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Monday, January 21, 2013

Why NPS is the best way to plan for your retirement

The Indian population is greying. According to the latest UNFPA report, the number of Indians above 60 years is projected to rise to 55% by 2050. The demographics also indicate an increasing longevity with a more active lifestyle after retirement owing to betterment in medical facilities.

While this is good news, it also means that tomorrow's retirees will have a longer retirement and must, therefore, accumulate a bigger corpus for their sunset years. Retirement planning involves disciplined saving, vigilant investment to build a sufficient retirement corpus and its judicious drawdown in the post-retirement phase.

The National Pension System (NPS), launched by the Pension Fund Regulatory & Development Authority (PFRDA), takes all these concerns into account. The NPS is a sophisticated innovation that is based on the world's best practices in the pension sector. While saving for a long-term goal such as retirement, the cost matters a lot. Over 35-40 years, the charges can shave off a significant amount from the corpus. The NPS charges fund management fees of 0.0102% for the government employees and there's a ceiling of 0.25% for the private sector.

This is perhaps the lowest in the world. Account opening, handling and administrative charges are also the lowest, making the cost-adjusted returns of the NPS quite attractive in the long run. It is estimated that the total cost of the NPS, including the fund management fee, will not exceed 0.5% per year, making it the cheapest financial product in India. The NPS is a well-regulated, transparent and flexible scheme. It has laid down prudent investing norms for fund managers, and their performance and portfolios are regularly monitored by the NPS Trust under the overall supervision of the PFRDA.

The scheme offers complete flexibility. The investor decides the percentage of the corpus that goes into equity, corporate bonds and government securities, with the only limitation being the 50% cap on exposure to equity. One of the most outstanding features of the NPS is the 'lifecycle fund'. It is meant for those who are not financially aware or can't manage their asset allocation themselves. It is also the default option for someone who has not indicated the desired allocation for his investments.

Under this option, the investor's age decides the equity exposure. The 50% allocation to equity is reduced every year by 2% after the investor turns 35, till it comes down to 10%. This is in keeping with the strategy to opt for a higher-risk, higher-return portfolio mix earlier in life, when there is ample time to make up for any possible black swan event. Gradually, as the investor approaches retirement, he moves to a more stable fixed-return, lowrisk portfolio. This automatic rejigging of the asset allocation is a unique feature of the NPS.

No other pension plan or asset allocation mutual fund offers such a facility to investors. There are a few funds based on age, but they are one-size-fits-all solutions, not customised to the individual's age. Another unique feature of the NPS is the tax benefit it offers under the newly added Section 80 CCD(2).
Source : The Economic Times, 21 Jan, 2013

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