Now is the time to act on boosting retirement security: C.A.R.P.’s VanGorder

January 14, 2021

For those of us who aren’t yet retired, it’s difficult to put ourselves in the shoes of a retiree and imagine what issues they may be facing.

Save with SPP reached out recently to Bill VanGorder, Chief Policy Officer for C.A.R.P., a group that advocates for older adults, to find out what it’s like once you’re no longer working.

For a start, says VanGorder, all older people aren’t set for life with a good pension from their place of work. In fact, he says, “65 to 70 per cent of those reaching retirement age don’t have a (workplace) pension.”

As a result of that, most people are getting by on income from their own retirement savings, along with government benefits like the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS), and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).

“Politicians don’t understand what it’s like to live on a fixed income,” VanGorder explains, adding that any unexpected expenses hit those on a fixed income really hard. Right now in Nova Scotia C.A.R.P. is trying to stop plans to end a longstanding cap on property taxes – a move that would hit fixed-income folks the hardest.

In removing the cap, the province has suggested it would “look after” low-income seniors, but VanGorder points out that retirees at all levels of income are on fixed income. “It’s not just low-income earners… everyone would be hit by this,” he says.

It’s an example of how older Canadians seem to be overlooked when the government is writing up new public policies, VanGorder says. When the pandemic struck, all that older Canadians were offered was a one-time $300 payment, plus an extra $200 for the lower income group, he notes. Meanwhile younger Canadians were eligible for Canada Emergency Response Benefit payments of $2,000 per month, there were wage subsidies and rent subsidies for business, and more.

Older Canadians “feel they’ve seen every other part of the country get more economic assistance,” he explains. That’s because there’s a misconception that older Canadians “are already getting stuff… and are being looked after.”

“Their cost of living has gone up exponentially,” VanGorder says, noting that many services for seniors – getting volunteer drivers, or home support visits – have been curtailed for health reasons. These changes lead to increased costs for older Canadians, he explains.

C.A.R.P. is looking for ways to keep more money in the pockets of older people. For example, he notes, C.A.R.P. feels that there should be no minimum withdrawal rule for Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs). “It’s unfair to force people to take their money out once they reach a certain age,” he explains. “A lot of people are retiring later (than age 71).” He notes that since taxes are paid on any amount withdrawn anyway, the government would always get its share eventually if there was no minimum withdrawal rule.

Another argument against the minimum withdrawal rule is the increase in longevity, VanGorder says. Ten per cent of kids born today will live to be over 100, he points out. “We’re adding a year more longevity for every decade,” he says.

C.A.R.P. is also pushing the federal government to move forward with election promises on increasing OAS payments for those over age 75, and to increase survivor benefits. While the feds did improve the CPP, the improvements will not impact today’s retirees; instead they’ll help millennials and younger generations following them.

Another area of concern to C.A.R.P. on the pension front is the rights of plan members when the company offering the pension goes under. “C.A.R.P. would like to see the plan members get super-priority creditor status,” he explains. That way, they’d be first in line to get money moved into their pensions when a Nortel or Sears-type situation occurs.

He notes that Canada is the only country with government-run healthcare that doesn’t also offer government-run pharmacare.

VanGorder agrees that there aren’t enough workplace pensions anymore. “Canada doesn’t mandate employers to offer pensions, making (reliance) on CPP and OAS more critical than it is in other countries,” he explains. The solutions would be forcing companies to offer a pension plan, or greatly increasing the benefits offered by OAS and CPP, he says.

“If we don’t start fixing it now, we are going to end up with a horrible problem when the millennials start to retire,” VanGorder predicts. Now is the time to act on expanding retirement security, he says. “They always say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago,” he says. “But the second-best time is today.”

We thank Bill VanGorder for taking the time to speak to Save with SPP.

Don’t have a pension plan at work? Not sure how to save on your own? The experts at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan can help you get your savings on track. SPP offers a well-run, low-cost defined contribution plan that invests the money you contribute, and provides you with the option of a lifetime pension when work’s in the rear-view mirror. An employer pension plan option is also available. See if they’re right for you!

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.


Resolve to save in 2021

January 7, 2021

It’s the start of the New Year, and if there’s one thing we think everyone can agree on, it is really nice to see 2020 not hitting the door on the way out.

