Dec 11: Best from the blogosphere

It’s getting close to the end of the year and the holiday season is upon us. Here are some examples of subjects  personal finance bloggers havw been writing about recently.

Marie Engen (Boomer & Echo) offers tips on How To Leverage Technology Into Good Financial Habits. She notes that most banks have a budgeting app that tracks your spending so you get a better idea of where your money is going. If all your accounts don’t reside with just one financial institution, there are lots of mobile apps and budgeting software available, such as the popular Mint.com, GoodBudget and You Need a Budget.

Chris Nicola on the Financial Independence Hub tackles the perennial question, Should you take early CPP benefits or defer as long as possible?  Using Statistics Canada figures, he calculates that a woman maximizes her total CPP payout by waiting until age 70, resulting in an average of $75k (36%) more than if she took it at age 60. A man maximizes his total CPP a little earlier, at age 68, receiving an average of $50k (27%) more than at age 60.

Maple Money’s Tom Drake addresses the question: Should You Invest in Group RESPs? He concludes that the risk with group plans comes if you drop out early. Many of these types of RESPs have high enrollment fees. It’s not uncommon to pay up to $1,200 in fees. With Group RESPs, you don’t pay that amount up front. Instead, it is deducted from your returns when you close the plan early. Therefore if you withdraw from the plan before it matures, you could face big penalties — and even have  your contributions eaten up by the fees.

And getting back to how to save money and still enjoy holiday entertaining and gift giving…..

Holiday décor hacks for having a dinner party by personal finance writer, on-air personality, speaker and bestselling author Melissa Leong suggests that you create your own decor very cheaply, whether by gathering some greens or acorns from outside and dumping them in a vase or using wrapping paper to wrap empty boxes, make napkin rings or use as a table runner.

What If This Christmas… You Didn’t Have to Worry About Money? by Chris Enns on From Rags to Reasonable offers the following suggestions:

  • Figure out how much you want to spend.
  • Figure out how much you can afford to spend.
  • Buy a prepaid credit card and use it as the ONLY way you pay  for Christmas-related materials.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Travel hacks for your wallet and your waistline

My husband and I recently spent a lovely fall week in Kelowna, B.C. It was a pleasure to travel domestically and not have to worry about passports, currency, customs and exorbitant surcharges to use our cell phones. But as always, there were a few things that worked out really well along with several hiccups that were a learning experience.

Getting there and back
I booked our tickets on Air Canada through Expedia.ca. My rationale was that instead of checking the websites of different airlines I could compare flights and prices all in one place. We ended up going on Toronto-Vancouver-Kelowna and returning Kelowna-Calgary-Toronto. The layovers were each about an hour and we weren’t pressed for time so it didn’t really matter. But as we were waiting to board on the way home there was a direct Kelowna-Toronto WestJet flight which I certainly would have selected if it had been offered as an option by Expedia.

Also, when booking on Expedia I still had to go to the Air Canada site to select seats which I forgot to do until several weeks before we left. I usually try to book bulkhead or wing seats and pay extra because I prefer more leg room. But I was shocked to learn that for the purpose of pre-selecting seats, our travel was considered to be 4 separate flights and we were charged accordingly.

Options were limited by then. So by the time I selected two aisle seats for each of us going out, the charge was $40 ($10 each for two flights), two front seats from Kelowna to Calgary ($20 x 2) and two bulkhead seats from Calgary to Toronto ($50 x 2).  The additional charges were over $200 including taxes! Direct flights would have cut these surcharges in half.

To add insult to injury, we had to pay $25 each to check one bag. Apparently this is common practice, but it’s been a long time since we flew within Canada and I wasn’t aware of this policy change introduced several years ago. The good news is that in both directions my second bag (a small roller board carry on) was checked in free at the gate. Of course, if you are traveling only with carry on luggage to avoid long waits for baggage on arrival you will not want to relinquish your bag, even if you are offered the opportunity to do so at no cost.

