May 17: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

May 17, 2021

Knowing what you really need as retirement income is key: My Own Advisor

Poll after poll seems to confirm the idea that Canadians think saving for retirement is a good thing – whether or not they are actually doing it.

But the My Own Advisor blog notes that unless you really understand what your retirement income needs are, you could actually be saving too much for retirement.

The blog starts by rolling out the party line on retirement saving – “live within your means; maximize savings to registered accounts like the registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) and tax-free savings account (TFSA) – then consider taxable investing;” then keep investment costs low.

“Rinse and repeat for 30 years,” the blog notes, and “retire with money in the bank.”

All good. However, the blog warns, there is an important question you must know the answer to before you begin drawing down your retirement income – “how much is enough?”

“When it comes to you, only you know what you need or want from retirement,” the blog explains. And figuring this out is not easy – the blog says it is akin to “putting together a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.”

The blog says you need to thinking about the overall picture – your income from all possible source. If you have a pension at work, will you take it as soon as you can? When should you draw down your RRSP assets? Or should they be kept intact and rolled into a RRIF? Should you consider an annuity?

The blog then asks when you should start accessing any TFSA funds, the Canada Pension Plan, and Old Age Security. “Dozens more questions abound,” the blog says.

Some people, the blog says, “don’t know any of these answers, and err on the very conservative side.” The blog then publishes a nice exchange between the blogger and a retired reader in Germany, who makes two key points – “you don’t need as much as you think,” and “your cost of living steadily decreases as time wears on.” The reader also states that “every senior I’ve spoken with reminds me they are living on substantially reduced incomes, but with no differences in their standards of living.”

These are all great points, and very accurate, based on what we’ve observed since leaving the full time workforce nearly seven years ago. None of our friends and neighbours have had to make radical changes in their lifestyles due to retiring, but we all certainly spend a lot more time talking about taxes than we used to! So you do tend to just adjust to the reality of living on less, and after a while, it’s OK.

The article mentions annuities as an option – and if you’re a Saskatchewan Pension Plan member, they are an option for you as well. There are a couple of great things about annuities. First, you know exactly what you’ll get each month – and can provide for survivors if you wish. Second, you don’t have to worry about the markets – whether they are up or way down, you get the same income. Third, it’s a lot simpler for tax planning – your income is known in advance, not based on some percentage of your declining assets. Check out SPP today.

Written by Martin Biefer

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


Pandemic has meant many adult children returning to the nest

May 13, 2021
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

With an end to the pandemic in sight, we are all hopeful that things are about to start returning to normal.

One trend that’s been happening since last year, reports Global News, is “young adults (being) forced to move back in with their parents.”

Factors like campus closures or lack of employment are reasons why the kids may return to the nest. Another factor might be the fact that housing is so unaffordable these days.

What should parents do to make the best of such a situation?

Noted financial author and commentator Kelley Keehn recommends setting “some ground rules” before the kids move back in.

“Are they paying rent? If they’re unemployed are they looking for work? When they do get back on their feet do they need to pay back the bank of mom and dad?” she states in the article. If these details aren’t clear right off the top, “resentment can set in,” the article warns.

The trend of kids returning home is big south of the border as well, reports the Huffington Post. Numbers of Americans aged 18 to 34 returning home are rising, and parents – who might have been thinking of downsizing – are now thinking about going bigger on their homes to make room for the kids.

A total of 26 per cent of millennials live with their parents in the U.S., up from 22 per cent before the recession of 2007, the article notes.

But there’s good news – the kids moving home are taking advantage of the situation to boost their education, and ideally snare a better job, the article concludes.

The PsychCentral blog says there can be a lot of positives for the relations between parents and kids when they move home, but parents need to stay calm about the unexpected change.

“Don’t freak out,” the publication advises, and blame the kids for not trying hard enough to be independent. Have conversations about “what is OK and what isn’t OK” in your house, and remember your kids aren’t teenagers and will be expecting more freedom than in the past. Try to make sure the kids are contributing, even in some small way, towards the costs of living, and set up a timetable for their stay, the article adds.

