June 13: Beyond Getting By charts course for “abundant and intentional living”

June 13, 2024

Holly Trantham’s Beyond Getting By sets out the possibility of developing financial habits and actions that map to your lifestyle goals.

She explains how living well and building wealth have a complex relationship. By having a job “that requires me to examine the systems we live in…. I’m constantly thinking about what actually makes us happy and, by extension, what actually makes me happy. Because the truth is… we’ve all been sold lies about wealth, work and security that are actively making our lives worse.”

As an example, she talks about “shame-based budgeting” advice from other experts that leave the reader “smacked in the face with guilt” about such things as dining out, taking trips, and so on. Instead, your spending habits shouldn’t “come from a place of internalized shame. Budgeting this way makes you believe that you must be broke or poor because you’re lazy, incompetent, or otherwise undeserving of money… (which) makes you feel bad about every single `unnecessary’ expense.”

Her recommended three-point plan is simple yet effective:

  • Pay your bills on time.
  • Don’t go into debt funding your lifestyle.
  • Invest in your long-term financial goals.

Each chapter in this thoughtful book provides a workbook section where you can chart out your own ideas and beliefs and test them against Trantham’s key messages.

In a chapter exploring happiness, Trantham makes the point that rich people aren’t always happy. They spend more time alone than do those with lower income, as well as “26 minutes less per day with family,” the book notes. “Rich people also tend to surround themselves with other rich people,” and become “less interested in engaging with a lower-class person than with an upper-class counterpart” This, she argues, will tend to “corrode your capacity for empathy – a key ingredient to building and maintaining relationships.”

Wealth (without happiness) becomes an addiction, she concludes, like a gambling or shopping addiction.

Instead, she says, we all need to ask ourselves this – “are your current money habits aligned with your personal values and interests?”

As an example, she talks about how she does not have a “car dependent” lifestyle, and can walk most places and use public transportation, but still was a heavy user of ride-sharing services until she thought about it more carefully. “Defaulting to taking a car whenever I was mildly inconvenienced (via Uber or Lyft) was deteriorating my relationship to my community and causing me to live a less active lifestyle along the way.”

And, she notes, this is just one example – think of all the different lifestyle/money categories this sort of analysis can be applied to!

In a chapter that looks at investing, she boils things down to several “most important” considerations:

  • Get started as early as you can so your money has ample time to grow.
  • Make sure you’re actually investing the money you contribute to (for Canadians, a registered retirement savings plan, pension plan, or Tax Free Savings Account), as the accounts are not themselves investments, they just hold investments.
  • Continue contributing to your retirement regularly throughout your earning years.

“Retirement isn’t necessarily an age, it’s an amount of money. Financial independence means having enough money in the bank to stop working if you want to,” she explains. While stock markets have historically given returns in the 10 per cent range, “nothing is guaranteed… therefore, increasing the amount you’re able to invest over time is critical.”

This is especially important advice for women, she notes.

“According to the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement,`while the poverty rate for all women age 65 and older is 10.6 per cent (or just over one in 10), the poverty rate for single women living alone is almost twice as high at 19 per cent,’” she writes.

There’s a lot of ground covered in this great book.

On shopping, the author reminds us that “retailers do not have sales in order to save you money. They have them so they can earn more, because the more items they sell, even at a discount, the more revenue they’re going to generate overall. A $100 pair of jeans at 40 per cent off isn’t saving you $40, you’re still spending $60 you may not have necessarily spent.”

She takes a look at the idea of “manifesting,” the belief that if you “just visualize and vocalize your goals enough, they will come true.” A more realistic way to think about things is what she calls “facilitation,” a “much more pragmatic and intentional way to put the ideas behind manifestation into practice. It involves the process of visualizing not just the outcome you want, but the process it’s going to take to get there.”

Near the end of the book, Trantham makes the point that we tend to stick with what we are doing – the status quo – instead of making positive changes.

“No matter what the question is, the answer is often to choose the less convenient option,” she writes. “It is easier, in the short term, to stick to the status quo in your home life. But will that allow you to feel seen, respected, and like you’re contributing to an equitable home life in the long run?”

“Will it have been worth it (not speaking up) if things don’t change? Isn’t that a scarier thought that the possibility that they could?”