A New Year brings new promises, in the form of resolutions. Late-night host Conan O’Brien sums up how we all feel about the crazy year just ended, saying that his resolution for 2021 is “spend less time with my family.” Ouch.

Save with SPP took a look around the Interweb to see what people are resolving to do this year on the savings front.

At the Save.ca blog, there’s some good resolution advice on what to do with any extra money that comes your way in 2021, perhaps via a raise, a bonus, or a lottery payout.

“Whatever the source of the windfall, a good rule of thumb is to divide the extra money among the past, present, and future. If you have significant debts, use one-third of the windfall to pay some of those off, addressing concerns from the past. Save one-third, looking to the future,” the blog tells us.

“Use no more than one-third to address your present wish list — things like home improvements or even the purchase of something you’ve had your eye on but couldn’t previously afford,” say the folks at Save.ca.

Other advice for 2021 – save big by eating more at home, leave the ATM card at the house, and “pay yourself first.” You should “start adding yourself to the list of bills that need to be paid. Pay yourself with a set amount designated for investment or savings each month,” Save.ca advises.

The CBC suggests a “30-day spending detox” immediately as the New Year begins. The broadcaster quotes Calgary finance expert Lesley-Anne Scorgie as saying a “detox” means “turning the taps off to that habitual spending that you were doing throughout the month of December — and, let’s face it, for many months before the holiday season as well.”

The detox, she says in the CBC article, can be carried out by reducing spending “on anything that’s non-essential.” Suggestions include take-out coffee, subscriptions to streaming TV services, “the nails, the rims for your car,” and so on, she states.

A bunch of little cuts can add up to $25 a day – or close to $700 a month – that can be put away in a savings account, Scorgie says.

CityNews Toronto reports on recent research by Bromwich+Smith, which found Canadians “are eager to make fundamental life changes in 2021 following months of pandemic induced lockdowns and restrictions.”

Sixty per cent of those surveyed want to “support small and local businesses going forward,” the broadcaster notes. Fifty-nine per cent want to “enjoy the little things in life,” and 47 per cent want to live “more frugally.” Other top resolutions included being kinder to others (41 per cent) and travelling to other provinces (35 per cent), CityNew reports.

Whatever you do to improve your finances, take small steps, advises noted financial reporter Pattie Lovett-Reid.

Talking on BNN Bloomberg’s show The Open, she says thinking too large “may be too big and audacious a goal,” she explains. Instead, she recommends we say to ourselves “OK, what can I do each month to move forward our financial plan?” If you succeed, great, if you don’t, there are many more months to go, she notes. “You have to know how much you owe, and how much you own – that will give you an opportunity to make changes, and to get corrective action in place,” she explains.

Looking for a 2021 resolution? How about this – why not increase your contribution to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s a quick and easy way to pay yourself first, whether you contribute weekly or monthly, or via a lump sum. Not an SPP member? Check out SPP today; in 2021 SPP is commemorating 35 years of providing retirement security.

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.


Jan 4: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

January 4, 2021

Seniors – many lacking pensions and facing depleted savings – struggle to find work

Many of us of a certain vintage – say boomers in their late 50s and early 60s – plan to work as long as we can before entering retirement.

But a report by the Globe and Mail suggests that these days, as we recover from the pandemic, jobs for older workers aren’t as easy to come by as they may once have been.

“As we survey the damage from the COVID-wrecked economy, we may find that the employment prospects for older workers are getting thin just as the supply of mature job-seekers starts to climb,” writes the Globe’s Linda Nazareth.

First, she explains, things have changed for older workers.

“The old model of work, with the notion of leaving with a gold watch and a pension for life, is over. According to Statistics Canada, 52 per cent of the employed population was covered by a pension plan in 1977, a figure that had fallen to 37 per cent by 2018. Making up the difference with private savings does not always work out, and 2020 has offered a stark reminder that volatile markets, recessions, job losses and illness can wreak havoc on the best-laid plans,” she writes.

So, she notes, without pension income or savings, the other option is to keep working.

“No surprise, then, that the labour force participation rate (the percentage of the population either working or looking for work) of those aged from 55 to 64 has been trending higher for years, climbing from 63.6 per cent in November, 2010, to 66.6 per cent in November of this year,” Nazareth writes.

The rub, unfortunately, is that the kinds of jobs older workers are now holding down may not be there once the “K-shaped recovery” is fully underway, Nazareth explains.

