Guaranteed Investment Certificates

How you can set up a “Pay Yourself First” plan

September 9, 2021

By now, practically all of us have heard about “pay yourself first” as a savings strategy.

The general idea is to put away some percentage of your earnings, and then live on the rest. It sounds simple in theory, but in practice, less so. To that end, Save with SPP took a look around the Interweb to get some ideas about how to actually get going on a “pay yourself first” plan.

The folks at MoneySense see several simple steps you need to take to put your plan into action.

First, they suggest, “zero in on your savings goals.” What are you paying yourself first for – to build an emergency fund, or save up for a down payment, or a wedding or (our favourite) retirement, the article asks.

There has to be a reason why you are directing money away from your normal, bill-paying chequing account, MoneySense tells us.

Next, they recommend, take pen to paper and figure out how much you actually can pay yourself first. Make a list of your monthly “must spends,” like “shelter, food, electricity/heat, phone, transportation, etc.,” the article says. What’s left over is “discretionary” money, which can be spent or saved, the article adds.

If you are saving for more than one thing, you need to figure out how much each month to put away for each category. Then comes the actual “doing” part – automating your savings plan.

MoneySense recommends setting up an automatic transfer each month that moves money from chequing into savings. This amount can be increased when you get a raise, the article notes. Savings should be directed to either a tax-free savings account (TFSA), a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP), or a combination of both, the article concludes.

The Oaken Financial blog notes that guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) can be a good place to stash savings. GICs are locked in for a time, but pay a set amount of interest for a fixed term, the blog notes. High-interest savings accounts pay good interest but allow you to make withdrawals at any time, the blog notes.

The Golden Girl Finance blog says there are apps that take the difficult thinking part out of the saving equation. Wealthsimple, the blog notes, allows you to round up your credit card purchases, so you are actually paying a little extra, with that money being directed to your savings account. So you save a little as you spend, the blog notes.

Save with SPP notes that similar arrangements – where you pay a little extra on debit card purchases, or where a money-back credit card deposits the cashback directly to your savings account – exist at other Canadian banks.

Other ideas that have flashed across the screen of late:

  • Banking your raise. You were paying off the bills OK before you got the raise, so why not stick the difference between your former pay and your new pay into savings, and live off the rest? You were the day before the raise!
  • Banking your cost of living adjustment. Same concept, but for us lucky pensioners who get cost of living increases, why not direct the increase to savings and continue to live on what you were getting prior to the increase?
  • Starting small. You may not stick with a pay yourself first plan if it is overly ambitious. Uncle Joe always said bank 10 per cent and live on the 90 per cent; he did, and he did well, but Joe was a very disciplined spender. Better to start smaller, maybe two or three per cent, and phase it up.

So to recap – you either need to know how much you spend each month to figure out how much you save, or you need to just pick an affordable percentage of your earnings and set it aside. Once you have automated the process, you won’t miss the saved amount, which will grow happily in a savings account, a retirement account, or perhaps the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

Celebrating 35 years of operations, the SPP permits automatic contributions. They can set it up for you, or you can set up SPP as a bill on your bank website and set up the automation yourself. Either way, the money you direct to SPP will be put away for your future, invested professionally, and – grown – will await you after you get home from the retirement party!

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.


Dec 28: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

December 28, 2020

Retirement income will come from many different buckets – so be aware of tax rules

When we are working full time, taxes are fairly straightforward. Our one source of income is the only one that gets taxed. Very straightforward.

It’s a far different story, writes Dale Jackson for BNN Bloomberg, once you’re retired. Income may come from multiple sources, he explains.

“Think of your retirement savings as several buckets with different tax consequences: registered retirement savings plan (RRSP), spousal RRSP, workplace pension or annuity, part-time work income, tax-free savings account (TFSA), non-registered savings, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security benefits (OAS), and home equity lines of credit (HELOC),” he explains. 

“The trick is to take money from the buckets with the highest tax implications at the lowest possible tax rate and top it off with money from the buckets with little or no tax consequences.” Jackson points out.

A company pension plan is a great thing, he writes, but income from it is taxable. “If you are fortunate enough to have had a company-sponsored pension plan – whether it is defined contribution or defined benefit – or an annuity, you have the misfortune of being fully taxed on withdrawals in retirement,” he explains.

It’s the same story for your RRSP – it’s fully taxable. Both pension income and RRSP income may be eligible for income splitting if you qualify, Jackson notes.

