Workplace pensions can ease pandemic financial worries, panelists say

A recent online event, COVID-19 and Canada’s Workforce: A Crisis of Financial Security, suggests the pandemic has thrown a wrench into the retirement plans of Canadians.

The event, hosted by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) and Common Wealth, took a look at how the pandemic is impacting our finances.

Common Wealth’s founding partner, Alex Mazer, noted that even before COVID-19, 43 per cent of Canadians were living cheque to cheque. Forty-four per cent had less than $5,000 in emergency savings, and 21 per cent had less than $1,000, Mazer says.

On the retirement savings front, Mazer says, things are even bleaker. “The median retirement savings of near-retirement households is only $3,000,” he notes. Four of 10 Canadians have no retirement savings at all, and 10 million lack any kind of workplace pension program.

With the pandemic now impacting work and income, many Canadians “don’t feel they have the capacity to save… and that is a real problem for our society,” he warns.

Citing recent research from FP Canada, Mazer noted that worries about money impact our performance at work. That research found 44 per cent of Canadians are “stressed” about their finances, and research from the Canadian Payroll Association found we are spending “30 minutes a day worrying” about money.

“If you are worried about your finances, it’s hard to bring your full self to work,” Mazer notes.

He noted that the lack of workplace pensions, long considered a pillar of Canada’s retirement system along with government pension benefits and individual savings, is having a negative impact.

“The greatest weakness in the Canada’s retirement system is the lack of workplace pensions,” he says. Coverage levels today are at about half of what they were in the 1970s.

Mazer is a proponent of giving more Canadians access to pension programs; he says the most efficient types are “large scale pooled plans, or large Canada model (defined benefit) plans.” Both types feature retirement saving at low fees, professional investing, and risk pooling, he explains.

Elizabeth Mulholland, CEO of Prosper Canada, says 47 per cent of people working in the non-profit sector work freelance or part time, and face lower pay. “Insecurity is a way of life for our sector,” she says.

She notes that 28 per cent of Canadians have raided their registered retirement savings plans or Tax Free Savings Accounts due to the pandemic. “They have depleted their already inadequate retirement savings, and are now further behind due to COVID,” Mulholland says, adding that the pandemic has been “a wakeup call for the financial vulnerability of Canadians.”

Pension plans should consider automatic enrolment – an “opt out” feature rather than “opt in” – and need to be flexible for part-time workers. She says support for workers with general financial literacy would help them make the most of their retirement benefits.

Bell Canada Vice-President, Pension & Benefits and Assistant Treasurer Eleanor Marshall says her company’s pension plan is appreciated by employees. “Eighty per cent strongly value the pension plan,” she explains.

When COVID hit, she says, “there were a couple of responses from our employees.” Top priority, she says, was health and safety and social distancing. Next was job security. But the third concern was their pension plan and its investments.

Marshall says there needs to be more emphasis on individuals building emergency savings for situations – such as during the pandemic – when they need to “bridge the gap” for a period of job loss.

Pension plans, she adds, are important “for attracting and retention.” While younger employees don’t worry much or think about their pensions, they “will eventually appreciate having a pension plan” once they get older.

In general, Marshall said, there’s a link between financial wellness and mental wellness, and delivering a retirement system for employees is a positive measure on both fronts.

Renee Legare, Executive Vice-President and Chief Human Resources Officer at The Ottawa Hospital, says that during the pandemic, the worry for hospital workers wasn’t so much job security but definitely “their health and wellness.” She says healthcare workers feel lucky to have a good workplace pension.

She says portability – the ability to continue with the pension when you move from one job to another – is a solid feature of the plan. “It’s a major benefit for healthcare workers; they can move from one employer to another without losing their (pension) investment,” she explains.

The event was chaired by Ivana Zanardo, Vice President of Client Services at HOOPP. Save with SPP would like to thank James Guezebroek of HOOPP for directing us to the presentation.

