Tag Archives: defined benefit

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

What is a prescribed RRIF?

By Sheryl Smolkin

If you are a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan you can elect to retire any time between the age of 55 and 71. You can purchase an annuity from the plan which will pay you an income for the rest of your life.

You can also transfer your SPP account into a locked-in retirement account (LIRA) or a prescribed registered retirement investment account (prescribed RRIF). Both options are subject to a transfer fee.

LIRA

The LIRA is a locked-in RRSP. It acts as a holding account so there is no immediate income paid from the account. You direct the investments and funds in this option and funds remain tax sheltered until converted to a life annuity or transferred to a prescribed RRIF. You choose where the funds are invested.

The LIRA is only available until the end of the year in which you turn 71. One advantage of a LIRA is that it allows you to defer purchase of an annuity with all or part of your account balance until rates are more favourable.

Prescribed RRIF

You must be eligible to commence your pension (55 for SPP) to transfer locked-in pension money to a prescribed RRIF. If you are transferring money directly from a pension plan, the earliest age at which your pension can commence is established by the rules of the plan.

You may transfer money from a LIRA at the earlier of age 55 (SPP) or the early retirement age established by the plan where the money originated. Funds in your SPP account or your LIRA at age 71 that have not been used to purchase an annuity must be transferred into a prescribed RRIF.

Unlike an annuity, a prescribed RRIF does not pay you a regular amount every month. However, the Canada Revenue Agency requires you to start withdrawing a minimum amount, beginning in the year after the plan is set up.

The Income Tax Act permits you to use your age or the age of your spouse in determining the minimum withdrawal. This is a one-time decision made with the prescribed RRIF is established. Using the age of the younger person will reduce the minimum required withdrawal.

To determine the minimum annual withdrawal required, multiply the value of your prescribed RRIF as at January 1 by the rate that corresponds to your age:

Table 1: Prescribed RRIF + RRIF minimum Withdrawals

Age at January 1 Rate (%) Age at January 1 Rate (%)
50 2.50 73 7.59
51 2.56 74 7.71
52 2.63 75 7.85
53 2.70 76 7.99
54 2.78 77 8.15
55 2.86 78 8.33
56 2.94 79 8.53
57 3.03 80 8.75
58 3.13 81 8.99
59 3.23 82 9.27
60 3.33 83 9.58
61 3.45 84 9.93
62 3.57 85 10.33
63 3.70 86 10.79
64 3.85 87 11.33
65 4.00 88 11.96
66 4.17 89 12.71
67 4.35 90 13.62
68 4.55 91 14.73
69 4.76 92 16.12
70 5.00 93 17.92
71 7.38 94 and beyond 20.00
72 7.48
For revised RRIF withdrawal schedule based on 2015 Federal Budget, see Minimum Withdrawal Factors for Registered Retirement Income Funds.

There is no maximum annual withdrawal and you can withdraw all the funds in one lump sum. This is in contrast to other pension benefits jurisdictions such as Ontario and British Columbia where locked-in funds not used to purchase an annuity must be transferred to a Life Income Fund at age 71 that has both minimum (federal) and maximum (provincial) withdrawal rules.

The same LIRA and prescribed RRIF transfer options apply to Saskatchewan residents who are members of any other registered pension plan (DC or defined benefit) where funds are locked in.

RRSP/RRIF transfers

If you have saved in a personal or group registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) your account balance can be transferred into a RRIF (as opposed to a prescribed RRIF) at any time and must be transferred into a RRIF no later than the end of the year you turn 71 if you do not take the balance in cash or purchase an annuity.

The minimum withdrawal rules are the same as those of a prescribed RRIF (see Table 1). However, even in provinces like Ontario and British Columbia where provincial pension standards legislation establishes a maximum amount that can be withdrawn from RRIF-like transfer vehicles for locked in pension funds (LIFs), there is no cap on the annual amount that can be taken out of a RRIF.

Also read: RRIF Rules Need Updating: C.D. Howe