55% Of Singaporeans Cannot Meet The CPF Minimum Sum!

Something very wrong happened.

The CPF Board had released their annual report for 2012.

In 2011 and prior to 2012, the CPF Board had always included a table of the Active CPF members by monthly wage level.

In the 2011 annual report (Table 1), it was stated that there were about 300,000 Singaporeans earning less than $1,000 and about 460,000 Singaporeans earning less than $1,500. This made up 17% and 26%, or a quarter of Singaporeans, respectively.

photo 1 (8)

Table 1: Distribution of Active CPF Members by Monthly Wage Level and Age Group as at 31 December 2011

But in the 2012 annual report, the CPF Board removed this table. and replaced it with another table The last table in the report was on the distribution of active CPF members by regrossed balances (Table 2), which they state, “include amounts withdrawn under Investment, education, Residential Properties, Non-Residential Properties and Public Housing Schemes as at end of period.”

photo 2 (10)

Table 2: Distribution of Active CPF Members by Regrossed Balances and Age Group as at 31 December 2012

Where did the table on the distribution of monthly wage go??

Why did the CPF Board removed the table on Singaporeans’ monthly wage levels? Did they not want to show the information of how a quarter of Singaporeans are earning less than $1,500, and possibly living in poverty? Why does the CPF Board no longer want to show this information?

Now, take a look at Table 1 and Table 2. If you do not know that there is a difference in the indicator being reported, which table looks better?

Table 2, right? It looks like there are many Singaporeans who have a lot of money!

Let me share with you some insights:

  • In Table 1, look at the first column. You can see that the monthly wage level is broken down into the smallest categories, down to the hundreds in the first few rows. Why? Look at Table 3 for a re-representation, and you will understand why. Can you see straightaway (without the distracting breakdown) that there are 300,000 Singaporeans earning less than $1,000 and more than 600,000 earning less than $2,000 – which means that nearly a fifth of Singaporeans have to live on less than $1,000 every month and nearly 40% of Singaporeans earn less than $2,000! They had to break the wage levels into smaller categories so that it wouldn’t look so obvious that there are so many poor people in Singapore.
  • In 2012, they stopped reporting on the monthly wage level completely. Meanwhile, they replaced continued to display the table on “regrossed balances”. Looks nice, doesn’t it? Not really. Let me explain to you why.


Table 3: Distribution of Active CPF Members by Monthly Wage Level and Age Group as at 31 December 2011

As of 1 July 2013, Singaporeans have to set aside a minimum sum of $148,000 in their CPF before they are able to withdraw it.

So, looking at Table 2, can you see that this mean that there are more than a million Singaporeans who are not able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum? If you cannot, it’s because the table hasn’t been presented clearly, whether intended or not.

There are actually 1,003,614 Singaporeans with balances of up to $150,000, which makes up 56%. Does this mean that about 55% Singaporeans do not have enough in their CPF and will not be able to retrieve their own money?

Then why did the CPF Board portray the table in this manner? If I were the CPF Board, I would portray the table like in Table 4.


Table 4: Distribution of Active CPF Members by Regrossed Balances and Age Group as at 31 December 2012

And then, you will be able to see very clearly that only about 45% of Singaporeans are able to meet their CPF Minimum Sum. About 55% will not be able to withdraw their CPF – that’s your money.

So, why did the CPF Board remove the table which gives the breakdown on Singaporeans’ wage level? Why did the CPF Board replace it with a new table but represent also continue to present a table that looks misleading? Why did the CPF Board not state the truth as clearly as it can?

Look at Chart 1 below – up until 2010, less than 50% of Singaporeans were able to meet their CPF Minimum Sum, and in 2012, there continues to be a majority of Singaporeans who would not be able to withdraw their CPF monies.

photo 3 (13)

Chart 1: Proportion of CPF Members Who Meet CPF Minimum Sum

If so, where is our money going? Why can’t we take the money that we’ve earned back? Where is the government taking it to, and for? Why is the money that is ours being denied from us? Why can we not access the nearly $150,000, which is our own money??

Afternote 1

I looked at the 2011 report again and realised that the chart on “regrossed balances” have always been in the annual reports.

So, what really happened was that the chart on the monthly wage level was completely removed and not replaced at all. The question remains then – why has this information been removed? Why have Singaporeans been denied this very important information? 17% of Singaporeans earned less than $1,000. A quarter earned less than $1,500 and almost 40% earned less than $2,000.