A very interesting and informative read – highly recommended!

If you’re saving on your own for retirement, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be just the ally you’ve been seeking. Amounts you contribute to the plan are invested in a pooled, low-cost and professionally managed fund. When it’s time to retire, your SPP options include the possibility of a lifetime monthly annuity payment or the flexible Variable Benefit.

Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


June 10: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

June 10, 2024

Traditional retirement “an outdated concept,” younger Canadians say

Working away until age 65, getting the gold watch and the retirement party, and then travelling and having fun – a Boomer view of life after work – is seen as an “outdated concept” by younger people, reports The Daily Hive.

“A Leger survey commissioned by Canadian investment service Wealthsimple found that nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of Canadians between the ages of 25 and 44 feel the conventional approach to retirement — to stop working at 65 years old to then enjoy travelling, leisure and time with family and friends — is an outdated concept,” the publication reports.

Instead, The Daily Hive reports, younger Canadians surveyed revealed “an ambition among millennials and Gen Z Canadians for `a modern form of retirement’ that lets them pursue personal and professional passions throughout their adult lives.”

Say that again?

“Essentially, the path to retirement is no longer linear, but a mix of work, travel, volunteering and entrepreneurial pursuits,” the publication explains.

“It’s a new perspective on the future driven by younger generations. They are looking for flexibility, personalization and control over their future, rather than feeling controlled by conventional wisdom,” states Wealthsimple CEO Mike Katchen in the article.

The other interesting thing in this new “non-linear” approach is that it calls for early retirement, too.

“The survey also found that early retirement (before the age of 55) has emerged as the go-to plan among 25 to 44-year-olds so they can start their own business, work at not-for-profits, or pursue a passion project — basically, not live to work for someone else,” The Daily Hive article notes.

While factors like “soaring inflation” and the high cost of home ownership are cited as obstacles in the article, more than half of those surveyed plan “self-directed investment options to support their long-term financial goals.”

And, the article concludes, more than half of the 1,500 younger Canadians surveyed “feel that investing has given them more flexibility and choice.”

It’s not surprising to see the traditional path to retirement being questioned by the younger folks. As Boomers, we watched our parents work away at long-term jobs with good pensions, all the while paying down the mortgage on their more affordable homes, and then retiring at 65.

Not as easy for those of us of Boomer age to retire debt and mortgage-free – so you see more Boomers hanging onto their jobs longer, hoping to make the math work for living on less. Many choose part-time or contract work in retirement.

If the survey results hold true, the younger folks plan to save and invest at a greater rate than their parents, and then move out of traditional work earlier – sounds like a good plan to us!

If you’ve got money squirrelled away in a bunch of different registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs), the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may offer you a way to consolidate your nest egg. With SPP, you can transfer in any RRSP amount from other accounts. Once your funds are in SPP, which is a provincially run, not-for-profit retirement program, they will be professionally managed at a low fee, and your choices at retirement will include a lifetime monthly annuity payment or the flexible Variable Benefit.

Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


June 6: Some smart things to do with that tax refund

June 6, 2024

Ah, spring. Time to drag the golf clubs back up to the garage, to pump up the bike tires, and start getting the garden going. And, for many of us, time to get a nice tax refund cheque (or, more likely, a refund deposit).

Save with SPP wondered what people do with the refunds. Let’s take a look around and find out!

According to Fiona Campbell, writing for Forbes Advisor, tax refunds “are a sweet perk of filing your income tax return – and the good news is that most Canadians get one.” In fact, she notes, 58 per cent of filers got a refund in 2021, and the refund averaged just over $2,000.

This year, the average refund is more like $2,100 and change, she continues.

Campbell’s ideas on how to spend the refund don’t include “concert tickets, vacations, or designer clothes,” but are intended to “put you ahead financially in the long run and give you peace of mind instead.”

First (no surprise) is paying down debt. “If you carry a credit card balance, or only make the minimum payments, you’ll end up paying interest each month—and with APRs averaging 21 per cent, that can add up quickly,” she warns. The average Canadian owes more than $4,000 in credit card debt, she adds. If you don’t have credit card debt, you may have other loans or credit lines that can use a hand, she continues.

