Tag Archives: Registered Retirement Savings Plan

Are those of us who save for retirement investing wisely?

A recent Angus Reid survey, reported on in The Financial Post, suggests that a surprisingly large number of us – 38 per cent – have no retirement savings at all.

That begs the question: are the 62 per cent of Canucks who are saving investing wisely? Save with SPP took a look around to find some answers.

A MoneySense article from a few years back reached the conclusion that Canadians aren’t good investors.

“A whopping 60% of the typical portfolio is being held in cash – far too much to meet most retirement needs when you factor in record-low interest rates and inflation. What’s more, nearly half of survey respondents (45 per cent) said they plan to increase their cash holdings next year. The average Canadian portfolio holds just 19 per cent in equities, seven per cent in bonds, four per cent in in property, three per cent in alternatives and the rest in other asset classes,” the article reports.

Let’s compare those numbers to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s current asset mix. With SPP, equities (Canadian, US, and non-North American) weigh in at 36 per cent of the portfolio. Bonds are the next largest category, at 29 per cent, and “alternatives” follow – mortgages, three per cent; real estate, 11 per cent; short-term investments, two per cent and infrastructure, one per cent. (Once you retire and collect your SPP pension, it is paid out of the Annuity Fund – a non-trading bond portfolio.)

So the self-investor is 60 per cent in cash in their retirement savings account, while the SPP’s balanced fund (typically the one chosen for the savings portion of retirement) has, perhaps, two per cent in cash/money market or other short-term investments.

Why the disparity?

“When asked why they’re sitting on so much cash, the majority cited accessibility and/or convenience while 25 per cent admitted to a fear of losing money and 10 per cent said it was because they didn’t understand their options,” the article notes. As well, the MoneySense report adds, “less than half of Canadians (44 per cent) agree with the statement `Investing is for people like me,’ and a full 51 per cent believe investing is like gambling.”

In plainer terms, those saving on their own – the majority of which MoneySense notes have never consulted a financial adviser – aren’t sure how to invest and are afraid to lose money. So they park their savings in cash.

A little personal note here. This writer, having worked in the pension industry (but not on the investment side), has decent general knowledge about investing and invests the family RRSPs on his own. Generally, we try to have an asset mix that’s 50 per cent stocks and 50 per cent bonds and balanced funds, more like a pension fund. It was a search for a good balanced fund that first connected us with SPP. What we notice is that over the decade or so that we have belonged to SPP, the SPP has always outperformed our own investment rate of return. That’s why we are gradually moving our RRSP savings over to SPP – they know more about investing and are doing a better job of it. Period, full stop.

There’s no question that it is exciting, and fun, to run your own investments. However if the money you’re in charge of is being invested for your retirement future, it might be a smart idea to get some help managing the ups and downs of the markets. A financial adviser is a good idea, and another good idea is to put some or all of your hard-earned savings in the professionally-invested, low-fee Saskatchewan Pension Plan. 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

Oct 7: Best from the blogosphere

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

Debt begins to gnaw away at Canadians’ wealth

For the first time since 2008, reports Advisor’s Edge, Canadians’ wealth is in decline.

And unlike 2008, when a global financial crisis routed the markets and shuttered a number of financial institutions, another more insidious factor is to blame this time, at least in part – personal debt.

Advisor’s Edge, citing data from Toronto research firm Investor Economics, reports that “discretionary financial wealth – including deposits, investment funds, and securities holdings – fell by one per cent to $4.4 trillion.”

While the markets had a bad last quarter in 2018 (markets have recovered thus far in 2019), debt is becoming a problem that people have to deal with, the article notes.

“This has translated into a sharper focus by Canadian households in diverting discretionary financial assets toward lowering personal debt with associated adverse impacts for the retail financial services industry,” states Investor Economics president and CEO Goshka Folda in the article.

In plainer terms, financial assets under management are being cashed in to pay down personal debt. Money once earmarked for long-term wealth or savings is going on the credit card or line of credit.

An eye-popping $45 billion of wealth was diverted towards debt repayment in 2018, the article notes.

Worse, Investor Economics predicts slower growth in financial wealth over the next 10 years.

With debt at all-time highs, should we be surprised that people are raiding their savings to cut down on creditor calls? For many of us, our biggest pool of cash is our retirement savings – should we crack into that?

