Knowing where our money goes can help us save

We talk, often at great length, about ways to save money – to squirrel a little away each month for our life after work.

And while we all seem to wish we could save more, an answer to the question “why aren’t we saving” can be found by looking at where we are spending our cash. Where, Save with SPP wants to know, are our “non-savings” going?

According to Statistics Canada data from 2016, reported on in the Slice.ca blog, Canadians spent an average of $84,489 per household in that year. That’s what they spent, remember, not what they made – most of us spend more than we earn.

The blog reports that Canadians spent the most on shelter – 19 per cent of the total. “In 2016, according to StatsCan, the average Canadian household spent $16,293, or a little over 19 per cent of their total expenditure, on their principal accommodation,” the blog reports.

Next on the list is income tax, weighing in at 18.1 per cent. “They say that the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes. In Canada, $15,310 – or 18.1 per cent – of the average household’s total expenditure went to income tax in 2016,” the blog explains.

The third biggest category is called “private transportation,” our vehicles, which cost us $10,660 per year, Slice.ca notes. The category makes up 12.6 per cent of the total.

Next biggies are food, at seven per cent ($6,176) and “household operations,” which includes phones and Internet — $4,705, or 5.5 per cent, Slice.ca reports. Rounding out the top 10 (Slice.ca actually gives the top 20) are insurance and pension contributions ($5,067, or six per cent), clothing and accessories ($3,371, or four per cent), restaurant dining ($2,608, or three per cent), healthcare ($2,574 or three per cent) and utilities ($2,460 or 2.9 per cent). Savings didn’t make the top 20.

We can’t do much about most of these categories, but some are “non-essential” and could be targeted for spending cuts. If we were to save even 10 per cent of what we spend on vehicles, phones and Internet, clothing and restaurant dining, we’d have a whopping $2,134.40 to add to our retirement savings each year. Saving five per cent would provide a $1,067.20 boost to your savings.

Global News reports that we Canucks “splurge on guilty pleasures.” Citing research from Angus Reid and Capital One, the broadcaster reports that 72 per cent of us “dine out several times a month,” 71 per cent “regularly order takeout,” and half of us buy coffee daily.

MoneySense notes that a lack of personal savings has a variety of negative impacts for Canadians. Citing research from Abacus Data, the publication notes that only 34 per cent of us could “come up with $1,000 right away without borrowing or using credit.”

Debt seems to be missing from these spending stats.

According to the Financial Post via MSM Money  the cost of paying our debts is cutting into our ability to pay other expenses.

“More than half of Canadians say they’re increasingly concerned about their ability to pay debts as disposable income shrank by a fifth since June,” the Post reports, citing data from insolvency practice MNP Ltd.

“Average monthly disposable income after paying bills and debt obligations fell $142 to $557,” the Post reports, adding that “nearly half — 48 per cent — of the 2,002 respondents to the early September poll by market research company Ipsos said they’re left with less than $200 at the end of the month.”

This is a lot of information, but a picture emerges. We’re not, as a rule, planning on saving anything each month. In fact, credit balances are getting so high that many of us can’t cover all our bills without dipping further into debt. We can understand how we might cut back on spending, but we also have to cut back on using credit, too.

We all have the power to cut back on spending and borrowing. That will not only reduce our costs, it will reduce our stress levels. Imagine a future where you have control of all your bills – it’s an achievable dream. And as you get to that desired level of financial freedom, you’ll have more and more money to put away for retirement.

If you’re looking for a place to grow those hard-earned savings, look no further than the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Be sure to 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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Rising future costs of long-term care will cause financial risks: NIA’s Michael Nicin

The National Institute on Ageing at Ryerson University recently prepared a report entitled The Future Co$t of Long-Term Care in Canada. The report predicts long-term costs may more than triple by mid-century.

Save with SPP reached out to the NIA’s Executive Director, Michael Nicin, to ask a few questions about how future increased care costs will impact the finances of retired Canadians.

