All posts by saskpension

Is working longer good for your health?

There’s mounting evidence that shows Canadians have to work longer than they planned, due to the combination of high personal debt and low retirement savings.

Save with SPP took a look around to see if this “new normal” is a good or bad thing, health wise.

Interviewed in Forbes magazine, Heller Sahlgren, author of Work Longer, Live Healthier, sees working longer as a positive, health-wise.

His book makes the point that healthy people in their 60s should have no problem working, and that the work is good for them. “Continuing some form of paid work in old age is one way to ensure a healthier population,” he states in the article.

How is working healthy? The article notes that “studies have found that the mental demands of a job can be a force for staving off cognitive decline, an insight summarized by the catchphrase `use it or lose it.’”

An article in the New York Times makes a similar argument. “What is the benefit of work? Activation of the brain and activation of social networks may be critical,” states Nicole Maestas, associate professor of healthcare policy at Harvard, in a Times interview.

There is a potential downside to working later in life, reports the Money Ning blog. If you’re “not passionate” about your work, or “are working in a job that is physically demanding or extremely stressful,” the idea of keeping your job “may not be a pleasant one,” the blog states.

A paper by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Working After Age 65: What is at Stake provides a great overview of this issue. One section deals with the health of older workers, and notes that “more than 50 per cent of retired workers over 65 have three or more chronic health conditions (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or arthritis.”

As well, the paper notes, “one in four fully retired workers over 55 list poor health as their reason for retirement,” adding that “many older workers will have difficulty remaining in the workforce due to poor health, even if they are not financially ready to retire.”

To recap, then, working past 65 can be good for your mind – keeping it in gear, so to speak – and the social connections from work are helpful, preventing isolation. But these benefits assume your health is good, and that seems to be the delineator – older folks do tend to have more health issues than younger ones, and if your job wore you out emotionally and physically, keeping at it may not be a great idea. So you’ll need to weigh all these factors should you consider working for the longer term.

A hedge against becoming a long-serving worker is retirement savings. Those savings give you options, such as scaling back on the amount of time you put in at work, or even moving to something that’s more fun but pays less. Be sure to make retirement savings a priority, and consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan as part of your savings toolkit. They offer an end-to-end retirement plan for you, investing your savings and turning it into a lifetime stream of income.

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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Retirement in Canada: Author Klassen likes concept of phased retirement

If you’re looking for a thoughtful, fact-filled and interesting guide to planning for your golden years, then Retirement in Canada by Thomas R. Klassen is a wise addition to your retirement reading collection.

Retirement, writes Klassen, is a complex issue both financially and demographically. He notes that the huge wave of retiring baby boomers is unprecedented. “Two-thirds of those 65 and over who have ever lived are alive today,” he writes.

For this huge group, he asks, will traditional definitions of retirement still work? “Retirement typically involves a substantial and sustained reduction in the amount of time spent in paid employment,” he explains. “Yet such a definition fails to include the many Canadians who spend decades in unpaid labour, such as working at home to care for children or other relatives.” What, he asks, does retirement look like for that group, “those who have not worked for money for an extended period of time?”

The old idea of retirement was ending employment at age 65 and never working again. However, Klassen notes, “it is relatively rare for retirement to mean the complete and irrevocable stoppage of work.” There is, he continues, “nothing magical about 65,” and Canada’s very first old-age pension program started at 70. Women, he writes, can still give birth after age 65 through in vitro, a 100-year-old completed a marathon in 2011, students graduate university in their 80s and 90s, and “workers in a range of occupations remain employed years, and in a few cases, decades past age 65.”

Canadians are now living longer. In the 1920s, life expectancy for Canadian men was 59 and for women, 61. These days, most Canadians will live to at least 85.

Will the burden of paying for all these retirees fall upon younger Canadians?

Klassen takes issue with the old-age dependency argument, the “impression of a future world in which a relatively few younger workers will have to support a multitude of retired people.” First, the retirees depend “on savings, such as pensions, accumulated during decades of employment,” rather than on younger workers. Second, such thinking assumes that everyone 15-64 “is employed – that is, they are workers – and that everyone 65 and over is retired and not employed. This is clearly not the case.”