The Hoyes-Michalos website warns that cashing in RRSPs is a very poor strategy, for several reasons. First, the debt-relief site notes, since you are withdrawing tax-sheltered funds to pay debt, the withdrawn funds “will be added to the income you make this year, and you may find that you owe quite a bit more in taxes than you expected. By using the money to solve one problem, you have created a new tax debt once you file your income taxes.”

As well, Hoyes-Michalos notes, when you take out money from an RRSP there is also a withholding tax applied. You won’t get the full amount you want to take out.

Next, the site advises, by “putting your retirement savings toward debt repayment, you will have to start saving for retirement all over again with less time and money to do so.” And if your debt has you in a precarious financial situation, the site notes that “RRSPs are protected in a bankruptcy.”

If your goal is to have your retirement savings in a secure cookie jar that you won’t be able to hack into, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has a unique feature you should be aware of. Because SPP is a defined contribution pension plan, and not an RRSP, the money you deposit in your SPP account is locked in until you reach age 55, the earliest age you can begin to receive your pension (the latest age is 71). The cookie jar, in a sense, is welded shut until you get that gold watch – these days, that’s probably a good thing!

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

Pat Foran’s book offers a wide-ranging look at ways Canadians can save

There’s a lot of meat in Pat Foran’s book The Smart Canadian’s Guide to Saving Money.

The CTV “On Your Side” reporter covers a lot of ground. He starts by asking the rich and the famous about their personal money tips. The late Alberta premier, Ralph Klein, states “never spend what you do not have. It is far better… to put off a purchase for three months until you can afford it than to spend the next six months paying it off.” Don’t, Klein notes in the book, “line the pockets of your bank… line your own!”

Noted financial author David Chilton tells Foran that “as corny as it sounds, what people have to do is stop caring so much about stuff.” He adds that as he gets older “the more I realize that good financial planning is less about the intricate knowledge of the stock market and forecasting future interest rates, and more and more about discipline and not wanting so much stuff.”

And Ben Franklin once said “the borrower is a slave to the lender… be industrious and free; be frugal and free.”

But how to get there?

Foran’s book covers all the bases. Everyone, he writes, needs to track their expenses. “The most important thing you can do is monitor the amount of money that is flowing in and out of your life every month,” he notes, providing a sample worksheet to get you started.

After looking at the importance of having a spouse who is your financial partner, he talks about tackling debt. Consolidation loans aren’t always the best approach, he warns. “Consolidating various high interest rate balances into one easy-to-handle payment is often just a quick fix to roll your `junk debt’ into a bigger pile,” he notes. He defines `junk debt’ as debt “that has been rolled around so many times you can’t remember what you originally went into debt to buy in the first place.”

So, he suggests, cut back on “bad spending habits,” such as smoking and excessive drinking. A case of beer a week costs you $1,872 each year, he writes. Even $4 a day spent at Timmy’s can add up to $1,460 per year, Foran writes. Other “money wasters” that make his list are dining out often, expensive clothes and jewellery, premium gas, dry cleaning clothes you could wash yourself, buying a brand-new car, flying first class, and so on. With all such expenses, he suggests, one should first ask “can I afford it.” If not, perhaps there are cheaper ways to go, he notes.

Credit cards, write Foran, need to be paid off and cancelled. “Once you have paid off a credit card, you must let it rest in peace! You have to call your credit card company and say… please cancel my credit card.”

After mastering debt, you need to look at saving, and the power it has. If you were to save $20 a week for 50 years, you’d have $1.4 million in your pocket. “Imagine saving your own jackpot…. Even a small amount, just $20 a week, can become a fortune over time,” he explains.

Other good advice in this book – those saving via mutual funds or other investment vehicles need to take note of the fees charged. A $10,000 investment in a mutual fund with a high “management expense ratio” of 3.1 per cent would cost you $1,029 over three years – three times more than a similar fund with a one per cent fee, he notes. “That’s a huge difference,” Foran warns.

If you are saving in an RRSP or similar vehicle, Foran suggests you should “reinvest your tax refund, which most of us don’t.” RRSPs and debt reduction are both part of a “well balanced retirement plan,” he writes.

This is a great, easy-to-understand book that covers so many bases we don’t have room to explore them all here.

