RRIF

May 16: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

May 16, 2022

End RRIF mandatory withdrawals, RRSP end dates, and create national RRSP: Pape

Well-known financial author Gordon Pape has been observing the Canadian investment and retirement savings system for many decades, and has come up with a four-point plan to make retirement more effective for Canada’s greying population.

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Pape observes that there are now seven million Canadians aged 65 and over.

“This has the makings of a massive demographic crisis,” he writes. “Where are the future workers going to come from? Who is going to support our rapidly aging population? What will happen to the tax base as people leave the work force and reduce their spending?”

He then suggests that one way to address the problem would be to encourage more Canadians to work past age 65, a plan that would “require a massive overhaul of our retirement system,” but that is “doable.”

As a starting point, he notes that the trend towards more working at home, born from our experiences with the pandemic, may be a good “carrot” for encouraging older Canadians to keep working. Working from home is preferable for most, he says.

But other carrots are needed as well, he writes.

Eliminate mandatory RRIF withdrawals: Currently, he writes, registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) must be “wound up by Dec. 31 of the year in which you turn 71,” and are then mostly converted into registered retirement income funds (RRIFs). With RRIFs, he explains, you are required to withdraw a minimum amount annually, an amount that grows until you are 94 and must withdraw 20 per cent of the RRIF.

“RRIF withdrawals are a huge disincentive to work after age 71. Added to regular income, the extra RRIF money can quickly push you into a high tax bracket,” Pape writes.

“The solution is legislation to end mandatory withdrawals entirely. Let the individual decide when it’s time to tap into retirement savings and how much is needed. The government will still get its tax revenue. It will just be delayed a few years,” he posits.

End RRSP wind up at 71: A second “carrot,” he writes, would be to change the age that RRSPs must be closed, currently age 71. Why, asks Pape?

“RRSP contributions are tax deductible. Making RRSPs open-ended would therefore create an incentive to continue saving in later years, when people may have more disposable income (no mortgage, kids moved out). That would result in more personal savings, which should result in fewer people requiring government support in later years,” he writes.

Create a national RRSP: Pape proposes that a national RRSP – to be run by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board – be created. “It would provide Canadians with first-rate management expertise, at minimal cost,” Pape writes.

This idea is needed, Pape says, because many people don’t know how to invest in their RRSPs and lack the advice they need to do so.

Allow CPP and OAS to be deferred longer: His final idea would be to allow people to start their Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security later than the current latest age, 70. Again, this is to accommodate folks who want to work longer and don’t need the money as “early” as 70.

These ideas all make a lot of sense if the goal is to help people working longer. The idea of being able to withdraw RRIF funds as needed rather than based on a government mandatory withdrawal table is sensible. After all, who wants to withdraw money – effectively selling low – when markets are down? And if one is working into one’s 70s, why take away the effective tax reduction lever of RRSP contributions?

Let’s hope policy makers listen to some of Pape’s ideas. Gordon Pape spoke to Save with SPP a while ago, and he knows his stuff. He also spoke with our friend Sheryl Smolkin in an earlier Save with SPP column.

If you don’t have a workplace pension plan, investing on your own for retirement can be quite daunting, especially in times like these where interest rates are rising and markets are falling. Fortunately, there is a way to have your money professionally invested at a low cost by money managers who know their way around topsy-turvy conditions – the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You’ll get professional investing at a low cost, and over time, your precious retirement nest egg will grow and be converted to an income stream when the bonds of work are cut off for good. Check them out 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.


Understanding the basics of RRIFs with BMO’s James McCreath

May 12, 2022

Most Canadians understand what registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) are.

What’s perhaps a little less well known is the registered retirement income fund (RRIF), which is where your RRSP funds generally end up once you move from saving for retirement to spending your retirement income.

Save with SPP reached out to James McCreath, a portfolio manager at BMO Wealth’s Calgary office, to get a better understanding of the basics of RRIFs.

We first learned that McCreath has strong connections to Saskatchewan – both his parents are from here, his mom, Grit McCreath, is Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan, and the family enjoys time at their cottage north of Prince Albert at Waskesiu Lake.

RRIFs are the vehicle used to turn former RRSP savings into retirement income, he explains.

