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Choose your own CPF adventure!

Friday, February 6, 2015

There was a creature called the MS (full name "Minimum Sum") which gained mutant powers. 

In gaining mutant powers, MS was able to mutate into a smaller creature half of its original size or into a bigger creature 50% bigger than its original size.

The creators of MS hoped that more would take a liking to MS which had been verbally abused in some quarters. 

So, with newly gained mutant powers (and a new marketing team), MS took on new names for its various forms.

The smaller and cuter MS mutant was called the BRS (full name "Basic Retirement Sum"). 

In its original size, the MS was renamed the FRS (full name "Full Retirement Sum"). 

The bigger and more powerful MS mutant was called the ERS (full name "Enhanced Retirement Sum").

Everyone had to adopt a MS but they didn't have a variety to choose from in the past. 

It was a little like the first mass produced car by Ford, the Model T. 

Everyone had a choice of color. Remember? 

It was either black or black or black. 

People still had to adopt a MS but at least they would have a choice of size with the mutant forms.

The MS had been badly misunderstood by many and far from being a monster, a closer look revealed that it was actually a cow. 

Yes, it was a simple farm animal! 

The MS was supposed to provide sustenance to its owner for an indefinite period of time once the owner turned 65. 

That was when the MS would become a deity-like bovine called the CPF-Life.

Whichever choice people should make between the BRS, FRS and ERS, these cows retained their power to become deity-like bovines later on with their powers to provide more or less sustenance for life to their owners, their powers being proportional to their sizes.

Oh, the movie had a compulsory audience participation section as well. 

It was a bit like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" component. 

Yes, some of us older folks would remember flipping through what seemed like random page numbers in those storybooks with outcomes depending on the choices we made. 

They were the craze at one time.

How would things play out? 

Well, with miniaturization still a craze, I suspect that the BRS might win hands down. 


The apathetic would probably stick to the FRS. 

A smaller more prudent but insecure feeling group would choose the ERS.

If I were to use another analogy, the BRS is like a hut made of straw while the FRS is like a hut made of wood and the ERS a hut made of bricks. 

Remember the story? 

The hut made of straw was the easiest and fastest to build while the hut made of bricks was the hardest and took the longest time to build. 

Then, remember the three little pigs which stayed in the huts?

In a less child friendly (and more realistic) version of the story, the little pigs which stayed in the straw and the wooden huts were eaten by the big bad wolf. 

Only the little pig which stayed in the brick hut survived. 

In most versions, however, all three little pigs survived because the first two pigs ran to the house made of bricks to escape the big bad wolf. 

So, the little pig who took the trouble to build the hut made of bricks had to share his living quarters with his brothers. 

Well, we can choose our friends but we cannot choose our family, as the saying goes.

I believe that the movie would not only have a sequel but there could be remakes in future. 

Whatever the case might be, in the audience participation section, we would do well to choose wisely in the meantime and hope that many more would choose wisely too.

Related posts:
1. A lot of money in my CPF-SA...
2. How did AK amass money in the OA?
3. Get free medical insurance in Singapore?

"From 2016, the CPF Annual Limit will be increased correspondingly from $31,450 to $37,740 (equivalent to 17 months x CPF salary ceiling of $6,000 x 37%)."


"The panel is proposing that the sum of S$80,500 for CPF members turning 55 in 2016 be called the Basic Retirement Sum. This Basic Retirement Sum should increase by 3 per cent each year for cohorts turning 55 from 2017 to 2020, to keep pace with inflation and changes in household expenditure.

"For CPF members who are not homeowners or who do not have a CPF pledge on the their property (which refers to the sum of money that will go into his CPF account if he sells the property), the panel thinks they should set aside a sum of S$161,000 in 2016 – equivalent to the Minimum Sum for those turning 55 from July. This could be called the Full Retirement Sum, the panel said.

"Those who want to put more into their Retirement Account for higher annuity payouts should be allowed to do so, felt the panel, which is proposing that they be allowed to have up to three times the Basic Retirement Sum to pay for CPF LIFE premiums (or S$241,500 in 2016).