Q. Your study shows that the cost of long-term care will jump to $70 billion by 2050, from $22 billion today. That’s a more than 300% increase. Should pension plans and retirement programs be factoring this possible huge cost increase into their design so people can pay their share in the future?

Depending on the pension plan type and member profile, pensions already act as a bulwark against this type of late life expense. Indeed, one can argue that that the costs to individual Canadians and public coffers would be assisted by more widespread pension coverage.

The bigger financial risk applies to Canadians without a robust pension or sufficient personal savings.

A 2016 report by Richard Shillington, for example, shows that Canadians with pension coverage have significantly higher income than Canadians who don’t. In 2011, median income for senior families with pension income was $55,400, compared to $31,400 for households without pension income.

The same report shows that median personal savings for Canadians aged 55-64, without pension coverage, is only $3,000.

So, while all Canadians could put more income to good use, the bigger issue with respect to long-term care costs is the two-thirds of Canadians who have no pension coverage at all, and haven’t saved enough on their own. Herein lies the bigger personal and social risk on long-term care affordability.

Q. There is also an indication that the burden on unpaid caregivers (such as family members) may nearly double to eight hours a week. I think there are tax credits and so on for this work, but is that enough? Could other things be done to help the caregivers?

The federal government, and a number of provincial governments, have indeed acted to provide some level of support to caregivers – ranging from tax-credits and work-leave protection for employed caregivers.

Federally, for example, Canadians caring for eligible spouse or dependant over 18 years of age, can claim up to $6,883 annually. At the moment, however, the tax credit is non-refundable, and as such doesn’t help caregivers who have no reportable income.

Some provinces offer work-leave protection, respite programs, and other sources of support to caregivers. For a full assessment of government support programs, Dr. Samir Sinha’s report, Why Canada Needs to Better Care for Its Working Caregivers, provides a good overview.

The bigger picture painted in our report on the future costs of long-term care shows that additional support will certainly be needed, but the fundamental challenge will be the availability of Canadians to continue to provide the level of support we’ve seen historically. Younger baby boomers had fewer children than previous generations of Canadians, which may mean fewer available family members to provide care. Likewise, Canadian families live farther apart from each other, making it impractical to physically support older family members. Women have also typically provided the bulk of unpaid care, but with women increasingly entering the workforce, there will again be fewer traditional sources of unpaid care. Indeed, at this level, concern for caregivers extends beyond the seniors’ care spectrum; it increasingly will affect economic and personal productivity.

To start then, governments should look to expand existing programs for caregivers. The federal government can start by making the tax credit refundable.

Employers may also need to step-up. Caregivers often juggle work obligations with providing care. And for those that have to leave work, the employer suffers the loss of an employee and the employee loses income. Caregivers tell us that they would like more flexible work arrangements, for example, so they can step away from a full workload without sacrificing the job altogether.

Q. From personal experience, the cost of LTC even today is pretty high. Here in Ottawa, it is about $2,000 a month for a publicly funded long-term care spot and around $5K plus for a private nursing home. Does your research say anything about the expected future costs of such services so we can show it on an individual basis (might make it easier to understand).

Our projected costs are actually rather conservative, in that they show what the status quo will look like if extended to a larger, ageing population. But in discussions with experts and in reviewing Canadian and global literature, the big cost risk associated with the future of long-term care is labour. Personal Support Workers are the front lines of health professionals who care for seniors, in their own homes and in nursing homes. Canada is already facing a shortage of PSWs and isn’t alone. Globally, there’s a shortage of PSWs, which likely means that a short supply and high demand will increase labour costs over time. This could certainly implicate costs for Canadians in the future, as recruitment and retention become more difficult in an ageing world. In the medium and long-term, then costs for care in the home and in nursing homes may grow beyond our projections.

Q. Would increased government funding for additional “subsidized” spots help stave off a future crisis? What else can be done today to prepare us for the future?

