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93-year-old Hong Kong man considers insurance for the first time

Chow Yat-ping is 93 years old.

In his younger years, the former financial journalist never bothered to buy annuity insurance for himself or his wife. Instead, he punted in stocks, gold and currencies, making enough money to buy a flat in Aberdeen.

Now a childless widower, Chow lives in a Wan Chai nursing home. His pension comprises income from his market trading and from selling his south-side property. He is late considering putting money into annuities.

“I have some money for retirement but I always worry I may use them up before I die,” he said. “If there are some insurance products that can pay me until my last day, that would be good.”

While Hongkongers are staying healthier and living longer, these blessings add another problem for them to consider: financial security well into their 80s and 90s.

After his mandatory retirement in 1994, Chow kept working as a freelancer until he turned 81. He found the terms and conditions of many insurance policies incomprehensible and confusing, preferring to park his money in the financial markets instead.

These days, he still walks every morning, trades stocks and spends the rest of his time playing mahjong and watching DVDs. He prefers action thrillers, and confessed to watching Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation five times.

After his wife passed away two years ago, Chow moved to a nursing home, sharing a room with three others because it was cheaper than a twin share.

“I only have that sum of money for the rest of my life, so I need to keep tabs on my spending very carefully,” he said.

There are insurance products that pay policyholders fixed sums until their final days. MassMutual, AIA, FWD and BOC Life are among those who have extended certain life and annuity coverage from the previous 100 years old up to 120 years old or until they die. Hang Seng Bank’s oldest insurance client is 90 years old.

“This sounds like a good idea to have such insurance products,” Chow said. “ I don’t mind a lower return, but a stable monthly income would be a good idea.”

Top of his mind is the insurer’s stability and reputation, Chow said. He would much prefer policies from a large bank, or one of the larger insurers, because these companies are less likely to collapse.

And if he finishes his pension before he can find himself a suitable policy?

“I may have to apply for government help if that happens,” he said.

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