Next comes the mortgage. Campbell suggests making a prepayment on your mortgage, either as a lump sum or as an extra amount each payment. “If you don’t have other outstanding debt with higher interest rates, prepaying your mortgage can be a smart way to use your tax refund as it goes directly to the principal portion of your loan,” she notes.

Other ideas from Forbes Advisor include topping up your registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) or Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA), starting or adding to your emergency fund, or saving for a child’s education via a registered education savings plan (RESP).

The folks at the Nerd Wallet blog have a few more ideas.

“A tax return can be a great way to fund home repairs and upgrades. Maybe you have a big project to tackle, such as redoing a bathroom or renovating your kitchen. Spending your money on home upgrades is an investment that could shrink your home insurance bill and add value to your property in a way that pays off handsomely when it comes time to sell,” the blog advises.

Another idea, the blog continues, is to “invest in yourself.”

“While tackling debt, saving for the future and improving your home are all worthwhile uses for your tax-season windfall, don’t forget that you are also a smart investment. Maybe you’d like to start a side hustle, treat yourself to a monthly massage, or complete a professional certification. Though they might not earn compound interest, these types of investments can yield a sense of wellbeing and set you up for future success in a way that’s truly priceless,” the blog suggests.

Global News covers many of the same ideas, concluding that it really boils down to either paying down debt or adding to savings (or both).

The broadcaster suggests targeting credit card debt first.

“Credit card debt, which typically carries high interest rates at upwards of 20 per cent, can be particularly damaging to Canadians’ finances and “snowball” out of control, states financial author Sandy Yong in the article.

However, Yong says, even though saving and paying off debt are seen as the most sensible things to do with a refund, having a little fun is never out of the question. There’s no reason, she tells Global, to “feel bad about spending it on something for yourself.”

If you’re planning to use some or all of your tax return on your retirement savings, why not consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP works just like an RRSP – the contributions you make are tax-deductible, which may help you get a refund down the road. And, way further down that road, the contributions you make to SPP – having been professionally invested, at a low fee, in a pooled fund – will grow into a future income stream for the retired you. A gift that keeps giving, as they say.

Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


June 3: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

June 3, 2024

Why are Canadians retiring later?

A recent article in Kamloops Now reports that Canadians are retiring later and later.

As recently as 2000, the article notes, Canadians – on average – retired at age 60. “By 2020, that had crept up to 63.25,” Kamloops Now notes.

Why the change in retirement timing?

“Retirement is tricky,” the article begins.

“Not only do you have to have enough money to not work, but you have to decide if retirement is actually for you,” it continues. “Maybe, if you don’t have a job, you’ll be bored, unfulfilled and aimless,” the article adds.

The figures cited by Kamloops Now come from www.agecalculator.com, “which crunched numbers provided by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the international agency that shapes policies for prosperity, equality and opportunity for all.”

The trend towards later retirement, the article notes, can be seen in a number of countries. In Bulgaria, the average age for retirement jumped from age 56 in 2000 to 63 in 2020, the publication reports.

“Thirty-eight of the 51 countries included in the study saw average retirement age climb, while in 13 countries, people have been retiring earlier,” the article points out.

The biggest drop for countries where folks are leaving the workforce earlier was in Colombia, where in 2000, the average retirement age was 69.7, Kamloops Now reports. As of 2020, they are retiring on average at age 63.5.

“A scan down the list shows 2020’s youngest average retirement age is in South Africa, where people are calling it quits at 58.2, while the oldest average is in Indonesia where you have to stick it out to 68.95,” the publication notes.

A release from agecalculator.com is cited in the article, and provides a bit more insight on the “whys” of this later retirement trend in most industrialized countries.

“Some of these include the extension of people’s life expectancy, which has increased thanks to medical advancements, economic pressures that translate into people not being able to retire comfortably because of the rising cost of living, and shifting demographics, such as declining birthrates and aging populations,” the release states.

Kamloops Now provides some additional thoughts on what’s behind later retirement.

“Remember the Freedom 55 campaign by London Life Insurance Company launched in 1984 that ran for 25 years encouraging people to plan and save for early retirement? To many that’s an unattainable goal,” the article notes.