WebMD expands on that point, advising us not to “fall back into mommy mode” and realize that the now adult kids have “different attitudes, needs, and eating, sleeping or partying habits than they did when they were younger.”

Save with SPP can add this important thought for parents – the kids are almost certainly doing this move as a last resort. Few adult children truly want to move home. So, if you do get a second chance to live with your kids, make the most of it – you’re helping them to get ahead in life by doing so.

Do your kids have a pension plan at work? If not, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be a smart option for them. A truly end-to-end retirement program, SPP takes your contributed dollars, invests them professionally and at a low cost, and then can convert those invested savings into a lifelong pension when you reach the golden handshake. SPP has been securing retirement futures for 35 years now – 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.


May 10: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

May 10, 2021

“Mind shift” on taxation needed when you enter retirement

Writing in the Sarnia Observer, financial writer Christine Ibbotson notes that taxation – fairly straightforward before you retire – gets a lot more complicated after you retire.

“Managing your taxes during your working years is relatively generic,” she writes. “You maximize your registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) contributions, purchase investments that attract the least tax possible on investment income or buy real estate to increase your net worth.”  The goal with taxes is get them as low as possible, she explains.

It’s a different ball game in retirement, Ibbotson notes.

“As you transition into retirement, the tax planning process shifts onto withdrawing assets, and doing so in the most tax-efficient manner,” she explains. This requires what she calls a minor “mind shift” for most people, the article notes.

“Most are preoccupied with minimizing current taxes each year. But this cannot be at the expense of your long-term objective for maximizing after tax income for your entire retirement (often estimated at 25 to 40 years),” she notes.

For that reason, Ibbotson says retirees need to get a handle on how the various types of income they may receive are taxed.

“There are three main types of taxation to consider: interest income, dividend income, and capital gains. All are taxed differently, so this makes it easier to structure your portfolio more efficiently when you are creating your plan with your advisor,” Ibbotson writes.

“As a general rule you want to place income that is going to be unfavourably taxed, (interest income) into tax-sheltered products such as tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) or RRSPs. Investment income that generates returns that receive more favourable tax treatments (dividends or capital gains) should be placed in non-registered accounts.”

If you are retiring, it’s critical that you know what your income is from all sources – government retirement benefits, a workplace pension, and “anticipated income” from your own savings. This knowledge can help you to “avoid clawbacks as much as possible,” she explains.

Other tax-saving suggestions from Ibbotson include the ideas of Canada Pension Plan/Quebec Pension Plan “sharing,” splitting employer pension plans for tax purposes with your spouse, and holding on to RRSPs, registered retirement income funds (RRIFs) or locked-in retirement accounts (LIRAs) to maturity. Those age 65 and older in receipt of a pension (including an SPP annuity) will qualify for the federal Pension Income Tax Credit, another little way to save a bit on the tax bill.

“Simply put, paying less tax translates into keeping more money in your pocket, allowing you to enjoy a better quality of life,” she concludes.

This is great advice. Save with SPP can attest to the unexpected complexity of having multiple sources of income in retirement after many years of having only one paycheque. You also have fewer levers to address taxes – while you might be able to contribute to an RRSP or your SPP account, it’s probably only on your earnings from part-time work or consulting. You can ask your pension plan to deduct additional taxes from your monthly cheque if you find you are paying the Canada Revenue Agency every year.

The older you get, the more you talk about taxes with friends and neighbours, and many a decumulation strategy has been mapped out on the back of a golf scorecard after input from the other players!

Wondering how much your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account will total when it’s time to retire? Have a look at SPP’s Wealth Calculator. Plug in your current account balance, your expected annual contributions, years to retirement and the interest rate you expect, and voila – there’s an estimate for you. It’s just another feature for members developed by SPP, who have been building 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.


A look at retirement-related “rules of thumb”

May 6, 2021

We’re forever hearing about “rules of thumb” when it comes to retirement, so today, Save with SPP will attempt to bring a bunch of these thumbs of wisdom together in one place.

A great starting point is the Retire Happy blog, where Ed Rempel rhymes off some of the most popular rules.

