Category Archives: Book Reviews

Well-crafted book helps you prepare for life after work – Not Fade Away, by Celia Dodd

The book Not Fade Away by Celia Dodd is a retirement book that’s not brimming with charts and tables and heavy investment advice. This well-written and thoughtful book focuses more on the key decisions you’ll face on the road to your own retirement plan.

Retirement, she writes, can be hard for many of us, like leaving home, we are leaving work for perhaps the first time. “Why do people feel lost, overwhelmed, and even depressed without it? It’s almost as if we are addicted to work… work is such a big part of our lives for such a long time that it’s hard to leave it behind,” Dodd notes.

She provides a list of the things we worry about when thinking of retirement:

  • Health
  • Money
  • Relationship with partner
  • Loss of identity/self-esteem/confidence
  • Boredom and lack of purpose
  • Lack of structure
  • Loss of skills (because they are not being used)

With those thoughts in mind, Dodd points out that retirement is not like an on-off switch; there are several ways to approach it. There’s the traditional “cliff edge” approach, full retirement from all work; there is “phased retirement through a reduced workload with your existing employer,” or “phased retirement through new part-time work or becoming self-employed.”

All these roads (for many of us) eventually lead to full retirement – no work at all. Dodd advises us to try and “think about what an average weekday (in retirement) would ideally be like once the honeymoon period is over.” Jot this down, she says, and be specific.

Think about how you handled “previous transitions in your life,” or how you spent any really long holidays.

“Think about what you’re going to miss most about work and how you might recreate it: water cooler moments? Mental challenge? Working in a team? Commuting?” Dodd assures us that some people actually do miss the trip to work.

Take note of the things you enjoy both at work and in your spare time, talk to retired friends, and if you’re planning to volunteer or start a business, find out “what skills and qualifications you might need,” she writes, adding that we should also consider “untravelled roads,” things we once liked to do, or wanted to do, but aren’t doing.

When you are more separated from full-time work, Dodd writes, consider the “ingredients for fulfillment” in life, such as “activities that nurture you: walking, listening to or playing music and practising yoga.”

It’s important to meet up with old friends, she writes, but as important to meet new ones, “and take part in activities in a group.”

Ideally you should find activities you can “lose yourself in,” keep your brain sharp, stay challenged, have a sense of achievement, and “an overarching sense of purpose – long-term goals that incorporate short-term goals.”

The book offers many more thought-provoking ideas, including some basic tips about retirement income, such as making sure you are getting correctly taxed, breaking habits (like being generous) if you can no longer afford them, and to spend money “on experiences and socializing rather than material possessions.”

When this writer was planning to leave full-time work, it was very difficult to imagine what it would be like on the other side of the fence. This book is about as good as it gets when it comes to answering that question – and makes the point that there’s no such thing as a cookie cutter retirement, that it’s not always all about money, and that your own unique circumstances will define your retirement. Definitely worth a read!

No matter how your retirement unfolds, having a little more retirement income will be handy. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan can be part of your retirement income plan. You can contribute up to $6,300 per year to the plan, and expert investors will grow it for you at an extremely competitive low rate. When it’s time to fully or partially leave the workforce, those invested contributions can be converted to a lifetime income stream via SPP annuities. Take a minute to check it out on SPP’s website today.

Written by Martin Biefer

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

Keeping it simple makes your wealth plan elegant: JL Collins

No question about it, A Simple Plan to Wealth by JL Collins is ideally suited for those of us who “have better things to do with their precious time than think about money.”  This book grew out of a series of blog posts that were designed, in part, to enlighten the author’s kids, we are told. While a lot of the retirement saving messages are aimed at our friends south of the border, there is a lot of solid advice in these pages.

“Spend less than you earn – invest the surplus – avoid debt,” Collins begins. “Do simply this and you’ll wind up rich. Not just in money.” Collins adds that carrying debt “is as appealing as being covered with leeches and has much the same effect.”

Collins says even at age 13, he was a saver. “Watching my money grow was intoxicating.” And while savings first earmarked for a convertible ultimately were needed to pay for his college education, the important aspect of the story is having savings “in this fiscally insecure world.”

