Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My thoughts on CPF minimum sum, retirement and risk hedging

If you were to receive $155,000 and asked to stop working for 5 years, would you agree? How about stop working for 10 years?

I have written articles on retirement and income investing long enough to know that one can never solely rely on CPF for retirement. The main reason is because majority of CPF savings are often used to fund your home purchase, the OA account usually has very little left to be set aside for retirement. Hence more often than not, the minimum sum is usually what is left after property usage.

Using myself as a case study, I can work out on how much CPF is to be used for housing

I have paid about 720k for a property.

Assuming a 2.5% interest rate averaged for my home loan, I would have paid a total of $815,000 base on my current loan quantum and a loan of 30 years tenure. The total usage from CPF would be $923,000, inclusive of the 15% downpayment from CPF.  

At a hypothetical combined monthly income of $12,000, 20% to OA contribution (averaged over the working life); at the end of 30 years, nothing is left in the OA account. It is likely that I would have met the required minimum sum (at that point of time) with little excess.

The monthly payouts of CPF life provides about $1200 if the minimum sum is met. I believe for a comfortable lifestyle, at least $4,000 monthly (in today dollars) is required in Singapore. This is only about $130 a day. Hence, there is a shortfall of $2,800.

$2,800 can be easily achieved using a portfolio of $500,000. Hence it is extremely important to create a portfolio of recurring income. The larger the portfolio, the easier it is to create cashflow and the less reliant on CPF minimum sum.
Buying a home within my means also help to stem cashflow out from my income and portfolio and rely completely on CPF funds for monthly installments as long as I am working.

I am also mindful the following risk that would derail my retirement planning:

- health risks that early terminates my working life
- interest rate risks that wipe out my CPF account prematurely before my loan tenure ends and I have to cough out cash for monthly repayment
- career risk in which I lose my job in the event of a mistake, complain or economic downturn
- portfolio risk in which a global economic downturn wipes out all my gains and my portfolio drops 50% which triggers a margin call to top up funds.

Strategies to hedge against the above risks:

Health Risk: Purchasing various health term insurance to provide payouts and hospital bill coverage upon illness

Interest rate risk: Invest my excess CPF funds at higher rate of return while keeping $20,000 in my CPF OA to earn the additional 3.5% interest and paying the monthly installment at current 1% mortgage interest rate. I am prepared to redeem a significant portion of the loan when interest rates move above 2.5%. Hence I chose a floating rate home loan with no lock in and flexibility to switch to a fixed tenure loan

Career Risk: Invest in my career by constantly upgrading through studying (just completed my postgraduate), reading and meeting with professionals within the industry to ensure I am up to scratch with my cohort

Portfolio risk: Continue to take profit on my portfolio (through monthly dividends) while we are still enjoying the ride up and continue to pay down my portfolio loan using my dividends and monthly income.