CBC

Pandemic created a wave of migration to smaller towns and other provinces – will it continue?

November 4, 2021

Many people young and old made a big change in their living arrangements during the pandemic.

Younger people – liberated from having to go to the office each day – sought more affordable housing in other cities or provinces. City dwellers generally, including retirees, wondered if it would be safer during times of COVID to move to places with lower infection rates.

Save with SPP took a look around the Interweb to see how this is playing out now that the pandemic is (hopefully) starting to turn the final corner towards “over.”

Better Dwelling magazine reports on how people have left Ontario to live in Atlantic Canada. In the second quarter of 2021, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick attracted 4,678 and 2,145 interprovincial newcomers. Ontario saw an outflow of 11,857 people in the same quarter, the magazine reports.

What’s the attraction?

“Lower COVID spread in the Maritimes probably amplified the region’s appeal. But relatively affordable housing was likely an even bigger draw, especially as home prices skyrocketed in already-expensive parts of the country and more Canadians were able to work remotely,” states RBC economist Carrie Freestone in the article. 

“With housing affordability worsening in major urban markets in Central Canada, this may mark the beginning of a trend: young talent moving east for an improved quality of life,” she tells Better Dwelling.

But it’s not just Ontario that is seeing people move. Closer to home, Alberta is also seeing people pack up to start over elsewhere, reports the CBC via Yahoo! News.

Why are they leaving?

The article says high COVID case counts may be one reason, but quotes Mount Royal Professor David Finch as saying “”Young people are leaving the province for a variety of reasons — some tied to employment, some tied to economics or education.”

A recent study, the 2020 Calgary Attitudes and Outlook Survey, found that a startling 27 per cent of Calgarians aged 18 to 24 planned to leave the city in the next five years, the CBC reports.

“In Alberta, there is a perception that there is a lack of diverse career pathways, leading people to look at other parts of Canada or beyond for opportunities in education or employment that may be closer aligned to their career objectives and social values,” Finch states in the article.

Retirees thinking of relocating to cheaper places need to think the idea through carefully, suggests the Boomer & Echo blog.

Most seniors making such moves do so for better weather, as well as “proximity to family, affordable housing costs, the availability of healthcare facilities, and things to do,” the blog notes.

A lower housing budget will give you more money for travel (when travelling is more common), the blog adds. The blog advises that you try visiting your intended destination for a long stay before committing to the move, and go in both summer and winter. Check differences in provincial tax rates, and find out about transferring your provincial healthcare.

The grass may appear greener down the highway, but you may expect some higher costs and fewer services if you move from a city to a smaller centre, warns the Globe and Mail.

The article cites the example of Ian Cable and Amy Stewart, who decided to move from Toronto to Owen Sound, a small city on the shores of Lake Huron. They found that the cost of a house in Owen Sound “was a fraction (of the cost) of a similar property in Toronto.”

But in Toronto, with a vast public transit system, they only needed one vehicle; in Owen Sound they have two. Isaiah Chan of the Credit Counselling Society tells the Globe that smaller town residents usually have to drive more often, and farther – instead of a half hour drive for your kids’ hockey you might now be looking at two to three hours, Chan says.

The article flags other possible problems – are you on a water and sewer system, or septic tanks and wells? If you need to return to the office from the country, can you afford the commute, the article asks.

The article concludes by suggesting anyone moving to a smaller place to save money must do thorough research on what the full costs of living there will be.

The key takeaways here seem to be that you need to get as much intel as possible about the place you are thinking of moving to before you make the jump. Save with SPP once travelled two hours by car – each way – to work from about 10 years. The cost of keeping the car going tended to wipe out any advantage from the lower cost of living.

In a way, retirement is like a destination – a place where you are going to go one day. The intel you need to know now is whether or not you have sufficient retirement income. If you are in a retirement plan at work, great; if not, consider joining it. If there isn’t a plan, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has everything you need to set up your own individual or employer-based one. Wherever you end up in retirement, things will go more smoothly if you can unpack some retirement income when you get there, so check out SPP – celebrating 35 years of building retirement futures – today.

