Are You Financially Ready To Face Any Medical Catastrophe In Your Retirement?

Most working Malaysians rely on their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) for their retirement, but whatever you’ve saved up in EPF may not be enough to fund your dream retirement.

With average life expectancy of a Malaysian at 75 years old, one needs to ensure his or her retirement fund can be stretched for at least 15 years, if one retires at 60 years old.

According to recent statistics released by EPF in 2013, about 70,000 active 54-year-old contributors have an average savings of just under RM167,000. What this means is a retiree will only have RM11,113 a year, or RM927 a month for 15 years in retirement.

That’s just slightly above poverty line of RM800 a month.

That amount is definitely not enough to fund your retirement. And the financial disaster can only be exacerbated by debilitating health problems that very often plague retirees.

Here are some of the common illnesses that the elderly in Malaysia are susceptible to due to physiological and biological decline:

1. Stroke

About 30.5% of the elderly in Malaysia have hypertension, and it is a well-known fact that hypertension is the main cause of cardiovascular disease and stroke, the third largest cause of death in Malaysia.

According to the National Stroke Association of Malaysia, about 40,000 people in Malaysia suffer from stroke every year. For stroke patients, early rehabilitation is crucial, and these rehabilitation treatments include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and even counselling.

The medical treatment of a stroke patient can be expensive, especially if one is not covered by adequate medical insurance. The hospital cost for a typical stroke patient accounted to 71% of total stroke care costs, in which approximately 41% was the cost of the initial hospitalisation.

Based on another study published by Singapore Medical Association, the mean total cost incurred by a typical stroke patient in Malaysia was US$547.10 (RM2,129). The cost is broken down further into:


And of course, the more severe the stroke and the older the patient is, the higher the total cost will be. It is known that stroke carries a huge burden to individual, family and society. This stress can be relieved if one is financially prepared in the eventuality of stroke striking.

2. Cancer

The National Cancer Registry of Malaysia (NCR) estimated that one in four Malaysians will develop cancer by 75 years old. According to the Ministry of Health Malaysia Health Facts 2014, cancer is the top four cause of death in both private and public hospital in the country.

The top five cancers affecting both genders in Malaysia are:


We all know that cost of cancer treatment is not cheap. Here’s an estimation of some of the medical procedures common to treating breast cancer in Malaysia:

Breast cancer

  • Mastectomy – Approx. RM10,119*
  • Breast implants – From RM10,000 to RM25,000^
  • Lump removal – Approx. RM5,210*
    * Cost estimated using Real Cost Estimator by Mahkota Medical Centre, based on the median cost.
    ^ Based on cost estimation by Da Vinci Clinic on

According to the Asean Costs in Oncology (Action) study by Sydney-based George Institute for Global Health, about 45% of Malaysian cancer patients encounter financial disaster — where medical costs exceed 30% of their household income — a mere one year after diagnosis.

3. Osteoporosis

According to International Osteoporosis Foundation, several surveys point to low calcium intake among Malaysians, at below 500mg daily for both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women.

Osteoporosis is one of the most common causes of musculoskeletal problems among the elderly. Based on the Burden of Major Musculoskeletal Conditions by World Health Organizations (WHO), musculoskeletal conditions are prevalent and they can cause severe long-term pain and physical disability, and they affect hundreds of millions of people around the world.

As a result, hip fractures are prevalent among those above 50 years of age. Hip fracture incidence in Malaysia between 1996 and 1997 in those aged over 50 years was 90 per 100,000 individuals per year. This number would have likely increased due to the ageing population in the country.

The estimated cost for a hip replacement surgery in a private hospital in Malaysia is about US$7,900 (RM30,700). However, this does not include rehabilitation or nursing home care costs. With an ageing population, hip fracture numbers and costs are expected to escalate even further.

The above are just three common diseases that Malaysians may have to face, and these diseases are even more prevalent in retirement years. Without a back-up retirement plan, on top of your EPF savings, the chances of getting the treatments needed to recover or at least get the long-term care you need post treatment, are slim.

With medical inflation escalating at the rate of 12% a year, it’s time to review your medical insurance to ensure you are adequately covered for any medical eventualities in your golden years. To ensure you cover all bases in your old age, additional savings must be made to cover outpatient treatments that your medical insurance does not cover.

Plan ahead to ensure your retirement years will be according to your plan, with no hitches, even if you are hit by a medical catastrophe. That is the key to successful retirement planning.

Disclaimer: The following is the opinion of the writer and the recipient acknowledges that Aged Care Group Sdn Bhd and its associated companies are unable to exercise control to ensure or guarantee the integrity of/over the contents of the information contained.

First Published in Smart Investor, May 2016, Issue 313

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