Book offers more than 365 reasons why “retirement rocks – and work sucks”

January 28, 2021

It’s often very, very difficult to explain to non-retirees what it is like to no longer be at work.

Until now, that is! The Joy of Being Retired by Ernie J. Zelinski is a brilliant, funny look at the differences between retired life and the chains of the workforce, told in about 400 little anecdotes. This is a great read – you could consider reading one item each morning to start your day.

Here are some examples.

Reason 1 notes that “a truly satisfying and happy retirement includes interesting leisure activities, creative pursuits, physical well-being, mental well-being, a defined sense of purpose, and a great sense of community.”

You will, as a retiree, be “exchanging a gruelling nine-to-five routine for a well-earned casual and carefree lifestyle,” advises Reason 4. “You can play golf every day of the week,” suggests Reason 8.

Reason 15 quotes Canadian educator Laurence J. Peter as saying “the time you enjoy wasting… is not wasted time.”

Reason 26 thinks about the tax implications of retirement. “In retirement, generally speaking, you earn less money with the result that you pay a lot less income tax. And if you have always hated paying income tax, this should make you truly happy.”

Acting your age is no longer required in retirement, notes Reason 34. “You are never too old to become a little bit younger in spirit,” we are told.

The benchmarks of life change when we leave the workforce, states Reason 71. “Working life is when you judge your success by promotions, salary, and raises; retirement is when you judge your success by the degree that you are enjoying peace, health, love, and your dog.” Similarly, reason 116 says that whether your work was in a “corporate maze or a corporate prison… retirement sets you free from whatever it is.”

Reason 192 is one that Save with SPP has noticed – every day feels like a holiday. Truth be told, once you aren’t working you often don’t realize there’s a holiday going on until you run into long lines at the drive-thru.

Reason 218 points out that the average Canadian spends 26.2 minutes travelling to work, and 26.2 minutes returning home. This travel time, which doesn’t exist for retirees, “can rob you of a major part of your life.”
You can read the newspaper cover to cover in one go, says Reason 236.

“No more meetings,” boasts Reason 331. That’s one aspect of work that Save with SPP was extremely glad to see the end of, years ago.

If you are working away and worried about what retirement will be like, this is an excellent and recommended read. In fact, companies holding pre-retirement planning sessions would be smart to include this insightful, easy-to-digest and hilarious tome in the course materials.

Retirement fun can be even greater if your post-work pockets are a little deeper. This can be accomplished through retirement savings. If you haven’t got a workplace pension plan or want to augment it, why not check out the Saskatchewan Pension Plan? They uniquely can help you save, invest the savings, and turn that nest egg into a lifetime income stream – a one-stop shop for retirement security.

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.


Jan 25: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

January 25, 2021

Are we “living a lie” when it comes to retirement planning?

An insightful article from Espresso Communications suggests that many of us are nervously whistling as we shuffle past the graveyard of “retirement planning.”

First of all, many of us are still on the job past retirement age, the article begins. “The number of retirement-age Americans in the workforce has doubled since 1985,” Espresso tells us.

Another notion we cling to is that we can work as long as we want. But, the article warns, “37 per cent of retirees stopped working before they planned. The decision to stop work is often involuntary, and it can be precipitated by poor health or late-in-career layoffs,” the authors tell us.

Many of us think we won’t have to work at all once we punch out for the last time. “Retirement isn’t what it used to be,” the article points out. “Full pensions aren’t common and you can expect to live longer than ever.” So, work may be inescapable, the article notes.

On the retirement savings front, many of us think we won’t need to start until later in life. “Investments grow over time, which is why it’s important to start saving early,” the  article advises. Citing research from Vanguard, “a dollar you invest at 20 could be worth almost four times a dollar invested at age 55.”

Another argument is that many of us just can’t afford to save. You need to get into the habit, the article notes, even “if you can put aside only a small portion of your paycheque, or even a few dollars a day.”

And those savings need to be invested and not just stashed in a savings account, the authors say. Otherwise, “inflation is going to eat away at those savings the longer they sit there,” Espresso’s team states.

Some of us figure an inheritance will solve our savings problems. “Well,” the article warns, “your parents may not see it that way. As baby boomers pay out for expensive end-of-life care… Gen Xers and millennials may be surprised at how little is coming their way.”

