Feb 20: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Get out the popcorn! It’s time for our selection of monthly personal finance videos.

First of all, if you don’t have a company pension plan for your employees, you need to know about the SPP business plan. Find out why the Sutherland Chiropractic Clinic set up SPP for their employees.

Globe and Mail personal finance columnist shares some great ideas for protecting yourself from online scammers.

In Save Your #@%* Money with these RRSP, TFSA, and RESP recipes Melissa Leong brings you an amusing look at the ingredients it takes to successfully save in these registered vehicles.

Preet Bannerjee explains how disability insurance works and why it is so important in this Money School blog.

And finally, if you have made financial mistakes along the way, it doesn’t mean you have irreparably ruined your financial future. Blogger Bridget Casey (Money After Graduation) makes a case for forgiving yourself for financial regrets.

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.

10 things you need to know about RRSPs

By Sheryl Smolkin

It seems like registered retirement savings plans have been around forever. They were initially introduced in 1957 to promote savings for retirement by employees and self-employed people.

Over the years since there have been changes to the program, primarily in the form of increased contribution limits both as a percent of earned income and as an increase in the maximum allowable deduction.

If you have an RRSP or are considering opening one, you may think you are well-informed about the program. However, here are 10 things about RRSPs you may find interesting.

  1. Contributions to RRSPs are deductible from total income, reducing income tax payable for the year in which contributions are made. Most withdrawals are taxed as income when they are withdrawn. This is the same tax treatment provided to Registered Pension Plans established by employers.
  2. No income earned in the account is taxed (including interest, dividends, capital gains, foreign exchange gains, mortality credits, etc.).
  3. You can set up an individual RRSP for yourself; a spousal RRSP using your RRSP room that will trigger income in your spouse’s name when funds are withdrawn; or, become a member of a group RRSP established by your employer or an affinity group.
  4. Contributing more than $2,000 over your deduction limit is subject to a significant penalty tax (1% per month on the overage amount).
  5. You can withdraw dollars or assets from an RRSP at any age. Withholding tax is deducted by the institution managing the account. Amounts withdrawn must be included in your taxable income for that year. The tax withheld reduces the taxes owing at year end. There are two exceptions to this process – the Home Buyer’s Plan and the Lifelong Learning Plan.
  6. Contributing to an RRSP is not enough. In order to meet your retirement savings goals you need to decide which of the myriad of investment instruments in which you will invest the money in your account and monitor results over time. Both independent financial advisors and advisors employed by financial institutions can help you come up with a plan.
  7. Almost all financial institutions and brokerage houses will be happy to set up a monthly automatic withdrawal program so you don’t have to come up with a big lump sum at the end of the year. They can also reduce your tax withholdings on an ongoing basis so the impact of monthly reductions to your salary is much less.
  8. If you have a defined benefit or defined contribution pension plan, your RRSP room will be reduced. However, if the expected pension you will receive from your company is lower than the income replacement you will require to live in retirement, you should still be saving additional amounts in an RRSP.
  9. Unused RRSP room is a great way to tax-shelter unexpected lump sums like an inheritance, an award for wrongful dismissal or a bonus.
  10. You may wish to borrow money to make RRSP contributions. However, if the interest rate on the loan is greater on the expected return in your RRSP and you can’t afford to pay the loan back on time this would likely not be a wise financial decision. See other possible strategies for borrowing to invest in an RRSP.

Feb 13: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

There is always lots of speculation prior to the federal budget about possible tax changes. Last week we noted that Prime Minister Trudeau publically backed off from rumoured changes to the taxability of employer-contributions to group health and dental plans.

However, in the Financial Post Jamie Glombek writes about more tax changes to watch out for in the upcoming federal budget. He covers tax rates, “boutique tax credits,” employee stock options, capital gains inclusion rates and possible changes that may be of interest to small business owners.

MoneySense has a great slide show profiling 10 personal finance heroes you really need to meet. For example, star tennis player Milos Raonic learned to save 90% of his income. Philippe Alberigo, from Whitby, Ont worked several jobs and started stock investing at a young age. When he hit 22 in 2014, he had a $100,000 portfolio.

