Aug 16: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

August 16, 2021

Has pandemic “self-care” spending disrupted Canadians’ retirement plans?

It seems that we are starting to near the end of the pandemic, as economies across the country begin to slowly re-open.

But, according to an article in the Globe and Mail, there is concern that Canadians have been spending so much more money on “self care” in light of the pandemic that there may be little left for the retirement savings piggy bank.

The newspaper cites a recent Bank of Nova Scotia study that found “70 per cent of Canadians started partaking in at least one self-care activity during the pandemic, with 60 per cent of those spending an average of $282 in the past 12 months.”

By self-care, the Globe says, we are talking about “online yoga classes, baking supplies, $5,000 Peloton bikes and class memberships, $85 meditation apps, or meal delivery services that take the thinking out of dinner prep.”

While those approaching retirement spent the least on these categories, the Globe says younger people spent plenty. “Although they struggle to find the money for down payments on homes and families, even in good times, the Scotiabank survey found that Canadians 18 to 34 significantly outspent others (on) self-care activities in the previous year.” Their average rate of spend was $395, the article notes.

The article says that while it is understandable that people might spend money differently during the pandemic, it is important that they get back on track now that things are returning to a more normal setting.

“It’s still important for financial advisors to help clients stick to their bigger, longer-term financial goals like debt repayment and saving for retirement,” the article tells us.

Another poll, this one from the National Institute on Retirement Security in the U.S., points out that younger people already have obstacles in the way of their retirement savings plan. The NIRS media release is featured on the Le Lezard website.

In the release, NIRS spokesman Dan Doonan notes that “Generation X and Millennials are the first two generations that will largely enter retirement without a pension,” and states that it is not surprising they are anxious about their long-off golden years.

The research shows that 64 per cent of American Millennials and 54 per cent of GenXers are “more concerned about their retirement security in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

So let’s link these two ideas. Everyone is spending more on self-care, particularly younger people, due to the pandemic – but there are worries by younger people, GenXers and Millennials, about retirement security, given the lack of a pension at work.

If you don’t have a pension at work, you need to think about funding your own retirement. Government benefits are being improved, but currently deliver a fairly modest benefit. You have the power to supplement that future income by setting up your own retirement savings program. Take a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan – it offers everything you need for a do-it-yourself pension plan. You can set up automatic contributions from your bank account, or chip in lump sum amounts throughout the year. SPP will invest and grow your savings, and when you turn in your parking pass and security lanyard, SPP will help you convert that nest egg into an income stream. Check out SPP today, as the plan in 2021 is celebrating its 35th year of delivering 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.


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

August 12, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can be done?

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

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

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

Written by Martin Biefer

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


Aug 9: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

August 9, 2021

Could a change in mindset help boost your retirement savings?

An interesting article in Entrepreneur magazine suggests a change in mindset can help GenXers augment their retirement nest eggs.

The article starts out by making the target for retirement savings clear.

“GenXers, did you know that experts say you need to have saved a whopping six times your income for retirement by the time you’re 50? If you were born between 1965-1980 (41-56 years old), you’re at that age or close to it,” the article begins.

“In other words, if you make $50,000 per year, you need to have at least $300,000 saved. If you make $150,000 per year, you need to have at least $900,000 saved,” we are warned.

That’s a lot of money – so what happens if we don’t get there?

Plenty, the article cautions.

You’ll face a “rising cost of living” without savings, the article states. The article – aimed at a U.S. audience – talks about healthcare costs, here in Canada that would refer to things like long-term care. Without enough savings, “you may have to work longer,” government pensions probably won’t cover all your costs, and you may “end up selling something,” like your home.

Bottom line is that “you may have to accept a lower quality of life” without retirement savings, Entrepreneur concludes.

But there’s a cure, and it is a simple one – reinvent your mindset, the article advises.

“When you start thinking about ways to save for retirement all the time, it can make a huge difference in how much you ultimately do save,” the article suggests.

Having the drive and determination to do something will make you unstoppable, the article urges. So “get laser focused” and “dig into grit.” This latter idea means having “courage, conscientiousness, perseverance, resilience and passion for something,” the article explains.

So if you just can’t find a few dollars to save each month, Entrepreneur suggests getting “a side hustle” of some sort. Even $10 here and there can add up over time, we are told. Be sure (again, this is a U.S. piece) to maximize your contributions as much as possible to savings programs like a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) or tax-free savings account (TFSA).

Be prepared to work longer if you have to. This will also allow you to delay your government retirement benefits and collect more, later. Look at downsizing to save money, and budget “like crazy.”

“Do anything (within reason) that you have to do to get your retirement savings because you are laser-focused,” the article concludes.

