read palm lines
Connect with us


What is the Difference Between Compulsory and Discretionary Savings?

While financial advisors and other people in the investment industry often refer to compulsory savings and discretionary savings, many people are often not sure what the difference is between the two. 

To put it briefly:

  • Compulsory savings refers to retirement savings and
  • Discretionary savings refers to non-retirement or optional savings. 

In this article we will review the characteristics is each type of savings and the relevant implications. 

Compulsory savings

Depending on an individual’s circumstances compulsory/retirement savings are typically made to a pension or provident fund, if you are an employee, and to a retirement fund if you are self-employed or if your employer does not have any retirement arrangements in place. Employees can also supplement their retirement savings be contributing to a retirement annuity.        

Tax Savings

As individuals who save for their retirement are lessening the burden on the state, the Government offers certain tax incentives on these savings. This is very necessary as it is currently estimated that only about 6% of South Africans will be able to retire financially – meaning that 94% of people will have to either:

  •  rely on a state pension of R1 890/month.
  • rely on their families for financial support.
  • continue working well after the age that they intended to retire.

The incentive that the government offers is in the form of 

  • a tax deduction of the amount the compulsory savings up to a maximum of (the lesser of 27.5%) of your annual taxable earnings or R350 000 per year. 
  • The growth of the funds within the retirement vehicles are tax free. There is no tax on interest or dividends or capital gains tax (CGT) which is usually applicable to discretionary savings. 

Compulsory savings have certain restrictions regarding the withdrawal and transfer of these funds as well as how they may be invested.

Access restrictions

There are restrictions accessing retirement funds both before and at retirement. 

Before retirement

Before retirement age a member is allowed one full or partial withdrawal from their retirement fund. The earliest retirement date is usually 55, although this is subject to the fund rules. If a member withdraws an amount before their retirement age the amount is subject to tax according to a table defined by SARS. 

At retirement

At retirement, a member is limited to accessing one third of the accumulated funds and is required to buy an annuity with the remaining two thirds.  This may be a living or a life annuity. To understand more about the difference of these annuities please refer to our article Retirement Annuities Explained

Any lump sum withdrawn at retirement is taxed by SARS according to another table defined by SARS, however, this table is more generous than the taxation on amounts withdrawn before retirement age. 

Investment Restrictions

As mentioned above, one of the restrictions on these funds is that when the funds are invested, they have to comply with Regulation 28 (a requirement of the Pension Fund Act). Regulation 28 limits the extent to which retirement funds may invest in particular assets or in particular asset classes. The main purpose is to protect the members’ retirement provision from the effects of poorly diversified investment portfolios.

While there are talks about amending Regulation 28, as it currently stands, the regulation limits equity exposure in retirement funds to 75% whether local or offshore. Further, exposure to local or international property is limited to 25%, while foreign investment exposure is limited to 30%. There are also additional sub-limits for alternative investments and the percentage of a portfolio that can be held in offshore, among others.

Despite these restrictions, recent research by one of the major financial institutions comparing the returns generated compulsory funds to discretionary funds revealed that the returns are generally higher in compulsory fund – because of the tax advantages. 

Protection from Creditors

During the lifetime of the member and whilst the funds are invested in the retirement fund, they are protected against the creditors of the members. 

Once the member retires from the fund, any lump sum and income received from an annuity can be attached by the member’s creditors. 

Upon death of the member prior to retirement, the retirement fund proceeds will be protected as long as there is a dependent to receive the proceeds (dependants include the spouse, children and those that can prove financial dependency).

If the proceeds are payable to a nominated beneficiary (other than the dependant defined above), the trustees of the retirement fund will be obliged to first settle any debts (insofar the aggregate liabilities exceed the aggregate assets in the estate) before making payment to that nominee. 

Discretionary Savings

As the name suggests discretionary savings is often used to describe money that is not designated for a particular purpose. It is up to the owner of the discretionary funds to decide how they should be invested and spent.  

The options in which to invest discretionary funds are almost unlimited and include savings accounts, bonds, shares, EFTs, structured products, endowment policies, cryptocurrencies, property etc.  


As one would expect, there are typically no, or limited tax deductions offered for the investment of these savings as well as the proceeds generated by the investments. 

Unfortunately, the savings rate of South Africans is amongst the lowest in the world, with countries like India and China where the average wage is lower having significantly higher savings rates. In an attempt to encourage some savings, SARS does allow for limited tax relief such as allowing for the deduction of the first R23 800 (R34 500 for people aged 65+) on interest.

From 2015 SARS also introduced the provision that the proceeds from certain approved tax-free investments will be exempt form tax. The contributions to these types of investments are limited to R36 000 per year and R500 000 over a taxpayer’s life. 

Apart from the above, the proceeds from discretionary savings are generally included in terms of the normal tax regime e.g. capital gains tax, income tax etc.  