The article says the economic crisis of 2008-9 shows the folly of thinking you can “live off the equity of your home” instead of saving.

Even if you have a retirement plan at work, the article notes, it may not provide you with sufficient income. And retiring early means you’ll get less per month from your workplace retirement plan and government retirement benefit plans.

There’s a lot of ground covered in this article, and more than one key message. One that blares out clearly is the need to have a realistic plan of attack – getting yourself ready to live on less income by clearing up your debts and paying off the mortgage, for instance. The other is that you have to be ready for changes – the way things are ticking along today with your income, your health, your earning power, your savings – can all change with an employment, wellness, or market volatility.

The notion of investing for your future, rather than saving for it, is an important message. If you’re a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, you can rest assured that SPP’s investment professionals are working hard to sweat the details on your behalf. That’s why the SPP has, since its founding 35 years ago, been able to deliver impressive average annual returns of over eight per cent, despite the crash of 1987, the tech wreck of the early 2000s, the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-9 and even today’s terrifying pandemic. 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.


What are people going to do once the pandemic is over?

January 21, 2021

We all know what we’re not doing thanks to the pandemic – but what sorts of things will we all be doing once that first blessed day of COVID-free living begins?

According to the New York Times, the very first thing for many will be getting back in touch with family and friends.

“Oh, to be able to shake hands again. We have lost the simple way we show respect for one another, to say thank you, to signal agreement. Our elbows will never be up to the job,” Audrey Jessen of Florida tells the Times. In the same vein, the newspaper reports, hugging grandma, hugging your brother, going out on date and kissing, and the joy of hanging out in groups are all atop people’s post-COVID to-do lists.

Ditto for “getting out of the house,” the Times adds.

At The Conversation blog, there’s optimism that the pre-COVID decline in cooking at home will continue to be reversed after the pandemic.

“Our survey showed a rise in home cooking from scratch during lockdown. Both home cooking and confidence in cooking have been linked to better diet quality, and practising cooking increases confidence,” the blog says. The folks at The Conversation believe this COVID-induced trend won’t fade away when the pandemic does.

Neither, reports Forbes , will “virtual collaboration” in the workplace, a.k.a. teamwork via the Interweb. It should also continue to be a way to stay in touch with people post-pandemic, the magazine contends.

“Millions of Americans stayed home for Thanksgiving, and their virtual parties weren’t terrible,” says online collaboration expert Adam Riggs in the Forbes piece. “With millions of remote workers connecting virtually, Americans have seen how video conferencing technology has improved over time, which has also impacted how we virtually network,” he states in the article.

Riggs predicts that since the pandemic will continue for quite a while, the use of videoconferencing and networking apps will continue and will ultimately remain a tool in the communications arsenal when the COVID all-clear signal is finally given.

Many are counting the days until outdoor events, like musical festivals or sporting events, will again be able to be held in front of massive crowds.

The Independent quotes U.K. festival organizer Sacha Lord as saying “if we have another year like 2020, we’ve got serious problems.” The music festival industry had its worst year ever last year, the article notes.

Let’s see if we can hear the common theme in all of this. Yes, we want to go back to how things were, but also, some of the new ways we were forced to do things may survive into the When It’s Over era. For instance, it’s said that thanks to more handwashing, sanitizer use, and mask-wearing than ever before, our flu season was one of the mildest on record.

So let’s conclude that the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel will be a brighter, different one than the dark days of the current winter. Better days ahead, as they say.

Many of us have little bits of retirement savings here and there, scattered in different pockets from our time at different jobs. If you’re a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, did you know that you can often transfer your benefits from other registered or unlocked plans to SPP? Up to $10,000 a year can currently be moved into your SPP account from other plans – that way, you can have all your retirement income coming from one source! Check out this and other SPP features in the SPP Membership Guide.

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.


Jan 18: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

January 18, 2021

Your retirement may include work – and quite a bit of it

Writing in the Financial Post, financial expert and columnist Jason Heath suggest cutting ties with work is no longer synonymous with the term “retirement.”

He notes that things have changed since the first pension plan was rolled out in Germany back in 1889. At that point, he writes, the state decided to look after former workers (via a pension) once they reached age 70. The goal was to free up jobs for younger workers, Heath notes.

