Category Archives: General

Great accomplishments can come late in life

While sitting by the lake with a couple of old friends recently, talk turned to the idea that getting old means you’ll do less and learn little. “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” our friend said sadly, shaking his head.

But those old sayings may be past their best-before date, because many seniors are finding that their “golden” years are personal best years.

Take Vancouver’s B.J. McHugh. According to an article on the CTV News website turning 90 was no big deal for this accomplished athlete.

“McHugh owns several 10-kilometre, half-marathon and marathon records for seniors, including her latest: the fastest marathon time by a runner over 90. McHugh smashed the record by two hours at the Honolulu Marathon in December, with a time of 6:47:31,” the article states. This from a woman who did not take up running until her late fifties, the article adds.

Regina’s Ted Turner, according to a CBC article, was active and still golfing as he approached age 90, but was also a busy historian and author. “A few years ago he wrote a book on the Wheat Pool called Beyond the Farm Gate. He’s now working on another project about the agriculture building at the University of Saskatchewan,” the article states. “I think that as I mature, I can get better at a lot of things,” Turner told the CBC.

Finally, there’s the story of Quebec’s Laval Boulanger. According to another CBC report, Boulanger had a terrible workplace fall – a drop of 15 metres – back in 1943 when he was just 18. He very nearly died from his injuries, the report says, but recovered and made a unique vow. He decided that if he lived until age 90, he would skydive.

At the successful conclusion of his dive, he said “I’m free… my mind is free.”The moral of these stories is quite simple. The third period of life is a long time, and there’s no reason to try to just kill the clock. It’s a time to try new things, to learn, to have fun, and to surprise yourself.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

New blogger takes over from retiring Sheryl Smolkin

After nearly seven years of writing insightful and highly informative blogs for the SPP, Sheryl Smolkin has decided to retire. We certainly wish her all the best – good health, long life, and many adventures on the road ahead.

Our new blogger is Martin Biefer. Martin has been writing for 35 years, most recently with the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, but before that with community newspapers in Ontario and Alberta, and for the old Southam company, in their business magazine division.

Martin retired from working full time a few years ago and returned to his hometown of Ottawa, where he lives with his wife, his large and crazy Sheltie, and his cat. He’s trying to break 100 now and then at the golf course, occasionally doubling out at the Legion darts on Wednesdays, and taking line dancing lessons at the nearby Richmond Arena.

He and his wife are SPP members. “I was fortunate enough to have a pension from work, but I still had room for RRSP savings. The SPP is so flexible. I’m actually quite excited to see what will happen when the day comes that I turn the savings into income.”

Martin plans to write not only about saving for retirement, but ways to save generally, the ins and outs of retirement, the importance of health and fitness as we age, and much more.

“I can already see the importance of growing your network of friends once you leave the workforce,” he says. “A lot of seniors find themselves isolated, and that’s not good for their mental health. We are social animals and we need lots of interaction to stay energized.”

For Martin, there are obstacles to saving these days that weren’t there in the past. “Homes are 10 times more expensive than they were when my folks bought in the 1960s. So a mortgage is a much bigger deal than it used to be. People are carrying around much more debt than ever before, and that can prevent them from saving.”

The solution, he says, “is to start small. If you can afford only $5 a week, start with that. Put that away before you pay the bills and buy the groceries. And when you can, increase it to $7.50, then $10. You won’t even miss it, and you’ll be on the road to being a saver.”

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Happy Retirement Sheryl!

Last week Sheryl Smolkin announced her retirement and talked about how SPP has changed her life.  If you missed the blog you can read it here. Sheryl has been part of our Social Media team for the last seven years, helping us write our original policy, getting us started with Facebook posts, hosting on our YouTube channel and of course has being the voice of since 2011.

Sheryl lives in the Toronto area, however she writes content that is relevant across Canada. Her writing style makes the blogs easy to read and packs a lot of information into a few hundred words. We covered many topics over the years, mixing current events with general topics that everyone in Canada should know about everything financial.