He explains how a spousal RRSP can save you taxes. “If one spouse contributes much more than the other during their working life, they can split their contributions with the lower-income spouse through a spousal RRSP. The contribution can be claimed by the higher-income spouse and gives the spouse under 65 a bucket of money that will be taxed at their lower rate,” Jackson writes.

CPP and OAS benefits are also fully taxed, and the latter can be clawed back in whole or in part depending on your other income, he notes.

Other buckets to consider include part-time work. “More seniors are working in retirement than ever,” Jackson writes. While income is taxable, he recommends that you talk to your financial adviser – there may be work-related expenses that are tax-deductible. And you can always work less if you find your other sources of income are increasing!

Interest from non-registered investments like Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) or bonds is taxable. Dividends on non-registered investments are also taxable, but dividend tax credits are available. You will be taxed on half of the gains you make on investments like stocks (again, if they are non-registered) when you sell, Jackson explains. There’s no tax on interest, dividends or growth for investments that are in a RRSP, a Registered Retirement Income Fund, or a TFSA, Jackson notes.

Tax-free income can come from TFSAs or reverse mortgages and HELOCs, but Jackson warns that “a HELOC is a loan against your own home… you will pay interest when the house is sold or the owner dies.”

The takeaway from all this great advice is this – be sure you’re aware of all your sources of post-work income and the tax rules for each. That knowledge will making managing the taxes on all these buckets a little less stressful.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is celebrating its 35th year of operations in 2021. Check out their website 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 26: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

October 26, 2020

Bonds have lost their lustre, says pension expert Keith Ambachtsheer

Bonds have long been considered a key component of our retirement savings strategies. After all, equities are more volatile, right?

Pension expert Keith Ambachtsheer, commenting in the Globe and Mail, says bonds are losing their lustre, and are being crushed by today’s low-interest rate environment.

“Twenty years ago, inflation-indexed bonds offered a real yield of 4 per cent,” Ambachtsheer states in the Globe article. “Today their yield is not just zero, but actually negative.”

He calls them “dead weight investments” that “currently have no role” for institutional investors, such as pension plans.

The article presents a graph showing the yields on 10-year Canadian government bonds since 1960. They ranged from just under six per cent yields in the early ‘60s to an eye-popping 17 per cent in the early 1980s, and have slowly dropped ever since. Yields fell below four per cent in 2004 and are approaching zero today, the article’s graph shows.

So if bonds aren’t getting it done in your investment portfolio, what’s a solution for the average guy or gal?

Ambachtsheer tells the Globe that “solid dividend-paying stocks” provide the answer. A heavier percentage of dividend-paying equities is better than the traditional 60-40 stock/bond mix, he suggests.

The Globe article comments on that idea, saying “there are, to be sure, some objections to this viewpoint. One is whether pension funds and individuals are prepared to deal with the occasional but devastating paper losses that go along with holding an all-equity portfolio.”

It seems that many Canadians who normally would invest are sitting on the fence about it.

As we reported in an earlier blog post, Canadians – again according to the Globe and Mail – are sitting on $127 billion, now lying in chequing, savings and Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GIC) accounts and not being invested in either the stock or bond markets.

Rather than picking a day and putting all the money in, portfolio manager Mary Hagerman tells the Globe that a better approach is to invest some of your money at multiple different times.

She recommends “investing excess cash either in regular intervals, such as a set amount each month (known as dollar-cost averaging), or when there are major stock market drops or corrections,” the article states.

“I’m not suggesting people try to time the market, but sometimes the market talks to you and you have to listen,” Hagerman tells the Globe.

So we’re living through a period when the safe harbour of bonds is a dubious choice due to very low interest rates, and when stock markets are very volatile.

For members of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, it’s good to know that professional investment managers are on the case – they are the ones guiding your savings through these choppy waters. And if you’re interested in a dollar-cost averaging approach, the SPP can help you set up a regular monthly direct deposit, so that you aren’t having to time the market. 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.


JUL 13: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

July 13, 2020

Pandemic a bigger challenge to retirement saving than Great Recession: report

Unless all your retirement savings are invested in low-risk securities like GICs or government bonds, you’ve probably spent a lot of time watching the pendulum swings in the market since March.

A new report from Fidelity Investments Canada says it’s clear that today’s pandemic-influenced markets are worse for savers than the shaky markets of the “2008-2009 Great Financial Crisis.”

