Much more to financial knowledge than just understanding the lingo: Kevin Maynard of CFEE

October 28, 2021

While financial literacy is important, the real goal of financial education is to help Canadians leverage that knowledge to help boost their capability for career, financial and “enterprise” development.

So says Kevin Maynard, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE). He spoke recently to Save with SPP via telephone.

CFEE, he explains, is “a national not-for-profit organization that operates in every province and territory.” CFEE programs are also offered in the U.S. and worldwide, he adds.

The organization was established back in 1974 with roots at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). CFEE has grown to be a leader in education as and independent non-profit organization.

“Our focus is our (educational) resources, programs and supports to Canadians,” explains Maynard, with the emphasis on helping build “confidence and competence.”

Financial literacy is a component of CFEE’s “pillars,” he explains.

“It’s not just about knowledge,” he explains. CFEE programs are designed to help Canadians leverage knowledge to make decisions, and boost their capabilities. CFEE’s four pillars, which are key to the design of its educational programs, include:

  • Career Development Capability
  • Financial Capability
  • Economic Capability
  • Enterprising Capability

The first pillar is to boost people’s abilities to find opportunities for work. The second looks at financial literacy, the third is about applying that financial knowledge to boost individual economic potential. The last pillar is about entrepreneurial education as a source of “income generation,” he explains.

COVID-19 has moved many of CFEE’s programs online. “Since January 2021 we have (presented) virtual workshops for more than 10,000 Canadians,” notes Maynard.

“It’s all about understanding supply and demand,” he says. As an example, when thinking of a career choice, are you aware of skill sets that are in demand, he asks. Are you looking for a job that offers security? He says CFEE education programs focus on separating individual “wants and needs” from clear choices around decision making.

Thanks to the support of partners in the financial sector, CFEE is offering programs for free across the country. Programs are delivered through a “network of stakeholders,” he says, which includes parents, teachers, community-based organizations, newcomer groups, senior groups, and many more.

As an example, CFEE senior workshops are held across Canada at senior centres, recreation centres and now, “virtually” due to the pandemic.

The programs make sure seniors are ready for “the life events that they may face in their golden years.” It’s more, he says, than just knowing the numbers about the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security. “It’s knowing what you want to achieve, and how to go about doing that,” he says. Seniors, he adds, may find themselves “transitioning into another form of accommodation” during their latter years, a move that can have “cognitive, spiritual and emotional aspects.”

A local group that has participated in CFEE programs is the Saskatchewan Council on Aging (SCOA) Hub Club.

And seniors need to pay attention to their physical health as they age. Will changing physical health become “important to you in terms of where you live… will you have to make changes in one to three years, or five years out, due to (declining) physical and cognitive abilities?”

So a senior’s budget needs to take those potential changes into account, since unexpected changes can bring an unpleasant financial surprise.

Financial education needs to be targeted to the needs of those receiving it, Maynard explains. “It’s very much a point in time thing. There’s no real use in teaching a 12-year-old about RRSPs,” he says. “The focus has to be on life events that are relevant for the target group.”

Sixteen targeted programs can be found on the CFEE website, as well as links to print, video and web-based resources. The “News” section covers such topics as helping to control “in-app” purchases by kids, fintech for younger people, financial literacy research and news about math skills and how they relate to job searches.

With targeting in mind, CFEE is working on new resources targeted for seniors, including an online seniors’ education program with modules focused on challenges faced by seniors. Another new program targeted at seniors aims to equip them with tools to begin discussions with their adult children about end of life planning. Other resources include Money and Youth – a student’s guide was developed in the mid 90s which has since evolved with a teacher’s resource component and a parent’s guide – to help people educate their kids.

As November is financial education month, Maynard notes the importance of older adults “to have conversations with their older children about subjects like powers of attorney and why they are important, wills, executors, funerals and burials.”

We thank Kevin Maynard and CFEE for taking the time to talk with us.

He’s certainly right about the need for seniors to have flexible budgets. Having had both parents find themselves living out their last years in long-term care, we understand how the cost of living can suddenly change radically.