“Many will be caught in the sectors and occupations that find themselves in the downslide of the K, including occupations in the struggling hospitality sector, but also those in a wide swath of manufacturing and services. Automation and a competitive global economy were already taking things in that direction but picking up the pieces after the pandemic will only make things worse and increase the potential for a spate of very-much involuntary unemployment,” she warns.

She concludes the article by hoping that a full economic recovery will lead to new types of jobs to aid the older workers in their job search.

In the U.S., reports Forbes magazine, it’s a similar situation.

The unemployment rate among workers 65 and older was an alarming 10.8 per cent, the article reports. Worse, it’s lower-income workers who are most affected, the article explains.

Writer Christian Weller concludes that there are basically two camps in the U.S. “Some could glide towards a comfortable retirement after working at good wages and saving enough during the preceding years. Others were left to fend for themselves as jobs became scarce and health risks became widespread since they had too little in wealth to weather the multitude of emergencies and start retiring earlier than planned. The pandemic starkly illustrates the massive retirement gulf that epitomizes the U.S.’s aging society.”

So let’s sift through this. Basically both authors are saying that older citizens with a pension or retirement savings to fall back on are doing better than those without, and that finding and keeping a job when you’re older may not be a slam dunk.

What can we do about it if we aren’t older? Saving for retirement seems a good way to cushion your future self against shifts in the job market. If you are fortunate enough to have a pension at work, be sure you are maximizing your contributions to it. If not, you’ll need to be self-reliant, and build your own retirement nest egg. A good place to start the savings journey could be the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, celebrating its 35th year in 2021. 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.


The Sleep-Easy Retirement Guide takes some of the surprises out of life after work

December 31, 2020

If there’s one thing that working Canadians can’t quite grasp with their imagination, it’s what things will be like when they step away from full-time work.

David Aston’s The Sleep-Easy Retirement Guide is a great and refreshingly Canadian-focused look at what lies ahead – and what you need to think about to ensure you make the best of it.

The book begins by noting that the old days of “full-stop” retirement at 65 are gone. “You can retire much earlier than 65 or much later. You can leave work full-stop, or you can work in a second career, or you can work as little or as much as you want or need to with part-time employment or on contract,” he writes. You can also start a business or just go for “the traditional retirement of leisure.”

So saving, Aston writes, is a bit tricky, because you normally start saving “many years ahead of when you will have a clear picture of what your financial demands will be in retirement.”

Aston sees three “paths” for retirement savings. The “Steady Eddie” approach involves saving “at a constant rate throughout your working life.” If a 25-year-old put 10 per cent of his or her salary into retirement savings annually for 40 years, there would be $1 million in the nest egg at age 65.

Other approaches give you the same result – a “gradual ramp up” means you start at six per cent per year and increase to 30 per cent for the 25 years before age 65. Or, there’s the “mortgage first, save later” approach where, after mortgage is done, you save 35 per cent of income for the 13 years left to retirement.

If working part-time, or at something different, is part of your “life after full-time work” plans, Aston provides a handy list of tips for older job-hunters, who may not have looked for work for a while. Among the tips are getting familiar with today’s more tech-focused approach to human resources, such as the use of Skype or FaceTime for interviews, and LinkedIn for shopping your resume around.

The book has many great chapters focused on decision points. Maybe you’re at age 65 with a reasonable stash of money in your RRSP. Aston’s detailed charts show how retiring at 68 instead can boost your annual cash flow by an impressive $11,360, thanks in part from holding off on withdrawals from savings and taking Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits later.

Another set of tables looks at what couples and singles spend in retirement. For an average couple, here’s what goes out: $44,000 a year for shelter, mortgage, vehicles, groceries, health and dental, home and garden, clothing, communication, financial services and transportation. But wait, there’s more – they’ll spend a further $16,400 on “the extras,” which include recreation and entertainment, restaurants and alcohol, a second home, travel, pets, gifts and charities, and miscellaneous perks.

Aston says an important concept is to have a “sustainable withdrawal rate” from savings, so that you don’t run out. He recommends taking four per cent out of your savings each year, if you start at age 65. The four per cent figure assumes “a blend of both investment returns and drawdown of principal.”