Sheryl and I have worked closely together on the blogs since the beginning; I have gained so much knowledge not only from reading her posts, but also from asking questions and getting advice for the writing I do at SPP. We both like traveling and seem to travel close to the same time which makes it fun to hit our deadlines for our weekly best of posts and our regular weekly blogs.  But we always got our “act together” so we didn’t miss a week, even if our inboxes were full of emails saying “Are the blogs ready for review I am leaving on Wednesday?”.

As I said to Sheryl, I have mixed feeling about her departure from I am happy she will be able to spend more time with her family and traveling, but I will miss hearing from her and reading her blogs.

Thank for you for being a mentor to me and putting up with me as I moved from a mid-20 something to an early 30 something. Enjoy your retirement and remember those of us who are still working.

Happy retirement Sheryl!

Stephen Neiszner

How SPP changed my life

Punta Cana: March 2018

After a long career as a pension lawyer with a consulting firm, I retired for the first time 13 years ago and became Editor of Employee Benefits News Canada. I resigned from that position four years later and embarked on an encore career as a freelance personal finance writer.

In December 2010 I wrote the article Is this small pension plan Canada’s best kept secret?  about the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for Adam Mayers, formerly the personal finance editor for the Toronto Star. The Star was starting a personal finance blogging site called moneyville and he was looking for someone to write about pensions and employee benefits. I was recommended by Ellen Roseman, the Star’s consumer columnist.

The article about SPP was my first big break. I was offered the position at moneyville and for 21/2 years I wrote three Eye on Benefits blogs each week. It was frightening, exhausting and exhilarating. And when moneyville began a new life as the personal finance section of the Toronto Star, my weekly column At Work was featured for another 18 months.

But that was only the beginning.

Soon after the “best kept secret” article appeared on moneyville, SPP’s General Manager Katherine Strutt asked me to help develop a social media strategy for the pension plan. Truth be told, I was an early social media user but there were and still are huge gaps in my knowledge. So I partnered with expert Leslie Hughes from PunchMedia, We did a remote, online presentation and were subsequently invited to Kindersley, Saskatchewan, the home of SPP to present in person. All of our recommendations were accepted.

By December 2011, I was blogging twice a week for SPP about everything and anything to do with spending money, saving money, retirement, insurance, financial literacy and personal finance. Since then I have authored over 500 articles for Along the way I also wrote hundreds of other articles for Employee Benefit News (U.S.), Sun Life, Tangerine Bank and other terrific clients. As a result, I have doubled my retirement savings.

All my clients have been wonderful but SPP is definitely at the top of the list. I am absolutely passionate about SPP and both my husband and I are members. Because I was receiving dividends and not salary from my company I could not make regular contributions. Instead, over the last seven years I have transferred $10,000 each year from another RRSP into SPP and I would contribute more if I could.

By the end of 2017 I started turning down work, but I was still reluctant to sever my relationship with SPP. However, as my days became increasingly full with travel, caring for my aged mother, visiting my daughter’s family in Ottawa, choir and taking classes at Ryerson’s Life Institute, I realized that I’m ready to let go at long last. After the end of May when people ask me what I do, I will finally be totally comfortable saying “I am retired.”

I will miss working with the gang at SPP. I will also miss the wonderful feedback from our readers. I very much look forward to seeing how both and the plan evolve. My parting advice to all of you is maximize your SPP savings every year. SPP has changed my life. It can also change yours.

Au revoir. Until we meet again….


Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

MySPP is here!

MySPP is your opportunity to access personal account information in a secure, online environment at any time of day. You can access MySPP by visiting our website here. You will also find a login link on the top navigation of our website.

Setting up your account is easy and, once complete, you’ll be able to view your:

  • Contact, beneficiary and power of attorney information
  • account balance
  • transactions for the past 12 months.
  • Pension payment amounts including year-to-date and lifetime totals.

Members who are making contributions to their SPP account will be able to download  tax receipts and members statements.

Members who are receiving pension payment from SPP will be able to download T4As and retirement statements.

Setting up your account only takes a few minutes and you will be able to start exploring MySPP for yourself. We have also added an FAQ section to our website which you can check out here.

As always, our staff is ready to answer your questions and looks forward to taking your call, should you need assistance.

Thank you
Your SPP Team

2017 – Saskatchewan’s Top Employers

Getting up every day for 40+ years and going to work for eight or more hours a day pays the bills, but it can become tedious and repetitive. However, if you work for a great employer that is constantly reviewing compensation, benefits and employee engagement levels in order to attract and retain the best and the brightest, work can be a much more pleasurable experience.

