BMO

How to tweak your investment strategy during times of inflation

September 29, 2022

While inflation rates may have peaked, we have seen it hit levels not seen in four decades, impacting the price of food, fuel, and other staples.

While higher interest rates are great news for savers, it’s not as clear what (if anything) investors should be doing about it. Save with SPP had a look around to see what people are saying about investment strategies in inflationary times.

According to Forbes magazine, there are “moves an investor can make right now that might alleviate their stress over inflation.”  The first idea, the magazine notes, is “to stay invested in equities.” Why? Because “a company facing rising costs, can simply offset them by raising prices, which raises revenue and earnings,” the article explains.

Any fixed income in your portfolio should be in the form of “high credit quality bonds,” but adding to this sector as rates climb is risky, Forbes warns. Consider investing in commodities via an exchange traded fund, the article suggests. Commodities include things like sugar, oil and gas, corn, pork bellies and other key goods.

Investopedia agrees that inflation “is generally a punch in the jaw for bonds,” and suggests increasing your exposure to equities by 10 per cent in inflationary times.  Other ideas from Investopedia include investing in international securities, from countries like Italy, Australia and South Korea. These are “major economies… that do not rise and fall in tandem with (North American) indices,” the article explains.

Real estate, the article continues, “often acts as a good inflation hedge since there will always be a demand for homes, regardless of the economic climate.” If actually buying real estate as an investment is beyond your means, you can still take part in the market via real estate investment trusts (REITs), the article explains.

“REITs are companies that own and operate portfolios of commercial, residential, and industrial properties. Providing income through rents and leases, they often pay higher yields than bonds,” the article notes.

Another idea from the Daily Mail is to consider being a bit of a saver within your portfolio to take advantage of high interest payouts.

“Britons are moving more of their cash into fixed-rate savings deals, with interest rates across the market rising on a daily basis,” the newspaper reports.

“A net £2.8 billion flowed into fixed-term cash deposits in July 2022, according to the latest figures from the Bank of England – the strongest flow seen since November 2010,” the magazine adds.

A second Forbes article talks about avoiding volatility in your portfolio.

“You want to buy stocks in companies that are likely—and I use that word ‘likely’ very carefully—to perform better than other companies in a rising rate environment,” BMO Nesbitt Burns’ John Sacke tells Forbes.

The article reminds us to keep an eye on our household budget and living costs in periods of inflation. In addition to thinking about your investments, the article suggests you “track your spending closely” and look for bargains.

Pay off any debt quickly in an environment when rates are going up, the article advises.

“StatsCan estimates the average consumer owes $1.73 in consumer credit and mortgage liabilities for every dollar of their income. This high debt-to-income ratio isn’t new, but the Bank of Canada’s current overnight rate of 2.5 per cent (which is 10 times higher than it was at the end of 2021) is making interest rates on loans higher, meaning those debts are even more expensive to pay off,” the article warns.

Other inflation-fighting tips include the use of cash-back credit cards and coupon clipping, as well as shopping apps.

Summing up what we found, there seems to be a belief that stocks are more likely to grow in value than bonds in a high-interest rate environment, and that real estate and international investments may be alternatives worth considering.

Now may be a good time to pick up a fixed-income investment with a guaranteed payout, like a guaranteed investment certificate. And at the same time, you have to watch your spending, and budget, to get through the choppy inflationary waters.

Save with SPP does not specifically endorse any of these strategies, and we recommend that you consider getting professional advice before making changes to your portfolio.

If all this is a little daunting, consider letting the Saskatchewan Pension Plan navigate the choppy investment seas for you. SPP’s Balanced Fund has exposure to Canadian and global equities and fixed income, as well as real estate, infrastructure, mortgages and other quality investments. Be sure to check out SPP today.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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 back on what the experts say – Save with SPP

July 21, 2022

Summertime, and while the living is easy, it’s not always easy to get people on the phone for an interview. We get it – there’s only a few short months of great weather in this country, after all.

So, Save with SPP had a look back on what we’ve learned about retirement and saving over the past while through past interviews, and via book reviews, from industry experts and leaders.

Derek Dobson, CEO and Plan Manager of the Colleges of Applied Arts & Technology Pension Plan, pointed to new research from the Canadian Public Pension Leadership Council that showed the economic value of pension dollars.  The study found that $16.72 of economic activity arises from every $10 paid out from a pension plan, notes Dobson. And that type of benefit comes from efficient plans, he explains. “Any plan that uses experienced investment professionals, and pooling – I include the Saskatchewan Pension Plan as an example of that – is delivering pensions efficiently,” he tells Save with SPP.

In an interview about the ins and outs of registered retirement income funds (RRIFs), BMO’s James McCreath noted that converting some or all of your registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) to an annuity instead of moving it to a RRIF is also an option.

