Photo: UBS

Paying into pillar 3a is increasingly important to secure your income in retirement. More and more employees in Switzerland know this: the money saved in pillar 3a continues to increase by a few percentage points every year. According to the Federal Social Insurance Office, in 2021 the total sum was CHF 142 billion. 

Whereas in 2016, only 50 percent of workers had a pillar 3a account, by 2019 this figure had risen to 62 percent. The Federal Statistical Office reveals differences between the sexes: 63.7 percent of men pay into pillar 3 compared to 60 percent of women.

Six percent of workers who have a pillar 3a account only pay into it occasionally, and even those who do pay in regularly do not deposit the maximum annual amount.

Common features of a pillar 3a account with a bank or insurance provider

Those who choose to open a pillar 3a account know the advantages it has, which apply both to solutions provided by banks and to offers from insurance providers:

  • With pillar 3a, you can maintain your lifestyle in old age or build up capital for a real estate purchase or self-employment.
  • You can deduct the amount you pay in from your taxable income, thereby saving money.

As pillar 3a has a legal basis and qualifies for tax relief, certain conditions apply to both options:

  • A maximum amount applies to annual contributions. In 2023, this is currently CHF 7,056 for those with a pension fund. Those without a pension fund can deposit up to 20 percent of their net income, up to a maximum of CHF 35,280.
  • The options for withdrawal are clearly defined: for example, the money can be withdrawn on retirement or no earlier than five years before the normal AHV retirement age, used to buy a home (primary residence), or withdrawn on emigrating or becoming self-employed.

Open a retirement account quickly and easily online

With UBS key4 pension 3a you can open your pillar 3a, online, enjoy maximum flexibility and save on taxes. You can even invest your retirement capital directly if desired.

The main differences between banks and insurance providers

With a bank, you decide how much to pay in each year. This is convenient and automatic by direct debit. In addition, the deposits you make will go entirely towards your retirement provision.

Tip: pay in as much as possible every year

Those who wish to maintain their standard of living after retirement should opt for the tax-privileged pillar 3a and pay in the maximum amount each year, or as much as possible if their financial circumstances do not stretch to the full amount. It is also important to note that retroactive payments for the previous year are not possible.

With an insurance provider, you combine saving for retirement with insurance coverage. This risk coverage ensures, for example, that premiums continue to be paid in the event of your incapacity to work, or that a lump-sum benefit will be paid out in the event of your death. This leads to higher premiums, which means your retirement capital will grow less quickly than if you opt for a solution without insurance, such as one offered by a bank.

Incidentally, the risk of death or incapacity to work can also be insured against separately – meaning the costs of the insurance are clear.

In order to save on taxes when your pillar 3a savings are paid out, it makes sense to open multiple 3a accounts (from CHF 50,000 each). The capital can be withdrawn in stages – whether you are single or a married couple. Withdrawal is possible from five years before the regular retirement age. With a bank, triggering the payout is very simple. A 3a account with an insurance provider, on the other hand, has a clearly defined term that is agreed at the time it is taken out, which is often decades before the payout.

Another important difference: with an insurance provider, you make a one-time decision as to how much money to pay in annually towards your pension. Depending on your personality, this obligatory payment could be seen as advantageous as it provides you with the necessary discipline to ensure you pay into pillar 3a every year.

Questions & answers about pillar 3a with banks and insurance providers

Advantages and disadvantages at a glance










  • Flexibility regarding contributions –  in terms of the amount and regularity
  • Flexible withdrawal date
  • Transparency regarding contributions and retirement assets
  • Can be more easily used to purchase a residential property


  • Premiums waived in the event of inability to work
  • Lump-sum death benefit also covered
  • “Obligatory” deposits




  • No insurance coverage against inability to work or death


  • Lack of flexibility regarding contributions
  • Lower surrender value if the policy is terminated early or reduced
  • Termination and transfer to other 3a solutions often associated with costs.

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