General

May 16: Is the “new normal” retiring with debt?

May 16, 2024

There was a time when taking debt into retirement was considered an absolute no-no. But in these days of higher living costs, less helpful interest rates, and the many temptations of debt, is owing money when you retire now the norm?

Save with SPP took a look at this topic, which is one that we are well acquainted with on a personal basis!

Well-known personal finance writer Rob Carrick recently covered this topic in The Globe and Mail. He cites figures from insolvency expert Scott Terrio that show that, according to the most recent data, “42 per cent of senior households had debt…. compared to 27 per cent in 1999. Vehicle debt held by seniors nearly tripled between 2005 and 2019, while mortgage debt quadrupled.”

(Save with SPP talked with Scott Terrio a little while ago on the topic of retiring with debt. Here’s a link to that article: Debt can squeeze the spending power of seniors: Scott Terrio | Save with SPP)

Carrick suggests that younger people have a conversation with their parents about debt.

“Parents helping their adult children financially is the new normal in family life. It’s less common for those kids to help their parents, but high debt levels among seniors suggest this could change. Boomers and Gen Xers, do you know how well set up your parents are in their retirement or pre-retirement years,” he asks.

An article in Forbes agrees that “retiring with debt is often considered a cardinal financial sin: Every dollar you owe reduces your income in retirement, after all.”

However, the article warns, trying to get out of debt before you retire might also cost you. Huh? “Blindly prioritizing debt reduction before retirement savings, particularly for low-interest debt, could shortchange your nest egg,” the writers at Forbes warn.

On the other hand, not prioritizing debt has consequences as well, the article continues.

Currently, the article notes, credit card interest rates are well over 20 per cent. “Paying interest rates this high would hamstring your finances at any stage of life, let alone when you’re living on a fixed income in retirement. That means you need to prioritize paying down as much high-interest debt as possible before you stop working—and then keep from accruing any new credit card debt.”

The folks over at GoBankingRates say debt is manageable for retirees, but it’s no picnic.

“Yes, you can retire with debt, but it may impact the quality of your retirement. Having debt, especially high-interest debt, can strain your retirement savings and limit your financial freedom. It’s important to assess the type and amount of debt you have and create a plan to manage it effectively,” their article notes.

The article recommends trying to “minimize or clear your debts before retiring.” You might need to think harder about when you want to retire, boost your savings, or even downsize as strategies to cope with debt, the article continues.

“Focusing on high-interest debts, like credit card balances, should be a priority. Developing a comprehensive plan on how to get out of debt before retirement can significantly ease your financial burden during your later years,” the article notes.

MoneySense provides some good news on this topic, noting that some of your debt will eventually get paid off – and that when that happens, your retirement spending power gets a boost.

“If you only have a small mortgage and a few years of payments remaining, your income requirements may be on the verge of a big decrease. I’ve seen a lot of retirees with generous DB pensions work hard to pay off debt, retire, and suddenly find they’re flush with cash flow because their $500, $1,000, or $2,000 monthly mortgage payment disappears,” MoneySense reports.

There are several themes here to think about – retirement with debt is not seen as ideal. But neither is not saving for retirement in order to pay off debt. If you do bring debt with you on the retirement voyage, each time you pay something off you’ll have better cash flow.

All the articles suggested consulting a financial professional to help map your personal route – that’s always good advice.

If you don’t have a workplace pension plan, or want to augment your savings, have a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. With SPP, you can consolidate little bits of savings in various RRSPs into one place, and also make regular contributions. SPP will grow your investments in a low-cost, professionally managed, pooled fund, and when it’s time to collect, your options include monthly annuity payments for life or the flexible Variable Benefit option.

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.


May 2: Is Travel Making A Comeback?

May 2, 2024

We all recall the closed borders and other travel restrictions that plagued us during the COVID-19 pandemic years. But, with (hopefully) the worst of that now in the rear-view mirror, it appears that travel may be making a comeback.

According to a recent media release from Allianz Global Assistance Canada, its Winter Vacation Confidence Index Survey showed a pretty sharp uptick for the season just ended.

A whopping 43 per cent of those surveyed planned to take a vacation this winter, up from 32 per cent in 2021, the release notes.

“With travel volumes nipping at the heels of pre-pandemic levels, an overwhelming majority – 84 per cent – of travellers feel they desperately need a vacation this year,” states Dan Keon, Vice President, Marketing & Insights at Allianz Global Assistance Canada, in the release. “A major driver of this ongoing travel comeback is the continued desire for revenge travel, with half of Canadians intending to unapologetically make up for lost vacation time that was postponed due to the pandemic.”