In fact, he writes, older Canadians work past age 65 in ever-larger numbers, either because “they have no choice but to continue earning employment income,” or because “they live to work, rather than work to live.”

The idea behind mandatory retirement at 65 was “to press for adequate pensions from employers and for state programs for older citizens,” he writes. A related idea was to clear the decks for younger people to take the jobs vacated by retirees. When mandatory retirement was ended, Klassen notes, this thinking was revealed as “a fallacy,” based incorrectly on the assumption that the number of jobs in the economy is finite.

While government retirement income programs generally work well, the other main savings vehicles – RRSPs and workplace pensions – aren’t running at maximum efficiency. Klassen notes that only 39 per cent of workers had access to a workplace pension plan in 2010, and that only 25 per cent of those eligible for a private pension joined.

An issue, he suggests, might be affordability. Families in their 30s have significantly less wealth than those in their 60s, who are living in mortgage-free homes and are experiencing their highest levels of income.

So, given all this, will retirement be a good thing for most of us?

Klassen concludes by noting that “most Canadians can expect satisfaction with, and in, retirement after an initial period of adjustment.” He adds that “there is no magic transformation that occurs upon retirement,” so “those with higher levels of satisfaction with life before retirement will likely continue to be fortunate and fulfilled in retirement.”

If you are someone who has not joined a workplace pension plan, or don’t have access to one, the Saskatchewan Pension is well worth checking out. You can start small, and make contributions when you can, and then ramp it up as your income improves over time. It’s a flexible plan that is a sensible retirement savings ally.

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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

May 13: Best from the blogosphere

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Making ends meet with a “work optional” retirement

Writing in MoneySense, Jonathan Chevreau has a new take on how we should approach retirement. Rather than planning to put down the tool box forever and live off pensions and savings, he writes about a “work optional” retirement.

Chevreau says he learned of the phrase “when it was uttered by financial planner Doug Dahmer, founder of Burlington, ON-based Retirement Navigator.” He asked Dahmer to define it, and his reply was “it’s working because you want to, not because you have to… It relates to those who purposely choose to continue to work, despite already having achieved a financially feasible retirement.”

This optional work, Dahmer states in the MoneySense article, should be doing something you love on your own time schedule for someone you want to do it for. The money, the article notes, should be money “that at the end of the day, is not needed: it’s simply an added bonus.”

“In practice, then, achieving the status of ‘work optional’ is almost exclusively limited to those who are self-employed,” notes Chevreau. “The self-employed are not accountable to the bidding of bosses or shareholders, can choose to limit their customers only to those with whom they love to work, and they can choose to either outsource or delegate to others the aspects of the job they don’t enjoy. They can pick and choose their own schedules.”

This is very good thinking. Save with SPP knows a number of people who retired from their 9 to 5 jobs, and are now doing things like teaching line dancing, consulting (one friend is a consulting agronomist), starting home businesses embroidering things, and so on. They are either continuing to do things they loved to do, or learning new things.

Chevreau’s article goes on to note that for those saving on their own, without a workplace pension, it’s pretty expensive to save enough money so that you never need to work again.

Quoting U.S. author Tanja Hester’s published work on the subject, Chevreau notes that “full early retirement – ‘in which you never need to work again [for money]’—means if you are an investor that you will need to save between 25 and 35 times your annual expenses by the time you leave active employment.”

And Hester, notes Chevreau, has a “magic number” for full early retirement – “annual spending times 30 + 10 per cent contingency. Then there is the safe annual withdrawal rate, which ranges between three and four per cent per annum.”

When you are on a fixed income in retirement, unexpected repairs are a bane of your existence. A “work optional” retirement might allow you to have that contingency fund set aside to help you out when something out-of-the-ordinary occurs.

