Tag Archives: pension payments

How to invest your retirement savings

By Sheryl Smolkin

Feb21cdn money tree 90161372

If there was a money tree growing in every back yard, we wouldn’t have to worry about saving or investing for retirement. Our annual harvest of $100 bills would pay for everything.

But money doesn’t grow on trees, so once you allocate hard-earned money to retirement savings, you must decide on an investment strategy that will grow your account into the nest egg you need to retire.

Before deciding how to invest your money, you have to identify how much risk you can stomach. Your retirement goals, the number of years left to retirement and the amount of money you can tolerate losing are all factors that will influence the percentage of your portfolio allocated to various asset classes.

The Investor’s Education Fund has a simple quiz that will help you identify your risk tolerance. When I took the quiz, I found out I have a “medium” tolerance for risk which means I am most comfortable with a mix of bonds, stocks and fixed income investments.

In a Masters of Money blog on the same website, Globe and Mail financial writer Rob Carrick says one thing everyone agrees on is that you must get more conservative in your asset mix as you get older.

Carrick suggests that every five years or so you should think about ratcheting down the risk level of your portfolio. In practical terms, that would mean moving some of your stock market exposure into bonds and cash. Your evolving mix of assets in a registered retirement savings plan account might look something like this:

AGE % IN STOCKS % IN BONDS & CASH
25 85 15
30 80 20
35 75 25
40 70 30
45 65 35
50 60 40
55 55 45
60 45 55
65 30 70

However, financial experts do not advocate that older Canadians get out of the stock market completely. You still need some portfolio growth in the period when you are drawing down funds to pay for retirement, particularly if you live to age 90 or beyond.

Members of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan benefit from the investment expertise of independent money managers. Funds of members who have not yet retired are pooled in the Contribution Fund.

The Contribution Fund allows members to invest in a balanced portfolio or a short-term fund. The balanced fund investment strategy is to maximize earnings for members and minimize the risk, while the purpose of the short-term fund is capital preservation.

The balanced fund portfolio composition is shown below.

BRPortfolio_Jan2013_details

The average earnings of the balanced fund since inception in 1986 have been 7.86 per cent with returns of 8.45 per cent in 2012.

Accounts of members who have retired are pooled in the Annuity Fund.The Annuity Fund is invested in bonds and short-term investments. The strategy for this fund is to produce income to pay members’ pensions.

Have you checked recently to see if your investments are consistent with your risk tolerance? If so, send us an email to socialmedia@saskpension.com. Your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

And don’t forget March 1, 2013 is the deadline for contributing to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan and your RRSP for the 2012 tax year.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

28-Feb Debt Reduction How to eliminate debt
7-Mar Airline points Which kind of airline points are better?
14-Mar Insurance Getting a better deal on car, house insurance

Talking to Gordon Pape

GordonPape podcast

Hi, my name is Sheryl Smolkin. I’m a lawyer and a journalist. Today I’m pleased to be continuing the Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s new series of interviews with financial experts. My guest is Gordon Pape.

Gordon is an author of over 40 books, a newsletter publisher, journalist and all around financial guru. He writes regular columns for the Toronto Star and moneyville.ca among dozens of other media publications.

At age 75, he has just released a new book called Retirement’s Harsh Realities and it doesn’t look like he is planning to retire anytime soon. Today we are going to talk about annuities, and why an annuity purchase can be an important strategy for making your money last as long as you do.

Q. Everyone contemplating retirement has two key questions. How much will I need and how can I be sure I won’t run out of money? How would you answer these questions?

A. How much you need depends on the individual and the type of lifestyle you want to lead after retirement. A study done by Statistics Canada a few years ago found that people in their 70’s were spending about 95% of what they spent when they were in their 40’s. Yet conventional wisdom says you only need about 70% of your pre-retirement income if you want to maintain your standard of living. Based on those numbers it suggests that in fact you need more.

You need to look at your expenses in retirement and your sources of income such as CPP, OAS, an employer-sponsored pension plan if you have one and personal savings. There is no magic number.

