Reality check – working past age 65 may not be the best solution

When you ask people when they plan to retire, many say that they’ll keep working, even past age 65. None seem to be concerned about things like their health, or whether or not their employer will still provide benefits, or if it might be a good idea to yield the job to a younger person.

A poll out recently by CIBC suggests that a surprising one quarter of Canadians who are retired regret that choice. “Twenty-seven per cent of retired Canadians regret having left their jobs and 23 per cent of retirees have tried to re-enter the labour market,” CIBC’s research notes. “When asked why they chose to return to work, 59 per cent said it was for intellectual stimulation and 50 per cent said it was because of financial concerns.”

Certainly, leaving a full-time job means leaving colleagues and friends behind. But the financial concerns are perhaps more telling.

Recent Bank of Canada figures cited by Better Dwelling show household debt is an eye-popping $2.16 trillion, with most of the debt on mortgages. Even if you were planning to retire at 65, that debt is a factor that could throw a wrench in your plans.

An article in The Province suggests that carrying debt into retirement may be a reason people are thinking of going back to work. “When you need more of your retirement income to service debt, there is less left over to enjoy your golden years,” the newspaper points out. “Some think that they’ve got savings to help them top up what they’re short on after they retire, but that’s not necessarily the best strategy. If you need your savings to generate enough income, depleting your savings multiplies the negative impact on your financial situation at a time when you’re least able to manage through it.”

So what options do seniors have to deal with post-retirement debt? Going back to work is one, and another is a reverse mortgage. “On a national basis, reverse mortgage debt stood at $3.425 billion outstanding as of October 2018, marking its highest point in 8 years,” reports Real Estate Professional magazine.

The Money Ning blog says that while there are pros for employers in keeping older workers on the job, such as retaining their experience, and reducing government program spending, there are also cons.

“For workers who are either not passionate about their work, or who are working in a job that is physically demanding or extremely stressful, the idea of keeping that job for longer is not a pleasant one,” the blog notes. “In some cases, working past the mid-60s may not even be entirely safe,” the article continues.

Will employers still offer the same benefits to those age 65 and older? It’s certainly worth checking before you decide to stay put.

Other negatives are preventing younger workers from advancement, which affects their own ability to grow their income and save for retirement. These kids often can’t afford to buy and end up back home with their retiring parents.

So let’s recap. Boomers are carrying record debt levels as they approach retirement. Once retired, they must use their pensions or personal savings to pay down debt, leaving less money for fun and travel. That makes many crave the workplace once again, or have to do reverse mortgages to make ends meet.

Sure, it would be great to retire without debt, but it seems less possible than a generation or two ago. The takeaway here is that notwithstanding debt payments, we all need to put as much as we can away for retirement. Those savings give us options and more wiggle room at age 65, and maybe the ability to enjoy life without meetings, commuting, performance reviews and other workplace drama.

If you don’t have a pension plan at work, or if you do and want to supplement it, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a great place to start, with low fees, a strong investment track record, and flexible ways to turn savings into income at retirement. Check them out today at saskpension.com.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Feb 25: Best from the blogosphere

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

What if they threw a retirement party, but no one came?

If 70 is the new 60, then it’s possible that the new retirement may be not retiring.

According to Statistics Canada figures quoted in the Globe and Mail, more than half of senior-age men (that’s age 65) were working in 2015, a whopping 53.5 per cent. What’s more, 22.9 per cent of 65-year-old men were working full time.

For women, 38.8 per cent were working after age 65 in 2015, “almost twice the level in 1995,” the Globe reports.

What’s going on?

The story quotes Nora Spinks of the Vanier Institute as saying retirees working into their 70s and 80s “are rewriting what is retirement, and we now refer to it as `career redefinement,’” she explains. She notes that when baby boomers were born, life expectancy was only about age 63. “Fast forward to 2018 and your life expectancy is another 15-20 years,” she says.

Is “career redefinement” simply code for not having enough savings?

Well, maybe. Bill VanGorder, a retired non-profit executive who is back at work after 90 days of retirement, says that his savings, along with those of his wife (neither, the Globe says, had pensions) were negatively affected by the market downturn of 2008. But his new career with a pole-walking venture was made possible, he tells the Globe, due to “the couple’s good health and his desire to build a business based on strong consumer demand for pole walking as a form of low-impact exercise.”

VanGorder calls the retirement at 60-65 idea “an old-fashioned myth,” and asks “why would you want to spend the last quarter of your life doing nothing?”

So it wasn’t about the money. The Globe article, citing data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, notes that “only 37 per cent of women and 41 per cent of men said that financial considerations were a factor in their decision” to keep working after age 65.

Perhaps working after age 65 is more about “a person’s state of health and a desire to feel useful and connected to others,” the article muses.

