Book Reviews

A look at how the wealthy “control and compound” their money: Be the Bank

July 14, 2022

Darren Mitchell’s Be the Bank chronicles the author’s efforts to find a way for the average Jane or Joe to “control and compound” their wealth, in the way that banks and wealthy Canadians do.

The book’s story starts back in 2008, when Mitchell was a financial advisor. When the markets crashed, he was on an Alaskan fishing trip, trying to keep track of the carnage via cell phone. “It was sickening,” he writes. “There was nothing I could do… that’s when I realized that everything I knew about money was wrong.”

He wanted to find out why financial institutions and the wealthy got through market downturns fine, while those of us in the middle class coped with losses. He found that “the actions the wealthy took with their assets were the exact opposite of what the middle class did.”

Conventional investing in such things as registered retirement savings plans, registered education savings plans and tax free savings account are, the author suggests, very limited, with little control for the investor.

“Banks and Wall Street are in control. You roll the dice. You hope it all works out when you reach the top.” But, he writes, you need to face “retirement risks” such as taxes, inflation, “the possibility of long-term care,” volatile markets and fluctuating interest rates. “And,” he writes, there is also “the most significant risk of all: longevity.”

He looks at the conventional wisdom of withdrawal rates from investments that are based on 50 per cent stocks and 50 per cent bonds. He calls decumulation rates “the Monte Carlo process,” since you are taking money out of a fund without being able to predict how the fund will perform in the future. It’s a guess.

If you withdraw four per cent per year, Mitchell writes, you have a 57 per cent chance of outliving your money. If you withdraw three per cent, you still have a 24 per cent chance, he explains. “Is that how you want to live the rest of your life – in fear that you’ll run out of money, and with the real possibility that it’s exactly what will happen,” he asks.

After a look at the pros and cons of conventional investing, we come to the meat of the book. In Chapter 7, Mitchell says there is a solution that has been out there “for over one hundred years” that allows you to overcome most investment and decumulation risks – “a specially designed, dividend-paying, high-cash-value life insurance contract with a mutual company or participating whole life fund.”

Such products do come with “some death benefit” but “our focus is the cash value,” he explains. “Fewer than one per cent of life insurance policies sold in Canada are designed this way,” he adds.

Such products pay out steady dividends, he writes, with charts backing him up. Thanks to government regulations, such products charge very low management fees, usually lower than 0.18 per cent.

The longer you live, the more you get out of the product, so there is actually a longevity gain, Mitchell writes. Your growth, which after a few years “should be between 3.5 per cent and 5.5 per cent per month,” is tax -free and exempt from most conventional barriers to wealth accumulation, Mitchell explains. You can also borrow against your holdings to make a purchase, and since you are effectively the bank, you can decide when or if to pay the money back.

Mitchell’s book takes a look at annuities as a way to avoid market volatility.

“Think of an annuity like a government worker’s pension plan. They have a lifetime pension coming in every month until the day they die – guaranteed,” he says. And as well, he notes, an annuity addresses “the biggest retirement risk we will ever face… longevity. No matter how long you live, you will get paid,” he explains.

This book covers a lot of ground and it is hard to do justice to it in a short book review. But if you are looking for information on a different way to grow your personal wealth, via an insurance industry product, it’s worth having a look.

Annuities are becoming a better buy these days, since higher interest rates actually work in your favour, and give you more annuity income for the same purchasing dollar. Did you know that the Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers a variety of different annuity options for its retiring members? Check out SPP today for more details.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Book offers a plan for getting out – and staying out – of debt

June 23, 2022

“Debt,” begins Michael Steven in his book Getting Out of Debt, “is more than just a weight on your shoulders that causes stress and financial strain, it is a manacle that holds you back from achieving your dreams and becoming the best version of yourself.”

There are, he continues, “good debts and bad debts. Unfortunately, most people take on bad debts, either because they lack information or have competing priorities in life.”

There are a number of factors that can cause us to fall into debt, Steven writes. Loss of a job or reduction of income, a divorce, “poor money management skills,” underemployment, gambling and other factors usually are to blame.

There are also psychological issues behind debt, Steven notes.

“We also tend to define wealth from the standpoint of material possession. However, true and real success is being free from debt. Unfortunately, most people incur debt to purchase goods that depreciate in value and do not generate additional income. The desire to acquire certain social status drives people to make irrational financial decisions that eat into their future income and denies them the ability to invest in wealth creation.”