However, in those days, the average German died around age 70, “so German retirement tended to be short-lived.” By comparison, he points out, Canadians (on average) want to retire around age 64.3, and there is a 50 per cent probability that women aged 65 today will live to 90, and men to 89.

“Typical Canadian retirees should therefore plan for a retirement of more than 30 years, much longer than their late-19th-century German counterparts,” Heath writes. That’s a very long time, and that’s why Heath sees continuing some form of employment as being a key piece of the retirement puzzle.

His first thought – why not try to work at what you do now, but part-time?

“If you can do a phased retirement, transitioning to part time, it can be a great option to dip your toes into the retirement pool slowly,” he explains. Continuing to work a bit will put less strain on your retirement savings – or allow you to build more, the thinking goes.

Another option is to take the knowledge you gained while at work, and offer consulting services for companies in your field. This idea can offer you a little more flexibility – you can set your own hours – and by working for several companies you will meet some new people.

A third idea – work, but at something else, maybe something that you did a long time ago and really liked.

“What did you enjoy doing when you were younger, maybe even as a child? There may be some clues here as to what new job you should consider in retirement,” he tells us. Save with SPP remembers the good old days of working, as a student, at a large hardware store, cutting curtain rods and window blinds – could such a second career be on the agenda?

If you don’t really need extra money, but want to still feel part of a team, Heath says volunteering may be your work of choice. “Sometimes volunteer work can be more lucrative in non-monetary ways than any job during your career,” he explains.

Heath says a little work at the front end of retirement won’t just help you financially, but it will boost your mental health and keep you engaged. “Some of the happiest and healthiest retirees I have met are still quite busy in retirement, whether they are in their 50s or 80s. This is one of the most important lessons I have learned during my own career, and something I imagine as I envision my own retirement,” he concludes.

Are you looking to increase your retirement savings as the golden years approach? A great all-in-one Swiss army knife for retirement can be the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, which is celebrating 35 years of operations this year. The SPP allows you to save any way you like – a lump sum, a regular automated contribution from your bank; you can even contribute with your credit card. But there’s more than just saving with SPP. Experts will invest your nest egg over the years, at a very low rate, and at retirement, those hard-saved dollars can be converted to a lifetime pension you’ll receive every month. Be sure to check out SPP!

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.


Now is the time to act on boosting retirement security: C.A.R.P.’s VanGorder

January 14, 2021

For those of us who aren’t yet retired, it’s difficult to put ourselves in the shoes of a retiree and imagine what issues they may be facing.

Save with SPP reached out recently to Bill VanGorder, Chief Policy Officer for C.A.R.P., a group that advocates for older adults, to find out what it’s like once you’re no longer working.

For a start, says VanGorder, all older people aren’t set for life with a good pension from their place of work. In fact, he says, “65 to 70 per cent of those reaching retirement age don’t have a (workplace) pension.”

As a result of that, most people are getting by on income from their own retirement savings, along with government benefits like the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS), and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).

“Politicians don’t understand what it’s like to live on a fixed income,” VanGorder explains, adding that any unexpected expenses hit those on a fixed income really hard. Right now in Nova Scotia C.A.R.P. is trying to stop plans to end a longstanding cap on property taxes – a move that would hit fixed-income folks the hardest.

In removing the cap, the province has suggested it would “look after” low-income seniors, but VanGorder points out that retirees at all levels of income are on fixed income. “It’s not just low-income earners… everyone would be hit by this,” he says.

It’s an example of how older Canadians seem to be overlooked when the government is writing up new public policies, VanGorder says. When the pandemic struck, all that older Canadians were offered was a one-time $300 payment, plus an extra $200 for the lower income group, he notes. Meanwhile younger Canadians were eligible for Canada Emergency Response Benefit payments of $2,000 per month, there were wage subsidies and rent subsidies for business, and more.

Older Canadians “feel they’ve seen every other part of the country get more economic assistance,” he explains. That’s because there’s a misconception that older Canadians “are already getting stuff… and are being looked after.”

