Jan 29: Best from the blogosphere

One of the key pieces of advice financial writers offer readers is to fund and maintain an emergency fund to help you survive job loss, unexpected house repairs and other major expenses you haven’t budgeted for.

The Simple Dollar’s Trent Hamm lists 20 reasons why you need an emergency fund. Some situations that I hadn’t thought of until I read this blog are:

  • Your identity is stolen, locking you out of your credit cards and primary bank accounts.
  • You have a domestic crisis and have to move out of your home.
  • A relative or friend passes away suddenly in a different part of the country.
  • You get your dream job but it means a steep drop in pay.

Sean Cooper’s recent blog The Joys of Home Ownership: Replacing My Dishwasher illustrates precisely the kind of situation where an emergency fund is so valuable. Cooper rents the first floor of his house and lives in the basement apartment. A relatively innocuous email from his tenants in December notified him that the dishwasher was leaking. This problem snowballed into $2,000 of expenses for plumbing, other home repairs and a new dishwasher. Luckily he had cash on hand in his emergency account.

Debra Pangetsu on MyMoneyCoach offers 7 Steps to Saving Money in an Emergency Fund. For example, she suggests:

  •  Breaking your savings goal into smaller steps,
  • Open a separate account,
  • Automating deposits into your emergency account, and
  • Using the emergency savings only in an emergency.

How much do you need to save? Two cents blogger Kristin Wong says that experts don’t always agree. Money guru Dave Ramsey believes you should save for three to six months of living expenses in a liquid high yield savings account. Andrew, founder of Living Rich Cheaply agrees you should probably keep some money in a safe place, such as a savings account but he thinks six months of living expenses is a bit excessive. He would prefer to have more of his money invested in a mix of stocks and bonds. Nevertheless Suze Orman recommends eight months of basic costs because it usually takes that long to find another job if you are unemployed.

What’s an emergency? Ramsey says there are three questions to ask before you use your emergency fund. Is it unexpected? Is it necessary? Is it urgent? Money Under 30’s Choncé Maddox also says you should consider whether there is a better way to pay for the expenses and if the benefit of using the money outweighs the cost.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Great West Life pilots employer RRSP match for student loans

Canadians enter the workforce with an average of nearly $27,000 in student loan debt. Such high amounts of debt typically take 10 years to repay, which means many delay saving for traditional life goals like home ownership, starting a family or retirement.

“So often it’s a choice between paying down student debt or making contributions to a retirement plan, but there is only so much wallet share available and student loans have to be paid off first, “ says Great-West Life Senior VP of Group Customer Experience and Marketing Brad Fedorchuk.

That’s why in January 2018 GWL is piloting a first in Canada — a voluntary retirement and savings program with select invited employers in their distribution network and their eligible employees. As participating members pay down their Canadian and provincial government student  loans, they will receive an employer-matched contribution to their group retirement savings plan. The goal of the program is to allow members to save for retirement while they focus on paying down their student debt.

Employees will send documentation verifying their outstanding student loan to GWL plus quarterly statements confirming payments have been made. “Once we have verification of student debt repayment, we’ll create a report for the employer so employer matching RRSP payments can be made, Fedorchuk says.

The level of matching (i.e. dollar for dollar; 50 cents for every dollar) and any annual cap on matching will be based on the provisions of the existing group RRSP program. He continues, “Details still have to be worked out, but we envisage this program as a self-selected alternative to group RRSP matching for employees paying down student loans.”

With Americans owing over $1.45 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 44 million borrowers, student debt repayment is emerging as one of the most popular new employee benefits. Some U.S. employers also assist students to pay off loans faster by helping them to consolidate or refinance their loans at a lower interest rate.

Although only 4% of U.S. companies offered student debt pay as down a benefit at the end of 2016, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, and employees are typically responsible for income taxes on the assistance received, it is expected that this percentage will grow. Fidelity, PwC, Aetna, Penguin Random House, Nvidia, First Republic and Staples are notable examples of early adopters, Forbes reports.

One advantage of GWL’s Canadian program is that by matching student debt repayments in the group RRSP, contributions are tax-sheltered. Also, subject to any limitations in the group RRSP plan design, employees can withdraw funds to participate in the Home Buyers’ Plan to buy or build a qualifying home for themselves or for a related person with a disability.