If you don’t have a workplace pension plan, or you want to augment the plan you have, take a hard look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s unique, in that it not only offers low-cost professional investing and the benefits of pooling, but there’s a full array of lifetime annuity options available to turn your savings into lifetime income.

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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Is there benefit to retiring later?

Would people be better off if they worked a little longer, and collected their retirement benefits a little later?

A new study from the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA) called Retire Later for Greater Benefits explores this idea, and proposes a number of changes, including moving the “target eligibility age” for the Canada Pension Plan and Quebec Pension Plan to 67 from 65, while moving the earliest age for receiving these benefits from 60 to 62. As well, the CIA’s research recommends that the latest date for starting these benefits move from 70 to 75.

Old Age Security (OAS) would see its target age move to 67 from 65. For registered pension plans (RPPs), the CIA similarly recommends moving the target retirement age to 67 from 65, and the latest retirement date to 75 from 71.

Why make such changes? An infographic from the CIA notes that we are living longer – a 65-year-old man in 2016 can expect to live for 19.9 years, while a woman can expect 22.5 more years of living. This is an approximately six-year improvement versus 1966.

So we are living longer, the study notes, but face challenges, such as “continuing low interest rates, rising retirement costs, the erosion of private pensions and labour force shortages.”

Save with SPP reached out to the CIA President John Dark via email to ask a few questions about these ideas.

Is, we asked, a goal of this proposal to save the government money on benefits? Dark says no, the aim “is not about lowering costs to the government. The programs as they are currently formulated are sustainable for at least 40 to 75 years, and we believe this proposal will have minimal if any implications on the government’s costs.

“We are suggesting using the current increments available in the CPP/QPP and OAS to increase the benefits at the later age.” On the idea of government savings, Dark notes that while CPP/QPP are paid for by employers and employees, OAS is paid directly through government revenue.

Our next question was about employment – if full government pension benefits begin later, could there be an impact on employment opportunities for younger people, as older folks work longer, say until age 75?

“We’re not recommending 75 as the normal retirement age,” explains Dark. “We are recommending that over a phase-in period of about 10 years we move from a system where people think of ‘normal’ retirement age as 65 to one where 67 (with higher benefits) is the norm.

“The lifting of the end limit from 71 to 75 is at the back end; there are currently those who continue to work past normal retirement and can continue to do so even later if they choose,” he explains. “Current legislation forces retirees to start taking money out of RRSPs and RPPs at age 71 – we think this should increase to 75 to support the increasing number of Canadians who are working longer.”

As for the idea of younger workers being blocked from employment opportunities, Dark says “if we had a very static workforce this might as you suggest cause a bit of blockage for new entrants, but as we say in the paper, Canada has the opposite problem.

“Many areas are having a difficult time finding workers,” he explains, adding that “in the very near future a great many baby boomers will begin to retire. We think allowing people who want to remain in the work force can help with that.

“It’s important to remember that if you have planned retirement at 65 this proposal won’t prevent you from doing that except that OAS wouldn’t be available until 67 instead of 65 (and we expect the government would explore other options for supporting vulnerable populations who need OAS-type support at earlier ages).” Dark explains.

Would starting benefits later mean a bigger lifetime benefit, and could it help with the finnicky problem of “decumulation,” where retirement savings are turned into an income stream?

“Under our proposal,” Dark explains, “people could work just a little longer and get higher benefits for life. By itself that doesn’t make decumulation any less tricky – but perhaps a little more secure.

“For many people in defined contribution (DC) plans who have no inflation protection, longevity guarantees, or investment performance guarantees from an employer, using your own funds earlier and leaving the start of CPP and OAS to as late as possible can help provide some of the best protection against inflation for at least part of your retirement income,” he adds. And, he notes, because you waited, you will get a bigger benefit than you would have got at 65.

Finally, we asked if having a longer runway to retirement age might help Canadians save more for their golden years.

“Clearly by having a longer period of work you have more opportunity to accumulate funds, and by providing more security of retirement income it will help as well,” Dark notes. “We also know that Canadians are already starting their careers later in life – getting established in their 30s rather than their 20s, for example – and need that longer runway anyway.