The NIA structured these reports as a series of three. The first two look at the current state of long-term care and project costs into the future, if we don’t shift practices, funding methods, and other aspects of how we deliver care to an ageing population. The third and final paper of the series is in progress now. In the final report, we’re working with a broad range of experts, government officials, and other stakeholders to identify real and potential means of delivering better care as lower or more contained costs.

But looking at best practices around the world, the countries that seem to be doing better than Canada have flipped spending in recent years and decades, pouring more resources into home and community care, as opposed to building more nursing homes, which cost more to build in the first place, and typically cost more to operate.

Q. What results from this research surprised you the most, and why?

Amongst the eye-opening projections on the future cost of long-term care and the current lengths of waitlists for home and nursing care, we can’t lose site of the fact that Canadians are already living longer, healthier lives than ever before. Centenarians are the fastest growing cohort in Canada. This is an incredibly positive trend that’s worth noting and celebrating. In a sense, the challenges we face now and on the horizon are partially the result of great gains in population health and longevity. We’re living longer, healthier lives. That can be surprising to anyone whose job it is to focus on problems and solutions, as we do at the NIA.

We thank Michael Nicin for taking the time to answer our questions.

It’s clear that we can all expect long-term care costs will be more than they are today when, in the future, we need them. If you have a retirement arrangement at work, be sure you are contributing all that you can towards it. If you don’t, consider setting up your own savings program. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers an end-to-end way for your to turn savings into future 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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

How to Get a Down Payment For a Home in Canada

You’d like to become a homeowner one day soon, but similar to a lot of Canadians the only thing stopping you is the down payment. When taking out a mortgage, the lender will require that you make a down payment of at least five percent. This provides the lender with some reassurance that you have some skin in the game.

Coming up with the down payment is perhaps the most challenging part of homeownership. Saving a down payment can be especially challenging if your cost of living is already high. The good news is that there are various ways you can come up with your down payment. Let’s take a look at the most common ways right now.

Personal Savings

Personal savings is probably the first way that comes to mind for getting a down payment. Personal savings isn’t just your savings account. It also covers investment accounts, mutual funds, GICs and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). Just make sure your money is available on closing and easily accessible. Your real estate lawyer will ask for the balance of the down payment funds a day or two before closing.

Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs)

Your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) isn’t just to fund your retirement. It can also be used towards the down payment on a home. In order to do that you need to be a first-time homebuyer. Under the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP), you can withdraw up to $35,000 from your RRSP towards your first home (up to $70,000 if you’re a couple buying together). The best part is that you won’t pay any taxes on the withdrawals (provided the funds are in your RRSP account for at least 90 days). You’ll have to pay back the funds eventually, although you have up to 15 years to do so.

In case you’re wondering, you can’t withdraw from your Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) account for the HBP. However, contributions to the SPP can be considered as repayments to the HBP.

Gifts

It’s becoming a lot more common for first-time homebuyers to receive a part of their down payment as a gift from family. If you’re fresh out of college or university and you have a sizable student loan, it can take you years to repay it. In fact, student loans are one of the biggest barriers to entry for homeownership among younger folks. That’s where “the bank of mom and dad” can step in.

Many parents may be willing to lend their adult children a helping hand in the form of a gift. Gifting your adult child part or all of their down payment is pretty straightforward. All you’ll need to do is sign a gift letter stating that you’re gifting them the funds rather than it being a loan.

Another way parents can help you out is by gifting their children home equity. If you’re selling the family home to your adult child, you can gift your child home equity. For example, if the home is worth $600,000 and your child has saved up $80,000, you may be willing to gift your child $40,000 in equity, so that they’ll have a 20 percent down payment and can avoid paying mortgage default insurance.

The Bottom Line

These are just a few ideas for ways to come up with your down payment. You can use one of them or all of them. It’s all about figuring out which options makes the most sense for you and putting it into action.

