Book Reviews

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!

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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.

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.

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 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!

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 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!

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 up a blueprint for your retirement

December 8, 2022

If you find the idea of retirement planning so complex that you’d rather avoid thinking about it, the book Retirement Blueprint by Ed Downey may be of help.

“It is just not that difficult,” he writes of retirement planning.

“What you need more than anything is to organize what you already have going on so far for retirement, get clarity on what you are going to need for your lifestyle income, and then let that dictate course corrections you need to make now to give you the highest probability of success. That is what a retirement income and tax plan truly is,” he explains.

While the book is primarily aimed at a U.S. audience, the core concepts it discusses are universal.

He talks about the tricky risks people face when they decumulate (draw down) retirement savings as retirement income. He cites the story of Ben and Amy who were going along nicely in the early part of retirement, but then hit the economic crisis following Sept. 11, 2001.

They saw their retirement savings go from $1 million to just over $350,000 in short order. They hadn’t thought about the fact that their U.S. government pensions would not add up to the same monthly amount once the first of them died, or “that what they needed to withdraw out of their portfolio would increase, not decrease, because of inflation.” The example shows winging it, in this case, did not serve them well for their later years of retirement.

You need diversity in your investment portfolio to guard against sudden changes in the market.

He says that your portfolio should not only have “horizontal diversity” by being invested in both stocks and bonds, but “vertical diversity… among asset classes. This means having different product types, including securities products, bank products, and insurance products — with various levels of growth potential, liquidity, and protection — all in accordance with your unique situation, goals and needs.”

Downey expands on the point that the “accumulation” phase of savings differs greatly from the retirement income phase. “When we get (there), what we want our money to do changes 180 degrees. It’s not about having the highest income in the land. It’s about having just enough income to pay for the lifestyle that we desire.” You are, he writes, becoming “very goal-orientated” with your money, aiming for “a set income number that you are trying to produce every month.”

It’s very important, he writes, to have an idea of what you want to do in retirement. “I believe the most important thing is not even financial: I believe it is knowing (or discovering) what you are passionate about doing besides work, and then finding out how you are going to implement that in retirement.”

In addition to having to deal with inflation here in 2022, Downey says longevity brings the risk that you’ll need to pay for long term care.

“No one wants to admit they will likely need it, but estimates indicate almost 70 per cent of us will. Aging is a significant piece of retirement income planning because you’ll want to figure out how to set aside money for your care, either at home or away from it.”

In a chapter on annuities, Downey makes the point that annuities are essentially income insurance — a guarantee that you will get “consistent and reliable income payments” for life in exchange for turning over some of your savings to the annuity provider.

He notes that the great thing about annuities is that your payment continues for life, and you don’t have to worry about investing assets to provide the money. That income will supplement any income you get from government retirement benefits, he adds.

Near the end of the book, Downey provides a gentle warning to any do-it-yourself retirement planners out there. While the concepts behind retirement planning may not be complicated, “they are numerous… they are constantly changing. Laws change constantly. I have been doing this for 30 years and still consider myself a student of the financial industry.”

What we like about this book is that it makes the point, very clearly, that retirement savings isn’t the same as wealth management. In the latter, your goal may be to maximize returns and grow your savings. But when you are living off retirement savings, it’s more about protecting your assets, managing investment risks, and figuring out how much to take out today to ensure there’s still a similar amount available each year in the future.

This is a well-thought-out book that’s a worthy candidate for your retirement bookshelf.

The “accumulation” phase of retirement savings is what we all ought to be going through prior to the retirement income phase, when savings drives income. If you don’t have a retirement savings program at work, and don’t want to bone up on how to invest, take a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP). SPP has been helping people build and grow their retirement savings since 1986. Make them part of your future 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 offers advice on how to Win The Retirement Game

November 10, 2022

“Retirement is full of surprises. Some appear right away; others emerge over time. And the non-financial challenges that pop up stand squarely between you and a fulfilling life in retirement, that is until you defeat them.”

In his insightful book, Win The Retirement Game, author Joe Casey takes a look at the “non-financial” barriers to a good retirement, and what you can do to overcome them.

He uses the story of Pete, who in the beginning of the book loses his high-end job when his company gets sold, and thus is plunged into an unexpected retirement.

We are told, the book begins, that in retirement we need to be open to new experiences. “Retirement is one of life’s most stressful events…. Retirees face changes in status, identity, purpose, and practical challenges, such as structuring their time independently.”