If, like Pat Foran suggests, you are looking for a low-fee retirement savings vehicle, be sure to check out the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP will grow your money and the fee is typically only 100 basis points, or about one per cent. 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

Sep 9: Best from the blogosphere

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

Three things we can all do to boost our savings: Motley Fool

If you’re just getting on the Retirement Savings train – or if you’re packing up your desk for the last time and getting ready for the main event of retirement – the Motley Fool Canada offers three tips on how you can improve your retirement savings.

According to an article posted on Yahoo! Finance Canada, the tips are billed as something “every single Canadian can do to help prepare themselves for a smarter, happier, and richer life in retirement.”

The writers at Motley Fool point out a fact that many of us tend to ignore – “the only way to consistently save money is by spending less, on average, compared to what you earn.” So if you are, for instance, earning $2,500 a month but spending (thanks to credit cards or lines of credit) $3,000 a month, you are in trouble.

The article says that the best way to ensure you are running your ship of state in the black is by preparing a budget, and sticking to it. The budget should not only include your usual repeat monthly items like rent, light, heat, gas, and other bills, but should factor in money for your vacation and other one-time events, the article says.

With budget in hand, the article recommends, you can follow savings tip number one – to “set aside at least 10 per cent to pay yourself at the end of every month or after each paycheque.”

By paying yourself first, you will grow your savings quickly and efficiently, the Motley Fool observes.

The second tip on offer is to “use Canada’s tax-incentivized savings programs to your benefit,” the article states.

The article cites the availability of the RRSP program, pointing out that contributions to such programs are tax-deductible. As well, money within an RRSP grows tax-free until that future time when you crack into it for retirement.

The article also notes the existence of TFSAs. While you don’t get a tax break on money you put into these savings vehicles, there’s no tax on investment returns and growth, “including capital gains and dividend or interest income,” the writers note.

The last tip from the Motley Fool Canada is a good one for those of us who invest in stocks.

“By investing in the stocks of high-quality businesses in which you possess a firm understanding — those run by experienced and competent management teams that companies that consistently pay their shareholders a regular monthly or quarterly dividend — investors can go a long way toward avoiding the mistakes that so often challenge those just starting out,” the article states.

Recapping the article, it’s important to include a strong commitment to savings in your budget, to take advantage of tax-sheltered savings programs, and to keep quality in mind when investing for the long term.

A nice addition to your retirement toolkit would be a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account. The contributions you make are, just like RRSP contributions, tax-deductible. You can “pay yourself first” by setting up automatic contributions that go from your account directly to SPP. And the money you earmark for savings is invested at a low fee by a highly competent plan with a strong track record of growth. Win-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

The Wealthy Barber Returns, bearing some easy-to-follow advice

When David Chilton came out with The Wealthy Barber decades ago, it was remarkable in that was a financial self-help book that was fun to read and easy to understand.

His follow-up book, The Wealthy Barber Returns, does not disappoint. It’s friendly, clear, and helpful, and is not mired in overcomplicated examples, tables, and worksheets. It feels more like you are benefitting from the experience of a good friend who’s bested some of the financial headwinds that have you mired down.

He begins with the “painful truth” that unless you come from money or marry into it, “you’ll have to learn to spend less than you make,” a message that “clearly hasn’t sunk in with the majority of Canadians.” Because of that, he continues, “a disturbing number of us aren’t saving enough to fund our future goals, most notably, a reasonable retirement.”

People, Chilton writes, think saving “requires sacrifices today” that somehow lessen life. “Surprisingly, it’s quite the opposite! People who live within their means tend to be happier and less stressed,” he notes.

One way to spend less is to avoid going to places where you like to spend money, or to leave credit cards at home. “Giving into temptation is only a mindless swipe away,” he warns. Currency users look in their wallets and see “a finite amount of cash – the ultimate forced discipline.” Those with credit and debit cards carry “virtually unlimited funds,” which may explain why average Canucks have $15,000 to $25,000 in credit card debt, Chilton writes.

“Credit cards allow us to act wealthier than we are, and acting wealthy now makes it tough to be wealthy later,” Chilton points out.

Another way to ramp in spending is to learn the phrase “I can’t afford it,” he notes. He cites the example of home renovations, which almost always go overboard. “More than half of the people I know who are in trouble with their lines of credit… arrived there via excessive home-renovation expenses,” he observes. If you are going all out on the house with borrowed money while neglecting your RRSP or your kids’ education, Chilton warns, “yeah, that’s an issue.” Instead of paying for heated marble floors, buy slippers, he adds.

