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Who Can Be A Member, How, What It Means

In our last article, we gave you a snapshot of the origins of the Fiji National Provident Fund, its modest beginnings and identified some key personnel who were instrumental in
01 Apr 2017 10:40
Who Can Be A Member, How, What It Means
FNPF

In our last article, we gave you a snapshot of the origins of the Fiji National Provident Fund, its modest beginnings and identified some key personnel who were instrumental in the incubation and later on the establishment of Fiji’s only retirement savings scheme way back in 1966.

Over the last 50 years, the Fund has been under the stewardship of the FNPF Board, the body corporate that is responsible for the affairs of this important  institution.

We also outlined the requirements for Board membership, which is now based on skills set and key competence rather than affiliation under Fiji’s tripartite arrangement.

We also discussed two Board functions; namely the collection of member contributions and investing them in commercially sound and prudent investment assets so that the Board can grow members’ funds over their working life.

We also discussed the contribution rates paid in by compulsory members, which is 8% of their gross wages/income whilst employers contribute 10 per cent.

This week we will focus on FNPF membership and member accounts. We hope that at the end of the article you would have a better understanding of the definition and types of FNPF membership, & what types of accounts FNPF holds for members.

 

FNPF Membership

Who is a member and who is eligible to be a member?

A FNPF member is anyone that is registered as such and is assigned a membership number. In the past the membership number denoted two alphabets followed by three digits (e.g. MP801). These numbers, known currently as legacy numbers, can also be converted to its numerical equivalent.

As such, the number MP801 is also read

as 1316801 (M-corresponds with 13 and P with 16, where A, B, C equals 1, 2, 3). The new FNPF Member IT system has standardized these numbers further and shows the legacy number 1316801 as MN11316801N.

A FNPF member can be either a Compulsory member or Voluntary Member.

She/he cannot be both at the same time.

 

Compulsory Members

Compulsory members form the bulk of our members.

These members are employed in the formal sector and earn wages/salary paid by owners of business or a person that he/she is contracted to work for. These members are also referred to as employees.

The FNPF Act 2011, defines an employee

as:

An individual who, being in Fiji, is engaged under a contract to perform manual labour (whether as an individual

or as one of a group of persons).

An individual who, being a resident

of Fiji, is employed under an employment contract or as an apprentice outside Fiji by a person who has a place of business in Fiji

An individual who, being a resident of Fiji, is engaged under a contract or arrangement entered into in Fiji as a master or member of the crew of a vessel, or as captain or member of the crew of an aircraft, the owner of which has a place of business in Fiji.

An individual engaged to provide services under a contract or arrangement under which the person is remunerated (wholly or partly) by commission, success fees or similar payments.

An individual who was a Member of the Legislative Council, the House of Representatives or the Senate after 21 October 1966

An apprentice: The minimum age limit for compulsory members is 15, which is the legal age for employment in Fiji. As long as these members continue to work and their FNPF contributions are deducted, then they remain members, regardless of their age. They can choose to remain members after they reach the retirement age. Yes, there is no maximum age limit for compulsory members.

 

Re-entrant members

This is a sub-type of compulsory membership. Section 36(6) of the FNPF Act states that

“A re-entrant refers to members who had withdrew their money under the applicable full withdrawal grounds can be re-admitted as a FNPF member if they are employees of a registered employer but only on one further occasion Only members who had fully withdrawn under the grounds of Retirement, Medical, Migration or Marriage, qualify for re-entrant as an FNPF compulsory member.

These members, like other compulsory members, are entitled to the annual interest income payment and the FNPF pension for the second time. However, the Special Death Benefit cover only applies to those that re-entered under Migration and Marriage.

 

Voluntary members

As the membership type suggests, these are members that join the FNPF voluntary scheme. They choose to become members of the Fund; and most of our members in this category do so to ensure that they save for their retirement.

The Voluntary Membership is currently open to Fiji citizens who are between the ages of 16 to 54.

The FNPF Act 2011 has reduced the voluntary age for members to 6 year olds.

However, this has not yet been implemented as the Fund is currently reviewing the Voluntary Scheme and its offerings. Nevertheless, in reducing the voluntary age, the Board is mindful of the need for Fijians to pursue and encourage a culture of savings through its financial literacy programs.

This is one such effort. Saving early means that young Fijians will also get an opportunity to enjoy a healthy balance to meet tertiary education fees and eventually when they later retire at the end of their work life.

The product is tailored to make savings attractive for the young generation, given that over time FNPF provides one of the best investment returns in Fiji.

Voluntary members do not have a steady source of income, contribution is set at a minimum of $7 per month.

These members can contribute as much as they can though. Any member depositing any amount above $5,000 would need to declare the source of these funds and these would be reported to the Reserve Bank of Fiji for clearance, before FNPF will accept such contributions.

Those who are eligible to become voluntary members include, but not limited to:

Domestic worker

Sweet-seller

Fisherman

Market vendor

Taxi driver

Cane cutter/farmer

Unemployed person

House-wife or house-husband

 

Over the years we have had an influx of professional athletes such as overseas based rugby players who have registered as Voluntary members. One such player is Manoa Vosawai, a former Italian international rugby rep, who now plays rugby in Wales.

He stated that the Voluntary scheme is good for savings and will be useful when he retires. Players like Manoa, know that their playing days are numbered, and whilst they can they will put aside some of their earnings to invest in their retirement.

 

Member Accounts

All contributions received on behalf of our members, whether for Compulsory or Voluntary Members, are deposited into their accounts. All members have two accounts with the Fund, the Preserved Account and the General Account.

These accounts were established on 1 November, 2014. Each member’s total balance on that day were split into the two accounts, 70% was directed to Preserved and 30% to General.

All contributions received since then are now split into the Preserved Account (70%) and the General Account (30%). For example if we receive a contribution of $100 per month for member X, we will deposit $70 to his Preserved Account and $30 to his General Account

 

  1. Preserved Account

Funds kept in this account is reserved for retirement, which supports the Fund’s vision of securing members future by ensuring that members accumulate savings during their working life for a meaningful balance upon retirement.

The only time in which a member can access their Preserved account is when they purchase their first property. Members will be able to access up to 30% of their Preserved account (30% of 70% = 21%) in addition to the 30% available from their General account.

It is important to also note that any amount withdrawn from the Preserved account will mean that any contributions received thereafter must be credited to the member’s Preserved account for 5 years, or until the amount credited equals the amount withdrawn, whichever comes first.

 

  1. General Account

Funds in this account are available for early withdrawals under Board approved withdrawal grounds such as:

Medical (Local & Overseas)

Education (Local & Overseas)

Housing

Funeral

Unemployment

Once these funds are exhausted, then members will need to wait it out until this account is replenished before they can draw from it again. Again, members cannot access their preserved account until they are 55. That is why, it is important that members consider and re-consider the need to withdraw their general account given that it takes years to replenish funds used from this account, as only 30% of our monthly contributions are directed to this account.

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