All posts by saskpension

Jan 20: Best from the blogosphere

“Collision between retirement hopes and financial reality” may be newsmaker of the ‘20s

Writing in the Globe and Mail, columnist Ian McGugan predicts that the “gradual unravelling of the world’s retirement dream” may be the biggest crisis we face in the ‘20s.

While we aren’t seeing violent protests in the streets over pensions, as in Chile and to a lesser degree, France, McGugan suggests that while Canada’s retirement system is not yet broken, there are signs of problems.

The Canadian retirement system, he writes “is now only slightly better than Chile’s in terms of overall design, according to an annual survey of retirement systems in 37 countries, conducted by human-resource consultants Mercer and academics at Monash University in Melbourne.”

The survey, called the 2019 Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index, says there is currently a $2.5 trillion gap between “existing retirement savings and future retirement needs in Canada.”

The causes of the gap, writes McGugan, include “shrinking access to  corporate pension plans” and “rock-bottom interest rates,” which mean savers must take on riskier investments to grow their retirement pots.

Other factors, he notes, include the growing number of retirees and the fact we’re all living longer. “Many people now live into their nineties, but most still want to retire in their early sixties or even earlier. This means their savings and pensions have to support them for more years, but without any increase in contributions,” he writes.

Let’s unpack these four important points. Workplace pension plans are not as common as they used to be – so many of us must fund our own retirements. Low interest rates make it hard to grow your savings. The number of retirees is growing, which is a strain on government benefits, and we’re generally all expecting to see our 90th birthday or beyond.

McGugan says there is no magic solution for these problems.

He notes that the fixes out there include “raising official retirement ages by four to six years” so that people work longer, promoting great retirement savings rates, and “accepting that retirement incomes may have to be substantially lower than they are now.”

For instance, people may have to accept that they’ll be living on 60 per cent of what they earned while working, rather than the conventional target of 75 per cent. Making changes to government retirement programs so that they pay less and are thus (in theory) more sustainable will be “political dynamite,” he writes.

McGugan’s analysis seems very accurate. Let’s recall the reaction to two federal government proposals. Years ago, the federal Tories proposed delaying payment of OAS, moving the starting point from 65 to 67. There was a lot of protest over this decision, which ultimately was reversed by a subsequent government. And when that subsequent government moved to increase – gradually, and over decades – the cost of, and payout from, the Canada Pension Plan, many organizations called that an unfair tax hike. So you can lose politically by cutting or by improving benefits.

The bottom line is that even if you do have a workplace pension plan, you need to be thinking about saving for retirement in order to augment your future income. If you don’t have a plan at work then you need to come up with your own. Don’t be overwhelmed – you can start by making little, automatic contributions to your savings, and dial up how much you chip in going forward. But you’ve got to put up that first dollar.

A great retirement savings plan, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan  allows you to put away up to $6,300 each year, within your available RRSP room, in a defined contribution plan.  Your savings will be grown by professional, low-cost investing until the day comes when you need to draw on that money as retirement income. And then, the SPP offers an array of options, including providing you with a lifetime pension. Be sure to check them out.

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

Can you start saving for retirement later in life?

Whether or not we actually listen, we are all told – practically from the first time we bring home a paycheque – that it is important to start saving for retirement early, as in, day one.

But as is the case with many good ideas, other priorities often crop up in life that divert us from a path of saving. By the time we get around to it, we worry that it’s too late.

However, says retired actuary and retirement expert Malcolm Hamilton, starting to save later in life is probably not starting too late. In fact, he tells the Hamilton Spectator, starting late can work out just fine.

Of the many expenses in life, Hamilton tells the Spectator, saving for retirement “is the deferrable one. You can’t say, ‘I’m going to have my children in my 60s when I can afford them.’ And it doesn’t make sense to raise your children and then, after they leave home, buy a nice big house.”

The idea of getting through “the financial crunch” years first, of “huge mortgage and child-rearing costs,” means that retirement saving will have to be done late, “in a concentrated period,” the article notes.

