All posts by saskpension

What the heck is robo-investing and why is it popular?

For most people, investing means a trip to the bank or a broker, a “know your client” interview, and then a portfolio design, often featuring stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Those with smaller amounts of money to invest are often encouraged to start off with mutual funds and branch out later.

There’s a relatively new kid on the block called robo-investing that does things a little differently, so Save with SPP decided to try and understand the principles behind it.

First, this is a robo-service, reports a Global News article. So instead of meeting someone, you visit a website and sign up. “When you sign up with a robo adviser, you usually have to answer an online questionnaire about things like your financial goals and how nervous you get when the stock market goes down.”

Next, the article notes, the robo-firm will “invest your funds in low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) based on your personal profile and risk tolerance.” Because an ETF approach is used, fees are usually low, around 0.5 per cent versus the 1-2 per cent charged “for traditional investment advice,” the article reports.

Over time having a low-fee investment vehicle can be important. Two per cent doesn’t sound like much, but when charged to your account for 25 or 30 years, it can really eat into your investment returns, leaving you with less to live on in retirement.

The up side to robo-investing, the article says, is the low cost “set it and forget it” approach. The robo-firm reacts to market changes based on your preferences, rebalancing your portfolio when markets surge. This not only saves you time and trouble, the article notes, but it is automatic – great if you are a procrastinator.

The down side? The fees are low, sure, but there are no management fees if you buy stocks and bonds in your self-directed portfolio. There are standalone ETFs that rebalance themselves, the article notes. Advice from the robo-adviser is somewhat limited, the article says, but it concludes that the option is an attractive one for younger investors who are building their savings.

Save with SPP likes any and all forms of savings vehicles. And SPP itself is also worth a look when discussing retirement savings options. The SPP Balanced Fund has posted some impressive numbers since its inception in the 1980s, and SPP fees are on the low side – from 1992 to 2017 they averaged less than 1 per cent per year.

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 apps are the most helpful for retirees?

A bunch of us old guys were shooting the breeze after a round of golf when the topic of apps came up – what apps did we find the most helpful/useful, and why?

Going quickly around the room, our gang liked Microsoft Translator, which you can get here. This is a handy app if you’re going out of the country and is a lot of fun to fool around with – it talks to you in many languages and goes slow to help you learn better.

More practically, all of us liked having a good blood pressure log app, here are a few, to track our BP results, and to share with the doc. Some of the newer BP machines can actually send your results directly to your app, one of our golfers noted.

One of us had MapMyRide, a cool app for tracking your bicycle ride – it counts off every kilometre you ride, giving you time and speed, shows you a route map at the end, and sends you monthly stats on how you have been doing.

We all had banking apps, fitness/calorie trackers, investing apps, and apps to watch TV (Netflix, CBC, etc.) which made Save with SPP wonder what other retirees have on their phones.

According to the A Place for Mom website, EyeReader by Netsoft is a great magnifying app. Hold your phone over a book, a menu or other printed text and it not only magnifies it, it lights it up.

A CBC news story mentions Fongo, a free Canada-wide phone app that lets you make calls using WiFi. The story quotes Diane Thomson, who lives in Ontario, saying that “It’s amazing…I can call my family back in Nova Scotia for free.”

The SeniorNet blog likes an iPhone app called Park and Forget, which logs where you parked your car in a parking garage so you can find it later.

Many seniors don’t really get how phones, tablets and apps work. For them, there is the Oscar Senior app which provides an easier-to-use interface that simplifies the process of using mobile communications. In other words, an app that helps you understand how to work your phone.

There are, of course, zillions of apps out there and this represents only a small sampling. If an app eliminates time-wasting note-taking, helps you remember things, or makes it easier to stay in touch with family and friends, it may be worth checking out.

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

Sept 10: Best from the blogosphere

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

Retirement may be good for your health
While most of us focus on the financial side of retirement – the question of saving enough for the “golden years” and then making it last to the finish line – there is arguably an even more important factor to take into account. That factor is the relationship between retirement and good health.

A recent University of Sydney (Australia) study found that retirees “become more active, sleep better, and reduce their sitting time” once they have left the workplace behind.

