"Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone."
― Mitch Albom
Whenever Mothers' Day draws near, it also signifies that my birthday is just round the corner. Yes, I was born on Mothers' Day so I always tell my friends how ironic it is that my route to Motherhood took so many twists and turns.
It wasn't so bad when I was younger; I looked forward to my birthdays each year eagerly but after passing my 40th, birthdays evoke more of a mixed bag of feelings, for the simple reason that I'm growing older and I can't turn back the clock.
This year, as my birthday swings around again in May, I decided to sit the husband down to discuss some 'important plans'. Finally. The news these days are filled with natural disasters, man-made catastrophes, and adding on the fact that we are both not getting any younger but our children are still so young, prompted us to have this talk. Naturally, the decisions we had to make center around making a will and other care-giving arrangements for the kids should we be no longer around anymore.
To my surprise, I recently discovered that our last will have no bearing on how our CPF (Central Provident Fund) is to be distributed upon our eventual death.
Yes, you heard it right. It doesn't.
Of death and living:
Death is a certainty that none of us like to talk about. In fact, writing this post is already making me rather melancholic.
In our home, my husband's experience with death from losing his father back when he was just 13 years old has shaped our psyche as parents. His father passed away without a proper will, leaving his distraught widow with 3 young children to care for. To make matters worse, she was embroiled in a long, legal battle trying to regain possession of her late husband's inheritance and assets for the welfare of their kids. The whole legal process took more than 10 years and the painful scars of seeing your own relatives turn on each other for the sake of money, still remain.
Personally, I've encountered deaths in many forms - child-losses, stillbirths and as recent as last February, my beloved Grandmother's passing. Death often comes unexpectedly and swiftly. Even when death is preceded by illness, once diagnosed, we would be caught unprepared. In Singapore, this is exacerbated as many couples are getting married later and having children even later. This means we are subjected to greater health risks whilst our kids are still very young. How can we mitigate such risks for our children in our eventual deaths?
The greatest legacy one can pass on to one's children and grand-children is not money or other material things accumulated in one's life, but rather a legacy of character and faith. - Billy Graham
As a tribute this Mother's Day, I'll like to share a few lessons I've learnt from my very resilient and capable mom-in-law who single-handedly raised 3 kids on her own after her husband's passing:
- Seize the day: Life is short. Therefore we should seize the opportunities to experience life to its fullest instead of wallowing in self-pity.
- Be self-sufficient: When bad times fall (and they will), it's crucial that we are self-sufficient and independent and not be a burden to others, especially our friends and loved ones. This is when good financial planning comes in.
- Success and Setbacks: Successes and setbacks are both fleeting. Remember those who helped you attain success and be there for others when they are undergoing setbacks.
- 'Ohana': The Hawaiian word for 'Family' - families look out for each another and do not bear grudges.
- Health is everything: Illness can severely incapacitate one's life. No matter how much potential you have and how bright your plans for the future, once you're ill, everything is adversely affected.
As I take stock of my own life as a Mom, I realised it's my responsibility to plan for contingencies for my children so that their quality of life can continue if anything happens to us.
This brings me back to my startling discovery that my last will and testament will not have any bearing on my CPF nomination, upon my death, as outlined on the CPF website:
"Did you know…your CPF Savings are not covered under a Will? Your CPF savings do not form part of your estate and are distributed according to your CPF nomination or via the Public Trustee to your family members under Intestacy or Inheritance laws when you pass away. This protects your CPF savings from any creditor claims and allows your loved ones to receive the CPF monies swiftly and conveniently.
This made me wonder how much we actually know about CPF. I was pleasantly surprised to find that CPF has a very user-friendly Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CPFBoard/ which explains key policies and FAQs via easy-to-read graphics. Perfect for busy Moms like me.
A quick search of the website revealed to me more vital information about CPF nominations, which I think every parents should be privy to:
1) There are 3 types of Nomination schemes: Cash Nomination, Enhanced Nomination Scheme and Special Needs Saving Scheme (SNSS) for parents with special needs children.
2) There are certain areas not covered under CPF Nomination. This includes your investment under the CPF Investment Scheme (CPFIS). Here's a graphic representation of that:
As I browsed the website, more questions arose so I posted my queries on FB online. My questions were:
- What happens if both parents pass away at the same time and they have nominated each other? Especially since it is common for parents to go on business trips or couple trips, leaving their children in the care of others for days or weeks. Not that we do but sometimes travelling in the same car on the road has the same inherent risks.
- What happens if we nominate your children but they are still minors when we pass away?
I was impressed that my questions via the CPF Facebook were promptly answered within a day (see screenshot appended below). I often used the excuse of being 'too busy' to delay the planning of these matters, including looking into my CPF nomination matters. I had naively assumed that my nominations were all in order because I had done it when we first got married.
Here in Singapore, a substantial amount of our salary is apportioned to the CPF as a means to save for our healthcare and retirement. Upon our death, the amount we have inside our CPF can be inherited by our children as a token of our love and legacy to them. A responsible step we parents can take is to take advantage of the precious years we are still around to ensure that what we have saved up and planned for them, gets to them.
This Mother's Day, what are some precious lessons your moms have taught you which shaped who you are today? And what are some lessons you would like to pass on to your own children? Use the hashtag #MyMumSays to share these on your personal FB pages. We'll love to hear from you.
This article first appeared on Life's Tiny Miracles