He speaks of the “70 per cent replacement rule,” where it is said that the “right” level of retirement income (this rule is widely disputed) is 70 per cent of what you were making before you retired. As Rempel notes, under this rule, a couple making $100,000 would thus need $70,000 in retirement.

(Another possible origin of this rule is the defined benefit pension world, where pensions normally provide two per cent of what you made at work per year you are a plan member. In the old days, membership was capped at 35 years – the math adds up to 70 per cent.)

Next, Rempel speaks of the four per cent rule of thumb. This rule suggests that the right amount to withdraw each year from retirement savings is four per cent of the total; a safe withdrawal rate to help you avoid running out of money later.

The “Age Rule,” writes Rempel, is the idea that 100 minus your current age is the percentage of your overall portfolio that you should invest in stocks. The thinking here is that the older you are, the less exposure you should have to risky investments – you should be gradually shifting over to fixed income.

Rempel also talks about the “cash buffer” rule – keeping enough cash to tide you over for two years, so you can “draw on it when investments are down,” and the idea of delaying Canada Pension Plan payments until 65 (some say 70) to get more than you would at 60.

A final rule from Rempel is the “sequence of returns” rule, the idea of investing conservatively to avoid losses during the drawdown stage.

A great list from a great blog!

We found a few others.

At Forbes magazine there is talk of the “25 times” rule. Basically, if you know what level of income you want to have in retirement – let’s say $50,000 – this rule tells you you need to save 25 times that amount before you retire. That’s a daunting $1.25 million.

We remember hearing this one decades ago as the “20 times” rule. Perhaps inflation has made the thumb bigger?

Over at Investopedia, “a good rule of thumb for the percentage of your income you should save is 15 per cent,” we are told. Other thumb guidelines include choosing “low-cost investments,” where management expense fees are as low as possible, and a Warren Buffett rule, “don’t put money in something you don’t understand.”

The article talks about exchange-traded funds as being examples of low-cost investments. Save with SPP likes to note that while ETFs have lower fees than most mutual funds, buying stocks and bonds directly is a way to not have any management fees.

Putting it all together, there are an awful lot of thumbs here, more than the two we usually depend on. That’s because there are a lot of moving parts to saving for retirement and then living off the savings. From figuring out how much you’ll put aside, on to growing that amount via investing, and on to finally “decumulating” your savings and enjoying the income, it can be quite an effort.

If you’re not a retirement geek who happily plots and schemes over spreadsheets on a daily basis (guilty glance in mirror), there is another way to manage all this in a one-stop, set it and forget it way. Why not consider joining the Saskatchewan Pension Plan? They’ll take your retirement savings and grow them under the watchful eyes of investment professionals (for a very low fee). When it’s time to retire, they can turn those saved, invested dollars into a lifetime income stream. And they’ve been doing it for an impressive 35 years. 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.


May 3: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

May 3, 2021

A staggering $1 trillion in Canadian inheritance money will be transferred this decade

Writing in the Financial Post, columnist Jason Heath notes that we are headed for all-time records when it comes to inheritances in this country.

“Estimates of expected Canadian inheritances over the next decade are as high as $1 trillion,” he writes, adding that that figure could be driven even higher by stock prices and real estate values.

While articles (and books) have been written about the idea of “dying broke,” it appears most Canadians don’t follow that view. Heath notes that 47 per cent of adults over 55, in a 2019 survey by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, feel that leaving their kids an inheritance was “the right thing to do.” Similarly, he writes, 55 per cent of millennials felt their parents had an obligation to leave them an inheritance.

The idea of leaving money for the kids isn’t always talked about in retirement planning circles, notes Heath.

“Many people spend their working years scrimping and saving to be able to afford to retire. Inheritance pressure after retiring may limit spending in retirement. It insinuates that workers need to save for not only retirement, but also their apparent inheritance obligation to their children,” he writes.

If you are going to be receiving an inheritance, Heath suggests you not be in a rush to make decisions about it.

“Some recipients see it as a windfall and spend it frivolously. Others see it as blood money and feel a great burden when they inherit,” he explains.

He recommends doing nothing with the inheritance for a time – leave it in the bank for six months, he suggests.

