A look at the fascinating world of “extreme couponing”

On an almost daily basis we are all inundated with coupons – 10 per cent off this, that, and the other – that we sometimes remember to use. But there’s a group of people out there who take part in “extreme couponing,” a gang that seem to have the discipline to make maximum use of this everyday savings tool.

An article in the Globe and Mail describes the world of extreme couponing as “a no-holds-barred pursuit of savings that has earned itself a weekly TV series and countless obsessive Internet followers who strive to maximize their savings at the checkout by spotting the best sales and by hoarding coupons.”

It takes work, the article notes. In the piece, a woman called Aimee Geroux, who has her own blog called Extreme Couponing Mom, says she has walked out of stores with $300 worth of goods that cost her $20 of her own money.  She tells the Globe that she totes a binder full of coupons when she goes shopping, but also employs “price matching.” That’s when stores match the sale price from other stores – you get a lower price if you can show the flyer, the article notes. Another trick is the “scanning code of practice,” the article says. If the item’s price on the shelf is more than the scanner says, you can get it for much less, even free, the article notes.

If you don’t feel like cutting coupons out of flyers and newspapers, there are online sites that can save you a lot of trouble. The Balance Every Day blog lists 11 Canadian sites that give you access to savings coupons and other deals.

If you like shopping online, going through the E-bates portal first gives you automatic discounts that are mailed to you by cheque every couple of months.

Like everything else that’s good for you – exercise, proper eating, and balancing the budget – extreme couponing requires commitment. Sue Neal of Investors Group recommends putting all your savings in a fund, the Globe article notes. “Now you can really see the savings you’re making,” Neal said. “It could actually get you more excited about using the coupons.”

It’s also a great way to save some money for retirement. Maybe some of your coupon coinage can be directed to your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account – visit SPP to find out how.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Aug 13: Best from the blogosphere

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Canadians living longer – here’s how to avoid running out of money
Retirement is about accumulating savings and then “decumulating” them, or living on them for the rest of your life.

While it’s fairly easy to set a savings goal, the harder part is figuring out how long you’ll live, according to a recent article in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.

“For planning purposes it is advisable to assume a long life,” the article notes, citing Statistics Canada figures showing that Canada’s life expectancy “ranks among the top in the world.” There are 19.4 per cent more folks aged 85-plus as of 2016 versus 2015, the article notes, and in that same period there has been a 41.3 per cent increase in those aged 100 and older.

“The longer the life, the more likely you will run out of money,” the article warns.

There is a nice way around that problem, called a “longevity risk” in the pension business. You can convert some or all of your savings into an annuity. An annuity will guarantee you a payment amount that will be paid each month for the rest of your life. That way, if you live for a century or longer, you’ll still be getting income.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers an interesting variety of annuities, to find out more, check out their retirement guide.

Some selected sayings about retirement
What is it like to be retired? Save with SPP had a look at The Joy of Being Retired blog, and found a few choice comments.

  • “Gainfully unemployed – and proud of it too.” Charles Baxter, from Feast of Love
  • “The money is no better in retirement but the hours are!” Author unknown
  • “Retirement – when you quit working just before your heart does.” Author unknown
  • To these, we will add a few we’ve heard:
  • “I know I ain’t doing much – doing nothing means a lot to me.” Bon Scott, AC/DC singer
  • “I will be fully retired when the mortgage is.” Anonymous SPP blogger
  • “The older I get, the better I used to be.” Golfer Lee Trevino
Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

What the pros can tell us about managing money better

We all want to be great managers of our money. And the road to great money management must be paved with good intentions. But the “shiny objects” of life distract us from running a tight fiscal ship, so we mostly see a lot more money going out than staying in. Debts mount and the piggy bank remains defiantly empty.

So what are the experts doing that we aren’t? Save with SPP scoured the web to try and find out.

From the Real Simple blog, money management tips include paying bills on time – even tiny bills – and using cheaper, lower-fee online banks.

