Many among us believe in Karma and fate or destiny. You can say that you chose your career but I can say, “it was your destiny!” Many a time, we end up taking vital decisions because of the circumstances prevailing at that point of time.
I was born in New Delhi, brought up by the Indian army and have settled down in Coimbatore for the past 23 years – the longest time that my wife and I spent in any station since our birth! To us, it was not our choice of station to settle down, but circumstances forced us to choose Coimbatore, a decision that we do not regret.
I did the Bhoomi Pooja on a plot of land in Chennai on 16 Jun 1992. The same evening, my father passed away. We decided that we could never live in that house in Chennai and so, sold that plot. After 23 years of service in the army at that point of time, we did not own a house – the dream of every one of us. I was posted in Madukkarai a suburb of Coimbatore to command an Artillery Regiment. Before, we could even decide on the place to settle down, I was posted out. I left my family in Madukkarai and went alone to the place where I was posted.
Fate or destiny made my wife to look at a plot of land in another suburb of Coimbatore. We debated over it and decided to settle down in Coimbatore for a few reasons – the people, the climate, good educational institutions, hospitals and the affordability to build our dream home (since sold!). Above all we had the money from the sale of Chennai plot and with some topping up from HDFC Ltd, we could own a house, which we could call as our home.
I started my second innings after army with Rs 3 lacs in my pocket in 1995! It was a risk but it was also self-belief that I can do it. There is risk in everything in life, including marriage! But my wife was willing to support me and that was enough. We have seen ups and downs but ultimately it is Karma that decides what you do in life.
I have been in real estate business for the past 20 years. Out of that, over 11 years have been spent in creating and providing services and care to senior citizens with the concept of Active Life that my Team Covai and I created in 2004 and took it to many cities.
We have 16 retirement community projects to our credit – both operational and under construction. We will have another four projects shortly, including one in Malaysia. Ours is the only Consulting Company in the Retirement Sector in India. We also have another vertical where we sell senior care products through a Brand called Senior Aide’. We are setting up Experience Centres in Bangalore, Coimbatore, Pune, Nashik and other cities to popularize our Senior Aide’ products (about 3500 products as listed out in our website www.covaiprop.com or click http://www.covaiseniorcare.com.
During this journey of 20 years, my team and I have done buying and selling, rent lease, construction of independent houses, apartments, Gated Communities, commercial complexes and senior living. Today ours is a Consulting Company! So, this is also fate??
With this experience and exposure, if I were to list out the factors that one has to consider before choosing the destination for retirement, I would like to list them out as given in the succeeding paragraphs.
- Language, custom, tradition, culture & roots
Perhaps this is the most important factor. All are inter-linked. The language that you speak since birth, the customs and traditions that you are used to and the roots that you have with the place will ultimately dictate the choice of your retirement destination. This is true in most cases though there are exceptions. Since India is a Mumbai Thali with many languages, customs and traditions, choice of food etc., ultimately we feel comfortable with our roots.
A Tamilian would prefer Tamil Nadu or the Southern States. Ditto for a Bengali who would prefer Bengal or the East or a Punjabi who would prefer Delhi or northern States. Though I was born in New Delhi, basically I am a Tamilian. But my brothers live in Delhi and my sister has chosen Pune. Perhaps this had to do with their profession and place of employment.
However, with the nuclear families being the order of the day, roots may not be a reason to choose your retirement destination. Many of us would not prefer to go and settle down in our ancestral village because you may not have lived there at all and may not have any connections today. Also, your spouse may play a very important role in choosing your retirement destination. As you age, your children will also influence your decision-making.
So, there are contradictions here! When there is any contradiction and the decision is still taken, the power of the factor that influences the decision is because of your destiny or fate!
- Affordability & availability of facilities to match your lifestyle
Affordability of acquiring a house and living there post retirement with your pension and/or savings is an important factor. Along with this you will need good medical facilities as you age. Rail, road and air connectivity is important in case your children are not in the same city or town where you settle down. In fact one may decide to choose the station where your children are working, but remember that your children may not stay in that city forever!
The lifestyle that you are used to is important to certain extent. As long as your spouse and you can lead independent life after retirement, the life style that you are used to, friends, recreation etc are necessary. But with advancing age, these factors take a back seat. Availability of care becomes important.
Living in an apartment or villa after retirement in a stand-alone mode may not be possible if you do not get domestic and other help like electrician, plumber, security etc., (increasingly becoming scarce in India) to take care of you and to match your lifestyle.