"Also addressed in its first set of recommendations is lump-sum withdrawal of CPF savings at the age of 65. The panel suggests allowing the withdrawal of up to 20 per cent of Retirement Account savings, inclusive of the S$5,000 that can be withdrawn from age 55."

Source: Today Online, 4 Feb 15.

See all the infographics: here.

The Straits Times, 11 Oct 2016.
Central Provident Fund (CPF) members who turned 55 in 2013 and later can make a lump sum withdrawal of 20 per cent from their Retirement Account when they reach the payout eligibility age (i.e. age 65).
Previously, members on the Retirement Sum scheme had to apply to start their payouts. Starting from 2018, payouts will begin automatically once the member turns 70.


iwimsasl said...

Hi AK,

Now that the green light is given at age 55 to lock in more for the ERS, would you do it consider the withdrawal will happen only at 65. I'm also interested to know whether you will defer the draw down till 70?

AK71 said...

Hi iwimsasl,

My parents are almost 70 and they have yet to draw upon their CPF savings as they continue to be gainfully employed. I think that is the wise thing to do as their CPF savings continue to benefit from the effect of compound interest.

In my case, I plan to retire early. If everything pans out according to plan, I should have no problem with taking advantage of the ERS which I like very much. :)

Would I defer my draw down age to age 70? At this point in time, I have to say that I don't know. It would very much depend on my financial health at that point in time. ;p

Mao Mao said...

Hi AK,

Very interesting story of how a cow was unfortunately perceived as a monster!

I shall re-post my question here, hoping to get some fresh responses.

According to the newspapers, a Basic Retirement Sum (BRS) of $80,500 will yield $650-$700 per month. Why is an Enhanced Retirement Sum (ERS) of $241,500 (3 times of BRS) be yielding only $1,750-$1,900 per month? Shouldn't the ERS payout be $1,950-$2,100 per month... dollar for dollar comparison?

Any actuary experts here? :D

AK71 said...

Hi MaoMao,

People could have been frightened by the shadows (of cows) cast on a wall by the flames of an open fire. People fear what they don't know. ;)

I hope to get some response from experts to your question too. :)

Singapore Man of Leisure said...


It just gets better and better doesn't it?

I'm happy.

We had it good for the first 50 years. Now that the baton has been passed to us, I hope we don't fxxx it up for the next 50 years!

AK71 said...


Simi baton passed to us? I have no intention of taking over any baton lor. I am way too lazy to run. -.-"

You have zebras and I have pigs. That is enough for me. I'm happy. ;p

iwimsasl said...

Hi AK,

I read from somewhere that the yielding for BRS, FRS & ERS are 6.5%, 6.0% & 5.8% respectively. As to why is this so, I believe it has got something to do with the fundamental policy of the CPF to support the basic retirement adequacy. Thus, BRS return is being made attractive to attract maximum participation especially for non active members.

But, let's not forget that CPF Life is also an insurance policy whereby some participants will benefit less while others gain more. That can never be equal and it all boils down to how old you can live or survive and most will not get back the equal amount they have fork out plus interest earn over the years. I understand the break even age is around 90. Can someone confirm this?

AK71 said...

Hi iwimsasl,

Well, an annuity is basically an insurance product. It is about risk pooling. I wouldn't look at it as an investor and start calculating how to get the best ROI. LOL. ;p

As for the BRS, FRS & ERS yielding 6.5%, 6.0% & 5.8% respectively, do you know the source? I would like to take a look. :)

iwimsasl said...

Hi AK,

This is one of the site.

I know it is about an annuity and risk pooling, but we are given an ultimate choice to choose how much to commit right? Thus, it has got athe hallmark of investment in it.

AK71 said...

Hi iwimsasl,

Ah, I haven't visited Drizzt's blog in a while. I shall go take a look. Thanks. :)

I still won't think of an annuity as an investment. If I were to follow your line of reasoning, then, as long as I am given a choice as to how much to commit, it would become an investment decision for me. Doesn't sound right to me. ;p

Anyway, it could just be a matter of semantics. Don't mind me. :) said...