If you are on the giving end of an inheritance, you can consider giving money to the kids while you are still around to see them enjoy it, Heath adds.

“Some people would rather see their family enjoy an inheritance while they are still alive. Making gifts to children or grandchildren can be a great way to do so. There are no tax implications of a gift of cash to an adult child or grandchild,” he explains.

Just be sure, he warns, that you are not “passing along too much too early… so as not to risk your own financial security.”

The article goes on to look at some of the complexities of leaving an estate – “the choice of beneficiary designations, use of trusts, implementing an estate freeze, or insurance strategies can… reduce tax and probate costs.”

Did you know that benefits from the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be payable to eligible beneficiaries upon your death?

If you die before you retire, the balance in your SPP account will be paid to your beneficiary.

If you die after you retire, any benefits payable depend on your choices at the time of retirement.

The SPP Retirement Guide provides details on the three types of annuity you can choose from when you start your SPP pension. While the life only annuity doesn’t offer survivor benefits, the refund life annuity can result in a payment to your beneficiary if you die before receiving annuity payments equal to your account balance at the time the annuity was chosen. The joint and last survivor annuity provides a pension equal to 100, 75 or 60 per cent of what you were receiving to your surviving spouse.

If you choose to transfer your benefits out of SPP when you retire, no death benefits are available from the plan.

These survivor benefits can ensure that a measure of the security SPP has been delivering for more than 35 years can continue to a beneficiary or spouse. 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.


No “magic formula” for decumulation, but frugality and realism help retirees: Dr. John Por

April 29, 2021

Recently, Save with SPP got an opportunity to speak with long-time pension expert Dr. John Por, whose 40-year career in pensions includes consulting work with large U.S. and Canadian pension boards and offering expertise on pension risk policy. He has also researched the tricky “decumulation” stage in which savings are turned into retirement income.

Our far-ranging interview covered decumulation, spending in retirement, frugality, advice on saving for retirement, and annuities.

Decumulation

Dr. Por says common mistakes with decumulation – the stage where retirement savings are used to provide retirement income – can include problematic asset allocation, lack of appropriate goal setting, high investment costs and, often, setting a withdrawal rate that’s too high or taking out too much money early in retirement.

So is there a correct withdrawal rate?

“At one point in time, maybe 20-25 years ago, four per cent was said to be the right withdrawal rate,” he explains.

Decumulation “depends on future interest rates, the stock markets, inflation, life expectancy and income needs,” says Dr. Por. A “correct” rate “is therefore unknowable.”

“It depends on the reigning circumstances, both personal and market,” he explains. “Who could have predicted, even five years ago, the current existing zero or the negative real rate of bond returns?”

“The problem is, though we desperately want to find a magic formula, how can you do this – we don’t know how it will be (in the future); no one knows.”

Noting the volatility in the stock markets in just the last couple of years, he notes that “even a Nobel Prize winner professed not knowing where the markets will go in the next 10 years, or how to invest your money after retirement.”

“This, of course, has not kept the retirement or investment industry from providing copious, and often prudent, advice, it simply means that looking for a, or the, magic bullet, or the infallible sage, will not be successful,” he adds.

Spending in retirement

While decumulation carries a lot of unknowns, much more is known about how much retirees actually need, Dr. Por says.

He says research by noted pension actuary Malcolm Hamilton shows that people need far less “replacement income” in retirement than the 75 per cent figure bandied about by the industry. 

Hamilton has for many years said the research suggests not everyone needs to save “heavily” for retirement, because of the existence of government income programs for retirees and lower costs once you are retired. (Here’s a link to a Globe and Mail interview with Malcolm Hamilton.)

Dr. Por agrees, calling an overall 75 per cent rule “misguided.”

“While this may be true for low-income people, they are supported by the above-mentioned government programs, so for them the 75 per cent is not a stretch, people at higher income levels are not likely to need 75 per cent of their earned income to pursue an age-appropriate lifestyle,” he says.

“One of the most important steps to understanding (retirement spending) is… knowing how much money you need to survive,” Dr. Por explains.

Rather than going through “painful” pre-retirement budget forecasting, he recommends a simpler approach.