Time magazine stresses the importance of patience and discipline. “Don’t make major money-related decisions in a hurry or at a time of great emotional stress, such as when the stock markets tank or soon after a loved one has died,” Time advises. Take time to breathe, the magazine suggests.

At the Titan’s Lair blogspot a key bit of advice is “knowing where your money goes.” With a budget, you know where every dollar is going, and that knowledge gives you the power to make savings, the blog advises. Budgeting, the blog adds, helps you stay out of debt and the related pitfalls of high fees and compound interest. As well, it will leave room for retirement saving. “Saving now and managing your money correctly will definitely benefit you in the long run,” the blog advises.

Noted financial guru Suze Orman, quoted on the Mint.com blog, says a key tactic is to “take a hard look” at finances, and to avoid making excuses for what’s not going right. It is important, she notes, to separate what people want from what they need. That will “cut the fat” out of their financial problems, the article states.

So to recap all this advice – don’t let unpaid bills pile up. Pay attention to fees. Take your time with major money decisions. Be aware of where every nickel of your money is going, and cut the fat where you can. Be realistic and separate needs from wants.

Following this more self-disciplined approach will help you tackle any debt you may be carrying, and will free up money for retirement savings. And as we all know, a great way to build those savings is by signing up for the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Your money will grow, the fees are low, the track record is impressive, and there are many ways to turn your savings into a lifetime income stream.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

How to move to a bigger place without spending money – declutter!

Isn’t it funny how that new apartment, condo, or house seems to get smaller with each passing year?

It’s not because the place is shrinking – it is usually because of all the stuff you have accumulated. So rather than packing up everything and moving to a bigger, more expensive place, Save with SPP sought out some expert tips on how to save big by decluttering the space you’re already in.

The Becoming Minimalist blog  offers some great tips on how to take on the overwhelming task of decluttering.

Decluttering is a financial thing rather than a neatness thing, the blog notes. “The idea of living a simplified, uncluttered life with less stuff sounds attractive to many,” the blog advises. Many have “considered the benefits of owning fewer possessions: less to clean, less debt, less to organize, less stress, more money and energy for their greatest passions,” the blog states. However, the blog continues, the big question is “where in the world do I begin?”

On their list of top approaches to decluttering are giving the job a solid five minutes per day, giving away one item every day, filling one trash bag every day, and “the four-box method.” In every room, the blog notes, place four boxes – one for trash, one for giveaway, one for relocation, and one for keeping.

The Home Storage Solutions blog  suggests getting rid of the easiest stuff first, namely garbage, things that are broken or don’t work, duplicates, and “items not used for a year.”

The Life Hack website says clear floors first, then countertops. Move onto furniture last. Again, the advice is “toss, donate, or keep.” To clean a closet, take EVERYTHING out and then go through those same three steps – get rid, give away, or hang on – before you put things back in.

If you find you’ve got a lot of things to give away, why not hold a garage sale? The proceeds from clearing your living space can be tucked away in a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account, invested, and then enjoyed thoroughly in the future when you’ve retired! For more details, visit www.saskpension.com.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Jul 30: Best from the blogosphere

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

No generation is winning at retirement savings: research
You might think that one segment of society – the young, perhaps, or the middle aged, or even the old – would be on top of things with retirement saving.

But research suggests that ALL generations are having a tough time with it. According to recent research from Franklin Templeton Investments Canada – reported by the Canadian Press — all generations “appear to be facing challenges saving for and financing their retirement.”

What are the challenges? The article says longevity – the fact that everyone is living longer – is a big one. Parents of Gen Xers, the article notes, are “living longer and spending more of their money on things like health and travel.” That means there will be less to leave to their kids, the article reports.

Interest rates are the second problem. “Canadians have increasingly large levels of debt which become harder to carry as interest rates rise,” the article quotes Franklin Templeton Canada’s Matthew Williams as saying. More expensive debt repayment means less money for saving, the article suggests.

