Category Archives: Personal finance

What are the best ways to teach your kids about saving?

Many of us boomers were good at ignoring the great financial advice given to us by our more successful parents. That meant we had to learn about personal finance in the School of Hard Knocks, and may explain why most of us now owe $1.70 for every dollar we earn.

Great steps are being taken to ensure the upcoming set of young Canadians get schooled a bit about money; CNN recently reported on Ontario’s plans for financial literacy classes in the primary grades.

Save with SPP had a look around the “information highway” for some thoughts on what the top things we parents should be tell our kids and grandkids about managing money.  The folks at the Homeownership.ca blog offers a few tips from noted financial author Gordon Pape. First, Pape tells the blog, talk about money, and be open about it with the kids. Why let them grow up “in a world of ignorance” when you can instead honestly answer their money questions? The second tip is to avoid trying to teach them things you don’t know about, and to make the learning fun – make it more of a game.

Yahoo! Finance Canada adds a few more ideas. “Encourage teens to get jobs and earn money,” the site advises. “Help your children open a bank account. Show your kids how to map out a budget.” Other ideas here include using a glass jar as a piggy bank, so the young ones can see their savings grow, and talking to kids about how credit cards work.

The federal government has some ideas to share about money also (no snickering). Lead by example and use your own credit wisely, the site suggests. “If your teens see you using credit wisely, they may be more likely to follow your example,” the site adds. The key messages for younger credit users is that credit is not income – it is borrowed money that has to eventually be paid back. As well, the site notes, “if they repay the full amount they spent each month, they won’t need to pay interest.”

These last points are key, and something many of us either don’t know or don’t really want to hear. A line of credit or a credit card is a convenient way of borrowing money from a lender. While you can access money from these sources just as you would from a bank account – you can tap to pay, you can pull bills out of a machine – what is less visible is the cost of that borrowing.

Years ago, the federal government mandated credit card companies to show how many years it would take to pay off a credit card if you pay only the minimum amount. That’s another good thing to show the younger set!

If you are teaching your kids about saving, and they are old enough to start a retirement savings account, a nice option is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Younger people have a huge savings advantage – they may be 40 or more years away from retirement. That’s four decades for every invested dollar to grow. So starting young on retirement savings will pay off generously farther down the line.

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 little planning today will benefit your loved ones when you’re gone

We often focus most of our planning on things like building wealth, paying off debt, transitioning to retirement, and taking care of ourselves physically and mentally.

All these worthy projects should be joined by another – estate planning. It’s important to think about what your loved ones will need once you’re gone.

Save with SPP took a look around the Interweb to see what the experts advise about estate planning for Canadians.

At the Advice for Investors blog, the main tips are having an updated will, naming powers of attorney and jointly holding assets.  The blog cites a recent RBC study that found that only half of Canadians had a will and “one in three had done nothing at all to prepare for passing on wealth to the next generation.”

Without a will, the blog warns, “provincial bureacrats will determine how the estate is distributed,” rather than you. Having powers of attorney in place for legal/financial matters and health will be of critical importance should you suddenly lose the ability to manage your own affairs, the blog notes.

And when you make your assets joint with your spouse, “the interests of a deceased owner automatically gets transferred to the remaining surviving owners,” the blog notes.

The MoneySense blog adds in a few more ideas – life insurance, the idea of giving away money to family while you are still alive and setting up trusts for kids and grandkids.

Insurance, notes Lorne Marr of LSM Insurance in the MoneySense blog, “may be used as an estate planning tool – an opportunity to leave a legacy or pay taxes so your heirs don’t have to.” The article suggests insurance is best taken out at a young age, when your health is at its best. You should buy enough insurance to cover all your debts and replace what you earn, the article notes.

Giving gifts to adult children while you are still alive “may reduce the overall tax burden on your estate when you die,” notes Lawrence Pascoe, an Ottawa attorney, in the MoneySense article. “Gifting money is a good way to help out your kids while you’re still alive and can watch them enjoy it,” he states in the article.

For younger kids, the article notes, you can set up a trust account that provides them with income at a later age. “You can stipulate what the funds can be used for, such as educational expenses, a new home, retirement savings,” the article notes.

The Manulife Financial website devotes an entire web page to one thing – beneficiary designation for insurance and/or a retirement plan.