 About the Author
Sean Cooper is the bestselling author of the book, Burn Your Mortgage: The Simple, Powerful Path to Financial Freedom for Canadians. He bought his first house when he was only 27 in Toronto and paid off his mortgage in just 3 years by age 30. An in-demand Personal Finance Journalist, Money Coach and Speaker, his articles and blogs have been featured in publications such as the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Financial Post and MoneySense. Connect with Sean on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Oct 28: Best from the blogosphere

Canada – still among the world’s top places to retire

Canada – true north strong and free – has been ranked the 8th-best country in the world in which to retire, according to a recent survey by Natixis Investment Managers.

The study, which was reported on in Wealth Professional, covered 44 developed countries, the magazine reports.

“Canada has been ranked eighth among 44 developed countries for retiree wellbeing in the 2019 Natixis Global Retirement Index with an overall score of 77 per cent. It improved its standing by one spot compared to last year by improving in retirement finances and material wellbeing and holding steady in health, though it slipped in terms of quality of life,” the magazine reports.

While the study put Canada’s finances near the top of the list, a couple of warning signs are out there, the magazine reports.

“The ongoing rise in the ratio of retirees to active workers has introduced a risk of old-age dependency — a trend that could impact future generations, particularly women — as well as rising pressure on government services over time. Canada’s financial ranking is also threatened by lower scores for tax pressure and interest rates,” reports Wealth Professional.

In plainer terms, since the number of retirees is gaining on the number of those working, the survey makers felt Canada may see negative impacts on government retirement services in the future.

Canada improved to 21st in the “material wellbeing” category, the magazine notes, but again warned that the current low-interest rate environment is forcing retirement savers “to invest in higher-risk assets, increasing their exposure to volatile markets — something that’s especially concerning for an investor segment that’s less able to recover from possible losses from market downturns,” Wealth Professional reports.

Other future concerns noted in the article are longevity risk – the danger of living to a very old age – and concerns about the climate.

On balance, however, it is nice to see that our many efforts to save for retirement are paying off, in that we live in a country that is one of the best to retire in. Think of that when you’re wrestling over whether or not to direct a few more dollars to retirement savings – at the end of the day, you’re going to be where you want to be, and those dollars will come in handy as future income. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers a great way to do just that.

Top 5 things about retirement

Now that we have proof that Canada is a great place to be a retiree, let’s look at some of the great things about being retired in general.

According to The Kerrie Show blog, the best things are:

  • Time to spoil yourself
  • Freedom to choose (as in, what to do)
  • Being financially secure
  • Pursuing your interests
  • Having a busy social life

The blog notes that while some of us may find retirement to be a “strange environment,” and may miss performing “a necessary service” on the job, “one should look at the positive side of retirement… there are many benefits.” Very true, those words.

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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Book puts the wisdom of Buffett at your fingertips

We often run in to various thoughts and pronouncements by the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, when reading the papers, watching the news, or even scrolling through social media. The man, after all, is a financial genius and one of the richest people in the world.

A nice book by Robert L. Bloch, My Warren Buffett Bible, catalogues some of the great man’s thinking in a well-organized, easy-to-access way.  There are literally hundreds of bits of good advice tucked away in this book that will help even the most novice of investors.

“Rule number one,” Buffett is quoted as saying, is “never lose money. Rule number two – don’t forget rule number one.”

He suggests that investors “buy companies with strong histories of profitability and with a dominant business franchise.” In other words, leading companies that are making profits.

“When I buy a stock, I think of it in terms of buying a whole company, just as if I was buying the store down the street. If I were buying the store, I’d want to know all about it.” The same holds true, Buffett says, when buying shares in a well-known company.

As well, Buffett states, “it’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.” He also notes that “startups are not our game;” his company, Berkshire Hathaway, tends to buy companies that have been around for a long time. Its oldest holdings, the book reports, are American Express, Wells Fargo, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, all firms that are over a century old.

And he says he plans to increase his holdings in these types of companies. “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful,” he states in the book. “The definition of a great company is one that will be great for 25 or 30 years.”

