How we’re getting creative – and using tech – to stay in touch

Back in the 1960s when this writer was young, there were only a few channels available for staying in touch with the grandparents.

We’d pile into the car and drive down to Montreal to see dad’s parents, and Saint John to see mom’s parents, at least once or twice a year. During any holiday we’d line up around the family landline while mom placed a rare long-distance call so we could hear their voices. And we’d send cards and write letters.

These days, it’s not always easy or possible to visit. So what are people doing to stay in touch with family and distant friends during the pandemic?

At the Stream MD blog , a list of creative ways to keep in touch are presented. Video-streaming is now easily available from your phone and computer, and using Zoom or Teams or Facetime is an excellent and safe way to see family and friends, the article notes.

If you have Netflix or Prime Video, you can hold a “virtual watch party” and see a movie with your family and friends online, the blog advises. Other ideas from Stream MD include having shared music playlists and taking online courses together.

The Which? blog in the UK talks about holding virtual birthday parties for friends using Zoom.

“I went to a surprise party the other night: about 30 of us gathered to sing happy birthday to a friend and give him the birthday present we’d all clubbed together to buy him – some new DJ decks,” writes blogger Kate Bevan.

“But don’t worry – even though he only lives over the river from me in Clapham, I wasn’t actually there. And neither was anyone else, except for his flatmate,” all thanks to the use of Zoom, she reports.

In addition to Zoom, the article mentions the Google Duo phone app and Facebook Portal; the latter is “so simple to use that it’s worth considering if you have a family member who is unsure with tech.”

Tech is great, but there are other ways to achieve success, reports the Healthy Vix blog.

Get the kids to make “a handmade card” for the older folks, the article advises. “The children, especially, love to make a handmade card to send to their Nana or other family members. It’s really exciting for them to make a card and walk to the local letterbox to post it,” the blog explains.

Also, if the grandparents aren’t going to be able to figure out technology, or have no one to help them with it, go old-school, Healthy Vix advises. “There’s no need for elderly relatives to get their head around social media or confusing technology when a good old phone call will suffice. Keep things simple and call your loved ones for a good old chinwag when you can. Just hearing each other’s voices can help you feel in touch and connected, even when apart,” the blog suggests.

It’s been a strange year for visiting family who are in seniors’ apartments or nursing homes. At one visit we were greeted by a fully-PPE-protected (and friendly) staffer who took our temperatures and logged our contact details before we could have a one-hour, heavily sanitizer-ized visit with the wife’s mom. Our cousin had to visit her mom from behind a barrier, waving across a parking lot. Our neighbour talked to his elderly dad in London by driving down there and lying on the grass outside his nursing home window so he could yell hello through the window.

Whatever works should be given a try.

Did you know you can stay in touch with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) from the comfort of your own living room? When you sign up for MySPP you can see a record of your contributions, your account balance, information on investment returns updated monthly, and can review your personal contact information. Let your fingers do the clicking and 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.

Oct 19: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

Watch out for these 20 mistakes retirement savers are making

The journey between the here and now of work, and the imaginary future wonderworld of retirement, is a peculiar one. We all imagine the destination differently and no one’s super clear on the route!

The folks over at MSN have a great little post about 20 pitfalls we need to avoid on the retirement journey.

The first, and probably most obvious pitfall, is “not having enough savings.” The blog post notes that “32 per cent of Canadians approaching retirement don’t have any savings,” citing BNN Bloomberg research. “Middle-aged and older Canadians should start saving as early as possible,” the post warns.

If you’re already a saver, are you aware of the fees you are paying on your investments? “High fees can eat up huge amounts of your savings over time if you’re not careful,” the post states.

Many of us who lack savings say hey, no problem, I’ll just keep working, even past age 65. The post points out that (according to Statistics Canada), “30 per cent of individuals who took an early retirement in 2002 did so because of their health.” In other words, working later may not be the option you think it is.

Are you assuming the kids won’t need any help once you hit your gold watch era? Beware, the blog says, noting that RBC research has found “almost half of parents with children aged 30-35 are still financially subsidizing their kids in some way.”