Lines of credit “are helpful, yet insidious…. when drawing from your line of credit, always remember this incredibly basic but ultra-important fact. It’s not your money, it’s the bank’s,” he writes. Be careful at the bank with credit lines, because if you ask for a $30,000 line you may get approved for much more. “Just say no,” he writes. “You are your own credit-control board.”

You don’t want to take debt into retirement, Chilton states. “It drains cash flow, creates worry, and is subject to interest rate risks that will most assuredly follow Murphy’s Law,” he adds. He’s also leery about reverse mortgages.

In a chapter on retirement, Chilton says that most experts recommend that you put 10 to 15 per cent of your gross income away for retirement. “Don’t despair, though,” he writes. “A relatively small cutback in your spending rate can dramatically increase your savings rate.”

He concludes by reminding readers to “pay yourself first” by directing a set portion of your earnings to savings. The Wealthy Barber Returns is a great read, an insightful overview, and is non-threatening. You won’t feel like you’re a financial failure after you read it, but you will learn to recognize (and correct) your own bad habits.

If you are thinking of paying your future self first, why not set up an account with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan? The amounts you contribute will be carefully invested, will grow, and will be harvested in the form of a future lifetime pension. It’s an option worth checking out!

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

Why people aren’t saving – an interview with Doug Hoyes

As co-founder of Hoyes and Michalos, a debt relief firm, and a commentator on personal finance, Doug Hoyes has seen it all when it comes to debt.

And he has a straightforward view on why Canadians aren’t saving much for retirement, telling Save with SPP that these days, “people don’t save for anything.”

The savings rate, he notes, was as high as 15 per cent in 1980 and has plunged to “less than one per cent” today. In other words, people are saving less than a penny of every dollar they earn.

“People don’t save anything; it’s just not a thing we do anymore,” he explains. “I think the cost of living is high and job security is low.” The old “job for life” days are long gone, and people now expect to have multiple jobs through their working career, he explains.

“You are seeing sporadic employment, contract work – it is hard for people to put down roots and save. And house prices are rising sharply, and everything costs more. We’re not able to save, and we are seeing more people using debt to make ends meet,” he says.

Those who do try to save tend to be punished for their efforts – savings account and GICs pay interest in the low single digits, and if savers look to invest in mutual funds “there are high fees, and they take on risk,” he explains. Since low-interest lines of credit are so prevalent, for many people, debt has replaced savings, a practice that Hoyes says just isn’t sustainable in the long term.

Save with SPP asked how this lack of saving affects retirement plans.

“It’s become uncommon to have a pension plan (a traditional defined benefit plan) at work,” he says, “unless you work for the government. It’s just not a thing newer companies offer.” He says that from an employer’s point of view, “it is a hassle to set them up, and there is a potential for liabilities that need to be funded, and more money needing to be put in.” Sears and Nortel show the potential downside for employees and DB pensioners if the parent company runs into financial trouble, he notes.

So traditional pension plans in the private sector have generally been replaced with things “like a group RRSP, where there is zero risk (for the employer).” Employees are satisfied with a group RRSP because they “know they are not going to be there, at the same employer, for 50 years,” and a group RRSP is portable and easy to transfer, Hoyes explains.

With more and more working people dealing with debt, it’s not surprising to Hoyes that more seniors are retiring with debt, a situation he says can lead to disaster.

“In retirement, your income goes down, and while some of your expenses that were related to work go down, others will go up,” he explains. “Your rent doesn’t go down when you retire, so your cost of living is about the same.”

Retired seniors, living on less and still paying down debt, face other problems, he says. It’s more common for retirees to divert savings to “helping their adult kids.” Examples of this might include a divorced child moving home, or college and university graduates, unable to find work, staying home instead of moving out. So the seniors may use up their savings or borrow to help the children, “as any parent might,” but that drives them into a financial crisis, he explains.

With debt to pay and possibly little to no workplace pension, many seniors are heading back to work. Others, Hoyes notes, are starting to have to file for insolvency.

“Maybe you only have CPP and OAS coming in, and you have a $50,000 debt that you can’t service – you may need to file for bankruptcy and make payments through a trustee,” he explains.

We thank Doug Hoyes for speaking to Save with SPP.

If you don’t have a pension plan at work, consider opening a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account. It’s like setting up a personal pension plan. The money you set aside is invested for you at a low fee, and when you are ready to collect it, it’s available as a lifetime pension with several survivor benefit options.

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