Tag Archives: Registered Retirement Savings Plan

Apr 8: Best from the blogosphere

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

Feds roll out concept of deferred annuity to age 85

An interesting retirement idea in the recent federal budget that hasn’t garnered a lot of attention is the advanced life deferred annuity, or ALDA, option.

While there’s still lots that needs to be done to take an idea from the budget and make it into an actual product people can choose, it’s an intriguing choice.

With an ALDA, reports Advisor’s Edge, a person would be able to move some of their retirement savings from a RRIF into a deferred annuity that would start at age 85.

Right now, the article notes, “the tax rules generally require an annuity purchased with registered funds to begin after the annuitant turns 71.” This option may be a hit with those folks who don’t like the current registered retirement income fund (RRIF) rules that require you, at age 71, to either cash out their RRSP, buy an immediate annuity, or withdraw a set amount of money each year from your RRIF (which is subject to taxation). Currently, the article notes, people can choose one or all (a combination) of these options.

In the article, Doug Carroll of Meridian Credit Union says the financial industry “has for years asked to push back the age at which RRIFs have to be drawn down.”

This proposed change, “addresses that to a large extent. It limits the amount that would be subject to the RRIF minimum, and it also pushes off the time period to just short of age 85,” he states in the article.

Will we see the ALDA option soon? Well, not this year, the article states. “The ALDAs, which will apply beginning in the 2020 tax year, will be qualifying annuity purchases under an RRSP, RRIF, deferred profit sharing plan, pooled registered pension plan and defined contribution pension plan,” the article notes.

The best things to do in retirement – more work?

There’s more to retirement than just money, of course.

According to US News and World Report, the so-called “golden years” should feature more time with friends and family, travel, home improvements, volunteering, new learning, exercise and experiencing other cultures.

There’s also the idea of work – huh? “Just over a third (34 per cent) of workers envision a retirement in which they continue to work in some capacity. And 12 per cent of working Americans would like to start a business in retirement. Perhaps you can scale back to part time, take on consulting or seasonal work, or otherwise find a work schedule that also offers plenty of time for leisure pursuits,” the article advises.

Rounding out the list of retirement “to-dos” are rewarding yourself with a big-ticket car or “other expensive item,” and writing a book. Time to dust off that old Underwood!

Whatever you choose to do with the buckets of free time you experience after retiring, savings from the time you were working will be a plus. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is like the Swiss Army Knife of retirement savings products, because it has a feature for every aspect of the cycle. You have professional investment at a low cost, flexible ways to contribute, and many options at retirement including lifetime income via an annuity. Check out www.saskpension.com 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Mar 4: Best from the blogosphere

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

RRSP to RRIF conversion “can be traumatic” for some; annuities help

A recent Canadian Press story by Dan Healing notes that for those of us who have carefully saved money in an RRSP for retirement, “converting it to a RRIF (registered retirement income fund) can seem a terrifying milestone.”

“Overnight, your nest egg that has steadily grown for decades becomes a declining asset, with a government-mandated, taxable annual minimum withdrawal to ensure its gradual depletion,” Healing writes.

But the RRIF conversion of an RRSP “is a small portion of the overall planning for retirement,” states David Popowich in the article. Popowich is a Calgary-based financial adviser, the article notes.

The RRIF, the article points out, is really just a different type of RRSP – one that you can’t add money to, and that is used for slowly drawing down your savings as retirement income. You can convert an RRSP to a RRIF at any time, but must convert your RRSP to a RRIF, an annuity, or a lump sum payout by the end of the calendar year in which you turn age 71, the article notes.

A simple way to deal with the issue of the age 71 limit for RRSPs is “to cash some or all of the investments and buy an annuity, usually from an insurance company,” the article suggests. “The annuity is then held inside the RRIF account and pays a guaranteed income for life or another set period of time to the investor, who pays taxes on the amounts received.”

It’s a big decision, and it depends on how your personal comfort level. Are you comfortable continuing to invest your money, getting (potentially) a variable level of retirement income based on market ups and downs, and hoping there’s some at the end for your heirs – and that you don’t run out of money while alive?

