My CPF – Who decide? You or me?

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Yesterday evening, I was at Joo Koon MRT station taking my meal break. I met my colleague Dr Dos. He was relating his personal problem about servicing his monthly instalments of his HDB flat. He is called Dr Dos cuz he is an expert on the old DOS operating system. He could even assemble and service PCs. We always look for him if we have any problem with our PCs. He will gladly do it for a small fee. I’ve used his services on few oaccasions.

Dr Dos bought a 4-room A model resale flat at $260,000 in the year 1995. He took up a non-subsidised HDB loan of $180,000 over a period of 25 years to pay for his flat. The intrest rate is 2.6%. Every month, he is paying about $645 for his flat.

Initially, he had no problems paying for the flat. He need not pay any cash for his flat. His total CPF contributions are sufficient to cover his monthly instalment for this flat. The problem only started when he hit 55 years old. He is now 56 years old. When he hit 55 years old, his total CPF contributions are reduced from 32.5% to 23.5%. That is where the headache started coming in.

CPF contribution rates for employers and employees.

Since his current combined CPF (Boss: 10.5% and Worker: 13% = 23%) is reduced by 9%, he now has problem servicing his monthly housing instalments. He has another 8 years to go before his flat is fully paid up. He now has to come out of his own pocket cash $300 to $350 every month. His take-home pay is less than $2,000. His pay has been stagnant since year 2000. Meaning his pay still remains more or less the same for more than 10 years. On top of that, he has a son who is diagnosed as a “congenital non-progression” medical case. It means that his son is an invalid totally dependent on a care-giver. His wife is the care-giver. He has three children.

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Dr Dos is quite depressed. He is worried about his daily expenses. He told me that he need to pay for the utility bills, conservancy charges, his two other children’s education, household expenses etc. He barely could survive on his less than $2,000 take-home pay; not forgetting that his invalid son still need constant medical attention. If he need to set aside $300 to $350 monthly to service his housing loans, he could hardly survive given the current high costs of living. Dr Dos is the sole bread winner of the family of five.

Dr Dos thought over his problem. He thought that he had a solution to his financial problem. He proposed to the relevant authority that he would like to use his retirement funds in his special account to offset his balance housing loan which is about $56,000. He has about $61,000 in his special account. CPF board refused to entertain his request. CPF board says that his special account is meant for retirement and cannot be touched. Only ordinary account could be used to pay for housing loan.

Dr Dos says that if he were to use his $61,000 special account to pay off his remaining housing loan of $56,000, his current financial burden would be much lessen. After all, he still has his 4-room A model HDB flat fully paid up. It is still an asset where he could sell, downgrade or rent out two rooms if he really can’t work any more. He plans to leave this flat to his invalid son. CPF board just refused to listen to him. CPF board says that rules are rules, cannot be changed. HDB also says the same thing. But rules are made by humans and rules surely can be changed right? Dr Dos says that maybe if he votes for the opposition, the rules will change since this government won’t want to change the rules. It is his money. He is free to use his money in whatever way he deems appropriate! Who are you to tell me how am I going to use or spend my CPF money. I am not asking for free handouts, so says Dr Dos.

The immediate serious problem is that he could hardly survive on his meagre take-home pay of below $2,000 after paying more than $300 cash to service his housing loan. If he cannot survive the present circumstances, what future retirement fund the government is talking about? They are just forcing me up the wall, says Dr Dos. Sometimes, these people just don’t understand the pain and the suffering we are going through according to Dr Dos. What about those who worked but never had CPF in their life at all? Those self-employed or never declare CPF at all? Dr Dos says those people also got no CPF for their retirement in their special account.

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In other words, Dr Dos is asset rich on paper but cash poor. The government keeps his hard-earned money. He has got more than $61,000 inside his CPF special account but cannot use it to pay off his flat at all! Langgar! He has to struggle to top up every month with more than $300 to pay for his flat when he can easily pay off the balance of his flat. What a joke? Dr Dos says that this government will try all ways and means to lock away your CPF money till the day you die!