If you don’t want to risk running out of savings, Aston says an annuity may be for you. “An annuity gives you the opportunity to purchase your own defined-benefit pension plan,” he explains. They “are an ideal product for many middle-class Canadians who are concerned about outliving their wealth,” Aston adds.

This well-written, thorough and very informative book ends with some very good advice. “Behind the goal of a life well lived,” writes Aston, “it helps to have the support of finances well-managed.”

Did you know that Saskatchewan Pension Plan members have the option of receiving their savings in the form of a lifetime annuity? The annuity delivers you a payment that stays the same, and lands in your bank account every month for the rest of your life. And, depending on what annuity option you pick, it can continue on to your surviving spouse. Not an SPP member yet? Check their website and find out how you can sign up!

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.


Dec 28: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

December 28, 2020

Retirement income will come from many different buckets – so be aware of tax rules

When we are working full time, taxes are fairly straightforward. Our one source of income is the only one that gets taxed. Very straightforward.

It’s a far different story, writes Dale Jackson for BNN Bloomberg, once you’re retired. Income may come from multiple sources, he explains.

“Think of your retirement savings as several buckets with different tax consequences: registered retirement savings plan (RRSP), spousal RRSP, workplace pension or annuity, part-time work income, tax-free savings account (TFSA), non-registered savings, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security benefits (OAS), and home equity lines of credit (HELOC),” he explains. 

“The trick is to take money from the buckets with the highest tax implications at the lowest possible tax rate and top it off with money from the buckets with little or no tax consequences.” Jackson points out.

A company pension plan is a great thing, he writes, but income from it is taxable. “If you are fortunate enough to have had a company-sponsored pension plan – whether it is defined contribution or defined benefit – or an annuity, you have the misfortune of being fully taxed on withdrawals in retirement,” he explains.

It’s the same story for your RRSP – it’s fully taxable. Both pension income and RRSP income may be eligible for income splitting if you qualify, Jackson notes.

He explains how a spousal RRSP can save you taxes. “If one spouse contributes much more than the other during their working life, they can split their contributions with the lower-income spouse through a spousal RRSP. The contribution can be claimed by the higher-income spouse and gives the spouse under 65 a bucket of money that will be taxed at their lower rate,” Jackson writes.

CPP and OAS benefits are also fully taxed, and the latter can be clawed back in whole or in part depending on your other income, he notes.

Other buckets to consider include part-time work. “More seniors are working in retirement than ever,” Jackson writes. While income is taxable, he recommends that you talk to your financial adviser – there may be work-related expenses that are tax-deductible. And you can always work less if you find your other sources of income are increasing!

Interest from non-registered investments like Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) or bonds is taxable. Dividends on non-registered investments are also taxable, but dividend tax credits are available. You will be taxed on half of the gains you make on investments like stocks (again, if they are non-registered) when you sell, Jackson explains. There’s no tax on interest, dividends or growth for investments that are in a RRSP, a Registered Retirement Income Fund, or a TFSA, Jackson notes.

Tax-free income can come from TFSAs or reverse mortgages and HELOCs, but Jackson warns that “a HELOC is a loan against your own home… you will pay interest when the house is sold or the owner dies.”

The takeaway from all this great advice is this – be sure you’re aware of all your sources of post-work income and the tax rules for each. That knowledge will making managing the taxes on all these buckets a little less stressful.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is celebrating its 35th year of operations in 2021. Check out their website 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.


Dec 21: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

December 21, 2020

How will the pandemic affect your retirement?

As we prepare to start a new year, it appears that there is a faint light visible at the end of the tunnel that is the pandemic. Vaccines have been developed that appear promising and hopefully they’ll start to be in distribution by the time you are reading this.

That said, the pandemic has had a serious impact on all of us, and especially on our plans for retirement. An interesting article in Espresso covers the topic in detail. Here are some of their key findings.

Those relying on their own savings, rather than a pension plan from work, for retirement may have to postpone their retirement “by up to five years,” the article reports. This is because of the shellacking our economy – and our savings – took due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

But in an unusual twist, the article continues, “some people in their 50s and 60s are being forced to retire early.” Many of these folks are people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, the article notes.

Many of us with adult children are having to help them out more than usual due to the crisis, Espresso reports. “If you want to help your kids out,” states financial planner Lawrence Sprung, speaking to U.S. network CNBC, “make sure you don’t give them an amount that is greater than, or outside the scope of your normal excesses.” The implication is that if you raid your retirement cookie jar to help the kids, it will mean you’ll retire later or with less.