The Coles notes version of this important thought is that if we want toys to show off that we can’t really afford, we will burden ourselves with debt and rob our future selves of savings.

After reviewing the psychological impacts of debt – anger, regret, dread, shame, and so on – Steven looks at how to get out, and stay out, of the red ink.

First, he writes, you need to know “where you currently stand financially.” Figuring out your net worth – what you have minus what you owe – is a good first step.

Next, set goals for debt reduction. “Your goals should be realistic so they feel attainable, but aggressive enough to get you out of your comfort zone,” he writes. A budget is also a must, he writes.

The harder steps include controlling your expenditures – to “stave off the behaviours that initially got you into to debt,” and to control costs by cutting back on dining out, unused memberships, streaming services and subscriptions. Cut where you can, he advises.

Build an emergency fund, he recommends, so you don’t have to depend on credit for unforeseen expenses. As well, he writes, make saving a habit.

“If I told you saving is easy, I would be lying,” he writes. “Saving requires discipline, a habit you build over time. It can be hard to save instead of spend, but if you have to attain financial freedom, then saving is one of those things you will have to embrace.”

There’s a handy chapter on how to negotiate debts with your creditors, and a comparison of the main debt reduction strategies. With the “snowball” strategy, you start by paying extra on your smallest debt, and then when that is paid off, you add what you were paying on the smallest debt to the next smallest. The “avalanche” uses the same principles but starts with the highest debt first.

Once you have debt under control, you will have achieved the important state of financial discipline. “The main cause of financial problems is a lack of financial discipline and self-control,” he writes. “Therefore, achieving financial discipline should start with rewiring the mind and your perceptions about money. Start linking happiness to saving, investing, being debt free and having a good emergency fund that you can fall back on when things get tough.”

Stevens makes another key point late in the book – the fact that debt can restrict your retirement savings.

“It is highly likely that you slowed down or halted retirement contributions while paying off debt. Now that you are debt-free, though, you should work on building your retirement contributions…. always increase your retirement contributions as your income increases.”

He notes that paying off debt is a great accomplishment, but avoiding slipping back into debt requires the same discipline needed to pay it off. Boost your monthly savings once debt is gone, he suggests. “Target” your savings – save up for a trip, and pay for its costs only from that fund. Think before you spend – a used car may be better than brand new, a simpler wedding will help you avoid bringing debt on the honeymoon. You generally need to try and live within your means – meaning, spend less than you earn.

This is a helpful book and well worth a read. We have always felt that getting out of debt is very similar to losing weight – it’s an effort to lose the pounds and even more difficult to keep them off after you’ve succeeded. But in the long run it is good for you.

A good destination, post-debt, for your retirement savings is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, available to all Canadians with registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) room. With SPP, you get professional investing – a good thing to have in these volatile markets – at a low cost; your savings are pooled with those of other members to keep investing costs low. SPP will grow your savings and help your convert them into retirement income at the appropriate time. Find out more about SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Book’s goal is to help you get back in control of your finances

May 26, 2022

If you’ve ever felt pushed around by your personal debt, and how it interferes with your life plans, then Money Like You Mean It, by Erica Alini of Global News, is the book for you.

The reason, she begins, that so many of us “have so much debt” is not just because “of the choices we’ve made or because of our individual circumstances.” The fact that we live in a world where it is extremely easy to borrow has created a reality where Canadians hold over $2 trillion in household debt.

“That’s roughly equal to the size of our entire economy… (or) the value of all the goods and services we produce as a country,” she explains.

Credit cards have never been easier to get, and “with a typical annual interest rate of 20 per cent, they can sink you into debt really quickly.”

Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) can be even easier. Alini quotes Scott Terrio, who recently chatted with Save with SPP, on this topic. HELOCs are dangerous because “your ability to borrow is often tied to your home equity – the portion of your house you truly own.” Your home’s equity grows as you pay down your mortgage, so HELOCs run counter to that trend. The average Canadian with a HELOC has a credit limit of $180,000 and owes “a whopping $67,000,” she writes.

But Alini offers some ways you can fight back. Her “Money-Bucket System” helps you to earmark money for short-term and long-term savings while having off what you need to manage essential payments like rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, property taxes and debt.

Long-term savings should be in an investment account (for things like retirement) while short-term savings (vacations, an emergency account) should be in easier-to-access savings accounts.

