RRIFs

Guide aims at folks planning on retiring in 10 years or less

April 22, 2021

If you are one of the many Canadians who is a decade (or less) away from retirement, and haven’t had time to really think about it, there’s an ideal book out there for you.  The Procrastinator’s Guide to Retirement by David Trahair walks you through all the decisions you’ll need to make, and the strategies you may want to employ, to have a solid retirement – soon.

Trahair makes the point early that you need to track your current spending to have an accurate sense of how much you need to save to fund your retirement.  He says the old 70 per cent rule – that you will be comfortable if you can save up enough to live on 70 per cent of your pre-retirement income – is “problematic… it may be the right answer for one person, but totally wrong for you because your financial situation is as individual as your fingerprints.” Knowing what you spend now, and will spend when retired, is a key piece of knowledge when setting savings targets, he explains.

Through the deft use of charts, examples and worksheets, Trahair explains that most of us have “golden opportunity” years for retirement savings when we have surplus funds, thanks to paying off a car loan, or having a child graduate from university. What you do during these periods of excess money “can make or break” your retirement plans, he advises, noting that an obvious destination for some of this cash is retirement savings.

He looks in detail at whether it’s a good idea to save for retirement in a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) or pay off debt, like credit cards or mortgages, first. Trahair says anyone with high-interest credit card debt should pay that off first before saving for retirement, because of the “rate of return” you get by eliminating the debt.

“A lack of cash outflow is as good as a cash inflow, and better if that inflow is taxed,” he explains. In other words, all the money once spent on paying down the credit card is now in your pocket instead.

Whether to pay down the mortgage versus saving for retirement is a trickier calculation (Trahair has a spreadsheet for you to make your own choice). He says the “commonsensical” approach is to make an RRSP payment and then put the refund on the mortgage. However, later in the book he warns of the dangers of not paying off the mortgage until after retirement.

“If you went into retirement with a $200,000 mortgage, you’d need $293,254.75 extra in your RRSP just to break even,” he writes. “Put another way, you’d be just as well off as someone who had a zero-mortgage balance and $293,254.74 less in their RRSP.”

There’s a lot of good stuff here. There’s a chapter on selecting an investment advisor, and good advice for those investing on their own. He warns that those saving later in life often look for higher returns, which can be risky. “Hoping for a 10 per cent rate of return to solve your problems will mean you’ll have to take extreme risk… chances are good this strategy will result in dismal failure. So, he advises, have a disciplined investment approach, and manage risks. A rule of thumb he likes is the one that suggests 100 minus your age should be the percentage of your portfolio that is in fixed income. The rest should be in the stock market.

Later, he explains how GICs are his favourite investment, especially when held in RRSPs, Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) and Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs).

He examines the concept of how much you’ll spend in retirement, noting that some costs, like Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions, car operating costs, dining out and dry cleaning will drop once you’re no longer going to work, well-dressed.

He talks about how you can maximize both CPP and Old Age Security benefits by deferring them until later – and covers the pros and cons of doing so.

Later chapters cover the “risk” of living a long life, the “snowball” versus “avalanche” methods of debt reducing, and estate planning.

This is an excellent resource for all aspects of retirement planning, and – even better – it is written for a Canadian audience.

If your retirement plan includes the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, you’re already getting professional investing help at a low fee of just 0.83 per cent in 2020. SPP manages investment risks for you – and has chalked up an impressive rate of return of 8 per cent since its inception 35 years ago. Why not to check out SPP today!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Should we still be savers after we retire?

March 11, 2021

The mental image most of us have of the retirement process is quite clear – you save while you work, and then you live on the savings while retired.

But is this a correct view of things? Should people be adding to their savings once they’ve stepped away from a long life of endless meetings, emails, Zoom or conference calls, and annoying performance reviews? Or not?

Save with SPP decided to scout this out on the good old Interweb.

What we notice is that when you query about “saving after retirement,” you’ll find lots of advice about how to save by spending less. For example, U.S. News & World Report suggests things like asking for senior discounts, shopping “for cheap staples online,” downsizing your home or hobbies, etc.

You’ll also find general advice on saving that can apply to folks of any age – Yahoo! Finance points out that you need to “spend less than you earn,” and “grow and invest your money.”

The type of advice we’re looking for is more along the “pay yourself first” rule that our late Uncle Joe lived by until almost age 90; and Yahoo! Finance does have a bit of that.