Financial trainer and blogger Avraham Byers writes in the Huffington Post that The Snowball Method Can Help You Put Your Debt On Ice. Method 1 which he calls the Debt Avalanche prioritizes paying off your debts from the highest to lowest in order to minimize the amount of interest you pay. In contrast, Method 2 – Debt Snowball tells you to pay off your debts from smallest balance to largest — ignoring your interest rates. The idea is that paying off your smaller debts sooner will give you confidence and financial momentum to stick with your plan to the end.

Leo T. Ly, a blogger who is new to this space blogs at ISaved5k. He says the first step to save $1 M is for young people to research the jobs/career that have the potential to make six figures salary a year in the industry in which they want to build a career and get the required training. The second step is to minimize various kinds of debt.

In 2016, millennial personal finance expert and award-winning blogger Jessica Moorhouse announced she was quitting her 9 to 5 job to become a full-time entrepreneur. In Here’s What Happened to My Finances After I Quit My Job she explains that in 2016 she made just over $34,000 from her side business and she made sure she had an emergency fund of $25,000 before she took the plunge. She also embarked on a “spending cleanse” to simplify her life and be smarter with her money.


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.

Romancing your sweetie on a budget

By Sheryl Smolkin

You are still paying off the credit card bills from Christmas. Your SPP and RRSP contributions have to be in before the end of February. You don’t have time to go to the mall and even if you did, you don’t have any idea what to buy.

Four years ago I posted Thrifty ways to romance your valentine. Since then I’ve had lots more ideas. So even if you were planning to stick with the traditional flowers and chocolates, consider some of these ideas as an add-on.

  1.  Sign up for a class he/she has suggested that both of you to take together. It could be for anything from cake decorating to ballroom dancing to couples’ yoga.
  2. Volunteer together at a local homeless shelter, food bank or even the SPCA. Doing something for others will help deepen your own relationship.
  3. Pack a lunch with all kinds of goodies including a beautiful cupcake for dessert. Add a personal, humorous, handwritten note.
  4. Load phone apps that will make life easier and teach your partner how to use them. Also add a romantic picture of the two of you as the wallpaper on his/her phone.
  5. Rerun romantic movies that one of you may never have seen or that you saw together at a special time. Classic examples are: When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Love Actually and You’ve Got Mail.
  6. Binge watch on Netflix a season or two of a romantic show on a cold winter weekend and plan snacks that fit the theme. Tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam would be a perfect fit for Downton Abbey.
  7. Clean the house, make the beds and do the laundry, all without having to be asked. Give your lover coupons that can be redeemed at a negotiated time for future cleaning services.
  8. Pick a pet together and bring the puppy or kitten home on Valentine’s Day. This assumes you both want a pet and it was just a matter of time until you added one to your family. A red collar and leash would be in keeping with the day.
  9. Plan an active adventure. Take a hike; go skating on an outdoor rink and drink hot chocolate. Snowshoe through the park or toboggan down a hill. Winter is much more bearable when you embrace it instead of constantly trying to avoid it.
  10. Arrange an unexpected visit with a loved one, i.e. a housebound senior, a new grandbaby or your youngest child who is away at college for the first time. Helping to bring lonely people together on or around Valentine’s Day will create unforgettable memories.

2016 RRSP countdown is on!

With the RRSP deadline a mere three weeks away, we’re providing you with some information that will make this time of year easier for everyone.

If you aren’t big on reading this early in the morning here is a video highlighting the same information. Links are below.

Wednesday, March 1 is the final day to contribute to your RRSP for the 2016 tax year. SPP contributions must be received at the office in Kindersley on or before that day.

There’s several fast convenient ways to make your SPP contribution in order to meet the deadline:

  • Use your credit card at saskpension.com;
  • Use your online banking service; or
  • Call our office (1-800-667-7153) during regular business hours.
  • Cheques can be mailed to our office; please make sure you mail them no later than mid February.
  • If you are in the Kindersley area come visit our office and make your contribution in person.

The SPP balanced fund returned 6.53% in 2016. The short-term fund return was 0.52% in 2016. You are can see returns from prior years here.

You can reach us at info@saskpension.com or check out our website:  saskpension.com.  Our wealth calculator can help you determine how long your money will last in retirement.

Thanks for your continued support of SPP.

Feb 06: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

One issue on our radar this week of concern to many Canadians is the possible change to the deductibility of health and dental care insurance premiums for tax purposes in the upcoming 2017 budget. Currently these premiums are not a taxable benefit if they are paid for by your employer and they are a deductible medical expense for individuals purchasing private plans to supplement provincial medicare benefits.