“How much do you save in a month? If the answer is zero, your retirement budget will be what you spend now, minus what you won’t have to pay in retirement.” This can include things like your mortgage, tax savings when you earn less, childcare and education expenses, Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance, and so on. 

It’s a common-sense issue, he says. Individuals must decide “how much is necessary (spending) versus how much you would like to have.”

This knowledge is crucial for retirees, who have extremely limited options in dealing with income shortfalls, he explains. 

Working Canadians needing more money could “work harder – get a job that pays better, spend less, save more, take more investment risks, etc.… but when you are retired, you don’t have the same tools,” he explains.

 “Lifestyle becomes the main tool, you can cut back on your lifestyle (to save money), which is difficult,” he says. “Another tool still at your disposal is taking on more investment risk in retirement, but, if you’re not successful, it would easily lead to a further diminished lifestyle,” Dr. Por adds.

Frugality 

At 74, Dr. Por says he is “still engaged” and “living frugally.”

In this context, he defines frugality as bringing your lifestyle and realistic earning capability (and not your hoped-for future earnings) into a healthy balance. 

Living frugally is a key way to make your money last longer, and also that when in financial trouble, the cutback would be smaller thus less painful. Big expenses in the early years of retirement should be avoided, he says, because you may need your retirement savings for decades. “

While at age 65 it is hard to envisage how long you may live” he explains, “you may easily live beyond age 90.”

For example, he adds, if you are married, “the probability that either you or your spouse will live to age 93 is about 50 per cent. You can live for a very, very long time.” 

Working after retirement is a way to support your retirement spending and to keep your mind active, he says.

“Some people still work part-time after they stop working full time. You don’t realize how important your work is … not that many people spend their time well in retirement,” he says.

“Apart from the income work provides, it also structures your day, can add meaning to your existence after retirement (admittedly not everybody needs it), and equally important, it helps you maintain your links with the outside world and friends,” he says. His observation is that most people (especially men) form the majority of their extra-family relationships through work, and once they retired such contacts tend to fade away over time,” he says.

Dr. Por recommends that everyone consider living frugally at any age; he sees it as a great lifetime habit to get into.

Saving for retirement

While some people suggest you should save for retirement from early in life until the end of your career, Dr. Por says that view isn’t usually realistic.

“You can’t save in your 30s and 40s – you are paying for your kids’ education, your mortgage. So, save what you can, if you can, but (know) you may not be able to,” he advises. “No heroism is called for, as you also have to live a reasonable life.”

The optimum time to save “is in your 50s, and then, you can save 20 to 40 per cent,” he says. By then, “your children will be out in the world, your mortgage is paid… you can save.”

For savers, equities add the most value, but of course, it depends on the environment you happen to fall into. Bonds don’t provide as much income and growth, Dr. Por explains.

Pay close attention to investment fees, he advises. “With exchange-traded funds (ETFs), you can control costs – the management expense ratios are low.” However, financial advisers may not suggest this investment because they can make higher commissions on other products, Dr. Por says.

“Even a fee of one percent can, over 30 years, reduce your available assets significantly,” he says.

What you want to avoid is being forced to sell securities when the market is down, thus Dr. Por likes the concept of having a cash reserve to tide you through periods of market decline. 

“If you take on extra risk… by putting more money into equities, you should also have a cash reserve fund worth three to five years of spending,” he says. If equities perform well, you may wish to extend such cash reserves to cover longer periods. Overall, Dr. Por says, a chief problem with retirement saving is that most people “look at it as an investment issue,” and become focused on today’s investment risks, interest rates, equity return rates, and so on. Instead, you should be thinking about the income your investments will generate when you stop working. 

What’s going on today with investment risks and other factors “is not relevant 30 to 50 years out,” when you will be drawing income from your investments, he advises. Your focus should be on that long term, and not on volatility or return rates in a given year, Dr. Por says.

Annuities

Dr. Por talked about the “annuity paradox”. While financial experts like annuities, most people refuse to follow such advice. Most people shy away from the idea of taking a large lump sum of money – say $1.5 million – and turning it into an annuity that pays $60,000 a year. He noted that when he mentioned the concept to his wife (a highly educated professional, an MD), she refused the idea saying that “… if we die soon for whatever reason the children will get nothing.”

