Sep 20: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

September 20, 2021

One in five over 50 will delay retirement plans: RBC

The pandemic has made many Canadians rethink their retirement agenda, according to new research from RBC, covered in a recent article in Wealth Professional.

According to the article, the study – called the 2021 RBC Myths & Realities Poll – indicated that nearly 20 per cent of Canadians 50 and older have decided to change their retirement date.

There are a number of concerns outlined in the research.

A total of 21 per cent of those with assets of $100,000 or more fear they will outlive their retirement savings. Most of this group, the article continues, “believe they will need $1 million saved for their retirement but more than three quarters are at least $300K short of this.”

It’s worse for those with less savings, the article notes. Those with $50,000 in assets think they will need $533,000 in their savings pots, but are “an eye-watering $473,000 short of this goal,” Wealth Professional reports.

So what are people considering in what the article calls a Retirement Rethink?

  • 22 per cent are “thinking more about where they will live in retirement,” with 20 per cent “deciding where they don’t want to live,” typically meaning not in a retirement home, the article states.
  • Fifteen per cent are said to be reviewing or updating their wills; 17 per cent are “taking stock of their financial affairs,” and 16 per cent “realizing life is short” and are taking up new activities and hobbies, Wealth Professional notes.

Other actions they are thinking of taking, the article concludes, are to “stay in their own home and live more frugally,” to return to work, to downsize or move home, or ask family members for help.

What do we make of all this?

For starters, the cost of a dream retirement condo, cottage or timeshare has gone up significantly lately. It’s not so easy to sell your city house and pick up a cheaper one somewhere else, as prices are up everywhere. This and the massive cost of long-term care, in the thousands per month in most places, makes one’s existing home have new appeal. After all, it is either paid for or in the process of being paid for, you don’t have to pay moving expenses, realtors and lawyers to stay put, and your costs of living are known and predictable.

The article makes the point that having a financial planner makes sense in terms of establishing your financial goals for retirement. For instance, if you plan to stay home and live frugally, will you really need $1 million? It’s important to try and estimate, in advance, exactly what you will need to live on when you live the workforce.

If you are among those Canadians who worry about running out of money in retirement, be aware that the Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers annuities as an option for SPP retirees. With an annuity (they come in various forms with different options) you forego the risk of running out of money in retirement, as annuities provide you with a lifetime income stream. And you won’t have to put your sand wedge down in mid-swing to worry about investment decisions; with an annuity, there are none. Check out SPP, celebrating its 35th year of delivering retirement security, 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.


How to get rid of clutter quickly and easily

September 16, 2021
Photo by Humairah L. on Unsplash

We accumulate so much stuff in our lives, to the point that eventually, many of us will find boxes of stuff in the basement that have remained unopened from the last, or maybe several, previous moves.

It’s daunting to see your place full of boxes of old stuff, and/or disused furniture, small appliances, TVs, and the like – it looks like so much work to get rid of it that it’s easier just to dust the clutter and close the door on it.

Save with SPP looked for help with this problem on the Interweb, and found some interesting suggestions.

The Simple Lionheart Life blog offers some great advice.

They recommend “frequency over intensity” when it comes to decluttering. “Even 10 minutes a day of decluttering will add up over time,” the blog advises. Schedule your decluttering sessions, and have clear goals for clutterless living in a decluttering plan, the blog adds. Another of the great tips (there are several more) is to target the areas of your living space where the clutter is the biggest headache.

The Quick and Dirty Tips blog offers a few more ideas. Here, the authors argue that clutter builds up “because it takes effort to put stuff away.”

A simple way to return things to their correct place is to take an empty box, make a pass through your office or home, and load up everything you encounter that’s in the wrong place. Pop it in the box, the authors suggest, and then when you make a second run through the house, put things where they belong as you pass by. Clever.

The Mommyhood Life blog advises that you create a “make trash, donate or sell” pile of things you aren’t using.

“A donate pile will be for any items that may be useful to another family in need. A sell pile will be for items that are in good shape and have value left to them. A trash pile will be for any items that obviously don’t fit in the sell or donate pile. This will help you get rid of clutter fast by not double thinking about an item, just toss it into a pile,” the blog states.

Other ideas from Mommyhood Life include tips on when to consider getting rid of something – such as, when did you last use it? Does it still help you? As well, get the whole family working on the same page with clutter, the blog says.

