Book Reviews

Retirement needs a map, just as travelling needs a GPS: The Art of Retirement

September 21, 2023

For any of us, at any age, who are thinking about retirement, The Art of Retirement by Anthony Gordon is a must-have retirement reference book.

The book begins by helping us reframe our relationship with our finances. Perhaps, the book suggests, quoting noted economist Moshe Milevsky, we need to think of ourselves as a corporation — “You Inc.”

In that role, your goal would be “to maximize your company’s value while minimizing the risks faced by your corporation… to take the long-term view when making financial decisions.”

After a discussion of the “Rule of 72,” the idea that “72 divided by the interest rate approximately determines how long it takes for your money to double,” Gordon notes that the earlier we start saving, the best. “You need to start saving and investing as soon as you get the chance,” he writes. “If you do not, you will not get the full benefit of compound interest and the Rule of 72, so missing a year has a significant impact in the long run.” Think of your early investment “as a small snowball that gradually grows,” so long as you get the ball rolling.

He quotes the great Albert Einstein as once saying “he who understands interest, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.”

Gordon advises that as you save for retirement, you want to “keep track of your debt. If you ignore debt, you will not be on track for your retirement even if you have a lot of investments.” Compound interest works against you when it’s being applied to debt, he warns.

Writing about retirement income planning, he advises us all to find out what your “guaranteed income streams” are going to be — this can be Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS), the Guaranteed Income Supplement,” or income from an annuity.

Then you need to think about how much you will need to withdraw from other personal savings — registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) or Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). Next, look into ways to minimize taxes — then, you will have a picture of your future retirement income.

If you are running your own investments, be aware that “as humans, our erratic emotions and actions are rooted in psychological forces that drive most of the poor results that investors experience in the market,” Gordon writes. Quoting legendary investor Warren Buffett, he writes that “to invest successfully over a lifetime does not require a stratospheric IQ, unusual business insight or inside information. What is needed is a sound intellectual framework for decisions and the ability to keep emotions from corroding the framework.”

A key tool in developing such a framework, he writes, is having a financial plan.

Such a plan, he continues, should list all assets and liabilities, establish written goals based on “your values and your vision,” and should detail how much you will need “now, five and 10 years from now, as well as in retirement. Plan for inflation and taxes,” he writes.

Use the plan to decrease expenses, and to become fully aware of your monthly cash flow needs. You should look for ways “to reduce or defer income taxes where possible,” and plan your estate, including “wills, powers of attorney, and life insurance.”

Review your plan at least once a year — keep a copy of it handy if you are working with investment or legal professionals, he writes.

Other interesting discussions in this well-written book include a section on how to take advantage of a TFSA when you are retired.

Money invested in a TFSA, and later withdrawn, has no impact on your eligibility for “federal income-tested benefits.” A TFSA passes tax free to your estate, and you can contribute to a TFSA well past age 71 when you are fully retired, he writes. “Overall, the TFSA is a great tool that will allow you to better manage your taxable income so you do not have to withdraw additional funds from your registered retirement income fund (RRIF),” he writes.

In a chapter devoted to minimizing taxation, he talks about CPP splitting and pension income splitting, and some of the tax benefits an annuity can provide.

While noting annuities aren’t for everyone, Gordon writes that they provide a guaranteed payment for life and usually provides “a much higher rate of return than if you had received money from a guaranteed income certificate.” The book concludes with a detailed look at estate planning and the importance of having a will.

Once you are actually retired, you will notice that some fellow retirees are managing better than others. This probably isn’t by fluke. The ones who travel the most, or have cabins or campers, are almost certainly the ones who put some thought into what retirement would look like many years earlier. The rest of the gang have to manage on what they’ve got to live on.

If you don’t have a pension plan through work, don’t worry — the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is open to all Canadians with RRSP room. You can decide how much to contribute, and they’ll look after the heavy lifting of investing. At retirement, SPP offers the option of a lifetime annuity — a monthly payment you’ll get for the rest of your life — to help make your retirement income predictable and secure. 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.

Our ability to adapt to life’s challenges is our superpower: Healthy No Matter What

August 3, 2023

In Healthy No Matter What, authors Dr. Alex Jadad and his daughter Tamen Jadad-Garcia make the fascinating argument that our “natural gift of adaptation” is a form of superpower, one that can help us live a healthy life despite the many challenges we face.