Written by Martin Biefer

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


Oct 4: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

October 4, 2021

Despite pandemic, retirement savings are still ticking along: report

As the brutal financial impacts of the pandemic washed over us – businesses forced to close, workers laid off, and so on – many observers expected that retirement savings might have to be raided so people could keep afloat.

New research from the U.S. suggests otherwise, reports Yahoo! Finance.

Recent research carried out by the Investment Company Institute found that “most Americans have not taken any withdrawals from their defined contribution (DC) retirement plans,” Yahoo! Finance reports. As well, “the vast majority of U.S. savers have continued to make contributions to their plans through the pandemic,” the article notes.

“Despite the economic challenges over the past year and a half, retirement savers show deep commitment to preserving their retirement nest eggs,” Sarah Holden, ICI senior director of retirement and investor research, states in the article. “The combination of ongoing contributions and few participants taking withdrawals reflects DC plan participants’ long-term mindset and preference to keep this money earmarked for retirement and avoid dipping into it.”

Paradoxically, the pandemic – a period where many thought money would be very tight – has turned out to be a period of higher rates of savings, the article notes.

“Though many households have been faced with financial constraints over the past year and a half, the aggregate personal savings rate has increased since COVID-19 first reared its head in the beginning of 2020,” the article states.

Indeed, here in Canada, the CBC reports that the average Canadian has saved $5,000 during the pandemic, thanks to “the combined impact of reduced spending and collecting more money from government support programs,” the broadcaster reports.

With less to spend on, Canadians attacked their debt loads and were still able to stash away “$5,574 per Canadian on average in 2020, compared to $479 in the previous year,” the CBC notes.

Back in the U.S., the ICI report found that only “1.1 per cent of all DC plan participants stopped contributing to their plans in the first half of 2021,” reports Yahoo! Finance.

It’s good to hear that people generally are leaving their retirement savings alone, despite the strange economy and overall odd spending era the pandemic has brought us. No matter what’s going on today, eventually all of us will reach an age where the income we get from working declines, and the income we need from our savings escalates.

Workplace pensions certainly help with retirement income; if you are in a program at work, be sure to maximize your participation if you can. If you don’t have a workplace pension plan, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a voluntary DC plan that professionally invests your savings and can help you turn it into an income stream when you hang up your working hat for the last time. They’ve been doing it for 35 years – 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.


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.

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 31: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

May 31, 2021

Will some Canadians stay frugal and keep saving – even after the pandemic?

An interesting report from BNN Bloomberg suggests that a significant chunk of us Canadians plan to carry on being savers – and trimming back on spending – once the pandemic is over.

The report cites recent Scotiabank research, which found that 36 per cent of those surveyed “are planning to eliminate unnecessary spending from their lifestyle,” and a further 28 per cent “will continue to build their emergency fund.”

Scotiabank’s D’Arcy McDonald is quoted in the article as saying there is a “record number of deposits in Canadians’ bank accounts.” He further states that this stash of cash “presents a huge opportunity, especially for the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, like travel and hospitality.”

In plainer terms, he’s expecting Canadians will spend that cache of cash on things they haven’t been able to do, like jumping on a jet plane, or even taking friends out for dinner. And the research seems to bear that out – but with more than a third of respondents promising NOT to spend money like they did before, and nearly 30 per cent more putting money in long-term savings, one wonders if it will play out like bankers and politicians expect.

A higher savings rate is never a bad thing. As recently as 2017, according to the CBC, the national household savings rate was about 4.6 per cent, and 65 per cent of Canadians said they were saving for retirement.

Jump ahead to 2020, and – according to the National Post – we have a national savings rate of 28.2 per cent, and an estimate cash stockpile of $90 billion. And that number solely looks at savings accounts, the article notes – if invested dollars were counted, the number would be even higher.

Are any of the excess dollars being earmarked for retirement?