He’s not one for making a lot of portfolio changes, either. “Inactivity strikes us as intelligent behaviour,” he notes, adding that “what the wise do in the beginning, fools do in the end.”

He is not, the book states, a big fan of bond investing. “Overwhelmingly, for people that can invest over time, equities are the best place to put their money. Bonds might be the worst place to put their money. They are paying very, very little, and they’re denominated in a currency that will decline in value.”

For those who don’t want to pick stocks, he recommends index funds (such as index ETFs). “If you invested in a very low-cost index fund – where you don’t put the money in at one time, but average in over 10 years – you’ll do better than 90 per cent of people who start investing at the same time,” he states in the book.

And for those who may think money is everything, the book closes with this quote from Buffett – “money to some extent sometimes lets you be in more interesting environments. But it can’t change how many people love you or how healthy you are,” he states in the book.

This is a fine little book that is fun and quick to read.  If you are running into problems running your own investments for retirement, it’s never a bad idea to get some help. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan will grow your savings for you, using expert investment advice at a very affordable rate. When it’s time to turn those savings into retirement income, SPP has an array of annuity options to provide you with steady lifetime income. You can transfer up to $10,000 each year from your existing RRSP to SPP; 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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Oct 21: Best from the blogosphere

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Taking debt to the grave – reverse mortgages catching on

What can you do if you’re old, not working, and don’t have enough income to make ends meet?

Well, according to the Edmonton Journal, one option – if you are also a homeowner – is the reverse mortgage.

“If you’re 55 or older, you can borrow as much as 55 per cent of the value of your home. Principal and compound interest don’t have to be paid back until you sell the home or die. To keep the loan in good standing, homeowners only need to pay property tax and insurance, and maintain the home in good repair,” the article explains.

In the article, Equitable Bank spokesman Andrew Moor says reverse mortgages are a booming market. “We’ve only been in this market for the past 18 months, but applications are jumping,” he states. Moor tells the Journal that he expects the market will grow by a whopping 25 per cent annually. “Canadians are getting older, and there is an opportunity there,” he states in the report.

The article notes that the explosive growth in reverse mortgages demonstrates “how some seniors are becoming part of Canada’s new debt reality. After a decades-long housing boom, the nation has the highest household debt load in the Group of Seven.”

Critics of the growing sector warn there can be downsides. Reverse mortgages “are a high-cost solution that should only be used as a last resort,” the article says, quoting industry experts who worry about the practice.

“When they think of their cash flow, they’re not going to get kicked out of their house, but in reality, it really has the ability to erode the asset of the borrower,” states Shawn Stillman of the Mortgage Outlet in the Journal article.

Another thing that can happen is that your home may continue to appreciate in value during the period of the reverse mortgage – so you will miss out on growth, the article states.

The sector has grown to an incredible $3.12 billion, the article notes. That’s more than double what the balance was on reverse mortgages just four years ago, the story reports. And while reverse mortgages are a relatively small sliver of the overall $12 trillion Canadian residential mortgage pie, the reverse mortgage share is up 22 per cent in the last year, the article reports.

Let’s think of what this means in the overall retirement savings picture. Canadians are grappling with high debt, largely caused by the high price of housing. This debt is a savings restrictor – there often isn’t money left over to put away for retirement. Good workplace retirement plans are scarce. So we shouldn’t be surprised to see some folks, unable to make ends meet on government retirement benefits, having to cash in the value of their homes.

The reverse mortgage trend underlines the need we all have to save for retirement on our own – whether or not we have benefits for retirement via work. The cost of living rarely, if ever, goes down, so money tucked away today and invested over time will be very handy in your costly future. An easy way to get going on retirement savings is through membership in the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s open to all Canadians, and offers low-cost, professional investing to grow your money, and a full-service annuity program to convert those savings into retirement income once you’ve slipped the bonds of work. You owe it to your future self to 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Should we really kick back and put our feet up in retirement?

