Personal finance

Resolve to save in 2021

January 7, 2021

It’s the start of the New Year, and if there’s one thing we think everyone can agree on, it is really nice to see 2020 not hitting the door on the way out.

A New Year brings new promises, in the form of resolutions. Late-night host Conan O’Brien sums up how we all feel about the crazy year just ended, saying that his resolution for 2021 is “spend less time with my family.” Ouch.

Save with SPP took a look around the Interweb to see what people are resolving to do this year on the savings front.

At the Save.ca blog, there’s some good resolution advice on what to do with any extra money that comes your way in 2021, perhaps via a raise, a bonus, or a lottery payout.

“Whatever the source of the windfall, a good rule of thumb is to divide the extra money among the past, present, and future. If you have significant debts, use one-third of the windfall to pay some of those off, addressing concerns from the past. Save one-third, looking to the future,” the blog tells us.

“Use no more than one-third to address your present wish list — things like home improvements or even the purchase of something you’ve had your eye on but couldn’t previously afford,” say the folks at Save.ca.

Other advice for 2021 – save big by eating more at home, leave the ATM card at the house, and “pay yourself first.” You should “start adding yourself to the list of bills that need to be paid. Pay yourself with a set amount designated for investment or savings each month,” Save.ca advises.

The CBC suggests a “30-day spending detox” immediately as the New Year begins. The broadcaster quotes Calgary finance expert Lesley-Anne Scorgie as saying a “detox” means “turning the taps off to that habitual spending that you were doing throughout the month of December — and, let’s face it, for many months before the holiday season as well.”

The detox, she says in the CBC article, can be carried out by reducing spending “on anything that’s non-essential.” Suggestions include take-out coffee, subscriptions to streaming TV services, “the nails, the rims for your car,” and so on, she states.

A bunch of little cuts can add up to $25 a day – or close to $700 a month – that can be put away in a savings account, Scorgie says.

CityNews Toronto reports on recent research by Bromwich+Smith, which found Canadians “are eager to make fundamental life changes in 2021 following months of pandemic induced lockdowns and restrictions.”

Sixty per cent of those surveyed want to “support small and local businesses going forward,” the broadcaster notes. Fifty-nine per cent want to “enjoy the little things in life,” and 47 per cent want to live “more frugally.” Other top resolutions included being kinder to others (41 per cent) and travelling to other provinces (35 per cent), CityNew reports.

Whatever you do to improve your finances, take small steps, advises noted financial reporter Pattie Lovett-Reid.

Talking on BNN Bloomberg’s show The Open, she says thinking too large “may be too big and audacious a goal,” she explains. Instead, she recommends we say to ourselves “OK, what can I do each month to move forward our financial plan?” If you succeed, great, if you don’t, there are many more months to go, she notes. “You have to know how much you owe, and how much you own – that will give you an opportunity to make changes, and to get corrective action in place,” she explains.

Looking for a 2021 resolution? How about this – why not increase your contribution to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s a quick and easy way to pay yourself first, whether you contribute weekly or monthly, or via a lump sum. Not an SPP member? Check out SPP today; in 2021 SPP is commemorating 35 years of providing retirement security.

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 back, 2020 was a real roller coaster for investors and savers

December 10, 2020

If there’s one thing almost everyone can agree on, it was great to celebrate – in a limited, socially distanced way – the end of the brutal year 2020, when the pandemic slammed the world.

It’s been a particularly frightening year for those of us struggling to save a few bucks for our retirement.

Back in February, when the COVID-19 crisis was beginning to take effect, stock markets dropped sharply, erasing “four years of gains,” reports Maclean’s . The market’s crash was based on fear – “not knowing how severe COVID was going to be in terms of morbidity,” the magazine explains.

In addition to the shocking numbers of deaths and sickness COVID-19 delivered, it also walloped our economy. According to Wealth Professional, quoting Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem, Canada’s economy “is expected to shrink by 5.5 per cent for the whole of 2020, with the initial rebound following the First Wave of the pandemic having eased.”

