Category Archives: Personal finance

Can tech help us conquer our inability to save?

These days, Canadians share two unrelated traits – very few of us, the vast majority, aren’t savers. And as well, nearly all of us, a majority, have a smart phone.

Could one attribute help fix the other? Save with SPP had a look around to see if there are any money-saving apps out there, and whether people think they work.

According to Global News, a great app for those who love to clip coupons is Checkout 51. With this app, Global explains, you don’t present coupons at the cash. Instead, you scan your receipt using the app and get money back via cheque.

“After you purchase items on the list you photograph and upload your receipt via the app. The receipt gets checked and once approved (usually within 48 hours) the money you earned gets added to your account. Once you hit $20 a cheque is mailed out to you,” the article explains.

Global also recommends an app called Gas Buddy which tells you where the cheapest gas prices are in your area, using GPS.

Over at the Maple Money blog, among the apps recommended for us Canucks is Mint, which “helps you track your spending, and also alerts you to when you’ve spend too much (or if you get charged a fee for something). In addition to those things, Mint also offers a bunch of money saving tips to help you manage your money better,” the article states.

They also like Flipp which alerts you to flyers for your area after you enter your postal code.

The CBC likes a number of these apps, and also E-bates which is now known as Rakuten. With E-bates, the network notes, you are basically being paid to shop.” Every time you make a purchase through one of their verified vendors, E-bates will send you a cheque. That’s cash back on top of the regular sales your favorite stores are having – and bonus, the app rounds all the deals up for you as well. E-bates earns a commission every time you make a purchase through their website, and instead of keeping it, they pass it on to you,” the network suggests.

Save with SPP can’t vouch for any of these except for E-bates; we have used it for years and yes, when you accumulate enough savings they’ll send you a cheque. It’s sort of like using a cash back card. We will give some of these other ones a try.

Let’s face it – the cost of living never seems to go down, so any app that offers a chance to save you some cash is probably worth at least trying out.

That extra cash, money that you didn’t earn and is thus “free,” can be used for any number of good things. Saving for retirement seems near the top of the list – perhaps the newfound cash can find its way into your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account, where it will grow into future retirement income. And maybe it all starts with a few clicks on an app!

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

Is low unemployment actually a sign that boomers aren’t retiring?

Politicians all over the continent like to point to our low levels of unemployment as a sign that our economy is booming and recovering.  And perhaps it is. A recent Bloomberg article notes that the Canadian labour market has seen “a decade-low unemployment rate” and “some of the fastest job gains on record.”

That high level of employment, the article adds, boosted “the average weekly earnings for Canadian workers… 3.4 per cent in May from a year earlier, to $1,031.” There were a whopping 32,600 jobs added that month, Bloomberg reports, citing Statistic Canada figures.

Reading these positive numbers, one might include that things look great for our younger workers – low unemployment and a high level of job creation.

Not so fast, reports Livio Di Matteo of the Fraser Institute, writing in the National Post. Sure, the story notes, we can expect that “in coming years employment and the labour force in Canada will continue growing,” but it will be “at a diminished rate, with employment growing slightly faster than the labour force.”

And the reason why, Di Matteo explains, is that low unemployment rates are “due largely to our aging population and the expected decline in labour force participation rates. Overall labour force participation in Canada has declined over the past decade in Canada, but interestingly has grown among people aged 55 and older.” In plainer terms, there are more older people in the workforce than before, meaning those at or nearing retirement age are continuing to work.

Di Matteo suggests that there will be more opportunities for younger workers when boomers begin to fully retire. In 2016, “people aged 55 and over accounted for 36 per cent of Canada’s working age population,” Di Matteo notes, adding that this figure should rise to 40 per cent by 2026. When the boomer cohort finally begins to retire, Di Matteo predicts higher demand for younger workers in “healthcare, computer system design… support services for mining, oil and gas extraction, social assistance, legal, accounting… and entertainment,” among others.

It’s a similar story south of the border, reports Market Watch. There, unemployment is “at a half-century low,” but a reason why is that there aren’t as many new entrants in the job market, the report notes.

“The U.S. doesn’t need to create as many new jobs to absorb a slower growing population of working-age Americans. Economists figure the U.S. needs to add less than 80,000 new jobs a month to hold the unemployment rate near its remarkably low rate,” the article states.