Pete admits to a retirement coach that he is afraid of becoming bored in retirement. An antidote to boredom, he learns, is curiosity, which “invigorates retirement. It can lead you to new interests, passions, and even a new purpose.”

Pete decides to leave his “comfort zone” and get back into exercise, starting small with just five minutes on an exercise bike daily, a break in his routine. “Within a few weeks, Pete was up to riding his exercise bike 45 minutes a day… and he was feeling confident he could change in other ways, too,” the story continues.

Soon he becomes aware that he is lacking social connections, like he used to have through work. “Retirement disrupts the social ecosystem you’re a part of at work,” the book explains. “When you retire, your social circle shifts more toward family and away from professional colleagues.” More time with family, and less with work friends, means thinking about “how you will replace the connectivity and interaction you have, or used to have, with work colleagues.”

Without giving away the story, Pete is coaxed into becoming a mentor to a young inventor, rediscovers his love of playing the guitar, and after venturing out to a local basketball court, meets up with a group of pickup hoops players who eventually become part of his new network of friends. He even, on a whim, takes up painting again with his unretired wife as a classmate. By the end of the book the mentoring has led to a new employment opportunity which Pete must weigh.

The book says these sorts of post-work changes are part of learning “where you each see yourself living as a couple and what you’d ideally like to be doing.” For instance, in the book, Pete is happy living in the suburbs, but his soon-to-be-retired-too wife Melissa wants to move back to the city. He has to let go of some of his expectations and modify his retirement flight path, but they get there.

The book encourages us to build our “self-efficacy” through “practices like starting a journal. Reappraise your capabilities in light of the new phase of life you are entering and identify any adjustments that may be needed. Find role models who are succeeding at doing what you’d like to do.”

By the end of the book, the author concludes, “you know how to outfox Boredom, evade the Status Quo, and circumvent Inertia. You are prepared to conquer Uncertainty, vanquish Loneliness, and break free from other people’s Expectations, when they’re unhelpful. And you’re ready to sidestep Overwhelm, outmaneuver unrealistic Obligations and reject Drifting without direction.”

This is a very well-thought-out book and is well worth checking out.

While the book doesn’t focus on the financial side of retirement, it goes without saying that the more you are able to put away for retirement while in work, the more options you’ll have when enjoying retirement later. If you don’t have a savings program of your own, then consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, open to those with registered retirement savings plan room. Get SPP working on 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.

Book argues passive income can liberate you from work and ease you into retirement

October 20, 2022

What if you had enough income from passive sources – investments, rental income, coin-operated machines, and royalties – that you no longer needed to have a job for income?

That’s the theory behind the book Passive Income, Aggressive Retirement by Rachel Richards, who sets out a detailed and very creative “how-to” gameplan on ways to create sources of passive income.

She begins by asking us to imagine “a world that makes no demands of you. You don’t have to worry about money…. You can hop on a plane tomorrow and go to Costa Rica if that’s what your heart desires.”

People traditionally don’t think of building passive income sources (while they are younger) as a way to achieve financial independence, she writes. Instead we are counselled to save lots of money – say $2 million – to retire by 65. She cites CNBC as reporting that “one in three Americans have less than $5,000 saved for retirement,” with boomers (on the precipice of retirement) having only $24,000 and change saved.

Richards writes that she and her husband have set up $10,000 in monthly passive income. Since reaching age 27 she no longer works for wages, and her husband only works remotely when he feels like it. “We are free,” she exults, adding “words can’t describe the liberation and joy we feel every day.”

Before rolling out ways to create sources of passive income, Richards spends time on why the “nest egg” approach of saving for retirement that may have worked in the past is not as suitable for today. It’s because the nest egg approach, she writes, which worked in the 1950s, does not factor in increases in household expenses, lifestyle pressure, life expectancy, government benefit adequacy, pensions (the lack of them), rising education costs and the increased hourly work week.

Few people can save the $2 million experts recommend. And there’s less help from employers than there was in the past, she explains.

“Pensions are quickly becoming a thing of the past,” she writes. “The ones that still exist today aren’t even that great.” She notes that in the USA and elsewhere, defined benefit pensions that offered a guaranteed monthly income have been replaced by capital accumulation programs without any such guarantees.