“You have to convert from an RRSP to a RRIF by the end of the year you turn 71, and must start withdrawing from the RRIF by the end of the year you turn 72,” says McCreath. That potential deferral period, he points out, gives you a 24-month window from the point your RRSP is converted to when you take the first dollar out.

While it is possible to convert to a RRIF earlier than age 71, not many people do, McCreath explains. Such a decision, he says, would be based on an individual’s unique circumstances – perhaps they want “certainty for budgeting,” or other reasons. It’s possible, but rare he says.

While there’s no tax on the interest, dividends or growth within a RRIF, the money you take out of it is taxable. McCreath says the tax on RRIF withdrawals is the deferred tax you didn’t pay when you put money into an RRSP in the past.

Asked if there is a correct or best investment strategy for a RRIF, McCreath says that this again depends on “the circumstances of the individual.”

Generally, a RRIF investment strategy should consider the cash flow needs of the individual, and their tolerance for risk, explains McCreath.

Someone who needs the RRIF income for day-to-day expenses might, for instance, be less interested in risky investments, and would focus on fixed income investments, he says. “These days we are starting to see five-year GICs (guaranteed income certificates) that pay four per cent interest; we haven’t seen them at that rate for years, so that might be a consideration” for risk-averse RRIF investors.

Others with less cash flow needs for the RRIF – perhaps those who retired with workplace pensions – might be able to handle a riskier investment strategy. “They might want to hold equities under the hope that their RRIF grows, for legacy purposes,” he explains.

“I strongly advise people to find an investment professional, or an accountant, who can help develop the optimal plan for their own circumstances,” McCreath says.

On the issue of RRIF taxation, McCreath points out that taking money out of the RRIF is different than taking it out of an RRSP.

There is a minimum amount that you must withdraw from your RRIF each year, a percentage that gradually increases as you get older, he explains.

When you take money out of an RRSP, an amount of tax is withheld at source for taxes (beginning at 10% for withdrawals up to $5,000). No such taxes are automatically withheld when you withdraw the minimum prescribed amount of money from a RRIF.

If you are concerned about having to pay taxes at income tax time because of RRIF income, McCreath says you can often arrange to have the RRIF provider deduct a set amount of tax above the mandated minimum tax withholdings from each withdrawal. In this way, you will help avoid having to make a large payment at tax time, assuming the appropriate amount of tax gets withheld, he explains.

Another good idea, he says, is to use any RRIF income (net of tax) that you don’t need as a contribution to your Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA). “If you don’t need the capital for day-to-day living, you can continue to invest it in the TFSA,” he explains.

An alternative to a RRIF at the end of your RRSP eligibility is the purchase of annuity. Annuities, like a pension, provide a set income each month for life, and many annuity providers offer a variety of options for them around survivor benefits.

The current sharp rise in interest rates may increase interest in annuities, McCreath suggests.

“As interest rates rise, the functionality and usefulness of annuities go up,” McCreath notes. Generally speaking, the higher the interest rate at the time of purchase is, the greater the annuity payment will be.

McCreath concluded by offering two key pieces of advice. First, he notes, a lot of retirement decisions, such as moving to a RRIF or buying an annuity, are important and “irrevocable” ones. It’s important to get professional advice to help you make the decision that’s best for you, he says.

As well, he says, pre-retirees should have a very clear understanding of their cash flow, and “the matching of inflows to outflows,” before they begin drawing down their savings.

We thank James McCreath for taking the time to talk with us.

Saskatchewan Pension Plan members have several options when they want to collect their retirement income. They can choose among SPP’s annuity options, SPP’s variable benefit (available for Saskatchewan residents), or transfer their money to a Prescribed RRIF. Check out SPP’s Time to Collect Guide for more details!


Quebec academic calls for changes to RRSP and RRIF age limits

April 14, 2022

A university professor from Sherbrooke, Quebec is calling for a couple of changes to Canada’s system of registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) and registered retirement income funds (RRIFs), in light of the fact that people are living longer.

Professor Luc Godbout, Professor, School of Administration at the Université de Sherbrooke, is also Chair in Taxation and Public Finance. He kindly agreed to answer some questions Save with SPP had about his ideas, which were published by the C.D. Howe Institute as an open letter to federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.

His open letter was originally published in French.

The professor’s open letter calls for “simple changes” to the existing rules.

“The first would be adjusting the threshold age at which registered capital accumulation plans – such as the RRSP – must be terminated. The rule now is age 71,” he notes in the letter.

Under the current rules, his letter explains, RRSP holders must “transfer their RRSP or defined-contribution pension plan balances into a RRIF or a life annuity” before the end of the year in which they reach age 71. If they don’t, he explains, “the entire value is added to their taxable income in that year.”

The age limit of 71 was established in 1957, his open letter notes.   “This means that since the creation of the RRSP in 1957, the age limit of 71 has never been raised,” the open letter explains. “Yet, since 1957, the life expectancy of seniors in Canada has improved significantly. 

“Life expectancy at age 65 was 14.5 years during the period 1955-1957. It improved to 20.9 years in 2018-2020. But the RRIF rules have not moved,” he writes.

He remarks that recent changes to Old Age Security (OAS) benefits for those aged 75 and older “provides an opportunity to harmonize other elements around our living 75-year-olds.”

Why not, he asks, consider allowing Canadians to postpone their OAS payments to age 75, rather than the current age 70? And, he asks, why not move the limit for converting an RRSP to a RRIF to 75?

“This type of change would optimize the mechanics of pension plans, and also encourage Canadians to remain in the workforce, which improves health and also helps with Canada’s looming labour shortage,” his open letter concludes.

Save with SPP asked the professor a couple of questions about his open letter.

Q. You mention that moving the “end date” for RRSP contributions (and for DC plans) and RRIF conversion to 75 from the current 71 would encourage more people to stay in the workforce. Do you see the current age 71 rule as something that encourages the opposite – a deadline that encourages retirement?

A. It may not be an important factor, but it cannot play favorably in the heads of those who want to continue in the labour market, for example, a liberal profession.

Q. If your idea on changing the date is adopted, do you think government retirement benefits like the Canada Pension Plan/Quebec Pension Plan and Old Age Security should also be changed?

A. Yes, but it is not an obligation to retire later, only to offer a possibility to delay the time when the pension begins, currently CPP between 60 and 70 years and OAS between 65 and 70 years.

Q. You note that while the RRIF age of 71 has been lowered (to 69) in the past, it has never been raised. Why do you think 71 is still the age, especially considering how things have changed since the rules came in in 1957, and retirement was mandatory at 65!

A. Because the scheme does not provide for the adjustment of this threshold to take account of the increase in life expectancy.

We thank Prof. Godbout for taking the time to answer our questions.

One way that a pension plan can deal with longer life expectancies of its membership is by providing the option of an annuity. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan provides a number of different annuity options for its retiring members – but all of them provide a lifetime monthly pension. Check out SPP today.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.


Apr 11: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

April 11, 2022

Having a withdrawal strategy should help your savings withstand inflation: McGugan

Reporting for the Globe and Mail, columnist Ian McGugan says retirees living off a nest egg of money need a strategy to cope with inflation.

“Unlike a truly rare disaster such as a global pandemic, the current inflationary outburst resembles a muted replay of the 1970s – and retirement planners have long used strategies designed to soldier through such episodes,” he writes.

He notes that a key tactic is the “four per cent rule,” developed by financial adviser William Bengen in 1994.

The rule, McGugan explains, “holds that a retiree planning for a 30-year retirement can safely withdraw an inflation-adjusted four per cent of their starting portfolio each year without fear of running out of money.”

Bengen, the article continues, based his formula on a “U.S. retiree with a portfolio split evenly between bonds and stocks,” and his research showed that even during the Great Depression, the Second World War or the “stagflation” period of the 1970s (a long period of very high, stubborn inflation), the four per cent rule would have worked.

Some industry observers, notably Morningstar, advise a lower withdrawal rate of 3.3 per cent, in light of “how bond yields have fallen,” he reports. Others say you could go up to 4.5 per cent.

McGugan notes that economist Karsten Jeske found “no strong relationship between prevailing levels of inflation and future safe withdrawal rates.”

