Category Archives: Blogosphere

Mar 30: Best from the blogosphere

Is Freedom 55 changing to Freedom 70?

Younger people are, for the most part, saving away merrily for retirement. But new research from Mercer, reported on by Benefits Canada, suggests the younger set may be going about things too conservatively.

That, in turn, could force them to keep working until age 70, the article explains.

Why?

“The report found millennials often opt to invest conservatively in low-risk, short-term investments such as money market funds. Using this strategy means many younger workers may not be able to retire until they’re 70,” the magazine reports.

(Save with SPP will remark that at the time of writing, with stock markets making thousand-point daily swings, “low-risk” investments are sounding pretty good.)

However, Benefits Canada reminds us, it’s not short-term results that matter with retirement savings – it’s a long haul from being a perky young person to a grey-haired gold watch recipient. Your rate of return over the long-term, not the short-term, is what really matters.

A more balanced approach, the magazine reports – citing the Mercer findings – such as “a healthy mix of equities and bonds” could allow our millennial friends to log off for the last time as early as age 67.

Equities carry risk, the article notes, but millennials need to aim for a long-term rate of return of six per cent or better to reach retirement savings targets. “A savings rate that’s any lower than six per cent total annual combined employer and employee contributions means retirement may not be possible at all,” Benefits Canada warns.

Other retirement-limiting factors for millennials include debt, paying off student loans, and entering the expensive housing market,” the magazine notes. “Those factors make age 65 retirement very unlikely for most millennials.

It’s a similar story for the slightly older Gen X group, the article reports. Those age 45 should be trying to ensure that they contribute 17 per cent of their gross earnings (this includes their own contributions plus any employer match) towards retirement savings, the article adds.

Even boomers, who generally had better access to workplace pension plans, are going to find it hard to leave work by age 65, Benefits Canada tells us. “One factor delaying retirement age for boomers is the shift from DB to defined contribution plans, requiring a mindset shift many aren’t making, said the report. Also, employers offering less conservative investment vehicles, such as target-date funds, didn’t become commonplace until 2010, which likely proved too late for some boomers,” the article explains.

Do you see the common thread here? Those who save early in a balanced savings vehicle have a better chance of hitting their retirement goals. Those starting in their 40s need to chip in much more, and once you are 60 plus you better hope you have a pension plan at work, because your savings runway is running out of pavement.

It sounds daunting, for sure. But if you are looking for a balanced approach to saving for retirement, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers the Balanced Fund, which has averaged an impressive eight per cent rate of return since its inception in the 1980s. With SPP, you decide how much to contribute – you can start small when you’re young, and ramp it up as you get older. Fees are low, and the level of expertise by SPP’s investors high. 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

Mar 23: Best from the blogosphere

With retirement savings, you can’t always get what you want

What do Canadians expect they’ll need to save for retirement? And how are they doing when it comes to reaching that target?

Some answers can be found in a new round of research from Scotiabank, which is featured in a story in the Financial Post.

According to the news story, the average Canadian “expects to need a nest egg of $697,000 to retire.” As well, the story informs us, this same average Canuck hopes to punch the clock for the last time by age 64.

The encouraging news from this story is that 68 per cent of Canadians surveyed are saving for retirement. That’s an important start. However, the story continues, 70 per cent of them are worried “they are not saving enough.”

Other troubling findings from the research:

  • just 23 per cent of those surveyed see retirement saving as a top priority, down nine points from 2017
  • 66 per cent are concerned they “have underestimated how much money they will need in retirement”
  • 47 per cent fear they’ll need to rely on their family for financial assistance

In a nutshell, while it’s great that more than two-thirds of us are saving for retirement, we may not be saving enough, not making retirement a “pay yourself first” must-do, and aren’t fully aware of how much we’ll need after we complete working life. That could mean looking to the kids, or very aged parents, for help.

Scotiabank’s D’Arcy McDonald tells the Post that half of those who say they aren’t saving for retirement are younger people, age 18 to 35.

“Younger people may have different priorities at this time in their lives as they strive to get momentum in their careers, pay down student loans, and save for their first homes,” McDonald states in the Post article. “The best advice we can give young Canadians is to start saving early and automate their contributions to make retirement savings an equally important part of their financial plan. The earlier you begin to make retirement savings a priority, the easier it will become.”

The article concludes by offering up this advice. All of us should know our “magic number,” or how much they need to save. This number can be calculated fairly easily if you know your other magic number – how much income you will need to have in retirement. The advice of a financial planner can help you with the math, the article concludes.