Interestingly, the release notes, Canadians planned to spend some of their “pandemic savings” on a bigger vacation this past winter.

“The average anticipated winter vacation spend has increased by 20 per cent to $3,193 since 2021. Overall, Canadian households are projected to spend around $14.3 billion on vacations in the upcoming year, eclipsing the pre-pandemic high recorded in Allianz’s 2019 annual survey. While pent-up demand is driving up spending, financial worries may be tempering the increase as 57 per cent of travellers shared they will be scaling back vacation plans this year due to inflationary pressures,” the release notes.

Other Allianz findings – six in 10 Canadians plan a holiday, and 74 per cent of travellers (perhaps in light of the recent pandemic) think having travel insurance is important.

OK, so where have we been going this winter and spring?

According to the Orlando Sentinel, ocean cruises have bounced back after some very lean years.

More than 31.7 million people took a cruise last year, the newspaper reports.

“The pandemic shut down sailing from March 2020 with only a small number of ships coming back online 18 months later in summer 2021. Cruise lines didn’t return to full strength until partially through 2022, so it wasn’t until a full year of sailing in 2023 that the industry could get a real handle on just what the demand had grown to as people returned to vacation travel,” the Sentinel reports.

2023’s total surpassed the last pre-pandemic year of cruising by two million, the article adds.

Air travel is also zipping along nicely, reports the 100 Knots website.

“According to the latest report by the International Air Travel Association (IATA), global passenger demand witnessed a significant uptick in February 2024 compared to the same period last year. The data, which represents about 83 per cent of the world’s carriers, reveals a 21.5 per cent increase in passenger demand, indicating a strong resurgence in air travel,” the publication reports.

Overall, the increase in travel is very good news for the global economy, advises The Robb Report.

“The folks at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) estimate that the travel industry will reach a record $11.1 trillion in 2024, eclipsing the prior high of $10 trillion achieved in 2019. Furthermore, tourism is expected to become a $16 trillion industry within the next decade and will represent 11.4 per cent of the global GDP by 2034,” the publication notes.

The WTTC’s Julia Simpson is quoted in the article as saying “travel isn’t just back, travel is booming. We’re talking about a really, really strong sector.”

If you’re planning on doing a little travel when you retire, it’s probably a good idea to start putting away a few bucks today for future boarding passes. And if you don’t have a retirement plan at work, you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting of investing your savings all by your lonesome.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan, open to every Canadian with registered retirement savings plan room, will invest your savings in a low-cost, professionally managed, pooled fund. At retirement your choices include a monthly annuity payment for life, or the flexible Variable Benefit. 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.


Apr 29: A closer link at the most common savings vehicle – the piggy bank

April 29, 2024

We all have one or more of them, lying around the house, holding little caches of change. But how did the tradition of piggy banks come about?

Save with SPP decided to do a little digging about our porcine cash-saving pals.

Wikipedia defines the piggy bank as “the traditional name of a coin container normally used by children,” noting they are traditionally made of ceramic or porcelain.

“They are generally painted and serve as a pedagogical device to teach the rudiments of thrift and saving to children,” the article continues.

OK, but why are they shaped like pigs? “The earliest known pig-shaped money containers date to the 12th century on the island of Java. The Javanese term cèlèngan (literally `likeness of a wild boar, but used to mean both `savings’ and `piggy bank,’) is also in the modern Indonesian language,” the article notes.

In fact, Wikipedia adds, “a large number of boar-shaped piggy banks were discovered at the large archaeological site surrounding Trowulan, a village in the Indonesian province of East Java and a possible site of the capital of the Majapahit Empire.”

While most of these change-hoarding wild boar statuettes are small, the folks at Guinness World Records tell us that the largest piggy bank ever recorded was “achieved by Kreissparkasse Ludwigsburg (Germany)… on 18 May, 2015.” This monster piggy bank, Guinness reports, was 8.03 meters long and 5.54 meters wide.

“Money was inserted into the piggy bank using a small crane, carrying each coin to the slot one by one after inserting it into a smaller piggy bank at the bottom of the crane,” Guinness reports.

The only other piggy bank record that comes up is that of Leo, a cocker spaniel owned by Emily Anderson of Aberdeen, Scotland, who holds the record of being able to put 23 coins in a piggy bank in under one minute.

OK, they can be small, big, have origins in Java, and a canine deposit connection. We wondered what people do with their piggy banks, and the money in them?

A few years ago, ABC News reported on the delightful story of Aryana Chopra, then five, who used money she saved in her piggy bank to buy residents of a nearby nursing home “a New Year’s cake as well as a decorative Santa Claus and a vase.” She also gave each of the 200 residents a handmade card, the article reports.