“To this day it stuns me to read about some middle-aged guy laid off from his job of 20 years and almost instantly broke. How does anyone let that happen? It is the result of failing to master money,” he writes.

Credit cards draw us in and then live in our pockets, he says. Early on, faced with a chance to put a $300 purchase on a credit card, he found that after paying the minimum he would owe 18 per cent on the balance of $290 that “they were hoping I’d let ride. What? Did these people think I was stupid,” he asks. But credit is not personal. “They think the same of all of us. And unfortunately, all too frequently they’re not wrong.”

Collins is a big proponent of stock investing, and notes that $12,000 invested in the U.S. S&P 500 in 1975 would be worth $1.07 million thirty years later. However, he says, most people lose money in the market because “we think we can time the market,” or “we believe we can pick individual stocks” or “winning mutual fund managers.”

Collins likes exchange-traded-funds (ETFs), specifically citing the Vanguard series. He also is quite aggressive in his personal portfolio mix – 75 per cent stocks, 20 per cent bonds, and five per cent cash, with stock and bond holdings all done via index ETFs. ETFs, he writes, have far lower fees than mutual funds, and there’s an argument for buying the entire index rather than trying to pick those stocks on it that are winners. He notes that Warren Buffett had similar advice for his shareholders – “put 10 per cent of cash in short-term government bonds and 90 per cent in a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund.”

Collins is also a “four per cent rule” skeptic, saying it is safer to draw three per cent per year from your retirement savings in order to live well without running out of money. “Stray much further out than seven per cent and your future will include dining on dog food,” he warns.

The key message throughout this easy-to-digest book is to stick to the plan and live within your means. Nothing, he concludes, “is worth paying interest to own.”

Be sure to earmark retirement savings in your plan. As the book suggests, the longer your savings have to grow, the more they will. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has averaged growth of more than eight per cent annually since its inception in the 1980s, and the fee charged is currently about one per cent. Get your savings growing for you and consider checking 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 and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

Dreams can be realized if you put the work in, book suggests

A glance at the title on the Indigo website – How to Retire Debt-Free & Wealthy – made this writer decide to add Christine Ibbotson’s book to our retirement library. What else, after all, could anyone want from their retirement?  What’s great about this book is that it illustrates the path you need to take to get there, and uses dozens of different anecdotal/testimonial trails to illustrate the key points.

Ibbotson starts by noting that “very few clients (she is a licensed financial and investment advisor, estate planner and tax specialist) entering retirement will want to compromise their current lifestyles, but will find it difficult to live on less income, especially if they still have a mortgage or outstanding debt.”

That’s seminal retirement advice, and the book builds on it.

A key part of the book is her five-step methodology to establishing what she calls “your core plan.”  Step one is debt elimination, she writes. No easy way out – the best step is to target one of your debts with extra payments, pay it off, and then go after the others. “Once all the debt is paid, you can use these new-found funds to start a savings program towards investing,” she says.

The second idea is one we’ve not seen before, specifically the idea that your “mortgage amortization should match the years left to your retirement.”

“If you are now 45, the amortization on your mortgage should be 20 years,” she explains. Why this idea is so smart is that it basically guarantees you will retire without a mortgage, which is usually the largest debt we Canadians carry. Carrying a mortgage when you have less money (because you are retired) is not always a lot of fun.

Other ideas in the five-step plan are to set up a daily cash journal and track all expenses (so you know where every nickel of your money is going), determining your total debt-servicing ratio, and to “explore ways to increase your wealth” once debt is out of the picture.

In one of the many examples in the book, 50-somethings “Tracie and Kyle” are able to get out of a debt quagmire by tracking and then dramatically slashing their discretionary spending, enabling them to live on one salary. Then, both added side gigs, their debts were addressed and eliminated, and their turnaround resulted in an education plan for the kids and retirement savings for themselves.

The experience turned great spenders “into great savers,” the book declares.