You need to plan for the fact that people are living longer. Something to consider especially after the age of 80, is putting some money into a life annuity. It’s not a great place to put your money right now because interest rates are so low, but once the economy starts to pick up again and interest rates start to rise that’s the time to lock in a life annuity that guarantees you an income for as long as you live.

Q. Tell me how an annuity works.

A. You’ve saved money in a RRSP, you’ve converted it to a RRIF at 71 and the government requires that you draw down a minimum amount from that fund each year. As the years go by, unless you’re able to invest at a rate that keeps up with the rate of the minimum withdrawals, the value of the fund is going to eventually drop.

By the time you get to your early to mid 80’s, the depletion rate is too fast. You might consider using a chunk of you RRIF or all of it to purchase a life annuity from an insurance company, in exchange for a flow of income for the rest of your life.

The down side is you don’t have the money anymore. You won’t have an estate you can leave but it will be cash flow for the rest of your life

Q. Why have annuities fallen out of favour recently?

A. Low interest rates and the fact that people don’t like the idea of giving up their capital. They like to be able to control their money, so they can leave something behind for their children. When you buy an annuity you lose that possibility. However, you can buy annuity that guarantees the income for a certain period of time so if you die within the period your children will get some money.

Q. When is the best time to buy an annuity? Why?

A. The longer you wait, the more money you’ll get from the annuity. The company will pay you less money at 65 than 80 because your life expectancy is longer. If you can maintain a rate of return in your RIF around 6% then the optimum time would be within your 80’s.

Q. What questions should retirees and prospective retirees ask when they are shopping for annuities? What different kinds of annuities are available?

A. Research the amount of money that the various insurance companies are offering. There are tremendous variations in the rates that they are offering for the same kind of plan. There are annuity brokers who will do this for you and find you the best offer. There is no one company that consistently pays more than others. Desjardins has come up quite often, but not all the time.

It also depends on the type of plan – i.e. one company may offer money for a straight annuity with no guarantees, where as another company may offer a better rate for a joint and last survivor annuity which means it carries on until the last spouse dies

You also need to give some thought to the company itself – the solvency of each financial institution. There is an insurance fund that covers people in the event that their insurance policy goes belly up, but the fact is that you don’t want that to happen and don’t want to be forced on a fund that has limitations on it.

Q. What does it cost to use an annuity broker and who pays them?

A. The fee will be paid by the insurance company that you eventually do the business with. It’s like a mortgage broker.

Q. If someone came to you for financial advice, what portion of his assets would you advise that he put into an annuity?

A. It will depend on the individual and how large an estate they want to leave.

Q. What are the downsides of annuities?

A. The solvency of the company. Also, if you don’t get inflation protection, over a length of time obviously the purchasing power of the income that you receive is going to decline.

Inflation protection is expensive, in the sense you will get a lower monthly payment than if you do not have inflation protection. On the other hand it will guarantee that as the rate of inflation rises over the years, so will the annuity.

There are also “impaired annuities” for annuitants with a terminal illness. The annuity pays more because the purchaser has a shorter life expectancy.

Q. Would you invest in one yourself?

A. No, not at this point. I am managing my money well enough, and my wife and I have sufficiently large RRIFs that we don’t feel we need to buy that kind of insurance at this time of our life. Down the road when I am in my 80’s I may take a look at it.

Thanks Gordon. It was a pleasure to chat with you. I think Saskatchewan Pension Plan members will be very interested in your comments about annuities. They have the option of purchasing a competitively-priced annuity from the plan until age 71.

May contest: Get to know SPP

Thank you to everyone who entered the April contest. The winner will be contacted via email.

Get to know SPP by entering our contest on this blog.

All you have to do is answer one simple question about SPP and your name will be entered for a chance to win one of the following books:

The Wealthy Barber Returns by David Chilton

Retirement’s Harsh New Realities by Gordon Pape

Count on Yourself by Alison Griffiths

The Worried Boomer by Derek Foster

Or a $20 gift card.

There are 3 separate contests (March, April and May) each with a different question. Answer the question and enter for your chance to win by clicking here!

