Budgeting

CPF Contributions in Singapore – Guide To Interest Rates, Minimum Sums And All The Calculators You Need

cpf contributions guide

Joanne Poh

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Can you really say that you know where your money goes every month? If you don’t understand what’s happening to that precious chunk of your salary that goes into your CPF accounts through CPF contributions, never to be seen again, then the answer is no.

But not to worry, understanding how CPF works is tedious, but it isn’t rocket science. And by the end of this article you’ll know how much of your money is going into your CPF accounts, what’s happening to it and what you can do with it.

Contents

  1. What is CPF and why do we have it?
  2. What are the contribution rates for all Singaporean employees?
  3. What CPF accounts do you have?
  4. How much goes into each of your CPF accounts?
  5. When should you use the money in your CPF accounts?
  6. What is the Retirement Sum and how does it affect you?
  7. What is the CPF interest rate?
  8. How to make CPF nominations
  9. CPF Calculators
  10. Getting in touch with CPF

 

What is CPF and why do we have it?

The Central Provident Fund, or CPF, was set up to play one of the most important functions in Singapore’s social security system.

The main purpose of CPF is to ensure that Singaporeans have enough money for retirement, to pay for medical bills when they fall ill, and to buy a home with.

And one of the chief ways these goals are achieved is by forcing people to put away a percentage of their income every month in CPF accounts set up for these purposes.

That’s why, if you’re an employee, your take-home pay is lower than your official salary. A percentage of your salary is automatically deducted as CPF contributions every month and deposited into your CPF accounts.

The rationale is that if Singaporeans weren’t forced to save money in their CPF accounts, some people would spend all their money and then be in trouble when the time came to pay for their retirement or medical bills. CPF also ensures that the home ownership rate in Singpaore continues to be relatively high, since it can only be used to pay for home purchases and not rent.

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What are CPF contributions? What are the contribution rates for all Singaporean employees?

For salaried employees, CPF contributions are made automatically.

Every month, when paying out your salary, your employer is required to withhold the portion of your pay that needs to go into your CPF accounts. That portion will be paid into your CPF accounts as your employee’s contribution.

In addition to the employee’s contribution, there is also an employer’s contribution. This is the amount your employer is required to pay into your CPF accounts out of their own pocket, above and beyond your stipulated salary.

By the way, if you’re self-employed, none of the above applies to you. Any CPF contributions are voluntary EXCEPT Medisave contributions, which you’ll be prompted to pay after filing your taxes each year.

So how much of your money goes into your CPF accounts?

Age

CPF Contribution rates

By Employer (% of wage)

By Employee (% of wage)*

Total % of wage

55 and below

17

20

37

Above 55 to 60

13

13

26

Above 60 to 65

9

7.5

16.5

Above 65

7.5

5

12.5

Example

Let’s say you are a 30-year-old earning a monthly salary of $5,000.

Every month, your employee’s contribution to CPF will be 20% of your wage. That means that $1,000 will be deducted from your salary every month and deposited into your CPF accounts.

Your take-home pay after CPF deductions is thus $4,000.

In addition, your employer is forced to make an employer’s contribution to your CPF accounts worth 17% of your salary, which adds up to $850. This is in addition to the $5,000 salary he’s paying every month.

The total amount of CPF contributions going into your account every month is thus $1,850.

CPF Contribution cap

Did you know there’s a limit to how much you can contribute to your CPF accounts each month? This is known as the CPF Wage Ceiling which is a form of CPF contribution cap. There are two parts to this: the Ordinary Wage Ceiling and the Additional Wage Ceiling.

The Ordinary Wage Ceiling is a CPF contribution cap on your monthly salary and is currently capped at $6,000. This means that the first $6,000 of your monthly salary is subject to CPF contributions. Any amount above that won’t have a portion deducted for CPF. It also means your employer doesn’t need to contribute to your CPF account for amounts above $6,000.

The Additional Wage Ceiling is a CPF contribution cap on your additional wages, such as your bonuses. The formula for calculating the Additional Wage Ceiling is $102,000 – Ordinary Wages subject to CPF for the year.

So for example, say you earn $7,500 a month, and earn an annual bonus of $15,000. Only the first $6,000 of your monthly income will be subject to CPF contributions. As for your annual bonus, the Additional Wage Ceiling is $102,000 – $6,000 x 12 = $30,000. This means that your entire annual bonus is also subject to CPF contributions as it is below the CPF contribution cap.

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What CPF accounts do you have?

All Singaporeans and PRs have the following CPF accounts, which are opened to contain money for several purposes:

  • Ordinary Account (OA) – Can be used for housing, higher education, and investing. Anything left over is to be used for retirement.
  • Special Account (SA) – To be saved for retirement. Can also be invested to a certain degree.
  • Medisave Account (MA) – To pay for hospitalisation, other approved medical expenses and to buy Integrated Shield Plans (a type of medical insurance).
  • Retirement Account (RA) – Wondering why you don’t have one of these? That’s because you only get an RA when you turn 55. At that age, your OA and SA will merge to form your RA, which will contain your retirement savings.

