As offices gear up for re-opening, will everyone want to return?

July 22, 2021

The summer of 2021 has seen the start of what looks like a return to normal. COVID numbers are down, vaccination rates are up, the economy is re-opening (carefully) and there’s talk again of travel, and of going back to the office.

Yet there’s also talk from some of NOT going back to the office? What gives? Save with SPP had a look around to explore this issue.

Research from Robert Half, an HR consulting firm, from April found that about one-in-three office workers “would quit their job rather than return to the office,” reports Western Investor.

More than half of those surveyed on the idea of returning to work said they “prefer a hybrid work arrangement, where they can divide time between the office and another location,” the article notes. Some of those surveyed did express concern that working from home has its downsides, such as the “loss of relationships with co-workers” and “fewer career opportunities and decreased productivity.”

Those who do imagine coming back want some perks, the article says, such as “greater freedom to set office hours, employer-paid commuting costs, a relaxed dress code and providing childcare.”

Ouch. What would the “dress for success” workaholics of the ‘80s make of this office aversion?

The numbers are similar south of the border. An article in Commercial Observer says that while 62 per cent of Manhattan workers were expected to return to the office, that leaves “one in three” who don’t plan to come back.

Only about 12 per cent of Manhattan’s 1.5 million office workers had returned to work by early summer and “39 per cent of people would be willing to quit their job rather than give up remote work,” the article says.

A more recent survey from Canada Life sheds some light on the concerns people have about re-entering office life.

Even given the dropping COVID numbers and higher vaccination rates, “46 per cent of Canadians working from home are anxious about the threat of the virus if and when they return to the office,” Canada Life reports in a media release.

Mary Ann Baynton of Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, who partnered on the research with Canada Life, explains this reluctance.

“For those working from home, this transition presents new and unique concerns, because they’ve been more isolated and have been able to limit their exposure to the virus for a long time. Employers need to understand what their teams are concerned about so they can effectively support them during this significant adjustment,” she states in the release.

COVID risk was by far the biggest concern identified in the research, the release notes – only 10 per cent were concerned about changes to their work-life balance, nine per cent about increased commuting, and less than one per cent about impacts to children and their care, the release notes.

From our informal research amongst friends and colleagues who have been working at home, there is certainly interest in having the flexibility to work from home – at least some of the time – going forward. If you’ve ever been crammed onto a train or subway car packed with commuters, or stuck in a 10-km long traffic jam each workday, or circling some lot in a fruitless quest for the last parking spot, it’s hard to look forward to starting all that up again. Only time will tell how it all plays out.

One thing that works as well at home as it does in the workplace is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You can sign up as an individual, effectively creating a tailored, end-to-end pension plan for yourself that looks after not only investing your savings, but converting them to income later on. If you’re an employer, you can offer SPP at your workplace, creating a great way to attract new team members and hanging on to the people you’ve got! Why not check out SPP today!

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.


July 19: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

July 19, 2021

Could our passion for savings defuse the expected end-of-COVID spending boom?

In an interesting and perhaps “contrarian” article, Leo Almazora of Wealth Professional asks if Canada’s return to being a nation of savers could actually have a downside.

“For many pundits and analysts, the light at the end of the tunnel that is the COVID-19 crisis has been the prospect of a surge in spending as vaccinations allow the unleashing of pent-up demand. But based on certain interpretations of savings data, that may not be the scenario that plays out,” he writes.

He notes that during COVID – with so many spending options removed from play – savings rates jumped to almost 20 per cent in many industrialized countries, including Canada.

It was expected, Almazora notes, that once economies began reopening, the urge to spend would overcome the tendency to save. But research cited from Barron’s magazine in the article shows that “even as economies have reopened, savings rates have stayed unusually high.”

Almazora’s article contends that there were two types of COVID savers – a “forced savers” group that, while keeping their employment, had very few options to spend their money on, and “precautionary savers,” who – worried by the pandemic – save for the “next downturn or economic calamity.”

There’s a third group, he writes, who have sort of got out of the habit of spending on hotels and restaurants, and won’t be spending as much on those things going forward.