You’ll have to sock away a significant chunk of your salary if you are starting the savings game late, the article warns. Those who start early will get there by saving “10 to 15 per cent of their salary” each year; those starting late will “need to put aside much more per year,” because they have a “much shorter period in which to save,” the article notes.

Those starting late, the article concludes, should be able to save most of what they were paying on their mortgage and their children towards their retirement.

The Good Financial Cents blog agrees that “if you find yourself approaching retirement age and have not yet looked at your retirement needs or started saving for later in life, it’s not too late.”

Those who delay savings, however, may have to “work well into their late 60s and maybe 70s to make up for the shortfall,” meaning that any dream of early retirement is off the table, the blog advises. The blog says late savers need to immediately reign in spending, max out their retirement savings “with no exceptions,” and explore ways to make more money, downsize, or sell off unneeded “large ticket” items.

At the Clark blog, writer Clark Howard comments that in The Wealthy Barber, the seminal financial book by Canadian author David Chilton, the advice was to save 10 cents of every dollar you make.

But if you start later, the savings amount grows, writes Howard, citing information from the Baltimore Sun.

“If you start saving at 35, you need to save 20 cents out of every dollar to have a comfortable retirement at a reasonably young age,” the blog notes. At 45, that savings rate jumps to 30 cents per dollar, and at 55, 43 cents per dollar, the blog notes.

Clark Howard concludes his post with this sage thought – “saving money is a choice. There’s no requirement that you do it. If saving is not something that’s important to you, it simply means you’ll probably have to work longer. There are no right and wrong answers here, so don’t feel guilty if you’re not saving. What’s right for me may not be right for you.”

Whether you are starting early or late, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be a logical destination for those retirement savings dollars. The SPP allows you to sock away up to $6,300 a year in contributions, as long as you have available RRSP contribution room – and you can also transfer in up to $10,000 a year from other savings sources, such as an RRSP. Your savings will grow, and when it is time to retire, you can collect them in the form of a lifetime pension. Check out this low-fee, not-for-profit savings alternative 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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Jan 13: Best from the blogosphere

Millennials who own homes can’t save for retirement

New research from KMPG Canada has revealed some bleak findings about millennials and home ownership.

According to a KPMG media release, “barely half of Canadian millennials think they will ever be able to afford a house,” and those who do aren’t likely to be able to save much for retirement.

The survey found that only 54 per cent of the 2,500 Canadians surveyed believed “they will ever be able to afford a home.” A further 42 per cent said they were putting off all retirement savings in order to be able to afford a home.

So it’s not all that surprising that 65 per cent of millennials “worry that if they buy a home and delay their savings, they won’t have saved enough for their retirement.”

A final thought – a worrying one – is that even those millennials who managed to buy a house doubt that it will grow as much in value as their parents’ houses did. The survey found that 38 per cent feel “they paid so much for their house that they’re afraid that by the time they want to retire, they won’t get the same price, or much more for it.”

Let’s unpack all this. So the millennials – the up and coming younger set, not yet 40 – are facing such high housing prices that they don’t believe they can enter the housing market AND save for retirement. Getting into the housing market is taking all their cashflow.

And they are worried that today’s expensive houses won’t go up 10 times or more in value like houses bought in the 50s, 60s, and even 70s. Some worry they’ll break even at best, leaving minimal extra money for retirement.

“While Canadians generally believe home ownership is essential for a financially stable retirement, most millennials feel times have changed and they can’t rely on their home to be a viable nest egg like their parents have,” states KPMG’s Martin Joyce in the release.

“What we are seeing is that millennials face a choice today that their parents’ generation didn’t,” Joyce states in the release. “They either buy a home or focus on saving for retirement. Buying a home involves taking on considerable debt because house prices are so high in relation to incomes, and that limits millennials’ ability to save. While most feel home ownership is an investment for financial stability, they worry their home will be worth less in the future.”

Our millennials have an unenviable task ahead of them, for sure. One hopes that the transfer of wealth from boomers will cushion the blow somewhat. And while housing prices aren’t soaring like they did decades ago, they are still rising.