Another issue for Canucks is taking their federal government benefits too early. You don’t have to take CPP and OAS until age 70, the blog says – and you get substantially more income per month if you wait.

Some savers don’t invest, the blog says. “While it may seem risky to rely on the stock market, the real risk is that inflation will eat up your savings over time, while investments tend to increase in value over long periods of time,” the MSN bloggers tell us.

Raiding the RRSP cookie jar before you retire is also a no-no, the blog reports – the tax hit is heavy and you lose the room forever. Conversely, there are also penalties for RRIF owners if they fail to take enough money out, the blog says.

Other tips – expect healthcare costs of $5,391 per person in retirement each year, avoid retiring with a mortgage (we know about this one), be aware of the equity risks of a reverse mortgage, and don’t count on your house to fully fund your retirement.

The takeaway from all of this sounds very straightforward, but of course requires a lot of self-discipline to achieve – you need to save as much as you can while eliminating debt, all prior to retirement. And you have to maximize your income from all sources. That’s how our parents and grandparents did it – once there was no mortgage or debt they put down the shovel and enjoyed the rest of their time.

If you have a workplace pension, congratulations – you are in the minority, and you should do what you can to stay in that job to receive that future pension. If you don’t have a pension at work, the onus for retirement savings is on you. If you’re not sure about investments and fees, you could turn to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for help. They have been growing peoples’ savings since the mid-1980s, all for a very low investment fee, and they can turn those savings into lifetime income when work ends and the joy of retirement begins.

Written by Martin Biefer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The amount? $101,155.

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Martin Biefer

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

Well-crafted book helps you prepare for life after work – Not Fade Away, by Celia Dodd

The book Not Fade Away by Celia Dodd is a retirement book that’s not brimming with charts and tables and heavy investment advice. This well-written and thoughtful book focuses more on the key decisions you’ll face on the road to your own retirement plan.

Retirement, she writes, can be hard for many of us, like leaving home, we are leaving work for perhaps the first time. “Why do people feel lost, overwhelmed, and even depressed without it? It’s almost as if we are addicted to work… work is such a big part of our lives for such a long time that it’s hard to leave it behind,” Dodd notes.

She provides a list of the things we worry about when thinking of retirement:

  • Health
  • Money
  • Relationship with partner
  • Loss of identity/self-esteem/confidence
  • Boredom and lack of purpose
  • Lack of structure
  • Loss of skills (because they are not being used)

With those thoughts in mind, Dodd points out that retirement is not like an on-off switch; there are several ways to approach it. There’s the traditional “cliff edge” approach, full retirement from all work; there is “phased retirement through a reduced workload with your existing employer,” or “phased retirement through new part-time work or becoming self-employed.”

All these roads (for many of us) eventually lead to full retirement – no work at all. Dodd advises us to try and “think about what an average weekday (in retirement) would ideally be like once the honeymoon period is over.” Jot this down, she says, and be specific.

Think about how you handled “previous transitions in your life,” or how you spent any really long holidays.

“Think about what you’re going to miss most about work and how you might recreate it: water cooler moments? Mental challenge? Working in a team? Commuting?” Dodd assures us that some people actually do miss the trip to work.

Take note of the things you enjoy both at work and in your spare time, talk to retired friends, and if you’re planning to volunteer or start a business, find out “what skills and qualifications you might need,” she writes, adding that we should also consider “untravelled roads,” things we once liked to do, or wanted to do, but aren’t doing.

When you are more separated from full-time work, Dodd writes, consider the “ingredients for fulfillment” in life, such as “activities that nurture you: walking, listening to or playing music and practising yoga.”

It’s important to meet up with old friends, she writes, but as important to meet new ones, “and take part in activities in a group.”

Ideally you should find activities you can “lose yourself in,” keep your brain sharp, stay challenged, have a sense of achievement, and “an overarching sense of purpose – long-term goals that incorporate short-term goals.”

The book offers many more thought-provoking ideas, including some basic tips about retirement income, such as making sure you are getting correctly taxed, breaking habits (like being generous) if you can no longer afford them, and to spend money “on experiences and socializing rather than material possessions.”

