Mar 29: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

March 29, 2021

We talk – endlessly, it seems – about the importance of building retirement security, either via a workplace pension, your own savings, government plans, and so on.

But a new report from Market Watch suggests there’s a new investment category that more of us need to focus on – the “psychological portfolio.”

The article quotes Nancy Schlossberg, author of Too Young To Be Old: Love, Learn, Work and Play as You Grow Old, as saying any retirement planners should think of “what they’ll do in retirement, and how they’ll interact with others.”

“You have your identity so tied to work, when you are no longer working, who are you?” Schlossberg stated at a recent live personal finance event. In other words, your future you may not be the same as the current version of you.

Schlossberg goes on to define six different ways you can define your own retirement path. According to the article, the six ways are:

  • adventurers, who take on a new job they’ve never done before
  • continuers, whose work is similar to what they did before
  • easy gliders, who take retirement day by day
  • involved spectators, who immerse themselves in fields without working at it full time
  • searchers, who aren’t sure what to do next, and
  • retreaters, who can’t figure out what to do

Whatever path you select will help you build your new post-work identity, Schlossberg notes in the article.

The article concludes by quoting Marty Kurtz of the Planning Center, who appeared on the same panel with author Schlossberg, as saying “do we have a good view of reality and do we understand what our expectations are? It is not just about the money, it is about money and life and how.. they work together.” 

Dividend investing – a good approach for volatile markets ahead?

Writing in the Financial Post , author Christine Ibbotson suggests dividend investing is a good way to address volatile markets.

“When (bond) yields are likely to stay low and markets have a tendency to have future volatility, dividend strategies should be revisited. Start moving more of your investments toward high-quality dividend payers and high-quality growth-name stock picks,” she writes.

Periods of low interest rates “have always typically benefited dividend investing,” and growth stocks in particular seem to do well in a low-interest rate environment, Ibbotson notes.

She says that while many investors expect a “bull market” after COVID-19 is finally addressed, there may be a lot of market swings before then. “There will be some unexpected volatility that will at times remain elevated in the coming months as investors continue to doubt the validity and sustainability of the bull,” she predicts.

Worried about navigating tricky markets? Consider joining the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, and letting expert investors navigate through waters choppy and calm. The SPP has averaged an eight per cent rate of return since its inception 35 years ago, and that management expertise is delivered at a very low rate. Check out SPP today!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


Detailed investing book – endorsed by Warren Buffett – is an encyclopedia on investing

March 25, 2021

The incomparable Warren Buffett calls The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham, “the best book on investing ever written.”

And it is Buffett himself who provides a forward and appendix notes on the latest, revised edition of this classic investing text by Graham, his mentor.

This is not a book you can sit down and breeze through in a day or two – Graham’s original work is deep on statistics, charts, and examples, and the updated commentary is no less detailed.

The book contrasts speculation with investing. The book talks about the so-called dot.com bubble earlier this century, a time when, with “technology stocks… doubling in value every day, the notion that you could lose almost all your money seemed absurd.” However, the book notes, by 2002 many stocks had lost 95 per cent of their value.

“Once you lose 95 per cent of your money, you have to gain 1,900 per cent just to get back to where you started,” the book notes. Avoiding losses, the book states, is a central platform for intelligent investing.

While there’s a place for speculation, writes Graham, “there are many ways in which speculation may be unintelligent. Of these, the foremost are: (1) speculating when you think you are investing; (2) speculating seriously instead of as a pastime, when you lack proper knowledge and skill for it; and (3) risking more money in speculation than you can afford to lose.”

By contrast, defensive intelligent investors must confine themselves “to the shares of important companies with a long record of profitable operations and in strong financial condition.” These choices must be based on “intelligent analysis,” the book explains.

Bonds can’t be overlooked, Graham writes. “Even high-quality stocks cannot be a better purchase than bonds under all conditions.” Both belong in people’s portfolios, he states.

