Tag Archives: CPP

JUL 27: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

Life without savings “difficult, but not impossible,” experts say

Like many things in life, such as quitting smoking or losing weight, saving for retirement – even though it is good for us – is often difficult to do.

Jobs aren’t as plentiful these days, household debt is at record highs, and there just isn’t always a lot of cash for putting aside long term.

But what kind of retirement will people who can’t or didn’t save face when they’re older?

According to a recent article in MoneySense, life without retirement savings (or a workplace plan) is “difficult, but not impossible.”

Canadians who have worked and paid into the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) can, in 2020, expect a maximum annual pension of “$1,176 per month – that’s $14,112 per year,” the article notes. However, the writers warn, not all of us will have worked long enough (and made enough contributions) to get the maximum.

“The average CPP retirement pension recipient currently receives $697 per month, or $8,359 per year. That’s only about 59 per cent of the maximum,” reports MoneySense

You can start getting CPP as early as 60 or as late as 70, and the longer you wait, the more you get, the article notes.

All Canadian residents – even those who don’t qualify for CPP – can qualify for Old Age Security (OAS). If you don’t remember paying into OAS, don’t worry – you didn’t directly pay for it via contributions. Instead, the OAS is paid from general tax revenues.

“A lifetime or long-time Canadian resident may receive up to $614 per month at age 65 as of the third quarter of 2020, which is $7,362 annualized. OAS is adjusted quarterly based on inflation,” MoneySense reports. 

There’s another government program that’s beneficial for lower-income retirees, MoneySense notes. The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) “is a tax-free monthly benefit payable to OAS pensioners with low incomes. Single retirees whose incomes are below $18,600 excluding OAS may receive up to $916 per month, or $10,997 per year, as of the third quarter of 2020.”

What’s the bottom line? Someone qualifying for any or all of these programs can receive up to $23,721 per year, with “little to no tax required” per the rules of your province or territory.

The article notes that those saving $10,000 before retirement could add $25 to $33 a month to that total. Those saving $50,000 could see an additional $125 to $167 a month, and those putting away $100,000 will have $250 to $330 more per month.

The takeaway from all of this is quite simple – if you are expecting a generous retirement from CPP, OAS, and GIS, you may be in for a surprise. It’s not going to be a huge amount of income, but it’s a reasonable base.

If you’re eligible for any sort of retirement benefit from work, sign up. You won’t miss the money deducted from your pay after a while and your savings will quietly grow.

If there is no retirement program at work, set up your own using the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Start small, with contributions you can afford. Dial up your contributions every time you get a raise. With this “set it and forget it” approach, you’ll have your own retirement income to bolster that provided by government, which will give you a little more security in life after work.

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.

JUL 20: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

Canucks doing better than we think at retirement saving: report

It’s somewhat rare to see a headline saying Canadians are on track for retirement saving, but that’s the key point of new research from HEC Montreal’s Retirement and Savings Institute.

The study, funded by the Global Risk Institute, was featured in a recent Benefits Canada article.

The positive news – “more than 80 per cent of Canadians aged 25 to 64 are prepared for retirement and the vast majority have a high probability of being prepared,” the magazine notes.

According to the research, which was conducted featuring a large sample of more than 17,000 Canadians, those who are the best prepared are those whose household earnings are below the national median, and “those covered by pension plans,” Benefits Canada notes.

Those who are in the worst shape – somewhat surprisingly – are “upper-middle earners without retirement savings,” the magazine reports, adding that CPP and QPP improvements may benefit that segment of the population down the road.

The authors of the study used what they called a “new stochastic retirement income calculator,” which unlike many calculators, models “the evolution of private savings, accounting for individual and aggregate risk; taxation of savings, including capital gains; employer pensions; a realistic stochastic modelling of work income; the value of housing; and debt dynamics.”

So for those, like us, who got lost at “stochastic,” it seems that this calculation takes into account risk, taxation, future work income, housing prices and levels of debt when calculating what one actually needs to maintain the same standard of living in the life after work.

That calculation showed that on average, participants would have 104.6 per cent of the net income they need, once they are retired, to maintain their pre-retirement living costs.

