Tag Archives: Fred Vettese

Nov 20: Best from the blogosphere

I finally found time to clean out the 700+ emails in my in box and here are some of the gems from both the mainstream media and the blogosphere I found hiding there.

The federal government has announced expanded parental leave and new caregiver benefits that will come into effect December 3rd. Eligible new parents will be able to spread 12 months of employment insurance benefits over 18 months after the birth of a child. However, the government will not increase the actual value of employment insurance benefits for anyone who takes the extended parental leave.

The change in leave rules will automatically give the option of more time off for federally regulated workplaces, which include banks, transport companies, the public service and telecoms, and is likely to spur calls for changes to provincial labour laws to allow the other 92% of Canadian workers outside of Quebec access to similar leave. Anyone on the 35 weeks of parental leave before the new measures officially come into effect won’t be able to switch and take off the extra time.

How do you know when it’s the right time to retire? Retire Happy’s Jim Yih advises boomers considering retirement to have a plan that includes both lifestyle issues and money issues.  He says, “Too often the retirement plan focuses only on the financial issues. You can have all the money in the world but if you don’t know how to spend it or have good people around you or you don’t have your health, what good is the money?”

In the Globe and Mail, Morneau Sobeco actuary Fred Vettese says Few Canadians are destined to hit their retirement income ‘sweet spot’. What is an adequate income level to retire? According to Vettese for most people, it means having enough income to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living for the rest of their lives. “Put another way, spendable income in retirement would be 100% of what it was during one’s working years,” he says. “We’re unlikely to hit the 100% target every time, so let’s consider anything between 85% and 115% to be in the “sweet spot.”

If you sometimes get discouraged reading about “wunderkind” who save millions and retire super early, FIREcracker, writing on Millenial Revolution says Don’t Let Comparisons Derail Your FIRE (financial independence, retire early) Journey. “Don’t compare your beginning with someone’s middle or end. Instead of comparing yourself to other people, look back at your own journey and see how far you’ve come, she says. “And remember, even though there are hordes of people in front of you, there are also hordes behind you. They would switch places with you in an instant.”

And finally, make sure your retirement savings plan includes adequate amounts for health care. Health spending in Canada will likely hit $242 billion in 2017, says a report from the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI). CIHI calculates that health spending in Canada is expected to reach $6,604 per capita this year – or about $200 more per person compared to last year. The report also says total health spending per person is expected to vary across the country, from $7,378 in Newfoundland and Labrador and $7,329 in Alberta to $6,367 in Ontario and $6,321 in British Columbia. The public private split remains fairly constant with 30% covered by private out of pocket payment or private insurance and 70% by the public purse.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

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.

How spending declines with age

By Sheryl Smolkin

A recently retired actuary I once met at a conference told me that retirees worry primarily about their health and their money. Even retirement savings that seemed perfectly adequate when you hand in your office keycard for the last time seem to be eroded by the unrelenting drip, drip of inflation.

That’s why the lucky few who have indexed or partially indexed defined benefit pensions (most common in the public sector) are the subject of “pension envy” by the 80%-85% Canadians who do not have access to any form of workplace pension.

But according to a new C.D. Howe research paper by actuary Fred Vettese, retirees actually spend less on personal consumption as they age. He says, “This decline in real spending, which typically starts at about age 70 and accelerates at later ages, cannot be attributed to insufficient financial resources because older retirees save a high percentage of their income and, in fact, save more than people who are still working.”

Vettese cites evidence showing that compared to a household where the head is age 54, the average Canadian household headed by a 77-year-old spends 40% less. None of this drop in spending is attributable to the elimination of mortgage payments because they are not considered consumption. Much of the fall in spending at older ages was traced to reduced spending on non-essential items such as eating out, recreation and holidays.

The author focuses on public sector pension plans, which are fully indexed to inflation. His findings show that these plans could move to partial indexation, generating significant savings. “Given that more than 3.1 million active members are contributing to public-sector pension plans, the total annual savings could add up to billions of dollars, he says.” At the individual level, he suggests these savings would allow public-sector employees to increase current consumption or to reduce debt.

