Category Archives: General

2017 – Saskatchewan’s Top Employers

Getting up every day for 40+ years and going to work for eight or more hours a day pays the bills, but it can become tedious and repetitive. However, if you work for a great employer that is constantly reviewing compensation, benefits and employee engagement levels in order to attract and retain the best and the brightest, work can be a much more pleasurable experience.

One way to identify a top-notch employer is to keep an eye out for organizations that are recognized as leading employers in various lists published from time to time. For example, take a look at Canada’s Top 100 Employers published by Mediacorp Canada since 2000 and spinoffs such Canada’s Top Employers for Young People and Saskatchewan’s Top Employers.

First published in 2006, Saskatchewan’s Top Employers recognizes the Saskatchewan employers that lead their industries in offering exceptional places to work. The 2017 winners were announced this past April in a special magazine published by the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

Employers are evaluated by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers using the same eight criteria as the national competition:

(1) Physical workplace.
(2) Work atmosphere and social.
(3) Health, financial and family benefits.
(4) Vacation and  time off.
(5) Employee communications.
(6) Performance management.
(7) Training and skills development, and
(8) Community involvement.

Companies are compared to other organizations in their field to determine which offers the most progressive and forward-thinking programs. You can find the 2017 Saskatchewan list here, but featured below is information collected by Mediacorp about just five of these notable Saskatchewan employers.

Access Communications Co-operative Ltd.
This cable and communications company with 215 employees has locations in Saskatoon, Regina and nine other towns in the province.

  • In addition to 3 weeks of starting vacation allowance, Access Communications recognizes previous work experience when setting individual vacation entitlements for experienced candidates and provides 3 paid personal days off to help employees balance their work and personal lives.
  • Access Communications supports its new and adoptive moms with maternity leave top-up payments (to 100% of salary for up to 17 weeks).
  • Access Communications supports ongoing employee development with tuition subsidies and a variety of in-house training programs — and offers the next generation opportunities to gain on-the-job experience through paid internships and co-op placements.

ClearTech Industries Inc.
Cleartech distributes chemicals and equipment. It has facilities in Port Coquitlam BC, Saskatoon SK and Edmonton AB with a total of about 145 employees.

  • ClearTech Industries lets everyone share in the fruits of their labours with a profit-sharing plan and also encourages long-term savings through a defined contribution pension plan.
  • ClearTech Industries invests in the long-term development of its employees through tuition subsidies for job-related courses, in-house training initiatives and financial bonuses for some course completions.
  • ClearTech Industries’ employee social committee organizes a number of events through the year, including a Christmas party, family barbecue and golf tournament, weekly treat days and summer “Rider Day” barbecue.

The Mosaic Company
Fertilizer manufacturing company Mosaic has its head office in the U.S. but Saskatchewan branches in Regina, Belle Plaine, Colonsay and Estherhazy with 2,250+ Canadian employees.

  • Mosaic helps employees build their skills through a variety of in-house training options and generous tuition subsidies for courses directly related to their positions (up to $10,000).
  • Varying by employee group Mosaic employees share in a range of excellent financial benefits including a defined contribution pension program, matching RSP contributions, year-end bonuses, new employee referral bonuses (up to $1,000) and profit sharing for salaried positions. The company also offers retirement planning assistance services for all employees.
  • Mosaic ensured that architects consulted directly with employees in the design of their new head offices in downtown Regina. The modern head office is located on the top 4 floors of one of the tallest and newest buildings in the city, complete with a rooftop patio and a theatre-style conference centre plus convenient access to a shared-use fitness facility

Innovation Credit Union
Innovation Credit Union with branches in North Battleford, Swift Current, Meadow Lake and Regina has 325+ employees.

  • Innovation Credit Union offers employees a range of financial benefits including discounted financial services, new employee referral bonuses (up to $1,750), retirement planning services and a defined contribution pension plan.
  • Innovation Credit Union invests in the long-term development of its employees through tuition subsidies for courses that are both related and indirectly related to their current position.
  • Innovation Credit Union and its employees support approximately 250 charitable and community organizations every year. The credit union’s charitable focus includes initiatives that support arts and culture, business, charity, community, education, and sports and youth.

Saskatchewan Research Counsel
Three hundred and forty-four employees conduct research activities in Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Regina, Uranium City and Calgary AB.

