Personal finance

Savings resolutions for 2022

January 13, 2022

The start of a new year often has us thinking of things we “resolve” to do – changes we want to make – in 2022.

Save with SPP had a look around the “information highway” to see what people are resolving to do on the all-important savings front.

From The Guardian , ideas include getting debt-free, starting a rainy day fund, and to “have a goal” for savings. The newspaper notes that debt is a real barrier to savings.

“There is no point trying to save if you are burdened by costly debts,” The Guardian reports. While savings accounts in the U.K. pay only about 0.2 per cent interest, the article continues, credit card, store card or overdraft debts may be “in excess of 20 per cent.”

Writing for the GoBankingRates blog via Yahoo!, John Csiszar suggests resolutions should include “bumping up your retirement plan contributions by one per cent,” reviewing your spending from 2021, and that you “don’t buy anything until you get rid of something else.”

Increasing your contributions to a retirement account (here in Canada, this might refer to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), or your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account) by one per cent is, Csiszar writes, an achievable goal. If you earn $50,000 a year, and are contributing five per cent to a retirement plan, he writes, bumping that up by one per cent will boost your retirement savings by $41.67 per month.

Back in the U.K., The Express recommends dropping costly habits, “start counting the pennies” (or nickels here in Canada), and following the 50/30/20 rule.

“Allocate 50 per cent for essentials, such as rent, mortgage and bills, 30 per cent for `wants’ such as hobbies, shopping or subscriptions, and 20 per cent for paying off debt or building up savings,” the article suggests.

Finally, MSN Money adds a few more – review your retirement plan contributions (to ensure you are contributing as much as you can), contribute to both “traditional” retirement savings accounts (here in Canada, an RRSP or SPP) as well as tax-free savings vehicles (for Canadians, the Tax-Free Savings Account) and increase any automatic savings you have going.

These are all great strategies. Another one to add is to live within your means. Don’t spend even a nickel more than you earn, because that overspending can snowball on you. Pay the bills, then pay yourself (and your future self), and spend what’s left over. As the bills go down, you’ll have more to save.

And the SPP allows you to make contributions the easy way – automatically. You can set up a pre-authorized payment plan with SPP and have your contributions withdrawn painlessly every payday. It’s easier to spread your contributions out throughout the year in bite-sized pieces than to try and come up with one big payment at the deadline. And the good folks at SPP will invest your contributions steadily and professionally, turning them into future retirement income. It’s win win!

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.


The different between collateral and conventional mortgage

January 6, 2022

Are you in the market for a mortgage and you’re not sure which one to take out? In this article we’ll look at the difference between collateral and conventional mortgages, so you can decide which one is the right one for you.

Collateral Mortgages

A collateral mortgage lets you borrow more money than your property is worth. A mortgage lender is able to do that because a collateral mortgage re-advances. This allows you to borrow additional funds as needed without needing your break your existing mortgage contract.

This is accomplished by registering a lien against your property. Lenders will register a lien for up to 125% of your property’s value. For example, if your home is valued at $700,000, you could register a lien for a maximum of $875,000.

When the charge is registered, you can leverage the equity as needed. The simplest way to do that is by setting up a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). HELOCs are a lot like mortgages. HELOCs offer a way to borrow money cheaply, but with even more flexible repayment terms. With a HELOC you’re able to make interest-only payments on your mortgage to minimize your cash flow.

You could also set up a readvanceable mortgage whereby the credit limit on the HELOC increases as you pay down your mortgage. You could use the extra equity to finance home renovations or to buy your next investment property.

Conventional Mortgages

A conventional mortgage is the mortgage you probably already know. When you put down at least 20% on a property, you’re eligible for a conventional mortgage. This is different than an insured mortgage when you put down less than 20% on a property.

Since you are putting down at least 20% on the property, you’re able to borrow at least 80% of its value with a conventional mortgage. The value of your property is based on how much it’s appraised for.