Given this phenomenon, cost-of-living indexation of workplace pension benefits could be reduced without sacrificing consumption later in life, Vettese concludes. He also notes that, “Reduced pension contributions would free up money to be spent today when families struggle to raise children and pay down mortgages on houses, thereby raising plan members’ collective economic welfare over their lifetimes.”

The average resulting reduction in required total employer/employee contributions to public-sector plans is of the order of $2,000 a year per active member. There are over three million active members in Canada’s public-sector DB pension plans, most of which provide full inflation protection or strive to do so to the extent that funding is available.

Nevertheless, Vettese says Pillar 1 (OAS/GIS) and 2 (CPP) pensions should not be subject to any reduction in benefits or contributions because these plans are generally designed to cover basic necessities, such as food and shelter. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, he believes it is reasonable to assume that spending on such necessities does not decline very much, if at all.

I have heard the three phases of retirement described as “go-go”, “slow-go” and “no-go.” My mother at 88 no longer drives a car and can’t to get out to shop very often anymore, so I am prepared to concede that many of her expenses have been reduced. However, her memory isn’t what it used to be and she has had several bad falls, so paying for 24-hour care in her own condo is a huge drain on her assets. Also taxis to multiple doctor’s appointments and medical supplies are expensive.

While Vettese suggests partially eliminated or reducing inflation-protection for indexed pension plans could allow public-sector employees to enhance current consumption and reduce debt, I’m not sure that’s necessarily a laudable or desirable objective. Mom saved and scrimped all her life and because my Dad was a disabled WW2 veteran she gets a tax-free, indexed pension for life. She also collects CPP and OAS.

I’m glad she has the additional disposable income so she can stay in her own apartment with the necessary support system as long as possible. Even though older retirees may no longer go on extended vacations or eat in fancy restaurants, they still have other equally compelling expenses in order to live out their remaining days in dignity and comfort.

Now if we could only figure out a way to help raise the bar for all seniors to be able to afford the same well-earned privilege.

Jun 13: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Next week Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau will again be meeting with provincial and territorial finance ministers to talk about options for improving Canada Pension Plan benefits. This protracted discussion has been going on for as long as I can remember, but the hurdles remain the same.

CPP changes require the support of Ottawa plus seven of the 10 provinces representing two-thirds of the population. When the finance ministers last met in December 2015, Ontario which is currently going at it alone, PEI, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick gave CPP improvements a “thumbs up.” Quebec, B.C. Saskatchewan and Alberta vetoed the idea.

Here are some links to recent articles in the mainstream media that will bring you up-to-date on the various arguments made by stakeholders in the debate.

Larry Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour says the proportion of their incomes that Canadians put into CPP, and will someday get back as pension payments, “is not enough.” Nevertheless he is optimistic since many Canadian politicians — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — agree there’s a pension problem because many Canadians can’t retire on what they’ll get from the CPP under current rates.

After the finance ministers met in December 2015, Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), and Marilyn Braun-Pollon, Saskatchewan vice-president of CFIB told the Regina Leader-Post that small business owners are relieved that Canada’s finance ministers have put plans to expand the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) on hold. “They are relieved but they’ve expressed a desire to see a shift in the conversation,” Braun-Pollon said.

The Globe and Mail reports that a coalition of business groups and youth advocates is calling for an expanded Canada Pension Plan, but only if it is targeted at middle-income levels. The coalition argues that higher premiums to pay for more generous retirement benefits should kick in at annual earnings of about $27,500. They argue helping Canadians who earn less than that is better accomplished through Old Age Security and the related Guaranteed Income Supplement.

The Ontario government recently announced it is delaying the introduction of its Ontario Retirement Pension Plan until 2018 while it negotiates with the federal government and other provinces on an enhanced CPP. However, at this point, the government says it still intends to proceed with the ORPP as it’s unlikely that all provinces can agree on a CPP enhancement large enough to take the place of the ORPP. Here’s what you need to know about the ORPP:

And Fred Vettese, the Chief Actuary of Morneau Shepell writes in the Financial Post that he is actually in favour of CPP expansion if it is done right. He says one thing it will certainly do is to raise the under-savers (and there are many of them) closer to the standard of living they enjoyed while working. The unanswered question is how much closer should they be without having to save on their own?