This is a very insightful piece. Three groups are described, those who can’t spend their money, those who worry about a fourth wave or some other nasty financial surprise, and those who have been converted to a new obsession – frugality.

One would assume that the “can’t spend” group will be among the first to book vacation flights and resume travel. Those who Almazora describes as “preppers” for a possible further wave of problems presumably won’t join in the fun, nor will those who have decided cooking at home and cutting back on expenses was not only fun, but has led to a piling up of cash in their savings accounts.

It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out; it may take as long to return to a “fully normal” economy as it took COVID to derail “normal” and move us to a stay-at-home/no spend reality.

This writer recalls doing research on pension plan funding – where people sock away money for retirement via workplace plans – and hearing economists suggest the act of saving money was, in effect, negative for the economy in the now. Money saved today cannot be spent today, the argument went.

While this is factually correct, that viewpoint – savings can be bad – ignores the fact that the saved money is invested, often in job-creating Canadian companies and services, and then withdrawn and spent years later by the retirees. It’s deferred spending, in a way.

As a soon-to-be double grandparent, this aging scribe has reached the opinion that any savings is always a good thing. Emergency savings when the roof leaks or the fence falls down; long-term savings for retirement income and to help the grandbabies.

If you have a workplace pension plan, be sure to not only join it, but to contribute to it to the fullest extent possible. If you don’t have a plan – or if you are a small business thinking of offering one to your team – check out the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. This scaleable retirement product works as well for one person as it does for a larger group – and they’ve been delivering retirement security for 35 years.

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.


Has COVID affected Canadians’ ability to donate to charities?

July 15, 2021
Photo by Katt Yukawa on Unsplash

A few years ago – before the pandemic – Global News reported that Canadians were cutting back on charitable giving.

Citing research from the Fraser Institute, Global reported that in 2017 Canadians donated just 0.54 per cent of their income to charity – less than half of what Americans donated (1.25 per cent) in the same timeframe.

Given the severe economic mayhem the pandemic has wrought upon us, Save with SPP wondered if charitable giving has taken an even further plunge.

It sounds like a recovery in charitable giving is underway, states an article posted in the Globe and Mail.

According to the article, authored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), “in the 12 months since March 2020 when the pandemic was declared, more than three-quarters of Canadians who had given previously to charity continued their philanthropy and gave larger gifts than in past years.”

And while only 70 per cent of Canadians made charitable donations in 2017, 76 per cent did in 2020, and “the average size of the gifts was much higher – up from $772 in 2017 to $965 in 2020,” the article adds.

The AFP’s chair Susan Storey is quoted as saying “Canada is a phenomenally, uniquely generous nation, and philanthropy, at its core, is about helping others and strengthening communities,” she says. “So, it’s not surprising that for those that could give, they did – and generously.”

The Canada Helps website says that while “year over year” giving grew, the overall rate of giving is expected to decline about 10 per cent due to COVID-19.

This site suggests that our charitable giving is more targeted during tough economic times.

Canada Helps reports that Canadians gave 1.6 per cent of their income to charity; however, the percentage of Canadians who make donations is down from the level of 24 per cent it reached in 2007.

Charities have had to be resourceful during the COVID-19 pandemic, when traditional avenues, such as displays in malls or street corners, weren’t available. Online donations are one solution, and in Ottawa, local branches of the Royal Canadian Legion used a drive-thru approach for last fall’s poppy campaign, reports CTV News.

“I think it’s a great idea. First off you don’t have the older veterans out in the cold and wet, obviously it’s keeping them safe from the people in the stores and malls,” Richard Coney tells CTV, praising the idea of a drive-thru poppy campaign.

Donations to Indigenous Peoples’ Charities – for example are up 2.25 per cent, as are donations to social services charities (up 2.2 per cent) and health charities (1.8 per cent).

If you’re able to help out the charity of your choice – and maybe have had to cut back due to the pandemic’s impact on your finances – consider resuming your contributions now that we are emerging from the darkness of the pandemic. There’s a lot riding on it for a lot of people.

