PRRIF

Your retirement income may flow from many different streams: Sheryl Smolkin

July 29, 2021

We got a chance to catch up recently with Sheryl Smolkin, the original Save with SPP writer who has had a long career as a pension lawyer, a magazine editor, and a freelance writer/blogger.

Speaking over the phone from her Toronto home, Sheryl explains that because she worked at a variety of jobs over her working years, her retirement income comes from a variety of different streams.

She was Canadian Director of Research and Information at a global consulting firm for 18 years. Later, she became editor of Employee Benefit News magazine for four years, and subsequently she turned her talents to freelance writing. Sheryl played a pivotal role in setting up the Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s (SPP) social media efforts, including the Save with SPP blog that she pioneered.

When she left consulting, she received a defined benefit pension and retiree health insurance, she explains. As a result, she and her husband have retirement income from an employment pension, government benefits, and other registered and un-registered savings, including SPP. They have been “drawing down” income from various streams since their mid-50s.

Sheryl says she regularly transferred $10,000 annually from her RRSP to SPP over the years. When she reached 71, she looked at her SPP options and decided on the prescribed registered retirement income fund (PRRIF) to draw down her savings. With that option, she will cash out the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) required minimum amount from her account each year.

So, she says, while some folks (including this writer) might think that 71 is a sort of magic age when all retirement savings gets converted to retirement income, that’s probably not the case for many people.

“My recommendation is always this,” she explains. “Everybody worries about having enough money in retirement; but the real worry is, are you going to have enough time” to spend it. “Enjoy spending the money – there are very few people who actually run out of money.”

She’s been busy since she wrapped up her writing work for SPP back in 2018. In the pre-COVID era, she took courses at Ryerson University, took care of her aging mom who passed away in 2019, visited the kids and her granddaughter in Ottawa, and went to every sort of live theatre, music performance or other show on offer. “We were having a lot of fun before COVID,” she says, and that will resume now that the pandemic appears to be winding down.

Her husband, a “serial hobbyist,” has not slowed down on his woodworking during the pandemic. She has taken advantage of the quiet period to catch up on her reading.

Sheryl does not hanker for a return to the workforce. When she left her consulting position in 2005, she notes, “I was NOT ready for retirement, but by 2018, it was time.”

She says however, that occasionally she does “miss the satisfaction of producing a piece of work, and seeing it online or in print – creating.” With her job at the magazine, there were a lot of conferences and travel, which she liked – but recalls that at one conference, she also agreed to produce a daily newspaper which was particularly hectic.

Fun is a central theme in talking to Sheryl. She says it is very important to have fun in your retired life. “Everyone has something they want to do, but the beauty of it (retirement) is that you don’t HAVE to do anything, if you don’t want to,” she says.

These days, she is anticipating getting involved “in the rhythm of the year” again through visits with friends and family. She looks forward to resuming “long distance travel” again once things are safe. Until then, “I’m excited to be able to go back to Stratford, back to the Shaw Festival, and other Canadian destinations.”

Sheryl says retirement really consists of three phases – the early stage, the mid-stage, and the later stage.

“Don’t be afraid to spend money in the earlier, more active stage of retirement,” she advised. “There will be less travel and shopping as you get older.”

She is glad that the SPP has provided one of her retirement income streams. “I think it’s a very good program,” she says. “For us, SPP is part of a bigger overall plan, which has both registered and unregistered components.”

So retirement income is a river fed by multiple income streams – we thank Sheryl for that lovely, and very evocative image. She says hi to everyone at SPP in Kindersley, and we all thank her very much for her time and wish her continued happiness in her life after work.

Need to add a good stream to your future retirement river? Consider joining the SPP. It can augment the income you’ll receive from workplace and government plans, and the best part is that you can now contribute up to $6,600 a year – and can transfer in up to $10,000 a year from other RRSPs. Be sure to check out SPP today!

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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.


Saskatchewan Pension Plan Q+As

January 11, 2018

We have previously blogged about Why you should join SPP and 10 things you need to know about SPP. But joining a pension plan is a serious decision so before you make a commitment, you need answers to as many questions as possible.

Therefore this week we present a series of SPP FAQs (frequently asked questions) that will clarify a number of nuances about the program you may not yet be aware of.

Q: What is the difference between SPP and an RRSP?
A: SPP follows the same income tax rules as an RRSP except that SPP is locked in. Under tax rules contributions to SPP can be used as repayments to the Home Buyers Plan (HBP) and the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP). However withdrawals are not permitted for this purpose.

Q: How much money can I contribute each year?
A: SPP regulations limit contributions to $6,000/year. Even though the SPP limit is $6,000, there is the potential to have tax receipts totaling greater than $12,000 for a tax year. For example, if you make two $6,000 contributions in the first 60 days of the year, one for 2017 and one for 2018, you will receive tax receipts totaling $12,000 to report on your 2017 tax return.

Q: How do I allow my tax program to accept more than $6,000 in SPP contributions?
A: All tax receipts received for the remainder of 2017 and first 60 days of 2018 must be entered for the 2017 tax year. Some tax programs will not allow more than $6,000 of Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) contributions to be claimed even though members are eligible to claim the full amount made.