Having a good retirement plan in place will add to your flexibility in coping with the ups and downs of your golden years. If you have a pension plan or retirement savings arrangement through work, be sure you are taking full advantage of it. If you don’t, and are wondering how to save for retirement on your own, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, celebrating 35 years of operation, has all the tools you need for a do-it-yourself retirement system. 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.


Oct 25: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

October 25, 2021

Will pandemic debts impact Canadians’ retirement plans?

New research from the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA, and no, not that CIA) suggests that many Canadians worry that debt taken on during the pandemic will delay – or indefinitely postpone – their plans for retirement.

The research, carried out by Ipsos Public Affairs, is covered in a recent story in the Toronto Sun.

The research found that “with Canadians earning less” during the pandemic, “increases in debt followed suit,” the newspaper reports, quoting another media outlet, Blacklock’s Reporter.

“The report reveals 25 per cent of respondents took on additional debt due to the pandemic with higher percentages seen among students and self-employed Canadians, both at 33 per cent. Also exposed were those who rent, 34 per cent,” the article notes.

How much did incomes drop during the pandemic?

According to the Sun story, citing the research, one third of the 1,529 people questioned by Ipsos reported a pandemic-related income drop. A further 69 per cent say “COVID has changed their retirement timelines.”

While the average retirement age, according to Statistics Canada, is 65, the research found that 40 per cent of those surveyed “do not know when they will retire, and a further 14 per cent state they do not expect to ever retire,” the Sun reports. Four per cent of those surveyed said they expect they will have to work beyond age 71, the article adds.

The article points out that the large percentage of “don’t know” answers to when retirement will occur “reflects the fact some Canadians are not engaged in work outside the home.” The largest segment of those polled saying they didn’t know when they would retire are “students (65 per cent), homemakers (69 per cent) and those who are disabled (62 per cent),” the article notes.

The article concludes by indicating that CIA estimates the average Canadian needs $900,000 worth of savings to retire by age 65.

These conclusions are interesting, particularly since other research has found that some Canadians have been saving like crazy during the pandemic, due to having less things they can spend their money on.

The Globe and Mail reports that “Canada’s stockpile of savings earlier this year was $280 billion bigger than before the pandemic,” citing research from RBC Economics.

It’s not known, the article adds, what Canadians plan to do with this cash stockpile. Retirement savings is not mentioned specifically as a destination for this cash, at least in this article.

So, some of us are having to borrow to make ends meet, while others are sitting on a pile of cash.

Those with extra cash should take note of the struggles of those without it. The folks that are pushing retirement into the future are doing so because (we can assume) they are carrying too much debt and thus not putting as much away for retirement as they would like. These folks will have to get back into retirement saving when they can, but understandably they can’t do much at this point.

If you are sitting on cash, consider putting at least some of it away for retirement. This is especially important if you don’t have a retirement savings plan at your place of work. Folks in this situation have to rely on themselves to fund their future retirement income.

Don’t have a plan at work? Consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, a “made in Saskatchewan success story” that has been helping people save for retirement for 35 years. SPP can take your hard-earned savings and invest them for you in a low-cast, professional way. Better, when it’s time to finally exit the stressful world of work, SPP can turn your invested savings into a stream of income. Check them out today!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


Retirement Heaven or Hell focuses on sense rather than dollars

October 21, 2021

One of the nagging questions we had during the countdown to retirement seven years ago was this – what is retirement going to be like?  And while retired friends and neighbours smiled and said cryptic things like “you’ll never know how you found the time for work,” we wondered – still – how the transition from full time work to freelancing would go.

This is the sort of territory covered in Mike Drak’s terrific new book, Retirement Heaven or Hell.

He starts by recalling that, as a child, he really couldn’t answer the question “what do you want to do with the rest of your life.” Retirement provides a second chance to give that response, he writes.

“It’s hard to enjoy retirement when you are not doing what you like to do,” he continues. Living someone else’s retirement dream is your ticket to what Drak calls “Retirement Hell.”

