Pension warning for workers in South Africa

 ·28 Apr 2024

South Africans should think carefully about taking out of their pensions when changing jobs.

According to Asavela Gwele, Investment Consultant and group RA Consultant at 10X Investment, it can be tempting for people to withdraw from their pension scheme and use the money for essentials when they change jobs or get retrenched.

“For retrenched people especially, the temptation to withdraw from a pension can be incredibly large. After all, retrenchment packages only take you so far, and in a country with unemployment levels as high as South Africa’s, walking straight into another job is highly unlikely,” said Gwala.

That said, it can be incredibly risky to one’s ability to retire as it damages the impact of compound interest.

“Ask any independent financial advisor, and they’ll tell you that how long you invest is more important than how much you invest when it comes to retirement savings,” said Gwala.

“They’ll also tell you that the later you start saving for retirement, the more you’ll have to invest to be able to retire. That’s because of compound interest.”

Moreover, it is worth noting that South Africans are actually poor savers, with the 10X Retirement Reality Report showing that just 6% of South Africans are on course to retire comfortably.

“Every time someone takes money out of a pension scheme when they change jobs, they move themselves a little further from the 6% of people who can retire comfortably and a little deeper into the 94% who can’t,” said Gwala.

Preservation funds

For those leaving their jobs, a good option could be a preservation fund, which gives the employee the option to continue with their retirement savings.

Taking the preservation fund offer will result in a Section 14 transfer, essentially moving one’s retirement administrator to another.

“The biggest benefit of taking this course of action is that there are no tax implications. That’s because the government is also trying to encourage people to not just take out the funds in the event of a job switch or dismissal but rather just continue saving through a different vehicle.”

“It is, however, important to note that you can’t then direct the pension benefits from your next job into that fund. Instead, you’d have to pay into the existing employee pension scheme.”

“Alternatively, if the company doesn’t have its own scheme, you’d have to take out a separate retirement product.”

Like many retirement products, Gwala said that it is useful to have a preservation fund in place as early as possible, as having one can make it less tempting to withdraw from your pension fund.

“It’s also worth pointing out that in a country with an economy as volatile as South Africa’s, where retrenchments are commonplace, it’s better to have a preservation fund in place before you need it.”

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