Even if cashflow is super tight for the younger amongst us, it is very important to have retirement savings as part of one’s overall focus. If you can’t throw big money at it, throw small money at it. Those savings will grow and form an important part of your retirement income component down the line.

If you have a retirement plan at work – and especially if you don’t – a great option for creating or augmenting your retirement savings is membership in the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Members can save up to $6,200 per year within available RRSP room. You can also transfer in up to an additional $10,000 per year from other retirement savings accounts. When you get to the time you want to turn on your retirement income, SPP converts your savings, plus growth, into a lifetime income stream. You can never run out of retirement income, and there are options to look after your survivors as well. Be sure to click on over to SPP and check out their many retirement savings options.

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

Jan 6: Best from the blogosphere

Can living longer cause you a pain – in the pocketbook?

We all hope to enjoy our golden retirement years with the blessing of good health.

But could this blessing – a long life – actually be a problem in disguise?

New research from the World Economic Forum, covered recently by the Montreal Gazette, suggests the living longer creates the risk of outliving your retirement money.

“Today, one of the most taxing challenges that is often left out of the conversation is the impact of the change in average lifespan,” the Gazette reports. “According to Statistics Canada, today, the average Canadian will live until age 82, with the number of centenarians — those reaching the age of 100 — continuing to grow,” the newspaper notes.

And those of us who are born more recently will see ever greater longevity in life, the article continues, noting that research from the Lancet suggests a girl born in 2030 will live to 87, a boy to 84. That’s up sharply even compared with life expectancy data from 2010, the Gazette reports.

OK, so we are all living longer. So what’s the downside to that?

“The World Economic Forum suggests that today, Canadians will outlive their retirement savings by more than 10 years,” the article warns. The article recommends that people work with financial advisers to develop a plan to help insure against this risk.

What would such a plan contain?

The article notes that in the UK, many retirement programs available through work offer “automatic adjustments,” such as an automatic increase in savings contributions when there’s a raise or change to a better-paying role. Other tactics include looking at investments that offer lower fees, since high fees can eat away at the value of your savings.

Some organizations offer “lifestyle and investment modelling tools” to help individuals choose a savings strategy that aligns with how they see their latter years unfolding.

But the article concludes that while such measures are a good start, more work needs to be done in this growing area.

“It’s clear that there is no simple solution to retirement savings,” the article states. “However, one thing we know for certain is that driving change requires increased demand. To manage finances successfully, individuals should understand the decumulation options available to them, how their money is being distributed, and what happens to their savings when they retire.”

This is very sensible advice, since most of us focus on saving as much as we can for retirement, but then have no plan in place to turn the savings into an income stream. Imagine if you got paid once a year – how would you handle your bills, your rent, and so on? You’d have to make that money last until the next year. That, in a nutshell, is what “decumulation” refers to – taking a chunk of money out of a retirement savings vehicle and then living on it.

There’s another option available to ensure you don’t run out of money. You can use some or all of your savings to purchase an annuity. The annuity will provide you with a monthly payment for the rest of your life. This makes planning easier, and you can’t run out of your savings. This option is available through the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, and the annuities they offer come in various different forms. Check it 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Slim, fact-packed book puts you in the know about stock trading

Since the days where you could sock away money in a guaranteed investment certificate (GIC) and get interest rates in the teens are long, long gone, a lot of savers are looking at other ways to make their money grow.

And often, based on what people talk about on the putting green, in the curling rink, or at the gym, investing in stocks seems to be working out for some folks. Problem is it’s one of those things that we hear a lot about, but tend not to know a lot about.

Enter The Canadian’s Guide to Stock Investing by Andrew Dagys and Paul Mladjenvoic. This slim but fact-packed volume teaches you all the information you need to know to get started in stock investing.

The book explains that there is a difference between investing, saving, and speculating. Investing, the authors write, “is the act of putting your current funds into securities or tangible assets to gain future appreciation, income, or both.” That’s different from saving, “the safe accumulation of funds for a future use,” or speculating, “the financial world’s equivalent of gambling.”