Or does the idea of a steady, lifetime income appeal to you more? You’ll get the exact same amount each month for the rest of your life, which makes it easier to plan, and you won’t have to spend your mornings worriedly watching the markets. Annuities come in many varieties and some include lifetime pensions for your surviving spouse.

Members of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan are lucky in that they have a variety of annuity options to choose from when they convert their savings into retirement income through the plan. Check the retirement guide for full details.

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, Phoebe and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Jan 7: Best from the blogosphere

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

Think hard before you start spending a lottery win or inheritance: BMO

If you ask Canadians about their financial goals, you’ll get a sensible answer – most want to “achieve lifestyle goals in retirement.”

But a recent survey by BMO Wealth Management, released via Yahoo! Finance, suggests common-sense goals may got out the window if people get a “sudden windfall.”

Pre-windfall, which BMO defines as “winning the lottery,” or getting an inheritance, legal settlement or insurance payout, Canadians seem to have reasonable goals. The “lifestyle in retirement” goal was shared by 55 per cent of those surveyed. A further 49 per cent had the goal of increasing their wealth, followed by “protecting current wealth (40 per cent), managing taxes in retirement (27 per cent),” and “helping grandchildren (20 per cent),” the study notes.

Post-windfall, it’s a totally different story. Sixty-four per cent of those surveyed would “share, with family, friends and charity.” An equal percentage would “pay off all debts.” Forty-seven per cent say they would “invest in the stock market, a business, or a property.” Other choices were “buy the big ticket items I always wanted (17 per cent),” and “splurge and spend freely (10 per cent).”

Only 38 per cent of those surveyed said they would carry on with the same pre-windfall goals.

You’re probably thinking hey, who wouldn’t go a little bit nuts if they won millions, and it is hard to disagree with that thought. However, BMO says that this sudden change of thinking – tossing sensible plans out the window – is worrisome given the fact that “approximately $1 trillion in personal wealth will be transferred from one generation to the next by 2026.”

“While the significant investment opportunities can be exciting, be cautious of psychological issues associated with sudden wealth syndrome,” states Chris Buttigieg , Director, Wealth Institute, BMO Wealth Management in the release. “It is important to seek expert advice to discuss how a windfall will alter your financial goals and which causes matter most to you and your loved ones.”

The advice from BMO is to take your time if you’re in the lucky position of receiving an unexpected financial windfall. “Remain calm… think about how a windfall will affect your financial goals,” BMO advises. They also recommend developing a wealth plan so that the goals you establish can be met. As well, they say it’s wise to get rid of high-interest debt as quickly as possible.

A good retirement plan can be improved dramatically through the addition of newfound wealth. If you have unused RRSP room like millions of other Canadians, a good strategy would be to fill that room. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan provides a great place to save some of that unexpected cash for the many happy days of retirement that lie ahead.

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 17: Best from the blogosphere – Canadians need to save 11 times their salary by retirement

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

Canadians need to save 11 times their salary by retirement

There are many “rules of thumb” in the world of money. One used to be that your rent should equal one quarter of your monthly take home pay. Another used to be that your house should be worth twice your annual salary.

According to research by Fidelity in the US, reported by Market Watch, people should have saved a year’s salary for retirement by age 30.

By age 40, Canadians should have saved three times their salary for retirement. And by “average retirement age,” usually early 60s, Canucks need to have saved 11 times their salary, the article says.

The article tempers the alarm it raises with these high figures by pointing out that they are just guidelines. “Everyone faces different circumstances, and therefore need varying amounts of money by the time they retire,” the article reports. “Some people may choose to rent or pay off a mortgage, while others may not have any housing obligations except for taxes and utilities. Some retirees may want to take more vacations, or have more medical bills to pay, or have intentions with their money, such as an inheritance for their children and grandchildren.”

And don’t forget that the contributions you make towards CPP and a portion of your income tax are retirement savings payments, since you will get a CPP pension one day and likely Old Age Security as well.