“Overall, to me the most important word in the report is `nudge.’ If we can get people to think about retirement sooner and get governments to act on a number of areas that we and others have outlined we hope to improve retirement security for Canadians. This is just the start of a journey that will have lots of chapters.”

We thank John Dark, as well as Sandra Caya, CIA’s Associate Director, Communications and Public Affairs, for taking the time to speak with Save with SPP. Some additional research of the CIA’s can be found on Global News Radio, BNN Bloomberg and the Globe and Mail.

Even if the runway towards retirement age is lengthened, it’s never too early to start saving for retirement. If you don’t have a workplace pension plan, or do but want to augment it, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be a vehicle whose tires you should consider kicking. It’s an open DC plan with a good track record of low-cost investment success, and many options at retirement for converting your savings to a lifetime income stream.

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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

May 6: Best from the blogosphere

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Tax-free pension plans may offer a new pathway to retirement security: NIA

With workplace pensions becoming more and more rare, and Canadians generally not finding ways to save on their own for retirement, it may be time for fresh thinking.

Why not, asks Dr. Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald of the National Institute on Ageing, introduce a new savings vehicle – a tax-free pension plan?

Interviewed by Yahoo! Finance Canada, Dr. MacDonald says the workplace pension plan model can work well. “Workplace pension plans are a key element to retirement income security due to features like automatic savings, employer contributions, substantial fee reductions via economies of scale, potentially higher risk-adjusted investment returns, and possible pooling of longevity and other risks,” she states in the article.

Dr. MacDonald and her NIA colleagues are calling for something that builds on those principles but in a different, tax-free way, the article explains. The new Tax-Free Pension Plan would, like an RRSP or RPP, allow pension contributions to grow tax-free, the article says. But because it would be structured like a TFSA, no taxes would need to be deducted when the savings are pulled out as retirement income, the article reports.

“TFSAs have been very popular for personal savings, and the same option could be provided to workplace pension plans. It would open the pension plan world to many more Canadians, particularly those at risk of becoming Canada’s more financially vulnerable seniors in the future,” she explains.

And because the money within the Tax-Free Pension Plan is not taxable on withdrawal, it would not negatively impact the individual’s eligibility for benefits like OAS and GIS, the article states.

It’s an interesting concept, and Save with SPP will watch to see if it gets adopted anywhere. Save with SPP earlier did an interview with Dr. MacDonald on income security for seniors and her work with NIA continues to seek ways to ensure the golden years are indeed the best of our lives.

Cutting bad habits can build retirement security

Writing in the Greater Fool blog Doug Rowat provides an insightful breakdown of some “regular” expenses most of us could trim to free up money for retirement savings.

Citing data from Turner Investments and Statistics Canada, Rowat notes that Canadians spend a whopping $2,593 on restaurants and $3,430 on clothing every year, on average. Canadians also spend, on average, $1,497 each year on cigarettes and alcohol.

“Could you eat out less often,” asks Rowat. “Go less to expensive restaurants? Substitute lunches instead of dinners? Skip desserts and alcohol?” Saving even $500 a year on each of these categories can really add up, he notes.

“If you implemented all of these cost reductions at once across all of these categories, you’d have more than $186,000 in additional retirement savings. That’s meaningful and could result in a more fulfilling or much earlier retirement,” suggests Rowat. He’s right – shedding a bad habit or two can really fatten the wallet.

If you don’t have a retirement plan at work, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is ready and waiting to help you start your own. The plan offers professional investing at a low cost, a great track record of returns, and best of all, a way to convert your savings to retirement income at the finish line. You can set up automatic contributions easily, a “set it and forget it” approach – and by cutting out a few bad habits, you can free up some cash today for retirement income tomorrow. It’s win-win.

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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

“Canadian dream” far more difficult to achieve for younger Canadians

“Canadian dream” far more difficult to achieve for younger Canadians 

For boomers, the “Canadian dream” more or less echoed the dream our parents had – education, work, a house, a family, maybe even a cottage, and then a well-deserved retirement.

