Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Preparing for retirement with PERA

In a previous post, I looked at how the TRAIN would affect my take home pay. 

TRAIN promises to cut the withholding tax. From my previous effective rate of 32%, it will go down to ~9.2%. That savings will go a long way to fund my retirement. So while it might be tempting to use that "free" money to live the best life now, I'm opting to invest it for my best life in the future. 

Although I contribute to the SSS--it is mandatory, after all--I'm giving it the side eye. For one, there's the talk that the SSS assets would be depleted in 28 years if crucial reforms are not implemented. Which means the SSS is possibly not  around by the time I'm retiring. So I thought I should prepare for that bleak future scenario. At any rate, no one should be counting on just the government pension. I mean, the minimum pension right now is pegged at Php1,200. Who could live with just that money? 

Anyway, I was still working in government when the PERA law was approved in 2008, but implementation is another matter. There was buzz in 2016 that it would go live, and it did in December 2016. But the only two approved entities--BDO and BPI--only had mentions of it but no actual product yet. 

Even before the approval of the TRAIN, I was already thinking of seriously saving for retirement. In the international (mostly American) finance blog circles, it's all about ETFs or index funds. So I was looking at index funds. And then I thought of PERA to at least get a 5% tax credit for saving.  

I made inquiries with BPI already. I knew from other posts that one has to go to the head office to open a PERA account. However, when I checked with the BPI website, this FAQ states that starting January 2017, there should be several branches aside the main office that could facilitate opening a PERA account. I went to my local branch to ask if that policy had changed. The girl at the accounts desk called the head office to confirm and to ask for the requirements as well. 

This is how you open a PERA account with BPI: 
  1. Yes, you need to go to BPI's main office in Makati. Go to the 17th floor, Assets Management. 
  2. You need to bring your TIN ID. In the event that you don't have an ID, bring your ITR as it would have details they need to open a PERA account. 
  3. You must have a BPI savings or checking account. 
  4. a valid government ID. 
  5. Fill up their form, which gauges your investment risk profile 
BPI offers 4 kinds of PERA accounts, which are very similar to mutual fund or UITF offerings. They have a money market, government bonds, corporate bonds and an equity fund. 

Of course, there are fees: BPI asks for a 1% administrator fee based on the amount contributed. There are also "transactional and annual fees from the Cash Custodian as well as trust fees from the respective PERA UITFs." The Equity Fund lists a 1.5% per annum trust fee. I wonder if this is the same as or probably on top of the 1% admin fee. 

Meanwhile, BDO's PERA Equity Index Fund lists a 1% p.a. "management fee." Again, will need to clarify if this is on top of or the same as the admin fee. But I still need to inquire with BDO.  

If we go by fees alone, I'm partial to whoever is offering a lower fee. Then there's the matter of who offers an index fund. There's also the ease of transacting. BDO is attached to my payroll account, that would make it easier for me to transact. That matter of only having one administrator for your PERA accounts certainly has to be considered. 

All in all, I still need to check with BDO and then weigh which one between the two banks will get my retirement money. But even then, BSP Deputy Governor Espenilla acknowledges that the slow rollout is because there are only ~100 professionals dealing with PERA.  It would certainly give the investing public more breadth of choices if other entities would come in and offer their own PERA funds. Until that day comes, it's a coin toss between these two candidates. 

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