Also, retired people want to have cash available for future expenses, and, not always unreasonably, are afraid of inflation, and the potential extinction of the financial institution, which issued the annuity. 

But, he added, “annuities later in life is a good idea”. When you are getting too old to run your money – say by your late 70s or 80s – that’s the time to consider an annuity, he says. The older you are when you convert to an annuity, the cheaper the annuity is to buy. And today’s low interest rates make the conversion to annuities expensive. “The interesting phenomenon is though”, he added, “that when interest rates were exceptionally high, say in the late 1990ies, people still did not buy annuities, nor did the advisers promote the idea.”

Finally, he noted the importance of discipline. He speaks from experience, and says that had he followed all the major precepts mentioned in this piece, he would be now in a much better financial position himself. “Know your needs, be prudent in your expectations, live frugally, create a plan or direction and stick to it while making adjustments, if needed,” he advises.  

We thank Dr. Por for taking the time to speak with us.

Celebrating 35 years of operations, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a full-service retirement plan. SPP will invest the money you contribute, and at the time you retire, gives you the option of converting your invested savings into a lifetime annuity. 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.


APR 26: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

April 26, 2021

Could a pension model be the way to address the costs of long-term care in Canada?

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Professor Carolyn Hughes Tuohy of the University of Toronto offers up an interesting solution on how Canada could improve its long-term care sector – and part of her thinking relates to the way the Canada Pension Plan is funded.

Professor Tuohy notes that while there have been calls for “national standards” for long-term care facilities in the wake of the pandemic, a key problem is that long-term care is currently a provincial responsibility.

“How do we achieve a common threshold of provision while respecting Canada’s federal system?” she asks.

She writes about the idea of having some sort of “nationwide pool” of funding, so that the “longevity risk, that individuals will outlive their savings and be unable to afford long-term care,” could be addressed.

And, she writes, while provinces and local governments are “best suited” to deliver long-term care, that can lead to “inequitable variation across divisions.”

For instance, she notes, the fatality rate at long-term care facilities in Ontario has been about four times higher than that of British Columbia.

A solution, Professor Tuohy thinks, may be found by looking at the Canada Pension Plan/Quebec Pension Plan as a possible model.

“The Canada Pension Plan, paralleled by the Quebec Pension Plan, is jointly managed by federal and provincial governments. It provides a dedicated source of public finance, funded by contributions from workers and employers. It is designed to be sustainable and sensitive to demographic change, in contrast with the periodic haggling around the Canada Health Transfer. And it makes sense to think of a model of public finance for long-term care as more akin to a retirement benefit than to health insurance,” she writes.

She notes that the government spends more on providing healthcare for those over 65 than the rest of us – and that living past 80 carries with it “a 30 per cent chance of requiring long-term institutional or home care.” That risk currently carries a cost that might be addressed via “a steady, pension-like benefit stream,” she explains.

She proposes “a long-term care insurance (LTCI) benefit… (that) could be attached to the CPP/QPP as a supplementary benefit. It would pay out a capped cash transfer to the beneficiary, set according to the level of health need as assessed through existing provincial mechanisms. Unlike the CPP/QPP, the benefit would be assignable to a qualifying third-party provider of institutional or home care, as chosen by beneficiaries in consultation with their local assessing agency.”

Such a benefit, she concludes, already exists in countries like “Germany, the Netherlands, and Japan.” She calls the proposal a creative way “to bring the full advantages of our federal system to the pressing issues of long-term care.”

Long-term care is something we all hope we’ll never need, but could be part of our retirement expenses. A best defence against unexpected retirement costs is, of course, retirement saving.

And an excellent way to do that is to consider joining the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. The money you contribute is professionally invested at a very low cost, and SPP has averaged an impressive eight per cent rate of return since its inception 35 years ago. 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.


Guide aims at folks planning on retiring in 10 years or less

April 22, 2021

If you are one of the many Canadians who is a decade (or less) away from retirement, and haven’t had time to really think about it, there’s an ideal book out there for you.  The Procrastinator’s Guide to Retirement by David Trahair walks you through all the decisions you’ll need to make, and the strategies you may want to employ, to have a solid retirement – soon.

