Sara Rüegg, 42, is an interior decorator and is looking for a new professional challenge. She wants to strike out on her own by opening her own online shop. First, she needs seed capital.

… I become self-employed?

It’s entirely possible to use money from the pension fund or pillar 3a as seed capital to set yourself up. To do this, you first must be recognized as self-employed by the AHV compensation office. However, if Sara wanted to create a GmbH or corporation, she wouldn’t have access to her retirement capital, since in the eyes of the law, she’d be seen as an employee in her own company. As a self-employed person without voluntary affiliation with an occupational pension, she could also – depending on her income – save more money in pillar 3a.

Karin Baumann, 57, has been working for 14 years as a lab technician for the same company. Because of restructuring, she loses her job, and she’s not yet been able to find a new position.

... I lose my job just before I start drawing a pension?

Losing your job before retirement makes a mess of pension planning. One immediate step you can take for tax-related reasons would be to transfer your pension fund assets to two different vested benefit institutions. Since the earliest retirement age for most pension funds is 58 or 60 years, drawing a pension even earlier, which in any case would result in heavy losses to the pension, is not possible. To be able to claim a pension, Karin had to find new employment with new pension fund membership. Good advice helps: during a consultation, she could be shown additional proposed solutions that take her total circumstances into account.

Myrielle and Stefan Huwyler, aged 34 and 36, decided to share the child care after their daughter was born. She works as a lawyer and reduced her workload to 50%; he is a teacher and also works 50%.

… we work less because we have children?

Currently, they live well with the money they make together each month. But the reduction in their volume of work could have a significant impact on their pension. This is because of the so-called “coordination offset.” Pension funds rely on this offset to calculate that part of a salary already covered by the AHV. But nowhere near all of them adjust this offset in proportion to the amount of time worked. What often happens is that they apply the full coordination offset, as both Myrielle’s and Stefan’s pension funds do. The result in this case is that the couple’s insured salary is lower, so they’re able to contribute less to their pillar 2 savings – which in turn results in a lower pension. Myrielle and Stefan would be wise to plan very carefully how they can make up for this loss. One way they could do so would be for them to pay into pillar 3 and make voluntary purchases in the pension fund after they return to fuller employment at some later time.

Patrick Widmer, 28, is employed as an IT specialist for a large company. He’s already changed jobs several times and earns a decent salary. He’s rising in his department but is also often away on longer trips. He hasn’t given his pension a second thought.

… I do nothing at all?

For the time being, it doesn’t much matter that Patrick isn’t worrying about his pension. But he may later come to regret not having taken advantage of his financial flexibility for private provision when he was younger and neglecting to make deposits into pillar 3a. No one knows how the pension system may change over the next few decades. The capital accumulated in pillar 3a is also available to Patrick if he wants to purchase his own home. What many don’t realize: you choose how much you want to pay into pillar 3a, and the amount is tax deductible. You need not pay in the annual maximum amount that people affiliated with an occupational pension are allowed, which is currently set at 7,056 Swiss francs (as of 2023).

Diego Wölfli, 29, is a mechanical engineer and wants to go abroad for the professional experience. He plans to leave Switzerland for three to four years.

… I move abroad?

Diego can transfer his pillar 2 contributions for the time he’ll be working abroad into a vested benefits account with the UBS Vested Benefits Foundation. After he returns to Switzerland, he’ll have to place these assets into his new pension fund. If someone emigrates outside the EU or EFTA, they can fully withdraw their savings from the pension fund. In contrast, someone moving to a country within the EU or EFTA must first place the obligatory portion of their pension fund savings in a vested benefits account.

Peter Zaugg, 39, is the director of a small company. He and his wife want to buy a single-family home; to do this, he withdraws capital from the pension fund and pillar 3a.

… I use pension fund savings to buy a house?

Living under your own roof is the dream of many couples. Before using pension capital to buy a home, it pays to learn about the consequences of early withdrawal. The pension fund benefits for retirement, death or invalidity can drop so low because of early withdrawal that even owning your own single-family house is no consolation. If Peter and his wife decide to buy the house despite the reduction in pension, they can fix this at a later time by returning the money they withdrew back into the pension fund.

Ruth Müller, 47, was married for 16 years and in recent years took care of raising the kids and doing the housework. After she separated from her husband, the children (15 and 12) have lived with her.

… I get a divorce?

Following her divorce, Ruth is entitled to half of her husband’s vested benefits that accumulated during the time they were married. As long as she doesn’t take up gainful employment, this sum is generally managed in a vested benefits account. Ruth also gets her share of the joint assets saved up in pillar 3a. Whether pension annuity will ultimately be enough depends, of course, on the size of the deposits and remaining assets. Ruth, like most people, is unlikely to be able to avoid the need to take up gainful employment again to increase her retirement capital before she reaches retirement age.