Research (using 2015 data) shows there is a serious flaw in this narrative for our millennial children. According to research from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), featured in a National Post article, millennials are “less likely to reach middle-income levels in their 20s than their baby boomer parents.”

Why aren’t our kids making it to the middle class?

The research suggests “the middle class is shrinking — squeezed by high housing and education costs, displaced by automation and lacking the skills most valued in the digital economy.” The middle class is defined, for a single person in Canada, as requiring an income level of 75 to 200 per cent of the national median income, the article reports. For single Canucks, that’s $29,000 to about $78,000, the story notes.

One of the unfortunate aspects of this so-called dream is that in order to advance upwards, you have to achieve each step of the ladder. Education costs have skyrocketed in the last few decades, forcing younger people to have to take out huge education loans. Wages from work, the article notes, aren’t keeping up with the real cost of living. According to the OECD research, “between 2008 and 2016 real median incomes grew by an average of just 0.3 per cent per year,” compared to 1.6 per cent annually in the mid-1990s to 2000s.

So the wages from work aren’t sufficient for housing, with middle-income earners having to spend “almost a third of their income on accommodation,” the report states. In the 1990s, that figure was more like 25 per cent.  That’s why our millennials struggle to get to the “getting a house” stage, and if they can afford to start a family, is there anything left over for that dream cottage and longish retirement?

According to the Seeking Alpha blog, the answer is probably no. “At 1.1%, the Canadian saving rate is today near all-time lows, while Canadian debt is at all-time highs,” the blog notes. There’s an obvious reason – wages haven’t kept up with the cost of housing, so the younger folks are straining just to cover the mortgage. There’s less left for saving.

Research by Richard Shillington has found that even boomers aren’t awash in savings as they approach retirement. His study found that 47 per cent of Canadians aged 55 to 64 have “no accrued pension benefits,” and that for this age group, the median level of retirement savings was a paltry $3,000.

There’s still time to turn this ship around. Policy makers should continue to look at ways to help new people enter the housing market, and perhaps old ideas like housing co-operatives – popular when high interest rates restricted people from owning homes – should be revisited. Ways to make education less costly would be a huge help. Improved government pension benefits are a help, but why not continue to develop new workplace pension plans – or continue to encourage private employers to join publicly-run plans? Any policy that helps Canadians move up that middle class ladder is worth exploring.

If you’re among the many Canadians lacking a pension plan at work, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is designed with you in mind. You determine how much you want to save, and they do the rest, investing your money through your working years and arranging to pay you a monthly lifetime pension at the finish line. Even a small start can make a big difference down the road.

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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Apr 29: Best from the blogosphere

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Should 67 become the new 65?

While many of us were brought up expecting Freedom 55, a new report by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries suggests we might all enjoy things better if it was Freedom 67.

The report, featured in Benefits Canada points out that since Canadians are working longer and therefore, retiring later, government benefits should be pushed out farther into the future.

“Canadians are living longer than ever, and many are choosing to work beyond age 65,” John Dark, president of the CIA, states in the article. “It makes sense to update our country’s retirement income programs to reflect this fact.”

Save with SPP interviewed Dark about the research, you can find that story here.

The article notes that men now live nearly 19.9 years after age 65 on average, and women, 22.5. This longer life expectancy, coupled with people working longer, is the reason given for considering system changes, the article states.

The changes the CIA suggests are moving CPP/QPP and OAS “full” benefits from age 65 to 67. The earliest you could get benefits would move from 60 to 62, and the latest from 70 to 75, the article notes.

“In addition to the financial benefit of receiving higher lifetime retirement income, our proposal provides financial protection for retirees against the cost of living longer and the significant erosion of savings from the effects of inflation,” states Jacques Tremblay, a fellow of the CIA, in the article.

Moving the age of benefits has been tried before. There are important considerations to take into account. First, are people working longer because they want to, or because they can’t afford to retire? Moving the goalpost on those benefits may not help people in that boat.