We all know what he’s talking about here – the First Wave led to lockdowns and business closures, and high unemployment. There was a break in the summer as much of the shuttered economy reopened, but now the Second Wave is causing lockdowns and job losses once again.

The usual safe harbour for savers when the economy (and stock markets) are volatile is in fixed income, investments that pay us interest. However, in order to reboot the economy, the Bank of Canada is planning to keep interest rates low “until 2023,” Macklem states in the Wealth Professional article.

Those “low for long” interest rates mean it is not the best time to buy bonds or guaranteed investment certificates (GICs). Some savers looked to the real estate investment trust (REIT) market to replace the income their fixed income was providing, notes The Motley Fool. While some REITs, notably industrial ones, and those involved with warehousing and data centres did well, “retail and hospitality REITs… had lost 80 per cent of their value at the market’s bottom.” The Motley Fool article wonders how investments in commercial office and retail space will fare in a world where most people are working from home.

Now that 2020 is behind us, there are signs of better days ahead.

The markets in Canada and around the world are now recovering due to late-year news that effective vaccines are nearly ready for distribution.

Dave Randall of Reuters, writing in the Chronicle-Herald, notes that November was “a record-breaking month as the prospect of a vaccine-driven economic recovery next year and further central bank stimulus measures eclipsed immediate concerns about the spiking coronavirus pandemic.”

Let’s review all this. The pandemic hit us hard, sending markets down, throwing people out of work, shrinking the economy. Central banks had to cut interest rates to reduce borrowing costs. That’s great for borrowing but less great for saving. Those looking to replace the interest they weren’t getting had to navigate a market that dropped by 40-50 per cent in the late winter and is recovering, and they had to face the reality that some sectors were doing far better than others.

2021, however, looks like a better year. Market optimism is returning, and once the vaccines start to get distributed around the country, we will (hopefully) start to see a return to more normal times, with no lockdowns and business restrictions.

The point of retirement saving is putting money away for the future, which may be quite soon or decades away. If you’re worried about saving on your own for retirement during these volatile days, you might consider teaming up with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. With SPP, experts run the money at an extremely low cost. We all have enough to worry about these days – let SPP take the worry of pandemic-era retirement saving off of your plate!

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.


Workplace pensions can ease pandemic financial worries, panelists say

December 3, 2020

A recent online event, COVID-19 and Canada’s Workforce: A Crisis of Financial Security, suggests the pandemic has thrown a wrench into the retirement plans of Canadians.

The event, hosted by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) and Common Wealth, took a look at how the pandemic is impacting our finances.

Common Wealth’s founding partner, Alex Mazer, noted that even before COVID-19, 43 per cent of Canadians were living cheque to cheque. Forty-four per cent had less than $5,000 in emergency savings, and 21 per cent had less than $1,000, Mazer says.

On the retirement savings front, Mazer says, things are even bleaker. “The median retirement savings of near-retirement households is only $3,000,” he notes. Four of 10 Canadians have no retirement savings at all, and 10 million lack any kind of workplace pension program.

With the pandemic now impacting work and income, many Canadians “don’t feel they have the capacity to save… and that is a real problem for our society,” he warns.

Citing recent research from FP Canada, Mazer noted that worries about money impact our performance at work. That research found 44 per cent of Canadians are “stressed” about their finances, and research from the Canadian Payroll Association found we are spending “30 minutes a day worrying” about money.

“If you are worried about your finances, it’s hard to bring your full self to work,” Mazer notes.

He noted that the lack of workplace pensions, long considered a pillar of Canada’s retirement system along with government pension benefits and individual savings, is having a negative impact.

“The greatest weakness in the Canada’s retirement system is the lack of workplace pensions,” he says. Coverage levels today are at about half of what they were in the 1970s.

Mazer is a proponent of giving more Canadians access to pension programs; he says the most efficient types are “large scale pooled plans, or large Canada model (defined benefit) plans.” Both types feature retirement saving at low fees, professional investing, and risk pooling, he explains.

