Many investors assume that they must first retire from their employment, for many at the age of 60/65, before they can retire out of their retirement annuity and purchase a living annuity.

In a complex world, very little, if anything can be viewed in black and white. Especially regarding retirement.

In the past decade, the restrictions imposed by Regulation 28 of the Pension Funds Act, have worsened the retirement savings outcomes for many South Africans. The main reason is that there is an offshore exposure limit of 30% for retirement or pension investment vehicles, leaving the returns of investors and to-be retirees vulnerable and exposed to the lacklustre performance of the local market, the JSE.

The good news is that there is an alternative option to consider to be freed from the restrictions of Regulation 28 and gain greater control over retirement investments. The solution is simple – retire out of retirement annuities or pension funds and purchase a living annuity with the proceeds. This investment option has far fewer restrictions on retirement savings – notably the fact that it allows for 100% offshore exposure.

Below is a table comparing the returns of the past 15 years from the JSE Index, with the returns of that of the MSCI World Index and the S&P 500 Index. The differences are sobering, to say the very least…

 10 years:

Start Date  01 Feb12
End Date 01 Feb 22
Initial Investment R100 000


Index  Investment Value February 2022
FTSE/JSE All Share Total Return (ZAR) R216 894
MSCI World Total Return (ZAR) R602 335
S&P 500 Total Return (ZAR) R675 535


FTSE/JSE All Share Total Return (ZAR) MSCI World Total Return (ZAR) S&P 500 Total Return (ZAR)
Current Investment Value 216 894 602 335 675 535
Annual Returns in ZAR 8.05% 19.67% 21.05%

Source: B

When it comes to investment planning for retirement the two main phases are ‘pre-retirement’ and ‘post retirement’. The big misconception is the middle. The majority of South Africans view their retirement annuity as strictly ‘pre-retirement’, and a living annuity as strictly ‘post retirement’. Thus, they assume that they must first retire from their employment or work in general, for many at the age of 60/65, and then once each of these two conditions are both met simultaneously, they can retire out of their retirement annuity and purchase a living annuity. Simply, it does not have to be this way…

The big misconception lies in what is defined as the retirement age in South Africa, which is fortunately 55. Once you have reached the age of 55, regardless of whether you are employed or not, or whether you intend to retire in the short-term or not, you are eligible to retire out of a retirement annuity and use the proceeds to invest in a living annuity.

As mentioned earlier, the biggest drawcard for living annuities is that they are not governed by Regulation 28, and thus have far fewer restrictions, in particular the option to invest up to 100% offshore. The benefit of retirement annuities – actively promoted by especially large insurers – is the tax benefits it offers as contributions made are tax deductible, at least up to certain limits, whilst earning an income.

Considering the high tax burden on income earning South Africans, tax benefits should never be ignored. There is a simple solution – investors can retire out of a current retirement annuity at 55, use the proceeds to purchase a living annuity, while at the same time can open a new, ‘smaller’ retirement annuity to contribute to until age 65, and take advantage of the tax cuts offered by retirement annuities whilst still working post 55.

Once the investor officially retires, say at 65, they can once again then retire out of the second, smaller retirement annuity, and add the additional proceeds to the existing living annuity. Thus, for the years post 55, whilst you are still working, you can look to maximise the growth of your retirement funds.

The flexibility this option offers is an important point to consider for retirement planning, especially for those who want more control over their retirement savings, greater access to other markets, and more freedom in deciding on where to invest their hard-earned money.

As with all investment decisions or financial planning strategies, it is advisable to navigate it with the assistance of a qualified, experienced advisor, who can offer the appropriate financial advice best suited to your personal circumstances. Read more about planning for retirement.