They note that health self-assessment — in which you are asked if your health is excellent, very good, good, fair or poor — has led to some “groundbreaking” findings.

Those who are positive about their health tend to be healthy, the book explains. But those who negatively self-assess their health “have twice the risk of premature death than someone who rates their health as positive,” and tend to live at least 23 years less than those who say their health is excellent, the book notes, citing U.S. research.

The book takes a detailed look on why some of us live longer than others, and much of the focus is on our ability (or lack of ability) to handle stress.

A chapter on “Toxic Stress Load” or TSL explains that stress plays a key role “in how long and healthy your life could be.” TSL refers to “the physical and psychological reaction of a person to long-term threatening situations or events, especially those that start in early childhood… the wear and tear your experience from grinding through life.”

Wealthier people tend to have less stress and lead longer lives, the book notes.

“In 2021, the female citizens of Monaco had a life expectancy of 93.4 years. At the time, their home country had a Gross Domestic Product of more than $190,000 per capita (U.S. dollars), with the fourth lowest infant mortality rate, the 10th most powerful passport in the world, and zero homicides per year from 2007 to 2018,” the book says.

Another long-lived group are those who live in “Blue Zones,” such as Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy, Icaria, Greece and other locations. “Apart from being isolated places, with communities that draw from a somewhat related genetic pool, the Blue Zones are all places that encourage physical activity in natural settings.” Those living there “put their family ahead of other priorities, have a clear life purpose, have low rates of smoking, drink alcohol in moderation,” and eat healthy diets and engage in stress-reducing activities, the authors note.

Research on those living to 100 and beyond found “a tendency to react with low anxiety to stressful situations” and eating smaller portions of food, the book notes.

In the chapter “You Are What You Think,” we learn that money is “the main source of psychological stress for people in the richest country in the history of the world,” the U.S.

Research from south of the border found that “financial concerns have trumped health, family and work as the main source… of stress for Americans since 2007.” Having “insufficient savings for retirement (51 per cent) and excessive debt (30 per cent) are listed as the top two money concerns, the book explains.

A startling stat from the book is that 52 per cent of Americans under 40 are “more afraid of retirement than death,” even though they have two decades ahead of them to save for retirement.

The book lays out ways to overcome stress and fear about life events. The “BASK” acronym refers to Behavioural tasks, Attitude Changes, Skill Development, and Knowledge Acquisition.

Exercise, the book explains, is an antidote to anxiety. Yoga is another.

Optimism is also cited as a natural way to defend against anxiety. “Optimists tend to engage more often than pessimists in healthy behaviours such as exercising and eating nutritious diets, and they are less likely to smoke or drink alcohol in excess. Optimism is also associated with proactive strategies that can improve adaptability, including problem-focused coping and seeking social support…as well as with better psychological and physical function later in life.”

A later chapter looks at the value of friendship, “the single most important factor influencing our health, well-being, and happiness.”

We need to watch out for negative behaviours, the book warns, since “negatives attract.” A U.S. study found that “72 per cent of adults report having at least one unhealthy behaviour or avoidable risk factor, including insufficient sleep, obesity, physical inactivity, smoking or excessive drinking” had double the risk for premature death than those without such behaviours. Compulsive buying and binge eating were said to be the top two negatives to watch out for.

The book concludes with a chapter on how to get the most out of doctor visits by being a “good patient” and making sure you get answers to all your questions.

There is a lot of ground covered in this interesting read, but the message that comes through is that there is a lot of non-medical things we can do to stay healthier, better connected, and more focused — and together, a better attitude and handling life’s stresses will help us live longer and better lives.

Are you stressed about retirement? If you haven’t started saving for your post-work life, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be just what you’ve been looking for. SPP takes on the hard part of retirement saving, which is investing your contributions in today’s tricky markets, and growing them for your future. When it’s time to collect those dollars, SPP offers a full range of options including the possibility of a lifetime annuity. Don’t stress about retirement — 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.

Become a `doer’ and any goal can be achieved: The Power of Discipline

July 6, 2023

We all make New Year’s Resolutions, writes Daniel Walter in The Power of Discipline.

But, he continues, “how many of them are ever accomplished… why is it that the majority of us are incapable of sticking to anything worthwhile? The answer is a simple one — a lack of self-discipline.”

This thought-provoking book then sets out ways you can develop and grow your own self-discipline. There’s a lot of ground covered here, so we’ll concentrate on some of the things we felt were key learnings.