Finally, many of us just aren’t saving. “A quarter of Canadian Gen Xers haven’t saved anything for retirement,” the article notes. Barriers to saving for them include low income, high living costs, student loans and mortgages, the article reports. But it’s not just Gen Xers who are having problems. A surprising 23 per cent of pre-retiree boomers have saved nothing for retirement, the article states, with that figure rising to 50 per cent among younger millennials.

It’s never too late to start saving for retirement, and no amount is too little. A great way to help fund your retirement is to sign up for the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. If you’re already a member, bump up your contributions a little bit each year. You’ll be happy you did when life after work arrives.

What’s best about being retired?
For most of us, it is almost impossible to visualize what life will be like once we have punched the timeclock for the very last time.

A great blog post by Dave Bernard for US News and World Report breaks it down, listing three chief changes retirees will notice.

First, the post notes, you will finally have time to exercise. Bernard writes that now he can control “when and how” he exercises, rather than having to sneak off to do it at lunch. A second point is the sudden unimportance of weekends – they are just another day when you aren’t working. And finally, he says his creative energy has never been higher. It’s not so bad living on the other side of the fence!

 

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Interview with HOOPP’s Darryl Mabini

Factor high healthcare costs into your retirement savings strategy: HOOPP

One of the biggest problems retirees can face is unexpected, major healthcare costs in retirement – and that possibility should be factored into retirement savings.

So says Darryl Mabini, Senior Director, Growth & Stakeholder Relations for the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP). HOOPP is a $77.8-billion public sector defined benefit pension plan serving healthcare workers in Ontario.

HOOPP recently produced a four-paper series called Retirement Security – Is it Attainable? One of the four papers, called Seniors and Poverty – Canada’s Next Crisis found that 12.5 per cent of Canadian seniors – and a startling 28 per cent of senior women – live in poverty.

A factor behind this, the series suggests, is the lack of good workplace pension plans (the defined benefit type, which provides pensions based on a percentage of your earnings, is rare outside the public sector) and inadequate personal retirement savings.

“People saving for retirement don’t factor in the healthcare costs when they get older,” explains Mabini. While Canadians are proud of their universal healthcare system, he notes, they “are not aware of what it doesn’t cover.”  Some long-term care costs are not covered by provincial plans and can cost thousands a month, he notes. Treating chronic diseases and illnesses can also be expensive in retirement, particularly if you don’t have health benefits, says Mabini.

So retirement income – having enough of it – is critical. “We found that about 40 per cent of Canadians are covered by a workplace pension plan. For the other 60 per cent, it is do-it-yourself; they are saving on their own,” Mabini says. But doing it on your own is hard – the savings are voluntary, not mandatory, and no one tells you how much you actually need to save to be able to afford retirement, he explains.

“Our research found that the amount people have saved is heavily impacted around age 85, once long-term care costs are factored in,” he says. Those who are age 85 and older are at risk for having insufficient income, and because of their longevity; it is usually women who come up short on retirement income, Mabini notes.

“The problem is that those without a good workplace pension plan tend not to save on their own,” he says. They think CPP and OAS will be sufficient, he adds. “The most you can get from CPP, and few get it, is about $12,000 a year at age 65. With OAS, it is about $8,000.” While $20,000 a year may sound OK for a retiree, it isn’t enough when facing long-term care costs of thousands a month, Mabini says.

If you don’t have money to cover healthcare costs, you have to depend on government income supplements and other programs which are not always readily available, he notes.

“There needs to be more education about the importance of retirement savings, and the risks of not having a workplace pension,” he says. “Saving on your own can work, but putting away two per cent of what you make is not adequate for some people. People need to realize the risk of senior poverty.” If you are saving on your own, Mabini recommends setting an income replacement target, making savings automatic and ideally mandatory, pooling, and having a way to turn those savings into a lifetime income string.

The full findings from HOOPP’s Retirement Security series can be found here.