That said, Statistics Canada, via the CBC, reports that the average Canadian saves only four per cent of his or her income, and that there was a whopping $683.6 billion in unused RRSP room as of the end of 2011. The article notes that someone saving $2,000 a year from age 25 on would have $301,478 by age 65. That might not be 11 times his or her salary, but it is a pretty good number.

Retirement savings, like losing weight or getting out of debt, is overwhelming when you first set out to do it. But if you start small, and chip away over the years at your target, you will be surprised to see how far you’ve come when the time comes to log out of work for the last time.

If you’re not fortunate enough to have a pension plan at work – and if you do, and have extra contribution room each year – the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a great way to build your retirement savings. You can start small, or can contribute up to $6,200 per year. You can transfer savings in from other retirement savings vehicles. The money is invested professionally at a very low fee, and when you retire, you’ll have many options for turning savings into a lifetime income stream. Check it out today.

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

 

Pension plans are a sure way to deliver retirement security: Dobson

For Derek Dobson, the fact that Canadians “are struggling to put money toward their retirement goals” is a “monumental issue” that needs to be addressed.

Dobson is CEO and Plan Manager of the Toronto-based Colleges of Applied Arts & Technology Pension Plan. At the end of 2017, the CAAT Plan had $10.8 billion in net assets and served more than 46,000 working and retired members.

Dobson tells Save With SPP that the statistics show that “there has been a decline in the percentage of working Canadians who have access to a pension savings program” in most Canadian workplaces. He says that the decline of workplace pensions started in the 1960s when the Canada Pension Plan started, a trend that has continued for decades.

But that trend can and should be reversed, he says. These days, it is harder to attract and retain valuable employees, and workplace pensions play an important role. “Employers are competing for workers again,” he explains. He says CAAT’s new defined benefit (DB) plan design, DBPlus, open to any organization, is getting inquiries from large and small employers. “We had a tree service company owner, with a staff of four, call us up about joining, because he found his people would leave to get jobs where there is a pension.”

Both CAAT and another Ontario jointly sponsored DB plan, OPSEU Pension Trust, have developed pensions that expand access to well-run defined benefit pensions that are easy for members and employers. Recently Torstar and its employees joined CAAT Pension Plan’s DBplus. When the matter was put to a vote, 97 per cent of the members of the Torstar plans voted in favour of the merger.

“Along with other pension plans, we are trying to get the message out that a measure of the health of Canada is how good its standard of living is in retirement,” Dobson explains.

People, he says, visualized getting old around age 75 and then passing away soon after. “Their jaw drops when we show them that it is highly likely they will live until their high 80s or early 90s,” he says. “They could easily live for 25 years of retirement. With improving longevity people need to think more about their financial security in retirement.”

Yet, he notes, those without pensions at work aren’t saving much on their own. The average RRSP balance in the country is only around $65,000 at age 65. That’s not going to be sufficient to keep people at a reasonable standard of living for 25 years, Dobson says.

Saving for retirement on one’s own is not easy, he says. While financial literacy courses help, retirement savings is a complex challenge for most. Canadians already are having to manage their debts, so “having a picture of what they want their future to be like” is difficult. “They want a good standard of living in retirement, but they don’t know where to start, or where to find value across so many choices.” And that can be so overwhelming that people “are not getting started putting money toward their retirement goals.”

Pensions in the workplace work because it is an automatic savings program, Dobson explains. “Your contributions come off your paycheque, so you don’t have to think about it,” he says. But decades later, he says, CAAT members notice that they are receiving a pension comfortably and the value is strong as they receive about $8 in benefits for every dollar they contributed, a fact that “resonates” with them, Dobson says.

The importance of having an adequate pension is something Dobson is passionate about; it is his hope that more and more employers will take advantage of the new and easy defined benefit offerings available to extend retirement security to more Canadians.

We thank Derek Dobson for taking the time to speak to Save With SPP.

If you are saving on your own for retirement and want someone else to do the heavy lifting of retirement asset management and decumulation – turning savings into lifetime monthly income — the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be the plan for you. Check it out today.