“As interest rates rise, the functionality and usefulness of annuities go up,” he told Save with SPP. You can read the full interview here.

Prof. Luc Godbout, remarking on the trend of people working longer, had an idea on how to tweak the retirement system to accommodate the needs of older workers.  Allowing Canadians to postpone Old Age Security until age 75, and moving the conversion dates for RRSPs/RRIFs to 75, would “optimize the mechanics of pension plans, and also encourage Canadians to remain in the workforce, which improves health and also helps with Canada’s looming labour shortage.” Here’s where you can find the full article.

The author of Getting Out of Debt, Michael Steven, had some interesting thoughts on the importance of saving (once debt is under control).

“Saving requires discipline, a habit you build over time. It can be hard to save instead of spend, but if you have to attain financial freedom, then saving is one of those things you will have to embrace.” You can read the rest of our book review here.

There’s a lot to the broad topic of retirement and saving. For sure, belonging to a workplace pension plan is a key step towards retirement security. If you are saving on your own, you do need to understand the “decumulation stage” when savings are converted to income, either via an annuity or through drawing down a RRIF or similar vehicle. If you don’t have a lot of savings and have boomed your way into your 60s, then the proposed federal changes to benefits discussed by Prof. Godbout may make sense for you. But at the end of the day, as the old saying goes, it’s not what you make, but what you save, that helps your future self paddle through the waters of retirement.

If you don’t have a pension plan at work, and/or haven’t started saving for retirement yet, help is at hand. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is open to any Canadian with RRSP room, and offers pooled investing, low-fee investment management, and many retirement income options including annuities. Check out SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.


Understanding the basics of RRIFs with BMO’s James McCreath

May 12, 2022

Most Canadians understand what registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) are.

What’s perhaps a little less well known is the registered retirement income fund (RRIF), which is where your RRSP funds generally end up once you move from saving for retirement to spending your retirement income.

Save with SPP reached out to James McCreath, a portfolio manager at BMO Wealth’s Calgary office, to get a better understanding of the basics of RRIFs.

We first learned that McCreath has strong connections to Saskatchewan – both his parents are from here, his mom, Grit McCreath, is Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan, and the family enjoys time at their cottage north of Prince Albert at Waskesiu Lake.

RRIFs are the vehicle used to turn former RRSP savings into retirement income, he explains.

“You have to convert from an RRSP to a RRIF by the end of the year you turn 71, and must start withdrawing from the RRIF by the end of the year you turn 72,” says McCreath. That potential deferral period, he points out, gives you a 24-month window from the point your RRSP is converted to when you take the first dollar out.

While it is possible to convert to a RRIF earlier than age 71, not many people do, McCreath explains. Such a decision, he says, would be based on an individual’s unique circumstances – perhaps they want “certainty for budgeting,” or other reasons. It’s possible, but rare he says.

While there’s no tax on the interest, dividends or growth within a RRIF, the money you take out of it is taxable. McCreath says the tax on RRIF withdrawals is the deferred tax you didn’t pay when you put money into an RRSP in the past.

Asked if there is a correct or best investment strategy for a RRIF, McCreath says that this again depends on “the circumstances of the individual.”

Generally, a RRIF investment strategy should consider the cash flow needs of the individual, and their tolerance for risk, explains McCreath.

Someone who needs the RRIF income for day-to-day expenses might, for instance, be less interested in risky investments, and would focus on fixed income investments, he says. “These days we are starting to see five-year GICs (guaranteed income certificates) that pay four per cent interest; we haven’t seen them at that rate for years, so that might be a consideration” for risk-averse RRIF investors.

Others with less cash flow needs for the RRIF – perhaps those who retired with workplace pensions – might be able to handle a riskier investment strategy. “They might want to hold equities under the hope that their RRIF grows, for legacy purposes,” he explains.

“I strongly advise people to find an investment professional, or an accountant, who can help develop the optimal plan for their own circumstances,” McCreath says.

On the issue of RRIF taxation, McCreath points out that taking money out of the RRIF is different than taking it out of an RRSP.

There is a minimum amount that you must withdraw from your RRIF each year, a percentage that gradually increases as you get older, he explains.

When you take money out of an RRSP, an amount of tax is withheld at source for taxes (beginning at 10% for withdrawals up to $5,000). No such taxes are automatically withheld when you withdraw the minimum prescribed amount of money from a RRIF.

If you are concerned about having to pay taxes at income tax time because of RRIF income, McCreath says you can often arrange to have the RRIF provider deduct a set amount of tax above the mandated minimum tax withholdings from each withdrawal. In this way, you will help avoid having to make a large payment at tax time, assuming the appropriate amount of tax gets withheld, he explains.