I'm trying hard to digest the proposed changes but then again it is not set in stone yet. I wonder what is the intention of letting the public know, for us to debate and give suggestions or is it for the parliament to vote? Either way I believe the proposal changes will happen. Oh how contradcting.

Anyway AK u should start as part 3 first then 4 anD 5. This will allow u to write a prequel like StarWars. Kekeke

AK71 said...

Hi Derek,

Aiyoh, you want me to do a George Lucas har? I would need a bigger budget then. You sponsor? ;p

3 little pigs, a big bad wolf and a few huts make a low cost production. The only problem I might have to deal with is the animal rights group.

R2D2, C3P0, light sabers, storm troopers, a few X-wing fighters and throwing a Death Star into the mix? That might just kill me. -.-"

imdna said...

Given your skills in investments, I'm surprised you like the 4% returns albeit risk-free.

Surely you can easily get more than 4% if you invested all your CPF yourself.

Anonymous said...

i jus dun get the point of asking us to top up $65000 in cash at age 55 for the ERS. Only $19000 of top up can be done using CPF $.

One can jolly well draw out $65000 of the excess CPF at age 55 to top up the ERS. Isn't that the same results? Why the hassle? Can anyone enlighten me? =)

Rebel said...

I am so excited with ERS.

But, i am still going to grow other pots of gold in case CPF goes bust when i am old.

AK71 said...

Hi imdna,

It is about risk management and diversification. :)

If we believe that we should have some investment grade bonds in our portfolio, then, why not a AAA rated sovereign bond that pays 4% per annum? ;)

AK71 said...

Hi donquixote,

Is that a loophole you just discovered? Hahaha. ;p

AK71 said...

Hi Rebel,

That is the prudent thing to do. We should look at CPF-Life as a minimum safety net which we can now upsize with the ERS. We should have other sources of income in retirement too. :)

Betta man said...

We can top up our SA using cash or xfer from OA until ERS. But at 55, we can opt for BRS and leave the rest in SA. Then draw out the 4% interest from SA annually. Then it is like having an annuity plan that starts from 55. This is my plan in mind.

yeh said...

hi ak
you are the one who inspire me to do yearly SA top up.well, me and my hubby do this since 2012 till now:) really have to thank you.i did share this to my friends and colleagues. but they told me they do not have so much cash and dun want the money to be locked for so many years and so on....

well, i think many people just want cash in bank or cash on hands. do not really care much about future.

my hubby even transfered all her cpf OA to SA. i didn do that as we still have outstanding hdb loan. so now, he also stop doing the OA to SA trf. once the interest rate up, we will try to clear off our housing loan.

AK71 said...

Hi betta man,

That sounds like having your cake and eating it too. Good one. ;)

AK71 said...

Hi yeh,

I am so happy that you have found the idea to your liking. :D

The power of compounding takes time to work and if the base is larger, the result would be more meaningful. So, it requires patience and a willingness to lock away more funds early. People must be able to see far ahead in order to benefit more from this. :)

Unfortunately, it is not easy to convince people unless they can see real life results for themselves. This is one reason why I decided to share my own CPF numbers here in my blog. It took me a while to do it because they are private and confidential.

So, I was uncomfortable initially but from the response so far, I think the sharing has worked to convince some who were still sitting on the fence. So, it is worth it. :)

People will sometimes ask me what if the CPF goes kaput? I tell them if the CPF goes kaput, Singapore is probably going to be kaput too. The Singapore Dollar would probably be worth next to nothing then. If we cannot trust the CPF, then, there are very few investments in Singapore (if any) that we can trust. It only stands to reason. :)

Anonymous said...

hi AK and Bettaman,

Don't think u can top up yr SA beyond the FRS which is 161k now.

According to the infographics, for the ERS, you need to top up by Cash $65000 and only $19000 out of yr excess cpf only at age 55.

Correct me if i am wrong.

The gahmen won't let rich people grow too rich...

yeh said...

hi AK

do u think it is good to open SRS account and then use it to buy share?

i am 33 this years and i started to realise that we pay quite a bit of income tax( with me and my hubby combined income)

so i am thinking to start open a SRS account for the tax relief purpose and also to use to buy share.

AK71 said...