If you don’t have a retirement plan at work – or if you do, but aren’t sure it will provide enough – the Saskatchewan Pension Plan can help. You can set up automatic contributions via direct deposit; you can even make contributions with a credit card. And if money is tight at the beginning, you can start small and then ramp up your contributions whenever you get a raise. A “set it and forget it” approach will mean more retirement savings at the finish line, and less stress when you turn in your security pass for the last time.

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

Mar 16: Best from the blogosphere

The big three – divorce, debt and student loans – can hamper your retirement savings efforts

We all like to say that “life gets in the way” is a chief reason why we can’t put money away for retirement.

An interesting piece in Business Insider takes a look at the top three killers of retirement dreams.

First up, the article notes, is divorce. “Divorce impacts all facets of your finances, but it can hit your retirement savings especially hard,” the article notes. That’s because retirement assets, such as retirement accounts and pensions, can be subject to splitting when couples break up, the article explains.

The article, written for a U.S. audience, suggests that retirement accounts “may be divided equally” on marriage breakdown. So you might lose half your nest egg, and if you are the spouse paying support, there’s another expense that can “eat away at your ability to save.”

The article advises those going through a divorce to get their retirement plan rolling again as soon as things have settled.

The second major retirement savings killer is consumer debt, the magazine reports. “While getting out of debt can be tough, it will be even harder to save for retirement with monthly debt payments in the way,” Business Insider tells us. A U.S. study cited in the article notes that 21.3 per cent of those surveyed agreed that consumer debt “prevented them from reaching their savings goals.”

The article suggests focusing on higher-interest credit cards and credit lines first.

Finally, the article says, dealing with student loans is considered the third barrier to retirement. Again, this article is talking about the U.S. situation, but here in Canada, the average student was $27,000 in debt 10 years ago. That number, taken from the Vice.com site is bound to be much higher today. That’s a lot of money for entry-level workers to have to carry.

The article concludes that you can’t predict how your life will go. There’s no surefire way to avoid a divorce, but you can try and limit your consumer debt and where possible, pay down student loans later in life when you are making more.

The article notes that those who start saving for retirement at age 25 tend to have “tens of thousands” more dollars in their retirement plans than those who start at age 35.

If you’re intimidated about taking that first major step into retirement saving, help is on the way via the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You can start small, perhaps in the days when you’re just starting out and juggling student and other debt, and then ramp up savings when better times arrive. Meanwhile, the experts at SPP are growing your savings for you, at low cost and with an impressive track record of returns. 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Mar 9: Best from the blogosphere

Retirement saving – starting late is OK, and chipping away at it when you can a must

More and more ink (or more accurately, pixels) is being taken up with worried commentary that Canadians aren’t saving enough for retirement, and that our ship of state is sailing into choppy waters.

But a story by the Canadian Press (CP) that appears on MSN News suggests that there’s no need to panic – but there is a need to plan.

The story quotes Dilys D’Cruz of Meridian Credit Union as saying “if you’re 50 you still have 21 years left to contribute (to an Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)), it is not as dire as you might think.”

D’Cruz tells CP that while people “may be afraid to look at the numbers,” it’s best, as a first step, to get a financial planner and put together a plan.

Take stock of what retirement savings you have, she says in the article. Do you have a workplace plan from current or past employment? Do you have RRSPs?

Next, she tells CP, you need to consider “what you want your retirement to look like” before doing the plumbing work on your plan. “Do you want that big lavish lifestyle of travelling or is it maybe a quieter lifestyle that you want, what does it mean for you,” she says in the article.

The article cites recent research from Scotiabank that found that while 68 per cent of Canadians say they are saving for retirement (62 per cent of those age 18-34 are saving, versus 74 per cent of those aged 35 and 54), only 23 per cent say retirement saving is their top priority.

TD’s Jenny Diplock, also quoted in the article, agrees, saying that while the general rule of thumb for retirement saving is to start as early as you can, “starting at a particular age may not be realistic for some folks.”

She also suggests having a financial plan, but adds that once you commit to saving, the best way to go is to make it automatic. This will “help cement the habit,” the article explains.

As well, when a cost ends – when you stop paying daycare, or a mortgage – that’s a good time to direct more money to retirement savings, the article suggests.

“As your life situation changes and there are changes in your personal circumstances, you may find that you have additional cash flow that can be used to complement your savings plan,” Diplock tells CP.