So what does Retirement Heaven look like?  There are “comfort-oriented retirees” who “like to have a safe, ordinary retirement,” he explains. They are content with a “full-stop” retirement, they don’t want to work, and some have accumulated “a great deal of money.”  Then there are “growth-oriented retirees” who Drak sees as “retirement rebels – the people who have a strong inner voice constantly telling them to never be satisfied; to keep stretching, exploring, learning and experiencing.”  Either stream works “as long as you are happy and doing things that are meaningful and fulfilling to you,” Drak explains.

Drak writes about the danger of “the Big Retirement Dip” that can happen after you have enjoyed “the Honeymoon Stage” of retirement, and have travelled, golfed more, visited the grandkids, and ticked off all the boxes of your to-do list.  Retirees “often find that they need to find something else to do, and this is where the trouble starts. Without a bigger plan or a purpose, they start to slide down to Retirement Hell, the lowest point in the Big Retirement Dip,” Drak writes.

This is particularly true of growth-oriented retirees; some comfort-oriented retirees “will be able to remain happily in the Honeymoon Stage for their entire retirement,” despite possibly having less meaning to their lives than the growth-oriented folks, Drak notes.

Drak adds that “significant change is an inevitable fact of retirement. How you choose to prepare for it and respond to it will determine if you will be happy or not.”  He encourages retirees to take up “new routines” such as regular meditation, and journaling, which he sees as the creation of a book “by you, about you” that will help you chart your progress towards your goals.  A daily log helps you determine if your day “was productive… or not,” helps you stay “on track with your goals,” and gives tips on how to improve things “going forward.”

The meat of the book is Drak’s list of “Nine Principles for an Exceptional Retirement.” These include:

  1. Nurture Strong Relationships
  2. Foster Good Health
  3. Achieve Financial Independence
  4. Reignite Your Sense of Adventure
  5. Tap into Your Spirituality
  6. Find Your Tribes
  7. Make the Most of Your Time
  8. Adopt the Right Attitude
  9. Discover Your Purpose

Drak covers each of these ideas in great detail, with “self reflection” questions on each topic as well as “simple truths,” a sort of Coles notes summary of the section.  He warns us, when talking about nurturing strong relationships, that loneliness “is an emotional problem with a physical consequence that could lead to an early death.”  Regarding health, he notes that “exercising and eating right are key anti-aging strategies,” the “magic pill” we look for.

On Financial Independence, he observes that “working longer reduces the risk of market declines and of not having enough money.” Thinking about our sense of adventure, Drak writes that “life is either a daring adventure or boring… playing it safe is a gamble too.”  Spirituality “helps you deal with the ups and downs of everyday life,” and having a “tribe” of like-minded people permits you to be on a “shared mission with people you respect and care about.” He covers all nine principles with similar aplomb.

Near the end of the book, Drak challenges us to “watch the movie of your own life…(to) take you back on your journey since childhood. This will remind you about what made you happy, which in turn will help you to discover your purpose(s) and passions, and ultimately, the person you were meant to be.”

And this is a core message of the book – no one can tell you what your retirement should be except for you, and this decision depends on your values. “Values are who you are even when no one is watching,” Drak explains. “Putting your values first influences your decisions; and how you choose to act and behave will ultimately determine your sense of happiness and fulfilment in life.”

This is a great book, almost a retirement philosophy text, and is well worth a read, whether you are planning your retirement or – even more importantly – if you have reached the end of the honeymoon stage and can’t think of what to do next. The book gives you the tools you need to get there.

The non-philosophical side of the retirement equation – income – plays the important role of helping to fund the retirement you want. If, lacking a workplace retirement program, you are saving on your own for those future challenges and adventures, why not put the Saskatchewan Pension Plan to work for you? They’ve been delivering retirement security since their inception 35 years ago.

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.


Oct 18: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

October 18, 2021

Retirees and savers take note – inflation appears to be on the rise

An article in Castanet from Kelowna, B.C., warns us all that inflation appears to be making a comeback.