Daniel says that establishing a bedtime routine — one that is free of distracting mobile devices and the like — will improve your sleep, allowing you to wake up early and energized, instead of tiredly slamming the “snooze” button.

Some of the characteristics of those who naturally have self-discipline — a skill the author asserts can be developed by anyone — include “delayed gratification,” or being able to be patient, have mental focus, and the ability to avoid “willpower fatigue” by protecting this important skill.

“The best way to build self-discipline is to remove yourself from temptation. For example, if you are struggling with your diet, replace your cupboard of unhealthy foods with healthy choices and meals,” he writes. Skip the sugary snack aisle at the grocery and head to the healthy food aisle, he adds. “By using these strategies, your willpower is only tested during the time you spend in the store, as opposed to trying to resist the temptation to eat your stash of cookies in the cupboard every evening over and over again,” Daniel explains.

Someone with self-discipline, he writes, can build better relationships simply by doing what they say they are going to do. “A person with self-discipline is going to live by their word; if you ask them to keep a secret, they will.” You’ll also stop taking criticism (even the constructive kind) as “an attack on (your) character” and will handle, and even value it, “because it pushes you to become better.”

Daniel says there are some factors to overcome in building one’s self-discipline. Humans, he writes, have a “status quo” bias that makes us “cling to what we are familiar with instead of reach for the unknown.” We worry about the costs of changes like moving to a nicer home or getting married, he continues. We fear regret — “no one wants to make a change and then regret it,” he writes. And just being exposed to things that are a certain way may make us think that “it may not be exactly what we want, but it will do.”

Daniel says we need to understand what we are good at, and what we are not good at — and for the latter, you must be “willing to accept constructive criticism.” This way, you won’t “live in ignorance about your deficiencies,” he explains.

You can build up those skills through taking courses, and also through associating “with people who are further ahead than you are in the speciality in which you wish to gain competence,” Daniel writes.

Daniel writes at length about the power of morning meditation, and encourages people to become readers (“readers are leaders”).

If you are feeling frozen by a “high-stress situation” consider “box breathing,” which is “taking a series of breaths for four seconds at a time — they breathe in, hold their breath, and then breathe out.” Navy SEALs in the US use this technique to slow down their heart rate to normal, when facing stress.

If you are a procrastinator, consider setting deadlines for yourself to put a little pressure on to finish a task. On the other hand, don’t be an overplanner either. “The key is to start working on your project and figure out the details as you go,” Daniel writes.

We liked the section on urges. Instead of thinking “I want a piece of cake,” think that you have an urge to eat cake, Daniel writes. “In this way, you are not fighting yourself, but the sensation you are feeling,” and you may be able to outwait the urge in 20-30 minutes.

There is a lot more great stuff in this well written tome, and if you are having trouble getting going on some sort of personal project, whether it’s losing weight, saving up to buy a home, or looking to get ahead at work, this book is well worth looking at.

A lot of us know we should save for retirement, but don’t know quite how to go about it. Rather than not getting started, why not look into an entity — the Saskatchewan Pension Plan — that specializes in retirement saving? SPP can help you make retirement saving automatic through pre-authorized contributions. They’ll take on the tricky job of navigating roiling markets and growing your money, and when it is time to collect retirement income, SPP has a number of options for you, including the chance of a lifetime monthly annuity payment. Check out SPP today!

Book blends humour and insight about life after work

June 22, 2023

For those of us in the workforce, retirement is something you tend not to think about until it is looming around the corner — and even then, most of us have no idea what to expect.

Kate Freeman’s The Little Instruction Book for Retirement is designed exactly for that audience, and delivers a nice preview of life after work with pithy little quotes and cute illustrations from Ian Baker.

Retirement, the book explains, means “it’s time to celebrate the end of an era — and the start of a whole new one.”

It will be a different reality, the book adds, making the “transition from working life to retirement,” so you may want to hold “a `morning meeting’ every day to brief the household on the day’s events.” (Not really — the illustration shows an older guy with a clipboard announcing the day’s events to his pet goldfish.)

There’s really no need to be tied to an agenda in the same way you were at work because, the book explains, “days of the week now have no bearing on your life whatsoever — every day is the weekend!”

In fact, the book advises, “you must now make household chores take at least three times longer than when you were holding down a full-time job, just to fill some time.”

Well, maybe not quite. But there’s time to do more, and time to do less.