One way to identify a top-notch employer is to keep an eye out for organizations that are recognized as leading employers in various lists published from time to time. For example, take a look at Canada’s Top 100 Employers published by Mediacorp Canada since 2000 and spinoffs such Canada’s Top Employers for Young People and Saskatchewan’s Top Employers.

First published in 2006, Saskatchewan’s Top Employers recognizes the Saskatchewan employers that lead their industries in offering exceptional places to work. The 2017 winners were announced this past April in a special magazine published by the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

Employers are evaluated by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers using the same eight criteria as the national competition:

(1) Physical workplace.
(2) Work atmosphere and social.
(3) Health, financial and family benefits.
(4) Vacation and  time off.
(5) Employee communications.
(6) Performance management.
(7) Training and skills development, and
(8) Community involvement.

Companies are compared to other organizations in their field to determine which offers the most progressive and forward-thinking programs. You can find the 2017 Saskatchewan list here, but featured below is information collected by Mediacorp about just five of these notable Saskatchewan employers.

Access Communications Co-operative Ltd.
This cable and communications company with 215 employees has locations in Saskatoon, Regina and nine other towns in the province.

  • In addition to 3 weeks of starting vacation allowance, Access Communications recognizes previous work experience when setting individual vacation entitlements for experienced candidates and provides 3 paid personal days off to help employees balance their work and personal lives.
  • Access Communications supports its new and adoptive moms with maternity leave top-up payments (to 100% of salary for up to 17 weeks).
  • Access Communications supports ongoing employee development with tuition subsidies and a variety of in-house training programs — and offers the next generation opportunities to gain on-the-job experience through paid internships and co-op placements.

ClearTech Industries Inc.
Cleartech distributes chemicals and equipment. It has facilities in Port Coquitlam BC, Saskatoon SK and Edmonton AB with a total of about 145 employees.

  • ClearTech Industries lets everyone share in the fruits of their labours with a profit-sharing plan and also encourages long-term savings through a defined contribution pension plan.
  • ClearTech Industries invests in the long-term development of its employees through tuition subsidies for job-related courses, in-house training initiatives and financial bonuses for some course completions.
  • ClearTech Industries’ employee social committee organizes a number of events through the year, including a Christmas party, family barbecue and golf tournament, weekly treat days and summer “Rider Day” barbecue.

The Mosaic Company
Fertilizer manufacturing company Mosaic has its head office in the U.S. but Saskatchewan branches in Regina, Belle Plaine, Colonsay and Estherhazy with 2,250+ Canadian employees.

  • Mosaic helps employees build their skills through a variety of in-house training options and generous tuition subsidies for courses directly related to their positions (up to $10,000).
  • Varying by employee group Mosaic employees share in a range of excellent financial benefits including a defined contribution pension program, matching RSP contributions, year-end bonuses, new employee referral bonuses (up to $1,000) and profit sharing for salaried positions. The company also offers retirement planning assistance services for all employees.
  • Mosaic ensured that architects consulted directly with employees in the design of their new head offices in downtown Regina. The modern head office is located on the top 4 floors of one of the tallest and newest buildings in the city, complete with a rooftop patio and a theatre-style conference centre plus convenient access to a shared-use fitness facility

Innovation Credit Union
Innovation Credit Union with branches in North Battleford, Swift Current, Meadow Lake and Regina has 325+ employees.

  • Innovation Credit Union offers employees a range of financial benefits including discounted financial services, new employee referral bonuses (up to $1,750), retirement planning services and a defined contribution pension plan.
  • Innovation Credit Union invests in the long-term development of its employees through tuition subsidies for courses that are both related and indirectly related to their current position.
  • Innovation Credit Union and its employees support approximately 250 charitable and community organizations every year. The credit union’s charitable focus includes initiatives that support arts and culture, business, charity, community, education, and sports and youth.

Saskatchewan Research Counsel
Three hundred and forty-four employees conduct research activities in Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Regina, Uranium City and Calgary AB.

