< Back to Main Blog

Working Adults: Should You Transfer Your CPF From OA To SA?

Passionate about helping people make smarter financial decisions. You can contribute your thoughts like Kenneth here.

A common working adult dilemma

In our Seedly personal finance community discussion recently, we found that one of our avid members posted an article on his/her own experience behind hitting the magical number of $40k in the CPF SA (special account).

CPF discussion Seedly

We soon found out also that in the discussion, this seems to be a recurring topic most working adults consider on a daily basis as seen in the CZM blog. Even CPF often advocates topping up of SA balances to plan for retirement early. Hence, this article serves to bring you the hard facts and share with you when you the considerations behind topping up your SA using your OA or Cash.

TL;DR: It’s all about 2.5% vs 4.0%

Essentially this act of topping up the SA account is about your retirement funds compounding at a faster rate of 4%+ risk-free rate.

By doing this action: 
  • It locks up your money with the CPF Special Account till age 55
  • You are unable to use this money for property, education or CPF approved investments
  • You cannot reverse this action and take out the funds

What is the CPF?

Primarily, the CPF (Central Provident Fund) was designed for your retirement in the future. It’s like a nest egg which both you and your employer contributes to and let it sit there and grow over time. However, there are multiple purposes which you can use the CPF account for such as property and education in a certain OA account. We will mainly focus on two types of interest – The OA vs SA comparison.

 Ordinary Account (OA)Special Account (SA)
UsesProperty, Education, InvestmentsRetirement, Old Age
Risk Free Guaranteed Interest % p.a2.5%4.0%
Extra Interest For the first $60k+ 1%+ 1%
FlexibilityCan use for various defined uses as aboveLocked in till age 55
What happens at Age 55OA + SA = RA (Retirement Account) which you can remove total sum minus the Basic Retirement Sum (now at ~$90k)

What strategy should you adopt?

Strategy 1: Transfer from OA to SA

This is the common strategy which many people adopt as it’s basically guaranteed returns of minimally 4% in your SA and it will compound over many years till age 55.

CPF OA SA 2

Pros:
  • You get a risk-free way to grow your retirement capital at a faster pace (4% SA vs 2.5% OA) and focus on earlier retirement planning
  • Most working adults transfer everything above $20k (to keep the minimum in OA that is required)
Cons:
  • You will not be able to use your CPF OA to pay for private or HDB property in the near term (1 to 5 years)
  • You have lost the flexibility of spending the additional funds in investments, education or approved insurance   

Strategy 2: Cash Top up to SA

This is a unique method which some bloggers and savvy people recommend. Especially if you are the kind who has excess cash sitting in the bank but also unwilling to take risk with other investment products out there.

CPF OA SA 3

Pros:
  • If cash sits in the bank, it gets around 1% interest. However, the CPF SA gives you 4% risk-free growth every year, compounded over time
  • In fact, by doing this, you get to offset tax relief of up to $7k each calendar year based on the total amount you top up your SA
Cons:
  • As always you lose the flexibility of cash which could have been spent on a holiday or gifts for a loved one
  • You also lose the potential to grow it beyond 4% (if you are savvy enough to grow it at 6 to 10% p.a)

Strategy 3: Don’t top up your SA at all

This is the default strategy that any working adult would adopt. The allocation for the SA vs OA will change over the years as you reach retirement age.

CPF OA SA 4

Pros:
  • By keeping the OA and SA separate, it gives you the flexibility of both Cash and the OA funds for other opportunities
  • Argued by a Business Times Contributor, he felt that by letting the OA build over time with 2.5% it gives you the opportunity to pounce on the property market
Cons:
  • This is by betting big on the property market in Singapore and believing in the appreciation of property being more than 4% p.a
  • Also by betting on the SG government to not change any of the various property cooling measures which will make the property market less attractive for rent or appreciation.

Editor’s note: You can find out more about these strategies and the implementation also at this CPF official page with the long descriptions but instead this is condensed into what is most important for you. There is even an official calculator for you to determine if you should transfer between OA to SA.

Conclusion: Higher Flexibility vs Higher Risk-Free returns

As with any other money decision, you have to really think this clearly and do your own due diligence on the different options available.

Let me highlight the top 3 concerns again:
  • It locks up your funds in the SA account till age 55 (a long time away)
  • You will not be able to jump on other property opportunities with CPF OA
  • You cannot reverse this action or choose to withdraw from the SA once you decided to top up your SA with either your OA or cash

Take care and think about this main difference clearly: OA 2.5% vs SA 4.0% p.a of compounding.

At the end of the day, both ways it’s still your money, it’s which you feel more comfortable with at the end of the day.


Further Reading: How to top up your CPF SA?

ModesofToppup_Infographic

Option 1: My CPF Online

Type: CPF transfers (from OA to SA) or cash top-ups via OCBC’s Internet Banking

  1. Login with your SingPass.
  2. Submit an online application via My Requests > Building Up My / My Recipient’s CPF Savings.
  3. For cash top-up, please make your payment immediately via OCBC’s Internet Banking/Mobile Banking/ATM.
Option 2: e-Cashier

Type: Cash top ups only

  1. Go to e-Cashier and select payment for top up my own/recipient’s RA/SA under the Retirement Sum Topping-Up Scheme (RSTU).
  2. Make your payment immediately via E-cashier’s mode of payment (eNETS Debit only).

Your top-up will be processed within CPF service standards after we receive your application.

Option 3: AXS Machine

Type: Cash top ups only

  1. Go to any AXS station and select payment for top up my own/recipient’s RA/SA under the Retirement Sum Topping-Up Scheme (RSTU).
  2. Make your payment immediately via the AXS machine.

Your top-up will be processed within CPF service standards after we receive your application.

Be part of our personal finance Facebook Group today! Share your knowledge and learn from the closely-knitted Seedly family as we look to bring each other on a more meaningful personal finance journey.
Comments

Start Your Personal Finance Journey Today!

Download free app: