Category Archives: Personal finance

What do people tend to give up when they retire?

For most of us, retirement is a time when we are expected to make do with less income. That led us to wonder what, if anything, people give up when they decide to take the retirement plunge.

The news isn’t all that bad.

According to CNBC, via Yahoo! Finance, it is recommend that – by age 40 or so – you begin to give up “mindless spending, lifestyle inflation, excess living space, and a willingness to wait and see.” You won’t, the article suggests, be able to afford these things when you are retired.

The “wait and see” advice refers to your expected future spending, the article says. You’ll give up commuting and being stuck in traffic “and will probably spend more in other categories, like entertainment, recreation and travel,” the article states. You should factor these expected future changes in expenses into your savings plan, the article advises.

An article in the Globe and Mail offers a slightly less rosy viewpoint.

When you retire, the article notes, citing findings from a CBS Moneywatch article by Steve Vernon, we can lose our “engagement with life” when we stop working. “You can get engagement with life from working, but you can also get it from taking up causes, volunteering, pursuing hobbies, and contributing to your family and community,” the article notes. Failing to do that can, in some cases, actually shorten your life – so it’s an important thing to avoid giving up.

Another thing we often give up, notes Casey Research, is our active income from working. Not working means we lose our work contacts, and giving up on active income means “your ability to make smart investment decisions drops because of your dependence on passive income.”

On balance, however, there are more things that are good to give up than bad, suggests US News and World Report. You can, the article says, give up on “the drug of ambition,” and can stop worrying about promotions, better titles, or offices with a window.

You can give up not having time for movies, books and TV shows, and can still choose to not give up working altogether, the article adds. Never again will you not have time to volunteer, travel, and spend time with family – you will be “living the dream” in retirement, the article concludes.

You’re in charge of that future dream, both the financial and lifestyle side of things. A great way to save for retirement on your own is through the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, which is open to all Canadians. Be sure to check it out today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Planning critical in The 5 Years Before You Retire

We all know we should start thinking hard about retirement at some point.  But when?

Emily Guy Birken, author of The 5 Years Before You Retire, believes that your last 60 months at work is the best and most realistic time to polish off your retirement plans. That’s because those last five years represent “the point at which it really hits home to most people that they’re actually going to retire in the foreseeable future.”

Things, she writes, have changed. Fifty years ago, she writes, “most workers took retirement at age 65, and life expectancy for men was a mere 66.6 years of age – meaning that most retirees only enjoyed just over a year and a half of leisure.” That shorter lifespan made generous pensions more affordable for employers, because “they didn’t expect to pay them for very long.”

Now, she writes, only about 22 per cent of American workers (the book is aimed at a U.S. audience) are “offered a traditional defined benefit pension,” meaning most have to save on their own via capital accumulation plans (here, this means defined contribution plans and RRSPs).  As well, they can expect to live much longer.

So if you are saving on your own, are there things you can do in the last five years of work that will help you? Birken suggests downsizing your home, paying off or reducing your mortgage, taking in roommates or boarders, moving somewhere that is cheaper, going down to one car and cutting back on restaurants and entertainment. Those steps can really help you free up money for retirement savings, she notes.

She writes that drawing down the savings is tricky. “Determining how much you can afford to withdraw each year is more complicated than simply dividing your nest egg by the number of years you hope to live,” Birken notes. A good rule of thumb, she writes, is the so-called “four per cent method,” where your goal is to withdraw up to four per cent of your savings while reinvesting the other 96 per cent.

Another good strategy is an annuity, idea for those “who struggle with money discipline.” An annuity will give you lifetime monthly income, but she says they are not all the same so you should explore all annuity options before choosing the one that is best for your situation.

Birken says that if you possibly can, pay off your mortgage before you retire, because it is “likely your largest monthly expense.” However, these days houses cost more so about 40 per cent of us do carry mortgages into retirement.

Any debt in retirement is a burden, she writes. Yet in the US and Canada, most retirees still have debt. If you have five years to go before you retire, she advises, “prioritize your payment strategy to destroy high-interest debt, such as credit cards and car loans, first.”

There are lots of great tips in here, and although much of the health insurance and government programs part is not relevant to Canadians, this book can give you some good ideas on how to maximize your last years of full-time earnings.

And remember – any money saved in the 60-month run-up to retirement can easily be added to your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account, and the plan does offer a variety of annuity options. Check out the options available.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

5 Common Home-Buying Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Buying a property can be fun and exciting. If you’re buying a new property, you can choosing everything down to the design of your countertops and the type of flooring. If you’re buying a used (resale) home, you don’t get as much choice with the property itself, but you can choose to buy a neighbourhood with everything that you’re looking for (provided it’s within your budget).

