CPF members won't have to pick annuity plan at 55

From next year, Central Provident Fund (CPF) members do not have to make a decision at age 55 on which of two CPF Life annuity plans they want.

They can delay it until the time when they want to start receiving the monthly payouts - which is from age 65.

In addition, they can start getting their payouts any time between age 65 and 70, without having to wait until the date of their birthday.

These were among the changes to the CPF payouts that Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin announced in Parliament yesterday.

The changes are part of a broader review of the system by a panel, whose recommendations on CPF withdrawals were accepted by the Government last month. Its recommendations on CPF returns are expected in the middle of this year.

Mr Tan also said that from the later half of this year, members will get one-to-one financial counselling at CPF to help them plan for their retirement.

He noted that the CPF is "an important pillar in the overall retirement support framework for the majority of Singaporeans who work and contribute to their CPF accounts".

The other three pillars are home ownership, providing affordable health care and government help for vulnerable seniors.

Mr Tan, however, turned down suggestions from MPs Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) and Lee Li Lian (Punggol East) to let CPF members use their Retirement Account savings for mortgages after they turn 55. But, he said, the CPF Board will highlight to members turning 55 that they can choose not to transfer their Ordinary Account savings to the Retirement Account so that they can continue to service their mortgages.

Such a move will eat into their retirement nest egg, he warned. "Members should bear in mind that further expenditure and use of these monies will deplete their CPF savings for retirement."

Mr Tan also rejected calls to raise the CPF rates for workers older than 55, saying that hiking their rates too fast will hurt their chances of being employed.

Last month, the Government announced that CPF rates for workers aged above 50 to 55 will go up by 2 percentage points from next January. Those older than 55 will get smaller hikes.

In his hour-long speech, Mr Tan also refuted the ideathat letting CPF members top up their retirement savings up to $241,500 benefits only the wealthy.

About one in three members who turned 55 in 2013 have more than $161,000 in their CPF savings and will benefit from the top up. About half will be able to do so by 2020.

tohyc@sph.com.sg