RRSP

Savings resolutions for 2022

January 13, 2022

The start of a new year often has us thinking of things we “resolve” to do – changes we want to make – in 2022.

Save with SPP had a look around the “information highway” to see what people are resolving to do on the all-important savings front.

From The Guardian , ideas include getting debt-free, starting a rainy day fund, and to “have a goal” for savings. The newspaper notes that debt is a real barrier to savings.

“There is no point trying to save if you are burdened by costly debts,” The Guardian reports. While savings accounts in the U.K. pay only about 0.2 per cent interest, the article continues, credit card, store card or overdraft debts may be “in excess of 20 per cent.”

Writing for the GoBankingRates blog via Yahoo!, John Csiszar suggests resolutions should include “bumping up your retirement plan contributions by one per cent,” reviewing your spending from 2021, and that you “don’t buy anything until you get rid of something else.”

Increasing your contributions to a retirement account (here in Canada, this might refer to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), or your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account) by one per cent is, Csiszar writes, an achievable goal. If you earn $50,000 a year, and are contributing five per cent to a retirement plan, he writes, bumping that up by one per cent will boost your retirement savings by $41.67 per month.

Back in the U.K., The Express recommends dropping costly habits, “start counting the pennies” (or nickels here in Canada), and following the 50/30/20 rule.

“Allocate 50 per cent for essentials, such as rent, mortgage and bills, 30 per cent for `wants’ such as hobbies, shopping or subscriptions, and 20 per cent for paying off debt or building up savings,” the article suggests.

Finally, MSN Money adds a few more – review your retirement plan contributions (to ensure you are contributing as much as you can), contribute to both “traditional” retirement savings accounts (here in Canada, an RRSP or SPP) as well as tax-free savings vehicles (for Canadians, the Tax-Free Savings Account) and increase any automatic savings you have going.

These are all great strategies. Another one to add is to live within your means. Don’t spend even a nickel more than you earn, because that overspending can snowball on you. Pay the bills, then pay yourself (and your future self), and spend what’s left over. As the bills go down, you’ll have more to save.

And the SPP allows you to make contributions the easy way – automatically. You can set up a pre-authorized payment plan with SPP and have your contributions withdrawn painlessly every payday. It’s easier to spread your contributions out throughout the year in bite-sized pieces than to try and come up with one big payment at the deadline. And the good folks at SPP will invest your contributions steadily and professionally, turning them into future retirement income. It’s win win!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


Rich Girl, Broke Girl shows the steps women need to take to gain control of their finances

December 30, 2021

Financial author Kelley Keehn thinks women need to be in charge – not unwilling passengers – when it comes to steering their financial ships of state.

Her well-written (and entertaining) book, Rich Girl, Broke Girl provides step-by-step directions to help women gain control over debt, day to day expenses, investing and of course, retirement savings.

As the book opens, Keehn notes that while most women are told they can “financially achieve anything, dream as big as any man, accomplish anything,” they often get blamed if they fail, and are told to leave finances to “someone else in (their life),” or to “marry rich.”

The stats, she writes, show that many women don’t like others being in charge of their money. A full two-thirds of women “whose partners are the primary breadwinners feel trapped,” Keehn writes. “Seven in ten women wish they had more power in their financial futures,” she continues. “Sixty-four per cent of women wish they had their own money set aside just in case.”

She then tells the story of “Mack,” a young woman who tried to strike out on her own, but lacked financial knowledge, didn’t know the cost of things, tried to live an impossibly unaffordable life, blew her credit on a single trip, then got behind and didn’t ask for help, ultimately forcing her to move back home.

An “anti-budget,” Keehn writes, is the solution here. Track every dollar, categorize spending, multiply expenses by 12 to create an annual budget, and then “trim the excess… (and) reallocate.” Fictional Mack could save $3,255 a year, writes Keehn, by saving just 50 per cent on her discretionary expenses.

The book looks at the ins and outs of credit, and then, cohabitation.

“Have the money talk with your partner early,” Keehn advises. If your partner is a saver, and you are a “live for today” spender, that collision of views could harm the relationship, she notes.

There’s a great, detailed overview of investing, which looks at cash, fixed income and equities, as well as other investment vehicles. Keehn recommends a diverse approach to investing. Don’t invest in just one stock, but a diversified portfolio, she explains. Understand the risks of equity investing, but don’t fear them and put all your money in fixed-income, Keehn adds.