Many people collect piggy banks, reports the Vintage Virtue blog.

Few of the very earliest piggy banks survive, the article notes, because they had to be smashed with a hammer to retrieve the coins within. Once the idea of having a removeable plug in the base of the bank began, banks “were saved from destruction, making them a fun collectible today,” the blog reports.

Collectible banks have been made in Europe and the U.S., and the article suggests you do some online research if considering buying a bank you think has value.

“If you are interested in the traditional `still’ piggy bank, the cast-iron banks manufactured between the 1870s and the early 1930s are considered the most valuable from an investment standpoint. Early cast-iron banks were made by hardware foundries which were often out of business by the turn of the century. Foundries manufactured some later cast-iron banks as a way to diversify their offerings and stay in business during the lean years of the Great Depression, but by the mid-1930s, cast-iron still-bank production had come to an end,” the article notes.

“Through careful selection and research, you can become part of a vibrant global community that seeks to preserve and celebrate the history of these simple yet charming objects. So join the party and get collecting,” advises the blog.

We have two piggy banks on the go here. One, a porcelain armadillo featuring a Texas flag, is where we put our U.S. change. When we go over the bridge to Ogdensburg, N.Y. we run the coins through a change machine and then add the bills to our shopping budget.

Our other one is shaped like a delivery truck, and the coins it carried have mostly been used to bolster our Saskatchewan Pension Plan savings – we convert the change to bills and then deposit them in the bank before making a “bill payment” to our future selves.

If your piggy bank is filled to the brim, why not consider making a contribution to SPP, the made-in-Saskatchewan do-it-yourself pension plan that’s open to any Canadian with registered retirement savings plan room? 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.


Apr 22: You’ve escaped from work – what will you do with all that time?

April 22, 2024

Before we retired, we used to wonder what it would be like to not work. What, we wondered, would we do with that 40 hours (plus commuting) of extra time?

Save with SPP took a look around to see what others have started to do with their new free time.

Over at the Sixty And Me blog, a number of ideas are presented.

The top five are “travel – visit the world’s most sacred places,” followed by “step out of your comfort zone – do something you’ve never done before.”

Rounding out the top five are “learn new hobbies, clean/declutter and volunteer – there’s always help needed somewhere.”

“If there is one thing that I have learned, it’s that retirement is a choice. We may not be able to choose when we have to retire, but we can choose how we spend the final decades of our lives,” the blog’s author concludes.

OK, what other ideas are there?

The Bucket List Journey blog lists 44 ideas.

Near the top of the list is “attend community events,” such as “fundraisers, charity walks and even barbecues,” so that you are getting out and meeting people.

Becoming “your own financial guru” is possible with the extra time, the blog says – you can run your investments and put more time into budgeting.

Other ideas include “becoming a teacher,” and mentoring others in the skills you learned in your working life, getting into podcasts, and “committing to your health.” On this latter topic, the blog advises that “this may involve developing healthy habits such as exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and managing stress.”

“But,” concludes the blog, “like all life-changing habits, it’s also important to take it one small step at a time so that you can actually commit to it.”

So, being part of the community, owning your money management, and getting back in shape. Are there other suggestions?

There certainly are, reports the Great Senior Living blog.

“Get an education,” the blog suggests. “Retirement could be the perfect time to get that degree you’ve always wanted or just learn more about a subject that fascinates you,” the blog notes.

Another idea, the blog continues is to “get involved in a sport.”

“Playing sports is… an easy way to meet new people and have fun. Bocce, pickleball, bowling, golf, tennis, and water aerobics are just some of the sports that are popular among retirees,” the blog reports.

If you love furry critters, why not “foster a pet,” the blog notes. “The idea is to provide a loving and stable environment for the animals until a permanent home can be found for them. This is a great way to get the benefits of animal companionship without the high price tag.”

Finally, from the Storypoint Group website, a suggestion is to try activities “that help you unwind” such as “reading, doing puzzles, playing a fun brain game, practicing yoga or meditation, or becoming a film critic.”

All great ideas. Learning new things helps exercise your brain; walking or yoga help your body, and any activity that helps you meet new friends is good for your mental health – it’s not good to stay home and isolated. The bottom line is that retirement is what you make of it, and it can be anything you imagine it to be.

A little cash in the wallet helps give you more retirement options, so don’t forget to save for retirement now to help fund your future life. Be sure you have joined any workplace pension or retirement savings plan and are contributing to the max. If you’re saving on your own for retirement, consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

SPP looks after the hard part – carefully investing your hard-earned savings in a professionally managed, low-fee, pooled fund. And at retirement, SPP can turn your nest egg into a monthly income stream (via SPP’s line of annuities), or you can look to SPP’s Variable Benefit to take out money when you want at the rate you decide.

