July 31, 2023

Close to half of non-retired Canadians have just $5K in savings: HOOPP study

Canadians within sight of the retirement finish line may have to put off their golden years, thanks to a lack of savings.

That’s one of the findings from new research by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) and Abacus Data, reported on by Global News.

“With a prolonged period of rising inflation and interest rates, Canadians of all ages are finding it much harder to save for retirement, and specifically the older age group that really should be looking forward to retirement,” said HOOPP’s Ivana Zanardo states in the Global News article.

Inflation is still more than twice as high as the Bank of Canada’s target of two per cent, the article adds.

A sobering finding from the research, Global reports, is that “44 per cent of non-retired Canadians aged 55 to 64 have less than $5,000 in savings, with one in five from that group saying they have not set anything aside for retirement.”

“The picture is bleak for those older Canadians,” states Zanardo in the article.

The lack of personal savings and persistent inflation, the article notes, have some older Canadians rethinking the whole retirement thing.

“More than half of those surveyed aged 55 to 64 said if inflation keeps rising, they will have to push back their intended retirement date,” the article notes.

“What really stood out for us this year and what was concerning is the older age group, and the fact that they’re just not as prepared for retirement as one would hope they would be,” Zanardo tells Global News.

“At a period in their life when they should be getting excited about retirement, because of inflation and rising interest rates they’re now considering whether they can retire when they had planned on and whether they should be pushing that day out,” she tells the broadcaster.

Abacus Data CEO David Coletto, who has been aiding HOOPP’s research efforts for five years, notes that “70 per cent of respondents have consistently agreed that Canada is heading for a retirement crisis.”

Coletto spoke a while ago to Save with SPP about millennials and their attitudes to retirement saving — you can see that interview here.

Even though experts like Zanardo recommend saving for retirement “early… and often,” the research found that 44 per cent of respondents had not set aside any retirement savings in the previous year. The research found that 70 per cent of those surveyed “would take lower pay in exchange for a better pension.”

If you are fortunate enough to have any sort of retirement savings program at work, be sure you are contributing to the max. If you don’t have a workplace plan and haven’t really got going yet on retirement savings, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be just what you’re looking for. You decide how much you want to contribute each year — any amount up to the available registered retirement savings plan room you have. You can make your contributions automatic, like a workplace plan, by arranging for pre-authorized contributions direct from your bank account. Or, you can set up SPP as an online bill and pay yourself monthly, along with your heat, light and credit cards. You can even pay by credit card.

No matter how the contributions get to SPP, our team will professionally invest them in a pooled fund for a low cost. They’ll grow your savings, and when it’s finally time to escape from work, SPP will offer you a variety of retirement income options, including the chance at a lifetime monthly annuity payment. Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.

High levels of household debt make Canada’s economy vulnerable: CMHC

July 27, 2023

In a recent research paper published by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), economist Aled ab Iorwerth found that Canada’s “very high levels of household debt — the highest in the G7 — makes the economy vulnerable to any global economic crisis.”

Save with SPP spoke to ab Iorwerth, who is CMHC’s Deputy Chief Economist, by telephone recently.

His paper notes that household debt in Canada “stood at about 80 per cent of the size of the economy” in 2008, rose to 95 per cent by 2010, and as of 2021 stands at 107 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

That high level of debt, his paper notes, will “do most damage when a significantly negative external economic event happens — such as a global economic crisis – which leads to widespread job losses, as discussed above. It becomes difficult, if not impossible, for many mortgage holders to service their debt.”

Should we see any sort of economic turndown that leads to job losses, carrying high levels of debt into a time when unemployment is higher will “make any recession more severe,” his paper predicts.

We asked him if housing costs were one of the leading factors in the high levels of household debt here.

“I think so,” he replied, noting that mortgages represent “three quarters of that debt.” The rest, he explained, comes from credit cards and other forms of debt. This high level of indebtedness, he says, is nothing new — it is a “long-term trend” in Canada.

He added that high housing prices (which lead to large mortgages) are a particular problem “in big cities like Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and even Ottawa. It is a real issue in big cities.”

We asked if high levels of household debt restrict, or limit, the ability of people to save for long-term goals like retirement.

ab Iorwerth says that while he generally agrees with that statement, it gets complicated when you consider that housing is a type of debt (through a mortgage) but “also a form of savings,” since when the mortgage is discharged, you have an asset that is worth something.