“Data shows Canadians near and in retirement are more negatively impacted by COVID-19 than the Great Financial Crisis,” states Peter Bowen, Vice-President, Tax and Retirement Research in a media release from Fidelity. “However, we are in this together and there is help. By seeking financial advice and writing down an action plan, Canadians can feel better and navigate the uncertainty,” he states in the release.

The data was gathered for Fidelity Canada’s annual Retirement 20/20 survey, which gathered data from Canadians “already in and approaching retirement.”

Here are some of the key findings mentioned in the media release:

  • 40 per cent of retirees reported “a negative outlook on their life in retirement,” the worst score in this category since 2014.
  • 40 per cent said their earnings had decreased owing to the pandemic, and 50 per cent said that fact, in turn, means they are “reducing the amount of money they are able to save.”
  • Those (80 per cent of pre-retirees and 92 per cent of retirees) with a written financial plan felt “positive about their (future) life in retirement.”
  • Eighty-five per cent of those with a plan said they worked with an advisor.

What’s different about this market rollback from the 2008-09 crisis?

According to Nicolas Samaan of Manulife, interviewed by Wealth Professional, this crisis has a different element to it.

“You’ve seen on LinkedIn people posting about losing their job and people helping each other,” Samaan tells Wealth Professional. “You see that human interaction, not just financially but in general, people making sure others are okay.

“It’s more about wellness – that is so much more important. I’ve always said to people, if you don’t have the health to do your (personal projects), it’s not going to work. In that sense, this crash was very different than what we’ve seen in the past,” he states in the article.

Samaan is right. The last crisis was scary but on a strictly economic basis – will banks fail, will the economy tank? This one has the overlay of a worldwide health crisis – will we find a way to cope with, or become immune from, this virus, and will the economy be able to hold on until that happens?

Picking stocks when markets are uncertain is not something for the faint of heart. Having professionals handle the investing is especially valuable at times like these. It’s nice to realize that the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has averaged an eight per cent rate of return since its inception in the 1980s, a period of time that included the Tech Wreck in 2000-2001 and the Great Financial Crisis a decade or so ago. The pros can make adjustments when markets take an unexpected turn, and can look at alternative ways to grow your money. Check out the SPP today.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Guaranteed income even more valuable in times of market chaos: Alexandra Macqueen

June 11, 2020

Save with SPP recently had a chance to ask retirement expert Alexandra Macqueen, co-author of Pensionize Your Nest Egg  and a frequent financial blogger, for her thoughts on the state of retirement in Canada.

Q: Can you expand a bit about why annuities may start looking more appealing to retirees and and those who are soon to be retired? Is it because the markets are so volatile and negative due to the pandemic? And the idea that you have a steady lifetime income (with an annuity)?

I have two reasons for thinking annuities might start looking more appealing to today’s and tomorrow’s retirees ­– one practical and one more theoretical.

The first, practical reason is just that when markets decline precipitously – like we’re seeing now with the COVID-19 pandemic – then the value of a secure, guaranteed income that is protected from market risk is more appealing.

My own feeling is that over time, the economic effects from the COVID-19 pandemic will be viewed differently than the last big market event, the global financial crisis.

The 2008-09 financial crisis was much more constrained to a single (albeit big) sector: “finance.” The pandemic, in contrast, stands to upend so much more than the financial world and I think that, over the long term, it could reorient how we think about income and risk in retirement. Of course, it’s easy to make predictions; only time will tell!

The second, more theoretical reason is that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed what you might call the “volatility of longevity” – and somewhat counterintuitively, if longevity is MORE uncertain, people should be willing to pay MORE to hedge that risk.

If your house was at increased risk of burning down, for example, you would pay more for fire insurance – but you would also value that insurance more, because you know you were at increased chance of actually needing it!

So even though the COVID-19 pandemic might actually “decrease” life expectancy “on average,” it also increases the range of possible outcomes (I might live fewer years than before the pandemic, and the uncertainty about how long I may live has increased).

In theory (but maybe not in practice), this means people “should” be more willing to “insure” against the uncertainty, and annuities are the most efficient way to do so.

Q. Do you think people may stay away from equities and look more at bonds, GICs, and that sort of thing for the same reasons – fear of market volatility?

Yes, but with rates near zero – and potentially going even below zero – it’s hard to make bonds and GICs work for retirement income. You get security, but very, very low yields.

