Personal finance

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.

Dec 21: Senior investors want to avoid risk, and running out of money

December 21, 2023

You’ll hear about it on the golf course, at the Legion, on the dance floor at line dancing, or over coffee – seniors like talking about their investments, and worry about how they are doing.

Save with SPP decided to look into what sorts of things seniors should be thinking about when it comes to investing.

Over at the Retire Happy blog, Grant Hicks notes that older seniors, say 75 plus, want their investments to be “safe, short term, and no risk.” He says folks tend to get more cautious as they get older, even when we are talking from age 65 to age 75.

He cites the example of “Mr. and Mrs. Jones” of Qualicum, B.C. (real names are not used) who were debt-free, mortgage-free, and had about $200,000 to invest.

“They were looking for tax efficient income. They were not looking to keep it short term in case of something happened to one of them because the other person would still require the income,” he writes.

“Here’s what they decided on. First, we put aside 20 per cent short term for emergencies. This was invested into a cashable term deposit at the highest interest we could find. Then we built an income portfolio that consisted of bonds and guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) (20 per cent) preferred shares (20 per cent), common dividend paying shares (20 per cent) and income trusts and income securities (20 per cent). The portfolio focus was to pay out approximately four to five per cent monthly on a tax efficient basis, meaning the income was not all interest, but dividends, business income and capital gains.”

In an article in MoneySense magazine, investment counsellor and author Patrick McKeough “pounds the table for a conservative portfolio of quality dividend-paying stocks spread among the five major economic sectors.” Those sectors, the article advises, include manufacturing and industry, resources, finance, utilities and consumer.

In the article, McKeough discusses “pre-retirement financial stress syndrome,” which occurs when older investors begin to realize they may not have saved enough to fund “the stream of income they had been counting on.” He warns older investors of the urge they may have to make “one last desperate `Hail Mary’ gamble” on a breakout stock to try and play catch up. Instead, they should do the opposite, and look for safer investments, the article notes.

An older, but still wise article in Canadian Living also says older investors should focus on bonds (chiefly government bonds, with a smattering of corporate bonds that pay higher interest), GICs and dividend stocks, but adds the idea of annuities.

“Insurance companies offer annuities, which are investments that, in retirement, pay set monthly payments for life. It’s a great option for people who are worried about their cash flow, but it can be an expensive one. Fees are typically higher than what you’d pay on a mutual fund, and your money won’t get as great of a return as it would if you invested in the market yourself. But your cash is protected and you do get a regular cheque in retirement, which, to many people, is worth the extra costs,” the article notes.

At the time this article was written, interest rates were at record lows – today, higher rates mean the cost of an annuity has gone down – you get more income than you would have got with lower rates.

The Canadian Living article takes a different look at riskier common stocks.

“While you’re supposed to become a more conservative investor in retirement, you should also own some plain old stocks. Your portfolio still has to grow or you could run out of cash as you get older. That’s not to say you should invest in risky start-ups, but some solid brand-name growth stocks should help increase your savings,” the article notes.

There used to be an industry “rule of thumb” we heard around the pension plan office, specifically, that your present age should be the percentage of your holdings that are in fixed income. So if you were, say, 64, then 64 per cent should be in fixed income, with the rest in equities and other investments. This rule sort of got set aside during the decades-long low interest period, but may live on in some people’s financial plans.

Did you know that members of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan have a couple of great retirement income options? They could choose to convert their SPP savings into a lifetime annuity – a monthly payment arriving on the first of every month for the rest of their lives. Or, they could choose SPP’s Variable Benefit, which allows you to decide how much money you want to withdraw when you retire – more if you need, less if you don’t – with the option to annuitize at some future date.

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.

Money not the number one thing people link with retirement: fuse research

August 31, 2023

A new research paper from fuse strategy takes a fresh look at how Canadians react to retirement — and the findings are an eye-opener.

The paper begins by observing that while most of us are aware of the need to save for the future, we are not as sure about how to go about it. “This seemingly simple task is challenged by our human biases for clarity, certainty, and immediacy: how should we prepare? What will we need? How long will the future last,” the authors ask.