“There are risks involved in saving through housing,” he adds, pointing to what happened in 2008-09 with the collapse of world’s credit markets. And he says households “tie up so much money in housing” that it does have a restrictive impact on other forms of saving.

We then asked for his thoughts on inflation’s impacts on lower-income Canadians.

There are a lot of impacts, he says, and again, some subtleties. For lower-income families, he explains, we are usually talking about rental payments rather than mortgage payments. But rental rates tend to go up in times of inflation. “If someone was living in a rent-controlled apartment, if they are looking to move, they will be facing a sharp jump in rental rates,” he says.

At the grocery store, inflation’s impacts “are felt more keenly.”

Overall, however, ab Iorwerth says “the situation is not good in the rental system — you are going to see a really big jump in rents.”

Asked if there is any sort of step governments could take to help with the country’s housing situation, ab Iorwerth says it has long been CMHC’s position that Canada needs “a dramatic increase in housing supply, right across the board.” More housing is needed not only for lower-income Canadians, but for the middle class as well, he explained.

“We need more apartments, more rental properties — more supply right across the board,” he adds.

Longer term, his research paper notes, “re-establishing housing affordability in Canada will be key to reducing household debt if (more Canadians) want to become homeowners.”

Asked what he found most surprising in his latest research, ab Iorwerth says it was really looking at “the international picture” and noting that Canada’s household debt was second only to Australia’s.

By contrast, his paper notes, the U.S. level of household debt was at 100 per cent of GDP in 2008 but has since dropped to 75 per cent as of 2021. Over the same time period, the paper notes, the U.K.’s level of debt versus GDP went from 96 per cent to 86 per cent.

We thank Aled ab Iorwerth for taking the time to speak with us.

Thinking about saving for retirement? If you don’t have a workplace retirement program of any kind, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be the plan for you. Any Canadian with registered retirement savings plan room can join. Check out SPP today, and find out how it has been helping Canadians save for retirement for more than 35 years.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.


July 24, 2023

Making a case for government-run long term care insurance: NIA

It’s not something we are ever prepared for. But many Canadians find out the cost of long-term care can range into the thousands per month when something happens to a loved partner or parent. It’s a cost that few expect or plan for.

Those are some of the reasons why the National Institute on Ageing (NIA) is calling for a national long-term care insurance plan, reports The Toronto Star.

NIA’s Dr. Samir Sinha calls such a program “a necessary `social contract’ that will especially help GenXers, the eldest of whom are marching towards 60, and the massive cohort of millennials, who will start turning 50 in the early 2030s,” the newspaper reports.

More people are living paycheque to paycheque and so they aren’t really doing a great job saving for their retirement,” Sinha, who is also director of geriatrics at Sinai Health and University Health Network, tells The Star.

“And the biggest thing that can really threaten anyone’s retirement or how they live in retirement will be if they all of a sudden have long-term-care needs,” he adds.

Long-term care is defined by the NIA “not as the traditional nursing home depiction, but as a mix of supports or health care services from public or private care providers across a range of settings, including institutions, the community and individual homes.”

“Many will one day need extra help, with bathing or getting dressed; or from physiotherapists or occupational therapists. It’s not just the potential vulnerability of old age, many will be living with disabilities. Some coverage is provided currently by a patchwork of provincial systems across Canada, the paper said, but often expenses are paid by the individual, if they can afford it,” the article notes.

Often, the article reports, people think they can look after an elder family member on their own. This is harder than it may sound, states York University’s Pat Armstrong in the article.

“The assumption that care will be provided by family, especially women, often leads to an unhappy awakening, given that many caregivers are not qualified to provide the support needed,” the article notes.

“It takes medical training that many don’t have, whether it’s looking after a partner with dementia or a chronic disease,” the article continues.

“It’s especially the case now when you have people with catheters and kidney failure and all kinds of other equipment they go home with,” Armstrong tells The Star. “That requires an incredible amount of training and skill. And the recognition that those skills mean you have to pay for them.”

The article notes that Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Taiwan and the US state of Washington all provide state-run long-term care insurance programs for citizens.

Without any state insurance program, we face some rather dizzying costs, the article reports.

