Tag Archives: Motley Fool

The age old question – should you pay off debt or save for retirement

As a society, we are inundated with advertising on TV, social media and traditional newspapers that urge us all to save for retirement. We see a similar number of headlines, tweets and news items warning us that Canadians have record levels of household debt.

We are told to save for retirement, but also to pay off our debts. Is there a correct answer to the question of which comes first, retirement saving or debt reduction? Save with SPP clicked around to see what people are saying about this topic.

CTV British Columbia notes that the question for any leftover money at the end of the month is typically “spend it or save it.”

In the CTV report, Penny Wang of Consumer Reports proposes doing both. “It’s difficult to tackle two financial goals at once, but if you take a two-pronged approach, you can save for retirement and pay down your debt at the same time,” she tells the broadcaster.

Wang says you need to start by creating a basic budget to see where your money is going. This can help free up more for debt reduction and saving, she advises. Make your own coffee and cook at home, she suggests.

Take that extra money and put some on debt, targeting “high interest debt like credit cards first,” and lower interest debt later. For long-term savings, the article suggests setting up some sort of automatic withdrawal plan so the cash is gone before you have time to spend it.

The MoneyTalks News blog comes down a little more on the side of retirement saving.

“While living debt-free is a great goal, accumulating a pile of cash is critical, especially for those approaching retirement,” states MoneyTalks News founder Stacy Johnson in the article.

Debts like mortgages, he explains, can be dealt with by selling off your house and renting, but when you are entering retirement, “cash is king.”

He advises people to save “as much as possible” inside and outside retirement accounts, and once a “comfortable cushion” is achieved, you can turn your attention to putting extra money on debt, including mortgages.

So let’s put this together. At a time when the pandemic has many of us off work and/or receiving government help, we’re dealing with two problems – high household debt and low retirement savings. We know how much debt we have. According to the Motley Fool blog notes the following:

“To understand whether your registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) measures up, it helps to look at how other Canadians are doing with theirs. There are ample studies out there to help you find that out. One such study from the Bank of Montreal revealed the average Canadian’s RRSP balance.

The amount? $101,155.

At an average portfolio yield of 3.5%, that pays about $3,500 a year.

A nice income supplement, but nothing you can retire on.

Clearly, you’ll need more than that to retire comfortably. The question is, how much more?”

So, for those of us with debt, and without sufficient retirement savings, any road will take us to Rome. Whether you decide to save for retirement first and deal with debt later, or go with the two-pronged approach, succeeding in managing debt and growing savings will deliver you a lot more security once you’re retired.

If you’re in the market for a retirement savings plan, you may want to consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP). The SPP allows you to contribute in many different ways – you can have money directly transferred from your bank account on a monthly basis, or you can set up SPP as an online bill and transfer in money now and then. That flexibility can help you ratchet up savings even as you chip away at debt.

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 10: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

Some tips to get your retirement plan back on track

While markets have gradually recovered from a brutal spring, some folks who were on track to retire may be thinking about staying on the job – or going back.

The Motley Fool blog offers some tips on how to get your retirement back on track, without necessarily having to go back to your old job.

“Rejoining the workforce is one option, but it doesn’t appeal to everyone,” the blog explains. “Those at a higher risk for COVID-19 may not feel comfortable exposing themselves to others who may have the illness, and even retirees who want to work may not be able to find a job with so many businesses shuttered or closed for good,” the Motley Fool adds.

If you’re retired, and your savings have been negatively impacted, try to cut back on spending, the blog advises.

“Limit the amount you spend on dining out, entertainment, and travel. Ask yourself before every purchase whether you actually need to buy that item or if you just want it,” the blog advises. Other money-saving tips include using reward points and cash-back options, taking advantage of sales, and making use of senior discounts, the blog notes.

An additional tip is to “rethink your plans for retirement.”

“Consider shortening or skipping planned vacations and avoid big-ticket purchases unless they’re absolutely necessary. Retirement will be less expensive without these costly purchases in your budget, and you can use the money you were planning to spend on trips to cover your basic expenses,” the Motley Fool suggests.

If you don’t (or can’t) go back to your old job, consider a “side hustle that doesn’t require a lot of work,” the blog states.