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.


Apr 8: How do rich folks invest their money?

April 8, 2024

Any of us who play golf watch with awe as better golfers blast their drive 100 yards past ours, and putt for birdies instead of bogeys. What, we wonder, are they doing differently to be having such success?

Save with SPP had those same sorts of thoughts about investing recently. After taking a boat tour of the river/canal network of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, we wondered what did folks do with their investments that brought them here – massive, waterfront houses with multi-storey crewed yachts?

Let’s see what the Interweb tells us.

An article from The Globe and Mail suggests that “the wealthy have a greater exposure to real estate and alternate investments in their portfolios – as much as a third.”

The article quotes Nancy Grouni of Objective Financial Partners Inc., in Markham, Ontario, as saying “a typical portfolio breakdown would be 25 per cent real estate – excluding their personal residences – plus 10 per cent alternative investments such as hedge funds, derivatives, foreign currency and private equity. Then a third of the portfolio consists of cash and fixed-income vehicles, and the balance is in equities.”

“I find that people with a higher net worth tend to be more comfortable with those non-traditional, alternative ways of investing,” Grouni tells the Globe. “They have invested in private equity through personally held corporations; that’s how they earned a living.”

Writing for Business Insider, Peter Syme tries to find out the investing preferences of what he calls “ultra high net worth individuals,” or UHNWIs.

His research breaks it down as follows – 26 per cent is invested in equities, 34 per cent is in commercial property (21 per cent of the total commercial investment is direct, meaning owning the property, while the rest comes through real estate investment trusts or REITs), 17 per cent goes into bonds, private equity (again this means direct ownership of something, such as a business) gets nine per cent, “investments of passion” get five per cent and gold, three per cent. Seven per cent is invested in “other” investments, and the final two per cent is invested in cryptocurrency, the article concludes.

What’s an investment of passion? “Art, cars and wine – which may be bought for enjoyment or simply as an investment,” the article notes.

The Medium blog looked at folks in the U.S. who were millionaires, but perhaps not yet UHNWIs, and got a different asset mix.

“On average, the portfolios of the wealthy are heavily weighted toward equities, which make up 53 per cent of assets. The remainder is largely divided amongst bonds (15 per cent), cash (11 per cent) and CDs/money market funds (nine per cent). Real estate, excluding the primary residence, comprises just six per cent of their net worth,” the article notes, citing research from the National Bureau of Economic Research in the U.S.

There’s much more emphasis on owning stocks in this group, the article notes.

“Take it from the best: Warren Buffett’s will dictates that 90 percent of his wealth be invested in stock market index funds when he dies, with the remainder in government bonds,” concludes.

An article from Forbes offers a look at the investment habits of the wealthy, noting that they tend not to “sit” on their money, but keep it mostly invested.

As well, their focus is on “a year-over-year increase in net worth,” so “they don’t waste a considerable amount of time on the details.” They “live below their means,” avoid debt and paying interest, and are very aware of their income and expenses.

We once read a quote from Mark Cuban, well-known U.S. entrepreneur, who said that once you begin investing, try not to dip into that money – let it grow. It is certainly interesting to take a short look at how the richer half invests!

Members of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan don’t have to sweat out an investment strategy for their savings. SPP’s asset mix is currently 10 per cent Canadian equities, 16 per cent U.S. equities, 15 per cent non-North American equities, 11 per cent real estate, 18 per cent infrastructure, 13 per cent bonds, six per cent mortgages, and 10 per cent private debt, with the balance (small) in short-term investments. SPP isn’t sitting on its cash – it’s carefully growing its members’ contributions to help fund their future retirements!

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.


Apr 1: A look at the pros and cons of using cash back credit cards

April 1, 2024

Back in the day, when colour TV was a new thing and there was no Internet, a “charge card” was a way to pay for things instead of using cash or a cheque.

You didn’t get anything extra in those early days – just a bill in the mail.

But over the intervening decades, credit cards (as they have been rebranded) now offer a dizzying array of extras – points to help you pay for travel, coffee, and other perks, or cards that offer you cash back on purchases.

Save with SPP decided to take a harder look at cash back cards in particular.

They are very popular, reports The Motley Fool blog.

Over 56 per cent of Americans have cash back cards, the blog notes.

“Cash back cards offer a straightforward deal. Pay with your card and earn a percentage back on your purchase. It’s a valuable benefit, easy to understand, and consumers love it,” the blog reports.

Strategically speaking, The Motley Fool lays out two ways you can go with cash back cards.

