Apr 29: Best from the blogosphere

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

Should 67 become the new 65?

While many of us were brought up expecting Freedom 55, a new report by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries suggests we might all enjoy things better if it was Freedom 67.

The report, featured in Benefits Canada points out that since Canadians are working longer and therefore, retiring later, government benefits should be pushed out farther into the future.

“Canadians are living longer than ever, and many are choosing to work beyond age 65,” John Dark, president of the CIA, states in the article. “It makes sense to update our country’s retirement income programs to reflect this fact.”

Save with SPP interviewed Dark about the research, you can find that story here.

The article notes that men now live nearly 19.9 years after age 65 on average, and women, 22.5. This longer life expectancy, coupled with people working longer, is the reason given for considering system changes, the article states.

The changes the CIA suggests are moving CPP/QPP and OAS “full” benefits from age 65 to 67. The earliest you could get benefits would move from 60 to 62, and the latest from 70 to 75, the article notes.

“In addition to the financial benefit of receiving higher lifetime retirement income, our proposal provides financial protection for retirees against the cost of living longer and the significant erosion of savings from the effects of inflation,” states Jacques Tremblay, a fellow of the CIA, in the article.

Moving the age of benefits has been tried before. There are important considerations to take into account. First, are people working longer because they want to, or because they can’t afford to retire? Moving the goalpost on those benefits may not help people in that boat.

And secondly, we can’t assume that everyone is healthy enough to work past 65 and into their 70s. It will be interesting to see if the CIA’s recommendations are heeded by government.

Retirement’s value outweighs all financial concerns

Many authors have noted that the value of actually being retired outweighs most financial concerns about getting there.

From the Wow4U blog here are some great quotes about retirement.

“We work all our lives so we can retire – so we can do what we want with our time – and the way we define or spend our time defines who we are and what we value.” Bruce Linton

“The joy of retirement comes in those everyday pursuits that embrace the joy of life; to experience daily the freedom to invest one’s life-long knowledge for the betterment of others; and, to allocate time to pursuits that only received, in years of working, a fleeting moment.” Byron Pulsife

“Retirement life is different because there is no set routine. You are able to let the day unfold as it should. Enjoy, be happy and live each day.” Suzanne Steel

Whatever happens, if anything, to government benefits, it’s a wise idea to put money away for your own future retired self. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers great flexibility, professional investing, and a variety of options for retirement, whether you plan to start it early or late.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Eating your way to a long and healthy life

We’ve all heard the expression “you are what you eat, eat well.” So if the goal of retirement is for it to be a long and happy one, what eating tips are out there that may help us to better health?

Save with SPP had a look around the Internet to seek answers to this question.

At the Very Well Health blog, the top category on the list is “cruciferous vegetables,” which includes broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale or cabbage. These help “activate the body’s natural detoxification system and inhibit the growth of cancerous cells,” the blog advises. They work best if chewed thoroughly, or are “shredded, chopped, juiced or blended,” the blog says.

Other top foods on their list are salad greens (low calorie, so great for weight control) and nuts, “a low-glycemic food” which is good for “an anti-diabetes diet.”

At the Everyday Health blog, salmon is the catch of the day for longevity. “Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats, lower triglyceride levels, slow the growth of artery-clogging fat deposits, and reduce blood pressure,” the blog notes. Other top foods on their list include blueberries, a natural anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory, and yoghurt, “a great source of probiotics,” the blog reports.

An article on the Web MD blog called Aging Well: Eating Right for Longevity cites olive oil as being “rich in heart-healthy monosaturated fats” while being free of risky trans fats found in margarine and other processed foods. Beans, or legumes, are also recommended. Legumes “are packed with complex carbohydrates and fibre to ensure steadier blood glucose and insulin levels, and they provide a cholesterol-free source of protein,” the article notes. Whole grains are also praised for their “age-defying vitamin E, fibre, and B vitamins,” the article reports.

Finally, Prevention magazine recommends eggs (for lowering stroke risk), sweet potatoes (a staple in the diets of the countries with the most people living longer than 100), and fermented foods, like pickles or sauerkraut. This type of food “supplies good bacteria for maintaining a healthy gut.”

Probably most of us eat some of these things some of the time; a healthier approach might be to eat more of them more of the time. As is the case with retirement savings, it’s probably best to start small and gradually increase your efforts over time.

Buying fresh foods and vegetables will require a little moolah, particularly once you have retired, so a good tool to help build retirement income is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Even if you become a sweet-potato-loving centarian, your SPP annuity payments will continue to arrive every month for as long as you live.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Apr 22: Best from the blogosphere

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

Savings – the spirit is willing, but the effort is weak

An interesting new report from Edward Jones is featured in a recent Wealth Professional that suggests Canadians really do place saving on the top of their list of financial priorities.