And, Espresso reveals, the opposite situation – kids helping parents – has also become more common. Research from the American Association for Retired People “found that roughly a third of adults in their 40s to 60s had offered financial support to their parents in the last year.”

While Espresso warns that some of us will retire with less, others will retire with more savings than planned. “A significant number of Americans – including more than half between the ages of 55 and 64 – are spending less money during the pandemic,” the article tells us.

One thing that’s become popular as we all sit around at home more is renovating the old home office. Be careful, advises Espresso. South of the border, the average kitchen renovation costs $56,000, but tends to add only $38,000 (on average) to resale prices.

The article advises older people to consider part-time work, launch a business, or to delay government retirement benefits for as long as possible. “It’s worth it to wait until (you can) receive full benefits,” Espresso suggests.

Finally, the article says, if your savings have taken a hit in the short term, “focus on the long-term plan.” Markets can rebound so don’t let short-term bumps in the road cause you to “act irrationally,” Espresso says.

Members of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan have flexibility when it comes to retirement savings. If you’re out of work and can’t contribute, you can take a pause. If you’re one of the lucky ones who is finding they have more money to save these days, consider adding a few extra dollars to your SPP account. The experts running SPP’s finances always focus on long-term investing, and that’s allowed SPP – which celebrates its 35th year of operations in 2021 – to have an average rate of return since inception of over 8 per cent. That’s quite an achievement when you consider that the last 35 years includes Black Friday in 1987, the “tech wreck” of 2001-2, the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-9 and our current pandemic! Be sure to 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.


Will some COVID-related practices live on after the pandemic ends?

December 17, 2020

If there’s one word that sums up the soon to be departed 2020, it’s “pandemic,” which according to a CityNews, is not unsurprisingly the “word of the year” from the folks at Merriam-Webster, the dictionary people.

Save with SPP decided to find out what other trappings and trimmings of the pandemic may live on in 2021, and the years following it.

Let’s start with masks – hard to find in February and March, everywhere today. Will we still wear masks when the pandemic is over? Quoted in a Yahoo! Life article, Dr. Amesh Adalja of John Hopkins university in the U.S. thinks it is quite possible.

“A COVID-19 vaccine is likely not going to provide sterilizing immunity the way the measles vaccine does,” he tells Yahoo! Life. “We’re going to still need to take protective measures for some time period, potentially until a second-generation vaccine is developed.”

Research shows that mask wearing in winter helps prevent flu, the article says – so maybe we’ll think about masking up even after the pandemic is completely over.

Next, what about working from home – could it be here to stay?

Writing in Canadian Facility Management & Design magazine Annie Bergeron suggests that “as a result of COVID-19, the workplace will be forever changed.”

She predicts a “hybrid” future, where people will be able to spend “extended time working from home.” She cites a recent Gensler survey in the U.S. which found that while many workers want to return to the office, they “also want a future in which they have more choice and agency that they did before the pandemic.”

Bergeron doesn’t think everyone will work from home forever, though. “There are many indicators that work-from-home arrangements are not sustainable for culture, innovation and talent development,” she writes.

HRMorning says productivity isn’t as good in a work-from-home environment. “Just half of employees who’ve worked from home since the pandemic started are as least 80 per cent as efficient as they were on site,” the article notes, citing research from Stanford.

Another feature of the pandemic has been online videoconference via Zoom, GoToMeeting, Teams, and other applications. Will in-person meetings go the way of the dodo bird?

Perhaps not. Zoom’s share price has fallen exponentially as vaccine progress rises, reports CNBC. Other “stay at home” stocks like Netflix and Amazon are also declining, suggesting the need for these services may dwindle once people start going back to the office again.

There are plenty of other changes on the way. Office towers will eventually bustle with people, benefitting the many struggling businesses that serve them. We’ll pack hockey rinks and football stadiums once again. There will be concerts, parades, and big family gatherings. Let’s hope, as 2021 starts, that this better future is not too far away.

While online meetings and tapping away for work from your kitchen may soon be memories, there’s still important work you can do for your future from the comfort of home. Saskatchewan Pension Plan members should check out MySPP. This online resource isn’t about work, but your life AFTER work. You can keep track of your account, watching it grow, and can get your various tax slips and statements. You can even use SPP’s website to contribute to your pension. Check it out – and if you’re not a member, take a look and consider joining 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.


