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

Jul 9: Best from the blogosphere

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

Canadians begin to make a dent on their collective debt
As interest rates begin to creep up, it appears that Canadians’ thirst for low-interest debt is finally starting to be slaked.

According to Bloomberg News via the Financial Post, the debt to income ratio for Canadians “dipped” to 168 per cent in the first quarter of 2018. That means that the average working Canuck owes $1.68 for every dollar he or she earns. It’s down from 170 per cent in the last quarter of 2017, the Bloomberg article notes.

Debt is often described as the destroyer of retirement dreams. If you are maxed out on all your credit cards and credit lines, there is precious little money left to put away for retirement. If you don’t have a workplace pension plan and are relying on your own savings for your future retirement, the pressure is doubled.

It appears that Canadians are beginning to turn the corner on debt. If you’re in that situation, consider starting to put a little away for life after work. Start small and build up your savings as debts are paid off. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan provides the ideal way to put a little away now so that there’s a bit of security later on – visit their site at www.saskpension.com for full details.

What are the habits of those who retire rich?
Writing in Business Insider, financial advisor Roberto Pascuzzi says there are several key characteristics he has noticed in wealthy retirees.

First, he says, they don’t get distracted from their overall plan. They are realistic about their wealth creation plan and aren’t hoping for “magical” investment gains. And they don’t worry about what others think – they don’t seek approval, he writes.

They make smart, long-term financial decisions and don’t look for a “get rich quick” home run. They are mentally tough and well organized.

They visualize the goal of retiring rich, and they dream big “with a realistic foundation.”

A systematic approach to retirement can help you get there in style. Pay yourself first. Be consistent and methodical in your savings – don’t lose focus and keep a steady stream of income directed at the target. Get rich slowly and avoid trying to hit home runs via your investments. With a little homework we can all get there.

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’s on your bucket list for retirement?

We often hear about “bucket lists” and what should be on them – things that people want to do, boxes they want to check off, all before they reach the end of life’s runway.

So what’s on some of these bucket lists? Save With SPP took a look around the Internet to see a few examples.

In the UK, Mature Times lists three ideas – seeing the Northern lights, buying a dog, and travelling the country by train. The article is based on a study of 2,000 Brits. “Many Brits view their later years as a chance to do all the things they’ve wanted to do for ages, it is considered to be one big long holiday,” the article notes, gently reminding readers that you still have to pay the bills and taxes once work is in the rearview mirror.

The late chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain once said a tour of Newfoundland and Labrador should be on everyone’s bucket list. The province, he once told the Chronicle Herald, has “that perfect mix of culture, cuisine and landscape that travellers want to experience.”

From the Personal Excellence blog, the top three are travelling around the world, learning a new language and trying a new profession. Number four – achieving your ideal weight – is also noteworthy. 

Forbes magazine recommends making a pilgrimage, eating a meal “good enough to be your last,” and climbing a mountain.

The Great Canadian Bucket List recommends seeing polar bears in the wild, walking the seabed at Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick, and cycling across PEI.

Have you already done any of these bucket items? Remember, in order to do your list to its fullest, it’s wise to save for your golden years. A great way to do that is by signing up to be a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

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 2: Best from the blogosphere

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

A fifth of working Canadian boomers have saved zero for their retirement
A startling one-fifth of Canadian boomers haven’t saved a nickel for their golden years, reports the Huffington Post Canada, citing Franklin Templeton Canada research.

Boomers, for the purposes of this research, are defined as those aged 53 to 71, the article notes.

“While working longer might seem like a good solution (to not having retirement savings)… it means little for your retirement if you’re only servicing debt, which is the case for many people,” the article warns.

A good solution for folks with large debts to pay off is to start small with retirement savings, and then ramp it up a bit as each debt is paid off. With the Saskatchewan Pension Plan – www.saskpension.com — you can start small, adding a few dollars here and there and gradually working up to a regular monthly contribution. You will be able to watch your savings grow as your debts decline.

“Debt avalanche” approach touted for getting out from under those credit cards
It’s said that getting out of debt is like losing weight – it’s not fun, it requires enormous self-discipline, and real progress doesn’t seem to come for a very long time.

Melanie Lockert, author of Dear Debt, recently told NBC that it was only when she fully understood her debt that she was able to do something about it. “I did the math, and my interest was costing about $11 per day, and that just drove me completely mad and upset me because $11 a day, that’s $300 a month,” she states.

Lockert’s solution to getting rid of her $68,000 US debt was the “debt avalanche” approach.

She ranked her debts by interest rates. At the beginning, she paid extra each month on the debt with the highest interest. Once that debt was knocked off, she added a little more extra on the next high interest debt, repeating the process until all the debts were gone.

To help speed up the process, she found a few “side hustle” jobs and directed that income towards the debt. “There’s no fun advice,” Lockert states in the article. “There’s no easy hack. There’s no magic secret. It’s really just about being consistent.”

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

Budget, financial plan are keys to battling debt: Jamie Golombek

Canadians are struggling with record levels of personal debt. Figures from early 2018 show household debt has topped 170.4 per cent. This means the typical Canadian owes $1.70 for every dollar they earn.

