Tag Archives: OAS

Even those with workplace retirement savings plan coverage still worry about retirement: Aon research

Recent research conducted for Aon has found that Canadian workers in capital accumulation plans (CAPs), such as defined contribution (DC ) pension plans or group RRSPs, while confident about these plans and their own finances, “find it hard to save for retirement and are worried about having enough money to retire.”

The global actuarial and HR firm’s report, Global DC and Financial Wellbeing Employee Survey, also found that “fewer than half” of those surveyed have a particular goal for retirement savings, and that “depending on other sources of income, many find their current plan contribution levels are inadequate to ensure their total income needs in retirement,” according to an Aon release.

Among the other findings of the report:

  • Of the 1,003 respondents, only 27 per cent saw their financial condition as poor
  • Almost half of those surveyed say outstanding debts are preventing them from saving for retirement
  • Two of five who are in employer-matching plans (where the employer matches the contributions made by the employee) are not taking full advantage of the match
  • Of those who expect to fully retire from work, two-thirds expect to do so by age 66; 30 per cent expect to keep working forever in some capacity.

Save with SPP reached out to one of the authors of the research, Rosalind Gilbert, Associate Partner in Aon’s Vancouver office, to get a little more detail on what she made of the key findings of the research. 

Do you have a sense of what people think adequate contributions would be – maybe a higher percentage of their earnings?

“I don’t believe most respondents actually know what is ‘adequate’ for them from a savings rate perspective.  The responses are more reflective of their fears that that they don’t have enough saved to provide themselves a secure retirement.  Some may be relating this to the results of an online modeller of some kind, or feedback from financial advisors.

“I also think that many employees don’t have a clear picture of the annual income they will be receiving from Canada Pension Plan/Old Age Security to carve that out from the income they need to produce through workplace savings.  Some of this comes back to not having a retirement plan in terms of what age they might retire and, separately, what age they might start their CPP and OAS (since both of those drive the level of those benefits quite significantly).”

Is debt, for things like mortgages and credit cards, restricting savings, in that after paying off debt there is no money left for retirement savings?

“We were surprised to see the number of individuals who cited credit card debt as a barrier to saving for retirement. Some of this is the servicing (interest) cost, which is directly related to the amount of debt (and which will increase materially if interest rates do start to rise, which many are predicting).

“I think that the cost of living, primarily the cost of housing and daycare, is currently quite high for many individuals (particularly in certain areas like Vancouver), and that, combined with very high levels of student loans, means younger employees are just not able to put any additional money away for retirement.  There is also a growing generation of employees who are managing child care and parent care at the same time which is further impeding retirement savings.”

We keep hearing that workplace pensions are not common, but it appears from your research that participation rates are high (when a plan is available).

“This survey only included employees who were participating in their employers’ workplace retirement savings program.  So you are correct that industry stats show that overall coverage of Canadian employees by workplace savings programs is low, but our survey showed that where workplace savings programs are available, participation rates are high.”

What could be done to improve retirement savings outcomes – you mention many don’t take advantage of retirement programs and matching; any other areas for improvement?

“In Canada, DC pension plans and other CAPs are not as mature as they are in other countries such as the UK and US.  That said, we are now seeing the first generation of Canadians retiring with a full career of DC (rather than DB) retirement savings.  Appropriately, there has been a definite swing towards focusing on decumulation (outcomes) versus accumulation in such CAPs.

“From service providers like the insurance companies that do recordkeeping for workplace CAPs, this includes enhanced tools supporting financial literacy and retirement and financial planning.  Also, many firms who provide consulting services to employers for their workplace plans encourage those employers to focus on educating members and encouraging them to use the available tools and resources.

“However, if members are required to transfer funds out of group employer programs into individual savings and income vehicles (with associated higher fees and no risk pooling) when they leave employment, they will see material erosion of their retirement savings. Variable benefit income arrangements (LIF and RRIF type plans) within registered DC plans are able to be provided in most jurisdictions in Canada, but there are still many DC plans which still do not offer these.

“It is more difficult to provide variable benefits when the base plan is a group RRSP or RRSP/deferred profit sharing plan (DPSP) combination, but the insurance company recordkeepers all offer group programs which members can transition into after retirement to facilitate variable lifetime benefits.  The most recent Federal Budget was really encouraging with its announcement of legislation to support the availability of Advanced Life Deferred Annuities (ALDAs) and Variable Pay Life Annuities (VPLAs) from certain types of capital accumulation plans.