There is also no longer any “free lunch” or any other meal if you fly economy. Food is sold on the flight, but it is typically overpriced and popular items frequently run out. In addition, depending on when your flight is scheduled, food and drink may not be offered when you are actually hungry. We packed home-made sandwiches and fruit for both our trips out and back and we were glad we did.

Accommodations
We have a shared-ownership property in Muskoka which gives us 5 weeks a year. We were able to trade one week for a condo at The Royal Private Residence Club (a Delta property) in downtown Kelowna. The apartment was spacious with a full kitchen and a laundry room with a washer and dryer.

Similar properties are available for rent in many North American cities and worldwide. They are particularly cost-effective if you are traveling with a family and will have to rent more than one room. Furthermore, because kids don’t have the patience to eat three meals a day in a restaurant and constant eating out can be prohibitively expensive, a kitchen gives you the flexibility to eat what you want, when you want. And you need less luggage if you can throw in a couple of loads of laundry part-way through your trip.

AirBnB also has listings for everything from rooms to full apartments in most cities, offering similar amenities. They are generally much less costly than hotel rooms and can be more comfortable for both individuals and families than a basic room. 

Transportation
I also booked a pre-paid rental car on Expedia with Hertz. When we arrived at the Kelowna airport they said I was the named driver because I made the reservation and that it would cost $90 to add my husband as a second driver. I refused and after calling a supervisor, Hertz agreed to reverse the charge. However, because the car was booked by Expedia and not directly with Hertz, they had all kinds of problems figuring out how to change the designated driver and amend the contract. After over an hour of unsuccessfully trying to get the computer to accept the changes, they had to get a supervisor to write up a new paper contract!

I subsequently learned from various friends that other car rental companies add additional drivers at no cost. Also, there is significant variation between available deals for a one week rental and I should have done more research before pre-paying through Expedia.

What I learned
We had a great trip. Nevertheless, I have learned:

  • It is always better to compare price and features of each component of a trip on competitor websites and book directly with the preferred vendor instead of using an aggregator.
  • Given the opportunity, we will always select an efficiency unit or apartment instead of a basic hotel room when traveling for a long weekend or a week to a single location.
  • Making breakfasts and a few dinners in the condo can save a bundle and ensure there are yummy leftovers for lunch on the long flight home.

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Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Dec 4: Best from the blogosphere

I had the pleasure of attending the 2017 Canadian Personal Finance Conference in Toronto in late November. It was a great opportunity to renew friendships with bloggers and financial writers from across the country. Here’s what some of them have been writing about lately.

Rob Carrick from the Globe and Mail writes about How e-transfers are ousting paper cheques. Isn’t that the truth! Since I started my writing business almost 10 years ago I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of cheques I have written. I use e-transfers almost daily.

On Money We Have, Toronto-based personal finance expert Barry Choi discusses the ins and outs of churning credit cards in Canada. Applying for credit cards to get bonus points and cancelling them soon after can affect your credit score but Choi says, “You could apply for 2-3 credit cards in one month and it probably wouldn’t be a big deal. Just don’t do it every month, and don’t apply for a ton of cards if you plan on getting a mortgage soon. Lenders will wonder why you need access to so much credit.”

Mr. CBB reports on how Mrs. CBB saved their Christmas budget $400 by shopping on line so far. She purchased a toy for a discounted price on Amazon Prime which was reduced by 50% on Black Friday but it would have cost $7.99 to return. Amazon customer service sent her a return label so she could by two new ones (one for a gift) for the same price. She also managed to purchase $600 worth of clothing for just under $200.

Wayne Roth on Retire Happy considers whether you should annuitize your retirement income. He is generally not a fan of annuities but acknowledges that an annuity can be useful for creating a secure source of retirement income. You lose some upside potential but an annuity allows you to eliminate major investment risks and it provides income that you cannot outlive – no matter how long you survive. Risk-adverse people don’t mind missing on those large gains in order to gain protection on the downside.