“In nursing homes… co-payment fees cost more than $33,000 a year for a private room and $28,000 for a semi-private room. In-home services, the paper said, can range from $1,000 to $3,500 dollars per month while the cost of complex home care in Ontario can cost as much as $25,000 a month.”

It will be interesting to see if any levels of government in Canada explore this idea, particularly given the fact that the NIA predicts that one quarter of Canadians will be over 65 by 2030 and by 2048, the eldest GenXers will be in their 80s.

Did you know that the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is portable? Since SPP is a program that is independent of any employer, if you change jobs, you can continue to grow your SPP pension. Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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 country has the most savers — and why?

July 20, 2023

Story after story talks about how X per cent of Canadians don’t have enough savings to pay an unexpected $2,000 bill — or how they live paycheque to paycheque.

So, fine. Maybe we don’t save as much as we’d like. But are there any nations that can make that boast? And if so, why — what’s making them save so well? Save with SPP had a look around to find out.

According to the Statista website, the Swiss are the world’s leading savers, socking away an impressive 23.1 per cent of household income as of 2020. They are followed closely by the Irish (21.6 per cent), the French (21 per cent) and the citizens of tiny Luxembourg (18.1 per cent).

Canada was 12th on this list.

Our grandfather was born in Basel, Switzerland and was a formidable saver.

Let’s focus, then on the top two, the Swiss and the French.

The Swiss, reports the BBC, are a bit unique in that they still like to use cash.

“In Switzerland, cash remains the dominant payment method. Here, there’s an assumption everyone carries cash, even in an increasingly digital economy. Most don’t get caught out buying a sandwich or paying for a haircut when the card payment machine is out of order,” the article notes. In fact, the broadcaster goes on, 70 per cent of Swiss financial transactions are in cash — 22 per cent are through debit cards, and just five per cent are via credit cards.

The relative lack of credit card use in Switzerland is quite instructive, particularly when contrasted with the record-high levels of credit card debt here in Canada. Less debt to pay down means more money to put in savings, perhaps?

A CNBC report found that in addition to having a cultural tradition of saving, the Swiss franc is a very valuable, stable currency. The average income in Switzerland is quite high, so people spend a smaller proportion of their overall earnings on “food and accommodation” versus folks in other countries, the article adds. Inflation, though high for Switzerland, was much lower than in other European countries, the article adds.

OK — the Swiss spend cash, even commonly using 1,000-franc banknotes, they are fairly wealthy, and so spend less of their overall income on necessities like food and shelter. That leaves more money for savings.

What about the French? In France, reports the Tilly Money blog, citizens enjoy “one of Europe’s most generous state welfare systems,” including “substantial unemployment benefits, a world-class healthcare system” and “one of the youngest retirement ages in Europe.” As we’ve read, there are still protests going on about changing the state retirement age to 64 from 62.

“The majority of the population put their savings into a financial investment ‘Livret A’ account, where the interest rate is low and fixed by the State but is also guaranteed by the State and tax free. Their second love is, of course, ‘investir dans la pierre’ – or what we would call investing in bricks and mortar,” the article continues.

According to the bank BNP Paribas, “middle-aged households (30 to 59 year olds) save more than younger and older generations.”

So for France, then, you not only have generous state benefits for retirement, unemployment and health, but a government-backed savings account and a focus on investing in real estate.

So, some interesting traits emerge her for our friends in Switzerland and France who are high savers. They like to use cash and not credit cards. They tend to have higher incomes and thus are less impacted by rising food and shelter prices. Government benefits are generous, and in France at least, you can save in a fund where your rate of return in guaranteed by the government. Both the French and Swiss seem to have a cultural tradition of saving.

It’s interesting to see how the other half lives — and saves!

Here in Canada, government retirement benefits are pretty basic. If you want a little more money to help fund your retirement lifestyle, personal savings is the way to go. A great tool to help you boost your retirement savings is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP will take your contributions and invest them in a pooled, professionally managed fund, run at a very low cost. When it’s time to start your retired life, SPP will present you with a variety of income options for your savings, including the possibility of a lifetime monthly annuity! Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.


July 17, 2023

Canadians are in middle of the pack when it comes to retirement age: Lovemoney

In a slideshow created for the Lovemoney blog, writer Charlotte Irwin finds that Canadians retire quite a bit later in life than folks in many other countries.

