RRIF

OCT 10: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

October 10, 2022

Could The Great Retirement be followed by the Great Returnship?

Will high inflation, volatile investment returns and soaring interest rates tempt new and recent retirees into “returnship,” or returning to the workplace?

That’s a view expressed in an article by Brian J. O’Connor, writing for SmartAsset via Yahoo! Finance.

“Retirees who find themselves hit by higher prices, lower stock returns and big health care bills might consider boosting their bank accounts by heading back to work – and employers are waiting to welcome older workers back with open arms,” he writes.

“Big health bills” are more of a U.S. problem than one we Canadians face, although long-term care costs can be eye-opening even here.

The article suggests having the option of returning to work could be a “linchpin” for your retirement plan. That’s because your work experience is more highly valued than ever thanks to the lack of new folks coming up the system to fill your job, the article continues.

“These employees are valuable because they are seasoned, and that’s not always easy to find today,” Charlotte Flores of BH Companies states in the article.

The article goes on to note that of the five million Americans who left the U.S. workforce during the pandemic, “more than two-thirds were over 55.” Now there are five job openings for every three U.S. workers.

“Employers are not only eager to hire experienced older workers, but they’re also open to bringing in retirees who’ve been out of the workforce for several years,” the article continues.

This rehiring of otherwise retired workers is called a “returnship,” the article explains. Large U.S. companies, such as Goldman Sachs, Accenture, Microsoft and Amazon have developed “returnship” programs.

“The programs are designed to give returning workers training, mentoring, a chance to learn or brush up on skills and lessons on how to navigate the current work culture. The trend is so strong that there even are “career-reentry” firms that specialize in connecting employers with returning workers, such as iRelaunch, which works with 70 companies offering returnships, including posting openings,” the article states.

Another benefit of going back to work after retirement, the article says, is that you can either “delay or reduce withdrawals from retirement accounts,” a decision that “stretches out your retirement nest egg to lessen your longevity risk.”

Here in Canada, that certainly would be true of any withdrawals from a Tax Free Savings Account or from a non-registered investment account. We have heard of defined benefit pension plans in Canada that permit you to stop receiving pension payments (temporarily) if you return to work – and let you resume contributions. We haven’t heard of there being ways to temporarily pause withdrawals from a registered retirement income fund (RRIF), however.

Many observers here in Canada have talked about making it possible to delay RRIF withdrawals, and continue to contribute to RRSPs, until later in life. Save with SPP spoke to Prof. Luc Godbout on this topic in the spring.

It sure seems like the old days of full retirement – our dad left work at 62 and never did a single lick of work again for the remaining 27 years of his life – may be gone forever. Not saying that’s a bad thing – a little work keeps your mind sharp and social contacts alive – but the concept of full retirement at 65 does not appear to be as likely in the 2020s as it was 30 or 40 years ago.

Whether or not you plan to fully retire in your 60s, 70s or later, you’ll need some retirement income. Most Canadians lack workplace pension plans and must save on their own for retirement. Fortunately, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is available to any Canadian with RRSP room. This do-it-yourself pension plan invests the contributions you make, pools them and invests them at a low cost, and at retirement, turns them into an income stream. You can even get a lifetime annuity! Check out this wonderful retirement partner 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.


Some common RRSP mistakes we all need to avoid

August 4, 2022

Those of us who don’t have a workplace pension – or want to augment it – are pretty familiar with what a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) is. However, there can be tricky things to watch out for when investing your RRSP savings. Save with SPP had a look around the Interweb to highlight some RRSP pitfalls.

The folks at Sun Life identify five RRSP no-nos. First, they tell us, is the mistake of putting cash in your RRSP to meet the deadline, and then not putting it into an investment of some kind. Be sure you invest the money in something – “stocks, guaranteed investment certificates, mutual funds, bonds and more” so that your RRSP contributions grow. Your money grows tax-free until you take it out, so you need to have growth assets, the article says.

Another problem identified by Sun Life is raiding your RRSP cookie jar.

“Making RRSP withdrawals before retirement to, say, cover bills or make big purchases can have lasting consequences. For one, you’re giving up the years of tax-deferred growth your money would have generated inside your plan.” As well, the article continues, you’ll face a double tax hit – a withholding tax is charged when you take money out of an RRSP, and then the income from the withdrawal is added to your overall income at tax time. Double ouch.

Other things to watch out for, Sun Life advises, are overcontributing (be sure you know exactly what your limit is), spending your tax refund instead of re-investing it, and not being aware of RRSP/RRIF tax rules on death.