If it’s appraised for more than you paid, you can borrow based on the purchase price. However, if it’s appraised for less, you can only borrow based on the appraised value and you have to make up the rest from your own pockets if you want to still put at least 20% down.

If cash flow matters most to you, the 30 year amortization makes the most sense. Otherwise, if rate matters the most, the 25 year amortization is usually the way to go.

This post was written by Sean Cooper, bestselling author of the book, Burn Your Mortgage. Sean is also a mortgage broker at mortgagepal.ca.

About the Author

Sean Cooper is the bestselling author of the book, Burn Your Mortgage: The Simple, Powerful Path to Financial Freedom for Canadians. He bought his first house when he was only 27 in Toronto and paid off his mortgage in just 3 years by age 30. An in-demand Personal Finance Journalist, Money Coach and Speaker, his articles and blogs have been featured in publications such as the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Financial Post and MoneySense. Connect with Sean on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.


Rich Girl, Broke Girl shows the steps women need to take to gain control of their finances

December 30, 2021

Financial author Kelley Keehn thinks women need to be in charge – not unwilling passengers – when it comes to steering their financial ships of state.

Her well-written (and entertaining) book, Rich Girl, Broke Girl provides step-by-step directions to help women gain control over debt, day to day expenses, investing and of course, retirement savings.

As the book opens, Keehn notes that while most women are told they can “financially achieve anything, dream as big as any man, accomplish anything,” they often get blamed if they fail, and are told to leave finances to “someone else in (their life),” or to “marry rich.”

The stats, she writes, show that many women don’t like others being in charge of their money. A full two-thirds of women “whose partners are the primary breadwinners feel trapped,” Keehn writes. “Seven in ten women wish they had more power in their financial futures,” she continues. “Sixty-four per cent of women wish they had their own money set aside just in case.”

She then tells the story of “Mack,” a young woman who tried to strike out on her own, but lacked financial knowledge, didn’t know the cost of things, tried to live an impossibly unaffordable life, blew her credit on a single trip, then got behind and didn’t ask for help, ultimately forcing her to move back home.

An “anti-budget,” Keehn writes, is the solution here. Track every dollar, categorize spending, multiply expenses by 12 to create an annual budget, and then “trim the excess… (and) reallocate.” Fictional Mack could save $3,255 a year, writes Keehn, by saving just 50 per cent on her discretionary expenses.

The book looks at the ins and outs of credit, and then, cohabitation.

“Have the money talk with your partner early,” Keehn advises. If your partner is a saver, and you are a “live for today” spender, that collision of views could harm the relationship, she notes.

There’s a great, detailed overview of investing, which looks at cash, fixed income and equities, as well as other investment vehicles. Keehn recommends a diverse approach to investing. Don’t invest in just one stock, but a diversified portfolio, she explains. Understand the risks of equity investing, but don’t fear them and put all your money in fixed-income, Keehn adds.

She explains the difference between buying stocks and bonds yourself versus buying units in mutual funds – the latter can have high fees, she warns.

Keehn points out how even the modest inflation we’ve experienced in the past five years can “erode your wealth.”

In the section on tax shelters, Keehn says it is best to think of registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) and Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) “as an empty garage. You have to put “cars” (investments) into them, and depending on the rules of the tax shelter, there are different perks and penalties.”

With both, you can invest in a “plethora” of different vehicles, from “guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) and savings accounts to stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds and more.” Only the tax treatment of the “cars” is different – you get a tax deduction for funds placed in an RRSP, and they grow tax free, but are taxed when you take money out. There’s no tax deduction for putting funds in a TFSA, but no taxes on growth, and no taxes due on any income taken out of the TFSA.

She talks about the need to maximize your contribution to any company-sponsored retirement savings plan, because otherwise, “you are leaving money on the table.”