He is more concerned, McGugan reports, about stock valuations as a problem for retirees.

“When stocks are expensive compared with their long-run earnings – as they are now – retirees should be cautious about how much they withdraw from their portfolio because high valuations are usually a sign of lower stock-market returns to come,” the article notes.

When talking about withdrawal rates, we should qualify the discussion by saying that certain retirement savings vehicles, such as registered retirement income funds (RRIFs), set out a minimum amount you must withdraw each year. When you look at the rates, you’ll notice they start out at four per cent when you’re 65, but gradually increase over time. If you make it to 95, the minimum withdrawal rate jumps to 20 per cent.

But if your savings are in a Tax Free Savings Account or any non-registered vehicle, the four per cent is worth consideration. We are all used to getting a steady paycheque, usually every two weeks or twice a month. If you got all your pay in January, you’d have to figure out a way to make it last so you don’t run out with a month or two left in the year. The four per cent rule is a way to make a lump sum of retirement savings last for the long haul.

The way that people used to deal with volatility in stock prices was to invest in bonds and stocks equally, as the article describes. Because interest rates have been low for decades, and bond yields have declined in recent years, modern “balanced” funds tend to add in some bond alternatives that deliver steady, bond-like income, like real estate, infrastructure and mortgages. If stocks pull back, these sources still generate reliable regular income.

A good example is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s Balanced Fund. The asset mix of the fund includes not only bonds, but real estate, mortgages, infrastructure and money market exposure, as well as Canadian, U.S. and international equities. This multi-category investment vehicle is a fine place to store your retirement nest egg. Check out SPP today.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.


Dec 20: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

December 20, 2021

TFSAs – a handy tool for retirement savers and those drawing down their nest eggs

Writing in Investment Executive, Jeff Buckstein takes a look at how the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) can play a key role not only in saving for retirement, but in the trickier “drawdown” stage.

For starters, he writes, “many people quickly identify the registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) as a key component of successful retirement planning,” overlooking the “complementary role” the TFSA can play “in planning for and enjoying retirement.”

One interesting TFSA characteristic is that money saved within them does not – like in an RRSP – have to come from earned income. Examples of income that doesn’t qualify for an RRSP contribution would be dividends from a private corporation or business, or “a windfall, such as an inheritance,” Buckstein writes.

If you are a regular RRSP contributor who maxes out each year, any extra cash can be saved in a TFSA (up to the annual TFSA limit), he writes. As well, if you are in a company pension plan where your contributions produce a pension adjustment – which reduces how much you can contribute to an RRSP – the TFSA is a safe savings alternative, the article notes.

Quoting Tina Di Vito of Toronto-based MNP LLP, the article notes that “lower income clients who anticipate relying on Old Age Security (OAS) or the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) may be better off investing in a TFSA.”

That’s because withdrawals from a TFSA are not considered taxable income, like withdrawals from an RRSP, a registered retirement income fund (RRIF) or an annuity purchased with registered funds are. So TFSA income doesn’t impact one’s ability to qualify for OAS or GIS.

So what’s a good idea, investment-wise, for a TFSA?

The article quotes Doug Carroll of Aviso Wealth Inc. in Toronto as saying that since TFSA investments are going in to the account tax free and coming out tax free, “you probably lean a little more toward equities in there than you would in your RRSP.”

A more complex idea explored in the article is – for those with substantial TFSA savings as well as an RRSP – to draw down the TFSA income first, and try to delay touching the registered money until you have to at age 71. This strategy can reduce your taxable income over the longer term, the article explains.

Our late father-in-law used to use his TFSA as part of his RRIF withdrawal program. He’d withdraw funds as required from his RRIF, pay tax on them, and then put the after-tax income back into his TFSA to invest. This generated a regular and growing supply of tax-free income, he used to tell us with a broad grin.

Many of us semi-retired boomers didn’t get in on the TFSA, launched in 2009, until the latter years of our careers. If you are younger, and decades away from retirement, think of all the tax-free growth and income your savings could produce in the run up to your Golden Years.

If you don’t have a retirement savings program at work – or want to supplement the one you have – a great place to look is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. This made-in-Saskatchewan success story has been helping Canadians save for more than 35 years. Check them out today.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.