For those who can’t imagine becoming savers, the book has a chapter just for you on “Ways to Save Every Day.” Do your own house cleaning and cut your own lawn. Do small repairs yourself. Cut back on phone and cable. Bundle services where you can. Buy second hand. Drive your car longer.  Cut back on expensive memberships. Buy generic brands. Buy in bulk, and shop when there are sales. There are many more tips like these in this well-thought-out volume.

There’s even advice on the tricky problem of making your money last in retirement. Ibbotson suggests when you are retired, there will be a “honeymoon phase” for the first five years of retirement, followed by the middle age of retirement (years six to 20) and the “long-term” phase, 20 years and beyond.

Use your unregistered savings for the first phase as much as you can. Start tapping into RRSPs, pensions, and government benefits in phase two. By phase three you will need income from your RRIFs and fixed-income investments, which you will have been “laddering” in phases one and two.

This great little book is well worth adding to your collection.  If, like the book suggests, you are banking on retiring more than 20 years from now, it’s probably well past time to start putting away money for retirement. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers you a choice of a Balanced Fund or Diversified Income Fund for your contributions. 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 and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

Book lets pictures, not words, tell the story about personal finance

Years ago, a colleague opened our eyes to the idea of “infographics,” nice, visual little charts and graphics that take far less time and space to tell a story than simple words alone.

Nowadays, you see many long reports, like corporate annual reports or white papers, that are packed with visuals. This thinking is precisely what authors Michele Cagan, CPA, and Elisabeth LaRiviere had in mind when they produced The Infographic Guide to Personal Finance.

The results are impressive. The book navigates just about every financial situation there is via 50 different infographics. The authors point out that “personal finance is one of the most important life skills to master, yet it’s one of the few topics rarely covered in school.” Their very educational book helps address that knowledge gap.

The overview of budgeting, for instance, suggests a plan based on “50 per cent needs, 30 per cent wants, and 20 per cent savings and investments.” As well, the book suggests, you need to set goals, know your income, and total your monthly expenses “to create a realistic budget” that you should revisit frequently. Got to know what’s coming in, what’s going out, and what’s left, the images show us.

An infographic dedicated to saving shows the earlier you start, the better, the book says.

“Let’s say you contribute $2,000 a year” to your retirement savings fund, at six per cent interest, the book notes. “If you start at age 25, by the time you’re 65 you will have $328,101. But if you wait until you are 45 to start contributing that $2,000 a year, you’ll end up with $77,986 – less than a quarter of what you’d have if you started at 25.”  The book stresses the importance of an emergency fund “to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses.” Such funds are best tucked away in no-fee, high interest savings accounts that aren’t easily accessible.

While the book is intended for U.S. readers, its advice on what to do with a tax refund is helpful. First, the book recommends, “beef up your retirement accounts.” Next, target credit card debt. Build up your emergency fund or save for the future, consider buying some stocks, and finally “invest in yourself” and improve your education and skill sets through training.

If you’re reading all this and thinking, yeah, but who has extra money for saving, the book has anticipated your thought with a two-page chart on how to cut expenses. Turn your thermostat down or up, the book suggests. Check out the books and videos that you can get free at the local library. Get a water filter and give up on expensive bottled water. Other tips include cutting the cable cord, switching to LED light bulbs, buying things via online auctions, thrift stores and garage sales, and buying produce in season – frozen when it’s not.

The book’s thoughts on retirement savings are also worth sharing. If your employer offers a retirement savings program with an employer match, be sure not to leave money on the table – take the match. Contribute as much as you can to any employer-sponsored retirement program. Start as soon as you can, and be sure to diversify the investment options you are given – don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

If there’s no workplace pension program for you to access, don’t despair – the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be the answer. You can contribute up to $6,300 each year, and can transfer in a further $10,000 a year from any other registered savings accounts you may have. SPP will grow your money – since the plan’s inception, the growth rate has averaged an impressive eight per cent – and when you retire, you’ll have the option to receive a monthly lifetime pension. That’s making the most of your savings, 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 and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

Napkin Finance: breaking down complex concepts in bite-sized nuggets of wisdom

Author Tina Hay’s Napkin Finance is, as the name would suggest, a great way to boil complex financial planning concepts into easy, digestible pieces.