The retirees followed were also less likely to smoke, the study found.

An earlier U.S. study found “the retirement effect on health is beneficial and significant,” reports CTV News. This study linked a reduction of stress (no more work) to a reduction in smoking, and more time for exercise.

The National Bureau of Economic Research found “positive long-run effects both in subjective well-being, or happiness, and in the objective health measures,” reports The Fiscal Times via Yahoo!

“Retirement is a good time in life that many people look forward to,” states Aspen Gorry, one of the study’s authors, in The Fiscal Times article.

Less stress, more time to take care of your health, better sleep – you can’t put a dollar value on that. So when planning for retirement, take into account the fact that getting out of the workforce may be the best thing you’ve ever done for your health.

Changing things up in retirement
An article in US News and World Report lists “10 Retirement Lifestyles Worth Trying.” And what are some of them?

Going back to school, the article notes, is so popular south of the border that “a growing number of colleges are building retirement communities on or near campus.”

Retirement also lets you stay at home, to “experience what the days feel like when you don’t have to hurry,” the article points out. Other ideas include volunteering, starting a second career, or enjoying the thrill of become a devoted frugality buff.

What you do with retirement is of course up to you. Having a good retirement savings plan is an important underpinning for those years of freedom. If you don’t have a plan at work or on your own, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan can help.

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

 

Great accomplishments can come late in life

While sitting by the lake with a couple of old friends recently, talk turned to the idea that getting old means you’ll do less and learn little. “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” our friend said sadly, shaking his head.

But those old sayings may be past their best-before date, because many seniors are finding that their “golden” years are personal best years.

Take Vancouver’s B.J. McHugh. According to an article on the CTV News website turning 90 was no big deal for this accomplished athlete.

“McHugh owns several 10-kilometre, half-marathon and marathon records for seniors, including her latest: the fastest marathon time by a runner over 90. McHugh smashed the record by two hours at the Honolulu Marathon in December, with a time of 6:47:31,” the article states. This from a woman who did not take up running until her late fifties, the article adds.

Regina’s Ted Turner, according to a CBC article, was active and still golfing as he approached age 90, but was also a busy historian and author. “A few years ago he wrote a book on the Wheat Pool called Beyond the Farm Gate. He’s now working on another project about the agriculture building at the University of Saskatchewan,” the article states. “I think that as I mature, I can get better at a lot of things,” Turner told the CBC.

Finally, there’s the story of Quebec’s Laval Boulanger. According to another CBC report, Boulanger had a terrible workplace fall – a drop of 15 metres – back in 1943 when he was just 18. He very nearly died from his injuries, the report says, but recovered and made a unique vow. He decided that if he lived until age 90, he would skydive.

At the successful conclusion of his dive, he said “I’m free… my mind is free.”The moral of these stories is quite simple. The third period of life is a long time, and there’s no reason to try to just kill the clock. It’s a time to try new things, to learn, to have fun, and to surprise yourself.

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 27: Best from the blogosphere

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

Asking the question “what is retirement really like”
Everyone who is working, or frankly, just getting older, eventually wonders what it would be like to be retired. It is very difficult to imagine what “there” looks like.

Save with SPP had a look around to see how people describe the so-called “golden years.” What are they really like?

Forbes magazine recently covered a survey on this topic, and their top three results were quite interesting. Retirees said that “boredom is not a problem.” One retiree said “I have to remember (repeatedly!) that I can’t do everything I want, even in retirement.”

Second on their list was the revelation that retirees “often downsize and cut their living costs – by choice.” The typical survey respondent “is living quite comfortably on about half of his or her pre-retirement income,” the article notes.

Rounding out the top three is the fact that retirement “requires some big adjustments for married couples.” In order to avoid one spouse supervising the other, “me time” is essential, the article notes.

US News and World Report also covered the “what is retirement like” question, and their findings were similar. They found most new retirees want to continue to be active. Citing examples of doing part-time work or managing their own savings, the article says most retirees “would rather continue to be active after they retire from their career than relaxing around the pool all day.”