“While there’s no longer any need to dress smartly every day, you should probably still get dressed, at least sometimes,” the book advises, with a drawing showing a happy retiree pushing a shopping cart while wearing PJ bottoms and slippers.

The book suggests that if you miss work colleagues, or work itself, consider volunteering to “become a pillar of your local community.” There will be lots of work-like meetings, the book promises.

You will get more time with your partner, the book adds. “After years of seeing each other only briefly, you can now finally get to know your partners, as you have plenty of unbroken time to spend together.”

Retirement is a good time to take up new things. You can get a new pet, can take up “all the hobbies,” binge watch all the Netflix shows you never had time to see, or tackle home improvements. Or, the book advises, just play.

“When you grew up, you put away childish things. Frankly, it’s way past time to get them out again,” the book tells us.

This is a fun book, and Save with SPP can attest to some of the instructions outlined here. It’s true that every day feels like it’s the weekend, and you lose track of statutory holidays because you’re essentially always on holiday. You will miss colleagues, so the book is correct in urging you to try new things and join new groups. It’s well worth a read.

Life after work requires income, because one change that is a bit rough to get used to going from a steady paycheque every couple of weeks to once-a-month pensions. If you don’t have a pension plan at work, and are saving on your own for retirement, consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

It’s open to any Canadian with registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) room. You can contribute any amount (up to your available RRSP room) to SPP each year, and also can transfer in any amount from your other RRSPs to consolidate and build your retirement nest egg. SPP will grow your savings using low-cost professional management in a pooled fund — and when it’s time to tick off things on your bucket list, SPP has multiple ways to help turn your savings into an income stream. 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.

Patience, “soft skills” and luck more important than technical side of money?

May 11, 2023

Morgan Housel’s The Psychology of Money makes an interesting, anecdote-filled case that financial success is more about patience, and even luck, than the “technical side of money.”

It’s not, he writes, that the technical how-to advice and education about money is “bad or wrong,” but that “knowing what to do tells you nothing about what happens in your head when you try to do it.”

As an example, he notes that a big factor in success with stocks is when you were born — something we all have no control over. “If you were born in 1970, the S&P 500 increased almost 10-fold, adjusted for inflation, during your teens and 20s. That’s an amazing return. If you were born in 1950, the market went literally nowhere in your teens and 20s, adjusted for inflation.” So people in those two groups will have a different personal history with stock investing, and different levels of willingness to enter the market, he explains.

It’s the same story for inflation, he notes. Those born in the 1960s remember it, those born in the 1990s are experiencing it for the first time.

Next, he notes that those with lower incomes have more faith and hope in lottery winnings than those with higher incomes.

“The lowest-income households in the U.S. on average spend $412 a year on lotto tickets, four times the amount of those in the highest income groups,” he notes. Does that factor correlate with another stat, that 40 per cent of Americans say “they couldn’t come up with $400 in an emergency.” They are, he writes, “blowing their safety nets on something with a one-in-millions chance of hitting it big.”

Looking at retirement, he writes that since the 1980s, “the idea that everyone deserves, and should have, a dignified retirement took hold. And the way to get that dignified retirement has been an expectation that everyone will save and invest their own money.” But, he continues, it is not happening. “It should surprise no one that many of us are bad at saving and investing for retirement.”

In a chapter titled Luck & Risk, Housel notes that Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller was once asked what he would like to know about investing “that we can’t know.”

“The exact role of luck in successful outcomes,” replied Shiller.

On risk, Housel stresses the concept of having “enough,” and not necessarily needing more.

“There is no reason to risk what you have and need for what you don’t have and don’t need,” he explains. Watch out if “the taste of having more — more money, more power, more prestige — increases ambition faster than satisfaction,” he warns.

A long-term approach to investing can work well, he writes. He notes that famed investor Warren Buffett “began serious investing when he was 10 years old,” and by 30, had a net worth of one million. That has grown to $84.5 billion at the time the book was written, Housel notes.

But if Buffett had been “a more normal person, spending his teens and 20s exploring the world and finding his passion,” and had $25,000 as his net worth at age 30, he would have — everything else being the same — just $11.9 million today.

“His skill is investing, but his secret is time,” explains Housel.

Getting money is one thing, he writes, but keeping it is another.

Buffett, writes Housel, avoided debt, panic selling “during the 14 recessions he’s lived through,” kept his reputation intact and “didn’t burn himself out or quit or retire.”