Dec 14: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

December 14, 2020

Could we see a change in RRIF withdrawal rules?

An interesting idea that’s apparently being discussed in political circles is one of high interest to retirees – it’s the thought of doing away with minimum withdrawal rules from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs).

According to an article on the Sudbury.com site, this idea seems to be focusing on the fact that retirees may not want to withdraw funds – or at least, less funds than the usual minimum – from their RRIFs during a time when the markets have been volatile due to the worldwide pandemic.

“Each year, seniors with registered retirement income funds have to withdraw a minimum amount from their savings, which is considered taxable income,” the article explains.

“The Liberals shifted the marker this year, dropping the minimum for each senior by 25 per cent to ease concerns raised by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. That let those who could afford it leave more money in their tax-sheltered investments, hoping to recoup losses from the pounding the pandemic delivered to the markets,” the article continues.

The article notes that 2.1 million Canadians had RRIFs in 2018, with an average balance of $114,019. That average withdrawal, again according to the article, was $10,645 in 2018, with 41 per cent of RRIF owners withdrawing more than that.

When you’re too old to put money into a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), one of your options is to transfer the funds into a RRIF. There, your funds continue to grow tax-free, but you are taxed on a minimum amount you have to take out each year – at least under the present rules.

Your other options for the RRSP, when it ends, are to buy a life annuity (more on that later) or to withdraw it all in cash and pay taxes on the entire amount.

So what’s the deal with this new RRIF idea?

It could be a good option for those of us with RRIF savings who don’t want to “sell low,” and take money out when markets aren’t strong. But, as the Sudbury.com article tells us, if this option ever comes to pass, it carries a price tag – for Ottawa.

The Parliamentary Budget Office, the article notes, says “cutting the minimum withdrawal all the way to zero would end up costing the federal treasury $940 million next year, rising each year until hitting just over $1 billion in 2025.”  That said, presumably – even if there is no minimum withdrawal amount – some seniors will still need to withdraw money from their RRIFs and would pay some of those “waived” taxes.

RRIFs aren’t perfect. As mentioned, you (currently) have to take money out even if markets tank, a set amount each year. As well, your income from a RRIF tends to fluctuate; you generally don’t get the same amount each year because you are withdrawing funds from a declining account balance. And, you could run out of RRIF money before you run out of life.

If you’re a Saskatchewan Pension Plan member, you have an additional option when you retire. You can convert your SPP savings to a life annuity. You’ll get the same income every month – for life – regardless of whether the markets go up or down, and the longer you live the more payments you get. SPP also has options for your spouse and beneficiary to receive income upon your death. Check this important SPP benefit 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.


Looking back, 2020 was a real roller coaster for investors and savers

December 10, 2020

If there’s one thing almost everyone can agree on, it was great to celebrate – in a limited, socially distanced way – the end of the brutal year 2020, when the pandemic slammed the world.

It’s been a particularly frightening year for those of us struggling to save a few bucks for our retirement.

Back in February, when the COVID-19 crisis was beginning to take effect, stock markets dropped sharply, erasing “four years of gains,” reports Maclean’s . The market’s crash was based on fear – “not knowing how severe COVID was going to be in terms of morbidity,” the magazine explains.

In addition to the shocking numbers of deaths and sickness COVID-19 delivered, it also walloped our economy. According to Wealth Professional, quoting Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem, Canada’s economy “is expected to shrink by 5.5 per cent for the whole of 2020, with the initial rebound following the First Wave of the pandemic having eased.”

We all know what he’s talking about here – the First Wave led to lockdowns and business closures, and high unemployment. There was a break in the summer as much of the shuttered economy reopened, but now the Second Wave is causing lockdowns and job losses once again.

The usual safe harbour for savers when the economy (and stock markets) are volatile is in fixed income, investments that pay us interest. However, in order to reboot the economy, the Bank of Canada is planning to keep interest rates low “until 2023,” Macklem states in the Wealth Professional article.

Those “low for long” interest rates mean it is not the best time to buy bonds or guaranteed investment certificates (GICs). Some savers looked to the real estate investment trust (REIT) market to replace the income their fixed income was providing, notes The Motley Fool. While some REITs, notably industrial ones, and those involved with warehousing and data centres did well, “retail and hospitality REITs… had lost 80 per cent of their value at the market’s bottom.” The Motley Fool article wonders how investments in commercial office and retail space will fare in a world where most people are working from home.

