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10 May 2022
SOURCE: SuperMom

 

Yee Ting with her daughter at the beach.

Like many of my peers, my husband and I face a load of responsibilities as part of the sandwich generation – having to take care of not just our child, but also support our parents in their retirement.

Caught in the middle

I have a six-year-old daughter who is looked after by her grandparents while my husband and I work full-time jobs. It is tough to support a growing child and ageing parents simultaneously, even though we are a dual-income family.

 

Nobody told us cash flow would be that tight. Childcare expenses, mortgage, medical bills, and our parents’ allowance ate up a chunk of our take-home salaries each month.

 

As first-time parents, my hubby and I were in pure survival mode every day, year after year. From getting our daughter to sleep through the night at six months old to managing her schoolwork at six years old, we had to deal with the highs and lows of parenthood, all while juggling the demands of our corporate jobs and being there for our own parents. There was rarely any discussion about financial planning—much less our own retirement.

Pandemic brought about a sobering realisation

In 2021, that is when everything changed.

 

Seeing relatives and friends have their incomes slashed— or worse, lose their jobs— due to the pandemic was sobering for me. Some barely had enough emergency funds to tide them through that period and they struggled with their housing loan repayments in between jobs. That is when I realised I could not take things for granted. My husband and I decided to sit down and properly discuss how we could grow our savings in a risk-free and stable environment to bolster ourselves against other future uncertainties. That also led us to think about the type of retirement lifestyle we wanted and how we would work towards affording it.

Yee Ting with her husband and daughter.

Retirement planning gets easier with time on your side

During this period, we also took the time to speak to many fellow parents about their ideal retirement. However, what we found was shocking. Many of them were exactly like us in the earlier years— living each day as it is. Some do have side hustles, but many simply depend on their husbands’ salaries or take a wait-and-see approach for the future.

 

Personally, we plan to maintain our present lifestyle through our retirement years. After some calculations, we estimated that we would each require around $2,000 to afford our daily necessities and occasional luxuries such as a cruise or short overseas vacation. This is on top of an emergency fund we need to start stashing aside for unforeseen circumstances.

 

The next step for us is to figure out how to get this amount in retirement, and this is when we started finding out more about how we can obtain that via CPF LIFE, a national longevity insurance annuity scheme.

 

Based on the estimated monthly payouts on the CPF LIFE Standard Plan in 2022, we need to set aside around $288,000 in our Retirement Account at age 55 to get $2,140 – $2,300 every month from age 65, for as long as we live.

 

We have been contributing to our CPF accounts since we started working years ago, and these savings have been steadily growing with interest rates of up to 5%* per annum. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount we’ve amassed when I did a recent check on my savings via the CPF mobile app.

 

After looking at the sums and various savings instruments in the market, we have also learnt that growing our CPF savings could be one of the best and fuss-free ways to maximise our savings. This is especially so for someone who doesn’t know much about investments and does not have the time to actively monitor the markets.

Diagram showing the growth in SA savings from top-ups in 10 years, 15 years and 20 years.

How to grow your CPF for retirement?

Apart from continuing to work and contributing monthly, a simple way to grow your CPF is to top up your Special Account (SA) voluntarily.

 

For example, making monthly top-ups of $200 per month over 20 years gives me $72,700, which is more than double compared to starting later and saving for only 10 years, assuming an interest rate of 4% per annum.

 

This shows that starting early is far more important than the amount we contribute.

 

Topping up also allows you to enjoy tax relief of up to $8,000. For housewives or househusbands, get your spouses to top up your accounts and they can enjoy another $8,000 in tax relief.

 

For those who have paid off your housing loans, transferring your Ordinary Account (OA) savings to your SA will grow your CPF even more. This is because the OA has a base interest rate of 2.5% per annum while the SA gives you a base of 4%. But do note that this process is irreversible, so make sure you don’t intend to use your OA for housing payments in future.

Yee Ting with her husband and daughter at the beach.

Get out of the sandwich generation

Retirement may seem far off when we are in our 30s. However, it is easier to begin planning with time on our side.

 

 

In hindsight, our only regret was not knowing how to maximise our savings with CPF earlier in our lives.

 

We feel that CPF provides a great base for us millennial parents trying to provide enough for our children, take care of our parents, and plan for our own retirement concurrently.

 

After all, you cannot build a great building without a solid foundation.

 

*Includes extra interest of 1%  per annum on the first $60,000 of a member’s combined CPF balances, capped at $20,000 for Ordinary Account.

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article are accurate as of 10 May 2022.