The study of 1,500 Canadians found that 77 per cent – more than three quarters of respondents – “have prioritized saving.” The story goes on to note that only 44 per cent see paying down debt as their top priority.

So the spirit is willing, as they say, but debt is getting in the way. “The most recent data from Statistics Canada points to a significant debt problem for Canadians, with household levels reaching a record high of 178.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2018,” the article reports.

Despite that crippling debt level, when asked, Canadians see retirement saving as their top priority, followed by “funds for lifestyle expenses (like vacations), future family or child’s education, and emergency fund” topping out the top four, Wealth Professional reports.

The article goes on to say that despite those worthy savings goals, 58 per cent of those surveyed admit they have “underperformed” on their savings efforts, with only 12 per cent saying they were on track and have met their savings goals.

Let’s face it. In an era where we all owe about $1.78 for every dollar we earn, it is difficult to do much with our money other than paying down debt. And if we’re only able to make the minimum payment, those debts can take decades to pay off, which is discouraging.

Like most things that we hate having to do – such as losing weight, eating better, hitting the gym – getting out of debt requires patience and self-discipline.

According to the Motley Fool blog via MSN.ca, there are practical ways to turn things around with debt. Their first idea is to stop taking on more debt. “This means committing not to charge any more on your cards until you’ve paid off what you owe,” the blog advises. Having a budget in place will help you live with this new limit on your spending power, the blog notes.

The second step is to try and reduce your credit card interest rate. You can do this, the blog advises, by switching to a lower-interest credit card or via a debt consolidation loan.

Third idea is “to make a debt payoff plan,” the blog says. Essentially, the plan should have you paying more than the minimum on the card each month in order to pay it off more quickly, the blog advises.

Through this hard work of steady debt reduction, be sure to chart your progress, the blog advises.

Debt, like a big ocean liner, takes a long time to turn around. But once you’ve paid off a single credit card, you have extra money to pay down the next. Clearing up your debt will also, once you’ve completed it, allow you to focus on positive savings/spending goals such as retirement planning, vacations, education savings and an emergency fund. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a wonderful resource for long-term retirement savings, check out their website today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

A new way of adding joy by tidying up – Marie Kondo

If you’ve ever looked around your home and noticed it is a debris field of clutter, then The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is THE book for you.

The book provides a unique, step-by-step roadmap to making your home into the place of joy it should be, furnished only by the things that give you joy and fully de-cluttered.

Once you commit to her system, Kondo writes, “there’s no rebound… that’s the life-changing magic of tidying up.” The book, which is mainly a Manga cartoon, shows Kondo helping a young woman declutter her apartment.

The book recommends that you should start by “visualizing your ideal lifestyle,” even drawing a picture of how you want your home to look. Start, the book recommends, by discarding, which “really means choosing what to keep… keep only what sparks joy.”

A key tip is to never tidy up by place, but by category. Don’t go through your clothes in a closet, remove ALL your clothes from all closets, take them to a central spot, and sort them out into piles of keep (clothes you love and that spark joy) and to get rid of (those that don’t spark joy). Then, put them away in the empty closets and drawers.

There’s a chapter on how to save space by carefully folding your clothes – everything doesn’t need to be on a hanger, the book advises.   Books are treated in a similar way, although Kondo advises that once you have taken all books to a central sorting spot, you should clap your hands to wake the “dormant” books, so that when you sort them, you will be able to feel the joy sparked by the ones you want to keep.

With paper and miscellaneous (komono), you recycle things like newspapers and magazines first, and then use three categories for all paperwork – “needs attention, save (contractual), and save (other).” As Kondo says, “the rule of thumb for papers is to discard them all. Keep only those you will be certain you need in the future.”

Once all the tidying is done, the chapter on storage basically instructs the reader to “put things where they belong,” and to store everything by the same categories you used to tidy – clothing, books, paper and miscellaneous, and sentimental items.

Once you have succeeded, your home “is your joyful space,” and is “linked to your body.”

This book is a great read and a totally different way to look at how we deal with all of our possessions. We tend to keep things that don’t work, don’t fit, or that we think might be of value; the book urges liberation from this retentive state of mind and liberating the open space that’s in our homes.

From a saver’s perspective, there is always cash for getting rid of things with value that no longer give you joy, and money to be saved by staying where you are rather than moving to a bigger place with all your clutter. It’s a great read, a sort of spiritual view of aligning your environment with your inner happiness.

And if you are able to save a bit on housing or cash in some unwanted collectibles, a wonderful extra thing you can do is make a contribution to your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account. Tidying away some money today will bring joy in a future tomorrow!

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Apr 15: Best from the blogosphere

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

DC industry looks at automatic enrolment, waiving waiting periods

Getting people to save for retirement is never easy – even, it seems, if they have a defined contribution (DC) workplace pension plan.

