You may have heard about a Singaporean who accumulated a million dollars in CPF savings. Is it possible (especially during a recession) and what do you need to do if this amount is going to form the bulk of your retirement savings?
What is CPF?
CPF stands for Central Provident Fund. Managed by the Central Provident Fund Board (CBFB), it is a social security savings scheme that helps working Singaporeans and Permanent Residents save for retirement, healthcare and home ownership.
Depending on age, all working Singaporeans and Permanent Residents contribute a certain percentage of their monthly salary a month to CPF. In addition, employers also contribute a percentage of their employee’s monthly salary to their employee’s CPF.
How can you save a million dollars in your CPF?
In order to get a million dollars in your CPF, you need to max out your Special Account (SA). The CPF is composed of three portions:
- Ordinary Account (OA)
- Special Account (SA)
- Medisave Account (MA)
The OA is primarily used for housing, while SA is used for retirement. MA is used to pay for healthcare.
Earlier this year, CPF has announced that between 1 July to 30 September 2020, CPF members under 55 can earn up to 5% p.a. on their first $60,000 of their combined balances. CPF interest rates are reviewed every quarter.
In addition, CPF members aged 55 and above will earn an additional 1% interest on the first $30,000 of their combined balances, and up to 5% on the next $30,000. As a result, CPF members aged 55 and above will earn up to 6% interest per year on their retirement balance.
In order to accumulate a million dollars in your CPF, the key is to move the lower interest OA money into your SA. Then, the compounding effect of 5% per annum builds up your cash reserves faster.
Note the time this takes will differ, based on how much you earn. Singaporeans below the age of 55 are required to contribute 20% of their monthly pay to CPF. Employers contribute an additional 17%.
On average, someone earning around $3,000 a month, who starts working at 25 and constantly transfers money from OA to SA, could end up hitting the million dollar mark as early as age 54 to 57.
It’s not a get-rich-quick method, but the reliable ones rarely are.
During the 2019 National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced plans to gradually raise the retirement age, re-employment age as well as CPF contribution rates for older workers gradually from 2021 until 2030.
The best part? The additional money will be paid into the Special Account, which accrues the highest possible interest among the CPF accounts.
Here’s what the proposed changes look like:
CPF contribution rates for older workers will be raised over the next decade or so, so the full rate of 37 per cent will be extended to those aged up to 60 before it tapers off.
For the first increase in CPF rates in 2021, employers and workers will each increase their contribution by 0.5 percentage point to 1 percentage point for workers aged 55 to 70.
For example, for someone who was 55 in January this year and earns $3,000, both he and his employer contribute 13 per cent, or $390 a month, to his CPF savings.
In January 2021, the contribution rates for each party would go up to 14 per cent, or $420 a month, assuming zero wage increments over the years. That works out to $360 more in contributions each a year for employer and employee.
All is that good news, as you can earn the maximum CPF contribution rates of 37% for longer, from the initial age of 55 to 60 years old, by 2030. Even those aged between 60 to 65, and 65 to 70, in year 2030 will benefit, earning 9.5% and 4% more CPF contributions respectively.
Note: There will be no change to CPF withdrawal ages, which remains at 55 years old. Upon reaching 55 years old, members can withdraw up to $5,000 from their Special and Ordinary Accounts, or anything above their Full Retirement Sum (FRS) in their Retirement Account (RA), whichever is higher.
Pros of putting more money in your CPF Special Account
There are a number of upsides when relying on your SA to reach your first million dollars. These are:
- Earn an interest rate that beats inflation
- Enjoy a reliable absolute return
- Safety from creditors
- CPF Special Account can be used to invest
Cons of keeping your savings in your CPF Special Account
There are a number of issues you may face:
- You have to pay for your housing the hard way — in cash
- You’ll need to rely on banks for education loans
- Transfer from OA to SA are permanent and irreversible
Given that the SA offers very decent interest rates and is guaranteed, many Singaporeans would be better off gradually transferring money and building up their SA nest egg, provided they have planned ahead and have enough cash savings to last until the age of 55.