Save with SPP has been a retirement saver since age 25, when we first learned about RRSPs. Some suggestions we can add to the good advice in Entrepreneur is that every little bit adds up over time. If you took all the “free money” you get from winning on a scratch ticket, returning cans and bottles, getting cash back on a credit card or income tax refunds and put it into savings, it will add up to a tidy sum over time.

Saskatchewan Pension Plan members know that they have contribution flexibility. If you want to contribute a set amount each payday, no problem – set up an automatic withdrawal from your account. If you want to put in bits and pieces of savings now and then, perhaps all you need to do is set up SPP as a bill on your banking website. SPP will take that cash, invest it, and help you turn it into retirement income down the road. Be sure to check out SPP today!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


The Dirt Cheap Green Thumb – great tips for stretching your gardening dollars

August 5, 2021

We frequently write about ways to save money for retirement. But when you finally get over that wall between work and non-work, things change – the concern becomes saving money in retirement.

That’s why The Dirt Cheap Green Thumb, by Rhonda Massingham Hart, is ideally suited for those of us who did NOT garden for a living prior to becoming retired. This well-organized little volume covers off a ton of valuable time and money-saving tips.

Hart starts by explaining that since no two lawns are alike, it’s important to know the “microclimate” of your own yard. Find out things like average rainfall, first and last frost dates, and even the pH balance of your soil (one way to figure this out is by checking the leaves of your tomato plants – who knew). The book explains how to test the soil drainage of your yard, as well.

Knowing these details makes it far easier to plan what, and where, to grow, the book explains. There are lists of plants that like sun, plants that are hardy in cold weather, and even plants that “can tolerate less than ideal growing conditions,” such as polluted urban settings.

For those who can’t master the existing yard conditions, Hart suggests growing in containers, and gives the ideal soil, peat moss, sand and compost ingredients.

There’s advice on using “do it yourself” plant growth boosting – such as adding “a tablespoon of Epsom salts… in the planting hole of tomato and pepper” plants.

For those of us living in drought-prone areas, using a “soaker hose” may be a far cheaper way, water-wise, to irrigate the roots of your lawn and garden than a conventional sprinkler. “Using a lawn sprinkler or an overhead watering system on hot, windy days wastes a lot of water,” notes Hart. Ah. Now we see. She points out how a rain barrel can shave down the water bill while providing a free water supply for gardening.

She goes over a handy list of ideal “people-powered tools” for the garden – a fork, a spade, a shovel, hoes, and rakes. Get decent tools, she advises. “Cheap tools will cost you, in either repairs or replacement costs. Well-made tools last longer and require fewer repairs.”

She talks about how you can make your own mulch from old branches lying around the yard via a chipper. Again, this is turning yard waste into yard upgrades!

Other topics covered – what to look for when buying plants on sale, the most “cost effective herbs” to grow, tips on the correct way to mow the lawn, “edible ornamentals,” how to make a low-cost greenhouse for cold-weather gardening, and how best to prepare the produce you grow at home for the freezer.

This is a perfect book for a novice or johnny/jane come lately gardener who didn’t learn any of these tips at mom or dad’s knee. It’s very accessible, it’s very clear, there are helpful illustrations, and the overall tone of the book is very encouraging – you can do this! Recommended for any new retiree who has always wanted to take up gardening, or a pre-retiree keen on saving on lawn and garden costs.

Saving is pretty much always a good thing. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has been helping people save for retirement for more than 35 years. If you don’t have a pension at work, and aren’t interested in finding out about the investment climate and best conditions for growing your income, check out SPP and leave the financial planting and harvesting to them!

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.


Aug 2: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

August 2, 2021

COVID did a number on the retirement rate, but it’s climbing again

One unexpected side effect of the pandemic was a dampening of people’s plans to retire.

According to new research from RBC, covered in a story from CTV News, there was an unexpected drop of 20 per cent in the retirement rate last year – likely due to COVID-19.

RBC’s Andrew Agopsowicz tells CTV that the dip “was likely a result of uncertainty about retirement savings as the pandemic arrived.”

“It’s what held people back,” he affirms in the story.

But – perhaps an indicator of better times ahead – retirements are starting to return to normal levels, he notes.

“The return to normal could be a good period for people to make a decision they were probably going to be making (anyway),” Agopsowicz states in the story.

There has been a general rise in retirements over the last decade as the boomer generation hits age 65, the story notes, and “that trend will continue for several years.”

A fringe benefit of the boomers getting out of the workforce may be “a near-term labour shortgage for some types of jobs,” Agopsowicz tells CTV. This will be due to a trifecta – boomer retirements, a low national birthrate, and lower levels of immigration, the story states.