A report in Benefits Canada on their recent DC Summit held in Banff, Alta., says a roomful of DC sponsors, industry officials and investment people “recently compiled a wish list for DC plans.”

On that list – auto-enrolment and mandatory contributions. As well, the sponsors discussed “the suggestion to shorten or eliminate any probation period required before new employees can join a workplace plan.”

Auto-enrolment, the article explains, has already been rolled out in the UK. The idea is that instead of letting an employee decide whether or not to join, you just automatically enroll them – if they don’t want to be in the plan, they can opt out. This “nudge” approach works, because most people, once in, don’t bother to opt out.

The other ideas are similar – mandatory contributions meaning, once you are in, you stay in, and can’t decide to stop contributing. And getting rid of waiting periods would ensure people join more quickly, allowing them to contribute more.

The author of the article, Jennifer Paterson, explains it all very well. “For my part, I’m extremely supportive of this type of legislation. I believe one of the most fundamental barriers to retirement savings is inertia, so I welcome anything the government and employers can do to ensure people automatically join a workplace plan with mandatory contribution levels, and do so as soon as possible.”

Save with SPP agrees strongly. Workplace pension plans of any sort are increasingly hard to come by in most private sector companies, so it is essential that those who can join, do. They will certainly thank themselves in the future for having done so.

Another nice trend spotted lately is the return of savings optimism, not seen for some time. A recent CNBC survey found Americans were more confident (30 per cent) or much more confident (27 per cent) about their ability to save for retirement versus three years ago.

“With the economy in its 10th year of expansion, wages creeping up and unemployment below 4 per cent, experts say being in a better place financially is a good opportunity to address your savings anxiety,” the article notes.

If you are fortunate enough to have a retirement program at work, be sure to join it if you haven’t already. And if you don’t, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan provides a way for you to create your own plan. Once you enrol, you can set your level of contributions and can choose to increase what you pay in whenever you get a raise. And SPP is a full-featured plan, in that there’s a simple way, once you retire, to turn those hard-saved dollars into income for life. Be sure to check it out today!

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Apr 8: Best from the blogosphere

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

Feds roll out concept of deferred annuity to age 85

An interesting retirement idea in the recent federal budget that hasn’t garnered a lot of attention is the advanced life deferred annuity, or ALDA, option.

While there’s still lots that needs to be done to take an idea from the budget and make it into an actual product people can choose, it’s an intriguing choice.

With an ALDA, reports Advisor’s Edge, a person would be able to move some of their retirement savings from a RRIF into a deferred annuity that would start at age 85.

Right now, the article notes, “the tax rules generally require an annuity purchased with registered funds to begin after the annuitant turns 71.” This option may be a hit with those folks who don’t like the current registered retirement income fund (RRIF) rules that require you, at age 71, to either cash out their RRSP, buy an immediate annuity, or withdraw a set amount of money each year from your RRIF (which is subject to taxation). Currently, the article notes, people can choose one or all (a combination) of these options.

In the article, Doug Carroll of Meridian Credit Union says the financial industry “has for years asked to push back the age at which RRIFs have to be drawn down.”

This proposed change, “addresses that to a large extent. It limits the amount that would be subject to the RRIF minimum, and it also pushes off the time period to just short of age 85,” he states in the article.

Will we see the ALDA option soon? Well, not this year, the article states. “The ALDAs, which will apply beginning in the 2020 tax year, will be qualifying annuity purchases under an RRSP, RRIF, deferred profit sharing plan, pooled registered pension plan and defined contribution pension plan,” the article notes.

The best things to do in retirement – more work?

There’s more to retirement than just money, of course.

According to US News and World Report, the so-called “golden years” should feature more time with friends and family, travel, home improvements, volunteering, new learning, exercise and experiencing other cultures.

There’s also the idea of work – huh? “Just over a third (34 per cent) of workers envision a retirement in which they continue to work in some capacity. And 12 per cent of working Americans would like to start a business in retirement. Perhaps you can scale back to part time, take on consulting or seasonal work, or otherwise find a work schedule that also offers plenty of time for leisure pursuits,” the article advises.

Rounding out the list of retirement “to-dos” are rewarding yourself with a big-ticket car or “other expensive item,” and writing a book. Time to dust off that old Underwood!

Whatever you choose to do with the buckets of free time you experience after retiring, savings from the time you were working will be a plus. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is like the Swiss Army Knife of retirement savings products, because it has a feature for every aspect of the cycle. You have professional investment at a low cost, flexible ways to contribute, and many options at retirement including lifetime income via an annuity. Check out www.saskpension.com today!

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Cash back – is it really a great way to save money?