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

Nov 26: Best from the blogosphere – The fear of aging

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

The fear of outliving your savings
The old proverb, “live long and prosper,” popularized by Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, may be taking on a new meaning given some recent research.

According to recent research on aging from BMO Wealth Management, the possibility of a very long life, in the late 80s and beyond, is starting to scare Canadians over 55.

BMO found that 51 per cent of those surveyed “are concerned about the health problems and costs that come with living longer.” Forty per cent worry about “becoming a burden for their families,” while 47 per cent worry about outliving their retirement savings.

It’s clear that the spectre of long-term care costs near the end of life is a haunting one for those close to or early into their retirement years.

According to The Care Guide, the cost of long-term care – which is normally over and above the costs of renting a unit in a care facility – can range from $1,000 to $3,000 a month depending where you live in Canada.

That’s a big hit, considering that the average CPP payout in Canada  for a 65-year-old is only about $670 a month (as of July 2018) and the average OAS payment is only about $600. These great programs will help, but you may need to augment them with your own pension or retirement savings.

According to the CBC, citing data from 2011, the average annual RRSP contribution is only about $2,830. The broadcaster says someone saving $2,000 a year from age 25 to age 65 would have a nest egg of more than $300,000 at retirement. That sounds like a lot until you consider living on that for another 20 to 25 years.

A good way to insure yourself against the risk of running out of money is to buy an annuity with some or all of your retirement savings. An annuity will pay you a set amount, each month, for the rest of your life – no matter how long you live. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan not only provides you with a great way to save towards retirement each year you are working. It also provides a range of annuity options; check out SPP’s retirement guide for an overview.

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

 

Planning critical in The 5 Years Before You Retire

We all know we should start thinking hard about retirement at some point.  But when?

Emily Guy Birken, author of The 5 Years Before You Retire, believes that your last 60 months at work is the best and most realistic time to polish off your retirement plans. That’s because those last five years represent “the point at which it really hits home to most people that they’re actually going to retire in the foreseeable future.”

Things, she writes, have changed. Fifty years ago, she writes, “most workers took retirement at age 65, and life expectancy for men was a mere 66.6 years of age – meaning that most retirees only enjoyed just over a year and a half of leisure.” That shorter lifespan made generous pensions more affordable for employers, because “they didn’t expect to pay them for very long.”

Now, she writes, only about 22 per cent of American workers (the book is aimed at a U.S. audience) are “offered a traditional defined benefit pension,” meaning most have to save on their own via capital accumulation plans (here, this means defined contribution plans and RRSPs).  As well, they can expect to live much longer.

So if you are saving on your own, are there things you can do in the last five years of work that will help you? Birken suggests downsizing your home, paying off or reducing your mortgage, taking in roommates or boarders, moving somewhere that is cheaper, going down to one car and cutting back on restaurants and entertainment. Those steps can really help you free up money for retirement savings, she notes.

She writes that drawing down the savings is tricky. “Determining how much you can afford to withdraw each year is more complicated than simply dividing your nest egg by the number of years you hope to live,” Birken notes. A good rule of thumb, she writes, is the so-called “four per cent method,” where your goal is to withdraw up to four per cent of your savings while reinvesting the other 96 per cent.

Another good strategy is an annuity, idea for those “who struggle with money discipline.” An annuity will give you lifetime monthly income, but she says they are not all the same so you should explore all annuity options before choosing the one that is best for your situation.

Birken says that if you possibly can, pay off your mortgage before you retire, because it is “likely your largest monthly expense.” However, these days houses cost more so about 40 per cent of us do carry mortgages into retirement.

Any debt in retirement is a burden, she writes. Yet in the US and Canada, most retirees still have debt. If you have five years to go before you retire, she advises, “prioritize your payment strategy to destroy high-interest debt, such as credit cards and car loans, first.”

There are lots of great tips in here, and although much of the health insurance and government programs part is not relevant to Canadians, this book can give you some good ideas on how to maximize your last years of full-time earnings.