Keehn offers some thoughts on the idea of paying off mortgages quickly as a strategy – perhaps, she writes, it’s less of a good idea given the current low mortgage rates – if you have debts at a higher interest rate, perhaps they should be targeted first.

She’s a believer in getting financial advice when you run into problems.

“It’s natural to feel ashamed of our money mistakes. However, our problems compound when we can’t manage on our own and don’t seek help. Think of it this way: Would you formulate a health-improvement plan before going to your doctor to see what’s actually wrong with you? Probably not.”

This is a great, clear, easy-to-follow walk through about a topic that many people don’t like to deal with. If you’re living paycheque to paycheque, with no emergency savings, this book offers you a blueprint for getting out of trouble and building financial independence. It’s a great addition to your financial library.

Kelley Keehn spoke to Save with SPP last year and had great additional insights about the stress Canadians feel over money matters.

Did you know that in-year contributions you make to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan are tax-deductible? In 2022, you can contribute up to $7,000 per calendar year, subject to available RRSP room. As the book suggests, funds within a registered plan like SPP grow tax-free, and are taxed only when you convert your SPP savings to future retirement income. 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.


Are we moving away from cash – and is that really such a good thing?

December 2, 2021
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Those of us of a certain age can remember when cash was king. Back in the day, few had credit cards, “tap” purchases were decades away in the future, and – minus a mobile phone, which was still being invented – you needed change to make a phone call when away from your landline.

Bills were paid by cheque, or directly at your bank branch, where there was a massive lineup out to the street on pay day.

The pandemic seems to have speeded up an already “in progress” move away from cash. Save with SPP took a look around to see what people are making of this development.

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Casey Plett notes that the idea that we are becoming “a cashless society” has turned into “a common belief… as if currency were simply one of so many Old World analog relics circling the drain before they gurgle into oblivion.”

Her article notes that during the early days of COVID-19, the use of cash “was phased out entirely” by many institutions over fears that money might actually help the pandemic spread more quickly. Even though such concerns have now been addressed, the use of cash has not resumed at pre-COVID levels, she notes.

“But a cashless society is not a foregone conclusion,” Plett writes in the Globe. “And while it may seem like a fuddy-duddy Luddite concern – the equivalent of clinging to one’s touch-tone phone, perhaps, or making a plea for beepers – a complete societal changeover to non-cash payment would not, in fact, be a good thing.”

She says a fully cashless society would be “inequitable” for those – such as the vulnerable and the homeless – who don’t have access to the banking system. Her article cites figures from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives showing that an astounding one million Canadians (as of 2016) were “bankless,” and five million more “underbanked.” This latter group may have a bank account, but no credit or other banking services.

She also points out that cash can be indispensable when the Internet goes out, your credit card is locked for mysterious reasons, or if there’s a power outage (remember 2003). Cash, she writes, “is a refuge of privacy,” in that your purchases with it aren’t tracked or marketed. She concludes by saying it would be unwise for governments to move away from it altogether.

Even before the pandemic was an idea, the National Post was predicting the end of cash would arrive five years ago in 2016.

The Post cited research from 2016 showing that 77 per cent of respondents “preferred to pay for purchases by debit or credit card,” and that 65 per cent said “they rarely buy anything with cash anymore.”

In that article, Rob Cameron of Moneris is quoted as saying ““I do think people will continue to use cash because it’s been around so long…. But this growth in contactless (payments using credit cards or mobile apps) I think is going to lead towards that end of cash.”

Figures from the Bank of Canada show that there is a trend away from cash. As recently as 2009, the bank reports, 54 per cent of transactions were made using cash. By 2013 that number dipped to 42 per cent and by 2017, 33 per cent.

“So, does this mean that Canadians are giving up on cash?,” asks the Bank of Canada. “The short answer is no. Canadians still rate cash as easy to use, low in cost, secure and nearly universally accepted, and it’s the preferred payment option for small-value purchases like a cup of coffee or a muffin.”

