The International Women’s Day celebrates women who take action and claim their place in history. It dates back to a circle of women in New York who voiced out their right to equal remuneration as their male counterparts. Their union sounded the call for others, and the Soviet and European regions followed suit. Their movement has since created a tide that morphed through the decades and asserted, at every epoch, women’s rights, freedoms, and aspirations.
This year marks the 107th anniversary of that demonstration in New York. Women have gone far in advocating parity in their various spaces in society. No longer is this movement for parity isolated in different parts of the globe. Women’s empowerment now spans the seven continents, from Europe, North America, South America, and Africa to Australia and Asia. The dialogue of women’s advocacies broadens to include leadership, education, and economic participation.
Questions that are now being raised highlight the continued disparity between genders. UN Women notes that despite advances in this agenda, a 33% pay gap still exists for women in South Asia. Global numbers illustrate lower confidence for investing among women. While there are big wins regarding financial literacy, especially in Asia, reports depict that it is Asian women’s conservative approach to investing that limits their money to markets that are slower-paced.
Compound this with the higher life expectancy rates for this population and we get an image of women straining their resources thinly. If the recent decline in financial literacy scores of Asian women is telling sign, then greater efforts must be made to ensure women are adequately equipped for the future.
CPF: Financial Literacy & Retirement Plans for Singapore Women
Governments have been keen on addressing these growing uncertainties through financial recourse for retirement. The Central Provident Fund (CPF) is a key initiative of Singapore that allows working Singaporean citizens and Permanent Residents to fund their retirement. Aside from retirement, CPF also covers their mortgage, family protection, healthcare. They provide asset enhancement programs as well.
Working Singaporean citizens and their employers pay for their CPF monthly. Their payments go into three accounts:
- An Ordinary Account, which is used for insurance, education, and investments.
- A Special Account, which is used for old age matters and investments in financial products related to retirement.
- A Medisave Account for approved medical insurance and hospitalization.
On members’ 55th birthday, they automatically get a fourth account: the Retirement Account.
What’s great about CPF is how women from Singapore are guaranteed interest rates of 2.5% per year with their Ordinary Account (OA) and 4% per year with their Savings, Medical, and Retirement Accounts (SMRA). Those who have combined CPF balances of $60,000 (wherein $20,000 of which comes from their OA), can earn another 1% interest per year.
Provided these accounts, a working Singaporean woman below age 55 can own an OA and receive interest rates up to 3.5% yearly. Aside from the interest, this account also provides for insurance, education, and investments. This allows women of Singapore to ensure their family’s future without having to sacrifice their own financial life. With SMRA, Singaporeans can earn up to 5% of interest and set aside funds for their own retirement-related financial products and savings for hospital bills and approved medical insurance.
How CPF Helps Prepare Women for the Future
Women in Singapore are expected to live until their early 80’s, a few years more than men. Because of this, women will need to build up their resources a lot more than their predecessors. To respond this growing need, CPF offers them to top-up their retirement account. To maximize their payouts from their Retirement Accounts, members of CPF have the option to take cash for payouts, use them for top-ups, or both.
From their payout starting age until age 70, they can also choose to defer their payouts to get higher monthly payouts in the future. These monthly payouts permanently increase by more or less 6-7% every year that a member defers.
It also of great note that self-employed women voluntarily contribute for their CPF accounts so that they can use CPF as an active player in their retirement plans. As these women work towards financial stability, they also have to work for their children’s education and pay their monthly mortgage.
CPF plays a crucial role in their financial plans, as it acts as a savings account and an investment vehicle at the same time. Women who are today’s breadwinners can use CPF to stabilise their children’s education and save up for their homes without having to worry about the security of their own financial future.
In the recent parliament sessions, it was reported that more people are engaging in spousal top-ups. Over 400 transfers of CPF savings for spouses were established in January 2016 – more than twice the amount last year. Spousal top-ups and account transfers did not only occur from husband to wife. In today’s modern world, more women are supporting their husband’s accounts.
Roles are changing where wives are the family’s breadwinner, and men stay at home with the children. More couples are setting up equal roles, wherein both parents are actively working and financially contributing to their homes. In its very essence, CPF allows women and families to create a better financial environment for modern women who work to ensure their family’s bright future.
CPF addresses problems women around the world are facing. If only the structure of CPF were to be used around the globe, more women could take care of their families without sacrificing their own financial future.
Retrieving the Future
The Central Provident Fund invites its members to confront their future and make sure that they get the future they want to live out. With products on retirement, healthcare, home ownership, family protection and asset enhancement, Singaporeans are asked, “How do you want to live your life? Where do you want to put your money? Do you wish you and your family to live comfortably when you reach the dawn of your life?”
Singaporean women who make use of their CPF will have enough retirement savings for their living expenses during their retirement own a property that is fully paid when they retire and have enough savings for medical expenses as they grow older.
Singapore may have suffered the biggest drop in financial literacy scores of Asia Pacific countries, but not for the lack of financial tools available. CPF is just one way for Singaporeans to jump-start their journey to financial stability. Education programs are offered by Tsao Foundation for women in their forties, up until their sixties, to be financially independent. Even more, initiatives are catered to the youth to ensure they have the know-how and the advantage under the command of basic financial concepts.
Along with Lebanon, Australia, and Turkey, Singapore is one of the few countries that hold these kinds of programs exclusively for women. This just goes to show how greatly this country values economic empowerment for all of its children, women, and men.
On this day in 1909, women formed a party to represent and assert their rights. Today, we are invited to #PledgeForParity, to define what it means to us and to work towards the future we want to seize. Financial freedom, economic participation, and empowerment are our goals.
When will we get them? As soon as we claim them as ours.Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in