In mid-July, CTV reports, Statistics Canada reported that the Canadian economy added 230,700 new jobs, “as restrictions put in place to slow the pandemic were rolled back across the country.”

Savings may have to last a long time

If you are among those planning to log out for the last time in 2021, Money Control outlines some of the steps you may want to consider to ensure your retirement stash isn’t exhausted before (ahem) you are.

Most retirees will live beyond age 85, the article notes. “We could live for up to 30 years or more post our retirement… (and) women live longer than men,” the article states.

With that in mind, you should plan for your investments to outperform inflation, the article says. If you can’t get there with fixed-income investments, “investing in equity will give you long-term growth; in between, there will be volatility.”

So, putting these two bits of information together – the stampede towards the workplace exit for boomers will soon resume its normal pace. The nest eggs boomers have built, and that younger folks are still building, will need to last for maybe 30 years. And while conventional wisdom suggests that the older you are, the less exposure to risky equities you should have, inflation hasn’t been a factor for a while but could one day reappear.

One answer is a “balanced fund” approach, where experts position their fund with exposure to both fixed income and equity, making strategic moves in advance of emerging trends. A great example is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan Balanced Fund, which has produced an average rate of return of eight per cent since its inception 35 years ago. While past returns aren’t a guarantee of future performance, the idea of having someone else decide when to get in or get out is a sound one – you can instead focus on your golf game or line dancing steps. 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.


Your retirement income may flow from many different streams: Sheryl Smolkin

July 29, 2021

We got a chance to catch up recently with Sheryl Smolkin, the original Save with SPP writer who has had a long career as a pension lawyer, a magazine editor, and a freelance writer/blogger.

Speaking over the phone from her Toronto home, Sheryl explains that because she worked at a variety of jobs over her working years, her retirement income comes from a variety of different streams.

She was Canadian Director of Research and Information at a global consulting firm for 18 years. Later, she became editor of Employee Benefit News magazine for four years, and subsequently she turned her talents to freelance writing. Sheryl played a pivotal role in setting up the Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s (SPP) social media efforts, including the Save with SPP blog that she pioneered.

When she left consulting, she received a defined benefit pension and retiree health insurance, she explains. As a result, she and her husband have retirement income from an employment pension, government benefits, and other registered and un-registered savings, including SPP. They have been “drawing down” income from various streams since their mid-50s.

Sheryl says she regularly transferred $10,000 annually from her RRSP to SPP over the years. When she reached 71, she looked at her SPP options and decided on the prescribed registered retirement income fund (PRRIF) to draw down her savings. With that option, she will cash out the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) required minimum amount from her account each year.

So, she says, while some folks (including this writer) might think that 71 is a sort of magic age when all retirement savings gets converted to retirement income, that’s probably not the case for many people.

“My recommendation is always this,” she explains. “Everybody worries about having enough money in retirement; but the real worry is, are you going to have enough time” to spend it. “Enjoy spending the money – there are very few people who actually run out of money.”

She’s been busy since she wrapped up her writing work for SPP back in 2018. In the pre-COVID era, she took courses at Ryerson University, took care of her aging mom who passed away in 2019, visited the kids and her granddaughter in Ottawa, and went to every sort of live theatre, music performance or other show on offer. “We were having a lot of fun before COVID,” she says, and that will resume now that the pandemic appears to be winding down.

Her husband, a “serial hobbyist,” has not slowed down on his woodworking during the pandemic. She has taken advantage of the quiet period to catch up on her reading.

Sheryl does not hanker for a return to the workforce. When she left her consulting position in 2005, she notes, “I was NOT ready for retirement, but by 2018, it was time.”

She says however, that occasionally she does “miss the satisfaction of producing a piece of work, and seeing it online or in print – creating.” With her job at the magazine, there were a lot of conferences and travel, which she liked – but recalls that at one conference, she also agreed to produce a daily newspaper which was particularly hectic.

Fun is a central theme in talking to Sheryl. She says it is very important to have fun in your retired life. “Everyone has something they want to do, but the beauty of it (retirement) is that you don’t HAVE to do anything, if you don’t want to,” she says.

These days, she is anticipating getting involved “in the rhythm of the year” again through visits with friends and family. She looks forward to resuming “long distance travel” again once things are safe. Until then, “I’m excited to be able to go back to Stratford, back to the Shaw Festival, and other Canadian destinations.”

Sheryl says retirement really consists of three phases – the early stage, the mid-stage, and the later stage.

“Don’t be afraid to spend money in the earlier, more active stage of retirement,” she advised. “There will be less travel and shopping as you get older.”