Well, maybe. Last word on the topic goes to economist Eswar Prasad, who tells CNBC that “the combination of cryptocurrency, stablecoins, central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and other digital payment systems will lead to the demise of [physical] cash.”

The takeaway here is that all of us need to try and stay current with new trends. Cash is being joined by many other ways to pay. Even when we were out distributing poppies for the Legion in October we found that many people did not have any cash, or had to run to their cars and dig around for change. So, the Legion has begun to roll out “tap” poppy boxes.

Personally, we think cash will never entirely fade away. Think of big trends in music – punk, disco, progressive rock. Sure, you don’t see chart-topping music in those categories any more, but it is still being played, and in some corners of the globe, being developed.

No matter how you choose to spend it, you will appreciate having some form of currency when you retire. If you are saving on your own for retirement, consider the help of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. The plan offers an end-to-end pension service; and once you are a member, you can contribute to your savings by cheque, through online bill payment, with automatic deposits, or even with a credit card. Be sure to 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.


As interest rates rise, is it time to look anew at fixed income investments?

November 25, 2021

Interest rates have been so low for so long it is hard to remember the long-ago days when everyone had Canada Savings Bonds and/or guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) in their portfolios.

Save with SPP decided to look around to see what the expected rise in interest rates (and inflation) may do with Canadians’ saving plans.

Writing in the Globe and Mail, columnist Rita Trachur explains that one fear that’s out there right now is that Canadians may risk “aggravating inflation by blowing through their savings” as the pandemic (apparently) winds to a close.

She proposes that Ottawa consider bringing back – temporarily – the old Canada Savings Bond program.

“Many of us who are on the wrong side of 40 fondly remember a time when we could make juicy returns by investing in Canada Savings Bonds. Not only were they easy to purchase and risk-free, those paper certificates were oh so cool. Most importantly, though, they taught generations of Canadians how to save,” she writes.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when interest rates reached double-digits, Canadians held $55 billion in savings bonds. But they began to wane in popularity, Trachur writes, due to competing products like “GICs, mutual funds, and low-fee trading accounts.”

But with rising interest rates on the horizon, maybe a modern version of the Canada Savings Bond could be relaunched, writes Trachur.

“The bonds should be tax-free and have short investment terms – perhaps one year and 18 months, as examples – to give consumers real incentives to keep stashing their cash over the near term. That kind of flexibility would also give people the ability to reassess their options once interest rates start to rise,” she writes. This type of product would be a safe investment for regular people, she concludes.

Another reason to look at interest-paying investments may be the link between higher rates and lower stock prices, reports US News & World Report.

“When interest rates are low, companies and consumers can borrower cheaply and tend to spend more money, which can boost corporate profits. When interest rates rise, consumers and companies typically curb their spending, which can result in lower stock prices,” the newspaper explains.

A rise in interest rates is also bad for bond prices, the article adds. “Bonds and interest rates have an inverse relationship, meaning that bond prices fall when interest rates rise,” the article explains. “But don’t liquidate your bond positions yet. Experts say bonds still hold value in an investment portfolio.”

It’s a complicated topic, to be sure. The old rule of thumb used to be that your age was the percentage of your savings that should be in fixed-income (bonds, GICs, etc.), with the rest in equity. So if you are 60, the rule suggests, 60 per cent should be in fixed income – the argument being that this would “safen” your overall holdings from some of the ups and downs the equity markets can provide.

Balance is a good thing in investing. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s Balanced Fund currently has this asset mix – 50 per cent Canadian, U.S. and non-North American equity, 26 per cent bonds, 7.5 per cent mortgages, 10 per cent real estate, five per cent infrastructure and 1.5 per cent in short term investments. SPP’s managers can switch up this mix to align with changing market conditions, so that all your eggs are never in just one basket. SPP has been helping Canadians save for retirement for 35 years; 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, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Many advantages to having a “squirm-worthy” chat with spouse, family about money

October 7, 2021

Not everyone is comfortable talking about money with family members – spouses, kids, and so on.