If you don’t name a beneficiary – or name minor children as one – your estate may get tied up in probate, the article warns. In some provinces your spouse is automatically your beneficiary – check before you sign, the article suggests. If there’s a way to name a contingent beneficiary – someone to pay out the assets to if your chosen beneficiary dies before the payout – do so. And be sure to review your beneficiary designations regularly, the article concludes.

If you’re a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan you can look after your survivors in several ways. Your SPP beneficiary will receive any assets in your account if you die before collecting a pension and a variety of different options are available for your spouse and beneficiary upon your death after retirement. Check out SPP today.

Written by Martin Biefer

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

Pandemic has dethroned cash as the monarch of personal finance

Your parents say it, the experts say it, people who are wealthy say it – if you’re buying something, pay with cash, not credit. And even debit cards can come with hidden fees, they say.

But this crazy pandemic situation has us all tap, tap, tapping away for groceries, for gas, for a box of beer, and any of the other services we can actually spend money on. Could this represent a sea change for the use of cash, or is it just a blip? Save with SPP had a look around the Interweb for a little fact-finding.

Proponents of cash include Gail Vaz Oxlade, author and TV presenter who has long advocated for using cash for expenses, rather than adding to your debt.

“I’m a huge fan of hers and have read every book and watched every episode of Til Debt Do Us Part, Money Moron and Princess… the premise of the system is to use cash only (no plastic), storing it in envelopes or jars, sticking to a budget, tracking your spending, and once the money is gone, there’s no more until next month’s budget,” reports The Classy Simple Life blog.

It’s true – we have read her books and if you follow her advice your debts will decrease.

Other cash advocates include billionaire Mark Cuban. He tells CNBC that while only 14 per cent of Americans use cash for purchases (pre-pandemic), he sees cash as his number one negotiation tool. “If you want to take a yoga class, and they say it costs $30, say `I’ve only got $20,’” he says in a recent Vanity Fair article. More than likely, he notes, they’ll take the cash.

Cash is great because it is (usually) accepted everywhere, there’s no fees or interest associated with using it, and it has a pre-set spending limit – when your wallet is empty, you stop spending. But these days, cash is no longer sitting on the throne of personal finance.

Globe and Mail columnist Rob Carrick notes that more than six weeks into the pandemic he still had the same $50 in his wallet that he had when it started.

“Paying with cash is seen as presenting a risk of transmitting the virus from one person to another – that’s why some retailers that remain open prefer not to accept it. Note: The World Health Organization says there’s no evidence that cash transmits the virus,” he writes. In fact, he adds, the Bank of Canada recently asked retailers to continue to accept cash during the crisis.

A CBC News report suggests that our plastic money may indeed present a risk, and that the COVID-19 virus may survive for hours or days on money. The piece suggests it is a “kindness” to retailers to pay with credit or debit, rather than cash.

“Public officials and health experts have said that the risk of transferring the virus person-to-person through the use of banknotes is small,” reports Fox News. “But that has not stopped businesses from refusing to accept currency and some countries from urging their citizens to stop using banknotes altogether,” the broadcaster adds. The article goes on to point out that many businesses are doing “contactless” transactions, where payment occurs over the phone or Internet and there is not even a need to tap.

Putting it all together, we’re living in very unusual times, and this odd new reality may be with us for a while. If you are still using cash, it might be wise to wear gloves when you are paying and getting change. Even if you aren’t a fan of using tap or paying online, perhaps now is a time to get your grandchildren to show you how to do it. The important thing is for all of us to stay safe – cash may be dethroned for the short term, but things will eventually return to normal, and it will be “bad” to overuse credit cards again.

And if that cash has been piling up during a period of time when there’s precious little to spend it on, don’t neglect your retirement savings plan. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers a very safe haven for any unneeded dollars. Any amounts you can contribute today will grow into a future retirement income, so consider adding to your savings today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Ways to save as we wait out the coronavirus

A recent survey in The Wealth Professional found that nearly a third of us say they are in “bad” or “terrible” shape financially owing to the COVID-19 crisis.

And the article notes that the 60 per cent who told Angus Reid pollsters they were “in good shape” aren’t sure their finances will hold up forever if the pandemic lasts a long time.

Save with SPP had a look around to find any advice on how to do more with less as we wait out the coronavirus crisis.

At the C-Net site, tips include seeing if you can lower your auto insurance if you’re no longer driving to work. This should lower the premiums, the article says.

