What does one do after retirement? Take rest, enjoy and take care of the grandchildren, meaning "have no expectations". This is fine if there are a lot of support systems to take care of them. But with the changing dynamics of the family system, many senior citizens have to lead independent lives and hence their expectations from the Union Budgets, too, have seen a growth, all the more so since a lot of the decisions have far reaching effect on their personal finance.
The biggest differentiator between a senior citizen and normal one in fiscal terms is that senior citizens mostly have only some sources of passive income and no active income, nor are they in a position to take up employment. Correspondingly, their expectations too have to do with that passive income part.
Tax on savings income: Senior citizens are not in a great position to be active participants in even low risk financial instruments. Hence, most of their money is parked in savings bank accounts. The expectation from the Budget would be to hike the limit of taxable interest earned from savings accounts. It's already a worrying factor that savings bank interests are lowly as compared to inflation and to tax even that is like flogging a dead horse.
When you are old, you are old. Period: The current system of treating the senior citizen category as two categories is also debatable as the basic criteria are the same for the both sets -- Senior and Super Senior Citizens -- in that they do not have active income. It is a reasonable expectation to merge both the groups and revise the exemption limit from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh or even more. Even from a purely philosophical point of view, they have been 'giving' all their lives, so when the sun is setting for them it's time for the society (government) to at least not take if they cannot give.
Whom do you trust? When one is old and frail, trust is the biggest factor on their mind. With the kind of complicated financial instruments in the market it is really confusing for even ordinary investors to choose right instruments. The travails of senior citizens in such a scenario are better left unsaid. The expectation from the government in the Budget would be introduce or reintroduce some government-sponsored investment avenues that can be helpful for senior citizens to park their money in.
How do we race with inflation? On the one hand the income graph of senior citizens is in a plateau or a negative curve, and on the other hand inflation is leaping like a race horse. Even though senior citizens have planned for passive income, many a time the income is not sufficient to keep pace with current inflation. In such a scenario, the expectations from the Finance Minister is to announce some special schemes, which give higher income and also systems which can help reduce the cost of living for senior citizens.
We are still ready to give back: The biggest challenge facing the country today is the shortage of teachers. Senior citizens have a lot of experience that can be tapped for the betterment of the education sector. The expectation from the Finance Minister is to announce schemes that can motivate senior citizens to come back to the main stream and also motivate academic institutions to harness the experiences. This could help reduce a lot of expenditure being incurred on shoring up the education sector with short-term strategies.
Health, the biggest worry: Increasing age is proportional to the risk of health issues. Health care for senior citizens has become excellent, yet at the same time it is increasingly expensive. It all comes back to square one. No active income, but higher expenditure. The expectation from the Finance Minister is to increase the exemption limits on medical treatment. The Rs 5,000 exemption for preventive health checkup is okay for people in a lower age bracket. But senior citizens have to face expenses for treatment, which is very high.
All the budgets keep talking about sunrise sectors of business and industry and promote the concept of fuelling growth. India is on the verge of seeing a big change in the percentage of people who are becoming senior citizens in the next decade. It is imperative for the Finance Minister to focus on this sunset sector too and set the ball rolling for major transformations to support this set of people.
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