She is glad that the SPP has provided one of her retirement income streams. “I think it’s a very good program,” she says. “For us, SPP is part of a bigger overall plan, which has both registered and unregistered components.”

So retirement income is a river fed by multiple income streams – we thank Sheryl for that lovely, and very evocative image. She says hi to everyone at SPP in Kindersley, and we all thank her very much for her time and wish her continued happiness in her life after work.

Need to add a good stream to your future retirement river? Consider joining the SPP. It can augment the income you’ll receive from workplace and government plans, and the best part is that you can now contribute up to $6,600 a year – and can transfer in up to $10,000 a year from other RRSPs. Be sure to check out SPP today!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


July 26: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

July 26, 2021

Your 20s may be the best time to start saving for retirement

Writing for Yahoo! Finance, Phoebe Dampare Osei points out that your 20s is a good time to start saving for retirement.

“Your 20s is that decade where society says you’re old enough to have some responsibilities, but young enough that you haven’t quite settled down yet,” she writes. She notes that statistics from the U.K., where she is based, show most couples aren’t getting married until their 30s these days, a big change from the 1970s when they married younger.

Similarly, U.K. stats show people aren’t buying their first homes until they are in their 30s or older, she adds.

“But what about life after 60? It may seem odd to be thinking so far ahead, but your future you, will thank your present you, if you take care of yourself now,” writes Dampare Osei. We love that sentiment!

Her suggestions:

  • “In your 20s you have fewer responsibilities than someone much older, so it’s easier to save now than a lot more later with more financial pressure.”
  • “State pension alone will not cover you — check with your employer to make sure you are eligible and auto-enrolled.” (Auto-enrolment in a workplace pension plan is not a common practice in Canada – so here at home it’s up to you to find out if there’s a retirement plan and how you can qualify to join it.)
  • “If you do not have enough money saved for retirement you may have to keep working beyond state pension age. Working into your 70s if you don’t have to and don’t want to doesn’t sound like much fun.”

This last point is very true. Many people without retirement savings simply say to themselves well, I’ll keep working until 70. That sounds great when you are younger and healthier, but will you be healthy enough to keep punching the clock by age 70? Not everyone is.

She raises a good argument about state benefits not being all that great.

To Candianize this a bit, the current maximum benefit from the Canada Pension Plan is $1203.75, but the average amount is $706.57, according to the federal government’s own site.

The maximum Old Age Security payment, again per the government’s web, is $626.49.

In fairness to the government, these benefits were never intended to provide the only income people receive in retirement – when they were launched, most people had workplace pensions, and these programs were designed to supplement that.

So the most anyone could get from both programs is a little over $1,800 a month – and not everyone qualifies for the maximum.

The point Dampare Osei makes is a very good one. When you are young, single, and just starting out in the workforce, you probably don’t have as many expenses as you will when you’re in your 30s, married, raising kids and paying a mortgage. So it’s a good time to start your retirement savings program.

Another great reason to start early is the “magic” of compounding. The longer your money is invested, the more dividends and interest it will accrue.

As an example, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has averaged an eight per cent rate of return since its inception 35 years ago. And while the past rate of return is of course no guarantee of what SPP will do in the future, the track record is worth noting. If there isn’t a workplace pension plan to sign up for, the SPP may be just the thing for you. And as Dampare Osei correctly notes, your future you will be very pleased if the current, youthful you gets cracking on retirement now rather than later.

Written by Martin Biefer

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


As offices gear up for re-opening, will everyone want to return?

July 22, 2021

The summer of 2021 has seen the start of what looks like a return to normal. COVID numbers are down, vaccination rates are up, the economy is re-opening (carefully) and there’s talk again of travel, and of going back to the office.

Yet there’s also talk from some of NOT going back to the office? What gives? Save with SPP had a look around to explore this issue.

Research from Robert Half, an HR consulting firm, from April found that about one-in-three office workers “would quit their job rather than return to the office,” reports Western Investor.

More than half of those surveyed on the idea of returning to work said they “prefer a hybrid work arrangement, where they can divide time between the office and another location,” the article notes. Some of those surveyed did express concern that working from home has its downsides, such as the “loss of relationships with co-workers” and “fewer career opportunities and decreased productivity.”

Those who do imagine coming back want some perks, the article says, such as “greater freedom to set office hours, employer-paid commuting costs, a relaxed dress code and providing childcare.”

Ouch. What would the “dress for success” workaholics of the ‘80s make of this office aversion?

The numbers are similar south of the border. An article in Commercial Observer says that while 62 per cent of Manhattan workers were expected to return to the office, that leaves “one in three” who don’t plan to come back.

