NPS or National Pension Scheme is a pension plan which was initiated by the Indian Government in January 2004. It was primarily introduced for those Government employees those who joined employments in 2004 and onwards.
Subsequently, the Government of India wanted to develop the habit of savings among the salaried Indians, specifically for retirement. Therefore, from the month of May in 2009, NPS was made available for all employed Indians. PFRDA (Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority) is the regulator of NPS in India.
How can you start NPS?
If you are a salaried Indian resident, aged between 18 to 60 years, you are eligible to invest in NPS. You can open your NPS account with any entity called the Point of Presence (POP). POPs mostly include banks and other financial institutions. The authorized branches of a POP are called Point of Presence Service Providers (POP-SPs). POP-SP acts as the collector of its POP.
In order to enroll in an NPS account, at first you have to make an application in a prescribed form. Next, you have to furnish the documents required for complying KYC norms. Once your application is processed, the Central Record-keeping Agency (CRA) will send you your PRAN. After that, you have to pay the minimum account opening fee along with the management fee to activate your NPS account.
Various types of Accounts in NPS
There are two types of accounts in NPS, which are Tier I account and Tier II account.
Tier I account is mandatory for all subscribers of NPS. If you are a Government employee, you are required to contribute 10% of your Basic Salary plus D.A. in NPS. The Government of India also contributes an equal amount in the same account. A minimum of Rs 500 per month is required to be contributed in your NPS account, i.e. Rs 6000 in a year.
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In case you are a private employee, you get the option of choosing between NPS and EPF. If you choose NPS, you have to contribute an amount equal to 10% of the sum of your Basic Salary and DA. Your employer will also contribute an equal amount in your account. You can find your employer’s contributions towards your NPS account in Form 16.
Tier II account of NPS is a savings account and you can withdraw money from it anytime. Neither your employer contributes any amount in this account nor do you get any tax exemption on such contribution made. You have to pay Rs 1,000 to open this account. In your subsequent contributions, you have to pay a minimum of Rs 250 on each occasion. Further, every year end, your balance in this account should be at least Rs 2,000 to keep your account operation.
How does NPS work?
An NPS invests in Equities, Corporate Debts, and Government Securities. You can choose any from the Active, Auto or Default plan. In Active plan, maximum 50% of your investments can be allocated to Equities.
In the Auto plan, until you reach 35 years of age, maximum investments that can be made in Equities and Corporate Debts would be 50 and 30%, respectively. After that, in the next 20 years, the investments in Equities and Corporate Debts go down every year by 2 and 1%, respectively.
In the Default plan, maximum 55% in Government Securities, 40% in Corporate Debts, 15% in Equities, and 5% in Money markets can be invested out of the contributions made. If you are a Government employee, please note that you can only opt for the Default option.
The financial assets of your NPS account are managed by an established Fund Management Company. You can choose your fund manager from any of the following:
- ICICI Prudential Pension Fund.
- LIC Pension Fund.
- Kotak Mahindra Pension Fund.
- Reliance Capital Pension Fund.
- SBI Pension Fund.
- UTI Retirement Solutions Pension Fund.
- HDFC Pension Management Company.
- DSP BlackRock Pension Fund.
How your NPS account provides you with pensions?
When you subscribe to an NPS scheme, you are provided with a Permanent Retirement Account Number (PRAN). While you work, NPS accumulates your savings in your Permanent Retirement Account (PRA).
When you retire, your savings in the PRA will be used for providing you with pensions throughout your retired life. When you retire from your job after reaching a certain age, NPS allows you in withdrawing up to 40% of the corpus in your PRA. The balance corpus continues generating pension amounts for you annually.
You should also keep this in mind that you can only withdraw from your NPS account after three years from your subscription date have been completed. You can withdraw funds only to the maximum of 25% of the amount contributed by you. Furthermore, you are allowed to withdraw to the maximum of three times during your subscription tenure.
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Benefits of investing in NPS
When it comes to investment management, NPS provides you with a certain amount of flexibility. Your savings in NPS is operated and managed by a private investment entity. If you are dissatisfied with your chosen fund manager, you can shift to another Fund Management Company.
Apart from that, NPS is a safe investment as it is regulated by PFRDA, a statutory body of the Indian Government. NPS has been in India for around 15 years and it has consistently yielded between 8 to 10% returns every year.
One of the greatest perks of investing in NPS is that it provides huge tax benefits to its subscribers. Whatever you contribute to your NPS account is eligible for tax benefit up to Rs 1.5 lakh u/s 80C of Income Tax Act, 1961 for every Financial Year.
Further, a tax benefit of extra Rs 50k out of your employer’s contributions is allowed u/s 80CCD1B for every Financial Year. NPS has an EET status like PPF. This means the investments, returns, and redemptions are all eligible for tax benefits. You can read more on taxation of NPS in this blog.
You must have heard that one should not put all the eggs in a single basket. Diversification is the key to success in the financial market. Diversifying your corpus is difficult if you directly invest in the market. This is because you would require a huge amount of money to create a well-diversified portfolio.
Investing in Mutual Funds can sort this problem to a huge extent. But, it is not going to be of much help to you if you lack the knowledge of picking the right Mutual Fund scheme for your financial needs.
NPS overcomes this shortcoming of Mutual Fund. Here, you don’t need to analyze a plethora of schemes by yourself. You just require picking your desired fund manager who would handle all your investments as per your chosen NPS plan. The beauty of investing in NPS is that you don’t need to possess any practical knowledge of the stock market.