And finally, on another note, if you are in the Saskatoon area from now until January 7th, don’t miss the BHP Billiton Enchanted Forest Holiday Light Tour. It is one of Canada’s most spectacular drive-thru Christmas Light Shows and Saskatchewan’s top winter visitor attraction. 2.5km of animated light displays are scattered throughout an urban forest. Proceeds go to Saskatoon City Hospital Foundation and Saskatoon Zoo Foundation.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Financial education: A benefit employees want to see under the tree

A survey released last month in support of Financial Literacy Month (#FLM2017) by the Canadian Payroll Association reveals that Canadian workers would be very pleased if their employers decided to offer or enhance financial education programs this holiday season.

In fact employees have a strong appetite for employer-provided financial education programs, with an astonishing 82% indicating they would be interested if employers offered financial information at work. But, busy workers have timing expectation — 54% would prefer that employers offered lunch and learns but only 8% would be interested if information was offered after work hours.

Currently, 38% of Canadians rely on financial advisors and banks for financial and retirement planning advice. A further 27% of people surveyed lean on friends, family and the internet for this important information.

Employees’ appetite for financial education at work is not surprising, considering results of the CPA’s National Payroll Week Employee Survey revealing that nearly half (47%) of working Canadians are living pay cheque to pay cheque. Survey results also illustrate that many Canadians are challenged by debt, are worried about their local economy and are not saving enough for retirement.

In addition, the more recent November 2017 survey results show that working Canadians are experiencing a high level of financial stress, and that too few are keeping a close eye on their finances. Half of employees feel that financial stress is impacting their work performance. What’s more, just 52% say they budget frequently; with an astounding 31% of this group saying that they keep their budget in their head. Of those who do budget, 52% say they usually or always stick to their budget.

“We know that many working Canadians are struggling to make ends meet financially and they need help,” says Janice MacLellan, Vice President of Operations at the CPA. “While many Canadians are well-intentioned, our survey results show that they are not making enough progress towards financial health, and ultimately, this is impacting their work and their lives.”

The CPA continues to champion its key message “Pay Yourself First” to prepare for a healthy financial future. Currently 61% of Canadian employers offer a “Pay Yourself First” option through payroll which enables employees to set up automatic payroll deductions to direct a portion of their net pay into a separate retirement or savings account. Of those employers that do not currently offer this option, an additional one-third are considering making it available.

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Members of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan can pay themselves first by having contributions withdrawn directly from their bank account using the PAC system on the 1st or 15th of the month. Other methods of contribution to SPP include: using a contribution form to contribute at your financial institution; using your VISA or MasterCard; through online banking; or by mail to the Plan office in Kindersley.

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Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Nov 27: Best from the blogosphere

Tim  Stobbs from CanadianDreamFree at 45 who met his FIRE (financial independence retire early) goal several months ago recently wrote:

“One particular lesson that has really hit home for me since I early retired is this: FIRE doesn’t change your core personality.  You see I had this lovely fantasy in my head that I would be more active and perhaps start exercising regularly when I left work. I would run or do yoga like every other day.  Of course, I’ve never made working out a priority earlier in life so this really hasn’t changed that much since I retired.” 

That must be why over 12 years since I left my corporate job and a year into semi-retirement my closets could still use a good cleaning and I struggle to make it to the gym three times a week.

That also may explain Why being rich makes people anxious. Kerry Hannon from the New York Times reports in The Toronto Star that multi-millionaire Thomas Gallagher who is retired from his position as vice chairman of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce World Markets says, “Emotionally, I don’t come from money; I got very lucky on Wall Street. I have more money than I had ever imagined, but I still worry — do I have enough, if I live longer than I thought?”

And financial anxiety among Canadians is not only surprisingly pervasive and but not limited to the very rich or the very poor.  Rob Carrick in the Globe and Mail discusses a survey by Seymour Management Consulting which reveals that One in two Canadians is a bundle of nerves about money. Low-income people are most stressed, but one in three people with incomes of $100,000 or more are on the list of worriers.

So How do you know when it is the right time to retire? Retire Happy’s Jim Yih says retirement readiness is not tangible. He notes that one of the most significant trends is that more and more people want to work in retirement, plan to work in retirement and/or are being pulled into work in retirement.