Hi donquixote,

The government are accepting the proposals, it seems. However, I am not sure about the actual mechanics of how the ERS could be achieved. How would things look like when everything is finalised? I think we will have to wait and see. :)

However, I do agree that the CPF is there to help more the lower income than the rich. So, the restrictions and conditions on the ERS as you pointed out would make sense. :)

AK71 said...

Hi yeh,

Oh, you are very young. I don't know why but I had the impression that you are in your late 30s.

Anyway, my view is that if we are paying income tax and if we have some excess cash, starting a SRS account makes sense if only to reduce the amount of tax payable. ;)

Of course, if we are able to put the money in the SRS account to work, it would be even better. :)

Ana said...

I was thinking of a private annuity with an insurance company. But if CPF can go bust, so can the insurance company.... ! Maybe CPF indeed can go bust because it's giving a rather good deal (I thought)..:)

lzyData said...

>>"I shall re-post my question here, hoping to get some fresh responses.

According to the newspapers, a Basic Retirement Sum (BRS) of $80,500 will yield $650-$700 per month. Why is an Enhanced Retirement Sum (ERS) of $241,500 (3 times of BRS) be yielding only $1,750-$1,900 per month? Shouldn't the ERS payout be $1,950-$2,100 per month... dollar for dollar comparison?"

From a footnote in the panel report:

"(a) Monthly payouts for life from age 65 are estimates based on the CPF LIFE Standard Plan parameters
today. Payouts do not increase proportionately with the retirement sums required because of the greater impact of Extra Interest on lower balances."

CT said...


I remember reading somewhere regarding why the CPF Life payouts don't increase proportionally when the initial sum is increased. I can't find the source now, but it goes something like this.

CPF Life is a deferred annuity. During the vesting period (from age 55-65) money set aside continues to earn interest from CPF. The first $60k in CPF earns an extra 1% interest. So you end up with proportionally more money from BRS than from ERS at age 65 when CPF Life starts.

BP said...

I did that after seeing AKs post on SRS. I treated it as an investment. For me its close to 9% return in the first year just based on tax saving alone not incl. dividends received as i used it for pretty safe income stocks.

AK71 said...

Hi Ana,

The CPF is able to give us the relatively high risk free returns because the money is used to buy special bonds issued by the Singapore government. So, it is really hard to imagine the CPF going kaput. If they should go kaput, it would mean that the Singapore government would also have gone kaput. :(

AK71 said...

Hi IzyData and CT,

Thanks for sharing with us your findings. So, it makes perfect sense now why the BRS gives the best yield compared to the FRS and the ERS. :)

AK71 said...

Hi BP,

A 9% return in the first year? That is quite a bit of money. Congratulations! :D

The SRS is one of the low hanging fruits available which I like for everyone who is paying income tax to consider picking. ;)

Ana said...

I started contributing to my mom's RA about 7 years ago. Because she's way past retirement age, she receives around $300 each month from her CPF. I just received her 2014 statement, and saw that her RA earns about $600 in interest - which means to say, I just got the govt to finance for 2 months out of 12 in 2014 via the 4pc interest - which would otherwise be highly unlikely if she just placed the funds in FD

Ana said...

AK, you certainly can afford to retire right now, if you want to.:). Please continue this "NS" job of yours in raising the level of financial literacy ...

AK71 said...

Hi Ana,

Thanks for sharing your experience with us here. Real life examples are always best. :)

Well, if blogging is National Service (NS), I have served NS twice over and starting on my 3rd stint since I have been blogging for slightly more than 5 years by now. ;p

Siew Mun said...

Anyone studied the cost of 'premium'? For example taking the old BRS numbers:
1. Retirement Sum (RS) at 55 = $77K
2. RS at 65 = ~$149K (base on 4%)
3. If you die at 65 bequest = ~$108K
4. If you die at 75 bequest = ~$12K

Page 28 of

AK71 said...

Hi temperament,

Glad you enjoyed it. ;)

There are many ways to follow my blog. Please check the options in the left side bar. Scroll down and you will find them. :)

AK71 said...

Hi Siew Mun,

To me, the cost is the initial amount of money put in. Then, I stop thinking about it.