Previous studies have shown that Singaporeans earn the lowest wages among developed countries and we have the lowest purchasing power as well. Singaporeans also have the smallest retirement funds, which is even smaller than developing countries in the region!

This is no laughing matter. Singaporeans are not earning enough. Instead of fixing the problem, why has the government chosen to omit this information? Instead of helping Singaporeans live better lives, why are we made to pretend the problem doesn’t exist?

On top of that, the fact of the matter continues to be that more than half of Singaporeans are not able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum and are not able to withdraw their CPF. Isn’t the CPF meant for our retirement? If it’s locked up and we cannot access it, then what do we retire on? Or, more importantly, can we even retire?

If we can’t, what’s the point of working for a government which doesn’t even take care of our well-being?

Afternote 2

A commenter pointed out that we should be looking at the age group of those above 60 to see how many older Singaporeans there are who aren’t able to meet their CPF Minimum Sum. I did exactly that and found out that only 32% of older Singaporeans had CPF balances of more than $150,000.

This means that there would be up to 68% of older Singaporeans who would not be able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum and wouldn’t be able to take their CPF out at all!

Of these 68% of older Singaporeans who aren’t able to take their CPF monies out, how many of whom don’t even have savings because they have been earning low pay? A report in 2005 showed that 62% of older Singaporeans work because they need the money. Are there 62% older Singaporeans who simply cannot retire? Also, among the low-wage workers, a high proportion of them are the elderly.

If our older Singaporeans have been paid low wages for a long time and if they do not have enough savings because of their low wages, and they are also not able to take their CPF monies out, what can they do? They are forced to work.

And if the government isn’t helping them enough, what is the government doing? This is appalling. For a country which is the richest in the world, with the highest GDP per capita and GIC and the Temasek Holdings, which are ranked the 8th and 10th sovereign wealth funds in the world, is this acceptable? Is this right? Is this honourable? Is the government filial?


  1. JG

    Excellent analysis, as usual.
    Unfortunately, the Govt does not see this as a problem – reason being that anyone can sell their flat and downgrade to a studio. In fact, this is the prescribed path for Singaporeans. So the Govt turns the table on Singaporeans and said it is THEIR problem that they do no have enough money for retirement because they are supposed to sell their flats and refused to do so.

  2. Statistics Fail

    Table 2 includes people of all age groups, including those just starting out on their careers, many others halfway through, and those past 55 who might have already withdrawn their excess CPF. So it’s meaningless to look at it as a whole and conclude that 55% of Singaporeans don’t meet minimum sum.

    • Roy Ngerng

      Hi Statistics Fail,

      I refer you to Chart 1, which is a chart prepared by the CPF Board, which clearly shows that less than 50% of Singaporeans are able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum.

      Perhaps you would like to pose your question to the CPF Board.

      I am sure all of us would like to know why we are not able to meet the minimum sum, what the money is trapped for, and how the majority of Singaporeans are able to retire, or actually, will not be able to retire.

      If you would, we would all be eternally grateful. While you are at it, tell them the $148,000 is still our money and can last us for quite a bit, so why isn’t it coming back?

      I’m a believer of questioning not for the sake of opposing, so please take note in future.


      • Statistics Fail

        Yes, I saw Chart 1. But I was just pointing out your erroneous interpretation of Table 2.

        The majority of Singaporeans can’t meet the MS because they used up the bulk of CPF in housing. We all know that.

        And it’s not that your MS is not coming back, it’s just that you can’t withdraw at one go but have to get some CPF Life thingy so that you don’t splurge it all in one go. Very paternalistic view of the govt, I know, but you can argue the same of the whole idea of CPF which is enforced savings.

      • Roy Ngerng

        Hi Statistics Fail,

        Then we can go further. I can drag out all the skeletons.

        Why did the government allowed housing to become speculative, such that the prices have shot up way beyond the people’s rises in their incomes?

        Why have the government allowed the people’s wages to be depressed and remained stagnant?

        Why has inflation increase much faster than the increase in wages and why have prices continued to rise while wages have remained stagnant?

        Why has healthcare costs increase but the government’s proportionate contribution remained the same, while the people have to pay more, all this while, while their wages have not grown, and for the low income earners, their wages have dropped?

        If you look broadly and holistically beyond just the CPF, you will realise that systematically, Singaporeans are being cut out. It’s not just the CPF. It’s prices which have increased way and above the increase in our wages, and government spending which has remained the lowest among the developed countries and which have not caught up with the increasing prices, while all the while, profits keep increasing.