  • Saskatchewan Research Council provides maternity and parental leave top-up payments for employees who are new mothers or adoptive parents, up to 95% of salary for up to 17 weeks.
  • Employees working at Saskatchewan Research Council’s head office can take advantage of a number of onsite amenities including a cafeteria with healthy and special diet menus, a fully-stocked employee lounge and shared access to an onsite fitness facility, complete with sauna, squash courts and instructor-led classes
  • In addition to 3.6 weeks of starting vacation allowance, Saskatchewan Research Council offers up to 15 paid personal days off to help employees balance personal commitments.

Check out the websites of these and other top Saskatchewan employers to see if they are hiring. In addition, make note of the enriched programs these top Saskatchewan employers offer if  you are evaluating other employers when you are looking for work in the province.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Saskatchewanians who made their mark

I am proud to say that my Canada includes Saskatchewan. Not that I’ve actually spent a lot of time there. I’ve been to a couple of pension conferences in Saskatoon and Regina and in June 2011 I spent a memorable couple of days in Kindersley getting to know the folks at Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

But over the past six years since I started writing for SPP, the province has rarely been out of my thoughts for more than a day or two because I’m always planning my next blog. So when I was watching a recording of the Governor General’s Arts Awards on a rainy July 1st afternoon it occurred to me that Tommy Douglas couldn’t be the only Saskatchewanian who has made a major contribution to our country in the arts, sports, business or politics.  With a little research, I found the online magazine Virtual Saskatchewan and a series of by freelance writer David Yanko:

Saskatchewan’s Own 1
Saskatchewan’s Own 2
Saskatchewan’s Own 3

Each of these pieces lists 25 individuals who have made their mark on both the national and international stage. I have picked only five to profile, but take a look all three of these articles to learn more about the accomplishments of many of the best and brightest who at one time or another have called Saskatchewan home. 

Brent Butt (born August 3, 1966) is a Canadian actor, comedian, and writer. He is best known for his role as Brent Leroy on the CTV sitcom Corner Gas, which he developed. It was set in the fictional town of Dog River, Saskatchewan. The show averaged a million viewers per episode. Corner Gas received six Gemini Awards, and was nominated almost 70 times for various other awards. In addition, Butt created the hit TV show Hiccups and the 2013 film No Clue. At our place we never missed an episode of Corner Gas, so I’m happy to report that an animated version is in the works.

Brian Dickson was appointed a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada on March 26, 1973, and subsequently appointed the 15th Chief Justice of Canada on April 18, 1984. He retired on June 30, 1990. Dickson’s tenure as Chief Justice coincided with the first wave of cases under the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which reached the Supreme Court from 1984 onwards. He wrote several very influential judgments dealing with the Charter, and laid the groundwork for the approach the courts have since used to interpret the Charter. Through law school and when I practiced law, I read and cited a number of his important decisions.

Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, responsible for hits such as Both Sides Now and Big Yellow Taxi, was born on November 7, 1943, in Fort MacLeod, Alberta and grew up in Saskatoon. In 1968, she recorded her first, self-titled album. Other highly successful albums followed. Mitchell won her first Grammy Award (best folk performance) for her 1969 album, Clouds. She has won seven more Grammy Awards since then, in several different categories, including traditional pop, pop music and lifetime achievement. To this day, folk music is my favourite genre and songs like Chelsea Morning and Circle Game have become the soundtrack of my life.

Sandra Schmirler was a Saskatchewan curler who captured three Canadian Curling Championships and three World Curling Championships.  Schmirler also skipped her Canadian team to a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics, the first year women’s curling was a medal sport. Schmirler sometimes worked as a commentator for CBC Sports, which popularized her nickname “Schmirler the Curler” and claimed she was the only person who had a name that rhymed with the sport she played. Schmirler’s accomplishments caught my imagination and that of the whole country. Sadly, she died in 2000 at 36 of cancer, leaving a legacy that extended far beyond her sport.

It may seem arbitrary to mention two folk singers in an ad hoc selection of notable sons and daughters of Saskatchewan. But Buffy Sainte-Marie is so much more. This Canadian legend is 76 and still going strong. She is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, educator, social activist, philanthropist and visual artist, born February 20, 1941 on Piapot Reserve, SK.