Similarly, if you’d had to cut back on retirement savings during COVID-19, gear back into it as soon as you can. A nice feature of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for its individual members is that you can gear up your contributions when times are good, and gear down when they aren’t. The flexible SPP – celebrating its 35th year of operations — is open to accepting monthly pre-authorized contributions, or a little bit at a time through the “online bill payment” section of most banks. It takes many small steps to complete a journey, after all!

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.


July 12: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

July 12, 2021

Retirement saving concerns top health, employment and debt: HOOPP research

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Rob Carrick reports on new research that shows Canadians are more worried about retirement savings than they are about their physical and mental health, employment security, and debt burden.

Carrick cites research from the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan that found that, of 2,500 respondents, “48 per cent said they were very concerned about have enough money in retirement. Only the cost of day-to-day living ranked as a larger worry. Health and other financial/economic worries lagged well behind.”

The survey was carried out in April 2021, and clearly the pandemic has had an impact on people’s attitudes towards their finances, Carrick reports. “The poll results suggest 52 per cent of Canadians have been financially harmed by the pandemic, notably younger and lower-income people,” he writes.

Carrick notes that another recent survey by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that found that “Indigenous and racialized seniors… have average retirement income that is, respectively, 25 per cent and 32 per cent lower than seniors who are white.” But, he points out, the HOOPP research shows that even those with higher incomes are worried about retirement income – “42 per cent of those making more than $100,000 said they were very concerned about their retirement savings,” he writes.

Carrick sees a glimmer of good news mixed in with all the gloom, and that is, that the pandemic creates, for many of us, an opportunity to save.

“One more highlight for the well-off is the opportunity to save more money than ever as a result of economic lockdowns that curtailed travel, concerts and commuting to work for many. In the HOOPP survey, almost half of participants said they were able to save more money,” he notes.

He suggests that while those who have managed to stay employed throughout the crisis and have some unspent money should definitely sock some of it away in an emergency fund, retirement savings is a logical destination. “A lot should be put away for retirement using tax-free savings accounts and registered retirement savings plans,” writes Carrick.

The HOOPP survey found that Canadians generally are concerned about the national retirement savings rate. “Sixty-seven per cent of participants agreed with the statement that there is an emerging retirement crisis,” Carrick reports.

Those surveyed cite the rising cost of living, the “prices home buyers are paying,” and inflation as being inhibitors to retirement saving. Save with SPP will add another factor – high household levels of debt – to this category.

It’s easier to save for retirement if you belong to a pension program at work. The money comes off your pay before you have time to spend it. But if you don’t have a workplace plan, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be a solution. With SPP, you can set up automatic withdrawals that can coincide with your payday, allowing you to pay your future self first. The folks at SPP, who have been running retirement money for 35 years now, will diligently invest your savings and – when work is in the rear-view mirror – will help you turn savings into retirement income. Check them out today.

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.


Introducing SPP’s new Executive Director, Shannan Corey

July 8, 2021

To say that the Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s new Executive Director has deep roots in pensions is certainly no understatement.

Shannan Corey, who grew up in rural Saskatchewan, is the daughter of an actuary, one whose clients included not only pension plans, but chicken farmers. “They used to call my dad the chicken actuary,” she says with a smile.

That prairie upbringing is reflected in her values today. “My parents instilled the importance of community, and establishing roots, from a young age,” she tells Save with SPP. And while still a student, she worked with her dad’s actuarial firm, Alexander and Alexander, now part of the Aon group. She completed a Mathematics degree from the University of Saskatchewan.

Her father did some work on the SPP file many years ago, and she got to meet SPP’s outgoing Executive Director Kathy Strutt way back when. “So I have a very early connection with the plan,” she says.

Over the course of her career as an associate actuary she has consulted “for a broad range of clients of all sizes and types,” has helped shape some of Saskatchewan’s pension laws and regulations, and worked on client communications, retirement planning, and more.

