Tag Archives: OECD

“Canadian dream” far more difficult to achieve for younger Canadians

“Canadian dream” far more difficult to achieve for younger Canadians 

For boomers, the “Canadian dream” more or less echoed the dream our parents had – education, work, a house, a family, maybe even a cottage, and then a well-deserved retirement.

Research (using 2015 data) shows there is a serious flaw in this narrative for our millennial children. According to research from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), featured in a National Post article, millennials are “less likely to reach middle-income levels in their 20s than their baby boomer parents.”

Why aren’t our kids making it to the middle class?

The research suggests “the middle class is shrinking — squeezed by high housing and education costs, displaced by automation and lacking the skills most valued in the digital economy.” The middle class is defined, for a single person in Canada, as requiring an income level of 75 to 200 per cent of the national median income, the article reports. For single Canucks, that’s $29,000 to about $78,000, the story notes.

One of the unfortunate aspects of this so-called dream is that in order to advance upwards, you have to achieve each step of the ladder. Education costs have skyrocketed in the last few decades, forcing younger people to have to take out huge education loans. Wages from work, the article notes, aren’t keeping up with the real cost of living. According to the OECD research, “between 2008 and 2016 real median incomes grew by an average of just 0.3 per cent per year,” compared to 1.6 per cent annually in the mid-1990s to 2000s.

So the wages from work aren’t sufficient for housing, with middle-income earners having to spend “almost a third of their income on accommodation,” the report states. In the 1990s, that figure was more like 25 per cent.  That’s why our millennials struggle to get to the “getting a house” stage, and if they can afford to start a family, is there anything left over for that dream cottage and longish retirement?

According to the Seeking Alpha blog, the answer is probably no. “At 1.1%, the Canadian saving rate is today near all-time lows, while Canadian debt is at all-time highs,” the blog notes. There’s an obvious reason – wages haven’t kept up with the cost of housing, so the younger folks are straining just to cover the mortgage. There’s less left for saving.

Research by Richard Shillington has found that even boomers aren’t awash in savings as they approach retirement. His study found that 47 per cent of Canadians aged 55 to 64 have “no accrued pension benefits,” and that for this age group, the median level of retirement savings was a paltry $3,000.

There’s still time to turn this ship around. Policy makers should continue to look at ways to help new people enter the housing market, and perhaps old ideas like housing co-operatives – popular when high interest rates restricted people from owning homes – should be revisited. Ways to make education less costly would be a huge help. Improved government pension benefits are a help, but why not continue to develop new workplace pension plans – or continue to encourage private employers to join publicly-run plans? Any policy that helps Canadians move up that middle class ladder is worth exploring.

If you’re among the many Canadians lacking a pension plan at work, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is designed with you in mind. You determine how much you want to save, and they do the rest, investing your money through your working years and arranging to pay you a monthly lifetime pension at the finish line. Even a small start can make a big difference down the road.

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 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