So, what’s the alternative to the nest egg approach? It’s passive income, regular income “that is maintained with little or no work. Passive income is the key to being free: freeing up our time, freeing up the location we must be in, freeing up our lives from being financially dependent on our employer.”

The main types of passive income out there, she writes, are “royalty income, portfolio income, coin-operated machines, ads and e-commerce, and rental income.”

Royalty income, she explains, is generated for authors of books and eBooks, composers of music, through loading photos onto a stock photo website, creating downloadable or print-on-demand content, creating online courses, developing an app or software, franchising something, and mineral rights.

We have a friend who writes plays for a publisher. He gets paid every time the play is performed, and the more he writes, the more royalties he gets. The same concept works for other shareable content, the book explains.

The book provides detailed “how-to” steps on how to get going on any or all of these potential revenue streams. Very creative stuff.

On the investment side, you can get passive income from stocks, via dividends, and bonds. With stocks, she writes, “the higher the dividend yield, the higher the risk.” Rather than putting all your eggs in one basket, you might want to look at “a dividend-yielding exchange-traded fund (ETF).”

On bonds, she notes that in the past, bonds offered double-digit yields and were a simple way to make a strong income. She notes that you’ll get regular interest with a bond and its face value in the end “only if you hold it until maturity.” If you sell it before it matures, you could lose money (or gain). Bond ETFs are a way to go if you again don’t want to have all your bond investments in a single company, she continues.

Real Estate Income Trusts (REITs) “are a great way to get your feet wet with investing in real estate. You can earn a piece of the pie without actually buying a property,” she explains.

Coin-operated vending machines can cost a lot, but once you invest in one, it’s a steady source of cash. “Location, location, location,” she advises, also noting that an older machine can be more affordable than a fancy new one with tap payment and other high-tech perks.

If you are in the position to go even bigger on coin-operated ventures, carwashes and laundromats are a very reliable investment that generates predictable cash flow, she explains.

On rental properties (including rental of rooms), the book notes that it’s a steady source of income. If, she explains, you were able to rent out a single-family property for $250 more than the mortgage, “then you are making $250 a month while your tenant pays your mortgage for you.” Once the mortgage is paid, “your cash flow jumps by hundreds of dollars.”

This is a very different way to look at retirement. In effect, Richards is advocating the idea of gradually replacing your work salary with various sources of passive income, until such time as you don’t need to work. We haven’t seen a book that looks at things quite this way – it’s well worth a read.

The book mentions that the traditional defined benefit pension is scarce these days. Did you know that your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account offers you the option of a lifetime, guaranteed monthly payment via one of several different annuity options? It’s how SPP can a reliable generator of passive income for the rest of your life! 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 Money or Your Life: Book frames work differently, encourages financial independence

September 22, 2022

Vicki Robin’s Your Money or Your Life has an interesting message to tell, which in short is that life is not all about money.

We have begun to define ourselves by what we do for a living, rather than what we believe and value, she writes. “Even if we were financially able to turn our backs on jobs that limit our joy and insult our values, we are all too often psychologically unable to free ourselves. We take our identity and our self-worth from our jobs,” she writes.

We seem, she continues, to be unable to shake off the golden handcuffs of work. We make small changes to benefit our mental health and wellness when what’s needed “is transformation,” she writes. For instance, we often buy things when we “are depressed, when we are lonely, when we are unloved… we buy something to make us feel better.”

So, if money is so great, Robin asks, what have you got to show for it? Have a look, she recommends at all your assets – bank accounts, cash, savings bonds, investments, and life insurance cash values. Subtract all debts. You may find that you’ve been working full time for decades and have little if anything to show for it. Your real hourly wage is based on what you’ve got versus the many years you’ve worked for it, she explains.

Achieving Financial Independence will require you to think differently about spending, she explains. “You (will) never buy things you don’t want or need, and you are immune to the seductiveness of malls, markets and the media… days and even weeks can go by without you thinking about money,” she says of the post-Financial Independence days to come.

She provides a nine-step plan to achieve financial success. “Establish (accurately and honestly) how much money you are trading your life energy for, and discover your real hourly wage,” she suggests.

Find out where your money is going (detailed graphs and examples are provided to help with this revealing calculation). Find out which of your expenses helped you receive “fulfillment, satisfaction, and value in proportion to life energy spent.”