When this writer was planning to leave full-time work, it was very difficult to imagine what it would be like on the other side of the fence. This book is about as good as it gets when it comes to answering that question – and makes the point that there’s no such thing as a cookie cutter retirement, that it’s not always all about money, and that your own unique circumstances will define your retirement. Definitely worth a read!

No matter how your retirement unfolds, having a little more retirement income will be handy. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan can be part of your retirement income plan. You can contribute up to $6,300 per year to the plan, and expert investors will grow it for you at an extremely competitive low rate. When it’s time to fully or partially leave the workforce, those invested contributions can be converted to a lifetime income stream via SPP annuities. Take a minute to check it out on SPP’s website 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.

Oct 5: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

Canadian savings rate jumps to 28.2%, says Statistics Canada

For decades we’ve been told that Canadians – once known as a nation of savers – had shifted to become spenders.

No more. According to figures from Statistics Canada reported on by U.S. News and World Report, we are piling up the savings these days. The article notes that by mid-2020, Canadians were saving an incredible 28.2% of their disposable income, up from just 2-3% before the pandemic.

“There’s a pot of cash that’s basically sitting there and we’re interested in monitoring where that goes,” states Statistics Canada economist Greg Peterson in the article. “It’s a kind of notable divergence from what we usually see.”

Peterson states in the article that Statistics Canada is curious as to whether Canadians will pay down debt with their stockpile of cash, or spend it on goods and services, which would benefit the re-emerging economy.

Where did the extra money come from?

“Disposable incomes jumped sharply on higher government transfers – namely emergency wage benefits – while household spending fell amid COVID-19 shutdowns,” the article tells us. That seems right. Back in the spring, when the first pandemic-related restrictions began, there wasn’t much to spend money on other than groceries and gas. Things have been slowly improving ever since.

And certainly many Canadians have been counting on the CERB benefit during these months of the pandemic.

Let’s face it; we are in a crisis situation and it’s always good to have a little money in the wallet to help tide you through.

A survey out in early September from Sun Life finds that nearly half of us “feel less financially secure due to COVID-19.”

Forty-four per cent of those surveyed by Sun Life who say their mental health has been affected by the pandemic cite “financial stress as the main factor,” a Sun Life media release notes.

Younger Canadians appear to be the most worried group, the survey finds.

So, putting it all together, we’ve suddenly changed back to a nation of savers, and it’s quite possibly the uncertainty of our recovering economy that’s to blame. While things are returning slowly to a more normal state, there are still people out there who haven’t been able to get back to work – not everything has re-opened, or re-opened fully.

Having a little cash on hand for emergencies makes a lot of sense in this situation.

However, if you are sitting on excess cash for the short-term, consider earmarking a little bit of it for your retirement savings as well. A good place to tuck away a few loonies can be the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You can set up SPP as a “bill payment” using your online banking website, and direct some of your extra dollars to them, either a little or a lot. With SPP there are no pre-defined contributions; it is up to you to decide how much to chip in. Your future you will thank you for any stray dollars you can send his or her way.

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.

Start early and work the tax system in your favour, says Gordon Pape

Gordon Pape is one of Canada’s best-known authors and commentators on investing, retirement and tax issues. Save with SPP reached out to him by email to ask a few questions about our favourite topic – saving for retirement.

Q. What are the three most important tips you can provide on saving for retirement?

A. Create a savings plan and stick to it. To do that, make sure it’s realistic. To maximize the odds of success, set up an automatic monthly withdrawal at your financial institution, with the proceeds going directly into a pension plan, Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA).

  • Start as early as possible. Let the magic of compounding work for you for as many years as you can. If you invest $1,000 for 20 years with a five per cent average annual return, it will be worth $2,653.30 at the end of that time. After 40 years, the value will be $7,039.99.
  • Use the tax system to your advantage. All RRSP and pension contributions within the legal limit will generate a deduction that will lower your tax bill. Contributions to Tax-Free Savings Accounts are not deductible, but no tax is assessed on withdrawals.

Q. Given today’s markets, are there any things you think people should be doing differently with their retirement investments?