The average Canadian hits the silk at age 64.75, and departs from work.

But, reports Irwin, who did an analysis of all the OECD countries, many other folks around the world log out for the last time long before that age.

In South Africa, there’s no official retirement age, reports Irwin, but on average people are retired by age 60.

In France, where plans to age the official retirement age to 64 have been met with riots and protests, the average person retires at age 60.8. The official retirement age — for now — is 62, the article reports.

The Greeks, reports Irwin, are next, retiring on average at age 60.85. That number is trending upward as the official retirement age was raised to 67 in 2017, the article notes.

Belgians retire at 61.1, even though the official retirement age is 65.

“Most people actually retire several years before through early retirement schemes, and the average effective age for men is 61.6 years old, while women tend to leave work just at 60.5. The country’s historically generous state pension scheme was shaken up in 2011, when the early retirement age was increased to 62 and workers were forced to contribute for 40 years. The official pension age will rise to 66 from 2025 and 67 from 2030, measures which have proved highly unpopular, with strikes and protests across the country,” explains Irwin.

Poles begin their golden years at 61.35, and Spaniards at 61.7. In both countries, the official retirement age is gradually being shifted to age 67.

In the USA, the official retirement age is 62. Those born after 1960, the article reports, can start receiving government retirement benefits at age 67.

In Austria, women can get their government benefits at age 60, and men (currently) at 65, making the country have “an average effective retirement date of 62.15.” There are plans to raise the age for women to receive their benefits to 65.

Italians retire, on average, at age 62.4. There have been plans to raise the retirement age there to 67, but opposition has been strong and swift, and no changes have yet been agreed to.

Germans go, on average, at age 63.5.

In Denmark, it is 63.8. The Dutch leave just a little later, aged 63.85, as do the Finns.

Our UK cousins are on the job, on average, until 64.15 years of age. Then comes Canada, where plans to move the Old Age Security start date to 67 were started but then reversed.

So who retires at a later age than Canadians?

Australians (64.8), the Irish (64.85), Norwegians (65.1), Latvians (65.2), the Turks (65.6), the Swiss (65.7) and the Swedes (65.9) all retire later, on average, than we Canadians.

Next comes the Portuguese (66.95), Icelanders (66.95), Israelis (67.7), New Zealanders (68.1), Chileans (68.35) and Mexicans (68.9).

Finally, the longest-working citizens in the world are the Japanese (69.95) and South Koreans (72.3).

The article makes the point that all OECD governments are mindful of the fact that people are continuing to live longer and work longer — so government retirement benefits are changing in many of these countries, or have changed.

In Canada, government retirement benefits are very modest — so if you don’t have a retirement program through your work, you will be the one who shoulders the responsibility of saving for retirement. If you’re in that boat, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be just what the doctor ordered. Any Canadian with registered retirement savings plan room can join. You can contribute as much as you want each year (up to your available RRSP room) and can transfer any amount in from another RRSP. SPP invests that money for you, professionally and at a low cost, in a pooled fund. At retirement time — whenever that is — SPP gives you an array of retirement income options, including the possibility of a monthly lifetime annuity! Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.

Looking for solutions to Canada’s growing food insecurity problem

July 13, 2023

When it all comes down to it, security means having a roof over your head and food in the fridge.

Let’s focus on food. For a shockingly high 5.8 million Canadians (as of 2021), food insecurity is a real problem. That many people, including 1.4 million kids, experienced “some form of food insecurity” two years ago, reports the CBC.

The article cites a recent study by the University of Toronto that found “15.9 per cent of households across all 10 provinces” experienced some level of food insecurity, which has got worse with the higher inflation rate of the last couple of years.

Provincial levels of food insecurity — meaning, a household has difficulty affording and obtaining food — range from a low of 13.1 per cent in Quebec to a high of 20.3 per cent in Alberta, the story notes.

The report concluded, the CBC adds, by calling on all governments “to address the vulnerability of households that are reliant on employment incomes but still unable to make ends meet, and ensure that working-aged adults not in the workforce also have sufficient incomes to meet basic needs.”

At the University of Regina, a research team is looking at ways that rural Saskatchewan can help address food insecurity, Global News reports.

The U of R’s Ebube Ogie tells Global News that concerns about food affordability are being raised thanks to inflation. But, she said, people can look to the Saskatchewan communities of Muskeg Lake and Val Marie for solutions, the report notes.