For people who are risk-averse (many of us!), the solution isn’t to load up on more equities. What are the alternatives? If you’re looking at products with similar guarantees to GICs, then annuities again should be on your radar screen – and annuity yields, especially at more advanced ages, compare very favourably to GICs.

Q. The ideas in your recent MoneySense article about people working later, and being less likely to retire early, were great. Do you feel work will be harder to find, jobs harder to keep, so it’s less likely that folks will leave at 55 because they may have nothing to go back to in this market? Could you expand a bit on why you think folks won’t retire the way they have been?

Here, what I’m thinking about is that for years I’ve heard people say, “if my retirement doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to work in some capacity.” But what if you’re not able to “go back to work,” because there’s no work to go back to?

It will take a long time for the effects of the pandemic to be felt in all areas of society, including work – but my thinking is that the “easy” fallback of “I’ll find work” will no longer be available. And if that’s the case, people may think longer and harder about leaving the work situations they’ve got. More uncertainty – about work, about income, about home values, about longevity – equals fewer changes and less risk-taking.

Q. We love the idea of more focus on debt, and less assumption on “harvesting” the value of the house. Hopefully this won’t lead to more reverse mortgages, but do you think we are seeing the end of the tendency for boomers to fund their lives with home equity lines of credit (HELOCs)? 

It feels like all eyes are on “what will happen with home values” right now!

There are two ways that “funding our lives with HELOCs” might end: home values might drop, so that the value isn’t there to “harvest,” and lending standards might tighten, so that HELOCs aren’t available even if the value theoretically is.

I’ve been hearing about tightening lending standards for HELOCs in recent weeks – meaning lenders may be “calling” the loan, or “tightening” the lending terms (often this looks like reducing the amount of available credit).

There doesn’t seem to be any consensus about the future direction of home prices. I feel as though for every article I read suggesting values will drop, I read another saying values will hold steady. And keep in mind that in Canada’s large markets, even a reasonably large “drop” in value will just take prices back a few years.

The rise in home values that we’ve seen in the last decade or so – particularly in the GTA and the GVA – have no historical precedent. I don’t think we, as a society, have collectively grappled with how to integrate what economists might call this “shock” into our personal financial plans. The growth in home equity is a positive shock, but a shock nonetheless! In this area, like in so many others, I think we will need to wait and see what trends emerge. It may be that lenders make the decision for homeowners to put an end to using your house “like an ATM.”

Q. Do you have any other thoughts?

My main thought is that it’s really important to recognize the diversity of situations that people entering retirement are in.

It’s very tempting to provide generalized advice based on preconceptions about what retirement is and what “retirees” are like. But retirees and soon-to-be retirees are an incredibly diverse group, with varying views on what they need and want in life, and retirees enter the retirement stage of life with highly varied situations, from their health status to their expectations about how long they’ll live and what they’ll do in retirement.

“Retirement” as we know it is a fairly young concept, and so much has changed since the idea of retirement was first introduced. We’ve collectively never been here before, with so many people transitioning into the retirement phase – which is itself changing under our feet. Thinking about and digging into what “retirement” means is what gets me up in the morning! I’ll never get tired of wondering what life has to offer.

We thank Alexandra Macqueen very much for taking the time to answer Save with SPP’s questions!

If you haven’t thought about including annuities in your retirement plans, a fact to be aware of is that if you are a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, you will be able to choose from a number of life annuity options when it’s time to turn your savings into income. 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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

JUN 8: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

June 8, 2020

Will pandemic make us rethink our retirement plans?

Financial author Alexandra Macqueen, writing in MoneySense magazine, notes that we’ve always planned for retirement based on the assumption that things will be pretty much stable between the “now” of working and the “then” of retiring.

But, she asks, how will things change when the “now” is totally thrown into chaos by the pandemic?

Up until recently, she writes, we have thought about early, late, or part-time retirement. “All of these variations on the retirement theme have been built on a relatively steady set of economic conditions and assumptions: that housing and financial markets will remain stable, the economy will continue to function, and Canadians will continue to pay the Canada Pension Plan premiums and income taxes that keep CPP and Old Age Security payments flowing,” she explains.

But, she writes, the global pandemic and its “resulting economic fallout… could reshape retirement in Canada.”

First, she says, the idea of early retirement has always been associated with the idea that there are “fallbacks” if things don’t go smoothly – “returning to paid employment, harvesting home equity or counting on continued asset growth.”