“Plus, people started to realize if they were to live for 30 years after retirement, they could very well run out of cash. The cost of living, led by soaring house prices, is high and many haven’t saved enough to retire early,” Kamloops Now continues.

“Even if you do have enough money, you should enter retirement cautiously at any age,” the article concludes, noting “people need purpose and if you suddenly stop working you might be bored or start to feel pointless. After all, there’s only so much travel, golf and pickleball that you can do.”

It’s a very valid point that the author makes, here. There’s the money side of retirement – do you have enough to cover the bills you’ll face when you stop working – as well as the lifestyle side. Do you have a plan for what to do with all that extra time?

If you’re saving for retirement, perhaps on your own or through a workplace plan, you’re covering off the money side nicely. If not – or if you want to save even more for retirement – take a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP is ideally suited for individuals or groups. Contributions are invested in a low-cost, professionally managed pooled fund. When it’s time to hang up the ID badge and log out for the last time, SPP offers you options such as a lifetime monthly annuity payment, or our flexible Variable Benefit.

Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


May 30: Taking a look at how people are doing with money challenges

May 30, 2024

One of our fellow line dancers told us recently that she and her husband are about to start a 75-day challenge. For that entire month and a half, they will exercise for 90 minutes a day, follow a strict diet (Weight Watchers for her, “clean eating” for him), will drink a gallon of water every day, won’t drink alcohol, and will read at least 10 pages of non-fiction per day.

Wow. We’ll see how they do, but it got us thinking about money challenges – what sorts of things are people challenging themselves about with their money?

The folks at Reader’s Digest have a few money-related challenges to start the ball rolling.

There’s the “one per cent savings challenge,” the magazine reports.

“For this challenge, no drastic lifestyle changes are needed. You’ll simply contact your workplace and increase your retirement contribution by one per cent. Then, set a schedule. Every two to three months (whatever works for you, just stay consistent), increase it by another one per cent,” Reader’s Digest suggests. 

An intriguing one is the “100 envelope challenge,” the magazine continues.

“Want to save more than $5,000 in three months? TikTok’s viral 100-envelope challenge can help you do just that. Grab a box of colourful money-saving envelopes and label them 1 to 100. Each day, you draw an envelope, and whatever number you draw, you add an equal amount of cash inside. For instance, if you draw No. 27 on day one, then you’ll fill the envelope with $27, seal it and place it in a basket or drawer. After 100 days and 100 envelopes, you’ll have saved a total of $5,050,” the article notes.

We’ll Canadianize another tip from Reader’s Digest, since we haven’t had dollar bills for a while. The idea is that every time you get a Loonie in your change, “take it out of your wallet and put it away in a money pouch.” You can, in time, up this by including toonies and $5 bills, the article suggests.

Forbes magazine has a few more on offer.

“Save one dollar a day. That’s it! Do it for the entire year to kickstart your savings fund in a way that feels manageable,” the magazine suggests.

You can boost the savings amount down the road – if you were to save $20 a week, you’d have $1,040 by the end of the year, Forbes continues.

How about the “Roll the Dice” savings challenge? “Take a six-sided die and roll it each day. Worst case scenario: you tuck away $6 a day for a total of just over $2,000 a year. But this is a situation where your “worst” scenario is great news for your savings account,” Forbes notes.

A third gem from Forbes is the “no-spend challenge.”

“A no-spend challenge can take place during a single day, over a month or even longer. While the challenge is on, you can’t spend any money beyond routine bills and any other regular expenses you’ve already planned for (say, gas for your commute or getting a prescription refill from the pharmacy). At the end of the challenge, take the “extra” money you’ve discovered out of your chequing account and move it to a savings account,” the magazine recommends.

The Inspired Budget blog offers up a few more.

The Holiday Helper Challenge, the blog reports, provides “a way to get ahead of the huge expenses of the holidays. Starting January 1, set aside $20 from each week’s budget and put it into savings.”

“You can use this for holiday gift buying, or use it to save up for a vacation or another major expense. By the end of November, you will save an extra $960 on a bi-weekly budget,” the blog notes.

We’ve talked about saving loonies, toonies and even fivers, but if that’s a bit too tough for you right now, how about the 365-Day Nickel Saving Challenge?