Her more recent roles included broader consulting with Koenig & Associates, where she earned a Chartered Professionals in Human Resources (CPHR) designation, and Federated Co-operatives Limited, where she further developed “my passion for member services.” She has also served as a Board member for the CSS Pension Plan– a plan that is, like SPP, a defined contribution plan – and is now looking forward to her new role at SPP.

Corey says that while we have of late been living through the “challenging time” of the pandemic, SPP members can feel secure – and can rely on – their SPP pensions.

She says she expects a positive future for SPP, thanks “the collective experience of the team, and their human touch.”

The group at SPP has been successful in building a solid foundation for the organization, and “the ability to continue to evolve and grow.” Services for members will no doubt continue to grow and expand as SPP moves forward, she says.

The fact that SPP is a voluntary plan – one that members choose to join – is part of the reason it is so unique, she explains. SPP is a plan for the “everyday” people, and a non-profit organization as well. Its features, such as the use of pooling contributions to keep investment costs down, and the new Variable Benefit, show the plan continues to be an innovator.

She praises the SPP team’s “collective experiences,” and say it will be leveraging that talent that will “help the organization grow and thrive.” SPP has a warm feel to its organization, and Corey says she feels “like I’m coming home.”

The organization not only concerns itself with the retirement security of its members, but with their general knowledge about money, she notes. Building financial literacy, she says, not only provides an opportunity to help people, “it also aligns with me personally, and my community and my values.”

We join the entire SPP team in welcoming Shannan Corey to her new role.

When SPP was founded 35 years ago, it was intended to provide the possibility of a pension to farm wives and homemakers who didn’t otherwise have access to retirement benefits. Since then the SPP has opened its doors to anyone who wants to augment their retirement savings via a voluntary defined contribution pension plan. Find out how SPP can help secure your retirement future!

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.


July 5: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

July 5, 2021

Does being broke have an upside – better money management skills?

An interesting column by Terri Huggins, published on Yahoo! Finance, provides a unique take on being broke.

Huggins (who freely admits to having lived through many broke years) takes the position that so-called broke people may actually be better with money than those who are, for want of a better phrase, unbroke.

When you have less money overall, she writes, “financial awareness becomes more of a survival tactic than a money habit.”

People without money don’t have the “luxury” of “putting off dealing with… financial fears and stresses.” She says that while living on a shoestring is certainly not much fun, “there is a silver lining… being forced to think about money constantly means you naturally become very good at thinking about money!”

This includes, she adds, “managing money problems and coming up with financial solutions that fit your immediate needs.”

The downside, Huggins, says, is that those low on income are naturally forced to focus on “immediate needs – with little thought for the long term.” If you are having trouble making this month’s rent, saving up money in an emergency fund is “pointless.”

She recalls her own broke years, where “every day was a financial emergency. How can you contemplate saving for retirement when you’re unsure if you’ll have enough to pay for food this month?”

The fact that those living on very tight money can’t realistically save for retirement or emergency funds sometimes gets them painted as being “bad with money,” Huggins writes. But the money management skills of those on low incomes may be quite the opposite, she says. “Broke or poor or otherwise financially struggling people everywhere are forced to make tough decisions every day, gamble with those decisions, and make sacrifices to somehow fund the things that truly matter.”

She summarizes the chief money insights that “broke” people have, and that others may wish to adopt:

  • Mastering money tracking – they know exactly how much money they have, and exactly what their bills are going to be
  • Every expense is a mindful decision – broke people don’t have the privilege of making “poorly thought out purchases on a whim.”

Huggins argues that so-called “financially sound” people probably don’t know what they make and what all their expenses are. She suggests they are far more prone to make impulse purchases or poorly thought-out decisions. Now that she herself is no longer on the broke side of the equation, she concludes by saying “I’m still able to take those broke-learned money management lessons with me as I strive to grow my savings, expand my investment portfolio, and create wealth for years to come.”

There’s a lot of very good advice here. We all live through periods of tight money – some of us for a while, others for many long years. If you know exactly what there is to spend on bills each month, and how much you’re earning, you are in command.

And when you get to that period where your income is more than the sum total of your monthly bills, be sure to think of your future. Once your personal finances are running in the black, put away a little of your personal “surplus” to help make life easier for your future self. A great place to stash that extra cash can be the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, where you can start small and build up your savings as your income grows. Check them out today!