Fedorchuk acknowledges that it may be a challenge to encourage students to continue saving in the group RRSP when their student loans are paid off. Nevertheless, he believes that the pool of money accumulated in their RRSPs that they would not have had absent this program will be compelling. “Hopefully we can incent employees to continue contributing and receiving the match instead of shifting their monthly payments into ‘fun money,’ he says.

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Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

MySPP is here!

MySPP is your opportunity to access personal account information in a secure, online environment at any time of day. You can access MySPP by visiting our website here. You will also find a login link on the top navigation of our website.

Setting up your account is easy and, once complete, you’ll be able to view your:

  • Contact, beneficiary and power of attorney information
  • account balance
  • transactions for the past 12 months.
  • Pension payment amounts including year-to-date and lifetime totals.

Members who are making contributions to their SPP account will be able to download  tax receipts and members statements.

Members who are receiving pension payment from SPP will be able to download T4As and retirement statements.

Setting up your account only takes a few minutes and you will be able to start exploring MySPP for yourself. We have also added an FAQ section to our website which you can check out here.

As always, our staff is ready to answer your questions and looks forward to taking your call, should you need assistance.

Thank you
Your SPP Team

Jan 22: Best from the blogosphere

I don’t know about you, but on these long cold winter nights, all I want to do is curl up on the couch under a blanket and binge on Netflix. But before you do, check out our latest collection of personal finance videos, both old and new. After all, a picture is worth 1,000 words!

If like me, you still haven’t figured out what the fuss is about bitcoin and other digital currency, Bridget Casey from Money After Graduation answers these question in a three -minute crash course: What is cryptocurrency? How does blockchain work? Does cryptocurrency have a place in your long-term investment portfolio? Why are Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and all the other cryptocurrencies is so popular and what are you supposed to do with them?

Three moms (Gillian Irving, Monika Jazyk, and Rachel Oliver) who are also real estate investors bring their expertise to the table as they interview Canada’s leading experts on creating wealth and financial security through real estate investing. On this episode: guest Sean Cooper (beginning at 7:40) , best-selling author of “Burn Your Mortgage” and a personal finance expert famous for paying off his home mortgage after just 3 years discusses the pros and cons of paying off a #mortgage when interest rates are so low and how people with kids can pay off their mortgage faster.

On Let’s Talk Investing, a joint project of Globe Investor and the Investor Education Fund, Rob Carrick interviews Gordon Pape about what investments you should hold in your TFSA. Pape says it really depends on what you want to use the plan for. He says there’s nothing wrong with using it as an emergency fund and investing it in low risk securities. However if you want to use it to maximize retirement savings, Pape suggests going to a brokerage firm and setting up a self-directed TFSA.

Jessica Moorhouse quit her day job over a year ago to concentrate on building her brand and her freelance business. She talks about finding balance in that year and acknowledging her own working style when setting her schedule. She was anxious every Sunday because her podcast and blog had typically been released on Mondays, but she realized there was no reason why she couldn’t shift these posts to Tuesday and reduce her stress.

You have recently been declined for life insurance. What are your options? Lorne Marr, director of business at LSM Insurance says the first thing to find out is why you were turned down. If you were declined for a significant reason like cancer, a heart attack or diabetes, you may want to look at a no medical life insurance policy. These policies fall into two categories: guaranteed issue coverage and simplified coverage.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

5 to 9’ers supplement their income

Call it a side hack or a part-time job. A recent study from PayPal Canada and Barraza & Associates reveals that 2.5 million Canadian (about nine percent of the adult population) have embraced a “5-to-9’er” lifestyle turning their passions into profitable side-businesses in addition to working a full-time job.

This community of makers, creators, freelancers and service providers has gained notable traction in Canada. In fact, half of Canadian 5-to-9’ers started their business in the last three years. In the past 12 months, this small but mighty community reported combined median revenues of $2.5 billion dollars.

“The rise of digitization, cloud-computing, smartphone apps and e-commerce enables people to work when and where they want, over and above regular 9-to-5 jobs,” said Paul Parisi, president of PayPal Canada.