But if jobs are scarce, property values drop and “markets tumble,” Macqueen notes, “these backup plans may not be available. As a result, more Canadians may opt to remain in their paid employment (if they’re employed) longer.”

As well, Canadians may find work hard to come by generally, and if they work part-time or via “gigs,” retirement savings will also be difficult to come up with, another reason Macqueen gives for seeing fewer early retirements going forward.

The next big change Macqueen predicts is that of Canadians finally coming to terms with their debt.

“The economic fallout from COVID-19 also means that many highly indebted Canadians will need to take a fresh look at the spending that got them where they are, because the security of the income or assets they expected to use to retire the debt has diminished or even disappeared,” she explains.

With no investment returns to pay down debt with, and with housing prices uncertain, Canadians may be forced to downsize their primary residence purely to save on mortgage costs, cut back on big vacations and fancy home renovations, or in extreme cases enter “a consumer proposal or bankruptcy proceedings to resolve outstanding debt,” she warns.

Finally, the COVID-19 era and its volatile market may result in a return to simpler and less risky retirement finances, such as guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) and annuities.

GICs carry almost no risk – they pay out a set amount of interest depending on the term of the certificate.

“A life annuity is a financial product, sold by an insurance company, that pays a guaranteed monthly income to the annuitant(s) for as long as they are alive—sort of like a “DIY version” of a defined-benefit pension,” notes Macqueen, co-author of a book on the subject, Pensionize Your Nest Egg.

Summing it up – we may need to work longer to have enough savings to retire on, or to pay off debt first before retiring, and when the wonderful day arrives, we might want to convert savings into a guaranteed lifetime income via annuities and GICs.

If you’re a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, the idea of converting your retirement savings into a guaranteed lifetime income stream is already part of your retirement tool kit. SPP has a variety of annuity options available that will ensure you get a monthly cheque for as long as you’re alive. Check it 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

May 4: Best from the blogosphere

May 4, 2020

Pandemic crisis challenges some of our long-held financial beliefs

There’s no question about it, the COVID-19 pandemic and its disastrous impact on employment, the economy, and world markets is something we’ve not seen before.

And, writes Globe and Mail columnist Rob Carrick, the crisis is challenging some long-held notions about personal finance.

People used to think that, since the interest rates paid are so low, there was “no point in keeping money in a savings account,” Carrick writes. Instead, he notes, conventional pre-pandemic wisdom was to “access money when you’re in need from your home equity line of credit.”

However, now – given the sharply rising unemployment numbers – “piling on more debt to weather a layoff is a last resort, not a go-to strategy,” Carrick writes.

His next point is that up until now, most long-term saving by Canadians was for retirement, not for building an emergency fund. But retirement savings can’t be accessed – at least not without a big tax hit – for emergencies, so Carrick’s new rule of thumb suggests 75 per cent of savings go to retirement and the rest to an emergency fund.

Echoing his earlier point on the low rates paid via savings accounts and GICs, Carrick notes that those who invested their TFSA savings in fixed-income products can no longer be “mocked for their timidity and unworldliness.” They still have all their savings, while those in riskier TFSA investments have losses to deal with.

Given the high cost of housing, Carrick writes that most of us are used to “pushing (our) finances to the max to buy a house,” and dealing with “crushing” and huge mortgage payments. “But taking as much money as the bank will let you have means you have almost no ability to cope with a loss of income, particularly if you have kids and car payments,” he notes.

The other beliefs he shatters include carrying high debt – easy to do when you are working, less so otherwise – and “spending big” on your vehicles, particularly if you are getting your new truck or car through a car loan.

The takeaway points here are quite clear: paying for everything with debt is easy when jobs are plentiful, but it’s a recipe for disaster when times suddenly – and without any prior warning – get hard. Save with SPP knows more than a few people who have always “poo-poohed” savings because the interest rates are so low. Even if the interest rate was zero, having savings is a lot better than having debt when times get tough.

So perhaps Rob Carrick is right when he suggests going 75/25 on your retirement savings, with some money going to an emergency fund. Now that we’re in an emergency, some of us have that extra bit of security, while the rest must scramble. Now may not be the best time for much saving, but when better times return, let’s all remember this solid advice.