No matter what we do in our work lives, it’s an intense drag on our downtime. You get up, you get dressed, you’re out the door for your drive, bus, train or bike commute to the office, there’s lots to do, there are meetings, you’re pounding coffee all day. At the end of the day the couch looks irresistible.

So is retirement really the time of life when we put our feet up and measure out time with coffee spoons?

No, says the Home Care Assistance blog. “The dangers of a sedentary lifestyle are even more significant for seniors because they are already at risk for developing serious health conditions,” the blog warns. Physical activity gets “the blood pumping through the body,” the blog notes, but inactivity leads to slower circulation, “which can have a devastating impact on the heart.”

If you are developing arthritis, the worst thing to do is to take it easy, the blog reports. “Seniors with arthritis must keep their bodies moving to prevent joints and ligaments from becoming too tight,” the blog advises.

Physical activity helps prevent other conditions, such as memory lapses, depression, and the likelihood of falls, the blog reports. It all adds up to a shortened lifespan, the blog concludes.

The Dr. Axe blog expands on some of these points. Being sedentary is a huge problem in the U.S., the blog notes. “It’s startling to discover that Americans spend 93 per cent of our lifetimes indoors — and 70 per cent of each day sitting,” the blog reveals.

As a species, humans are supposed to spend each day moving around – our ancestors had to rustle up food, seek shelter, and find warmth, the blog explains.

“How does not moving regularly take a toll on our health? The World Health Organization estimates that a lack of physical activity is associated with 3.2 million deaths a year,” the blog notes. The blog lists diabetes, heart disease, poor circulation, “fuzzy thinking,” and even loss of muscle mass and bone strength as by-products of a sedentary lifestyle.

So what do we do to combat these risks?

The Wisdom Times blog sets out some ideas to help you avoid the negative effects of couch occupancy.

“Walk every day, have a sport, and go to the gym,” the blog suggests. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, the blog notes, and consider parking in a “faraway spot” if you’re driving places.

“If you are one of the blessed lot to have your office within 4-5 kms from home, you could consider cycling to work. You will also contribute to the social conscience by saving on the pollution,” the blog recommends. Other easy ways to combat the sedentary lifestyle including playing with kids and grandkids, dancing, and in the kitchen, avoiding the use of powered appliances, and instead “get your pounding stone or your grinding stone out.”

Let’s face it – if we’ve gone to all the trouble to squirrel away savings for retirement, why not go to a little more trouble, through being active, to make it a long retirement?

If you have taken a sedentary approach to getting out there and saving for retirement, a helpful tool is at hand. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers you an end-to-end approach to turning your savings into retirement income. Take action, and 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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Are those of us who save for retirement investing wisely?

A recent Angus Reid survey, reported on in The Financial Post, suggests that a surprisingly large number of us – 38 per cent – have no retirement savings at all.

That begs the question: are the 62 per cent of Canucks who are saving investing wisely? Save with SPP took a look around to find some answers.

A MoneySense article from a few years back reached the conclusion that Canadians aren’t good investors.

“A whopping 60% of the typical portfolio is being held in cash – far too much to meet most retirement needs when you factor in record-low interest rates and inflation. What’s more, nearly half of survey respondents (45 per cent) said they plan to increase their cash holdings next year. The average Canadian portfolio holds just 19 per cent in equities, seven per cent in bonds, four per cent in in property, three per cent in alternatives and the rest in other asset classes,” the article reports.

Let’s compare those numbers to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s current asset mix. With SPP, equities (Canadian, US, and non-North American) weigh in at 36 per cent of the portfolio. Bonds are the next largest category, at 29 per cent, and “alternatives” follow – mortgages, three per cent; real estate, 11 per cent; short-term investments, two per cent and infrastructure, one per cent. (Once you retire and collect your SPP pension, it is paid out of the Annuity Fund – a non-trading bond portfolio.)

So the self-investor is 60 per cent in cash in their retirement savings account, while the SPP’s balanced fund (typically the one chosen for the savings portion of retirement) has, perhaps, two per cent in cash/money market or other short-term investments.

Why the disparity?