While a 50-50 stocks/bonds portfolio is a sensible mix, Graham says you should allow yourself to go up to 75/25 in either category when conditions warrant.

While bonds are considered “less risky” than even good preferred stocks, Graham warns they aren’t completely safe. “A bond is clearly unsafe when it defaults its interest or principal payments,” he explains – and the same risk exists when a stock reduces or cancels its dividend.

On the idea of buying low and selling high, Graham suggests it is better for people “to do stock buying whenever (they) have money to put in stocks, except when the general market level is much higher than can be justified by well-established standards of value.”

The book warns about buying into funds or securities that are on a hot streak. “If a manager happens to be in the right corner of the markets at just the right time, he will look brilliant,” we are told. But, the book warns, the market’s hottest sector “often turns as cold as liquid nitrogen, with blinding speed and utterly no warning.” Buying stocks or funds based on past performance “is one of the stupidest things an investor can do,” the authors conclude.

On do-it-yourself investing, Graham is clear.

“There is no reason at all for thinking that the average intelligent investor, even with much devoted effort, can derive better results over the years from the purchase of growth stocks than the investment companies specializing in this area,” he writes. “Surely these organizations have more brains and better research facilities at their disposal than you do.”

The commentary section for this chapter expands the argument. While some people believe that “the really big fortunes from common stocks… have been made by people who packed all their money into one investment they knew supremely well,” Warren Buffett says “almost no small fortunes have been made this way – and not many big fortunes have been kept this way.”

Diversification is key, he warns, or else you will “stand by and wince at the sickening crunch as the constantly changing economy” crushes your only basket and all your eggs.

“If you build a diversified basket of stocks whose current assets are at least double their current liabilities, and whose long-term debt does not exceed working capital, you should end up with a group of conservatively financed companies with plenty of staying power,” the book advises.

A tip about Buffett is that he “likes to snap up a stock when a scandal, big loss, or other bad news passes over it like a storm cloud.” He bought into Coca-Cola after the disastrous “New Coke” launch in 1985.

This is a heavy read, but it’s well worth the effort.

If you’re looking for diversification in your retirement savings, consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP’s Balanced Fund presently features 50 per cent equities (Canadian, American and non-North American) with the other 50 per cent in bonds, mortgages, real estate, short-term investments and infrastructure. That’s a lot of baskets for those precious retirement nest eggs.

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.


Mar 22: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

March 22, 2021

Is the 11 per cent solution the right retirement number for you?

There’s long been a debate in retirement circles about how much is the right amount to save.

New research from Schroders in the U.S. suggests that non-retired savers around the world are putting away 11.4 per cent of their earnings for life after work.

The biggest savers, according to the Schroders Global Investor Study, which took a look at over 30 countries around the world, are those living in Asia, who put away an impressive 13 per cent of their earnings. The Americas are not far behind at 12.5 per cent, while Europeans save the least, at 9.9 per cent.

However, the folks at Schroders say those numbers fall short of what people may actually need. 

“It’s well known that people aren’t saving enough for retirement but this study shows that even those who are already established investors are not putting away enough money,” states Lesley-Ann Morgan, Head of Retirement at Schroders, in the article.

“There’s also a strong message from those who have already saved: ‘I wish I had saved more,’” she adds.

The problem, Morgan points out, is that people aren’t connecting what they’re saving with what they want to do in the future.

“The pension savings gap is further compounded by the fact we’re in an age of low rates and low returns. To reach their goals, people will need to save even more than savers did in previous generations,” she explains.

“The study shows investors globally are only putting away 11.4 per cent of their income but say they want to retire at age 60. Our analysis shows that someone who started saving for retirement at age 30 is likely to need savings of 15 per cent and above a year if they wanted to retire on 50 per cent of their salary,” she warns.

The article, through charts and examples, goes on to suggest that 15 per cent may be a better savings target.

“People in some countries tend to invest more cautiously and may therefore see lower returns. In Germany, for instance, pension savers have a preference for bonds, which typically have delivered lower returns,” Morgan explains.

