Tag Archives: Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan

Canadians value pensions over more pay; retirement savings education is a must: HOOPP

Recent research commissioned by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) has found that four of five Canadians would choose a better pension (or any pension) over a pay raise – even at a time when most of them are struggling to make ends meet.

The research, conducted by Abacus Data, found that there is a high level of retirement anxiety amongst Canadians. Among the findings were that most were more worried about saving for retirement (75 per cent) than they were worried about government or personal debt, and that 76 per cent were concerned that the lack of workplace pension coverage hurts the economy.

Save with SPP reached out to Darryl Mabini, HOOPP’s Assistant Vice-President, Growth & Stakeholder Relations, to ask a few more questions about the organization’s findings, and their thoughts about possible solutions.

Asked what, if anything, can be done to encourage more Canadians to save for retirement, Mabini noted that we are “in a climate” where workplace pension plans are scarce in the private sector. While public sector workers generally have pensions at work, “about 60 per cent of Canadians don’t have access to a pension plan.”

Mabini agrees that high personal debt levels are a restrictor on personal retirement savings for those without pension plans. “Canadians currently owe about $1.70 for every dollar they earn – that’s an historically high debt to income ratio,” he explains. When you are owing substantially more than you make, it is pretty hard to find a way to put aside some of your earnings for retirement, he says.

“A lot of Canadians are just barely making ends meet,” he says. He points out that while there is “good debt,” such as having a mortgage (because you are building equity in your home), many working Canadians are relying on bank loans, credit cards, and other borrowed money to pay for living expenses between paydays. Yet, he points out, HOOPP’s research found that Canadians would take a job with a pension over one that offered more pay.

Those who also have no pension arrangement “are the most vulnerable to having insufficient income when they reach retirement age, Mabini adds. That’s because they are the least likely to be able to afford to save, he explains.

The danger of inadequate retirement income is another problem that needs to be addressed, he says. By doing nothing about boosting participation in retirement savings today, society is “kicking the problem down the road,” an oversight which could lead to increased reliance by seniors on taxpayer-funded government assistance, he says. “When Canadians don’t have access to pension plans… the risk (for their future income) shifts to the taxpayer,” he explains. But if they are living on savings they’ve amassed on their own, or through a pension plan, they are consumers with spending power who help the economy and pay taxes, he adds. HOOPP’s research (other highlights follow) also suggests Canadians are aware of the realities of pensions and retirement, and are looking to employers and government to help deliver solutions.

  • Eighty-one per cent believe the shrinking of workplace pension coverage will reduce the quality of life of Canadians.
  • Eighty-three per cent believe government should modernize regulations to allow for more innovative pension plans and savings arrangements.
  • Eighty per cent would rather employers make direct contributions to a retirement plan over receiving that money as salary.
  • Seventy-six per cent believe governments can save money by supporting pensions that are more affordable.

What type of pension would Canadians want to have? Mabini says that while that specific answer wasn’t captured in this round of research, an earlier HOOPP-led research project, The Value of A Good Pension, found that the “value drivers” of a good pension include:

  • a design that is focused on saving (through “ongoing, regular contributions,” Mabini explains)
  • operating with a low fee
  • using a professional approach to investing
  • offering “fiduciary oversight,” meaning it is run by a group that has a legal responsibility to act in the best interests of the member
  • the pooling of risks

Our final question for Mabini was what finding surprised him the most. “What bubbled up to the top was the idea that four out of five would take a job with a pension over a job that offered them a higher income, but no pension,” he says, even at a time when most are struggling to make ends meet. This shows that Canadians are keenly aware of the value of having a pension, he concludes.

We thank Darryl Mabini and James Geuzebroek of HOOPP for their help in putting this article together.

If you are one of the many Canadians who lack a workplace pension plan, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be able to help. You can set up your own pension plan via SPP – the money you contribute to your account is professionally invested at a low fee, and when it is time to retire, SPP can convert your savings to a variety of different lifetime annuities, which ensure you’ll never run out of your retirement savings.

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

Interview with HOOPP’s Darryl Mabini

Factor high healthcare costs into your retirement savings strategy: HOOPP

One of the biggest problems retirees can face is unexpected, major healthcare costs in retirement – and that possibility should be factored into retirement savings.

So says Darryl Mabini, Senior Director, Growth & Stakeholder Relations for the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP). HOOPP is a $77.8-billion public sector defined benefit pension plan serving healthcare workers in Ontario.