After researching the topic, fuse found that for most people, retirement is “invisible… not something we normally talk about.” It’s also seen as “boring and depressing… a time when we will be old and possibly unwell.” Retirement planning is seen as “complicated and confusing,” making it easier to “do nothing,” and retirement is finally seen as “less important than our current needs.”

The fuse study then asked 16 Canadians to shed more light on the meaning of retirement.

They described it, the report notes, as not so much an individualist thing, but “a collective achievement and experience,” to be shared with family and friends. It’s a time of “freedom and simplicity,” free of pressure from things like work, the report continues. It’s a time when “travel and self-determination are valued,” and is an aspirational period of time with respect to nature and the environment.

Somewhat surprisingly, retirement was not seen as being connected to financial assets.

“Retirement should not be seen as synonymous with the products designed to enable it, including pensions. None of our participants mentioned money in articulating the meaning of retirement, which is particularly notable given the clear framing of our study. When defining what matters to them about retirement, our participants simply did not think about the financial dimension of the experience,” the report notes.

Those who had positive views on retirement saw it as attainable and achievable, the report notes. Many of them reported they had a workplace pension plan.

For those who were negative about retirement, it was seen as something “that happens to them when they were compelled to stop working by health or circumstance.” This group had trouble with the idea of retirement involving a “conscious choice” to stop working.

The negative group had not had any experiences dealing with “knowledgeable financial guidance,” and “examples of retirement tended to be absent or negative for participants,” the report states. “Many participants considered retirement planning to be an impolite topic,” the report adds.

While workplace pension plans were generally seen as positive by those who were positive about retirement, the report states that more work needs to be done on this file.

“The role a workplace pension plan can play in providing confidence in retirement outcomes absolutely depends on how those retirement outcomes are defined – or, put another way, understanding what retirement really means to Canadians is critical to supporting it. There is a clear need to develop a more nuanced view of the meaning of retirement – and a clear opportunity to use this insight to strengthen and improve the value and impact of the workplace pension plan,” states the report.

Interestingly, participants were found to value pensions more when they were on the receiving end. “Pensions… were more fully appreciated in hindsight, and often understood as `free money’ from the employer,” the report notes. Younger participants stated they wanted to have “values-oriented outcomes” from the investment activity within their pension plans, ranging from responsible investing to clearly expressed organizational values, the report adds.

This interesting paper concludes by advising pension plans to do more to engage with their members and prospective members, through modernization, advocacy, and action.

If you lack a pension plan at work, don’t worry — you still have options for building retirement income. A great place to start is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Joining SPP means your savings are managed, along with those of more than 31,000 other members, in a pool investment fund value at more than $588 million as of Dec. 31, 2022; the annuity fund totalled a further $108.2 million. Costs are kept low, but experts guide the investing. At the end of the day, your savings will have grown — and the future, retired you will have options to pick from for turning savings into income, including the chance for a lifetime monthly annuity payment. 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.

After decades on the sidelines, fixed income investing makes its return

August 17, 2023

There was a time, way back when, when you could easily make an annual return of 16 per cent or more simply by signing up for payroll Canada Savings Bonds at work.

Are those days coming back, at least in part, now that interest rates on guaranteed investment certificates have topped the five per cent mark? Save with SPP took a look around to see what’s happening — for the first time in decades — in fixed-income investing.

A recent Wealth Professional article declares that “bonds are back.”

“After a long period in the unfashionable doldrums, fixed income has come roaring back with some tempting offerings that could be music to the ears of wealth managers,” writes Catherine Lafferty.

She quotes Macan Nia of Manulife as saying “a lot of the issues in the financial markets and for financial advisors was [around] this search for yield and how we drive income for our clients that are retiring. The good news is right now we simply clip the coupon. We believe they are attractive opportunities just in yield.”

OK, so bonds are suddenly a better investment. What about other forms of fixed income?

You don’t have to buy bonds (which pay interest, normally once or twice a year, until they mature) to benefit from today’s higher interest rates, writes Rob Carrick in The Globe and Mail.

Even a simple high interest savings account (HISA) can pay you “2.5 to 4.1 per cent right now,” he writes. A nice thing about HISAs is that your money is not tied up for a set period of time as it would be with a bond or guaranteed investment certificate (GIC).

There are now even exchange-traded funds that are basically an index fund of HISAs, Carrick notes.