In fact, Kelley Keehn, writing for FP Canada notes that she has always found it interesting that “people naturally retreat when the topic of finances comes up.”

“While it’s perhaps not the most engaging dinner table discussion or a conversation-starter on a date, money is an important subject to be comfortable talking about,” she writes. “No matter our age, salary, social or relationship status, money is an essential part of our lives,” Keehn continues.

She cites a recent national survey by FP Canada, The Discomfort Index, as finding that the topics that make Canadians squirm the most are politics (26 per cent), relationships/sex (24 per cent) and then money – tied with religion – in third place at 23 per cent. By comparison, notes Keehn, only 12 per cent of respondents found talking about their health to be a “taboo” subject.

Strangely, notes Keehn, at a time when women’s earnings now account for 47 per cent of family income, women are “more likely to avoid the topic of money than men,” by a margin of 27 per cent to 18 per cent.

While most Canadians confide in their partners about money, there’s a whopping 40 per cent who won’t, Keehn reports. Only three per cent would talk about money with strangers, two per cent with “hairstylists and estheticians,” and one per cent won’t talk about it to anyone, Keehn adds.

Save with SPP did an interview with Kelley Keehn last year.

So, what can be done to get people talking?

Writing for the Sun Life blog, Sylvie Tremblay suggests that one barrier to money talk might be our level of financial knowledge. “All too often, resistance to talking about money in a real, substantive way stems from a lack of confidence,” she writes. Consulting a financial advisor – a view shared by Keehn – is a great way to educate yourself about the topic.

Another money talk ice-breaker could be picking a financial goal you both are interested and excited about – a major vacation, putting together a down payment, or setting up a registered education savings plan (RESP) for the kids.

Other ideas from Tremblay include making an annual “money talk” appointment with your partner, setting rules about “who is handling what” when it comes to money and bills, and finally, to get started on talking right away.

An article from the Desjardins Financial Security network gives some great ideas about talking money with your adult kids.

The article points out, citing research results reported upon by the New York Times, that 83 per cent of respondents (folks making more than $100,000 per year) said they would NOT disclose their income to their adult kids. Only 17 per cent said they would, the article notes, with the main reason given for a “no” being the belief that the parents’ finances are “none of their (the kids’) business.”

However, the article says, that’s not really the case.  First off, your money may be theirs one day – and data suggests that one-third of inheritors “squander their inheritance shortly after receiving it.” Talking about money with them now, and discussing how to make it last, the article suggests, is helpful.

If you support charities, this is a nice idea to discuss with the kids – perhaps you can help grow their giving values too, the article adds. A money discussion plays a huge part in boosting the financial literacy of your children, the Desjardins article states.

“Parents with a certain degree of wealth have an opportunity to gradually expose their adult children to complex financial concepts such as investments, business ownership or overall financial planning,” the article adds.

Finally, the article suggests, it’s never a bad idea to involve a financial advisor in matters relating to inheritances or “in-life” transfers of wealth to kids, to game plan for any tax issues in advance.

The bottom line here seems to be quite simple – if you aren’t talking money with your spouse, it’s probably time to start. If everyone knows where the money is going and why, you avoid surprises, which people really only like on birthdays and other key holidays. If you are on the same page with spending, you can get on the same page with saving.

Thinking about saving for retirement, for couples and also for individuals, is a key financial consideration. If you have a retirement plan at work, be sure to join it and learn about what features it offers, particularly when it comes to benefits for your survivors. This is a good idea for both partners.

If you are saving on your own, take a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, marking its 35th year of operations in 2021. The SPP offers you a “do it yourself” pension plan that not only invests your savings, but provides the possibility of a lifetime pension with benefits for your surviving spouse. 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, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Why we struggle to save – and what we can do about it

August 12, 2021

We are routinely encouraged to save money, for retirement, for education, for emergencies, and so on.