If you’re among the many millions of Canadians who don’t have a workplace pension plan, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be the savings program for you. It features low-cost, professional investing and pooling, and since it is a member-directed savings program you can continue to belong to SPP even if you change jobs. SPP can also be offered as a workplace pension. Why not check out it 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.

Nov 30: Best from the blogosphere

Canadians budgeting better, many will work past 65, research says

2020 has been a really strange time, one where we’ve lost a lot of people we care about, and have been generally beaten up financially, all thanks to the pandemic.

But a new study from the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA), referenced by Business Insider, suggests that we Canucks are bearing up fairly well under the strain.

The study, according to a CPA news release, “shows great variations in how Canadians are coping and even succeeding during this unprecedented time.”

We seem to feel we are handling our finances well, the study reveals. Seventy-eight per cent of us believe we can “stick to a budget” and 81 per cent think we “can successfully manage our debts,” the study finds.

CPA Canada’s Doretta Thompson credits increased financial literacy for these strong numbers.

 “Providing financial literacy information is essential in these unsettled times as it can assist individuals and families in making smart decisions to successfully manage their financial wellbeing,” she says in the release.

The research shows nearly half of those surveyed – 49 per cent – have “modified their savings strategy,” with 63 per cent having savings accounts, 60 per cent with Tax-Free Savings Accounts, and 53 per cent contributing to either a Registered Retirement Savings Plan or a registered pension plan at work, the release says.

That focus on savings is important, the study notes. One in four of pre-retirement age respondents says they plan to retire in the next 25 years. Forty per cent of the pre-retirees plan to work past age 65, the release adds, and 43 per cent say they will do so because “they cannot afford to retire.”

An impressive 60 per cent of those surveyed have put aside funds for retirement in the last five years, the study found.

The pandemic has made most of us feel a bit of a pinch. The CPA survey found that 61 per cent of respondents “cut back on day-to-day spending,” and 49 per cent have developed household budgets, which 86 per cent say they are following.

“It’s encouraging to see many Canadians taking action to stay afloat during the fiscal turmoil of today but also looking to the future,” Thompson states in the media release. “Our country’s challenge is to ensure every Canadian has the knowledge and means to be financially secure.”

Personal finances, and the related issues of personal debt (or wealth) are things we Canadians don’t always like to talk about. An old saying in pension circles is that if you ask 100 people to describe a perfect wedding, you will get 100 different answers. The same is true if you ask them about a perfect retirement and how to save for it.

What the CPA is saying is that the more we know about saving, and the savings vehicles available, the more likely it is we will use them. And the more we understand debt, and how to manage it, the less debt we will all carry. It’s solid advice – educating yourself is a gift that keeps on giving.

Whether you are just starting to save for retirement, are midway to retirement, or are at its front door, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has tools to help you. SPP invests your savings, either via contributions or transfers from other plans, and then at retirement time, can convert those savings into long-term security in the form of a monthly pension amount – for life! Why not 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.

U.S. research warns of retirement’s hidden costs – housing and long-term care

Is retirement really a gilded life at the end of a rainbow of work?

Not necessarily, says a new research paper from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) in the U.S., titled The Growing Burden of Retirement . The paper warns that unexpected costs may prove daunting when we’ve reached the after-work stage of life.

Save with SPP reached out to Tyler Bond, one of the authors of the NIRS report, to find out what else the research discovered.

“A lot of people still go into (retirement) with the `golden years’ in mind; they are going to live off their nest egg, travel, they now qualify for Medicare, and they’ll visit their grandkids,” he explains.

But near retirees should also be thinking about any debt they may be carrying into retirement, such as mortgages. “If you own your home, is it paid for?” he asks. “Do you have any health concerns that might cause you to need long-term care? For me, the most important finding of this report is for people to see there is a wide range of outcomes in retirement,” he tells Save with SPP.

As in Canada, “the lack of (retirement) savings has been a problem in the U.S. for a long time,” says Bond. “Fifty per cent of working Americans don’t have access to a retirement savings plan at work, and all the data points to the fact that people are significantly more likely to save for retirement via a plan at work.”