As well, C-Net recommends figuring out “which of your monthly subscriptions are useless right now.” Are you paying for a gym membership you can’t use, the article asks – if the gym isn’t waiving fees during the crisis, maybe it’s time for you to cancel. Ditto for commuter passes, parking fees at work, and so on – anything that can be cancelled while you’re not using it should be, the article suggests.

If you’re going to have problems with your mortgage, contact your bank to see if payments can be deferred, C-Net suggests. And, the article concludes, since you can’t go out to eat, “rattle some pots and pans” and cook at home.

The Motley Fool blog suggests that this is a perfect time to set up a budget, if you haven’t already. “Once you’ve mapped out all your expenses, the next step is to determine where you can cut back,” the article suggests. If you aren’t using something, time to drop it.

Also see if you can cut back on some of your “fixed” expenses, the Motley Fool states. Review your cable, home insurance, and cell phone rates – is there a cheaper plan for each?

This is a great time to get into coupon-clipping for groceries, the article adds, and to “look for a side gig that can earn you some cash while you’re stuck at home.” Ideas include taking paid surveys, starting a business such as tutoring, or freelance writing and editing, the Motley Fool suggests.

The How to Save Money blog tackles the problem from a different angle, and suggests donating your skills to help others in your community. And if you’re able to help others financially, the site provides a long list of worthy charities that are helping others during the crisis.

Save with SPP has talked – from a safe distance – with friends and neighbours. Many are baking their own bread; some are already gearing up for larger vegetable gardens; some are making wine and beer at home instead of lining up for it, and so on. As our late mother used to say, be sure that you are “using up” everything in the fridge – this isn’t a time to chuck the leftovers.

Retirement saving isn’t going to be the priority it usually is during this tough period. One nice feature about the Saskatchewan Pension Plan  is that you, as the member, get to decide how much you will contribute. If you’re not going to be working the same hours for a while, no problem – you can lower or even stop your SPP contributions and ramp them up when better times return.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

The New Retirement’s views stand up well a decade later

A decade ago, Save with SPP was in the audience to hear Sherry Cooper present the chief findings of her then-new book, The New Retirement.

A lot has happened since then, but the noted financial writer’s thoughts stand up well a decade later.

Cooper was among the first to predict that boomer retirements would be different from those of their parents. “Boomers see retirement as a period of regeneration rather than degeneration,” she notes.

However, she adds, boomers are far less frugal than their parents. “Early boomers were the first in their generation to enter schools, the job market, and the housing market,” she explains. Late boomers “had very different life experiences and have found it tougher to amass wealth.”

Cooper noted early that women generally are in better health than men, and as a result, will live longer – a key retirement income consideration. That fact, she writes, “is all the more reason why women should understand their household finances and have a large-enough next egg and long-term insurance to assure comfort and security in later years.”

The author, an economist, correctly notes that people would tend to work later than expected. “Older workers have higher productivity and deal with problems more effectively than younger workers,” she writes. At the event Save with SPP attended, a slide showing Mick Jagger popped up when this point was raised, and it’s interesting to note that Sir Mick is still rocking his way into yet another decade.

She anticipated the need to expand the CPP, noting that back in 2008, CPP was “far less generous than Social Security. In today’s dollars, maximum annual CPP payments are only $10,365.” She pointed out that Old Age Security provided about half as much at maximum and is subject to clawbacks for some.

Other correct prophecies – increased private spending by boomers on healthcare, such as the “considerable burden of long-term care,” plus costs to society for the increasing number of retired boomers needing medical care – are made.

Cooper advocates pre-retirees to adopt a “lifestyle plan for retirement,” indicating that knowing how you want to live will tell you how much you need to fund that particular lifestyle. She says we should think of retirement as a “multi-stage” event, decades long, so planning ought to consider what you’ll be doing in your 60s versus 70s, 80s and 90s.

She talks about the “financial nightmare” of longevity risk, the danger of outliving your savings, and was one of very few financial experts at that time period who talked about the value of having annuities as part of your retirement plan.

The book also sets out a “default” investment portfolio for retirement savers – 15 per cent of the nest egg should be invested “in high quality stocks and real return bonds,” and 85 per cent equally invested in stocks and bonds. This, she says, should get you to age 85, and at that point, you can annuitize what’s left for lifetime income.

This book was one of the first Save with SPP added to our retirement library, and it stands up very well today. It’s a well-recommended read, beautifully and clearly written with frequent recap sections to make sure you’re following along.