And secondly, we can’t assume that everyone is healthy enough to work past 65 and into their 70s. It will be interesting to see if the CIA’s recommendations are heeded by government.

Retirement’s value outweighs all financial concerns

Many authors have noted that the value of actually being retired outweighs most financial concerns about getting there.

From the Wow4U blog here are some great quotes about retirement.

“We work all our lives so we can retire – so we can do what we want with our time – and the way we define or spend our time defines who we are and what we value.” Bruce Linton

“The joy of retirement comes in those everyday pursuits that embrace the joy of life; to experience daily the freedom to invest one’s life-long knowledge for the betterment of others; and, to allocate time to pursuits that only received, in years of working, a fleeting moment.” Byron Pulsife

“Retirement life is different because there is no set routine. You are able to let the day unfold as it should. Enjoy, be happy and live each day.” Suzanne Steel

Whatever happens, if anything, to government benefits, it’s a wise idea to put money away for your own future retired self. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers great flexibility, professional investing, and a variety of options for retirement, whether you plan to start it early or late.

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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Eating your way to a long and healthy life

We’ve all heard the expression “you are what you eat, eat well.” So if the goal of retirement is for it to be a long and happy one, what eating tips are out there that may help us to better health?

Save with SPP had a look around the Internet to seek answers to this question.

At the Very Well Health blog, the top category on the list is “cruciferous vegetables,” which includes broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale or cabbage. These help “activate the body’s natural detoxification system and inhibit the growth of cancerous cells,” the blog advises. They work best if chewed thoroughly, or are “shredded, chopped, juiced or blended,” the blog says.

Other top foods on their list are salad greens (low calorie, so great for weight control) and nuts, “a low-glycemic food” which is good for “an anti-diabetes diet.”

At the Everyday Health blog, salmon is the catch of the day for longevity. “Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats, lower triglyceride levels, slow the growth of artery-clogging fat deposits, and reduce blood pressure,” the blog notes. Other top foods on their list include blueberries, a natural anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory, and yoghurt, “a great source of probiotics,” the blog reports.

An article on the Web MD blog called Aging Well: Eating Right for Longevity cites olive oil as being “rich in heart-healthy monosaturated fats” while being free of risky trans fats found in margarine and other processed foods. Beans, or legumes, are also recommended. Legumes “are packed with complex carbohydrates and fibre to ensure steadier blood glucose and insulin levels, and they provide a cholesterol-free source of protein,” the article notes. Whole grains are also praised for their “age-defying vitamin E, fibre, and B vitamins,” the article reports.

Finally, Prevention magazine recommends eggs (for lowering stroke risk), sweet potatoes (a staple in the diets of the countries with the most people living longer than 100), and fermented foods, like pickles or sauerkraut. This type of food “supplies good bacteria for maintaining a healthy gut.”

Probably most of us eat some of these things some of the time; a healthier approach might be to eat more of them more of the time. As is the case with retirement savings, it’s probably best to start small and gradually increase your efforts over time.

Buying fresh foods and vegetables will require a little moolah, particularly once you have retired, so a good tool to help build retirement income is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Even if you become a sweet-potato-loving centarian, your SPP annuity payments will continue to arrive every month for as long as you live.

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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Apr 22: Best from the blogosphere

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Savings – the spirit is willing, but the effort is weak

An interesting new report from Edward Jones is featured in a recent Wealth Professional that suggests Canadians really do place saving on the top of their list of financial priorities.

The study of 1,500 Canadians found that 77 per cent – more than three quarters of respondents – “have prioritized saving.” The story goes on to note that only 44 per cent see paying down debt as their top priority.

So the spirit is willing, as they say, but debt is getting in the way. “The most recent data from Statistics Canada points to a significant debt problem for Canadians, with household levels reaching a record high of 178.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2018,” the article reports.

Despite that crippling debt level, when asked, Canadians see retirement saving as their top priority, followed by “funds for lifestyle expenses (like vacations), future family or child’s education, and emergency fund” topping out the top four, Wealth Professional reports.