The article begins by noting that inflation is at its “highest level in 18 years,” and that continued high levels of spending by government could drive it even higher.

Inflation, the article explains, “is the general increase in prices and the fall of the purchasing power of a dollar. Put another way, it refers to the cost of putting gas in your car or buying groceries increasing.”

While no one can exactly predict how and when inflation will increase, your retirement plan should be prepared for action, Castanet reports.

Even modest-sounding inflation of three per cent “can cut the purchasing power of your money in half over a 20-year period,” the article notes. This is especially concerning if your income sources are not “indexed,” which means inflation-protected, or if your income sources are not growing, the article adds.

One good thing to be aware of, the article states, is that your government retirement income is inflation protected. So sources of income like the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security will be adjusted upwards if inflation is running higher.

If you have a pension plan at work, it may offer inflation protection – find out, and select this option if such a selection is required, Castanet advises.

If you are investing for retirement, the article advises a balanced approach. A portfolio that is completely risk-free – invested in Guaranteed Income Certificates (GICs) – can actually decrease in value in the inflation rate outpaces the GIC interest rate.

“Often, those that want no risk would be far better served by investing in a conservative portfolio that still holds some equity or other alternative investments that will offer a certain amount of inflation protection. These riskier assets can of course lose money as well, so it is imperative that the investor fully understands the plan they are putting in place,” the article explains.

“You may also want to consider investments in sectors that benefit from inflation like real estate and commodities,” Castanet adds.

The article also mentions real-return bonds as a sort of “hedge” against inflation.

Be prepared for inflation, the article concludes, or face “disastrous consequences.” Consider reviewing your plans with an advisor, the article suggests.

Did you know that the Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s Balanced Fund provides an easy way to ensure all your retirement eggs aren’t in one potentially inflation-sensitive basket? The fund is invested in Canadian, U.S. and Non-North American equity, but also bonds, mortgages, real-estate, short-term investments and infrastructure. That diversification has led to an average rate of return of eight per cent throughout the 35-year history of SPP. And while past results don’t guarantee future returns, it’s a pretty nice track record of helping build retirement futures! 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.


Could “minimalism” be a way to enhance both retirement saving and living?

October 14, 2021

Our father used to preach the value of having only one of everything, rather than multiple, redundant masses of stuff. It’s good advice that we should have followed.  Dad liked to have one pocket knife, one set of golf clubs, one good snow shovel, and so on. And everything had its place, and was replaced only if it broke.  His was what the Radical Fire blog would call a “minimalist” lifestyle.

Radical Fire’s Marjolein describes such a lifestyle as having “less clutter, less maintenance costs, less things to worry about… less, less, less!”  Marjolein writes that over the years, she accumulated a lot of things that “don’t bring me joy or happiness.” While her place was neat and tidy, her closets were packed to overflowing with “stuff.”

People tend to keep stuff in case they may need it again, but Marjolein says getting rid of unneeded and unused possessions is very liberating. You will, she writes, “spend less time on maintenance and cleaning,” and less searching through closets packed with stuff you don’t need for things you do.

Another advantage – you’ll have more money. You can sell off surplus stuff, and you will spend less on new stuff once you adopt a minimalist gameplan, she writes.   Before buying anything new, she now asks herself “do I really need this, will it bring me joy, can I afford it, and do I really want to spend my money on this?”

Other tips include shopping with a list and starting “small” on your voyage towards minimalism.

Writing in Canadian Living, Paula McKee quotes Joshua Becker (founder of the Becoming Minimalist website) as saying, of minimalism, that “while it is true that you will have less, it’s less of what you don’t need, and more of what you want, like time and money.”

Becker tells Canadian Living that “material belongings become more of a burden than a blessing” over time. He agrees with the idea of starting small on minimalism, noting that a little of it “is better than none at all.”  His approach is to look at all your stuff, and group it by “trash, give away, keep and relocate.” You can give unwanted goods to a charity, have a garage sale, drop things off at a consignment store, or sell things off online, the article suggests.