Canada’s 5-to-9’ers are online savvy and keen to grow
Young and driven to evolve, Canada’s 5-to-9’ers are eager to turn their part-time endeavors into a primary source of income. The research shows that these emerging entrepreneurs employ e-commerce tools to reach their vision of success. Their e-commerce arsenal includes extensive use of online marketplaces and social media networks, demonstrating 5-to-9’ers deep appreciation of the digital economy. From age to attitude towards selling online, Canada’s enterprising 5-to-9’ers differ greatly from traditional Canadian small business owners.

  • More than half (54%) of 5-to-9’ers surveyed have seriously considered making their part-time business into a full-time career. More than a third (38%) are actively testing out the idea of becoming a full-time entrepreneur, using this time in their small business journey as a launch pad.
  • 5-to-9’ers are selling where Canadians are shopping – online. Over a third of 5-to-9’ers accept online payments for their goods and services leveraging a variety of e-commerce tools, like online marketplaces (59%) and social networking sites (52%). Turning the lens on traditional small businesses, less than a quarter accept payments online.
  • The 5-to-9’er community skews younger compared to traditional small business owners. In some cases, there is a 30-year differential. More than half of 5-to-9’ers (54%) are between the ages of 25 and 44 years-old, which could explain why they are more comfortable using digital technology.

Despite their drive and determination, there are some barriers holding this community back from transitioning to full-time small business owners. Limited access to start-up capital is the main (58%) hurdle identified by this group.

Women are paving the way, yet disparity persists
Women are dominating the 5-to-9’er landscape, representing 66% of the community in Canada. Not only are women propelling this trend, the study revealed that they are more seriously considering full-time small business ownership, compared to their male counterparts. While it is encouraging to see women taking a leading role in shaping the 5-to-9er landscape, female 5-to-9ers reported significantly less revenue than their male peers.

Notably, 12% of women started their side business while on maternity leave. Women may be leveraging maternity leave as an opportunity to explore becoming entrepreneurs while simultaneously bringing in additional household income.

Shelley Jones, is one example. As the founder and CEO of dignify, a Calgary-based small business online store that sells hand embroidered quilts and throws, Shelley highlights e-commerce as a catalyst for her success.

“After the birth of my second child, I wasn’t sure I wanted to return to a traditional 9-to-5 work environment, so I used my maternity leave as a time to explore entrepreneurship on my own terms,” said Jones. “When you are busy raising two children and building a business there is no such thing as a set schedule – you have to work when you can whether that is at 5 a.m. or 10 p.m. I simply would not have transitioned dignify from a passion project to a full-time business without an online-first approach.”

Overall, the research points to a growing, thriving community that has organically formed by leveraging tools like e-commerce platforms, online marketplaces, freelance software and smartphone apps to find success. While small businesses tend to earn significant focus in Canada, the 5-to-9 community is a rising segment of Canada’s economy that has tremendous potential to succeed if nurtured.

Complete study findings and additional information can be found here.

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Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Jan 15: Best from the blogosphere

My husband and  I have belonged to a gym for many years and we try to go three times a week but life often gets in the way. And after a particularly caloric and cold holiday season I really felt like I was in a rut doing “the same old, same old.” So I decided to hire a trainer once a week to help me not only get into shape, but also gain stamina and strength.

For those of you who have resolved to improve your eating and exercise more in the months to come, I present hints from experts intended to help you meet your objectives.

Several years ago Greatist posted 15 Foolproof Strategies to Stick to Your Fitness Resolutions which still hold true today. Writing down your goals is not only a great way to accomplish them, but your list can also help you figure out the exact steps needed to get there. Making resolutions manageable and breaking them into small steps is also helpful.

Cassie Lambert from Men’s Health offers 5 Hacks to Help You Stick to Your New Year’s Fitness Resolutions. She suggests scheduling a competition for 90 days after the new year. So sign up for that 5k or 10k you always wanted to run and work towards it. And instead of weighing yourself, take selfies at regular intervals to document your progress.

