More than 32,000 qualified overseas Filipino workers with active accounts at the Social Security System’s (SSS) provident fund for OFW-members earned additional income totaling P12.54 million in the form of annual incentives for 2012. This is triple the amount of guaranteed earnings on their Flexi-fund savings from last year.

SSS Senior Vice President and International Operations Division Head Judy Frances See said nine out of every ten SSS Flexi-fund members qualified for the first-ever release of the annual incentive benefit (AIB), which is based on OFW-members’ personal Flexi-fund equity posted as of end of the applicable year.

“Flexi-fund members with no full early withdrawal claims or benefits filed in 2012 qualified for the AIB. They do not need to file an application for availment because the SSS automatically posts the AIB amount to their Flexi-fund accounts,” she said. “The more Flexi-fund savings a member has, the higher the AIB amount will be. For 2012, the member with the biggest Flexi-fund equity received an AIB amount of P106,498.”

See cited that the total AIB is taken from the Flexi-fund’s actual investment income at the end of the year minus the total guaranteed earnings already credited to the accounts of Flexi-fund members. The SSS approved higher interest rates as basis for Flexi-fund guaranteed earnings effective July 2012.

The prevailing low-interest environment encouraged SSS to revise the program’s policies last year to help OFW-members earn higher from their Flexi-fund savings. Previously, the computation of guaranteed earnings was solely based on the 91-day T-bill rate, with no incentive benefits.

“Under the enhanced Flexi-fund program, earnings are now based on whichever is higher between the 91-day T-bill rate and the average rate of SSS short-term peso placements. The rates are adjusted every quarter to keep the program aligned with current market conditions,” See said.

The Flexi-fund program is open to all OFW-members paying SSS premiums at the maximum monthly salary credit. Any amount, not less than P200, paid in excess of the required maximum SSS contribution is automatically credited as Flexi-fund savings.

Members’ equity has grown to over P330 million at present since the Flexi-fund was launched in July 2001. OFW-members can get their Flexi-fund savings as monthly pension to supplement their benefits for retirement, disability and death under the regular SSS program.

“Early withdrawal of Flexi-fund equity is also allowed anytime. However, we introduced the AIB to motivate them to continue saving for the future, instead of withdrawing their account, so that they can enjoy the fruits of their hard work even until retirement,” See said.

OFW-members can now check their Flexi-fund account, including the amount of their AIB, through the “My.SSS” portal of the SSS website (www.sss.gov.ph). Members enrolled at the website can also view online their other SSS records, such as contribution and loan payments.