Experts are split on whether boomers are working late into life because they want to or because they have to. Sure, many love the social contacts and engagement of working – or want to travel more now that they are semi-retired. But those still saving for retirement may not be hitting their savings targets.

A report from RBC, covered in Yahoo! Finance Canada, says those boomers with “investable assets” of $100,000 or more planned on saving $949,000 for retirement, and “are falling $275,000 short.” Those with less than $100,000 saved have lesser goals, but are much farther away from them, the report states.

It will be interesting to see how the trend towards boomers hanging on to their jobs plays out, as it ultimately must.

For those of us who are still slogging away in the workforce, all these stats underline the importance of directing some of your income towards long-term savings for retirement. An excellent tool for this purpose is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, which offers a flexible way for your savings to be invested, grown, and ultimately paid out to you as a lifetime pension in the future. It may be better to pay into your own retirement now, rather than having to work later in life to fund it.

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

Sleeping your way to more money?

Many of us count sheep once we hit the sack, but research suggests we might also want to count loonies and toonies.

A study conducted by the University of California found a financial connection between sleep and finances, reports the Financial Poise blog.

The key finding was that “people who increased their sleep by one hour per night saw their wages increase by five per cent in the long run,” the blog reports. While links between poor sleep and obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are better known, the study found financial impacts as well.

“Bank accounts could also suffer as a result of sleep deprivation. A 2016 CareerBuilder survey showed that 17 per cent of Americans reported that their memories were affected by a lack of sleep, while 24 per cent reported that poor sleep made them less productive. That’s a bad combination while on the job,” the article notes.

So the basic finding is that a well-rested person performs better and will ultimately make more than a less productive, forgetful, less-rested person, the article explains. The PC Financial website concurs.

“A life full of work, family and social commitments can definitely make you feel exhausted at the end of the day. And if you, like many people, find you’re not at your best after one or more poor or short nights of sleep, it’s not a stretch to think that your decision-making skills might be affected, impacting everything from your diet, mood and relationships to your job performance and your spending habits,” the blog advises.

How to maximize your sleep for razor-sharp thinking and financial acumen?

The blog offers these ideas.  First, making sleeping a priority, as you would exercise – find out how much sleep a person your age should be getting, and make that a new target, the blog suggests.

Next, stick to that target. “It might be tempting after a long week to burn the midnight oil on weekends and then sleep in late, but this only serves to confuse and disrupt your body’s sleep cycles. Try to be consistent with your sleep and wake times seven days a week,” the blog advises.

Make sure your bedroom is set up for sleeping – no distractions like TVs, reading or eating, the blog states, and develop a “regular bedtime routine.” The blog also advises unplugging from phones and the Internet.

The Wisebread blog lists a number of financial benefits from increased sleep, including “fewer illnesses and medical expenses,” which saves you money due to fewer work absences and less need for drugs and other medical services.

Other financially relevant benefits include “better decision-making,” and boosted productivity, the blog concludes.

It all sort of makes sense. If you are tired at the start of the day, you’ll blunder through, probably grabbing fast food instead of cooking breakfast, having extra Timmy breaks, and making unplanned purchases and spends instead of sticking to a budget.

So perhaps after your next recommended seven hour-sleep, you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to address your retirement savings plans. A nice destination for that thinking is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, an excellent tool that helps turn your saved dollars into a future lifetime retirement income. Sleep on it, of course, but then check them out the next day!

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

New Canadian Leadership Congress helps pension leaders with “the challenge of change”

There’s a new organization out there aiming to help bring pension leaders up to speed on some emerging issues – societal, economic, and environmental – that are having new impacts on the way retirement savings programs are run.

Save with SPP spoke with Caroline Cakebread, founder of the new Canadian Leadership Congress, about what the new group hopes to achieve.

Cakebread, a veteran financial journalist who edited Canadian Investment Review for more than 15 years, says the Congress is designed to fill an information gap here in Canada. “We wanted to do something different, some things that haven’t been done much in Canada,” she explains. The group, she adds, will bring pension CEOs and CIOs together for “intimate conversations” about emerging issues, like geopolitical risks, the pros and cons of emerging markets, and environmental impacts on investing. The Congress’ focus is strategic, she explains.

Other key issues the Congress will be looking at with leaders include the growing role of technology, diversity and leadership, and the overall “very uncertain investment environment.”