While the book is intended for U.S. readers, there’s a treasure trove of good information for those of us who reside north of the border.

In the chapter on saving, she quotes famed investor Warren Buffett as saying “do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.” It’s a great idea, she writes, “to make sure you have cash available for emergencies, unexpected bills… and future goals,” and a savings account, ideally separate from your spending account, is a great way to get there.

Hay talks about budgeting ideas, including what she calls “the 50-20-30 budget.” That’s “50 per cent for essentials, 20 per cent for financial goals, and 30 per cent for flexible spending,” the book explains.

In talking about debt, she calls borrowing for a home or education “good debt,” and credit card balances “bad debt,” noting it takes the average American 12 years to pay off a credit card if he or she only pays the minimum amount owing.

If you want to have a good credit rating, Hay advises, then pay your credit card on time and, where possible, in full; don’t miss loan payments; resolve your bank overdraft (pay it off), pay all bills on time and avoid going into collection. All these factors are strikes against good credit, she warns.

Investing, she writes, can be a “powerful way to grow your wealth,” chiefly because stocks generally perform well over the long term. By buying stock, you become “a part-owner of the company” and share in profits via growth in the value of your shares and, occasionally, through dividends. With a bond, “you become the lender to the entity that issued the bond,” and the interest you receive is basically like rent on the use of your money. Hay says alternate investment classes can also be good in your portfolio, including real estate (“you may earn a return when your tenants pay rent”), hedge funds, and private equity investments.

Watch for fees if you invest in mutual funds, she writes; fees are lower with exchange-traded funds or if you use a Robo-adviser rather than a broker.

For retirement savings, Hay advises that you “save 15 per cent of your income and invest heavily in stocks while you are young.” She says you should “take advantage” of tax-assisted savings (in Canada, this would be things like RRSPs or workplace registered pension plans). Don’t forget, she writes, to think about your estate planning as well – don’t leave the decision on what should happen to your money and possessions up in the air.

This is a nicely-written book that’s offering up complex topics in a simple, easy-to-digest way. There’s a nice splash of colour, such as the fact that some people measure inflation over time by looking at the historic price of a Big Mac! It’s definitely worth a read.

If you aren’t great at investing, and want to follow a diversified approach while avoiding high fees, take a good look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Through SPP’s Balanced Fund your investment dollar accesses Canadian and international equities, bonds, mortgages, real estate, infrastructure and short-term investments – all for a very low management fee.

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

Making retirement planning real – Why Me? And No Gold Watch!

A lot of times, we read about what we are supposed to do before and during retirement, and have trouble connecting the dots of good advice.

Author Rick Atkinson has taken a unique and forward-thinking approach to the topic in Why Me? And No Gold Watch! To make all the information more relatable, he turns it all into a story – the story of Sally McBride, a marketing exec who is unexpectedly let go from a good job at age 57.

Sally is initially shocked by the news that she’s been terminated. “Will I be able to find a new job? Who will hire someone who’s 57… am I now facing retirement?”

An overwhelmed Sally does the right thing, however. When faced with a situation she’s not sure how to cope with, she reaches out to friends for advice. Her friend Thelma soothes her initial fears about retirement, that she would be “unproductive” and losing her identity. “It doesn’t have to be that way,” explains Thelma. Retirement, she says, is an opportunity for all of us “to be enthusiastic about their futures and shape (our) destinies.”

The book weaves in quotes from real people about their perspectives on retirement. Rick Hansen is quoted as saying, on goal-setting, that “it should be challenging enough to make you stretch, but not so far that you break.” Another nice feature of this book is that each chapter also contains a worksheet, for you to add in your own perspectives.

Chapters deal with retirement preparedness, working and volunteering, money, health and well-being, and more – almost every facet of life after work.

In the section on money, Sally meets with friends to talk about how to select a financial advisor, who at a high level talks about the need to have a budget. The worksheet pages at the end of the chapter provide you with your own template; so after seeing Sally walk through it, you can next walk through yourself.