Summing it all up, it appears the worst thing you can do about retirement savings is to do nothing at all. Save what you can when you can, and ramp up savings as living costs – debt, housing, childcare – fall by the way. As each impediment to saving falls by the way, your freed up cash can be put to use for your retirement plan.

If you’re not someone with a workplace pension plan – or if you are, but want to supplement those savings – an ideal vehicle is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You have flexibility with SPP – if you can only contribute a little bit in a given year, you can contribute more later; contributions are variable up to an annual limit of $6,300. Be sure to visit SPP’s site to learn more!

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

MAR 2: Best from the blogosphere

New NIA study says we may need to work longer before retiring

New research from the National Institute on Ageing (NIA) entitled Improving Canada’s Retirement Income System sheds some new light on the age-old question of when to retire.

Writing about the research for the Advisor, James Langton sums up the study, by noted retirement experts Keith Ambachtsheer and Michael Nicin, this way – “greater pension coverage, higher savings and longer working lives will all be needed to ensure an adequate retirement for Canada’s aging population.”

The paper, reports the Advisor, warns that “retirement is getting more expensive and harder to achieve.”  The research found that the cost of long-term care in Canada will “triple to $71 billion in the next 30 years.”

So the costs of looking after older folks are going through the roof at a time when “pension coverage has steadily declined, and private saving is proving harder to achieve amid rising costs for housing, education and childcare,” the Advisor notes, again quoting the NIA paper.

The authors of the study also note that even those who do save are doing so in less favourable conditions, the Advisor tells us. “Today, we face historically low bond yields and uncertain equity returns in the face of climate change and political turbulence across the world. This means retirement savers may not get as much help from favourable financial markets as they did in the post-World War II decades,” the Advisor states, quoting from the paper.

The paper reaches the conclusion, the Advisor reports, that three important public policy considerations need to be met. Pension coverage must be increased, savings rates need to be boosted, and there needs to be thought given to ways to incent people to work longer.

Commenting on the same report in a Globe and Mail opinion column, the NIA’s Dr. Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald elaborates further on these ideas.

“Canada can better keep up with the retirement income systems of other countries by improving the labour-force participation of older workers,” she writes.

“Having more older Canadians working will also increase tax revenue. With Canada’s aging population, it will help ease shortages in labour and skills supply as baby boomers contemplate their exodus from the work force over the coming decade.”

Working later also has an impact on saving, she notes. “If you work longer, you’ll need to save less for retirement. Every year you delay your retirement is one fewer year you’ll need to draw on your savings, and one more year for those savings to grow,” she explains in the Globe article.

The takeaway here is this – you may live for a long time. If you don’t have a workplace pension, you will have to save on your own for retirement. If you haven’t saved enough, you will have to work longer than you planned.

A step you can take on your own to address this problem is joining the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. This is a great resource if you don’t have a workplace plan or are not sure how to invest. SPP does the heavy lifting for you, growing your savings at a very low cost (and with a great track record) and then turning those savings into an income stream at the time you leave the workforce. It’s never too late to get cracking on saving, so 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Feb 24: Best from the blogosphere

Old “rule of thumb” retirement planning go-tos may need adapting: Shelestowsky

A great interview with Meridian’s Paul Shelestowsky in Wealth Professional shows that some of the old standard tenets of retirement planning may not translate as well here in the 21st Century.

An example, Shelestowsky tells Wealth Professional, is the idea that saving $1 million in your retirement kitty is a target we should all be aiming for. But that figure may not be the right target for everyone, he explains in the story.

“StatsCan has reported that close to 40% of Canadians are still working between the ages of 65 and 69,” he states in the article. “Some Canadian adults have their 75-year-old parents living with them; sometimes that means they get help with the finances, but a lot of times they don’t. Similarly, you can’t just assume that your kids will move out when they’re 25 anymore.”

Another rule our parents told us was never to take debt into retirement.

But that’s increasingly difficult to do, Shelestowsky explains to Wealth Professional, in an era where it is common to continue mortgage payments in retirement, and where household debt has reached levels where Canadians are “owing $180 for every $100 they bring home.”

“How can you retire when you’re having troubles getting by with your regular income, and then have to live on 60% of that?” he asks in the magazine article. High levels of debt may explain the greater-than-ever reliance on home equity lines of credit, Shelestowsky tells the magazine.

Planning for retirement is still of critical importance, he says. “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” he notes in the article. Without some sort of savings, he warns, you could be living solely on Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) payments, which he says works out to only about $1,700 to $1,800 a month, or $42,000 a year for a married couple.

