MAY 15 — The Malaysia Madani government needs to carefully reconsider its decision on the implementation of the EPF Account 3 also known as Akaun Fleksibel.

It must take into account various factors to formulate more pragmatic policies to ensure that retirees in their senior years can enjoy quality of life with a healthy cash flow devoid of worries.

Wanita MCA said EPF savings should be reserved for retirement purposes as much as possible. — Bernama pic
Wanita MCA said EPF savings should be reserved for retirement purposes as much as possible. — Bernama pic

On the first day when execution of the EPF Account 3 came into effect, large crowds were seen thronging EPF branches nationwide. Wanita MCA is concerned that since most EPF contributors are mainly transferring their savings from their EPF Account 2 to Account 3, this reflects that due to financial constraints and day-to-day hardships, many Malaysians are forced to prioritise current needs ahead of planning for retirement.

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The government needs to tackle the economic difficulties confronting the rakyat. It is necessary to explore and implement comprehensive solutions to improve the economic wellbeing of citizens, increase incomes and curb the rising cost of living, rather than repeatedly approve EPF members under 55 years to withdraw a portion of their retirement savings through Accounts 2 and 3.

Permitting early withdrawals of retirement savings through the Akaun Fleksibel is not the solution to the problem; On the contrary, it increases the risk of insufficient retirement funds for Malaysians. This is a misguided practice. The government has not fully listened to nor accepted the requests of EPF contributors. Neither has it given EPF members the opportunity of choosing whether to participate.

Compelling every EPF contributor under the age of 55 years to automatically open Account 3, instead of providing an option for members to voluntarily open the Akaun Fleksibel, ignores the reality that not all members need or want to withdraw their savings prematurely. It is instead a disguised “enticement” for members to deplete their savings for old age at an early stage as cautioned by Bank Negara.

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In April last year, Bank Negara cautioned that the risk of insufficient savings is worsening, with Malaysians at risk of running out of their savings at the age of 58 due to low wages, high debts and premature withdrawal of their EPF during the pandemic.

EPF needs to remind its members that EPF savings should be reserved for retirement purposes as much as possible, rather than being exploited casually to meet current consumption needs.

The government can boost the economy, generate employment opportunities, and increase the overall income level of citizens by formulating and implementing effective economic policies, including encouraging foreign investment, supporting innovative technology industries, delve into artificial intelligence and promoting the development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), thereby driving economic growth and providing Malaysians with more career prospects and stable sources of income.

To ensure that the basic living needs of the people are met, the government should implement effective price control measures, especially for essential goods, to ensure price stability. Through tax policies and subsidy programmes, alleviate the financial burden of low and middle-income households so that they can better cope with life pressures.

Meanwhile, Malaysians also need to improve their financial literacy and retirement planning awareness, manage personal finances more effectively, avoid early EPF withdrawals of EPF savings, and adequately prepare for their future retirement life.

Enhancing financial education, enhancing personal financial planning and management awareness, rational consumption and savings, in order to better cope with future retirement life needs, are proactive actions that Malaysians must take.

The government ought to organise financial knowledge dissemination activities, establish specialised training institutions, provide financial planning guidance, and help Malaysians establish sound financial planning systems.

* This statement is submitted by Wong You Fong, Wanita MCA National Chairperson.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.