“When people say `pay yourself first,’ they mean you should take your savings out of your paycheque as soon as it hits your chequing account to make sure you save something before you spend it all on bills and other expenses. The key to saving successfully is to save first, save a lot — 10 per cent to 20 per cent is often recommended — and save often,” the article states. Uncle Joe would endorse this thinking.

But it’s not clear this article is aimed at retirees – so is putting money systematically away when retired even a thing?

Maybe, but perhaps not quite in the way Uncle Joe might have envisioned.

MoneySense notes that Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) are a great savings tool for older, retired Canadians.

The article suggests that if you are retired, and don’t need to spend all the income from your Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) or other sources, like a pension, a great home for those dollars is the TFSA.

“Unlike Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and RRIFs you can keep contributing new money into TFSAs after age 71. Even if you live to celebrate your 101st birthday – as my friend Meta recently did – you can continue to pump (the TFSA annual maximum) to your TFSA, as Meta has been doing,” the article explains.

“In contrast, you can no longer contribute to RRSPs after the year you turn 71 (or after the year the youngest spouse turns 71), and even then this depends on either carrying forward RRSP room or earning new income,” MoneySense tells us. So the TFSA is a logical savings account, and is still open to older folks.

Our late father-in-law gleefully directed money from his RRIF (after paying taxes) to his TFSA, so that he could continue to invest and save.

The TFSA has many other benefits, including the fact in can be transferred tax-free to a surviving spouse. An article in the Globe and Mail points out a few other interesting TFSA facts – investments must be Canadian, you can re-contribute any amounts you cash out, and your contribution room carries forward, the article notes.

It would appear then, that “saving” after retirement means two things – it means budgeting and bargain hunting to make your income last longer, and it means using savings vehicles like TFSAs to manage taxation. That’s probably the answer – when you’re working, taxes are simple to manage. You get a T4, your employer is usually deducting the correct amount of taxes, so filing income tax is simple. It’s more complicated for retirees with multiple income streams and chunks of withdrawn RRIF money.

You will have a greater opportunity to save when you are retired if you put away some cash now, before they give you the gold watch. The less retirement income you have, the tighter your future budget will be. If you haven’t got too far yet on the retirement savings trail, why not have a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan? You can set up a “pay yourself first” plan with SPP, which allows contributions via direct deposit. Money can be popped into your retirement nest egg before you have a chance to spend it – always a good thing. Be sure to check out SPP, celebrating 35 years of delivering retirement security in 2021!

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.


Now is the time to act on boosting retirement security: C.A.R.P.’s VanGorder

January 14, 2021

For those of us who aren’t yet retired, it’s difficult to put ourselves in the shoes of a retiree and imagine what issues they may be facing.

Save with SPP reached out recently to Bill VanGorder, Chief Policy Officer for C.A.R.P., a group that advocates for older adults, to find out what it’s like once you’re no longer working.

For a start, says VanGorder, all older people aren’t set for life with a good pension from their place of work. In fact, he says, “65 to 70 per cent of those reaching retirement age don’t have a (workplace) pension.”

As a result of that, most people are getting by on income from their own retirement savings, along with government benefits like the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS), and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).

“Politicians don’t understand what it’s like to live on a fixed income,” VanGorder explains, adding that any unexpected expenses hit those on a fixed income really hard. Right now in Nova Scotia C.A.R.P. is trying to stop plans to end a longstanding cap on property taxes – a move that would hit fixed-income folks the hardest.

In removing the cap, the province has suggested it would “look after” low-income seniors, but VanGorder points out that retirees at all levels of income are on fixed income. “It’s not just low-income earners… everyone would be hit by this,” he says.

It’s an example of how older Canadians seem to be overlooked when the government is writing up new public policies, VanGorder says. When the pandemic struck, all that older Canadians were offered was a one-time $300 payment, plus an extra $200 for the lower income group, he notes. Meanwhile younger Canadians were eligible for Canada Emergency Response Benefit payments of $2,000 per month, there were wage subsidies and rent subsidies for business, and more.

Older Canadians “feel they’ve seen every other part of the country get more economic assistance,” he explains. That’s because there’s a misconception that older Canadians “are already getting stuff… and are being looked after.”

“Their cost of living has gone up exponentially,” VanGorder says, noting that many services for seniors – getting volunteer drivers, or home support visits – have been curtailed for health reasons. These changes lead to increased costs for older Canadians, he explains.