“Such savers will need to contribute even more to ensure they realize their retirement goals,” she says.

“The most powerful tool available to savers is time. Start saving at an early age and it makes an incredible difference to the eventual size of your retirement account. The miracle of compounding, where you earn returns on your returns, adds up over 30 or 40 years of saving.”

The takeaway from this article, then, is more is always good with retirement savings – the more you can put away, and the earlier you start, the better things will be when those savings turn into your retirement income.

There’s no question that investing can be tricky. If you’re looking for a way to invest your retirement savings professionally – but at a very low fee – consider the venerable Saskatchewan Pension Plan, now celebrating its 35th year of operations. SPP offers two professionally managed investment funds to choose from, and has averaged an impressive average rate of return of 8 per cent since its inception. 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.


Debt – a problem that takes the shine off your golden years.

March 18, 2021

There’s an old saying that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. You could almost add a third category – debt – to that list, and Canadian seniors are dealing with more late-age debt than ever before.

Statistics Canada figures show that in 2019, “Canadian household debt represented 177 per cent of disposable income, up from 168 per cent in 2018. That means the average Canadian household owed $1.77 for every dollar they earned.

The same report found that while seniors are doing better with debt than those under age 65, a surprising 22 per cent say they are “struggling to meet their financial commitments.”

Similarly, reports the Financial Post, research from debt agency Equifax “found the average debt, not including mortgages, of Canadians 65 and over was $15,651 in the second quarter of 2017, still low compared to the Canadian average of $22,595. But senior debt grew by 4.3 per cent over the past year, outpacing every other segment of the population over 18.”

South of the border, the problems are similar. According to Forbes magazine, “the percentage of elderly households—those led by people aged 65 and older—with any type of debt increased from 38 per cent in 1989 to 61 per cent in 2016.”

“People who carry debt into retirement, especially credit card debt, confront more stress and report a lower quality of life than those who do not,” the Forbes article notes.

Debt relief expert Doug Hoyes of Hoyes & Michalos notes that carrying debt into your senior years will almost certainly be a struggle.

He writes that there are “many reasons why people carry debt beyond their 50s, and into their 60s and even 70s,” and he adds that it is “unrealistic to think it’s as simple as seniors living beyond their means.” Contributing factors to senior debt can include layoffs and benefit cuts, the challenge of supporting adult children, and caring for aging parents, he writes.

“Once retired, a fixed income takes its toll, unable to keep up with both debt payments and living costs,” writes Hoyes.

Hoyes says there are some debt warning signs you shouldn’t ignore:

  • Your monthly credit card and other debt balances are rising
  • You can only make minimum payments
  • You use a line of credit to pay the mortgage, rent or other bills
  • You think about cashing in your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) to pay off debt

He suggests several courses of action for seniors struggling with debt, such as consulting with a credit counsellor and working out a payment plan, or looking into a government debt relief program for seniors.

Don’t, he warns, tap your RRSP to pay off debt.

“Most registered retirement plans are protected in a bankruptcy or consumer proposal in Canada,” he writes. “We caution people against draining their retirement nest egg if this only partially solves your debt problem.”

Summing it up, while debt is easy to rack up – and we’re all used to dealing with it – it is far less manageable when you’ve left the workforce and are living on less. If you can’t pay off all your debts before you retire, at least pay off as much as possible – your retired you will thank you. Did you know that the Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers you a way to turn your retirement savings into a future income stream? By choosing from the many different SPP annuity options, you are assured of that income in retirement, no matter how long you live. That can be very helpful if you have debts to pay off along the way.

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.


Mar 15: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

March 15, 2021

There’s no place like home for retirement, Canucks say

The pandemic seems to have changed a few people’s minds about their retirement plans.

According to a recent article in Investment Executive magazine, the former dream of retiring to warmer climes may now have been replaced with the idea of a made-in-Canada retirement.