“He survived. Survival gave him longevity. And longevity — investing consistently from age 10 to at least age 89 — is what made compounding work wonders,” Housel writes.

So, he explains, while planning is important, “the most important part of every plan is to plan on the plan not going according to the plan.”

Rather than focusing on getting big returns, think about survival, and being “financially unbreakable… if I’m unbreakable I actually think I’ll get the biggest returns, because I’ll be able to stick around long enough for compounding to work wonders.”

Unlike flying an airplane, you don’t have to be right all the time in investing. “If you’re a good investor most years will be just OK, and plenty will be bad,” he explains.

Being a saver is critical, he adds.

“Building wealth has little to do with your income or investment returns, and lots to do with your savings rate,” he writes. “Personal savings and frugality — finance’s conservation and efficiency — are parts of the money equation that are more in your control and have a 100 per cent chance of being as effective in the future as they are today.”

He spends time on the of “leaving room for error” with investments. “The person with enough room for error in part of their strategy (cash) has an edge over the person who gets wiped out, game over, insert more tokens, when they’re wrong.”

Some concluding thoughts from Housel are that “saving money is the gap between your ego and your income, and wealth is what you don’t see. So wealth is created by suppressing what you could buy today in order to have more stuff or more options in the future.”

Manage money in a way that lets you sleep at night, increase your investing time horizon, and “become OK with a lot of things going wrong. You could be wrong half the time and still make a fortune.”

It’s hard to do justice to such a thought-provoking book in a short interview, so consider adding The Psychology of Money to your personal finance library.

The idea of starting retirement savings early is a good one, and as the author notes, not everyone has access to a workplace pension or retirement program. If you’re in that boat, take a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP). Under SPP’s new rules, you can contribute any amount to the plan each year, up to your available registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) limit! And if you are transferring money into SPP from an RRSP, there is no longer an annual limit — you can transfer any amount into your SPP nest egg. Contributing to SPP is now limitless!

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.

Make yourself wealthy, not your bank, urges author Larry Bates in Beat The Bank

April 13, 2023

“The best investment you can make is an investment in yourself.”

This quote, from famed financier Warren Buffett, begins Larry Bates’ book Beat The Bank, a nicely written, witty and fun “how-to” on how to build wealth without handing over a massive chunk of your savings to your local financial institution.

He introduces the concept of Simply Successful Investing by encouraging us all to “learn investment basics,” to “think long-term” when investing, and to “minimize” investment costs.

He rolls out the example of two couples, the Meeks and the Ables, who both manage to save $300,000 by age 65 in their Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). At that point, the Meeks have saved $470,000 — a $170,000 gain on their investment. But the Ables, at the same point, have $856,000.

The difference, the book explains, is that while the Meeks followed the bank’s advice and invested their money in equity and bond mutual funds — carrying an average annual fee of two per cent — the Ables invested in index ETFs that charge only 0.25 per cent in fees.

“The Meeks paid total mutual fund fees of $217,600 — an astonishing 73 per cent of the original $300,000 they invested — while the Ables paid total ETF fees of just $63,900, about 21 per cent of their original investment,” author Bates explains. As well, because the Ables have so much more savings by age 65, they will receive more than twice the annual retirement income that the Meeks will.

In another chapter, Bates explains the three “wealth builders” that are out there for investors — amount saved, time (how long one has been saving) and “the magic of compounding.” The more you are able to save, and the earlier you get started, to more your savings growth will be compounded over time, he explains.

To illustrate the idea of compounding, a chart shows how $10,000 invested in Royal Bank stock would grow to $60,822 after 15 years, thanks to growth in the stock price over time. And if dividends are reinvested, the figure goes even higher, Bates writes.

Had you invested $10,000 in TD Bank stock in April, 1978, you would have $4.2 million 40 years later. “The only two investment values that really matter are the amount you pay on purchase, and the amount you receive on sale,” he writes. “The thousands of data points in between ultimately mean nothing… learning to ignore all these thousands of data points is key to Simply Successful Investing.”

Watch out, warns Bates, for “wealth killers,” which include fees (both visible and invisible), taxes, and inflation.

He offers a fee impact calculator (the T-REX calculator) at

Latter chapters provide detail on investing via discount brokerages or through “robo-investing,” both of which offer lower fees than traditional full service brokerages. Closing advice includes the idea of “automating” your investing/savings by making regular, automatic deposits.

