Tag Archives: National Institute on Ageing

Rising future costs of long-term care will cause financial risks: NIA’s Michael Nicin

The National Institute on Ageing at Ryerson University recently prepared a report entitled The Future Co$t of Long-Term Care in Canada. The report predicts long-term costs may more than triple by mid-century.

Save with SPP reached out to the NIA’s Executive Director, Michael Nicin, to ask a few questions about how future increased care costs will impact the finances of retired Canadians.

Q. Your study shows that the cost of long-term care will jump to $70 billion by 2050, from $22 billion today. That’s a more than 300% increase. Should pension plans and retirement programs be factoring this possible huge cost increase into their design so people can pay their share in the future?

Depending on the pension plan type and member profile, pensions already act as a bulwark against this type of late life expense. Indeed, one can argue that that the costs to individual Canadians and public coffers would be assisted by more widespread pension coverage.

The bigger financial risk applies to Canadians without a robust pension or sufficient personal savings.

A 2016 report by Richard Shillington, for example, shows that Canadians with pension coverage have significantly higher income than Canadians who don’t. In 2011, median income for senior families with pension income was $55,400, compared to $31,400 for households without pension income.

The same report shows that median personal savings for Canadians aged 55-64, without pension coverage, is only $3,000.

So, while all Canadians could put more income to good use, the bigger issue with respect to long-term care costs is the two-thirds of Canadians who have no pension coverage at all, and haven’t saved enough on their own. Herein lies the bigger personal and social risk on long-term care affordability.

Q. There is also an indication that the burden on unpaid caregivers (such as family members) may nearly double to eight hours a week. I think there are tax credits and so on for this work, but is that enough? Could other things be done to help the caregivers?

The federal government, and a number of provincial governments, have indeed acted to provide some level of support to caregivers – ranging from tax-credits and work-leave protection for employed caregivers.

Federally, for example, Canadians caring for eligible spouse or dependant over 18 years of age, can claim up to $6,883 annually. At the moment, however, the tax credit is non-refundable, and as such doesn’t help caregivers who have no reportable income.

Some provinces offer work-leave protection, respite programs, and other sources of support to caregivers. For a full assessment of government support programs, Dr. Samir Sinha’s report, Why Canada Needs to Better Care for Its Working Caregivers, provides a good overview.

The bigger picture painted in our report on the future costs of long-term care shows that additional support will certainly be needed, but the fundamental challenge will be the availability of Canadians to continue to provide the level of support we’ve seen historically. Younger baby boomers had fewer children than previous generations of Canadians, which may mean fewer available family members to provide care. Likewise, Canadian families live farther apart from each other, making it impractical to physically support older family members. Women have also typically provided the bulk of unpaid care, but with women increasingly entering the workforce, there will again be fewer traditional sources of unpaid care. Indeed, at this level, concern for caregivers extends beyond the seniors’ care spectrum; it increasingly will affect economic and personal productivity.

To start then, governments should look to expand existing programs for caregivers. The federal government can start by making the tax credit refundable.

Employers may also need to step-up. Caregivers often juggle work obligations with providing care. And for those that have to leave work, the employer suffers the loss of an employee and the employee loses income. Caregivers tell us that they would like more flexible work arrangements, for example, so they can step away from a full workload without sacrificing the job altogether.

Q. From personal experience, the cost of LTC even today is pretty high. Here in Ottawa, it is about $2,000 a month for a publicly funded long-term care spot and around $5K plus for a private nursing home. Does your research say anything about the expected future costs of such services so we can show it on an individual basis (might make it easier to understand).

Our projected costs are actually rather conservative, in that they show what the status quo will look like if extended to a larger, ageing population. But in discussions with experts and in reviewing Canadian and global literature, the big cost risk associated with the future of long-term care is labour. Personal Support Workers are the front lines of health professionals who care for seniors, in their own homes and in nursing homes. Canada is already facing a shortage of PSWs and isn’t alone. Globally, there’s a shortage of PSWs, which likely means that a short supply and high demand will increase labour costs over time. This could certainly implicate costs for Canadians in the future, as recruitment and retention become more difficult in an ageing world. In the medium and long-term, then costs for care in the home and in nursing homes may grow beyond our projections.

Q. Would increased government funding for additional “subsidized” spots help stave off a future crisis? What else can be done today to prepare us for the future?