The article, citing recent research done for IG, found that “half of respondents said being closer to family and remaining in Canada is now a priority.”

The survey found most of us – two-thirds – also would prefer to live out our lives in our own homes rather than in “a retirement facility,” the article notes.

“It’s understandable that the events of the past year have caused many Canadians to pause and re-think what their futures will look like, including their plans for retirement,” states IG’s Damon Murchison in the article.

Other financial concerns Canadians raised in the piece including emergency funds, healthcare coverage, and the amount of savings they’ll need in retirement.

So, if having more money is the answer to most of these concerns, how do we get there?

A recent article from Kiplinger, while intended for a U.S. audience, offers up some good advice on what not to do when you’re saving for post-work life.

The article suggests that many of us, particularly when young, take too many risks with our investments, “because time is on your side.”

Once you have reached middle age, your investment strategy should change from accumulation to “preservation and distribution,” the article advises. “This is generally where your financial strategy should become more conservative,” Kiplinger advises.

The article mentions the “Rule of 100,” namely, that your current age should be the percentage of your overall investments that should not be at risk. “Whatever you do, don’t consider a Las Vegas `all-in’ scenario as you edge closer to retirement,” the article warns.

Other tips include tailoring your investments to your personal needs, being aware of the impact of fees, and not listening to the neighbours when it comes to financial advice.

“The neighbours’ advice may be well-intentioned, but it’s likely misguided or possibly self-serving. Swap barbecue tips and stories about your kids—but never talk money,” the article concludes.

Saving for retirement, like many other things we don’t always want to do, is good for you. While times are tough, they will get better as the pandemic gets under control and fades from significance. But there are some good lessons the pandemic can teach us about having an emergency fund ready, ensuring our retirement savings continue (if possible) so we don’t have to work even longer, and seeing the true value of in-person time with our family and loved ones again. All good.

If you’re not really sure about investing, but do want to save for retirement, have a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You can leave the heavy lifting of investment decisions to SPP. Despite the Tech Wreck, the financial crisis of 2008-9, and the craziness of the pandemic and its impact on financial markets, the SPP has averaged an impressive eight per cent rate of return since its inception 35 years ago. That’s quite a track record of delivering 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.


Should we still be savers after we retire?

March 11, 2021

The mental image most of us have of the retirement process is quite clear – you save while you work, and then you live on the savings while retired.

But is this a correct view of things? Should people be adding to their savings once they’ve stepped away from a long life of endless meetings, emails, Zoom or conference calls, and annoying performance reviews? Or not?

Save with SPP decided to scout this out on the good old Interweb.

What we notice is that when you query about “saving after retirement,” you’ll find lots of advice about how to save by spending less. For example, U.S. News & World Report suggests things like asking for senior discounts, shopping “for cheap staples online,” downsizing your home or hobbies, etc.

You’ll also find general advice on saving that can apply to folks of any age – Yahoo! Finance points out that you need to “spend less than you earn,” and “grow and invest your money.”

The type of advice we’re looking for is more along the “pay yourself first” rule that our late Uncle Joe lived by until almost age 90; and Yahoo! Finance does have a bit of that.

“When people say `pay yourself first,’ they mean you should take your savings out of your paycheque as soon as it hits your chequing account to make sure you save something before you spend it all on bills and other expenses. The key to saving successfully is to save first, save a lot — 10 per cent to 20 per cent is often recommended — and save often,” the article states. Uncle Joe would endorse this thinking.

But it’s not clear this article is aimed at retirees – so is putting money systematically away when retired even a thing?

Maybe, but perhaps not quite in the way Uncle Joe might have envisioned.

MoneySense notes that Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) are a great savings tool for older, retired Canadians.

The article suggests that if you are retired, and don’t need to spend all the income from your Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) or other sources, like a pension, a great home for those dollars is the TFSA.