Over the years, Save with SPP has attacked clutter (on occasion) by a variation of the “trash, donate or sell” pile. Our pile was trash, donate or recycle. Because we were moving after 10 years in one place, we did a daily run through the house and added items to the three piles. We dropped off donatable items daily at the local thrift shop on the way to work. Trash and recycling went out on garbage day.

We also once employed the services of a junk removal company to clear everything out of the basement just before we moved. It was just like on TV – everything was gone very quickly and painlessly. Right now we are thinking of calling them back to get rid of our space-taking, non-used pool table.

Our neighbours regularly have yard sales to sell off their old stuff. A friend has found a company that will take his empties back for him, and give him a charitable receipt for it! There are companies that will buy your old golf clubs if you upgrade; there are shops that will buy your collectibles if you don’t want the hassle of trying to sell them off yourself online.

One idea that didn’t work was putting excess stuff in a storage locker. After a while you began to feel nagged by the idea that you were paying to hang on to boxes filled with heaven-knows what, old university essays from the 1970s, perhaps, or old sets of cheap crockery or pots and pans you forgot about after packing it up two moves ago.

The biggest obstacle to decluttering is getting going on it, so good luck and Godspeed!

If you make a few bucks from getting rid of your old stuff, a nice place to stash the cash is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You can make one-time contributions to your SPP account via your online banking site, by sending them a cheque, or by using their website to make a credit card contribution. All those little piles of extra cash will then be invested professionally and converted to retirement income when you’ve finally scaled the wall and escaped from the office! 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.


Sep 13: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

September 13, 2021

Where should you be – retirement savings-wise – at different ages?

Saving for retirement tends to be a solitary process. While we are encouraged to put away what we can for that future post-work life, there’s little information out there on how much is enough, or what targets we should shoot for at various ages.

Writing in Yahoo! News, author Jami Farkas provides a little bit of clarity on those savings benchmarks.

First, Farkas writes, “the best time to start saving for retirement is when you start earning.” So even in your 20s you should be thinking about putting some of your paycheque towards retirement, Farkas continues.

As you age, those savings targets become more concrete, Farkas notes.

“By age 30, you should have saved an amount equal to your annual salary for retirement,” the article advises. “If your salary is $75,000, you should have $75,000 put away.”

The article suggests this goal can be met by putting away 20 per cent of what you earn, and to “live and give on the remaining 80 per cent.” The article, intended for an American audience, says signing up for any workplace retirement program, like a pension plan or here in Canada, a group registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) is another positive step towards your savings goal.

Saving for retirement in your 30s can “even trump paying down debt,” the article notes.

In your 40s, you should have three times your salary stashed away, the article urges.

“If you don’t have a retirement savings strategy as part of your overall financial plan by this point, don’t delay,” Farkas writes.

A common mistake at this point is growing your lifestyle at the expense of your savings, the article explains – moving into a bigger house or apartment, or upgrading your car. Dr. Robert Johnson of Creighton University states in the piece that “what happens is they are unable to improve their financial condition because they spend everything they make. People are wise to effectively invest any money from a raise as if you didn’t receive the raise. That is, continue to live the same lifestyle you led before receiving a raise and invest the difference.”

If, instead, you were to invest some or all of a raise in your future, it would add up, the article notes. A $5,000 raise invested annually at 10 per cent will yield an eye-popping $822,000 in savings after 30 years, the article explains.

By age 50, the article notes, you need five times your salary in savings. With kids usually gone from your home and their education paid for, this is a good age for catch up if you have fallen behind, Farkas writes. And be sure you are investing in a low-fee savings vehicle, the article adds.

At 60, the article concludes, you should have seven to eight times your salary in retirement savings because you are now five years away from retirement. As well, the article warns, you should consider reducing your exposure to riskier investments, such as equities.

The article notes that those approaching retirement in 2007/8 would have seen their equity investments fall by 37 per cent in one year.

Let’s sum all this thinking up. Start saving for retirement as soon as you start making money. Make it automatic. Don’t forget your savings program in the excitement of getting a big raise and making more money. Don’t put all your savings eggs in one basket, particularly if that basket is full of stocks and no bonds or alternative investments.