        Singaporeans cannot retire, not only because their CPF isn’t enough. It’s because the government is earning from the people and cutting them from every corner.

        Obviously, saturation point has been reached. The government won’t be able to cut down on the people anymore, because the people are already cut down to their bare bones.

        What’s next? This isn’t sustainable. It’s a case of whether the people die or the government dies.

        What do you think will happen? Trust me, it isn’t a far stretch to think that the ruling party will lose many seats. And this is why they are on the attack.


    • Roy Ngerng

      Anyway Statistics Fail,

      Since we are on the topic, I looked at the age group of those above 60, and did a calculation – only 32% had balances of more than $150,000.

      This means that more there could easily be up to 68% of older Singaporeans who wouldn’t be able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum and wouldn’t be able to take their CPF out at all!

      So, thank you for pointing this out. Of these 68% of older Singaporeans who aren’t able to take their CPF monies out, how many of whom don’t even have savings because they have been earning low pay?

      Also, a report in 2005 showed that 62% of older Singaporeans work because they need the money. Are there 62% older Singaporeans who simply cannot retire?


      • Statistics Fail

        As I mentioned in my first comment, you also can’t look at the stats for the group above 60 because they have already started drawing down their CPF, so it’s not meaningful to look at what is left in their balances. The only correct way to look at this is the percentage of people at exactly age 55 who meets the MS, which as CPF itself points out is less than 50%.

        Anyway, I’m only trying to correct certain things you wrote in the post, and not to defend the govt or CPF. I certainly agree that costs of living, esp housing, is out of control and Singaporeans are basically screwed.

      • Willy

        Yes, I think Statistics Fail is right that we should only be looking at % of people at age 55. The younger ones definitely are a long way from accumulating the minimum sum. Alternatively, if you want to include those below 55, then it should be pro-rated to a target that is a function of age and the minimum sum. Can you work out something so that we can see where the young ones are heading vis-a-vis the projected minimum sum?

        And further, the minimum sum should not be view as a yardstick for retirement. The government has been telling us to be responsible for our ownselves. I don’t see why it should meddle with our retirement if that is the case. I plan my own retirement. Government keep its hands off my money. The rates given by CPF board is less than inflation rate. If Malaysia’s EPF can give such good rates of 7-8%, why should I keep my money with the CPF board.

    • Roy Ngerng

      Hi Statistics Fail,

      Thank you for the clarifications – much appreciated.

      I am displeased that the CPF have chosen to omit such an important piece of information, firstly. And it is also highly worrying why a high proportion of the older Singaporeans aren’t able to meet their CPF Minimum Sum.

      There is no where to go for them. If the government doesn’t do what it is within its responsibility to, we are pretty much telling the older people to work till their deaths.

      This is wrong.


      • SS

        Great analysis Roy. You are working on limited and bad data, which makes it tough to analyse. It also hinders discussion when seemingly intelligent Singaporeans come with fault detectors with no data of their own. Criticising in the comfort of being “correct” and never wrong, yet lacking opinions. Look forward to see more of this.

    • Roy Ngerng

      Hi Willy,

      A large proportion of Singaporeans don’t have the luxury to say that – there is possibly 20% or so Singaporeans who cannot even save, let alone buy insurance.

      They are underpaid and they are not paid enough to survive in Singapore. Then, who takes care of them? They try so hard to be hardworking and to take care of themselves, but it is still not enough. The system entraps them.


  3. Epic Fail

    Even if we just look at those say between 30 to 50 years old, the numbers whose CPF balances are below 150k is plain pathetic, given that they include the huge sums that they would have withdrawn for housing loans.

  4. CY

    Statistics Fail is right. Roy’s figures are totally wrong. Active CPF members include BOTH Singaporeans and PRs. It is erroneous to assume ALL active CPF members are Singaporeans which is what Roy did.

      • CY

        My point is you are assuming ALL the active CPF members in the charts provided by CPF board are Singaporeans when in fact it includes PRs working here and contributing to CPF. So the actual percentages of Singaporeans earning less than S$1k and less than S$2k may not be what you calculated.

        CPF board failed to provide a breakdown to Singaporeans and PRs separately so we can get a better picture. Furthermore the regrossed balances makes things very confusing compared to simply comparing vs the monthly wages – this one I give it to you.

      • Roy Ngerng


        What point are you trying to make?

        Isn’t this my point as well? We need clearer information. And regardless of whether it is Singaporean or PR, the people who are here – a huge proportion of them won’t be able to retire. This is the point.