“On the first day, deposit $0.05 into savings. On the second day, deposit $0.10, and on the third day, $0.15,” the blog explains.

“Basically, you add a nickel to the previous day’s savings every single day. Then by the last day, you will deposit $18.40,” the blog notes. “When you look at those numbers, they seem so doable! The best thing is that when you add it all up, the total you will put into savings will be a whopping $3,300!

Finally, one we all know well, there’s the Spare Change challenge.

“Whenever you get loose change, you put it in a jar or piggy bank. When that jar fills up, take it to the bank and put it in your savings account,” the blog suggests. “If you have never tried to save your loose change, it might surprise you how much you can accumulate.”

Mrs Save with SPP used the spare change route as part of her effort to boost her own Saskatchewan Pension Plan savings. Every time the piggy bank was full, we went to the coin counter, turned coins into bills, and then put it in the bank. Online, we had set up SPP as a bill payment, and presto, there’s another few bucks in the retirement kitty.

After all, your future you will greatly appreciate those savings, no matter what challenge you’ve selected to create them.

Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


May 27: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

May 27, 2024

The best time to start saving is now – Millard

Even if you’ve reached age 40 and beyond, it’s never too late to start saving for retirement.

So writes Brett Millard in Kelowna’s Castanet.

“For those in their 40s, traditionally called `over the hill’ and who haven’t yet begun saving for retirement, the thought of catching up can feel daunting. Especially in the face of record-high costs of living and other financial challenges,” he writes.

But, he writes, there’s no need to worry. “While the task may seem formidable, it’s never too late to start saving for retirement. With careful planning, discipline and a proactive approach, Canadians in their 40s can take meaningful steps to secure their financial future,” he explains.

First, he writes, you need to fully understand your financial position.

“Gather information about your income, expenses, assets, and debts to get a clear understanding of where you stand. Evaluate your spending habits and identify areas where you can cut back to free up funds for retirement savings,” he advises.

Next, it’s time to set “clear and achievable goals.” You need, he writes, to “determine how much you need to save for retirement based on your desired lifestyle, retirement age, and expected expenses. Break down your goals into manageable milestones and track your progress regularly to stay on target.”

The third step is to focus on your debt, which is a barrier to saving.

“High-interest debt can be a significant obstacle to saving for retirement. Prioritize debt repayment to reduce interest expenses and free up funds for retirement savings. Focus on paying off high-interest debt first, such as credit card balances and personal loans, before tackling lower-interest debt such as mortgages or student loans,” Millard explains.

With debt managed, goals set, and finances clear, you can next try to “maximize contributions to retirement accounts.” Millard advises us to “take advantage of employer-matched retirement accounts first,” then look at registered retirement savings plans and TFSAs.

The sooner you start, the more you will take advantage of compounding, he explains.

“By investing your savings wisely and allowing them to grow over time, you can harness the exponential growth potential of compound interest to accelerate your retirement savings. Start investing early and regularly to make the most of compounding returns,” he says.

His last bits of advice are to consider seeking professional financial help, to be flexible with your savings strategy through the ups and downs of reality, and to “stay motivated and consistent,” and to stay focused on the long-term.

This is all great advice that we wish we had followed better in the past! We can add one additional “welts” of experience, such as avoiding investing in trendy things you don’t really understand, or tapping into your retirement nest egg for other non-retirement purposes.

Do you have little bits of retirement benefit from different jobs sitting in different accounts? If these amounts aren’t locked in, you may be able to consolidate them within the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. There’s no limit on how much you can transfer into SPP from an unlocked RRSP, and through SPP you’ll have the retirement options of a lifetime monthly annuity payment or the flexible Variable Benefit option.

Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


May 23: We’re seeing more and more self-checkout machines – a look at the pros and the cons

May 23, 2024

Some of us may remember, back in the good old days, that when you went to get some gas, a friendly attendant rushed up to your window and got the pump going, while cleaning your windshield and checking the oil.

But that experience has long ago been replaced by self-service gas pumps. Are we heading that same route at the drugstore, dollar store, and grocery store? Save with SPP decided to take a look around.

