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Fund voluntary scheme

Fiji National Provident Fund
Saturday, June 17, 2017

IN our article titled 'Membership and Member Accounts" (The Fiji Times, 25/03/2017), we explained the two types of memberships at the Fiji National Provident Fund. These are the compulsory and voluntary membership.

This week, we will delve more into voluntary membership, which is also known as the voluntary scheme.

Whilst FNPF is a household name, our involvement with the fund only kicks in when we start working and/or when our employers asks us to fill the employee registration form. Even then, many of us are oblivious to the underlying objective of Fund, which is to ensure that we save enough for a meaningful retirement.

One of the Board's core functions is to create awareness to ensure that our members (and the general public) are equipped with the necessary information to make informed financial decisions about their retirement.

On the same note, we urge all of you to take ownership of your FNPF accounts — know your balance, your eligibilities and related benefits; and to start planning for your retirement. The earlier you plan, the more you can save.

We reiterate that FNPF is a retirement savings fund. It is self-funded and operates without Government assistance or subsidy.

The purpose of the fund is to collect, grow and manage your savings until such time you require these for fund-approved preretirement assistance and/or for your retirement. Initially, the fund was set up to cater only for workers in formal employment, or compulsory members.

In 1970, the board extended coverage to informal workers inclusive of self-employed Fijians by introducing the voluntary scheme.

Background

A voluntary member is an individual who cannot be classed as a compulsory member because of the informal nature of his employment status.

The scheme is inclusive in that it targets self-employed, students, farmers, businessmen etc. In 1994 domestic workers were also given the opportunity to become members.

The current eligible age for entry is between the ages of 16 years to 54 years. The FNPF Act 2011 allows a six year-old to join the scheme, however this has yet to be implemented.

Like compulsory members, voluntary members accounts are also split into two; a general account (30 per cent) and a preserved account (70 per cent).'

At only $7 minimum deposit per month these members can access the same assistance as a compulsory member.

Members can choose to pay more than $7 per month, as long as they are able to declare the source of their funds.

In 2003, the fund undertook a major mobile registration drive to cover the self-employed including taxidrivers, market vendors, sugarcane farmers, domestic workers, fishermen, housewives and secondary school students. About 7276 members were registered over this period.

Given the nature of this product, and its importance in securing members' future, the Sugarcane Growers Council will sign a memorandum of understanding with the FNPF soon to allow sugarcane growers to become voluntary members.

The council wants to ensure that sugarcane growers have funds set aside for their retirement.

In the last few years we have also had an influx of professional athletes such as overseas-based rugby players who have registered as voluntary members. Players such as Olympic gold medalist Semi Kunatani, former Fiji rep Jone Qovu and former Italian rugby international Manoa Vosawai.

We provide below some testimonials of those who have opted for voluntary membership and begin with a professional athlete.

Case Study 1: Jone Qovu, professional rugby player

An athlete's career peaks and drops at different ages, as such their playing days are numbered.

For many, the challenge sets in as they grow older, made worse by the wear and tear nature of the physicality of the sport they represent.

And when it's a physical game like rugby, the stakes are high that players involved eventually hang their boots. This is true for many Fijian professional rugby players, including many former and current national reps.

Former Fiji number-eight and French based rugby player, Jone Qovu, is aware that he does not have much time on the rugby field.

That's one of the reasons he has taken on an active role in planning for his future.

Mr Qovu joined the voluntary scheme several years ago, among other investments he made for his and his family's future wellbeing.

Mr Qovu is among a handful of overseas-based players who have joined this scheme, and has further capitalised on this opportunity by opening an account for his wife as well.

"I was shown an illustration of how much our investment would grow over the years if I invested in FNPF.

It made me realise that if I save now I will be able to retire comfortably so I made sure that my wife and I joined the Voluntary Scheme. Apart from the early retirement benefits that are available, there is also the attractive interest," he said.

Mr Qovu has called on all professional athletes to start planning for their future "so that we do not struggle later when there are minimum options to earn an income".

"Some of my colleagues have played top level rugby and earned good money but because they did not have a savings plan much of what they earned has been used up. I do not want to find myself in the same situation as I have my own family to think about."

Case Study 2: Semi from Yasawa, former naval officer

Semi was still a member of the Fiji Navy, when he registered his children for the voluntary scheme. His children were secondary school students then.

"I had excess cash whenever I returned from overseas tours so I thought it was best that I invest these in my children's future," he said.

"As soon as they were eligible, I opened their FNPF accounts and made regular payments for them both. I didn't pay that much, just $15 each for both of my kids every fortnight."

He said by investing in their future he was also inculcating in his children a savings culture.

"Hopefully, my children appreciate this sacrifice and will continue to do the same for their children too, one day."

One of Semi's daughters is now a full time employee for an investment company and is a compulsory member.

And given that she already had an account with FNPF, the transition from voluntary to compulsory membership was described by her father as "easy peasy".

Case Study 3: Jitesh, taxi business owner

Jitesh is a 45-year-old taxidriver. Money was scarce and his family struggled to get by each day.

Growing up he vowed that when he had his own family, he would do his best to provide for them.

At 16, he worked part-time as a packer at one of the supermarkets and saved every dollar he earned.

After completing high school he opted to continue working rather than pursue tertiary studies as his parents could not afford the tuition.

Jitesh has always been good with numbers and managed to secure a job as a pay clerk at a manufacturing company. Over the years he climbed through the ranks to finally become a supervisor.

By this time he was married with a child.

Jitesh remained vigilant with his finances so he knew how much he had in his account, and his other savings inclusive of term deposits.

Jitesh decided to resign from his job six years ago to run a taxi business.

"One of the first things I did after resigning was to register myself as a voluntary member.

"It's all about being money smart. We need to stretch every dollar we make. I ensure that I make every dollar I earn work for me.

"And one way of doing that is by growing my dollar at FNPF, where I receive an attractive tax-free interest."

Who can become a voluntary member?

Anyone who is self-employed or a student 16 years old and above for e.g.

* Domestic worker

* Sweet seller

* Fisherman

* Market vendor

* Taxi driver

* cane cutter/farmer

* Unemployed person

* House wife or house husband

How can I become a voluntary member?

* Fill in the voluntary membership form or FNPF 3V.

* Original or certified copy of birth certificate post 2000 extract

* 2 passport sized photos (bring originals for authentication. Once your application is accepted, you will be registered and issued a FNPF/FRCA Joint ID Card

* You will be given payment forms to submit with each contribution.

Voluntary Charges

$50 is the amount required to open your Voluntary Membership account. This is to cover the Special Death Benefit premium for the first year of membership.

How much can I contribute?

* The minimum amount you can deposit into your account every month is $7.00.

* There is no maximum limit.

Making a payment

* Cash or cheque to any FNPF office

* Telegraphic Money Order (Post Office fee of $1.44 per transaction)

* FIJI NATIONAL PROVIDENT FUND

For more information: please contact: info@fnpf.com.fj or mediaqueries@fnpf.com.fj








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