This approach will set you up to chip away at debt while saving for the future. It won’t be easy, she warns. “You’re going to be in a fight against debt your whole adult life, whether you’re paying it off or trying to stay out of it… try to spare yourself the mental struggle as much as you can.”

A chapter on housing offers a great overview of owning versus renting. There’s also the idea of saving on housing costs by moving somewhere cheaper. Be careful, Alini advises. While “you’ll be able to buy a bigger home, and life isn’t quite so stupid expensive,” you could also face “of a soul-sucking commute or having to big up on a big-city job and the earnings and career potential that may go with it.”

After an interesting look at work – including whether or not freelance jobs are really worth the time and effort – Alini turns to retirement, which she calls “one of the trickiest parts of personal finance.”

Three trends have emerged that are making it harder for Canadians to afford retirement – “the gradual disappearance of employer pensions, the fact that we increasingly live longer but also take longer to land a decent job, and low interest rates.”

Fifty years ago, full-time employment “often came with the promise that your employer would take care of you in retirement,” usually through a defined benefit (DB) pension. Such pensions “guarantee you a certain level of income in old age – often based on length of service and rank – for every year of retirement until death.” But the percentage of Canadian workers with such plans has dropped from 40 per cent in 1977 to just 25 per cent by 2018, she says.

More common these days are defined contribution plans (like the Saskatchewan Pension Plan) where the payout is based on how well contributions have been invested. Some employers match contributions made by employees. “A plan where you put in five per cent of your monthly compensation and your company pitches in another five per cent is like having 100 per cent guaranteed return, because the employer’s contribution doubles your own. That’s nothing to sneeze at,” Alini writes.

Those of us without a workplace pension plan “will have to save our way to retirement by ourselves… this means figuring out how much to save and where to put the money,” she writes.

If you haven’t started saving for retirement, the time to start is now, Alini writes. “The sooner you start, the easier it’s going to be to reach financial independence. And by easier, I mean exponentially easier.”

The book then provides great information on your savings options – registered retirement savings plans, tax free savings accounts, and the tax implications of investing in non-registered vehicles. The solid section on investing includes a key summary on assessing your appetite for risk.

Alini concludes by stating “I hope this book has helped you understand why it sometimes feels so hard to achieve financial goals that our parents’ generation largely took for granted. And I hope this helps you set aside any shame, guilt, or self-blame. Instead, I want you to embrace the challenge and fight back.”

No workplace pension? No problem. Consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP members can contribute $7,000 annually to SPP, and can transfer in up to $10,000 from other retirement savings vehicles. SPP will grow your money at a low fee, with professional investing, over time. When it’s time to get out and retire like you mean it, you’ll have a nice stream of retirement income thanks to SPP.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


A “magic formula” for stock market success – The Little Book That Still Beats the Market

May 5, 2022

“Choosing individual stocks without any idea of what you’re looking for is like running through a dynamite factory with a burning match. You may live, but you’re still an idiot.”

So writes Joel Greenblatt in The Little Book That Still Beats the Market, billed as “one of the best, clearest guides to value investing out there.”

There’s a lot of ground covered in this interesting and well-written (and quite short) book.

The book sets out a way to view the stock market and learn “how to find good companies at bargain prices” to accomplish market-beating returns.

An interesting case history provides the example of fictional business that sells sticks of gum. While it is easy to figure out how much gum gets sold, the profit per stick, and projected income, the tricky part (and key to the book) is figuring out what the overall business is worth.

Owning part of a business, Goldblatt explains, can be accomplished by owning shares in it. “Buying a share in a business means you are purchasing a portion (or percentage interest) of that business. You are then entitled to a portion of that business’s future earnings,” Goldblatt notes.

While businesses may go along without big changes in their value, their stock prices can swing wildly, he explains. There are many theories as to why stock price swings happen, but the takeaway is to realize that a low price on a good company is a buying opportunity.

“If you just stick to buying good companies (ones that have a high return on capital) and to buying those companies only at bargain prices (at prices that give you a high earnings yield) you can end up systematically buying many of the good companies that crazy `Mr. Market’ has decided to give away,” Goldblatt says.

Here’s where he introduces his “magic formula.”