She tells Global News that “Muskeg Lake residents are becoming more self-sufficient through their local food forest, a self-sustaining, nature-inspired agricultural system that provides fruits, vegetables and other edibles, as well as medicines and cultural resources. Val Marie residents can access fresh foods from a nearby Hutterite Colony, a self-sustaining colony that produces its own food, and also rely on their personal gardens.”

There should be more effort placed on growing food locally, and purchasing it from local farmer’s markets, than on buying expensive processed goods, she notes.

“Saskatchewan is Canada’s bread basket and we want to see that manifested in how we live, how we produce food and how we consume food. Our goal is to end food insecurity and promote food security for everyone,” says Ogie.

In Barrie, Ontario, a company called Eat Impact is using another approach — rescuing fruit and vegetable that is close to, but not at, its expiry date and distributing it via food banks.

The company, reports the Barrie Advance, “works with local farmers to find out what’s available and at risk of going to waste.”

“Typically about 1.4 billion pounds (of food), every year in Canada, does not get eaten; it just gets thrown out. And it’s a huge problem,” Anna Stegink, founder of Eat Impact, tells the Advance.

Another possible way to reduce food insecurity would be to introduce some sort of Canadian version of food stamps, a program that has been running for many years in the U.S., reports the CBC.

Elyssa Schmier of MomsRising, a U.S. advocacy group, expresses surprise that Canada does not have a program equivalent to food stamps.

“It’s… one of the largest tools we have to combat poverty and hunger in the country,” she states in the article, speaking about food stamps.

“I know that families in Canada are struggling. It was very surprising to hear that [Canada doesn’t] have any sort of dedicated nutrition programs in place, especially to help families with children,” she adds.

The University of Victoria’s Matthew Little says programs like food stamps “shouldn’t be considered a long-term strategy” in the battle against food insecurity. Canada’s programs have tended to focus on poverty alleviation rather than directly on food supply, he explains.

Let’s hope that efforts continue to be made on making more food available to those who need it.

We can’t predict the future with any clarity, but it is a reasonably safe bet that everything — including food — will cost more in the future when we are retired than what it does today. That’s why it is always a good idea to save for retirement. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has been helping Canadians build retirement security for more than 35 years. Check out SPP today, and find out how it can help you secure your future.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.


July 10, 2023

Retirement `rethink’ might tempt older workers to stay in the workforce longer: CBC

We’ve read countless reports about the “grey wave” of retirements — the fact that now that even the youngest of boomers are hitting their early 60s, lots of experienced workers are moving out of the workforce and into retirement.

A report from the CBC takes a look at the negative impact of all these folks heading for the hills — and looks at ways to entice some of them to stay in the workforce even just a little longer.

How, the article asks, do you get skilled, experienced people in expert fields — nursing is cited — to consider returning to work after retirement, or staying in their jobs longer?

The article notes that in 2022, Canada’s economy “was struggling to fill nearly a million job vacancies.” At the same time, the article continues, there was “a record number of retirements among workers aged 55 to 64.”

Is there a way to reverse or even slow down the record retirement levels?

“Part of the solution, according to labour market experts, lies in finding ways to change the culture around aging in the workforce and making it easier for older workers to find fulfilling work and flexible hours,” the article suggests.

Losing the older, experienced workers makes things difficult for employers, the article continues.

“When you’re talking about replacing somebody who is experienced, knowledgeable and good at their job and replacing them with a novice, somebody who’s at the beginning of their career, [that’s] going to have a very different effect than replacing them with somebody who has experience,” Concordia University’s Gillian Leithman tells the CBC.

So — what can be done to change some older workers’ minds?

In the article, employment lawyer Camille Dunbar notes that while mandatory retirement was phased out decades ago, there are still disincentives for working beyond age 65, such as facing contribution caps in pension systems or facing higher costs for health insurance.

“It would be great to see some of those age limits changed, eliminated or somehow tied to something concrete as opposed to just an arbitrary age,” Dunbar tells the CBC.

Other approaches cited in the article include the notion of “job rotation.” Instead of keeping people in the same role for a long period of time, this idea has them getting to work “on new and challenging projects” in a new role.