A. This is a very difficult environment in which to invest because of the uncertainty related to the pandemic and the time it will take the economy to recover. In these circumstances, I advise caution, especially with retirement money. Aim for a balanced portfolio (typically 40 per cent bonds and cash, 60 per cent equities). Dollar-cost average your stock or equity fund investments over time. Always have some cash in reserve to deploy in market corrections.

Q. Given what seems to be a lack of workplace pension plans in many job categories, is saving for retirement more important than ever before?

A. It has always been important but it’s especially so if you do not have a pension plan (most people in the private sector do not). Few people want to scrape by on payments from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS). To enhance your retirement lifestyle, you’ll need your own personal retirement nest egg – and the larger, the better.

Q. Do you think we’ll see more people working beyond traditional retirement age – and if yes, why do you think that is?

A. Absolutely. We’re already seeing that trend. In some cases, the motivation is financial – people simply don’t have the savings needed to quit work. But in other cases, people keep working because they want to. I’m in my 80s and still work full-time. I enjoy what I do and don’t intend to stop until health forces me to. I know a lot of people that feel the same way.

We thank Gordon Pape for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to check out his website for more great information.

If you don’t have a workplace pension, or are looking for a way to top up what you are already saving, consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s a one-shop, personal retirement plan that you can set up for yourself or your employer can offer it as part of a benefit package. Once you are a member, your contributions are grown via risk-controlled, low-cost investing, and when it’s time to receive the gold watch, you can choose from a variety of retirement income options including life annuities. Consider checking 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, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

Sep 28: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

U.S. study finds retirees overestimate retirement income, undersave

A study by the University of Southern California, reported on by Next Avenue, has revealed some interesting findings.

It seems, according to the magazine, that retirees “were too optimistic about their retirement benefits, which led to them not saving enough during their working years.” In fact, the magazine notes, “if they could go back in time, they’d have postponed retiring, paid off debts before leaving the workforce and learned more about their personal finances.”

The study is called Subjective Expectations: Social Security Benefits and the Optimal Path to Retirement. And while the contents are aimed at a U.S. audience where retirement rules and programs are different, there is still some good information for us Canucks.

The study found that men were less optimistic about their future retirement benefits than women, which caused them to save more. Those with lower education levels also tended to believe they didn’t need to save, the article notes.

“Being mistaken in this way is costly for these groups because it makes it more difficult for them to realize they need to prepare to be appropriately ready for retirement,” states USC’s Maria Prados in the article. “Given the complexity of how benefits are determined, it is not surprising to see an educational and socioeconomic gradient in these misperceptions,” she states.

When the research looked at attitudes towards Social Security (it’s somewhat equivalent to our Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security system), it found that 20 per cent of those surveyed regretted taking their benefits early, and 21 per cent found that the benefits they did get “were substantially different than what they expected; most expected more.”

A surprising 50 per cent said they don’t have a good estimate of what their future retirement benefits will be.

The article makes several key recommendations so that you don’t find yourself short in your Golden Years.

  • Expect to live a long life: A big issue, the article notes, is “forgetting you may live to be 98.” And if you do, you’ll find that taxes, healthcare costs and caregiving expenses will all be much more, due to inflation.
  • Get an estimate: If you are eligible for government retirement benefits, or benefits from work (or both), be sure to get estimates of what you’ll get before you get too far along in planning. Try to get estimates that show after-tax amounts.
  • You can get more if you retire later: While the article focuses on U.S. programs, be aware that CPP is reduced if you take it before age 65, but is increased if you take it after 65; the latest you can start it is age 70.
  • Create a lifestyle budget: Be aware of what you plan to spend in retirement – just as you need to understand your income, you need to also understand your future spending.
  • Women should take a more active role in financial planning: There are many resources available online to get you up to speed on your retirement benefits from work and the government.

The article concludes with this good advice – “plan for more income than you think you’ll need.” It’s very true that the cost of living very rarely decreases.

If you’re a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, you can estimate what your future retirement income will be using their Wealth Calculator. As well, you can see how your savings are doing online using MySPP. Be sure to check out these key tools soon, particularly if retirement is fast approaching!