The article suggests that a great way to get to the finish line in retirement saving is to join up with any retirement plan your employer offers – often, they will match what you contribute. That’s great advice. But if you don’t have access to an employer retirement program, fear not – the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is available for do-it-yourselfers. Through SPP you can save in a low-fee program that has delivered strong investment returns for over 35 years. 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.


How you can set up a “Pay Yourself First” plan

September 9, 2021

By now, practically all of us have heard about “pay yourself first” as a savings strategy.

The general idea is to put away some percentage of your earnings, and then live on the rest. It sounds simple in theory, but in practice, less so. To that end, Save with SPP took a look around the Interweb to get some ideas about how to actually get going on a “pay yourself first” plan.

The folks at MoneySense see several simple steps you need to take to put your plan into action.

First, they suggest, “zero in on your savings goals.” What are you paying yourself first for – to build an emergency fund, or save up for a down payment, or a wedding or (our favourite) retirement, the article asks.

There has to be a reason why you are directing money away from your normal, bill-paying chequing account, MoneySense tells us.

Next, they recommend, take pen to paper and figure out how much you actually can pay yourself first. Make a list of your monthly “must spends,” like “shelter, food, electricity/heat, phone, transportation, etc.,” the article says. What’s left over is “discretionary” money, which can be spent or saved, the article adds.

If you are saving for more than one thing, you need to figure out how much each month to put away for each category. Then comes the actual “doing” part – automating your savings plan.

MoneySense recommends setting up an automatic transfer each month that moves money from chequing into savings. This amount can be increased when you get a raise, the article notes. Savings should be directed to either a tax-free savings account (TFSA), a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP), or a combination of both, the article concludes.

The Oaken Financial blog notes that guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) can be a good place to stash savings. GICs are locked in for a time, but pay a set amount of interest for a fixed term, the blog notes. High-interest savings accounts pay good interest but allow you to make withdrawals at any time, the blog notes.

The Golden Girl Finance blog says there are apps that take the difficult thinking part out of the saving equation. Wealthsimple, the blog notes, allows you to round up your credit card purchases, so you are actually paying a little extra, with that money being directed to your savings account. So you save a little as you spend, the blog notes.

Save with SPP notes that similar arrangements – where you pay a little extra on debit card purchases, or where a money-back credit card deposits the cashback directly to your savings account – exist at other Canadian banks.

Other ideas that have flashed across the screen of late:

  • Banking your raise. You were paying off the bills OK before you got the raise, so why not stick the difference between your former pay and your new pay into savings, and live off the rest? You were the day before the raise!
  • Banking your cost of living adjustment. Same concept, but for us lucky pensioners who get cost of living increases, why not direct the increase to savings and continue to live on what you were getting prior to the increase?
  • Starting small. You may not stick with a pay yourself first plan if it is overly ambitious. Uncle Joe always said bank 10 per cent and live on the 90 per cent; he did, and he did well, but Joe was a very disciplined spender. Better to start smaller, maybe two or three per cent, and phase it up.

So to recap – you either need to know how much you spend each month to figure out how much you save, or you need to just pick an affordable percentage of your earnings and set it aside. Once you have automated the process, you won’t miss the saved amount, which will grow happily in a savings account, a retirement account, or perhaps the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

Celebrating 35 years of operations, the SPP permits automatic contributions. They can set it up for you, or you can set up SPP as a bill on your bank website and set up the automation yourself. Either way, the money you direct to SPP will be put away for your future, invested professionally, and – grown – will await you after you get home from the retirement party!

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.


Sep 6: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

September 6, 2021

State pension benefits starting later around the world

Here in Canada, the “normal” age at which you can start full government retirement benefits – the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) – is 65.

That date probably reflects the old “mandatory retirement” rules of years ago which decreed that at 65, it was time to go.

But with people now living longer and working until they’re older, an article by Schroders notes that moving beyond age 65 for official pension start dates.

For instance, the article notes, in the U.S., pensions start at 66 and will move to 67 in 2027. Australia is similar, and will move to age 67 in 2023. The Netherlands and several other European country are moving to a “67+” start date with links to life expectancy rates, Schroders tells us.

Schroders explains the shift this way.

“The model common in most developed countries – start work at 18 to 21 and retire at around 60 to 65 – no longer looks viable as governments try to balance pension obligations with stretched public finances,” the article tells us.