“There are more opportunities than ever to work in retirement.  In fact the new terminology that is not so new anymore is the idea of planning a PHASED RETIREMENT or a TRANSITIONAL RETIREMENT. Personally, I think it’s great and I think a lot of people are finding success with this idea,” he comments.

Retired actuary Anna Rappaport identifies the same trend in an opinion piece Moving To The Next Step: Reboot, Rewire, Or Retire? for Forbes. She suggests that while many people may seek to continue working at traditional jobs into their 70s or 80s, others may wish to leave their career positions to build new career paths. People who held senior roles during their careers often find rewarding a period of professional activity with less responsibility, before totally leaving the labor force. Some seek memberships on corporate and/or nonprofit boards. Other people seek volunteer or not-for-profit roles, working in areas that are meaningful to them.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

When is the 4% rule safe? Interview with Ed Rempel

 

Click here to listen
Click here to listen

Today I’m interviewing Ed Rempel for savewithspp.com. Ed has been a Certified Financial Planner for over twenty years, and an accountant for thirty-three years. After building one of the largest financial planning practices in Canada, he partially retired in his fifties to focus on his passion for writing.

On his blog Unconventional Wisdom, Ed recently discussed his very interesting research* which reveals that if you want to withdraw 4% a year from your retirement portfolio without running out of money in 30 years of retirement, you need to hold significantly more equities than bonds in your portfolio. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Welcome, Ed.

Thanks a lot Sheryl.

Q: So how do you define a successful retirement for the purposes of your study?
A: For the purpose of the study, I defined a successful retirement as providing a reliable income rising with inflation for 30 years. That means you retire at 65 and your money lasts to age 95.

Q: Many financial planners use the 4% rule, which essentially says that you can withdraw $40,000 a year plus inflation for life from a $1 million portfolio. What do you think?
A: I have 146 years of data on stocks, bonds, cash, and inflation. I looked back at all those years to see what would have happened in the past if people retired that year, with each type of portfolio – e.g 100% bonds, 100% stocks plus various other permutations and combinations. 

I also tested these scenarios with inflation, to see what actually happened in the past. And the surprising result was that the more equities you actually have the safer your portfolio is. My whole blog is about “unconventional wisdom.” I love challenging ideas that most people believe aren’t really true and that’s one of them.

Q: So, to what extent does retirement success link to whether or not retirees follow the common of rule of thumb which suggests that they shouldn’t invest more than 100 minus their age in equities? For example, the portfolio of a 70-year old should include 70% bonds and 30% stocks.
A: We call that the age rule and its one of the things I tested in the study. I found that it actually gives you a significantly lower success rate. If you have 70% bonds at age 70, and the bond allocation is growing as you get older, that’s a very low component of stocks. In these circumstances you will have a much lower retirement success unless you withdraw a lower amount of income each year. 

Q: And what would the lower amount of income be in your view?
A: If you are more comfortable with a conservative 70% bond/30% stock portfolio, I would suggest you use a 3% not a 4% annual withdrawal rate. 

Q: Then what is the stock/bond allocation with the highest success rate, which we defined earlier as having enough money to withdraw 4% annually plus inflation, for thirty years?
A: The highest success rate will result if you are invested 70% or more in stocks. This is a very heavy allocation. And if you plan to withdraw more than 4% (i.e. 5% or 6% annually) the highest success rate will occur if you have 90% or 100% stocks. 

Q: What about bond or GIC investors? What percentage of their accounts can be safely withdrawn so their money will last thirty years?
A: I would suggest bond and GIC investors stick with 2.5%. That’s a little bit more than the interest that they’ll get, so they would be encroaching on their principal.

Q: Many financial advisors tell investors to keep cash equal to two years income, to draw on when their investments are down. Will that improve the possibility that these people won’t run out of money?
A: That is another example of “conventional wisdom” that people subscribe to. And I agree it kind of sounds logical, but my study found that holding two years’ worth of cash will not enhance your chances of making your money last for 30 years. In fact, there were a number of cases where keeping cash actually meant investors ran out of money, when without cash they didn’t.