It would appear so. According to the Canada Buzz blog, the average registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) balance in Canada is around the $100,000 mark – it averages $92,000 and change in the Prairies and hits $116,000 in Alberta. B.C. weighs in at $96,000-plus and Ontario leads at $128,000.

The pandemic has been a nightmare for some of us, who have seen jobs and paycheques dry up, or who have been forced to close businesses. Retirement savings is of course not a priority for this group. But if you are someone who has managed to keep working throughout the crisis, and have built up some extra savings, don’t forget about your retirement savings account. Those dollars will be handy for the retired, future you.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan, celebrating its 35th year of operations, is of course a logical destination for any excess cash you may want to earmark for the future. SPP invests the contributions on your behalf, and at retirement, can convert your invested dollars to a retirement income stream. 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.


Pandemic has meant tough times for those who love cash

February 11, 2021

It wasn’t all that long ago that cash was considered the smart way to go, in terms of saving and budgeting.

Who can forget watching the great ‘Til Debt Do Us Part TV series, featuring Gail Vaz-Oxlade, where a key lesson to managing household budgeting was to save up change and bills in jars, one jar for food, one for fuel, one for entertainment, and so on. The jars of cash forced you to follow a budget, and credit cards and lines of credit weren’t allowed.

And what about the advice of American financier Mark Cuban about the dealmaking cash provides – he notes that “you’ll get better results if you negotiate with cash.” As an example, if you say “all I have is $40 cash,” maybe the vendor will settle for that instead of a higher amount. No such wiggle room exists with credit and debit cards.

But along came the pandemic to make the world tremble for cash users.

“More businesses are going cashless during the COVID-19 pandemic and are asking customers to use debit, credit or app payments as a precautionary measure,” notes the CBC. Some retailers are refusing to take cash altogether, others deal with it in a safer way, using tongs and little cash boxes.

The concern with cash is, of course, health-related; handing over bills and cash is a hand-to-hand action that does carry risk. Contactless payments are seen as safer.

In the U.K., contactless payment has risen by as much as 64 per cent of all transactions, reports MSN Money.

Major retailer Asda is now accepting payment from a wider range of mobile devices, and contactless payment limits – once quite small – have been ramped up, the article notes. The limit is now 45 pounds – about $78 Canadian.

Here at home, NFCW reports that Visa and MasterCard limits for contactless payments have jumped up to $250.

A final indicator of the cashless society is the use of automatic teller machines (ATMs). In the UK, reports PA Media via MSN. ATM use is down a whopping 60 per cent.

“When people do use a cash machine, they are typically withdrawing more money. The average cash machine withdrawal is now around £80, up from around £65 before the lockdown,” the article notes.

Seventy-five per cent of Brits surveyed say they are using less cash these days – and 14 per cent say they are keeping any cash they accumulate at home, perhaps in a piggy bank, for emergencies, the article concludes.

So King Cash has been dethroned, at least until the pandemic is over. No doubt the throne will be reoccupied one day when the pandemic is under control, and it’s safe to shop with a wallet filled with bills and coins.

Got some cash piling up? While saving it for an emergency is a great idea, so is saving it for your retirement. There aren’t as many people lining up at those green coin counting machines these days, so bring your piggy bank of coins there and convert it to bills. Those can then be tucked into your savings account via an ATM.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has a great “pay yourself first” feature worth knowing about. You can set up SPP as a bill in most online banking applications. Then you can pop those piggy bank dollars into your SPP as easily as you can pay the cable bill. Not a member of SPP? Check them out today – 2021 marks their 35th year of delivering retirement security.

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.


Resolve to save in 2021

January 7, 2021

It’s the start of the New Year, and if there’s one thing we think everyone can agree on, it is really nice to see 2020 not hitting the door on the way out.

A New Year brings new promises, in the form of resolutions. Late-night host Conan O’Brien sums up how we all feel about the crazy year just ended, saying that his resolution for 2021 is “spend less time with my family.” Ouch.

Save with SPP took a look around the Interweb to see what people are resolving to do this year on the savings front.