We can share a personal experience here. When the head of our household decided to get an estimate of what her pension from work would be, she was at first a little dismayed to see that the gross annual pension income – despite 35 years of membership in her workplace plan – was lower than what she was making at work. But when she looked at the net, after-tax income, or take-home pay, it was actually higher. It’s because she’s paying less income tax, no longer making pension contributions, and no longer paying into CPP and EI. That all makes a big difference on the bottom line.

So, the authors of the study conclude, “on average, if (Canadians) retire at the age they intend to, maintain their saving and debt payment strategies and convert all of their financial wealth into income, Canadians have net income in retirement which is higher than their pre-retirement income.”

The reason for the high numbers may be that for those making at or below the median income  “are well covered by the public system even if they have no savings or [registered pension plan] coverage,” the authors of the report state in the Benefits Canada piece. It’s those with income above the median and who also lack workplace pensions – about 15 per cent of Canadians – who need to worry, the article concludes.

If you don’t have a retirement program through work, and don’t really want to take on saving and investing on your own, an excellent option is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. The plan will invest your contributions at a very low investment cost, thanks to the fact the SPP is not operated on a “for profit” basis. Since its inception in the late 1980s the SPP has grown the savings of its members at an average annual rate of eight per cent. And when the time come for you to convert those savings into a lifetime income, the SPP has flexible annuity options to turn your hard-saved dollars 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, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

The CAAT is out of the bag – any employer can now join established “modern DB” plan

We often hear how scarce good workplace pensions are, and how many employers, notably those in the private sector, have given up on offering them altogether.

But, according to Derek Dobson, CEO and Plan Manager of the Colleges of Arts and Technology (CAAT) Pension Plan, there is an option for any Canadian employer that doesn’t want to go through the effort and expense of managing a pension plan for their employees. That option is CAAT’s DBplus plan.

Dobson tells Save with SPP that there are three main themes as to why some employers – with or without their own pension plan – might want to look at DBplus.

Running what is called a “single employer” defined benefit (DB) plan means the risk of ensuring there’s enough money invested to cover the promised benefits rests on the shoulders of one employer. In a multi-employer plan, however, many employers are there to shoulder the load – the risk is shared.

As well, he notes, it might be a chance to upgrade pension benefits. “A lot of organizations want to have access to something better for their people… some employers offer nothing, or a group RRSP. Now they can move to a modern DB plan,” Dobson explains. One study by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (see this prior Save with SPP post) found that most Canadians would take a job with a good pension over one that pays more, Dobson notes.

A final benefit, he says, is the ability that DBplus has to move all employees to a common retirement benefit platform. “In many organizations, you may find that one group of employees has nothing, one has a defined contribution plan, others have a DB plan that is now closed to new entrants… DB plus allows you to put everyone on the same platform,” he says.

Noting that another large pension plan – Ontario’s OPSEU Pension Trust – has launched a similar program for non-profit organizations, Dobson says the idea of leveraging existing pension plans to deliver pensions to those lacking good coverage “is great…the long and the short of it is that there’s a general belief that these larger plans want to put up their hands to help where they can.”

“It’s the right thing to do,” he says.

Why are pensions so important?

Dobson points out some key reasons. “The average person these days will live to age 90, and on average, they retire at age 64 or 65,” he explains. “That’s 25 years in retirement. So having a secure, predictable income, one with inflation protection and survivor pensions, and that is not being delivered for a profit motive – that’s why these plans are so powerful.”

Another great thing about opening up larger plans to new employers is that it addresses the problem of “pension envy,” Dobson says. Instead of pointing out who has a good pension and who doesn’t, now “everyone has access to one, to the same standard.”

Those without a pension have issues to face when they’re older, he warns. “The Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security systems weren’t designed to be someone’s only source of income,” he explains. “We had a three-pillar system in the past – CPP, OAS, and the third pillar, your workplace pension plan and your private savings,” Dobson says. But a large percentage of Canadians don’t have pensions at work, and a recent study by Dr. Robert Brown found that the median RRSP savings of someone approaching retirement age is just “$2,000 to $3,000,” Dobson says. Yet the same study found Canadians are willing to try and save 10 to 20 per cent of their income for retirement.

Dobson says he is energized by the goal of bringing pensions to more Canadians. “It’s a way of making Canada better,” he concludes.

Here’s a video about how the CAAT pension plan delivers on benefit security.

We thank Derek Dobson for taking the time to speak to Save with SPP.

