The recent heated conversation about CPF seems to be missing the point that we should all be talking about retirement planning instead of who’s got control over our money.

Since last weekend, a video of a 76 year old retired teacher pleading her MP for the return of her CPF money at a CPF oriented dialog has gone viral since it was first posted last Saturday. The video has caused people on both ends of the political spectrum to engage in inflammatory conversations online. To me, the simple truth of this episode currently gripping the entire nation is basically a discussion between the head and the heart.

Heart: OMG!!! That poor aunty!!! How can we as a society allow this to happen?! What is wrong with the Zeng Hu?! Why does it refuse to return HER money to her so she can put her affairs in order?! For god’s sake she’s 76!!! Dun have much time left liao, why let her continue to suffer?!

Head (unmoved): Well she is a former civil servant, going by her age bracket she should be one of the civil servants on the old style pension scheme that predated CPF. This probably means she is on the CFC healthcare scheme where her healthcare is basically free as long as she goes to a public clinic or hospital. Plus she’s also one of the people who qualify for the pioneer package so her healthcare is pretty much assured. Also hor don’t forget she lives in a landed property in Thompson. The people who live in that area are all living on a gold mine. Many folks online have said her home is worth $3 Million!

Heart (outraged): About that house of hers…It’s appalling how people online violated her privacy and posted the picture of her home just to say she’s not poor! People don’t understand that you can be asset rich and cash poor??! People need to remember that just because she’s sitting on a valuable piece of real estate doesn’t automatically mean she can just suka suka liquidate it for money! Especially now with the real estate market in a slump! Remember?! Our friends in real estate have told us they have problems selling the condos their companies manage now. One of them even told us that they are close to desperate because they have no income since their line of work pays you based on commission!

Anyway back to the aunty. So what if she lives in that house? Maybe she inherited it? Or maybe she bought it back then when houses were dirt cheap in Singapore like those retirees living in Teachers’ estate! Or there might be some other reasons why she can’t just cash it out and sell it. We only know what we saw from that video and what people say online! We don’t know her entire situation! And so what if she is living in that house?! She is entitled to her CPF. It IS her own hard earned money you know!!!

Head: So what if the real estate market is in the doldrums right now? Her house is worth 3 million you know?! Most people here can’t even dream of earning that amount in their lifetime. She should cash out! Sell! Sell her house and take the cash and move to a smaller place. And on the off chance she still has plenty of years ahead of her, she can use both her money from her property and her CPF!

Heart (incensed) : Walao you so bloody heartless! How can you talk like that?!

Head (unrelenting): Look, I sympathize that she wants to prepare for her twilight years but think for a minute la. What happens if EVERYONE in Singapore withdraws all their CPF in one shot?! Never mind the potential effect from injecting our economy with so much cash, think of the repercussions! What if many of us waste the money and end up broke and destitute?! The state will have to look after all of us…then how? Wait for handouts from a government that you keep saying should leave us alone and let us live our lives? Bankrupt the country to pay for our welfare? You want us to be like America with it’s crippling fiscal debt is it???

Heart (indignant): But it’s HER money and she’s so old already. We need to talk care of people like her because some day we’ll be old too. Do you want to end up like her begging for your money from an unfeeling public servant?!

Head (guarded) *whispers*: Eh, speaking of which. Something about that video feels kind of funny. Not haha funny but weird funny.

Heart (curious): Now that you mention it ya I agree. Some of the stuff she said in the video doesn’t make sense. How could her account be hacked?! And it’s implausible that this zeng hu, powerful it maybe, can just anyhow take money from people’s bank account without authorization!

Head (seriously): Never mind the fact that that dialog was supposed to be a closed dialog; one that was intended to give participants the safe environment to air whatever their concerns maybe without fear of reprisals…That video shouldn’t exist. I’m pretty sure she didn’t know she was being videoed. And I’m pretty sure she never expected to have footage of her circulating online. That in itself is a gross violation of her right to privacy. I wouldn’t blame her for feeling humiliated…Plus that cheongsam lady…even if she was rude, she didn’t deserved to be lynched by the online mob like that. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Heart (regretful) : You’re right. Everyone at that dialog is entitled to their privacy and as much as that video has ignited the national conversation, it shouldn’t exist and shouldn’t be circulated. Now I feel bad for watching that video…

Head (resolutely): Never mind that. What’s done is done. I’m just angry that she became someone’s unwitting tool in a political game of thrones. Both sides used her without even bothering to take the time to find out her circumstances and what kind of help she needs. All they cared about is how to use the spectacle she unwittingly created. I’m no fan of this government but I am thankful that her MP took the initiative to follow up with her and help her to the best of his abilities. But we do need to get to the bottom of what is going on with her situation. I don’t think her account was hacked into but I do want to know what her entire situation is and what happened to her account that made her think it was hacked into. I think the public has a right to know especially if this isn’t a one off case.

Heart (calmed) : I agree. I think we have a right to know what exactly happened to her. Let’s wait and see what happens. But in the mean time I think it’s still good if we ask zeng hu what’s going on with our pension fund and have a real conversation about how all of us are going to retire.

Head: Yes, I think everyone needs to have an honest discussion on how we as a people are going to retire. Retirement planning is what we honestly should be talking about. Wildly speculating what the zeng hu is doing with our money isn’t constructive and honestly distracts us from the real issue: We’re all living longer and we cannot realistically expect to retire at age 55 and expect our CPF to give us the lifestyle we want without some serious padding.

Heart: Agreed. Do you still have the number of that financial advisor?

Head: Ya, let’s give him a call. In the meantime I hope that aunty gets the help she needs and everyone wake up their idea and look at the real issue facing all of us.

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