The only possible benefit would be entirely behavioral. For example, if investments go down some people might get scared and cash them in. However, if they have cash they might leave their investments alone and just spend the cash for a little bit. But in general I don’t recommend this because I like to follow what actually works and I found no actual benefit in holding cash to cover expenses for several years after a market downturn. 

Q: Based on their risk tolerance then, how would you advise clients or readers who are nervous about holding a high percentage of equities in their portfolio?
A: They still need to stay within their risk tolerance. Therefore, even though the study showed a higher amount of equities is safer, and would give them a better retirement, that’s not what I’m recommending that everyone should necessarily do.

Q: So more conservative investors are just going to have to understand they will either need more money to meet their retirement goals or they will have to spend less?
A:
Right. Adding bonds gives you a fixed income that reduces volatility that can make you less nervous. But then you have to lower income expectations. 

Q: Say that somebody does go with a higher stock allocation, what about the risk if there’s a stock market crash early in their retirement? How much will it throw out the calculations?
A: In the study I went back to 146 years, and there were a lot of big market crashes in the last 146 years, to see what actually happened. In actual fact that I found that historically this almost never a factor except in one very clear case for people who retired in 1929. It was actually inflation that eroded buying power over the years.

Q: What’s the biggest mistake people can make if there is a market decline?
A: The biggest mistake, in fact, I call it “the big mistake,” is to sell your investments, like sell your equities or switch to more conservative investments, after a market decline. The bottom line is you must be able to stay within your risk tolerance and stay invested in the market, through the inevitable crashes. That’s the only way you’re going to get the retirement income that you want.

Q: My last question, what is your best advice to retired investors, or investors close to retirement, regarding how to structure their portfolios.
A: Well the bottom line is to have a proper retirement income plan. You have to think through what the lifestyle is you want to have and how much money you need to support it. And then look at how you are comfortable investing and come up with a plan that gives you what you need. There will be trade-offs, but once you make a proper retirement income plan, then you can have a sustainable income throughout the rest of your life.

Thank you Ed! It was a pleasure to chat with you today.

Thanks a lot Sheryl.

*For the full report of Rempel’s research discussed above, see How to Reliably Maximize Your Retirement Income – Is the “4% Rule” Safe?

 

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Nov 20: Best from the blogosphere

I finally found time to clean out the 700+ emails in my in box and here are some of the gems from both the mainstream media and the blogosphere I found hiding there.

The federal government has announced expanded parental leave and new caregiver benefits that will come into effect December 3rd. Eligible new parents will be able to spread 12 months of employment insurance benefits over 18 months after the birth of a child. However, the government will not increase the actual value of employment insurance benefits for anyone who takes the extended parental leave.

The change in leave rules will automatically give the option of more time off for federally regulated workplaces, which include banks, transport companies, the public service and telecoms, and is likely to spur calls for changes to provincial labour laws to allow the other 92% of Canadian workers outside of Quebec access to similar leave. Anyone on the 35 weeks of parental leave before the new measures officially come into effect won’t be able to switch and take off the extra time.

How do you know when it’s the right time to retire? Retire Happy’s Jim Yih advises boomers considering retirement to have a plan that includes both lifestyle issues and money issues.  He says, “Too often the retirement plan focuses only on the financial issues. You can have all the money in the world but if you don’t know how to spend it or have good people around you or you don’t have your health, what good is the money?”

In the Globe and Mail, Morneau Sobeco actuary Fred Vettese says Few Canadians are destined to hit their retirement income ‘sweet spot’. What is an adequate income level to retire? According to Vettese for most people, it means having enough income to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living for the rest of their lives. “Put another way, spendable income in retirement would be 100% of what it was during one’s working years,” he says. “We’re unlikely to hit the 100% target every time, so let’s consider anything between 85% and 115% to be in the “sweet spot.”

If you sometimes get discouraged reading about “wunderkind” who save millions and retire super early, FIREcracker, writing on Millenial Revolution says Don’t Let Comparisons Derail Your FIRE (financial independence, retire early) Journey. “Don’t compare your beginning with someone’s middle or end. Instead of comparing yourself to other people, look back at your own journey and see how far you’ve come, she says. “And remember, even though there are hordes of people in front of you, there are also hordes behind you. They would switch places with you in an instant.”