He ranks the 3,500 largest traded U.S. companies on the major exchanges by “return on capital,” with the company with the best return getting number one spot, and the one with the worst, 3,500. He does the same thing with earnings yield. You then add the two numbers together – companies with a low combined rating are considered good performers, and if you can catch them when their price is down, you may have a bargain on your hand.

In a chart, Goldblatt shows that from 1988 to 2004, a portfolio of the top 30 “magic formula” companies had average returns of 30.8 per cent, more than double the market and S&P 500 average.

He points out that the “magic formula” doesn’t always beat the markets in the short term. Investors need to “believe it will work and maintain a long-term investment horizon.”

The book mentions online resources to help you set up your own screening to create a list.

This is an interesting book, and is simple enough for even non-math heads (hand raised here) to grasp, at least in theory.

Do-it-yourself can be satisfying, but leaving the heavy lifting to professionals is also an option for those of us lacking the time or expertise. That’s where the Saskatchewan Pension Plan comes in. They’ll invest your retirement savings professionally, at a low cost, and when it’s time to retire, will help you convert those savings into income. Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Your Retirement Income Blueprint – a “do it properly, do it better” resource

March 31, 2022

From the get-go, where author Daryl Diamond describes his book as being a “do it properly” or “do it better” book on retirement income planning, rather than a “do it yourself” volume, a wonderfully written tome filled with valuable insights begins.

Your Retirement Income Blueprint makes great strides in explaining that retirement is not really “the back nine” of life. Retirement, he explains, is “not simply a continuation of the same thing (pre-retirement)… the playing field changes because there are such substantial differences between the planning approaches, investment strategies, risk-management issues and sheer dynamics of these two phases in someone’s life.”

There’s a lot to cover in a short review, so let’s look at some of Diamond’s retirement income gems.

Early on, Diamond explains the importance of having “a formal income plan, or blueprint, to show what your assets can realistically be expected to provide in terms of sustainable cash flow.” In other words, do you have enough income, from all sources, for an adequate retirement? Retiring without sufficient income, he warns, “can be a very unfortunate decision.”

On debt in retirement, he notes “ideally, you want to be debt free at the time you actually retire,” because otherwise, “you will have to dedicate income toward servicing the debt. And that is cash flow that could be used to enhance your lifestyle in other ways.”

Another great point, and this was one that Save with SPP personally used when planning retirement, is the idea of making a “net to net” comparison of your pre-retirement income versus post-retirement.

“That difference between your gross employment income and gross retirement income may appear quite significant, however, some analysis of your earnings statement may narrow this disparity. Compare what you are bringing home on a net basis with what your net income will be in retirement. You may find the difference in net pay is not as significant as you thought.”

The book provides a chart showing gross employment income being 33 per cent greater than retirement income – but only about 12 per cent different on a net basis, because the retiree isn’t paying into Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS), a company pension or company benefits.

Diamond points out that the investment principles for retirement saving differ from the retirement income, or “using your nest egg” years.

“When people begin to draw income from their portfolios, their focus changes from ‘rate of return’ to ‘risk management,’” he writes. “Capital preservation becomes the number one issue, because with capital preservation, you also have sustainable income,” he adds. The goal is longevity of your income – meaning, not running out of money.  

Diamond sees annuities as a way to ensure you don’t run out of retirement income. The book shows how your CPP, OAS and company pension – along with an annuity purchased with some of your retirement savings – can create a guaranteed lifetime monthly amount for your core, basic expenses. The rest of your income can be used for discretionary, fun expenses, he explains.

Diamond isn’t opposed to the idea of taking one’s Canada Pension Plan benefits early. He advises us all to “assess whether or not there is merit to do so in your own situation.” He makes the point that while many of us live long lives, some of us don’t, so deferring a pension carries a risk.

He sees the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) as becoming “one of the great tools at our disposal. I look for ways to help retirees fund their TFSA accounts to the maximum, whether that be through taking CPP early, withdrawing additional amounts out of registered accounts or even moving other non-registered holdings systematically into them.”

He suggests that using one’s registered retirement savings early in retirement may be preferable to deferring them until the bitter end at 71. “Deferring all of your registered assets can create real tax problems in the future and could eliminate main credits and entitlements that you would otherwise have been receiving,” he explains.

Near the end of this excellent book, Diamond alerts retirees to what he calls the “three headwinds” that can “be a drag on” any retirement income solution – taxation, inflation, and fees. Attention should be paid to all three factors when designing a retirement income solution, he writes.