Maybe in 10 years or so, the Globe will run an article about the trend of people retiring in their 80s. One assumes that even those working late into their lives will eventually stop. Save with SPP’s grandfather worked until 75, as did our father-in-law.

If you are planning to keep working until your 70s or 80s, the SPP can be a great resource. You can delay your SPP pension until December of the year you turn 71, rather than collecting it at an earlier age. And starting your pension later normally means you will receive a larger pension than if you had started it early.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Shelties, Duncan, Phoebe and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Now that you’ve saved for retirement, it’s time to spend wisely: Warren MacKenzie

If we save diligently, or inherit wealth, or otherwise get to retirement with money, that’s half the battle, says Warren MacKenzie, head of financial planning at Optimize Wealth and the author of three books on retirement planning.

More important, he told a recent meeting of the Ottawa Share Club, is spending your money wisely.

MacKenzie told the story of three siblings who each inherited multi-millions. After a few years, he says, “one is broke, and living in a trailer with his girlfriend.” A second has burned through three quarters of the money already on “cars, clubs and (the high life),” while the third sibling, an accountant, has most of her share left, is overwhelmed by it, and feels it was “the worst thing that ever happened to her,” he told the audience.  All three, he explains, lacked a strategy to use their wealth wisely.

MacKenzie says that many people fail to accurately estimate their retirement costs. “You need to calculate your expected expenses, and exaggerate them” to build in some room for the unexpected, he says. You “should assume you will live to age 100,” he adds, and estimate what your future medical costs might be for things like long-term care.

If you do that, and you find that there’s still a surplus, you may be wasting the opportunity to use some of your savings for other purposes, he says.

Most in the financial industry “don’t encourage people to think about a surplus,” he says. That’s because the financial sector makes money from managing your investments, but don’t want you to take the money out and spend it.

But caution about the future, fears of being “hit by lightning or a tornado,” compel many of us to hang on to our savings, even if we have more than enough to cover our needs.

Research, he noted, shows that there is a relationship between money and happiness, but it is different than one might think. Those making only $10,000 a year tend to be less happy than those making $50,000,” he says. But there is “no difference in happiness” for those making any amount that is more than $50,000.

“Money is a lot like food – too little is bad for you, but too much is bad for you too,” he explained.

In his view, those with more than sufficient wealth to cover their retirement expenses have options.

  • Do nothing, like most people, and hang on to the money for life (you’ll face income taxes and the stress of managing it)
  • Live richer and treat themselves more (spend the surplus on yourself)
  • Pass money on to the kids, but in stages (communicating with them about when they need it)
  • Give the money away (and let the kids figure things out on their own)
  • Create a multi-generational legacy (such as a foundation)

He says that communication about money between the generations is critically important; the kids should know if there is money coming, but should also know if there isn’t. A surprising 70 per cent of attempts to transfer wealth between generations fail, he pointed out. “Perhaps it is better to give money away while you are living – there are few legal disputes about smaller estates,” he says.

It’s a good thing, he says, to leave your kids no money but to pass on good values. It’s also good to leave money and values. But, he says, it is not a good idea to leave money “without passing on good values.”

Philanthropy is a positive thing that helps out the charity “but benefits the donor even more,” he said. He concluded his talk by noting that “he who knows he has enough is rich.”

Warren MacKenzie’s latest book, is The Philanthropic Family, subtitle – 5 Keys To Maximizing Your Family’s Happiness And Leaving A Lasting Legacy.  We thank the Ottawa Share Club for inviting us along to hear Warren MacKenzie’s talk.

Before you think about what to do with any retirement surplus, you need to be saving for that first day after work. An option for your saving strategy is a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account. Check out the SPP today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Shelties, Duncan, Phoebe and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Why some Canadians choose to retire to other countries

Let’s face it – it’s hard to find good things to say about winter in Canada when it’s 40 below with the windchill and the snow is piling up in your laneway.

Save with SPP knows a number of people who head south for the winter every year. And there are others who leave Canada for good and live out their golden years abroad. We took a look around to find out some of the reasons why some of us take this step.

Well, one reason might be finding not only warmer weather, but a lower cost of living, reports MoneySenseRetiring in North America, the site advises, means you’ll need an average of about $625,000 in the bank at age 65 (or an equivalent pension), or “annual retirement income of $55,000.”

But this amount, the site notes, is enough to let you “live in luxury” in a variety of other countries, including Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Malaysia, all modern countries with much lower living costs. You can, the article says, get a three-course meal at a restaurant for about $10 in some of these countries, and rents are in the low hundreds, rather than the low thousands.

The Roam New Roads site also cites lower living costs and a better climate in France, Panama, Thailand or Belize. Some offer low-cost national healthcare, the article notes, as well as lively culture, history, and wonderful culinary expertise.