And remember – any money saved in the 60-month run-up to retirement can easily be added to your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account, and the plan does offer a variety of annuity options. Check out the options available.

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

Aug 20: Best from the blogosphere

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

Using “behavioural science” to help boost retirement planning
For far too many of us, the words “retirement planning” conjure up a frustrating jumble of spreadsheets, calculations, application forms and sums of money we don’t have. Easier, we think, to change the channel and worry about something else.

Recently the Ontario Securities Commission researched these “barriers to retirement” and came up with a new idea – the use of behavioural science tactics to aid the planning process. The OSC’s research is featured in a recent article in Benefits Canada.

It’s more of a “nudge approach.” One idea the report suggests is scheduling a retirement planning meeting at work. The individual must then choose to opt out of the meeting or just go with the flow and attend, the article notes. Another similar approach is to bring the future closer by showing people a variety of retirement activities and asking them to choose their favourite one.

“Keeping people from being overwhelmed or feeling other negative emotions is also important to the planning process,” the article notes.

One suggestion not touched on in the article might be to make your retirement savings automatic. Rather than rounding up dollars at the RRSP deadline, why not have a pre-set amount deducted each payday? That sort of automated savings approach is possible with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan; check out their website for full details.

A toast to the better days ahead
We’ve all been to lots of retirement parties. Here are some great retirement toasts, courtesy of the Public Speaking Advice blog, that you may be able to make use of at the next “farewell to work” event you attend.

“We don’t know what we’ll do without him but we’re about to find out.”

“May we always part with regret and meet again with pleasure.”

“May the best of happiness honor and fortune keep with you.”

“A bad day at fishing is still better than a good day at work.”

“Here’s to your health and your family’s health. May you live long and prosper.”

That last one has a bit of a Star Trek/Mr. Spock ring to it, doesn’t it?

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

Interview with Randy Bauslaugh: The one fund solution*

 

Click here to listen
Click here to listen

Hi. My name is Sheryl Smolkin, and today I’m interviewing Randy Bauslaugh for a savewithspp.com podcast. Randy is a partner at the McCarthy Tétrault law firm, where he leads the national pensions, benefits, and executive compensation practice. He has been involved with many of the leading pensions and benefits cases over the last 30 years, and he is also a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

Welcome, Randy. I’m so glad you could make time for us in your busy schedule.

Thanks. I’m happy to give back to the SPP.

That’s terrific. Randy has recently written an article titled Dumb and Dumber: Individual Investment Choice in DC Plans. That’s what we’re going to talk about today. 

Q: Randy, that’s a very provocative title for an article. Tell me about the independent research supporting your thesis that giving investment choice to plan members in defined contribution RPPs is riskier from a legal perspective and a bad idea from a financial performance perspective.
A: Sure. The research comes from various sources – research institutions, academics, news articles and a lot of that relates to the financial performance side. Also, on the legal side, I had a student a few years ago take a look, and there were 3,500 class actions relating to defined contribution plans particularly in the US and those were just relating to DC plan fees.

I think you can pick up any standard textbook on pensions and it will tell you that defined benefit plans have a low legal risk but potentially fatal financial risk. That’s because they guarantee the retirement payments. However, they always say DC plans have low financial risk, because the employer just contributes a fixed amount, but very high legal risk, because there are so many different ways of getting sued.

Q: Then why do DC plan sponsors typically provide a broad range of investment options for plan members?
A: Well, I don’t really know. I have some theories. Before the mid-1980s, most plans did not provide choice, and then it sort of became trendy. I think a lot of employers just believe that choice empowers their employees, or maybe it’s just because after all, who wants just one TV channel.

I also know for a fact that aside from individual empowerment or incentives for the financial industry, there are a lot of plan sponsors out there who think either they have a legal obligation to provide choice or they are somehow reducing their legal exposure if they do provide choice when exactly the opposite is true.