If you are looking for a good place to put away 75 cents of your savings dollar, be sure to check out the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. The SPP’s two major funds, the Balanced Fund and the Diversified Income Fund, are professionally managed, and when the markets are choppy, it’s good to know that there are experienced hands on deck, folks who know how to protect and preserve your savings for the long haul.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

How to Get a Down Payment For a Home in Canada

October 31, 2019

You’d like to become a homeowner one day soon, but similar to a lot of Canadians the only thing stopping you is the down payment. When taking out a mortgage, the lender will require that you make a down payment of at least five percent. This provides the lender with some reassurance that you have some skin in the game.

Coming up with the down payment is perhaps the most challenging part of homeownership. Saving a down payment can be especially challenging if your cost of living is already high. The good news is that there are various ways you can come up with your down payment. Let’s take a look at the most common ways right now.

Personal Savings

Personal savings is probably the first way that comes to mind for getting a down payment. Personal savings isn’t just your savings account. It also covers investment accounts, mutual funds, GICs and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). Just make sure your money is available on closing and easily accessible. Your real estate lawyer will ask for the balance of the down payment funds a day or two before closing.

Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs)

Your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) isn’t just to fund your retirement. It can also be used towards the down payment on a home. In order to do that you need to be a first-time homebuyer. Under the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP), you can withdraw up to $35,000 from your RRSP towards your first home (up to $70,000 if you’re a couple buying together). The best part is that you won’t pay any taxes on the withdrawals (provided the funds are in your RRSP account for at least 90 days). You’ll have to pay back the funds eventually, although you have up to 15 years to do so.

In case you’re wondering, you can’t withdraw from your Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) account for the HBP. However, contributions to the SPP can be considered as repayments to the HBP.

Gifts

It’s becoming a lot more common for first-time homebuyers to receive a part of their down payment as a gift from family. If you’re fresh out of college or university and you have a sizable student loan, it can take you years to repay it. In fact, student loans are one of the biggest barriers to entry for homeownership among younger folks. That’s where “the bank of mom and dad” can step in.

Many parents may be willing to lend their adult children a helping hand in the form of a gift. Gifting your adult child part or all of their down payment is pretty straightforward. All you’ll need to do is sign a gift letter stating that you’re gifting them the funds rather than it being a loan.

Another way parents can help you out is by gifting their children home equity. If you’re selling the family home to your adult child, you can gift your child home equity. For example, if the home is worth $600,000 and your child has saved up $80,000, you may be willing to gift your child $40,000 in equity, so that they’ll have a 20 percent down payment and can avoid paying mortgage default insurance.

The Bottom Line

These are just a few ideas for ways to come up with your down payment. You can use one of them or all of them. It’s all about figuring out which options makes the most sense for you and putting it into action.

 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.

Why people aren’t saving – an interview with Doug Hoyes

August 1, 2019

As co-founder of Hoyes and Michalos, a debt relief firm, and a commentator on personal finance, Doug Hoyes has seen it all when it comes to debt.

And he has a straightforward view on why Canadians aren’t saving much for retirement, telling Save with SPP that these days, “people don’t save for anything.”

The savings rate, he notes, was as high as 15 per cent in 1980 and has plunged to “less than one per cent” today. In other words, people are saving less than a penny of every dollar they earn.

“People don’t save anything; it’s just not a thing we do anymore,” he explains. “I think the cost of living is high and job security is low.” The old “job for life” days are long gone, and people now expect to have multiple jobs through their working career, he explains.

“You are seeing sporadic employment, contract work – it is hard for people to put down roots and save. And house prices are rising sharply, and everything costs more. We’re not able to save, and we are seeing more people using debt to make ends meet,” he says.

Those who do try to save tend to be punished for their efforts – savings account and GICs pay interest in the low single digits, and if savers look to invest in mutual funds “there are high fees, and they take on risk,” he explains. Since low-interest lines of credit are so prevalent, for many people, debt has replaced savings, a practice that Hoyes says just isn’t sustainable in the long term.

Save with SPP asked how this lack of saving affects retirement plans.

“It’s become uncommon to have a pension plan (a traditional defined benefit plan) at work,” he says, “unless you work for the government. It’s just not a thing newer companies offer.” He says that from an employer’s point of view, “it is a hassle to set them up, and there is a potential for liabilities that need to be funded, and more money needing to be put in.” Sears and Nortel show the potential downside for employees and DB pensioners if the parent company runs into financial trouble, he notes.