“The government never meant for OAS and CPP to serve as people’s sole retirement income source,” he states in the article. “Back in the day, people could comfortably sock away an extra $200 a month when they’re 20 or 30 years old; now you could say debt is the new normal. And to have a defined-benefit pension plan you can count on in your old age … that’s almost unheard of nowadays. Companies are shifting toward defined-contribution plans, but even that’s not a staple perk anymore.”

Shelestowsky says a solution is to get the help of an advisor to figure out a pre- and post-retirement budget. For those in poor financial shape, the budget process can turn things around; for others, it is a much-needed source of retirement reassurance, he tells the magazine.

If you have a workplace pension plan or retirement savings arrangement, you have a leg up for retirement. But if you don’t, and aren’t sure how to invest on your own, be sure to check out the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Through this open defined contribution plan, you can contribute up to $6,300 a year towards your retirement – your money will be grown by professional investors at a very low fee, and when the day comes when you are logging off for the last time and giving back your building pass, SPP can turn those savings into 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Feb 10: Best from the blogosphere

If you’re going to live longer, you’ll need more savings

Writing in the Globe and Mail, John Ibbotson flags a new and somewhat concerning problem for Canadians – we’re living a lot longer than anyone expected.

The oldest boomers, he writes, are about to turn 75. And, he continues, “the boomers are living inconveniently long lives.” It is expected that over the next three decades, the number of Canadians over age 85 will increase three-fold.

In the story, McMaster geroscientist Parminder Raina (click here to see his recent interview with Save with SPP) is quoted as saying the big spike in older folks is a big problem. “The rapidity of aging is the real issue for policy makers,” he tells the Globe.

What are the problems with having more old people?

The article identifies a few issues. First, the article notes, “the boomers haven’t saved enough. Which means looking after them will cost younger generations a great deal of time and money.”

Next, “the boomers were also the first generation to stop having enough children to replace themselves, there are fewer young people available to look after the old,” the article reports.

The article notes that “when the pensions and health-care systems that Canadians rely on today were first put in place in the 1960s,” men were expected to live until age 69, four years after retirement began. Now, the article warns, men will live on for another 19 years, and women, 22 years, after reaching age 65.

And with a birthrate of just 1.5 children per couple, Ibbotson writes, Canada’s population would actually decline were it not for immigration.

You’d think that those of us who are nearing retirement might have read that we could live for 20 years, into our 80s or 90s, after retirement, and started putting away a few extra bucks for retirement. Not so, the article tells us – “half of Canadians approaching retirement age do not have a workplace pension. The median level of savings for these people is $3,000. No, there isn’t a missing zero.”

As for not having as many kids, the article quotes Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald of the National Institute on Ageing (click here for Save with SPP’s interview with her) predicts that lower fertility rates mean “that services that have traditionally been provided by the family – namely women – will still need to be paid for.”

So we’re not saving enough and aren’t having enough kids, so there will be little money to spend on our care and no family to provide it free.

Are there solutions? The article lists a few – raising the retirement age, perhaps, or forcing older people to “unlock the wealth accumulated by older Canadians” in their real estate and other holdings. Rather than giving seniors discounts, they should be paying a premium for services, the article suggests. Such measures might be political suicide, Ibbotson admits, so maybe things like long-term care insurance should be promoted.

The bottom line, he writes, is “if we are to live well, we must care for one another, however old we are and whatever we may need.”

The lack of a workplace pension is a serious issue for many Canadians. Workplace pensions are usually a sort of “forced savings,” where money comes off your paycheque and is later returned to you in the form of income. While some people want to spend all of their paycheque, few with pensions or retirement plans at work complain when they can draw on that retirement income. If you don’t have a workplace pension plan, you need to save on your own for retirement. A great way to do this is through the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. They’ll grow your savings with professional investing at very low fees, and when it’s time to finally start collecting your savings, they can pay it out to you in the form of a lifetime pension – monthly payments that continue for as long as you live. 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Feb 3: Best from the blogosphere

Many plan post-retirement work, but few actually do: RBC survey

You’re forever hearing folks who haven’t done a lot on the retirement savings front say that their retirement plan is to just keep working.

However, a recent Benefits Canada article, citing new research from RBC, brings up some interesting findings that may throw a bit of water on those “keep working” plans.

The survey asked a group of pre-retirees if they planned to keep working, either full or part-time, after they retired. Half of those surveyed said yes, they’d keep at it.

But when actual retirees were asked if they were still working, only 11 per cent “reported they actually had returned to full or part-time work,” the magazine advises us.