On December 2, 2016 a National Post article noted that the Federal Liberals are eyeing a tax on private health and dental plans, a move that would take in about $2.9B. Journalist John Ivison reported that proponents of eliminating the credit argue that those with lower incomes but without private health plans are subsidizing those with employee-sponsored coverage. On the other hand, he said there is a strong economic case for encouraging employers to provide health coverage for employees.

Later in the same month, a coalition of health care service providers warned of the potential negative implications of taxing the premiums paid on employer-provided health and dental benefits. Ondina Love, CEO of the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association said, “When benefits were subject to provincial income tax in Quebec in 1993, almost 20% of employers dropped their coverage, including up to 50% of small employers. This loss of coverage can significantly impact the lowest-paid employees who will have trouble paying for drugs, dental and needed health care out of pocket.”

And now a Conference Board of Canada report commissioned by the Canadian Dental Association calculates that millions of Canadians will each pay at least $1,000 more if Ottawa taxes health and dental plans . And according to the National Post, the potential exists for a massive political backlash. The Canadian Dental Association reports that 50,000 protest emails have already been sent to local MPs and Bill Morneau, the finance minister, through its donttaxmyhealthbenefits.ca online petition.

Let’s hope that Prime Minister Trudeau’s comments on February 2nd suggesting that his government doesn’t plan to tax employee health and dental plans as reported in Benefits Canada will put this issue to bed once and for all for the benefit of all Canadians.

In another health-care related story this week, Marie Engen at Boomer and Echo makes The Case For A Universal Canadian Drug Program. She correctly says that prescription drug coverage in Canada varies widely depending on where you live, your health status, your income, and your age. Right now, each province has its own pharmacare program and there is no consistency. A universal prescription drug plan could not only reduce total spending. It would also cover everyone at an affordable price.

Finally, in a post on Retire Happy, Sean Cooper tackles the question  Should You Take a Deferred Pension or the Commuted Value? He says many people go to their investment advisors to seek assistance on deciding what to do with their pension. But there is a clear conflict of interest.  “Your advisor can be a good source of information for deciding which funds to invest the commuted value in should you decide to take it, but at the end of the day the decision should be yours and yours alone,” he concludes.


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.

Who does NOT need an RRSP?

By Sheryl Smolkin

In the first two months of every year financial institutions across the country advertise heavily encouraging every Canadian to open a registered retirement savings plan and make a maximum contribution.

And if you haven’t made all of your permissible RRSP contributions in earlier years you are an even more attractive target because chances are you have thousands of dollars of additional unused RRSP contribution room.

But in spite of the fact that I have been preaching the retirement savings gospel for decades, I agree with other pundits that there may be some circumstances in which it doesn’t make sense for you to top up your RRSP. For example:

  1. Low marginal tax rate: If you have a low marginal tax rate, you may be better off saving in a tax-free savings account or other non-registered savings and wait until you are earning more money to use up your RRSP savings room (which can be carried forward). Of course you could make the RRSP contribution in a year of low earnings and wait until a future year when you are more affluent to take the tax deduction.
  1. High interest debt: If you are carrying high interest credit card or other debt, your priority should be to pay off that debt as soon as possible to avoid further interest compounding. Then put controls in place to avoid getting into further debt. Once you have retired the debt, the additional cash flow can be used to make tax deductible RRSP contributions.
  1. Short -term goals: If you have high priority short-term objectives such as saving a down-payment for a house, funding your education or taking a family vacation, a TFSA is a more flexible savings vehicle. Your TFSA contributions accumulate tax-free. All or part of the balance can be withdrawn without tax consequences. And contribution room in the amount you withdraw will be restored the following year.
  1. Higher retirement income: RRSP contributions are most tax effective if you make them at a time when you are in a higher tax bracket but you have a reasonable expectation that your income in retirement will be lower when you must convert your RRSP account into a RRIF and begin withdrawing funds. However, you may live frugally and build a business in your prime working years. As a result, by the time you retire your income from money in the business, registered and un-registered funds is higher than prior to age 65.
  1. Great DB pension plan: Contrary to what you may have read, the defined benefit pension plan is not completely dead in Canada. For example, a small number of employees of private companies, federal public servants and some provincial employees will have generous monthly pensions when they retire. In these circumstances having a large taxable income in an RRSP maybe a great idea if RRIF withdrawals push your annual income over the threshold and as a result your Old Age Security is clawed back ($74,789 in 2017).
  1. Business owner: Unlike employees, incorporated business owners can control their compensation. If corporate income is not needed for personal living expenses, for example, it can be retained in a corporation to defer income taxes. The tax cost of withdrawing dividends (in retirement) could be significantly lower than the tax cost of withdrawing RRSP or RRIF dollars, which are be fully taxable.