If you don’t have a workplace pension, or the one you have offers only modest benefits, don’t forget the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP allows you to decide what your savings rate will be, grows those dollars at a very low management rate, and can convert the proceeds to a variety of lifetime pensions when you retire. 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.

JUN 8: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

Will pandemic make us rethink our retirement plans?

Financial author Alexandra Macqueen, writing in MoneySense magazine, notes that we’ve always planned for retirement based on the assumption that things will be pretty much stable between the “now” of working and the “then” of retiring.

But, she asks, how will things change when the “now” is totally thrown into chaos by the pandemic?

Up until recently, she writes, we have thought about early, late, or part-time retirement. “All of these variations on the retirement theme have been built on a relatively steady set of economic conditions and assumptions: that housing and financial markets will remain stable, the economy will continue to function, and Canadians will continue to pay the Canada Pension Plan premiums and income taxes that keep CPP and Old Age Security payments flowing,” she explains.

But, she writes, the global pandemic and its “resulting economic fallout… could reshape retirement in Canada.”

First, she says, the idea of early retirement has always been associated with the idea that there are “fallbacks” if things don’t go smoothly – “returning to paid employment, harvesting home equity or counting on continued asset growth.”

But if jobs are scarce, property values drop and “markets tumble,” Macqueen notes, “these backup plans may not be available. As a result, more Canadians may opt to remain in their paid employment (if they’re employed) longer.”

As well, Canadians may find work hard to come by generally, and if they work part-time or via “gigs,” retirement savings will also be difficult to come up with, another reason Macqueen gives for seeing fewer early retirements going forward.

The next big change Macqueen predicts is that of Canadians finally coming to terms with their debt.

“The economic fallout from COVID-19 also means that many highly indebted Canadians will need to take a fresh look at the spending that got them where they are, because the security of the income or assets they expected to use to retire the debt has diminished or even disappeared,” she explains.

With no investment returns to pay down debt with, and with housing prices uncertain, Canadians may be forced to downsize their primary residence purely to save on mortgage costs, cut back on big vacations and fancy home renovations, or in extreme cases enter “a consumer proposal or bankruptcy proceedings to resolve outstanding debt,” she warns.

Finally, the COVID-19 era and its volatile market may result in a return to simpler and less risky retirement finances, such as guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) and annuities.

GICs carry almost no risk – they pay out a set amount of interest depending on the term of the certificate.

“A life annuity is a financial product, sold by an insurance company, that pays a guaranteed monthly income to the annuitant(s) for as long as they are alive—sort of like a “DIY version” of a defined-benefit pension,” notes Macqueen, co-author of a book on the subject, Pensionize Your Nest Egg.

Summing it up – we may need to work longer to have enough savings to retire on, or to pay off debt first before retiring, and when the wonderful day arrives, we might want to convert savings into a guaranteed lifetime income via annuities and GICs.

If you’re a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, the idea of converting your retirement savings into a guaranteed lifetime income stream is already part of your retirement tool kit. SPP has a variety of annuity options available that will ensure you get a monthly cheque for as long as you’re alive. Check it 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

Time to use realistic yardstick to measure senior poverty: John Anderson

It’s often said that Canadian seniors are doing fairly well, and that the rate of senior poverty experienced back in the pre-Canada Pension Plan days has dropped considerably.

However, says Ottawa-based union researcher John Anderson, the yardstick used to measure senior poverty levels needs to be updated to international standards. He took the time recently for a telephone interview with Save with SPP.

Currently, says Anderson, a “Market Basket Measure” (MBM) system is used to measure the cost of living, a “bizarre” system that factors in the cost of housing, clothing, food and other staples by province and region. By this old system, it is reckoned that 3.5 per cent of Canadian seniors live in poverty, although recent tweaks to the measurement process will see this number jump to 5.6 per cent.

The intricate MBM system – unique to Canada — goes into arcane details such as “what clothes you should have, how many pairs of long underwear, what kind of food you should buy, how many grams of butter. And there’s a sort of built-in stigmatization of rural living; it’s assumed that you don’t need as much money to live in a rural area as you do to live in Toronto,” Anderson says. The opposite is often true, he points out.