“When asked why they’re sitting on so much cash, the majority cited accessibility and/or convenience while 25 per cent admitted to a fear of losing money and 10 per cent said it was because they didn’t understand their options,” the article notes. As well, the MoneySense report adds, “less than half of Canadians (44 per cent) agree with the statement `Investing is for people like me,’ and a full 51 per cent believe investing is like gambling.”

In plainer terms, those saving on their own – the majority of which MoneySense notes have never consulted a financial adviser – aren’t sure how to invest and are afraid to lose money. So they park their savings in cash.

A little personal note here. This writer, having worked in the pension industry (but not on the investment side), has decent general knowledge about investing and invests the family RRSPs on his own. Generally, we try to have an asset mix that’s 50 per cent stocks and 50 per cent bonds and balanced funds, more like a pension fund. It was a search for a good balanced fund that first connected us with SPP. What we notice is that over the decade or so that we have belonged to SPP, the SPP has always outperformed our own investment rate of return. That’s why we are gradually moving our RRSP savings over to SPP – they know more about investing and are doing a better job of it. Period, full stop.

There’s no question that it is exciting, and fun, to run your own investments. However if the money you’re in charge of is being invested for your retirement future, it might be a smart idea to get some help managing the ups and downs of the markets. A financial adviser is a good idea, and another good idea is to put some or all of your hard-earned savings in the professionally-invested, low-fee Saskatchewan Pension Plan. 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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Oct 7: Best from the blogosphere

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Debt begins to gnaw away at Canadians’ wealth

For the first time since 2008, reports Advisor’s Edge, Canadians’ wealth is in decline.

And unlike 2008, when a global financial crisis routed the markets and shuttered a number of financial institutions, another more insidious factor is to blame this time, at least in part – personal debt.

Advisor’s Edge, citing data from Toronto research firm Investor Economics, reports that “discretionary financial wealth – including deposits, investment funds, and securities holdings – fell by one per cent to $4.4 trillion.”

While the markets had a bad last quarter in 2018 (markets have recovered thus far in 2019), debt is becoming a problem that people have to deal with, the article notes.

“This has translated into a sharper focus by Canadian households in diverting discretionary financial assets toward lowering personal debt with associated adverse impacts for the retail financial services industry,” states Investor Economics president and CEO Goshka Folda in the article.

In plainer terms, financial assets under management are being cashed in to pay down personal debt. Money once earmarked for long-term wealth or savings is going on the credit card or line of credit.

An eye-popping $45 billion of wealth was diverted towards debt repayment in 2018, the article notes.

Worse, Investor Economics predicts slower growth in financial wealth over the next 10 years.

With debt at all-time highs, should we be surprised that people are raiding their savings to cut down on creditor calls? For many of us, our biggest pool of cash is our retirement savings – should we crack into that?

The Hoyes-Michalos website warns that cashing in RRSPs is a very poor strategy, for several reasons. First, the debt-relief site notes, since you are withdrawing tax-sheltered funds to pay debt, the withdrawn funds “will be added to the income you make this year, and you may find that you owe quite a bit more in taxes than you expected. By using the money to solve one problem, you have created a new tax debt once you file your income taxes.”

As well, Hoyes-Michalos notes, when you take out money from an RRSP there is also a withholding tax applied. You won’t get the full amount you want to take out.

Next, the site advises, by “putting your retirement savings toward debt repayment, you will have to start saving for retirement all over again with less time and money to do so.” And if your debt has you in a precarious financial situation, the site notes that “RRSPs are protected in a bankruptcy.”

If your goal is to have your retirement savings in a secure cookie jar that you won’t be able to hack into, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has a unique feature you should be aware of. Because SPP is a defined contribution pension plan, and not an RRSP, the money you deposit in your SPP account is locked in until you reach age 55, the earliest age you can begin to receive your pension (the latest age is 71). The cookie jar, in a sense, is welded shut until you get that gold watch – these days, that’s probably a good thing!

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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22