Tag Archives: Canada Pension Plan

Unless it’s mandatory, most people can’t or won’t save: Gandalf’s David Herle

Much is said and written about the need to get more people to save for retirement, particularly younger folks who typically lack a retirement program at work.

According to David Herle, Principal Partner at research firm The Gandalf Group, and a noted political and retirement commentator, it’s not just younger people who aren’t saving for retirement.

“We know that young people do not think about the end state of their lives,” he tells Save with SPP in a recent telephone interview. “They are focused on their more immediate needs.” Those needs include the cost of education, housing, and consumer debt.

When talk turns to millennials, the Saskatchewan-born Herle points out that their ability to save is hampered by the fact that there are “less jobs, and specifically, less good jobs with pensions and benefits” in today’s “gig economy.”

So not only are young people not saving, neither are old people. No one, he explains, has any extra money kicking around to save for retirement.

Herle says his firm’s research has shown repeatedly that the best way to get people to save is to make it mandatory, with no way to opt out. That way, he says, ensures money is directed to their long-term savings without the individual “having to think about it.”

Otherwise, he notes, getting people to save is challenging. “There’s not a lot of benefit from lecturing people,” he explains.

Asked if there are any public policy options to increase savings, Herle noted one idea from the past that could be revisited – payroll Canada Savings Bond purchases.

In the recent past, you could buy a Canada Savings Bond and pay for it via payroll deductions, a sort of “pay yourself first” option that did encourage some savings. “It might be worth considering bringing it back,” he suggests.

He points to the expansion of the Canada Pension Plan as “the most significant public policy development” in the retirement savings space. Ontario considered bringing in its own pension plan to supplement CPP, but the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan was shelved when CPP expansion got the green light a few years ago, he says.

The other trend he calls “troubling” is the lack of good pension plans in the workplace. For many years most people had a decent pension plan at work, the defined benefit variety which spells out what your retirement income will be. But employers “have started cutting pension plans,” moving to other arrangements, such as group RRSPs or capital accumulation plans where future income is not guaranteed.

He cites the recent labour dispute over pensions involving Co-op Refinery workers in Regina as an example of an employer trying to cut pension benefits for their employees. “If this happens, we could be seeing the end of the line for pensions,” he warns.

“Most people have lost the security of having an employer-sponsored pension plan,” Herle explains. There’s a large chunk of “middle and low-income earners” who are being expected to compensate for the lack of a plan at work with their own private savings.

“Our research found that those aged 55 to 65 – and this is not counting real estate – have more debt than savings. So this is people in the 10-year run-up to retirement,” he says. The lack of savings will force people to use home equity lines of credit, and the “reverse mortgage business is going to take off.”

Debt is restricting the ability to save, and CPP changes “won’t kick in in time for many people.” Herle says he has not heard of any plans to fix the other pillar of the federal retirement system, the taxpayer-funded Old Age Security program. Recent governments have tried to raise the age of entitlement, and a clawback program is already in place to reduce OAS payouts for higher income earners.

The outlook for retirement saving is “a very gloomy picture,” Herle concludes. He blames “a systematic societal failure… where the risk (of retirement investment) has been transferred to employees from employers.”

We thank David Herle for taking the time to speak to Save with SPP, and encourage readers to check out his podcast, The Herle Burly.

It’s true that paying yourself first – directing something to savings and then spending the rest – can work, especially if it is an automatic thing and the money moves before you can spend it. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has flexible contribution options that include a direct deposit program; you can set it and forget it. SPP also has an option for employers to set up an easily administered pension plan for their employees. Check them out today!

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

Feb 24: Best from the blogosphere

Old “rule of thumb” retirement planning go-tos may need adapting: Shelestowsky

A great interview with Meridian’s Paul Shelestowsky in Wealth Professional shows that some of the old standard tenets of retirement planning may not translate as well here in the 21st Century.

An example, Shelestowsky tells Wealth Professional, is the idea that saving $1 million in your retirement kitty is a target we should all be aiming for. But that figure may not be the right target for everyone, he explains in the story.

“StatsCan has reported that close to 40% of Canadians are still working between the ages of 65 and 69,” he states in the article. “Some Canadian adults have their 75-year-old parents living with them; sometimes that means they get help with the finances, but a lot of times they don’t. Similarly, you can’t just assume that your kids will move out when they’re 25 anymore.”

Another rule our parents told us was never to take debt into retirement.

But that’s increasingly difficult to do, Shelestowsky explains to Wealth Professional, in an era where it is common to continue mortgage payments in retirement, and where household debt has reached levels where Canadians are “owing $180 for every $100 they bring home.”

“How can you retire when you’re having troubles getting by with your regular income, and then have to live on 60% of that?” he asks in the magazine article. High levels of debt may explain the greater-than-ever reliance on home equity lines of credit, Shelestowsky tells the magazine.

Planning for retirement is still of critical importance, he says. “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” he notes in the article. Without some sort of savings, he warns, you could be living solely on Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) payments, which he says works out to only about $1,700 to $1,800 a month, or $42,000 a year for a married couple.

“The government never meant for OAS and CPP to serve as people’s sole retirement income source,” he states in the article. “Back in the day, people could comfortably sock away an extra $200 a month when they’re 20 or 30 years old; now you could say debt is the new normal. And to have a defined-benefit pension plan you can count on in your old age … that’s almost unheard of nowadays. Companies are shifting toward defined-contribution plans, but even that’s not a staple perk anymore.”

Shelestowsky says a solution is to get the help of an advisor to figure out a pre- and post-retirement budget. For those in poor financial shape, the budget process can turn things around; for others, it is a much-needed source of retirement reassurance, he tells the magazine.

If you have a workplace pension plan or retirement savings arrangement, you have a leg up for retirement. But if you don’t, and aren’t sure how to invest on your own, be sure to check out the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Through this open defined contribution plan, you can contribute up to $6,300 a year towards your retirement – your money will be grown by professional investors at a very low fee, and when the day comes when you are logging off for the last time and giving back your building pass, SPP can turn those savings into a lifetime income stream.

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

Old Age Security reform has come full circle in the past decade or so

Most Canadians understand the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) – we pay into it, as does our employer, and we can start collecting a lifetime pension from it as early as age 60. But what about the other “pillar” of the federal government’s retirement income program, Old Age Security (OAS)?

The federal government says OAS is available to any Canadian who has lived in our country for 40 years after reaching age 18. If you don’t meet those conditions, you may still qualify under complex “exception” rules.

Currently, the maximum OAS payment  is $613.53 per month, for life. It starts at age 65, but you can choose to defer it for up to 60 months after reaching that age – and if you do, you will receive a payment that is 36 per cent higher.

There is, of course, a big catch to this. If you make more than $75,910, the government will charge what they call an “OAS recovery tax,” or clawback. If you make more than $123,386, you have to pay back all of your OAS payments for the year.

The “conditional” yet “universal” benefit has prompted many to come up with ideas on how to fix it, particularly during the Stephen Harper years.

Back then, a Fraser Institute opinion column in the National Post explained one key problem with OAS. “Unlike the CPP, there is no dedicated fund to pay for OAS,” the column notes. “Benefits are funded with current tax revenues.” Put another way, everyone who pays taxes contributes to OAS, but not everyone gets it – and should higher income earners get it at all, the column asks.

The Fraser Institute recommended lowering the income at which OAS begins to be cut off to around $51,000, with the full clawback moving to $97,000. This, the article suggests, would save the government $730 million per year, since fewer people would receive the full amount.

Another solution – the one that the Conservatives planned to implement – was moving the starting age for OAS to 67 from 65. However, the current Liberal government reversed that decision in 2016, notes Jim Yih’s Retire Happy blog.

But in the intervening years, we have seen debt levels increase dramatically, preventing many of us from saving for retirement. So there are now some arguing for an expansion of the existing system, on the grounds that it doesn’t provide seniors with sufficient income. Indeed, the Liberals campaigned last year on a plan to increase old age security “by 10 per cent once a senior reaches age 75,” reports Global News.

Without getting political, it appears we have come full circle from talk of reforming the OAS and making it harder to get, to talk of increasing its payout for older seniors. Let’s hope governments take a longer-term view of the problem, and focus on ways to better fund OAS – perhaps creating an OAS investment fund similar to what CPP has, one that would make this benefit more sustainable and secure for those who rely on it.

If you are one of the many hardworking people who lack a workplace pension plan, there is a do-it-yourself option that you should be aware of. It’s the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP). They’ll grow the money you contribute to the plan over time, and when it’s time to retire, can pay it out to you in the form of a “made-by-you” lifetime pension. The SPP also has options for your employer to use this plan as an employee benefit.  Check them out today.

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

If you can’t join a workplace pension plan, PPP lets you build your own: Laporte

As a Bay Street pension lawyer, Jean-Pierre Laporte often wondered why some people – public sector workers, union members – had access to great pension plans at work when many other hard-working people didn’t.

“That’s when I got the idea of taking the existing pension laws, and repackaging them at a micro level so people in the private sector got access to a good pension too – what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Laporte, CEO of INTEGRIS Pension Management tells Save with SPP.