  • Saskatchewan Research Council provides maternity and parental leave top-up payments for employees who are new mothers or adoptive parents, up to 95% of salary for up to 17 weeks.
  • Employees working at Saskatchewan Research Council’s head office can take advantage of a number of onsite amenities including a cafeteria with healthy and special diet menus, a fully-stocked employee lounge and shared access to an onsite fitness facility, complete with sauna, squash courts and instructor-led classes
  • In addition to 3.6 weeks of starting vacation allowance, Saskatchewan Research Council offers up to 15 paid personal days off to help employees balance personal commitments.

Check out the websites of these and other top Saskatchewan employers to see if they are hiring. In addition, make note of the enriched programs these top Saskatchewan employers offer if  you are evaluating other employers when you are looking for work in the province.

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.

Saskatchewanians who made their mark

I am proud to say that my Canada includes Saskatchewan. Not that I’ve actually spent a lot of time there. I’ve been to a couple of pension conferences in Saskatoon and Regina and in June 2011 I spent a memorable couple of days in Kindersley getting to know the folks at Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

But over the past six years since I started writing for SPP, the province has rarely been out of my thoughts for more than a day or two because I’m always planning my next blog. So when I was watching a recording of the Governor General’s Arts Awards on a rainy July 1st afternoon it occurred to me that Tommy Douglas couldn’t be the only Saskatchewanian who has made a major contribution to our country in the arts, sports, business or politics.  With a little research, I found the online magazine Virtual Saskatchewan and a series of by freelance writer David Yanko:

Saskatchewan’s Own 1
Saskatchewan’s Own 2
Saskatchewan’s Own 3

Each of these pieces lists 25 individuals who have made their mark on both the national and international stage. I have picked only five to profile, but take a look all three of these articles to learn more about the accomplishments of many of the best and brightest who at one time or another have called Saskatchewan home. 

Brent Butt (born August 3, 1966) is a Canadian actor, comedian, and writer. He is best known for his role as Brent Leroy on the CTV sitcom Corner Gas, which he developed. It was set in the fictional town of Dog River, Saskatchewan. The show averaged a million viewers per episode. Corner Gas received six Gemini Awards, and was nominated almost 70 times for various other awards. In addition, Butt created the hit TV show Hiccups and the 2013 film No Clue. At our place we never missed an episode of Corner Gas, so I’m happy to report that an animated version is in the works.

Brian Dickson was appointed a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada on March 26, 1973, and subsequently appointed the 15th Chief Justice of Canada on April 18, 1984. He retired on June 30, 1990. Dickson’s tenure as Chief Justice coincided with the first wave of cases under the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which reached the Supreme Court from 1984 onwards. He wrote several very influential judgments dealing with the Charter, and laid the groundwork for the approach the courts have since used to interpret the Charter. Through law school and when I practiced law, I read and cited a number of his important decisions.

Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, responsible for hits such as Both Sides Now and Big Yellow Taxi, was born on November 7, 1943, in Fort MacLeod, Alberta and grew up in Saskatoon. In 1968, she recorded her first, self-titled album. Other highly successful albums followed. Mitchell won her first Grammy Award (best folk performance) for her 1969 album, Clouds. She has won seven more Grammy Awards since then, in several different categories, including traditional pop, pop music and lifetime achievement. To this day, folk music is my favourite genre and songs like Chelsea Morning and Circle Game have become the soundtrack of my life.

Sandra Schmirler was a Saskatchewan curler who captured three Canadian Curling Championships and three World Curling Championships.  Schmirler also skipped her Canadian team to a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics, the first year women’s curling was a medal sport. Schmirler sometimes worked as a commentator for CBC Sports, which popularized her nickname “Schmirler the Curler” and claimed she was the only person who had a name that rhymed with the sport she played. Schmirler’s accomplishments caught my imagination and that of the whole country. Sadly, she died in 2000 at 36 of cancer, leaving a legacy that extended far beyond her sport.

It may seem arbitrary to mention two folk singers in an ad hoc selection of notable sons and daughters of Saskatchewan. But Buffy Sainte-Marie is so much more. This Canadian legend is 76 and still going strong. She is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, educator, social activist, philanthropist and visual artist, born February 20, 1941 on Piapot Reserve, SK.