While purchasing a property can be a lot of fun, there are costly home-buying pitfalls you can make along the way. By making these costly mistakes, it can set you back months or even years in your finances. You’ll have less money to save in the SPP and for other goals like an early retirement.

Without further ado, here are five common home-buying mistakes and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Not Getting Preapproved for a Mortgage
Before going house hunting, don’t forget to get preapproved for a mortgage. Without being preapproved, you’ll have no clue about how much you can afford to spend on a property. You could buy a home for $600K, only to find out that based on your income and down payment amount, you can only spend $550K on a home. Yikes! Don’t let this happen to you.

When you get preapproved for a mortgage, you also benefit from something referred to as a rate hold. With a rate hold, if mortgage rates go up while your preapproval is in effect (typically 90 to 120 days), you’re guaranteed the lower rate (or the spread if you’re preapproved for a variable rate mortgage). You have absolutely nothing to lose.

Just because your lender preapproves you to spend $550K on a home, doesn’t mean that you should go out and spend that much – or even more. Take the time to prepare a mock budget (or if you’re already a homeowner, use your current budget as a mock budget for the property you’re thinking of buying). See what your budget would be like if you actually moved into the home. Budget for ongoing costs like your mortgage payments, utilities, property taxes and home insurance.

You’ll want to leave some breathing room in case you run into any financial difficulties along the way like costly home renovations or losing your job. You also don’t want to find yourself “house rich, cash poor,” with no money left over to save or have fun.

Mistake #2: Buying a Home for the Looks
Purchasing a property based solely on looks is a lot like dating based solely on appearance. Sure, looks are important to a degree, but other factors like compatibility matters, as well.

When you step foot inside a property the first time, it’s easy to get distracted by the wrong things. Sure, it’s nice to find a home with hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances, but what about the “bones” of the property? I’m talking about the roof, furnace, windows and structure. Anyone can hire a contractor to put in a new kitchen, but if the roof is leaking and the windows are old, ask yourself, do you have the money to invest in upgrading them? If it’s a house flip, it’s not unheard of for corners to be cut on renovations. Pay special attention on everything  to stay clear of a home that’s a money pit.

Mistake #3: Not Putting Enough Money Aside for Closing Costs
When buying a home, it’s easy to overlook closing costs, but they’re anything but a drop in the bucket. Closing costs typically add up to between 1.5 and 4 percent of the purchase price of your home. For example, on a $550K home, you’d be spending up to $22K on the so-called “transactional costs of real estate.” And it’s your responsibility to have the funds for closing costs. Your lender won’t foot the bill for your closing costs.

The most common closing costs for homebuyers incur are land transfer tax, real estate lawyer fees and home inspection fees. If you’re buying a home the first time, the good news is you may be eligible for a rebate on land transfer tax depending on the province you’re buying in. Nevertheless, closing costs can still add up to a lot. Don’t forget about them!

Mistake #4: Forgoing a Home Inspection
In more competitive housing markets, you may be tempted to forgo your home inspection. When you find a property that you like and 5 other people are interested, it’s tempting to skip the home inspection and make a clean offer (an offer without any conditions). While a clean offer can help you come out on the winning end in a bidding war, you’re also leaving yourself open to all sorts of costly repairs you may not have anticipated. For example, your new home could have issues with the structure or a knob and tube wiring that an inspector could have flagged.

Hiring a certified and experienced home inspector is money well spent. You’re making the single largest purchase of your lifetime after all. If you’re afraid you might not get the home if you make it conditional on inspection, why not get the inspection done ahead of time? If the inspection is good, you can make an offer knowing that you’re investing in a property that’s a good long-term investment.

Mistake #5: Choosing a Mortgage Only for the Rate
When you go to the supermarket to buy bread, do you buy the cheapest loaf? I hope not. You look at other things like carbs, sugar and dietary fiber. So, why do so many of us do the same thing when looking for a mortgage? We look for the mortgage with the lowest rate when there are so many other factors to consider – mortgage penalties, prepayments and portability to name a few.

Mortgage penalties are probably the last thing on your mind when signing up for a mortgage, but you should care. Here’s why. If you’re signing up for a 5-year fixed rate mortgage like most Canadians, 6 out of 10 Canadians who sign up for that mortgage type will break it before the end of their mortgage term. If you asked those same 10 Canadians whether they’d break their mortgage when signing up, all 10 would probably say, no way!

That’s why if there’s a chance you could break your mortgage, it’s a good idea to choose one with a fair penalty. That’s where a mortgage broker comes in handy. A broker can help you choose the ideal mortgage based on your financial situation. You may be better off paying a slightly higher mortgage rate if it has other features that are important to you like prepayments and a lower penalty.