More easy tips to help you keep your ‘get fit’ resolution in 2018 include getting a support system like a workout buddy who will hit the gym with you on cold dark mornings. Can’t find a workout buddy nearby? Crunch fitness trainer Zokai Holmes suggests that you try an activity tracker like a Fitbit and share your data with out-of-town friends and family. Another good idea is to keep food away from your desk and avoid liquid calories.

UK website The Herald presents 7 ways to get fit in 2018 – without paying for a gym membership. For example, check out YouTube for free fitness videos, cycle to work, find fitness apps on your phone and take advantage of these gym-free workouts — a five-minute wake-up workout , six 10-minute workouts or even a 12-week fitness programme.

Dana Sullivan Killroy provides an exercise plan for seniors on healthline. If you’re an older adult looking to establish an exercise routine, you should, ideally try to incorporate 150 minutes of moderate endurance activity into your week. This can include walking, swimming, cycling, and a little bit of time every day to improve strength, flexibility, and balance. She also gives examples for people just getting started of a few of the dozens of exercises you can do to build strength without having to set foot in a gym.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Jan 8: Best from the blogosphere

Welcome to a wonderful New Year. Most of the country has spent the last few weeks in a deep freeze with Saskatoon temperatures dipping below -30 C. It’s even -21 C in Toronto!

Nevertheless, residents of Spy Hill, Saskatchewan where the temperature was -43 with the wind chill on Christmas morning displayed their very warm hearts when they sprang to action on Christmas Day to help passengers on a frozen train.

Here is what a few of our favourite personal finance writers have been writing about during the holidays.

Jonathan Chevreau on the Financial Independence Hub reviewed the New York Times best seller Younger Next Year – Live Strong, Fit and Sexy Until You’re 80 and Beyond. Chevreau said, “The book is all about taking control of your personal longevity, chiefly  through proper nutrition but first and foremost by engaging in daily exercise: aerobic activity at least four days a week and weight training for another two days a week — week in and week out, for the rest of your life.”

Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen wrote Save More Tomorrow: The Procrastinator’s Guide To Saving Money. He discussed behavioural economists Shlomo Benartzi and Richard Thaler’s Save More Tomorrow program which not only suggests that monthly savings be automated but that savings rates be automatically increased when individuals get raises or earn more money from side hacks or freelance gigs.

Bridget Casey from Money After Graduation encouraged readers to see through their financial blind spots. “Reducing your spending and increasing your income by any amount is always good for your net worth, but if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, your efforts should be directed towards major wins ahead of small victories. A good exercise is to identify the three largest expenses in your budget and try to reduce them by 15% each or more,” she suggests.

Barry Choi explained on Money We Have why he is changing careers after 18 years. It was hard to walk away from a well-paid job in television but with a young baby, working the 3 PM to midnight shift was no longer sustainable. He got a part-time position as an editor for RateHub three days a week and he plans to continue writing for a variety of travel and other publications. Although he took a pay cut to leave his full-time position, his financial advisor helped him to realize he doesn’t need to make nearly as much as he thought to maintain the family’s lifestyle.

And finally, Globe and Mail personal finance columnist Rob Carrick offers the following  eight dos and don’ts for your personal finances in 2018:

  • DO brace for higher borrowing costs.
  • DON’T expect much improvement on savings rates.
  • DO expect more hysteria about cryptocurrencies
  • DON’T buy in unless you have the right mindset
  • DO be cautious with your investment portfolio
  • DON’T forget bonds or GICs
  • DO emphasize fees as a controllable factor in your investing
  • DON’T forget the value proposition

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

2018 New Year’s Resolutions: Expert Promises

Well it’s that time again. We have a bright shiny New Year ahead of us and an opportunity to set goals and resolutions to make it the best possible year ever. Whether you are just starting out in your career, you are close to retirement or you have been retired for some time, it is helpful to think about what you want to accomplish and how you are going to meet these objectives.

My resolutions are to make more time to appreciate and enjoy every day as I ease into retirement. I also want to take more risks and develop new interests. Two of the retirement projects I have already embarked on are joining a community choir and serving on the board; and, taking courses in the Life Institute at Ryerson University. After all, as one of my good friends recently reminded me, most people do not run out of money, but they do run out of time!