When I heard about this, I felt quite sad. There are many Singaporeans including both my parents who didn’t have CPF when they were working in their prime yet they could live till past 70s years old. My mother was a housewife all her life. My father was a lorry driver with so little CPF. Both still manage to survive and still working without any retirement funds in their special account. Why can’t CPF board look into special cases such as Dr Dos to alleviate his current pain and suffering? Does Dr Dos need to change the government ( so that rules can be flexible) in order for him to use his own CPF money in the most appropriate manner he deems fit? It is citizens like Dr Dos who is in dire straits due to the inflexibility of this government that the latter is losing support from the heartlanders. Will Dr Dos support this government? The answer is quite obvious. Need I say more? What do you think?

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About Alan Tang

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of SG. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I also share some of the interesting jokes, stories or anecdotes from my friends or observations on my blog. Thanks for visiting my blog.
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36 Responses to My CPF – Who decide? You or me?

  1. agongkia says:

    “Dr Dos says that maybe if he votes for the opposition, the rules will change since this government won’t want to change the rules. “…….
    Since he has faith in the ruling party all these while and chose to be the 60%,he should have faith in our Garmen. No point threatening CPF by saying he will be much better if he vote for opposition.Afterward if kenna charge lagi worse.

    While I empathise with Dr Dos,his case is still not so bad as there are numerous cases that are worse off than him. There are oso those self employed who need to get loan from Ah long to top up their medisave in order to continue with their business.
    If I tell you my experience with CPF,many would tell better to drown myself in the reservoir.

    Take it as if CPF is a tax and they are kind enough to let you pay for your housing and education and one would feel much better.Think positive,Garmen care for you.They worry our money landed in Batam or China mei meis.Where got Garmen so good on earth?

    • So true. You can’t carry on with your business if you “owe” them any Medisave “payments”. Doctor, lawyer, taxi driver, hawker licencing bodies are all connected to CPF Board. The moment you “owe” anything, your licence will automatically fail to renew.

      We know it’s a stupid policy. Why are we preparing for possible hospitalisation in the future when we are already facing cash flow problems in the immediate present? Furthermore, many professionals have adequate insurance coverage for hospitalisation and surgery. When they claim, the insurance companies pay. Not their own money from Medisave. Why do these people still need to top up their Medisave accounts?

      • Ex SMRT Taxi Driver says:

        Well said! I am one will have my lic cancelled due to non renewal. Because I owe CPF some miserable amount after I became a taxi driver. In my medisave, I have touched the ceiling but they still want my contribution. WTH!!

        Now I am employed and my monthly medi contribution is far beyond the peak and still want more… very greedy leh.. I gave up long ago to ask for any help from the current gov except one case is I am buy another HDB flat but they are again “jiak liao bee” money sucker. sorry cannot help,

        Quote from the reply from HDB;
        “2 While we understand the reasons for your appeal, we are sorry that we are unable to assure you of a flat at Bukit Panjang in the Sep 2012 Sale of Balance Flats exercise. We seek your understanding that we have to treat all applicants fairly and consistently.””

        “FAIR”!! Don’t talk about fairness here man… The problem is someone is more fairer than you. Tell me the definition of fairness and how to draw the line of fairness??

        Thank you

  2. ape@kinjioleaf says:

    The reluctance of CPF to ‘release’ in special cases is that there will always be ‘special’ cases.

    Problem here is the ‘smart’ ones know how to maximise the CPF but those of us are less sharp missed the opportunities until it’s too late. For example, if Dr Dos has refinanced before 55 using his ordinary account, he might not have an issue now.

    By and large, I find CPF used to be clear, simple and beneficial. Now, it’s complex and PAP Govt keeps changing the rules which makes it very difficult for us to plan ahead… especially those who have HDB loan commitments.

  3. ajohor says:

    Gintai

    Although sympathetic, agreed with ape” comments on special cases

    Suggest that shortfall in CPF, your friend should utilise the shortfall scheme rather than using the entire lump sum which results in no retirement fund.
    This was allowed under prior budget announcements and believe it may be applicable or at the least, it is a reasonable exception
    your friend can than write to CPF and HDB citing the scheme and also explain in detail his circumstances and to utilise the rationale of the budget scheme.
    He should seek CDC assistance to assist/speak to a officer/department head as well as family service centres for other schemes to help his family
    Hope this helps

    Further, this relates to rules exceptions and bureaucracy which you should have relevant experience why it is so difficult, because people can be easily wrongly accused of wrongdoings for any exceptions.

    By the way, on separate note, why the dichotomy, you complained against wheelchair barriers caused by irresponsible “parking”” yet you were annoyed against enforcement of such earlier before..