“ETF HISAs offer after-fee yields around five per cent right now, but you may have to pay brokerage commissions to buy and sell,” he writes. There are also “mutual fund-style HISAs” that offer yields of 4.2 to 4.6 per cent, he continues.

The good old GIC is also looking more attractive, Carrick writes.

“If you have money to lock into GICs and want a great rate, now’s not a bad time to buy because there are 5 per cent yields available for terms of one, two, three and, in the case of EQ Bank, five years,” he writes. There are also cashable GICs — you can cash them in whenever you want — but those pay roughly one to 1.5 per cent less in interest, Carrick notes.

Equitable Bank’s Mahima Poddar tells Global News that the rise in interest rates has definitely rekindled interest in GICs.

“I do think we’re going to see more and more people going back to GICs,” she tells Global. There is a lot of downside risk these days to equity investment, she continues, with many people getting “burned.”

“When you compare that to a guaranteed five per cent rate with no downside risk, it becomes incredibly attractive,” she tells Global.

We have had several friends and family members over the years who prefer the lower risk of interest investing over the potentially higher returns from equities. Having lost a shirt or two on “can’t miss” fibre-optic network construction companies and the odd copper mining firm in the past, we must concede that risk is, well, pretty risky.

It’s probably safer to have a balanced approach, and that’s exactly how the Saskatchewan Pension Plan runs its retirement savings pool. The Balanced Fund is 41 per cent invested in Canadian, U.S. and International equities. On the interest side, bonds, private debt, mortgages and money market investments represent 30 per cent of assets. The rest of the fund is invested in what are called “alternative” investment such as infrastructure and real estate. 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.

What’s the right amount to tip in Canada?

August 10, 2023

Here comes the bill. What’s a fair amount to tip?

The old rule of thumb used to be 15 per cent, but in many places, you are presented with the options of 20, 22 and even 25 per cent if you pay with a debit or credit card.

So, what’s the best path forward on tipping? Save with SPP took a look around to see what folks are saying on this topic.

According to Global News, tipping, like many other things, is being impacted by inflation.

“People feel like tipping is getting out of control,” Angus Reid’s David Korinski tells the broadcaster. Sixty-two per cent of Canadians surveyed by the pollster said “they’re being asked to tip more,” and “one in five reported leaving a tip of 20 per cent or more the last time they dined out,” the Global article reports.

Inflation, Korinski tells Global, is making the price of everything higher — which means you are tipping for meals and services that cost more than they used to.

“When you get the tipping machine, instead of 12, 15, and 18 per cent for the suggested tip, it now says 18, 24, and 30 per cent. I think for a lot of people, that it’s getting a little overwhelming,” Korinski tells Global.

Fifty-nine per cent of those surveyed said they’d like to see a “service included” model, where tips are not needed, but workers receive higher wages and benefits.

So how much should we tip?

According to the Wealth Awesome blog, “in days past, a 10 per cent to 15 per cent tip was considered average. Today, however, a 15 to 20 per cent tip is considered normal for most services.”

The blog recommends a tip of 25 per cent “or more” for “exceptional service,” 20 per cent for “great service,” a tip of “15 to 20 per cent for average service,” and a tip of “10 to 15 per cent for below average service.”

Over at the CBC, flaws are being noted in our nation’s “tipping culture.”

“Card payment machines have made it simple for businesses to prompt a gratuity option, even in industries where tipping previously wasn’t part of the cost or conversation. And data from Canadian trade associations show the average percentage tip for restaurant dining has gone up since the pandemic began,” the broadcaster notes.

The University of Guelph’s Professor Mike von Mossow tells CBC he is even asked to tip if he picks up a couple of cans of beer from a microbrewery.

He tells CBC this is a “double whammy” for consumers, “with more businesses asking for tips while simultaneously raising their prices.”

“You know, I’ve started to wonder if I give a particularly good lecture, should I put a jar at the front of the lecture hall at the end, and as they file out? Maybe they could drop a few bills in there for me, too. I mean, where does it stop,” he asks the CBC.

The Conversation raises questions about why we tip in the first place. Isn’t it for good service?

“This belief presumes that the server receives the tip,” the article explains. “But in most provinces, management often requires servers to share tips with kitchen staff, and sometimes with management itself,” the article continues.