Bond believes “improving access to workplace retirement plans is an essential first step.”

South of the border, 12 states have taken this bull by the horns and have started their own pension plans for those without workplace pensions. These “state-facilitated retirement savings plans” are being rolled out in California, Illinois and Oregon, Bond says, and Colorado and Pennsylvania are expected to follow suit shortly.

Employers set up their employees for automatic payroll contributions, but the employers don’t contribute. The state plans feature “auto-enrolment,” meaning employees get signed up automatically with a right to opt out if they want. Other features include “auto-escalation” of contributions, Bond explains. Most plans start with a five per cent contribution which is gradually ramped up over time to eight or 10 per cent, he explains.

Another great feature liberates people from the tricky decision of choosing what to invest their money in. Most plans place the first thousand dollars in a money market fund and then switch it over to a target-dated fund.

And the plans help turn the savings into retirement income, the “decumulation” phase. “There will be help with decumulation,” Bond says. “The idea is to come up with some way to annuitize the savings,” converting the saved dollars to a lifetime income stream, he explains.

“All these automatic features make it easier for people, easier for them to save, so we are hopeful (the state plans) will adopt these features,” he explains. There has been talk of launching a national version of these “auto-IRA (individual retirement account)” plans, Bond adds.

The new plans are reminiscent of older defined benefit (DB) plans that were “dominant” in the U.S. years ago. Those plans had similar “easy” enrolment and contribution, and looked after investment and decumulation too.

“In the last 30-40 years, defined contribution (DC) plans have dominated in the private sector,” Bond explains. But these plans didn’t all feature contribution increases and don’t always help with the drawdown, retirement income stage. “Over the next decade we will probably see more innovation in the DC space,” says Bond.

Making savings easier is part of the solution, but so is understanding the retirement spending side, Bond explains. “That’s definitely part of it,” he agrees. People “don’t know how to spend their money over the course of a long retirement – the rest of their lives – and all the challenges associated with it.”

“You don’t know how long you’re going to live – 20, 25 years? More? Will you need long-term care, or will your spouse? There’s an assortment of challenges whenever you get to retirement.”

These are issues “that don’t get talked about much,” he says. “Retirement income and retirement costs are not brought together a lot.” The number of Americans carrying mortgage debt into retirement “has significantly increased” over the past decades, and those who are renting are also experiencing cost increases.

Long-term care in the U.S., as in Canada, is very costly. While some citizens qualify for lower-cost long-term care if they qualify for Medicaid (a program for people with low incomes and savings), the rest have to pay many thousands per month for care.

While long-term care insurance exists, it is expensive – mainly because those buying it tend to be those most likely to need it. One state – Washington – is looking at a “social insurance model” for long term care, a state-run program that would help citizens with long-term care costs. Citizens would contribute 58 cents on every $100 of earnings towards this program, he explains. “A social insurance model (for long-term care coverage) is the best way to go… a system where everyone pays a little bit, versus private insurance.”

We thank Tyler Bond for taking the time to speak with us.

If you don’t have a workplace pension plan – or you want to supplement the plan you have – the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be the program for you. SPP is defined contribution plan. You can contribute up to $6,300 a year (indexed annually) towards your future pension; SPP will look after your investments and will convert your savings to income once you’ve reached retirement age. Employers are able to offer SPP as a workplace pension. Why not check SPP 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.

Nov 23: Best from the blogosphere

An old idea makes a comeback – annuities

An investment idea for retirees that you don’t hear about as often as you used to seems to be making a comeback.

A recent article in Investment Executive suggests that today’s volatile markets and uncertain economy may be perfect conditions for some of us to consider buying annuities.

An annuity is a product you purchase with all or part of your retirement savings. Once purchased, the annuity pays you a monthly amount for the rest of your life – a guaranteed amount that doesn’t change, even if markets decline. They were much more common decades ago when interest rates were high.