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How much goes into each of your CPF accounts?

By now you should already have a rough idea of how much money goes into your CPF accounts every month.

Once the money is paid into CPF, it is divided between your various accounts in the following way.

Your age

Allocation rates for monthly wages of $750 and above

Ordinary Account (% of wage)

Special Account (% of wage)

Medisave Account (% of wage)

35 and below

23

6

8

Above 35 to 45

21

7

9

Above 45 to 50

19

8

10

Above 50 to 55

15

11.5

10.5

Above 55 to 60

12

3.5

10.5

Above 60 to 65

3.5

2.5

10.5

Above 65

1

1

10.5

When you’re young and strong, more money goes into your OA, and less into your Medisave account, since you’re presumably more likely to need your OA money to buy housing and less likely to fall seriously ill.

However, as you get older, the allocation rates evolve. More money starts going into your SA in order to prepare you for retirement, as well as your Medisave account, since your healthcare needs are likely to rise.

But once you hit the age of 55, your OA and SA contribution rates fall, since you’ve (hopefully) accumulated enough for retirement. Your Medisave contributions continue to remain high since you’re now older and frailer.

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When should you use the money in your CPF accounts?

While there is no hard and fast rule as to how to get utility of your CPF accounts before you retire, here are some common ways Singaporeans use that painstakingly-saved cash.

  • Using the money in your OA to buy a home – Whether you’re looking for an HDB home or forking out the cash for private property, you can use the money in your OA to pay for part of your property, subject to withdrawal limits and the compulsory cash portion that must be paid. You can also use the money in your OA to make your monthly home loan repayments. You can also get CPF Housing Grants to help defray the cost of your property if you meet certain criteria.
  • Using the money in your OA to pay for education – The CPF Education Scheme lets you use the money to pay for your or a family member’s tuition fees if taking a full-time subsidised diploma or degree course at local unis, polys or ITEs.
  • Using the money in your OA and SA to invest – The CPF Investment Scheme lets you use some of the money in your OA and SA for certain investments like shares, Unit Trusts, investment-linked insurance, Singapore Government Bonds and ETFs. Of course, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to beat CPF’s interest rates, although in 2017 it was found that the majority of investors from Sep 2015 to 2016 made money thanks to robust markets.
  • Using the money in your Medisave account to buy an Integrated Shield Plan – Private health insurance is highly recommended if you can afford it. Part of the premiums can be paid for with Medisave.

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What is the Retirement Sum and how does it affect you?

You’ve probably heard mutterings about this evil thing called the Retirement Sum, and how it’s getting higher every year. It used to be called the CPF Minimum Sum, which both upset and confused Singaporeans, and so the decision was made to rename it to the CPF Retirement Sum.

But what the heck is it really, and how does it affect you?

First, you have to understand the two main retirement payout programmes available.

  • The Retirement Sum Scheme exists to ensure you have a minimum amount in your CPF accounts when you retire to ensure you receive monthly payouts that can support a basic standard of living. How much you get each month depends on how much you have in your RA.
  • CPF LIFE will give you monthly payouts for the rest of your life, the amount of which will depend on which Retirement Sum you satisfy.

If you were born on 1 May 1961 and onwards, you will be placed on the CPF LIFE Scheme automatically if you have at least $60,000 in your RA at age 65. The Retirement Sum Scheme will thus not apply to you.

What is CPF LIFE?

There are many confusing CPF schemes out there, and CPF LIFE is one of them. Thankfully, the concept of CPF LIFE, which will most definitely affect you when you retire, is simple.

The LIFE in CPF LIFE stands for Lifelong Income For The Elderly.

Simply put, CPF LIFE guarantees that your monthly retirement payouts, the amount of which will depend on which of the Retirement Sums you’ve managed to meet, will last all your life.

So you don’t have to worry about outliving your CPF savings if you become immortal… so long as you are able to accumulate enough before starting your payouts.

You will be automatically placed on CPF LIFE if:

  • You are a Singapore Citizen or PR born in 1958 or after, AND
  • You have the following balances in your retirement account:

You turned 55 between 1 Jan 2013 and 30 Apr 2016

You turned 55 on 1 May 2016 and after

At least $40,000 in your RA when you reach 55 years old

At least $60,000 in your RA 6 months before you reach your payout eligibility age

At least $60,000 in your RA 6 months before you reach your payout eligibility age

Those who are older or who don’t satisfy the RA requirements will have to apply to join the CPF LIFE scheme if they wish by logging into the my cpf Online Services website using their Singpass and sending an online application.

You can choose to start receiving your monthly payouts between the ages of 65 and 70.

Retirement payouts under CPF LIFE Scheme

There are actually three types of Retirement Sum—the Basic Retirement Sum, the Full Retirement Sum and Enhanced Retirement Sum.

When you turn 55, your OA and SA will merge to form your RA. You will be able to withdraw a lump sum, leaving the Retirement Sum behind in your RA to form your retirement income.

As you can probably imagine, the rising cost of living makes it necessary to raise the Retirement Sums every year. Here are the Retirement Sums for the next few years.