Annuities can give your retirement income a strong, solid core

September 30, 2021

Financial planner Jonathan Kestle of the Ian C. Moyer Insurance Agency in Ingersoll, Ont. sees annuities as a great way to strengthen the core of your retirement income strategy.

Talking to Save with SPP by phone, Kestle says he sees annuities as “one of our core planning philosophies.” He notes that while the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) may provide a “foundation for retirement,” people should look at their fixed expenses in retirement.

If CPP and OAS don’t cover off those month-to-month expenses like housing, heat, telephone, and utilities, then a good strategy would be to annuitize some of your personal savings to top that up.  CPP, OAS and an annuity will offer a “cash for life” core income amount that will cover off your basic expenses, he explains. Your other savings provide you with liquidity for “non-core” expenses.

Asked if an annuity offers any tax advantages over withdrawing money from a registered retirement income fund (RRIF), Kestle said not really, since both will have tax withheld at source. On the other hand, a non-registered annuity (an annuity purchased with non-registered funds) can offer significant tax advantages, since tax is set at a fixed rate over many years, he says.

The advantages of an annuity include the fact that “longevity risk,” or the fear of outliving your savings in retirement, is covered off, since an annuity is a “cash for life” product.

Put in perspective, Kestle explains that with a RRIF, you can arrange to have a set amount of money withdrawn each month, like an annuity. The difference is that with the RRIF, if investment returns don’t support the rate of withdrawal over time, you can run out of money while you are still alive. With an annuity, you can’t outlive your savings, he explains.

It’s important to realize, he says, that once you purchase an annuity, you lose control over that money in exchange for receiving guaranteed monthly payments. If you die at an early age, and don’t select an annuity that offers a survivor benefit, your “foregone” payments are used to help provide payments to other annuitants by the insurer via a “pooled risk” approach, he says.

This fear of dying early keeps some people on the sidelines with annuities, but statistically it is quite a rare thing, with most people living into their 80s and beyond, he says.

But if you are concerned about leaving benefits to your survivors, Kestle says, annuities offer a lot of options. You can choose one that offers a joint and survivor pension to your spouse, some will offer a guaranteed payment for a number of years, others will offer a return of premium if you die at a young age. “The more bells and whistles, the less the monthly payment is,” Kestle explains.

Kestle does not believe people should annuitize all their retirement savings. He reiterates that his firm advises reviewing core expenses, seeing if there is a shortfall between what your government benefits provide and what you need for core, fixed expenses, and then annuitizing some of your savings to cover the shortfall.

“You should consider annuitizing a portion of your savings; it shouldn’t be an `all or none’ decision,” he explains. You will need “pools of liquidity” in your savings for emergencies, such as having to put on a new roof. Kestle concludes by saying annuities “play a very important role” in a diversified retirement income portfolio.

We thank Jonathan Kestle for taking the time to talk with us.

Did you know that the Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers a number of annuity options? According to the SPP Retirement Guide, members can choose from these options – a life only annuity, which offers no survivor benefits; a refund life annuity which guarantees a refund to your beneficiary if you have not received the full balance of your SPP account as retirement income; and a joint and last survivor annuity where your beneficiary gets a lifetime pension upon your death equal to 60, 75 or 100 per cent of what you were receiving. Check out SPP, celebrating 35 years of delivering retirement security, today!


Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.


Navigating the complexity of the golden years: The Boomers Retire

August 26, 2021

The concept of retirement “has grown increasingly more sophisticated,” begin authors Alexandra Macqueen and David Field in their new book, The Boomers Retire.

“Canadians preparing for retirement,” they write, “have been able to contemplate a variety of highly personalized approaches – from early (or even very early) retirement, to phased retirement, working retirement, and more.”

This thorough book covers all matters retirement and boomer with clear, concise explanations, tables, charts, and focus.

Early, we learn about three “realities” in today’s retirement world – the amount of time we are retired is “increasingly longer,” that retirement is much more diffuse than the old “retire at 65” days of the past, and that funding retirements that may last longer than one’s working years is “increasingly complex.”