Written by Martin Biefer

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

What are the big funds doing about investments during the pandemic?

Photo credited to: Chris Liverani

The pension industry has a big footprint.

With the top 300 pension funds around the world managing an eye-popping $19.5 trillion (U.S.) in assets – and with quite a few of those funds being Canadian-based – Save with SPP decided to take a look around to see what our own country’s pension leaders are saying about investment markets.

With $409.6 billion in assets, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) is the nation’s largest pension fund. CPPIB has identified four sectors of the economy it thinks will grow in the near future – e-commerce, healthcare, logistics (aka shipping/receiving) and urban infrastructure.

CPPIB expects “massive changes” in those areas, CPPIB’s Leon Pederson tells Tech Crunch. And while CPPIB invests for the long-term, the four areas identified by their research might “indicate where the firm sees certain industries going, but it’s also a sign of where CPPIB might commit some investment capital,” the magazine reports.

The $205-billion Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) saw small losses in the first half of 2020, reports Bloomberg.

“Some of our hardest hit investments were among our private assets. Heavily-impacted segments were leisure and travel, including our five airports, and assets where consumer spending declined, which is our shopping malls and Cadillac Fairview,” OTPP’s CEO, Jo Taylor, states in the article.

However, losses were cushioned by the plan’s strong fixed-income returns, the article notes – in all, $7.9 million in income from its bond portfolio helped OTPP limit losses.

The $94.1 billion Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan’s (HOPP) CEO, Jeff Wendling, recently told Benefits Canada that the plan is considering looking at some new investment categories as it pursues its “liability driven investing” strategy. With a liability driven investing strategy, the investment target is not beating stock market indexes, but ensuring there is always enough money to cover every current and future dollar owed to pensioners.

“We’re very focused on liabilities, but what you do when interest rates are at really extreme lows, in our view, is different than what we did in the past,” he states in the article. HOOPP, he adds, is now looking at infrastructure investing, insurance-linked securities, and increased equity exposure to generate income traditionally provided by bonds.

Large pension plans like CPPIB, OTPP and HOOPP have enjoyed a lot of success over the years. The takeaway for the average investor is that the large scale of these plans allow them to do things the average person can’t – like directly owning businesses (private equity), or shopping centres and offices (real estate) in addition to traditional stock and fixed-income investments. The big guys are taking advantage of diversification in their holdings, and so perhaps should we all.

Individuals and workplaces can leverage the investment expertise of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Its Balanced Fund is invested in Canadian, U.S. and international equities, bonds, mortgages, and real estate, infrastructure and short-term investments. And the fund has averaged an eight* per cent rate of return since its inception in the mid-1980s. Check them out today.

*Past performance does not guarantee future results.

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.

Sep 21: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

Is having a life coach for retirement the next new thing?

For nearly all of us, retirement is something we imagine as a wonderful life after work is done – and as well, something we should be saving money to pay for.

An article in Forbes magazine suggests that “the transitions surrounding retirement can lead to a time of anxiety and questioning.”

The article cites a 2019 study from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. as noting “much of this angst may stem from a loss of identity, family tensions and a sense of loneliness. Financial factors often play a role too. Living on a fixed income can be rough and the cost of living may exceed expectations.”

These factors, coupled with the general uncertainty due to the pandemic, can make “a retirement date that’s nearing seem daunting,” the article notes.

But, Forbes reports, there’s a solution to retirement anxiety – getting a life coach.

“You may be familiar with life coaches, who help people evaluate themselves, grow and implement lifestyle changes. Often, a life coach will provide a working plan to help improve a specific area of your life,” the magazine tells us.

“Retirement coaches frequently act as life coaches, with a specific focus on the retirement years. Like other life coaches, retirement coaches may specialize in certain things, such as finances or behavior,” the Forbes article explains.

New retirees can face obstacles that they don’t expect, states Monte Drenner, a Florida-based life coach interviewed by Forbes for the article.

The social networks built through work have to be rebuilt, he says. Travel plans may not be financially achievable – the dream is more expensive than savings permit, Drenner tells Forbes.