LIM system a better comparator

Anderson says the rest of the world uses a different measurement, one that’s much simpler, Anderson explains. The low income measure (LIM) scale defines poverty as being “an income level that is less than 50 per cent of the median income in the country,” he says. “This gives you a very clean comparison.”

By that measure, a startling 14 per cent of Canadian seniors are living in poverty, which is more than triple that figure that MBM currently quotes. “When you think about it, it means they are making less than half of what the average Canadian earns,” he explains. “They are not earning a lot.”

Why are today’s seniors not doing so well? Anderson says there has been a decline in workplace pensions over the years. “The numbers are way down,” he says. As recently as 2005, there were 4.6 million Canadians who belonged to defined benefit plans through work. By 2018, that number had dropped to 4.2 million, “at a time when we have seen a significant increase in the population, and more seniors than ever before.”

Defined benefit plans are the kind that guarantee what your monthly payment will be. About two million Canadians belong in defined contribution plans, which are more like an RRSP – money contributed over a working person’s career is invested and grown, and then drawn down as income in retirement.

“Only 25 per cent of workers have defined benefit plans now. And only 37 per cent have any kind of registered pension plan. Most have nothing,” says Anderson. This lack of pensions in the workplace, and the tendency towards part time and “gig” work that offers no benefits, is a primary reason why senior poverty is on the upswing, he contends.

“The kinds of jobs people are in today have changed,” Anderson explains. “People are working more non-standard jobs, gig jobs, contract work. Many are not even contributing to the CPP.” They tend not to be saving much on their own with these types of jobs, so it means that “when they retire, if they work that way, they don’t get much of a pension.”

That will leave many people with nothing in retirement except Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, Anderson says. Neither the OAS or the GIS has “really kept up” with increases in living costs. The most anyone can get from these two programs is about $1,500 a month, for a single person, he says. “These major government pension plans have not yet taken a leap forward,” he says. “The government has improved the Canada Pension Plan, and people will benefit from that (in the future),” he explains, but these other two pillars should get a look too.

Looking forward

Anderson says by moving to a LIM-based measurement of poverty, governments could have a more realistic basis on which to make program improvements.

“We already have a form of universal basic income for seniors through the OAS and the GIS,” he says. “The monthly amounts these pay out need to be raised.”

The goal should be to raise income for seniors to the LIM target of 50 per cent of Canada’s median income which is $30,700 per person based on median after tax income for 2018.

He also thinks that the OAS should be an individual benefit, rather than being designed for couples or singles. “You get less per person with the couples’ benefit; people should get the same amount,” he explains.

He says seniors today face an expensive retirement, with possible time spent in costly long-term care homes. “Can I survive when I retire – this isn’t a question that our seniors should have to worry about,” he explains.

Anderson remains optimistic that the problem will be addressed. The Depression prompted governments of the day to begin offering OAS; experience during and after the Second World War led to the introduction of EI and the baby bonus. CPP benefits started following a serious period of senior poverty in the 1950s. “We have to do better, but maybe there’s a silver lining with the COVID-19 situation, and maybe government will take a closer look at this issue again,” he says.

We thank John Anderson for speaking with Save with SPP. John Anderson is the former Policy Director of the federal NDP and now a union researcher.

If you don’t have access to a workplace pension, consider becoming a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s an open defined contribution plan – once you’re a member, the contributions you make are invested and grown over time, and when you retire, you have the option of turning your savings into a lifetime monthly pension. 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

Apr 6: Best from the blogosphere

With CPP, the longer you wait, the more you’ll get

For quite some time now, the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) has been available as an early retirement benefit – you can get it, with a reduction for taking it early, at age 60.

But is taking it at 60 the “no brainer” many seem to think it is?

An article in the Flin Flon Reminder suggests otherwise.

The article, quoting financial advisers, says it rarely makes sense to take CPP at 60, and “there are even fewer reasons to start drawing retirement funds while you’re still working.”

“I don’t advise taking CPP until you’re actually retired,” states Willis Langford, a Calgary-based investment planner, in the article. He adds that CPP, along with Old Age Security (OAS), “form the very base of a retirement income plan and you shouldn’t tap into it until you’re ready to start accessing all of your sources of income in retirement.”