Elizabeth Mulholland, CEO of Prosper Canada, says 47 per cent of people working in the non-profit sector work freelance or part time, and face lower pay. “Insecurity is a way of life for our sector,” she says.

She notes that 28 per cent of Canadians have raided their registered retirement savings plans or Tax Free Savings Accounts due to the pandemic. “They have depleted their already inadequate retirement savings, and are now further behind due to COVID,” Mulholland says, adding that the pandemic has been “a wakeup call for the financial vulnerability of Canadians.”

Pension plans should consider automatic enrolment – an “opt out” feature rather than “opt in” – and need to be flexible for part-time workers. She says support for workers with general financial literacy would help them make the most of their retirement benefits.

Bell Canada Vice-President, Pension & Benefits and Assistant Treasurer Eleanor Marshall says her company’s pension plan is appreciated by employees. “Eighty per cent strongly value the pension plan,” she explains.

When COVID hit, she says, “there were a couple of responses from our employees.” Top priority, she says, was health and safety and social distancing. Next was job security. But the third concern was their pension plan and its investments.

Marshall says there needs to be more emphasis on individuals building emergency savings for situations – such as during the pandemic – when they need to “bridge the gap” for a period of job loss.

Pension plans, she adds, are important “for attracting and retention.” While younger employees don’t worry much or think about their pensions, they “will eventually appreciate having a pension plan” once they get older.

In general, Marshall said, there’s a link between financial wellness and mental wellness, and delivering a retirement system for employees is a positive measure on both fronts.

Renee Legare, Executive Vice-President and Chief Human Resources Officer at The Ottawa Hospital, says that during the pandemic, the worry for hospital workers wasn’t so much job security but definitely “their health and wellness.” She says healthcare workers feel lucky to have a good workplace pension.

She says portability – the ability to continue with the pension when you move from one job to another – is a solid feature of the plan. “It’s a major benefit for healthcare workers; they can move from one employer to another without losing their (pension) investment,” she explains.

The event was chaired by Ivana Zanardo, Vice President of Client Services at HOOPP. Save with SPP would like to thank James Guezebroek of HOOPP for directing us to the presentation.

If you’re among the many millions of Canadians who don’t have a workplace pension plan, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be the savings program for you. It features low-cost, professional investing and pooling, and since it is a member-directed savings program you can continue to belong to SPP even if you change jobs. SPP can also be offered as a workplace pension. Why not check out it 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.


Suggestions on how to invest during the pandemic

November 5, 2020

There’s no question that the pandemic has thrown a wrench into the financial plans of most Canadians.

New research from Manulife, its annual Financial Stress Survey of Canadians, tells us that Canadians are really worried about money.

Stress about money has risen to 27 per cent (it was 11 per cent pre-COVID), the research notes, and 51 per cent reported dipping into emergency funds or even retirement accounts to keep afloat. A whopping 63 per cent said they were now going to seek advice about how to invest, up from 50 per cent last year.

Save with SPP took a look around the Interweb to see what sort of advice people had for jittery investors. We looked for approaches one might follow, and not specific stock tip advice.

Concordia University’s Alumni & Friends publication quotes financial adviser Adrian Chomenko as saying investors need to “relax, stay the course, and try not to predict the future.”

“Bear markets are as common as dirt. We’ve lived through them before and all you’ve got to do is sit through it,” states Chomenko in the article. He is adamant with his clients, the article reports, “that his strategy does not include speculating on the latest investment trends such as cannabis and bitcoin.”

“My strategy is plain vanilla: simple diversification and regular rebalancing,” Chomenko tells the publication.

Writing for the Motley Fool UK blog, Thomas Carr offers these tips – invest in quality, avoid “stricken sectors,” and to look for value.

He writes that many companies will suffer during the pandemic, but “the strongest may survive and prosper. These are companies that have strong brands, pricing power and high profit margins. They’re the household names that we stock in our fridges and the supermarkets that we shop in.”