At the Save.ca blog, there’s some good resolution advice on what to do with any extra money that comes your way in 2021, perhaps via a raise, a bonus, or a lottery payout.

“Whatever the source of the windfall, a good rule of thumb is to divide the extra money among the past, present, and future. If you have significant debts, use one-third of the windfall to pay some of those off, addressing concerns from the past. Save one-third, looking to the future,” the blog tells us.

“Use no more than one-third to address your present wish list — things like home improvements or even the purchase of something you’ve had your eye on but couldn’t previously afford,” say the folks at Save.ca.

Other advice for 2021 – save big by eating more at home, leave the ATM card at the house, and “pay yourself first.” You should “start adding yourself to the list of bills that need to be paid. Pay yourself with a set amount designated for investment or savings each month,” Save.ca advises.

The CBC suggests a “30-day spending detox” immediately as the New Year begins. The broadcaster quotes Calgary finance expert Lesley-Anne Scorgie as saying a “detox” means “turning the taps off to that habitual spending that you were doing throughout the month of December — and, let’s face it, for many months before the holiday season as well.”

The detox, she says in the CBC article, can be carried out by reducing spending “on anything that’s non-essential.” Suggestions include take-out coffee, subscriptions to streaming TV services, “the nails, the rims for your car,” and so on, she states.

A bunch of little cuts can add up to $25 a day – or close to $700 a month – that can be put away in a savings account, Scorgie says.

CityNews Toronto reports on recent research by Bromwich+Smith, which found Canadians “are eager to make fundamental life changes in 2021 following months of pandemic induced lockdowns and restrictions.”

Sixty per cent of those surveyed want to “support small and local businesses going forward,” the broadcaster notes. Fifty-nine per cent want to “enjoy the little things in life,” and 47 per cent want to live “more frugally.” Other top resolutions included being kinder to others (41 per cent) and travelling to other provinces (35 per cent), CityNew reports.

Whatever you do to improve your finances, take small steps, advises noted financial reporter Pattie Lovett-Reid.

Talking on BNN Bloomberg’s show The Open, she says thinking too large “may be too big and audacious a goal,” she explains. Instead, she recommends we say to ourselves “OK, what can I do each month to move forward our financial plan?” If you succeed, great, if you don’t, there are many more months to go, she notes. “You have to know how much you owe, and how much you own – that will give you an opportunity to make changes, and to get corrective action in place,” she explains.

Looking for a 2021 resolution? How about this – why not increase your contribution to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s a quick and easy way to pay yourself first, whether you contribute weekly or monthly, or via a lump sum. Not an SPP member? Check out SPP today; in 2021 SPP is commemorating 35 years of providing retirement security.

Written by Martin Biefer

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


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

September 24, 2020
Photo credited to: Chris Liverani

The pension industry has a big footprint.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Written by Martin Biefer

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


Taking a look back at some of the things we started doing more of during the pandemic

May 21, 2020

There’s no question that one day, when we are telling our future grandchildren about what the pandemic was like, we’ll be asked “so what did you do when you had to stay home?”

Now that we are beginning to see the end of some of the daunting restrictions that have closed restaurants, stores, gyms, the Legion, hockey rinks, golf courses and other key parts of our lives, it’s worth remembering what people got up to while stuck at home.

According to a story in Patch magazine, many of us have desperately been trying to buy more yeast and flour.

“For so many who’ve been holed up in quarantine, cooking — and especially baking — has meant either a return to the comforting recipes of childhood or a foray into a whole new world of culinary creativity. Baking bread from scratch, a long-ago tradition, is suddenly a focus, along with Zoom cocktail parties, Netflix binges, and morning gatherings around the TV to listen to New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo discuss coronavirus strategies, and yes, the meatballs and sauce of his childhood Sundays,” the story notes.

While various Internet-based teleconferencing apps, and drive-by birthday celebrations are a big deal, there are more basic ways to stay in touch with others, reports the CBC.

In the suburbs of Winnipeg, a group of seniors at a retirement home wondered how they would handle having to miss their usual weekly get-together in the facility’s restaurant.