Also, as you age, you may lack company as even meeting friends in the same station becomes difficult. If either of the spouses suffers from serious ailments or is dead, the problems get further compounded. Neither your friends nor your relatives may be in a position to help you as they may be in a similar boat. If your children live away from your retirement destination, they cannot help you either, except financially or with moral support.
This does not mean that you should move into a Retirement Community, but be prepared to move when the time comes or your fate makes it difficult for you to live in your home. Also remember that we cherish our freedom and independence. So do our children. Therefore, to move in with them when the time comes is an option but it may not always be possible. Again your fate!
However, an investment in a retirement community to suit your pocket now to meet any of these eventualities may not be a bad option, given the rising cost and uncertainty of life. Retirement Communities offers you Group cohesion and is a community of like-minded people. These are not old age homes and are very modern with emphasis on care and services. It is also affordable and more important, offers care with advancing age. These communities are in great demand and will be useful especially of one of the spouse is not more and, children live far away. They provide freedom and independence that we cherish.
Availability of such facilities like military hospitals, canteens and clubs may be considered. However, with ECHS and empanelment of hospitals or if you have taken adequate insurance for your spouse and you, these may not be priority considerations.
- Influence of profession, lifestyle and employment opportunities:
These are factors, which are again linked and play a part when you decide your post-retirement destination. Many prefer to settle down in their place of work, where they have spent most of their lives, where their families have grown and where they have friends or relatives. As you grow and your children go their way looking for their greener pastures, many of the options narrow down to what your spouse and you want.
Employment opportunities after retirement depends upon your age of retirement, your expertise and what you can contribute. Armed forces officers have lot of unexplored talent in them, which they gain during their service. Most of us do not realise our potential or are unable to adjust to the life in the civil street. It also has to do with the lifestyle that we have enjoyed and look at the civil world with both cynicism and skepticism.
While some of us acquire some skill sets like attending courses in IIM etc, the fact remains that corporates and companies look for younger blood than employ someone in their mid-fifties. Yet, many in uniform find a job but if you retire at 58 years of age, chances of getting a job that suits you may be remote.
You can become an entrepreneur like I did. But I was 46 years of age then. Many may not risk becoming an entrepreneur at 58 years. The uniform that you wear prohibits you to change easily to the needs of civil life. Many of us do not get equipped to work in the civil.
I drive my own car, carry my laptop and use it extensively for my business as my office is automated, I answer all e mails, I do not have a Secretary or a clerk, I have no one waiting outside my office to get me water (!), I get my own water from the water cooler, carry lunch box and have lunch with no frills of liveried waiter serving me, polish my own shoes, carry my suit case when on travel or my hand bag to office and in effect, I cannot afford the luxuries that one gets used to while in service.
I need to keep up with technology that the youngsters in my Company are used to, lead a team not by the weight of the stars on my shoulders but collectively by entrusting responsibilities and monitoring various departments through MIS and periodic review. Our performance is measurable by the Balance Sheet at the end of the financial year. In services, your performance is mostly abstract and based on perceptions of your superiors and demonstrated mostly in peacetime situations.
Wars do not happen often to validate the philosophy or concept papers that you write. In the civil, the results at the end of the year will show the worth of the concept papers that you wrote, presented and executed or the strategy that you adopted! The one major factor for your advancement in the civil organisation is the importance that you give for ‘execution” – perhaps not that much required when you wear the uniform except when in war or such situations like insurgency etc.
Also, younger people drive the corporate world and many of us will be misfits among them. They too feel uncomfortable with older, rigid or strict disciplinarians, who attach more importance to dress, shaving, punctuality and manners than productivity! Our conversation subjects do not interest the younger generation. Nor are they interested! Adaptability is the key when you retire and work but that is easier said than done.
Someone told me very correctly after me being in the civil street for over 20 years, “you can remove the Colonel from the army but not the army from the Colonel!”
So, it is not easy to find a job and more importantly a job that would sooth your ego! Hence, job opportunities as a factor for retirement destination may not be considered, as you will have to retire or resign from that job depending upon your fate or destiny!
There is no single answer for the selection of the choice of your retirement destination. No two individuals are same and no two humans have similar attitude. Ultimately a combination of what I have written above and decided by your destiny and spouse will throw up the option for you to choose your retirement destination.
Yes, at the end of the day, it is all Karma, Maya or Destiny!
Colonel Sridharan Achal
Covai Property Centre (I) P Ltd is engaged in real estate development and construction business in Coimbatore since 2001.
Team Covai and Colonel are pioneers in Senior Care and...