“Unlike Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and RRIFs you can keep contributing new money into TFSAs after age 71. Even if you live to celebrate your 101st birthday – as my friend Meta recently did – you can continue to pump (the TFSA annual maximum) to your TFSA, as Meta has been doing,” the article explains.

“In contrast, you can no longer contribute to RRSPs after the year you turn 71 (or after the year the youngest spouse turns 71), and even then this depends on either carrying forward RRSP room or earning new income,” MoneySense tells us. So the TFSA is a logical savings account, and is still open to older folks.

Our late father-in-law gleefully directed money from his RRIF (after paying taxes) to his TFSA, so that he could continue to invest and save.

The TFSA has many other benefits, including the fact in can be transferred tax-free to a surviving spouse. An article in the Globe and Mail points out a few other interesting TFSA facts – investments must be Canadian, you can re-contribute any amounts you cash out, and your contribution room carries forward, the article notes.

It would appear then, that “saving” after retirement means two things – it means budgeting and bargain hunting to make your income last longer, and it means using savings vehicles like TFSAs to manage taxation. That’s probably the answer – when you’re working, taxes are simple to manage. You get a T4, your employer is usually deducting the correct amount of taxes, so filing income tax is simple. It’s more complicated for retirees with multiple income streams and chunks of withdrawn RRIF money.

You will have a greater opportunity to save when you are retired if you put away some cash now, before they give you the gold watch. The less retirement income you have, the tighter your future budget will be. If you haven’t got too far yet on the retirement savings trail, why not have a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan? You can set up a “pay yourself first” plan with SPP, which allows contributions via direct deposit. Money can be popped into your retirement nest egg before you have a chance to spend it – always a good thing. Be sure to check out SPP, celebrating 35 years of delivering retirement security in 2021!

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.


Mar 8: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

March 8, 2021

At a time when some have “mountain” of savings, few focus on RRSPs: study

One of the oddest side effects of the pandemic has been the fact that for those fortunate enough to be able to keep working throughout it, savings are starting to pile up.

According to the Financial Post, the overall Canadian saving rate has reached “historic highs.” So, the article says, “you might think it would be a bumper year” for Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs).

Apparently not. Citing research from Edward Jones, a brokerage firm, the article reports that “52 per cent of Canadians say they do not plan to contribute to their RRSPs,” with 44 per cent saying it’s the pandemic that is preventing them from doing so.

As well, the Edward Jones research found that of the 31 per cent who said they would invest in their RRSPs, less than a third – again, 31 per cent – said they would invest the maximum.

Now, normally you’d look at all this and say, yeah, no one has the money for RRSPs this year – pandemic, hours cut, stores closed, travel and restos no longer possible, etc.

But the article notes that Canada’s overall savings rate “is at the second highest (level) since the early 1990s as locked-down residents with little to spend their money on, squirrel it away.” By the third quarter of 2020, the Post reports, our savings rate had soared to 14.9 per cent, compared with just three per cent in 2019.

So those with savings are packing it away at a clip not seen since the early 1990s. Save with SPP remembers those years fondly, as interest rates that were in the high teens in the late 1980s were still hitting the mid-teens by the early 1990s, making those old Canada Savings Bonds a great investment.

But there’s no such investment attraction today, and the Post feels that those who are hanging onto their dollars are doing so because of “economic uncertainty.”

“What the research shows is that Canadians have had to make financial compromises like deferring retirement contributions for other more immediate priorities and are storing away cash they can easily access in response to economic uncertainty,” states David Gunn, president of Edward Jones Canada, in the Post article.

This, the article informs us, makes sense given similar results from earlier Edward Jones research, as well as a Morneau Shepell poll that found 27 per cent of Canadians “say their financial situation is worse than those (15 per cent of those polled) who say it is better.” Looking around the country, Morneau Shepell found the most financial pessimism in Alberta, with Saskatchewan residents being the most optimistic about their finances.