“Annuities are one of the best ways to plan for retirement if you are worried about volatility in the market, feel you will run out of money before you die and do not want to manage the investments,” states Markham, Ont. financial planner Ahilan Balachandran in the Investment Executive article.

He does point out that the current low-interest rate environment is not generally favourable for annuity purchases, since you basically “lock in” at a low interest rate. Annuities provide higher payouts when interest rates are higher, he explains in the article.

But it’s not all about interest rates, points out another financial expert.

“After 35 years of being in the business of selling annuities, I conclude that rates are not the primary consideration for a person to purchase an annuity,” states White Rock, B.C. annuity broker John Beaton in the article. “People are not as worried about interest rates as they are about establishing a lifetime stream of income.”

He tells Investment Executive that annuities offer “peace of mind” for retirees.

“Some people understand that a time will come when they will suffer from diminished capacity to handle their affairs. Not having to worry about how things will be paid is more important,” Beaton tells the magazine.

And Burlington, Ont. investment advisor Jim Ruta says while interest rates may be low, there are other reasons to think of an annuity.

Now that markets are so uncertain, he states in the article, “you can guarantee yourself a multiple of what interest rates are with an annuity.”

This is a somewhat complex topic. We tend to confuse retirement savings with wealth generation – for many of us, our retirement savings are the biggest chunk of cash we have. It’s never easy to think about trading some or all of that nest egg for the security of a monthly, set income.

But an annuity is a way to “pensionize” some of your savings. You saved all this money to provide future income, an annuity allows you to get a monthly pension – for life – from your savings. If you invest your retirement savings and draw it down each year, there’s a risk you can outlive that lump sum amount. That risk disappears if you have purchased an annuity.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) offers you a wide variety of annuity choices when the time comes to convert savings to an income stream. The SPP pensions page has details on SPP’s annuity options.

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.

Trade rocking chair for your best life, urge Victory Lap Retirement authors

Time was, write the authors of Victory Lap Retirement, that retirement meant “a few years of passive leisure” once you had put in 35 years on the job, a short period of time in the rocking chair since most retirees in the old days “were not in robust enough health to partake in active leisure.”

Now that we are living longer and in better health, authors Mike Drak, Rob Morrison and Jonathan Chevreau think we should create a new stage of life between work and full retirement, which they are calling the “Victory Lap.”

“In your Victory Lap, you continue to work, but you have the luxury of choosing to do only work that gives you what you want. Money and security are no longer the main motivators, because achieving financial independence has finally allowed you to make a change in your priorities,” they write. So the Victory Lap, they explain, is a “period of freedom… living like a kid for as long as possible and squeezing every ounce out of life.”

The three authors say that “instrumental” factors in the quest for the Victory Lap are:

  • Maintaining your physical and mental health
  • Adopting a positive attitude
  • Ensuring that your financial plan is aligned with your life plan

This well-thought-out book challenges some of our long-held beliefs about work and money. Why, the authors ask, do we allow ourselves to become so financially dependent on our jobs and salary? Why are we “driven into complete economic dependency through debt, new family needs and consumerism… salaries and bonuses may keep racing, but lifestyle inflation outpaces them, resulting in more consumption and more debt.” We work on, “unhappy… and suffering,” the book warns.

An escape plan, the authors suggest, is necessary. “A full-stop retirement is not the best way to go… instead, we should be focusing our efforts on making a great life while we still have the time.”

A “Victory Lap” approach frees you from the rat race, “to start over and design a new life for yourself, without being limited by your job or responsibilities to others.” Turn your paycheck “into a playcheck,” the book tells us – that’s the difference when you have financial independence. See purpose in life over money.

“In Victory Lap Retirement the goal is to achieve a simpler, more balanced lifestyle… look for work that combines personal meaning and social purpose,” the authors note.

They see two good approaches to leaving the full-time world of work. The Glidepath Strategy is for those “who like what they do, but just want to do less of it.” By working part time or casually you may be able to continue on into your seventies and eighties, the book suggests.