“Their cost of living has gone up exponentially,” VanGorder says, noting that many services for seniors – getting volunteer drivers, or home support visits – have been curtailed for health reasons. These changes lead to increased costs for older Canadians, he explains.

C.A.R.P. is looking for ways to keep more money in the pockets of older people. For example, he notes, C.A.R.P. feels that there should be no minimum withdrawal rule for Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs). “It’s unfair to force people to take their money out once they reach a certain age,” he explains. “A lot of people are retiring later (than age 71).” He notes that since taxes are paid on any amount withdrawn anyway, the government would always get its share eventually if there was no minimum withdrawal rule.

Another argument against the minimum withdrawal rule is the increase in longevity, VanGorder says. Ten per cent of kids born today will live to be over 100, he points out. “We’re adding a year more longevity for every decade,” he says.

C.A.R.P. is also pushing the federal government to move forward with election promises on increasing OAS payments for those over age 75, and to increase survivor benefits. While the feds did improve the CPP, the improvements will not impact today’s retirees; instead they’ll help millennials and younger generations following them.

Another area of concern to C.A.R.P. on the pension front is the rights of plan members when the company offering the pension goes under. “C.A.R.P. would like to see the plan members get super-priority creditor status,” he explains. That way, they’d be first in line to get money moved into their pensions when a Nortel or Sears-type situation occurs.

He notes that Canada is the only country with government-run healthcare that doesn’t also offer government-run pharmacare.

VanGorder agrees that there aren’t enough workplace pensions anymore. “Canada doesn’t mandate employers to offer pensions, making (reliance) on CPP and OAS more critical than it is in other countries,” he explains. The solutions would be forcing companies to offer a pension plan, or greatly increasing the benefits offered by OAS and CPP, he says.

“If we don’t start fixing it now, we are going to end up with a horrible problem when the millennials start to retire,” VanGorder predicts. Now is the time to act on expanding retirement security, he says. “They always say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago,” he says. “But the second-best time is today.”

We thank Bill VanGorder for taking the time to speak to Save with SPP.

Don’t have a pension plan at work? Not sure how to save on your own? The experts at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan can help you get your savings on track. SPP offers a well-run, low-cost defined contribution plan that invests the money you contribute, and provides you with the option of a lifetime pension when work’s in the rear-view mirror. An employer pension plan option is also available. See if they’re right for you!

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.


Resolve to save in 2021

January 7, 2021

It’s the start of the New Year, and if there’s one thing we think everyone can agree on, it is really nice to see 2020 not hitting the door on the way out.

A New Year brings new promises, in the form of resolutions. Late-night host Conan O’Brien sums up how we all feel about the crazy year just ended, saying that his resolution for 2021 is “spend less time with my family.” Ouch.

Save with SPP took a look around the Interweb to see what people are resolving to do this year on the savings front.

At the Save.ca blog, there’s some good resolution advice on what to do with any extra money that comes your way in 2021, perhaps via a raise, a bonus, or a lottery payout.

“Whatever the source of the windfall, a good rule of thumb is to divide the extra money among the past, present, and future. If you have significant debts, use one-third of the windfall to pay some of those off, addressing concerns from the past. Save one-third, looking to the future,” the blog tells us.

“Use no more than one-third to address your present wish list — things like home improvements or even the purchase of something you’ve had your eye on but couldn’t previously afford,” say the folks at Save.ca.

Other advice for 2021 – save big by eating more at home, leave the ATM card at the house, and “pay yourself first.” You should “start adding yourself to the list of bills that need to be paid. Pay yourself with a set amount designated for investment or savings each month,” Save.ca advises.

The CBC suggests a “30-day spending detox” immediately as the New Year begins. The broadcaster quotes Calgary finance expert Lesley-Anne Scorgie as saying a “detox” means “turning the taps off to that habitual spending that you were doing throughout the month of December — and, let’s face it, for many months before the holiday season as well.”

The detox, she says in the CBC article, can be carried out by reducing spending “on anything that’s non-essential.” Suggestions include take-out coffee, subscriptions to streaming TV services, “the nails, the rims for your car,” and so on, she states.

A bunch of little cuts can add up to $25 a day – or close to $700 a month – that can be put away in a savings account, Scorgie says.