“If you want to keep it simple, you could use one cash back card for all your regular spending. There’s nothing wrong with this method, but there’s also a way you could earn much more: carrying multiple cash back credit cards. Because when you don’t mind adding another card or two to the mix, you could potentially double your cash back,” the blog suggests.

Most cash back cards, the article continues, allow you to select two or three categories (say, gas, hotels, groceries) where you get extra cash back on top of the typical rate (between one and two per cent). So, The Motley Fool suggests getting a couple, so you can max out on more categories.

OK, either try to put everything on one cash back card, or have a couple and use them for the “bonus” categories.

It’s important to remember that like any credit card, the benefits of cash back only matter if you pay your card in full each month, reports The Points Guy blog.

“As long as you pay your bills on time and in full, you’ll likely avoid any sort of fee altogether and be able to focus on earning more cash back for the purchases that matter to you,” the blog advises.

The blog makes the point that getting cash back is easier to manage than having to figure out how and where to cash in points.

What cash back cards are available to us Canucks?

According to MoneySense all the major banks, Tangerine Bank, MBNA and American Express offer cash back cards.

The magazine reports that if you were to spend $2,200 a year on a cash back credit card in Canada, you would “earn” between $331 and $1,256 per year.

Those amounts are net of annual fees, which ranged from zero to $139 per year.

MoneySense urges Canadians to shop around before they decide which card to choose.

“Cash back credit cards are an extremely popular type of rewards card in Canada. Each cash back credit card has its own features and benefits, so you’ll want to compare the annual fee, earn rate and any additional benefits before you apply,” reports MoneySense.

The best cards, the article notes, have a two per cent earning rate on all categories, “so that you can get the most out of every dollar spent.” Some connect to other benefits offered by the credit card company, also a plus, MoneySense notes.

Some cards are not as widely accepted as others, the article notes, so that should factor into your research. Also, how the cash back is paid can vary from seeing a deposit in your chequing account each month, or to getting a monthly statement credit (not really cash back but credit back), or even only an annual credit.

Read the fine print before you sign up, advises MoneySense.

This type of credit card – in fact, any credit card – should get paid off in full every month, MoneySense notes.

“The payoff with a cash back credit card is the cash—a reward that is easily cancelled out by the penalties and interest accrued if you carry a balance. Like all rewards credit cards, cash back cards tend to carry annual interest rates at the higher end, usually around 19.99 per cent. At this rate, unpaid debt will rapidly accumulate interest charges that eat up any gains you’ve made. As long as you pay off your balance in full every month, you’ll avoid this pitfall, but if you find you regularly carry a balance, you might consider a low interest credit card instead,” the publication adds.

This is very sensible and important advice. If you aren’t planning to pay off your credit card balance each month, you are going to be paying more in interest than you are going to receive in “free” cash back. If you are disciplined, and pay off your entire credit card statement each month, then the cash back approach may actually work for you.

We used our cash back money to make Saskatchewan Pension Plan contributions! SPP members can fund their accounts in multiple ways – you can set SPP up as a bill and “pay” yourself online, or you can have amounts withdrawn automatically from your chequing account. You can even make a contribution with a credit card – so cash back on retirement savings is a possibility.

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.


Mar 21: More than half of Canadians don’t have a will – and should

March 21, 2024

Having a will is something that we seem to know is very important, yet don’t seem to find the time or money to get rolling on.

According to the CBC, citing research from 2017, “more than half of Canadians don’t have a last will and testament,” with 18 per cent saying they can’t afford one, and five per cent feeling they don’t have time to make one.

Another reason given by some, the article continues, is that they don’t think they have “enough assets to make the process worthwhile.”

But, points out the Savvy New Canadians blog, having a will is very important.

“Thinking of your own mortality can be scary, but death is an inevitable part of life and being prepared is one of the best ways to bring you and your loved ones some financial peace of mind,” the blog advises.

The blog offers five key reasons why we should get a will done:

  • A will “protects your financial assets and investments.”
  • It “ensures your relationships are recognized,” meaning it sets out who you want to inherit your money and possessions, instead of leaving it up to the government to figure out.
  • It “guarantees a plan” for any minor children.
  • While there is no estate tax in Canada, having a will can help minimize “estate administration taxes,” such as your final income tax returns and, in some cases, a probate fee.
  • It lets you leave “legacy gifts” to charities or non-profit organizations.

Writing for Waterloo News, published by the University of Waterloo, estate planning lawyer Keith Masterman talks about the problems that can crop up when someone dies without a will.

“If you die without a will, you are said to die intestate. The ramification can be dire. You do not choose your beneficiaries; your estate will be distributed according to a government scheme. The scheme is set out in provincial legislation and what your loved one will receive depend on the province where you reside,” he warns.