Yet, the article notes, about 12.6 per cent of all CPP beneficiaries are taking their benefit early, and face a reduction in the benefit of 36 per cent – “0.6 per cent per each month… before you turn age 65,” the article explains. Those who can wait until age 70 to start CPP get an increase in their benefit of 42 per cent – 0.7 per cent for each month after age 65 that they are not collecting the CPP.

The article explains this with a couple of examples. Someone earning $50,000 a year would get $10,760 in CPP benefits ($897 per month) if he or she starts at age 65. If the same person starts at age 60, they would get “just $551 per month – about $6,600 a year.” As well, if the early collector continues to work while they receive CPP, they would have to make $2,300 a year in CPP contributions.

These extra contributions would boost the CPP benefit at age 65 to $658 a month ($7,896 a year) – still much less than what you get if you start at 65, the article notes. And if the person waits until age 70, he or she would get $1,422 per month ($17,064 a year).

Why, the article asks, do some folks take it early, given all this?

“If you knew you were going to live for a very, very long time, generally you would wait. The longer you wait, the more you would get,” Brad Goldhar of BMO Private Wealth tells The Reminder. “But if you knew at age 60 that your family history suggested not many years of longevity, you might take it early,” he states.

The bottom line – be sure you know the rules for CPP when you’re thinking about taking it.

Similarly, if you are a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, and decide on a life annuity when you retire, be sure to get an estimate. Just like with CPP, the later you start your annuity, the more you will get per month. And generally speaking, more is usually a good thing when it comes to retirement income.

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

The New Retirement’s views stand up well a decade later

A decade ago, Save with SPP was in the audience to hear Sherry Cooper present the chief findings of her then-new book, The New Retirement.

A lot has happened since then, but the noted financial writer’s thoughts stand up well a decade later.

Cooper was among the first to predict that boomer retirements would be different from those of their parents. “Boomers see retirement as a period of regeneration rather than degeneration,” she notes.

However, she adds, boomers are far less frugal than their parents. “Early boomers were the first in their generation to enter schools, the job market, and the housing market,” she explains. Late boomers “had very different life experiences and have found it tougher to amass wealth.”

Cooper noted early that women generally are in better health than men, and as a result, will live longer – a key retirement income consideration. That fact, she writes, “is all the more reason why women should understand their household finances and have a large-enough next egg and long-term insurance to assure comfort and security in later years.”

The author, an economist, correctly notes that people would tend to work later than expected. “Older workers have higher productivity and deal with problems more effectively than younger workers,” she writes. At the event Save with SPP attended, a slide showing Mick Jagger popped up when this point was raised, and it’s interesting to note that Sir Mick is still rocking his way into yet another decade.

She anticipated the need to expand the CPP, noting that back in 2008, CPP was “far less generous than Social Security. In today’s dollars, maximum annual CPP payments are only $10,365.” She pointed out that Old Age Security provided about half as much at maximum and is subject to clawbacks for some.

Other correct prophecies – increased private spending by boomers on healthcare, such as the “considerable burden of long-term care,” plus costs to society for the increasing number of retired boomers needing medical care – are made.

Cooper advocates pre-retirees to adopt a “lifestyle plan for retirement,” indicating that knowing how you want to live will tell you how much you need to fund that particular lifestyle. She says we should think of retirement as a “multi-stage” event, decades long, so planning ought to consider what you’ll be doing in your 60s versus 70s, 80s and 90s.

She talks about the “financial nightmare” of longevity risk, the danger of outliving your savings, and was one of very few financial experts at that time period who talked about the value of having annuities as part of your retirement plan.

The book also sets out a “default” investment portfolio for retirement savers – 15 per cent of the nest egg should be invested “in high quality stocks and real return bonds,” and 85 per cent equally invested in stocks and bonds. This, she says, should get you to age 85, and at that point, you can annuitize what’s left for lifetime income.

This book was one of the first Save with SPP added to our retirement library, and it stands up very well today. It’s a well-recommended read, beautifully and clearly written with frequent recap sections to make sure you’re following along.

It’s true that government benefits, while improving over the years, still don’t provide much more than a basic retirement income for Canadians. If you have retirement savings of your own, or through a workplace pension plan, you’ll have more income for the decades-long retirement phase of life. A good way to augment your retirement savings is by joining the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, a do-it-yourself open defined contribution plan. You provide the money, SPP will grow it over time and provide you the option of a lifetime pension at retirement. All good.

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

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