This is a great, clearly written and very digestible walkthrough of what can seem like a very complex topic.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan operates on a not-for-profit basis. That allows them to keep investment management costs low, typically under one per cent. No fees are charged directly to members. If you are looking for a low-fee, pooled retirement savings vehicle with a sparkling track record since its inception 36 years ago, look no farther than 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.

Making tiny, “atomic” changes can help build good habits: James Clear

March 9, 2023

We often hear about the benefits of breaking big projects into more achievable, tiny steps.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear applies that same sort of thinking to the age-old challenge of changing our bad habits for good ones.

“Too often,” he writes, “we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, writing a book, winning a championship or achieving any other goal, we put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.”

Instead, he writes, we should focus on making small improvements. “Improving by one per cent isn’t particularly notable — sometimes it isn’t even noticeable — but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run,” he notes. “The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding.”

But, he says, you have to stick with your one per cent change plan. “In order to make a meaningful difference, habits need to persist long enough to break through” what he calls the Plateau of Latent Potential. Then, the hard work you’ve put in will begin to be noticed by others as an overnight success, he adds.

He also says our focus should be less on goals, but on the system we need to reach them. A good way to do this is to change our thinking. “The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader,” or a musician, or a runner, Clear notes. “The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become,” he explains.

He breaks down what he calls “the habit loop” by noting that every habit consists of a cue, a craving, a response, and a reward. An example would be walking into a dark room and flipping of the light switch, he explains. We aren’t even aware of such habits, and becoming aware is key to changing them, he notes.

The book shows how to develop a Habits Scorecard — an outline of all the things you do each day, your habitual behaviour. Rate all your habits as good, bad, or neutral, and you will have “begun to notice what is going on” with them, he suggests.

To develop a good habit, Clear explains, you need to make it obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying. To lose a bad habit, make it invisible, unattractive, difficult and unsatisfying.

A later chapter talks about “stacking” good habits — “when I see a set of stairs, I will take them instead of using the elevator,” or “when I serve myself a meal, I will always put veggies on my plate first.” Making a habit more obvious can be achieved by placing your guitar in the middle of the living room if you want to play more often, or keeping a stack of stationery on your desk so you remember to send more thank-yous, the book notes.

On the bad habit side, “if you’re watching too much TV, move the TV out of the bedroom,” or to cut back on video games, “unplug the console and put it in a closet after use.”

Reframing hard-to-do habits helps you want to do them more, Clear writes.

“Many people associate exercise with being a challenging task that drains energy and wears you down. You can just as easily view it as a way to develop skills and build you up. Instead of telling yourself `I need to go run in the morning,’ say `it’s time to build endurance and get fast.’”

Later chapters show how to shape your habits in easier stages, taking five specific phases if you want to become an early riser, or a vegan, or to start exercising.

This entertaining book concludes with a recap of the principles for changing habits or setting new goals — “the secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements. It’s remarkable what you can build if you just don’t stop…. Small habits don’t add up. They compound. That’s the power of atomic habits. Tiny changes. Remarkable results.”

This is a great read, very inspiring, and highly recommended.

If you haven’t started saving for retirement, starting with a small first step may be a good way to get rolling. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is open to any Canadian with registered retirement savings plan room, and you can contribute any amount you want up to $7,200 per year. So you could start small, say $25 a month, and then ramp it up over time. This automatic approach will make retirement saving an easy habit to adopt. 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.

Living your values, learning, and social contacts are all keys to a happy retirement: Mike Drak

February 23, 2023

In Longevity Lifestyle by Design, author Mike Drak and a team of co-authors make the case that there’s much more to retirement than simply saving cash.

Few people, notes the preface, prepare for “the crucial part” of retirement — “how they’ll spend their days, how they’ll find meaning and purpose, how they’ll avoid feeling isolated or lonely, and whether they’ll either work part-time or volunteer, or do both.”

“If you think that by retiring all your problems will magically go away, I hate to tell you — they won’t,” writes Drak. He notes that there can be “a big difference between being retired and having a great life,” citing the example of star quarterback Tom Brady, who “unretired” after just 40 days.

He shows, via a graph, that there are three types of retirees — the “Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE)” and comfort-oriented crowd at one extreme, and the “work till you drop” gang at the other end. Most of us are in the middle — navigating an “unfulfilled life of leisure” or “work(ing) to make ends meet.”