Stricken sectors to consider avoiding, he writes, include “travel and hospitality in particular… they’ve had months of revenue wiped out, in many cases leading to giant losses.” Losses may continue into the new year, he warns.

Watch for stocks that are “undervalued… and appear cheap.” Carr says that “if the underlying company is of sufficient quality, there’s only so far its share price is likely to fall before its value becomes attractive and its price recovers.”

At Forbes magazine,  Pam Krueger, co-host of the PSB program Moneytrack, says she favours “conservative stocks that pay reliable dividends” as a good bet during the pandemic.

Bonds are often seen as a hedge against volatile stocks, but the article warns that right now, there’s a risk of interest rates rising and bond prices falling, a situation that would make a bet on bonds a money-loser.

“I say: ‘Stay at the shallow end of the pool, the shortest end, with bond funds,” said Krueger. “You don’t want to get too far out on the risk continuum,’” she tells Forbes.

This is a broad topic, but if there’s an overall theme coming through here, it is to be cautious. These experts are warning against radical, rushed changes – don’t let panic impact your thinking. Every crisis has a beginning, but also an end, and this one will eventually play out too.

Investing on your own can be fun, but less so when market conditions are volatile. If you’re worried about running your retirement savings, perhaps it’s time to consider finding a home for them at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) will invest your savings expertly, and the plan boasts an impressive average rate of return of eight per cent since SPP’s inception nearly 35 years ago. Consider letting SPP’s talented money managers assist with the worry of retirement investing.

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 age old question – should you pay off debt or save for retirement

October 15, 2020

As a society, we are inundated with advertising on TV, social media and traditional newspapers that urge us all to save for retirement. We see a similar number of headlines, tweets and news items warning us that Canadians have record levels of household debt.

We are told to save for retirement, but also to pay off our debts. Is there a correct answer to the question of which comes first, retirement saving or debt reduction? Save with SPP clicked around to see what people are saying about this topic.

CTV British Columbia notes that the question for any leftover money at the end of the month is typically “spend it or save it.”

In the CTV report, Penny Wang of Consumer Reports proposes doing both. “It’s difficult to tackle two financial goals at once, but if you take a two-pronged approach, you can save for retirement and pay down your debt at the same time,” she tells the broadcaster.

Wang says you need to start by creating a basic budget to see where your money is going. This can help free up more for debt reduction and saving, she advises. Make your own coffee and cook at home, she suggests.

Take that extra money and put some on debt, targeting “high interest debt like credit cards first,” and lower interest debt later. For long-term savings, the article suggests setting up some sort of automatic withdrawal plan so the cash is gone before you have time to spend it.

The MoneyTalks News blog comes down a little more on the side of retirement saving.

“While living debt-free is a great goal, accumulating a pile of cash is critical, especially for those approaching retirement,” states MoneyTalks News founder Stacy Johnson in the article.

Debts like mortgages, he explains, can be dealt with by selling off your house and renting, but when you are entering retirement, “cash is king.”

He advises people to save “as much as possible” inside and outside retirement accounts, and once a “comfortable cushion” is achieved, you can turn your attention to putting extra money on debt, including mortgages.

So let’s put this together. At a time when the pandemic has many of us off work and/or receiving government help, we’re dealing with two problems – high household debt and low retirement savings. We know how much debt we have. According to the Motley Fool blog notes the following:

“To understand whether your registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) measures up, it helps to look at how other Canadians are doing with theirs. There are ample studies out there to help you find that out. One such study from the Bank of Montreal revealed the average Canadian’s RRSP balance.

The amount? $101,155.

At an average portfolio yield of 3.5%, that pays about $3,500 a year.

A nice income supplement, but nothing you can retire on.

Clearly, you’ll need more than that to retire comfortably. The question is, how much more?”

So, for those of us with debt, and without sufficient retirement savings, any road will take us to Rome. Whether you decide to save for retirement first and deal with debt later, or go with the two-pronged approach, succeeding in managing debt and growing savings will deliver you a lot more security once you’re retired.

