Retirement annuities and their advantages explained

Source: MoneyMarketing – Gerard Visser


There are a number of ways to save and a retirement annuity fund, is one of the potential investment tools which offer a tax efficient way to save towards retirement.

You can invest lump sums or make regular contributions into your own investment portfolios within a retirement annuity. The earliest age you can retire from the fund and make withdrawals is 55 years old.

At retirement you can take up to one third of your fund value in cash, subject to taxation, and the remainder can be used to either invest into a living annuity or purchase a fixed annuity, to pay yourself an income at retirement.

When choosing your investment portfolios for your retirement annuity, it is important to understand that a retirement annuity, as well as any other pre-retirement investment vehicles, follow Regulation 28, which limits the amount of exposure in certain asset classes. For example, you cannot have more than 75% in equities (includes local and offshore equities). This is to decrease risk for the investor and help protect and diversify portfolios.

What happens to your funds when you pass on?

The trustees of the retirement annuity fund will allocate your fund value to your dependents and nominated beneficiaries as is required by law. You can nominate beneficiaries for consideration with a retirement annuity and this nomination will assist the trustees of the fund in allocating the funds on your death. Typically, people whom are financially dependent on you will receive funds. Always ensure that you list all your beneficiaries for your retirement investments or contact your adviser for the necessary forms to have them listed.

Why save towards a retirement annuity?

Some of us might already have pension or provident funds which we use to save towards retirement and it might seem like you and/or your employer are making sufficient contributions, but in many cases this alone might not be enough to retire on, depending on your specific need.

When your contributions for your pension or provident funds are calculated, it is based on your pensionable salary and not your cost to company. The rule of thumb is that if you save 15% of your salary over 35 years, you could potentially receive 75% of your salary as a pension, as long as you received reasonable investment returns.

The problem is that your pensionable salary is usually only about 70% of your cost to company (depending on the company you work for). For example, if your monthly package is R15 000, you would need to retire on the equivalent of R11 250 (75%). However, your pensionable salary which your contributions are based on, is less at R10 500 (R15 000 x 70%). If we use the general rule of thumb it provides a pension income of only R7 875 (R10 500 x 75%), which is much lower than you might have thought.

You can make up the shortfall by investing additional contributions of your non-pensionable income into a retirement annuity.

Besides making up shortfalls, probably the biggest benefit of a retirement annuity are the tax benefits and deductions individual tax payers get for investing in a retirement annuity. With a retirement annuity you can deduct your contributions from your taxable income. Currently the limit you can deduct is 27.5% of the greater of remuneration or taxable income limited at R350 000 per year. Excess contributions are carried forward to the next tax year.

Other advantages of a retirement annuity are:

  • Compound interest – as you are investing over a long period, you earn growth on the growth.
  • Supporting your dependents – you can provid for those you leave behind. Your RA benefit is not subject to estate duty, and creditors cannot access your hard earned retirement funds.
  • Long-term stability -​​ you can ride out short-term fluctuations in the market in order to target long-term real growth, which pays off when you retire. ​​​​​​​​​​
  • Freedom of choice subject to regulation 28 mentioned above – you can choose your underlying investment portfolios, giving you flexibility in how your contributions are invested and how they grow.
  • Disciplined savings​​​​​​​​ – not being able to access your retirement savings before age 55 is a good thing.
  • There is no tax on interest or capital gains on your investment in the fund.

According to Alexander Forbes Member Watch, only 6% of members retire with a replacement ratio of 75% or more. What this means is that if your pensionable salary is R20 000 then a 75% replacement ratio means an income of R15 000 in retirement. Therefore, keeping up with your contributions and preserving your benefits should be at the top of your list when it comes to saving for retirement.

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