Unlike the super-motivated FIRE and “till you drop” groups the middle group may tend to be “unaware of what drives them, and unsure of what they want.”

The book then sets out to help those without clear goals, purposes or defined values to acquire them. We all have values, he writes, but are our daily actions in retirement aligned with them? Have you added retirement activities that “give your life meaning,” or that you “love to do,” or are a passion for you? If not, writes Drak, you may experience “retirement stress,” a life that is out of whack with what truly motivates you.

He cites research by Dan Buettner that found that “happiness/longevity = relationships, plus health + financial security + spirituality + positive attitude + purpose.”

In a section that links work to “the fountain of youth,” Drak writes that continuing to work — perhaps at something more aligned to your values and passions — should not be ruled out in retirement. Work, he writes, “keeps you young,” as well as mentally sharp. It gets you “off the couch and helps you interact with others, he adds. It also helps you avoid running out of money in retirement, he notes.

The last section of the book outlines some wise words from a variety of authors. Susan Williams writes that women need to boost their financial literacy about such things as retirement income. Citing CNN research she notes that “nearly 60 per cent of widows and divorcees wish they had been more involved in financial planning decisions” and “56 per cent discovered hidden debt, inadequate savings… or (investment choices) that affected their lifestyle and retirement savings goals.”

Drak concludes by noting that while retirement isn’t only about money, you do need “sufficient” money in retirement. People are living much longer, so don’t think of yourself as being “old” at 65, he continues. Have something good to do in retirement, work on improving relationships with spouse and family, and remember that “happy, positive, optimistic retirees are heathier and live longer.”

This is a well-written, fun-to-read and exceptionally helpful book. To paraphrase Aerosmith, retirement is a journey rather than a destination. Drak’s thoughtful work here will help you ensure that your future self doesn’t spend retirement on the couch, watching the news.

As the book suggests, while saving money is only one part of a long and happy retirement, it’s still an important one. If you don’t have any retirement savings program at work, or are self-employed, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be just what you’ve been looking for. SPP will invest your contributions in a pooled fund at a low management cost, and grow them into future retirement income. Check out how SPP can work for you.

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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 kids a fun, quiz-filled way to learn how to run their own money

January 26, 2023

The Kids’ Money Book by Jamie Kyle McGillian is that long talked-about and much-needed resource for young people that’s designed to teach them everything they need to know about money.

It’s written in a breezy, clear, and kid-friendly way, with plenty of diagrams, quizzes and fun facts. Although the book is intended for U.S. kids it is still totally relevant for a Canadian audience.

McGillian beings by remarking how her own two daughters used to spend all their pocket money on “candy and costume jewellery,” but have now graduated to coffee, music and apps for their phones. “In the past decade, as my little spenders have grown into big spenders, the world of money has changed, thanks to technology,” she writes.

A study by U.S. investment bank Piper Jaffray found “teens spend more of their cash on food than anything else” at places like Starbucks, Chipotle, Chick-fil-A and Panera Bread. Clothing is next, at 20 per cent, with top brands being Nike, Forever 21, American Eagle and Ralph Lauren, the book notes.

After a look at the history of money from bartering all the way up to bitcoin, the book’s first quiz doles out some good advice, such as to “nurture you own interests in responsible ways, make solid decisions that reflect good judgement,” and to “put a price on fashion and ask yourself — is it worth it?” Other advice is being generous and charitable.

“Grown-ups who don’t learn money sense when they are young often learn the hard way,” the book advises. “Even if they do avoid big money mistakes, always worrying about paying bills and not having enough money to take care of the family are not fun. Learn to make smart money decisions and you’ll have a better chance of leading the kind of life that you want to,” writes McGillian.

And that’s what the book does. A chapter on the difference between wants and needs leads the reader to logical conclusions. “It’s all right to have a lot of wants, but the idea is to keep them in check,” she writes.

Later, we learn that folks with money smarts don’t give in “to the little voice in his or her head that screams `I want it now,’” and are happy with what they have (and not unhappy about what they don’t have). That’s because they “know how to make money work” for themselves, are “usually careful and precise with money” and aren’t wasteful, the book advises.

The section on allowances advises kids not to “spend every penny of your allowance. Leave at least a little for savings and sharing.” As well, the book advises young readers to “think about it carefully” before committing to a large purchase.