When you retire, Diamond concludes, it’s when “your ticket gets punched… and baby, you had better enjoy the ride.” The three commodities that will support a great retirement are your state of health, your longevity and “your income-producing assets and benefits.” Only the last commodity is one that you can fully control, he says.

This is a great book and highly recommended for those thinking about retirement.

Do you have a handful of different registered savings vehicles? Consolidating them in one place can be more efficient than drawing income from several sources. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan allows you to transfer in up to $10,000 per year from other registered vehicles. Those funds will be invested, and when you retire, your income choices include SPP’s family of annuities. Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Book aims to answer key retirement question –What The Hell Do I Do Now

February 24, 2022

R. Dean White’s book What The Hell Do I Do Now – A Professionals’ Guide to a Meaningful Retirement is a helpful resource for any of us who thought their jobs were their lives.

Folks in this mindset, he notes, have trouble if health, changes at work, or other factors lead them to an unexpected retirement – what are they going to do?

White should know – he’s a retired oral and maxillofacial surgeon who at 55 “had to stop practicing due to a neurological disorder” that affected his hands and dexterity. He found a way to reinvent himself via a new career as a hospital administrator.  The new role, he writes, was “way out of my comfort zone of what I used to do, but I am having a great time, making a little money, and feeling like I have found relevance in a whole new way.”

The book presents a number of case histories of people who have left familiar roles and tried something different. “Retiring,” writes White, “is not about renting an office and reading The Wall Street Journal. It is about new ventures, new risks, and new goals.”

He cites a recent poll showing that “73 per cent of baby boomers plan to work in retirement” in what he calls “encore careers.” These, he explains, are those that supply “an individual with income, but more importantly, a greater meaning and a chance to have a social impact.”

If you don’t want to work for money, “volunteering can help a new retiree create balance in life,” he writes. “It can also help you find perspective.” After all, he notes, “volunteers are needed everywhere.”

Even solitude can bring new challenges, he points out.  “Use your solitude to paint, draw, and create with your hands or your head,” he explains. “I would encourage everyone to write their own life story – not necessarily for publication, but for family and friends. It sounds morbid, but everyone wants to be remembered and to influence others even after death, and spending your solitude creating this legacy can be fulfilling.”

He discusses the value of exercise as we age.  “As I got older, I started noticing that swinging the grandkids around hurt my back and my shoulder, so I reluctantly began an exercise program at a local gym,” he writes. It worked – with a strengthened core, his golf game improved and swinging the grandkids was much easier; he still hits the gym two or three times a week.

Other advice in this well-thought out book is to “keep busy and make a contribution where ever you can; keep physically fit; get a good dog; keep your self-respect; take time to relax with a good book and with good friends whenever you can,” and – one that our late father-in-law used to also say, “remember, there ain’t no bad scotch, some is just better than others.”

While the book devotes little space to money matters, White does recommend good record-keeping in one’s retirement. “It is amazing how many people don’t know what they have, and where the paperwork that is associated with what they have is located,” he observes.

“Retirement,” he concludes, “may seem like a great darkness where fear and anxiety lurk, but no one can possibly know what will happen in the next hour or the next day. Stay in the present.”

This fine book is a great addition to any retirement library.

If you’re a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, getting access to your records, including tax slips, balances, and contribution details, is a breeze. Just sign up for MySPP and all your account details are just a click away. You can print off tax forms yourself, rather than waiting for them in the mail. It’s another way SPP is decluttering your retirement.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Successful Aging – book suggests things you can do to age better

February 3, 2022

Author Daniel J. Levitin begins his book Successful Aging by noting that he once saw aging “only as a failing: a failing of the body, of the mind, and even of the spirit.”

But now, he writes, “I’ve seen a different side of aging. My parents are now in their mid-eighties and are as engaged with life as they have ever been, immersed in social interactions, spiritual pursuits, hiking and nature, and even starting new professional projects.”

This detailed, well-researched book looks at some of the reasons why some of us age better than others, as well as some steps we can consider on our own to improve our personal aging process.

Levitin identifies The Big Five dimensions that those who age well seem to possess as follows:

  1. Extraversion
  2. Agreeableness
  3. Conscientiousness
  4. Emotional Stability versus Neuroticism
  5. Openness to Experience + Intellect (also called Imagination).

Levitin disputes the notion that memory loss is a sort of “normal” age-related impairment.