If I live to a ripe old age, I win. If I don't, then, I lose. LOL. ;p

Mao Mao said...

Hi Siew Mun, you may want to consider using the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) to calculate the annualised yield. As a personal ballpark, at least 4.5% is acceptable for me.

Nick said...

Thanks AK for sharing.

According to CPF life estimator if one has $241,500 in combined CPF (ie OA + SA) @ 55 and chooses the ERS route, he will receive monthly payouts of between $1,666 - $1,852 @ draw down age.

The interests work out to be between 3.75% to 4.25% although it is not guaranteed.

Would you choose to max out your ERS and have your CPF of $241,500 locked up for a monthly sum of $1,666 - $1,852 ?

Nick said...

Using CPF life estimator with MS of $155,000

Monthly payout CPF Life from 65

Standard = $1,192 - $1,318
Basic = $1,096 - $1,216

Bequest at age 65
Standard = $185,286 - $190,087
Basic = $222,264 - $232,997

Bequest at age 75
Standard = $42,447 - $44,918
Basic = $161,111 - $170,978

Bequest at age 85
Standard = $0
Basic = $73,166 - $77,395

Bequest at age 95
Standard = $0
Basic = $0

Although the monthly payout is lesser for basic (lesser by $96 - $102) you get a higher bequest amount and continue to receive even @ 85 unlike standard. To me the basic gives bigger bang for the buck.

AK71 said...

Hi Nick,

Thanks for crunching the numbers and sharing your findings. :)

Well, I cannot speak for other people but I like the idea of having more certainty when it comes to retirement income. So, if I can get $1,600 to $1,800 from CPF Life from age 65 for life. That is a good thing, imo.

I have always thought of the CPF Life as a minimum safety net in case my investments, for some reason, fail to bring home the bacon. Never say never.

As for choosing between the Standard or the Basic payout, it would depend on whether we have anyone we would like to leave something to after we leave this world. I don't think it is about getting more or less bang for our buck. ;p

AK71 said...

On FB today:

Harvest Gain:
AK, if a person will be 55 years old in 2017, what is your advice? Thanks

Assi AK:

No advice is my advice. Hahaha... It is very personal. So many things to consider.

But there is a 10 years accumulation period from 55 to 65. So, it is not 20 or 25 years.

If he doesn't trust the system and has a property, then, he would probably go with the BRS.

If he does trust the system or doesn't have a property, the FRS.

If he does trust the system and has plenty of money sloshing around, then, he could consider the ERS.

Mao Mao said...

Hi AK,

When is Part 2 coming out? Avengers Part 2 is already coming out in May 2015. Hehehe.

AK71 said...

Hi MaoMao,

Alamak. I was afraid someone might ask me this question. Hahaha... I hit a writer's block. Don't know how to produce Part 2. -.-"

In Summary:

1. New! Choosing of CPF LIFE plan at the payout start age

From January 2016, members will only need to choose their CPF LIFE plans at the point when they wish to start payouts from CPF LIFE, instead of making the choice at 55.

2. New! Guided one-to-one retirement planning service for CPF members approaching 55

3.1 New!Removing requirement to top up Medisave Account for CPF withdrawal from 55

3.2 New!Introducing Basic Healthcare Sum to replace Medisave Contribution Ceiling

3.3 New!No further increase in the Basic Healthcare Sum from 65

3.4 New!Additional Medisave Withdrawal Limit for Integrated Shield Plans

See CPF website: here.

AK71 said...

Thanks to an email from a reader, I found out that some of my articles were translated into Chinese. Very hard for me to read but I am happy that I am able to reach out to a Chinese speaking audience in Singapore this way. :)


Chinese article here:

AK71 said...

Responding to a question from MP Lee Bee Wah, Mr Tan reminded that CPF members turning 55 in 2008 and earlier had already been allowed to withdraw 50 per cent of their savings in a lump sum at the age of 55.

“It would be excessive to now allow these cohorts to withdraw an additional 20 per cent of their retirement savings in a lump sum at 65,” he said. “Doing so would mean there would be too little left behind in the Retirement Accounts to provide a meaningful payout in retirement.”