The rewards will be a home that is “easier to clean and keep organized,” more time to spend doing what you want, and more money to do it with, the article concludes.

Writing for the Next Avenue blog, Michelle Black takes a look at how minimalism impacts retirement.

Her story looks at the lifestyles of Amy and Tim Rutherford of Colorado, among others. They first sold off their big home and bought one that was one-third the size. As part of that process – less space – they chose to get rid of excess stuff, “donating carloads of items to Goodwill” and selling things online for “pennies on the dollar.”

They felt more at peace in their new, uncluttered home, the article notes. “To us, physical clutter equalled mental clutter,” Amy Rutherford tells Next Avenue. On the spending side, she estimates that where they once spent $115,000 a year maintaining the big house and its clutter, they now are spending a “third of that — $36,000,” Next Avenue reports. And that includes a whopping 100 days of annual travel, the blog stresses.

Let’s unpack all this. Imagine a sort of “one of everything” existence where everything has its place, and you can always find it. Then imagine continuing to live like this after you have done a purge of all redundant “stuff.” Envision closets that are not stuffed, storage lockers that are no longer necessary, and the pleasure of simpler housecleaning and more cash in your wallet. There’s a Zen feel to it all.

And if, during the purging of your unloved extra stuff, you happen to pocket a few bucks – or trim your monthly budget by downsizing – you can “declutter” some of that extra cash by saving it for retirement. After all, your future clutterless you will still need money for travel and other tidy fun. A great home for those extra dollars is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, where expert investing will grow them into future retirement income. They’ve been doing it for 35 years – 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.


Oct 11: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

October 11, 2021

Could a trick used in golf and other sports – visualization – work for retirement saving?

If you’re a golfer, you are probably familiar with the concept of visualization. You imagine your drive swinging gently into the middle of the fairway, landing, and rolling forward. The idea is that with that thought in your mind, your brain will deliver that desired swing result.

Could such an idea be helpful for retirement savers?

An article in Marketwatch suggests that yes, maybe it could work.

“Visualization is often used to boost confidence, reduce anxiety and take a few mental practice runs before we try something for real,” writes Jonathan Clements in the Marketwatch article. “Think about high-pressure situations like making a speech or interviewing for a job. By imagining these events in detail beforehand, we’re likely to perform better when it’s time for the actual thing.”

He argues that for savers, “the biggest benefit of visualization is increased motivation.”

“It can help us overcome our hard-wired tendency to favour today and shortchange our future self,” he notes, “while also helping us to get a better handle on what we truly want from our money.” Love the idea of looking after one’s future self!

So how do we get this working?

Clements suggests that you “picture a goal,” such as retirement, “in as much detail as possible.” The focus should not be on “winning” the goal (or even on not winning) but on the steps that need to be taken along the way to success, he writes.

As you fill in the details of how you want to achieve your goal, “the goal will become ever more real, its emotional intensity will grow – and you’ll be more motivated to go after it,” Clements writes. He quotes psychologist Jennice Vilhauer as saying “being able to do something in your head, greatly increases your chances of being able to do it in real life.”

For long-term saving, visualization is a great way to combat the “allure of immediate spending” which has such a powerful hold on most of us, Clements says.

The article concludes with a caveat – be careful what you wish for! Even if your dream is to save for retirement, be prepared for finding out that retirement itself isn’t what you thought it would be like.

This article makes some very good points. Few of us are organized enough or perceptive enough to accurately imagine, in advance, what retirement will be like. You don’t know until you’re there.

But the steps towards saving for retirement are easier to imagine. Join any pension program your employer offers. If there isn’t one to join, you need to develop one of your own.

What a pension plan does is to put away a portion of your pay for your future use, off the top of the cheque and before you have a chance to spend it. That money is then quietly invested, and typically every time you get a raise, you kick a little more into the pension. When it’s time to collect it, you contact the pension plan and learn your options for receiving income from your savings.

