Knowledge Is Power: How The CPF Board Gives Back To Singapore With 13,000 Volunteers

Charlie Cheong, one of CPF Board’s 13,000 volunteers, sits down with Challenge to share why he is dedicated to helping fellow Singaporeans understand retirement planning.

Paying It Forward As A CPF Volunteer

They say there is power in numbers, especially when it comes to taking action for meaningful causes.

To champion financial inclusivity and motivate citizens and permanent residents to be more proactive about retirement planning, the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board launched the Community Paying it Forward movement in 2021.

CPF volunteers act as the bridge between the Board and the public. What started off as just an idea has grown to 13,000 volunteers in two years.

Several volunteers, including Charlie Cheong, a public officer serving at the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), first participated in the movement out of interest. His desire to save up for his golden years led him to dig deeper into the CPF Board’s outreach initiatives. He then stumbled upon an online banner on their website calling for volunteers.

In an interview with Challenge, he shares how volunteering with the Board helps him prepare for his own retirement and equips him to help those around him.

Creating a Community for Like-Minded Individuals

Creating a community for like-minded individuals.

But first, let's start from the beginning.

To raise awareness of the Community Paying it Forward Movement, the Board first identified groups of people who found CPF information relevant and beneficial to them. They then conducted engagement sessions and promoted the movement via word of mouth and social media platforms.

Charlie was one of the first few to volunteer, and his participation in the movement enabled him to network with like-minded individuals.

"The shared interest in CPF matters drew me to volunteer, and it was the collaborative spirit of the volunteers that made me stay," said Charlie.

Fast forward two years to the present, the volunteer community has grown more than two times stronger, composed of individuals passionate about CPF schemes, retirement and financial planning.

Charlie saw his social circle growing with the movement, noting that some volunteers were much younger than he was when he first started volunteering in his late thirties.

"This is encouraging, as I do see a need for volunteers to be able to connect with younger adults who are just starting out with their careers and wanting to find out how they might better manage their CPF monies," he explained.

Caring for the Underserved

Caring for the underserved and extend their care for all demographics.

To extend their care for all demographics, volunteers have also collaborated with other statutory boards and organisations to connect with the underserved community in Singapore.

A key group they collaborated with were caregivers, where volunteers conducted talks with 70 caregivers from MINDS – a Singaporean non-profit organisation that serves people with intellectual disabilities – as well as ComLink befrienders, in partnership with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). Through these talks, caregivers can share what they learnt from the engagement sessions with many underserved families.

As a volunteer, Charlie often participates in community events where he encourages other members to make CPF nominations while also helping them avoid potential scams.

He also recalled an encounter with a CPF member who was seeking to understand the benefits of CareShield Life and how it is different from other CPF schemes. Later, she expressed her interest to register for the scheme, but revealed that she misplaced the invitation letter and missed the registration deadline.

"I was hit by the realities and wondered what other CPF schemes people could have missed simply because they didn't have someone to turn to or were not able to seek clarifications at CPF Board’s offices when they had questions about CPF matters.

Here's where I believe the CPF volunteering movement plays such an important role in today's context – to actively engage others on CPF matters so that up-to-date information is shared with as many people as possible."

- Charlie Cheong, IMDA officer and CPF volunteer

Charlie also shared another instance where an elderly member sought assistance with their CPF Mobile application after experiencing technical difficulties with their Singpass account. Through the encounter, Charlie realised that information and resources needed to be made more accessible to the public, especially to the elderly, who might not be the most technologically savvy.

He also emphasised that as a volunteer, he needs to be able to "translate the mountain of information" and simplify them in a "digestible and relatable" manner – for loved ones and strangers alike.

"I think it is important to nudge people to be comfortable to have conversations about CPF, a topic that is typically kept private or left on its own. Have conversations with your colleagues, friends, and family members so that everyone benefits," said Charlie.

Building Stronger Ties With the Community

However, Charlie also added that he found the numerous schemes and initiatives difficult to digest and dedicated much time to understanding them.

This raises another question: How does the CPF Board equip its volunteers to advocate for their cause and communicate the different initiatives to other members?

The Board has since developed a training curriculum where volunteers can attend workshops and e-learning courses to learn about the many CPF initiatives and improve their financial literacy.

Volunteers are also encouraged to participate in talks and online quizzes to stay updated on the latest developments and activities, which was a welcomed move for Charlie.

To sustain the movement, the board actively engages its volunteers to keep them informed about the latest initiatives and benefits. They have chosen to get creative by utilising a one-stop mobile application – the CPFV app.

CPFV-App volunteers can earn points and redeem them for accessories for their avatars.

Through the app, volunteers can earn points and redeem them for accessories for their avatars. As a gamer, Charlie is a fan of the app, adding that the leaderboard helps volunteers stay motivated to continue upskilling and inspires others to do the same.

Looking ahead, Charlie hopes that the volunteer community will continue to grow and that more contributions will spur Singapore to become more financially inclusive.

"If you are new to the community, it will be worthwhile to start conversations about CPF with those around you, even if it is as simple as sharing with them new initiatives. Most importantly, regardless of whether you are a CPF volunteer, you can contribute to the movement in your own ways."

- Charlie Cheong, IMDA officer and CPF volunteer

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  • POSTED ON
    Mar 11, 2024
  • TEXT BY
    Jayme Teo
  • PHOTOS BY
    Nicholas Koh
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