The Social Security System (SSS) is now accepting enrollment applications for the Personal Equity and Savings Option (SSS-PESO) Fund program, a provident-fund scheme that aims to increase savings among SSS members, particularly for building their retirement fund.

The program is open to all members who are 54 years old and below, and have at least six consecutive contributions under the SSS regular program within the last 12 months prior to enrollment. The member’s effective date of membership commences at the month a contribution is first made to the SSS-PESO fund.

“They can participate for an initial contribution of P1,000 with succeeding contributions of at least P1,000, in multiples of P100. An SSS-PESO member can contribute up to a maximum P100,000 per year,” SSS Vice President for Benefits Administration Division Agnes San Jose said.

For the pilot implementation of the SSS-PESO Fund, interested members may apply at the following branches in the National Capital Region: Diliman, Cubao, San Francisco Del Monte, Pasig-Shaw, Mandaluyong, Taguig, Makati-Gil Puyat, Alabang, Legarda, Pasay-Roxas Boulevard.

Members are required to personally appear before an SSS authorized representative to sign the accomplished forms for confirmation.

“This procedure allows us to verify the authenticity of the document and the identity of the applicant,” San Jose explained.

By September 2015, all SSS branches nationwide will accept applications to the SSS-PESO Fund. Eventually, enrollment may be done online through the My.SSS portal.

The program’s guidelines which came out recently, stated that employed members, regardless of the amount of their current monthly contributions, could join the SSS-PESO Fund while self-employed, voluntary and OFW members should be paying the maximum SSS contribution to be able to contribute in the SSS-PESO Fund.

The guidelines further explained that there has to be a corresponding SSS contribution on the month the member will make contributions to the SSS-PESO Fund account.

Refunds, withdrawals or benefit claims will be credited to the member’s single savings or current account with an SSS depository bank. Early termination of membership is not allowed.

In a previous statement, the SSS said members can enjoy higher return on their savings under the tax-free fund, which offers guaranteed earnings that are based on rates higher than those offered in a savings account or bank deposit.

According to San Jose, SSS-PESO Fund contributions are invested in government securities to ensure safety and liquidity and are guaranteed to earn based on prevailing Treasury bill rates.

SSS-PESO Fund savings are allocated to three accounts namely, retirement, medical, and general purpose, which covers education, housing, livelihood, and unemployment. Only the portions allotted for medical and general purpose can be withdrawn before the member’s date of retirement.

A corresponding management fee will be charged for each SSS-PESO account while penalties will be charged for any withdrawals made before the fifth year of membership in the SSS-PESO Fund.

SSS-PESO Fund members may also receive additional earnings depending on the actual income of the fund at the end of each year.