    Regards

  4. First timer says:

    We must learn how to pressure the govt like some NGOs here e.g., animal welfare. Get rank and file Singaporeans to be upset and stand with Dr. Dos morally and the govt will do something. Otherwise his one vote to the government is expendable. There aren’t enough people in his sort of circumstances to cause them to worry over electoral outcomes. But it is also precisely the reason why we could make exceptions for Dr Dos.

  5. pumpkin says:

    Why did DR DOS take a nonsubsidized loan to buy a HDB flat? Has he used up his two bites of the cheries? If so what happen to the proceeds of sale for the last two HDB flats?
    Dr DOS could easily got to HDB Branch office to reschedule his loan so that he would not be out of the pocket bearing in mind that the retirement age is now 62 years.
    To use his retirement account(paying 4% interest) to serve housing loan at 2.6% is not sensible. Moreover CPF rule says that only fund in Ordinary Account can be used for Housing Loan

  6. L says:

    its true. u can have a million dollars in cpf but still die of poverty and hunger… uniquely singapore!

  7. patriot says:

    Why do netizens call CPF Ponzi Scheme or Ponzi Scam.
    Me thought CPF Rulings are all made clear to all Singaporeans all the time.

    patriot

  8. s.pnathan says:

    PAP DICTIONARY :CPF = cash payment forbidden./CO PAYMENT FROM siblings n family welcome/ can pay forvever.

  9. reddotsg says:

    If rules are rules n cannot be changed, how come withdrawal age can be changed?
    How come last time can withdraw all, now cannot?

    • They call the shots! Who are we? Don’t ever forget that the Chinese character 官 Guan (government) is written with two “mouths!” They can talk with two mouths either way but you can’t. It is as simple as that!

  10. patriot says:

    Congratulations my fren!
    This thread is going viral
    at Hardwarezone.

    Will the calls and pleas to
    You to keep blogging be a
    big yes?

    Wish You will remain the
    Conscience of the people.
    Surely, You are one who
    can see and understand
    the plight and struggle of
    the locals.

    Personally,
    me does not foresee our
    leaders ever going to
    change their elitist ‘I know
    best’ stance. They had their
    way for too long, their attitudes
    had crystalized. It either becomes
    harder or it has to be vaporized to nothing.

    Do not disappoint your readers, the least
    You can do is to give them sonething to keep
    their spirits high and bright. You will accumulate much karma.

    patriot

  11. Mr. Lee says:

    If Singaporeans can’t afford to buy the flat, who can?” Mr Lee can help you.

  12. Curious says:

    A $180K loan @ 2.6% for 25 years calculated monthly installment to be $816.61 not $645. For installment of about $645, the loan amount should be about $143K

    At 55 years old, Dr Dos still have 8 years of loan to go, it means he take up the loan at 38 years old. Based on CPF ordinary account contribution of 21% of wages between 35-45 years, using $645 as full OA account contribution, Dr Dos estimated salary is $645 / 0.21 = $3,071.42, after deduction 20% of CPF contribution, his take home pay is $2,457/14, cannot be less than $2,000.00.

    • Hi Curious,
      I failed Maths since Primary 3. If I didn’t fail my maths, today I’ll be somebody instead of driving trains! I might be an engineer or accountant.
      Since I can’t even pass basic Maths, I won’t fault your calculation. But I can tell you, all the figures given by “Dr Dos!” I recorded down all the figures based on his stack of correspondence to CPF board and HDB documents. As such, those figures are copied from there. Hope it clears the confusion.

      PS: Assuming that Dr Dos earns $3K gross. With only 10% to his Ordinary account, it’s only about $300! How to pay his mthly installment?
      http://mycpf.cpf.gov.sg/Employers/Gen-Info/cpf-Contri/ContriRa.htm

      • Curious says:

        There is quite a number of figures from Dr Dos that seems incorrect. Let’s say, before 55 years old, Dr Dos don’t need to come out a single cents from his pocket money. CPF ordinary account contribution for 50-55 years old is 13.5% of wages. This in turn will calculate a monthly salary of $645 / 0.135 = $4,777.78.

        Now after 55 years the ordinary account contribution is lowered to 12%, which means he can now only use $4,777.78 x 0.12 = $573.33 for HDB installment. The short fall will be $645 – $573.33 = $71.67 cash. it won’t be a shortfall of $300 – 350, unless previously he is already coming out cash to top up for the HDB loan.

