Jan 6: Best from the blogosphere

Can living longer cause you a pain – in the pocketbook?

We all hope to enjoy our golden retirement years with the blessing of good health.

But could this blessing – a long life – actually be a problem in disguise?

New research from the World Economic Forum, covered recently by the Montreal Gazette, suggests the living longer creates the risk of outliving your retirement money.

“Today, one of the most taxing challenges that is often left out of the conversation is the impact of the change in average lifespan,” the Gazette reports. “According to Statistics Canada, today, the average Canadian will live until age 82, with the number of centenarians — those reaching the age of 100 — continuing to grow,” the newspaper notes.

And those of us who are born more recently will see ever greater longevity in life, the article continues, noting that research from the Lancet suggests a girl born in 2030 will live to 87, a boy to 84. That’s up sharply even compared with life expectancy data from 2010, the Gazette reports.

OK, so we are all living longer. So what’s the downside to that?

“The World Economic Forum suggests that today, Canadians will outlive their retirement savings by more than 10 years,” the article warns. The article recommends that people work with financial advisers to develop a plan to help insure against this risk.

What would such a plan contain?

The article notes that in the UK, many retirement programs available through work offer “automatic adjustments,” such as an automatic increase in savings contributions when there’s a raise or change to a better-paying role. Other tactics include looking at investments that offer lower fees, since high fees can eat away at the value of your savings.

Some organizations offer “lifestyle and investment modelling tools” to help individuals choose a savings strategy that aligns with how they see their latter years unfolding.

But the article concludes that while such measures are a good start, more work needs to be done in this growing area.

“It’s clear that there is no simple solution to retirement savings,” the article states. “However, one thing we know for certain is that driving change requires increased demand. To manage finances successfully, individuals should understand the decumulation options available to them, how their money is being distributed, and what happens to their savings when they retire.”

This is very sensible advice, since most of us focus on saving as much as we can for retirement, but then have no plan in place to turn the savings into an income stream. Imagine if you got paid once a year – how would you handle your bills, your rent, and so on? You’d have to make that money last until the next year. That, in a nutshell, is what “decumulation” refers to – taking a chunk of money out of a retirement savings vehicle and then living on it.

There’s another option available to ensure you don’t run out of money. You can use some or all of your savings to purchase an annuity. The annuity will provide you with a monthly payment for the rest of your life. This makes planning easier, and you can’t run out of your savings. This option is available through the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, and the annuities they offer come in various different forms. Check it out today.

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

Slim, fact-packed book puts you in the know about stock trading

Since the days where you could sock away money in a guaranteed investment certificate (GIC) and get interest rates in the teens are long, long gone, a lot of savers are looking at other ways to make their money grow.

And often, based on what people talk about on the putting green, in the curling rink, or at the gym, investing in stocks seems to be working out for some folks. Problem is it’s one of those things that we hear a lot about, but tend not to know a lot about.

Enter The Canadian’s Guide to Stock Investing by Andrew Dagys and Paul Mladjenvoic. This slim but fact-packed volume teaches you all the information you need to know to get started in stock investing.

The book explains that there is a difference between investing, saving, and speculating. Investing, the authors write, “is the act of putting your current funds into securities or tangible assets to gain future appreciation, income, or both.” That’s different from saving, “the safe accumulation of funds for a future use,” or speculating, “the financial world’s equivalent of gambling.”

The authors then explain the difference between “growth investing” and “income investing.” When you are investing for growth, they note, “you want your money to grow… if you bought a stock for $8 per share and now its value is $30 per share, your investment has grown by $22 per share – that’s appreciation.” Growth, they write, is probably the number one reason people invest in stock.

Income investors are looking more at ways “to invest in the stock market as a means of providing a steady income and preserving risks.” They aren’t, the book notes, looking for stock values to go through the ceiling; instead “they need stocks that perform well consistently,” and that pay dividends.

Dividends, the authors explain, are usually paid quarterly and aren’t the same as interest. Dividends are paid to owners (interest is paid to creditors), and when you own a stock you are a shareholder, or partial owner, of the company that issued the stock. “When you buy stock, you buy a piece of that company,” the authors point out.