Therefore, it is important to always review your income tax return before filing, specifically line 208 of the T1 General, to ensure the full deduction expected is being made. If the full deduction required is not shown on line 208 you will need to make sure that you record your SPP contribution tax receipts the same way you would record a regular RRSP contribution tax receipt. In most programs this means you need to designate your SPP contribution as an RRSP; in other words, do not indicate you have made an SPP contribution.

Q: How much can I transfer in from another registered plan?
A: You can transfer up to $10,000 in cash per calendar year into your SPP account from existing RRSPs, RRIFs and unlocked RPPs. Funds transferred to SPP are subject to all SPP rules including the locking in provision. This means your transferred funds become part of your SPP account and can only be accessed when you choose a retirement option. Since these are direct transfers between plans, there are no tax implications.

Q: How can I convert my SPP savings into retirement income?
A: If having a stable income for the rest of your life is important to you then an annuity from SPP may be an appropriate choice. If maintaining control of investment decisions is important, then a Prescribed Registered Retirement Income Fund (PRRIF) or a Locked-in Retirement Account with another financial institution could be an appropriate alternative for you.

You also have the option to choose a combination of the annuity and PRRIF option.  At retirement time, if you have a pension benefit of $23.29 or less per month, you may choose to take your money out in cash less a 10% withholding tax (sent to Canada Revenue Agency) or transfer your account into an RRSP.

Q: Who will invest my money?
A: SPP has independent, professional money managers. The funds are invested in a diversified portfolio of high quality investments to ensure a competitive rate of return. Your investments are monitored regularly. Leith Wheeler Investment Counsel Inc. and Greystone Managed Investments Inc. are the Plan investment managers.

Further FAQs can be found here.  Additional information is available from the SPP website  or by contacting SPP at info@saskpension.com, 1-306-463-5410 (call collect) or 1-800-667-7153 (out of province, in Canada).

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Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Why you should join SPP

January 19, 2017

By Sheryl Smolkin

It’s registered retirement savings plan season again and media ads from financial institutions encouraging you to open a plan and invest in their products are running 24/7. But you are really not sure whether you should opt to save your hard-earned money in the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, an RRSP or a tax-free savings plan.

There is not a single answer that will meet the needs of every individual or their family. You may opt to split your savings among the three types of plans in order to meet different savings objectives. But the fact is that SPP is the ONLY one of these three types of registered plans that has a single purpose:

“To help you save money exclusively for retirement.

You can withdraw money from your RRSP and pay the taxes in your year of withdrawal, but when you do take money out, that contribution room is totally lost to you. You can also take money out of your TFSA and your contribution room is restored the following year. However, every time you withdraw money you interrupt the tax-free growth of your contributions plus investment earnings.

SPP is a locked-in pension plan which means your account must stay with the Plan until you are at least 55 years old. In the event of your death, the money in your account will be paid to your beneficiary. Within six months of joining SPP, you can withdraw your contributions if you decide that you do not wish to participate in the Plan. After six months, the funds are locked in.

SPP follows the same income tax rules as an RRSP except that SPP is locked in. Under tax rules contributions to SPP can be used as repayments to the Home Buyers Plan (HBP) and the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP). However SPP withdrawals are not permitted for this purpose. A taxpayer can designate all or part of the contribution as a repayment on Schedule 7 and file it with their tax return. SPP does not track repayments to the HBP.

The plan is designed to be very flexible and to accommodate your individual financial circumstances. Even contributing $10 per month will build your SPP account and provide you with additional pension at retirement. The maximum contribution is $2,500 per year subject to available RRSP room and there is no minimum contribution.

Transfers into SPP from RRSPs and unlocked RPPs of up to $10,000 a year are also allowed and spousal contributions are permitted. Contributions you make to a spouse or common-law partner’s account reduce your RRSP deduction limit. The total amount you can deduct for a given tax year cannot be more than your RRSP deduction limit. Contribution and PAC forms have a section to designate contributions for spousal deduction.

Between the ages of 55 and 71 when you opt to retire, one of the options available is to transfer to the amount in your SPP account to either a Prescribed Registered Retirement Income Fund (PRRIF) or a Locked-in Retirement account (LIRA) with another financial institution.

You can also select an annuity option. The amount of your monthly payment will depend on which annuity option you choose, your age at retirement, your account balance, and the interest and annuity rates in effect when you retire. SPP can provide a personal pension estimate for you if you call the toll-free line at 1-800-667-7153.

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It’s been six years since I started working with SPP and wrote my first article about the plan. I joined SPP and have transferred $10,000 in every year since. According to my June 2016 statement I had $80,140.74 in my account. By the time I am 71, I hope to have a total of about $150,000 in the plan. I like the low fees (1% a year or less) and that my money is professionally managed.

In five years I intend to purchase a joint and survivor annuity to provide a guaranteed monthly payment for my husband’s and my lifetime. This stream of income will provide further income security as we age in addition to our other pension income.

We also have other registered and unregistered savings which we can use for a variety of purposes including funding an estate for our children. But I’m pleased that that over a 30 year period the average SPP balanced fund return has been 8.10% and as of the end of November 2016, balanced fund YTD returns were 5.29%.

If you want to fund a pension that will be there when you need it most, check out SPP or top up your SPP savings. Then allocate the balance of your savings for next year to other available accounts.

You will be glad you did. After all, no one wants to put all their eggs in one basket!