The Congress held its first major session in Montreal early in June. The format, she says, features speakers, panels, “congressional huddles” and lots of opportunity for networking. A goal, she says, is to connect the pension leaders with experts in a format that encourages free and open discussion, and lots of talk around the table. A number of comments from participants and speakers were made available on Twitter, notes Cakebread. 

The educational outreach the Congress provides is a new approach, Cakebread says, and one that many pension leaders had privately told her is not currently available in Canada. As well, rather than targeting one type of pension organization, the Congress is “more available” to a wider range of plan types. While all of the plans represented are fairly large, some are defined benefit, some are defined contribution, some offer both types, and so on.

While there is a lot out there for pension leaders in terms of educational conferences, there is less for executives who are at a “deal maker” level when it comes to decision making, she says. She’s hoping that the new Congress will meet that need.

Cakebread says that during her time in the pension industry, the public’s interest has really begun to grow. “When I started out, as editor of a pension publication years ago, in the early 2000s, pensions were considered a dull topic,” she says. But now, as the boomer population ages and people begin to grasp the significance of pension income and retirement security, “pensions are cool,” she says with a smile.

If you’re interested in finding out what the Congress is up to, be sure to follow them on Twitter, the handle is @CLCongress. We thank Caroline Cakebread for taking the time to speak with us.

It’s true that pensions were a pretty dull topic in the early 2000s, but the growing retiree population in the intervening years has indeed make retirement security “cool.” The general decline in the number of workplaces offering plans means many of us will need to save on our own. If you’re in that number, a great resource is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Check them out today.

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

A look at the things we stop doing once retired

It’s very difficult for those of us who are retired to explain what it’s like to those still working. And it’s equally difficult for those still at the desk to visualize their time after work.  Save with SPP took a look around the Interweb to see what sort of things we don’t do once we are retired, hoping this listing might help demystify the intrigue that is retirement.

According to The Terrace blog, a thing you’ll stop doing and saying is that you’re too busy or have no time to do things. “The new retiree finally has the time to do the things that have been put off for years. This includes projects, such as cleaning out closets and other chores around the home, travel to visit family and friends, starting new leisure activities, hobbies and taking classes,” the blog notes.

The Disabled World blog lists a variety of things that most seniors will be no longer able to do, such as getting to the phone on time, reading small print, “watching bad news,” and significantly, opening packages “containing things we really want to get our hands on.” Things that were easy to do before, warns the blog, will eventually become more difficult, a factor to be aware of.

One great thing is that you can stop planning for retirement once it has happened, notes US News and World Report. You will have done all the things the article lists, such as reviewing your finances and sources of income, health and benefit coverage, and using up your last days of vacation. You won’t have to “take vacation” once retirement has begun.

The MoneySense blog notes, among other things, that you will stop not being able to see your spouse. “Sure, you love your spouse, but let’s do a little math here. Chances are, for most of your married life at least one of you has worked outside the home. Subtract sleep, travel time and other away time and you’ve seen your beloved for— at most — six hours a day,” the blog notes.

You’ll see your spouse twice as much once you retire, the blog adds, and that can cause “some couples to bicker.”

Other things Save with SPP has noted include not having to buy a commuter pass or pay for a workplace parking spot, not having to have `clothes for work,’ including a vast array of ties, dressy shoes, and suits, and not having to attend one or two meetings every day of the workweek. You’ll find you lose track of what day it is, don’t really experience a difference when it is the weekend or a holiday, and put off doing things until it is NOT the weekend so there’s better parking and less crowds.

And strangely you’ll probably find you are just as busy as you were before you retired, but it will be with different tasks and activities.

The transition to retirement is a tricky thing. Putting away a little more money for those golden years is always a good idea, because once you don’t get a paycheque you’ll be dependant on workplace pensions, government retirement benefits and your own savings. Why not perk up your personal savings through a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account? You can save at your own pace, watch your money get professionally invested at a very low fee, and then enjoy additional lifetime retirement income once you’ve left the punchclock behind. 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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Even those with workplace retirement savings plan coverage still worry about retirement: Aon research

Recent research conducted for Aon has found that Canadian workers in capital accumulation plans (CAPs), such as defined contribution (DC ) pension plans or group RRSPs, while confident about these plans and their own finances, “find it hard to save for retirement and are worried about having enough money to retire.”