55th birthday on or after

Basic Retirement Sum

Full Retirement Sum

Enhanced Retirement Sum

2016

$80,500

$161,000

$241,500

2017

$83,000

$166,000

$249,000

2018

$85,500

$171,000

$256,500

2019

$88,000

$176,000

$264,000

2020

$90,500

$181,000

$271,500

The Retirement Sums are calculated as follows:

  • Full Retirement Sum = Basic Retirement Sum x 2
  • Enhanced Retirement Sum = Basic Retirement Sum x 3

Your monthly payouts when you turn 65 will depend on whether the highest Retirement Sum you’ve managed to accumulate in your RA is the Enhanced Retirement Sum, the Full Retirement Sum or the Basic Retirement Sum.

These payouts will continue all your life, even if end up living a crazy long life and your account technically runs out of money.

Here’s how much someone turning 55 in 2018 can expect to receive in monthly payouts when he retires at age 65.

Retirement Account savings

Monthly payout for life from 65

Basic Retirement Sum

$85,500

$720 to $770

Full Retirement Sum

$171,000

$1,320 to $1,410

Enhanced Retirement Sum

$1,910 to $2,060

What happens if you don’t even manage to meet the Basic Retirement Sum? Your monthly retirement payouts will then be pro-rated based on how much you have.

Now, how much of your money do you actually get to withdraw in a lump sum when you turn 55?

Under normal circumstances, if you’re able to meet at least the Full Retirement Sum, you will be required to leave that much in your account.

The only exception is if you own a property and put a CPF property charge or pledge on your property. When you do that, you are committing to pay back the pledged amount together with any CPF money used with interest back into your CPF RA should you sell your property. In that case, you’re allowed to withdraw your RA savings up to the Basic Retirement Sum.

That also means that if you do not own property or are unwilling to put a pledge on it, you have no choice but to leave at least the Full Retirement Sum in your account.

As for the Enhanced Retirement Sum, leaving that much money in your account is optional, and should be done only if you wish to receive higher payouts.

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What is the CPF interest rate?

As you might know, leaving your cash in a bank account means that its value will get eroded over time, since bank account interest rates tend to be so pathetic that they probably can’t effectively hedge against inflation.

The money in your CPF accounts earns interest, too, but thankfully at much better rates than your typical bank account.

At the moment, the interest rates are as follows:

Account name

Current interest rate

Ordinary Account

2.5%

Special Account

4%

Medisave Account

4%

Retirement Account

4%

As you can see, your SA offers a much higher interest rate than the OA.

There is one way to get a much better interest rate on your OA savings, and that is to transfer money from your OA into your SA.

The catch, obviously, is that once your money goes into your SA, there is no going back. You can’t transfer it back into your OA, and as you can’t use the money in your SA to buy property or pay for education, the chief purpose of that money can only be for retirement.

So before making any transfers from OA to SA, make sure you absolutely do not need the money for housing or education.

You can also earn an extra 1% interest on the first $60,000 of your account balances (with up to $20,000 from your OA). If you are aged 55 and above, you can earn an additional 1% interest on the first $30,000 of your account balance (with up to $20,000 from your OA). This is basically to encourage you to keep your money in your CPF account, and to maximise it by leaving it in your SA or RA.

Maximum CPF Contribution

Just in case you’re thinking of gaming your CPF contribution and earning loads of interest, note that there is an Annual Limit to how much you can contribute. The maximum CPF contribution is known as the Annual Limit, and is currently set at $37,740.

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How to make CPF nominations

That cash in your CPF accounts is your money, you say. So when you die, you should be able to will it to whomever you like, right?

Well, here’s news for you: the money in your CPF account cannot be distributed through a will.

So even if you write a beautiful will bequeathing all your assets to the SPCA, your CPF money will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy (ie. to your family) unless you make a CPF nomination.

The CPF Nomination Scheme lets you specify who will receive your CPF savings when you die, and how much.

To make a nomination, you simply have to submit a CPF Nomination Form with all the necessary supporting documents. It can be submitted in person at a CPF Service Centre after booking an appointment, or by post.

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CPF Calculators

Still not sure how much CPF money you should be receiving or how much you can use?

These CPF calculators do the job for you.

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Getting in touch with CPF

If you have any problems, the easiest ways to get in touch with CPF are the following:

By phone

(Mon to Fri 0800 to 1730)

1800-227-1188 if you’re calling from Singapore

+65-6227-1188 if you’re calling from overseas

By SMS

Text 9184 1600 in the following format:

CPF<space>CC<space>contact number<space>name and they’ll call you back in 2 working days.

They are, thankfully, probably way more responsive than your telco.

And of course, to access information about your CPF account including your account balance, use your Singpass to log into the my cpf Online Services portal.

 

Related Articles

3 Things You Should Know About Your CPF When Planning Your 2018 Finances

How to get your CPF Withdrawal Account Statement

CPF Retirement Sum – How Does It Work and How Much Do You Need?

3 Key Factors You Should Know When Using Your CPF to Purchase Property

Do you have any other questions about CPF? Leave them in the comments below.

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.