Rent out a spare room, or a parking spot. See if you can walk neighbour’s dogs for a few bucks. Become a house-sitter. “Think about what skills you possess or what jobs you might like to do and how to market yourself. Word of mouth and social media can be a good starting point,” the blog notes.

The last tranche of advice is aimed at American readers, but basically, the idea is to see if you qualify for any retirement benefits from the government. A drop in your income from your retirement savings might mean an increase in benefits like Old Age Security (OAS), which can be “clawed back” for higher-income earners.

“When you’re living on a fixed income, every dollar matters. These strategies may not all appeal to you, but try the ones that do to see what difference they can make,” the blog concludes.

One of the great features of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is the fact that you can receive a lifetime pension via an annuity. The plan has several annuity options you can choose from. While many Canadian retirees worry about living on income from fluctuating investments, an annuity means you’ll get the same payment every month for as long as you live, regardless of whether the markets go up or down. And you can choose an annuity that provides security for your beneficiaries as well. It’s just another way SPP builds security into your 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.

Ways to save as we wait out the coronavirus

A recent survey in The Wealth Professional found that nearly a third of us say they are in “bad” or “terrible” shape financially owing to the COVID-19 crisis.

And the article notes that the 60 per cent who told Angus Reid pollsters they were “in good shape” aren’t sure their finances will hold up forever if the pandemic lasts a long time.

Save with SPP had a look around to find any advice on how to do more with less as we wait out the coronavirus crisis.

At the C-Net site, tips include seeing if you can lower your auto insurance if you’re no longer driving to work. This should lower the premiums, the article says.

As well, C-Net recommends figuring out “which of your monthly subscriptions are useless right now.” Are you paying for a gym membership you can’t use, the article asks – if the gym isn’t waiving fees during the crisis, maybe it’s time for you to cancel. Ditto for commuter passes, parking fees at work, and so on – anything that can be cancelled while you’re not using it should be, the article suggests.

If you’re going to have problems with your mortgage, contact your bank to see if payments can be deferred, C-Net suggests. And, the article concludes, since you can’t go out to eat, “rattle some pots and pans” and cook at home.

The Motley Fool blog suggests that this is a perfect time to set up a budget, if you haven’t already. “Once you’ve mapped out all your expenses, the next step is to determine where you can cut back,” the article suggests. If you aren’t using something, time to drop it.

Also see if you can cut back on some of your “fixed” expenses, the Motley Fool states. Review your cable, home insurance, and cell phone rates – is there a cheaper plan for each?

This is a great time to get into coupon-clipping for groceries, the article adds, and to “look for a side gig that can earn you some cash while you’re stuck at home.” Ideas include taking paid surveys, starting a business such as tutoring, or freelance writing and editing, the Motley Fool suggests.

The How to Save Money blog tackles the problem from a different angle, and suggests donating your skills to help others in your community. And if you’re able to help others financially, the site provides a long list of worthy charities that are helping others during the crisis.

Save with SPP has talked – from a safe distance – with friends and neighbours. Many are baking their own bread; some are already gearing up for larger vegetable gardens; some are making wine and beer at home instead of lining up for it, and so on. As our late mother used to say, be sure that you are “using up” everything in the fridge – this isn’t a time to chuck the leftovers.

Retirement saving isn’t going to be the priority it usually is during this tough period. One nice feature about the Saskatchewan Pension Plan  is that you, as the member, get to decide how much you will contribute. If you’re not going to be working the same hours for a while, no problem – you can lower or even stop your SPP contributions and ramp them up when better times return.

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

Dec 30: Best from the blogosphere

Making some retirement savings resolutions for a new decade 

It’s hard to believe that we’re on the cusp of a new decade – welcome to the ‘20s.

At least – like the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s – there won’t be confusion about what to call this coming era. We never heard a good name for the 2000s and the 2010s. So we bid them adieu.

Save with SPP likes to start any new year with some resolutions; what little tips we could consider following to increase our retirement savings efforts in the year, and decade, to come.

Here’s some good advice we found.

Plan, understand and scan: A Yahoo! Finance article on the lack of preparedness for retirement in Canada says we need to do three key things – plan, understand and scan. You can start your plan by first determining how much you want to have as retirement income, and then calculate how much you need to save to get there. Knowing how much you’ll need in the future requires understanding how much you are spending now. And be sure to scan your retirement savings account periodically “to ensure your retirement plan is headed in the right direction.”