HOOPP recently produced a four-paper series called Retirement Security – Is it Attainable? One of the four papers, called Seniors and Poverty – Canada’s Next Crisis found that 12.5 per cent of Canadian seniors – and a startling 28 per cent of senior women – live in poverty.

A factor behind this, the series suggests, is the lack of good workplace pension plans (the defined benefit type, which provides pensions based on a percentage of your earnings, is rare outside the public sector) and inadequate personal retirement savings.

“People saving for retirement don’t factor in the healthcare costs when they get older,” explains Mabini. While Canadians are proud of their universal healthcare system, he notes, they “are not aware of what it doesn’t cover.”  Some long-term care costs are not covered by provincial plans and can cost thousands a month, he notes. Treating chronic diseases and illnesses can also be expensive in retirement, particularly if you don’t have health benefits, says Mabini.

So retirement income – having enough of it – is critical. “We found that about 40 per cent of Canadians are covered by a workplace pension plan. For the other 60 per cent, it is do-it-yourself; they are saving on their own,” Mabini says. But doing it on your own is hard – the savings are voluntary, not mandatory, and no one tells you how much you actually need to save to be able to afford retirement, he explains.

“Our research found that the amount people have saved is heavily impacted around age 85, once long-term care costs are factored in,” he says. Those who are age 85 and older are at risk for having insufficient income, and because of their longevity; it is usually women who come up short on retirement income, Mabini notes.

“The problem is that those without a good workplace pension plan tend not to save on their own,” he says. They think CPP and OAS will be sufficient, he adds. “The most you can get from CPP, and few get it, is about $12,000 a year at age 65. With OAS, it is about $8,000.” While $20,000 a year may sound OK for a retiree, it isn’t enough when facing long-term care costs of thousands a month, Mabini says.

If you don’t have money to cover healthcare costs, you have to depend on government income supplements and other programs which are not always readily available, he notes.

“There needs to be more education about the importance of retirement savings, and the risks of not having a workplace pension,” he says. “Saving on your own can work, but putting away two per cent of what you make is not adequate for some people. People need to realize the risk of senior poverty.” If you are saving on your own, Mabini recommends setting an income replacement target, making savings automatic and ideally mandatory, pooling, and having a way to turn those savings into a lifetime income string.

The full findings from HOOPP’s Retirement Security series can be found here.

We thank Darryl Mabini for speaking to Save with SPP. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan provides an excellent way to save for retirement if you don’t have a workplace plan, and it offers annuities to turn your savings into a lifetime pension. Find out more at www.saskpension.com.

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

New blogger takes over from retiring Sheryl Smolkin

After nearly seven years of writing insightful and highly informative blogs for the SPP, Sheryl Smolkin has decided to retire. We certainly wish her all the best – good health, long life, and many adventures on the road ahead.

Our new blogger is Martin Biefer. Martin has been writing for 35 years, most recently with the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, but before that with community newspapers in Ontario and Alberta, and for the old Southam company, in their business magazine division.

Martin retired from working full time a few years ago and returned to his hometown of Ottawa, where he lives with his wife, his large and crazy Sheltie, and his cat. He’s trying to break 100 now and then at the golf course, occasionally doubling out at the Legion darts on Wednesdays, and taking line dancing lessons at the nearby Richmond Arena.

He and his wife are SPP members. “I was fortunate enough to have a pension from work, but I still had room for RRSP savings. The SPP is so flexible. I’m actually quite excited to see what will happen when the day comes that I turn the savings into income.”

Martin plans to write not only about saving for retirement, but ways to save generally, the ins and outs of retirement, the importance of health and fitness as we age, and much more.

“I can already see the importance of growing your network of friends once you leave the workforce,” he says. “A lot of seniors find themselves isolated, and that’s not good for their mental health. We are social animals and we need lots of interaction to stay energized.”

For Martin, there are obstacles to saving these days that weren’t there in the past. “Homes are 10 times more expensive than they were when my folks bought in the 1960s. So a mortgage is a much bigger deal than it used to be. People are carrying around much more debt than ever before, and that can prevent them from saving.”

The solution, he says, “is to start small. If you can afford only $5 a week, start with that. Put that away before you pay the bills and buy the groceries. And when you can, increase it to $7.50, then $10. You won’t even miss it, and you’ll be on the road to being a saver.”

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