She explains the difference between buying stocks and bonds yourself versus buying units in mutual funds – the latter can have high fees, she warns.

Keehn points out how even the modest inflation we’ve experienced in the past five years can “erode your wealth.”

In the section on tax shelters, Keehn says it is best to think of registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) and Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) “as an empty garage. You have to put “cars” (investments) into them, and depending on the rules of the tax shelter, there are different perks and penalties.”

With both, you can invest in a “plethora” of different vehicles, from “guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) and savings accounts to stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds and more.” Only the tax treatment of the “cars” is different – you get a tax deduction for funds placed in an RRSP, and they grow tax free, but are taxed when you take money out. There’s no tax deduction for putting funds in a TFSA, but no taxes on growth, and no taxes due on any income taken out of the TFSA.

She talks about the need to maximize your contribution to any company-sponsored retirement savings plan, because otherwise, “you are leaving money on the table.”

Keehn offers some thoughts on the idea of paying off mortgages quickly as a strategy – perhaps, she writes, it’s less of a good idea given the current low mortgage rates – if you have debts at a higher interest rate, perhaps they should be targeted first.

She’s a believer in getting financial advice when you run into problems.

“It’s natural to feel ashamed of our money mistakes. However, our problems compound when we can’t manage on our own and don’t seek help. Think of it this way: Would you formulate a health-improvement plan before going to your doctor to see what’s actually wrong with you? Probably not.”

This is a great, clear, easy-to-follow walk through about a topic that many people don’t like to deal with. If you’re living paycheque to paycheque, with no emergency savings, this book offers you a blueprint for getting out of trouble and building financial independence. It’s a great addition to your financial library.

Kelley Keehn spoke to Save with SPP last year and had great additional insights about the stress Canadians feel over money matters.

Did you know that in-year contributions you make to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan are tax-deductible? In 2022, you can contribute up to $7,000 per calendar year, subject to available RRSP room. As the book suggests, funds within a registered plan like SPP grow tax-free, and are taxed only when you convert your SPP savings to future retirement income. 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.


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.

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 6: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

December 6, 2021

Students should take advantage of retirement saving and its tax advantages: The Varsity

We all look back fondly at our days as students, whether in regular or post-secondary school. At no time does this writer ever remember any friend or classmate talking seriously about the need to save for retirement. There were many other things to worry about, including passing courses and looking for a job.

But an article in the University of Toronto’s The Varsity newspaper says even students should be thinking about life after the jobs they are about to find.

“As a student, investing in a (registered) retirement savings plan early can prove to have long-term benefits like tax-deductible contributions,” the article begins. “This means that the amount you put into your RRSP for the year is deducted from your taxable yearly income. Further, investments are tax-deferred, which means that taxes on the growth of your investments are not paid until you withdraw the funds from your RRSP account,” the article explains.

The article makes the point that while the tax-free savings account (TFSA) allows money to grow without taxation, contributions made to it are not tax-deductible like RRSP contributions. As well – and a key point if you are thinking of the money being like a piggy bank for the future – is that withdrawing money from an RRSP is more difficult. The RRSP piggy bank is much harder to raid than a TFSA, the article explains.

“The idea of saving for retirement while having to pay outstanding debts like credit card statements or mortgages can be overwhelming,” The Varsity notes. “Everyone has a different financial scenario and students must evaluate what works best for them, even if it means only putting small amounts of money aside in their RRSP every month,” the newspaper adds.

The article also looked at the idea of starting retirement savings early.

Citing a recent study, The Varsity reports that folks in the Gen Z cohort start saving at 19; millennials at age 25 and Gen Xers at 30.

And some great news from The Varsity article is that younger people are getting the message about the importance of getting a head start on retirement savings.

“It appears that starting to save at a younger age has been a message that has trickled down across generations, since the oldest members of Gen Z are only 24 years old. Gen X and baby boomers have been found to contribute an average of 14 to 15 per cent of their income into their retirement fund, while Gen Z and millennials invest, on average, 16 per cent of their income in their retirement savings,” The Varsity reports.