As an example, he notes that “in all provinces, a surviving spouse will inherit at least a portion of an intestate estate,” but what they get depend on what province they live in.

“British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Nunavut and The Northwest Territories all recognize a common-law partner as a spouse. In the other provinces—Manitoba, Ontario, PEI, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Yukon—only a married survivor is recognized as a spouse,” he writes.

This can be complicated for those of us who marry, separate, and then live common-law with a new partner, he explains. Depending on where the individuals involved live, the common-law partner might be disinherited if their partner dies without a will, notes Masterman.

While most think getting a will is prohibitively expensive, the CBC article suggests that it doesn’t always have to be.

“These days, we have more and arguably easier options than ever before when it comes to will preparation: will and estate lawyers, businesses that offer fixed prices on lawyer-provided services, will kits, will-preparation sites and even DIY legal forms that are available for free online,” the CBC suggests.

So, what’s involved in doing up a will?

According to Canadian Living, you need to have an executor in mind, someone who “carries out the directives in the will, making sure whatever you decided upon happens.” It’s typical, the magazine reports, for “a trusted friend or relative” to be chosen as executor, or a lawyer.

You also need to appoint people who can act on your behalf if, in the future, illness or injury prevents you from making decisions. One such “power of attorney” should be appointed/named to look after your finances, and another for your health. The article says it is typical for two different people to be picked for these roles.

If you have young kids under 18, Canadian Living notes that a will can be used to “name a guardian” for your kids. Without this guardianship being set out in a will, it would be up to the courts to decide where your kids will live.

As for divvying up your estate, “if you don’t have a will, the government will decide who gets what,” the article advises. “In most cases, the surviving spouse inherits the first $200,000 of an estate and the rest would be split between living parents and children,” the article adds.

Other advice from Canadian Living includes the fact that “only an original will” is valid – not a photocopy, and that once you do your will, you should update it after “any major live event, such as divorce, death, birth, or change to your economic status.”

While getting a will done can by a lawyer can costs hundreds of dollars, and up to $1,000 if you have a complicated situation, Canadian Living concludes that “whatever the cost, it’s worth it. You don’t want a judge deciding your estate’s fate.”

Just as having a will is important, so too is saving for retirement. Not many of us have a retirement savings program at work. If you’re saving on your own for retirement and have some registered retirement savings plan room, why not kick the tires on the Saskatchewan Pension Plan?

SPP can be a do-it-yourself retirement savings for you. You decide how much to contribute, and SPP does the rest – investing your contributions in a professionally managed, low-cost pooled fund. And when it’s time to retire, you can choose such options as a lifetime monthly SPP annuity payment, or the Variable Benefit, where you decide how much to take out, and when! 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.


Mar 7: What’s the difference between active and passive management?

March 7, 2024

We read all the time about “active” and “passive” management of investments. While it sounds like one type is for those that jog and work out, and the other is for people comfy on their couches, the actual meaning is a little different. Save with SPP had a look around to find a good explainer or two.

Writing for Bankrate via AOL, Dr. James Royal writes that “active investing is what you often see in films and TV shows. It involves an analyst or trader identifying an undervalued stock, purchasing it and riding it to wealth.”

“It’s true – there’s a lot of glamour in finding the undervalued needles in a haystack of stocks. But it involves analysis and insight, knowledge of the market and a lot of work, especially if you’re a short-term trader,” he continues.

On the other hand, he notes, “passive investing is all about taking a long-term buy-and-hold approach, typically by buying an index fund. Passive investing using an index fund avoids the analysis of individual stocks and trading in and out of the market. The goal of these passive investors is to get the index’s return, rather than trying to outpace the index.”

So the Coles Notes on this are as follows – an active management approach involves you (or an advisor) actually picking investments that you think will beat the market’s returns. Passive means you aim to duplicate the market’s returns, usually by buying index funds that consist (unsurprisingly) of all the funds on the various index.

So, is one approach better than the other?

A recent New York Times article suggests that over time, the passive approach tends to work out the best.

“Over the last 20 years, stock pickers have had a dismal record. Most haven’t come close to beating the overall stock market,” writes Jeff Sommer.

“But occasionally, there are exceptions. In some periods, stock pickers rule, and the start of this year was one of those times. In fact, it was the best January for actively managed stock mutual funds since Bank of America began compiling data in 1991. It wasn’t just that they turned in handsome returns for investors. The entire stock market did that. The S&P 500 and other stock indexes set records during the month,” he notes.

The article goes on to say that stock pickers seem to do best when markets are doing the worst – such as the 2008/9 credit crisis. Passive investing does well at most other times, he points out.

