Tag Archives: SPP

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.

10 things you need to know about SPP

By Sheryl Smolkin

I have been writing about the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for six years and a member of the plan for just as long. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the plan, but every time I review the website I learn something new.

Here are 10 things about SPP that you may find interesting.

  1. The 30 year old plan is the 25th largest defined contribution plan in Canada (Benefits Canada 2016).
  2. The plan is funded by member contributions and investment earnings. As of December 31, 2016 there was $479.5 million in assets under management administered by a Board of Trustees, some of whom are also plan members.
  3. If you are between age 18 and 71 and have available Registered Retirement Savings Plan room you are eligible to join the 33,000 other members who are saving for their future, whether or not you live or work in Saskatchewan.
  4. With an annual maximum contribution of $2,500, the plan has several payment options designed to suit your budget.
  5. You can also transfer up to $10,000 per calendar year into your SPP account from your existing RRSP or Registered Retirement income Fund (RRIF).
  6. You have two investment options for your funds. The default fund is the Balanced Fund (BF) which is a low to moderate risk/return investment option. Approximately 55% of the fund is invested in equities, 35% in fixed income investments and 10% in a real estate pooled fund.
  7. The Short-term Fund (STF) is a low risk/low return investment option. Its primary purpose is to preserve capital. It is suitable for members who are near retirement and have reached their retirement savings goal, or members who wish to have a cash equivalent component in their investment portfolio.
  8. You may retire from SPP between the ages of 55 and 71 regardless of your employment status. You must apply for SPP retirement benefits; the package to make this application is available by calling SPP.
  9. If you name your spouse as beneficiary of your account, Canada Revenue Agency allows death benefits to be transferred, tax-deferred, directly to his or her SPP account or to an RRSP, RRIF, or guaranteed Life Annuity Contract (LAC).
  10. In addition to spousal rollover of SPP death benefits, rollovers to an RRSP or Registered Disability Savings Plan for a financially dependent infirm child or grandchild are permitted.

For more information about SPP see the website or call the office at 1-800-667-7153.

Romancing your sweetie on a budget

By Sheryl Smolkin

You are still paying off the credit card bills from Christmas. Your SPP and RRSP contributions have to be in before the end of February. You don’t have time to go to the mall and even if you did, you don’t have any idea what to buy.

Four years ago I posted Thrifty ways to romance your valentine. Since then I’ve had lots more ideas. So even if you were planning to stick with the traditional flowers and chocolates, consider some of these ideas as an add-on.

  1.  Sign up for a class he/she has suggested that both of you to take together. It could be for anything from cake decorating to ballroom dancing to couples’ yoga.
  2. Volunteer together at a local homeless shelter, food bank or even the SPCA. Doing something for others will help deepen your own relationship.
  3. Pack a lunch with all kinds of goodies including a beautiful cupcake for dessert. Add a personal, humorous, handwritten note.
  4. Load phone apps that will make life easier and teach your partner how to use them. Also add a romantic picture of the two of you as the wallpaper on his/her phone.
  5. Rerun romantic movies that one of you may never have seen or that you saw together at a special time. Classic examples are: When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Love Actually and You’ve Got Mail.
  6. Binge watch on Netflix a season or two of a romantic show on a cold winter weekend and plan snacks that fit the theme. Tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam would be a perfect fit for Downton Abbey.
  7. Clean the house, make the beds and do the laundry, all without having to be asked. Give your lover coupons that can be redeemed at a negotiated time for future cleaning services.
  8. Pick a pet together and bring the puppy or kitten home on Valentine’s Day. This assumes you both want a pet and it was just a matter of time until you added one to your family. A red collar and leash would be in keeping with the day.
  9. Plan an active adventure. Take a hike; go skating on an outdoor rink and drink hot chocolate. Snowshoe through the park or toboggan down a hill. Winter is much more bearable when you embrace it instead of constantly trying to avoid it.
  10. Arrange an unexpected visit with a loved one, i.e. a housebound senior, a new grandbaby or your youngest child who is away at college for the first time. Helping to bring lonely people together on or around Valentine’s Day will create unforgettable memories.

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.

Who does NOT need an RRSP?

By Sheryl Smolkin

In the first two months of every year financial institutions across the country advertise heavily encouraging every Canadian to open a registered retirement savings plan and make a maximum contribution.

And if you haven’t made all of your permissible RRSP contributions in earlier years you are an even more attractive target because chances are you have thousands of dollars of additional unused RRSP contribution room.