C.A.R.P. is looking for ways to keep more money in the pockets of older people. For example, he notes, C.A.R.P. feels that there should be no minimum withdrawal rule for Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs). “It’s unfair to force people to take their money out once they reach a certain age,” he explains. “A lot of people are retiring later (than age 71).” He notes that since taxes are paid on any amount withdrawn anyway, the government would always get its share eventually if there was no minimum withdrawal rule.

Another argument against the minimum withdrawal rule is the increase in longevity, VanGorder says. Ten per cent of kids born today will live to be over 100, he points out. “We’re adding a year more longevity for every decade,” he says.

C.A.R.P. is also pushing the federal government to move forward with election promises on increasing OAS payments for those over age 75, and to increase survivor benefits. While the feds did improve the CPP, the improvements will not impact today’s retirees; instead they’ll help millennials and younger generations following them.

Another area of concern to C.A.R.P. on the pension front is the rights of plan members when the company offering the pension goes under. “C.A.R.P. would like to see the plan members get super-priority creditor status,” he explains. That way, they’d be first in line to get money moved into their pensions when a Nortel or Sears-type situation occurs.

He notes that Canada is the only country with government-run healthcare that doesn’t also offer government-run pharmacare.

VanGorder agrees that there aren’t enough workplace pensions anymore. “Canada doesn’t mandate employers to offer pensions, making (reliance) on CPP and OAS more critical than it is in other countries,” he explains. The solutions would be forcing companies to offer a pension plan, or greatly increasing the benefits offered by OAS and CPP, he says.

“If we don’t start fixing it now, we are going to end up with a horrible problem when the millennials start to retire,” VanGorder predicts. Now is the time to act on expanding retirement security, he says. “They always say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago,” he says. “But the second-best time is today.”

We thank Bill VanGorder for taking the time to speak to Save with SPP.

Don’t have a pension plan at work? Not sure how to save on your own? The experts at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan can help you get your savings on track. SPP offers a well-run, low-cost defined contribution plan that invests the money you contribute, and provides you with the option of a lifetime pension when work’s in the rear-view mirror. An employer pension plan option is also available. See if they’re right for you!

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.


RRIF rules need updating: C.D. Howe

September 25, 2014

By Sheryl Smolkin

Sept25-CDHoweRRIF

 

A recent policy paper from the C.D. Howe Institute[I] documents how the current mandatory minimum withdrawals from registered retirement income funds (RRIFs) and similar accounts have not kept pace with the increased life expectancies of Canadians – a problem for retired Canadians trying to balance their need for current income against the risk of outliving their savings.

Since 1992, the Income Tax Act has obliged holders of RRIFs and similar accounts to withdraw annual amounts, dictated by an age-related formula, that rise until holders must withdraw 20% each year. But in 1992, the federal government was in a deficit position and needed cash. Now it is close to surplus and the timing of the receipt of those taxes is less critical for the government.

To the RRIF holder, however, the minimums pose a threat. They oblige the holder to run tax-deferred assets down rapidly. Today, people can expect to live much longer after retirement, and real returns on investments that provide secure incomes are much lower. RRIF holders now face serious erosion in the purchasing power of tax-deferred savings in their later years.

Back in 1992, a 71-year-old man who withdrew the annual mandatory minimum from his RRIF could expect to deplete 25 per cent of his initial balance’s real value upon reaching his life expectancy, and had virtually no chance of seeing its real value drop more than 90%. Now, he can expect to live to see his initial balance drop about 70%, and faces a 1-in-7 chance of seeing its real value drop more than 90%.

In the same year, a 71-year-old woman making minimum RRIF withdrawals could expect to deplete about 40% of her initial balance’s real value upon reaching her life expectancy. Now, she can expect to deplete about 80% of it. And she faces a 1-in-4 chance of seeing its real value drop more than 90%.

The study authors William B.P. Robson and Alexandre Laurin admit these are stylized examples that will not apply to everyone. Some seniors, especially those who do not anticipate living long, will want to withdraw tax-deferred savings faster than the RRIF minimums. In the coming decades, more seniors, enjoying better health and working at less physically demanding jobs than their predecessors, will work longer and replenish their savings notwithstanding the disadvantage of losing tax deferrals after age 71.

Couples can delay the impact of the drawdown rules by gearing their withdrawals to the younger spouse’s age. High-income seniors whose incremental withdrawals do not trigger OAS and GIS clawbacks will find the burden of paying ordinary income taxes on them tolerable. As room to save in TFSAs grows, more seniors will be able to reinvest unspent withdrawals in them, avoiding repeated taxation.