But this advice is not always easy to follow. Save with SPP took a look around to see why saving is such a struggle, and to find out ways those who aren’t currently savers can work their way into the savings habit.

A study carried out by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and reported upon by the CBC, found that on average, Canadians saved “just 3.21 per cent of their disposable income in 2020, or about $1,277 per household.”

Americans, the article notes, save three times as much. Why?

“Canadians are currently spending more of their income to service their debts than Americans, which partly explains the lower savings rate,” says BMO senior economist Saul Guatieri in the CBC article.

And indeed, according to Statistics Canada, household debt topped 177 per cent of disposable income by late 2019, up from 168 per cent the year before. In other words, for every dollar we earn, we owe $1.77, on average. The same agency’s research found that 73.2 per cent of Canadians “have some sort of outstanding debt, or have used a payday loan at some point in the last 12 months.” Almost one-third of those surveyed told Statistics Canada they have too much debt.

The CBC article also cites the increased cost of living as a factor. Shannon Lee Simmons, a certified financial planner, tells the network that “she’s seen the amount of money Canadians are able to put away decrease for a number of reasons, including stagnating wages and the rising cost of necessities like gas, groceries, daycare and housing.”

Housing costs have bumped up to 45-50 per cent of take-home pay for some, she tells CBC.

Inflation, reports Reuters, is on the rise, and “the Bank of Canada said inflation was expected to remain at or above three per cent… for the rest of 2021.”

Blogger Jim Yih of the Retire Happy blog adds a couple of other factors. The lack of formal financial education, he writes, and the prevalent “consumption attitude” of “spending money we do not have” are a big part of the problem. He also notes that interest rates for savings accounts have been at historic lows for many years, which discourages some savers.

So what can be done?

  • Start small, suggests Simmons. “I would rather someone save a little bit than just give up altogether because they feel the goal is too unrealistic,” she tells the CBC. Having a budget is a key step as well, she says, as you can not only track spending but see opportunities to reduce costs.
  • Review your bank fees, and see if you can find a bank with lower or no fees, suggests the Canada Buzz blog.
  • Pay yourself first, advises Alterna Bank. “Automate your savings… transfer the funds to a savings, investment, registered retirement savings plan or tax-free savings account,” Alterna suggests.

The last step is a great one. Even if you did a “pay yourself first” and put one or two per cent of your pay into savings, and then lived on the 98 per cent, you would see those savings begin to grow over time. And while it may not be the “save 10 per cent, and live on 90 per cent” rule that our late Uncle Joe hammered into us over the years, you are starting on the right road. Patience and being steadfast can get you there.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan supports a “pay yourself first” strategy. You can set up automatic contributions from your bank account each payday. The money you contribute is then carefully invested by SPP for your future. It’s a “set it and forget it” way to build retirement security, something SPP has been providing for more than 35 years.

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.


Has COVID affected Canadians’ ability to donate to charities?

July 15, 2021
Photo by Katt Yukawa on Unsplash

A few years ago – before the pandemic – Global News reported that Canadians were cutting back on charitable giving.

Citing research from the Fraser Institute, Global reported that in 2017 Canadians donated just 0.54 per cent of their income to charity – less than half of what Americans donated (1.25 per cent) in the same timeframe.

Given the severe economic mayhem the pandemic has wrought upon us, Save with SPP wondered if charitable giving has taken an even further plunge.

It sounds like a recovery in charitable giving is underway, states an article posted in the Globe and Mail.

According to the article, authored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), “in the 12 months since March 2020 when the pandemic was declared, more than three-quarters of Canadians who had given previously to charity continued their philanthropy and gave larger gifts than in past years.”

And while only 70 per cent of Canadians made charitable donations in 2017, 76 per cent did in 2020, and “the average size of the gifts was much higher – up from $772 in 2017 to $965 in 2020,” the article adds.