If you’re in the market for a retirement savings plan, you may want to consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP). The SPP allows you to contribute in many different ways – you can have money directly transferred from your bank account on a monthly basis, or you can set up SPP as an online bill and transfer in money now and then. That flexibility can help you ratchet up savings even as you chip away at debt.

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.


About one-third of Canadians lack an emergency fund – here are some tips to get you started

August 20, 2020

According to a recent article in MoneySense nearly two-thirds of Canadians have built an emergency fund. That’s great, but means that one-third of us have not.

For those of us is in that bottom third, an emergency fund is designed to cover “unexpected expenses, such as urgent major repairs (not renovations) to your home or car, unexpected medical expenses not covered by universal healthcare or insurance, or lack of income due to job loss,” MoneySense explains.

As many of us are finding out during this bizarre year 2020, without an emergency fund, these unexpected expenses are being covered “with a credit card… payday loans, or heavily using your unsecured line of credit,” the article continues. All of these are high-interest options, and the interest piles up if you can’t pay the money back in full.

Some folks also raid their retirement savings to pay the bills, a strategy that can backfire at tax time or in the distant future when you’re trying to leave the workforce – more about that later.

MoneySense recommends we all set aside enough money to cover “three to six months’ worth of fixed expenses.” OK, so we know the what and the why – let’s turn to the how.

An emergency fund, the article suggests, should not be set up like a retirement savings account. “Saving for an emergency isn’t about long-term goals, increasing your wealth, or planning for retirement, it’s about having immediate access to cash,” the site advises.

MoneySense recommends that you first create a budget to see how much you can set aside each month. That amount should be invested in either a TFSA or a high-interest savings account, the article notes. “Disconnect the account from your debit card so you won’t spend it,” the article advises. Automate payments so you don’t “forget” to make them, MoneySense says. “Pay yourself first.”

At Manulife’s website, the advice is similar. An additional idea on how to build the emergency fund is to cut back on costs – “think about how much you spend on coffee, lunches out, and other impulse purchases. Give up one or two things and week and stash that money into your savings,” the site suggests.

They also reiterate the idea of making savings automatic – treat your emergency fund “like a bill… the sooner it’s saved, the less time you will have to spend it.” Manulife also warns against the dangers of analysis paralysis – start small, say $10 a week or so, and ratchet things up as you go along.

Sun Life covers much of the same ground, but warns against using debt as an emergency fund or tapping into retirement savings.

“All withdrawals from RRSPs (except for education and home purchases, under the Lifelong Learning Plan and the Home Buyers’ Plan, respectively) are subject to income tax and will result in the permanent loss of contribution room – that is, once you’ve taken it out, you can’t put it back in. Any withdrawals from your RRSP are immediately subject to withholding tax,” Sun Life explains.

“If you withdraw up to $5,000, the withholding tax rate is 10 per cent. If you withdraw between $5,001 and $15,000, the withholding tax rate is 20 per cent, and more than $15,000, the rate is 30 per cent. These tax rates apply in all provinces except Quebec, where provincial tax rates apply on top of the federal withholding tax,” the Sun Life article warns.

So to recap – create a savings account that isn’t hooked up to any of your cards, and automatically transfer money into it regularly. Keep the money in some sort of high-interest savings account so that it remains liquid, and ready to spend when an emergency arrives. You don’t want to risk losses here.

Think of it as an obligation, like a bill, that you have to pay each month. Then set it and forget it, until the next emergency comes along.

And if you’re busily automating your emergency fund savings, think about doing the same thing for your Saskatchewan Pension Plan retirement account. Have a pre-set amount earmarked for retirement automatically withdrawn from your bank account every payday. That way, just as is the case for a well-designed emergency fund, you’re paying your future self first.

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 are the best ways to teach your kids about saving?

July 23, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Martin Biefer

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


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

July 16, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Martin Biefer

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


Pandemic has dethroned cash as the monarch of personal finance

May 14, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ways to save as we wait out the coronavirus

April 16, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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