Furthermore, the article explains, there could be tip-sharing (or tipout) at your favourite resto. “Your individual hard-working server may not have any appreciable benefit from your generous tip,” the article tells us.

And if we tip because we feel our server/service supplier is working hard for a low wage, what about everyone else who is working for minimum wage, the article asks.

Tipping, and how much you tip, is at the end of the day up to you.

Viewed through the lens of retirement saving, one might want to think about giving oneself a little tip now and then to boost our retirement savings. Even if you were to pay yourself first, to the order of five per cent per month, you’d see your retirement nest egg begin to grow.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan allows you to “tip up” your retirement account in several ways. SPP can be set up as a bill in your online banking, so that you can direct dollars there that way. You can make contributions on our website via your credit card. Or, you can fill out this form and have a pre-authorized contribution deducted regularly from your bank.

It’s a good tip that your future you will greatly appreciate. 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.

What country has the most savers — and why?

July 20, 2023

Story after story talks about how X per cent of Canadians don’t have enough savings to pay an unexpected $2,000 bill — or how they live paycheque to paycheque.

So, fine. Maybe we don’t save as much as we’d like. But are there any nations that can make that boast? And if so, why — what’s making them save so well? Save with SPP had a look around to find out.

According to the Statista website, the Swiss are the world’s leading savers, socking away an impressive 23.1 per cent of household income as of 2020. They are followed closely by the Irish (21.6 per cent), the French (21 per cent) and the citizens of tiny Luxembourg (18.1 per cent).

Canada was 12th on this list.

Our grandfather was born in Basel, Switzerland and was a formidable saver.

Let’s focus, then on the top two, the Swiss and the French.

The Swiss, reports the BBC, are a bit unique in that they still like to use cash.

“In Switzerland, cash remains the dominant payment method. Here, there’s an assumption everyone carries cash, even in an increasingly digital economy. Most don’t get caught out buying a sandwich or paying for a haircut when the card payment machine is out of order,” the article notes. In fact, the broadcaster goes on, 70 per cent of Swiss financial transactions are in cash — 22 per cent are through debit cards, and just five per cent are via credit cards.

The relative lack of credit card use in Switzerland is quite instructive, particularly when contrasted with the record-high levels of credit card debt here in Canada. Less debt to pay down means more money to put in savings, perhaps?

A CNBC report found that in addition to having a cultural tradition of saving, the Swiss franc is a very valuable, stable currency. The average income in Switzerland is quite high, so people spend a smaller proportion of their overall earnings on “food and accommodation” versus folks in other countries, the article adds. Inflation, though high for Switzerland, was much lower than in other European countries, the article adds.

OK — the Swiss spend cash, even commonly using 1,000-franc banknotes, they are fairly wealthy, and so spend less of their overall income on necessities like food and shelter. That leaves more money for savings.

What about the French? In France, reports the Tilly Money blog, citizens enjoy “one of Europe’s most generous state welfare systems,” including “substantial unemployment benefits, a world-class healthcare system” and “one of the youngest retirement ages in Europe.” As we’ve read, there are still protests going on about changing the state retirement age to 64 from 62.

“The majority of the population put their savings into a financial investment ‘Livret A’ account, where the interest rate is low and fixed by the State but is also guaranteed by the State and tax free. Their second love is, of course, ‘investir dans la pierre’ – or what we would call investing in bricks and mortar,” the article continues.

According to the bank BNP Paribas, “middle-aged households (30 to 59 year olds) save more than younger and older generations.”

So for France, then, you not only have generous state benefits for retirement, unemployment and health, but a government-backed savings account and a focus on investing in real estate.

So, some interesting traits emerge her for our friends in Switzerland and France who are high savers. They like to use cash and not credit cards. They tend to have higher incomes and thus are less impacted by rising food and shelter prices. Government benefits are generous, and in France at least, you can save in a fund where your rate of return in guaranteed by the government. Both the French and Swiss seem to have a cultural tradition of saving.

It’s interesting to see how the other half lives — and saves!