The NIA structured these reports as a series of three. The first two look at the current state of long-term care and project costs into the future, if we don’t shift practices, funding methods, and other aspects of how we deliver care to an ageing population. The third and final paper of the series is in progress now. In the final report, we’re working with a broad range of experts, government officials, and other stakeholders to identify real and potential means of delivering better care as lower or more contained costs.

But looking at best practices around the world, the countries that seem to be doing better than Canada have flipped spending in recent years and decades, pouring more resources into home and community care, as opposed to building more nursing homes, which cost more to build in the first place, and typically cost more to operate.

Q. What results from this research surprised you the most, and why?

Amongst the eye-opening projections on the future cost of long-term care and the current lengths of waitlists for home and nursing care, we can’t lose site of the fact that Canadians are already living longer, healthier lives than ever before. Centenarians are the fastest growing cohort in Canada. This is an incredibly positive trend that’s worth noting and celebrating. In a sense, the challenges we face now and on the horizon are partially the result of great gains in population health and longevity. We’re living longer, healthier lives. That can be surprising to anyone whose job it is to focus on problems and solutions, as we do at the NIA.

We thank Michael Nicin for taking the time to answer our questions.

It’s clear that we can all expect long-term care costs will be more than they are today when, in the future, we need them. If you have a retirement arrangement at work, be sure you are contributing all that you can towards it. If you don’t, consider setting up your own savings program. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers an end-to-end way for your to turn savings into future 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. 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 6: Best from the blogosphere

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

Tax-free pension plans may offer a new pathway to retirement security: NIA

With workplace pensions becoming more and more rare, and Canadians generally not finding ways to save on their own for retirement, it may be time for fresh thinking.

Why not, asks Dr. Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald of the National Institute on Ageing, introduce a new savings vehicle – a tax-free pension plan?

Interviewed by Yahoo! Finance Canada, Dr. MacDonald says the workplace pension plan model can work well. “Workplace pension plans are a key element to retirement income security due to features like automatic savings, employer contributions, substantial fee reductions via economies of scale, potentially higher risk-adjusted investment returns, and possible pooling of longevity and other risks,” she states in the article.

Dr. MacDonald and her NIA colleagues are calling for something that builds on those principles but in a different, tax-free way, the article explains. The new Tax-Free Pension Plan would, like an RRSP or RPP, allow pension contributions to grow tax-free, the article says. But because it would be structured like a TFSA, no taxes would need to be deducted when the savings are pulled out as retirement income, the article reports.

“TFSAs have been very popular for personal savings, and the same option could be provided to workplace pension plans. It would open the pension plan world to many more Canadians, particularly those at risk of becoming Canada’s more financially vulnerable seniors in the future,” she explains.

And because the money within the Tax-Free Pension Plan is not taxable on withdrawal, it would not negatively impact the individual’s eligibility for benefits like OAS and GIS, the article states.

It’s an interesting concept, and Save with SPP will watch to see if it gets adopted anywhere. Save with SPP earlier did an interview with Dr. MacDonald on income security for seniors and her work with NIA continues to seek ways to ensure the golden years are indeed the best of our lives.

Cutting bad habits can build retirement security

Writing in the Greater Fool blog Doug Rowat provides an insightful breakdown of some “regular” expenses most of us could trim to free up money for retirement savings.

Citing data from Turner Investments and Statistics Canada, Rowat notes that Canadians spend a whopping $2,593 on restaurants and $3,430 on clothing every year, on average. Canadians also spend, on average, $1,497 each year on cigarettes and alcohol.

“Could you eat out less often,” asks Rowat. “Go less to expensive restaurants? Substitute lunches instead of dinners? Skip desserts and alcohol?” Saving even $500 a year on each of these categories can really add up, he notes.

“If you implemented all of these cost reductions at once across all of these categories, you’d have more than $186,000 in additional retirement savings. That’s meaningful and could result in a more fulfilling or much earlier retirement,” suggests Rowat. He’s right – shedding a bad habit or two can really fatten the wallet.

If you don’t have a retirement plan at work, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is ready and waiting to help you start your own. The plan offers professional investing at a low cost, a great track record of returns, and best of all, a way to convert your savings to retirement income at the finish line. You can set up automatic contributions easily, a “set it and forget it” approach – and by cutting out a few bad habits, you can free up some cash today for retirement income tomorrow. It’s win-win.