CityNews Toronto reports on recent research by Bromwich+Smith, which found Canadians “are eager to make fundamental life changes in 2021 following months of pandemic induced lockdowns and restrictions.”

Sixty per cent of those surveyed want to “support small and local businesses going forward,” the broadcaster notes. Fifty-nine per cent want to “enjoy the little things in life,” and 47 per cent want to live “more frugally.” Other top resolutions included being kinder to others (41 per cent) and travelling to other provinces (35 per cent), CityNew reports.

Whatever you do to improve your finances, take small steps, advises noted financial reporter Pattie Lovett-Reid.

Talking on BNN Bloomberg’s show The Open, she says thinking too large “may be too big and audacious a goal,” she explains. Instead, she recommends we say to ourselves “OK, what can I do each month to move forward our financial plan?” If you succeed, great, if you don’t, there are many more months to go, she notes. “You have to know how much you owe, and how much you own – that will give you an opportunity to make changes, and to get corrective action in place,” she explains.

Looking for a 2021 resolution? How about this – why not increase your contribution to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s a quick and easy way to pay yourself first, whether you contribute weekly or monthly, or via a lump sum. Not an SPP member? Check out SPP today; in 2021 SPP is commemorating 35 years of providing retirement security.

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.


Jan 4: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

January 4, 2021

Seniors – many lacking pensions and facing depleted savings – struggle to find work

Many of us of a certain vintage – say boomers in their late 50s and early 60s – plan to work as long as we can before entering retirement.

But a report by the Globe and Mail suggests that these days, as we recover from the pandemic, jobs for older workers aren’t as easy to come by as they may once have been.

“As we survey the damage from the COVID-wrecked economy, we may find that the employment prospects for older workers are getting thin just as the supply of mature job-seekers starts to climb,” writes the Globe’s Linda Nazareth.

First, she explains, things have changed for older workers.

“The old model of work, with the notion of leaving with a gold watch and a pension for life, is over. According to Statistics Canada, 52 per cent of the employed population was covered by a pension plan in 1977, a figure that had fallen to 37 per cent by 2018. Making up the difference with private savings does not always work out, and 2020 has offered a stark reminder that volatile markets, recessions, job losses and illness can wreak havoc on the best-laid plans,” she writes.

So, she notes, without pension income or savings, the other option is to keep working.

“No surprise, then, that the labour force participation rate (the percentage of the population either working or looking for work) of those aged from 55 to 64 has been trending higher for years, climbing from 63.6 per cent in November, 2010, to 66.6 per cent in November of this year,” Nazareth writes.

The rub, unfortunately, is that the kinds of jobs older workers are now holding down may not be there once the “K-shaped recovery” is fully underway, Nazareth explains.

“Many will be caught in the sectors and occupations that find themselves in the downslide of the K, including occupations in the struggling hospitality sector, but also those in a wide swath of manufacturing and services. Automation and a competitive global economy were already taking things in that direction but picking up the pieces after the pandemic will only make things worse and increase the potential for a spate of very-much involuntary unemployment,” she warns.

She concludes the article by hoping that a full economic recovery will lead to new types of jobs to aid the older workers in their job search.

In the U.S., reports Forbes magazine, it’s a similar situation.

The unemployment rate among workers 65 and older was an alarming 10.8 per cent, the article reports. Worse, it’s lower-income workers who are most affected, the article explains.

Writer Christian Weller concludes that there are basically two camps in the U.S. “Some could glide towards a comfortable retirement after working at good wages and saving enough during the preceding years. Others were left to fend for themselves as jobs became scarce and health risks became widespread since they had too little in wealth to weather the multitude of emergencies and start retiring earlier than planned. The pandemic starkly illustrates the massive retirement gulf that epitomizes the U.S.’s aging society.”

So let’s sift through this. Basically both authors are saying that older citizens with a pension or retirement savings to fall back on are doing better than those without, and that finding and keeping a job when you’re older may not be a slam dunk.

What can we do about it if we aren’t older? Saving for retirement seems a good way to cushion your future self against shifts in the job market. If you are fortunate enough to have a pension at work, be sure you are maximizing your contributions to it. If not, you’ll need to be self-reliant, and build your own retirement nest egg. A good place to start the savings journey could be the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, celebrating its 35th year in 2021. 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.