Become, she writes, “a super saver.”  “Your savings rate is one of the most important factors in achieving Financial Independence. Think about savings rate in this way: If you spend 100 per cent of your paycheque, you will never retire. If you spent zero per cent of your paycheque each month, then congrats! You are already financially independent and no longer need to work for money.” Moving towards zero spending will build your independence and reduce your dependence on work, she writes.

We have a writer friend who always says “it’s not what you make, it’s what you save.”

Other advice towards Financial Independence includes living within your means, sound advice now considered “an outmoded notion,” and to “take care of what you have.” Wear things out, do things yourself, and anticipate your needs, the book recommends.

A helpful checklist, entitled “think before you spend,” outlines ways you can get things for less, rather than paying top retail dollar.

There’s a chapter on how to find work that fulfils you and helps “value your life” rather than just paying the most money, and another on investment strategies that are actually aimed at building financial independence.

This is a well-thought-out look at money and work, as well as life, that is well worth a read.

Saving is a key cornerstone of Financial Independence, and a portion of your savings should be directed towards your post-work future. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan can help you get your savings program going, and when it’s time to flee the workplace, offers several great options – including annuities – for converting savings into retirement income. Be sure to check them out 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.

Dr. Seuss tells the tale of “obsolete children” as they get old

August 25, 2022

It came us a great surprise to Save with SPP that prolific children’s writer Dr. Seuss had once taken a shot at a book for seniors about getting old.

You’re Only Old Once: A Book for Obsolete Children was published by Random House in 1986.

It takes a humourous look – a rhyming look, of course – at some of the things we “obsolete children” have to go through on the back nine of life.

It begins with our hero, a rather tired looking white-haired gent with a moustache, wishing he could be in a faraway land he is reading about in National Geographic, rather than being “here in this chair in the Golden Years Clinic on Century Square for Spleen Readjustment and Muffler Repair.”

The hero, not feeling his best, has come in “for an Eyesight and Solvency Test.”

The Quiz-Docs, he learns, will “start questionnairing”. They’ll ask you, point blank, how your parts are all faring…did your cousins have dreadful wild nightmares at night? Did they suffer such ailment’s as Bus Driver’s Blight, Chimney Sweep’s Stupor, or Prune Picker’s Plight?”

Next, we learn, after losing “both your necktie and vest… an Ogler is ogling your stomach and chest.”

Soon there are more Oglers ogling more of you, the book tells us. “The Oglers have blossomed like roses in May. And silently, grimly, they ogle away.”

After a nervous wait, our hero is off to get his hearing tested. He is off “to a booth where the World-Renowned Ear Man, Von Crandall, has perfected a test known as Bellows and Candle. If the wind from the bellows can’t blow out the flame, you’ve failed — and you’re going to be sorry you came.”

That’s because failing the test means “you’ll be told that your hearing’s so murky and muddy, your case calls for special intensified study.” After listening to “noises from far and from near,” and getting “a black mark for the ones you can’t hear,” it’s back to the waiting room with the waiting room fish, Norval.

Our hero is ultimately wheeled past “Stethoscope Row” where he will later get “stethed with some fine first-class scoping.” But first, there’s the Allergy Whiz and more tests, and then to the Dietician.

“And when that guy finds out what you like, you can bet it won’t be on your diet – from here on, forget it,” our hero learns. After getting prescribed a plethora of coloured pills, our hero (this being in the U.S., we presume) then is asked that “a few paper forms… be properly filled so that you and your heirs may be properly billed.”

But, there’s a happy ending – after all the tests, ogling, prodding and pills, our hero is “in pretty good shape for the shape you are in.”

For those of us who are indeed frequent flyers at the blood-test clinic, known by first name at the pharmacy, run into aging peers at the gym and peer at tiny-print food labels to double check sugar and sodium levels, this book is a very funny, rhyming look at the reality of seniorhood. It’s well worth a trip to a bookstore or library!

When seniors aren’t talking about their health, they’re talking about how the cost of everything is going through the roof. Us retired boomers remember when gas was 77 cents a gallon, or about 20-odd cents per litre, and it’s now gone up ten times that price. The same’s true for the 10 cent bottle of pop and the 25 cent loaf of bread. Inflation’s been here for years, sometimes high and then low, and where it will lead us, we really don’t know. The best defence against a rising cost of living is having retirement savings. If you are fortunate enough to have a workplace pension, you have a leg up. If you don’t, a fine do-it-yourself option exists via the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You provide the dollars, and SPP provides the low-cost investment management to grow those dollars into future retirement income. Check them out 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.

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.