We thank Darryl Mabini for speaking to Save with SPP. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan provides an excellent way to save for retirement if you don’t have a workplace plan, and it offers annuities to turn your savings into a lifetime pension. Find out more at www.saskpension.com.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Jul 23: Best from the blogosphere

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Actual retirement savings lag even our own targets
Canadians think they should be putting away 14 per cent of what they make for their retirement. Only problem is, the same research found that on average Canucks are saving 12 per cent.

These numbers come from recent international research, conducted by Schroders, published in Benefits Canada magazine. The article found Danes were the only nationality surveyed who put away more than they think they need to save – 13 per cent savings versus a target of 12 per cent. While Canadians undersave by two per cent, Chileans, who figure they need 19 per cent savings but put away 13 per cent, have an even bigger savings gap.

Worse, the survey found most people underestimate what they will need in retirement for basic expenses. The article notes that Canadians think they will spend 42 per cent of savings on basic living expenses, but in reality, the figure is closer to 59 per cent.

“There is a real danger that people globally are underestimating the proportion of their retirement income that will need to be allocated to basic living expenses and the amount of money they will need to live comfortably in retirement, particularly in the current environment of low returns and increasing inflation,” states Lesley-Ann Morgan, global head of retirement at Schroders, in the article.

Have you done this math? If you’re thinking now that you are not putting away enough for retirement, consider joining the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. If you’re an SPP member and in the same boat, why not ramp up your contributions a bit? Better to be an oversaver than an overspender – at least according to the research!

The simplest retirement plan ever?
An article from Reuter Benefits boils retirement down to three thoughts.

First, the article notes, select the age when you want to retire. When you are at that age, the article then asks, add up your expected expenses. Then add up your expected income from all sources. If you have more expected income than expected expenses, you are good to go.

If you are not good to go, then you need more savings and less expenses. The article also recommends the use of a financial planner to help you finalize your plans.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Debt-Free Forever: book provides firm, realistic steps you can take to right the ship

Gail Vaz-Oxlade, the well-known author, blogger, and TV personality, provides just the medicine we need if we have stumbled into the horrible minefield of debt.

This book reminds one of going to your parents, cap in hand, hoping for help with the bills, and instead getting a lecture on how you need to fix your problems yourself. As the book says, there is no easy way out of the debt trap. Debt-Free Forever provides a detailed, step-by-step plan right your personal ship of state. So if you are sitting on a pile of debt that is starting to feel uncomfortable, your folks will be glad to hear you’ve picked up this book.

The great writing and the “we’ve all been through this and we can fix it” tone of this book is very encouraging and inspires you to help yourself out of your own mess. An example – “it’s a good idea to set a visual reminder of what you’re working toward. Cut out a picture of the home you hope to own and stick it on your fridge,” writes Vaz-Oxlade.

There is a lot of rich content here. The first four chapters talk about “figuring out where you stand” debt-wise, making a plan to get out of it, changing your habits (the hardest part), and planning for the future. While this sounds simple, it requires a lot of work, dedication and focus – but the book sets it all out for you to follow.

On the savings side, Vaz-Oxlade recommends the 10 per cent rule. “Take 10 per cent of your monthly net income… and put it in your long-term savings (like a retirement plan),” she writes. For those who say they can’t afford to save because they don’t make enough, have too much debt, or “want to live for today, man,” Vaz-Oxlade talks of the Law of Inertia.

“It is so much easier to maintain the status quo than to change. Fact is, you can’t save $10,000 until you save $1,000. You can’t save $1,000 until you save $100. You can’t save $100 until you save $10.”

Start small, she advises, make savings automatic, and gradually ramp savings up. This excellent book will help you turn things around in your financial life. It’s published by Collins.

And once you get on track, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a great place to set up regular, automatic contributions to your long-term retirement savings. Check out SPP today at www.saskpension.com.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Jul 16: Best from the blogosphere

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

How to “gear down” and move from work to retirement
We hear about saving for retirement, and we hear about life after work – but what about those key transition years?

