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

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