Apart from any restrictions applicable to a particular investment instrument, discretionary savings are generally freely accessible. 

This is obviously the main reason for people making discretionary savings choices as opposed to compulsory savings.  

Investment Restrictions

Again, apart from any restrictions applicable to a particular investment instrument, discretionary savings are not subject to any restrictions, apart from the prevailing legislation.

Probably the most important issue is the restriction on foreign investments. 

Protection from Creditors

Unlike compulsory savings, discretionary savings are not protected from creditors and may be attached to settle a person’s obligations. 

The tables below provide a comparison between discretionary and compulsory savings.

Professional Assistance

Reach out to Ubuntu Capital and a professional financial planner will get hold of you to explain everything and discuss any of your requirements.

If you would like to get a free assessment of your current retirement savings, please complete our online capture form by clicking here



Early retirement is tempting – but can you afford it?

The temptation to retire early and adopt a life of leisure can be particularly seductive as you enter your fifties and sixties, especially after many years spent with your nose to the grindstone. But can you afford it?

There are two main drivers which determine if early retirement is even an option for you. They are:

How much capital you have, and
How much you need to draw to sustain your standard of living.
Clients often ask “How much capital will I need to retire”? However, the answer is directly related to how much you require on a monthly basis to sustain your current standard of living.

One of the very basic calculations I give my clients is to take their current monthly expenditure, divide this number by four and multiply it by R1 million. This calculation works when you are still trying to accumulate your capital and need to set a retirement savings target.

If you are already at retirement age, however, ensuring that your capital will last your entire lifetime, which is generally unknown, becomes more important. To be conservative, I would suggest that you draw no more than 4% of your retirement capital on an annual basis.

To demonstrate the significance of this, the graph below shows how withdrawal rates affect how long your capital will last.

The graph is based on the example of an individual who retires at 55 years with capital of R10 million, and further assumes that inflation rises by 6.0% per annum and that their investment achieves annual growth of 8.5%:

By keeping their withdrawal rate to 4%, their retirement capital would sustain them until the age of 95 years. However, by increasing their withdrawal rate to 4.5%, their capital would be depleted by the age of 87 years. A 6% withdrawal rate would mean that their capital would run out at the age of 77 years – nearly twenty years earlier than had they stuck to 4%.

The exponential benefits of delaying retirement on savings

If a 4% withdrawal rate will not provide you with sufficient income, it may be worth giving serious consideration to delay your retirement.

Remember, your salary and therefore retirement contributions are usually at their peak in the years just before your retirement, and when combined with the added effect of delaying dipping into your capital, these last few years can make a huge difference to your portfolio through the power of compounding.

To demonstrate the enormous impact of an extra few years on your savings, the graph below compares three scenarios involving the same investor who has accumulated R10 million capital lump sum at age 55 years.

1. Retires at 55 years

In the first scenario, the individual retires at the age of 55 years and chooses to adopt a 5% annual withdrawal rate. Assuming that inflation rises by 6% every year and that their investment achieves growth of 8.5% every year (or 2.5% real growth), their capital would be depleted at the age of 83 years.

2. Delaying retirement until age 60 – does not add to capital

In the second scenario, the individual chooses to delay their retirement for five years, or until the age of 60. However, instead of working full time, they choose to slow down and cut back on their hours, meaning that they only earn sufficient income to cover their monthly costs. They do not add or withdraw any amounts from their retirement pot during this time, but their capital continues to achieve real growth of 2.5% after inflation.

Even without making any additional contributions, by choosing to delay their retirement and simply allowing their capital to grow for an additional five years without eating into it, their retirement savings would then comfortably last until the age of 94 – even assuming the same 5% withdrawal rate, but at a later date, as the first scenario.

3. Delaying retirement until age 65 – continues to save

In the third scenario, the individual continues to work until the age of 65, and also chooses to keep contributing towards their retirement savings in order to increase their capital base to a greater degree.

Assume that this individual adds just R5,000 per month to their investments while still working, and that the capital also sees real growth of 2.5% a year, their capital base would grow to over R11.5 million by the time they retire ay 65 years – a R1.5 million increase in real terms from the R10 million they would have retired with had they retired early at the age of 55 years.

Given the increase in their retirement capital, the individual then chooses to draw down only 2.5% a year on their capital for their income, increasing this amount by 5% each year to keep up with inflation.

This means that their capital would last until they are 105 – in today’s era, a more likely age for the individual to reach than the 83 years outlined in the first scenario.

It’s therefore vital to make sure that you’ve done all the proper planning and calculations before you take the big step, not forgetting to add a buffer for any emergencies or unexpected expenses. It’s important that you don’t rush such a big decision, and rather take the time to consider all the implications before you opt to retire early.

For instance, you are most employable when you are already employed, so it could be difficult to re-enter the job market in ten years if you realise that your money may be running out. Also remember that advancements in medical technology and healthier lifestyles mean that people are increasingly living to 90 and even 100 years old.