Another good idea, he says, is to use any RRIF income (net of tax) that you don’t need as a contribution to your Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA). “If you don’t need the capital for day-to-day living, you can continue to invest it in the TFSA,” he explains.

An alternative to a RRIF at the end of your RRSP eligibility is the purchase of annuity. Annuities, like a pension, provide a set income each month for life, and many annuity providers offer a variety of options for them around survivor benefits.

The current sharp rise in interest rates may increase interest in annuities, McCreath suggests.

“As interest rates rise, the functionality and usefulness of annuities go up,” McCreath notes. Generally speaking, the higher the interest rate at the time of purchase is, the greater the annuity payment will be.

McCreath concluded by offering two key pieces of advice. First, he notes, a lot of retirement decisions, such as moving to a RRIF or buying an annuity, are important and “irrevocable” ones. It’s important to get professional advice to help you make the decision that’s best for you, he says.

As well, he says, pre-retirees should have a very clear understanding of their cash flow, and “the matching of inflows to outflows,” before they begin drawing down their savings.

We thank James McCreath for taking the time to talk with us.

Saskatchewan Pension Plan members have several options when they want to collect their retirement income. They can choose among SPP’s annuity options, SPP’s variable benefit (available for Saskatchewan residents), or transfer their money to a Prescribed RRIF. Check out SPP’s Time to Collect Guide for more details!


Mar 7: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

March 7, 2022

Is inflation causing Canadians to fear they aren’t saving enough for retirement?

Writing for the Canadian Press, via Canoe, Christopher Reynolds notes that inflation is causing the price of almost everything to go up – including retirement.

Citing recent research from the Bank of Montreal, Reynolds notes that “Canadians are losing confidence they’ll have enough cash to retire as planned,” with fewer than half believing they can hit their savings target.

That’s because inflation is boosting the value of that theoretical retirement piggy bank, he writes. “The average sum (Canadians) anticipate needing has increased 12 per cent since 2020 to $1.6 million,” he writes.

Last year, he continues, 54 per cent of those surveyed felt they would reach their savings targets; the most recent research shows that number has dropped to 44 per cent.

“Inflation,” states Robert Armstrong of BMO Global Asset Management in the article, “is starting to impact their views on how much they need to save for retirement.”

The price of housing, the article continues, is “another source of angst,” with the average home price in Canada rising to a record $748,450 in January. That’s a year over year jump of 21 per cent, the article notes.

Those who don’t own their own homes not only face higher rents, but don’t have the “automatic nest egg” associated with being able to sell one’s principal residence without paying capital gains taxes, the article notes.

Another problem retirement savers face is the shortage of good workplace pension plans, Reynolds writes. Only about 25 per cent of Canadians are covered by defined benefit pension plans, which provide a guaranteed monthly lifetime income. Just seven per cent enjoy being members of defined contribution plans (like the Saskatchewan Pension Plan), where future payouts depend on how much is saved and invested.

Those numbers, the article continues, are “still far below those of the ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s when the rates were consistently above 40 per cent.” That information, Reynold adds, comes from Statistics Canada.

Jules Boudreau of Mackenzie Investments tells the Canadian Press that these factors – inflation, high housing prices, and a general decline in workplace pension plan coverage – put a lot of pressure on younger retirement savers.

“The personal retirement portfolio of a young worker is much more critical, because their retirement hinges entirely on it — and that can create more anxiety, more uncertainty,” Boudreau states in the article. As well, the article concludes, many younger people are not focusing on long-term retirement savings, such as registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs), but on “short term” things like getting a home, furnishing it, and starting a family.

While the average RRSP balance in Canada as of 2020 was $101,155 – a figure that is growing – the Motley Fool blog says that seemingly high amount will only generate about $3,500 of income per year. And it’s far short of the $1.6 million target mentioned by Reynolds in his article.

If you are part of the majority of working Canadians who lack a pension or retirement program at work, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be just what you’ve been looking for. The SPP is a do-it-yourself, end-to-end defined contribution pension plan. You can contribute up to $7,000 every year, and SPP will invest your contributions in a low-cost, professionally managed pooled fund. When it’s time to unshackle yourself from the rat race, SPP has a number of options for turning those savings into income. Make SPP part of your personal retirement program today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


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

August 12, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can be done?

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

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

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

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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 24: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

May 24, 2021

TFSAs are great, but may not be ideally suited for retirement savings: MoneySense

Writing in the Toronto Sun, MoneySense writer Joseph Czikk opines that the rise of the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) may spell trouble for the venerable Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).

He writes that the TFSA has been “a huge hit” since its inception in 2009, with more than two-thirds of Canadians now the proud owners of accounts.

“But,” he writes “there’s reason to suspect that the TFSA’s popularity is growing at the expense of the RRSP, and if that’s true, it should lead many Canadians to rethink how they plan to invest for retirement.”

