The Social Security System (SSS) disbursed a total of P13.15 million in annual incentive benefits (AIB) to more than 40,000 qualified overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) enrolled in the SSS Flexi-fund Program, which is a provident fund created to encourage OFW-members to save up in order to supplement their retirement benefits under the regular SSS program.

SSS Senior Vice President for Account Management Group and concurrent International Operations Division Head Judy Frances A. See noted that the number of OFW-members who qualified for the AIB increased from 37,612 in 2014 to 40,216 the following year.

“The good news is that more Flexi-fund members are choosing to further increase their savings for their future. The SSS, thru the Flexi-fund, is here to help OFWs achieve long-term financial security by providing a safe and secure savings facility for their hard-earned income from overseas work,” See said.

Introduced in 2001, the Flexi-fund Program offers an extra level of protection to OFW-members paying the maximum amount of monthly SSS contribution — currently P1,760 — by enabling them to remit additional savings of P200 or above to the SSS.

These extra SSS savings are credited to their Flexi-fund account, which they can convert into a pension plan at the end of their working years, or even withdraw from at times of urgent cash needs. More than 47,000 OFW-members have so far contributed to the Flexi-fund, with a total members’ equity of about P532 million.

The AIB was launched in 2012 to encourage OFWs to maintain and increase their retirement savings with SSS. It is granted to members with no full Flexi-fund withdrawals and benefit claims within the applicable year.

The AIB amount depends on the Flexi-fund’s year-end net investment income and is distributed based on the individual equity shares of all qualified members. Thus, members with higher Flexi-fund savings get bigger AIB amounts. The annual yield of Flexi-fund investments rose from 4.9 percent in 2014 to 5.1 percent last year while the average AIB amount for 2015 is P327.                             

“The highest individual AIB reached P125,458 in 2015, which is 31 percent more than the maximum AIB of P95,820 in 2014. Over the years, several hardworking OFWs have attained a millionaire status due to their firm commitment to gradually build up their retirement fund thru the Flexi-fund,” See said.

The total AIB for 2015 is the highest disbursed so far by SSS in its four years of implementation, as compared with P12.54 million, P7.24 million, and P12.68 million for 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively. The AIB is on top of the guaranteed earnings received by all Flexi-fund members.

“Improvements in the Flexi-fund guidelines enhanced the interest rate of members’ guaranteed earnings under the program since 2012. Starting that year, we base the interest rate on the average rate of SSS short-term peso placements or 91-day Treasury bill rates, whichever is higher,” See explained.

Flexi-fund enrollees received a total of P8.22 million in guaranteed earnings in 2015, higher than the P5.34 million credited to their accounts in 2014. The higher earnings were bolstered by the jump in the interest rate for guaranteed earnings last year to 1.8 percent from 1.3 percent in 2014.

“The P13.15 million in AIB and P8.22 million in guaranteed earnings combine for a total of P21.37 million distributed to Flexi-fund members in 2015. This is significantly higher by 19 percent from the P18.02 million credited for the AIB and guaranteed earnings in 2014,” See said.

OFWs can view their AIB amount, Flexi-fund account status, and other SSS membership records by registering at the My.SSS online service portal at the SSS Website (www.sss.gov.ph