With 100 days to launch of Two-Pot Retirement System – financial advisers urged to highlight risks to over-55s

Financial advisers are gearing up for significant changes to retirement savings. File photo.

Financial advisers are gearing up for significant changes to retirement savings. File photo.

Published May 23, 2024


Keith Peter

WITH May 24 marking 100 days until the introduction of the Two-Pot Retirement System on September 1, 2024, financial advisers are gearing up for significant changes to retirement savings.

However, the new system, which allows for more flexible access to retirement funds, demands careful consideration, especially for customers aged 55 and over.

Introducing the Two-Pot System is a pivotal moment for individuals over 55. With only a few short years until retirement, they must carefully manage their contributions to secure a stable financial future.

The system divides retirement contributions into two pots: one-third for savings that can be accessed before retirement and another for funds only accessible at retirement. The Two-Pot Retirement System provides specific provisions for individuals who were 55 years old as of March 1, 2021, and members of the same provident fund.

From September 1 this year, these individuals can choose to remain under their current system, which allows for a 100% cash withdrawal of all funds saved before March 1, 2021 when they retire. Alternatively, they can opt for the new system, which could provide better tax efficiency and income stability.

It’s crucial that advisers comprehensively understand their customer’s needs and encourage them to make informed decisions that align with their long-term financial health.

Withdrawals only for emergencies

Whatever option the customer chooses, I advise against premature withdrawals from the savings pot, highlighting the tax implications and the potential reduction in retirement income.

Accessing funds early could lead to a significant tax burden, as withdrawals will be taxed at the marginal rate, whereas funds accessed upon retirement receive more favourable tax treatment under the retirement tax tables.

They will also miss out on the power of compound growth on the funds in the savings pot.

Consider a 55-year-old customer planning to retire at 60 with a current pension fund valued at R1 000 000 as of August 31, 2024. The customer’s monthly pension contributions total R6 000, or R72 000 annually, with R2 000 (R24 000 annually) allocated to the savings pot and R4 000 (R48 000 annually) to the retirement pot. We will factor in a 6% annual contribution increase and an 8% growth rate for the pension fund.

On September 1, 2024, the customer’s savings pot will hold R30 000, the lesser of R30 000 or 10% of the total pension fund value. Consequently, the vested pot, representing the remaining balance after the savings pot allocation, will be R970 000 (R1 000 000 minus R30 000).

If the customer withdraws from the savings pot annually, including the initial seeding capital, the total value of the retirement fund at age 60 will be R1 765 066.

If the customer does not withdraw from the savings pot, including the seeding capital, the total value of the retirement fund at age 60 will be R1 979 023 – a difference of over R200 000.

Consistency is the key

Financial advisers should emphasise stability and adherence to their customers’ established financial plans when guiding them through the Two-Pot Retirement System. Often, the best approach is to maintain their current strategy and avoid prematurely accessing the savings pot as far as possible.

This cautious approach helps safeguard the capital they have accrued over their working lives. Financial advisers should review customers’ plans annually, adjusting only as needed to address any shortfalls while continuing to invest in conservative to moderate funds. This strategy ensures that the investment growth remains steady, albeit not explosively high, thus securing the necessary funds for a comfortable retirement.

Furthermore, each customer’s unique circumstances – such as their specific financial needs, aspirations, and retirement goals – should dictate tailored advice, ensuring that advisers provide personalised and practical guidance through the intricacies of the new retirement system.

Resources and continuing education for advisers

The new system presents both challenges and opportunities. For advisers, this is a chance to deepen customer relationships and improve financial outcomes for retirees.

Ample resources are available to support financial advisers through the transition to the Two-Pot Retirement System. There is extensive information provided by fund administrators, insurance companies, and asset management firms, and continuous education through webinars and updated resources.

Advisers can access detailed information by searching “Two-Pot Retirement System” online, and platforms like the National Treasury and the SA Revenue Service offer valuable FAQs and documents.

Additionally, industry bodies such as the Financial Planning Institute and the Association for Savings and Investments South Africa (Asisa) provide further educational opportunities through online webinars, ensuring advisers can offer sound advice and navigate these regulatory changes effectively.

* Peter is the advice manager at Old Mutual Personal Finance.