The global actuarial and HR firm’s report, Global DC and Financial Wellbeing Employee Survey, also found that “fewer than half” of those surveyed have a particular goal for retirement savings, and that “depending on other sources of income, many find their current plan contribution levels are inadequate to ensure their total income needs in retirement,” according to an Aon release.

Among the other findings of the report:

  • Of the 1,003 respondents, only 27 per cent saw their financial condition as poor
  • Almost half of those surveyed say outstanding debts are preventing them from saving for retirement
  • Two of five who are in employer-matching plans (where the employer matches the contributions made by the employee) are not taking full advantage of the match
  • Of those who expect to fully retire from work, two-thirds expect to do so by age 66; 30 per cent expect to keep working forever in some capacity.

Save with SPP reached out to one of the authors of the research, Rosalind Gilbert, Associate Partner in Aon’s Vancouver office, to get a little more detail on what she made of the key findings of the research. 

Do you have a sense of what people think adequate contributions would be – maybe a higher percentage of their earnings?

“I don’t believe most respondents actually know what is ‘adequate’ for them from a savings rate perspective.  The responses are more reflective of their fears that that they don’t have enough saved to provide themselves a secure retirement.  Some may be relating this to the results of an online modeller of some kind, or feedback from financial advisors.

“I also think that many employees don’t have a clear picture of the annual income they will be receiving from Canada Pension Plan/Old Age Security to carve that out from the income they need to produce through workplace savings.  Some of this comes back to not having a retirement plan in terms of what age they might retire and, separately, what age they might start their CPP and OAS (since both of those drive the level of those benefits quite significantly).”

Is debt, for things like mortgages and credit cards, restricting savings, in that after paying off debt there is no money left for retirement savings?

“We were surprised to see the number of individuals who cited credit card debt as a barrier to saving for retirement. Some of this is the servicing (interest) cost, which is directly related to the amount of debt (and which will increase materially if interest rates do start to rise, which many are predicting).

“I think that the cost of living, primarily the cost of housing and daycare, is currently quite high for many individuals (particularly in certain areas like Vancouver), and that, combined with very high levels of student loans, means younger employees are just not able to put any additional money away for retirement.  There is also a growing generation of employees who are managing child care and parent care at the same time which is further impeding retirement savings.”

We keep hearing that workplace pensions are not common, but it appears from your research that participation rates are high (when a plan is available).

“This survey only included employees who were participating in their employers’ workplace retirement savings program.  So you are correct that industry stats show that overall coverage of Canadian employees by workplace savings programs is low, but our survey showed that where workplace savings programs are available, participation rates are high.”

What could be done to improve retirement savings outcomes – you mention many don’t take advantage of retirement programs and matching; any other areas for improvement?

“In Canada, DC pension plans and other CAPs are not as mature as they are in other countries such as the UK and US.  That said, we are now seeing the first generation of Canadians retiring with a full career of DC (rather than DB) retirement savings.  Appropriately, there has been a definite swing towards focusing on decumulation (outcomes) versus accumulation in such CAPs.

“From service providers like the insurance companies that do recordkeeping for workplace CAPs, this includes enhanced tools supporting financial literacy and retirement and financial planning.  Also, many firms who provide consulting services to employers for their workplace plans encourage those employers to focus on educating members and encouraging them to use the available tools and resources.

“However, if members are required to transfer funds out of group employer programs into individual savings and income vehicles (with associated higher fees and no risk pooling) when they leave employment, they will see material erosion of their retirement savings. Variable benefit income arrangements (LIF and RRIF type plans) within registered DC plans are able to be provided in most jurisdictions in Canada, but there are still many DC plans which still do not offer these.

“It is more difficult to provide variable benefits when the base plan is a group RRSP or RRSP/deferred profit sharing plan (DPSP) combination, but the insurance company recordkeepers all offer group programs which members can transition into after retirement to facilitate variable lifetime benefits.  The most recent Federal Budget was really encouraging with its announcement of legislation to support the availability of Advanced Life Deferred Annuities (ALDAs) and Variable Pay Life Annuities (VPLAs) from certain types of capital accumulation plans.