So how do you pick a good stock, either for growth or income? First, the authors say, you need to think about supply and demand, “the relationship between what’s available (the supply) and what people want and are willing to pay for (the demand).” Is the company making or selling something that people want, the authors explain, or is it a company “that makes elephant-foot umbrella stands… that has an oversupply, and nobody wants to buy them anyway.”

Next, there’s cause and effect, or, as the authors explain, logic. If you read a news report that says sales of tables are plummeting, “do you rush out and invest in companies that sell chairs or manufacture tablecloths?” On the other hand, good news about sales may be a reason to consider buying shares, the authors explain.

Another factor to think about is “economic effects from government actions.” A government “can willfully (or even accidentally) cause a company to go bankrupt, disrupt an entire industry, or even cause a depression.” Pay attention to what the government is saying if it has an effect on something you are thinking of buying into as a shareholder, the authors note.

The book explains how to look at a company’s balance sheet to figure out its net worth, profitability, and performance.

Other general tips from the book include having “a cushion of money” for emergencies, cutting back on your debt, get as much job security as you can and be correctly insured.

On the investment side, the authors urge diversification – don’t put all your money in one stock, one industry, or one type of investment.

Final chapters explain some of the tax impacts of investing, whether it is within a registered retirement account or a tax-free savings account.

There is a lot covered here, and this book is a great help for any investor.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan follows many of these principles. During the accumulation period you can choose a growth fund for your savings, and when you go to collect your SPP annuity, it is paid from a fund that is focused on capital retention and fixed-income investments. Be sure to check them out today.

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

Dec 30: Best from the blogosphere

Making some retirement savings resolutions for a new decade 

It’s hard to believe that we’re on the cusp of a new decade – welcome to the ‘20s.

At least – like the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s – there won’t be confusion about what to call this coming era. We never heard a good name for the 2000s and the 2010s. So we bid them adieu.

Save with SPP likes to start any new year with some resolutions; what little tips we could consider following to increase our retirement savings efforts in the year, and decade, to come.

Here’s some good advice we found.

Plan, understand and scan: A Yahoo! Finance article on the lack of preparedness for retirement in Canada says we need to do three key things – plan, understand and scan. You can start your plan by first determining how much you want to have as retirement income, and then calculate how much you need to save to get there. Knowing how much you’ll need in the future requires understanding how much you are spending now. And be sure to scan your retirement savings account periodically “to ensure your retirement plan is headed in the right direction.”

Start as early as you can: According to the folks at Nasdaq people need “to save as much as they can in their early years to enable their invested savings to compound over decades.” The average rate of return for the US S&P 500 index, the article notes, has been 10 per cent per annum since 1926 – so that includes two major crashes. What that means is that money can double every 7.2 years, the article notes. It’s all about growth, the article advises.

Make it automatic:  An article from the Career Addict blog urges us to make our savings plans automatic. “Have a direct debit set up so you can automatically (save),” the blog advises. “You can even set up an account that’s not accessible by Internet banking so you’re not tempted to tap into these funds when you feel you have an `emergency.’”

Consider an RRSP for your retirement savings: The folks at BMO note that if you save for retirement using an RRSP or similar vehicle, your contributions “are tax-deductible” and “your investments grow tax-free.” The income you withdraw from an RRSP will be taxable, a point often overlooked by those using them.

Get out of debt: The Motley Fool blog sees getting out of debt as a critical first step towards having a retirement savings plan. “Make paying down debt a priority,” the blog advises. Even if your only debt is a low interest mortgage, the blog suggests you pay that off before you retire to reduce the stress of paying it down on a reduced income.

An important thing to note here is that no one is saying “don’t worry about saving for retirement.” Even if you have some sort of pension arrangement at work, saving a little extra will be a move you’ll appreciate when you’ve reached the golden age of retirement.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers many of the features outlined here. You can start young, or when you are older, and SPP allows you to set up automatic deposits. Contributions you make are tax-deductible and grow tax-free, just like an RRSP. And since SPP is locked in, you won’t be able to raid the piggy bank for a pre-retirement expense – it’s sort of like giving money to your parents to hang on for you. Check SPP out today, you’ll be glad you did.

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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Dec 23: Best from the blogosphere

Canada’s pension system cracks the world’s top 10 – but there’s room for improvement

When it comes to government retirement benefits for its citizens, Canada is certainly world class.

According to The Wealth Professional, Canada has the ninth best pension system among 37 developed countries – this due to a recent ranking by the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index.

However, Dr. David Knox, author of the study, sees a few problems for Canada, despite its relatively high standing.

“Systems around the world are facing unprecedented life expectancy and rising pressure on public resources to support the health and welfare of older citizens. It’s imperative that policy makers reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of their systems to ensure stronger long-term outcomes for the retirees of the future,” he states in the article.

One of the problems in having a system where retirement savings plans are looked upon as “wealth,” rather than a pot of money earmarked for the future, is that people tend to dip into the account early, Dr. Knox tells The Wealth Professional.

In plainer terms, people look at their retirement savings account, which may contain tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, and dip into it. That’s because, the article advises, “people feel more financially secure and are more likely to borrow (from) their retirement savings pre-retirement.”

Having those relatively fat retirement savings accounts also makes people more comfortable with debt, Dr. Knox states in the article.

“As the wealth of an individual grows, whether it be in home ownership, investment portfolios or their retirement savings, so does their comfort with amassing debt. The evidence suggests on a global basis, for every extra dollar a person has in pension assets, their net household debt rises by just under 50 cents.”

There’s another problem, the story notes. While Canadians have amassed a lot in retirement savings, there seems to be a discrepancy between the amount saved, and what they will actually need to fund their golden years.

“Canada currently has a US $2.5 trillion gap between existing retirement savings and future retirement needs,” states Jean-Philippe Provost of Mercer Canada in the article. “This gap reflects not only demographic forces, but also the combination of limited access to corporate pension plans for workers and a challenging long-term investment environment. Women are particularly affected by this savings gap,” he tells The Wealth Professional.

So the two takeaways here are this – try to avoid dipping into your retirement savings before you have retired, and be aware that you’ll need to save more than you have saved thus far.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has one-little heralded feature that prevents cookie jar raids. Funds contributed to SPP are “locked in,” meaning that you can’t access them until you start your retirement. Your retirement cookie jar remains sealed until that wonderful day when, freed from the bonds of work, you want to turn those savings into retirement income. 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Well-written book identifies – and help fixes – retirement mistakes

A recent headline shouted out the fact that an eye-popping 40 per cent of Canadians “think they’ll be in debt forever.”

The article by Anne Gaviola, posted on the Vice website, cites data from Manulife. The article goes on to note that the average Canuck has $71,979 in debt – up from $57,000 five years ago. These figures, the article says, come via Equifax.

It wasn’t always like this, was it? Why are we all willing to live with debt levels that are approaching record highs?

Save with SPP had a look around for answers – why are we so comfy carrying heavy debt loads?

According to the Advisor, it may simply be that paying the way with debt has become so common that no one gets worked up about it anymore.

“Living with debt has become a way of life for both Generation X… and baby boomers as the stigma of owing money is gradually disappearing,” the publication reports, citing Allianz Life research originally published by Generations Apart.

The research found that “nearly half (48 per cent) of both generations agree that credit cards now function as a survival tool and 43 per cent agree that ‘lots of smart, hardworking people who are careful with spending also have a lot of credit card debt,’” the article reports. Having debt is making people plan to work indefinitely – the article notes that 27 per cent of Gen Xers, and 11 per cent of boomers “say they are either unsure about when they plan to retire or don’t plan to retire at all.”

Why the comfort with debt? The Gen Xers got credit cards earlier than their boomer parents, and half of Gen Xers (and nearly a third of boomers) never plan to pay anything more than the minimum payments on them, the article notes.