While it is completely understandable that those without extra cash would have to cut back on retirement saving, it’s less clear for those who are sitting on money as to why RRSPs aren’t in favour. After all, you get a tax deduction for the RRSP contributions you make. More importantly, it’s not like retirement savings are some sort of bill you have to pay – it’s an investment in your future. You’ll eventually get all the money back and then some, thanks to investment.

If you are lucky enough to be sitting on some extra cash this year, consider the possibilities and look to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan as a destination for those dollars. Founded 35 years ago, the SPP has posted an impressive eight per cent rate of return over that period, demonstrating a history of savvy investing. Your contributions, just like an RRSP, are tax-deductible, and the money saved and invested will come back to you in the form of lifetime income down the road. Don’t deny your future self retirement security – check out the SPP today.

Written by Martin Biefer

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


Pape’s book provides solid groundwork for a well-planned retirement

March 4, 2021

Gordon Pape has become a dean of financial writers in Canada, and his book Retirement’s Harsh New Realities provides us with a great overview of our favourite topic.

There’s even a shout-out to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan!

While this book was penned last decade, the themes it looks at still ring true. “Pensions. Retirement age. Health care. Elder care. Government support. Tax breaks. Estate planning,” Pape writes. “All these issues – and more – are about to take centre stage in the public forums.”

He looks at the important question of how much we all need in retirement. Citing a Scotiabank survey, Pape notes that “56 per cent of respondents believed they would be able to get by with less than $1 million, and half of those put the figure at under $300,000” as a target for retirement savings. A further 28 per cent thought they would need “between $1 million and $2 million.” Regardless of what selection respondents made, getting that much in a savings pot is “daunting,” the survey’s authors note.

Government programs like the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) help, but the benefits they provide are relatively modest. “If we want more than a subsistence-level income, we have to provide it for ourselves,” Pape advises.

He notes that the pre-pandemic savings rate a decade ago was just 4.2 per cent, with household debt at 150 per cent when compared to income. Debt levels have gone up since then. “Credit continues to grow faster than income,” he quotes former Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney as saying. “Without a significant change in behaviour, the proportion of households that would be susceptible to serious financial stress from an adverse shock will continue to grow.” Prescient words, those.

So high debt and low savings (they’ve gone up in the pandemic world) are one thing, but a lack of financial literacy is another. Citing the report of a 2011 Task Force on Financial Literacy, Pape notes that just 51 per cent of Canucks have a budget, 31 per cent “struggle to pay the bills,” those hoping to save up for a house had managed to put away just five per cent of the estimated down payment, and while 70 per cent were confident about retirement, just 40 per cent “had a good idea of how much money they would need in order to maintain their desired lifestyle.”

One chapter provides a helpful “Retirement Worry Index” to let you know where your level of concern about retirement should be. Those with good pensions at work, as well as savings, a home, and little debt, have the least to worry about. Those without a workplace pension, with debt and insufficient savings, need to worry the most.

If you fall anywhere other than “least worried” on Pape’s list, the solution is to be a committed saver, and to fund your own retirement, he advises. He recommends putting away “at least 10 per cent of your income… if you’re over 40, make it a minimum of 15 per cent.” Without your own savings, “retirement is going to be as bleak as many people fear it will be.”

Pape recommends – if you can — postponing CPP payments until age 70, so you will get “42 per cent more than if you’d started drawing it at 65.” RRSP conversions should take place as late as you can, he adds. This idea has become very popular in the roaring ‘20s.

Pape also says growth should still be a priority for your RRSP and RRIF. “Just because you’ve retired doesn’t mean your RRSP savings need to stagnate,” he writes. And if you find yourself in the fortunate position of “having more income than you really need” in your early retirement needs, consider investing any extra in a Tax Free Savings Account, Pape notes.

Trying to pay off debt before you retire was once the norm, but the idea seems to have fallen out of fashion, he writes. His other advice is that you should have a good idea of what you will get from all retirement income sources, including government benefits.

In a chapter looking at RRSPs, he mentions the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. The SPP, he writes, has a “well diversified” and professionally managed investment portfolio, charges a low fee of 100 basis points or less, and offers annuities as an option once you are ready to retire.

