Many young people seem pessimistic about the likely length of their own survival in view of statistics about average life expectancy in Zimbabwe. Perhaps they should be less pessimistic. High infant mortality tends to bring down the average national life expectancy.
There is no reason to suppose those who survive to adulthood and are healthy should not, if they maintain a healthy lifestyle, reach old age.
Aids has contributed substantially to lowering average life expectancy. However, given the means through which HIV is transmitted, those who have escaped the virus for several decades can surely expect to continue to escape it, if they continue with a lifestyle that does not expose them to it.
Moreover, anti-retroviral therapy is now enabling many people who some years ago would not have survived for long after becoming infected with the virus, to live normal lives. As this therapy is relatively new there is no saying whether or not it will enable them to live to an old age. However, the success achieved so far seems promising.
Nevertheless, it remains true not every contributor will live to old age. Even in countries where many people live to a very old age there are still those who die young or in middle age.
That does not mean those who die before retirement will not benefit from their NSSA pension contributions, even though it will be their surviving spouse, child or other dependant and the person organising their funeral who benefits directly.
We all need to prepare for the future, even though none of us knows how long a future we will have.
Those who do survive to retirement age will be able to claim a retirement benefit. Whether it is a retirement grant or a retirement pension will depend on the individual’s contribution period.
The person who sent a message to a local newspaper asking how NSSA could “say to poor old people who gave money to you monthly for years, they will get nothing if they were not paid up for a specific number of years” must have misunderstood whatever information was imparted to the people he/she had in mind.
Anyone who has contributed for years to NSSA’s pension scheme is entitled to a retirement benefit, whether it be a grant in the case of those who have contributed for less than 120 months or a pension for those who have contributed for 120 months or more.
The only contributors who are not entitled to either a grant or a pension are those who have only contributed for 12 months or less when they retire. These contributors receive back their pension contributions with interest.
Talking Social Security is published weekly by the National Social Security Authority as a public service. Readers can email issues they would like dealt with in this column to firstname.lastname@example.org or text them to 0735 041 278. Those with individual queries should contact their local NSSA office or telephone NSSA on (04) 706517-8 or 706523 5.