“Every Sunday, dozens of people go onto their balconies or stand physically distanced in the courtyard at L’Accueil Colombien to bang on pots, ring bells and sing O Canada for about 15 minutes,” the CBC reports. And according to one of the founders of this new tradition, the goal is to stay in touch.

“I just thought of it because I had heard that somewhere, I think it was in France, at 6 o’clock they would come on their balcony and they would sing,” St. Vincent tells the CBC. “I’m not a singer, so I said, ‘Well, we can ring [bells], we can make noise.'”

Those of us who could continue working at home did, and for some it was quite an eye-opener, reports Global TV.

“A recent survey from Statistics Canada found that approximately 4.7 million Canadians who do not usually work from home did so during the week of March 22 to 28,” the network reports.

“I think this has been a revolution. It was something that was thrown at us, but we have found that working from home has really been working quite well,” consultant Barbara Bowes tells the network.

“I think that from an employer’s perspective, they can save so much money from rental spaces; they will seriously take a look at how they can balance how much time and who is in the office through technology. It is going to change the way we work altogether,” she says in the interview.

Another unexpected fringe benefit to the pandemic – a time when few are driving anywhere, since there is essentially nothing to do but shop for groceries, hit the drug store, or refresh your beer supply – is cleaner air, reports the Toronto Star.

“When you clean up the air, you see a reduction in mortality,” Stanford Professor Marshall Burke tells the newspaper. “It highlights the things we may want to change when we don’t have an epidemic.”

Finally, one last thing some of us are finding is that we aren’t spending as much money.

“If you add it all up, the average family is saving $1,700 a month when you factor in commuting costs, childcare costs, the amount of money folks are saving by not going out to eat, especially not going to the bars,” researcher Nick Johnson tells Milwaukee’s WISN.

It’s certainly been a strange time that none of us will ever forget, a once-in-a-lifetime thing – hopefully.

If you are among the fortunate few who have been able to keep working and have a few extra dollars left over, don’t forget to tend to your retirement savings. Those savings need a little care and occasional watering to grow, so any extra bits of cash you can spare today could be directed to your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account. You’ll be able to harvest those dollars, which will be professionally invested and grown, when you reach retirement age. Your future self-will, no doubt, thank you.

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

Ways to stay in shape while the gyms are closed

April 23, 2020

Are you missing your weekly (or for some, daily) trip to the gym during the coronavirus crisis?

Save with SPP had a look around the Interweb to see how people are keeping fit when they are, by and large, confined to their own dwellings.

At the Patch blog, “bodyweight exercises… exercises that don’t require weights or machines,” are recommended. These can also be done anywhere, the blog tells us. Examples include the tried and true pushup, planks (familiar to yoga fans), and a similar “glute bridge.” The site recommends each exercise they list be done 10-15 times.

At The Health Site, the advice on exercise is particularly appropriate for the pandemic.

The site recommends carrying out some breathing exercises at home, so that you can “take precautions by boosting your lung power.” The post outlines deep breathing, “breathing through your diaphragm,” resistance breathing and other exercises. All of these, the blog suggests, will boost the strength of your lungs and “increase the amount of oxygen in your body” by filling and stretching your lung sacs.

TV station KHOU in Houston provides videos leading you through yoga, strength class, cardio class and a boot camp.

So does our own CBC, which provides videos for a couch workout, the “six minute Animal kingdom workout,” a towel workout, a workout for new moms, small-space yoga, and more.

Now why should we be looking up all these exercises when instead we could be watching Netflix or playing board games?

According to the Goodluck blog, keeping busy with exercise has many advantages. It improves your metabolism, it boosts your mental and physical energy, helps with your self-discipline and improves your sleep. The site strongly recommends that workouts take place in the morning.

We’re living through a very strange and scary crisis. Save with SPP has found that even getting out walking the dog seems to break the tension and reduces stress. Be sure, of course, to follow all public health guidelines and keep a safe distance from others if you’re walking, running, or cycling during these unusual times.

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