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NFA continues investor hunt

Absalom Iimbondi in action for Tigers. File photo

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      SA seeks law to allow pension withdrawals

      by Lazarus Amukeshe


      WHILE Namibia is pushing for legislation that will lock 75% of the pension pots until one turns 55, neighbouring South Africa is looking at allowing savers access to part of their pension before they retire, even every year.

      The South African national treasury announced this week that the time is now ripe for the country to move to a “two pot” system for retirement savings in 2023.

      This system will be engineered to have the pension benefits split into accessible and long-term funds that can only be accessed once a person retires.

      Like Namibia, most South Africans have been resigning simply to get their hands on what can be a significant amount of money in a retirement annuity for different purposes.

      This normally comes at a high cost in terms of taxes, and the government worries that people would blow away their pension money, leaving more people more dependent on government help after retirement, among other reasons.

      According to a Business Insider SA report, when the pandemic hit, people were left short of cash for various reasons, including salaries that were suddenly not paid.

      Facing a pretty dire emergency, they still could not access their retirement savings without doing something drastic such as resigning. Even then, it would take time to access the money.

      Had it been in place, the two-pot system would have helped in that situation, the South African treasury says.

      That should mean rapid access to money, within a month or less, and access to enough money to cover expenses for a couple of months at least.

      This change to pension rules is intended to make pension funds a broader vehicle where you save for both retirement and emergencies – such as a pandemic that suddenly shuts down an employer.

      The idea is that one will have two piles of money, one that you still cannot access until after retirement age, and one that you can lay your hands on if you have to, within certain limitations.

      One could just save for emergencies using a different vehicle, say regular investments in unit trusts.

      But with pension savings comes very attractive tax breaks, and you will get the full benefit of those across both pots of money.

      The current proposal will see a specific allocation to each pot: two thirds to standard retirement savings, and one third going into the “savings pot”.

      In South Africa, discussion around the two-pot system saw a strong push, from the likes of trade unions, to open up prior savings for withdrawals.

      In its simplest form, that would see all the pension money you have gathered so far split up as new contributions will be, with two thirds still locked up until retirement, and the other third available for emergency use.

      The government, like in Namibia, is greatly opposed to that, for reasons ranging from the strictly technical to the nearly apocalyptic, as South Africans simultaneously scramble for their cash.

      Analysts, who preferred to be anonymous as they deal with pension money, told The Namibian that it was an interesting concept, especially considering the emergency brought on by Covid-19.

      “It could definitely be a way to reduce reliance or dependence on the government, then step in and do some sort of an emergency income grant,” said one analyst.


      Twitter: @Lasarus_A

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