The Modern Advisor blog cautions folks against making their RRSP contributions “at the last minute.” If you spread your contributions out throughout the year, you will get more growth and income from them, the article advises.

Other tips include making sure your beneficiary selection is up to date, and knowing that contributions don’t have to be made in cash, but can be made “in kind,” such as by transferring stocks from a cash account to an RRSP account.

The RatesDotCa blog adds a few more.

On fees, RatesDotCa points out that many RRSP products, typically retail mutual funds, charge fairly hefty fees. “Canadians pay some of the highest fees in the world,” the article notes. “Over many years, these fees can add up, further reducing your retirement plan. Be sure to ask for a thorough explanation of the fees you can expect, and how they will affect your retirement plan,” the article advises.

Other ideas from RatesDotCa include not repaying your RRSP if you do borrow from it, not taking “full advantage” of any company pension plan (meaning, contribute as much as you can to it), and retiring too early (the article notes that both the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security pay out significantly more if you wait until age 70 to collect them.

Save with SPP can add a few more, gleaned from our own “welts of experience” over 45 years of RRSP investing.

Don’t frequently move your RRSP from one provider to another. This is called “churn,” and can result in hefty transfer fees and generally reduces the long-term growth needed for retirement-related investing.

If you borrow to make an RRSP contribution, do the math, and make sure the loan amount is affordable. Sometimes the bank or financial institution will want the money repaid within a year.

Be sure your investments are diversified, and include both equities and fixed income, plus maybe alternative investments like real estate or mortgage lending. Typically, if one sector is down, others may be up.

If you don’t want to think this hard as this about RRSP investments, consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Contributions to SPP are treated exactly like RRSP contributions for tax purposes. You can’t run into tax trouble by raiding your SPP account because contributions are locked in until you reach retirement age. SPP offers a very diversified portfolio in its Balanced Fund, and fees charged by SPP are low, typically less than one per cent. Since its inception in 1986, SPP has averaged eight per cent returns annually – and although past results don’t guarantee future performance, it is a noteworthy track record. 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.


Looking back on what the experts say – Save with SPP

July 21, 2022

Summertime, and while the living is easy, it’s not always easy to get people on the phone for an interview. We get it – there’s only a few short months of great weather in this country, after all.

So, Save with SPP had a look back on what we’ve learned about retirement and saving over the past while through past interviews, and via book reviews, from industry experts and leaders.

Derek Dobson, CEO and Plan Manager of the Colleges of Applied Arts & Technology Pension Plan, pointed to new research from the Canadian Public Pension Leadership Council that showed the economic value of pension dollars.  The study found that $16.72 of economic activity arises from every $10 paid out from a pension plan, notes Dobson. And that type of benefit comes from efficient plans, he explains. “Any plan that uses experienced investment professionals, and pooling – I include the Saskatchewan Pension Plan as an example of that – is delivering pensions efficiently,” he tells Save with SPP.

In an interview about the ins and outs of registered retirement income funds (RRIFs), BMO’s James McCreath noted that converting some or all of your registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) to an annuity instead of moving it to a RRIF is also an option.

“As interest rates rise, the functionality and usefulness of annuities go up,” he told Save with SPP. You can read the full interview here.

Prof. Luc Godbout, remarking on the trend of people working longer, had an idea on how to tweak the retirement system to accommodate the needs of older workers.  Allowing Canadians to postpone Old Age Security until age 75, and moving the conversion dates for RRSPs/RRIFs to 75, 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.” Here’s where you can find the full article.

The author of Getting Out of Debt, Michael Steven, had some interesting thoughts on the importance of saving (once debt is under control).

“Saving requires discipline, a habit you build over time. It can be hard to save instead of spend, but if you have to attain financial freedom, then saving is one of those things you will have to embrace.” You can read the rest of our book review here.

There’s a lot to the broad topic of retirement and saving. For sure, belonging to a workplace pension plan is a key step towards retirement security. If you are saving on your own, you do need to understand the “decumulation stage” when savings are converted to income, either via an annuity or through drawing down a RRIF or similar vehicle. If you don’t have a lot of savings and have boomed your way into your 60s, then the proposed federal changes to benefits discussed by Prof. Godbout may make sense for you. But at the end of the day, as the old saying goes, it’s not what you make, but what you save, that helps your future self paddle through the waters of retirement.

If you don’t have a pension plan at work, and/or haven’t started saving for retirement yet, help is at hand. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is open to any Canadian with RRSP room, and offers pooled investing, low-fee investment management, and many retirement income options including annuities. 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.


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!

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.


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!


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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.


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.

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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.