Another factor, the article continues, is the increase in life expectancy. There is a growing “demographic imbalance where there are fewer retired persons for every retired person,” we are told. Not only are older folks living longer, but the birth rate is declining, meaning the talent pool to replace retiring workers isn’t growing as it once was, the article states.

“Typically, the fertility rate required to replace an existing population is 2.1 children per woman,” the article notes. “According to the latest data, the average for the 35 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is 1.7. Many countries, including Germany, Japan and Spain sit at 1.5 or lower,” Schroders explains.

So the ratio of the working to the “dependant,” those not working any longer, “has fallen and will keep falling for decades,” the article adds.

Lesley-Ann Morgan, Schroders’ Head of Retirement, calls this situation “a ticking timebomb.” Retirement systems “may not be affordable in some countries unless adjustments are made,” and the easiest way to fix them is to move the retirement age forward.

The takeaway for those of us who are not retired is this – pay attention to what’s going on with the CPP and OAS, and retirement rules in general, because they can change. Most recently, the CPP expanded its benefits for future retirees – good news for younger workers – but the power of demographics may mean other changes that are yet to be enacted.

One way you can help protect yourself against future changes in state pension benefits is by having your own retirement nest egg. A great option is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, which allows you to stash up to $6,600 a year away for retirement. That money is professionally invested, and at retirement, if you are worried you might live to 104 like your mom, SPP has annuity options that ensure you won’t run out of money no matter how many birthday candles they put on the cake. 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.


McCloud’s Saving Money is jam-packed with thrifty tips

September 2, 2021

Ace McCloud’s Saving Money is a slim volume that’s absolutely jam-packed with good advice on saving money.

McCloud begins by stressing the importance of “investing in yourself,” specifically the need to look after your physical and mental health. Good health practices are essential to “living a longer, happier life.” So, eat well, visit the gym, get lots of sleep and check in with your doctor, we are told.

For mental health, McCloud says yoga and meditation are good bets.

On the money side, McCloud points out the advantages of having a savings account. “First and foremost, your chances of spending that money are much less (in a savings account) than if your money was in a chequing account,” McCloud notes. It’s a good start, but with interest rates currently quite low, other investments – property, stocks, bonds – may provide greater profits.

On the stock front, McCloud says investing in preferred stock “is best for those who don’t get excited by risk taking because the price of the stock doesn’t tend to fluctuate.” You’ll get better interest via bonds than a savings account, and if actually buying a property to rent out is beyond your means, a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) can get you into the real estate game with a much smaller entry fee, he notes.

Many of us don’t have money to save due to high levels of debt, writes McCloud. “Many people find themselves in bad credit card debt because credit cards easily bring on feelings of instant gratification,” he explains. So while saving is a great thing, he advises getting rid of “high interest debts as fast as you can” to free up more money to save.

He gives an example indicating that if you make only the minimum payment on a $10,000 credit card balance, “it would take you nearly 30 years to pay it and it would cost you $12,000 just in interest!” By paying just under twice the minimum payment, you can pay it off in two years and save $10,000 in interest. If you have a number of credit cards, the Snowball Method may be a good idea – put extra money on the card with the lowest balance until you pay it off, and then add that money to the next-lowest card, McCloud explains.

Obviously debt is just one factor that restricts savings. The other is overspending. McCloud offers dozens of great ideas on how to save money. Go to the library, he suggests. Put down your electronics and take a walk. Don’t go to malls without spending money. Clip coupons. Shop at thrift stores. Make dining out (or ordering in) for special occasions only.

A nice bit of advice is to “take care of your personal possessions… you can make them last longer, therefore getting more value out of your money.” This advice extends to toys, cars, your house… the whole shebang.

We also like the idea of saving change in a jar.

There’s a handy section on grocery shopping that contains advice like “don’t fill your cart,” buy generic and private label brands, avoid pre-packaged food, and the classic “don’t shop when you’re hungry.”

While the book is intended for a U.S. audience, many of the tax saving tips are relevant for us Canadians. Make charitable donations to get a tax deduction, he writes. If you are moving, keep receipts – you can often claim the expense if you are moving somewhere to get a new job. The cost of having someone prepare your taxes is tax deductible, as are a variety of home office costs if you are self-employed.

He concludes by recommending a family stick to a budget to avoid surprises. This is a fun and straightforward little book that can jump-start your thinking if you are finding that there’s less money left over on payday than there used to be. It’s well worth reading.

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.