SINGAPORE:For those hoping to maximise the growth of their Central Provident Fund (CPF), another option has come under the spotlight recently.
Earlier this month, Maybank became the first foreign bank in Singapore to offer fixed deposits for CPF savings. It has set its rate at 2.9 per cent per annum for a minimum placement of S$20,000 (US$15,000) in Ordinary Account funds for 12 months.
OCBC is the only other bank that offers fixed deposits for CPF. Customers who apply online get a per annum rate of 3.1 per cent, while those who do so at an OCBC branch get 2.7 per cent.
However, the bank currently only offers six-month tenures and a higher minimum placement of S$30,000.
Since Ordinary Account funds already earn an annual interest rate of 2.5 per cent, is it worthwhile to place your CPF savings in a fixed deposit? What other investment options are available? CNA finds out.
WHO CAN INVEST AND HOW TO DO SO?
Anyone who is at least 18 years old and is not an undischarged bankrupt can invest their CPF savings.
To tap into funds in the Ordinary Account, set aside at least S$20,000 in the account and open a CPF investment account with one of the three local banks – DBS, OCBC or UOB.
Financial advisers say prudence is the key investing principle given how CPF funds account for a sizeable portion of the average Singaporean’s retirement funds.
Decisions should be made based on one’s risk appetite and investment time horizon. For example, those who are planning to use their CPF Ordinary Account savings to purchase a home within the next five years should avoid risky investments, said PhillipCapital’s investment specialist Aizat Akhtiar.
Another thing to consider is the opportunity cost involved as CPF funds are already earning risk-free guaranteed returns, said Mr Gerald Wong, founder of investment advisory platform Beansprout.
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FIXED DEPOSITS – YAY OR NAY?
Let’s use the fixed deposit offering from Maybank as an example.
Assuming a CPF member places a S$20,000 fixed deposit this week, he will get returns of S$580 a year from now.
To calculate the actual profit, you would have to take into account the CPF interest that is lost, which depends on when the funds are moved between one’s CPF and bank accounts.
This is because upon maturity of the fixed deposit, funds will be returned to the CPF investment account where it remains until the CPF member instructs the bank to transfer the money back into his Ordinary Account. Otherwise, an automatic transfer back to the Ordinary Account is done when the investment account has been inactive for two months.
Assuming the transfer back to the Ordinary Account is completed in January 2025, these invested funds will earn CPF interest from February as CPF contributions, including refunds, start to earn interest only from the next month.
In this case, the member is forgoing about 13 months or S$541.67 in interest if the S$20,000 was left in the CPF Ordinary Account, according to calculations done by Mr Wong. Further delays in the transfer, for example into February, could see the potential loss of another month of CPF interest.
Then, there are one-time and recurring fees to be paid to the bank administering your CPF investment account. For example, DBS charges S$2.50 for each fixed deposit transaction and a quarterly service fee of S$2 – excluding Goods and Services Tax.
Taking these charges into account leaves the CPF member with a S$27 profit from the Maybank fixed deposit.
It is still a net gain, so this comes down to whether people find it worthwhile for them to go to the trouble of signing up for the fixed deposit, said Mr Wong.
ARE THERE OTHER OPTIONS?
An alternative is Treasury bills (T-bills), which are short-term debt securities issued and backed by the Singapore government.
These government securities became a hit among retail investors over the past two years as yields shot up in line with the aggressive rate hikes pursued by central banks.
T-bill yields hit a more than 30-year high of 4.4 per cent in December 2022, but have since come down to mostly hover around the 3.7 to 3.8 per cent range amid a shift in interest rate directions. For example, the latest six-month T-bill auction on Jan 18 had a cut-off yield of 3.7 per cent.
Still, that is much higher than the fixed deposit offerings by banks. T-bills also have a lower minimum investment sum of S$1,000.
But some investors may prefer fixed deposits over T-bills given the certainty of returns, said Mr Wong.
T-bill yields are determined by an auction process. While interest rate trends help to chart a general trajectory, yields can also be affected by demand and supply dynamics, he added.
This is because in a T-bill auction, up to 40 per cent of the total issuance amount will first be allotted to non-competitive bids. The rest of the issuance amount will be awarded to competitive bids, starting from the lowest to the highest yields submitted.
The highest accepted yield among the successful competitive bids determines the cut-off yield for that auction.
Mr Aizat said T-bills remain a favourable option but with yields likely to trend lower, it may be time for investors to reduce the weightage of these government securities in their portfolios.
Beyond fixed deposits and government securities like T-bills, CPF members can also invest in unit trusts, investment-linked insurance products, funds and shares approved under the CPF investment scheme.
There are limits on the amount investors can put into stocks and gold – at 35 per cent of one’s investible savings in stocks and 10 per cent in gold.
Given that these are more risky assets, investors should know their own financial goals and risk appetites. Investing in a diversified manner is another good rule of thumb, said Mr Aizat.
Investors should also understand macroeconomic trends and study the impact on individual sectors or companies to make a sound decision, he added.
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Now, let's dive into the concepts mentioned in the article you provided.
CPF (Central Provident Fund)
The Central Provident Fund (CPF) is a mandatory savings scheme in Singapore that aims to provide financial security for retirement, healthcare, and housing needs. It is a comprehensive social security system that requires both employees and employers to contribute a portion of the employee's salary to the fund. The CPF savings earn interest and can be used for various purposes, such as purchasing a home, healthcare expenses, and retirement.
Fixed Deposits for CPF Savings
Maybank and OCBC are two banks in Singapore that offer fixed deposits for CPF savings. Maybank offers a fixed deposit rate of 2.9% per annum for a minimum placement of S$20,000 in the CPF Ordinary Account funds for 12 months. OCBC offers a per annum rate of 3.1% for online applications and 2.7% for branch applications, but with a higher minimum placement of S$30,000 and a six-month tenure. It's important to note that CPF Ordinary Account funds already earn an annual interest rate of 2.5%.
The decision to place CPF savings in a fixed deposit should be based on individual circumstances, risk appetite, and investment time horizon. Financial advisers suggest considering the opportunity cost involved, as CPF funds already earn risk-free guaranteed returns. Additionally, there are fees associated with CPF investment accounts, such as transaction fees and service fees charged by the bank administering the account.
Other Investment Options
Apart from fixed deposits, CPF members in Singapore have other investment options available to them. These include:
Treasury Bills (T-bills): T-bills are short-term debt securities issued and backed by the Singapore government. They offer higher yields compared to fixed deposits, but their rates are determined through an auction process and can be affected by demand and supply dynamics.
Unit Trusts: CPF members can invest in unit trusts, which are professionally managed investment funds that pool money from multiple investors to invest in a diversified portfolio of assets.
Investment-Linked Insurance Products: These products combine insurance coverage with investment opportunities. They allow CPF members to allocate a portion of their CPF savings towards investment funds.
CPF Investment Scheme (CPFIS): Under the CPFIS, CPF members can invest in approved shares, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and gold. There are limits on the amount that can be invested in stocks and gold.
When considering these investment options, it is important for investors to understand their financial goals, risk appetites, and macroeconomic trends. Diversification and a thorough understanding of individual sectors or companies can help make informed investment decisions.
Please note that the information provided above is based on the article you shared, and it's always a good idea to consult with a financial advisor or do further research before making any investment decisions.
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