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Is a Retirement annuity worth it?

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Might be a stupid question, but is it worth getting one and how exactly does an RA work?


I have a TFSA and I have an EasyEquities account, but I often find myself not taking full advantage. It's not like I do not have the money to invest, but I do lack the discipline I think the last ETF I bought was in April. Instead I ate out and opened a second gym contract.


Funny thing is, since I opened this Discovery Bank account it really made me think about what happens the day I can no longer work and what stuff needs to be in place when I retire.  

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Yes, it is definitely worth getting an RA!


An RA works as follows:


- You pay a monthly investment premium not exceeding 15% of your income (or you lose some tax benefits).

-The premium is invested in actively managed funds (similar to units trusts) on your behalf by the finance house.

- When you do your tax return each year, SARS refunds all the tax paid on the amount you invested during the tax year for your RA. (In other words, since you will not be relying on a state pension later, SARS will waive the tax now of any money earned that you invest in an RA as an incentive).

- You cannot withdraw the money until retirement age. (Well, theoretically you can draw the money before retirement but there are extremely heavy penalties plus you have to pay back all the tax you ever got refunded, leaving you with very little).

- The money is untouchable by anyone, even if you go insolvent - it will be there when you retire.


On retirement, you have two choices (or you can split your money into these two options according to the percentage you choose):


1) You can buy a life annuity from the insurance company with your money (or part of your money). This means you pay a once-off premium (a percentage of your RA savings) for a guaranteed salary (plus inflation-related annual increases) for the rest of your life. You will receive a guaranteed salary until the day you die, irrespective of the age that you die. After you die, you don't get any of your capital back from the money spent on this option.


2) You can invest in a living annuity with your money (or part of your money). This means that the capital is invested and you take a certain earnings from the investment each month. Your salary is not guaranteed, but varies according to the market. This option pays a higher monthly retirement salary, but at some age, if you live longer than estimated, the money may run out (since you draw a little of the capital each month). If you die earlier than expected, the remaining capital forms part of your estate.


Most people do a mix of the two - for example, use half their RA to make sure they are supported until death, and the other half to live the good life until, say 80 years old.





Edited by SaurusDNA
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Oh, another thing - with RA's, starting young is huge, due to the power of compound interest.


A 21-year old who invests R1000 into an RA for 10 years (until age 31) and then never contributes another cent again, will earn more at retirement than someone who starts at age 31 and pays R1000 for 34 years until age 65. Such is the power of compound interest.


Thus, start as soon as possible with your RA!!!

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All I'm going to say is this:


Assuming you bring in a R20,000 pm salary, SARS will take R2,722.06 and leave you with R17,277.94.


Assuming you pay 15% of your salary into an RA (and your payslip is structured like a pension fund), SARS will take R1,942.06 and you'll be left with R15,057.94.


So for the R3,000 you saved into an RA/Pension, you are only R2,220 "poorer" and scored R780 (that's about 25% growth right there depending on how you look at it). If your salary wasn't structured you'd get back almost R10,000 from SARS come EFiling season provided you include it on your tax return.


Now, it's not all sunshine and roses. The money in the RA/Pension will be taxed again at some stage and you don't know what the tax climate is going to be like at that time. They're also talking about prescribed assets (Eskom, Telkom etc) which is a concern.


I reckon that if you can afford an RA you should definitely make use of it (a Pension Fund is even better imo, less rules). If you cannot easily afford it you should probably go speak to a financial advisor but I'm willing to bet good money that their response will be the stock standard:

  1. Get insurance
  2. Settle debt
  3. Secure retirement
  4. Look at other investments (TFSA).

So if you do go see an FA, get one that charges for the consultation and with a good reputation and most importantly: DON'T SIGN ANYTHING. Listen...

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For RA's, I'd go for a company like Allan Gray or Alexander Forbes.


Companies like Old Mutual , Sanlam and Liberty Life are also reputable, but their fees tend to be higher and their returns lower in my experience (although you should do some research first to verify the facts.)


