CPF Life vs Retirement Sum Scheme — Which Should You Go For?

Are CPF Life and Retirement Sum Scheme (RSS) the same thing? If you are in the midst of retirement planning in Singapore, you need to know this.

Priscilla Lee

by Priscilla Lee on Feb 15, 2024

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For most Singaporeans, CPF funds account for a large portion of our retirement sum. This naturally points to the importance of truly understanding how the funds work if you are serious about retirement planning in Singapore.

In this article, we will discuss two essential elements — the CPF Life and Retirement Sum Scheme (RSS). We will take a closer look at the differences between these schemes and how they can impact your CPF monthly payouts in Singapore when you turn 65 years old.

Related: What Is Retirement Like for You in Singapore?

Differences Between CPF Life and Retirement Sum Scheme (RSS)

First and foremost, CPF LIFE replaced the old RSS as the default CPF payout scheme for Singaporeans in retirement. However, since this scheme is still affecting a portion of the population, we will still address how it works here.

At a glance, this is what CPF Life and RSS is about:

CPF LifeRetirement Sum Scheme (RSS)
Payout formatReceive monthly payouts for lifeReceive monthly payouts until you turn 90 or until your savings runs out
Amount of monthly payoutDepends on which plan you opted for. You can choose from the CPF Life Standard Plan, Basic Plan or Escalating PlanDepends on how much you set aside in your Retirement Account (RA)
Eligible profileSingaporean citizens and permanent residents born in or after 1958 who contribute regularly to their CPF and have at least S$60,000 in their CPF Retirement Account (RA)Singaporean citizens and permanent residents born before 1958 and not included in CPF Life*

Or non-Singapore citizens or non-permanent residents

Age to start payout65 years old

Can opt for later payout but no later than age 70

65 years old

Can opt for later payout but no later than age 70

Interest rateUp to 6% per annum paid to the amount allocated to CPF Life schemeUp to 6% per annum paid to RA balances
*Those on RSS can opt to join CPF Life before turning age 80

CPF Life

CPF Life is akin to an insurance scheme that provides you monthly payouts in Singapore during your entire retirement period starting from 65 years old. What is important to note about the scheme is that only Singaporean citizens and permanent residents who contribute to their CPF are eligible for it. This means, those who do not have regular CPF contributions, for example, homemakers or self-employed individuals, will not qualify.

The monthly payouts from your CPF Life will be taken from your RA which comprises funds pooled from your CPF Ordinary Account and CPF Special Account when you turn 55. The amount of funds deposited in the RA is based on the Retirement Sum of that year. The sum is adjusted annually by the CPF Board. How much you can receive each month at retirement is largely dependent on how much retirement sum you have at age 55 and which CPF Life plans (Basic Plan, Standard Plan or Escalating Plan) you opt for.

Not sure how much you will need? You can use the CPF Life Estimator to help you with your retirement planning in Singapore. The amount of CPF Life premium needed will also be reflected to help you decide if you have enough to achieve your desired monthly payout under your selected CPF Life plan.

Related: How Freelancers in Singapore Can Save for Retirement

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Source: Unsplash

Retirement Sum Scheme (RSS)

This is one of two retirement schemes under the CPF Board. It is only applicable if you:

  • Are a Singaporean citizens and permanent residents born before 1958 and not included in CPF Life
  • Born in 1958 or after and fail to meet the CPF Life auto-inclusion criteria, which means having less than S$60,000 in your RA when your monthly payouts start
  • Are a non-Singapore citizen or non-permanent resident

Like CPF Life, RSS also provides monthly CPF payouts at retirement at age 65. You may request to start receiving monthly payouts later but not beyond 70 years of age. However, unlike CPF Life, those on RSS are not eligible to receive lifelong payouts. This is because the total sum in the CPF Retirement Account (RA) is only spread up to 90 years old.

As CPF Life is deemed as the new and improved retirement scheme, those who are on RSS are often encouraged to join the latest scheme to receive lifelong monthly payouts. You can do so by opting into the scheme before turning 80.

Related: 6 Retirement Planning Mistakes To Avoid

CPF Life Monthly Payouts vs RSS Monthly Payouts

Here’s a quick glance at the payouts of CPF Life in 2024:

Basic Retirement Sum (BRS)Full Retirement Sum (FRS)Enhanced Retirement Sum (ERS)
Who it’s forFor those who wish to put less of their savings in CPF Life and own propertyFor those who do not own property or choose not to withdraw RA savings above BRSFor those who wish to put more of their savings in CPF Life
Retirement Account savings needed at age 55S$102,9002 x BRS = S$205,8003 x BRS = S$308,700
Monthly payout for life from age 65S$820-S$880S$1,540-S$1,650S$2,260-S$2,430

And here’s what the monthly payouts from CPF Life look like for those who turn 55 after 2024:

table of cpf life payouts
Source: Ministry of Finance

When doing your retirement planning in Singapore, it is good to keep in mind that it is impossible to predict your life expectancy hence, the RSS payout scheme which stops at 90 years old can be rather limiting. Comparatively, CPF Life may seem like a better payout option since it stretches till the end of one’s lifespan.

That said, both payout CPF schemes are merely enough to cover basic living. It is crucial to evaluate your lifestyle and make a realistic calculation on how much additional retirement funds you need to set aside to retire comfortably. Say, if you want a few vacations a year or want to explore passion projects or hobbies more extensively, relying on these payouts alone may not be enough.

Related: FIRE Movement: How to Retire Early Without Financial Worries

Conclusion

With the rising cost of living, there is no certainty that the amount that you deem as a nest egg sufficient for retirement can truly be enough by the time you hit 65 years old. Stashing aside savings in high-interest savings accounts that let you earn generous interest is likely to be the most low-risk method to grow your money for retirement. You will be surprised that some savings accounts in Singapore even let you earn up to 3.5% per annum.

Refer to our roundup of the best savings accounts for a comprehensive list of savings accounts in Singapore now.

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