Here in Canada, government retirement benefits are pretty basic. If you want a little more money to help fund your retirement lifestyle, personal savings is the way to go. A great tool to help you boost your retirement savings is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP will take your contributions and invest them in a pooled, professionally managed fund, run at a very low cost. When it’s time to start your retired life, SPP will present you with a variety of income options for your savings, including the possibility of a lifetime monthly annuity! 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.

Looking for solutions to Canada’s growing food insecurity problem

July 13, 2023

When it all comes down to it, security means having a roof over your head and food in the fridge.

Let’s focus on food. For a shockingly high 5.8 million Canadians (as of 2021), food insecurity is a real problem. That many people, including 1.4 million kids, experienced “some form of food insecurity” two years ago, reports the CBC.

The article cites a recent study by the University of Toronto that found “15.9 per cent of households across all 10 provinces” experienced some level of food insecurity, which has got worse with the higher inflation rate of the last couple of years.

Provincial levels of food insecurity — meaning, a household has difficulty affording and obtaining food — range from a low of 13.1 per cent in Quebec to a high of 20.3 per cent in Alberta, the story notes.

The report concluded, the CBC adds, by calling on all governments “to address the vulnerability of households that are reliant on employment incomes but still unable to make ends meet, and ensure that working-aged adults not in the workforce also have sufficient incomes to meet basic needs.”

At the University of Regina, a research team is looking at ways that rural Saskatchewan can help address food insecurity, Global News reports.

The U of R’s Ebube Ogie tells Global News that concerns about food affordability are being raised thanks to inflation. But, she said, people can look to the Saskatchewan communities of Muskeg Lake and Val Marie for solutions, the report notes.

She tells Global News that “Muskeg Lake residents are becoming more self-sufficient through their local food forest, a self-sustaining, nature-inspired agricultural system that provides fruits, vegetables and other edibles, as well as medicines and cultural resources. Val Marie residents can access fresh foods from a nearby Hutterite Colony, a self-sustaining colony that produces its own food, and also rely on their personal gardens.”

There should be more effort placed on growing food locally, and purchasing it from local farmer’s markets, than on buying expensive processed goods, she notes.

“Saskatchewan is Canada’s bread basket and we want to see that manifested in how we live, how we produce food and how we consume food. Our goal is to end food insecurity and promote food security for everyone,” says Ogie.

In Barrie, Ontario, a company called Eat Impact is using another approach — rescuing fruit and vegetable that is close to, but not at, its expiry date and distributing it via food banks.

The company, reports the Barrie Advance, “works with local farmers to find out what’s available and at risk of going to waste.”

“Typically about 1.4 billion pounds (of food), every year in Canada, does not get eaten; it just gets thrown out. And it’s a huge problem,” Anna Stegink, founder of Eat Impact, tells the Advance.

Another possible way to reduce food insecurity would be to introduce some sort of Canadian version of food stamps, a program that has been running for many years in the U.S., reports the CBC.

Elyssa Schmier of MomsRising, a U.S. advocacy group, expresses surprise that Canada does not have a program equivalent to food stamps.

“It’s… one of the largest tools we have to combat poverty and hunger in the country,” she states in the article, speaking about food stamps.

“I know that families in Canada are struggling. It was very surprising to hear that [Canada doesn’t] have any sort of dedicated nutrition programs in place, especially to help families with children,” she adds.

The University of Victoria’s Matthew Little says programs like food stamps “shouldn’t be considered a long-term strategy” in the battle against food insecurity. Canada’s programs have tended to focus on poverty alleviation rather than directly on food supply, he explains.

Let’s hope that efforts continue to be made on making more food available to those who need it.

We can’t predict the future with any clarity, but it is a reasonably safe bet that everything — including food — will cost more in the future when we are retired than what it does today. That’s why it is always a good idea to save for retirement. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has been helping Canadians build retirement security for more than 35 years. Check out SPP today, and find out how it can help you secure your future.

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.

Women face “unique” challenges when it comes to saving for retirement

June 8, 2023

When you think of retirement from a woman’s point of view, you see an array of challenges.

Writing in the National Post Christine Ibbotson observes that women “tend to live longer than men, and many divorced women or widows are simply choosing to remain single in retirement.”

This creates a “unique challenge” for them, she continues. “Many retired women receive much less than their male counterparts. Often, women have not worked the same amount of years as men, or have earned less income during their working careers, and therefore do not receive the same pension benefits.”