Save With SPP recently asked noted personal finance expert Jamie Golombek, Managing Director, Tax and Estate Planning for CIBC Financial Planning & Advice, for his views on how to avoid the pitfall of debt, how to dig out from under it, and how to make saving part of your overall plan.

“The first thing people need to do is have a written budget,” says Golombek. “The budget needs to show the cash that is coming in, and the monthly expenses that are going out.” This simple step will give people a better handle on their cash flow, he says.

His second tip was to “plan ahead for major expenses.” Setting money aside for big ticket items, as well as emergencies, such as layoffs or major home repairs, helps you avoid being “caught by surprise later,” Golombek explains.

His third suggestion is to try and “distinguish between your wants and needs, especially when it comes to major expenditures,” he says. That’s a big issue, because we live in a society where people expect instant gratification, rather than saving up and then buying the things they really want later, he explains.

Golombek speculates that we are in this high-debt situation because of two main factors – housing prices in various Canadian cities and towns have skyrocketed, while interest rates have “plummeted to a near 60-year low.” That’s creating the temptation of buying when debt is relatively cheap, he explains. But credit card interest can still be in the 20 per cent range, he adds.

As well, he says, “there are so many easy ways to spend money these days.” There are apps that hook your phone up to your credit card, so you can pay by tapping the phone, or using a thumbprint. Spending, he says, has never been easier.

How to dig out from under it?
“The best way to go is to have a financial plan, one that looks out to the long term. Take a look at the big picture for the next five, 10 or 20 years,” he explains. Things like time off, education, retirement and also debt reduction should be part of your plan. “This plan will tell you how much you can afford to spend, and how much you need to save,” he says.

We thank Jamie Golombek for talking to us – and remember that if you are planning to save for retirement, a good place to invest is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

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

Jun 25: Best from the blogosphere

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

1,000 boomers a day are turning 65 and gearing up for retirement
The crowd of people punching the clock at work for the last time is growing, writes Jim Yih, author of the Retire Happy blog. He notes that 7 million Canucks will be retiring in the next decade.

“We hear too many doom and gloom scenarios about what retirement holds from so many sources,” writes Yih. Instead, he offers some key retirement readiness tips from those who are already over the wall.

First, he says your health and fitness should be a priority. “Your health is the basement you build on, so it needs to be as solid as possible,” he advises.

Next, be prepared for retirement, he writes. Know your sources of income, be prepared for relationship and psychological impacts of not working, think about working part time and generally “educate yourself to avoid retirement shock,” Yih advises.

Where possible, Yih states, you should avoid retiring with debt. That’s not easy, he writes, given that about 59 per cent of us are indeed in debt at retirement age. But debt in retirement can be a black hole that can lead to “a downward spiral” in income, he warns.

His last advice is about retirement savings – “start saving earlier, and save more,” he writes.

It’s a great blog to check out.

If you are thinking about retirement savings, another great resource is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Visit their site and find out how you too can make retirement savings easy and automatic.

Blog focuses on the ins and outs of investing
One of our Save With SPP readers suggested we take a look at the Stocktrades blog — and we thank our reader for the suggestion.

Investing is not for the faint of heart. The blog helps do-it-yourself investors through the often complicated maze of terms and tactics. There’s a lot of helpful information on this blog and if you are into picking your own stocks, bonds, ETFs and the like, this will be a helpful resource.

It’s certainly worth reading, so we again thank our reader for the tip.

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

Slow and steady wins the exercise race, advises author Alyson Rodgers

Many of us, as we reach that certain age, begin to notice the little aches, pains and extra pounds that the “golden years” seem to want to pack on.  We can’t turn back the hands of time, perhaps, but we can equip ourselves to be ready for its onslaught.

So notes Alyson Rodgers, author of Health and Fitness for Seniors: Exercise Solutions for Baby Boomers. This short, helpful book makes the important point that we all “can still benefit from exercise, regardless of age, medical condition, or genetics.”

Rodgers advocates “regular but moderate exercise,” ranging from 15 minutes to one hour, three to five times a week. The trick – moderation – will avoid the burnout of overdoing exercise, and the physical pain that can accompany it, she writes. A shorter, more sensible program of exercise will be easier to stick with, she notes.

It’s best to “work it in at a comfortable pace, and to keep it challenging,” she writes.  Her book outlines specific, easy-to-follow exercises for a variety of different situations and for different medical and physical conditions.

In the book’s chapter on balance and flexibility exercises, Rodgers notes that targetted exercise programs can help set up your body “to defend itself against the all-too-natural slips and tumbles we all take from time to time.” Balance can be improved through standing and sitting exercises, the book notes. There are great ways to improve one’s flexibility, and an exercise ball is a great tool for helping in that regard, the book says.

In addition to boosting the body’s natural line of defence, exercise helps avoid the risk bone loss (a frequent side effect of being sedentary) and can control weight, she writes. As we get older, she notes, “our metabolisms slow down, but our eating doesn’t.”