However, if you are desperate to escape the daily grind, rather consider cutting down your working hours or look for a less strenuous position, even at a lower salary, simply to cover your current living expenses and avoid falling back on your savings.

What else do you need to consider?


Inflation is a key risk that needs to be factored in when examining whether you have enough to retire. With future inflation an unknown – and impacted by variables beyond our control, such as the rand exchange rate – having a buffer is absolutely key.

Many people allow for a 4% increase in spending per year to account for inflation, but for many of our wealthy clients, their inflation rate is actually closer to 10%, meaning that they’ve had to dip into their savings more than they had originally anticipated.

Is your pension/ provident fund appropriately diversified

There are many companies that use life-staging analysis when performing retirement planning for employees and, as employees approach their retirement, an increasing portion of their pension or provident fund is moved into cash. However, cash investments do not offer inflation-beating returns over the long term.

Engage the services of a professional financial advisor sooner rather than later to check on your behalf that your retirement savings are appropriately diversified, and that your capital should continue to achieve real returns and growth above inflation.

Outstanding debts

Another important point to consider is whether you have any outstanding debt that still need to be paid. Monthly vehicle repayments, for instance, could eat into your capital very quickly. Concentrating your focus on repaying any debt before you retire could therefore make a huge difference to your monthly expenses and thus your draw from your pension fund.

Future cash flow

While no one can predict how long they may live or how markets may change, a professional financial advisor should be able to identify whether you may be running out of money 10 or 15 years ahead of time, while you still have time to adjust your lifestyle and spending.

It can be extremely difficult to identify potential problems with your future cash flow yourself, and the chances are that you might realise you have a problem too late. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to engage the services of a professional to do the calculations and necessary planning on your behalf, both before and during your retirement.

Kerry King is advisory partner at Citadel.

The views and opinions shared in this article belong to their author, cannot be construed as financial advice, and do not necessarily mirror the views and opinions of Smart Money

Article take and adapted for Smart Wellness From from:

Continue Reading

Personal Finance

How much you need to save to retire comfortably?

Thinking of retiring?

Just how much do you need to retire? One of the biggest concerns facing South African households today is saving up enough money for retirement.

While we tend to contribute towards a retirement annuity and/or pension plan every month, it can often fall to the back of our minds before becoming a serious factor as we near retirement age.

With South Africans now living longer, it has also become harder to determine “how much is enough” to retire.

With that in mind, BusinessTech approached several prominent financial analysts to determine how much we would need to save – at various ages – to retire a millionaire at 65 in South Africa.

The calculations specifically focus on savings, as it can be an immensely difficult task to calculate RAs and pension plans due to their personalised and complex nature.

The calculations are also not intended to act as financial advice, but rather to illustrate the importance of saving as soon as possible.

As noted by Jaco van Tonder, director of Advisory Services at Investec Asset Management, the rudimentary calculation is based on the monthly contribution needed to arrive at a capital lump sum of R1 million (in today’s money terms) at age 65.

Key assumptions: 

  • General Inflation: 6%.
  • Effective capital gains tax (CGT) rate: We used the current effective CGT rate for an individual in the top income tax bracket – 16.4%. Since this is a long-term investment it is assumed that the part of the investment return that would attract income tax (interest and property rental income) would be negligible. So the entire investment return was taxed at the effective CGT rate only.
  • Investment return: We assumed a long-term investment return of 11% pa – if you deduct the 6% inflation assumption, this comes to a real investment return of 5% pa, which is what one can expect from an investment portfolio with at least 80% or more in equities.
  • Investment term: We looked at people starting to save at various age brackets from age 25 to age 50, assuming that they continue to pay the required premium until they are age 65.
  • Regular contribution/premium: We assumed that the investor would be increasing the size of their regular contribution every 12 months in line with the inflation assumption above. This is important, and probably the most realistic assumption, as most people experience a steady inflation increasing salary, enabling them to increase the size of their monthly contribution to the investment annually.

Retirement couple

Age at which investor starts saving Required starting monthly contribution 
20 R921
25 R1 131
30 R1 408
35 R1 786
40 R2 326
45 R3 152
50 R4 546

Is R1 million enough to retire on?

While R1 million is a nice round number to work with, it is unlikely to be anywhere near enough to retire on, said Lucienne Fild, an independent communications consultant for both the Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (ASISA) and the Actuarial Society of South Africa.

He cited Peter Doyle, former president of the Actuarial Society of South Africa, who followed actuarial models to show that a good rule of thumb is that 12 times your annual salary is likely to buy you a financially comfortable retirement.

This is assuming that you are debt free by the time you retire.

However, Doyle also noted that if you need to financially support your spouse in retirement, you need to work on a multiple of at least 15.

Continue Reading