You can even get additional chances to win by telling a friend about the contest.

Please check out the contest today!

Pension Plan vs. RRSP

By Sheryl Smolkin

Although you require RRSP contribution room to make contributions to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP), there are some fundamental differences between this pension plan and an RRSP.

One key distinction is that funds you contribute to the SPP are locked-in until you choose to retire from the plan between ages 55 to 71. This means that the money you need to supplement government benefits and other savings will be there when you need it for retirement.

In contrast, your RRSP accumulated contributions can be withdrawn at any time, subject to payment of income tax on withdrawals in the year of receipt. In addition, there are several programs that allow you to borrow and then repay RRSP funds including the Home Buyer’s Plan (15 year repayment), and the Life Long Learning Plan (10 year repayment).

However, by withdrawing RRSP funds or borrowing from your RRSP, you reduce long term growth potential in your account. The tax-free savings account (TFSA) may be better suited as an emergency fund or to save for shorter-term goals, as contribution room is not lost when withdrawals are made, and funds can be replaced in the next year.

The SPP also gives you flexible options for using your money when you retire from the plan. You may choose an annuity from SPP and be assured of receiving a pension for the rest of your life; transfer the funds to a locked-in account or prescribed RRIF with a financial institution; or choose a combination of the annuity and transfer options.

If you choose to allocate all or part of your SPP savings to an annuity option, funds stay invested with SPP; there is no transfer fee; and, the SPP assumes the investment risk and the obligation to pay a pension for your lifetime. RRSP accounts must be transferred to a life income fund before an annuity purchase can be made from an insurance company.

Saving in the SPP or a registered retirement savings plan should not be an either/or proposition. The SPP is an ideal basic building block for your retirement savings. And if you have more contribution room, you can still save and invest additional money in an individual or group RRSP.

Also read:

Pensions & RRSPs

Retirement Planning: 10 common mistakes

Griffiths: 6 reasons to avoid RRSP loans

Planning your pension

Want to save tax? Look to Saskatchewan

FAQ: Pension payments

SPP members may begin receiving benefits from the Plan any time after age 55 and must be retired from the Plan by the end of the year in which they reach 71. At SPP, “retirement” simply means you are receiving pension payments. You can still be employed and receive a pension from SPP.

You may choose an annuity from SPP and receive a pension for the rest of your life, transfer the funds to a locked-in account with a financial institution, or choose a combination of the annuity and transfer options.

Here are some FAQ about pension payments. For more information, see the SPP Retirement Guide.

Q. How much will my pension be?

A. If you elect to receive a pension, the amount of your monthly payment will depend on which annuity option you choose, your age at retirement, your account balance, and the interest and annuity rates in effect when you retire.

Q. How does an annuity work?

A. A SPP annuity is the easiest way to access your SPP savings. Funds stay invested with SPP – no transfer fee – and the Plan assumes the investment risk and the obligation to pay a pension for your lifetime.

Your annuity choice cannot be changed after payments begin. Each option provides different death benefits. Annuities offered by SPP as well as their features are:

Life Only Annuity

This provides the highest monthly payment with no survivor or death benefits payable. All pension payments stop at death.

Refund Life Annuity

At death your beneficiary receives the remaining account balance. The death benefit is calculated by subtracting total payments received from account balance at retirement. You must specify a person(s) or estate as beneficiary. The beneficiary designation can be updated at any time before your death.

Joint and Last Survivor Annuity

At your death, your surviving spouse or common-law partner receives a monthly payment for the rest of his or her life. The continuing benefit for your joint survivor is 100%, 75%, or 60% of your monthly pension, as chosen at retirement.

Q. Can I transfer my money out?

A. At retirement time, one of the options is to transfer your account to a Locked-in Retirement Account (LIRA) or a prescribed RRIF with another financial institution.

Q. Can I get my money out in a lump sum?

A. If you have a small pension benefit of $20.88 or less per month at your retirement date, you may choose to take your money out in cash less a 10% withholding tax (sent to Canada Revenue Agency) or transfer your account into an RRSP.