Globe and Mail

The different between collateral and conventional mortgage

January 6, 2022

Are you in the market for a mortgage and you’re not sure which one to take out? In this article we’ll look at the difference between collateral and conventional mortgages, so you can decide which one is the right one for you.

Collateral Mortgages

A collateral mortgage lets you borrow more money than your property is worth. A mortgage lender is able to do that because a collateral mortgage re-advances. This allows you to borrow additional funds as needed without needing your break your existing mortgage contract.

This is accomplished by registering a lien against your property. Lenders will register a lien for up to 125% of your property’s value. For example, if your home is valued at $700,000, you could register a lien for a maximum of $875,000.

When the charge is registered, you can leverage the equity as needed. The simplest way to do that is by setting up a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). HELOCs are a lot like mortgages. HELOCs offer a way to borrow money cheaply, but with even more flexible repayment terms. With a HELOC you’re able to make interest-only payments on your mortgage to minimize your cash flow.

You could also set up a readvanceable mortgage whereby the credit limit on the HELOC increases as you pay down your mortgage. You could use the extra equity to finance home renovations or to buy your next investment property.

Conventional Mortgages

A conventional mortgage is the mortgage you probably already know. When you put down at least 20% on a property, you’re eligible for a conventional mortgage. This is different than an insured mortgage when you put down less than 20% on a property.

Since you are putting down at least 20% on the property, you’re able to borrow at least 80% of its value with a conventional mortgage. The value of your property is based on how much it’s appraised for.

If it’s appraised for more than you paid, you can borrow based on the purchase price. However, if it’s appraised for less, you can only borrow based on the appraised value and you have to make up the rest from your own pockets if you want to still put at least 20% down.

If cash flow matters most to you, the 30 year amortization makes the most sense. Otherwise, if rate matters the most, the 25 year amortization is usually the way to go.

This post was written by Sean Cooper, bestselling author of the book, Burn Your Mortgage. Sean is also a mortgage broker at mortgagepal.ca.

About the Author

Sean Cooper is the bestselling author of the book, Burn Your Mortgage: The Simple, Powerful Path to Financial Freedom for Canadians. He bought his first house when he was only 27 in Toronto and paid off his mortgage in just 3 years by age 30. An in-demand Personal Finance Journalist, Money Coach and Speaker, his articles and blogs have been featured in publications such as the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Financial Post and MoneySense. Connect with Sean on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.


Are we moving away from cash – and is that really such a good thing?

December 2, 2021
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Those of us of a certain age can remember when cash was king. Back in the day, few had credit cards, “tap” purchases were decades away in the future, and – minus a mobile phone, which was still being invented – you needed change to make a phone call when away from your landline.

Bills were paid by cheque, or directly at your bank branch, where there was a massive lineup out to the street on pay day.

The pandemic seems to have speeded up an already “in progress” move away from cash. Save with SPP took a look around to see what people are making of this development.

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Casey Plett notes that the idea that we are becoming “a cashless society” has turned into “a common belief… as if currency were simply one of so many Old World analog relics circling the drain before they gurgle into oblivion.”

Her article notes that during the early days of COVID-19, the use of cash “was phased out entirely” by many institutions over fears that money might actually help the pandemic spread more quickly. Even though such concerns have now been addressed, the use of cash has not resumed at pre-COVID levels, she notes.

“But a cashless society is not a foregone conclusion,” Plett writes in the Globe. “And while it may seem like a fuddy-duddy Luddite concern – the equivalent of clinging to one’s touch-tone phone, perhaps, or making a plea for beepers – a complete societal changeover to non-cash payment would not, in fact, be a good thing.”

She says a fully cashless society would be “inequitable” for those – such as the vulnerable and the homeless – who don’t have access to the banking system. Her article cites figures from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives showing that an astounding one million Canadians (as of 2016) were “bankless,” and five million more “underbanked.” This latter group may have a bank account, but no credit or other banking services.

She also points out that cash can be indispensable when the Internet goes out, your credit card is locked for mysterious reasons, or if there’s a power outage (remember 2003). Cash, she writes, “is a refuge of privacy,” in that your purchases with it aren’t tracked or marketed. She concludes by saying it would be unwise for governments to move away from it altogether.

Even before the pandemic was an idea, the National Post was predicting the end of cash would arrive five years ago in 2016.

The Post cited research from 2016 showing that 77 per cent of respondents “preferred to pay for purchases by debit or credit card,” and that 65 per cent said “they rarely buy anything with cash anymore.”

In that article, Rob Cameron of Moneris is quoted as saying ““I do think people will continue to use cash because it’s been around so long…. But this growth in contactless (payments using credit cards or mobile apps) I think is going to lead towards that end of cash.”

Figures from the Bank of Canada show that there is a trend away from cash. As recently as 2009, the bank reports, 54 per cent of transactions were made using cash. By 2013 that number dipped to 42 per cent and by 2017, 33 per cent.

“So, does this mean that Canadians are giving up on cash?,” asks the Bank of Canada. “The short answer is no. Canadians still rate cash as easy to use, low in cost, secure and nearly universally accepted, and it’s the preferred payment option for small-value purchases like a cup of coffee or a muffin.”

Well, maybe. Last word on the topic goes to economist Eswar Prasad, who tells CNBC that “the combination of cryptocurrency, stablecoins, central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and other digital payment systems will lead to the demise of [physical] cash.”

The takeaway here is that all of us need to try and stay current with new trends. Cash is being joined by many other ways to pay. Even when we were out distributing poppies for the Legion in October we found that many people did not have any cash, or had to run to their cars and dig around for change. So, the Legion has begun to roll out “tap” poppy boxes.

Personally, we think cash will never entirely fade away. Think of big trends in music – punk, disco, progressive rock. Sure, you don’t see chart-topping music in those categories any more, but it is still being played, and in some corners of the globe, being developed.

No matter how you choose to spend it, you will appreciate having some form of currency when you retire. If you are saving on your own for retirement, consider the help of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. The plan offers an end-to-end pension service; and once you are a member, you can contribute to your savings by cheque, through online bill payment, with automatic deposits, or even with a credit card. Be sure to check out 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.


As interest rates rise, is it time to look anew at fixed income investments?

November 25, 2021

Interest rates have been so low for so long it is hard to remember the long-ago days when everyone had Canada Savings Bonds and/or guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) in their portfolios.

Save with SPP decided to look around to see what the expected rise in interest rates (and inflation) may do with Canadians’ saving plans.

Writing in the Globe and Mail, columnist Rita Trachur explains that one fear that’s out there right now is that Canadians may risk “aggravating inflation by blowing through their savings” as the pandemic (apparently) winds to a close.

She proposes that Ottawa consider bringing back – temporarily – the old Canada Savings Bond program.

“Many of us who are on the wrong side of 40 fondly remember a time when we could make juicy returns by investing in Canada Savings Bonds. Not only were they easy to purchase and risk-free, those paper certificates were oh so cool. Most importantly, though, they taught generations of Canadians how to save,” she writes.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when interest rates reached double-digits, Canadians held $55 billion in savings bonds. But they began to wane in popularity, Trachur writes, due to competing products like “GICs, mutual funds, and low-fee trading accounts.”

But with rising interest rates on the horizon, maybe a modern version of the Canada Savings Bond could be relaunched, writes Trachur.

“The bonds should be tax-free and have short investment terms – perhaps one year and 18 months, as examples – to give consumers real incentives to keep stashing their cash over the near term. That kind of flexibility would also give people the ability to reassess their options once interest rates start to rise,” she writes. This type of product would be a safe investment for regular people, she concludes.

Another reason to look at interest-paying investments may be the link between higher rates and lower stock prices, reports US News & World Report.

“When interest rates are low, companies and consumers can borrower cheaply and tend to spend more money, which can boost corporate profits. When interest rates rise, consumers and companies typically curb their spending, which can result in lower stock prices,” the newspaper explains.

A rise in interest rates is also bad for bond prices, the article adds. “Bonds and interest rates have an inverse relationship, meaning that bond prices fall when interest rates rise,” the article explains. “But don’t liquidate your bond positions yet. Experts say bonds still hold value in an investment portfolio.”

It’s a complicated topic, to be sure. The old rule of thumb used to be that your age was the percentage of your savings that should be in fixed-income (bonds, GICs, etc.), with the rest in equity. So if you are 60, the rule suggests, 60 per cent should be in fixed income – the argument being that this would “safen” your overall holdings from some of the ups and downs the equity markets can provide.

Balance is a good thing in investing. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s Balanced Fund currently has this asset mix – 50 per cent Canadian, U.S. and non-North American equity, 26 per cent bonds, 7.5 per cent mortgages, 10 per cent real estate, five per cent infrastructure and 1.5 per cent in short term investments. SPP’s managers can switch up this mix to align with changing market conditions, so that all your eggs are never in just one basket. SPP has been helping Canadians save for retirement for 35 years; 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.


Pandemic created a wave of migration to smaller towns and other provinces – will it continue?

November 4, 2021

Many people young and old made a big change in their living arrangements during the pandemic.

Younger people – liberated from having to go to the office each day – sought more affordable housing in other cities or provinces. City dwellers generally, including retirees, wondered if it would be safer during times of COVID to move to places with lower infection rates.

Save with SPP took a look around the Interweb to see how this is playing out now that the pandemic is (hopefully) starting to turn the final corner towards “over.”

Better Dwelling magazine reports on how people have left Ontario to live in Atlantic Canada. In the second quarter of 2021, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick attracted 4,678 and 2,145 interprovincial newcomers. Ontario saw an outflow of 11,857 people in the same quarter, the magazine reports.

What’s the attraction?

“Lower COVID spread in the Maritimes probably amplified the region’s appeal. But relatively affordable housing was likely an even bigger draw, especially as home prices skyrocketed in already-expensive parts of the country and more Canadians were able to work remotely,” states RBC economist Carrie Freestone in the article. 

“With housing affordability worsening in major urban markets in Central Canada, this may mark the beginning of a trend: young talent moving east for an improved quality of life,” she tells Better Dwelling.

But it’s not just Ontario that is seeing people move. Closer to home, Alberta is also seeing people pack up to start over elsewhere, reports the CBC via Yahoo! News.

Why are they leaving?

The article says high COVID case counts may be one reason, but quotes Mount Royal Professor David Finch as saying “”Young people are leaving the province for a variety of reasons — some tied to employment, some tied to economics or education.”

A recent study, the 2020 Calgary Attitudes and Outlook Survey, found that a startling 27 per cent of Calgarians aged 18 to 24 planned to leave the city in the next five years, the CBC reports.

“In Alberta, there is a perception that there is a lack of diverse career pathways, leading people to look at other parts of Canada or beyond for opportunities in education or employment that may be closer aligned to their career objectives and social values,” Finch states in the article.

Retirees thinking of relocating to cheaper places need to think the idea through carefully, suggests the Boomer & Echo blog.

Most seniors making such moves do so for better weather, as well as “proximity to family, affordable housing costs, the availability of healthcare facilities, and things to do,” the blog notes.

A lower housing budget will give you more money for travel (when travelling is more common), the blog adds. The blog advises that you try visiting your intended destination for a long stay before committing to the move, and go in both summer and winter. Check differences in provincial tax rates, and find out about transferring your provincial healthcare.

The grass may appear greener down the highway, but you may expect some higher costs and fewer services if you move from a city to a smaller centre, warns the Globe and Mail.

The article cites the example of Ian Cable and Amy Stewart, who decided to move from Toronto to Owen Sound, a small city on the shores of Lake Huron. They found that the cost of a house in Owen Sound “was a fraction (of the cost) of a similar property in Toronto.”

But in Toronto, with a vast public transit system, they only needed one vehicle; in Owen Sound they have two. Isaiah Chan of the Credit Counselling Society tells the Globe that smaller town residents usually have to drive more often, and farther – instead of a half hour drive for your kids’ hockey you might now be looking at two to three hours, Chan says.

The article flags other possible problems – are you on a water and sewer system, or septic tanks and wells? If you need to return to the office from the country, can you afford the commute, the article asks.

The article concludes by suggesting anyone moving to a smaller place to save money must do thorough research on what the full costs of living there will be.

The key takeaways here seem to be that you need to get as much intel as possible about the place you are thinking of moving to before you make the jump. Save with SPP once travelled two hours by car – each way – to work from about 10 years. The cost of keeping the car going tended to wipe out any advantage from the lower cost of living.

In a way, retirement is like a destination – a place where you are going to go one day. The intel you need to know now is whether or not you have sufficient retirement income. If you are in a retirement plan at work, great; if not, consider joining it. If there isn’t a plan, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has everything you need to set up your own individual or employer-based one. Wherever you end up in retirement, things will go more smoothly if you can unpack some retirement income when you get there, so check out SPP – celebrating 35 years of building retirement futures – 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.


Oct 25: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

October 25, 2021

Will pandemic debts impact Canadians’ retirement plans?

New research from the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA, and no, not that CIA) suggests that many Canadians worry that debt taken on during the pandemic will delay – or indefinitely postpone – their plans for retirement.

The research, carried out by Ipsos Public Affairs, is covered in a recent story in the Toronto Sun.

The research found that “with Canadians earning less” during the pandemic, “increases in debt followed suit,” the newspaper reports, quoting another media outlet, Blacklock’s Reporter.

“The report reveals 25 per cent of respondents took on additional debt due to the pandemic with higher percentages seen among students and self-employed Canadians, both at 33 per cent. Also exposed were those who rent, 34 per cent,” the article notes.

How much did incomes drop during the pandemic?

According to the Sun story, citing the research, one third of the 1,529 people questioned by Ipsos reported a pandemic-related income drop. A further 69 per cent say “COVID has changed their retirement timelines.”

While the average retirement age, according to Statistics Canada, is 65, the research found that 40 per cent of those surveyed “do not know when they will retire, and a further 14 per cent state they do not expect to ever retire,” the Sun reports. Four per cent of those surveyed said they expect they will have to work beyond age 71, the article adds.

The article points out that the large percentage of “don’t know” answers to when retirement will occur “reflects the fact some Canadians are not engaged in work outside the home.” The largest segment of those polled saying they didn’t know when they would retire are “students (65 per cent), homemakers (69 per cent) and those who are disabled (62 per cent),” the article notes.

The article concludes by indicating that CIA estimates the average Canadian needs $900,000 worth of savings to retire by age 65.

These conclusions are interesting, particularly since other research has found that some Canadians have been saving like crazy during the pandemic, due to having less things they can spend their money on.

The Globe and Mail reports that “Canada’s stockpile of savings earlier this year was $280 billion bigger than before the pandemic,” citing research from RBC Economics.

It’s not known, the article adds, what Canadians plan to do with this cash stockpile. Retirement savings is not mentioned specifically as a destination for this cash, at least in this article.

So, some of us are having to borrow to make ends meet, while others are sitting on a pile of cash.

Those with extra cash should take note of the struggles of those without it. The folks that are pushing retirement into the future are doing so because (we can assume) they are carrying too much debt and thus not putting as much away for retirement as they would like. These folks will have to get back into retirement saving when they can, but understandably they can’t do much at this point.

If you are sitting on cash, consider putting at least some of it away for retirement. This is especially important if you don’t have a retirement savings plan at your place of work. Folks in this situation have to rely on themselves to fund their future retirement income.

Don’t have a plan at work? Consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, a “made in Saskatchewan success story” that has been helping people save for retirement for 35 years. SPP can take your hard-earned savings and invest them for you in a low-cast, professional way. Better, when it’s time to finally exit the stressful world of work, SPP can turn your invested savings into a stream of income. 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 16: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

August 16, 2021

Has pandemic “self-care” spending disrupted Canadians’ retirement plans?

It seems that we are starting to near the end of the pandemic, as economies across the country begin to slowly re-open.

But, according to an article in the Globe and Mail, there is concern that Canadians have been spending so much more money on “self care” in light of the pandemic that there may be little left for the retirement savings piggy bank.

The newspaper cites a recent Bank of Nova Scotia study that found “70 per cent of Canadians started partaking in at least one self-care activity during the pandemic, with 60 per cent of those spending an average of $282 in the past 12 months.”

By self-care, the Globe says, we are talking about “online yoga classes, baking supplies, $5,000 Peloton bikes and class memberships, $85 meditation apps, or meal delivery services that take the thinking out of dinner prep.”

While those approaching retirement spent the least on these categories, the Globe says younger people spent plenty. “Although they struggle to find the money for down payments on homes and families, even in good times, the Scotiabank survey found that Canadians 18 to 34 significantly outspent others (on) self-care activities in the previous year.” Their average rate of spend was $395, the article notes.

The article says that while it is understandable that people might spend money differently during the pandemic, it is important that they get back on track now that things are returning to a more normal setting.

“It’s still important for financial advisors to help clients stick to their bigger, longer-term financial goals like debt repayment and saving for retirement,” the article tells us.

Another poll, this one from the National Institute on Retirement Security in the U.S., points out that younger people already have obstacles in the way of their retirement savings plan. The NIRS media release is featured on the Le Lezard website.

In the release, NIRS spokesman Dan Doonan notes that “Generation X and Millennials are the first two generations that will largely enter retirement without a pension,” and states that it is not surprising they are anxious about their long-off golden years.

The research shows that 64 per cent of American Millennials and 54 per cent of GenXers are “more concerned about their retirement security in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

So let’s link these two ideas. Everyone is spending more on self-care, particularly younger people, due to the pandemic – but there are worries by younger people, GenXers and Millennials, about retirement security, given the lack of a pension at work.

If you don’t have a pension at work, you need to think about funding your own retirement. Government benefits are being improved, but currently deliver a fairly modest benefit. You have the power to supplement that future income by setting up your own retirement savings program. Take a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan – it offers everything you need for a do-it-yourself pension plan. You can set up automatic contributions from your bank account, or chip in lump sum amounts throughout the year. SPP will invest and grow your savings, and when you turn in your parking pass and security lanyard, SPP will help you convert that nest egg into an income stream. Check out SPP today, as the plan in 2021 is celebrating its 35th year of delivering retirement security.

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.


July 12: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

July 12, 2021

Retirement saving concerns top health, employment and debt: HOOPP research

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Rob Carrick reports on new research that shows Canadians are more worried about retirement savings than they are about their physical and mental health, employment security, and debt burden.

Carrick cites research from the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan that found that, of 2,500 respondents, “48 per cent said they were very concerned about have enough money in retirement. Only the cost of day-to-day living ranked as a larger worry. Health and other financial/economic worries lagged well behind.”

The survey was carried out in April 2021, and clearly the pandemic has had an impact on people’s attitudes towards their finances, Carrick reports. “The poll results suggest 52 per cent of Canadians have been financially harmed by the pandemic, notably younger and lower-income people,” he writes.

Carrick notes that another recent survey by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that found that “Indigenous and racialized seniors… have average retirement income that is, respectively, 25 per cent and 32 per cent lower than seniors who are white.” But, he points out, the HOOPP research shows that even those with higher incomes are worried about retirement income – “42 per cent of those making more than $100,000 said they were very concerned about their retirement savings,” he writes.

Carrick sees a glimmer of good news mixed in with all the gloom, and that is, that the pandemic creates, for many of us, an opportunity to save.

“One more highlight for the well-off is the opportunity to save more money than ever as a result of economic lockdowns that curtailed travel, concerts and commuting to work for many. In the HOOPP survey, almost half of participants said they were able to save more money,” he notes.

He suggests that while those who have managed to stay employed throughout the crisis and have some unspent money should definitely sock some of it away in an emergency fund, retirement savings is a logical destination. “A lot should be put away for retirement using tax-free savings accounts and registered retirement savings plans,” writes Carrick.

The HOOPP survey found that Canadians generally are concerned about the national retirement savings rate. “Sixty-seven per cent of participants agreed with the statement that there is an emerging retirement crisis,” Carrick reports.

Those surveyed cite the rising cost of living, the “prices home buyers are paying,” and inflation as being inhibitors to retirement saving. Save with SPP will add another factor – high household levels of debt – to this category.

It’s easier to save for retirement if you belong to a pension program at work. The money comes off your pay before you have time to spend it. But if you don’t have a workplace plan, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be a solution. With SPP, you can set up automatic withdrawals that can coincide with your payday, allowing you to pay your future self first. The folks at SPP, who have been running retirement money for 35 years now, will diligently invest your savings and – when work is in the rear-view mirror – will help you turn savings into retirement income. 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.


June 21: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

June 21, 2021

Has the pandemic thrown our financial planning for a loop?

New research from IG Wealth Management, covered recently by the Globe and Mail, suggests Canadians were “ill-prepared” for the effects the pandemic had on their finances.

According to the article, the research shows that only 20 per cent of Canadians said “they have a good sense of their current level of financial well-being.”

An eye-opening majority – nearly three-quarters of those surveyed – confessed they “are not managing debt well,” and few say they stick to a budget. Finally, the research showed that “less than half feel they have the right retirement investing approach and tax strategies in place.”

The article is authored by Dean Murchison, president and CEO of Winnipeg-based IG Management.

After rhyming off the major events with financial impacts in our lives – positives, like getting married, buying a home, having a family and travelling, as well as negatives, such as divorce, job loss, or getting sick or injured, Murchison says good financial planning needs to take into account all these scenarios.

“Any advisor who wants to set their clients up for success must develop a holistic approach to financial planning. That includes incorporating various components such as helping clients manage their cash flow and daily spending, planning for major expenditures, preparing for the unexpected, optimizing taxes and retirement savings, sharing wealth through estate planning and, for entrepreneurs, maximizing business success,” he writes.

Investing tends to be a main focus for financial advisors, but there’s more to think about than just that, Murchison writes.

“Stock markets will go up and down, but a good financial plan keeps clients on course to reach their goals in good times or bad,” he writes.

Such a plan has to guard against what he calls “financial leakage.”

“That can be paying too much taxes, paying too much interest to carry too much debt, paying for things they don’t use (such as subscriptions or memberships), and generally not really knowing where their money goes,” he explains.

Advisors, he believes, need to “resist the urge to focus solely on portfolio management strategy and returns” when meeting clients, and instead, should “learn more about their lives and their goals.” That way, tax strategy, retirement readiness, and estate planning can be factored in, he concludes.

This is good advice. There is much more to retirement savings that the pure act of saving. You’ll need to figure out your income from all sources, and then ensure that it’s enough to cover your post-work expenses. So things like tax planning, which is not that big a deal when you’re working, becomes huge when you’re not.

It’s a lot to think about.

There is a way to offload some of the worries we may have about investing our retirement savings, however. Why not get the Saskatchewan Pension Plan on your side? They’ll invest your retirement savings leveraging investment expertise that has delivered an average rate of return of eight* per cent since SPP’s inception 35 years ago. Be sure to check them out today.

*Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Happy retirement: We want to join everyone at SPP in offering Katherine Strutt, who is stepping down after more than 30 years with the organization, our very best wishes for a long and happy retirement!

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.


No “magic formula” for decumulation, but frugality and realism help retirees: Dr. John Por

April 29, 2021

Recently, Save with SPP got an opportunity to speak with long-time pension expert Dr. John Por, whose 40-year career in pensions includes consulting work with large U.S. and Canadian pension boards and offering expertise on pension risk policy. He has also researched the tricky “decumulation” stage in which savings are turned into retirement income.

Our far-ranging interview covered decumulation, spending in retirement, frugality, advice on saving for retirement, and annuities.

Decumulation

Dr. Por says common mistakes with decumulation – the stage where retirement savings are used to provide retirement income – can include problematic asset allocation, lack of appropriate goal setting, high investment costs and, often, setting a withdrawal rate that’s too high or taking out too much money early in retirement.

So is there a correct withdrawal rate?

“At one point in time, maybe 20-25 years ago, four per cent was said to be the right withdrawal rate,” he explains.

Decumulation “depends on future interest rates, the stock markets, inflation, life expectancy and income needs,” says Dr. Por. A “correct” rate “is therefore unknowable.”

“It depends on the reigning circumstances, both personal and market,” he explains. “Who could have predicted, even five years ago, the current existing zero or the negative real rate of bond returns?”

“The problem is, though we desperately want to find a magic formula, how can you do this – we don’t know how it will be (in the future); no one knows.”

Noting the volatility in the stock markets in just the last couple of years, he notes that “even a Nobel Prize winner professed not knowing where the markets will go in the next 10 years, or how to invest your money after retirement.”

“This, of course, has not kept the retirement or investment industry from providing copious, and often prudent, advice, it simply means that looking for a, or the, magic bullet, or the infallible sage, will not be successful,” he adds.

Spending in retirement

While decumulation carries a lot of unknowns, much more is known about how much retirees actually need, Dr. Por says.

He says research by noted pension actuary Malcolm Hamilton shows that people need far less “replacement income” in retirement than the 75 per cent figure bandied about by the industry. 

Hamilton has for many years said the research suggests not everyone needs to save “heavily” for retirement, because of the existence of government income programs for retirees and lower costs once you are retired. (Here’s a link to a Globe and Mail interview with Malcolm Hamilton.)

Dr. Por agrees, calling an overall 75 per cent rule “misguided.”

“While this may be true for low-income people, they are supported by the above-mentioned government programs, so for them the 75 per cent is not a stretch, people at higher income levels are not likely to need 75 per cent of their earned income to pursue an age-appropriate lifestyle,” he says.

“One of the most important steps to understanding (retirement spending) is… knowing how much money you need to survive,” Dr. Por explains.

Rather than going through “painful” pre-retirement budget forecasting, he recommends a simpler approach.

“How much do you save in a month? If the answer is zero, your retirement budget will be what you spend now, minus what you won’t have to pay in retirement.” This can include things like your mortgage, tax savings when you earn less, childcare and education expenses, Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance, and so on. 

It’s a common-sense issue, he says. Individuals must decide “how much is necessary (spending) versus how much you would like to have.”

This knowledge is crucial for retirees, who have extremely limited options in dealing with income shortfalls, he explains. 

Working Canadians needing more money could “work harder – get a job that pays better, spend less, save more, take more investment risks, etc.… but when you are retired, you don’t have the same tools,” he explains.

 “Lifestyle becomes the main tool, you can cut back on your lifestyle (to save money), which is difficult,” he says. “Another tool still at your disposal is taking on more investment risk in retirement, but, if you’re not successful, it would easily lead to a further diminished lifestyle,” Dr. Por adds.

Frugality 

At 74, Dr. Por says he is “still engaged” and “living frugally.”

In this context, he defines frugality as bringing your lifestyle and realistic earning capability (and not your hoped-for future earnings) into a healthy balance. 

Living frugally is a key way to make your money last longer, and also that when in financial trouble, the cutback would be smaller thus less painful. Big expenses in the early years of retirement should be avoided, he says, because you may need your retirement savings for decades. “

While at age 65 it is hard to envisage how long you may live” he explains, “you may easily live beyond age 90.”

For example, he adds, if you are married, “the probability that either you or your spouse will live to age 93 is about 50 per cent. You can live for a very, very long time.” 

Working after retirement is a way to support your retirement spending and to keep your mind active, he says.

“Some people still work part-time after they stop working full time. You don’t realize how important your work is … not that many people spend their time well in retirement,” he says.

“Apart from the income work provides, it also structures your day, can add meaning to your existence after retirement (admittedly not everybody needs it), and equally important, it helps you maintain your links with the outside world and friends,” he says. His observation is that most people (especially men) form the majority of their extra-family relationships through work, and once they retired such contacts tend to fade away over time,” he says.

Dr. Por recommends that everyone consider living frugally at any age; he sees it as a great lifetime habit to get into.

Saving for retirement

While some people suggest you should save for retirement from early in life until the end of your career, Dr. Por says that view isn’t usually realistic.

“You can’t save in your 30s and 40s – you are paying for your kids’ education, your mortgage. So, save what you can, if you can, but (know) you may not be able to,” he advises. “No heroism is called for, as you also have to live a reasonable life.”

The optimum time to save “is in your 50s, and then, you can save 20 to 40 per cent,” he says. By then, “your children will be out in the world, your mortgage is paid… you can save.”

For savers, equities add the most value, but of course, it depends on the environment you happen to fall into. Bonds don’t provide as much income and growth, Dr. Por explains.

Pay close attention to investment fees, he advises. “With exchange-traded funds (ETFs), you can control costs – the management expense ratios are low.” However, financial advisers may not suggest this investment because they can make higher commissions on other products, Dr. Por says.

“Even a fee of one percent can, over 30 years, reduce your available assets significantly,” he says.

What you want to avoid is being forced to sell securities when the market is down, thus Dr. Por likes the concept of having a cash reserve to tide you through periods of market decline. 

“If you take on extra risk… by putting more money into equities, you should also have a cash reserve fund worth three to five years of spending,” he says. If equities perform well, you may wish to extend such cash reserves to cover longer periods. Overall, Dr. Por says, a chief problem with retirement saving is that most people “look at it as an investment issue,” and become focused on today’s investment risks, interest rates, equity return rates, and so on. Instead, you should be thinking about the income your investments will generate when you stop working. 

What’s going on today with investment risks and other factors “is not relevant 30 to 50 years out,” when you will be drawing income from your investments, he advises. Your focus should be on that long term, and not on volatility or return rates in a given year, Dr. Por says.

Annuities

Dr. Por talked about the “annuity paradox”. While financial experts like annuities, most people refuse to follow such advice. Most people shy away from the idea of taking a large lump sum of money – say $1.5 million – and turning it into an annuity that pays $60,000 a year. He noted that when he mentioned the concept to his wife (a highly educated professional, an MD), she refused the idea saying that “… if we die soon for whatever reason the children will get nothing.”

Also, retired people want to have cash available for future expenses, and, not always unreasonably, are afraid of inflation, and the potential extinction of the financial institution, which issued the annuity. 

But, he added, “annuities later in life is a good idea”. When you are getting too old to run your money – say by your late 70s or 80s – that’s the time to consider an annuity, he says. The older you are when you convert to an annuity, the cheaper the annuity is to buy. And today’s low interest rates make the conversion to annuities expensive. “The interesting phenomenon is though”, he added, “that when interest rates were exceptionally high, say in the late 1990ies, people still did not buy annuities, nor did the advisers promote the idea.”

Finally, he noted the importance of discipline. He speaks from experience, and says that had he followed all the major precepts mentioned in this piece, he would be now in a much better financial position himself. “Know your needs, be prudent in your expectations, live frugally, create a plan or direction and stick to it while making adjustments, if needed,” he advises.  

We thank Dr. Por for taking the time to speak with us.

Celebrating 35 years of operations, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a full-service retirement plan. SPP will invest the money you contribute, and at the time you retire, gives you the option of converting your invested savings into a lifetime annuity. Why not check out 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.