Pandemic a bigger challenge to retirement saving than Great Recession: report
Unless all your retirement savings are invested in low-risk securities like GICs or government bonds, you’ve probably spent a lot of time watching the pendulum swings in the market since March.
A new report from Fidelity Investments Canada says it’s clear that today’s pandemic-influenced markets are worse for savers than the shaky markets of the “2008-2009 Great Financial Crisis.”
“Data shows Canadians near and in retirement are more negatively impacted by COVID-19 than the Great Financial Crisis,” states Peter Bowen, Vice-President, Tax and Retirement Research in a media release from Fidelity. “However, we are in this together and there is help. By seeking financial advice and writing down an action plan, Canadians can feel better and navigate the uncertainty,” he states in the release.
The data was gathered for Fidelity Canada’s annual Retirement 20/20 survey, which gathered data from Canadians “already in and approaching retirement.”
Here are some of the key findings mentioned in the media release:
40 per cent of retirees reported “a negative outlook on their life in retirement,” the worst score in this category since 2014.
40 per cent said their earnings had decreased owing to the pandemic, and 50 per cent said that fact, in turn, means they are “reducing the amount of money they are able to save.”
Those (80 per cent of pre-retirees and 92 per cent of retirees) with a written financial plan felt “positive about their (future) life in retirement.”
Eighty-five per cent of those with a plan said they worked with an advisor.
What’s different about this market rollback from the 2008-09 crisis?
According to Nicolas Samaan of Manulife, interviewed by Wealth Professional, this crisis has a different element to it.
“You’ve seen on LinkedIn people posting about losing their job and people helping each other,” Samaan tells Wealth Professional. “You see that human interaction, not just financially but in general, people making sure others are okay.
“It’s more about wellness – that is so much more important. I’ve always said to people, if you don’t have the health to do your (personal projects), it’s not going to work. In that sense, this crash was very different than what we’ve seen in the past,” he states in the article.
Samaan is right. The last crisis was scary but on a strictly economic basis – will banks fail, will the economy tank? This one has the overlay of a worldwide health crisis – will we find a way to cope with, or become immune from, this virus, and will the economy be able to hold on until that happens?
Picking stocks when markets are uncertain is not something for the faint of heart. Having professionals handle the investing is especially valuable at times like these. It’s nice to realize that the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has averaged an eight per cent rate of return since its inception in the 1980s, a period of time that included the Tech Wreck in 2000-2001 and the Great Financial Crisis a decade or so ago. The pros can make adjustments when markets take an unexpected turn, and can look at alternative ways to grow your money. Check out the 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.
A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view
Half of retirees plan to bring debt into retirement – those with written plans remain optimistic
Half – 46 per cent, to be exact – of Canadian pre-retirees expect to “have long-term IOUs heading into retirement,” but those with a written retirement plan are still optimistic about life in retirement, new research finds.
“For Canadians, the path to retirement is becoming more complex. With higher debt loads and longer than ever life expectancy, those approaching retirement must think critically, plan ahead and take action today,” states Michelle Munro, Director, Tax and Retirement Research, in the release. “Our latest research findings show that working with a professional financial advisor and putting a plan on paper is the best way to navigate this new environment.”
The study found that 87 per cent of those surveyed who had a written retirement plan were optimistic things would be fine in retirement – for those without such a plan, 42 per cent had a negative outlook about retirement, the release notes.
Other key findings from the research:
About three in four of those surveyed (70 per cent) say they believe they will be working in retirement
More retirees (34 per cent) are working to keep mentally and physically active
Those with a written retirement plan feel better prepared “emotionally, socially and physically” for retirement
Save with SPP used a written plan to prepare for retirement. It certainly helped cement the choice of when to leave full-time work behind. The key things were to note all sources of retirement income (income at the start, and then later, government programs and so on) and at the same time, to note all expenses. Five years later, this plan is still working, and of course there have been unexpected expenses that messed up the plan occasionally. But the ship is still sailing on course.
One of our friends actually prepared for retirement by figuring out what the retirement income was and then living on it – in practice mode – for a few months prior to the big day. That took all the surprises out of it for he and his spouse. Clever.
12 great things about retirement
Many of us (certainly this writer) obsess about the financial side of retirement, but there’s a lot of other less tangible aspects about it that we must not lose sight of.
US News and World Report lists a dozen great things about retirement, including “newfound freedom,” being able to “quit the rat race,” catching up on all the movies you didn’t have time to see, being able to work if you like (but not work if you don’t like), time with kids and grandbabies, volunteering, and time for travel.
You can’t put a dollar value on these things – in a sense, the time to do what you wish is priceless. So no matter how the finances work out, you’ll still benefit from being away from the office on permanent hiatus.
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
Today I’m interviewing Alexander Fung for savewithspp.com. In 2015 Alexander graduated from the Goodman School of Business at Brock University where he studied corporate and personal finance. He has worked as an analyst at Scotiabank and Fidelity Investments Canada. But first and foremost, he is an entrepreneur and app developer whose mission in life is to help parents raise money smart kids.
His app Dollarwise was awarded third place at the Canadian Personal Finance Conference and second place at the International Payment Conference, both held in Toronto.
Thanks for talking to me today Alexander.
Hi, Sheryl, thanks a lot for having me.
Q: You participated in The Founders Institute Program from January to June 2016. Can you tell me about the program and what you learned?
A: The Founder Institute is the world’s largest pre-seed accelerator in the world based in Silicon Valley. The purpose is to validate business ideas and then actually launch a product that helps provide some value to users. I was one of 17 people who graduated in the Toronto cohort out of about 65 companies that entered.
Q: Why do you think that parents often don’t teach their children good money habits?
A: Honestly, it’s a bit of a taboo topic. I know that as I was growing up my mom and dad hardly ever talked to me about money. Theythink kids should just be focused on school and that’s it, but in reality money is crucial in every person’s life – whether you’re saving for a wedding, saving for a vacation or buying presents for parents and family members. Money is such an essential subject to understand.
Q: Why did you decide to develop a tool to help parents and their children improve financial literacy?
A: When I was eight years old. I decided to use my cash allowances to buy myself a video game without my parents’ permission. When they found out, they were absolutely furious. What I learned from that experience was that I made an irrational decision and I should’ve talked to them about it before making the purchase. So, that event really motivated me to study finance and work in the industry.
Q: Let’s say traditionally parents give kids a cash allowance, and require that the money be used in a specific way, i.e. 25% for charity; 50% for expenses like bus fares and lunches; and 25% for fun. In your view, why isn’t this simple approach good enough?
A. The problem with a cash allowance is that it’s really hard to track. For example, a parent says, “Hey John you can’t spend more than $20 on transportation.” But the kid might not comply and parents can’t keep them accountable.
Also, when you use cash allowance sometimes kids lose the money and it’s gone. When it’s misplaced, it’s gone forever really. Whereas if you use a debit card and you lose it, you can call your bank and they can lock it and your money is safe. So it’s that accountability and keeping track of kids’ behaviors that money can’t really provide.
Q: Tell me about Dollarwise and how exactly it works.
A: Dollarwise helps parents to teach their kids good money habits using a debit card and a mobile app. But unlike a traditional bank we want to make it fun and educational. We’re in discussions right now with institutions that have parents and families as clients and/or members, and we want to help them to provide more value to their clients.
Q: But how does Dollarwise itself work? What does it do?
A: It’s an application where parents are able to set up their assigned list of chores for kids to complete, and they can assign dollar values. When the kids open the app they see the list, they can complete tasks, and when their parents verify that the job’s well done, the money can be transferred into the child’s account. The application also allows children to set saving and spending goals for themselves, see where their money goes and see rules established by their parents.
Q: What’s the value proposition for families?
A: Parents are able to save time, build better relationships, and avoid costly mistakes that the kids may make. When I was growing up I got a cash allowance at infrequent intervals and I usually spent it right away.
Q: So let me get this straight then. The parents can enter data about how much they are going to pay for tasks assigned to the child and how money can be spent. Then the child can go into the same app, and see what their parents want them to do and check off a task once they have done it. Is that correct?
A: Yes. And when the task has been properly completed the real money actually goes into the child’s bank account from the parents’ account.
Q: What’s the value proposition for financial institutions here?
A: We believe Dollarwise will help institutions attract and retain clients at a lower cost.
Q: How does the program help both children and their parents set goals and track how the child spends money?
A: Let’s say John sees a pair of shoes that he wants at Footlocker, but he doesn’t have enough money. Typically what he would do is keep nagging his parents until they give him money to buy his shoes. Or he can set a goal using the Dollarwise application that records what he is saving for, how much it will cost and how much he is planning to save each week. And his parents are able to open the application to see his goals and monitor how he is doing.
Q: You’ve noted on the website that the children are recognized for having good and consistent behavior with your unique badge and star system. How does that work?
A: Parents can customize some of the badges the app will award based on their children’s individual goals and achievements.
Q: What kind of tools does each child require to use the app?
A: Actually all they need is a debit card. They don’t necessarily need a phone. When they get home they can always log on to the computer or their iPad to see their progress. But parents usually have phones so they can set the goals, set restrictions and send money to their kids’ accounts.
Q: What kind of debit card are they going to get? Will they get a debit card from a specific financial institution?
A: Absolutely. The original plan was to issue our own debit card, but we learned it is too expensive and doesn’t make economic sense. Institutions will just issue their own debit cards to the kids and to the parents.
Q: Have you tested the program with parents and kids? How do they react?
A: Within six months we’ve tested our app on over 300 parents and kids. After our fourth revision feedback has been a lot more positive. They absolutely love it. Some parents told me that their kids have asked them if they could do additional chores around the house so they can earn more money to save and buy something they actually want instead of begging their parents for more money to buy stuff.
Q: If a parent wanted to purchase a program today where could they buy it?
A: Right now we are in the testing phase. If they wanted to sign up they could go to our website at Dollarwise.co and just hit the “subscribe button,” give us their name and email, and someone on our team will follow-up with them.
Q: But if you don’t actually have a relationship with a financial institution yet, how can you issue debit cards?
A: Right now we’re testing the prototype. So they can’t use the application right now, but they get the prototype and they can see how it looks and how it feels.
Q: How much are you going to charge parents?
A: It will be free for parents and kids. Financial institutions will pay us for a white label version of the app to which their own branding can be added.
Well, that sounds really interesting. I wish you luck. Thanks for talking to me today, Andrew.
Thank you so much Sheryl.
This is an edited transcript of a podcast interview recorded in December 2016.