If you read a lot about retirement planning, you may have built up some Income Generating Assets such as Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) or Retirement Income Plans. But few people talk about CPF Life.
This is not surprising because people tend to associate retirement planning with stock and property investments. Many people believe that “you need one million dollars to retire”, and that is their retirement goals.
But if you dive deeper, you will realise that the solution to your retirement is never about how much money you have or will have, but how much passive income you can receive without working.
Traditionally, if you are worried about running out of money in retirement, the solution was annuity or pension schemes. But with a decade of low-interest rate environment, many insurers have withdrawn their annuity products.
CPF Life becomes one of the best solutions for a lifetime retirement income now. In this article, I will explain to you how CPF Life works and how it complement your other retirement plans.
What is CPF Life
Similar to an annuity insurance, CPF Life is a scheme that essentially converts your CPF savings into a monthly stream of income after you retire. The difference between CPF Life and a retirement income insurance is that retirement income insurance typically has a fixed payout period, but there is no maturity for CPF Life.
Although CPF Life refers to Lifelong Income For the Elderly, it is for everybody. Sooner or later you will have to join this scheme.
CPF life was launched back in 2008. At that time, the CPF Life scheme offered 12 different plans. Although it offers great flexibility, too many choices always lead to confusions and bad decisions. How many plans does CPF Life have
So the government decided to pare it down to four, and later to just two plans:
- Life Standard Plan – A higher monthly payout, but little left to your family
- Life Basic Plan – A lower monthly payout, but your family will get more if you pass away
How much monthly income can CPF Life generate
When you turn age 55, your ordinary account and the special account will be combined as a “Retirement Account”. Your CPF LIFE monthly payouts would depend on the savings you have in this account.
Before we go into the details, you need to understand one more concept called “Retirement Sum“. Retirement Sum used to be called “CPF Minimum Sum”. It is essential the amount you must have (currently set at $166,000) in your CPF before you can withdraw. You can read this article for more information about Retirement Sum.
Below is the figures projected by CPF based on CPF standard plan and payout age 65. In a nutshell,
- If you have $83,000 CPF, you will only receive a $700 to $750 monthly payout
- If you have more, but withdraw all your CPF above $166,000 Retirement Sum requirement, the monthly payout will be $1,280 to $1,380
But you can also allocate more CPF savings into CPF Life. The maximum savings you can put is $249,000 and your monthly payout will be $1,860 – $2,000.
*Payout figures are estimates, based on the CPF LIFE Standard Plan and computed as of 2017.
Why you need to care about CPF Life
Just because CPF Life is compulsory, many people do not bother to understand it. You may feel that you can’t do anything about it anyway.
This is a huge mistake.
1) You may not have enough CPF to convert
I mentioned earlier that the monthly payout of CPF Life is from your own CPF savings. But if you don’t have sufficient CPF to begin with, you simply won’t have the monthly income which you need.
How come your CPF is not enough?
The problem is that many Singaporeans have jeopardised their own retirement by diverting too much retirement savings into properties. Have you used most of your CPF to pay your mortgage loans?
A physical property gives us an illusion of wealth, but if it can’t generate a stream of income, it can’t help your retirement at all.
2) You will face tough decisions in the future
A recent change to CPF Life gives you the option to choose your plans only when you wish to start your monthly payouts. You can do so anytime between age 65 (payout eligibility age) and 70.
But if you haven’t done your retirement planning right, you simply won’t have a stream of retirement income after you retire.
Just ask yourself, since CPF Life payout only kicks in at age 65. what passive income can you depend on if you want to retire at age 55?
Your ideal retirement income stream should be something like this:
As you can see, the payout from CPF Life is only a portion of the retirement income you really need.
If you are serious about your retirement…
Let me iterate this. The secret of retirement is NOT to learn an investment strategy, to buy an insurance product, to invest an index fund or save a million dollars.
The only thing you need is to build your income sources which are greater than your expenses.
Since CPF Life has only provided a foundation for your retirement income, here are the next steps for you:
- Set a SMART retirement goal
- Allocate your financial resources to build your Income Generating Assets (IGAs)
- Start taking passive income (dividends, coupon, etc) today, no matter how small it is.
This article first appeared on SG Money Matters. At SG Money Matters, one will find basic but essential financial knowledge, understand common mis-perceptions and acquire easy-to-understand financial resources to empower YOU to manage your own finance and make sound investment decisions.
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