After attending to her financial, health, spiritual and social concerns, Sally is feeling a lot more positive. “You’re beginning to build your vision of retirement, and how to spend your time. You’re giving thoughts to your finances… (and) you’re thinking about your health and well-being strategy,” her friend Thelma enthuses. “The more positive images, questions, implicit beliefs and positive self-talk you engage in, the more positive your mindset,” she adds.

“You’re right, Thelma. I’m beginning to be excited about life after work,” Sally replies.

This book is definitely a positive addition to any pre-retirement/retirement library. Author Atkinson’s style reminds us of talking to a friend or parent, the tone is patient, sensible, non-judgmental, and convincing. If you are unsure about retirement, this book is definitely for you.

A good part of any retirement plan – specifically the financial angle – is to put away money while you’re working to use later to finance life after work. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers you a full-service retirement savings plan. SPP will grow your savings (they have an enviable track record of growth) and turn them into a series of lifetime payments when it’s time to turn in the name tag. 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

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

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

Thinking your way to wealth: Napoleon Hill

What if all that is keeping you from being rich is the way you think? Could you change your thinking and realize your dreams?

According to Napoleon Hill, author of Think & Grow Rich, the answer is yes. This interesting and somewhat classic book (the copyright date is 1937, and it was first reprinted 60 years ago) starts by telling the tale of Edwin Barnes, a man who despite lacking any skills or knowledge, desperately wanted to work alongside the great inventor, Thomas Edison.

The penniless Barnes managed to get a meeting with Edison, who noted that “there was something in the expression of his face which conveyed that he was determined to get what he had come after.” He hired Barnes, the book says, and later, it was Barnes who spotted the potential in a dictaphone device Edison had invented, was given the job of selling it, and made a fortune with the product. “He proved that one may Think and Grow Rich,” Hill writes.

Hill outlines six steps to take to turn “desires into gold.”

You should “fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire.” Next, determine “what you intend to give in return for the money you desire.” Set a date for when you plan to possess the money, create “a definite plan for carrying out your desire,” develop a written statement of your plan and “read your written statement aloud, twice daily,” ideally when you get up and again when going to sleep.

While this sounds simple enough, the book looks at all the obstacles that get in the way of such positive, structured thinking.

To build your self-confidence (towards attaining your goal), Hill recommends that you “demand of (yourself) persistent, continuous action towards its attainment.” You need to set aside at least 30 minutes daily to take action on your plans. In this way, which Hill calls “auto-suggestion,” you basically coach your thinking into focusing on achieving your goal.

You need to fend off the “31 major causes of failure,” all of which can be overcome, Hill notes.

Among these are “lack of a well-defined purpose in life,” a lack of ambition, a lack of self-discipline, poor health, procrastination, the lack of persistence, and many more.

He lists the six “basic fears” that prevent people from trying to reach their goals – fears of poverty, criticism, ill health, failure in love, old age and death. “Fears are nothing more that states of mind,” he writes. “One’s state of mind is subject to control and direction. Man can create nothing that he does not first conceive in the impulse of thought.”

Another tactic is to make sure, Hill writes, that you are “money conscious” and not “poverty conscious.” The former, he argues, can be created – or you can be born with it, it is having a mindset that is focused on attracting wealth. The latter will fill the void if you don’t have a developed money consciousness, he notes.

This is a fascinating book, and while it’s a vintage example of self-help writing, it stands up quite well. The central message here is that if you set a goal – any goal – you can achieve it by committing yourself to focusing on it, banishing negative fears and obstacles, and following your own thorough plan.

You could apply these principles not only to amassing wealth, but maybe for things like losing weight or breaking 90 at golf. Controlling your mind will conquer fears, distractions, and inaction.

Thinking in the way that Hill does, then, you could plan for a specific total in your retirement savings account – let’s say $100,000, as an example – and then write out the steps you would take to get to that target. It’s adding structure and purpose to the activity of saving.

Should you be looking for a destination for your retirement savings, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan  may be a good place to check out. They’ll professionally manage your savings, and when the blessed day comes that you punch the time clock for the last time, they’ll turn your savings into lifetime income. 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