“There is still more work to be done to implement these and to ensure that they are more broadly available and affordable, but it is a definite step in the right direction.  A key benefit of the VPLAs is the pooling of mortality risk while maintaining low fees and professionally managed investment options within a group plan.  The cost to an individual of paying retail fees and managing investments and their own longevity risk can have a crippling impact on that member’s ultimate retirement income.”

We thank Rosalind Gilbert for taking the time to connect with us.

If you don’t have access to a workplace pension plan, or do but want to contribute more towards your retirement, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be of interest. It’s a voluntary pension plan. You decide how much to contribute (up to $6,200 per year), and your contributions are then invested for your retirement. When it’s time to turn savings into income, SPP offers a variety of annuity options that can turn your savings into a lifetime income stream.

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

Is there benefit to retiring later?

Would people be better off if they worked a little longer, and collected their retirement benefits a little later?

A new study from the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA) called Retire Later for Greater Benefits explores this idea, and proposes a number of changes, including moving the “target eligibility age” for the Canada Pension Plan and Quebec Pension Plan to 67 from 65, while moving the earliest age for receiving these benefits from 60 to 62. As well, the CIA’s research recommends that the latest date for starting these benefits move from 70 to 75.

Old Age Security (OAS) would see its target age move to 67 from 65. For registered pension plans (RPPs), the CIA similarly recommends moving the target retirement age to 67 from 65, and the latest retirement date to 75 from 71.

Why make such changes? An infographic from the CIA notes that we are living longer – a 65-year-old man in 2016 can expect to live for 19.9 years, while a woman can expect 22.5 more years of living. This is an approximately six-year improvement versus 1966.

So we are living longer, the study notes, but face challenges, such as “continuing low interest rates, rising retirement costs, the erosion of private pensions and labour force shortages.”

Save with SPP reached out to the CIA President John Dark via email to ask a few questions about these ideas.

Is, we asked, a goal of this proposal to save the government money on benefits? Dark says no, the aim “is not about lowering costs to the government. The programs as they are currently formulated are sustainable for at least 40 to 75 years, and we believe this proposal will have minimal if any implications on the government’s costs.

“We are suggesting using the current increments available in the CPP/QPP and OAS to increase the benefits at the later age.” On the idea of government savings, Dark notes that while CPP/QPP are paid for by employers and employees, OAS is paid directly through government revenue.

Our next question was about employment – if full government pension benefits begin later, could there be an impact on employment opportunities for younger people, as older folks work longer, say until age 75?

“We’re not recommending 75 as the normal retirement age,” explains Dark. “We are recommending that over a phase-in period of about 10 years we move from a system where people think of ‘normal’ retirement age as 65 to one where 67 (with higher benefits) is the norm.

“The lifting of the end limit from 71 to 75 is at the back end; there are currently those who continue to work past normal retirement and can continue to do so even later if they choose,” he explains. “Current legislation forces retirees to start taking money out of RRSPs and RPPs at age 71 – we think this should increase to 75 to support the increasing number of Canadians who are working longer.”

As for the idea of younger workers being blocked from employment opportunities, Dark says “if we had a very static workforce this might as you suggest cause a bit of blockage for new entrants, but as we say in the paper, Canada has the opposite problem.

“Many areas are having a difficult time finding workers,” he explains, adding that “in the very near future a great many baby boomers will begin to retire. We think allowing people who want to remain in the work force can help with that.

“It’s important to remember that if you have planned retirement at 65 this proposal won’t prevent you from doing that except that OAS wouldn’t be available until 67 instead of 65 (and we expect the government would explore other options for supporting vulnerable populations who need OAS-type support at earlier ages).” Dark explains.

Would starting benefits later mean a bigger lifetime benefit, and could it help with the finnicky problem of “decumulation,” where retirement savings are turned into an income stream?

“Under our proposal,” Dark explains, “people could work just a little longer and get higher benefits for life. By itself that doesn’t make decumulation any less tricky – but perhaps a little more secure.

“For many people in defined contribution (DC) plans who have no inflation protection, longevity guarantees, or investment performance guarantees from an employer, using your own funds earlier and leaving the start of CPP and OAS to as late as possible can help provide some of the best protection against inflation for at least part of your retirement income,” he adds. And, he notes, because you waited, you will get a bigger benefit than you would have got at 65.

Finally, we asked if having a longer runway to retirement age might help Canadians save more for their golden years.

“Clearly by having a longer period of work you have more opportunity to accumulate funds, and by providing more security of retirement income it will help as well,” Dark notes. “We also know that Canadians are already starting their careers later in life – getting established in their 30s rather than their 20s, for example – and need that longer runway anyway.

“Overall, to me the most important word in the report is `nudge.’ If we can get people to think about retirement sooner and get governments to act on a number of areas that we and others have outlined we hope to improve retirement security for Canadians. This is just the start of a journey that will have lots of chapters.”

We thank John Dark, as well as Sandra Caya, CIA’s Associate Director, Communications and Public Affairs, for taking the time to speak with Save with SPP. Some additional research of the CIA’s can be found on Global News Radio, BNN Bloomberg and the Globe and Mail.

Even if the runway towards retirement age is lengthened, it’s never too early to start saving for retirement. If you don’t have a workplace pension plan, or do but want to augment it, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be a vehicle whose tires you should consider kicking. It’s an open DC plan with a good track record of low-cost investment success, and many options at retirement for converting your savings to a lifetime income stream.

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

Apr 29: Best from the blogosphere

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

Should 67 become the new 65?

While many of us were brought up expecting Freedom 55, a new report by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries suggests we might all enjoy things better if it was Freedom 67.

The report, featured in Benefits Canada points out that since Canadians are working longer and therefore, retiring later, government benefits should be pushed out farther into the future.

“Canadians are living longer than ever, and many are choosing to work beyond age 65,” John Dark, president of the CIA, states in the article. “It makes sense to update our country’s retirement income programs to reflect this fact.”

Save with SPP interviewed Dark about the research, you can find that story here.

The article notes that men now live nearly 19.9 years after age 65 on average, and women, 22.5. This longer life expectancy, coupled with people working longer, is the reason given for considering system changes, the article states.

The changes the CIA suggests are moving CPP/QPP and OAS “full” benefits from age 65 to 67. The earliest you could get benefits would move from 60 to 62, and the latest from 70 to 75, the article notes.

“In addition to the financial benefit of receiving higher lifetime retirement income, our proposal provides financial protection for retirees against the cost of living longer and the significant erosion of savings from the effects of inflation,” states Jacques Tremblay, a fellow of the CIA, in the article.

Moving the age of benefits has been tried before. There are important considerations to take into account. First, are people working longer because they want to, or because they can’t afford to retire? Moving the goalpost on those benefits may not help people in that boat.

And secondly, we can’t assume that everyone is healthy enough to work past 65 and into their 70s. It will be interesting to see if the CIA’s recommendations are heeded by government.

Retirement’s value outweighs all financial concerns

Many authors have noted that the value of actually being retired outweighs most financial concerns about getting there.

From the Wow4U blog here are some great quotes about retirement.

“We work all our lives so we can retire – so we can do what we want with our time – and the way we define or spend our time defines who we are and what we value.” Bruce Linton

“The joy of retirement comes in those everyday pursuits that embrace the joy of life; to experience daily the freedom to invest one’s life-long knowledge for the betterment of others; and, to allocate time to pursuits that only received, in years of working, a fleeting moment.” Byron Pulsife

“Retirement life is different because there is no set routine. You are able to let the day unfold as it should. Enjoy, be happy and live each day.” Suzanne Steel

Whatever happens, if anything, to government benefits, it’s a wise idea to put money away for your own future retired self. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers great flexibility, professional investing, and a variety of options for retirement, whether you plan to start it early or late.

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

Is senior poverty linked to a lack of retirement saving or workplace plans?

An interview with Chris Roberts of the Canadian Labour Congress 

These days, it’s pretty common knowledge that many of us don’t save enough for retirement, and/or don’t have a savings plan at work. Save with SPP reached out to Chris Roberts, Director of Social and Economic Policy for the Canadian Labour Congress, to see how this lack of retirement preparedness may connect to seniors having debt and poverty problems.

Is the shortage of workplace pension plans (and the move away from defined benefit plans) in part responsible for higher levels of senior poverty/senior debt?

“Certainly old-age poverty rates and indebtedness among seniors have risen over the past two decades, while pension coverage has fallen (and DB coverage in the private sector has collapsed). Seniors’ labour-market participation has also doubled over those time period.

“It’s clear (from research by the Broadbent Institute) that falling pension coverage and inadequate retirement savings more broadly will deepen the financial insecurity and even poverty of many seniors. But while there’s been considerable research linking stagnant wages and rising household indebtedness, studies linking falling pension coverage with rising poverty and indebtedness among seniors are relatively scarce.