The article goes on to say that despite those worthy savings goals, 58 per cent of those surveyed admit they have “underperformed” on their savings efforts, with only 12 per cent saying they were on track and have met their savings goals.

Let’s face it. In an era where we all owe about $1.78 for every dollar we earn, it is difficult to do much with our money other than paying down debt. And if we’re only able to make the minimum payment, those debts can take decades to pay off, which is discouraging.

Like most things that we hate having to do – such as losing weight, eating better, hitting the gym – getting out of debt requires patience and self-discipline.

According to the Motley Fool blog via MSN.ca, there are practical ways to turn things around with debt. Their first idea is to stop taking on more debt. “This means committing not to charge any more on your cards until you’ve paid off what you owe,” the blog advises. Having a budget in place will help you live with this new limit on your spending power, the blog notes.

The second step is to try and reduce your credit card interest rate. You can do this, the blog advises, by switching to a lower-interest credit card or via a debt consolidation loan.

Third idea is “to make a debt payoff plan,” the blog says. Essentially, the plan should have you paying more than the minimum on the card each month in order to pay it off more quickly, the blog advises.

Through this hard work of steady debt reduction, be sure to chart your progress, the blog advises.

Debt, like a big ocean liner, takes a long time to turn around. But once you’ve paid off a single credit card, you have extra money to pay down the next. Clearing up your debt will also, once you’ve completed it, allow you to focus on positive savings/spending goals such as retirement planning, vacations, education savings and an emergency fund. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a wonderful resource for long-term retirement savings, check out their website 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

A new way of adding joy by tidying up – Marie Kondo

If you’ve ever looked around your home and noticed it is a debris field of clutter, then The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is THE book for you.

The book provides a unique, step-by-step roadmap to making your home into the place of joy it should be, furnished only by the things that give you joy and fully de-cluttered.

Once you commit to her system, Kondo writes, “there’s no rebound… that’s the life-changing magic of tidying up.” The book, which is mainly a Manga cartoon, shows Kondo helping a young woman declutter her apartment.

The book recommends that you should start by “visualizing your ideal lifestyle,” even drawing a picture of how you want your home to look. Start, the book recommends, by discarding, which “really means choosing what to keep… keep only what sparks joy.”

A key tip is to never tidy up by place, but by category. Don’t go through your clothes in a closet, remove ALL your clothes from all closets, take them to a central spot, and sort them out into piles of keep (clothes you love and that spark joy) and to get rid of (those that don’t spark joy). Then, put them away in the empty closets and drawers.

There’s a chapter on how to save space by carefully folding your clothes – everything doesn’t need to be on a hanger, the book advises.   Books are treated in a similar way, although Kondo advises that once you have taken all books to a central sorting spot, you should clap your hands to wake the “dormant” books, so that when you sort them, you will be able to feel the joy sparked by the ones you want to keep.

With paper and miscellaneous (komono), you recycle things like newspapers and magazines first, and then use three categories for all paperwork – “needs attention, save (contractual), and save (other).” As Kondo says, “the rule of thumb for papers is to discard them all. Keep only those you will be certain you need in the future.”

Once all the tidying is done, the chapter on storage basically instructs the reader to “put things where they belong,” and to store everything by the same categories you used to tidy – clothing, books, paper and miscellaneous, and sentimental items.

Once you have succeeded, your home “is your joyful space,” and is “linked to your body.”

This book is a great read and a totally different way to look at how we deal with all of our possessions. We tend to keep things that don’t work, don’t fit, or that we think might be of value; the book urges liberation from this retentive state of mind and liberating the open space that’s in our homes.

From a saver’s perspective, there is always cash for getting rid of things with value that no longer give you joy, and money to be saved by staying where you are rather than moving to a bigger place with all your clutter. It’s a great read, a sort of spiritual view of aligning your environment with your inner happiness.

And if you are able to save a bit on housing or cash in some unwanted collectibles, a wonderful extra thing you can do is make a contribution to your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account. Tidying away some money today will bring joy in a future tomorrow!

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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22