As well, Ibbotson continues, women may tend to be more “risk averse” with investing. Recent research from BMO found that “men were more likely to hold stocks and mutual funds in their investments whereas women were more likely to hold guaranteed investment certificates (GICs).”

An infographic from Eckler Partners provides more details on these factors.

In 2017, a woman could expect to live to age 83 on average — for men, the number is 79, the article notes. Sixty-two per cent of women were likely to take a break from work to care for their kids, compared to only 22 per cent of men, the Eckler research continues.

Scariest of all — 51 per cent of Canadian woman “haven’t even started to save for retirement or know how much they plan to save,” the article notes. A whopping 92 per cent of women surveyed say they have “minimal or no knowledge of investment.”

So, to sum it up, women — who live the longest — earn, on average, just 69 cents for every dollar men earn in Canada, Eckler reports. That means they have less money to save for a retirement that is almost bound to last longer than a man’s.

An article from the Wealthtender blog expands on the idea about women earning less than men, and its impact on retirement saving.

The article cites Merrill Lynch research in the U.S. as noting that “when a woman reaches retirement age, she may have earned a cumulative $1.05 million less than a man who has stayed continuously in the workforce.”

This necessarily means there is substantially less money to save for retirement by women, the article adds.

An article from Kiplinger suggests that women take a good look at annuities when they retire.

Noting that women earn less, and thus get lower government retirement benefits, the article underlines the idea that “women live longer, so their savings have to last longer.”

While the article is written for a U.S. audience, it makes the point that through an annuity, savings can be turned into “a guaranteed stream of lifetime income, paid monthly, no matter how long that is… in other words, a woman can use it to create a private pension.”

The article quotes University of Pennsylvania economist David Babbel as recommending that lifetime annuities should “comprise 40 to 80 per cent of their retirement assets.”

What can women do to close the retirement savings gap — apart from considering annuities?

Ibbotson recommends they “start by educating” themselves… “when we know more, we make better decisions and feel more empowered to improve our situation.”

“Start to know what your financial picture looks like. Buy a notebook and create a budget — your new financial plan,” she writes. Financial advisers and accountants are recommended, she writes, and your retirement savings portfolio needs to be designed “to grow with products that that offset inflation and taxes.”

The Wealthtender article adds a couple of other good points.

Focus on increasing financial literacy, the article suggests, by reading financial blogs, listening to related podcasts, and watching online videos on the topic of personal finance.

As well, the article concludes, women should focus on the future.

“Acknowledge early on that you may spend a big part of your life on your own, so always make saving one of your biggest priorities. Even if it’s just saving an extra $50 extra per month or increasing… your contribution by one to two per cent, the money can really add up over time.”

If you have a pension plan at work, be sure to join up, and participate to the max. Many plans will allow you to do “buybacks,” and make contributions after you are back at work for periods when you were away. This can really help fatten up your future pension cheque.

If you don’t have a pension plan at work, a great program to know about is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s open to any Canadian with registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) room. Your contributions are invested in a pooled fund, featuring low-cost expert management. When it’s time to retire, SPP will help you turn your savings into retirement income, including the possibility of a lifetime annuity.

And now, there are no limits from SPP on how much you can contribute each year, or transfer in from an RRSP. You can contribute any amount (up to your available RRSP room) and transfer in any amount from your RRSP. The possibilities are limitless!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

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

Cost of living, “best guess” planning hindering Canadian retirement savings efforts: CIBC poll

June 1, 2023

A recent poll by CIBC found that while most Canadians hope to retire by age 61, more than half (57 per cent) worry whether “they’ll actually be able to achieve that ambition.”

As well, a very high percentage — 66 per cent — of pre-retirees surveyed worry “about running out of money in retirement.”

Save with SPP reached out to CIBC to follow up on these results, and got some comments from Carissa Lucreziano, Vice-President, Financial and Investment Advice, CIBC.

Q. Quite an eye-opener to see that two-thirds of people worry they might run out of money in retirement. We wondered if you got any information on the causes of this worry – maybe more people are drawing down a lump sum of money in a registered retirement income fund (RRIF) versus receiving monthly workplace pension cheques? Or is it worry they’ll lose money in the markets? 