Older people can benefit from memory assistive tools, such as “using their electronic calendars as a combination to-do list and sticky paper reminder system… they love the freedom of being able to relax their minds, to let go of worrying about what they might be forgetting… and just the act of writing things down, of paying close attention to what they want to schedule, has improved their memories,” he writes.

On the topic of dementia, Levitin notes that “the biggest challenge faced by dementia is the public narrative of despair, that nothing can be done about it.” He says that negativity should be replaced with hope, and “the recognition that people with dementia are still there.”

A later chapter looks at why some older people are still intellectually thriving.

“I’ve come to believe that life after seventy-five can launch a period of intellectual growth, and not mere maintenance,” he writes. He notes that the great cellist Pablo Casal continued to practice heavily after age 80, saying that he wanted to get better, and because he believed “that self-improvement and expertise are possible at any age, whether it’s intellectual, physical, emotional or spiritual.”

He’s a believer in life-long learning. “If you’re reading this book,” he writes, “there’s a good chance you are motivated to learn, that you benefit from an innate or cultivated curiosity about the worlds. As we’ve seen, curiosity can be protective against aging, and a great motivator to obtain an education, which is also protective.”

He sees “social connectedness” as being key to “a long health span and a long life,” adding that loneliness “is associated with early mortality.”

On pain management, he observes that “effective distraction” through “exercise, interesting conversation, practicing yoga, meditation, socializing, listening to soothing music, or immersing yourself in nature” can help you through it.

And on exercise, he notes that “exercising on a treadmill is good. Walking around the neighbourhood is better. Walking in nature is the best.”

Nine hours of “restorative sleep” is a positive measure to reducing the impacts of aging, he writes.

He concludes with this thought – instead of wondering who to pass the torch to as you grow old, “hold onto your torch. Do not go gently. And don’t forget to laugh. Whatever’s going on around you, remember to laugh.”

This is an excellent addition to any personal library – the great advice and interesting research covered in this book is expressed with an unwavering, and very comforting, sense of optimism.

A financial consequence of aging well is longevity. While we all want to live to a ripe old age, there can be challenges if you get so advanced in years that you have outlived your money. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan allows its members to receive some or all of their retirement benefits in the form of an annuity – a lifetime monthly payment. It’s one of the tools the SPP offers to help your finances, no matter how long you’ll need them. Check out SPP today.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Be active, eat healthy, and enjoy your life, advises The Retirement Handbook

December 23, 2021

If you are about to leave work behind and start a new life as a retiree – and haven’t really thought about what your new life will look like, The Retirement Handbook by Ted Heybridge is the book for you.

This book is not about the money side of things. Instead, the focus is on you – ideas about how you can be active, eat well, and enjoy life.

Retirement, Heybridge begins, “is your time to spend as you choose, so it’s up to you to decide how much time you wish to devote to volunteering, meeting friends, exercising, gardening or minding grandchildren.”

Exercising and being active is a key consideration, he writes. “Only one in seven 65-74-year-olds and one in 14 over 75s meet World Health Organization guidelines for recommended physical activity,” he notes. That’s 2.5 hours of “moderate aerobic physical activity per week,” and he encouragingly notes that “any activity, no matter how light, is better than none.”

Cycling, he writes, “gets you out, relieves stress, and makes you feel great.” Sixty-three per cent of Copenhagen residents commute to work or school by bike, he notes, adding that “the health benefits of cycling outweigh the injury risks by 20:1.”

Other great activities listed in the book including dancing, running, yoga, swimming, and getting to the gym.

In the section of the book on healthy eating, Heybridge talks about the importance of hydration. Women should have 2.2 litres of water each day, for men it is 3 litres. “If we forget to keep our fluids up, we become dehydrated, which can lead to fatigue and poor concentration,” he warns.

Other advice in this section includes cutting back on sugar, the many advantages of “plant power” in your diet, and useful strategies for cutting back on alcohol.

While saving for retirement and pension plans aren’t expressly featured in this book, ideas on how to make your retirement dollars go farther are.

The “pain-free ways to save” section suggests growing your own food and flowers, becoming a chef at home to save on restaurant dining, using other means – footpower, a bike, or the bus – to cut back on driving (and the cost of gas), selling off your clutter and many more simple-to-do ideas.

Other ways to augment your retirement income include working part time, being a consultant, turning hobbies into money-makers, and many more.

