Why It Matters

Helping women grow nest egg

The Central Provident Fund (CPF) balances of women in Singapore have been growing in the last 10 years, a rise that has narrowed the gap between their retirement savings and those of men.

Although the figures do not take into account other savings or investments people may have outside the CPF system, the trend bodes well for the retirement adequacy of women, say observers.

This is particularly so as women tend to live longer but, on average, have lower balances in their CPF accounts than men.

The uptrend also reflects the increasing opportunities for them to have better-paying jobs and longer careers.

For instance, an increasing proportion of companies is offering flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting and variable start times. There are government grants to encourage this. The flexibility has probably helped boost the proportion of stay-at-home mothers rejoining the workforce.

The Government has adjusted CPF rules as well, to coax more husbands and children to top up their wives' and mothers' CPF accounts.

For instance, the minimum amount people must save before they can transfer excess CPF money to their spouse's account has been halved.

Similarly, the Manpower Ministry wants to lower the threshold amount for children who want to make transfers to their parents' and grandparents' accounts. The move will be useful for many women, who stopped working to take care of their family and have had no income for years.

The need to help women save more for their senior years cannot be over-emphasised, especially with life expectancies going up.

It can help relieve the financial pressure on the national Budget as well as on adult children.

The Government can play a part, by ensuring that wages keep up with the rising cost of living and that good jobs are available for those who want to work.

For the individual, it boils down to each woman living within her means and starting to plan early for her retirement goals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2017, with the headline 'Helping women grow nest egg'. Print Edition | Subscribe