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card and

 

BOOK REVIEW: THE REAL RETIREMENT Why you could be better off than you think

By Sheryl Smolkin

7Aug-The+Real+Retirement

The Real Retirement by Morneau Shepell Chief Actuary Fred Vettese and Bill Morneau, Executive Chairman of Morneau Shepell was released and extensively reviewed by the media in 2013.

However, I decided to circle back to this book over a year later because it is much more optimistic than many of the personal finance books I have reviewed since January.

Most financial writers seem to be trying to guilt readers into forgoing consumption during their working lives in order to accumulate sufficient RRSP savings to generate 70% of pre-retirement income.

In contrast, Vettese and Morneau present well-reasoned arguments to illustrate that income replacement of 50% or even less post-retirement will result in a “neutral retirement income” (NRIT), i.e. similar patterns of consumption for retirees.

Initially, they note that there are three phases of retirement:

Phase 1: From retirement age to the mid or late 70s or even later if you are healthy you are most likely to travel to exotic locations and pursue expensive hobbies. Therefore your income requirements will be highest in this phase.

Phase 2: In the second phase of retirement you may have diminished physical or mental capabilities. If so, you will travel less and cut back on strenuous activities. Therefore you will spend less money.

Phase 3: In the last years of your life you may be more physically or mentally impaired. You may need to be in a nursing home, or if you are wealthy enough, in an upscale retirement home with nursing care.

As a result, planning to spend more in the first decade of retirement will not necessarily mean that you will run out of money before you run out of time.

I thought it was particularly interesting that when considering available resources that can generate retirement income for Canadians, unlike many other personal financial writers, the authors also factor in the value of “Pillar 4 assets” including real estate, business equity and non-registered savings.

They use the following population breakdown in their calculations:

Income Quartile Average total income (couple)
Quartile 1 $29,000
Quartile 2 $53,000
Quartile 3 $78,000
Quartile 4 $110,000
Quartile 5 $204,000

The bottom quartile is dropped out because it is assumed that government benefits such as CPP, OAS and the GIS will provide better than average income replacement.

For the most part, Quartile 5 is also excluded since a couple with an income of over $200,000 has typically saved in RRSPs and has other Pillar 4 assets that can augment retirement ravings.

Vettese presents an example of a couple in Quartile 3 with $78,000 in annual income at age 65 and assumes they saved 6.5% annually in an RRSP from age 30 until retirement, Once their RRSP balance is converted to a RRIF at age 65, including government benefits they will have an income after retirement of $48,600/year.

Although retirement income for this couple is just 62% of their pre-retirement income, they no longer make RRSP and CPP contributions; have EI deductions and other employment costs; and pay a mortgage or child-raising costs. Their income taxes are also much lower.

The net result is that they have $14,000 more in disposable income to spend post-retirement! Although each family’s financial situation differs, the authors conclude that an NRIT which equalizes consumption before and after retirement generally only requires about 50% of pre-retirement income.

A calculations using a couple in Quartile 4 ($116,000 before retirement) reveals that the NRIT is just 44%. Furthermore, they can achieve their NRIT with 35 years of RRSP contributions equal to 3.5% of household income. And in general the higher the income level, the lower the NRIT.

This book is an interesting read because it presents a different perspective on the perennial questions, “How much will I need in retirement?” and “How much do I have to save to accumulate the amount I will require?”

While Vettese and Morneau suggest the answers to these questions may be “less than you think,” it doesn’t mean you don’t have to save at all. And all of the scenarios assume you retire free of mortgage and other debt. They also presume a drop in employment expenses and taxes payable that may not apply in your situation.

But if you thought the only thing you have to look forward to is Freedom 75, reading this book will cheer you up. Retiring at age 65 may in fact be a perfectly reasonable objective and you might even be able to afford a nice annual vacation or two while you are still well enough to travel.

The Real Retirement can be purchased online from Chapters for $15.64.

Fred Vettese
Fred Vettese
Bill Morneau
Bill Morneau