I think Bandit has hit on something very, very important. If you see a financial adviser, the first thing they will try and do is sell you life insurance, because the commission on that is huge compared to the commission on an RA. Don't give in - tell them you want an RA and nothing else at this stage.

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Here are the main differences between a TFIA and an RA:


Tax savings: 
TFIA - pay tax now (TFIA savings is paid for out of after-tax income) - save a ton of tax later.

RA - All tax gets refunded now, but you pay tax on your income when you retire. (You should use the annual tax refund for retirement savings too.)


Availability of money:

TFIA - Can be withdrawn without penalties, but then you can't put the money back.
RA - Practically, you can't withdraw anything until retirement without severe consequences.


TFIA - Gives a lump sum on withdrawal.

RA - Pays a monthly income after retirement.


TFIA - You manage your own money.

RA - Your money is managed by a fund manager.


So all in all - it's best to have both an RA and a TFIA. As Bandit says, it's nice to have the government fund a huge chunk of your retirement now, but then you also want to reap the benefits of a tax-free income after retirement too.







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18 hours ago, Spreadsheet Ranger said:

Thank you for both responses. Does 10x or Sygnia offer Pension Funds how are they different to an RA? 


You as an individual cannot open a pension fund. The company you work for can. As an individual, you can open an RA.


RA - matures at retirement age. You'll then be able to buy an annuity with it which will provide you with income. Other than that, the only way to get money out of an RA is to formally emigrate or you have to prove that you'll basically die if that money doesn't become available (I've only heard of this, can imagine that it is borderline impossible).


Pension - when you leave your current place of employment you'll have four options:

  1. Take the Pension money and move it into an RA
  2. Move the pension money to your new employer's pension fund
  3. Take the money and run (you'll pay tax on it)
  4. Move it to a preservation fund

Preservation fund uses the same type of funds (regulation 28) as your pension and RA does, however you have the option of withdrawing from the fund once before retirement. Not sure if that restriction is per fund or per tax entity (you).


Personally, I have a pension fund at 10x and an RA at Allan Gray. When I leave my current place of employment I will move my pension to a preservation fund. If I had to start an RA and only have one - 10x.

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Benefit of a TFIA if you start it early enough is that although your contribution limits are low the years it has to grow in value will result in quite a sum of money. Chances are that those limits will increase a couple of times more in the coming decades before you retire.


Once you reach retirement (or have enough funds in your TFIA) you can use it to buy income generating funds which will provide you with additional income (tax free). 

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The Sygnia skeleton balanced funds are cheap with TIC=0.55% and is also a good choice. It got cheaper over the year,  the reason might be that the funds holdings are Sygnia ETFs. 


Together with my RA, I use my TFIA to increase my offshore holdings, so no local equities outside RA. 

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11 minutes ago, SaurusDNA said:


Problem is, in a TFIA, there are no tax savings in offshore ETFs except capital gains...   😪


"Trace" amounts, surely. I don't think we're losing out that much at all. Those offshore ETFs paying dividends etc have crappy payouts anyway. 

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  • 2 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/16/2020 at 6:20 PM, John said:

How do fees compare in 10x RA vs OUTvest RA? 

Does it make more sense to stay with the same provider? Eg, if one has a TFSA with Easy equities, does it make sense to go with Easy RA ? 


Hi John,


For a fee comparison. It depends on the size of of your RA. For lesser amounts, Sygnia, 10X come out tops. Once you hit the R500k mark, Outvest becomes very attractive. However, their TICs are still somewhat unproven. I am sitting back for a while to 



Does it make more sense to stay with the same provider? Eg, if one has a TFSA with Easy equities, does it make sense to go with Easy Equities.

Not for the purpose of fees. However, it does make it somewhat easier from an adminstrative point of view. Less pain in opening multiple accounts with various providers.

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  • 11 months later...

If you feel you lack discipline, why not set up a recurring contribution to your ETF fund via debit order? Even a small monthly amount. You'll get the benefit of cost price averaging AND the peace of mind that you're putting away that money every month before you eat out and waste it on unneccessary stuff. Then if you want to diversify, you can always take out an additional RA. 

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