An analysis by the University of Waterloo lists the “pros” of self-checkout as “saving the time of customers and preventing the checkout from becoming overcrowded.” As well, the report notes, “with the installation of self-checkout technologies, retailers can reduce the number of checkout assistants employed, or they may completely cut the checkout assistants.”

This, the article suggests, helps the company’s bottom line – fewer employees to pay, fewer vacancies to fill by HR, and a greater profit.

On the con side, the article notes that the cost of a four-lane self-checkout system may exceed $125,000. “Most small businesses cannot afford this technology,” the article reports. As well, and this is big, most people don’t like having to use self checkout machines.

The article, citing research from Accenture, found that “77 per cent of U.S. customers prefer interacting with humans than with digital devices in service-related issues.” There’s a lack of personalized service with the machines, particularly noted by “senior people who are used to person-to-person service and are more likely to need personal interaction; they might regard this new method of shopping as a lack of service.”

While the university concludes that maybe there should be more focus on personalized service than switching over to costly machines, it seems that every time you go shopping you see more of these machines in place.

A recent story in The Globe and Mail by Rob Csernyk, a former New Brunswick resident now living in Australia, says self-checkouts are really taking off Down Under.

“While living in New Brunswick, I was used to only half a dozen self-checkouts at the superstore near my apartment. But in Australia, self-checkouts are an outsized part of the grocery landscape. Many locations of Coles and Woolworths outlets – the country’s dominant grocery chains – have double that, if not more,” he writes.

Shopping recently at a Coles, he counted 40 self-checkouts and only two clerks helping, he writes.

But if the goal of self-checkouts is saving on labour costs and reducing long lines at the cash, there have been other unexpected consequences, he notes.

“I’ll let you in on a secret from Australia’s big bet: nobody’s happy. For grocers, self-checkout expansion has wrought more theft and a need to spend even more to combat it. For customers, being treated more like potential thieves rather than paying clients is unpleasant,” his article reports.

He concludes that maybe retailers should consider going back to the good old ways – checkouts that are staffed.

“Making shopping experiences more complex and uncomfortable for all shoppers is a daft way to solve the problems inherent with self-checkouts. It increasingly seems like going back to the tried-and-true cashier is a better solution, not to mention one that involves a lot less capital investment. Anti-theft measures don’t come cheap, and the bad press from customer complaints carries a hefty price tag, too,” he notes.

And the customer’s perspective is very important, reports USA Today.

“They just aggravate me,” Julie Domina says of self-checkout machines, telling USA Today that “if I’m going to be checking myself out, I want to get a discount because that means you’re not paying an employee to check me out.”

Hey – that’s a good point. We recall that when self-serve gas pumps first came out, the gas was cheaper if you pumped it yourself, versus getting someone to do it for you. Maybe that long-forgotten discount concept needs to be revisited for self-checkouts.

The article blames the pandemic for getting us going down the self-checkout road.

“While self-checkout technology has been in supermarkets since the 1980s, usage surged during the pandemic, when retailers were struggling to hire and customers wanted less human interaction. The share of transactions through self-checkout lanes hit 30 per cent in 2021, almost double that from 2018, according to data from the Food Industry Association,” the newspaper reports.

Higher theft rates experienced in recent years have prompted retailers to spend more on security, in addition to the cost of buying self-checkout machines, the article notes. Some of the problem is theft, but some of it is simply due to confusion using the machines, the article adds.

“While some losses may be from people using self-checkout to steal, others are from user errors by customers who weren’t trained to use the machines. Maybe the shopper didn’t notice that an item didn’t scan before bagging it, or keyed in the wrong item when weighing their produce,” the article concludes.

It will be interesting to see how Canadian retailers cope with this new technology going forward. Will we follow the Australian example and gear up on the machines, or will we see the opposite – a move away from self-checkout, perhaps, or making the machines more of a “fast lane” for customers with fewer items. Only time will tell.

Saving for retirement can be a self-service function if you partner up with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP will carry out the complex job of investing your retirement savings, through a professionally managed, low-cost, pooled fund. When it’s time to retire, your options include getting a monthly annuity payment each month for life, or the flexibility of the Variable Benefit option.

Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


May 20: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

May 20, 2024

Government pensions are too low, say protesting Prince George Seniors

What’s life like if you are living solely on government retirement benefits, such as the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)?

According to Monica Murphy, 77, it means having to “line up at the food bank every week and shopping at thrift stores,” the Prince George Citizen reports.

“Last week there were 80 people in the food-bank line up and – there are wonderful people at the food bank – but with my health issues it’s a bit of a hardship to wait so long,” Murphy tells the Citizen. “A lot of people who are on a fixed income are struggling to make ends meet and I’m one of them.”

Use of food banks by B.C. seniors has jumped 78 per cent in the past five years, the Citizen reports.

Murphy joined a number of other seniors at the Seniors’ Tip Cup protest held in mid-March, the newspaper reports.

“Murphy joined a small but mighty – and peaceful – group that gathered with signs that said ‘seniors deserve respect’, ‘end senior poverty’, ‘we are tired of being poor,’” the Citizen article notes. “Murphy’s sign said ‘pensions are too low,’” the newspaper adds.

“The small Prince George contingent led by organizer Ken Aitchison joined the call to government for pension reform so that low-income seniors can reach Canada’s poverty line of about $25,000 a year. Most live on about $17,000 a year,” the Citizen reports.

“So many seniors are on fixed incomes, living below the poverty line, they can’t make ends meet and a light needs to be shone on that,” Natalie Mcquary, peaceful protester, tells the Citizen. “I know people who, after retirement, feel they have to go back to work to survive. These people have raised families and worked all their lives and to be struggling in their golden years isn’t right.”

Save with SPP interviewed Carole Fawcett, one of the founders of the Tin Cup movement, recently, you can see the story here.

The group has launched a website as well.

The benefits offered by the federal government to retirees are pretty modest, as the article points out. That’s likely because these programs were introduced at a time when most working Canadians also had a pension plan at work. That’s no longer as likely.

If there’s a takeaway, it is this. If you are fortunate enough to have any sort of retirement program where you work, be sure to take part and contribute at the maximum level. If you are saving on your own for retirement, a great partner is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. The heavy lifting of investing your money and growing it can rest on SPP’s shoulders, your job is simply to contribute money to your savings pot. When you retire, your options include having a lifetime annuity that pays you every month, or SPP’s Variable Benefit, which provides flexibility on your payouts.

Check out SPP today!


May 16: Is the “new normal” retiring with debt?

May 16, 2024

There was a time when taking debt into retirement was considered an absolute no-no. But in these days of higher living costs, less helpful interest rates, and the many temptations of debt, is owing money when you retire now the norm?

Save with SPP took a look at this topic, which is one that we are well acquainted with on a personal basis!

Well-known personal finance writer Rob Carrick recently covered this topic in The Globe and Mail. He cites figures from insolvency expert Scott Terrio that show that, according to the most recent data, “42 per cent of senior households had debt…. compared to 27 per cent in 1999. Vehicle debt held by seniors nearly tripled between 2005 and 2019, while mortgage debt quadrupled.”

(Save with SPP talked with Scott Terrio a little while ago on the topic of retiring with debt. Here’s a link to that article: Debt can squeeze the spending power of seniors: Scott Terrio | Save with SPP)

Carrick suggests that younger people have a conversation with their parents about debt.

“Parents helping their adult children financially is the new normal in family life. It’s less common for those kids to help their parents, but high debt levels among seniors suggest this could change. Boomers and Gen Xers, do you know how well set up your parents are in their retirement or pre-retirement years,” he asks.

An article in Forbes agrees that “retiring with debt is often considered a cardinal financial sin: Every dollar you owe reduces your income in retirement, after all.”

However, the article warns, trying to get out of debt before you retire might also cost you. Huh? “Blindly prioritizing debt reduction before retirement savings, particularly for low-interest debt, could shortchange your nest egg,” the writers at Forbes warn.

On the other hand, not prioritizing debt has consequences as well, the article continues.

Currently, the article notes, credit card interest rates are well over 20 per cent. “Paying interest rates this high would hamstring your finances at any stage of life, let alone when you’re living on a fixed income in retirement. That means you need to prioritize paying down as much high-interest debt as possible before you stop working—and then keep from accruing any new credit card debt.”