She was an important figure in the Greenwich Village and Toronto folk music revivals in the 1960s, and is perhaps best known for her 1964 anti-war anthem Universal Soldier, which was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. On the eve of Canada Day I had the privilege to hear this diminutive giant sing Universal Soldier plus many of her newer releases in person, at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. She and her music never seem to grow old.

 

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.

Happy 150th Birthday Canada

My husband and I buy lottery tickets every now and then and have fun dreaming about what we would do with the money if we won millions. But the truth is that as Canadians born and bred, we know that we have already won the lottery.

Canada was ranked the second best country in the world again this year, edged out only by Switzerland in the annual Best Countries survey from the U.S. News & World Report. But Canada topped the list in the “Quality of Life” category, scoring a perfect 10 based on a variety of sub-factors including politics, economy and health care.

Are we perfect? Of course not. We still have much work to do dealing with many critical issues. But we welcome people from all over the world with open arms. Thanks to former Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas, we also have a single payer healthcare system (wait times notwithstanding), that is the envy of many of our neighbours to the south.

So whether you travel across the country or around the block, make this your year to see and celebrate a part of this great country where you have never been before. And to get you in the mood, here’s a little travelling music with wonderful images celebrating the beautiful place we are privileged to call home.

“Something to Sing About” by Oscar Brand performed by The Travelers.

Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!

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.

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.

Saskatchewan Pension Plan employees trust 30 years of simplicity and security

Seeing what the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has done for its members is giving Debbie Dand confidence about her own retirement.

“I usually talk to people who are inquiring about retiring,” said Dand, who works as a retirement officer for the plan.

“I educate them the best I can as to what their options are with the plan so they can make the best decision about what to do with their retirement savings.”

She discusses those options on the phone with members, knowing in detail what the plan has done over the last 30 years, first as a member and then, as an employee.

“Since 1986, when the plan started, it has accumulated an average return of 8.1 per cent less administration fees, so it has been a very good plan.”

It’s not just the return history that has benefited members.

“Saskatchewan Pension Plan has very low management fees at around one per cent, which is very low if you look around at some of our competitors,” said Dand.

“(The competitors) fees could be quite a bit higher. Over the years, it makes a quite a difference in what you are going to make in the long run.”

Now, after working for the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for the last 26 years, Dand is looking ahead to her own retirement.

“I myself have been a member of the plan right from 1986. The accounts have grown very nicely,” said Dand.

Her co-worker, Melody Lamont, sees the plan having a solid future capable of taking caring of members in retirement.

“For anybody that’s a member, they have the opportunity to receive an annuity if they remain with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, guaranteed for the balance of their life,” said Lamont.

“So we’re offering the members something that’s very simple to work with. It’s a fit for anybody who’s interested in obtaining a wonderful pension plan.”

That’s why she encouraged her husband and daughter to join the plan while Dand says her husband and four children are also members.

Canadians between the ages of 18 and 71 with room to make RRSP contributions are eligible to become members. Your Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue Agency will tell you what amount you are eligible to contribute each year. There is no minimum contribution amount and members have options about how they will make their contributions, including through online banking or directly from a bank account.

“I believe it’s something that’s there for the long term and that’s what’s very important for anyone who wants to look toward retirement and a good pension plan,” said Lamont.

We are making a change!

Hello Readers,

We are changing  our webhost for savewithspp.com on Wednesday, August 10, 2016.  It shouldn’t be a big change, however we wanted to let you know.

Why are we doing this?

To make security enhancements and allow us to have a more mobile friendly layout.

What will change?

Not much, other than the layout. We will still be posting blogs on Monday and Thursday, Saskatchewan Pension Plan will still be managing the blog and Sheryl Smolkin will still be our writer.

What does this mean for you?

Nothing! We hope…. You won’t need to follow us again to keep up with this blog and you can still access our blog at http://savewithspp.com.

If you have any questions please email us at socialmedia@saskpension.com.

And, as always, thanks for reading.

Thanks
Stephen Neiszner
Network Technician
Tel: 1-800-667-7153
Fax: (306) 463-3500
sneiszner@saskpension.com
www.saskpension.com

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RRSP frenzy

 

With the RRSP deadline a mere three weeks away, we thought providing you with an FYI blog would make this time of year easier for everyone.

Monday, February 29, 2016 is the final day to contribute to your RRSP for the 2015 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 via;
    • yours online banking service;
    • call our office (1-800-667-7153) during regular business hours or;
    • you can use our website.
  • Cheques can be mailed into 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.

