To help us build up a bigger retirement nest egg in Singapore, we can contribute or top-up to two main retirement plans - CPF and Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS).
In addition to CPF contributions from our salary, we can also make additional top-ups to our CPF Special Account (or Retirement Account if we are above 55) via the Retirement Sum Topping Up (RSTU) Scheme. We can also make MediSave top-ups, but these do not directly translate into a larger retirement pot for our senior years. Similarly, we can make Voluntary Contributions (VC) to our CPF accounts, but these may not be solely for our retirement needs.
Read Also: Retirement Sum Topping-Up Scheme (RSTU) VS CPF Voluntary Contributions: What's The Difference?
Unlike our CPF account, opening an SRS account is not mandatory. Nevertheless, we get a dollar-for-dollar tax deduction for top-ups to both our CPF Special Account and SRS account.
Thus, we arrive at the question asked in our title - which should we choose? There's really no straightforward answer to say one is better as they serve different purposes. When deciding between the two, there are 7 main things we can consider. At the same time, there’s not restriction against choosing both.
#1 Your Nationality
While all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) have a CPF account, foreigners here do not.
The good thing is that even foreigners can open an SRS account and start enjoying dollar-for-dollar tax deductions to build their retirement nest egg. Singaporeans and PRs can contribute up to $15,300 a year, while foreigners can contribute up to $35,700 a year, to their SRS accounts.
Read Also: 4 Misconceptions To Debunk About The Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS)
#2 Are There Any Limits On Tax Savings You Are Eligible For?
For those contributing to their CPF Special Account (SA) via the RSTU scheme, we only receive dollar-for-dollar tax deductions on the first $8,000 each year. We can also receive up to another $8,000 for contributing to our loved one's Special Account via the RSTU. We can always choose to make further top-ups to our Special Account or Retirement Account, up to the Full Retirement Sum (FRS), but will not receive any tax relief beyond the first $8,000.
The SRS gives us a dollar-for-dollar tax deduction on top-ups of up to $15,300 (and $35,700 for foreigners) a year. This is the maximum we can top-up to our SRS account each year as well.
Unlike topping up our CPF Special Account or Retirement Account via the RSTU Scheme, where we do not have to think about taxes and receive payouts through CPF LIFE, we have to pay taxes on the withdrawals of our SRS savings after our statutory retirement age (currently 63-years-old, but will rise to 65 by about 2030). We will receive a 50% tax concession, which means that we only pay taxes on 50% of our SRS withdrawals. For example, if we withdraw $40,000 in the year, we will have to pay taxes on only $20,000 - and we may end up not paying any tax if that's our only taxable income in the year.
Of course, there is a risk that we build other taxable income such as investment property rentals for our retirement and may end up paying taxes as well.
Another constraint for the SRS is that we have to make withdrawals within a 10-year period. This means if we have more than $400,000 in our SRS account at the point we start making withdrawals, we may end up paying some income tax.
Read Also: 7 Changes To CPF Policies And When They Will Be Implemented
#3 What Can You Do With Your CPF Top-Ups And SRS Top-Ups?
When we make RSTU contributions to our CPF Special Account, our top-ups start earning a minimum of 4% per annum. This means we start earning a relatively decent interest rate from the moment we make a CPF top-up.
While we can invest our CPF Special Account monies, we cannot invest the portion that comes through topping up. This means, if we want the flexibility of investing in stocks or other investments, we may want to consider topping up our SRS account instead.
On the other hand, when we make top-ups to our SRS account, our funds will simply earn a negligible interest rate provided by the bank. This means we must invest our SRS top-up monies in order to earn a better return.
We can invest our SRS funds in stocks, mutual funds and unit trusts, fixed-income products such as treasury bills and government securities, Singapore Savings Bonds (SSB) and fixed deposits, and we can also invest via robo-advisory platforms such as Endowus, StashAway and MoneyOwl.
Launched in 2019, MoneyOwl is a subsidiary of NTUC Enterprise. It offers bionic investment advice - which means it incorporates advice from both humans and robots to deliver low-cost investment solutions to its clients. Currently, MoneyOwl offers 5 investment profiles - Equity, Growth, Balanced, Moderate and Conservative - which are created through different combinations of 3 globally diversified Dimensional equity and bond funds, based on their ability, willingness and need to take risks.
Founded in 2016, StashAway uses an Economic Regine-based Asset Allocation, its proprietary investment strategy to manage portfolios. It also charges a competitive rate and advocates investing over the long-term.
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Endowus is a fee-based only digital financial advisor, offering best-in-class global unit trust investments by reputable fund managers such as Dimensional Fund Advisory, PIMCO, First State Investments, Eastspring Investments, Vanguard, Schroders and others at the lowest possible costs. Endowus rebates trailer fees to its clients, positioning itself as an independent advisor that only gets paid by its customers.