Only about 12 per cent of Manhattan’s 1.5 million office workers had returned to work by early summer and “39 per cent of people would be willing to quit their job rather than give up remote work,” the article says.

A more recent survey from Canada Life sheds some light on the concerns people have about re-entering office life.

Even given the dropping COVID numbers and higher vaccination rates, “46 per cent of Canadians working from home are anxious about the threat of the virus if and when they return to the office,” Canada Life reports in a media release.

Mary Ann Baynton of Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, who partnered on the research with Canada Life, explains this reluctance.

“For those working from home, this transition presents new and unique concerns, because they’ve been more isolated and have been able to limit their exposure to the virus for a long time. Employers need to understand what their teams are concerned about so they can effectively support them during this significant adjustment,” she states in the release.

COVID risk was by far the biggest concern identified in the research, the release notes – only 10 per cent were concerned about changes to their work-life balance, nine per cent about increased commuting, and less than one per cent about impacts to children and their care, the release notes.

From our informal research amongst friends and colleagues who have been working at home, there is certainly interest in having the flexibility to work from home – at least some of the time – going forward. If you’ve ever been crammed onto a train or subway car packed with commuters, or stuck in a 10-km long traffic jam each workday, or circling some lot in a fruitless quest for the last parking spot, it’s hard to look forward to starting all that up again. Only time will tell how it all plays out.

One thing that works as well at home as it does in the workplace is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You can sign up as an individual, effectively creating a tailored, end-to-end pension plan for yourself that looks after not only investing your savings, but converting them to income later on. If you’re an employer, you can offer SPP at your workplace, creating a great way to attract new team members and hanging on to the people you’ve got! Why not 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.


July 19: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

July 19, 2021

Could our passion for savings defuse the expected end-of-COVID spending boom?

In an interesting and perhaps “contrarian” article, Leo Almazora of Wealth Professional asks if Canada’s return to being a nation of savers could actually have a downside.

“For many pundits and analysts, the light at the end of the tunnel that is the COVID-19 crisis has been the prospect of a surge in spending as vaccinations allow the unleashing of pent-up demand. But based on certain interpretations of savings data, that may not be the scenario that plays out,” he writes.

He notes that during COVID – with so many spending options removed from play – savings rates jumped to almost 20 per cent in many industrialized countries, including Canada.

It was expected, Almazora notes, that once economies began reopening, the urge to spend would overcome the tendency to save. But research cited from Barron’s magazine in the article shows that “even as economies have reopened, savings rates have stayed unusually high.”

Almazora’s article contends that there were two types of COVID savers – a “forced savers” group that, while keeping their employment, had very few options to spend their money on, and “precautionary savers,” who – worried by the pandemic – save for the “next downturn or economic calamity.”

There’s a third group, he writes, who have sort of got out of the habit of spending on hotels and restaurants, and won’t be spending as much on those things going forward.

This is a very insightful piece. Three groups are described, those who can’t spend their money, those who worry about a fourth wave or some other nasty financial surprise, and those who have been converted to a new obsession – frugality.

One would assume that the “can’t spend” group will be among the first to book vacation flights and resume travel. Those who Almazora describes as “preppers” for a possible further wave of problems presumably won’t join in the fun, nor will those who have decided cooking at home and cutting back on expenses was not only fun, but has led to a piling up of cash in their savings accounts.

It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out; it may take as long to return to a “fully normal” economy as it took COVID to derail “normal” and move us to a stay-at-home/no spend reality.

This writer recalls doing research on pension plan funding – where people sock away money for retirement via workplace plans – and hearing economists suggest the act of saving money was, in effect, negative for the economy in the now. Money saved today cannot be spent today, the argument went.

While this is factually correct, that viewpoint – savings can be bad – ignores the fact that the saved money is invested, often in job-creating Canadian companies and services, and then withdrawn and spent years later by the retirees. It’s deferred spending, in a way.

As a soon-to-be double grandparent, this aging scribe has reached the opinion that any savings is always a good thing. Emergency savings when the roof leaks or the fence falls down; long-term savings for retirement income and to help the grandbabies.

If you have a workplace pension plan, be sure to not only join it, but to contribute to it to the fullest extent possible. If you don’t have a plan – or if you are a small business thinking of offering one to your team – check out the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. This scaleable retirement product works as well for one person as it does for a larger group – and they’ve been delivering retirement security for 35 years.

Written by Martin Biefer

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


Has COVID affected Canadians’ ability to donate to charities?

July 15, 2021
Photo by Katt Yukawa on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Martin Biefer

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