And finally, make sure your retirement savings plan includes adequate amounts for health care. Health spending in Canada will likely hit $242 billion in 2017, says a report from the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI). CIHI calculates that health spending in Canada is expected to reach $6,604 per capita this year – or about $200 more per person compared to last year. The report also says total health spending per person is expected to vary across the country, from $7,378 in Newfoundland and Labrador and $7,329 in Alberta to $6,367 in Ontario and $6,321 in British Columbia. The public private split remains fairly constant with 30% covered by private out of pocket payment or private insurance and 70% by the public purse.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Saskatchewan introduces 6% PST on insurance premiums

As of August 1, 2017, the Saskatchewan PST tax applies to premiums, fees and charges for most insurance coverage including individual and group insurance such as life, mortgage, disability and supplemental health care (e.g. drugs, dental, vision or hearing care) coverage.

Similarly, PST will also apply to benefits plans including Administrative Services Only (ASO) arrangements, funded and unfunded benefit plans and qualifying trusts.

Individual permanent life insurance policies, including whole and universal life insurance, in effect prior to August 1, 2017, are exempt from PST, including all future premium payments with respect to these policies.

However, new individual permanent life insurance policies effective after July 31, 2017, will be subject to PST. Endorsements added to insurance contracts with an effective date prior to August1, 2017, are also not subject to PST.

Employee premiums under group insurance plans are taxable depending on both the place of employment and residency. An employee must live and work in Saskatchewan for the employee premiums to be taxable.

Taxability of Group Insurance Premiums
Where the employee lives Where the employee works Employer premiums Employee premiums
Saskatchewan Saskatchewan Taxable Taxable
Outside Saskatchewan Saskatchewan Taxable Exempt
Saskatchewan Outside Saskatchewan Exempt Exempt

SOURCE: Aon Hewitt Consulting

Where there is an Administrative Services Only (ASO) agreement (a contract between an employer and a third-party administrator), the premiums or payments to claimants can include dues, assessments, administrative costs and fees paid for the administration of the plan. PST will be collected on these charges and also on the premium or the payment of benefit amounts.

Several other provinces also currently charge retail sales tax on all insurance premiums including Ontario (8%) and Quebec (8%). Manitoba applies 8% RST only to life, disability, critical illness and AD&D premiums.

The polling firm, Insightrix, asked 802 respondents:  “How will your household change its insurance purchasing plans once PST is charged on all insurance premiums?” That question prompted the following responses:

  • 20.3%: Reduce insurance coverage (such as downgrading the level of home insurance coverage, purchasing less crop insurance, etc.)
  • 13.8%: Stop renewing some policies (such as cancelling a package policy on a vehicle)
  • 48.6%: Our household won’t change its insurance purchasing plans;
  • 25.4%: Not sure

“Charging the PST on insurance comes with an obvious risk,” says Todd MacKay, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation Prairie Director. “Hitting premiums with the PST will run up insurance costs by hundreds of dollars for families and thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for farmers and small businesses. More than a third of Saskatchewanians say they’ll have to reduce coverage or stop renewing some policies and that means people will have less protection when bad things happen.”

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Nov 13: Best from the blogosphere

It’s personal finance video time again! This week we present timely videos about extended warranties, the Equifax security breach, the new mortgage stress test and more.

In the wake of the pending demise of Sears, Jacqueline Hansen from CBC Business News reports on what it means for customers with extended warranties.

Rob Carrick outlines the steps Canadian should take to deal with the Equifax security breach which exposed the personal information of tens of thousands of people

In Episode 125 of her podcast series, Jessica Moorehouse interviews Chris Guillebeau author of the new book “Side Hustle from Idea to Income in 27 Days.”

Do you think you should be earning more at your job? Bridget Casey from Money After graduation has some hints about how to ask for a raise in her video “How to Negotiate Your Salary | ASK FOR $5,000+ MORE.”

This video from The National explores how the new mortgage stress test for borrowers with uninsured loans is designed to ensure they can withstand higher mortgage rates.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.