The result is the Personal Pension Plan (PPP®), a design that offers a tailor-made pension plan for participants. The PPP® is essentially a pension plan where the individual running the plan is also a plan member, he explains. It is a “combination pension plan” that offers both a defined benefit (DB) pension and a defined contribution (DC) pension – and “the ability to move between the two options,” he explains.

It runs just like a big public sector pension plan would, with a statement of investment goals, actuarial filings, regulatory compliance, and even an additional voluntary contribution (AVC) feature for consolidating existing RRSPs with pension assets, he explains. Its combination design “allows one to shift away from the… DB mode of savings and into a money-purchase, or DC mode every year, if necessary.”

This could be ideal for situations where an entrepreneur is running a PPP® at the same time as a business – if sales are down, the company can “gear down” and shift into a less expensive DC pension mode, and can “gear up” when better times resume, he explains.

This design “optimizes tax deductions across a number of dimensions” that can’t be done with other savings vehicles, such as RRSPs or conventional DB plans like the Individual Pension Plan (IPP).

PPP® contributions can be much, much higher than RRSP contributions, which are capped at 18 per cent of earned income. This can allow PPP members to transfer hundreds of thousands more dollars into their PPP than they could to an RRSP in the run-up to retirement, he notes.

Other PPP® features include a wider range of investment options (including direct ownership of real estate), the ability to top up the PPP® with special payments if returns from investments are lower than expected, the deductibility of investment management fees, interest if borrowing, the ability to “turn on” the PPP® early for early retirement, and more.

As well, while the PPP® may be funded by an individual’s company, the PPP® assets are separate – so they are creditor-proof and not factored into a corporate (or individual) bankruptcy. Those setting up a PPP® for a family business can sign up family members as members, transferring the pension savings along to future generations without any “wealth transfer” taxation, he explains.

“It is for all of these reasons that the PPP® crushes the RRSP as the option for saving for retirement,” Laporte says.

While the PPP® is not intended for everyone, it is an option for a fairly broad group, Laporte explains.

“The pool of potential clients is broader than just self-employed professionals and business owners.  This also works well for highly compensated key employees of larger corporations where the T4 income paid is well above $150,000 per year. This includes CEOs, CFOs, and COOs of large companies,” Laporte explains.

Laporte says he has long advocated for better pension coverage for everyone, particularly those who don’t have workplace pensions and may have to rely solely on funding their own retirement via RRSPs. He advocated 15 years ago for an expansion of the CPP, which he says is a step in the right direction. He says he got his idea for CPP expansion after learning about the goals of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP).

He says the goal of making retirement “fair for all Canadians” would be like an effort to “rise all boats” to a higher level.

We thank JP Laporte for taking the time to talk with Save with SPP.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is non-profit, low-cost defined contribution plan that can help you grow your retirement savings, and provides a variety of annuity options at retirement. Get in the know today!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What should people do to get out of debt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 16: Best from the blogosphere

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

High housing costs are throwing a wrench in peoples’ retirement savings plans

In the good and now gone old days, people finished paying for their mortgages, hit age 65, and then collected their workplace pensions. They also got Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security – bonus!

But those days appear to be gone.

Research from the Toronto Board of Trade, reported on in the Toronto Star, suggests the old way of doing things is no longer working, especially for big-city dwellers.

The story says that 83 per cent of those surveyed by the Board of Trade believe “the high cost of housing in the (Toronto) area was impeding their ability to save for retirement.”

The story quotes Claire Pfeiffer, a Toronto resident, as saying that she bought her home for $430,000 in October 2007, and it is now worth more than $1 million. But the $1,800 monthly mortgage over the last 12 years has taken up over half of her take-home pay in the period, the article says, leaving her with no money to save for retirement. This, the article says, occasionally keeps her up at night.

There are other factors at play, the story says. “Financial experts say the impact of the region’s affordability challenge extends all the way to the relatively well-off and better-pensioned baby boomers, who are hanging on to big houses longer and sometimes risking their own financial well-being to help their kids,” the article says.

As well, the article notes, “high house costs are set against a backdrop of declining defined benefit pensions, a rising gig economy and record household debt.”

The article notes that only about 25 per cent of today’s workers have a workplace defined benefit pension, “the kind that offers an employer-guaranteed payout,” down from 36 per cent from “10 years earlier.” Coupled with the reality that pension benefits at work are less common is the reality of today’s high debt levels. Quoted in the article, Jacqueline Porter of Carte Wealth Management states “more and more Canadians are retiring with a mortgage, which 30 years ago would have been unheard of. People are retiring with debt, with a mortgage, because they just didn’t plan very well.”