The older workers interviewed in the article said they liked only having to come in when needed, rather than working full time, and like helping the younger workers learn the ropes.

Placing older workers in mentorship roles, the article continues, is also a nice way to give them a more meaningful work position while helping transfer their experience and knowledge.

And finally, the article suggests that keeping older people in the job longer is good for their physical and mental health. “Fulfilling work for older people has been shown to improve cognition, potentially staving off conditions like dementia, for which care is demanding and expensive,” the article says.

This is an interesting article, and it is very true that we see many friends and relatives still working away in their mid- to late 60s with no real plan to retire. And while it’s very true that these folks enjoy the social connections, mentoring, and so on, they also enjoy the income.

However, with few exceptions, the day will come when we will be either unable or unwilling to continue working. Putting away a little bit of what you are earning today will benefit your future you tomorrow. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is an ideal way to boost your individual savings efforts. SPP allows you to contribute any amount (up to your available registered retirement savings plan room) each year. You can also transfer in any amount from an existing RRSP.

SPP then takes those contributions and professionally invests them in a low-cost pooled fund. Over time, your savings will grow — and when you decide to give retirement a shot, SPP will have retirement income options at the ready for you, including the possibility of a lifetime annuity! Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.

Become a `doer’ and any goal can be achieved: The Power of Discipline

July 6, 2023

We all make New Year’s Resolutions, writes Daniel Walter in The Power of Discipline.

But, he continues, “how many of them are ever accomplished… why is it that the majority of us are incapable of sticking to anything worthwhile? The answer is a simple one — a lack of self-discipline.”

This thought-provoking book then sets out ways you can develop and grow your own self-discipline. There’s a lot of ground covered here, so we’ll concentrate on some of the things we felt were key learnings.

Daniel says that establishing a bedtime routine — one that is free of distracting mobile devices and the like — will improve your sleep, allowing you to wake up early and energized, instead of tiredly slamming the “snooze” button.

Some of the characteristics of those who naturally have self-discipline — a skill the author asserts can be developed by anyone — include “delayed gratification,” or being able to be patient, have mental focus, and the ability to avoid “willpower fatigue” by protecting this important skill.

“The best way to build self-discipline is to remove yourself from temptation. For example, if you are struggling with your diet, replace your cupboard of unhealthy foods with healthy choices and meals,” he writes. Skip the sugary snack aisle at the grocery and head to the healthy food aisle, he adds. “By using these strategies, your willpower is only tested during the time you spend in the store, as opposed to trying to resist the temptation to eat your stash of cookies in the cupboard every evening over and over again,” Daniel explains.

Someone with self-discipline, he writes, can build better relationships simply by doing what they say they are going to do. “A person with self-discipline is going to live by their word; if you ask them to keep a secret, they will.” You’ll also stop taking criticism (even the constructive kind) as “an attack on (your) character” and will handle, and even value it, “because it pushes you to become better.”

Daniel says there are some factors to overcome in building one’s self-discipline. Humans, he writes, have a “status quo” bias that makes us “cling to what we are familiar with instead of reach for the unknown.” We worry about the costs of changes like moving to a nicer home or getting married, he continues. We fear regret — “no one wants to make a change and then regret it,” he writes. And just being exposed to things that are a certain way may make us think that “it may not be exactly what we want, but it will do.”

Daniel says we need to understand what we are good at, and what we are not good at — and for the latter, you must be “willing to accept constructive criticism.” This way, you won’t “live in ignorance about your deficiencies,” he explains.

You can build up those skills through taking courses, and also through associating “with people who are further ahead than you are in the speciality in which you wish to gain competence,” Daniel writes.

Daniel writes at length about the power of morning meditation, and encourages people to become readers (“readers are leaders”).

If you are feeling frozen by a “high-stress situation” consider “box breathing,” which is “taking a series of breaths for four seconds at a time — they breathe in, hold their breath, and then breathe out.” Navy SEALs in the US use this technique to slow down their heart rate to normal, when facing stress.

If you are a procrastinator, consider setting deadlines for yourself to put a little pressure on to finish a task. On the other hand, don’t be an overplanner either. “The key is to start working on your project and figure out the details as you go,” Daniel writes.

We liked the section on urges. Instead of thinking “I want a piece of cake,” think that you have an urge to eat cake, Daniel writes. “In this way, you are not fighting yourself, but the sensation you are feeling,” and you may be able to outwait the urge in 20-30 minutes.