Workplace pensions aren’t as common as they were in the past, especially in the private sector, so many of us have to rely on government benefits, the authors explain. But Canada Pension Plan and Quebec Pension Plan maximum benefits are just over $1,200 a month, and worse, the “average benefit amount for new recipients is $710.41 per month, or about 60 per cent of the maximum.”

Old Age Security provides another $7,384.44 annually, but is subject to clawbacks, the authors observe. Lower-income retirees may qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement, we are told.

Those without a workplace pension plan (typically either defined benefit or defined contribution) will have to save on their own.

In explaining the difference between two common do-it-yourself retirement savings vehicles, the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) and the registered retirement savings vehicle (RRSP), the authors call the TFSA “a nearly perfect retirement savings and retirement income tool” since growth within it is free of tax, as are withdrawals. They recommend a strategy, upon withdrawing funds from an RRSP or registered retirement income fund (RRIF) of “withdrawing more than needed… and instead of spending that extra income, move it over to the TFSA.”

Our late father-in-law employed this strategy when decumulating from his RRIF, chortling with pleasure about the fact that he received “tax-free income” from his TFSA.

The book answers key timing questions, such as when to open a RRIF. Planners, the authors write, used to advise waiting “until the last possible moment” to move funds from an RRSP to a RRIF, at age 71. “The problem with this approach,” they tell us, “is that it sometimes results in low taxable income between retirement and age 71.” If you are in that situation, be aware that you don’t have to wait until 71, and can RRIF your RRSP earlier, they note.

A section on annuities – a plan feature for SPP members – indicates that they address the concern of running out of money in retirement, as annuities are generally paid for life. The trade-off, of course, is that you don’t have access to the funds used to provide the annuity.

Other retirement options, like continuing to work, taking a reverse mortgage, and starting your own business, are addressed. There’s a nice section on investing that looks at the pros (security) and cons (low interest rates) of bonds, how to treat dividend income, index exchange-traded funds, and more.

An overall message for this book, which is intended for both planners and individuals, is a focus on having an individualized strategy, rather than relying on various “rules of thumb.”

“Aiming for a smooth, even withdrawal over a retiree’s lifetime will often be the optimal approach,” the authors say. That’s complicated if, as our friend Sheryl Smolkin told us recently, your retirement income “river” comprises many different registered and non-registered streams. The authors say that a withdrawal rate of four per cent from your various retirement income sources is generally a good target.

Tax tips include remembering to claim medical expenses – many of us forget this category and miss out on tax savings – claiming the disability amount if you qualify, and taking advantage of income splitting. There’s a chapter on being a snowbird (there can be some unexpected downsides with it) and going the rental route in your latter years, when “the future is now.”

This clear, detailed, and very helpful book is a must for your retirement library.

If you’re a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, you’ll have the option at retirement to choose from a variety of great annuity products. Some offer survivor benefits, including the Joint & Survivor option where your surviving spouse will continue to receive some (or all) of your pension after you are gone. It’s a solid part of the SPP’s mandate of delivering retirement security, which it has done for more than 35 years.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.


Saying a fond farewell to SPP’s Executive Director, Katherine Strutt

June 24, 2021

After nearly 31 years of service, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s Executive Director, Katherine Strutt, starts her “life after work” July 31.

Over the phone from Kindersley, Strutt tells Save with SPP that she has seen “a lot of changes” over her decades of working for the plan.

“When we started in 1990, we didn’t all have our own computers and the secretaries, as we called them then, did the typing. It was quite a revolution when we got our own computer,” she adds. “We kept the same number of people, but the computer changed how we did things.” SPP was an early adopter of having a toll-free number for members, and Strutt says it is still very important for the plan to have “that human touch” when members contact them with questions. “They tell us that it is so nice to have a person to talk to on the other end of the line,” she says.

A key change along the way for SPP was raising the contribution ceiling from the old $600 back in 2010, to $6,600 today. That was a “game changer” in terms of growing the plan’s assets, she says. Similarly, moving to pre-authorized contributions years ago allowed members – who had tended to make contributions at the February deadline – to spread contributions out throughout the year.

Over the years, SPP “grew, and grew well – we had very good investment earnings, and a lot of loyalty from our members,” she says. She has high words of praise for the team at SPP. “It’s a good solid team… a good bunch of people with some really good synergies,” she says.