“There is still more work to be done to implement these and to ensure that they are more broadly available and affordable, but it is a definite step in the right direction.  A key benefit of the VPLAs is the pooling of mortality risk while maintaining low fees and professionally managed investment options within a group plan.  The cost to an individual of paying retail fees and managing investments and their own longevity risk can have a crippling impact on that member’s ultimate retirement income.”

We thank Rosalind Gilbert for taking the time to connect with us.

If you don’t have access to a workplace pension plan, or do but want to contribute more towards your retirement, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be of interest. It’s a voluntary pension plan. You decide how much to contribute (up to $6,200 per year), and your contributions are then invested for your retirement. When it’s time to turn savings into income, SPP offers a variety of annuity options that can turn your savings into a lifetime income stream.

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

Is working longer good for your health?

There’s mounting evidence that shows Canadians have to work longer than they planned, due to the combination of high personal debt and low retirement savings.

Save with SPP took a look around to see if this “new normal” is a good or bad thing, health wise.

Interviewed in Forbes magazine, Heller Sahlgren, author of Work Longer, Live Healthier, sees working longer as a positive, health-wise.

His book makes the point that healthy people in their 60s should have no problem working, and that the work is good for them. “Continuing some form of paid work in old age is one way to ensure a healthier population,” he states in the article.

How is working healthy? The article notes that “studies have found that the mental demands of a job can be a force for staving off cognitive decline, an insight summarized by the catchphrase `use it or lose it.’”

An article in the New York Times makes a similar argument. “What is the benefit of work? Activation of the brain and activation of social networks may be critical,” states Nicole Maestas, associate professor of healthcare policy at Harvard, in a Times interview.

There is a potential downside to working later in life, reports the Money Ning blog. If you’re “not passionate” about your work, or “are working in a job that is physically demanding or extremely stressful,” the idea of keeping your job “may not be a pleasant one,” the blog states.

A paper by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Working After Age 65: What is at Stake provides a great overview of this issue. One section deals with the health of older workers, and notes that “more than 50 per cent of retired workers over 65 have three or more chronic health conditions (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or arthritis.”

As well, the paper notes, “one in four fully retired workers over 55 list poor health as their reason for retirement,” adding that “many older workers will have difficulty remaining in the workforce due to poor health, even if they are not financially ready to retire.”

To recap, then, working past 65 can be good for your mind – keeping it in gear, so to speak – and the social connections from work are helpful, preventing isolation. But these benefits assume your health is good, and that seems to be the delineator – older folks do tend to have more health issues than younger ones, and if your job wore you out emotionally and physically, keeping at it may not be a great idea. So you’ll need to weigh all these factors should you consider working for the longer term.

A hedge against becoming a long-serving worker is retirement savings. Those savings give you options, such as scaling back on the amount of time you put in at work, or even moving to something that’s more fun but pays less. Be sure to make retirement savings a priority, and consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan as part of your savings toolkit. They offer an end-to-end retirement plan for you, investing your savings and turning it into a lifetime stream of income.

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

Is there benefit to retiring later?

Would people be better off if they worked a little longer, and collected their retirement benefits a little later?

A new study from the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA) called Retire Later for Greater Benefits explores this idea, and proposes a number of changes, including moving the “target eligibility age” for the Canada Pension Plan and Quebec Pension Plan to 67 from 65, while moving the earliest age for receiving these benefits from 60 to 62. As well, the CIA’s research recommends that the latest date for starting these benefits move from 70 to 75.

Old Age Security (OAS) would see its target age move to 67 from 65. For registered pension plans (RPPs), the CIA similarly recommends moving the target retirement age to 67 from 65, and the latest retirement date to 75 from 71.

Why make such changes? An infographic from the CIA notes that we are living longer – a 65-year-old man in 2016 can expect to live for 19.9 years, while a woman can expect 22.5 more years of living. This is an approximately six-year improvement versus 1966.

So we are living longer, the study notes, but face challenges, such as “continuing low interest rates, rising retirement costs, the erosion of private pensions and labour force shortages.”

Save with SPP reached out to the CIA President John Dark via email to ask a few questions about these ideas.

Is, we asked, a goal of this proposal to save the government money on benefits? Dark says no, the aim “is not about lowering costs to the government. The programs as they are currently formulated are sustainable for at least 40 to 75 years, and we believe this proposal will have minimal if any implications on the government’s costs.

