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Asset rich and cash poor: retirement provision and housing policy in Singapore

  • DAVID McCARTHY (a1), OLIVIA S. MITCHELL (a2) and JOHN PIGGOTT (a3)

Abstract

National defined contribution pension systems have long been a mainstay of retirement income in Asia. One of the oldest and best known of these systems is the Singaporean Central Provident Fund, a mandatory retirement scheme managed by the central government for almost a half-century. With required contribution rates that have ranged up to 50%, this program has powerfully shaped asset accumulation patterns and housing portfolios. This paper explores how the structure and design of the Singaporean retirement and housing schemes influence wealth levels and asset mix at retirement. Our model indicates that outcomes rest critically on the interlinked national retirement and housing programs. We show that policies to enhance one program may boost retirement replacement rates but can also lower total wealth in unexpected ways. The lessons we draw may serve as guidance for other countries constructing a national defined contribution retirement system.

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