Strutt says she takes great pride in the improvements SPP has made in outreach, via the web and social media. “That has been gold for us,” she says. Having a great website, videos, e-updates, and “leveraging the use of social media has helped make us a leader” in outreach and communications, she explains.

A more recent achievement Strutt looks upon with pride is the introduction of the Variable Benefit, a program that lets a retiree keep his or her money within SPP at retirement, with income being gradually drawn down, much like a registered retirement income fund (RRIF) operates. “This benefit has been very well received,” she says, and while it is currently only available to Saskatchewan residents Strutt is hopeful it will be rolled out to members in other provinces soon.

Another growing effort has been outreach to businesses, with the goal of having them offer SPP as their company pension plan. “Having a pension plan is a big benefit to a small business, and with SPP, they can offer a pension plan no matter how small a business they are. It’s a great way to retain, and attract people,” she says.

SPP has always been about delivering a pension savings program to those who wouldn’t have one otherwise. The plan initially was aimed at homemakers, but gradually expanded its reach. Today SPP has, according to its 2020 annual report, $528.8 million in assets under management, and more than 32,000 members.

That growth speaks to the success SPP has had bringing pensions to those who otherwise wouldn’t have them. “The whole point is being able to save at a reasonable cost, and to offer the pooling of risks,” she explains. With SPP, all contributions are pooled together and invested, which lowers the investment cost, lately to about 85 basis points or less. And with a rate of return exceeding eight per cent since the plan’s inception 35 years ago, the strategy is a winning one, Strutt says.

And SPP is more than just a retirement saving vehicle. Through e-updates, presentations, and other outreach a goal is to build up the financial literacy of plan members, she says.

Strutt – already active with several service clubs – doesn’t plan to slow down much in retirement. She’ll have more time to farm, with her husband, their farm near Kindersley. There’s a son to visit in Finland, a daughter in Nova Scotia, and a spry, 92-year-old mom in B.C. – so travel is in order, she says.

“When I started in November 1990 I was so pleased to be given the opportunity,” she says. “It has turned into a 31-year career. I’m proud to have been part of such an innovative program, one that is a made in Saskatchewan success story.” She says she is excited for incoming Executive Director Shannan Corey, who will benefit from “a really great staff” at SPP. “I’m looking forward to positive things coming out of SPP – I feel I’m leaving on a really good note,” she concludes.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.


May 24: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

May 24, 2021

TFSAs are great, but may not be ideally suited for retirement savings: MoneySense

Writing in the Toronto Sun, MoneySense writer Joseph Czikk opines that the rise of the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) may spell trouble for the venerable Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).

He writes that the TFSA has been “a huge hit” since its inception in 2009, with more than two-thirds of Canadians now the proud owners of accounts.

“But,” he writes “there’s reason to suspect that the TFSA’s popularity is growing at the expense of the RRSP, and if that’s true, it should lead many Canadians to rethink how they plan to invest for retirement.”

Before 2009, he explains, the RRSP was the chief retirement savings tool for Canadians.

“RRSP contributions aren’t taxable, which incentivizes people to top up the accounts every year. The more money you put into your RRSP, the less tax you’ll pay,” the article notes.

When Canadians stop working, the article explains, they “generally convert their RRSP balance to a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF), which they then draw from to cover expenses.” Money coming out of the RRIF is taxable, but “the idea… is that you’ll probably be in a lower tax bracket in retirement than you were in your career, meaning you’ll get to keep more of the money than you otherwise would have.”

Then, Czikk notes, “along came the TFSA,” which works opposite from an RRSP. No tax break for putting money into a TFSA, but no taxation when you take it out, the article adds.

There are tax penalties for robbing your RRSP savings before retirement, but with the TFSA, not so much.

“You can see how such an account — which could be drawn upon like any bank account and which sheltered capital gains — would become popular,” he writes.

“And so it went. Just eight years after TFSAs came on the scene, their aggregate value rocketed to match 20 per cent of RRSPs, RRIFs and Locked-In Retirement Accounts (LIRAs).”

But, the article says, there are unintended negative consequences with the TFSA.