“We are suggesting using the current increments available in the CPP/QPP and OAS to increase the benefits at the later age.” On the idea of government savings, Dark notes that while CPP/QPP are paid for by employers and employees, OAS is paid directly through government revenue.

Our next question was about employment – if full government pension benefits begin later, could there be an impact on employment opportunities for younger people, as older folks work longer, say until age 75?

“We’re not recommending 75 as the normal retirement age,” explains Dark. “We are recommending that over a phase-in period of about 10 years we move from a system where people think of ‘normal’ retirement age as 65 to one where 67 (with higher benefits) is the norm.

“The lifting of the end limit from 71 to 75 is at the back end; there are currently those who continue to work past normal retirement and can continue to do so even later if they choose,” he explains. “Current legislation forces retirees to start taking money out of RRSPs and RPPs at age 71 – we think this should increase to 75 to support the increasing number of Canadians who are working longer.”

As for the idea of younger workers being blocked from employment opportunities, Dark says “if we had a very static workforce this might as you suggest cause a bit of blockage for new entrants, but as we say in the paper, Canada has the opposite problem.

“Many areas are having a difficult time finding workers,” he explains, adding that “in the very near future a great many baby boomers will begin to retire. We think allowing people who want to remain in the work force can help with that.

“It’s important to remember that if you have planned retirement at 65 this proposal won’t prevent you from doing that except that OAS wouldn’t be available until 67 instead of 65 (and we expect the government would explore other options for supporting vulnerable populations who need OAS-type support at earlier ages).” Dark explains.

Would starting benefits later mean a bigger lifetime benefit, and could it help with the finnicky problem of “decumulation,” where retirement savings are turned into an income stream?

“Under our proposal,” Dark explains, “people could work just a little longer and get higher benefits for life. By itself that doesn’t make decumulation any less tricky – but perhaps a little more secure.

“For many people in defined contribution (DC) plans who have no inflation protection, longevity guarantees, or investment performance guarantees from an employer, using your own funds earlier and leaving the start of CPP and OAS to as late as possible can help provide some of the best protection against inflation for at least part of your retirement income,” he adds. And, he notes, because you waited, you will get a bigger benefit than you would have got at 65.

Finally, we asked if having a longer runway to retirement age might help Canadians save more for their golden years.

“Clearly by having a longer period of work you have more opportunity to accumulate funds, and by providing more security of retirement income it will help as well,” Dark notes. “We also know that Canadians are already starting their careers later in life – getting established in their 30s rather than their 20s, for example – and need that longer runway anyway.

“Overall, to me the most important word in the report is `nudge.’ If we can get people to think about retirement sooner and get governments to act on a number of areas that we and others have outlined we hope to improve retirement security for Canadians. This is just the start of a journey that will have lots of chapters.”

We thank John Dark, as well as Sandra Caya, CIA’s Associate Director, Communications and Public Affairs, for taking the time to speak with Save with SPP. Some additional research of the CIA’s can be found on Global News Radio, BNN Bloomberg and the Globe and Mail.

Even if the runway towards retirement age is lengthened, it’s never too early to start saving for retirement. If you don’t have a workplace pension plan, or do but want to augment it, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be a vehicle whose tires you should consider kicking. It’s an open DC plan with a good track record of low-cost investment success, and many options at retirement for converting your savings to a lifetime income stream.

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

“Canadian dream” far more difficult to achieve for younger Canadians

“Canadian dream” far more difficult to achieve for younger Canadians 

For boomers, the “Canadian dream” more or less echoed the dream our parents had – education, work, a house, a family, maybe even a cottage, and then a well-deserved retirement.

Research (using 2015 data) shows there is a serious flaw in this narrative for our millennial children. According to research from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), featured in a National Post article, millennials are “less likely to reach middle-income levels in their 20s than their baby boomer parents.”

Why aren’t our kids making it to the middle class?

The research suggests “the middle class is shrinking — squeezed by high housing and education costs, displaced by automation and lacking the skills most valued in the digital economy.” The middle class is defined, for a single person in Canada, as requiring an income level of 75 to 200 per cent of the national median income, the article reports. For single Canucks, that’s $29,000 to about $78,000, the story notes.