The authors then explain the difference between “growth investing” and “income investing.” When you are investing for growth, they note, “you want your money to grow… if you bought a stock for $8 per share and now its value is $30 per share, your investment has grown by $22 per share – that’s appreciation.” Growth, they write, is probably the number one reason people invest in stock.

Income investors are looking more at ways “to invest in the stock market as a means of providing a steady income and preserving risks.” They aren’t, the book notes, looking for stock values to go through the ceiling; instead “they need stocks that perform well consistently,” and that pay dividends.

Dividends, the authors explain, are usually paid quarterly and aren’t the same as interest. Dividends are paid to owners (interest is paid to creditors), and when you own a stock you are a shareholder, or partial owner, of the company that issued the stock. “When you buy stock, you buy a piece of that company,” the authors point out.

So how do you pick a good stock, either for growth or income? First, the authors say, you need to think about supply and demand, “the relationship between what’s available (the supply) and what people want and are willing to pay for (the demand).” Is the company making or selling something that people want, the authors explain, or is it a company “that makes elephant-foot umbrella stands… that has an oversupply, and nobody wants to buy them anyway.”

Next, there’s cause and effect, or, as the authors explain, logic. If you read a news report that says sales of tables are plummeting, “do you rush out and invest in companies that sell chairs or manufacture tablecloths?” On the other hand, good news about sales may be a reason to consider buying shares, the authors explain.

Another factor to think about is “economic effects from government actions.” A government “can willfully (or even accidentally) cause a company to go bankrupt, disrupt an entire industry, or even cause a depression.” Pay attention to what the government is saying if it has an effect on something you are thinking of buying into as a shareholder, the authors note.

The book explains how to look at a company’s balance sheet to figure out its net worth, profitability, and performance.

Other general tips from the book include having “a cushion of money” for emergencies, cutting back on your debt, get as much job security as you can and be correctly insured.

On the investment side, the authors urge diversification – don’t put all your money in one stock, one industry, or one type of investment.

Final chapters explain some of the tax impacts of investing, whether it is within a registered retirement account or a tax-free savings account.

There is a lot covered here, and this book is a great help for any investor.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan follows many of these principles. During the accumulation period you can choose a growth fund for your savings, and when you go to collect your SPP annuity, it is paid from a fund that is focused on capital retention and fixed-income investments. Be sure to 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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Dec 30: Best from the blogosphere

Making some retirement savings resolutions for a new decade 

It’s hard to believe that we’re on the cusp of a new decade – welcome to the ‘20s.

At least – like the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s – there won’t be confusion about what to call this coming era. We never heard a good name for the 2000s and the 2010s. So we bid them adieu.

Save with SPP likes to start any new year with some resolutions; what little tips we could consider following to increase our retirement savings efforts in the year, and decade, to come.

Here’s some good advice we found.

Plan, understand and scan: A Yahoo! Finance article on the lack of preparedness for retirement in Canada says we need to do three key things – plan, understand and scan. You can start your plan by first determining how much you want to have as retirement income, and then calculate how much you need to save to get there. Knowing how much you’ll need in the future requires understanding how much you are spending now. And be sure to scan your retirement savings account periodically “to ensure your retirement plan is headed in the right direction.”

Start as early as you can: According to the folks at Nasdaq people need “to save as much as they can in their early years to enable their invested savings to compound over decades.” The average rate of return for the US S&P 500 index, the article notes, has been 10 per cent per annum since 1926 – so that includes two major crashes. What that means is that money can double every 7.2 years, the article notes. It’s all about growth, the article advises.

Make it automatic:  An article from the Career Addict blog urges us to make our savings plans automatic. “Have a direct debit set up so you can automatically (save),” the blog advises. “You can even set up an account that’s not accessible by Internet banking so you’re not tempted to tap into these funds when you feel you have an `emergency.’”

Consider an RRSP for your retirement savings: The folks at BMO note that if you save for retirement using an RRSP or similar vehicle, your contributions “are tax-deductible” and “your investments grow tax-free.” The income you withdraw from an RRSP will be taxable, a point often overlooked by those using them.