The folks over at GoBankingRates say debt is manageable for retirees, but it’s no picnic.

“Yes, you can retire with debt, but it may impact the quality of your retirement. Having debt, especially high-interest debt, can strain your retirement savings and limit your financial freedom. It’s important to assess the type and amount of debt you have and create a plan to manage it effectively,” their article notes.

The article recommends trying to “minimize or clear your debts before retiring.” You might need to think harder about when you want to retire, boost your savings, or even downsize as strategies to cope with debt, the article continues.

“Focusing on high-interest debts, like credit card balances, should be a priority. Developing a comprehensive plan on how to get out of debt before retirement can significantly ease your financial burden during your later years,” the article notes.

MoneySense provides some good news on this topic, noting that some of your debt will eventually get paid off – and that when that happens, your retirement spending power gets a boost.

“If you only have a small mortgage and a few years of payments remaining, your income requirements may be on the verge of a big decrease. I’ve seen a lot of retirees with generous DB pensions work hard to pay off debt, retire, and suddenly find they’re flush with cash flow because their $500, $1,000, or $2,000 monthly mortgage payment disappears,” MoneySense reports.

There are several themes here to think about – retirement with debt is not seen as ideal. But neither is not saving for retirement in order to pay off debt. If you do bring debt with you on the retirement voyage, each time you pay something off you’ll have better cash flow.

All the articles suggested consulting a financial professional to help map your personal route – that’s always good advice.

If you don’t have a workplace pension plan, or want to augment your savings, have a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. With SPP, you can consolidate little bits of savings in various RRSPs into one place, and also make regular contributions. SPP will grow your investments in a low-cost, professionally managed, pooled fund, and when it’s time to collect, your options include monthly annuity payments for life or the flexible Variable Benefit option.

Check out SPP today!

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


May 13: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

May 13, 2024

The idea of stepping away from work and into retirement is becoming an unaffordable “luxury” south of the border, reports Business Insider.

Many older Americans, the article notes, are in “tough financial straits,” and “the decline of pensions and the rise of student-loan debt are contributing to the retirement crisis.”

As a result, many Americans in their 70s are “still punching the clock” and working.

“As much as I love my job and what I do, in my darkest private moments, I think I’m going to die in this job. I’m going to die in this office because I have no way to get out,” says Marcia, a senior in her mid-70s, in the article.

Medical bills left over from her late husband’s care are part of the reason she’s still working, Business Insider notes.

Marcia is one of many retirees who feel left behind by the American dream’s promise that a life of hard work would be rewarded with years of rest. Now, as with many traditional economic milestones, retirement has become a luxury reserved only for those who can afford it. More people over 65 are working as pensions disappear, people live longer, and Social Security benefits are seemingly always in peril,” the article continues.

The declining availability of workplace pensions in the U.S. is definitely part of the problem, the article notes.

“Just under 20 per cent of Americans 65 and older were employed in 2023, up from 11 per cent in 1987,” the article reports, citing research from Pew. And it may be that more older people are working because they have no alternative, the article points out.

“In 2007, 21 per cent of low-income households had a retirement account balance; by 2019, that fell to 10 per cent, according to an analysis from the Government Accountability Office. And as younger generations try to save while also paying off homes and student loans, it might only worsen,” Business Insider tells us.

The article introduces us to Steve Biddle, 69, who “lives in a small, low-income apartment in North Carolina” and who is “worried that at some point, he’ll become infirm and unable to work.”

“I’m scared to death of the possibility of homelessness. I don’t think I could handle that very well,” he tells Business Insider. “I think I’ll always be able to have a place to be, but there are so many homeless folks my age that it scares me to death.”

The article concludes with some American realities that are somewhat the same here – if there’s not a good workplace savings plan, and you don’t have enough to save on your own, and government pension benefits are modest, then indeed you will probably continue to work well past traditional retirement age.

If having guaranteed retirement income is a priority for you, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has a range of annuity products available as retirement option. All provide you with monthly income for life. Some options also provide benefits for a surviving spouse or beneficiary. SPP is open to any Canadian with RRSP room, so if you don’t have a pension plan at work, SPP is an option worth exploring.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.