Trahair makes the point early that you need to track your current spending to have an accurate sense of how much you need to save to fund your retirement.  He says the old 70 per cent rule – that you will be comfortable if you can save up enough to live on 70 per cent of your pre-retirement income – is “problematic… it may be the right answer for one person, but totally wrong for you because your financial situation is as individual as your fingerprints.” Knowing what you spend now, and will spend when retired, is a key piece of knowledge when setting savings targets, he explains.

Through the deft use of charts, examples and worksheets, Trahair explains that most of us have “golden opportunity” years for retirement savings when we have surplus funds, thanks to paying off a car loan, or having a child graduate from university. What you do during these periods of excess money “can make or break” your retirement plans, he advises, noting that an obvious destination for some of this cash is retirement savings.

He looks in detail at whether it’s a good idea to save for retirement in a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) or pay off debt, like credit cards or mortgages, first. Trahair says anyone with high-interest credit card debt should pay that off first before saving for retirement, because of the “rate of return” you get by eliminating the debt.

“A lack of cash outflow is as good as a cash inflow, and better if that inflow is taxed,” he explains. In other words, all the money once spent on paying down the credit card is now in your pocket instead.

Whether to pay down the mortgage versus saving for retirement is a trickier calculation (Trahair has a spreadsheet for you to make your own choice). He says the “commonsensical” approach is to make an RRSP payment and then put the refund on the mortgage. However, later in the book he warns of the dangers of not paying off the mortgage until after retirement.

“If you went into retirement with a $200,000 mortgage, you’d need $293,254.75 extra in your RRSP just to break even,” he writes. “Put another way, you’d be just as well off as someone who had a zero-mortgage balance and $293,254.74 less in their RRSP.”

There’s a lot of good stuff here. There’s a chapter on selecting an investment advisor, and good advice for those investing on their own. He warns that those saving later in life often look for higher returns, which can be risky. “Hoping for a 10 per cent rate of return to solve your problems will mean you’ll have to take extreme risk… chances are good this strategy will result in dismal failure. So, he advises, have a disciplined investment approach, and manage risks. A rule of thumb he likes is the one that suggests 100 minus your age should be the percentage of your portfolio that is in fixed income. The rest should be in the stock market.

Later, he explains how GICs are his favourite investment, especially when held in RRSPs, Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) and Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs).

He examines the concept of how much you’ll spend in retirement, noting that some costs, like Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions, car operating costs, dining out and dry cleaning will drop once you’re no longer going to work, well-dressed.

He talks about how you can maximize both CPP and Old Age Security benefits by deferring them until later – and covers the pros and cons of doing so.

Later chapters cover the “risk” of living a long life, the “snowball” versus “avalanche” methods of debt reducing, and estate planning.

This is an excellent resource for all aspects of retirement planning, and – even better – it is written for a Canadian audience.

If your retirement plan includes the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, you’re already getting professional investing help at a low fee of just 0.83 per cent in 2020. SPP manages investment risks for you – and has chalked up an impressive rate of return of 8 per cent since its inception 35 years ago. Why not 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.


APR 19: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

April 19, 2021

How will Canadians spend their $180 billion pandemic nest egg?

While the pandemic, now into its second year, has been brutal for most people’s finances, some of us – for instance, those able to keep working – have experienced a savings boom of historic proportions.

According to a recent article in US News and World Report, Canadians are sitting on a record $180 billion – what the article calls a “pandemic nest egg.”

“The pandemic put more than three million Canadians out of work at the depth of the crisis. With travel and social outings on hold, spending plunged, while stimulus and government aid boosted disposable income and the household savings rate soared,” the article tells us.

“A year later, most Canadians are back at work and many have saved like never before,” the article reports. In fact, the piece adds, by late winter 2021 a record number of new jobs had been added to the Canadian economy.

So what are people planning to spend this money on?

According to the article, there’s a long to-do list. After all, the publication advises us, “if 15 per cent of the cash hoard is spent through 2023, it would speed up Canada’s recovery.”