There is a lot more great stuff in this well written tome, and if you are having trouble getting going on some sort of personal project, whether it’s losing weight, saving up to buy a home, or looking to get ahead at work, this book is well worth looking at.

A lot of us know we should save for retirement, but don’t know quite how to go about it. Rather than not getting started, why not look into an entity — the Saskatchewan Pension Plan — that specializes in retirement saving? SPP can help you make retirement saving automatic through pre-authorized contributions. They’ll take on the tricky job of navigating roiling markets and growing your money, and when it is time to collect retirement income, SPP has a number of options for you, including the chance of a lifetime monthly annuity payment. Check out SPP today!


July 3, 2023

Runaway cost of living, debt raises questions over traditional `rules of thumb’ for money

Writing in The Globe and Mail, Saijal Patel notes that inflation and the related higher cost of living are driving people’s money concerns — and calling old rules of thumb for handling the money into question.

In her opinion column, Patel, who leads a financial consulting firm aimed at “empowering women’s financial independence and security,” says she’s noticed a shift in people’s priorities from “investment strategies and retirement planning, to now finding ways to maximize limited resources and preventing overwhelming debt.”

“There’s a prevailing sense of hopelessness in achieving financial goals,” she writes. 

Citing a recent Worry Poll from the Bank of Nova Scotia, Patel reports that “73 per cent of those surveyed had high levels of concern over the rising cost of living.” Leading topics that induced stress included “paying for day-to-day expenses (44 per cent), paying off debt (39 per cent) and saving for emergencies (38 per cent).”

This new reality of money worries tends to throw accept “rule of thumb” solutions into question, Patel writes.

“Take for example, the 50-30-20 rule in budgeting that many personal financial experts tout. It recommends that 50 per cent of your net income go toward living expenses and essentials (needs), 30 per cent toward discretionary spending (wants), and 20 per cent toward savings (emergency funds and future goals),” she notes.

However, she continues, if you do the math, this idea doesn’t work very well.

“According to Statistics Canada, the median after-tax income for households was $73,000 in 2020. Based on this, no more than $36,500 or $3,041 per month should be allocated to one’s essentials. Yet the average monthly rent in Canada stands at approximately $2,000 (rising to $3,000 in the Greater Toronto Area), and the average monthly grocery bill is $1,065 for a family of four.”

This makes the 50-30-20 rule “unattainable for the majority of Canadians,” Patel concludes.

Another rule of thumb that Patel says is no longer valid is the idea that “housing costs shouldn’t be more than 32 per cent of one’s gross income.” (Our late father used to say it should be 25 per cent — but that was about 50 years ago, and things have certainly got more expensive in the intervening years.)

Patel cites the National Bank of Canada’s recent Housing Affordability Report as saying that “the average Canadian would need an annual income of $184,524 to purchase a `representative home.’” That, Patel notes, is more than twice the median after-tax income figure she cited earlier.

Along with high housing costs, Patel cites high taxes as the two most expensive things for Canadians. Taxes, she argues, are not something individuals can control.

Patel concludes that “financial education is the key if we are to ensure individuals, and collectively, our society, is prosperous.”

This is a thoughtful article. When we think about our parents buying a fairly big house in the ‘burbs for $23,000 in the mid-1960s, a house valued at close to $1 million today, you can really see the impact of inflation over time. One has to ask if wages are keeping up with the cost of living — it sure doesn’t seem like it.

Living cheque to cheque is a reality for many of us, but we have to all remember that a day will come when a paycheque doesn’t — and you’ll be retired. Yes, budgets are squeaky tight today, but if you can save even a small amount each month for retirement, you will be taking a lot of money pressure off the future you.

If you have access to a retirement program at work, be sure to take part as fully as you can. If you don’t, and you are saving on your own for retirement, take a hard look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP is a do-it-yourself retirement program. You decide how much you want to chip in, and SPP does all the rest — professional investing at a low cost, growing your savings, and providing retirement income options when you punch out for the last time. Check out SPP today.

News flash — there’s no longer any SPP limit on how much you can contribute to the plan. You can transfer in any amount from your other registered retirement savings plans, and can contribute annually any amount up to your RRSP room limit. The savings possibilities are limitless!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.