It’s important for them to realize that retirement is a phase of life and not a break from work, Drenner says in the article. ““Many people bring a vacation mindset to retirement,” he explains – but that thinking can lead to dull days if nothing much is planned in the time between travel dates.

Another life coach quoted in the article, Kay Goshtabi of San Diego, says self-awareness is something many new retirees need to attain.

“The majority of my clients who are reinventing in retirement tell me that this is the hardest challenge they have faced to date,” she tells Forbes, adding that before retiring. “people have not stopped to figure out who they are.”

It’s important, she says, to set realistic expectations about retirement. “I look at it as a marathon and not a sprint,” she says.

The article gives some examples of how you might reinvent yourself in retirement by working part-time at something you like, or developing projects to help your family such as a family-focused cookbook. Write down your “dreams, wishes and interests” prior to retirement to help keep you on track when you’re there, the article concludes.

It’s true that retirement is what you make of it, but some dreams are more expensive than others. That’s where the Saskatchewan Pension Plan can be of assistance. It’s like a personal pension plan you can leverage as your main retirement savings tool, or to augment benefits you’re getting from work. The SPP grows your savings and offers you many income options when it’s time to start chasing dreams, such as the ability to get a lifetime pension. 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, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

Looking for ways to beat the pandemic blues

Let’s face it – the spring, summer and fall of 2020 have been quite a downer. We’ve been made to be holed up at home, are restricted in what we can do, where we can go and who we can see, and are continually worried about our jobs, our kids, and the bills.

The pandemic has hammered our mental health, reports Global News. “A survey done in conjunction with the Mental Health Commission of Canada found that a whopping 84 per cent of those surveyed felt their mental health had worsened since the onset of the pandemic,” the network reports.

“Similarly, an Ipsos survey done for Addictions and Mental Health Ontario found 45 per cent of Ontarians reported their mental health had suffered during the pandemic, with 67 per cent saying they expect those effects to be `serious and lasting,’” reports Global.

Save with SPP took a look around to see if there are any ideas out there on how to ward off these feelings of depression and anxiety.

According to Triathlon Magazine Canada, research from the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that “by being physically active, depressive symptoms decreased.” Even five minutes of activity did the trick, the magazine reports.

Other tips – develop, and stick to, a routine, the magazine suggests. Avoid the “western diet” of “processed meat, high-fat dairy products, and refined grains” as it is associated with increased risk of depression, the magazine advises. Their final suggestion is to try, even with the restrictions in place, to stay in touch with friends and family. “While tedious, Zoom calls are good for our mental health, but in person is far better,” say the folks at Triathlon Magazine Canada.

Over at Psychology Today magazine, Dr. Erin Leyba offers some additional tips.

Taking a warm bath at least twice a week “may help relieve symptoms of depression… even more than exercise does,” she writes.

Exercises like “jogging, cycling, walking, gardening and dancing” help increase your blood circulation, which in turn helps shift your brain’s reaction to stress. Doing nice things for friends and family will produce a “helper’s high” that makes our brains feel better, she writes. Examples are calling or face-timing an elderly relative, delivering groceries to someone, thanking front-line workers via cards or buying them lunches, or donating money to help those impacted by COVID-19.

Reading, as well as calling or video-chatting with friends are also positive steps to ward off depression, she writes.

The advice from the federal government is similar. Let your doctor know if you think you are suffering from depression, the feds advise, as depression “is a serious but treatable illness.”

Avoid isolation, the federal website urges.

“One-on-one interactions, such as going to a movie or out for coffee with a friend are also good forms of social contact. Being around others provides support, companionship and has a good effect on your general health,” the site notes, agreeing that physical activity and a healthy diet are also pluses.

These are all good pieces of advice that we all should take note of as we watch the pandemic play out. A colleague of ours once said that every crisis has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s nice to imagine the end of this one.

If saving for retirement is one of your worries, a solution may be joining the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s great to have professionals running your investments (rather than trying to figure it out yourself), and the SPP grows your money at a very low fee. When it’s time to turn your savings into retirement income, SPP offers a variety of lifetime pension options via annuities. 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, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.