Nevertheless, for all but a small number of people who fall into the categories above, an RRSP is a splendid idea. And consider using some of your RRSP contribution room to contribute to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (up to $2,500/year) or transferring in up to $10,000/year to the SPP from your RRSP. Your money will be professionally managed and at retirement you can purchase an annuity that will pay you for life.

Jan 30: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

The thing about January is that everyone is either trying to get physically, mentally or financially fit, although some people are closer to the end game than others. Here’s what some of our favourite bloggers wrote about saving money and reaching other goals in 2017.

In How to Save Money on Groceries: 10 Easy Ways to Cut Your Bill in Half Tom Drake gives the usual advice, such as make a list and stick to it, try private label brands and buy case lots of products you use regularly. But he says you can also kill two birds with one stone by eating less so your grocery bill goes down.

Stephan Weyman says one of the reasons he shops at Costco is the company’s “no questions asked, crazy return policy.” For example, the company took back a three year old recumbent bicycle that broke down two years before and he got a $500 refund. He has also successfully returned a bicycle purchased for his wife that turned into a garage ornament for $200; cushioned floor mats, and frying pans that were supposed to be professional quality and didn’t hold up.

On Give me back my five bucks, Krystal says her primary 2017 goals are to have a fun year full of travel and adventure. She plans to stay debt free and continue to save save at least $1,650/month in her RRSP/TFSA. She also resolves to curb impulse spending, continue to be active and keep in better touch with friends.

Cait Flanders (formerly Blonde on a Budget) who paid off her $28,000 of debt in two and a half years and in July 2014 completed a year- long shopping ban, plans to make 2017 the year of slow living.

Each month, she is going to experiment with slowing down in one area of her life. Some of the different things she will experiment with are: slow food, slow mornings, slow evenings, slow movement, slow technology and slow money. “The only thing I won’t do is make a list of what I’m going to work on each month. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s to trust my gut,” Flanders says.

And finally, Tim Stobbs has documented progress towards his early retirement goal on Canadian Dream: Free at 45 for several years. He hopes 2017 is the last year of his full-time working career. However, he is beginning to notice a new emotion in the people around him: fear. He gets the usual well-meaning queries like:

  • Are you sure you have enough saved?
  • What happens if you don’t get a part time job?
  • What will you do with unexpected expenses?
  • Maybe you should work just one more year?

But Stobbs figures the worse that can happen is that he will have to go back to work for a few years. “I fully admit I may not have enough saved to head into semi-retirement,” he says.  “But I don’t want to live a life based on fear of the unknown.  I’m willing to try out something new and see what happens. “


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.

Jan 23: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Here we go with another series of video blogs that will help you to organize and manage your finances. Some of them are not recent, but they have definitely withstood the test of time.


In Budgeting Without Losing Your Mind, Young Guys Finance says budgeting doesn’t necessarily mean punishing yourself so you can’t spend any money. Instead he vues budgeting as an awareness tool that will help you to identify what you are spending money on and cut back on what you don’t really need.

Because Money, co-hosted by Financial Planner and opera singer Chris Enns, interviews Kyle Prevost from Young and Thrifty. Join them for a rousing trivia game that is impossible to win and find out how hard it really is to get financial literacy into the high school curriculum.

When you tune in to a Freckle Finance video for the first time, you will quickly understand why the presenter has adopted this unusual handle. In this episode she explains what a GIC is and how it compares to other investments.

At the end of the year, Rob Carrick from the Globe & Mail took a look at which financial institutions have the best deal on high interest savings accounts. However, be forewarned – it’s still slim pickings out there!

And finally, if you want to figure out how much you are really worth, tune in to How to calculate your net worth with Bridget Eastgaard from Money after graduation.


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.