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

What the heck is robo-investing and why is it popular?

For most people, investing means a trip to the bank or a broker, a “know your client” interview, and then a portfolio design, often featuring stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Those with smaller amounts of money to invest are often encouraged to start off with mutual funds and branch out later.

There’s a relatively new kid on the block called robo-investing that does things a little differently, so Save with SPP decided to try and understand the principles behind it.

First, this is a robo-service, reports a Global News article. So instead of meeting someone, you visit a website and sign up. “When you sign up with a robo adviser, you usually have to answer an online questionnaire about things like your financial goals and how nervous you get when the stock market goes down.”

Next, the article notes, the robo-firm will “invest your funds in low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) based on your personal profile and risk tolerance.” Because an ETF approach is used, fees are usually low, around 0.5 per cent versus the 1-2 per cent charged “for traditional investment advice,” the article reports.

Over time having a low-fee investment vehicle can be important. Two per cent doesn’t sound like much, but when charged to your account for 25 or 30 years, it can really eat into your investment returns, leaving you with less to live on in retirement.

The up side to robo-investing, the article says, is the low cost “set it and forget it” approach. The robo-firm reacts to market changes based on your preferences, rebalancing your portfolio when markets surge. This not only saves you time and trouble, the article notes, but it is automatic – great if you are a procrastinator.

The down side? The fees are low, sure, but there are no management fees if you buy stocks and bonds in your self-directed portfolio. There are standalone ETFs that rebalance themselves, the article notes. Advice from the robo-adviser is somewhat limited, the article says, but it concludes that the option is an attractive one for younger investors who are building their savings.

Save with SPP likes any and all forms of savings vehicles. And SPP itself is also worth a look when discussing retirement savings options. The SPP Balanced Fund has posted some impressive numbers since its inception in the 1980s, and SPP fees are on the low side – from 1992 to 2017 they averaged less than 1 per cent per year.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

What the pros can tell us about managing money better

We all want to be great managers of our money. And the road to great money management must be paved with good intentions. But the “shiny objects” of life distract us from running a tight fiscal ship, so we mostly see a lot more money going out than staying in. Debts mount and the piggy bank remains defiantly empty.

So what are the experts doing that we aren’t? Save with SPP scoured the web to try and find out.

From the Real Simple blog, money management tips include paying bills on time – even tiny bills – and using cheaper, lower-fee online banks.

Time magazine stresses the importance of patience and discipline. “Don’t make major money-related decisions in a hurry or at a time of great emotional stress, such as when the stock markets tank or soon after a loved one has died,” Time advises. Take time to breathe, the magazine suggests.

At the Titan’s Lair blogspot a key bit of advice is “knowing where your money goes.” With a budget, you know where every dollar is going, and that knowledge gives you the power to make savings, the blog advises. Budgeting, the blog adds, helps you stay out of debt and the related pitfalls of high fees and compound interest. As well, it will leave room for retirement saving. “Saving now and managing your money correctly will definitely benefit you in the long run,” the blog advises.

Noted financial guru Suze Orman, quoted on the Mint.com blog, says a key tactic is to “take a hard look” at finances, and to avoid making excuses for what’s not going right. It is important, she notes, to separate what people want from what they need. That will “cut the fat” out of their financial problems, the article states.

So to recap all this advice – don’t let unpaid bills pile up. Pay attention to fees. Take your time with major money decisions. Be aware of where every nickel of your money is going, and cut the fat where you can. Be realistic and separate needs from wants.

Following this more self-disciplined approach will help you tackle any debt you may be carrying, and will free up money for retirement savings. And as we all know, a great way to build those savings is by signing up for the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Your money will grow, the fees are low, the track record is impressive, and there are many ways to 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. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Debt-Free Forever: book provides firm, realistic steps you can take to right the ship

Gail Vaz-Oxlade, the well-known author, blogger, and TV personality, provides just the medicine we need if we have stumbled into the horrible minefield of debt.

This book reminds one of going to your parents, cap in hand, hoping for help with the bills, and instead getting a lecture on how you need to fix your problems yourself. As the book says, there is no easy way out of the debt trap. Debt-Free Forever provides a detailed, step-by-step plan right your personal ship of state. So if you are sitting on a pile of debt that is starting to feel uncomfortable, your folks will be glad to hear you’ve picked up this book.

The great writing and the “we’ve all been through this and we can fix it” tone of this book is very encouraging and inspires you to help yourself out of your own mess. An example – “it’s a good idea to set a visual reminder of what you’re working toward. Cut out a picture of the home you hope to own and stick it on your fridge,” writes Vaz-Oxlade.