For other seniors, however – even if they do have room to reinvest in TFSAs – these forced drawdowns make no sense. These seniors include those whose withdrawals – reinvested in TFSAs or not – trigger clawbacks and other income and asset tests; who find tax planning and investing outside RRIFs daunting; who cannot easily continue working; or, who anticipate sizeable late-in-life expenses such as long-term care.

Moreover, foreseeable demands on individual and public resources suggest we should be encouraging saving, rather than discouraging or at best complicating it. Roughly 203,300 Canadians are now age 90 and older; in about 25 years that number will roughly triple. To the extent future seniors have ample assets to finance their needs – especially those such as health and long-term care that rise with age – all Canadians will benefit.

Therefore, the  authors of the paper argue minimum drawdowns from RRIFs and similar vehicles should start later and be smaller, or even disappear entirely.

They say that since tax is payable on RRIFs upon the death of the last to die of the account holder and his/her spouse, in a present-value sense, elimination of mandatory minimum withdrawals would have no significant fiscal impact for the government. Elimination would also have the additional benefit of removing the need for future updates as longevity, yields and possibly other circumstances change again.

Table 1 below illustrates how the RRIF minimum drawdown schedule could be modified to reflect both the increased longevity of Canadians in 2014 and revised interest rate assumptions.

[I]  This blog contains excerpts from the C.D. Howe Institute report Outliving Our Savings: RRIF Rules Need a Big Update:

Age Current RRIF Prescribed Minimum Withdrawal RRIF Minimum Withdrawals to Replicate 1992 Account Depletion Probabilities
71 7.38 2.68
72 7.48 2.72
73 7.59 2.76
74 7.71 2.80
75 7.85 2.85
76 7.99 2.91
77 8.15 2.96
78 8.33 3.03
79 8.53 3.10
80 8.75 3.18
81 8.99 3.27
82 9.27 3.37
83 9.58 3.48
84 9.93 3.61
85 10.33 3.76
86 10.79 3.92
87 11.33 4.12
88 11.96 4.35
89 12.71 4.62
90 13.62 4.95
91 14.73 5.36
92 16.12 9.48
93 17.92 10.54
94+ 20.00 11.76

Source: Outliving Our Savings: RRIF rules need a Big Update: C.D. Howe Institute


[1]  This blog contains excerpts from the C.D. Howe Institute report Outliving Our Savings: RRIF Rules Need a Big Update:


Jan 27: Best from the blogosphere

January 27, 2014

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

RRSP season is in full swing and since the beginning of the year, we have been bombarded with a media blitz suggesting few Canadians are saving enough and exhorting us to maximize contributions to our retirement savings plans by the end of February.

If you wonder what all this retirement planning is for, anyway, take a look at Sandi Martin’s blog or boomer & echo. She says planning for that inevitable day when you stop collecting a paycheque, or invoicing clients, or collecting ad revenue is an exercise that will let you spend more money than vaguely worrying about “saving enough” or “running out” will.

In order to save enough to retire worry-free, you need to figure out how much you will need. On the Canadian Finance blog Tom Drake suggests that for every dollar of annual income you need in retirement you should plan to have $20 in savings. That doesn’t include the value of your home because it is not earning income.

You can save in many different kinds of accounts including the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, employer-sponsored pension plans and RRSPs. But Jonathan Chevreau at MoneySense says investing in a tax-free savings account (TFSA) should be a priority for most Canadians. In fact he says the moment you make your January contribution, you should start accruing for the next year’s installment, even if it means parking in short-term cash vehicles and paying a little tax for the balance of the calendar year.

Brighter Life discusses how you can pay yourself from your retirement savings when you retire. Some of the options are annuities, registered retirement income funds, and payments from several kinds of locked-in accounts holding funds transferred from locked-in company pension plans.

And Jim Yih on retirehappy.ca reminds us that one area of tax planning that does not receive enough attention is the designation of beneficiaries when it comes to Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs).

When you open up an RRSP or RRIF, you are opening up a special contract under the Income Tax Act, which allows you to designate one or more beneficiaries. Far too often, this is done too casually and without enough thought. More importantly, as your circumstances change, like marriage, divorce or children, you should consider reviewing your beneficiaries to make sure you have the right people designated.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere. Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.