Here in alphabetical order, are resolutions shared with me by eight blogger/writers who have either been interviewed for savewithspp.com or featured in our weekly Best from the Blogosphere plus two Saskatchewan Pension Plan team members.

  1. Doris Belland has a blog on her website Your Financial Launchpad . She is also the author of Protect Your Purse which includes lessons for women about how to avoid financial messes, stop emotional bankruptcies and take charge of their money. Belland has two resolutions for 2018. She explains:
  • I’m a voracious reader of finance books, but because of the sheer number that interest me, I go through them quickly. In 2018, I plan to slow down and implement more of the good ideas.
  • I will also reinforce good habits: monthly date nights with my husband to review our finances (with wine!), and weekly time-outs to review goals/results and pivot as needed. Habits are critical to success.
  1. Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances and blogs at Money We Have. He says, “My goal is to work less in 2018. I know this doesn’t sound like a resolution but over the last few years I’ve been working some insane hours and it’s time to cut back. The money has been great, but spending time with my family is more important.”
  1. Chris Enns who blogs at From Rags to Reasonable describes himself as an “opera-singing-financial-planning-farmboy.” In 2017 he struggled with balance. “Splitting my time (and money) between a growing financial planning practice and an opera career (not to mention all the other life stuff) can prove a little tricky,” he says. In 2018 he is hoping to really focus on efficiency. “How do I do what I do but better? How do I use my time and money in best possible way to maximize impact, enjoyment and sanity?”
  1. Lorne Marr is Director of Business Development at LSM Insurance. Marr has both financial and personal fitness goals. “I plan to max out my TFSAs, RRSPs and RESPs and review my investment mix every few days in the New Year,” he notes. “I also intend to get more sleep, workout 20 times in a month with a workout intensity of 8.5 out of 10 or higher and take two family vacations.”
  1. Avery Mrack is an Administrative Assistant at SPP. She and her husband both work full time and their boys are very busy in sports which means they often eat “on the run” or end up making something quick and eating on the couch.  “One of our resolutions for next year is to make at least one really good homemade dinner a week and ensure that every one must turn off their electronic devices and sit down to eat at the table together,” says Mrack.
  1. Stephen Neiszner is a Network Technician at SPP and he writes the monthly members’ bulletin. He is also a member of the executive board of Special Olympics (Kindersley and district). Neiszner’s New Year’s financial goals are to stop spending so much on nothing, to grow his savings account, and to help out more community charities and service groups by donating or volunteering. He would also like to put some extra money away for household expenses such as renovations and repairs.
  1. Kyle Prevost teaches high school business classes and blogs at Young and Thrifty. Prevost is not a big believer in making resolutions on January 1. He prefers to continuously adapt his goals throughout the year to live a healthier life, embrace professional development and save more. “If I had to pick a singular focus for 2018, I think my side business really stands out as an area for potential growth. The online world is full of opportunities and I need to find the right ones,” he says.
  1. Janine Rogan is a financial educator, CPA and blogger. Her two financial New Year’s resolutions are to rebalance her portfolio and digitize more of it. “My life is so hectic that I’m feeling that automating as much as I can will be helpful,” she says. “In addition, I’d like to increase the amount I’m giving back monetarily. I donate a lot of my time so I feel like it’s time to increase my charitable giving.”
  1. Ed Rempel is a CFP professional and a financial blogger at Unconventional Wisdom. He says on a personal finance level, his resolution are boring as he has been following a plan for years and is on track for all of his goals. His only goal is to invest the amount required by the plan. Professionally, he says, “I want 2018 be the year I hire a financial planner with the potential to be a future partner for my planning practice. I have hired a couple over the years, but not yet found the right person with the right fit and long-term vision.”
  1. Actuary Promod Sharma’s resolutions cover off five areas. He says:
  • For health, I’ll continue using the 7 Minute Workout app from Simple Design.
  • For wealth, I’ll start using a robo advisor (WealthBar). I’m not ready for ETFs.
  • For learning, I’ll get my Family Enterprise Advisor (FEA) designation to collaborate better in teams.
  • For sharing, I’ll make more videos.
  • For giving, I’ll continue volunteering.

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Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.