If you are a pension do-it-yourselfer, consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, marking its 35th year of operations. They have all the tools to set you on the path of retirement saving, making it an automatic, painless process – and easy to visualize.

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.


Many advantages to having a “squirm-worthy” chat with spouse, family about money

October 7, 2021

Not everyone is comfortable talking about money with family members – spouses, kids, and so on.

In fact, Kelley Keehn, writing for FP Canada notes that she has always found it interesting that “people naturally retreat when the topic of finances comes up.”

“While it’s perhaps not the most engaging dinner table discussion or a conversation-starter on a date, money is an important subject to be comfortable talking about,” she writes. “No matter our age, salary, social or relationship status, money is an essential part of our lives,” Keehn continues.

She cites a recent national survey by FP Canada, The Discomfort Index, as finding that the topics that make Canadians squirm the most are politics (26 per cent), relationships/sex (24 per cent) and then money – tied with religion – in third place at 23 per cent. By comparison, notes Keehn, only 12 per cent of respondents found talking about their health to be a “taboo” subject.

Strangely, notes Keehn, at a time when women’s earnings now account for 47 per cent of family income, women are “more likely to avoid the topic of money than men,” by a margin of 27 per cent to 18 per cent.

While most Canadians confide in their partners about money, there’s a whopping 40 per cent who won’t, Keehn reports. Only three per cent would talk about money with strangers, two per cent with “hairstylists and estheticians,” and one per cent won’t talk about it to anyone, Keehn adds.

Save with SPP did an interview with Kelley Keehn last year.

So, what can be done to get people talking?

Writing for the Sun Life blog, Sylvie Tremblay suggests that one barrier to money talk might be our level of financial knowledge. “All too often, resistance to talking about money in a real, substantive way stems from a lack of confidence,” she writes. Consulting a financial advisor – a view shared by Keehn – is a great way to educate yourself about the topic.

Another money talk ice-breaker could be picking a financial goal you both are interested and excited about – a major vacation, putting together a down payment, or setting up a registered education savings plan (RESP) for the kids.

Other ideas from Tremblay include making an annual “money talk” appointment with your partner, setting rules about “who is handling what” when it comes to money and bills, and finally, to get started on talking right away.

An article from the Desjardins Financial Security network gives some great ideas about talking money with your adult kids.

The article points out, citing research results reported upon by the New York Times, that 83 per cent of respondents (folks making more than $100,000 per year) said they would NOT disclose their income to their adult kids. Only 17 per cent said they would, the article notes, with the main reason given for a “no” being the belief that the parents’ finances are “none of their (the kids’) business.”

However, the article says, that’s not really the case.  First off, your money may be theirs one day – and data suggests that one-third of inheritors “squander their inheritance shortly after receiving it.” Talking about money with them now, and discussing how to make it last, the article suggests, is helpful.

If you support charities, this is a nice idea to discuss with the kids – perhaps you can help grow their giving values too, the article adds. A money discussion plays a huge part in boosting the financial literacy of your children, the Desjardins article states.

“Parents with a certain degree of wealth have an opportunity to gradually expose their adult children to complex financial concepts such as investments, business ownership or overall financial planning,” the article adds.

Finally, the article suggests, it’s never a bad idea to involve a financial advisor in matters relating to inheritances or “in-life” transfers of wealth to kids, to game plan for any tax issues in advance.

The bottom line here seems to be quite simple – if you aren’t talking money with your spouse, it’s probably time to start. If everyone knows where the money is going and why, you avoid surprises, which people really only like on birthdays and other key holidays. If you are on the same page with spending, you can get on the same page with saving.

Thinking about saving for retirement, for couples and also for individuals, is a key financial consideration. If you have a retirement plan at work, be sure to join it and learn about what features it offers, particularly when it comes to benefits for your survivors. This is a good idea for both partners.

If you are saving on your own, take a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, marking its 35th year of operations in 2021. The SPP offers you a “do it yourself” pension plan that not only invests your savings, but provides the possibility of a lifetime pension with benefits for your surviving spouse. 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.