Through Endowus, we can invest our SRS savings in its SRS core advised portfolios that are personalised to meet our long-term financial goals. We can also choose from a wide range of best-in-class single funds that are time-tested and globally diversified.
Similar to all other Endowus portfolios, there are no sales charges, no transaction fees and a 100% Cashback on all trailer fees.
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Read Also: 10 Investments You Can Make With Your Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) Account
#4 Can You Reverse Your Top-Ups?
While we can't really reverse our decision in either case, top-ups to our SRS account allow for slightly greater flexibility to do so.
Firstly, there's no way to change our minds to withdraw funds from our CPF. Period. Even if we are terminally ill, we can only withdraw CPF savings excluding monies put in under the RSTU Scheme.
For our SRS account - if we change our mind, we can withdraw our funds by incurring some penalties. If we choose to make withdrawals from our SRS account before our statutory retirement age, we will have to pay taxes on 100% of our withdrawal amount and incur a 5% penalty on the withdrawal amount. If we make such withdrawals due to bankruptcy, we will only have to pay income tax on 100% of our withdrawals, without incurring any penalties. If we make such withdrawals due to terminal illness (or death), withdrawals of up to $400,000 will be tax-free.
#5 What Happens If You Pass On With Funds In Your CPF Or SRS Accounts?
Funds in our CPF accounts do not make up our estate, hence we need to make a separate CPF nomination in order to leave behind our CPF monies in the most cost-efficient way (that will also remove any doubts within our family). 100% of our CPF funds are not taxable, regardless of the manner we accumulated them.
On the other hand, our SRS funds form part of our estate when we pass on. This means there’s no need or requirement to make a separate nomination for our SRS funds.
As mentioned above, our beneficiaries can withdraw up to $400,000 of our SRS funds tax-free. This implies that an individual would have withdrawn his or her funds in the most tax-efficient manner - i.e. $40,000 a year for 10 years without having additional taxable income. This way, the individual's taxable income would have been $20,000 and their income tax bill would be $0. This amount may be prorated if we started our withdrawals before passing on.
#6 How You Will Be Able To Withdraw Your Top-Up Money?
For CPF top-ups, we will likely only be able to see our top-up monies when we turn 65 via the CPF LIFE scheme. We also have the option of leaving our funds in our Retirement Account (funds from our Special Account will flow into our Retirement Account at 55) until age 70 - when we have to start our CPF LIFE payouts. CPF LIFE payouts are not taxable.
Via the CPF LIFE scheme, we can also choose whether we want to be on the Standard Plan, Basic Plan or Escalating Plan. The Standard Plan provides a higher level of payout, the Basic Plan provides a lower level of payout but enables us to leave a larger bequest behind when we pass on, and the Escalating Plan provides a payout that increases by about 2% each year.
Read Also: Complete Guide To Understanding The "Benefit Illustration" Of CPF LIFE Payouts
On the SRS scheme, there is no retirement payout plan for us. We can just start making cash or investment withdrawals from our statutory retirement age, fixed at the point we first opened our SRS account. Today, the statutory retirement age is 63, but this is set to increase to 65 by about 2030. As we mentioned above, we can also make withdrawals from our SRS account before our statutory retirement age by incurring certain penalties.
On the SRS scheme, there is also no age cap for when we must start our withdrawals. However, after we start making withdrawals, we should typically withdraw our funds within 10 years. We may choose not to withdraw the entire amount, but any amount not withdrawn after the 10-year period will be subject to 50% income tax in the last year.
Read Also: Withdrawing Your SRS Savings: Here's Why You Need To Be Tactical About Withdrawals After Investing
#7 How Much Funds Do You Require In Retirement?
On CPF LIFE, we will only receive the payout we are eligible for, based on our retirement sum and the CPF LIFE plan - Standard, Basic or Escalating - that we have selected. There's no room to withdraw more, but we can put back withdrawals into CPF LIFE if we wish.
On the SRS scheme, we can withdraw as much or as little as we want. We can also adjust the amount yearly as required. We just also have to consider our tax liabilities and the 10-year withdrawal window.
Read Also: How Long Does It Take To Beat The "Break-Even" On Your CPF LIFE Plan?
You Can Go Beyond CPF And SRS To Safeguard Your Retirement
Making top-ups to our CPF Special Account and our SRS account are just two ways we can build our retirement nest egg. We can also invest more on our own outside of these two retirement schemes.
We should also think of our CPF account and SRS account as complementary, rather than fixate on choosing one over the other, especially because there are different restrictions on each account.
This article was first published on 21 December 2020 and updated with the latest information.
The post CPF Top-Ups VS SRS Top-Ups: Which Should You Choose? appeared first on DollarsAndSense.sg.