In case you missed it, the SPP balanced fund returned 6.25% in 2015.  The short-term fund return was 0.45% in 2015. You are can see your full returns here.

A couple of weeks ago we posted an SPP quiz in this blog. If you haven’t already taken the quiz, check it out at http://wp.me/p1YR2T-1dI. There is a chance to win prizes!

Finally, watch the snail mail for tax receipt and member statements coming your way over the next month.

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

Thanks for your continuing support of SPP.

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Sask Pension Plan Quiz: 10 Things You Need To Know

By Sheryl Smolkin

14Jan-take our Quiz

If you are reading this, chances are you have heard about SPP or you are already a member. But even if you make regular contributions, you may have forgotten about some of the key features of the program that make it an excellent retirement savings program for all Canadians. 

Just for fun, we have put this quiz together to test your knowledge about SPP. Give it a try and see how much you really know. And forward it to friends and family members who may still not have heard about “Canada’s best kept secret.”

 

For a full list of contest rules and regulations click here.

Why fees make a difference

By Sheryl Smolkin

If you save for retirement with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, the Contribution Fund allows you to invest in a professionally managed balanced portfolio or a short-term fund. The composition of the balanced fund at September 30, 2012 is illustrated below. On average, annual fees are targeted to be one percent.

Yet a recent article in the Globe and Mail by columnist Rob Carrick reveals that the average management expense ratio (MER) — that’s the ratio of fees to the total amount of money in the fund — is 2.37 per cent for six types of retail balanced funds he reviewed.

Carrick also notes that yield on a five-year Government of Canada bond — that is, the annualized return from the interest you receive — is about 2.5 per cent right now. A five-year provincial government bond yields about 2.9 per cent. Subtract the average balanced fund fee from these yields and you’re not left with much. Those same fees will grind down your returns from the stocks in your balanced fund, though not quite so dramatically.

How much of a difference do fees make? Take a look at the following two scenarios:

  1. If starting at age 30 you save $2,500/yr. in the SPP for 35 years with an average annual net interest rate of five per cent you will have savings of $237,090 at age 65.
  2. If starting at age 30 you save $2,500/yr. in a retail balanced mutual fund for 35 years with an average net annual interest rate of 3.63 per cent (lower because admin expenses are 1.37 per cent higher than in SPP) you will have savings of only $177,235 at age 65.

That’s a difference of almost $60,000. And the results are much more dramatic if you deposit $2,500/year for 35 years and transfer in another $10,000/year from your RRSP. Earning 5 per cent a year in SPP, your balance would be $1,185,454 but if you only earn 3.63 per cent in a retail balanced mutual fund you will save only $886,176 or 25 per cent less.

For more information about SPP investments, see Investments.

Sign up for eUpdates to get up to the minute news about SPP.

Also read:
Better investment fee and performance disclosure might help
ETFs vs mutual funds
Investment fees dragged into the spotlight

Last chance to hear Canada's "Idiot Millionaire"

Canada’s “Idiot Millionaire”, Derek Foster, is coming to Saskatchewan!

Derek writes about SPP in “The Worried Boomer”

At age 34 Derek Foster left the workplace and has become Canada’s youngest retiree. Investing in simple stocks he has become know as an “idiot” millionaire. In is book “The Worried Boomer” Derek dedicated an entire chapter about Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

Join Derek, the Idiot Millionaire, at one of the following events to learn about his simple investment approach and how it can be a part of your journey into retirement.

Regina: August 13 – 11:30 am

Hosted by: Regina Chamber of Commerce
Lunch at Conexus Arts Centre Theatre lobby
200A Lakeshore Drive

Register: online at reginachamber.com or 1-306-757-4658
Costs:
Members: $35 pre-registered/Door: $40
Non-members: $50 pre-registered/Door: $55

Saskatoon: August 17 – 7:30 am

Hosted by: North Sask Business Assoc & Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce Breakfast at Saskatoon Club
417 21st St E

Register: by email info@nsbasask.com or 1-306-242-3060 register by 10 am August 16
Costs: All attendees $18

Bestselling Books:

  • Stop Working
  • The Lazy Investor
  • Money For Nothing
  • The Idiot Millionaire
  • Stop Working Too: You Still Can

Each attendee will receive a $10.00 coupon towards the purchase of one of Derek’s book available at the event.