Other points made in the article include the idea that as living costs continue to rise, many households “will need to continue working past the age of 65 in order to afford retirement.” Citing recent research from the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, the Varsity notes that 67 per cent of Canadians “think that Canada will be facing a retirement crisis;” that same study found that 77 per cent of workers liked the idea of their employers offering retirement savings plans.

The Varsity article concludes by saying that if you are young, you should be asking and talking about getting an early start on retirement saving.

If your employer does offer a retirement program, be sure to join it and contribute as much as you can. If you don’t, you need a do-it-yourself retirement plan. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan provides exactly what you need to get rolling. You can contribute up to $6,600 per year to SPP, and like an RRSP, SPP contributions are tax-deductible. Check out SPP, celebrating 35 years of operations, 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.


Nov 22: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

November 22, 2021

New retirement plan’s goal is to “coast” into retirement

Writing in the Toronto Star, Lesley-Anne Scorgie reveals a new variation on the “financial independence, retire early” or FIRE plan.

This new variant, she tells us, is called the Coast FIRE plan.

But let’s backtrack. What exactly is the basic FIRE plan?

Scorgie writes that the FIRE movement was born in the late 1990s.

“These people were obsessed with early retirement and were willing to sacrifice just about anything to contribute significant sums of money to their nest egg as quickly as possible so that they could quit their jobs generally before age 50 and start to ‘live,’” she explains.

But, she says, for many this FIRE plan meant “going without vacations, eating beans daily and just being a cheapskate.” The idea was that foregoing the “extras” in life would allow one to put away thousands a month until having enough money to retire completely by age 50.

“I have two major issues with the concept,” she writes. “Firstly, the lifestyle of ultra-frugality is not appealing. Secondly, banking many thousands of dollars every month throughout your 20s, 30s and 40s is pretty unattainable for most people living in just about any city in Canada. The cost of living and debt are major preventative barriers.”

She goes on to point out “also, who retires at 50? You could have a whole other life, career and so on at that age!”

This is where Coast FIRE puts a different spin on the plan.

There is still an emphasis on financial independence, writes Scorgie, but “you steadily build up your nest egg until it reaches a point where it can grow independently through the power of compound interest and reinvested returns to the ultimate nest egg size you want, without you having to save another dime after you get to that initial savings point.”

So rather than having a hard stop to work, this variant of the plan has you basically creating a significant wealth creation nest egg that allows you to bolster your retirement income significantly when it’s time to log off for a final time.

And that’s the significant difference – the frugality and penny-pinching ends when your nest egg has reached its target amount.

“Once you reach the point where you no longer need to add another dollar to your retirement portfolio, you can have loads more freedom to do what you want like — work part-time or at a different job you like better, enjoy more cash flow for vacations and fun because you no longer have to tuck away 20 per cent of your income into your registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) and tax free savings account (TFSA),” she writes.

To figure out this retirement math, you need to have a general idea of when you want to retire (age) and the approximate money you will need for financial independence at that age. Scorgie says there are many Coast FIRE calculators out there to help you figure out your numbers, but key to the calculation is “current age, desired retirement age, a safe withdrawal rate… and an inflation-adjusted growth rate.”

This is a great column, and Scorgie’s views make a lot of sense. Many of us, for instance, only put away enough money in RRSPs to get us a tax refund each year. Not putting away enough when you are young makes it harder to catch up later.

Scorgie concludes by recommending that we all get some financial advice to ensure our savings plan is sound, also a wise suggestion.

If you are looking for a retirement savings vehicle that can generate steady growth and good returns during the time between now and the time to “coast” into retirement, consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. While past performance is not an indicator of future growth, the plan has averaged returns of eight per cent since its inception in 1986. That’s helped many of us build our retirement nest eggs. 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.


Nov 8: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

November 8, 2021

More than three quarters of older Canadians fretting about retirement finances: NIA

Is retirement a concern for Canadians – especially those aged 55 to 69 who are approaching or have begun their “golden years?”

New research from the National Institute on Ageing at Toronto’s Ryerson University, reported on by CTV News, suggests that a significant majority of older folks are indeed quite worried.

According to the CTV report, the research found that “77 per cent of Canadians within the 55-69 age demographic are worried about their financial health.” As well, CTV notes, “79 per cent of respondents aged 55 and older revealed that their retirement income – through RRSPs, pension plans and Old Age Security – will not be enough for a comfortable retirement.”