This is a great, well-written book that provides a very solid foundation for thinking about retirement.

If you find yourself on the “yikes” end of the Retirement Worry Index, and lack a workplace pension plan, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be the solution you’ve been looking for. If you don’t want to design your own savings and investment program, why not let SPP do it for you – they’ve been helping build retirement security for Canadians for more than 35 years.

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.


Mar 1: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

March 1, 2021

Is shopping for a good retirement plan getting too complicated?

A lot of ink (or perhaps, pixels) gets spent on why Canadians aren’t saving for retirement in sufficient numbers and amounts.

But an equally important question is raised in a recent article by three leading retirement experts – are the retirement products out there getting too complicated?

The article appears on the Common Wealth site and is authored by Jim Keohane, recently retired CEO at the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, and Common Wealth founding partners Alex Mazer and Jonathan Weisstub.

The article asks if employers offering retirement programs – and members joining them – are being well served by the retirement industry. For starters, the trio writes, most group retirement plans offer a dizzying array of choices.

“The traditional industry’s focus on a high degree of investment choice is based on a flawed premise: that employees and plan sponsors have the desire and capacity to engage in the choosing and ongoing management of the investment of their retirement savings. If our goal is to help employees achieve retirement success in the most cost-effective way — which it should be — then a better focus should be not on choice but on simplicity,” the authors write.

Today’s typical choices for group plan members are far from simple, the authors note.

Service providers – typically banks and insurance companies – sell their services to employers “on the basis that they have hundreds of funds and dozens of managers to choose from,” the article notes.

Providers have thus become “supermarkets of funds, outcompeting each other for who could offer the greatest selection,” Common Wealth notes.

But there are downsides to giving employees – the folks who will actually want retirement income from these products – all that choice, the article warns.

A study by Columbia University in the U.S. found that “greater investment choice led to lower participation” in retirement programs, with plans offering 10 choices or less getting the highest participation.

Streamlining choices could result in greater savings – up to $10,000 U.S. per employee, found a study by the Wharton School.

And even highly-educated investors “make common mistakes,” such as paying too much in fees, when selecting investments for retirement, says research from Yale and Harvard.

Will the average person, the article asks, know what asset mix to select? Will they fall into the trap of trying to time the market? Will they “chase performance” by tending to choose investment products that have done well recently? The article goes on to focus on the higher costs end-users pay for having all that investment choice, which they pay for via higher fees.

The authors say a simpler way to go exists.

The use of “target date” funds is said to increase wealth by up to 50 per cent, the authors note, citing Wharton School research. Other simplification ideas include:

  • Using “smart defaults” in retirement products, so those who don’t make a choice are automatically moved into a fund that is “appropriate for their age and desired retirement date.”
  • Removing choices for employers, who have “little interest in becoming investment experts.”
  • Using an “index-based approach” rather than trying to beat the markets.
  • Work with “world class” providers, rather than smaller ones trying to create a supermarket of choices.

The authors conclude by pointing out that the goal of offering a retirement program is “helping people secure the best possible retirement outcomes for themselves and their families.” Boxing people into programs where they have to make complex investment choices can “cost employees tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Save with SPP can personally attest to a lot of this. When saving on your own – especially if you don’t have any professional advice – you will tend to gamble a bit with your own future income. One remembers being told by friends, for instance, that Nortel “would come back,” and that money could be doubled by the then-booming tech market. Not so much, it turned out.

If you are looking for a simple, “set it and forget it” pension plan that takes care of tricky decisions for you, think about the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. With SPP, there are two funds to choose from – The Balanced Fund, or the Diversified Income Fund. Both funds are professionally invested for you. As well, the SPP is “full service,” in that after it has grown your savings, it provides you several options for collecting income when you retire, including lifetime annuities. Let the pros do the heavy lifting for your retirement – check out SPP today.

Written by Martin Biefer

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