“Over the last three decades, there has been a collective shift in how people view debt – it’s now perceived as a normal part of one’s financial experience and that has fundamentally altered the way people spend and save,” states Allianz executive Katie Libbe in the article. “If Gen Xers continue to delay saving for retirement until they are completely out of debt, their nest egg is clearly going to suffer. For Gen Xers who are behind on saving, better debt management, with a focus on credit card spending, should be the first issue they address to get back on track,” she states.

To recap, it almost sounds like there’s a couple of generations out there who have never worried about debt.

What should people do to get out of debt?

According to the folks at Manulife, there’s a five-step process that will get you debt-free.

Manulife cites the fact that Canadians owe about $1.65 for every dollar they make. That suggests they aren’t ready to “make a budget and stick with it,” and always spending more than they earn, the article says.

In addition to getting real about budgeting, the other tips are paying off credit cards by targeting those with the highest interest rate first, considering debt consolidation, earning extra money, and negotiating with creditors.

Tips that Save with SPP can personally vouch for in managing debt include giving your credit cards to a loved one, and instructing that person not to hand them over even if you beg; paying more than the minimum on your credit cards and lines of credit; and trying to live on less than 100 per cent of what you earn, so that you are paying the rest to yourself.

While a country can perpetually run deficits and spend more than it earns – and most do – the math doesn’t work out as well for individuals. The piper eventually has to be paid. And if you only pay the minimums, that piper will get paid for many, many years.

Getting debt under control and paid off will help you in many ways, including saving for retirement. Perhaps as you gradually save on interest payments, you can direct the savings to a Saskatchewan Pension Plan retirement account, and watch your savings grow.

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

Dec 16: Best from the blogosphere

First wave of retiring boomers finding retirement disappointing

Retirement has always seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel for hard-working Canucks. But new research suggests that retiring boomers are finding it a little disappointing.

Writing in the Ottawa Citizen, noted financial journalist Jonathan Chevreau reports that new research from Sun Life finds “almost three in four retirees – 72 per cent – say retirement is not what they were expecting, and not in a good way.”

The 2019 Sun Life Barometer, he notes, found 23 per cent of retirees reported life after work was a tight money environment, where they were “following a strict budget and refraining from spending money on non-essential items.”

And those not yet retired are delaying their plans, Chevreau notes. A whopping 44 per cent of Canadians “expect they’ll still be employed full time at age 66,” and it’s because they “need to work for the money, rather than because they enjoy it.”

Why the strict budgeting? Chevreau notes that about half – 47 per cent – of those still working believe “there’s a serious risk they could outlive their retirement savings.”

The article says the lack of defined benefit pensions – the type where the retiree receives a pension equal to a percentage of what they were making at work – is one of the reasons for these concerns. Everyone without such plans is either saving in RRSPs or in defined contribution plans. In both these types of savings plans, you save as much as you can, and then turn that lump sum into retirement income, normally on your own.

This tendency for retirement plans to be savings plans designed to build a lump sum is, the article says “devolving responsibility onto the shoulders of individuals,” making the RRSP unit holder or DC plan member the person handling the risk of outliving the savings, known as longevity risk in the industry.

The article offers a couple of ways people can improve their retirement security.

Be sure, the article warns, that you are fully taking part in any retirement program your work offers. “Canadians are leaving up to $4 billion on the table,” the article notes, by not taking full advantage of plans where the employer matches some or all of any extra money they put in.

There’s also a worryingly large group of people who don’t have a workplace pension and aren’t saving on their own via RRSPs or TFSAs, the article reports. That group, the article says, will probably have to work well beyond age 65, but at least they will get more income from CPP and OAS if they take them at a later age.

The article concludes by noting that running day-to-day finances is “hard enough” for Canadians, which may explain the savings shortfall.

If you have a pension plan or retirement savings benefit through your work, consider yourself lucky, and be sure you are getting the most you can out of it. Can you consolidate pension benefits from other workplaces into the plan you’re in now, rather than retiring with several small chunks of savings? Are you eligible for a match, and if so, are you signed up for it?