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 28: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

June 28, 2021

Doing it yourself can lead to missteps, particularly for retirement planning

Let’s face it. More than likely, the person you see in the mirror each morning is also your “retirement planner.” And, writes noted financial columnist Jason Heath, writing in the Sarnia Observer, the best estimates of do-it-yourselfers can often miss the mark.

Here are some things to watch out for.

We may mess up the key question of how much is enough to save, he writes. The math is complicated, he explains. While one might think that one million dollars supports $50,000 a year withdrawals for 20 years, Heath points out that growth has to be factored in.

“$1 million invested at a four per cent return will generate $40,000 in the first year, meaning a $50,000 withdrawal will reduce the account balance by just $10,000. Depending how the money is invested, the investment fees payable, and other factors, $1 million may support $50,000 of annual withdrawals for 30 years or more,” he writes.

Tax rates in retirement are significantly lower in retirement, and most folks overestimate their tax bill. You’ll be earning less so that will chop your tax bill, and “income like eligible pension income, capital gains, and Canadian dividends are eligible for tax credits or reduced income inclusion rates. Married couples can also split income more easily in retirement to minimize their combined family tax,” he writes.

Expenses are usually overestimated. Heath notes that in most cases, once you are retired you won’t be paying off a mortgage, the kids will be educated and gone, and you’ll no longer be saving for retirement.

A common mistake people make is starting their government retirement benefits either at age 65 or earlier. “Deferring CPP or OAS after age 65 results in an increase in both pensions for every month of deferral. Retirees who live well into their 80s or 90s will receive more lifetime pension income for delaying their pensions to age 70 than starting early,” he writes.

Heath cites a 2018 research paper that questions the old “rule of thumb” that your current age equals the percentage of your investment portfolio that should be in fixed income. While he is not advocating going “all in” on stocks, “but holding a low allocation to stocks is unlikely to maximize a retiree’s spending or estate value.’

Lastly, he points out the risk of longevity – most people are living into their 80s, 90s and even beyond. People, he writes, “should plan for a 30-year retirement.”

Most of us boomers were raised by Depression-era parents who were brought up in a “make do” environment where costly things like medical, financial, and even home repair support were automatically shunned. Long-distance phone calls and cab rides were rare events, associated with the annual Christmas phone call to the grandparents or the extremely rare need to take a cab – usually, only done if the car needed to be left at home when travelling by train, for example.

However, we are not jacks and jills of all trades, so getting a little professional advice is not such a bad idea, especially with retirement planning. Why not consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan – they’ll invest your retirement savings professionally, at a very reasonable cost, and when it’s time to live on those savings, you can choose annuity options that will ensure you never run out of money, no matter how long you live.

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.


Saying a fond farewell to SPP’s Executive Director, Katherine Strutt

June 24, 2021

After nearly 31 years of service, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s Executive Director, Katherine Strutt, starts her “life after work” July 31.

Over the phone from Kindersley, Strutt tells Save with SPP that she has seen “a lot of changes” over her decades of working for the plan.

“When we started in 1990, we didn’t all have our own computers and the secretaries, as we called them then, did the typing. It was quite a revolution when we got our own computer,” she adds. “We kept the same number of people, but the computer changed how we did things.” SPP was an early adopter of having a toll-free number for members, and Strutt says it is still very important for the plan to have “that human touch” when members contact them with questions. “They tell us that it is so nice to have a person to talk to on the other end of the line,” she says.

A key change along the way for SPP was raising the contribution ceiling from the old $600 back in 2010, to $6,600 today. That was a “game changer” in terms of growing the plan’s assets, she says. Similarly, moving to pre-authorized contributions years ago allowed members – who had tended to make contributions at the February deadline – to spread contributions out throughout the year.

Over the years, SPP “grew, and grew well – we had very good investment earnings, and a lot of loyalty from our members,” she says. She has high words of praise for the team at SPP. “It’s a good solid team… a good bunch of people with some really good synergies,” she says.