However, there are other factors to bear in mind if you are moving away from your home country, notes the Escape From America blog. You can be homesick, which “leads to many expatriates returning home every single year,” often a costly process. Retirement abroad means little or no time with family and friends, a “forced loneliness,” the blog reports. Culture, language, accessibility (driving a car) are all other potential downsides in a faraway land, the article says.

The government of Canada’s website notes that living outside Canada will have an impact on your taxes, and may change how you are able to receive your Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits. If you are living outside the country for part of the year, there may be provincial or territorial requirements for your healthcare – a set amount of time you must reside in your homeland in order to keep your benefits. Or, you may have to try and arrange health coverage for the foreign country. It’s certainly a cost to be aware of.

So putting it all together, you can live on less money by moving to another country, where your retirement savings will allow you to trade middle-of-the-road living here for luxury and new adventures there. You’ll be free of snow shovelling and dark winter afternoons. But, if you get homesick, the cost of travelling back will put a dent in your now-lowered cost of living. You may find yourself isolated by language and culture. And you’ll have to figure out how to keep your healthcare or find an alternative.

It’s a big commitment, and not for everyone, but on a cold winter day, it’s nice to imagine heading down to the beach.  Any sort of retirement, be it here in the good old northland or off in some exotic sunny country, will require income. If you’re dreaming about retirement, take some time to put away a few dollars now for that eventual future. You’ll be happy you did. And a great destination for retirement savings is a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Feb 11: Best from the blogosphere

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

When it comes to retirement saving, how much is “enough?”

There’s no question about it – saving for retirement is a moving target. We are frequently told to save more for retirement, but it’s not often anyone lets us in on the secret of how much “enough” is, retirement-wise.

A new poll by Ipsos, conducted for RBC and reported on in the Montreal Gazette, gives us some specific answers to this age-old question.

On average for Canada, the article says, the savings target is $787,000. The article says Ontarians feel they need $872,000. In BC, respondents think retirement savings should top $1.05 million, the highest total in the country. In Quebec, which has the lowest average, the target is $427,000 to “have a comfortable financial future,” the article reports.

Save with SPP reminds those reading these daunting numbers that all working Canadians will get Canada Pension Plan or Quebec Pension Plan benefits, plus other government benefits like Old Age Security and, if applicable, the Guaranteed Income Supplement. So those will account for a significant chunk of that total savings amount, even though you don’t get these benefits as a lump sum, but as a lifetime payment.

However, those without a pension plan at work will have to do some saving to get to these average totals. The survey asked people how confident they were about reaching the finish line on savings. On average, just 16 per cent said they were confident. An alarming 32 per cent of Ontarians (least confident) and 39 per cent of Quebecers said they “will never build up enough of a nest egg,” the article says. The article says the lack of a financial plan may be part of the problem here.

“The survey… found 53 per cent of respondents from Quebec had no financial plan. Only Atlantic Canada had a higher rate of respondents with no plan, at 54 per cent. Of the 47 per cent of respondents who have a financial plan, 34 per cent said that plan is in their head,” the article notes.

“Across the country, 54 per cent of respondents said they have a financial plan,” the Gazette reports.

If there’s a takeaway here, it is that if you can – despite the rising cost of household debt and other life costs that get in the way – you need to plan to put a little away for retirement. If you start small you can increase your commitment later when the bills calm down.

A little effort today will pay off handsomely in the future, when your savings will turn into retirement income, and you’ll theoretically have paid off debts, raised your kids, and downsized so that you can enjoy your extra time. Don’t be intimidated by the multi-hundred-thousand dollar-targets – a little bit here and there will get the job done. And if you’re looking for an excellent home for your hard-earned savings dollars, look no further than the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Aging study explores impacts of isolation, poverty and frailty as we age

An interview with Dr. Parminder Raina

A large-scale research study, called the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) has been underway for a few years now, and is expected to provide insight on why some of us fare better in our old age than others.

Save with SPP contacted Dr. Parminder Raina, a professor at McMaster University and director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging, who is leading the research along with Christina Wolfson of McGill University and Susan Kirkland of Dalhousie University. We wanted to find out what the study – which follows 50,000 Canadians who were aged between 45 and 85 at recruitment for 20 years – has found out thus far.

The CLSA’s Report on Health and Aging, says Dr. Raina, shows that “when you look at the overall picture, people are aging in a healthy fashion.” However, he says, subpopulation data shows “that poverty rates are higher in women, and depression rates are higher, probably because of the social isolation issues.

“So while the overall picture looks good, you see some patterns that are not as positive when you start to segment populations differently. So from that point of view, this is an important finding because many of the data that are out in Canada are not specifically able to look at health issues in women,” he states.