At one time, the world of credit was filled with all sorts of incentives to get you using the card – travel points, points for goods and services, and so on.  But lately, it seems that points are being joined and even overtaken by cash back credit cards and shopping sites. Save with SPP had a look around the Interweb to see what people think about this apparently popular trend.

The Centsai blog agrees that there “are plenty of financial benefits of cash back rewards cards,” but warns consumers to “make sure you don’t fall victim to traps that will wipe out those benefits.”

Cash back credit cards, the blog notes, usually “offer a base level of cash back – usually one to two per cent of all purchases.” (This blog is aimed at the US market, which is similar but not identical to Canada’s.) Some products will give you an even higher discount on pre-selected categories, such as dining out, the blog notes.

Money comes back to you either as a statement credit, or by some sort of direct payment or cheque, the blog reports.

So what’s wrong with getting some of your money back? The problem, Centsai notes, is that you have to spend quite a lot on your card to get significant cash rewards back. We are talking maybe $2 on every $100 spent. “People can easily go out-of-control with their spending by viewing each potential purchase as a rewards-earning opportunity not to be missed,” the blog explains.

As well, notes the blog, the true benefit of cash back accrues for those who pay their credit cards off in full each month. For that type of user, the blog says, cash back is win-win. Turning this idea around, those who max out their credit cards to get the cash back may find that the interest they owe is much more than the cash they got back.

If you do a lot of online shopping, Ebates might be worth a look, reports Yahoo! News. “Ebates receives a commission from retailers for sending shoppers their way,” the article notes. “The app features daily deals such as 14 per cent cash back on purchases at.. Travelocity, Microsoft and dozens of other retailers. Cash back is paid quarterly by cheque or via PayPal.”

Save with SPP has personally tried both these types of things, and what the articles are saying is true. If you are great with your credit cards and pay them off completely each month, these ideas are like free money. If, like Save with SPP, you are less than perfect with your credit cards, the benefits of the cash back are minimized – you have spent more in interest, potentially, than what you are getting back in rebates.

Credit and its evil twin, debt, are a lot like being overweight and out of shape. With a lot of work, and a lot of cutting back, you can make a dent in excess credit (or weight). But you need a lot of self-discipline, and if you have it, you’ll succeed.

So, if you’re good with your credit card and can generate extra cash via cashback products, a good destination for them is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Even small amounts here and there will add up over time and will augment your retirement income – a sort of future cash back reward, if you will. Check them out today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Apr 1: Best from the blogosphere

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

South of the border, saving hard, education pricey – retirement challenging

In the US, more and more people are having to dip into retirement savings to pay for their kids’ education, leaving them less to live on.

According to a recent article in Yahoo! Finance, things are so bad, people have stopped bothering to worry about it. “Reports of Americans being unprepared for retirement have become so widespread that it no longer seems to elicit any emotional response,” the article notes.

“The Employee Benefit Research Institute found that 40.6 per cent of all U.S. households (where the head of the household is between ages 35 and 64) are projected to run out of money in retirement,” the article notes. “Moreover, the average Social Security benefit provides an income equivalent to the poverty level for a family of four.”

The impact of paying for an education for the kids, “Number 1 goal” for most Americans, has impacted their ability to save. Education costs have left retirement nest eggs “less than robust,” the article notes.

The article says this savings shortfall is not due to a “failure to behave responsibly,” but instead to “a function of conscious decisions made in the past.”

A future as shown in “glossy financial brochures with couples in their mid-50s riding a sailboat” is “an unrealistic expectation for many households,” the article states. People are failing to consider that we are all living longer, and that we may be retired for as long as we were working, notes Yahoo! Finance.

And even if you do have savings, they will diminish as you take money out to live in retirement, the article points out. “To put this into perspective, if you take out 5 per cent from a diversified portfolio each year, you stand a 58 per cent chance of running out of money within 30 years of retirement,” the article explains.

Timing does matter, the authors note. “Anyone taking withdrawals during the 2008 housing crisis would have a dramatically different outcome than investors who retired in 2009 and lived off market returns in the beginning of retirement. Volatility matters,” they tell us.

The authors suggest that a person would need $2 million in savings to generate $100,000 in annual income.

But there is an up side to this daunting article. It notes that money isn’t everything in retirement. “The key to achieving an active, satisfying and happy retirement involves more than having adequate savings. It also entails interesting leisure activities, creative pursuits and mental and physical well-being,” the article concludes. In a way, the best things in life may not cost that much.

Viewpoints like this reinforce the need to make time for retirement savings. A good approach, especially for those who are decades away from the “golden years,” is to start small with savings and gradually ramp up as your income increases. If you don’t have a pension plan at work, or do and want to augment it, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is worth a look. It features low-cost professional investing, and uniquely is equipped to turn those savings into a lifetime income stream down the road. Check them out at www.saskpension.com.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22