Global news

Sep 27: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

September 27, 2021

Preparing emotionally for retirement may be as important as the financial side

An interesting report from Global News suggests that “preparing emotionally” for retirement may be almost as important as the financial side of things.

In the article, Edmonton retiree Donald Smith tells Global News that he “had trouble the first couple of years (of retirement)… I’m sort of like the racehorse that wants to still keep running.”

He found that he “really didn’t know what to do with himself.”

In the article, Shelly Adam reported similar feelings. After retiring at age 56, she found herself going back to work just two months later on a casual basis. “When everyone else is working what are you going to do?” she asks the broadcaster.

In the end, they both found plenty to do through joining the SouthWest Edmonton Seniors Association, Global reports.

There are regular meetings, including a coffee chat group, the article notes, as well as a book club, choir, arts and crafts, games and cards, and much more.

Both say the social connections they have made through the group are “very important,” Global reports.

University of Calgary psychology professor Candace Konnert tells Global that “emotional planning for retirement often gets overlooked.”

“The focus has been on the financial preparedness and people underestimate, kind of, the social and psychological issues in retirement,” states Konnert in the article.

“We have this term called the ‘sugar rush of retirement.’ That’s that sort of six-month period, sort of post-retirement where you’re just euphoric,” she tells Global.

“You don’t have obligations, your time is unstructured, you can choose to do whatever you want,” she states in the article. “Then after that sometimes people have difficulty coming to terms because they simply don’t have a plan.”

Without a plan, Konnert tells Global, the odds of facing anxiety or depression in retirement can increase. You need a plan on how you are going to spend your time once work is over, she states, and it is “crucial” that your plan includes “being socially engaged with friends or through activities.”

Your plan also needs to be flexible, as your health may change as you age. “Your retirement plan at 66 may not be the same at 76, 86, or even 96,” she tells Global.

Looking at our own circle of 60+ friends, this advice is being heeded. A retired engineer friend has become an avid vegetable gardener, and has taught himself how to carry out his own home renovations; he and his wife are constantly busy. Others are getting back into things they used to do – music, art, golfing, skiing, and more. While it’s true that you will lose some of your old work connections, there’s ample time to make new ones.

All those post-retirement activities will carry a cost, of course, so it’s important to set aside some money today for a fulfilling post-work experience later. For 35 years, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has been delivering retirement security; perhaps they can do the same for you. Have a look at 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.


Has COVID affected Canadians’ ability to donate to charities?

July 15, 2021
Photo by Katt Yukawa on Unsplash

A few years ago – before the pandemic – Global News reported that Canadians were cutting back on charitable giving.

Citing research from the Fraser Institute, Global reported that in 2017 Canadians donated just 0.54 per cent of their income to charity – less than half of what Americans donated (1.25 per cent) in the same timeframe.

Given the severe economic mayhem the pandemic has wrought upon us, Save with SPP wondered if charitable giving has taken an even further plunge.

It sounds like a recovery in charitable giving is underway, states an article posted in the Globe and Mail.

According to the article, authored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), “in the 12 months since March 2020 when the pandemic was declared, more than three-quarters of Canadians who had given previously to charity continued their philanthropy and gave larger gifts than in past years.”

And while only 70 per cent of Canadians made charitable donations in 2017, 76 per cent did in 2020, and “the average size of the gifts was much higher – up from $772 in 2017 to $965 in 2020,” the article adds.

The AFP’s chair Susan Storey is quoted as saying “Canada is a phenomenally, uniquely generous nation, and philanthropy, at its core, is about helping others and strengthening communities,” she says. “So, it’s not surprising that for those that could give, they did – and generously.”

The Canada Helps website says that while “year over year” giving grew, the overall rate of giving is expected to decline about 10 per cent due to COVID-19.

This site suggests that our charitable giving is more targeted during tough economic times.

Canada Helps reports that Canadians gave 1.6 per cent of their income to charity; however, the percentage of Canadians who make donations is down from the level of 24 per cent it reached in 2007.