There’s a section on new activities you can take on with the luxury of more time – furthering your education, learning a new language, taking up carpentry, and becoming a wine aficionado.

A nice section on relationships notes that working couples who both retire will find they are spending a lot more time with each other than they are used to. “Make sure you have separate interests and see your own friends. That way, you’ll have something to talk about when you get home.”

Our late mother used to say that when Dad retired, he spent the first year following her around and reading her items out of the paper. So she “assigned” him some new tasks – he took over doing the laundry, and loading and unloading the dishwasher, which he did with aplomb.

This fun, well-written and very helpful book concludes by offering some words of wisdom from famed comic actor George Burns – “you can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”

It’s always nice to have a few twenties in the wallet when you’re retired. If you don’t have a pension program through work, you’ll need to handle saving on your own. A fine partner in your saving efforts is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s a full-service personal retirement system – your contributions are invested in a professionally managed, pooled fund, at a low cost, and when it is time to turning savings into income, SPP has many options for you, including lifetime annuities. Check them out today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Exercise that boosts flexibility, corrects posture can slow aging process: Aging Backwards

November 18, 2021

We talk – some might say endlessly – about saving for retirement, the need for income for the latter part of our lives, and so on.

But the book Aging Backwards by Miranda Esmonde-White focuses on the other side of retirement – having a sensible exercise plan that keeps your body from aging prematurely.

Most people, she begins, may see aging “as something they have no control over, just like the passage of time.” However, she says, “you absolutely do have a choice in the age of your bones, your muscles, your internal organs and your skin.” Thirty minutes per day of targeted exercise, she writes, can decide between a “vital, energetic and healthy” life versus “a life of joint and back pain, limited mobility, and a lack of physical strength.”

The exercise program that Esmonde-White prescribes is called the “Essentrics” system, which she writes is “exactly the opposite of the unproductive, dangerous ‘no pain no gain’ philosophy of yore.” She says it is more about “no pain, all pleasure.”

She notes that every minute you exercise lengthens your life by seven minutes… “a guaranteed 1-to-7 return on your investment.”

And for those who argue that genetics controls how you will age, she cites research that shows only 25 per cent of our longevity is determined by our genes – the rest is “due to lifestyle and environmental factors.”

Another crucial stat she cites is that those with a “somewhat sedentary, somewhat active” lifestyle lose seven to eight per cent of their body’s cells each decade. Those who exercise “using the entirety of their musculature lose an average of only two to three per cent of… cells each decade.”

The second half of the book gets into the Essentrics program, which has elements of isotonic, concentric and eccentric exercise. She notes that the movements in the program mimic some of the activities that were common for everyone in the past – such as cleaning the windows, mopping the floors, and moving furniture.

“The unfortunate truth is that many of us rarely do these chores anymore, and if we do them at all we don’t do them long enough to derive any real benefit from them,” Esmonde-White explains.

The last part of the book shows all the workouts, with photos. There are exercises like ceiling reaches and the “open chest swan sequence” to improve your posture. The weight loss exercises include a “pulling weeds sequence” and some plie-type dance movements. There’s a “washing tables” movement, as well as a “washing windows” exercise in the section on exercise to soothe your joints. Calf stretches and “barre footwork” with a simple chair are found in the “increase your energy section.” There are many more exercises and many more sections in this informative how-to book.

She concludes by writing that if you decide against regular, targeted exercise, “all you are `putting off’ is your chance of having a vital, exciting, energized time well into your twilight years.”

There is a contagious enthusiasm in this well-written book that coaxes you out of the easy chair and into more exercise. It’s definitely a book worth adding to your personal fitness library.

If, as we have read, the payoff from targeted exercise is longevity, one must invariably think about addressing the cost of that extra time on earth. You’ll still need food, shelter and some sort of fuel in the future, and all of these things will cost money. If you’ve got a retirement program at work, you are ahead of the game – be sure to join it.

But if not, you’ll need to carry the retirement savings load on your own shoulders. And if you put that off, you’ll run out of time to catch up later. A handy solution to the problem is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, a one-stop shop for setting up your very own personal pension.

Be sure to check out SPP – celebrating its 35th year of operations – today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Retirement Heaven or Hell focuses on sense rather than dollars

October 21, 2021

One of the nagging questions we had during the countdown to retirement seven years ago was this – what is retirement going to be like?  And while retired friends and neighbours smiled and said cryptic things like “you’ll never know how you found the time for work,” we wondered – still – how the transition from full time work to freelancing would go.