Before 2009, he explains, the RRSP was the chief retirement savings tool for Canadians.

“RRSP contributions aren’t taxable, which incentivizes people to top up the accounts every year. The more money you put into your RRSP, the less tax you’ll pay,” the article notes.

When Canadians stop working, the article explains, they “generally convert their RRSP balance to a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF), which they then draw from to cover expenses.” Money coming out of the RRIF is taxable, but “the idea… is that you’ll probably be in a lower tax bracket in retirement than you were in your career, meaning you’ll get to keep more of the money than you otherwise would have.”

Then, Czikk notes, “along came the TFSA,” which works opposite from an RRSP. No tax break for putting money into a TFSA, but no taxation when you take it out, the article adds.

There are tax penalties for robbing your RRSP savings before retirement, but with the TFSA, not so much.

“You can see how such an account — which could be drawn upon like any bank account and which sheltered capital gains — would become popular,” he writes.

“And so it went. Just eight years after TFSAs came on the scene, their aggregate value rocketed to match 20 per cent of RRSPs, RRIFs and Locked-In Retirement Accounts (LIRAs).”

But, the article says, there are unintended negative consequences with the TFSA.

Quoting The Canadian Tax Journal, the article notes that $4 of every $10 that would otherwise have gone to an RRSP are now going to TFSAs. The number of Canadians contributing to RRSPs is in decline. And, the article says, that’s a problem.

Research from BMO suggests that Canadians need about $1.5 million in retirement savings to retire comfortably, the article says. And while for some a TFSA could get you there, the fact that there are no withdrawal rules is posing problems, the article says.

Prof. Jonathan Farrar of Wilfrid Laurier University is quoted in the article as saying “we’re seeing that … a lot of people are not using it for retirement. People are using the TFSA as a bank account instead of an investment account, from which you make a very rare withdrawal.”

“Part of the genius of the RRSP is how it disincentivizes people from taking money out before retirement. The TFSA lacks that aspect,” the article adds.

If you rob your retirement nest egg before hitting the golden handshake, the article concludes, you’ll have to rely more on government income programs like the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security. The government is thinking about creating a TFSA that has withdrawal rules more like an RRSP to address this problem.

Save with SPP once spoke with some Australian colleagues. There, everyone gets put in a mandatory defined contribution pension plan where their employer makes all the contributions. But, as with a TFSA, there aren’t any strict rules on withdrawals – so you could take all the money out and buy a house, for instance. In a strange paradox, a country with one of the highest rates of pension plan coverage has experienced senior poverty and a heavy reliance on the means-test Age Pension – and the lack of withdrawal rules may be to blame.

TFSAs are awesome, for sure, but perhaps not ideally suited for retirement savings. The tried and true approach may be a better path. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan operates similarly to an RRSP, but has the added feature of being a locked-in plan. You can’t crack into your SPP early, meaning there will be more there for you when you don’t have a paycheque to rely on.  Be sure to check out SPP – delivering retirement security for 35 years – today.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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

October 15, 2020

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.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.


Dec 30: Best from the blogosphere

December 30, 2019

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 2: Best from the blogosphere

December 2, 2019

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

Nov 26: Best from the blogosphere – The fear of aging

November 26, 2018

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

The fear of outliving your savings
The old proverb, “live long and prosper,” popularized by Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, may be taking on a new meaning given some recent research.

According to recent research on aging from BMO Wealth Management, the possibility of a very long life, in the late 80s and beyond, is starting to scare Canadians over 55.

BMO found that 51 per cent of those surveyed “are concerned about the health problems and costs that come with living longer.” Forty per cent worry about “becoming a burden for their families,” while 47 per cent worry about outliving their retirement savings.

It’s clear that the spectre of long-term care costs near the end of life is a haunting one for those close to or early into their retirement years.

According to The Care Guide, the cost of long-term care – which is normally over and above the costs of renting a unit in a care facility – can range from $1,000 to $3,000 a month depending where you live in Canada.

That’s a big hit, considering that the average CPP payout in Canada  for a 65-year-old is only about $670 a month (as of July 2018) and the average OAS payment is only about $600. These great programs will help, but you may need to augment them with your own pension or retirement savings.

According to the CBC, citing data from 2011, the average annual RRSP contribution is only about $2,830. The broadcaster says someone saving $2,000 a year from age 25 to age 65 would have a nest egg of more than $300,000 at retirement. That sounds like a lot until you consider living on that for another 20 to 25 years.

A good way to insure yourself against the risk of running out of money is to buy an annuity with some or all of your retirement savings. An annuity will pay you a set amount, each month, for the rest of your life – no matter how long you live. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan not only provides you with a great way to save towards retirement each year you are working. It also provides a range of annuity options; check out SPP’s retirement guide for an overview.

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