If you are saving on your own, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be of help. You can save on your own through SPP, much like an RRSP, except SPP has the added advantage of offering a variety of annuity products when you retire – these turn your savings into a lifetime income stream that never runs out. As well, you can often transfer pension funds from past periods of employment into your SPP account – contact SPP to find out how.

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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Why are we so comfortable to live in debt?

A recent headline shouted out the fact that an eye-popping 40 per cent of Canadians “think they’ll be in debt forever.”

The article by Anne Gaviola, posted on the Vice website, cites data from Manulife. The article goes on to note that the average Canuck has $71,979 in debt – up from $57,000 five years ago. These figures, the article says, come via Equifax.

It wasn’t always like this, was it? Why are all willing to live with debt levels that are approaching record highs?

Save with SPP had a look around for answers – why are we so comfy carrying heavy debt loads?

According to the Advisor, it may simply be that paying the way with debt has become so common that no one gets worked up about it anymore.

“Living with debt has become a way of life for both Generation X… and baby boomers as the stigma of owing money is gradually disappearing,” the publication reports, citing Allianz Life research originally published by Generations Apart.

The research found that “nearly half (48 per cent) of both generations agree that credit cards now function as a survival tool and 43 per cent agree that ‘lots of smart, hardworking people who are careful with spending also have a lot of credit card debt,’” the article reports. Having debt is making people plan to work indefinitely – the article notes that 27 per cent of Gen Xers, and 11 per cent of boomers “say they are either unsure about when they plan to retire or don’t plan to retire at all.”

Why the comfort with debt? The Gen Xers got credit cards earlier than their boomer parents, and half of Gen Xers (and nearly a third of boomers) never plan to pay anything more than the minimum payments on them, the article notes.

“Over the last three decades, there has been a collective shift in how people view debt – it’s now perceived as a normal part of one’s financial experience and that has fundamentally altered the way people spend and save,” states Allianz executive Katie Libbe in the article. “If Gen Xers continue to delay saving for retirement until they are completely out of debt, their nest egg is clearly going to suffer. For Gen Xers who are behind on saving, better debt management, with a focus on credit card spending, should be the first issue they address to get back on track,” she states.

To recap, it almost sounds like there’s a couple of generations out there who have never worried about debt.

What should people do to get out of debt?

According to the folks at Manulife, there’s a five-step process that will get you debt-free.

Manulife cites the fact that Canadians owe about $1.65 for every dollar they make. That suggests they aren’t ready to “make a budget and stick with it,” and always spending more than they earn, the article says.

In addition to getting real about budgeting, the other tips are paying off credit cards by targeting those with the highest interest rate first, considering debt consolidation, earning extra money, and negotiating with creditors.

Tips that Save with SPP can personally vouch for in managing debt include giving your credit cards to a loved one, and instructing that person not to hand them over even if you beg; paying more than the minimum on your credit cards and lines of credit; and trying to live on less than 100 per cent of what you earn, so that you are paying the rest to yourself.

While a country can perpetually run deficits and spend more than it earns – and most do – the math doesn’t work out as well for individuals. The piper eventually has to be paid. And if you only pay the minimums, that piper will get paid for many, many years.

Getting debt under control and paid off will help you in many ways, including saving for retirement. Perhaps as you gradually save on interest payments, you can direct the savings to a Saskatchewan Pension Plan retirement account, and watch your savings grow.

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

Dec 9: Best from the blogosphere

Year end – time to make sure you’re taking full advantage of employer retirement programs

The end of the year is always a highlight – the festive season, the New Year, family and friends; it’s an endless list.

But, according to a report from the Toronto Star, there’s another little item that should be on your growing year-end list – retirement, and particularly, any program you’re in at work.

“Many medium-to-large-sized employers offer some form of savings program for their staff; some with a matching component, such as the employer matches 50 per cent of the contribution that the employee makes up to a certain maximum value, while other programs are simply to facilitate savings exclusively from the employee. The draw for employees is that the funds are typically deducted right off one’s paycheque, and of course, the free money if a match is offered,” the Star notes.

You could be leaving that free money on the table if you haven’t signed up, the article warns.