A Forbes article on the topic makes the point that active investing requires much more of an effort.

“You can do active investing yourself, or you can outsource it to professionals through actively managed mutual funds and exchanged traded funds (ETFs),” the article notes. However, the article notes, you need to be watching your holdings all the time.

“Without that constant attention, it’s easy for even the most meticulously designed actively managed portfolio to fall prey to volatile market fluctuations and rack up short-term losses that may impact long-term goals,” Forbes reports. “This is why active investing is not recommended to most investors, particularly when it comes to their long-term retirement savings.”

On the contrary, “because it’s a set-it-and-forget-it approach that only aims to match market performance, passive investing doesn’t require daily attention. Especially where funds are concerned, this leads to fewer transactions and drastically lower fees. That’s why it’s a favorite of financial advisors for retirement savings and other investment goals.”

No one likes to talk about investments unless they are winning. It’s like bingo – you hear when your friends win the big jackpot, but otherwise, you don’t. We have heard horror stories from friends who went for the home run with things like Bre-X, or Nortel, or cannabis stocks, and of late, bitcoin.

Whatever approach you personally choose for your own investments, we recommend that you seek the advice of a professional investor. The portfolio you construct on your own may be fine, but will almost always benefit from the oversight of a pro.

If you’re a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, you are already benefitting from professional investment advice. The SPP balanced fund returned 7.73 per cent, on average, since its inception more than 35 years ago. While past returns are of course no guarantee of future rates of return – no one can predict the future – it’s nice knowing that SPP’s investing history has been so positive. 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.


Feb 29: Office vacancy rates high, but many of us will be returning to office work soon

February 29, 2024

Among the many strange aspects of life during the recent pandemic was the “work from home” boom. Office buildings stood empty, nearby convenience stores and food courts closed, and there was no “rush hour” traffic update on the morning news. Everyone was at home.

But that may be changing.

A recent CTV News report sums up how different things were during the pandemic.

COVID-19 caused “a mass exodus to remote work that had never been seen before,” the broadcaster reports. In 2016, “only seven per cent of workers in Canada said they `usually’ worked from home,” the article notes. As recently as early 2022, that number had soared to 24.3 per cent, or nearly one quarter of all workers.

But people are starting to “trickle” back to the office, CTV reports. The “working exclusively at home” number dropped to 20.1 per cent in May of last year, although there were still 11.7 per cent of workers in “hybrid” work arrangements (some hours at home, some at the workplace) as recently as November.

There are a couple of issues that have arisen due to remote work, reports Global News.

First, there seems to be a disconnect between what employers want – a return to work in the office – and what employees want – to be able to continue to work from home.

“A quarter of Canadians who usually work from home would like to work from home more, while one in eight would like to work from home less — which the report says is a challenge for employers,” Global reports, citing information from Statistics Canada.

“A mismatch between employees’ preferences for telework and the hours they work from home may negatively affect employee retention,” reports Global, again citing the Statistics Canada report.

The second issue is that offices in downtown centres, such as Toronto, are experiencing record vacancy rates.

According to the Financial Post, “the vacancy rate for downtown Toronto office buildings reached a record high at the end of last year as a flood of largely empty space from newly completed projects hit the market.”

“The downtown office vacancy rate in Canada’s financial capital rose to 17.4 per cent as nearly 58,100 square metres of new space came to market during the fourth quarter, according to data released Tuesday by brokerage CBRE Group Inc.,” the Post reports.

“The poor performance of the Toronto market helped push Canada’s national downtown vacancy rate to its own record last quarter, hitting 19.4 per cent, the data show,” the article notes.

COVID-19 is cited as the chief reason for the vacancies, as well as the fact that major office construction projects can take years, the article adds.

Because office towers take many years to construct, Toronto’s still working through office projects that began before the pandemic.

“With the city accounting for nearly half of all new office construction nationwide, Canada’s net-absorption rate, or the pace that office space gets leased when it becomes available, would have been positive without the impact from Toronto’s new supply, the data show. Instead, that rate was negative in the period,” the article concludes.

Some observers fear that the business of building and leasing office space may have been permanently damaged due to the COVID-related work-from-home trend.

The Canadian Press reports that “the COVID-induced work-from-home shift has ravaged the office market as many employers re-evaluated their office footprint. Firms have also looked at reducing their real estate holdings as a way to rein in expenses to help cope with the current weaker economy.”

“It is likely that 10 to 15 per cent of demand has been permanently destroyed with (work-from-home) trends,” Maria Benavente, vice-president and real estate-focused portfolio manager at Dynamic Funds, tells The Canadian Press.