Strutt says she takes great pride in the improvements SPP has made in outreach, via the web and social media. “That has been gold for us,” she says. Having a great website, videos, e-updates, and “leveraging the use of social media has helped make us a leader” in outreach and communications, she explains.

A more recent achievement Strutt looks upon with pride is the introduction of the Variable Benefit, a program that lets a retiree keep his or her money within SPP at retirement, with income being gradually drawn down, much like a registered retirement income fund (RRIF) operates. “This benefit has been very well received,” she says, and while it is currently only available to Saskatchewan residents Strutt is hopeful it will be rolled out to members in other provinces soon.

Another growing effort has been outreach to businesses, with the goal of having them offer SPP as their company pension plan. “Having a pension plan is a big benefit to a small business, and with SPP, they can offer a pension plan no matter how small a business they are. It’s a great way to retain, and attract people,” she says.

SPP has always been about delivering a pension savings program to those who wouldn’t have one otherwise. The plan initially was aimed at homemakers, but gradually expanded its reach. Today SPP has, according to its 2020 annual report, $528.8 million in assets under management, and more than 32,000 members.

That growth speaks to the success SPP has had bringing pensions to those who otherwise wouldn’t have them. “The whole point is being able to save at a reasonable cost, and to offer the pooling of risks,” she explains. With SPP, all contributions are pooled together and invested, which lowers the investment cost, lately to about 85 basis points or less. And with a rate of return exceeding eight per cent since the plan’s inception 35 years ago, the strategy is a winning one, Strutt says.

And SPP is more than just a retirement saving vehicle. Through e-updates, presentations, and other outreach a goal is to build up the financial literacy of plan members, she says.

Strutt – already active with several service clubs – doesn’t plan to slow down much in retirement. She’ll have more time to farm, with her husband, their farm near Kindersley. There’s a son to visit in Finland, a daughter in Nova Scotia, and a spry, 92-year-old mom in B.C. – so travel is in order, she says.

“When I started in November 1990 I was so pleased to be given the opportunity,” she says. “It has turned into a 31-year career. I’m proud to have been part of such an innovative program, one that is a made in Saskatchewan success story.” She says she is excited for incoming Executive Director Shannan Corey, who will benefit from “a really great staff” at SPP. “I’m looking forward to positive things coming out of SPP – I feel I’m leaving on a really good note,” she concludes.

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 21: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

June 21, 2021

Has the pandemic thrown our financial planning for a loop?

New research from IG Wealth Management, covered recently by the Globe and Mail, suggests Canadians were “ill-prepared” for the effects the pandemic had on their finances.

According to the article, the research shows that only 20 per cent of Canadians said “they have a good sense of their current level of financial well-being.”

An eye-opening majority – nearly three-quarters of those surveyed – confessed they “are not managing debt well,” and few say they stick to a budget. Finally, the research showed that “less than half feel they have the right retirement investing approach and tax strategies in place.”

The article is authored by Dean Murchison, president and CEO of Winnipeg-based IG Management.

After rhyming off the major events with financial impacts in our lives – positives, like getting married, buying a home, having a family and travelling, as well as negatives, such as divorce, job loss, or getting sick or injured, Murchison says good financial planning needs to take into account all these scenarios.

“Any advisor who wants to set their clients up for success must develop a holistic approach to financial planning. That includes incorporating various components such as helping clients manage their cash flow and daily spending, planning for major expenditures, preparing for the unexpected, optimizing taxes and retirement savings, sharing wealth through estate planning and, for entrepreneurs, maximizing business success,” he writes.

Investing tends to be a main focus for financial advisors, but there’s more to think about than just that, Murchison writes.

“Stock markets will go up and down, but a good financial plan keeps clients on course to reach their goals in good times or bad,” he writes.

Such a plan has to guard against what he calls “financial leakage.”

“That can be paying too much taxes, paying too much interest to carry too much debt, paying for things they don’t use (such as subscriptions or memberships), and generally not really knowing where their money goes,” he explains.