The other route to go is the Passion/Hobby Strategy, for those who want “to venture outside their comfort zone and take a swing for the fences.” Moving from data analytics to making custom furniture, teaching to captaining a fishing boat, or from finance to selling wine are examples, the book explains.

Save with SPP (unsurprisingly) was interested in the chapters on saving, and the book does not disappoint. Funding the Victory Lap Retirement starts with saving enough “to replace upwards of 70 to 80 per cent of your current income,” and the book recommends a gradual transition to retirement “while continuing to generate some level of active (work) income.”

This active income can be a huge help if you are not fortunate enough to have a pension from work. “The active income you earn in Your Victory Lap can function much like a pension. Even if this income stream covers only 15 to 20 per cent of your overall spending, it is a separate source of income that… lessens your dependence on your other sources.”

Think as well about your “decumulation strategy,” turning your savings into income. The book says you should think about drawing down from non-registered savings before you crack into your registered money, and of delaying the start of Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits until age 70.

The book concludes by contrasting people who lived the life of their dreams to those who laboured for decades in jobs they didn’t like, adding that few people late in life say “I wish I’d made more money” or owned more things.

This is a great, and “outside the box” way to look at life after work, one that would make a great addition to anyone’s library.

Living your dreams after work is done is a terrific goal. If you don’t have a workplace pension plan, you’ll need to rely on your own savings to fund that future. One option could be the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You can contribute in many ways – online, through automatic deposit, and even by credit card – and the cash you contribute is carefully invested for the future. There’s even an option for employers to offer the Plan as employee benefit.  When it’s time to do new things, SPP can turn those savings into income that lasts as long as you do. 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.

NOV 16: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

Pandemic’s a worry for Canadians, and impacting their ability to save: survey

New research from CIBC and Maru/Blue finds that 40 per cent of Canucks are worried about how the pandemic will affect “their retirement and savings plans,” reports Wealth Professional.

Also alarming – 23 per cent of those surveyed have “been unable to contribute to their retirement plans since the pandemic began,” the magazine reports.

There are also subtle additional ways the pandemic may impact future retirements, Wealth Professional notes, again citing the survey’s findings. Thirty per cent of Canadians surveyed believe they will have to work longer than they originally had planned, and 32 per cent don’t think they’ll do as much travelling in retirement as they had hoped, the magazine reports.

This level of pessimism around retirement has not been seen since 2014, the article adds.

Other learnings from the pandemic include:

  • 20 per cent say they are paying more attention to their personal finances
  • 21 per cent say they “won’t panic when markets become volatile”
  • 19 per cent agree it is “important to save for retirement/their future”
  • 26 per cent feel the pandemic has “significantly increased the cost of retiring”
  • 24 per cent now feel they can live with less and will reduce discretionary spending

The amount needed for a comfortable retirement is, according to Wealth Professional, “10.9 times their final pay to maintain the same spendable income after retirement.” The magazine cites findings from actuarial firm Aon for this figure.

These figures are certainly not surprising. Many Canadians have had their income slashed, are receiving benefits, and have deferred repayment of mortgages as we all try to tough out the pandemic.

It’s encouraging that nearly 20 per cent of us – despite being downtrodden by the pandemic – still see the value of setting aside whatever they can today to benefit themselves in the future.

Another part of the equation, of course, is living on the retirement savings – the so-called decumulation side, where all the money you’ve piled up is turned into what you live on in retirement.

According to Benefits Canada, Canadians need to think about how to make their retirement income last.

“We’ve had a number of tax rules and pension rules based on the age of 65 and that made a lot of sense years ago, but the issue is now, once you hit 65, you can live to 87 or even longer,” states economist Jack Mintz of the University of Calgary in the article.

“I think we need to allow people to put more money in tax-sheltered savings. I would like to see an increase in pension limits and [tax-free savings account] limits in order to help people save more for the future. I’d also like to see more rules around [registered retirement income funds], when you have to withdraw money out of your retirement accounts… to provide more flexibility,” Mintz states in the article.