        What point are you trying to make? Please don’t argue over a non-issue.


      • CY

        Lol… You shouldn’t count babies and children since they are NOT active CPF members. And my final point, there ARE Singaporeans who are working but NOT contributing to CPF, and hence are not in the charts. Examples: Taxi drivers, insurance agents/financial advisors with insurance companies. This is why I am reiterating that your calculations are inaccurate.

      • Roy Ngerng

        Of course there are Singaporeans who do not pay CPF. How many do not?

        And – just looking at those who are paying CPF, is it not already worrying enough that a huge proportion are earning low wages and a huge proportion can’t meet their CPF Minimum Sum and can’t take their money out.

        You can try to argue this in every way you want – it doesn’t change the facts of the matter.

        And you don’t have to look at the statistics. Speak to the elderly. Speak to the poor Singaporeans. They are right in front of you.

        Everything points to the same thing.

        For other readers, click on the links and make your own conclusions. I’m not here to create stories. I present what I see and understand. The rest is up to you.

        And when you see the truth, it is up to you to protect yourself and your life in Singapore.


      • Maya

        Roy, first of all, thanks for writing the article. I can sense your frustration. I think all of us are also frustrated by the lack of data. And there are people nit-picking and poking holes with ur argument. But no worries, I think we all want to arm ourselves with more info to make our own judgement. Nothing against you.

      • Roy Ngerng

        Hi Maya,

        Thanks for your understanding.

        Yes, I am upset because the lack of data and the want to conceal information is detrimental to Singaporeans. What do we rely on to make decisions about our lives when we do not know what is actually going on in Singapore?

        And yes, I’m heavily worried because its not a joke that 20% of Singaporeans are living in perpetual and chronic poverty. They do not have savings. They cannot retire. Do I blame them for not being hardworking? I don’t – because the system entraps them. It’s not that they are not hardworking. It’s because the system disadvantages them. The system pays them low wages. The system entraps their retirement funds. Where can they turn to?

        Then, there are many more Singaporeans trapped by meager savings and would have to continue to work and live in uncertainty, until their old age.

        Is this right? Meanwhile, there is a segment of society which have benefitted from a form of meritocracy that protects them. If so, do we have the openness of mind and empathy to understand that we need to also look out for others so that as a whole, our society can grow together?

        In the end, why are we all writing, voicing out or being critical? We want to protect ourselves. And for some, we want to protect one another.

        To that end, we need to keep reading and finding out more, so that we can make the right decisions that will be right for our lives.

        Thank you.


  5. The Pariah

    Even if each Age 55 cohort can withdraw all CPF savings, they still face SAME (more likely GREATER) retirement INSECURITY from age 65 onwards. More constructive if CPF Board apply their financial muscle tog with MOF/MAS/GIC/Temasek devise some inflation-indexed Singapore Govt Securities hybrid instrument to back-up CPF LIFE, CPF Min Sum and Medisave balances to build up retirement security (ie, strong cashflow and low risk) for CPF members from age 40 thru age 55 with significantly scaled-back CPF tiered withdrawals for any investment residential purchase.

  6. sbksim

    Roy, have you tried asking CPF for the data that is required for your analysis to be complete? If you have received a negative reply, it’s pretty indicative in itself?

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  8. Abdul

    These whole thing about CPF has got to be rethought.

    CPF insists that CPF is our money but they are dictating when it is to be used. They play on the fear factor that forced savings is good. Then they play on another fear factor that if all CPF monies are to be released at one go, all Singaporeans will splurge and splash their money. Men will go to Batam and women have Gigolos.

    The government is telling Singaporeans ” look guys, I don’t trust how you are gonna spend your hard earned savings BUT YOU MUST trust me to dictate how you gonna use them”.

    Prior to all these Minimum Sum crap, Was there any survey done to prove majority of Singaporeans wasted away their CPF savings? Is there any proof that without these forced savings and minimum sum scheme, Singaporeans are worse off?

    Talking about buying flats with CPF money. It does not matter if you have CPF or not but if you the money. I have hawker friends who bought private property even when they don’t have CPF; except the “SUPER FORCED MEDISAVE”

    Lets go beyond this minimum sum bullshit. Lets consider if CPF should be abolished or made optional.

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  10. Elliot

    Edward Fujimoto (manager of the Wellness Program) at the Castle hospital on a TV
    program where he explained this health hazard. A slide-out crumb tray is included for easy cleaning.
    Allow the pan to sit for about 10 minutes before serving the oven baked s’mores.

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