Tag Archives: DB

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.

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

The “baffling unpopularity” of annuities

What if there was a way to convert some or all of the money you’ve saved up for retirement into cash for life – monthly payments for as long as you live?

And once you made this conversion, you’d no longer have to make any investment decisions for this money; you’d just have to trot over to the Super Mailbox each month to collect a cheque.

There is just such a product, the annuity, but for some reason, it’s not something people choose very often. Writing in MoneySense, David Aston calls annuities “the best retirement product that hardly anyone buys,” adding that they amount to a sort of do-it-yourself defined benefit (DB) plan.

“Like DB pensions, (annuities) provide guaranteed income for as long as you live. But while employer pensions are considered the gold standard of retirement income plans, few Canadians ever think about annuities,” writes Aston, calling their unpopularity “baffling.”

Aston says that for some people, such as those with wealth or who have DB pensions from work, an annuity is probably not necessary. And others don’t like the idea of “their finality – once you give your cash to the insurance company, you’re locked in for life.” There’s no more “growth potential” for this investment and you can’t tap into it for lump sum amounts, he explains.

But, says Aston, they are ideal for cash flow. Many people buy an annuity which, along with government pensions, “meets all your non-discretionary needs,” such as keeping the lights on, the furnace going, and the rent paid via the steady, predictable and guaranteed income. And if you convert part of your retirement savings to an annuity, you can “afford to take more risks with the rest of your portfolio.”

One would imagine that those who took out annuities prior to the market downturn in 2008 are happy with their choice, because while you may miss out on investment gains, you also miss out on investment losses with an annuity.

In a video posted to Save with SPP, Moshe Milevsky, Professor of Finance at York University’s Schulich School of Business, calls annuities “insurance against something that is really a blessing, longevity.” Because the annuity pays you for life, you can never run out of money, he notes.

Writing in the Globe and Mail financial columnist Rob Carrick notes that unlike withdrawing money from a RRIF or other vehicle, the withholding tax on an annuity is not automatically deducted but is taxed the same as regular income, he explains.

He reports that a good time to consider buying an annuity is when you are older. “The later you buy, the shorter the period of time the insurer selling an annuity expects to have to pay you. As a result, payments are higher than they would be if you bought at a younger age,” he explains.

The cost of an annuity depends on current interest rates, which have been quite low for a while but are rising, which is good news for annuity buyers.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) is somewhat unique in that it can convert your savings into an annuity. They offer four different kinds of guaranteed annuities, and your money continues to be invested by SPP while you sit back and wait for the monthly cheque. For full details, check out the Retirement Options chapter in the SPP Retirement Guide.

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

Pension plans are a sure way to deliver retirement security: Dobson

For Derek Dobson, the fact that Canadians “are struggling to put money toward their retirement goals” is a “monumental issue” that needs to be addressed.

Dobson is CEO and Plan Manager of the Toronto-based Colleges of Applied Arts & Technology Pension Plan. At the end of 2017, the CAAT Plan had $10.8 billion in net assets and served more than 46,000 working and retired members.

Dobson tells Save With SPP that the statistics show that “there has been a decline in the percentage of working Canadians who have access to a pension savings program” in most Canadian workplaces. He says that the decline of workplace pensions started in the 1960s when the Canada Pension Plan started, a trend that has continued for decades.

But that trend can and should be reversed, he says. These days, it is harder to attract and retain valuable employees, and workplace pensions play an important role. “Employers are competing for workers again,” he explains. He says CAAT’s new defined benefit (DB) plan design, DBPlus, open to any organization, is getting inquiries from large and small employers. “We had a tree service company owner, with a staff of four, call us up about joining, because he found his people would leave to get jobs where there is a pension.”

Both CAAT and another Ontario jointly sponsored DB plan, OPSEU Pension Trust, have developed pensions that expand access to well-run defined benefit pensions that are easy for members and employers. Recently Torstar and its employees joined CAAT Pension Plan’s DBplus. When the matter was put to a vote, 97 per cent of the members of the Torstar plans voted in favour of the merger.

“Along with other pension plans, we are trying to get the message out that a measure of the health of Canada is how good its standard of living is in retirement,” Dobson explains.

People, he says, visualized getting old around age 75 and then passing away soon after. “Their jaw drops when we show them that it is highly likely they will live until their high 80s or early 90s,” he says. “They could easily live for 25 years of retirement. With improving longevity people need to think more about their financial security in retirement.”

Yet, he notes, those without pensions at work aren’t saving much on their own. The average RRSP balance in the country is only around $65,000 at age 65. That’s not going to be sufficient to keep people at a reasonable standard of living for 25 years, Dobson says.

Saving for retirement on one’s own is not easy, he says. While financial literacy courses help, retirement savings is a complex challenge for most. Canadians already are having to manage their debts, so “having a picture of what they want their future to be like” is difficult. “They want a good standard of living in retirement, but they don’t know where to start, or where to find value across so many choices.” And that can be so overwhelming that people “are not getting started putting money toward their retirement goals.”

Pensions in the workplace work because it is an automatic savings program, Dobson explains. “Your contributions come off your paycheque, so you don’t have to think about it,” he says. But decades later, he says, CAAT members notice that they are receiving a pension comfortably and the value is strong as they receive about $8 in benefits for every dollar they contributed, a fact that “resonates” with them, Dobson says.

The importance of having an adequate pension is something Dobson is passionate about; it is his hope that more and more employers will take advantage of the new and easy defined benefit offerings available to extend retirement security to more Canadians.

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

If you are saving on your own for retirement and want someone else to do the heavy lifting of retirement asset management and decumulation – turning savings into lifetime monthly income — the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be the plan for you. Check it out today.

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