She concludes by saying the notion of “Freedom 55… is out the window.”

Michael Nicin of the National Institute on Ageing states in the article that while debt and high housing costs are definitely restrictors for retirement savings, human behavior needs to change. He thinks automatic savings programs are an answer, the article notes.

“Most people in general don’t consider their future selves multiple decades in advance. They’re more concerned about current priorities — getting ahead, staying ahead, buying a home, going through school, daycare, kids’ education,” he states.

The takeaway here is quite simple – you’ve got to factor retirement savings into your budget, and the earlier you start, the better. Any amount saved and invested today will multiply in the future, and will augment the income you get from any workplace or government program. You need to pay yourself first, and a great tool in this important work is membership in the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You can start small, and SPP will help grow your savings into a future income stream. Be sure to check them 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Aug 12: Best from the blogosphere

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

Data expert proposes boosting CPP payouts, given lack of pensions in the workplace

Writing in the Journal Pioneer, columnist Don Mills reveals a surprising fact – the current maximum payout for the CPP is well below the poverty level.

Mills begins his op-ed piece by noting that increased life expectancy leads to a question – are Prince Edward Islanders “financially prepared for retirement?”

He then observes that only 34 per cent of the workforce in Canada “has employer-sponsored pensions,” with that number dropping to 30 per cent in his native PEI.

“The rest of Canadians must save for retirement or depend on the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and/or Old Age Security (OAS). While CPP is healthy in terms of sustainability at current payouts, it’s only available to those who have contributed to the plan – and maxes out at $1,100 per month. Without other resources, those relying on CPP and/or OAS are facing a life of poverty or a significantly diminished standard of living,” writes Mills.

He notes that the general “rule of thumb” for retirement is that you should have income that equals 70 per cent of what you made at work. “If a household’s income leading up to retirement was $100,000 per year with two incomes, $70,000 is needed after retirement to maintain current standards,” he explains in the piece. But given the relatively modest payout of CPP, Mills notes that “a two-income household with no other retirement savings would receive less than $30,000 from CPP and have a $40,000 shortfall to maintain previous standards of living.”

He notes that while defined benefit pension plans are still common in the public sector – the type of plan that provides “guaranteed payouts that increase with inflation,” only large private sector companies have such plans. The rest, he says, have defined contribution plans which don’t guarantee a set payout (the amount contributed is what is defined, not the payout), if they have any plan at all.

“Few small- or medium-sized companies have the capacity to fund pension plans for employees – meaning only 25 per cent of those who work in the private sector have a pension. The percentage with a defined benefit (inflation protected) plan has decreased from 61 per cent to 40 per cent in the past 10 years,” he explains.

Mills says that the government needs to take steps to ensure that those without indexed DB plans also get some income guarantees in retirement.

“The federal government must commit to substantially increasing CPP payouts by committing tax revenue to this purpose, the same way taxpayers help fund public sector pensions. This includes increasing the contributions by those working and from the federal government by allocating more taxpayer money for that purpose to the CPP and OAS. At minimum, the government should guarantee a retirement income at least above the poverty line in Canada – currently $20k for an individual and $28k for a couple in P.E.I., where 10 per cent of residents currently live below the poverty line, according to the latest census,” he writes.

Mills’ column underscores the little-known fact that benefits from CPP and OAS are modest – and that if that’s all you have to live on when you retire, it is going to be tough sledding. There is also the Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income earners which helps those without savings or workplace pensions.

Mills is correct – more and more people lack a workplace pension and must depend on CPP and OAS, which were never really designed to be the main source of retirement income, but were considered supplemental income. When these programs were launched in the 1960s, most workplaces offered pensions; as Mills notes, nearly two-thirds of workers don’t have such coverage today. This is a problem that could lead to future senior poverty.

If you don’t have a workplace pension, or want to supplement it on your own, an excellent do-it-yourself product is available through the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You decide how much you want to contribute, and they’ll invest it for you – efficiently and at a low cost – so that your savings grow as you approach retirement. Then, they have a wide array of options for you to convert those savings into a lifetime income stream.

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

Even those with workplace retirement savings plan coverage still worry about retirement: Aon research

Recent research conducted for Aon has found that Canadian workers in capital accumulation plans (CAPs), such as defined contribution (DC ) pension plans or group RRSPs, while confident about these plans and their own finances, “find it hard to save for retirement and are worried about having enough money to retire.”

The global actuarial and HR firm’s report, Global DC and Financial Wellbeing Employee Survey, also found that “fewer than half” of those surveyed have a particular goal for retirement savings, and that “depending on other sources of income, many find their current plan contribution levels are inadequate to ensure their total income needs in retirement,” according to an Aon release.