Start as early as you can: According to the folks at Nasdaq people need “to save as much as they can in their early years to enable their invested savings to compound over decades.” The average rate of return for the US S&P 500 index, the article notes, has been 10 per cent per annum since 1926 – so that includes two major crashes. What that means is that money can double every 7.2 years, the article notes. It’s all about growth, the article advises.

Make it automatic:  An article from the Career Addict blog urges us to make our savings plans automatic. “Have a direct debit set up so you can automatically (save),” the blog advises. “You can even set up an account that’s not accessible by Internet banking so you’re not tempted to tap into these funds when you feel you have an `emergency.’”

Consider an RRSP for your retirement savings: The folks at BMO note that if you save for retirement using an RRSP or similar vehicle, your contributions “are tax-deductible” and “your investments grow tax-free.” The income you withdraw from an RRSP will be taxable, a point often overlooked by those using them.

Get out of debt: The Motley Fool blog sees getting out of debt as a critical first step towards having a retirement savings plan. “Make paying down debt a priority,” the blog advises. Even if your only debt is a low interest mortgage, the blog suggests you pay that off before you retire to reduce the stress of paying it down on a reduced income.

An important thing to note here is that no one is saying “don’t worry about saving for retirement.” Even if you have some sort of pension arrangement at work, saving a little extra will be a move you’ll appreciate when you’ve reached the golden age of retirement.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers many of the features outlined here. You can start young, or when you are older, and SPP allows you to set up automatic deposits. Contributions you make are tax-deductible and grow tax-free, just like an RRSP. And since SPP is locked in, you won’t be able to raid the piggy bank for a pre-retirement expense – it’s sort of like giving money to your parents to hang on for you. Check SPP out today, you’ll be glad you did.

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

Apr 22: Best from the blogosphere

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Savings – the spirit is willing, but the effort is weak

An interesting new report from Edward Jones is featured in a recent Wealth Professional that suggests Canadians really do place saving on the top of their list of financial priorities.

The study of 1,500 Canadians found that 77 per cent – more than three quarters of respondents – “have prioritized saving.” The story goes on to note that only 44 per cent see paying down debt as their top priority.

So the spirit is willing, as they say, but debt is getting in the way. “The most recent data from Statistics Canada points to a significant debt problem for Canadians, with household levels reaching a record high of 178.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2018,” the article reports.

Despite that crippling debt level, when asked, Canadians see retirement saving as their top priority, followed by “funds for lifestyle expenses (like vacations), future family or child’s education, and emergency fund” topping out the top four, Wealth Professional reports.

The article goes on to say that despite those worthy savings goals, 58 per cent of those surveyed admit they have “underperformed” on their savings efforts, with only 12 per cent saying they were on track and have met their savings goals.

Let’s face it. In an era where we all owe about $1.78 for every dollar we earn, it is difficult to do much with our money other than paying down debt. And if we’re only able to make the minimum payment, those debts can take decades to pay off, which is discouraging.

Like most things that we hate having to do – such as losing weight, eating better, hitting the gym – getting out of debt requires patience and self-discipline.

According to the Motley Fool blog via MSN.ca, there are practical ways to turn things around with debt. Their first idea is to stop taking on more debt. “This means committing not to charge any more on your cards until you’ve paid off what you owe,” the blog advises. Having a budget in place will help you live with this new limit on your spending power, the blog notes.

The second step is to try and reduce your credit card interest rate. You can do this, the blog advises, by switching to a lower-interest credit card or via a debt consolidation loan.

Third idea is “to make a debt payoff plan,” the blog says. Essentially, the plan should have you paying more than the minimum on the card each month in order to pay it off more quickly, the blog advises.

Through this hard work of steady debt reduction, be sure to chart your progress, the blog advises.

Debt, like a big ocean liner, takes a long time to turn around. But once you’ve paid off a single credit card, you have extra money to pay down the next. Clearing up your debt will also, once you’ve completed it, allow you to focus on positive savings/spending goals such as retirement planning, vacations, education savings and an emergency fund. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a wonderful resource for long-term retirement savings, 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22