What is the difference between NPS Tier 1 Account, Tier 2 Account and Swavalamban scheme?

You have several options when it comes to opening an NPS account, and if you are just starting out — it is better to familiarize yourself with at least these three options:

  1. Tier 1 NPS Account
  2. Tier 2 NPS Account
  3. Swavalamban Scheme

In this post, I’m going to talk about them briefly, discuss what differentiates one from the other, and which one is appropriate for what type of investor.

Tier 1 NPS Account

The first account is called Tier 1 NPS Account, and the Tier 1 Account is mandatory for all central government employees. It is mandatory for them to contribute 10% of their basic salary plus DA plus DP every month towards this account, and the government matches this contribution.

There are severe restrictions on how money can be withdrawn from the Tier 1 account, as it is necessary to invest 80% of your money in an annuity with Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) if you withdraw before age 60. You can keep the remaining 20% with you.

When you attain the age of 60, you have to invest at least 40% in an annuity with IRDA; the remaining can be withdrawn in lump-sum or in a phased manner.

Even if you are not a government employee, you can still open a Tier 1 account, and if you are interested in NPS, you will need to open a Tier 1 account as that’s necessary in order to open a Tier 2 account, which I’ll come to in a moment.

There is a minimum that you have to commit to investing in NPS, and for the Tier 1 account that minimum is Rs. 6,000 per year.

Tier 2 NPS Account

The Tier 2 NPS account is very similar to the Tier 1 account, and if you are not a government employee who wants to invest in NPS, you would want to invest the minimum of Rs. 6,000 in Tier 1 and then invest the rest of your money in the Tier 2 account.

This is because Tier 2 is quite similar to Tier 1 in all respects except for the harsh withdrawal conditions. You are free to withdraw your money from the Tier 2 account any time that you want without any penalties.

Minimum amount for opening Tier 2 account is Rs. 1,000 and minimum balance required at the end of the year is Rs. 2,000. You need to make at least 4 contributions in a year.

Swavalamban Scheme

This scheme is really for the financially less fortunate members of the society and is really a way for the government to incentivize investments for them.

The government pays Rs. 1,000 every year for four years, if you open a NPS account under the Swavalamban scheme, but there are limitations on who can open an account under the Swavalamban scheme.

Following conditions apply:

  • Subscriber is not covered under employer assisted retirement benefit scheme and also not covered by social security schemes under any of the following laws:
    • Employee Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provision Act, 1952
    • The Coal Mines Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provision Act, 1948
    • The Seamen’s Provident Fund Act, 1966
    • The Assam Tea Plantation Provident Fund and Pension Fund Scheme Act, 1955
    • The Jammu & Kashmir Employee Provident Fund Act, 1961
  • Subscriber contribution in NPS is minimum Rs. 1000 and maximum Rs.12000 per annum, for both Tier1 and Tier II taken together, provided subscriber makes minimum contribution of Rs.1000 per annum to his Tier 1 account

Based on the limitations mentioned above, I think most people reading this blog will be ineligible.

Conclusion

If you are not a Central Government employee who has to put in money mandatorily in NPS then you should be very cautious about saving money here.

This is because there are restrictions on where you can invest your money after you get it at retirement. They make you buy annuities which are not the greatest products right now. I don’t see much value in investing in NPS as it stands today because of the frequent changes, and uncertainties surrounding this scheme. You may as well invest this money on your own in the a debt or equity product based on your preference, and stay away from the restrictions imposed on you by the scheme.

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