The pre-retirees had many reasons for planning to work after retirement, the article notes, including “staying active mentally (68 per cent) and physically (48 per cent), staving off boredom (44 per cent) and generating income (43 per cent).”

Part of the reason why people aren’t working in retirement, the article notes, may lie in the fact that retirement is not always as “planned” as people expect. More than half of the pre-retiree group (55 per cent) say they “expect to know their retirement date a year or more in advance.” But of the retirees, only 39 per cent said they knew their retirement date well in advance, with 16 per cent “reporting they had no advance notice at all.”

“We know that the majority of Canadians do not have a retirement plan, and those who do are more prepared and confident,” states RBC’s Rick Lowes in the Benefits Canada article. “A plan helps you understand all your options so you don’t have to make major trade-offs to enjoy the retirement lifestyle you desire.”

Findings in the UK, reported on by the Daily Express, reached a similar conclusion. There, “nearly two-thirds of people who retired earlier than expected said they were forced to stop working rather than choosing to leave due to no longer needing the income,” the newspaper reports.

The chief reason they stopped working early related to health or physical problems (40 per cent), followed by being “made redundant” or losing their job (18 per cent), followed by eight per cent who left work to care for a family member, the story informs us.

In the UK study, the Daily Express notes, less than one in five people (17 per cent) had sufficient savings to be able to retire earlier than they expected.

There seems to be a sort of sunny view of retirement from pre-retirees that is tempered by the experiences of actual retirees. The idea that one can pick a retirement date a year or more out, and then keep working away afterwards, seems to be challenged by the findings of research.

The majority of retirees didn’t pick a date, with some not having a choice at all. Health, losing a job, caring for a loved one all play a part in determining whether or not we can keep at it on the job front. Only 17 per cent said they had enough savings to be able to pick their own day, thanks to personal retirement piggy banks and/or pensions at work.

Most of us don’t have a pension plan at work. Saskatchewan Pension Plan, a do-it-yourself DC pension plan that handles the heavy lifting of investment and generating a lifetime pension for you. Join the 33,000 SPP members who have watched the plan generate returns of 8 per cent annually since the plan’s inception in 1986.

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 27: Best from the blogosphere

US looks at making retirement plans easier for small businesses to offer

Up here in Canada, workplace pension plans are becoming scarce, especially for small, private sector employers.

It’s the same story in the USA – however, a report in Benefits Canada suggests that our friends south of the line are getting encouragement from their government to roll out more retirement programs for small business employees.

The article reports that “the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act, known as the SECURE Act, won final congressional approval” late last year, and has been signed into law by President Donald Trump.

One of the more interesting angles of this legislation, the magazine notes, is that it will make it easier for “small businesses to band together to offer 401(k) and other retirement plans. The option, called multiple-employer plans, lower the costs of administering a plan.”

A 401(k) is a defined contribution-like product that is similar to an RRSP. Unlike an RRSP, the 401(k) can have an employer match. So instead of each small business having to face the cost of setting up and administering its own 401(k), this new legislation would allow them to join together with other small companies to form a multi-employer plan – a plan for multiple businesses. This would greatly lower administration costs, the article notes.

As well, the old $500 credit US businesses got for starting a retirement plan has increased ten-fold to $5,000, the article reports.

It’s hoped, the article concludes, that this new legislation will increase access by companies with less than 50 employees to retirement benefits – right now, only half of them have any kind of retirement program through work.

The 401(k) program got a boost recently from Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve, although it was a bit of a backhanded compliment.

In a recent interview broadcast on BNN Bloomberg, Greenspan suggested that the American equivalent to the Canada Pension Plan, Social Security, be changed from its current defined benefit mode to a 401(k) like defined contribution model.

“The source of the problem is that we have a defined-benefit program for social security…  what we need to do is go to a defined contribution program… that will put a damper on our major problem,” he says in the interview. The concern in the US is that the Social Security program, paid entirely out of tax revenue, is not sustainable for the long term.

Putting the two thoughts together, perhaps having more workplace retirement programs is a good thing if the Social Security program that backstops US retirement isn’t in the best of health. Let’s choose to focus on the good news that a federal government is making it easier for small businesses to offer retirement benefits.

If you don’t have a workplace pension plan, or you do but want to contribute even more towards your retirement, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a logical place to start. The SPP offers the winning combination of low fees, a strong track history of growth, and the ability to convert your savings into a lifetime stream of retirement income. It’s a one-stop retirement centre – 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

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