The AFP’s chair Susan Storey is quoted as saying “Canada is a phenomenally, uniquely generous nation, and philanthropy, at its core, is about helping others and strengthening communities,” she says. “So, it’s not surprising that for those that could give, they did – and generously.”

The Canada Helps website says that while “year over year” giving grew, the overall rate of giving is expected to decline about 10 per cent due to COVID-19.

This site suggests that our charitable giving is more targeted during tough economic times.

Canada Helps reports that Canadians gave 1.6 per cent of their income to charity; however, the percentage of Canadians who make donations is down from the level of 24 per cent it reached in 2007.

Charities have had to be resourceful during the COVID-19 pandemic, when traditional avenues, such as displays in malls or street corners, weren’t available. Online donations are one solution, and in Ottawa, local branches of the Royal Canadian Legion used a drive-thru approach for last fall’s poppy campaign, reports CTV News.

“I think it’s a great idea. First off you don’t have the older veterans out in the cold and wet, obviously it’s keeping them safe from the people in the stores and malls,” Richard Coney tells CTV, praising the idea of a drive-thru poppy campaign.

Donations to Indigenous Peoples’ Charities – for example are up 2.25 per cent, as are donations to social services charities (up 2.2 per cent) and health charities (1.8 per cent).

If you’re able to help out the charity of your choice – and maybe have had to cut back due to the pandemic’s impact on your finances – consider resuming your contributions now that we are emerging from the darkness of the pandemic. There’s a lot riding on it for a lot of people.

Similarly, if you’d had to cut back on retirement savings during COVID-19, gear back into it as soon as you can. A nice feature of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for its individual members is that you can gear up your contributions when times are good, and gear down when they aren’t. The flexible SPP – celebrating its 35th year of operations — is open to accepting monthly pre-authorized contributions, or a little bit at a time through the “online bill payment” section of most banks. It takes many small steps to complete a journey, after all!

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.


How the pandemic has changed the way we save and spend

June 10, 2021

As – touch wood – we begin to see the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, we ought to begin to see a return to normal, at least in terms of how we save money and how we spend it.

But the pandemic has changed the way we do those things, research by Save with SPP has found.

According to CTV News, the pandemic “has changed grocery shopping forever.”

It’s expected, for instance, that the trend towards online grocery shopping will continue even after the pandemic.

“The online buying, based on the numbers that we have now, I don’t think it’s ever going to go away,” Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, tells CTV. “I think more and more people will continue to buy food online, regularly, whether it’s through order and pick-up or to get the food delivered.”

And it’s not just big grocery stores, the article notes. The owner of a small Nova Scotia-based meat shop says she thinks online ordering and curbside pickup will continue after the all-clear is given on the pandemic.

The Times of India says there are six lasting money lessons from the pandemic that we all can learn.

“One thing that the pandemic has made us all realise is that we can all save way more than we think. We were forced to stop eating out, go shopping, partying, go to movie theatres or concerts etc. While these are the things we will want to do as things slowly go back to normal, we have had a glimpse of how much we can save if we do not indulge in them as often as we used to,” the article begins.

The point of having an emergency fund has been underscored by the pandemic, the Times notes. The job loss many of us experienced impacted our workplace benefits, prompting some to consider self-insuring, the article adds.

The pandemic also shows us the danger of high-interest debt – what happens with it when our work is reduced or outright ended.

“High-interest debt, like credit card or personal loan, is harmful to you financially even when you have a regular paycheque in your hand. The damage caused by them increases many folds if you are out of a job. Further, if you are unable to pay on time, the piling interest rate can increase the debt amount,” the Times tells us.

A Toronto Sun article provides seven tips – aimed at small business owners, but useful for all of us – based on lessons learned from toughing it out during the pandemic.

Keep track of your credit score, and pay down debt, the article advises. Diversify your investments. Stick to a budget, and set up an emergency fund, the article tells us. “You don’t want to be caught off guard when it comes to unexpected expenses,” we are told. Finally, the Sun says, get back on track with your retirement savings.