This strange, once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully) situation may take a while to play out. It will be interesting to see if the trickle of “in-office” workers begins to become more of a river, correcting the problem of office vacancy and breathing life into downtown businesses that are supported by office workers. Or, will people fight for the right to work from their dining rooms? Stay tuned!

Wherever you work, saving for retirement is important. If you are lucky enough to have a workplace savings program, be sure you are taking part to the maximum. If you don’t, and are saving on your own for retirement, you may want to consider joining the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

Open to any Canadian with registered retirement savings room, SPP’s voluntary defined contribution plan delivers expert investment management at a low cost, using a pooled fund. SPP will grow your savings, and when it’s time to put work behind you, you can choose between a lifetime annuity payment each month, or SPP’s Variable Benefit program. Find out why SPP has been helping Canadians build secure retirements since 1986 – check them out today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


Feb 15: You can turn the clutter invading your home into cash

February 15, 2024

There’s a room in our basement that we rarely ever enter, which we euphemistically call the “storage room,” that has 50 or more boxes full of accumulated clutter from past dwellings in Toronto, Waterloo, Barrie and beyond. There are also old books, toys, games, records, cameras, Palm Pilots, and other once-cool stuff that now is unneeded and unwanted.

Save with SPP, finding the prospect of going through each box overwhelming, took a look around the Interweb for ideas on how to convert some of this clutter into easier-to-store cash, while reclaiming some floor space.

Over at the Go Banking Rates blog, a number of clutter-cashing ideas are on offer.

The blog recommends a “triage” of your clutter collection to sift out any items of value.

“Go through each room and sort items into categories like clothing, electronics, books, and collectibles. Be ruthless in your selection; if you haven’t used it in a year and it doesn’t hold sentimental value, it’s likely clutter,” the blog advises.

Next, look up online to find the value of your potential “sellables,” the blog adds. See what similar items are going for on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or (in Canada) Kijiji.

List your items on a suitable platform – the blog recommends eBay for collectibles, and Facebook for furniture and electronics “as you can avoid shipping costs.”

Anything you plan to sell online should be cleaned, repaired, and captured via a good, clear photo and well-written, clear description, the blog notes. Be sure, the blog concludes, that you are offering your items at a fair price, account for any fees your platform charges (example – shipping outside Canada) and be willing to negotiate. With Facebook sales, arrange to meet the buyer “in well-lit public places and consider bringing a friend,” the blog advises.

“With a little effort and savvy, you can turn your unused items into a valuable resource. Whether it’s an old guitar, a stack of vintage comics, or a designer dress you never wore, there’s likely a market for your once-loved items,” the article concludes.

The Frugal Farm Wife blog provides a few more ideas.

While it takes a bit of effort to cash in on your junk, it’s a sound idea to trade “a pile of stuff you no longer want or need for cash to spend on things you DO want or need,” the authors note.

Yard or garage sales, the article says, are the number one way “to get rid of stuff… they’re great!”

Set low prices for the bargain-minded yard/garage shopping set, advertise (via flyers or community Facebook, including some photos of what’s going on sale), and make your sale “easy to navigate” by grouping like items together, having tables to lay out clothes and larger items, etc.

Another approach, the article continues, is to “sell to consignment shops.” This is good for name-brand clothing that is in excellent shape, the article advises, and your clothes must be spotless.

Consider bringing any unwanted antiques to an antique store, the article notes.

At the Thrifty Frugal Mom blog, a lot of the same ground is covered, but the blog notes there are also online yard sales that can be set up via Facebook.

“To find one, simply search Facebook with your area’s name and either yard sale or resale and likely something will pop up. If not, create one yourself- but be prepared for it to become a hopping, popular place,” the blog notes.

“While you can sell big-ticket items here, I’ve found these groups to be a great place for selling smaller items and kid’s clothing. In fact, two groups that I’m part of are specifically for kid’s stuff.”

We can add a couple more thoughts from family experiences. The market for used 35 mm film cameras seems to have ticked up of late, and many camera stores will purchase your old cameras and lenses for a few bucks. There are several local stores that will pay cash for old vinyl records. And if you have any old collectible cards, there are card shops that will help you convert them into cash.

Depending on how serious your clutter addiction is, this is a process that could take time. But at the end of the day, you’ll have less clutter and more cash.

A nice place for some of that extra cash to be stored is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Any Canadian with registered retirement savings plan room can join SPP, and take advantage of its low-cost, professionally managed and pooled investment fund. And when you retire, your options include converting savings to a lifetime monthly annuity payment, or the flexibility of SPP’s Variable Benefit option, where you decide how much income to withdraw – and when!

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.