Get out of debt: The Motley Fool blog sees getting out of debt as a critical first step towards having a retirement savings plan. “Make paying down debt a priority,” the blog advises. Even if your only debt is a low interest mortgage, the blog suggests you pay that off before you retire to reduce the stress of paying it down on a reduced income.

An important thing to note here is that no one is saying “don’t worry about saving for retirement.” Even if you have some sort of pension arrangement at work, saving a little extra will be a move you’ll appreciate when you’ve reached the golden age of retirement.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers many of the features outlined here. You can start young, or when you are older, and SPP allows you to set up automatic deposits. Contributions you make are tax-deductible and grow tax-free, just like an RRSP. And since SPP is locked in, you won’t be able to raid the piggy bank for a pre-retirement expense – it’s sort of like giving money to your parents to hang on for you. Check SPP out today, you’ll be glad you did.

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

Dec 23: Best from the blogosphere

Canada’s pension system cracks the world’s top 10 – but there’s room for improvement

When it comes to government retirement benefits for its citizens, Canada is certainly world class.

According to The Wealth Professional, Canada has the ninth best pension system among 37 developed countries – this due to a recent ranking by the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index.

However, Dr. David Knox, author of the study, sees a few problems for Canada, despite its relatively high standing.

“Systems around the world are facing unprecedented life expectancy and rising pressure on public resources to support the health and welfare of older citizens. It’s imperative that policy makers reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of their systems to ensure stronger long-term outcomes for the retirees of the future,” he states in the article.

One of the problems in having a system where retirement savings plans are looked upon as “wealth,” rather than a pot of money earmarked for the future, is that people tend to dip into the account early, Dr. Knox tells The Wealth Professional.

In plainer terms, people look at their retirement savings account, which may contain tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, and dip into it. That’s because, the article advises, “people feel more financially secure and are more likely to borrow (from) their retirement savings pre-retirement.”

Having those relatively fat retirement savings accounts also makes people more comfortable with debt, Dr. Knox states in the article.

“As the wealth of an individual grows, whether it be in home ownership, investment portfolios or their retirement savings, so does their comfort with amassing debt. The evidence suggests on a global basis, for every extra dollar a person has in pension assets, their net household debt rises by just under 50 cents.”

There’s another problem, the story notes. While Canadians have amassed a lot in retirement savings, there seems to be a discrepancy between the amount saved, and what they will actually need to fund their golden years.

“Canada currently has a US $2.5 trillion gap between existing retirement savings and future retirement needs,” states Jean-Philippe Provost of Mercer Canada in the article. “This gap reflects not only demographic forces, but also the combination of limited access to corporate pension plans for workers and a challenging long-term investment environment. Women are particularly affected by this savings gap,” he tells The Wealth Professional.

So the two takeaways here are this – try to avoid dipping into your retirement savings before you have retired, and be aware that you’ll need to save more than you have saved thus far.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has one-little heralded feature that prevents cookie jar raids. Funds contributed to SPP are “locked in,” meaning that you can’t access them until you start your retirement. Your retirement cookie jar remains sealed until that wonderful day when, freed from the bonds of work, you want to turn those savings into retirement income. Be sure to 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Well-written book identifies – and help fixes – retirement mistakes

A recent headline shouted out the fact that an eye-popping 40 per cent of Canadians “think they’ll be in debt forever.”

The article by Anne Gaviola, posted on the Vice website, cites data from Manulife. The article goes on to note that the average Canuck has $71,979 in debt – up from $57,000 five years ago. These figures, the article says, come via Equifax.

It wasn’t always like this, was it? Why are we all willing to live with debt levels that are approaching record highs?

Save with SPP had a look around for answers – why are we so comfy carrying heavy debt loads?

According to the Advisor, it may simply be that paying the way with debt has become so common that no one gets worked up about it anymore.

“Living with debt has become a way of life for both Generation X… and baby boomers as the stigma of owing money is gradually disappearing,” the publication reports, citing Allianz Life research originally published by Generations Apart.