A. The rising cost of living is increasing faster than people expected which in turn is impacting many Canadians’ ability to save for retirement and other goals, which has them feeling less prepared for the future and worried about their retirement savings. A recent CIBC poll found that inflation is the top financial concern for 65 per cent of Canadians right now. While inflation is cyclical, many people are thinking, if inflation keeps going up at this rate, it’s going to affect my retirement plan. 

Another reason people may be worried is because they don’t know how much they will need in retirement. One third of Canadians simply hope they have enough to retire, 20 per cent have sat down to run the numbers on their own and only 14 per cent have enlisted the help of an advisor. It’s like going on a road trip without planning a route, of course you’ll be worried about getting lost. 

Given all the factors you need to consider in a retirement plan, it’s best to sit down with an experienced advisor who can map out a strategy that aligns with your goals, your current situation and how you expect your circumstances to change in the future. 

Q. We were interested in the quote in the release about the importance of having a financial plan. Wondered if you could expand (briefly) on what sorts of things should be in a plan – probably it is looking at what future retirement income will be versus expected expenses, and then including the great things listed in the release like travelling? 

A. A financial plan is your big picture, giving you a detailed look at your current financial situation to help you prioritize and manage your short- and long-term goals – like travel, renovations, and retirement. 

The key items that should be included in every financial plan are your income, expenses, net worth, investment strategy, retirement, and estate plan.  

Many advisors use a goal planning tool to build a personalized plan that addresses all your needs, while taking into consideration any “what if” scenarios to see how any major changes might affect your overall plan. What if you buy a cottage at age 55 or gift money to your children at age 75? It is important to understand the financial implications of any big moves before you make them.  

The most important thing to remember though, is that your plan should grow and change as you do. Ideally, you should be reviewing it every year or whenever there is a material change like employment, divorce, marriage or having a child. 

Q. It’s interesting that many people are saving for retirement more via Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) than by traditional registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs). Wondered if you learned any of the reasons why they preferred the TFSA – tax free income when you withdraw the money? Accessible for emergency spending en route to retirement? Maybe it is not impactful on one’s Old Age Security (OAS) qualification? 

A. Right now, Canadians are prioritizing day-to-day needs over long-term planning. This means, for many, that they are saving more in their TFSA over their RRSP.   

Contributing to a TFSA is a terrific way to save for both short- and long-term goals. A TFSA gives you the flexibility to access money easily and any interest, dividends, and capital gains earned are tax-free. The funds you withdraw from your TFSA also do not count as income, so it will not affect the amount of OAS you qualify for when you are over the age of 65.  

You don’t have to choose between an RRSP or a TFSA.  However, one could give you more benefits than the other depending on your situation. An advisor can help you understand your options and how it fits into your plan.

Q. Finally, what was the one thing that surprised you the most about these results? 

What stood out to me is that most Canadians polled are relying on their best guess for how much they will need to fund their retirement. Only 14 per cent have met with an advisor to run the numbers.  

An advisor can help you get a better understanding of your big picture and put an actionable plan in place, setting you up for success! It may seem overwhelming, but you can get there with the right support. Plus, you will be able to enjoy your next chapter, knowing that you are in a good place financially. Financial wellbeing is so important. 

Our thanks to Carissa Lucreziano and CIBC for taking the time to respond to us!

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has been helping Canadians save for retirement for more than 35 years. Now, saving for retirement is simpler than ever before. There’s no longer a dollar limit on how much you can contribute to SPP during the limit — you can contribute any amount up to the total of your available RRSP room. And if you are making a transfer into SPP from another RRSP, you can transfer any or all of it — no limit applies. It’s a limitless opportunity for retirement saving! 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.

Online ACPM course boosts your knowledge about saving for retirement

May 4, 2023

The Association for Canadian Pension Management (ACPM) has rolled out a new online course on retirement that will help you up your game when it comes to mastering the topics of retirement saving, and turning those savings into income.

The course consists of six sections, with questions at the end to test your new knowledge. The first section, The Importance of Saving, talks about the importance of making savings part of your financial plan. “Many imagine retirement savings can wait for later,” the course explains, adding that it is far harder to play catch up than to start saving, even a little bit, while you are younger.