This is the sort of territory covered in Mike Drak’s terrific new book, Retirement Heaven or Hell.

He starts by recalling that, as a child, he really couldn’t answer the question “what do you want to do with the rest of your life.” Retirement provides a second chance to give that response, he writes.

“It’s hard to enjoy retirement when you are not doing what you like to do,” he continues. Living someone else’s retirement dream is your ticket to what Drak calls “Retirement Hell.”

So what does Retirement Heaven look like?  There are “comfort-oriented retirees” who “like to have a safe, ordinary retirement,” he explains. They are content with a “full-stop” retirement, they don’t want to work, and some have accumulated “a great deal of money.”  Then there are “growth-oriented retirees” who Drak sees as “retirement rebels – the people who have a strong inner voice constantly telling them to never be satisfied; to keep stretching, exploring, learning and experiencing.”  Either stream works “as long as you are happy and doing things that are meaningful and fulfilling to you,” Drak explains.

Drak writes about the danger of “the Big Retirement Dip” that can happen after you have enjoyed “the Honeymoon Stage” of retirement, and have travelled, golfed more, visited the grandkids, and ticked off all the boxes of your to-do list.  Retirees “often find that they need to find something else to do, and this is where the trouble starts. Without a bigger plan or a purpose, they start to slide down to Retirement Hell, the lowest point in the Big Retirement Dip,” Drak writes.

This is particularly true of growth-oriented retirees; some comfort-oriented retirees “will be able to remain happily in the Honeymoon Stage for their entire retirement,” despite possibly having less meaning to their lives than the growth-oriented folks, Drak notes.

Drak adds that “significant change is an inevitable fact of retirement. How you choose to prepare for it and respond to it will determine if you will be happy or not.”  He encourages retirees to take up “new routines” such as regular meditation, and journaling, which he sees as the creation of a book “by you, about you” that will help you chart your progress towards your goals.  A daily log helps you determine if your day “was productive… or not,” helps you stay “on track with your goals,” and gives tips on how to improve things “going forward.”

The meat of the book is Drak’s list of “Nine Principles for an Exceptional Retirement.” These include:

  1. Nurture Strong Relationships
  2. Foster Good Health
  3. Achieve Financial Independence
  4. Reignite Your Sense of Adventure
  5. Tap into Your Spirituality
  6. Find Your Tribes
  7. Make the Most of Your Time
  8. Adopt the Right Attitude
  9. Discover Your Purpose

Drak covers each of these ideas in great detail, with “self reflection” questions on each topic as well as “simple truths,” a sort of Coles notes summary of the section.  He warns us, when talking about nurturing strong relationships, that loneliness “is an emotional problem with a physical consequence that could lead to an early death.”  Regarding health, he notes that “exercising and eating right are key anti-aging strategies,” the “magic pill” we look for.

On Financial Independence, he observes that “working longer reduces the risk of market declines and of not having enough money.” Thinking about our sense of adventure, Drak writes that “life is either a daring adventure or boring… playing it safe is a gamble too.”  Spirituality “helps you deal with the ups and downs of everyday life,” and having a “tribe” of like-minded people permits you to be on a “shared mission with people you respect and care about.” He covers all nine principles with similar aplomb.

Near the end of the book, Drak challenges us to “watch the movie of your own life…(to) take you back on your journey since childhood. This will remind you about what made you happy, which in turn will help you to discover your purpose(s) and passions, and ultimately, the person you were meant to be.”

And this is a core message of the book – no one can tell you what your retirement should be except for you, and this decision depends on your values. “Values are who you are even when no one is watching,” Drak explains. “Putting your values first influences your decisions; and how you choose to act and behave will ultimately determine your sense of happiness and fulfilment in life.”

This is a great book, almost a retirement philosophy text, and is well worth a read, whether you are planning your retirement or – even more importantly – if you have reached the end of the honeymoon stage and can’t think of what to do next. The book gives you the tools you need to get there.

The non-philosophical side of the retirement equation – income – plays the important role of helping to fund the retirement you want. If, lacking a workplace retirement program, you are saving on your own for those future challenges and adventures, why not put the Saskatchewan Pension Plan to work for you? They’ve been delivering retirement security since their inception 35 years ago.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.