So traditional pension plans in the private sector have generally been replaced with things “like a group RRSP, where there is zero risk (for the employer).” Employees are satisfied with a group RRSP because they “know they are not going to be there, at the same employer, for 50 years,” and a group RRSP is portable and easy to transfer, Hoyes explains.

With more and more working people dealing with debt, it’s not surprising to Hoyes that more seniors are retiring with debt, a situation he says can lead to disaster.

“In retirement, your income goes down, and while some of your expenses that were related to work go down, others will go up,” he explains. “Your rent doesn’t go down when you retire, so your cost of living is about the same.”

Retired seniors, living on less and still paying down debt, face other problems, he says. It’s more common for retirees to divert savings to “helping their adult kids.” Examples of this might include a divorced child moving home, or college and university graduates, unable to find work, staying home instead of moving out. So the seniors may use up their savings or borrow to help the children, “as any parent might,” but that drives them into a financial crisis, he explains.

With debt to pay and possibly little to no workplace pension, many seniors are heading back to work. Others, Hoyes notes, are starting to have to file for insolvency.

“Maybe you only have CPP and OAS coming in, and you have a $50,000 debt that you can’t service – you may need to file for bankruptcy and make payments through a trustee,” he explains.

We thank Doug Hoyes for speaking to Save with SPP.

If you don’t have a pension plan at work, consider opening a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account. It’s like setting up a personal pension plan. The money you set aside is invested for you at a low fee, and when you are ready to collect it, it’s available as a lifetime pension with several survivor benefit options.

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

May 14:Best from the blogosphere

May 14, 2018

Although I have continued my encore career as a personal finance journalist since I retired from my corporate job 13 years ago, my husband retired three years ago. As a result, how to draw down income most tax effectively from our registered and non-registered accounts and how to make sure we don’t run out of money has been a hot topic of our discussions.

Eventually, as you phase out of the workforce or retire, you’ll need to convert your retirement savings into retirement income. It must be done by December 31 of the year in which you reach age 71. The funds are also fully taxable if withdrawn in cash. Moving your investments into a registered retirement Income Fund (RRIF) will mean you can continue to tax-shelter all but annual minimum withdrawals. In the Toronto Star, Paul Russel outlined 10 things you need to know about RRIFs.

In a HuffPost article How Much to Withdraw from Retirement Savings Retirement Coach Larry Rosenthal considers the “4 percent rule” – originated in the early 1990s by financial adviser Bill Bengen which says that if you withdraw 4.5% of your retirement savings each year, adjusted for inflation, your money should last 30 years. “When the 4% rule emerged, investment portfolios were earning about 8% annually. Today, they’re generally in the 3 to 4% range,” Rosenthal says. “Now when you want to figure out how much to withdraw annually from your retirement funds, you need to look at three factors: your time horizon, asset allocation mix and – what’s most often overlooked – the potential ups and downs of investment returns during retirement.”

For further insight into whether or not the 4% rule is safe, listen to the podcast (or read the transcript) of the interview I did late last year with Certified Financial Planner Ed Rempel. On his blog Unconventional Wisdom, Ed reviewed his interesting research which reveals that if you want to withdraw 4% a year from your retirement portfolio without running out of money in 30 years of retirement, you need to hold significantly more equities than bonds in your portfolio. He looked back at 146 years of data on stocks, bonds, cash, and inflation to see what would have happened in the past if people retired that year, with each type of portfolio – e.g 100% bonds, 100% stocks plus various other permutations and combinations. 

Retire Happy’s Jim Yih explains in Drawing Income in Retirement that there are five typical sources of retirement income: government benefits, company pension plans, RRSPs, non-RRSP savings and your personal residence. On one extreme, Yih notes that some people live frugally, save for retirement and continue their frugal ways after retirement and end up dying with healthy bank accounts. In contrast, others spend everything they earn and do not save for retirement. Therefore, they may have to make some sacrifices down the road.

Journalist Joel Schlesinger also addressed How best to draw income from your retirement savings for the Globe and Mail. He focused on the tax implications of drawing down money from various types of accounts. Each account may be subject to different levels of taxation, and, consequently, where you hold investments such as stocks, bonds and guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) becomes all the more important. For example, withdrawals from registered accounts – including RRSPs, RRIFs (registered retirement income funds), LIRAs and LIFs (life income funds) – are fully taxable income. Like work pensions, income from RRIFs and LIFs can be split with a spouse to reduce taxation (once plan holders reach 65).

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.