It’s true that government benefits, while improving over the years, still don’t provide much more than a basic retirement income for Canadians. If you have retirement savings of your own, or through a workplace pension plan, you’ll have more income for the decades-long retirement phase of life. A good way to augment your retirement savings is by joining the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, a do-it-yourself open defined contribution plan. You provide the money, SPP will grow it over time and provide you the option of a lifetime pension at retirement. All good.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Old Age Security reform has come full circle in the past decade or so

Most Canadians understand the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) – we pay into it, as does our employer, and we can start collecting a lifetime pension from it as early as age 60. But what about the other “pillar” of the federal government’s retirement income program, Old Age Security (OAS)?

The federal government says OAS is available to any Canadian who has lived in our country for 40 years after reaching age 18. If you don’t meet those conditions, you may still qualify under complex “exception” rules.

Currently, the maximum OAS payment  is $613.53 per month, for life. It starts at age 65, but you can choose to defer it for up to 60 months after reaching that age – and if you do, you will receive a payment that is 36 per cent higher.

There is, of course, a big catch to this. If you make more than $75,910, the government will charge what they call an “OAS recovery tax,” or clawback. If you make more than $123,386, you have to pay back all of your OAS payments for the year.

The “conditional” yet “universal” benefit has prompted many to come up with ideas on how to fix it, particularly during the Stephen Harper years.

Back then, a Fraser Institute opinion column in the National Post explained one key problem with OAS. “Unlike the CPP, there is no dedicated fund to pay for OAS,” the column notes. “Benefits are funded with current tax revenues.” Put another way, everyone who pays taxes contributes to OAS, but not everyone gets it – and should higher income earners get it at all, the column asks.

The Fraser Institute recommended lowering the income at which OAS begins to be cut off to around $51,000, with the full clawback moving to $97,000. This, the article suggests, would save the government $730 million per year, since fewer people would receive the full amount.

Another solution – the one that the Conservatives planned to implement – was moving the starting age for OAS to 67 from 65. However, the current Liberal government reversed that decision in 2016, notes Jim Yih’s Retire Happy blog.

But in the intervening years, we have seen debt levels increase dramatically, preventing many of us from saving for retirement. So there are now some arguing for an expansion of the existing system, on the grounds that it doesn’t provide seniors with sufficient income. Indeed, the Liberals campaigned last year on a plan to increase old age security “by 10 per cent once a senior reaches age 75,” reports Global News.

Without getting political, it appears we have come full circle from talk of reforming the OAS and making it harder to get, to talk of increasing its payout for older seniors. Let’s hope governments take a longer-term view of the problem, and focus on ways to better fund OAS – perhaps creating an OAS investment fund similar to what CPP has, one that would make this benefit more sustainable and secure for those who rely on it.

If you are one of the many hardworking people who lack a workplace pension plan, there is a do-it-yourself option that you should be aware of. It’s the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP). They’ll grow the money you contribute to the plan over time, and when it’s time to retire, can pay it out to you in the form of a “made-by-you” lifetime pension. The SPP also has options for your employer to use this plan as an employee benefit.  Check them out today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Can you start saving for retirement later in life?

Whether or not we actually listen, we are all told – practically from the first time we bring home a paycheque – that it is important to start saving for retirement early, as in, day one.

But as is the case with many good ideas, other priorities often crop up in life that divert us from a path of saving. By the time we get around to it, we worry that it’s too late.

However, says retired actuary and retirement expert Malcolm Hamilton, starting to save later in life is probably not starting too late. In fact, he tells the Hamilton Spectator, starting late can work out just fine.

Of the many expenses in life, Hamilton tells the Spectator, saving for retirement “is the deferrable one. You can’t say, ‘I’m going to have my children in my 60s when I can afford them.’ And it doesn’t make sense to raise your children and then, after they leave home, buy a nice big house.”

The idea of getting through “the financial crunch” years first, of “huge mortgage and child-rearing costs,” means that retirement saving will have to be done late, “in a concentrated period,” the article notes.

You’ll have to sock away a significant chunk of your salary if you are starting the savings game late, the article warns. Those who start early will get there by saving “10 to 15 per cent of their salary” each year; those starting late will “need to put aside much more per year,” because they have a “much shorter period in which to save,” the article notes.

Those starting late, the article concludes, should be able to save most of what they were paying on their mortgage and their children towards their retirement.