These are solid ideas for making retirement savings last longer, and for helping Canadians accumulate even more savings than they have at present. If you are looking for a place to stash cash for your retirement future – a place where your savings will be professionally invested at a very low rate – look no further than the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP). The SPP has an impressive rate of return of nearly eight per cent since its launch nearly 35 years ago. And if money is tight today, you can start small and gear up when better times return. Take the time to click over and check them out.

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.

What activities are folks planning for a pandemic winter?

Many of us have long had problems dealing with the cold and darkness of a Canadian winter. But this year, we will be adding in the problems of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Save with SPP took a look around to see how folks are planning to spend their first full winter of the pandemic.

Since one strategy to surviving the pandemic is to be outdoors, sporting goods businesses are reporting very brisk business in winter recreation equipment, reports CTV News.

“It’s been quite a marked change from the normal August and early September sales,” Paul Zirk, general manager of The Destination Slope and Surf Outfitters in North Vancouver, tells CTV. “It’s been really up and it’s been really focused on winter sports. This year, our track as far back as mid-July was ski-focused and winter-focused and at some weeks triple what we expected.”

Hot sellers include skis and snowboards, snowshoes, and heavier winter clothing, the article notes.

The Real Simple blog rhymes off 49 different winter activities that you can try this year.

Sledding, hiking, skating, snowball fights, and stargazing are on the list, as well as things like enjoying a family night in front of “a roaring fire,” enjoying winter favourites like hot cocoa and mulled wine, and cozying up with a bowl of homemade soup. The article also lists crafty ideas, like making a birdfeeder or knitting a scarf.

Global News reports that it is important, during the upcoming colder months, to avoid isolation. Psychologist Dr. Ganz Ferrence tells the broadcaster that people “should be planning now for what they’ll do to stay busy and safe once the temperature dips below zero.”

Ideas include skiing – downhill or cross-country — snowshoeing, skating and tobogganing. If you’re too old or not well enough for outdoor activities, at least get outside, urges Dr. Ferrence.

“Just to get that fresh air, that sunshine, whatever it is, seeing that the rest of the world still exists is much better than just giving in to being shut-in,” the doctor says.

Be sure to stay in touch with friends and family during the winter, when visiting is limited by poor travel conditions. Using online tools like Zoom to meet loved ones is a great idea, Dr. Ferrence says. “The best is face to face — being able to touch and feel and everything — the next level though, is this. Being able to see somebody and look in their eyes, see their facial expressions, their tone of voice,” he tells Global News. “Underneath that is phone.”

One group of Canadians that has long chosen against toughing out our winters – Snowbirds – may find this to be a tough season, reports the Globe and Mail.

With border restrictions in place, and COVID-19 outbreaks at high levels in popular winter vacation states like Florida, many Snowbirds may have to give up their travel plans this year, the article reports.

Renee Huart-Field and her husband live in P.E.I. and normally vacation in Florida’s Gulf Coast. Because their dogs usually come to Florida too, they aren’t keen on flying, and the border crossings by vehicle are severely limited, the article notes. So they must decide whether to winter on the Island, or travel elsewhere in Canada.

“People sort of think well, gee, must be nice to have that dilemma. But it’s not,” Huart-Field tells the Globe and Mail. “As you get older, the winters become harder… It’s a health thing.’”

If you’re a retiree and hope to do a little travelling, and have some fun in the winter sun, a little retirement income goes a long way to helping you reach those goals. If you’re still a long way from retirement, there’s plenty of time to start saving – and a wonderful option could be the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. The SPP is quite unique, in that it not only offers you a savings program for your working years, it helps you convert those dollars – grown through SPP’s professional investing team – into an income stream once you’re done with the workforce and ready for the leisureforce. Why not 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.

NOV 9: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

Survey suggests we’ll work longer and have less retirement income

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Ian McGugan takes a look at a new survey from Mercer Canada that he says suggests “the recession created by the novel coronavirus (has) delivered a stinging blow to many retirement systems, including Canada’s.”