Oct 4: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

October 4, 2021

Despite pandemic, retirement savings are still ticking along: report

As the brutal financial impacts of the pandemic washed over us – businesses forced to close, workers laid off, and so on – many observers expected that retirement savings might have to be raided so people could keep afloat.

New research from the U.S. suggests otherwise, reports Yahoo! Finance.

Recent research carried out by the Investment Company Institute found that “most Americans have not taken any withdrawals from their defined contribution (DC) retirement plans,” Yahoo! Finance reports. As well, “the vast majority of U.S. savers have continued to make contributions to their plans through the pandemic,” the article notes.

“Despite the economic challenges over the past year and a half, retirement savers show deep commitment to preserving their retirement nest eggs,” Sarah Holden, ICI senior director of retirement and investor research, states in the article. “The combination of ongoing contributions and few participants taking withdrawals reflects DC plan participants’ long-term mindset and preference to keep this money earmarked for retirement and avoid dipping into it.”

Paradoxically, the pandemic – a period where many thought money would be very tight – has turned out to be a period of higher rates of savings, the article notes.

“Though many households have been faced with financial constraints over the past year and a half, the aggregate personal savings rate has increased since COVID-19 first reared its head in the beginning of 2020,” the article states.

Indeed, here in Canada, the CBC reports that the average Canadian has saved $5,000 during the pandemic, thanks to “the combined impact of reduced spending and collecting more money from government support programs,” the broadcaster reports.

With less to spend on, Canadians attacked their debt loads and were still able to stash away “$5,574 per Canadian on average in 2020, compared to $479 in the previous year,” the CBC notes.

Back in the U.S., the ICI report found that only “1.1 per cent of all DC plan participants stopped contributing to their plans in the first half of 2021,” reports Yahoo! Finance.

It’s good to hear that people generally are leaving their retirement savings alone, despite the strange economy and overall odd spending era the pandemic has brought us. No matter what’s going on today, eventually all of us will reach an age where the income we get from working declines, and the income we need from our savings escalates.

Workplace pensions certainly help with retirement income; if you are in a program at work, be sure to maximize your participation if you can. If you don’t have a workplace pension plan, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a voluntary DC plan that professionally invests your savings and can help you turn it into an income stream when you hang up your working hat for the last time. They’ve been doing it for 35 years – 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.


Annuities can give your retirement income a strong, solid core

September 30, 2021

Financial planner Jonathan Kestle of the Ian C. Moyer Insurance Agency in Ingersoll, Ont. sees annuities as a great way to strengthen the core of your retirement income strategy.

Talking to Save with SPP by phone, Kestle says he sees annuities as “one of our core planning philosophies.” He notes that while the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) may provide a “foundation for retirement,” people should look at their fixed expenses in retirement.

If CPP and OAS don’t cover off those month-to-month expenses like housing, heat, telephone, and utilities, then a good strategy would be to annuitize some of your personal savings to top that up.  CPP, OAS and an annuity will offer a “cash for life” core income amount that will cover off your basic expenses, he explains. Your other savings provide you with liquidity for “non-core” expenses.

Asked if an annuity offers any tax advantages over withdrawing money from a registered retirement income fund (RRIF), Kestle said not really, since both will have tax withheld at source. On the other hand, a non-registered annuity (an annuity purchased with non-registered funds) can offer significant tax advantages, since tax is set at a fixed rate over many years, he says.

The advantages of an annuity include the fact that “longevity risk,” or the fear of outliving your savings in retirement, is covered off, since an annuity is a “cash for life” product.

Put in perspective, Kestle explains that with a RRIF, you can arrange to have a set amount of money withdrawn each month, like an annuity. The difference is that with the RRIF, if investment returns don’t support the rate of withdrawal over time, you can run out of money while you are still alive. With an annuity, you can’t outlive your savings, he explains.

It’s important to realize, he says, that once you purchase an annuity, you lose control over that money in exchange for receiving guaranteed monthly payments. If you die at an early age, and don’t select an annuity that offers a survivor benefit, your “foregone” payments are used to help provide payments to other annuitants by the insurer via a “pooled risk” approach, he says.