“Both rising poverty rates and growing indebtedness among seniors have several causes. Canada’s public pensions, especially Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), provide a minimum level of income in retirement for individuals without private pensions or other sources of income. Part of the rise in the low-income measure of old-age poverty has been due to the fact that OAS is indexed to the consumer price index rather than the average industrial wage, causing seniors’ incomes to lag behind median incomes. Unattached seniors, especially women, are at particularly high risk of poverty, but so are recent newcomers to Canada who are eligible for only a partial OAS benefit.

“With respect to rising indebtedness, a declining number (according to Stats Can data) of senior-led households are debt-free. More Canadians are taking debt (especially mortgage debt) into retirement, and they’re shouldering more debt in retirement as well. At the same time, the total assets of senior-led families have also risen, and their net worth has grown even as debt levels rose. Indebtedness and net worth seems to have grown fastest (again according to Stats Can data) among the top 20 per cent of families ranked by income.

“So I think we have to be somewhat careful to avoid seeing rising senior household debt levels as driven solely or even primarily by financial hardship caused by declining pension coverage. There is certainly ample evidence (according to research by Hoyes Michalos) of a significant and growing segment of seniors that are struggling with debt and financial pressure. But rising debt levels among higher-income senior households likely have other causes besides financial hardship.”

Is a related problem the lack of personal retirement savings by those without pension plans?

“Richard Shillington’s study for the Broadbent Institute demonstrated that a retirement savings shortfall for those without significant private pension income will be a major problem for many current and future retirees. This shortfall has also been documented in the United States (see a study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College). While retirement contributions as a share of earnings have been rising (even as the household saving rate fell), these additional contributions have gone toward workplace pension plans; contributions to individual saving plans have declined, suggesting that those without a pension have not been able to save independently to compensate for not having an actual pension (see this article from Union Research for an explanation).”

Is debt itself a key problem (i.e., idea of people taking debt into retirement and having to pay it off with reduced income)?

“I think rising debt levels in retirement do pose risks, even if the challenges vary significantly with income. For low- and modest-income seniors, some forms of debt (e.g. consumer credit, payday lending) can be onerous and even unconscionable. For home-owners, even if mortgage debt is accompanied by rising home values and rising net worth, servicing debts while managing health-related and other costs on fixed incomes can be challenging for seniors. Debts acquired at earlier stages of the life-cycle will likely become a mounting problem in Canada, as, for instance, the student debt of family members (see article from Politico) and seniors themselves (see coverage from CNBC) is becoming an urgent problem in the United States.”

Apart from things like CPP expansion, which seems a good thing for younger people, can anything be done today to help retirees to have better outcomes?

“Increasing GIS but especially improving OAS will be important to improving financial security for seniors. For the reason discussed above, OAS will have to be expanded or indexed differently in order to stabilize relative old-age poverty. But in my view, there are also good reasons to expand it. Current as well as future seniors would benefit. OAS is a virtually-universal seniors’ benefit (about seven per cent of seniors have high enough incomes that their OAS benefit is clawed back by the recovery tax), and it’s particularly important to low- and modest earners, women, Indigenous Canadians, and workers with disabilities. It isn’t geared to employment history or earnings, so it’s purpose-built for a labour-market increasingly characterized by precarity, and atypical employment relationships (e.g. “self-employment,” independent contractors, etc). Modest income-earners with pensions would benefit from a higher OAS; these workers earn only a small workplace pension benefit, and unlike increases to CPP, their employers would be unlikely to try to offset the costs of a higher (tax-funded) OAS benefit. While growing along with the retirement of the baby-boom cohort, the cost of OAS (as a share of GDP) is projected to peak around 2033 before declining. And at a time when workplace pension plans, individual savings plans, and even the CPP increasingly depend on uncertain and sometimes volatile investment returns, the OAS is funded through our mostly progressive income tax system.”

We thank Chris Roberts for taking the time to talk to Save with SPP.

Given the scarcity of workplace pensions, more and more Canadians must be self-reliant and must save on their own for retirement. An option worth consideration is opening a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account; your money is invested professionally at a very low-cost by a not-for-profit, government-sponsored pension plan, and at retirement, you have the option of converting your savings to a lifetime income stream. Check it out today at 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 and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Why some Canadians choose to retire to other countries

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

Feb 11: Best from the blogosphere

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

When it comes to retirement saving, how much is “enough?”