According to the article, David Knox, an author of the 2020 Mercer CFA Institute Global Pension Index, says the current economic downturn “will impact future pensions, meaning some people will work longer while others will have to settle for a lower standard of living in retirement.”

Worse, the article reports – women will suffer more than men from this situation.

“Many of the hardest hit will be women. They have suffered disproportionately large job losses in this downturn because many work in sectors, such as restaurants and retailing, that have been hardest hit by lockdown restrictions,” writes McGugan.

As well, Mercer’s Scott Clausen tells the Globe, the traditional “caregiver role” of women means they have tended “to work part-time or take breaks from their career, which reduces their ability to make pension contributions and accumulate time in a pension plan.” The pandemic, Clausen suggests in the article, has made this retirement savings disparity even worse.

Despite these apparent systemic problems, the Globe notes that Canada recently was ranked 9th out of 39 industrialized nations in meeting the retirement challenge, with a “B” rating.

There’s a second side to the story, the article continues. Not only are people facing challenges in earning money and paying into pension plans, but the pension plans themselves are having a tough time of things, the Globe reports.

Again citing the report, McGugan notes that “a major challenge for retirement planners everywhere is the falling returns from most pension assets. Declining bond yields, reduced company dividends and lower rentals from property investments have shrunk prospective returns.”

In an interesting sort of paradox, the country whose pension system is rated number one in the industrialized world (in the same Mercer survey) is having problems meeting its funding targets. Two large pension plans there may have to cut pension payments next year, reports Dutch News.

“The two biggest Dutch funds, the giant civil service fund APB and the health service fund PFZW had failed to meet official targets in the third quarter of this year. Both funds’ coverage ratios – the assets needed to meet their obligations – had fallen below 90 per cent in the July to September period. If this is the case in the final quarter of the year, they will have to make cuts to pension payouts in 2021. The two big engineering funds are also in the danger zone. Together the four funds cover some eight million pensioners and participants,” the news agency reports.

The key messages here are quite simple – due to the health crisis, many of us are working less, and others not at all. It’s difficult to save for retirement, either in a workplace plan or on your own, if you are earning less overall. At the same time, it’s tough sledding on the investment side for the world’s pension plans. Payouts, as in the Dutch example, could be less.

Members of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) have the ability to set their own contribution levels – there’s no set percentage of income that automatically comes off your pay. If you’re making less, or nothing at all, you can reduce or pause contributions without affecting your membership – and when better times return, you can ramp them back up again. Take a minute to check out the SPP today!

Suggestions on how to invest during the pandemic

There’s no question that the pandemic has thrown a wrench into the financial plans of most Canadians.

New research from Manulife, its annual Financial Stress Survey of Canadians, tells us that Canadians are really worried about money.

Stress about money has risen to 27 per cent (it was 11 per cent pre-COVID), the research notes, and 51 per cent reported dipping into emergency funds or even retirement accounts to keep afloat. A whopping 63 per cent said they were now going to seek advice about how to invest, up from 50 per cent last year.

Save with SPP took a look around the Interweb to see what sort of advice people had for jittery investors. We looked for approaches one might follow, and not specific stock tip advice.

Concordia University’s Alumni & Friends publication quotes financial adviser Adrian Chomenko as saying investors need to “relax, stay the course, and try not to predict the future.”

“Bear markets are as common as dirt. We’ve lived through them before and all you’ve got to do is sit through it,” states Chomenko in the article. He is adamant with his clients, the article reports, “that his strategy does not include speculating on the latest investment trends such as cannabis and bitcoin.”

“My strategy is plain vanilla: simple diversification and regular rebalancing,” Chomenko tells the publication.

Writing for the Motley Fool UK blog, Thomas Carr offers these tips – invest in quality, avoid “stricken sectors,” and to look for value.

He writes that many companies will suffer during the pandemic, but “the strongest may survive and prosper. These are companies that have strong brands, pricing power and high profit margins. They’re the household names that we stock in our fridges and the supermarkets that we shop in.”