Charities have had to be resourceful during the COVID-19 pandemic, when traditional avenues, such as displays in malls or street corners, weren’t available. Online donations are one solution, and in Ottawa, local branches of the Royal Canadian Legion used a drive-thru approach for last fall’s poppy campaign, reports CTV News.

“I think it’s a great idea. First off you don’t have the older veterans out in the cold and wet, obviously it’s keeping them safe from the people in the stores and malls,” Richard Coney tells CTV, praising the idea of a drive-thru poppy campaign.

Donations to Indigenous Peoples’ Charities – for example are up 2.25 per cent, as are donations to social services charities (up 2.2 per cent) and health charities (1.8 per cent).

If you’re able to help out the charity of your choice – and maybe have had to cut back due to the pandemic’s impact on your finances – consider resuming your contributions now that we are emerging from the darkness of the pandemic. There’s a lot riding on it for a lot of people.

Similarly, if you’d had to cut back on retirement savings during COVID-19, gear back into it as soon as you can. A nice feature of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for its individual members is that you can gear up your contributions when times are good, and gear down when they aren’t. The flexible SPP – celebrating its 35th year of operations — is open to accepting monthly pre-authorized contributions, or a little bit at a time through the “online bill payment” section of most banks. It takes many small steps to complete a journey, after all!

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 many adult children returning to the nest

May 13, 2021
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

With an end to the pandemic in sight, we are all hopeful that things are about to start returning to normal.

One trend that’s been happening since last year, reports Global News, is “young adults (being) forced to move back in with their parents.”

Factors like campus closures or lack of employment are reasons why the kids may return to the nest. Another factor might be the fact that housing is so unaffordable these days.

What should parents do to make the best of such a situation?

Noted financial author and commentator Kelley Keehn recommends setting “some ground rules” before the kids move back in.

“Are they paying rent? If they’re unemployed are they looking for work? When they do get back on their feet do they need to pay back the bank of mom and dad?” she states in the article. If these details aren’t clear right off the top, “resentment can set in,” the article warns.

The trend of kids returning home is big south of the border as well, reports the Huffington Post. Numbers of Americans aged 18 to 34 returning home are rising, and parents – who might have been thinking of downsizing – are now thinking about going bigger on their homes to make room for the kids.

A total of 26 per cent of millennials live with their parents in the U.S., up from 22 per cent before the recession of 2007, the article notes.

But there’s good news – the kids moving home are taking advantage of the situation to boost their education, and ideally snare a better job, the article concludes.

The PsychCentral blog says there can be a lot of positives for the relations between parents and kids when they move home, but parents need to stay calm about the unexpected change.

“Don’t freak out,” the publication advises, and blame the kids for not trying hard enough to be independent. Have conversations about “what is OK and what isn’t OK” in your house, and remember your kids aren’t teenagers and will be expecting more freedom than in the past. Try to make sure the kids are contributing, even in some small way, towards the costs of living, and set up a timetable for their stay, the article adds.

WebMD expands on that point, advising us not to “fall back into mommy mode” and realize that the now adult kids have “different attitudes, needs, and eating, sleeping or partying habits than they did when they were younger.”

Save with SPP can add this important thought for parents – the kids are almost certainly doing this move as a last resort. Few adult children truly want to move home. So, if you do get a second chance to live with your kids, make the most of it – you’re helping them to get ahead in life by doing so.

Do your kids have a pension plan at work? If not, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be a smart option for them. A truly end-to-end retirement program, SPP takes your contributed dollars, invests them professionally and at a low cost, and then can convert those invested savings into a lifelong pension when you reach the golden handshake. SPP has been securing retirement futures for 35 years now – 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.


APR 12: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

April 12, 2021

Canadian millennials now focused on long-term saving: report

It’s hard to find many silver linings to the dark, terrible cloud that is COVID-19, but a report from Global News suggests the crisis has caused millennials to think longer-term when it comes to savings.

Carissa Lucreziano of CIBC tells Global that Canadians aged 24-35 “are very committed to saving more and investing.” That’s great news for this younger segment of our society, she states, “as actions now can have long-term benefits.”

The report also cites data from Semrush, an online data analysis company, as showing 23.6 per cent of millennials regularly visit their online banking websites, as compared to 20.7 per cent of older Canadians aged 35 to 44.

Semrush’s Eugene Levin tells Global this suggests younger people “are more conscious moneywise… they are using this time (the pandemic) to plan out their finances to either mitigate their financial insecurity or improve their financial security.”

Other findings – more people are searching for information on Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs), and investment apps like Wealthsimple and Questrade, the article reports.

CIBC data noted in the Global report found that 38 per cent of millennials have decreased spending, 34 per cent plan to add to TFSAs or Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), and to establish emergency savings accounts.

While there is also interest in topics like payday loans and installment loans, the article finds it generally positive that younger people are thinking about long-term savings.

For sure it is positive news. Data from Statistics Canada reminds us why long-term savings are so important.

The stats show that as of 2019, 70 per cent of Canadians are saving for retirement, either on their own or via a workplace savings program – that’s up from 66 per cent in 2014, Stats Canada reports.

“Interestingly, this may reflect the fact that over the past five years, Canadians have become increasingly aware of the need to save for retirement,” reports Stats Canada. “For example, almost half of Canadians (47 per cent) say they know how much they need to save to maintain their standard of living in retirement—an increase of 10 percentage points since 2014 (37 per cent).”

Those who don’t save for retirement on their own (or via a workplace plan) will have to rely on the relatively modest government benefits, such as the Canada Pension Plan, Quebec Pension Plan, and Old Age Security, the article notes. And surely, the terrifying pandemic era has more of us thinking about our finances, both current and future.

So that’s why it is nice to see the younger generation is focusing on these longer-term goals. The best things in life, as the song goes, are free, but many other things carry a cost. The retired you will certainly be thankful that the younger you chose to stash away some cash for the future.

If, as the article notes, you don’t have a workplace pension plan and are saving on your own for retirement, there’s a plan out there for you that could really be of help. For 35 years, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has been delivering retirement security; the plan now manages $673 million in assets for its 33,000 members. 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.


Are there some new ideas on how to keep us all safe from COVID?

February 18, 2021

We’ve all been told, repeatedly, about the various public health and safety measures we can follow to try and reduce the risk of catching COVID-19. Up to now, it has been physical distancing – staying two metres apart – plus masks, hand sanitizing, and staying at home as often as possible.

Some folks say these steps are causing other problems, particularly the idea of isolation.

Writing in the Toronto Sun, columnist Sue-Ann Levy asks “if Ontario residents are distressed and frustrated by the latest lockdown, think of what a living hell it must be for seniors confined to their rooms in long-term care and retirement homes for now what is going into our 11th month of pandemic restrictions.”

The article notes that isolation is particularly harmful for the mental health of seniors. It’s not great for the rest of us, warns an article in the Sarnia-Lambton (Ontario) Journal. Public health officials in the Southwestern Ontario city say they are seeing a rise in domestic abuse there.

“Social isolation, financial instability and reduced access to friends and family has increased both the level of violence and its intensity,” the article reports, quoting Ange Marks, executive director of the Women’s Interval Home in the area.

Similarly, an opinion article in the Chicago Sun-Times warns that remote learning also has downsides for the kids.

“Evidence from the first year of the pandemic in the United States suggests that the social isolation created by school closures has exacerbated an ongoing childhood mental health crisis,” warn five doctors from the Chicago area.

Even the masks themselves are getting into the headlines. Is one sufficient, a report in the National Post, or should we wear two?

“If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” states Dr. Anthony Fauci in the Post article.

That’s a lot to take in. Are there other approaches we can take that might be a little easier to handle?

Well, yes, people are hard at work on new approaches.

In Malaysia, reports Bernama, researchers are working on a new method to detect the virus using DNA and fibre optic sensors.

In Nova Scotia, reports Global News contract tracing will soon be much easier thanks to a new app that tracks restaurant patrons all over the province.

Up to now, the work of contract tracing has been done with dozens of different methods, but mostly pen and paper. “It is our hope that contact tracing will assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and help get us one step closer to a pandemic-free future,” states Gordon Stewart of the province’s Restaurant Association in the Global article.

Other research is being carried out on whether air purifiers might have a role to play in lessening the risk of COVID-19 infections, according to a second Global News report. The kinks of this approach are still being worked out, but it is believed that an air purifier with a HEPA filter, if correctly positioned, can help “remove viruses and germs from the atmosphere.”

We’ve all read about the various (and numerous) vaccines that are being rolled out, and administered across Canada.

Putting all this together, yes, the distancing and masking and isolation are tough medicine. But humans are an innovative bunch, and the same innovation that led to the rapid development of new vaccines is helping with new treatment approaches. That allows all of us to take a moment, now and then, to think of life after the pandemic.

The post-pandemic world, for many of us, will represent the run-up to retirement. If you don’t have a plan for retirement, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan could be a plan for you. Once you’ve joined up, you can contribute at any rate you choose, up to $6,600 per year (subject to available RRSP room). The SPP will invest that money (they’ve averaged an annual return of eight per cent since the plan’s inception 35 years ago) and, when work is done, can turn your invested cash into a lifetime income stream. Why not 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.


What activities are folks planning for a pandemic winter?

November 12, 2020

Many of us have long had problems dealing with the cold and darkness of a Canadian winter. But this year, we will be adding in the problems of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Save with SPP took a look around to see how folks are planning to spend their first full winter of the pandemic.

Since one strategy to surviving the pandemic is to be outdoors, sporting goods businesses are reporting very brisk business in winter recreation equipment, reports CTV News.

“It’s been quite a marked change from the normal August and early September sales,” Paul Zirk, general manager of The Destination Slope and Surf Outfitters in North Vancouver, tells CTV. “It’s been really up and it’s been really focused on winter sports. This year, our track as far back as mid-July was ski-focused and winter-focused and at some weeks triple what we expected.”

Hot sellers include skis and snowboards, snowshoes, and heavier winter clothing, the article notes.

The Real Simple blog rhymes off 49 different winter activities that you can try this year.

Sledding, hiking, skating, snowball fights, and stargazing are on the list, as well as things like enjoying a family night in front of “a roaring fire,” enjoying winter favourites like hot cocoa and mulled wine, and cozying up with a bowl of homemade soup. The article also lists crafty ideas, like making a birdfeeder or knitting a scarf.

Global News reports that it is important, during the upcoming colder months, to avoid isolation. Psychologist Dr. Ganz Ferrence tells the broadcaster that people “should be planning now for what they’ll do to stay busy and safe once the temperature dips below zero.”

Ideas include skiing – downhill or cross-country — snowshoeing, skating and tobogganing. If you’re too old or not well enough for outdoor activities, at least get outside, urges Dr. Ferrence.

“Just to get that fresh air, that sunshine, whatever it is, seeing that the rest of the world still exists is much better than just giving in to being shut-in,” the doctor says.

Be sure to stay in touch with friends and family during the winter, when visiting is limited by poor travel conditions. Using online tools like Zoom to meet loved ones is a great idea, Dr. Ferrence says. “The best is face to face — being able to touch and feel and everything — the next level though, is this. Being able to see somebody and look in their eyes, see their facial expressions, their tone of voice,” he tells Global News. “Underneath that is phone.”

One group of Canadians that has long chosen against toughing out our winters – Snowbirds – may find this to be a tough season, reports the Globe and Mail.

With border restrictions in place, and COVID-19 outbreaks at high levels in popular winter vacation states like Florida, many Snowbirds may have to give up their travel plans this year, the article reports.

Renee Huart-Field and her husband live in P.E.I. and normally vacation in Florida’s Gulf Coast. Because their dogs usually come to Florida too, they aren’t keen on flying, and the border crossings by vehicle are severely limited, the article notes. So they must decide whether to winter on the Island, or travel elsewhere in Canada.

“People sort of think well, gee, must be nice to have that dilemma. But it’s not,” Huart-Field tells the Globe and Mail. “As you get older, the winters become harder… It’s a health thing.’”

If you’re a retiree and hope to do a little travelling, and have some fun in the winter sun, a little retirement income goes a long way to helping you reach those goals. If you’re still a long way from retirement, there’s plenty of time to start saving – and a wonderful option could be the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. The SPP is quite unique, in that it not only offers you a savings program for your working years, it helps you convert those dollars – grown through SPP’s professional investing team – into an income stream once you’re done with the workforce and ready for the leisureforce. Why not 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.


Looking for ways to beat the pandemic blues

September 17, 2020

Let’s face it – the spring, summer and fall of 2020 have been quite a downer. We’ve been made to be holed up at home, are restricted in what we can do, where we can go and who we can see, and are continually worried about our jobs, our kids, and the bills.

The pandemic has hammered our mental health, reports Global News. “A survey done in conjunction with the Mental Health Commission of Canada found that a whopping 84 per cent of those surveyed felt their mental health had worsened since the onset of the pandemic,” the network reports.

“Similarly, an Ipsos survey done for Addictions and Mental Health Ontario found 45 per cent of Ontarians reported their mental health had suffered during the pandemic, with 67 per cent saying they expect those effects to be `serious and lasting,’” reports Global.

Save with SPP took a look around to see if there are any ideas out there on how to ward off these feelings of depression and anxiety.

According to Triathlon Magazine Canada, research from the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that “by being physically active, depressive symptoms decreased.” Even five minutes of activity did the trick, the magazine reports.

Other tips – develop, and stick to, a routine, the magazine suggests. Avoid the “western diet” of “processed meat, high-fat dairy products, and refined grains” as it is associated with increased risk of depression, the magazine advises. Their final suggestion is to try, even with the restrictions in place, to stay in touch with friends and family. “While tedious, Zoom calls are good for our mental health, but in person is far better,” say the folks at Triathlon Magazine Canada.

Over at Psychology Today magazine, Dr. Erin Leyba offers some additional tips.

Taking a warm bath at least twice a week “may help relieve symptoms of depression… even more than exercise does,” she writes.

Exercises like “jogging, cycling, walking, gardening and dancing” help increase your blood circulation, which in turn helps shift your brain’s reaction to stress. Doing nice things for friends and family will produce a “helper’s high” that makes our brains feel better, she writes. Examples are calling or face-timing an elderly relative, delivering groceries to someone, thanking front-line workers via cards or buying them lunches, or donating money to help those impacted by COVID-19.

Reading, as well as calling or video-chatting with friends are also positive steps to ward off depression, she writes.

The advice from the federal government is similar. Let your doctor know if you think you are suffering from depression, the feds advise, as depression “is a serious but treatable illness.”

Avoid isolation, the federal website urges.

“One-on-one interactions, such as going to a movie or out for coffee with a friend are also good forms of social contact. Being around others provides support, companionship and has a good effect on your general health,” the site notes, agreeing that physical activity and a healthy diet are also pluses.

These are all good pieces of advice that we all should take note of as we watch the pandemic play out. A colleague of ours once said that every crisis has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s nice to imagine the end of this one.

If saving for retirement is one of your worries, a solution may be joining the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s great to have professionals running your investments (rather than trying to figure it out yourself), and the SPP grows your money at a very low fee. When it’s time to turn your savings into retirement income, SPP offers a variety of lifetime pension options via annuities. 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.


Aug 24: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

August 24, 2020

Pandemic is causing 8 million Canucks to rethink retirement

There’s no question that 2020 has been a year like no other. Its effects on the economy and our finances have been profound.

A new study by Edward Jones and research company Age Wave, reported on by Global News, shows what impacts the pandemic has had on retirement savings in particular.

The report says a whopping eight million Canadians “are rethinking their retirement timing” due to the pandemic. While one of every 10 Canucks still plans to retire early, “one third believe they will retire later,” citing financial concerns, the Global article notes.

“If many working adults were not adequately prepared for retirement, COVID-19 has thrown them even farther off course,” the article notes.

The study found that two million Canadians “have stopped making regular savings to their retirement savings.” Before the pandemic, the research shows, 54 per cent of adults were confident about retirement. Now, that confidence indicator is down to 39 per cent, Global reports.

“Those who think they’ll have to postpone retirement cited needing more income, shrunken savings, investment losses and increased uncertainty about how much they’ll need in retirement,” the article says. “The few who are considering anticipating retirement amid the pandemic, on the other hand, said they `realized that they were looking forward to retirement, or they want to spend time doing other things that are more important to them than work,’” the article states.

The article quotes financial author Alexandra Macqueen as noting that those with workplace pension plans, notably defined benefit plans, aren’t as impacted by the pandemic and can still choose to retire early.

(Save with SPP interviewed Alexandra Macqueen recently, here’s a link to the interview)

“What I’m … thinking more and more is that the difference between people with pensions and without is getting so much more stark,” she says in the Global article.

The article notes that older Canadians (boomers and the cohort that is older than them, the “Silent Generation”) are generally doing fairly well during the pandemic, while younger generations (millennials, Gen Z, and Gen X) are struggling.

The older are helping the younger financially, the article concludes, while the younger generations are making sure their elders are staying health, a “silver lining” of intergenerational cooperation amidst the pandemic.

The article underlies the disparity between those who have a workplace pension and those who don’t. When you’re in a plan at work, pension contributions are deducted from your pay – the savings is automatic, a “set it and forget it” way to pay yourself first.

The pandemic will eventually end, but if you lack a workplace pension plan, you still can set up an automatic retirement saving system of your own.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan lets you automate your retirement savings through pre-authorized transfers from your bank account. You can start small – an affordable contribution – and ramp it up when you’re making more in the future. If there’s a trick to retirement saving, it’s to start doing it and then keep on with it. Starting and stopping won’t get you there. Pay your future self first. The money you set aside today may be missed in the short term, but in the long run you’ll have more security for the future, post-work 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.


Old Age Security reform has come full circle in the past decade or so

February 20, 2020

Most Canadians understand the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) – we pay into it, as does our employer, and we can start collecting a lifetime pension from it as early as age 60. But what about the other “pillar” of the federal government’s retirement income program, Old Age Security (OAS)?

The federal government says OAS is available to any Canadian who has lived in our country for 40 years after reaching age 18. If you don’t meet those conditions, you may still qualify under complex “exception” rules.

Currently, the maximum OAS payment  is $613.53 per month, for life. It starts at age 65, but you can choose to defer it for up to 60 months after reaching that age – and if you do, you will receive a payment that is 36 per cent higher.

There is, of course, a big catch to this. If you make more than $75,910, the government will charge what they call an “OAS recovery tax,” or clawback. If you make more than $123,386, you have to pay back all of your OAS payments for the year.

The “conditional” yet “universal” benefit has prompted many to come up with ideas on how to fix it, particularly during the Stephen Harper years.

Back then, a Fraser Institute opinion column in the National Post explained one key problem with OAS. “Unlike the CPP, there is no dedicated fund to pay for OAS,” the column notes. “Benefits are funded with current tax revenues.” Put another way, everyone who pays taxes contributes to OAS, but not everyone gets it – and should higher income earners get it at all, the column asks.

The Fraser Institute recommended lowering the income at which OAS begins to be cut off to around $51,000, with the full clawback moving to $97,000. This, the article suggests, would save the government $730 million per year, since fewer people would receive the full amount.

Another solution – the one that the Conservatives planned to implement – was moving the starting age for OAS to 67 from 65. However, the current Liberal government reversed that decision in 2016, notes Jim Yih’s Retire Happy blog.

But in the intervening years, we have seen debt levels increase dramatically, preventing many of us from saving for retirement. So there are now some arguing for an expansion of the existing system, on the grounds that it doesn’t provide seniors with sufficient income. Indeed, the Liberals campaigned last year on a plan to increase old age security “by 10 per cent once a senior reaches age 75,” reports Global News.

Without getting political, it appears we have come full circle from talk of reforming the OAS and making it harder to get, to talk of increasing its payout for older seniors. Let’s hope governments take a longer-term view of the problem, and focus on ways to better fund OAS – perhaps creating an OAS investment fund similar to what CPP has, one that would make this benefit more sustainable and secure for those who rely on it.

If you are one of the many hardworking people who lack a workplace pension plan, there is a do-it-yourself option that you should be aware of. It’s the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP). They’ll grow the money you contribute to the plan over time, and when it’s time to retire, can pay it out to you in the form of a “made-by-you” lifetime pension. The SPP also has options for your employer to use this plan as an employee benefit.  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

Knowing where our money goes can help us save

November 14, 2019

We talk, often at great length, about ways to save money – to squirrel a little away each month for our life after work.

And while we all seem to wish we could save more, an answer to the question “why aren’t we saving” can be found by looking at where we are spending our cash. Where, Save with SPP wants to know, are our “non-savings” going?

According to Statistics Canada data from 2016, reported on in the Slice.ca blog, Canadians spent an average of $84,489 per household in that year. That’s what they spent, remember, not what they made – most of us spend more than we earn.

The blog reports that Canadians spent the most on shelter – 19 per cent of the total. “In 2016, according to StatsCan, the average Canadian household spent $16,293, or a little over 19 per cent of their total expenditure, on their principal accommodation,” the blog reports.

Next on the list is income tax, weighing in at 18.1 per cent. “They say that the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes. In Canada, $15,310 – or 18.1 per cent – of the average household’s total expenditure went to income tax in 2016,” the blog explains.

The third biggest category is called “private transportation,” our vehicles, which cost us $10,660 per year, Slice.ca notes. The category makes up 12.6 per cent of the total.

Next biggies are food, at seven per cent ($6,176) and “household operations,” which includes phones and Internet — $4,705, or 5.5 per cent, Slice.ca reports. Rounding out the top 10 (Slice.ca actually gives the top 20) are insurance and pension contributions ($5,067, or six per cent), clothing and accessories ($3,371, or four per cent), restaurant dining ($2,608, or three per cent), healthcare ($2,574 or three per cent) and utilities ($2,460 or 2.9 per cent). Savings didn’t make the top 20.

We can’t do much about most of these categories, but some are “non-essential” and could be targeted for spending cuts. If we were to save even 10 per cent of what we spend on vehicles, phones and Internet, clothing and restaurant dining, we’d have a whopping $2,134.40 to add to our retirement savings each year. Saving five per cent would provide a $1,067.20 boost to your savings.

Global News reports that we Canucks “splurge on guilty pleasures.” Citing research from Angus Reid and Capital One, the broadcaster reports that 72 per cent of us “dine out several times a month,” 71 per cent “regularly order takeout,” and half of us buy coffee daily.

MoneySense notes that a lack of personal savings has a variety of negative impacts for Canadians. Citing research from Abacus Data, the publication notes that only 34 per cent of us could “come up with $1,000 right away without borrowing or using credit.”

Debt seems to be missing from these spending stats.

According to the Financial Post via MSM Money  the cost of paying our debts is cutting into our ability to pay other expenses.

“More than half of Canadians say they’re increasingly concerned about their ability to pay debts as disposable income shrank by a fifth since June,” the Post reports, citing data from insolvency practice MNP Ltd.

“Average monthly disposable income after paying bills and debt obligations fell $142 to $557,” the Post reports, adding that “nearly half — 48 per cent — of the 2,002 respondents to the early September poll by market research company Ipsos said they’re left with less than $200 at the end of the month.”

This is a lot of information, but a picture emerges. We’re not, as a rule, planning on saving anything each month. In fact, credit balances are getting so high that many of us can’t cover all our bills without dipping further into debt. We can understand how we might cut back on spending, but we also have to cut back on using credit, too.

We all have the power to cut back on spending and borrowing. That will not only reduce our costs, it will reduce our stress levels. Imagine a future where you have control of all your bills – it’s an achievable dream. And as you get to that desired level of financial freedom, you’ll have more and more money to put away for retirement.

If you’re looking for a place to grow those hard-earned savings, look no further than the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Be sure to 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