        I suggest getting all the figures near to realistic before anyone can really help Dr Dos on his financial difficulties.

        • Hahaha! I’ll get him to read what you say here. I’m also quite confused with so many figures actually. But basically, he is paying cash of more than $300 per month. The idea is to pay the balance with his special account but CPF refused. That is basic message I trying to put forth. Hope that clears the air. Thank you for taking the trouble to comment.

        • agongkia says:

          Important thing is Gintai has got his message across and we should recognise his effort.Your contribution rate of 12% is confusing to me or misleading as I am poor in maths too.
          My simple calculation will be(Base on take home pay of 2K)
          His total contribution of cpf on a salary of S$2,438.00 last month august 2012 at age 54 is 438(employee)+S$294 from his employer……………….S$732.00
          His total contribution of cpf on a salary of S$2,438.00 in september 2012 at age 55 is
          316(employee)+S$257 from his employer…………………S$573.00.
          Difference in total contribution is S$732-$573=S$159.00
          His take home pay is extra S$122 which Dr Dos did not mention and he only need to fork out about extra S$37 .
          Unless CPF deduct a higher percentage from his total contribution when he reach 55, to put into his medisave account and resulting him having lesser in his ordinary account thus having to fork out more cash,the difference is about S$37.00 and one can save S$37 by saving S$1.20 per day.
          Smoke 2 sticks lesser,drink 1 kopi instead of 2.,for my case work extra hours or part time and spent lesser time with my Cecilia.

      • Curious says:

        I think I got the figures right now.

        Dr Dos actual wages is about $3,888.00 when he bought the HDB flat at 38 years old with a loan of 180K.

        His installment for the loan is $816.61 which is roughly in line with the ordinary account contribution of 21% ($3,888.00 x .21 = $816.48)

        At age 45, the ordinary account contribution drops to 19%, which means Dr Dos start to used his cash to top up the loan installment which is about $77.76. At age 50, the ordinary contribution further drops to 13.5%, so Dr Dos have to come out more cash to top up which is about $291.60.

        Now at age 55, the cash top up goes up even more to about $350.00.

        Dr Dos take home pay now should be $3,888.00 x 0.87 (less employee portion of 13%) = $3382.56. Now we do some comparision

        Age Emplpyee CPF Real Take Home Pay after HDB Loan
        55 13% $3,888.00 x 0.87 – $350 = $3,032.56
        50 18.5% $3,888.00 x 0.815 – 291.60 = $2,877.12
        45 20% $3,888.00 x 0.80 – $77.76 = $3,032.64
        38 20% $3,888.00 x 0.80 = $3,110.40

        Based on all my assumption and estimation, I guess Dr Dos should be happier after reaching 55 years old as he has more take home pay then when he is 54, and the take home pay now is no difference when he is 40 – 50 years old. He should seek help when he reached 50 years old.

      • Curious says:

        The table should be like this to be more clear

        Age, Emplpyee CPF, Real Take Home Pay after HDB Loan
        55, 13%, $3,888.00 x 0.87 – $350 = $3,032.56
        50, 18.5%, $3,888.00 x 0.815 – 291.60 = $2,877.12
        45, 20%, $3,888.00 x 0.80 – $77.76 = $3,032.64
        38, 20%, $3,888.00 x 0.80 = $3,110.40

  13. Dear Gintai,

    Even with the NATCON (National Conversation?) hype, I doubt CPF/HDB/PAP gives a fook to what happens to Dr Dos. If Dr Dos cannot keep up with his monthly HDB payment, they’d just load on the late payment with interest and finally repossess his 4-room flat!

    Rules are rules that CPF members must follow but rules that moved the goalposts so that members cannot have what is due to them (madness like increase in Medisave, Minumum Sum Scheme and changing withdrawal age from 55 to 62 to heaven only knows and other craps) show the unilateral power of CPF/HDB/PAP! They simply treat you with contempt with their high-handedness!

    Maybe, you can have another coffee session with Shanmugum and see what he has to say about the predicament of Dr Dos ;)

    No bro, they don’t give a fook! Instead of helping, they’d turn around and tell you it’s your own bloody fault that you are in this situation. It really hurts when they tell you to just follow the rules instead of buggering them with issues that do not affect them personally at all!