Stricken sectors to consider avoiding, he writes, include “travel and hospitality in particular… they’ve had months of revenue wiped out, in many cases leading to giant losses.” Losses may continue into the new year, he warns.

Watch for stocks that are “undervalued… and appear cheap.” Carr says that “if the underlying company is of sufficient quality, there’s only so far its share price is likely to fall before its value becomes attractive and its price recovers.”

At Forbes magazine,  Pam Krueger, co-host of the PSB program Moneytrack, says she favours “conservative stocks that pay reliable dividends” as a good bet during the pandemic.

Bonds are often seen as a hedge against volatile stocks, but the article warns that right now, there’s a risk of interest rates rising and bond prices falling, a situation that would make a bet on bonds a money-loser.

“I say: ‘Stay at the shallow end of the pool, the shortest end, with bond funds,” said Krueger. “You don’t want to get too far out on the risk continuum,’” she tells Forbes.

This is a broad topic, but if there’s an overall theme coming through here, it is to be cautious. These experts are warning against radical, rushed changes – don’t let panic impact your thinking. Every crisis has a beginning, but also an end, and this one will eventually play out too.

Investing on your own can be fun, but less so when market conditions are volatile. If you’re worried about running your retirement savings, perhaps it’s time to consider finding a home for them at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) will invest your savings expertly, and the plan boasts an impressive average rate of return of eight per cent since SPP’s inception nearly 35 years ago. Consider letting SPP’s talented money managers assist with the worry of retirement investing.

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.

NOV 2: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

How much should we put putting away in savings?

We are bombarded by advice on why we should be saving more – but how much is “enough” when it comes to filling the piggy bank?

An article from Morningstar UK takes a look at this problematic question.

How much to save, the article tells us, “will depend on a number of factors: what you’re saving for, how soon you might need the money, and how much you can afford.”

Fair enough. The article goes on. “Saving money is important, but not at the expense of putting yourself in financial difficulty. Paying off credit cards or loans should generally take priority over savings, because the interest rates on this type of debt are typically much higher than the interest you can earn on your savings,” the article notes, adding that “a growing debt pile will only wipe out any returns you earn on your savings.” to save.

The article proposes a sort of savings formula, which the writers call the “the 50-30-20” rule.

Through this formula, half of your money – 50 per cent – goes to “necessities, including groceries, monthly bills like your phone, as well as paying your rent and mortgage.”

The next chunk of cash – 30 per cent – should be for “the things you don’t need but which make you happy,” such as dining out or shopping for clothes.

It’s the last tranche of moolah – 20 per cent – that Morningstar UK feels should be directed to saving. “This money can be invested in a pension, put into a rain day fund” or some sort of fixed-income savings vehicle, like a guaranteed investment certificate.

“Chunking your money in this way is an easy strategy to manage your finances because it means you know exactly how much you have to spend and to save each month. It also means that you automatically increase the amount you save when your income rises because you are setting aside a percentage of your money rather than a set amount,” the article concludes.

If, on reading this, you think “man, this just won’t work with my bills,” have no fear, the article says.

“Most of us have bills to pay, student loans to grapple with and families to feed, and this limits the amount of spare money there is to save each month. In fact, it’s estimated that around 40 per cent of Brits in their twenties have no savings at all,” the article notes.

“But the key point is: saving something – anything, however small – is better than saving nothing.”

It’s a great piece of advice. If you can’t save 20 per cent of what you make, it’s not a crime. Start with what you can. Then, when you’ve paid off a credit card or credit line, direct some of what you were paying to savings. You’ll be surprised how the money will begin to pile up.

With our Saskatchewan Pension Plan (www.saskpension.com), we put in a small percentage of our pay, but also winnings from lottery tickets, money from taking back empties, yard sale proceeds – any little extra amounts. The balances in our retirement savings accounts are getting fairly substantial after being at it for 10-plus years, and we have been transferring money into SPP from our registered retirement savings plans. Be sure to check out the SPP – they have the investing know-how and solid track record to help make your retirement savings grow.

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.