There is a lot of rich content here. The first four chapters talk about “figuring out where you stand” debt-wise, making a plan to get out of it, changing your habits (the hardest part), and planning for the future. While this sounds simple, it requires a lot of work, dedication and focus – but the book sets it all out for you to follow.

On the savings side, Vaz-Oxlade recommends the 10 per cent rule. “Take 10 per cent of your monthly net income… and put it in your long-term savings (like a retirement plan),” she writes. For those who say they can’t afford to save because they don’t make enough, have too much debt, or “want to live for today, man,” Vaz-Oxlade talks of the Law of Inertia.

“It is so much easier to maintain the status quo than to change. Fact is, you can’t save $10,000 until you save $1,000. You can’t save $1,000 until you save $100. You can’t save $100 until you save $10.”

Start small, she advises, make savings automatic, and gradually ramp savings up. This excellent book will help you turn things around in your financial life. It’s published by Collins.

And once you get on track, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a great place to set up regular, automatic contributions to your long-term retirement savings. Check out SPP today at www.saskpension.com.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Protecting pensions preserves retirement security, independence: CFP

Imagine reaching the end of a long, hard career and then finding that your workplace pension isn’t there for you. It happens more often than we might think with private sector pension plans. And that’s why Mike Powell and the Canadian Federation of Pensioners (CFP) are there to help.

The CFP, says Powell, was started in 2005 and now includes 20 member organizations. Those 20 organizations “represent about 200,000 people who mostly belong to private sector, defined benefit (DB) pension plans,” he explains.

DB plans pay pensions for life based on what members earned at work, and how long they were in the plan. While members contribute each payday, it is up to the employer – the plan sponsor – to ensure enough money is set aside to pay the future pensions.

Pensions can be dramatically reduced when companies run into financial trouble, notes Powell. This has happened “with Nortel, with Sears, so our organization is there to advocate for the pension rights of those plan members,” he explains.

In Ontario where the government recently reduced solvency requirements, the CFP has lobbied hard to improve the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund (PBGF), a sort of pension insurance that kicks in when corporate plans are insolvent. Currently there are limits on what the PBGF pays out, and it does not top up retirees to 100 per cent of what they should have been receiving.

In addition to giving plan sponsors a break on solvency funding, Powell says, the government should also change the PBGF to fully cover pension loss funded by those same sponsors. That would mean retirees would be “made whole” in the case of an insolvency. The CFP hopes that if Ontario goes this route, the other provinces will follow.

At the federal level CFP wants pension plan members to become “super priority” creditors when companies go bankrupt. “That would move them from the back of the line to near the front,” he explains. “If they did this, pensions would be taken right out of the equation when a company is insolvent.”

Protecting pensions delivers retirement security, Powell explains. “If you can’t count on your pension, it creates a great deal of uncertainty,” he says. Affected retirees spend less on goods, services, and charities, and may have to rely more on taxpayer-funded social assistance. The fact that many seniors are retiring with debt can compound the problem, he explains. For more on the CFP, visit their website.

We thank Mike Powell and the CFP for speaking to us. Even if you have a workplace pension plan, additional saving for retirement via the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a wise move. For more information, visit our website,

 

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Slow and steady wins the exercise race, advises author Alyson Rodgers

Many of us, as we reach that certain age, begin to notice the little aches, pains and extra pounds that the “golden years” seem to want to pack on.  We can’t turn back the hands of time, perhaps, but we can equip ourselves to be ready for its onslaught.

So notes Alyson Rodgers, author of Health and Fitness for Seniors: Exercise Solutions for Baby Boomers. This short, helpful book makes the important point that we all “can still benefit from exercise, regardless of age, medical condition, or genetics.”

Rodgers advocates “regular but moderate exercise,” ranging from 15 minutes to one hour, three to five times a week. The trick – moderation – will avoid the burnout of overdoing exercise, and the physical pain that can accompany it, she writes. A shorter, more sensible program of exercise will be easier to stick with, she notes.

It’s best to “work it in at a comfortable pace, and to keep it challenging,” she writes.  Her book outlines specific, easy-to-follow exercises for a variety of different situations and for different medical and physical conditions.

In the book’s chapter on balance and flexibility exercises, Rodgers notes that targetted exercise programs can help set up your body “to defend itself against the all-too-natural slips and tumbles we all take from time to time.” Balance can be improved through standing and sitting exercises, the book notes. There are great ways to improve one’s flexibility, and an exercise ball is a great tool for helping in that regard, the book says.