Q: What legal risks does offering multiple investment options raise for DC plan sponsors?
A: Well, one thing a client once said to me is, “Well, what about the (Capital Accumulation Plan) CAP guidelines? I need to provide choice to comply with the CAP guidelines.”  Financial market regulators put out something called Guidelines for Capital Accumulation Plans. Take a look at the table of contents and you’ll find a whole lot of ways of being sued under a DC plan that offers choice. I’ve got a slide presentation that just identifies 48 different ways in which plan members have sued their employers only over fees.

The other thing people should do is read the second paragraph of those guidelines. It says it applies where you’re giving two or more choices, so it doesn’t apply if you’re not giving any choice.

Q: Is providing only one investment option, such as a balanced fund, a set-and-forget strategy for plan sponsors, or do they still have active management and monitoring responsibilities?
A: They still have the active management and monitoring responsibilities. It’s definitely not just “let’s turn it on and forget about it.” Ideally, a DC plan should be managed like a defined-benefit fund. You may do a profile of what your current particular employee group looks like and then the investments can be shaped to that group’s profile, but you still need to manage it on a regular basis.

One of the advantages of a single fund is that you get professional management of the whole fund, not members making their own investment choices for their own little pots. Once you set it up, you should still review it every month or at least every quarter just to make sure that that fund has got an appropriate mix for your group.

Q: Why is a one-fund approach less expensive from a fees perspective for both plan sponsors and plan members?
A: Well, usually you can get economies of scale that will keep the fees down, because you’ve just got one big pot and not multiple little pots. I know that recently a lot of DC fund providers have dramatically reduced their fees for, say, balanced funds and other investment vehicles but some of the other esoteric funds are still pretty expensive. When you’ve got all these little individual accounts, you still have lots of transaction and other fees that are tied to those accounts. That tends to make them a bit more expensive than a pooled arrangement.

Q: Doesn’t having one or more investments managed by several investment managers better diversify a DC plan member’s portfolio and promote better overall returns?
A: Well, you can get that in a no-choice plan, as well, because you could have many managers that are managing different parts of the bigger pool. But the difference is you now have scale, and you’ve got professional management of the money.

Most plan members are not good at investing. In fact, only 7% or so of DC members can actually beat the rate of return of the average DB plan. One of the more interesting statistics that came up in the research was that only 3% of their professional advisors can beat the average rate of return of the average DB plan.

Q: What is a default fund, and what percentage of DC plan members typically invest in the default fund?
A: About 85% of the members in DC plans don’t make any choice at all. If they don’t make a choice, they end up in the “so-called” default fund. It’s a fund that you get into in default of making an election. Employers have to keep track of who is in the default fund because it’s not really clear whether it is just as a result of a decision or simply putting off investment of their money. It may actually be the plan member’s choice to go into the default fund.

In some surveys many members have said  that they thought the default fund must be the best fund because that’s the one the sponsor set up for people who don’t make decisions. Increasingly, what we’re seeing out there today, though, is people defaulting into what’s called a target date fund.

A target date fund is based on your age when you go into it, and as you start getting close to your retirement age, it will move your portfolio from largely stocks to largely bonds. That’s not a bad idea, because once you retire, the theory is you don’t have the capacity to make more income, so a loss just before retirement is undesirable.

One of my clients actually allows employees to choose their target date funds, and  they found that a number of people were choosing three of these target date funds because they weren’t sure if they were going to retire at age 55, 60 or 65. So they put a third of their money in each in case they retire early or later, which is probably the absolute worst thing they could do.

Q: How long have you been a member of Saskatchewan Pension Plan, Randy?
A: Probably about 10 years. I was at another firm some years ago, and they had a pension arrangement, and then when I came to this firm and they don’t. I just think SPP is a great idea.

I  know a lot of people … Even my own professional financial advisor questioned how I got into the SPP and asked whether I was born in the province. No, I wasn’t. It’s open to anybody, and it works just like an RRSP. Anyway, every year I just keep moving the maximum amount from my RRSP to the SPP, and I make the maximum contribution every year. I’m glad to see it’s gone up.

*This is the edited transcript of a podcast recorded in April 2018.

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.