Quoting The Canadian Tax Journal, the article notes that $4 of every $10 that would otherwise have gone to an RRSP are now going to TFSAs. The number of Canadians contributing to RRSPs is in decline. And, the article says, that’s a problem.

Research from BMO suggests that Canadians need about $1.5 million in retirement savings to retire comfortably, the article says. And while for some a TFSA could get you there, the fact that there are no withdrawal rules is posing problems, the article says.

Prof. Jonathan Farrar of Wilfrid Laurier University is quoted in the article as saying “we’re seeing that … a lot of people are not using it for retirement. People are using the TFSA as a bank account instead of an investment account, from which you make a very rare withdrawal.”

“Part of the genius of the RRSP is how it disincentivizes people from taking money out before retirement. The TFSA lacks that aspect,” the article adds.

If you rob your retirement nest egg before hitting the golden handshake, the article concludes, you’ll have to rely more on government income programs like the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security. The government is thinking about creating a TFSA that has withdrawal rules more like an RRSP to address this problem.

Save with SPP once spoke with some Australian colleagues. There, everyone gets put in a mandatory defined contribution pension plan where their employer makes all the contributions. But, as with a TFSA, there aren’t any strict rules on withdrawals – so you could take all the money out and buy a house, for instance. In a strange paradox, a country with one of the highest rates of pension plan coverage has experienced senior poverty and a heavy reliance on the means-test Age Pension – and the lack of withdrawal rules may be to blame.

TFSAs are awesome, for sure, but perhaps not ideally suited for retirement savings. The tried and true approach may be a better path. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan operates similarly to an RRSP, but has the added feature of being a locked-in plan. You can’t crack into your SPP early, meaning there will be more there for you when you don’t have a paycheque to rely on.  Be sure to check out SPP – delivering retirement security for 35 years – today.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.


May 17: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

May 17, 2021

Knowing what you really need as retirement income is key: My Own Advisor

Poll after poll seems to confirm the idea that Canadians think saving for retirement is a good thing – whether or not they are actually doing it.

But the My Own Advisor blog notes that unless you really understand what your retirement income needs are, you could actually be saving too much for retirement.

The blog starts by rolling out the party line on retirement saving – “live within your means; maximize savings to registered accounts like the registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) and tax-free savings account (TFSA) – then consider taxable investing;” then keep investment costs low.

“Rinse and repeat for 30 years,” the blog notes, and “retire with money in the bank.”

All good. However, the blog warns, there is an important question you must know the answer to before you begin drawing down your retirement income – “how much is enough?”

“When it comes to you, only you know what you need or want from retirement,” the blog explains. And figuring this out is not easy – the blog says it is akin to “putting together a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.”

The blog says you need to thinking about the overall picture – your income from all possible source. If you have a pension at work, will you take it as soon as you can? When should you draw down your RRSP assets? Or should they be kept intact and rolled into a RRIF? Should you consider an annuity?

The blog then asks when you should start accessing any TFSA funds, the Canada Pension Plan, and Old Age Security. “Dozens more questions abound,” the blog says.

Some people, the blog says, “don’t know any of these answers, and err on the very conservative side.” The blog then publishes a nice exchange between the blogger and a retired reader in Germany, who makes two key points – “you don’t need as much as you think,” and “your cost of living steadily decreases as time wears on.” The reader also states that “every senior I’ve spoken with reminds me they are living on substantially reduced incomes, but with no differences in their standards of living.”

These are all great points, and very accurate, based on what we’ve observed since leaving the full time workforce nearly seven years ago. None of our friends and neighbours have had to make radical changes in their lifestyles due to retiring, but we all certainly spend a lot more time talking about taxes than we used to! So you do tend to just adjust to the reality of living on less, and after a while, it’s OK.

The article mentions annuities as an option – and if you’re a Saskatchewan Pension Plan member, they are an option for you as well. There are a couple of great things about annuities. First, you know exactly what you’ll get each month – and can provide for survivors if you wish. Second, you don’t have to worry about the markets – whether they are up or way down, you get the same income. Third, it’s a lot simpler for tax planning – your income is known in advance, not based on some percentage of your declining assets. Check out SPP today.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

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.