    Dang! It was the Manpower Minister with his comments in Parliament (Hansard’s record) of the hen saying (Break promise and don’t pay CPF members their due when they reach 55) below that got me started blogging in 2007:

    “But you and I know the many cases we see in MPS, the stories we hear from our grassroots where they are taking out their money at 55, having a fling here and having a fling there, they get enticed here and enticed there. It is human nature. You get a sum of money, you treat your friends. And then somebody else asks you and you decide to do this thing”

    is so nauseating that I’d like to tell the manpower minster, “Please speak for yourself”. Cocky mintsters who just give us plenty of sarcasm and zero empathy are worth a dime a dozen! Not the millions that we are tricked into paying.” See the link here: http://feedmetothefish.blogspot.sg/2007_09_01_archive.html

    Gintai dear, keep keeping up with your good work!

    feedmetothefish

  14. redbean says:

    This CPF Scheme will bring this govt down one day.

    • I can’t agree with you more than that. It’s not right that the govt deny your right to your CPF monies. Especially in this case, Dr Dos just wants to pay off his housing loan. He is not asking for free handouts. He is using his own money to pay for his flat. Who are they to deny him his right to use his CPF money? He is not using it to “fling here or there” like they say.

      • patriot says:

        Gintai:

        ‘You decide’, You say.

        If we can decide, we would not have been exploited and bullied all these while.
        The next time if You ever meet Minister Shanmugan, tell him You get treated liked a traitor after meeting him.

        patriot

  15. Curious says:

    Hi Gintai,

    Are you able to put a poll here for readers to vote?

    1. Maintain the CPF system as per normal.
    2. Abolish the CPF system, employees should get 100% of their pay every month without any employer contribution.

    • Curious,
      I’m not sure how to do that. Maybe I’ll get my nephew to help me on this. Anyway, the principle behind the CPF system is good. It’s just that we got “play out” along the way as Fish mentioned that they keep shifting the goal posts and changing the rules for their benefit and not for our sake as in Dr Dos case. Sigh !

    • agongkia says:

      Good news if CPF system is abolish.Lesser employee will claim their salary is low ,have more take home pay and as there is no contribution,employer can pay higher salary resulting in more happy employee and higher productivity.Employer happy becos they will not be burden by administration,audit,survey,fine ,embarrassment or charge for late payment.
      But………………………………………..Tan Koo Koo

      • You better reply to my post tomor. It’s dedicated to you lah! Make sure you think first before you reply. Don’t langgar.

    • I’ve already out a poll. Check it out.

  16. Alamak says:

    Gintai,
    looks like Curious is not so “curious” after all. Main topic is how to help solve the financial difficulties Dos is facing and not about Maths.

    • Hahaha! He’s a Maths wizard lah. I’m poor in Maths. Cannot count. I only know how to report as I was told. If CPF board or HDB want to contact Dr Dos, just drop me a note on my FB. I’ll bring Dr Dos to see him.

    • Curious says:

      In order to help Dr Dos solve his financial difficulties, one must first understand the whole picture of his problem. This will help the person to formulate an appeal strategy.

      Just imagine when either HDB/CPF Officer, MPs or Minister ask similar question on the figures and facts not being correct, that person will be stuck without words like Gentai. They will not trust you or listen to you anymore.

      • If they are interested to help, they shld talk to the correct person to investigate. I’m just reporting what I was told. I did not investigate. However, he did show me his tons of document. I think the gist of it is there.

      • Dr Dos says:

        Hi, Curious.
        Thanks for the advice. Yes, Gintai was only trying to help.
        The facts and figures were from me. Whatever the comments with regards to this issue are very lively and this shows how concern we are. My sincere thanks to all. The facts and figures posted can be argued on if they wish to. That will be a chance of a lifetime.

  17. Dr Dos says:

    Retirement Account (RA) $61,733.09
    My contribution received from SMRT TRAINS LTD. on 17 Sep 2012 for my work in Aug 2012 was $568.00

    OA : $303.83
    SA : $26.41
    MA : $237.76

    These are the figures captured from my CPF statement account.

    $645 monthly HDB installment minus $303 from CPF OA = $342 cash (I need to pay from my own pocket)

    This is to clear some doubt about the mathematical findings.

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