The NIA research found that people were worried about the cost of long-term care in the latter part of their retired life.

While 44 per cent say the plan is to “age at home,” the data suggests that many don’t realize how expensive long-term care at a facility would be.

“Nearly half of respondents aged 45 and older believe that in-home care for themselves or a loved one would cost about $1,100 per month, while 37 per cent think it would cost about $2,000 per month,” CTV reports.

“In reality, it actually costs about $3,000 per month to provide in-home care comparable to a long-term care facility, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Health,” the broadcaster explains.

It’s essential that Canadians know the true costs of long-term care as they plan for the future, says Dr. Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald of the NIA.

“Canadians retiring today are likely going to face longer and more expensive retirements than their parents – solving this disconnect will need better planning by people and innovation from industry and government,” she tells CTV.

Dr. MacDonald suggests one step we can take early in retirement to help us fund unexpected care costs later is deferring our Canada Pension Plan or Quebec Pension Plan payments until age 70.

Dr. MacDonald spoke to Save with SPP on this topic in detail earlier this year.

“Someone receiving $1,000 per month at age 60 would receive $2,218.75 per month if they wait until age 70 to begin collecting,” the article notes. Another source of income for long-term care costs could be the equity in your home, the article concludes.

Save with SPP has gone through this, with both our parents having had to receive the help of a long-term care facility to battle health issues in their latter years. Fortunately our parents had always been savers, and their retirement income was sufficient to handle these unexpected costs. Will yours?

If there’s a retirement savings program available at your workplace, consider joining it and contributing at the maximum possible level. If your employer doesn’t offer a program, refer the boss to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. They can help set up a retirement program at businesses large and small. Check out SPP, marking 35 years of delivering retirement security, 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.


Sep 13: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

September 13, 2021

Where should you be – retirement savings-wise – at different ages?

Saving for retirement tends to be a solitary process. While we are encouraged to put away what we can for that future post-work life, there’s little information out there on how much is enough, or what targets we should shoot for at various ages.

Writing in Yahoo! News, author Jami Farkas provides a little bit of clarity on those savings benchmarks.

First, Farkas writes, “the best time to start saving for retirement is when you start earning.” So even in your 20s you should be thinking about putting some of your paycheque towards retirement, Farkas continues.

As you age, those savings targets become more concrete, Farkas notes.

“By age 30, you should have saved an amount equal to your annual salary for retirement,” the article advises. “If your salary is $75,000, you should have $75,000 put away.”

The article suggests this goal can be met by putting away 20 per cent of what you earn, and to “live and give on the remaining 80 per cent.” The article, intended for an American audience, says signing up for any workplace retirement program, like a pension plan or here in Canada, a group registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) is another positive step towards your savings goal.

Saving for retirement in your 30s can “even trump paying down debt,” the article notes.

In your 40s, you should have three times your salary stashed away, the article urges.

“If you don’t have a retirement savings strategy as part of your overall financial plan by this point, don’t delay,” Farkas writes.

A common mistake at this point is growing your lifestyle at the expense of your savings, the article explains – moving into a bigger house or apartment, or upgrading your car. Dr. Robert Johnson of Creighton University states in the piece that “what happens is they are unable to improve their financial condition because they spend everything they make. People are wise to effectively invest any money from a raise as if you didn’t receive the raise. That is, continue to live the same lifestyle you led before receiving a raise and invest the difference.”

If, instead, you were to invest some or all of a raise in your future, it would add up, the article notes. A $5,000 raise invested annually at 10 per cent will yield an eye-popping $822,000 in savings after 30 years, the article explains.

By age 50, the article notes, you need five times your salary in savings. With kids usually gone from your home and their education paid for, this is a good age for catch up if you have fallen behind, Farkas writes. And be sure you are investing in a low-fee savings vehicle, the article adds.

At 60, the article concludes, you should have seven to eight times your salary in retirement savings because you are now five years away from retirement. As well, the article warns, you should consider reducing your exposure to riskier investments, such as equities.

The article notes that those approaching retirement in 2007/8 would have seen their equity investments fall by 37 per cent in one year.

Let’s sum all this thinking up. Start saving for retirement as soon as you start making money. Make it automatic. Don’t forget your savings program in the excitement of getting a big raise and making more money. Don’t put all your savings eggs in one basket, particularly if that basket is full of stocks and no bonds or alternative investments.