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

Retirement “think tank” group looks for smart solutions for retirement security

The National Institute on Ageing is a relatively new university-based think tank focused on leading cross-disciplinary research, thought leadership, innovative solutions, policies, and products on ageing.

The NIA brings together thinking not only on the money side of retirement, but the health side as well.

So says the NIA’s Dr. Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald, PhD and FSA (she is also resident scholar at Eckler Ltd.), who recently took the time to speak with Save with SPP. “A happy, healthy retirement is not just about money,” Dr. MacDonald notes, adding that NIA hopes to tap into university, government and other worldwide research to come up with “better ideas that will help Canadians as they age.”

One aspect that Dr. MacDonald has done much research about is the “decumulation” phase of retirement, the period when savings from the work years are used to finance life after work.

“Retirement planning used to focus on saving up until age 65,” she explains. You would then start spending and travelling, with “the old assumption (being) that you would begin to need less money as you aged, that you wouldn’t be spending as much by age 90.”

However, Dr. MacDonald notes, this type of thinking overlooked the possibility that retirees might eventually need to pay for age-related healthcare costs, including living in a nursing home.

In reality, many retirees in their 60s and even 70s “can still earn money, and can choose to downsize, or reduce spending. Their expenses are flexible,” Dr. MacDonald explains. “Once you are 80 to 85, there is less flexibility, expenses are increasingly less ‘voluntary’ (namely the costs arising from declining health) – so it is at this age when having a steady stream of income becomes much more necessary for financial security.”

What she calls “shifting socioeconomic customs” have driven changes in the way retirement money is spent and the effect it has on individuals and families.

“Society has shifted, women are now working more and are not able to provide elder care without accruing considerable personal expense,” notes Dr. MacDonald. Even still, the majority of caregivers are women. The NIA’s report on working caregivers, authored by Dr. Samir Sinha, a geriatrician and Dr. MacDonald’s colleague at the NIA,  shows that women are not only more likely to be working caregivers, but that they provide much more care to their elderly relatives than do men. What’s more, the typical age at which women provide care overlaps with peak career earning opportunities and with their own family building, which in turn causes a knock-on effect on their lifetime earnings and income potential. Financial independence in older age has significant ripple effects, beyond just the individual.

In the past, it used to be more likely that the family would look after elderly parents, helping to feed them, socialize them, prepare their taxes, transport them, and so on. And while 75 per cent of elder care is still done by the family, increasingly people are finding they have to or want to pay for their own care as they enter their late 80s and 90s. And while family caregivers play an important role in the lives of the elderly, people generally prize their independence. But independence also comes at a cost. “It costs a lot of money to replace (the care provided by family), it has become extremely expensive for nursing home care.,” says Dr. MacDonald.

While some retirees can afford to cover the costs of their own care, those who can’t must be assisted by the government, she explains. “The overall effect of this is that some older people aren’t decumulating their savings as expected. They are holding onto their money; they are concerned about the future,” she adds.

Dr. MacDonald is the author of a recent paper on this topic for the C.D. Howe Institute called “Headed for the Poorhouse: How to Ensure Seniors Don’t Run Out of Cash Before They Run Out of Time.” The paper suggests the creation of a government-sponsored LIFE (Living Income for the Elderly) program that would provide additional life income beginning at 85.

“LIFE would provide longevity insurance to Canadian seniors at their most vulnerable time of life… giving them choice, flexibility and income security at advanced ages,” she writes in the paper.

In an article for the Globe and Mail written last year, she suggests women – who live longer – consider not starting their CPP benefits until they are older. “Starting CPP benefits at the age of 70 instead of 65 will increase a person’s CPP by 42 per cent,” she notes in the article.

NIA is looking at other ways to boost income security for older retirees. One way, says Dr. MacDonald, would be to find ways “for people to stay in their own homes longer.” Another way would be to allow family members providing care to be paid. Currently rules generally allow paid caregiving by strangers, but not by someone’s daughter,” she notes.

We thank Dr. MacDonald for taking the time to talk with us.

Remember as well that before decumulation can occur there needs to be retirement savings. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers a flexible savings program for individuals.

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