Retirement, the magazine notes, can be “a difficult transition if you are not prepared for it.” Those who were forced into retirement during the economic downturn of 10 years ago found they had less savings and “a lot of heartburn,” the article adds. Some looked to part time work until more stable economic times returned.

On balance, the article says, having fun in retirement is very important. You can “volunteer, freelance coach, or (do) many other activities,” the article notes. It’s a way to help avoid missing the “structured routine of work,” the article states.

What will your retirement be like? The conclusion is that it’s up to you. Having a plan for retirement savings and for turning those dollars into future income is also a good underpinning for your future life after work. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan can help you on both fronts.

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

 

Book reveals a way to build wealth – conscious spending

We Canucks keep breaking the wrong kind of record – levels of debt. In fact, one would not be surprised if the phrase “becoming debt free” is starting to appear on people’s bucket lists.

An eye-opening booked called I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi is a nice addition to your self-help library.  Among the many excellent ideas in this book is the notion of “conscious spending.” Sethi writes that becoming wealthy does not mean you must become super-frugal, living as cheaply as you can and buying the lowest cost items possible. Instead, he says it is important to think hard about what you ARE spending money on – conscious spending.

“Frugality alone doesn’t get you to your goals. It’s a helpful but not sufficient condition. So I take another approach of trying to write about money holistically, while urging you to make your own decisions about what’s important enough to spend a lot on, and what’s not,” he writes.

Most of us don’t think before we spend – unconscious spending – he writes. We just put it on the credit card and then hope for the best. A far better approach is to have a “prescriptive budget,” or a spending plan, for the month ahead. Many of us don’t know, he writes, what’s going out in any category – such as subscriptions and membership fees.

“We not only lack a prescriptive budget (“I want to spend 20% on my retirement account, 10% on savings, 20% on going out…”), we even lack a descriptive budget (“where is my money going?”),” he notes.

But the exercise of knowing where you WANT to spend your money in advance of spending it is empowering, he says. You may want to buy lots of shoes, go out a lot, or some other passion. What you want to spend your money on is up to you, there is no standard approach to take, the book notes.

The book is written in a very friendly, informal style – it’s like listening to sound advice on money from a close and trusted friend. It’s a good read with some fresh thinking on a subject that is of growing importance.

Once you’ve moved to a prescriptive budget and are conscious about your spending, don’t forget to make SPP part of your retirement savings plan. Your future you will thank your present you.

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 20: Best from the blogosphere

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

Using “behavioural science” to help boost retirement planning
For far too many of us, the words “retirement planning” conjure up a frustrating jumble of spreadsheets, calculations, application forms and sums of money we don’t have. Easier, we think, to change the channel and worry about something else.

Recently the Ontario Securities Commission researched these “barriers to retirement” and came up with a new idea – the use of behavioural science tactics to aid the planning process. The OSC’s research is featured in a recent article in Benefits Canada.

It’s more of a “nudge approach.” One idea the report suggests is scheduling a retirement planning meeting at work. The individual must then choose to opt out of the meeting or just go with the flow and attend, the article notes. Another similar approach is to bring the future closer by showing people a variety of retirement activities and asking them to choose their favourite one.

“Keeping people from being overwhelmed or feeling other negative emotions is also important to the planning process,” the article notes.

One suggestion not touched on in the article might be to make your retirement savings automatic. Rather than rounding up dollars at the RRSP deadline, why not have a pre-set amount deducted each payday? That sort of automated savings approach is possible with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan; check out their website for full details.

A toast to the better days ahead
We’ve all been to lots of retirement parties. Here are some great retirement toasts, courtesy of the Public Speaking Advice blog, that you may be able to make use of at the next “farewell to work” event you attend.

“We don’t know what we’ll do without him but we’re about to find out.”

“May we always part with regret and meet again with pleasure.”

“May the best of happiness honor and fortune keep with you.”

“A bad day at fishing is still better than a good day at work.”

“Here’s to your health and your family’s health. May you live long and prosper.”

That last one has a bit of a Star Trek/Mr. Spock ring to it, doesn’t it?

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

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