Be sure, the article advises, to find out which employer-sponsored program you’ve signed up for.

“Have you enrolled in a defined benefit or defined contribution pension? Do you contribute to an RRSP or TFSA? Are you funding an RESP for your children? Is your company offering non-registered plans? Which accounts offer a company match, as these should be your priority to fund,” the Star notes.

You may have options to choose from if you are in a company retirement program – often mutual funds, ETFs, or target-date funds (or a combination of each).

Know what you’re paying into, the Star suggests. “Grab a list of what your fund options are and compare historical rate of return, risk level, the composition of the fund and read up on the fund’s objectives. In most cases, your company will be covering a large portion of the fees associated with these investments,” the article notes.

Finally, the article notes, be sure that if there is a company matching option, that you are signed up for it. The Star recommends that you “find out how to get the maximum matching dollars. For example, sometimes they scale the match up (or down) depending on how much you contribute. Simply take advantage of all the free money that’s available to you. It’s the easiest ‘return’ on your investment you’ll ever make,” the article advises.

Those without retirement programs at work must do the job on their own, the article concludes. If you are in this situation, “it’s then up to you to save independently.”

An option for that self-managed saving is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan . With SPP, your contributions are invested professionally and at a low fee. As of the end of September, 2019, the SPP’s balanced fund is up more than 10 per cent. In addition to growing your savings, SPP is equipped to offer you a multitude of ways to turn savings into lifetime income via annuities – SPP’s Retirement Guide provides full details.

There’s still time to sign up and join SPP prior to the RRSP deadline in 2020, so check them out today and make them part of your year-end to-do list.

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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Canadians value pensions over more pay; retirement savings education is a must: HOOPP

Recent research commissioned by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) has found that four of five Canadians would choose a better pension (or any pension) over a pay raise – even at a time when most of them are struggling to make ends meet.

The research, conducted by Abacus Data, found that there is a high level of retirement anxiety amongst Canadians. Among the findings were that most were more worried about saving for retirement (75 per cent) than they were worried about government or personal debt, and that 76 per cent were concerned that the lack of workplace pension coverage hurts the economy.

Save with SPP reached out to Darryl Mabini, HOOPP’s Assistant Vice-President, Growth & Stakeholder Relations, to ask a few more questions about the organization’s findings, and their thoughts about possible solutions.

Asked what, if anything, can be done to encourage more Canadians to save for retirement, Mabini noted that we are “in a climate” where workplace pension plans are scarce in the private sector. While public sector workers generally have pensions at work, “about 60 per cent of Canadians don’t have access to a pension plan.”

Mabini agrees that high personal debt levels are a restrictor on personal retirement savings for those without pension plans. “Canadians currently owe about $1.70 for every dollar they earn – that’s an historically high debt to income ratio,” he explains. When you are owing substantially more than you make, it is pretty hard to find a way to put aside some of your earnings for retirement, he says.

“A lot of Canadians are just barely making ends meet,” he says. He points out that while there is “good debt,” such as having a mortgage (because you are building equity in your home), many working Canadians are relying on bank loans, credit cards, and other borrowed money to pay for living expenses between paydays. Yet, he points out, HOOPP’s research found that Canadians would take a job with a pension over one that offered more pay.

Those who also have no pension arrangement “are the most vulnerable to having insufficient income when they reach retirement age, Mabini adds. That’s because they are the least likely to be able to afford to save, he explains.

The danger of inadequate retirement income is another problem that needs to be addressed, he says. By doing nothing about boosting participation in retirement savings today, society is “kicking the problem down the road,” an oversight which could lead to increased reliance by seniors on taxpayer-funded government assistance, he says. “When Canadians don’t have access to pension plans… the risk (for their future income) shifts to the taxpayer,” he explains. But if they are living on savings they’ve amassed on their own, or through a pension plan, they are consumers with spending power who help the economy and pay taxes, he adds. HOOPP’s research (other highlights follow) also suggests Canadians are aware of the realities of pensions and retirement, and are looking to employers and government to help deliver solutions.