The Good Financial Cents blog agrees that “if you find yourself approaching retirement age and have not yet looked at your retirement needs or started saving for later in life, it’s not too late.”

Those who delay savings, however, may have to “work well into their late 60s and maybe 70s to make up for the shortfall,” meaning that any dream of early retirement is off the table, the blog advises. The blog says late savers need to immediately reign in spending, max out their retirement savings “with no exceptions,” and explore ways to make more money, downsize, or sell off unneeded “large ticket” items.

At the Clark blog, writer Clark Howard comments that in The Wealthy Barber, the seminal financial book by Canadian author David Chilton, the advice was to save 10 cents of every dollar you make.

But if you start later, the savings amount grows, writes Howard, citing information from the Baltimore Sun.

“If you start saving at 35, you need to save 20 cents out of every dollar to have a comfortable retirement at a reasonably young age,” the blog notes. At 45, that savings rate jumps to 30 cents per dollar, and at 55, 43 cents per dollar, the blog notes.

Clark Howard concludes his post with this sage thought – “saving money is a choice. There’s no requirement that you do it. If saving is not something that’s important to you, it simply means you’ll probably have to work longer. There are no right and wrong answers here, so don’t feel guilty if you’re not saving. What’s right for me may not be right for you.”

Whether you are starting early or late, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be a logical destination for those retirement savings dollars. The SPP allows you to sock away up to $6,300 a year in contributions, as long as you have available RRSP contribution room – and you can also transfer in up to $10,000 a year from other savings sources, such as an RRSP. Your savings will grow, and when it is time to retire, you can collect them in the form of a lifetime pension. Check out this low-fee, not-for-profit savings alternative today!

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Why are we so comfortable to live in debt?

A recent headline shouted out the fact that an eye-popping 40 per cent of Canadians “think they’ll be in debt forever.”

The article by Anne Gaviola, posted on the Vice website, cites data from Manulife. The article goes on to note that the average Canuck has $71,979 in debt – up from $57,000 five years ago. These figures, the article says, come via Equifax.

It wasn’t always like this, was it? Why are all willing to live with debt levels that are approaching record highs?

Save with SPP had a look around for answers – why are we so comfy carrying heavy debt loads?

According to the Advisor, it may simply be that paying the way with debt has become so common that no one gets worked up about it anymore.

“Living with debt has become a way of life for both Generation X… and baby boomers as the stigma of owing money is gradually disappearing,” the publication reports, citing Allianz Life research originally published by Generations Apart.

The research found that “nearly half (48 per cent) of both generations agree that credit cards now function as a survival tool and 43 per cent agree that ‘lots of smart, hardworking people who are careful with spending also have a lot of credit card debt,’” the article reports. Having debt is making people plan to work indefinitely – the article notes that 27 per cent of Gen Xers, and 11 per cent of boomers “say they are either unsure about when they plan to retire or don’t plan to retire at all.”

Why the comfort with debt? The Gen Xers got credit cards earlier than their boomer parents, and half of Gen Xers (and nearly a third of boomers) never plan to pay anything more than the minimum payments on them, the article notes.

“Over the last three decades, there has been a collective shift in how people view debt – it’s now perceived as a normal part of one’s financial experience and that has fundamentally altered the way people spend and save,” states Allianz executive Katie Libbe in the article. “If Gen Xers continue to delay saving for retirement until they are completely out of debt, their nest egg is clearly going to suffer. For Gen Xers who are behind on saving, better debt management, with a focus on credit card spending, should be the first issue they address to get back on track,” she states.

To recap, it almost sounds like there’s a couple of generations out there who have never worried about debt.

What should people do to get out of debt?

According to the folks at Manulife, there’s a five-step process that will get you debt-free.

Manulife cites the fact that Canadians owe about $1.65 for every dollar they make. That suggests they aren’t ready to “make a budget and stick with it,” and always spending more than they earn, the article says.

In addition to getting real about budgeting, the other tips are paying off credit cards by targeting those with the highest interest rate first, considering debt consolidation, earning extra money, and negotiating with creditors.

Tips that Save with SPP can personally vouch for in managing debt include giving your credit cards to a loved one, and instructing that person not to hand them over even if you beg; paying more than the minimum on your credit cards and lines of credit; and trying to live on less than 100 per cent of what you earn, so that you are paying the rest to yourself.