Now that 2020 is behind us, there are signs of better days ahead.

The markets in Canada and around the world are now recovering due to late-year news that effective vaccines are nearly ready for distribution.

Dave Randall of Reuters, writing in the Chronicle-Herald, notes that November was “a record-breaking month as the prospect of a vaccine-driven economic recovery next year and further central bank stimulus measures eclipsed immediate concerns about the spiking coronavirus pandemic.”

Let’s review all this. The pandemic hit us hard, sending markets down, throwing people out of work, shrinking the economy. Central banks had to cut interest rates to reduce borrowing costs. That’s great for borrowing but less great for saving. Those looking to replace the interest they weren’t getting had to navigate a market that dropped by 40-50 per cent in the late winter and is recovering, and they had to face the reality that some sectors were doing far better than others.

2021, however, looks like a better year. Market optimism is returning, and once the vaccines start to get distributed around the country, we will (hopefully) start to see a return to more normal times, with no lockdowns and business restrictions.

The point of retirement saving is putting money away for the future, which may be quite soon or decades away. If you’re worried about saving on your own for retirement during these volatile days, you might consider teaming up with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. With SPP, experts run the money at an extremely low cost. We all have enough to worry about these days – let SPP take the worry of pandemic-era retirement saving off of your plate!

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.


Dec 7: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

December 7, 2020

Pension expert Vettese warns that fixed-income retirement is challenging; stocks can be risky

In a recent interview with the Globe and Mail, pension expert, actuary and financial writer Fred Vettese has a few words of caution for those of us who like to avoid the risks of the markets by finding safe harbour in the world of fixed income.

Vettese has written a number of books on the subject of retirement planning; Save with SPP reviewed his book The Essential Retirement Guide and found it packed with great advice.

He tells the Globe that due to the economic uncertainty the pandemic has brought, “if you have enough assets now and can live with a less risky portfolio to achieve your lifestyle, then do it.” His message, the article notes, is specifically directed at those age 65 plus.

Noting that interest rates are the lowest they’ve ever been, Vettese states in the article that “we can’t say that we’ll put some money in bonds and it will stabilize the overall portfolio and we’ll still get a pretty good return. COVID has pretty much squeezed out any kind of risk-free income.”

So, he warns, “if you’re going to keep risk-free investments in your portfolio like bonds and guaranteed investment certificates (GICs), then you’re going to have to find a rational way to actually draw down the principal over your lifetime. You can’t live off interest from bonds and GICs.”

This last statement is a bit of a gobsmacker for those of us who have ardently believed in a balanced, bond/equity view of retirement saving! But he’s right, of course – bond yields, as he points out in the article, will deliver negative returns over the long haul at today’s interest rates.

What’s a retirement saver to do?

If you’re looking to replace the income that bonds used to provide you with high-dividend stocks, be careful, Vettese advises.

“Implicit in holding dividend stocks is the idea that those stocks are not going to suffer capital losses, that they’re not going to go down 20 or 30 per cent. And what if these companies start struggling and can’t keep up their earnings and have to cut their dividends? There’s a lot of risk in dividend stocks, even if we haven’t seen that risk showing its teeth yet,” he states in the Globe article.

Vettese says it is a tough time for savers – especially young ones – to try and invest on their own. He suggests that they get professional advice, and says most people would be better off in a low-cost market-based exchange traded fund (ETF) than they would be if they picked their own stocks. He’s also a proponent of waiting until age 70 to start your government retirement benefits, such as the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security, because you get quite a bit more income each month that way.

There’s a lot of great stuff to recap here. Fixed-income isn’t the solid pillar it once was, at least for now, and stocks paying high dividends can be risky. Advice with retirement saving is well worth it, and delaying your government benefits as long as you can will give you a bigger monthly payout.

There’s no question that investing all by yourself can be risky. You might be paying fees that are too high. You could pick a category that isn’t going up in value – or risky stocks that don’t pan out. If you’re not really ready to go it alone in the euchre hand of retirement investing, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan could be an option for you. SPP looks after the tricky investing part for you, at a very low cost, usually less than 100 basis points. 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.