Small savings, we learn, can add up due to the “compounding effect” of time — even $50 a month in retirement savings can grow to more than $16,000 in 20 years.

The second section, Individual Registered Savings Plans, looks at registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs), Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs), the Home Buyers Program and Lifelong Learning Program (these allow you to “borrow” from an RRSP to pay for buying a home or furthering your education) and the new Tax-Free First Home Savings Account.

Ideas expounded on here include how much you should be expecting to live on when you retire — a rule of thumb given here is 70 per cent of your gross, pre-retirement employment income. The course notes that money from an RRSP should be considered to be “deferred income,” since you are able to put it away and grow it tax-free until the time you take it out as future income, when it is taxed.

The Government Retirement Income section walks you through the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement. The important points raise about CPP is that the benefit it provides it quite modest, with the average monthly after-tax payment ranging in the $700 range. And while OAS is a universal benefit, it can be subject to a partial or even full “clawback” if you earn more than a certain level of overall retirement income.

The Workplace Retirement Savings section walks you through the difference between defined benefit, target, and capital accumulation plans. Defined benefit plans provide you a lifetime benefit based on a formula that takes into account your earnings and years of membership in the plan; benefits are guaranteed. Target is similar, but lacks the guarantee. With a capital accumulation plan, what’s “defined” is usually how much money you and your employer contribute — your income will be based on how well those savings are invested. Examples of capital accumulation plans are defined contribution plans, group RRSPs, and of course the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

The final sections talk about the critical “transition to retirement” stage, where you really need to know exactly what your retirement income will be and what expenses you will need to cover, as well as “decumulation,” which involves turning the money you have saved in a capital accumulation plan into income, either by withdrawing money periodically or converting some or all of it to an annuity, which provides a guaranteed monthly payout.

Estate planning — a complex topic that we all need to know more about — is also covered off.

ACPM has done a great job here. The ACPM Strategic Initiatives Committee (SIC), of which SPP’s Executive Director Shannan Corey is a proud member, led this project, and a broader financial literacy framework for plan sponsors is in the works. The group feel a national effort towards broader financial literacy is an important project, she notes.

Shannan says that response to the program has been good so far since the course was rolled out late last year, with close to 200 people graduating from the program.

Asked if the course might make its way into school curriculum one day, Shannan says “yes, we have talked about that and a contact of mine who teaches financial literacy for high school seniors is using the course as part of this curriculum.” It would be great, she adds, to see usership of the course expand.

“We feel it is a really great tool, but that it will take time for it to gain credibility and exposure. The financial literacy framework is going to be pretty amazing and should help get broader national exposure too — that one may have broader uptake as it is designed for plan sponsors rather than individuals,” she adds.

ACPM describes itself as “the leading advocacy organization for a balanced, effective and sustainable retirement income system in Canada,” and ACPM member organizations “manage retirement plans for millions of plan members. “

The group believes that “part of having a better retirement system is to provide education to those preparing for and contemplating retirement.”

According to ACPM, the motto for retirement savings is “the sooner the better.”

They state that their online retirement savings course is designed to be of value to all ages. “If you are in your twenties or thirties and just starting your career path, this course is for you.  If you’ve reached the point where you are building your household savings but not yet focused on retirement savings, this course is still for you. And if you’re nearing retirement but haven’t already learned how to manage and accumulate retirement savings, there are still many important lessons to be gleaned here,” states ACPM.

Finally, ACPM notes that many Canadians are not well prepared for the inevitable retirement from work that lies ahead of them.

“Nearly one in five retirees has less than $25,000 in savings and investments while more than half of Canadians do not have a financial plan for their retirement,” the group states. “It is our hope that this course will help you gain an understanding of pensions and retirement savings as you plan for your retirement.”

Many Canadians don’t have any sort of retirement program at the workplace. If you’re in this group, the responsibility for saving for your future retirement is squarely on your shoulders. Fortunately, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers a program for any Canadian with unused RRSP room. SPP, which operates on a not-for-profit basis, will invest your savings in a pooled retirement fund managed at a very low group rate. When it’s time to retire, your income options include choosing one of SPP’s lifetime annuity options, which will ensure you never run out of money. 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.