Among the other findings of the report:

  • Of the 1,003 respondents, only 27 per cent saw their financial condition as poor
  • Almost half of those surveyed say outstanding debts are preventing them from saving for retirement
  • Two of five who are in employer-matching plans (where the employer matches the contributions made by the employee) are not taking full advantage of the match
  • Of those who expect to fully retire from work, two-thirds expect to do so by age 66; 30 per cent expect to keep working forever in some capacity.

Save with SPP reached out to one of the authors of the research, Rosalind Gilbert, Associate Partner in Aon’s Vancouver office, to get a little more detail on what she made of the key findings of the research. 

Do you have a sense of what people think adequate contributions would be – maybe a higher percentage of their earnings?

“I don’t believe most respondents actually know what is ‘adequate’ for them from a savings rate perspective.  The responses are more reflective of their fears that that they don’t have enough saved to provide themselves a secure retirement.  Some may be relating this to the results of an online modeller of some kind, or feedback from financial advisors.

“I also think that many employees don’t have a clear picture of the annual income they will be receiving from Canada Pension Plan/Old Age Security to carve that out from the income they need to produce through workplace savings.  Some of this comes back to not having a retirement plan in terms of what age they might retire and, separately, what age they might start their CPP and OAS (since both of those drive the level of those benefits quite significantly).”

Is debt, for things like mortgages and credit cards, restricting savings, in that after paying off debt there is no money left for retirement savings?

“We were surprised to see the number of individuals who cited credit card debt as a barrier to saving for retirement. Some of this is the servicing (interest) cost, which is directly related to the amount of debt (and which will increase materially if interest rates do start to rise, which many are predicting).

“I think that the cost of living, primarily the cost of housing and daycare, is currently quite high for many individuals (particularly in certain areas like Vancouver), and that, combined with very high levels of student loans, means younger employees are just not able to put any additional money away for retirement.  There is also a growing generation of employees who are managing child care and parent care at the same time which is further impeding retirement savings.”

We keep hearing that workplace pensions are not common, but it appears from your research that participation rates are high (when a plan is available).

“This survey only included employees who were participating in their employers’ workplace retirement savings program.  So you are correct that industry stats show that overall coverage of Canadian employees by workplace savings programs is low, but our survey showed that where workplace savings programs are available, participation rates are high.”

What could be done to improve retirement savings outcomes – you mention many don’t take advantage of retirement programs and matching; any other areas for improvement?

“In Canada, DC pension plans and other CAPs are not as mature as they are in other countries such as the UK and US.  That said, we are now seeing the first generation of Canadians retiring with a full career of DC (rather than DB) retirement savings.  Appropriately, there has been a definite swing towards focusing on decumulation (outcomes) versus accumulation in such CAPs.

“From service providers like the insurance companies that do recordkeeping for workplace CAPs, this includes enhanced tools supporting financial literacy and retirement and financial planning.  Also, many firms who provide consulting services to employers for their workplace plans encourage those employers to focus on educating members and encouraging them to use the available tools and resources.

“However, if members are required to transfer funds out of group employer programs into individual savings and income vehicles (with associated higher fees and no risk pooling) when they leave employment, they will see material erosion of their retirement savings. Variable benefit income arrangements (LIF and RRIF type plans) within registered DC plans are able to be provided in most jurisdictions in Canada, but there are still many DC plans which still do not offer these.

“It is more difficult to provide variable benefits when the base plan is a group RRSP or RRSP/deferred profit sharing plan (DPSP) combination, but the insurance company recordkeepers all offer group programs which members can transition into after retirement to facilitate variable lifetime benefits.  The most recent Federal Budget was really encouraging with its announcement of legislation to support the availability of Advanced Life Deferred Annuities (ALDAs) and Variable Pay Life Annuities (VPLAs) from certain types of capital accumulation plans.

“There is still more work to be done to implement these and to ensure that they are more broadly available and affordable, but it is a definite step in the right direction.  A key benefit of the VPLAs is the pooling of mortality risk while maintaining low fees and professionally managed investment options within a group plan.  The cost to an individual of paying retail fees and managing investments and their own longevity risk can have a crippling impact on that member’s ultimate retirement income.”

We thank Rosalind Gilbert for taking the time to connect with us.

If you don’t have access to a workplace pension plan, or do but want to contribute more towards your retirement, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be of interest. It’s a voluntary pension plan. You decide how much to contribute (up to $6,200 per year), and your contributions are then invested for your retirement. When it’s time to turn savings into income, SPP offers a variety of annuity options that can turn your savings into a lifetime income stream.

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