There’s no question about it – saving for retirement is a moving target. We are frequently told to save more for retirement, but it’s not often anyone lets us in on the secret of how much “enough” is, retirement-wise.

A new poll by Ipsos, conducted for RBC and reported on in the Montreal Gazette, gives us some specific answers to this age-old question.

On average for Canada, the article says, the savings target is $787,000. The article says Ontarians feel they need $872,000. In BC, respondents think retirement savings should top $1.05 million, the highest total in the country. In Quebec, which has the lowest average, the target is $427,000 to “have a comfortable financial future,” the article reports.

Save with SPP reminds those reading these daunting numbers that all working Canadians will get Canada Pension Plan or Quebec Pension Plan benefits, plus other government benefits like Old Age Security and, if applicable, the Guaranteed Income Supplement. So those will account for a significant chunk of that total savings amount, even though you don’t get these benefits as a lump sum, but as a lifetime payment.

However, those without a pension plan at work will have to do some saving to get to these average totals. The survey asked people how confident they were about reaching the finish line on savings. On average, just 16 per cent said they were confident. An alarming 32 per cent of Ontarians (least confident) and 39 per cent of Quebecers said they “will never build up enough of a nest egg,” the article says. The article says the lack of a financial plan may be part of the problem here.

“The survey… found 53 per cent of respondents from Quebec had no financial plan. Only Atlantic Canada had a higher rate of respondents with no plan, at 54 per cent. Of the 47 per cent of respondents who have a financial plan, 34 per cent said that plan is in their head,” the article notes.

“Across the country, 54 per cent of respondents said they have a financial plan,” the Gazette reports.

If there’s a takeaway here, it is that if you can – despite the rising cost of household debt and other life costs that get in the way – you need to plan to put a little away for retirement. If you start small you can increase your commitment later when the bills calm down.

A little effort today will pay off handsomely in the future, when your savings will turn into retirement income, and you’ll theoretically have paid off debts, raised your kids, and downsized so that you can enjoy your extra time. Don’t be intimidated by the multi-hundred-thousand dollar-targets – a little bit here and there will get the job done. And if you’re looking for an excellent home for your hard-earned savings dollars, look no further than the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

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

Book lays out tactic on how to get out of debt – fast

These days, when Canadian household debt loads are at record levels – an incredible $1.70 of non-mortgage debt exists for every dollar earned, according to Zero Hedge – it’s not surprising we are all buying more lottery tickets and wondering if grandma thought about us in her will.

How are we going to pay off all this debt, and will we get rid of it before Old Age Security cheques start coming?

There is a way to get out of debt fast, state husband and wife Alex and Cassie Michael, authors of The 2% Rule To Get Debt Free Fast. At the heart of it, the idea behind the book is quite simple. “Track your monthly expenses and earnings,” the authors state. “Use this actual information for the following month to decrease spending by two per cent and increase income by two per cent.”

Most of us, the book states, have no idea on where our money is going, so tracking is explained in detail and better record keeping is advised.  The fun part is putting yourself on a two per cent spending diet for a month, and then adding that “found” money to your next month’s budget, the pair of authors explain. Then, you do it again. You live on 98 per cent of the 98 per cent, and add the difference to the income side.

The authors began their relationship in debt and gradually rang up an eye-popping $108,000 debt load in three short years. “We discovered we were paying over $1,200 in interest each month with an estimated payoff of 64 years paying the minimum… this shook us to the core.”

“The stress and strain our massive amount of debt placed on our marriage was almost overwhelming. Not only was our marriage suffering, but so was our health,” the authors write.

Once they moved to the 2% rule, they got things rolling the right way. “We just kept moving forward with the small, gradual goal to spend two per cent less than the actual results from that month. There wasn’t any falling off the wagon or feeling of failure. We just had to pull ourselves together, set the next gradual decrease from that prior month’s actual spending, and move forward with our new goal.”

In just over three years – not 64 – they were debt free, and still using the 2% rule for other financial projects. They give good advice on how to use their strategy to build an emergency fund, pay off a mortgage early, save for retirement, and more.

The authors do a fantastic job of explaining the hidden pitfalls of excessive debt. They look at the real costs of credit cards, mortgages and car loans, and debt in general. Even when the debt becomes gigantic, they write, “often, we just want to pretend that everything is OK and that nothing is wrong.”