One of the unfortunate aspects of this so-called dream is that in order to advance upwards, you have to achieve each step of the ladder. Education costs have skyrocketed in the last few decades, forcing younger people to have to take out huge education loans. Wages from work, the article notes, aren’t keeping up with the real cost of living. According to the OECD research, “between 2008 and 2016 real median incomes grew by an average of just 0.3 per cent per year,” compared to 1.6 per cent annually in the mid-1990s to 2000s.

So the wages from work aren’t sufficient for housing, with middle-income earners having to spend “almost a third of their income on accommodation,” the report states. In the 1990s, that figure was more like 25 per cent.  That’s why our millennials struggle to get to the “getting a house” stage, and if they can afford to start a family, is there anything left over for that dream cottage and longish retirement?

According to the Seeking Alpha blog, the answer is probably no. “At 1.1%, the Canadian saving rate is today near all-time lows, while Canadian debt is at all-time highs,” the blog notes. There’s an obvious reason – wages haven’t kept up with the cost of housing, so the younger folks are straining just to cover the mortgage. There’s less left for saving.

Research by Richard Shillington has found that even boomers aren’t awash in savings as they approach retirement. His study found that 47 per cent of Canadians aged 55 to 64 have “no accrued pension benefits,” and that for this age group, the median level of retirement savings was a paltry $3,000.

There’s still time to turn this ship around. Policy makers should continue to look at ways to help new people enter the housing market, and perhaps old ideas like housing co-operatives – popular when high interest rates restricted people from owning homes – should be revisited. Ways to make education less costly would be a huge help. Improved government pension benefits are a help, but why not continue to develop new workplace pension plans – or continue to encourage private employers to join publicly-run plans? Any policy that helps Canadians move up that middle class ladder is worth exploring.

If you’re among the many Canadians lacking a pension plan at work, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is designed with you in mind. You determine how much you want to save, and they do the rest, investing your money through your working years and arranging to pay you a monthly lifetime pension at the finish line. Even a small start can make a big difference down the road.

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

Cash back – is it really a great way to save money?

At one time, the world of credit was filled with all sorts of incentives to get you using the card – travel points, points for goods and services, and so on.  But lately, it seems that points are being joined and even overtaken by cash back credit cards and shopping sites. Save with SPP had a look around the Interweb to see what people think about this apparently popular trend.

The Centsai blog agrees that there “are plenty of financial benefits of cash back rewards cards,” but warns consumers to “make sure you don’t fall victim to traps that will wipe out those benefits.”

Cash back credit cards, the blog notes, usually “offer a base level of cash back – usually one to two per cent of all purchases.” (This blog is aimed at the US market, which is similar but not identical to Canada’s.) Some products will give you an even higher discount on pre-selected categories, such as dining out, the blog notes.

Money comes back to you either as a statement credit, or by some sort of direct payment or cheque, the blog reports.

So what’s wrong with getting some of your money back? The problem, Centsai notes, is that you have to spend quite a lot on your card to get significant cash rewards back. We are talking maybe $2 on every $100 spent. “People can easily go out-of-control with their spending by viewing each potential purchase as a rewards-earning opportunity not to be missed,” the blog explains.

As well, notes the blog, the true benefit of cash back accrues for those who pay their credit cards off in full each month. For that type of user, the blog says, cash back is win-win. Turning this idea around, those who max out their credit cards to get the cash back may find that the interest they owe is much more than the cash they got back.

If you do a lot of online shopping, Ebates might be worth a look, reports Yahoo! News. “Ebates receives a commission from retailers for sending shoppers their way,” the article notes. “The app features daily deals such as 14 per cent cash back on purchases at.. Travelocity, Microsoft and dozens of other retailers. Cash back is paid quarterly by cheque or via PayPal.”

Save with SPP has personally tried both these types of things, and what the articles are saying is true. If you are great with your credit cards and pay them off completely each month, these ideas are like free money. If, like Save with SPP, you are less than perfect with your credit cards, the benefits of the cash back are minimized – you have spent more in interest, potentially, than what you are getting back in rebates.

Credit and its evil twin, debt, are a lot like being overweight and out of shape. With a lot of work, and a lot of cutting back, you can make a dent in excess credit (or weight). But you need a lot of self-discipline, and if you have it, you’ll succeed.

So, if you’re good with your credit card and can generate extra cash via cashback products, a good destination for them is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Even small amounts here and there will add up over time and will augment your retirement income – a sort of future cash back reward, if you will. Check them out today.

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