She was an important figure in the Greenwich Village and Toronto folk music revivals in the 1960s, and is perhaps best known for her 1964 anti-war anthem Universal Soldier, which was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. On the eve of Canada Day I had the privilege to hear this diminutive giant sing Universal Soldier plus many of her newer releases in person, at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. She and her music never seem to grow old.


Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Happy 150th Birthday Canada

My husband and I buy lottery tickets every now and then and have fun dreaming about what we would do with the money if we won millions. But the truth is that as Canadians born and bred, we know that we have already won the lottery.

Canada was ranked the second best country in the world again this year, edged out only by Switzerland in the annual Best Countries survey from the U.S. News & World Report. But Canada topped the list in the “Quality of Life” category, scoring a perfect 10 based on a variety of sub-factors including politics, economy and health care.

Are we perfect? Of course not. We still have much work to do dealing with many critical issues. But we welcome people from all over the world with open arms. Thanks to former Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas, we also have a single payer healthcare system (wait times notwithstanding), that is the envy of many of our neighbours to the south.

So whether you travel across the country or around the block, make this your year to see and celebrate a part of this great country where you have never been before. And to get you in the mood, here’s a little travelling music with wonderful images celebrating the beautiful place we are privileged to call home.

“Something to Sing About” by Oscar Brand performed by The Travelers.

Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

2016 RRSP countdown is on!

With the RRSP deadline a mere three weeks away, we’re providing you with some information that will make this time of year easier for everyone.

If you aren’t big on reading this early in the morning here is a video highlighting the same information. Links are below.

Wednesday, March 1 is the final day to contribute to your RRSP for the 2016 tax year. SPP contributions must be received at the office in Kindersley on or before that day.

There’s several fast convenient ways to make your SPP contribution in order to meet the deadline:

  • Use your credit card at;
  • Use your online banking service; or
  • Call our office (1-800-667-7153) during regular business hours.
  • Cheques can be mailed to our office; please make sure you mail them no later than mid February.
  • If you are in the Kindersley area come visit our office and make your contribution in person.

The SPP balanced fund returned 6.53% in 2016. The short-term fund return was 0.52% in 2016. You are can see returns from prior years here.

You can reach us at or check out our website:  Our wealth calculator can help you determine how long your money will last in retirement.

Thanks for your continued support of SPP.

Saskatchewan Pension Plan employees trust 30 years of simplicity and security

Seeing what the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has done for its members is giving Debbie Dand confidence about her own retirement.

“I usually talk to people who are inquiring about retiring,” said Dand, who works as a retirement officer for the plan.

“I educate them the best I can as to what their options are with the plan so they can make the best decision about what to do with their retirement savings.”

She discusses those options on the phone with members, knowing in detail what the plan has done over the last 30 years, first as a member and then, as an employee.

“Since 1986, when the plan started, it has accumulated an average return of 8.1 per cent less administration fees, so it has been a very good plan.”

It’s not just the return history that has benefited members.

“Saskatchewan Pension Plan has very low management fees at around one per cent, which is very low if you look around at some of our competitors,” said Dand.

“(The competitors) fees could be quite a bit higher. Over the years, it makes a quite a difference in what you are going to make in the long run.”

Now, after working for the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for the last 26 years, Dand is looking ahead to her own retirement.

“I myself have been a member of the plan right from 1986. The accounts have grown very nicely,” said Dand.

Her co-worker, Melody Lamont, sees the plan having a solid future capable of taking caring of members in retirement.

“For anybody that’s a member, they have the opportunity to receive an annuity if they remain with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, guaranteed for the balance of their life,” said Lamont.

“So we’re offering the members something that’s very simple to work with. It’s a fit for anybody who’s interested in obtaining a wonderful pension plan.”

That’s why she encouraged her husband and daughter to join the plan while Dand says her husband and four children are also members.

Canadians between the ages of 18 and 71 with room to make RRSP contributions are eligible to become members. Your Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue Agency will tell you what amount you are eligible to contribute each year. There is no minimum contribution amount and members have options about how they will make their contributions, including through online banking or directly from a bank account.

“I believe it’s something that’s there for the long term and that’s what’s very important for anyone who wants to look toward retirement and a good pension plan,” said Lamont.