A breakthrough was in learning to understand their spending weaknesses. They would have had no problems “if we had been more mature in our relationship, both to one another and even to our financial situation. Without realizing or even discovering our weaknesses, it was easy to continue down a path that resulted in the same problems we had before.”

Study after study shows that debt is the main restrictor of retirement savings. Any way to reduce debt is worth a shot – and a good destination for some of the money you save could be your 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

Jan 14: Best from the blogosphere

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

Blogger sees CPP expansion as helping hand for retirement saving

While many politicians and financial think-tanks like to refer to Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions as a tax – one they say is being increased through expansion of the program – at least one blogger sees it as a positive step towards retirement saving.

The Michael James on Money blog recently took a look at the issue of CPP expansion.

In his post, James notes that many observers say CPP expansion is “unnecessary,” and cite average saving figures as proof that a bigger CPP is not needed.

“But averages are irrelevant in this discussion,” writes James. “Consider two sisters heading into retirement. One sister has twice as much money as she needs and the other has nothing. On average, they’re fine, but individually, one sister has a big problem. CPP expansion is aimed at those who can’t or won’t save on their own.”

And while there are many programs – CPP, Old Age Security, and the Guaranteed Income Supplement – designed to ensure “we don’t… see seniors begging for food in our streets,” the CPP is something that working Canadians and their employers pay into, rather than a taxpayer-funded program, he explains.

He makes the point that CPP should not be an optional savings program, like an RRSP. “If CPP were optional, too many of those who need it most would opt out. The only way CPP can serve its purpose well is if it’s mandatory for everyone,” he writes.

These are excellent arguments. The days when everyone had a pension plan at work, and the CPP was a sort of supplement to it, are long gone. According to Statistics Canada, the number of men with registered pension plan coverage dropped from 52 per cent to 37 per cent between 1997 and 2011. For women, coverage increased to from 36 per cent to 40 per cent during the same period. That means more than 60 per cent of us don’t have a pension at work.

CPP expansion helps fill that coverage void. If workplace pension plans were on the increase, certainly CPP expansion wouldn’t be necessary – the statistics show that’s simply not the case.

If you don’t have a pension plan at work, you can self-fund your retirement through membership in the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Any Canadian can join and contribute up to $6,200 annually to an SPP account. When you retire, SPP takes the headaches out of the process for you and converts your savings into a lifetime income stream. You can start small and build your contributions as your career moves forward.

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

Dec 31: Best from the blogosphere – Retirement system OK

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

Retirement system OK, but more needs to be done: study

It’s a classic “good news, bad news” situation, this Canadian retirement system of ours. The good news, according to OECD research published recently in Wealth Professional, is that the developed world’s pension systems are much more stable.

The bad news is that they’re not necessarily delivering an adequate retirement benefit, the magazine notes.

“Governments are facing growing challenges from an aging population, low returns on retirement savings, low growth, less stable employment careers and insufficient pension coverage among some groups of workers,” the article notes. “These challenges are eroding belief that pensions will provide enough income for comfortable living in retirement,” the article adds.

While Canada’s system is ranked sixth best among those studied, the article points out that Canadians contribute about 10 per cent of their earnings towards government retirement programs. By comparison, Italians contribute about 30 per cent of earnings, the article notes.

There’s no question that the CPP is on much more stable footing than in years past. The giant CPPIB fund, as of mid-2018, had $366 billion in assets and had an investment rate of return of 11.6 per cent, according to a media release.

But the CPP payout, while being improved, is currently quite modest. The maximum monthly amount as of July 2018 was $1,134.17, and the average amount paid out to new CPP retirees was $673.10. The great thing about CPP is that it continues for the rest of your life and is inflation protected.

Most of us will also get Old Age Security payments, which are currently around $600 a month. This is also a lifetime benefit.

What the studies are telling us, however, is that if we don’t have a workplace pension, we need to be saving on our own for retirement. CPP and OAS were designed to supplement your workplace pension and personal savings. Many of us don’t have pensions at work, and a surprising number of us don’t have any retirement savings either.

If you are in that situation, there is still time to take action. If you don’t have a pension at work, you can create your own by joining the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You can determine how much to contribute up to a maximum level of $6,200 a year.

If you have dribs and drabs of RRSP savings in other places, those can be consolidated in the SPP (up to $10,000 a year).

Not only will SPP invest that money for you, but at the time you want to retire, they’ll convert it into a lifetime monthly pension. By creating your own retirement income base, those helpful government benefits waiting for you in your future will be icing on the cake, rather than the cake itself.

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