But in spite of the fact that I have been preaching the retirement savings gospel for decades, I agree with other pundits that there may be some circumstances in which it doesn’t make sense for you to top up your RRSP. For example:

  1. Low marginal tax rate: If you have a low marginal tax rate, you may be better off saving in a tax-free savings account or other non-registered savings and wait until you are earning more money to use up your RRSP savings room (which can be carried forward). Of course you could make the RRSP contribution in a year of low earnings and wait until a future year when you are more affluent to take the tax deduction.
  1. High interest debt: If you are carrying high interest credit card or other debt, your priority should be to pay off that debt as soon as possible to avoid further interest compounding. Then put controls in place to avoid getting into further debt. Once you have retired the debt, the additional cash flow can be used to make tax deductible RRSP contributions.
  1. Short -term goals: If you have high priority short-term objectives such as saving a down-payment for a house, funding your education or taking a family vacation, a TFSA is a more flexible savings vehicle. Your TFSA contributions accumulate tax-free. All or part of the balance can be withdrawn without tax consequences. And contribution room in the amount you withdraw will be restored the following year.
  1. Higher retirement income: RRSP contributions are most tax effective if you make them at a time when you are in a higher tax bracket but you have a reasonable expectation that your income in retirement will be lower when you must convert your RRSP account into a RRIF and begin withdrawing funds. However, you may live frugally and build a business in your prime working years. As a result, by the time you retire your income from money in the business, registered and un-registered funds is higher than prior to age 65.
  1. Great DB pension plan: Contrary to what you may have read, the defined benefit pension plan is not completely dead in Canada. For example, a small number of employees of private companies, federal public servants and some provincial employees will have generous monthly pensions when they retire. In these circumstances having a large taxable income in an RRSP maybe a great idea if RRIF withdrawals push your annual income over the threshold and as a result your Old Age Security is clawed back ($74,789 in 2017).
  1. Business owner: Unlike employees, incorporated business owners can control their compensation. If corporate income is not needed for personal living expenses, for example, it can be retained in a corporation to defer income taxes. The tax cost of withdrawing dividends (in retirement) could be significantly lower than the tax cost of withdrawing RRSP or RRIF dollars, which are be fully taxable.

Nevertheless, for all but a small number of people who fall into the categories above, an RRSP is a splendid idea. And consider using some of your RRSP contribution room to contribute to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (up to $2,500/year) or transferring in up to $10,000/year to the SPP from your RRSP. Your money will be professionally managed and at retirement you can purchase an annuity that will pay you for life.

Put SPP under the Christmas tree

By Sheryl Smolkin

It’s tough to come up with ideas year after year for memorable holiday gifts, particularly for young adults. One gift that will stand the test of time is contributions to a retirement savings account with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

Anyone age 18 to 71 can join SPP. Participation is not restricted by where they live or membership in other plans. However, in order to contribute members must have available RRSP room. The member application form is available online and must be submitted with a photocopy of the prospective member’s birth certificate, driver’s license or passport.

Maximum annual contributions (which become locked in until retirement) are $2,500/year but up to $10,000 per year can be transferred in from another RRSP. SPP is designed to be very flexible and to accommodate individual financial circumstances. There is no minimum contribution. Even contributing $10 per month will build an SPP account and provide a plan member with additional pension at retirement.

Contributions can be made in a number of ways: directly from a bank account using the PAC system on the 1st or 15th of the month; at a financial institution using a contribution form; using a VISA or MasterCard; through online banking; or by mail to the Plan office in Kindersley. SPP also provides the option to make contribution online using your VISA or MasterCard.

This means you can make an SPP contribution as a one-time gift this Christmas or make recurrent gifts at regular or irregular intervals for future occasions. One way to encourage your friend or relative to continue contributing to SPP is to offer to match contributions up to a specified amount – much like employers do in company plans.

The Plan’s average return to members since inception (1986 – 2015) is 8.10%. The five year average is 7.57% and the ten year average is 5.25%.  SPP has independent, professional money managers. The funds are invested in a diversified portfolio of high quality investments to ensure a competitive rate of return.

Chances are that 20-somethings entering the work force today will have precarious work for at least the first few years of their career with organizations that do not offer a retirement savings plan. Once they are married and have children, retirement savings may take a back seat to mortgage payments and daycare costs.

Helping a friend or relative to develop the retirement savings habit and topping up their savings is an invaluable gift. Savings of just $2,500/year earning interest at 5% will result in a retirement savings balance of $237,672.11.

So make gift giving this year easy by putting  SPP under the Christmas tree!

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.