Advisors, he believes, need to “resist the urge to focus solely on portfolio management strategy and returns” when meeting clients, and instead, should “learn more about their lives and their goals.” That way, tax strategy, retirement readiness, and estate planning can be factored in, he concludes.

This is good advice. There is much more to retirement savings that the pure act of saving. You’ll need to figure out your income from all sources, and then ensure that it’s enough to cover your post-work expenses. So things like tax planning, which is not that big a deal when you’re working, becomes huge when you’re not.

It’s a lot to think about.

There is a way to offload some of the worries we may have about investing our retirement savings, however. Why not get the Saskatchewan Pension Plan on your side? They’ll invest your retirement savings leveraging investment expertise that has delivered an average rate of return of eight* per cent since SPP’s inception 35 years ago. Be sure to check them out today.

*Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Happy retirement: We want to join everyone at SPP in offering Katherine Strutt, who is stepping down after more than 30 years with the organization, our very best wishes for a long and happy retirement!

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.


Trash Your Debt offers sensible advice on slaying the debt monster

June 17, 2021

Getting rid of debt is very similar to de-cluttering. You want to take action, but when you actually sit down and look over just how much there is – more than can be got rid of quickly – it soon becomes daunting, and easier to retreat than to move forward.

Trash Your Debt, by Arnold D. Fredrick, is a nice little book that can help you make progress.

He tells the tale of his early days of maxed out credit cards, car loans, medical bills (he’s in the U.S.) and more, leaving “about $25 per two weeks for food,” and finding themselves “$100 more in the hole every two weeks.” He had out of control debt that was growing, he explains.

The way forward, he writes, is “do something! Sounds a little simple, but in that simple statement lies the secret. Doing something is going to get you out of debt years faster than doing nothing. Doing something will propel you to financial freedom and out of the slavery of debt.”

First, he advises, write down the “why” of getting out of debt, the goals you want to achieve, and the “daily, weekly or monthly steps to achieving your goal.” The goals are important – setting a target means you can measure your progress.

The how involves setting a budget, he writes. And it involves the seemingly simple idea that you must “stop spending more than you make.” He likens the situation to a bathtub that leaks – the more leaks you have (expenses), the more money it takes to fill the tub.

When he looked at his family’s income and expenses, he saw that he was consistently spending more than he earned. So he made spending cuts – cable TV was cut to basic, lunches for work were packed, a meal plan assisted grocery shopping, they bought in bulk and on sale, they shopped for a better phone plan, and more. “Save all the savings,” he says.

Another nice concept in the book is that of the “10 per cent, 10 per cent, 80 per cent” rule. Consider giving 10 per cent to charity, save 10 per cent for your future, and live on the remaining 80 per cent, he explains.

In addition to setting aside money for good causes or charity, setting aside 10 per cent “for you” is essential. “So many people go through life working for someone else and never pay themselves from what they earn,” he explains. Putting away money as you start your career can make your retirement much easier, he notes.

Fredrick is not a believer in cash. He likes a “Visa check card,” (similar to a debit card) because he has a record of all his spending and can quickly spot “trends” where his family may be overspending. With cash, you get no such record, he says. He also recommends cancelling credit cards as soon as you pay them off. Try, he writes, to pay off the higher-interest card first.

Near the end of the book he says there is a monster within us that gets in the way of financial freedom. “The monster is the thing within you that stops you from achieving your greatest potential. For some, the monster is fear – fear of success, fear of change, fear of being responsible or fear of failure. Fear is a strong monster.”

The monster can be killed, he concludes, by small, steady and daily actions. “Don’t let a single day go by without taking a stab at your monster,” he says.

This is a fun, candid, and well-thought-out little book that’s a fine addition to your financial bookshelf.

Just as we can kill a large debt by chipping away at it slowly and regularly, we can also build up our retirement savings little by little. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan permits you to contribute via your online banking platform. SPP can be set up as a bill, and you can chip in little amounts — $10 from a scratch ticket, $5 from returning empties, $100 from a yard sale – as you go. You’ll be amazed how those tiny additions to your nest egg can add up. Check out SPP today!

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.