Rodgers also says energy should be spent on making the home safer – grip bars, anti-slip mats, and de-cluttering are among the strategies listed.

This well-written and positive short guidebook is well worth a read, and is available at your local bookstore or on Amazon.ca.

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

Jun 18: Best from the blogosphere

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

Workplace pensions disappearing, putting savings onus on you
Writing in the Financial Post, Jason Heath notes that while most Canadian retirees think they saved enough for retirement (42 per cent said they had saved enough, 44 per cent wished they had saved a little more), much of that saving – about 25 per cent on average — came from their workplace pension plans. That’s a problem going forward, Heath writes, because workplace pension plans are becoming quite scarce.

“There have been trends in Canada towards reducing employee pension coverage, shifts towards temporary and contract workers and an increase in self-employment,” he writes. “These all put more personal responsibility onto today’s workers to save proactively to be tomorrow’s happy retirees.

Many of us already know that the Saskatchewan Pension Plan provides a great way for us to save on our own. Those savings can augment your company’s plan or can represent your own personal retirement plan. Sign up today – visit saskpension.com for more details.

What are the best places to retire in Canada?

MoneySense magazine recently put together a video on how to choose a place to retire in Canada.

The magazine says that retirees want to live somewhere that is close to an airport, has a thriving arts and culture scene, good weather, and good healthcare.

What places made their list? Number 1 choice was Victoria, B.C. MoneySense says B.C. has the warmest weather in Canada, and Victoria, while a bit pricey (over $574,000 for the average home), is steeped in history and culture and blessed with fine hospitals.

Taking second place was Ottawa, a larger city with more than 974,000 residents, which has many museums and art galleries, a good and mid-sized airport, and excellent healthcare. Housing is still a bit expensive, with the average price around $481,000.

Number 3 was Orillia, Ontario, which is about two hours’ north of Toronto. This beachfront town of 32,000 has lots of history and culture, a large casino nearby, and boasts affordable housing averaging under $300,000.

An unofficial runner-up selected by the Save with SPP blog might be Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a fine, young-feeling university city with great healthcare and those long, sunny, and non-humid summer days of bright sunshine. Northern lights in the winter, too.

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

Research suggests retiring early can extend your life

Retirement is a sort of grey area for most of us – a destination that we’d like to arrive at one day, but one we know very little about.  But research shows that life after work may have the hidden benefits of extending your life and boosting your health.

A Dutch study, published in the journal Health Economics, found that a group of male retirees who retired at age 55 were 2.6 per cent less likely to die within the next five years than those who didn’t retire early. The study, authored by economists Hans Bloemen, Stefan Hochguertel and Jochem Zweerink, is reviewed in this New York Times article.

Why is retirement seen as good for health?
The Dutch study found that those who were retired had fewer signs of digestive and cardiac trouble – less stress, less “road” eating, and less sitting in traffic.

The Times article also cites US research that concluded retirement is, for health purposes, like finding out you are 20 per cent less likely to develop a serious illness, such as diabetes or a heart condition.

A similar study in Australia found that “retirement was associated significantly with reduced odds of smoking, physical inactivity, excessive sitting and at-risk sleep patterns.” You can have a look at the Australian study, called Retirement: A Transition to a Healthier Lifestyle.

A lot of times we are sort of trapped in our thinking on the topic of retirement. We wonder (and worry) how we will manage to live on less money than we made at work. But the research points to a nice new way to frame our thinking. Retirement may be the time of life when we can really focus on our health and well-being. We’ll be liberated from the stress and strain of the workplace, and able to take the time to look after ourselves.

So as you plan your retirement, SPP can help you with the financial side. What you make of the other side – the opportunity to look after yourself – is up to 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

Jun 11: Best from the blogosphere

The pros and cons of annuities

Annuities are usually insurance against something bad – but there’s a kind of insurance that you can look forward to, explains Moshe Milevsky, Professor of Finance at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

In his YouTube video, Why Annuities Now?, Prof. Milevsky talks about how annuities are really insurance “against something that is a blessing, longevity.” Longevity insurance is “the insurance you buy to protect you against the cost of living for a very long time.”

An annuity is certainly something to think about when converting your SPP savings into retirement income. It’s a way to set up your savings to provide you with a fixed monthly income for your life – and there are ways to also provide for your survivors. Check SPP’s retirement guide for an overview of the annuity options the plan provides.

The retirement spending “smile”

Writing in the Financial Post, Jason Heath talks about the “retirement spending smile” that seems to occur for most of us. What is the smile? We generally spend more money in our early retired years, see a decline in the middle, and then see spending increase in the end – on a chart, it looks like a smile.

Research, the article notes, finds that “spending tends to rise by more than the rate of inflation in later years, on average.” This, the article notes, is likely due to the fact that in extreme old age, “few 95-year-olds cut their own grass, live independently in their homes, or avoid prescription drugs.”

The article warns us that spending may rise modestly if we are fortunate enough to live into our late 80s, and advises that idea to be part of our financial planning.

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