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CPF Board should change its tagline, says labour economist

CPF Board should change its tagline, says labour economist

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“Saving for Retirement” slogan is not very possible for Singaporeans entering the workforce now.

HDB flat prices are too expensive for people to afford these days and this will affect their quality of life after retirement. True story.

The debate regarding Singaporeans’ Central Provident Fund savings rages on.

Recently, labour economist and associate professor, Hui Weng Tat, who teaches at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, warned that tertiary-educated Singaporeans of today are going to face hard times as they get older and retire.

How so, you ask?

Well, those with diplomas or university degrees who enter the workforce in 2010 and estimated to earn approximately $2,500 monthly income and who go on to buy a five-room flat at $560,000, will end up piss poor by the time they retire at age 65.

The cause? Purchasing a large, expensive flat now or in the near future that will end up as a black hole into which CPF money flows into and possibly, never to come out again.

Ahem, I mean this isn’t exactly the whole truth, as money can be coaxed back out.

However, this is also the crux of the problem: What’s really screwed up these days is that housing prices are going so high as if you’re on weed and they don’t appear to be coming down any time soon or ever again, for that matter.

Historical data shows this to be accurate: Since 1995, the average selling price of a five-room HDB flat has doubled in non-mature estates.

On the other hand, new flats under HDB’s Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) was already reaching $800,000 last year in Tampines.

Within a decade and a half, it can be expected to surpass the $1 million mark.

The outcome? Future generations are really screwed as they have to work harder and can no longer afford such flats.

Plus, Professor Hui’s findings are worrying for another few related reasons.

The majority of tertiary-educated people may find it hard to sustain their lifestyles after retirement if they relied solely on monthly CPF payouts only.

Because how much did he say will that monthly payment be exactly?

Well, it’d be 22 percent of their last-drawn salary.

This, in English, basically means it is not even going to be enough to feed the family dog.

The international benchmark for allowing people to retire adequately, for your information, is pegged at 66 percent of the last-drawn salary.

This would provide dignity and grace in living out the final days of your life. That means no more cardboard-picking or putting your children on pay-per-view sites on the Internet to acquire paid viewership to help with the bills.

Plus, the current rules which state that the minimum sum of $131,000 needed to be left in CPF accounts for retirement needs is, in essence, a pipe dream.

More than half of those aged 55 years old and above today are already unable to meet this minimum sum.

And for this group, living in their current homes will then become their biggest problem.

Which is why the government came up with the nifty idea recently of encouraging older folks to downgrade to smaller flats to fund their retirement needs.

But that involves displacing old people from the place they grew old in. Which is evil.

Not only will older folks be displaced from their homes they grew old in, they can only monetise it when they are only reaching their twilight years.

So suddenly, you notice this whole system of public housing looks like shit, doesn’t it?

This is a 60-reduction of the original published in The Straits Times on March 21, 2012.