Online ACPM course boosts your knowledge about saving for retirement

May 4, 2023

The Association for Canadian Pension Management (ACPM) has rolled out a new online course on retirement that will help you up your game when it comes to mastering the topics of retirement saving, and turning those savings into income.

The course consists of six sections, with questions at the end to test your new knowledge. The first section, The Importance of Saving, talks about the importance of making savings part of your financial plan. “Many imagine retirement savings can wait for later,” the course explains, adding that it is far harder to play catch up than to start saving, even a little bit, while you are younger.

Small savings, we learn, can add up due to the “compounding effect” of time — even $50 a month in retirement savings can grow to more than $16,000 in 20 years.

The second section, Individual Registered Savings Plans, looks at registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs), Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs), the Home Buyers Program and Lifelong Learning Program (these allow you to “borrow” from an RRSP to pay for buying a home or furthering your education) and the new Tax-Free First Home Savings Account.

Ideas expounded on here include how much you should be expecting to live on when you retire — a rule of thumb given here is 70 per cent of your gross, pre-retirement employment income. The course notes that money from an RRSP should be considered to be “deferred income,” since you are able to put it away and grow it tax-free until the time you take it out as future income, when it is taxed.

The Government Retirement Income section walks you through the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement. The important points raise about CPP is that the benefit it provides it quite modest, with the average monthly after-tax payment ranging in the $700 range. And while OAS is a universal benefit, it can be subject to a partial or even full “clawback” if you earn more than a certain level of overall retirement income.

The Workplace Retirement Savings section walks you through the difference between defined benefit, target, and capital accumulation plans. Defined benefit plans provide you a lifetime benefit based on a formula that takes into account your earnings and years of membership in the plan; benefits are guaranteed. Target is similar, but lacks the guarantee. With a capital accumulation plan, what’s “defined” is usually how much money you and your employer contribute — your income will be based on how well those savings are invested. Examples of capital accumulation plans are defined contribution plans, group RRSPs, and of course the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

The final sections talk about the critical “transition to retirement” stage, where you really need to know exactly what your retirement income will be and what expenses you will need to cover, as well as “decumulation,” which involves turning the money you have saved in a capital accumulation plan into income, either by withdrawing money periodically or converting some or all of it to an annuity, which provides a guaranteed monthly payout.

Estate planning — a complex topic that we all need to know more about — is also covered off.

ACPM has done a great job here. The ACPM Strategic Initiatives Committee (SIC), of which SPP’s Executive Director Shannan Corey is a proud member, led this project, and a broader financial literacy framework for plan sponsors is in the works. The group feel a national effort towards broader financial literacy is an important project, she notes.

Shannan says that response to the program has been good so far since the course was rolled out late last year, with close to 200 people graduating from the program.

Asked if the course might make its way into school curriculum one day, Shannan says “yes, we have talked about that and a contact of mine who teaches financial literacy for high school seniors is using the course as part of this curriculum.” It would be great, she adds, to see usership of the course expand.

“We feel it is a really great tool, but that it will take time for it to gain credibility and exposure. The financial literacy framework is going to be pretty amazing and should help get broader national exposure too — that one may have broader uptake as it is designed for plan sponsors rather than individuals,” she adds.

ACPM describes itself as “the leading advocacy organization for a balanced, effective and sustainable retirement income system in Canada,” and ACPM member organizations “manage retirement plans for millions of plan members. “

The group believes that “part of having a better retirement system is to provide education to those preparing for and contemplating retirement.”

According to ACPM, the motto for retirement savings is “the sooner the better.”

They state that their online retirement savings course is designed to be of value to all ages. “If you are in your twenties or thirties and just starting your career path, this course is for you.  If you’ve reached the point where you are building your household savings but not yet focused on retirement savings, this course is still for you. And if you’re nearing retirement but haven’t already learned how to manage and accumulate retirement savings, there are still many important lessons to be gleaned here,” states ACPM.

Finally, ACPM notes that many Canadians are not well prepared for the inevitable retirement from work that lies ahead of them.

“Nearly one in five retirees has less than $25,000 in savings and investments while more than half of Canadians do not have a financial plan for their retirement,” the group states. “It is our hope that this course will help you gain an understanding of pensions and retirement savings as you plan for your retirement.”

Many Canadians don’t have any sort of retirement program at the workplace. If you’re in this group, the responsibility for saving for your future retirement is squarely on your shoulders. Fortunately, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers a program for any Canadian with unused RRSP room. SPP, which operates on a not-for-profit basis, will invest your savings in a pooled retirement fund managed at a very low group rate. When it’s time to retire, your income options include choosing one of SPP’s lifetime annuity options, which will ensure you never run out of money. Check out SPP today!

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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.

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