The Central Provident Fund (CPF) is a government scheme initiated to help members prepare for their retirement. Over the years, many initiatives have been introduced to enable people greater flexibility in deciding how funds in their CPF accounts are used. There are 3 accounts in the CPF, namely the Ordinary, Special and Medisave accounts. In this article, I put together the top 5 hacks you can do to ensure your CPF is well utilised.
TOPPING UP THE SPECIAL ACCOUNT
Starting with the Special account, the Special account currently earns you interests of 4% per annum. This is a decent return for something relatively lower risk. You can do a voluntary cash top-up of your Special account up to $14,000 per annum (maximum $7,000 for self and $7,000 for family members). Not only does this ensure you have more funds in your CPF during retirement, the cash top up qualifies you for tax reliefs when you do a voluntary contribution to your Special account up to the current Full Retirement Sum (FRS).
INVESTING THE ORDINARY ACCOUNT
While it is possible to invest funds from both the Special and Ordinary accounts, I do not usually recommend taking out funds from the Special account to invest due to the relatively higher interests of 4%. This means the investments need to comfortably yield in excess of 4% net of any fees to make financial sense. The Ordinary account, on the other hand, currently yields you interests of 2.5%. One possible option is to leave the funds in your Ordinary account until market valuations are attractive before deploying them into investments. This reduces your risks in investing your Ordinary account funds while potentially giving you greater room for capital appreciation.
ENJOY TAX BENEFITS WHILE PAYING YOUR MORTGAGE
Funds from the Ordinary account can be used to pay your monthly mortgage payments. For those who are self-employed, it is possible to do a voluntary top up of your CPF accounts up to the CPF Annual Limit while enjoying tax reliefs up to the CPF Relief Cap. This allows you to enjoy tax benefits while using funds from your Ordinary account to pay your mortgage payments. Do note employees enjoy similar benefits up to the mandatory CPF contribution limit.
PAY FOR INSURANCE
There are 3 types of insurance that can be paid with your CPF funds. The first is the Private Integrated Shield Plan. You can use funds from your Medisave account to pay for Private Integrated Shield Plan premiums up to the Additional Withdrawal Limit (AWL). Next, upon reaching 40 years of age, eligible Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) will automatically be enrolled into basic Eldershield. This is a severe disability insurance which provides basic financial protection to those in need of long term care. You can use funds from your Medisave account to supplement your Eldershield coverage with private insurers up to an annual withdrawal limit of $600 per insured person. Last but not least, all CPF members are automatically enrolled into the Dependent Protection Scheme (DPS). This provides a basic death cover for all members using funds from your Ordinary account.
CREATING AN ESTATE FOR YOUR BENEFICIARIES
Funds not disbursed from your CPF accounts upon death form part of your estate when you pass on. This allows you to leave behind a sum of money for your beneficiaries when you are no longer around. You can determine how the funds are distributed by doing up a CPF Nomination. For parents with special needs children, the Special Needs Savings Scheme (SNSS) allows special needs children to receive a monthly disbursement from their parents' CPF savings upon the demise of the parents.
With the many initiatives introduced over the years, the CPF has grown to be much more than a simple retirement savings vehicle for most people. I hope the 5 hacks above help you to more effectively utilise your CPF funds while preparing you for retirement. Do note the information above are correct as of publishing. Do refer to CPF's official website for latest initiatives and changes. A word of caution that some of the above actions may be irreversible (e.g. topping up of your CPF accounts), do consider your own financial situations or consult a qualified financial adviser before committing to them.
This article was first published on The New Savvy.