Dr. Raina says the study has also helped develop what he calls “a normative cognitive score tied to age. It’s similar to a growth chart for children, but instead tied to memory and cognitive function,” he explains.  Having the score means that a cognitive test with your doctor could “be compared to a normal value developed using the CLSA data,” he states. “We know that aging is a developmental process. At the early ages, there are lot of gains and few losses. But in old age, there can be more losses than gains. By developing cognitive norms, we are able to determine what is normal and what is not when it comes to cognitive changes as we age.”

Another area being explored is frailty. “The traditional sense is that frailty is limited to older people that as they come into their 70s and 80s, they become weak, they lose resilience and become frail. The belief is that is part of growing old. And some older people are frail, and others aren’t,” Dr. Raina says. “Part of our goal is to understand frailty and how does it manifest itself. Some of our initial analyses and results are indicating that frailty is as prominent, in a different way, in a 45-year-old as it is in a 75-year-old.”

Is that frailty seen in younger people “the same as the frailty we see in older people?” he asks. “The other question, which we will answer over the years, is the people who are already frail in some ways, are they more prone to be much more frail in later life? That actually changes the way we look at the whole area of frailty in older people. We need to look at it in a very different way. It might be an issue that cuts across the whole age spectrum.”

Save with SPP asked Dr. Raina if any of the findings thus far come as a surprise.

“Overall, Canada is doing quite well when it comes to aging of the population. However, we can’t paint everyone with the same brush. There are some populations who experience more challenges than others. We need to keep this in mind, especially when developing policies and programs,” he says.

Finally, we asked Dr. Raina what those of us who are older can do to stay in better health as we age. “The two things tend to drive many health issues are smoking and lack of physical activity. Keeping people socially engaged is also tied to healthy aging. So exercising more, eating well and staying connected to friends and family can have a major impact on how we age. Those are the things that will actually lead to some beneficial impact on the health and well-being of people as they grow older,” he says.

In May 2018, the CLSA released its first report on health and aging, which included some important findings, such as:

  • 95 per cent of older Canadians rate their own mental health as excellent, very good or good
  • Women are more likely than men to express feelings of loneliness and social isolation, and that there is a notable correlation between feelings of loneliness and the prevalence of depression among older Canadians
  • 44 per cent of older Canadians report that they provide some level of care to others, and caregiving rates are at their highest (almost 50 per cent) among individuals aged 55-64
  • Driving a motor vehicle is the most common form of transportation for older Canadians regardless of age, sex, geographic location, health or functional status

Save with SPP thanks Dr. Raina for taking the time to answer our questions.

Poverty, as we learned, is a factor that influences health and aging. If you don’t have a workplace pension plan and are saving on your own for retirement, a good option to consider is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Find out more today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Feb 4: Best from the blogosphere

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

Just six per cent of Canucks plan to save for retirement in 2019

A mere six per cent of Canadians intend to make retirement saving a top financial priority in 2019, according to research from CIBC published in Benefits Canada.

The reason? They’re swamped with debt, the magazine notes. Paying down debt was the top priority in the research, followed by “keeping up with bills and getting by, growing wealth, and saving for a vacation,” the magazine reports.

CIBC’s Jamie Golombek, who was interviewed by Save with SPP last year,  says debt can be a useful tool, but if you are using it for day-to-day expenses, “it may be time for cash-flow planning instead.”

Golombek, who is Managing Director of Financial Planning and Advice at CIBC, says despite the fact that paying down debt is a legitimate priority in any financial plan, retirement savings can’t be totally overlooked.

“It boils down to trade-offs, and balancing your priorities both now and down the road. The idea of being debt-free may help you sleep better at night, but it may cost you more in the long run when you consider the missed savings and tax sheltered growth,” he states in the article.

Obviously, paying off debts in the short-term does feel more like an imperative than saving for the future. After all, the telephone company and the credit card folks will certainly let you know if you’re late with a payment with helpful, blunt little emails and terse phone messages. No such calls come from your retirement savings team.

But even if retirement savings isn’t a squeaky wheel today, you’ll depend on it one day. A Globe and Mail article from a couple of years ago noted that half of Canadians, then aged 55 to 64, did not have a workplace pension plan, and of that group, “less than 20 per cent of middle-income families have saved enough to adequately supplement government benefits and the Canada/Quebec Pension Plan.” The Globe story cited research from the Broadbent Institute.

Government pensions won’t usually replace all of your workplace salary, so if you don’t have a pension at work, you really need to find a way to save. An excellent choice is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, where you can start small and build your savings over time. You can set up automatic deposits, a “set it and forget it” approach. All money saved by the SPP is invested, and when it’s time for you to start drawing down your savings, they have an abundance of annuity options to produce a lifetime income stream for you.

Be a six per center, and make retirement savings a priority in 2019!

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22