The book talks about ways younger folks can earn more money than just allowance, through babysitting, car washing, caring for pets, or creating arts and crafts. There’s a chapter on how to “increase your earning power” by boosting your casual conversation skills, selling yourself and your abilities, and keeping a sense of humour.

There’s a great, simple little chapter on budgeting — set aside money for school lunch, snacks, clothes, entertainment, “drugstore and miscellaneous spending,” and you can have money left over “for saving, sharing and investing.”

On shopping, the book advises young folks to be smart consumers. “Comparison shop. Judge different brands of products against each other. Talk to friends and relatives before you buy. Find out what brands they are most satisfied with. Research the product.”

The “Investing 101” chapter provides a nice overview of bonds, stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and more. The credit card section highlights the good and importantly, bad things about credit cards — annual fees, interest charges, and the ability “to start spending more than you can actually afford.”

This is an excellent book that helps deliver the medicine of basic financial literacy with the sugar sweetness of gentle writing, lots of graphics, fun quizzes and simple examples. Well done Ms McGillian!

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is open to Canadians 18 and older (up to age 71). Check out our video, What is a Pension Plan? (link) on our home page for an overview of this made-in-Saskatchewan retirement savings success story. It’s never too early to start saving for retirement!

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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 reveals money tips they should be teaching in school

January 5, 2023

We tend to learn from our experiences, and as the old saying goes, wouldn’t it be great to be able to communicate back to our younger selves and lay out some warnings about curves in the financial road ahead?

That’s what Carey Siegel’s book, Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School, tries (successfully) to achieve. Ninety-nine very helpful financial tips are presented in a friendly, factual and frank fashion.

“If you can’t afford something when you’re dating, you most likely won’t be able to afford it when you’re married,” the book begins, urging us to marry — and stay married — to the “financially right” person. A later chapter suggests that a down payment for a house would be a better gift than a lavish wedding.

On first jobs, the book notes that “most young adults feel that if they do more than the minimum, the company is taking advantage of them. On the contrary, the more you put into your first positions, the more knowledge you will gain for jobs later in your career.”

Another interesting tip is to “save/invest 50 per cent of every salary increase.” The author notes that holding to this principle “will put you ahead of the game. If you do this every time you get a raise, you will find yourself ultimately saving a significant amount (upwards of 50 per cent) of your income and investing it in your future.”

If thinking of buying your first car, be sure to shop around to see what your new insurance, license and other costs will be. Factor in maintenance, gas, and parking if you haven’t owned a car before — otherwise you will be grimly surprised later. The same is true of your first home — get an idea of taxes, the mortgage rate, and tally up the cost of water, electricity, heat, snow removal, and maintenance.

An interesting savings tip is to drop “unhealthy” spending habits, the book advises. A pack-a-day smoker will save $2,000 a year by quitting, and this doesn’t include “the cost of lighters, breath mints, dry cleaning, etc.” You may also save on insurance. Similarly, the book advises, cut back if you are buying a case of beer each week or eating at fast-food outlets three times a week.

Another “classic” tip is to pay all your bills on time each month. “If you pay everything you owe on time every single month, you will prevent yourself from developing a money management problem,” the book continues. Ditto for amounts owed to the taxman — pay them on time if you can, author Siegel advises.

Debt, he writes, is a key consideration in money management. “Stop spending more than you have,” this section begins. Stop using credit cards, and try to pay solely with cash and debit cards. Keep one card for emergencies, and “throw away the rest of them,” the book suggests. Then, tally your debt and make a plan to pay it off. Siegel advises that you “pay off the highest interest rates and smallest debts first (so you have quick, easy wins).”

The chapters on investing suggest the novice should have a diversified portfolio with exposure to both stocks and bonds. Low-cost exchange traded funds that are invested in stock and bond indices are recommended in the book.

Don’t jump into investments because your friends are touting something or you want to play a hunch, the book warns. “Of the 20 or so `can’t miss’ stocks friends have told me about, only two performed reasonably well,” Siegel writes.

This is a nice, simple to understand and to-the-point set of useful tips. Well worth a look!

If you worry about managing your investments, take a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP will manage your retirement savings for you, using expert financial managers at a low cost to you, thanks to the pooling of investments. SPP will grow your savings over the years and when it is time to harvest retirement income, they’ll get that rolling for you as well. You even can choose a lifetime annuity for some or all of your SPP account balance. Check out SPP today!

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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.