  • Eighty-one per cent believe the shrinking of workplace pension coverage will reduce the quality of life of Canadians.
  • Eighty-three per cent believe government should modernize regulations to allow for more innovative pension plans and savings arrangements.
  • Eighty per cent would rather employers make direct contributions to a retirement plan over receiving that money as salary.
  • Seventy-six per cent believe governments can save money by supporting pensions that are more affordable.

What type of pension would Canadians want to have? Mabini says that while that specific answer wasn’t captured in this round of research, an earlier HOOPP-led research project, The Value of A Good Pension, found that the “value drivers” of a good pension include:

  • a design that is focused on saving (through “ongoing, regular contributions,” Mabini explains)
  • operating with a low fee
  • using a professional approach to investing
  • offering “fiduciary oversight,” meaning it is run by a group that has a legal responsibility to act in the best interests of the member
  • the pooling of risks

Our final question for Mabini was what finding surprised him the most. “What bubbled up to the top was the idea that four out of five would take a job with a pension over a job that offered them a higher income, but no pension,” he says, even at a time when most are struggling to make ends meet. This shows that Canadians are keenly aware of the value of having a pension, he concludes.

We thank Darryl Mabini and James Geuzebroek of HOOPP for their help in putting this article together.

If you are one of the many Canadians who lack a workplace pension plan, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be able to help. You can set up your own pension plan via SPP – the money you contribute to your account is professionally invested at a low fee, and when it is time to retire, SPP can convert your savings to a variety of different lifetime annuities, which ensure you’ll never run out of your retirement savings.

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

Dec 2: Best from the blogosphere

Experts say retirement planning should start in one’s 20s

Ah, the joys of being in one’s twenties. You’re young, you’re healthy, you’re newly educated and you’re ready to make your way in the world of employment.

And, according to the experts, you should have your retirement planning well underway!

According to The Motley Fool blog via Yahoo!, “the saddest tale you can hear from baby boomers is the regret of having not prepared early for retirement.”

Not saving enough while young is something your older you will experience – in a negative way – later in life, the blog advises. “Many baby boomers found out belatedly that their nest eggs weren’t enough to sustain a retirement lifestyle,” the blog warns.

Without an early head start on saving, the Motley Fool warns, “you might end up with less than half of the money you’d need after retiring for good. The best move is to invest in income-generating assets or stocks to start the ball rolling.”

What stocks should a young retirement saver invest in? According to the blog, “Bank of Montreal (BMO) should be on the top of your list,” as it has been paying out good dividends since 1829. Other good dividend-payers recommended by the investing blog include Canadian Utilities (CU) and CIBC bank.

“The younger generation should take the advice of baby boomers seriously: start saving early for retirement. Apart from not knowing how long you’ll live, you can’t get back lost time. Many baby boomers started saving too late, yet expected to enjoy the same lifestyle as they did before retirement,” the blog warns.

So the takeaway here is, start early, and pick something that has a history of growth and dividend payments.

The bigger question is always this – how much is enough to save?

A recent blog by Rob Carrick of the Globe and Mail mentions some handy calculators that can help you figure out what your nest egg should be.

Carrick says that while seeing a financial adviser is always recommended for goal-setting, the calculators can help. Three he mentions include The Personal Enhanced Retirement Calculator, designed by actuary and financial author Fred Vettese; The Retirement Cash Flow Calculator from the Get Smarter About Money blog; and The Canadian Retirement Income Calculator from the federal government.

You’ll find any retirement calculator will deliver what looks like a huge and unobtainable savings number. However, if you start early, you’ll have the benefit of time on your side. Even a small annual savings amount will grow substantially if it has 30 or 40 years of growth runway before landing at the airport of retirement. For sure, start young. Join any retirement program you can at your work, but also save on your own. If you’re not ready to start making trades, a great option is membership in the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You get the benefit of professional investing at a very low price, and that expertise will grow your savings over time. When it’s time to turn savings into income, SPP is unique in the fact that it offers an in-plan way to deliver your savings via a monthly pay lifetime annuity. And there are a number of different types of annuities to choose from. Check them out today!

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