There’s a general theme to these messages, and it is a good one to listen to. We’ve been limited on spending, and are often involuntarily saving more, for more than a year. A spending “explosion” is expected when things are fully reopened. The experts here are warning us not to go overboard, to follow a budget, to continue to save, and to wade, rather than jump, back into the re-opened economy.

Retirement saving is a great thing to be doing in good times or bad. With the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, you are in control of how much you want to contribute to your future retirement. If money is tight, you can gear down; if money is more plentiful, you can contribute more. And the money you do contribute will be professionally invested for you. It will be waiting once you punch the timeclock for the last time. 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.


A look at retirement-related “rules of thumb”

May 6, 2021

We’re forever hearing about “rules of thumb” when it comes to retirement, so today, Save with SPP will attempt to bring a bunch of these thumbs of wisdom together in one place.

A great starting point is the Retire Happy blog, where Ed Rempel rhymes off some of the most popular rules.

He speaks of the “70 per cent replacement rule,” where it is said that the “right” level of retirement income (this rule is widely disputed) is 70 per cent of what you were making before you retired. As Rempel notes, under this rule, a couple making $100,000 would thus need $70,000 in retirement.

(Another possible origin of this rule is the defined benefit pension world, where pensions normally provide two per cent of what you made at work per year you are a plan member. In the old days, membership was capped at 35 years – the math adds up to 70 per cent.)

Next, Rempel speaks of the four per cent rule of thumb. This rule suggests that the right amount to withdraw each year from retirement savings is four per cent of the total; a safe withdrawal rate to help you avoid running out of money later.

The “Age Rule,” writes Rempel, is the idea that 100 minus your current age is the percentage of your overall portfolio that you should invest in stocks. The thinking here is that the older you are, the less exposure you should have to risky investments – you should be gradually shifting over to fixed income.

Rempel also talks about the “cash buffer” rule – keeping enough cash to tide you over for two years, so you can “draw on it when investments are down,” and the idea of delaying Canada Pension Plan payments until 65 (some say 70) to get more than you would at 60.

A final rule from Rempel is the “sequence of returns” rule, the idea of investing conservatively to avoid losses during the drawdown stage.

A great list from a great blog!

We found a few others.

At Forbes magazine there is talk of the “25 times” rule. Basically, if you know what level of income you want to have in retirement – let’s say $50,000 – this rule tells you you need to save 25 times that amount before you retire. That’s a daunting $1.25 million.

We remember hearing this one decades ago as the “20 times” rule. Perhaps inflation has made the thumb bigger?

Over at Investopedia, “a good rule of thumb for the percentage of your income you should save is 15 per cent,” we are told. Other thumb guidelines include choosing “low-cost investments,” where management expense fees are as low as possible, and a Warren Buffett rule, “don’t put money in something you don’t understand.”

The article talks about exchange-traded funds as being examples of low-cost investments. Save with SPP likes to note that while ETFs have lower fees than most mutual funds, buying stocks and bonds directly is a way to not have any management fees.

Putting it all together, there are an awful lot of thumbs here, more than the two we usually depend on. That’s because there are a lot of moving parts to saving for retirement and then living off the savings. From figuring out how much you’ll put aside, on to growing that amount via investing, and on to finally “decumulating” your savings and enjoying the income, it can be quite an effort.

If you’re not a retirement geek who happily plots and schemes over spreadsheets on a daily basis (guilty glance in mirror), there is another way to manage all this in a one-stop, set it and forget it way. Why not consider joining the Saskatchewan Pension Plan? They’ll take your retirement savings and grow them under the watchful eyes of investment professionals (for a very low fee). When it’s time to retire, they can turn those saved, invested dollars into a lifetime income stream. And they’ve been doing it for an impressive 35 years. 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, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.