The article suggests that a great way to get to the finish line in retirement saving is to join up with any retirement plan your employer offers – often, they will match what you contribute. That’s great advice. But if you don’t have access to an employer retirement program, fear not – the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is available for do-it-yourselfers. Through SPP you can save in a low-fee program that has delivered strong investment returns for over 35 years. Check them out today!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


How you can set up a “Pay Yourself First” plan

September 9, 2021

By now, practically all of us have heard about “pay yourself first” as a savings strategy.

The general idea is to put away some percentage of your earnings, and then live on the rest. It sounds simple in theory, but in practice, less so. To that end, Save with SPP took a look around the Interweb to get some ideas about how to actually get going on a “pay yourself first” plan.

The folks at MoneySense see several simple steps you need to take to put your plan into action.

First, they suggest, “zero in on your savings goals.” What are you paying yourself first for – to build an emergency fund, or save up for a down payment, or a wedding or (our favourite) retirement, the article asks.

There has to be a reason why you are directing money away from your normal, bill-paying chequing account, MoneySense tells us.

Next, they recommend, take pen to paper and figure out how much you actually can pay yourself first. Make a list of your monthly “must spends,” like “shelter, food, electricity/heat, phone, transportation, etc.,” the article says. What’s left over is “discretionary” money, which can be spent or saved, the article adds.

If you are saving for more than one thing, you need to figure out how much each month to put away for each category. Then comes the actual “doing” part – automating your savings plan.

MoneySense recommends setting up an automatic transfer each month that moves money from chequing into savings. This amount can be increased when you get a raise, the article notes. Savings should be directed to either a tax-free savings account (TFSA), a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP), or a combination of both, the article concludes.

The Oaken Financial blog notes that guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) can be a good place to stash savings. GICs are locked in for a time, but pay a set amount of interest for a fixed term, the blog notes. High-interest savings accounts pay good interest but allow you to make withdrawals at any time, the blog notes.

The Golden Girl Finance blog says there are apps that take the difficult thinking part out of the saving equation. Wealthsimple, the blog notes, allows you to round up your credit card purchases, so you are actually paying a little extra, with that money being directed to your savings account. So you save a little as you spend, the blog notes.

Save with SPP notes that similar arrangements – where you pay a little extra on debit card purchases, or where a money-back credit card deposits the cashback directly to your savings account – exist at other Canadian banks.

Other ideas that have flashed across the screen of late:

  • Banking your raise. You were paying off the bills OK before you got the raise, so why not stick the difference between your former pay and your new pay into savings, and live off the rest? You were the day before the raise!
  • Banking your cost of living adjustment. Same concept, but for us lucky pensioners who get cost of living increases, why not direct the increase to savings and continue to live on what you were getting prior to the increase?
  • Starting small. You may not stick with a pay yourself first plan if it is overly ambitious. Uncle Joe always said bank 10 per cent and live on the 90 per cent; he did, and he did well, but Joe was a very disciplined spender. Better to start smaller, maybe two or three per cent, and phase it up.

So to recap – you either need to know how much you spend each month to figure out how much you save, or you need to just pick an affordable percentage of your earnings and set it aside. Once you have automated the process, you won’t miss the saved amount, which will grow happily in a savings account, a retirement account, or perhaps the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

Celebrating 35 years of operations, the SPP permits automatic contributions. They can set it up for you, or you can set up SPP as a bill on your bank website and set up the automation yourself. Either way, the money you direct to SPP will be put away for your future, invested professionally, and – grown – will await you after you get home from the retirement party!

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.


Aug 30: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

August 30, 2021

How to hang on to any “pandemic cash” that may be pilling up

While some of us have had to struggle to make ends meet during the pandemic, others have – somewhat ironically – seen their personal savings shoot to new heights.

A report by CTV News looks at how some of us may have to adjust our budgets as COVID-19 restrictions begin to taper off.

The article notes that by the second quarter of 2021, Canada’s savings rate rocketed up to 13.1 per cent, more than double the previous year’s savings rate.

“Even Canadians’ credit card debts have been dropping, with rates hitting a six-year-low in June due to reduced spending,” the article informs us, citing data from Equifax.

You read that right. