Government of Canada

How has pandemic changed our view on estate planning

January 27, 2022

Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about what we should do with our finances in order to set ourselves up for retirement. However, we spend so much time thinking about what we need to do to get there, we often forget that all our hard work and sacrifice needs to be protected after we are gone. The impact of the various strains of the COVID pandemic can serve as a reminder that our health is not to be taken for granted. A Government of Canada Survey in 2019, reported a disturbing pattern that has been consistent fact that almost half (45%) of Canadians don’t even have a will. 

Protecting your assets after you are not in a position to control them is essentially Estate planning. The goal of estate planning is to achieve the state of financial affairs at your death or later in your life when you wish to transfer family property to others. Similar to your financial plan, your estate plan should not be something you do once, then file away. It should be treated like a living, breathing bodyguard that may be called into action to protect your financial affairs if need be. As a result, you should maintain an on-going relationship and revisit it at least every 5 years, or more often, depending on various changes happening in your life.

A Last Will and Testament is an important part of your estate plan kind of like a bodyguard to your financial affairs after your death. A will is the badge that gives it authority and jurisdiction to dictate how your assets and property should be handled. Your will’s primary function is to specify to whom and when your assets are to be distributed.  You may want to leave specific properties (e.g. jewelry, furniture, car or shares in your business) to specific beneficiaries. In your will it should be indicated that you have designated one or more persons as your executor(s) (also called estate trustee(s)). The person should be someone you can trust to take charge of your affairs and distribute your assets in accordance with your desires as set out in your will. They should be able to act as a good member within the security team and follow the instructions of your will. The executor and estate trustee will normally apply to the court for “letters probate”, which will give court approval for then executor to take over your property, manage it and distribute it to your beneficiaries.  Probate can become very costly and at SPP we strongly recommend that you designate a beneficiary to your plan, as it can help.

If you do not make a will provincial law will determine how your assets are distributed. The result can vary significantly, depending on where you reside at the time of death. We have spent a lot of time in doors during this pandemic, isolated, worrying about our health and what life will look like in the future. Estate planning helps you maintain some control on the future and how you want it to be even if you are not here to see it.

Written by David Musisi

David Musisi, is a Retirement Information Officer at Sask Pension Plan in Kindersley, Saskatchewan and a long time professional in the Finance Industry. His interests are following the markets, travelling, soccer, music and spending quality time with his family.

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!

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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 the best fitness activities for older folks

June 27, 2019

Those of us who still remember buying Beatles records and wearing tie-dye (both still worthy things to do today, of course) are aware that we need to do regular exercise to keep the old machine ticking along. But what’s the best and even safest kind to do? Save with SPP took a look around the web for some answers.

The Government of Canada’s seniors website tells us the value of fitness as we age. “Physical activity improves health and well-being. It reduces stress, strengthens the heart and lungs, increases energy levels, helps you maintain and achieve a healthy body weight and it improves your outlook on life,” the site notes.

“Research shows that physical inactivity can cause premature death, chronic disease and disability,” the site adds.

The exercises the feds recommend include “walking once a day, taking the stairs instead of the elevator… and (to) walk, wheel or cycle for short trips.” Use cycling and walking paths in your area, and spend less time in front of the computer or the TV, the government recommends.

The Top 10 Home Remedies blog also is big on walking, noting that regular “moderate-intensity walking” helps reduce mobility disability by 2.6 years. They like swimming, which they say is, if done regularly, “related to better performance on the three executive functions (behavioural inhibition, working memory updating, and cognitive flexibility),” and can help the body’s balance, which in turn prevents falls.

Yoga, the blog says, done moderately can “help with weight loss, improve sleep quality, and delay the age-related effects of aging motor systems.”

Don’t forget about strength, notes the Live About Dot Com blog. “Strength exercises build older adult muscles and increase your metabolism, which helps to keep your weight and blood sugar in check,” the blog suggests. As mentioned, the blog says balance exercises “help build leg muscles, and this helps to reduce falls.”

Stretching exercises “can give you more freedom of movement,” and any cardio-type endurance exercise like “walking, jogging, swimming or raking leaves” will “increase your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time.”

In addition to the activities already listed here, the How Stuff Works blog touts the benefit of water aerobics (“a low-impact, full body workout”), tai chi, golf and gardening.

Save with SPP has tried most of these, and can say that the more regular exercise one does, the better report card one will receive from the doctor. Any time we’ve decided to take a few months off from exercise, it has resulted in a negative spell healthwise. When we get back into the gym, everything is a go again. Who knew?

Be sure to research your exercise plans well and have a plan that you will be able to follow. Your future you will thank you for the effort.

And your future you will be very pleased to receive income from retirement savings made by the current you. Like fitness, saving requires commitment and discipline and a little bit of sacrifice, but the rewards far outweigh these costs. Make saving a part of your monthly plans – and if you are looking for a full-service, one-stop retirement savings program, look no further than the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. They have all the tools you need to reach your goals.

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

Why some Canadians choose to retire to other countries

February 14, 2019

Let’s face it – it’s hard to find good things to say about winter in Canada when it’s 40 below with the windchill and the snow is piling up in your laneway.

Save with SPP knows a number of people who head south for the winter every year. And there are others who leave Canada for good and live out their golden years abroad. We took a look around to find out some of the reasons why some of us take this step.

Well, one reason might be finding not only warmer weather, but a lower cost of living, reports MoneySenseRetiring in North America, the site advises, means you’ll need an average of about $625,000 in the bank at age 65 (or an equivalent pension), or “annual retirement income of $55,000.”

But this amount, the site notes, is enough to let you “live in luxury” in a variety of other countries, including Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Malaysia, all modern countries with much lower living costs. You can, the article says, get a three-course meal at a restaurant for about $10 in some of these countries, and rents are in the low hundreds, rather than the low thousands.

The Roam New Roads site also cites lower living costs and a better climate in France, Panama, Thailand or Belize. Some offer low-cost national healthcare, the article notes, as well as lively culture, history, and wonderful culinary expertise.

However, there are other factors to bear in mind if you are moving away from your home country, notes the Escape From America blog. You can be homesick, which “leads to many expatriates returning home every single year,” often a costly process. Retirement abroad means little or no time with family and friends, a “forced loneliness,” the blog reports. Culture, language, accessibility (driving a car) are all other potential downsides in a faraway land, the article says.

The government of Canada’s website notes that living outside Canada will have an impact on your taxes, and may change how you are able to receive your Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits. If you are living outside the country for part of the year, there may be provincial or territorial requirements for your healthcare – a set amount of time you must reside in your homeland in order to keep your benefits. Or, you may have to try and arrange health coverage for the foreign country. It’s certainly a cost to be aware of.

So putting it all together, you can live on less money by moving to another country, where your retirement savings will allow you to trade middle-of-the-road living here for luxury and new adventures there. You’ll be free of snow shovelling and dark winter afternoons. But, if you get homesick, the cost of travelling back will put a dent in your now-lowered cost of living. You may find yourself isolated by language and culture. And you’ll have to figure out how to keep your healthcare or find an alternative.

It’s a big commitment, and not for everyone, but on a cold winter day, it’s nice to imagine heading down to the beach.  Any sort of retirement, be it here in the good old northland or off in some exotic sunny country, will require income. If you’re dreaming about retirement, take some time to put away a few dollars now for that eventual future. You’ll be happy you did. And a great destination for retirement savings is a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account.

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

Part 1: Tax deductions, credits you need to know about

April 5, 2018

In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes, but as my father-in-law used to say, there is no reason why you should pay any more than you have to. A Government of Canada website provides a table with the 94 deductions and tax credits you may be able to claim to reduce the amount of tax you must pay.

You will also find information on where to claim these amounts on your income tax and benefit return or a related form or schedule. You can sort the table by line number or topic, and you can filter by key word. While your electronic tax program will prompt you to consider each of these, it is important to understand what you may be entitled to so you can find and retain the required supporting documentation.

Here are some common deductions and tax credits you should be aware of. Part 2 of this blog will be posted later this month.

  1. Line 208 – SPP, RRSP and PRPP deduction: Deductible Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP), registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) and pooled registered pension plan (PRPP) contributions can be used to reduce your tax. Any income you earn in SPP, your RRSP or PRPP is exempt from tax as long as the funds remain in the plan. However, you typically have to pay tax when you receive payments from these plans. For more information about RRSPs and PRPPs, see How much can I contribute and deduct? Members of SPP can contribute $6,000/year beginning in 2017 if they have sufficient RRSP contribution room.
  2. Line 314 – Pension income amount: You may be able to claim up to $2,000 if you reported eligible pension, superannuation, or annuity payments on line 115, line 116, or line 129 of your return. For a detailed list of eligible pension and annuity income, go to the Eligible Pension and Annuity Income (less than 65 years of age) chart or the Eligible Pension and Annuity Income (65 years of age or older) chart.
  3. Line 210 – Deduction for elected split-pension amount: If the transferring spouse or common-law partner has agreed with the receiving spouse or common-law partner to jointly elect to split his/her eligible pension income by completing Form T1032, Joint Election to Split Pension Income, the transferring spouse or common-law partner can deduct on this line the elected split-pension amount from line G of Form T1032. Only one joint election can be made for a tax year. If both you and your spouse or common-law partner have eligible pension income, you will have to decide who will act as the transferring spouse or common-law partner electing to allocate part of his/her eligible pension income to the receiving spouse or common-law partner.
  4. Line 301 – Age amount: Claim this amount if you were 65 years of age or older on December 31, 2017, and your net income (line 236 of your return) is less than $84,597.
    Remember to claim the corresponding provincial or territorial non-refundable tax credit to which you are entitled, on line 5808 of your provincial or territorial Form 428.
    If your net income was:

  5. Lines 330 and 331 – Eligible medical expenses: You can claim medical expenses paid for yourself, your spouse or common-law partner and certain related persons. Generally, total eligible medical expenses must first be reduced by 3% of your net income or $2,237, whichever is less. You can find a helpful video and a list of eligible common medical expenses here.


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Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.