Sandy said...

Query - the projected payouts seems good but are they adjusted to inflation? a sum of say $1500 a month may look good but if it is not adjusted for inflation then at the time you receive it, the purchasing power of that $1500 may be like $300 today? Any comments please?

AK71 said...

Hi Sandy,

This was something discussed at the "IPS Forum on CPF" last year too:

Our CPF savings are "inflation adjusted" till age 65. In fact, with a minimum of 4% returns per annum, 5% and 6% in some instances with recent changes, we should see inflation beaten, assuming an average inflation of 3% per annum.

The CPF Life payouts, however, are not inflation adjusted. The CPF Life is simply an annuity that pays us for as long as we live. The payout amount will be determined by how much we have in our CPF-RA at the time we start our draw down.

I feel that the option to have more in our CPF-RA is a good one for those of us who would like to have a larger monthly payout from CPF Life. Enhanced Retirement Sum? If we have the resources, it is worth considering when we turn 55.

Nick said...

After setting aside the CPF MS for retirement @ 55 years old and there are still balance funds in the OA, should one withdraw all the amount to make their own investments or leave them in the scheme to earn interest of 2.5% ++? (I understand that partial withdrawal of the balance OA is allowed only once a year).

Assumption: property has been fully paid up by then

AK71 said...

Hi Nick,

At age 55, I would leave my CPF funds in excess of the MS (RA) to earn 2.5% (OA) to 4% (SA) per annum, risk free. I would continue to treat the CPF as an investment grade bond in my portfolio, everything remaining equal. Unless there are other risk free options that pay more that 2.5% per annum, it is unlikely that I would withdraw the funds.

If we are still working from age 55 to 65, yes, we would only be able to withdraw our CPF savings in excess of the MS once a year. However, if we are no longer gainfully employed, we are allowed to withdraw such money more than once a year at anytime we want. ;)

AK71 said...

From 2016, the CPF Annual Limit will be increased correspondingly from
$31,450 to $37,740 (equivalent to 17 months x CPF salary ceiling of
$6,000 x 37%).


bQ said...

Hello AK,

you mentioned the following:

"If we are still working from age 55 to 65, yes, we would only be able to withdraw our CPF savings in excess of the MS once a year."

Is there a specific window within the year where such withdrawal is allowed? Or is it more of a case where we are only allowed to withdraw once a year, no matter which part of the year?

I tried searching the cpf website, but can't find any information on this. Able to advise? I am asking this on behalf of my dad. I've been trying to convince him that leaving the excess inside is the way to go, but he is worried about liquidity. My parents don't have much savings, so having some money for emergency is important.

Thank you in advance for your advice!

AK71 said...

Hi bQ,

I have not tried to do this but my mom asked them before. Apparently, there is no window. Anytime in the year but once a year. If we are no longer working, we could make a withdrawal any number of times in a year.

I will talk to myself now:

I would guarantee an emergency fund for my parents so that their CPF money can be left untouched to earn higher interest. In case of emergency, I will give them the money first and they can withdraw from their CPF at a later date to pay me. They don't have to make a withdrawal now and lose out on higher interest. :)

It might sound like a bigger responsibility but it really isn't because there is no need to start another emergency fund. I could tap my own emergency fund without worry as my parents will pay me using their CPF funds later. ;)

bQ said...

Thank AK for your prompt reply!

I like what you said to yourself. haha.

I also read up on your latest post "How younger members can get 6% per year from CPF"
Spent the whole morning reading up on CPF LIFE and Retirement Sum Scheme etc.
Might be a good idea for me to contribute to my mum's CPF since she has nothing inside.

Thanks for all the ideas once again!
Your blog is tremendously useful =)

AK71 said...

Hi bQ,

Some readers describe my blog as a maze or a labyrinth because AK is not very IT savvy. They told me so that I might make it friendlier to navigate but AK is lazy. -.-"

Well, I am happy it is at least a useful maze or labyrinth! :D

In the case of your mom who has nothing in her CPF account, she has the option of a monthly payout under the Retirement Sum Scheme (RSS) in case she needs the money if you make voluntary contributions to her account.

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