The research found that “nearly half (48 per cent) of both generations agree that credit cards now function as a survival tool and 43 per cent agree that ‘lots of smart, hardworking people who are careful with spending also have a lot of credit card debt,’” the article reports. Having debt is making people plan to work indefinitely – the article notes that 27 per cent of Gen Xers, and 11 per cent of boomers “say they are either unsure about when they plan to retire or don’t plan to retire at all.”

Why the comfort with debt? The Gen Xers got credit cards earlier than their boomer parents, and half of Gen Xers (and nearly a third of boomers) never plan to pay anything more than the minimum payments on them, the article notes.

“Over the last three decades, there has been a collective shift in how people view debt – it’s now perceived as a normal part of one’s financial experience and that has fundamentally altered the way people spend and save,” states Allianz executive Katie Libbe in the article. “If Gen Xers continue to delay saving for retirement until they are completely out of debt, their nest egg is clearly going to suffer. For Gen Xers who are behind on saving, better debt management, with a focus on credit card spending, should be the first issue they address to get back on track,” she states.

To recap, it almost sounds like there’s a couple of generations out there who have never worried about debt.

What should people do to get out of debt?

According to the folks at Manulife, there’s a five-step process that will get you debt-free.

Manulife cites the fact that Canadians owe about $1.65 for every dollar they make. That suggests they aren’t ready to “make a budget and stick with it,” and always spending more than they earn, the article says.

In addition to getting real about budgeting, the other tips are paying off credit cards by targeting those with the highest interest rate first, considering debt consolidation, earning extra money, and negotiating with creditors.

Tips that Save with SPP can personally vouch for in managing debt include giving your credit cards to a loved one, and instructing that person not to hand them over even if you beg; paying more than the minimum on your credit cards and lines of credit; and trying to live on less than 100 per cent of what you earn, so that you are paying the rest to yourself.

While a country can perpetually run deficits and spend more than it earns – and most do – the math doesn’t work out as well for individuals. The piper eventually has to be paid. And if you only pay the minimums, that piper will get paid for many, many years.

Getting debt under control and paid off will help you in many ways, including saving for retirement. Perhaps as you gradually save on interest payments, you can direct the savings to a Saskatchewan Pension Plan retirement account, and watch your savings grow.

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

Dec 16: Best from the blogosphere

First wave of retiring boomers finding retirement disappointing

Retirement has always seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel for hard-working Canucks. But new research suggests that retiring boomers are finding it a little disappointing.

Writing in the Ottawa Citizen, noted financial journalist Jonathan Chevreau reports that new research from Sun Life finds “almost three in four retirees – 72 per cent – say retirement is not what they were expecting, and not in a good way.”

The 2019 Sun Life Barometer, he notes, found 23 per cent of retirees reported life after work was a tight money environment, where they were “following a strict budget and refraining from spending money on non-essential items.”

And those not yet retired are delaying their plans, Chevreau notes. A whopping 44 per cent of Canadians “expect they’ll still be employed full time at age 66,” and it’s because they “need to work for the money, rather than because they enjoy it.”

Why the strict budgeting? Chevreau notes that about half – 47 per cent – of those still working believe “there’s a serious risk they could outlive their retirement savings.”

The article says the lack of defined benefit pensions – the type where the retiree receives a pension equal to a percentage of what they were making at work – is one of the reasons for these concerns. Everyone without such plans is either saving in RRSPs or in defined contribution plans. In both these types of savings plans, you save as much as you can, and then turn that lump sum into retirement income, normally on your own.

This tendency for retirement plans to be savings plans designed to build a lump sum is, the article says “devolving responsibility onto the shoulders of individuals,” making the RRSP unit holder or DC plan member the person handling the risk of outliving the savings, known as longevity risk in the industry.

The article offers a couple of ways people can improve their retirement security.

Be sure, the article warns, that you are fully taking part in any retirement program your work offers. “Canadians are leaving up to $4 billion on the table,” the article notes, by not taking full advantage of plans where the employer matches some or all of any extra money they put in.

