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4 Jul 2022

Calvin Yang

Source: The Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction

SINGAPORE – Central Provident Fund (CPF) members’ balances have hit a new high, exceeding half a trillion dollars as at the end of last year.


Their balances grew by 9.4 per cent to $505.7 billion – from $462.1 billion in 2020 – according to the CPF Board’s annual report released on Monday (July 4). 


A record $18.3 billion in interest was paid to members last year. In 2020, members received $16.8 billion in interest.


Voluntary top-ups of Special and Retirement Accounts also climbed to a new high of $4.8 billion last year, up from $3 billion in 2020, said the report. 


The top-ups were made by 294,000 CPF members, with about half topping up for the first time.


However, the amount withdrawn for housing has gone up. Some 996,000 members used a total of $21.9 billion of their CPF savings for housing needs last year – a jump from the $17.3 billion in 2020.


The improvements in the balances – and consequently the interest received – reflect Singapore’s economic performance last year, said observers. This has elevated wages earned and hence CPF contributions.


The increase in interest paid is mainly driven by the larger balances held by CPF members, while the rise in amount drawn for housing is indicative of the healthy property market that has seen price growth, said Professor Lawrence Loh from  the National University of Singapore Business School.


“Going forward, it is expected that the increase in CPF balances will be sustained due to the recovery of the economy, including the various pandemic-hit sectors,” he added. 


In 2021, the number of CPF members increased by 2 per cent to 4.1 million.


About 416,000 members received monthly CPF retirement payouts totalling $2.2 billion last year. 


Of these, more than 85,000 members are on the CPF Life scheme, which provides a lifelong monthly payout that begins when the member turns 65 years old. 

CPF Board chairman Yong Ying-I said in the report that it had strengthened efforts to help members in their retirement, with schemes to boost the retirement income of those with lower balances and lesser means.


For instance, the Matched Retirement Savings Scheme was launched last year to help seniors who have not reached their Basic Retirement Sum to build their retirement savings through a dollar-for-dollar matching grant. 


Under this scheme, the Government matches cash top-ups made to the Retirement Account of eligible Singaporeans aged 55 to 70, up to an annual cap of $600. Over 117,000 members benefited from $68 million in matching grants from the Government for cash top-ups made last year.


According to the annual report, the CPF Board also assisted 8,496 members who were in financial distress amid the Covid-19 pandemic by connecting them with agencies that can provide help beyond what it can offer, under the Rejected Appeals Management Protocol initiative.


The number of transactions performed on the CPF website and mobile app nearly doubled to 171 million last year, from 90 million in 2020. 


Human resources firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting managing director David Leong said the CPF was a critical reserve for Singaporeans and a form of shared prosperity, with the Government conscientiously contributing to “equalise the balances for working-class Singaporeans”. 


“As the Government advocates active ageing and has raised the re-employment age, the purpose and intent are to encourage active workforce participation so that their Basic Retirement Sum can be supported,” he added.

Article was first published in The Straits Times on 4/7/2022