An article in Forbes recommends 10 key steps to transition from work to retirement.

First, author Nancy Anderson writes, you should take more vacation. Most of us take two or three weeks off per year, but “when you retire, you suddenly have 52 weeks of unoccupied time on your hands.” Getting used to more time off while you are still working, she notes, makes good sense – and why wait until you are retired to travel?

Second, she recommends trying to work less than full time in your last years on the job. A US study, Anderson writes, found that one in five Americans reported their employers “allowed workers approaching retirement to switch from full-time to part-time work.” Again, she notes, the idea is to get used to having more time to yourself – gradually.

Next, Anderson advises spending four full seasons in the place where you want to retire. “It’s much different living in a tourist destination than vacationing there,” she warns. Make sure you are OK with your new, forever home, she advises.

Her fourth point – “transition to retirement by making new friends who also enjoy your favourite activities” – emphasizes the need to have strong social connections when you retire. And as a fifth point Anderson advises that people “rekindle old hobbies or start new ones.”

Point six – if you are thinking of moving when you retire, consider doing it now rather than at 65. “Great jobs in popular destinations are hard to come by, but not impossible,” she writes. Similarly, if you want to do some expensive renovations, tip seven is to do them while you are still working and not while retired, when you are living on less.

Practice living on less before you actually do is point eight, and focusing on your most important relationships is tip nine. Her final advice is to “try something new” each week of your retirement. “You never know what wonderful experiences lay ahead of you. A little planning can help you to be better prepared to enjoy them,” she concludes.

Famous quotes about retirement
The Rethink Retired blog contains a number of great quotes from famous people on the topic of retirement. Here is a sample:

“Retire from work, but not from life. – M. K. Soni

The key to retirement is to find joy in the little things. – Susan Miller

“Age appears to be best in 4 things: old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read. “– Francis Bacon

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Protecting pensions preserves retirement security, independence: CFP

Imagine reaching the end of a long, hard career and then finding that your workplace pension isn’t there for you. It happens more often than we might think with private sector pension plans. And that’s why Mike Powell and the Canadian Federation of Pensioners (CFP) are there to help.

The CFP, says Powell, was started in 2005 and now includes 20 member organizations. Those 20 organizations “represent about 200,000 people who mostly belong to private sector, defined benefit (DB) pension plans,” he explains.

DB plans pay pensions for life based on what members earned at work, and how long they were in the plan. While members contribute each payday, it is up to the employer – the plan sponsor – to ensure enough money is set aside to pay the future pensions.

Pensions can be dramatically reduced when companies run into financial trouble, notes Powell. This has happened “with Nortel, with Sears, so our organization is there to advocate for the pension rights of those plan members,” he explains.

In Ontario where the government recently reduced solvency requirements, the CFP has lobbied hard to improve the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund (PBGF), a sort of pension insurance that kicks in when corporate plans are insolvent. Currently there are limits on what the PBGF pays out, and it does not top up retirees to 100 per cent of what they should have been receiving.

In addition to giving plan sponsors a break on solvency funding, Powell says, the government should also change the PBGF to fully cover pension loss funded by those same sponsors. That would mean retirees would be “made whole” in the case of an insolvency. The CFP hopes that if Ontario goes this route, the other provinces will follow.

At the federal level CFP wants pension plan members to become “super priority” creditors when companies go bankrupt. “That would move them from the back of the line to near the front,” he explains. “If they did this, pensions would be taken right out of the equation when a company is insolvent.”

Protecting pensions delivers retirement security, Powell explains. “If you can’t count on your pension, it creates a great deal of uncertainty,” he says. Affected retirees spend less on goods, services, and charities, and may have to rely more on taxpayer-funded social assistance. The fact that many seniors are retiring with debt can compound the problem, he explains. For more on the CFP, visit their website.

We thank Mike Powell and the CFP for speaking to us. Even if you have a workplace pension plan, additional saving for retirement via the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a wise move. For more information, visit our website,

 

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22