While a country can perpetually run deficits and spend more than it earns – and most do – the math doesn’t work out as well for individuals. The piper eventually has to be paid. And if you only pay the minimums, that piper will get paid for many, many years.

Getting debt under control and paid off will help you in many ways, including saving for retirement. Perhaps as you gradually save on interest payments, you can direct the savings to a Saskatchewan Pension Plan retirement account, and watch your savings grow.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Canadians value pensions over more pay; retirement savings education is a must: HOOPP

Recent research commissioned by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) has found that four of five Canadians would choose a better pension (or any pension) over a pay raise – even at a time when most of them are struggling to make ends meet.

The research, conducted by Abacus Data, found that there is a high level of retirement anxiety amongst Canadians. Among the findings were that most were more worried about saving for retirement (75 per cent) than they were worried about government or personal debt, and that 76 per cent were concerned that the lack of workplace pension coverage hurts the economy.

Save with SPP reached out to Darryl Mabini, HOOPP’s Assistant Vice-President, Growth & Stakeholder Relations, to ask a few more questions about the organization’s findings, and their thoughts about possible solutions.

Asked what, if anything, can be done to encourage more Canadians to save for retirement, Mabini noted that we are “in a climate” where workplace pension plans are scarce in the private sector. While public sector workers generally have pensions at work, “about 60 per cent of Canadians don’t have access to a pension plan.”

Mabini agrees that high personal debt levels are a restrictor on personal retirement savings for those without pension plans. “Canadians currently owe about $1.70 for every dollar they earn – that’s an historically high debt to income ratio,” he explains. When you are owing substantially more than you make, it is pretty hard to find a way to put aside some of your earnings for retirement, he says.

“A lot of Canadians are just barely making ends meet,” he says. He points out that while there is “good debt,” such as having a mortgage (because you are building equity in your home), many working Canadians are relying on bank loans, credit cards, and other borrowed money to pay for living expenses between paydays. Yet, he points out, HOOPP’s research found that Canadians would take a job with a pension over one that offered more pay.

Those who also have no pension arrangement “are the most vulnerable to having insufficient income when they reach retirement age, Mabini adds. That’s because they are the least likely to be able to afford to save, he explains.

The danger of inadequate retirement income is another problem that needs to be addressed, he says. By doing nothing about boosting participation in retirement savings today, society is “kicking the problem down the road,” an oversight which could lead to increased reliance by seniors on taxpayer-funded government assistance, he says. “When Canadians don’t have access to pension plans… the risk (for their future income) shifts to the taxpayer,” he explains. But if they are living on savings they’ve amassed on their own, or through a pension plan, they are consumers with spending power who help the economy and pay taxes, he adds. HOOPP’s research (other highlights follow) also suggests Canadians are aware of the realities of pensions and retirement, and are looking to employers and government to help deliver solutions.

  • Eighty-one per cent believe the shrinking of workplace pension coverage will reduce the quality of life of Canadians.
  • Eighty-three per cent believe government should modernize regulations to allow for more innovative pension plans and savings arrangements.
  • Eighty per cent would rather employers make direct contributions to a retirement plan over receiving that money as salary.
  • Seventy-six per cent believe governments can save money by supporting pensions that are more affordable.

What type of pension would Canadians want to have? Mabini says that while that specific answer wasn’t captured in this round of research, an earlier HOOPP-led research project, The Value of A Good Pension, found that the “value drivers” of a good pension include:

  • a design that is focused on saving (through “ongoing, regular contributions,” Mabini explains)
  • operating with a low fee
  • using a professional approach to investing
  • offering “fiduciary oversight,” meaning it is run by a group that has a legal responsibility to act in the best interests of the member
  • the pooling of risks

Our final question for Mabini was what finding surprised him the most. “What bubbled up to the top was the idea that four out of five would take a job with a pension over a job that offered them a higher income, but no pension,” he says, even at a time when most are struggling to make ends meet. This shows that Canadians are keenly aware of the value of having a pension, he concludes.

We thank Darryl Mabini and James Geuzebroek of HOOPP for their help in putting this article together.

If you are one of the many Canadians who lack a workplace pension plan, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be able to help. You can set up your own pension plan via SPP – the money you contribute to your account is professionally invested at a low fee, and when it is time to retire, SPP can convert your savings to a variety of different lifetime annuities, which ensure you’ll never run out of your retirement savings.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22