In addition to boosting the body’s natural line of defence, exercise helps avoid the risk bone loss (a frequent side effect of being sedentary) and can control weight, she writes. As we get older, she notes, “our metabolisms slow down, but our eating doesn’t.”

Rodgers also says energy should be spent on making the home safer – grip bars, anti-slip mats, and de-cluttering are among the strategies listed.

This well-written and positive short guidebook is well worth a read, and is available at your local bookstore or on Amazon.ca.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Research suggests retiring early can extend your life

Retirement is a sort of grey area for most of us – a destination that we’d like to arrive at one day, but one we know very little about.  But research shows that life after work may have the hidden benefits of extending your life and boosting your health.

A Dutch study, published in the journal Health Economics, found that a group of male retirees who retired at age 55 were 2.6 per cent less likely to die within the next five years than those who didn’t retire early. The study, authored by economists Hans Bloemen, Stefan Hochguertel and Jochem Zweerink, is reviewed in this New York Times article.

Why is retirement seen as good for health?
The Dutch study found that those who were retired had fewer signs of digestive and cardiac trouble – less stress, less “road” eating, and less sitting in traffic.

The Times article also cites US research that concluded retirement is, for health purposes, like finding out you are 20 per cent less likely to develop a serious illness, such as diabetes or a heart condition.

A similar study in Australia found that “retirement was associated significantly with reduced odds of smoking, physical inactivity, excessive sitting and at-risk sleep patterns.” You can have a look at the Australian study, called Retirement: A Transition to a Healthier Lifestyle.

A lot of times we are sort of trapped in our thinking on the topic of retirement. We wonder (and worry) how we will manage to live on less money than we made at work. But the research points to a nice new way to frame our thinking. Retirement may be the time of life when we can really focus on our health and well-being. We’ll be liberated from the stress and strain of the workplace, and able to take the time to look after ourselves.

So as you plan your retirement, SPP can help you with the financial side. What you make of the other side – the opportunity to look after yourself – is up to you.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

How SPP changed my life

Punta Cana: March 2018

After a long career as a pension lawyer with a consulting firm, I retired for the first time 13 years ago and became Editor of Employee Benefits News Canada. I resigned from that position four years later and embarked on an encore career as a freelance personal finance writer.

In December 2010 I wrote the article Is this small pension plan Canada’s best kept secret?  about the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for Adam Mayers, formerly the personal finance editor for the Toronto Star. The Star was starting a personal finance blogging site called moneyville and he was looking for someone to write about pensions and employee benefits. I was recommended by Ellen Roseman, the Star’s consumer columnist.

The article about SPP was my first big break. I was offered the position at moneyville and for 21/2 years I wrote three Eye on Benefits blogs each week. It was frightening, exhausting and exhilarating. And when moneyville began a new life as the personal finance section of the Toronto Star, my weekly column At Work was featured for another 18 months.

But that was only the beginning.

Soon after the “best kept secret” article appeared on moneyville, SPP’s General Manager Katherine Strutt asked me to help develop a social media strategy for the pension plan. Truth be told, I was an early social media user but there were and still are huge gaps in my knowledge. So I partnered with expert Leslie Hughes from PunchMedia, We did a remote, online presentation and were subsequently invited to Kindersley, Saskatchewan, the home of SPP to present in person. All of our recommendations were accepted.

By December 2011, I was blogging twice a week for SPP about everything and anything to do with spending money, saving money, retirement, insurance, financial literacy and personal finance. Since then I have authored over 500 articles for savewithspp.com. Along the way I also wrote hundreds of other articles for Employee Benefit News (U.S.), Sun Life, Tangerine Bank and other terrific clients. As a result, I have doubled my retirement savings.

All my clients have been wonderful but SPP is definitely at the top of the list. I am absolutely passionate about SPP and both my husband and I are members. Because I was receiving dividends and not salary from my company I could not make regular contributions. Instead, over the last seven years I have transferred $10,000 each year from another RRSP into SPP and I would contribute more if I could.

By the end of 2017 I started turning down work, but I was still reluctant to sever my relationship with SPP. However, as my days became increasingly full with travel, caring for my aged mother, visiting my daughter’s family in Ottawa, choir and taking classes at Ryerson’s Life Institute, I realized that I’m ready to let go at long last. After the end of May when people ask me what I do, I will finally be totally comfortable saying “I am retired.”

I will miss working with the gang at SPP. I will also miss the wonderful feedback from our readers. I very much look forward to seeing how both savewithspp.com and the plan evolve. My parting advice to all of you is maximize your SPP savings every year. SPP has changed my life. It can also change yours.

Au revoir. Until we meet again….

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Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.