This fear of dying early keeps some people on the sidelines with annuities, but statistically it is quite a rare thing, with most people living into their 80s and beyond, he says.

But if you are concerned about leaving benefits to your survivors, Kestle says, annuities offer a lot of options. You can choose one that offers a joint and survivor pension to your spouse, some will offer a guaranteed payment for a number of years, others will offer a return of premium if you die at a young age. “The more bells and whistles, the less the monthly payment is,” Kestle explains.

Kestle does not believe people should annuitize all their retirement savings. He reiterates that his firm advises reviewing core expenses, seeing if there is a shortfall between what your government benefits provide and what you need for core, fixed expenses, and then annuitizing some of your savings to cover the shortfall.

“You should consider annuitizing a portion of your savings; it shouldn’t be an `all or none’ decision,” he explains. You will need “pools of liquidity” in your savings for emergencies, such as having to put on a new roof. Kestle concludes by saying annuities “play a very important role” in a diversified retirement income portfolio.

We thank Jonathan Kestle for taking the time to talk with us.

Did you know that the Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers a number of annuity options? According to the SPP Retirement Guide, members can choose from these options – a life only annuity, which offers no survivor benefits; a refund life annuity which guarantees a refund to your beneficiary if you have not received the full balance of your SPP account as retirement income; and a joint and last survivor annuity where your beneficiary gets a lifetime pension upon your death equal to 60, 75 or 100 per cent of what you were receiving. Check out SPP, celebrating 35 years of delivering retirement security, 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.


Sep 27: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

September 27, 2021

Preparing emotionally for retirement may be as important as the financial side

An interesting report from Global News suggests that “preparing emotionally” for retirement may be almost as important as the financial side of things.

In the article, Edmonton retiree Donald Smith tells Global News that he “had trouble the first couple of years (of retirement)… I’m sort of like the racehorse that wants to still keep running.”

He found that he “really didn’t know what to do with himself.”

In the article, Shelly Adam reported similar feelings. After retiring at age 56, she found herself going back to work just two months later on a casual basis. “When everyone else is working what are you going to do?” she asks the broadcaster.

In the end, they both found plenty to do through joining the SouthWest Edmonton Seniors Association, Global reports.

There are regular meetings, including a coffee chat group, the article notes, as well as a book club, choir, arts and crafts, games and cards, and much more.

Both say the social connections they have made through the group are “very important,” Global reports.

University of Calgary psychology professor Candace Konnert tells Global that “emotional planning for retirement often gets overlooked.”

“The focus has been on the financial preparedness and people underestimate, kind of, the social and psychological issues in retirement,” states Konnert in the article.

“We have this term called the ‘sugar rush of retirement.’ That’s that sort of six-month period, sort of post-retirement where you’re just euphoric,” she tells Global.

“You don’t have obligations, your time is unstructured, you can choose to do whatever you want,” she states in the article. “Then after that sometimes people have difficulty coming to terms because they simply don’t have a plan.”

Without a plan, Konnert tells Global, the odds of facing anxiety or depression in retirement can increase. You need a plan on how you are going to spend your time once work is over, she states, and it is “crucial” that your plan includes “being socially engaged with friends or through activities.”

Your plan also needs to be flexible, as your health may change as you age. “Your retirement plan at 66 may not be the same at 76, 86, or even 96,” she tells Global.

Looking at our own circle of 60+ friends, this advice is being heeded. A retired engineer friend has become an avid vegetable gardener, and has taught himself how to carry out his own home renovations; he and his wife are constantly busy. Others are getting back into things they used to do – music, art, golfing, skiing, and more. While it’s true that you will lose some of your old work connections, there’s ample time to make new ones.

All those post-retirement activities will carry a cost, of course, so it’s important to set aside some money today for a fulfilling post-work experience later. For 35 years, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has been delivering retirement security; perhaps they can do the same for you. Have a look at 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.