The article mentions backyard renos, domestic (i.e., within Canada) travel plans for the summer, and “sales of pleasure vehicles” all being up.

A Harley-Davidson dealership in Toronto says sales are up 50 per cent over last year, the article reports. As well, the article says, people expect to let their hair down a little bit once pandemic restrictions are over.

“Canadians are getting ready to return to restaurants, bars and theatres once vaccinations become widespread,” the article predicts. “Generally, when people buy clothing, it’s almost like they’re preparing for better days,” states RBC economist Rannella Billy-Ochieng in the article. She says there is “pent up demand” for restaurants and bars, in person movies, live theatre and of course, travel.

A whopping two-thirds of Canadians hope to travel once the coast is clear, the article explains.

Let’s hope some of us are able to hang on to a bit of the “nest egg” for our retirement.

According to the Edmonton Journal, research from RBC shows that “70 per cent of Canadians felt they are behind in saving for retirement.”

The article says only about 14 per cent of Albertans surveyed feel their cash flow has improved during the pandemic – 33 per cent say it got worse. The article says that the pandemic and its financial repercussions represent a good reason for people to seek financial advice on managing debt, cash flow, and retirement savings.

Saving for retirement is not always top of mind, especially during what is becoming an unprecedented national public health crisis. But even if you have to take small steps to start your plan, you’ll appreciate the effort later on. If your retirement savings program has stalled, or needs to get started, an excellent program to consider is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP has helped deliver retirement security for 35 years – 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.


How we’re passing the time as the pandemic rolls along

April 15, 2021
Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

For more than a year now, Canadians have had to deal with restrictions – sometimes fairly light, other times more of the “stay at home” variety – on what we can and cannot do.

Save with SPP took a look around to see what sort of things people are doing to keep busy at a time when so many of our usual activities are temporarily closed down or otherwise restricted.

A report from CTV News suggests that today’s situation is somewhat akin to the Great Depression of 90 years ago – so many people were out of work, or working reduced hours, that there was a huge growth in hobbies. “Stamp collecting, music making, woodworking and birdwatching” all grew in popularity in the 1920s, the article notes.

“In this time of uncertainty and instability, and a world and existence we no longer recognize, people need an anchor to familiarity and what once brought them comfort, stability, safety, and happiness,” clinical psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere tells CTV.

Today’s pandemic hobbies include things like “tie-dying clothes, attending PowerPoint parties and partaking in TikTok challenges,” the article notes. These join more traditional activities such as walking and cooking, CTV reports.

Physical activity is of critical importance, even during the pandemic, reports CBC International.

Citing a report from the World Health Organization, CBC reports that “regular physical activity is said to be key to preventing and helping manage heart disease, diabetes and cancer and reducing depression and anxiety, cognitive decline and boosting brain health.”

The article suggests 150 to 300 minutes per week of “moderate to vigorous aerobic activity for all adults.” This can include walking, cycling, dance, play, and even “household activities like cleaning or working on your lawn and garden,” the article says.

“Every move counts, especially now as we manage the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus states in the article. “We must all move every day – safely and creatively.” 

Country Living magazine agrees that creative approaches to keeping active are being used – and some things that were more popular in the past have made a comeback.

The article lists such things as home gyms, handheld gaming consoles, jigsaw puzzles, swimming pools, and trampolines as ways you can do more without leaving home.

The Reviewed.com site adds a few more. TV choices, thanks to the many streaming services out there, are more numerous than ever before. Reading, arts and crafts, yoga, DIY home improvement projects and meditation are among the ideas listed.

Putting it all together, finding something to do will keep you feeling more positive – and more optimistic that we are starting to near the end of this bizarre, unhappy and eerily quiet crisis.

One activity that you might want to revisit during the pandemic is dusting off your retirement savings plan – if you have one. If your savings efforts haven’t started, are stalled, or if you want to add on to what you’re doing now, consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, currently celebrating its 35th year of operations. Your pension savings, small or large, are expertly invested at a low cost, and grown for that future date when you walk away from the office for the last time. With an average rate of return of 8 per cent in the balanced fund since inception, SPP is an option you should take some time to check out!

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.