There’s also a worryingly large group of people who don’t have a workplace pension and aren’t saving on their own via RRSPs or TFSAs, the article reports. That group, the article says, will probably have to work well beyond age 65, but at least they will get more income from CPP and OAS if they take them at a later age.

The article concludes by noting that running day-to-day finances is “hard enough” for Canadians, which may explain the savings shortfall.

If you have a pension plan or retirement savings benefit through your work, consider yourself lucky, and be sure you are getting the most you can out of it. Can you consolidate pension benefits from other workplaces into the plan you’re in now, rather than retiring with several small chunks of savings? Are you eligible for a match, and if so, are you signed up for it?

If you are saving on your own, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be of help. You can save on your own through SPP, much like an RRSP, except SPP has the added advantage of offering a variety of annuity products when you retire – these turn your savings into a lifetime income stream that never runs out. As well, you can often transfer pension funds from past periods of employment into your SPP account – contact SPP to find out how.

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

Why are we so comfortable to live in debt?

A recent headline shouted out the fact that an eye-popping 40 per cent of Canadians “think they’ll be in debt forever.”

The article by Anne Gaviola, posted on the Vice website, cites data from Manulife. The article goes on to note that the average Canuck has $71,979 in debt – up from $57,000 five years ago. These figures, the article says, come via Equifax.

It wasn’t always like this, was it? Why are all willing to live with debt levels that are approaching record highs?

Save with SPP had a look around for answers – why are we so comfy carrying heavy debt loads?

According to the Advisor, it may simply be that paying the way with debt has become so common that no one gets worked up about it anymore.

“Living with debt has become a way of life for both Generation X… and baby boomers as the stigma of owing money is gradually disappearing,” the publication reports, citing Allianz Life research originally published by Generations Apart.

The research found that “nearly half (48 per cent) of both generations agree that credit cards now function as a survival tool and 43 per cent agree that ‘lots of smart, hardworking people who are careful with spending also have a lot of credit card debt,’” the article reports. Having debt is making people plan to work indefinitely – the article notes that 27 per cent of Gen Xers, and 11 per cent of boomers “say they are either unsure about when they plan to retire or don’t plan to retire at all.”

Why the comfort with debt? The Gen Xers got credit cards earlier than their boomer parents, and half of Gen Xers (and nearly a third of boomers) never plan to pay anything more than the minimum payments on them, the article notes.

“Over the last three decades, there has been a collective shift in how people view debt – it’s now perceived as a normal part of one’s financial experience and that has fundamentally altered the way people spend and save,” states Allianz executive Katie Libbe in the article. “If Gen Xers continue to delay saving for retirement until they are completely out of debt, their nest egg is clearly going to suffer. For Gen Xers who are behind on saving, better debt management, with a focus on credit card spending, should be the first issue they address to get back on track,” she states.

To recap, it almost sounds like there’s a couple of generations out there who have never worried about debt.

What should people do to get out of debt?

According to the folks at Manulife, there’s a five-step process that will get you debt-free.

Manulife cites the fact that Canadians owe about $1.65 for every dollar they make. That suggests they aren’t ready to “make a budget and stick with it,” and always spending more than they earn, the article says.

In addition to getting real about budgeting, the other tips are paying off credit cards by targeting those with the highest interest rate first, considering debt consolidation, earning extra money, and negotiating with creditors.

Tips that Save with SPP can personally vouch for in managing debt include giving your credit cards to a loved one, and instructing that person not to hand them over even if you beg; paying more than the minimum on your credit cards and lines of credit; and trying to live on less than 100 per cent of what you earn, so that you are paying the rest to yourself.

While a country can perpetually run deficits and spend more than it earns – and most do – the math doesn’t work out as well for individuals. The piper eventually has to be paid. And if you only pay the minimums, that piper will get paid for many, many years.

Getting debt under control and paid off will help you in many ways, including saving for retirement. Perhaps as you gradually save on interest payments, you can direct the savings to a Saskatchewan Pension Plan retirement account, and watch your savings grow.

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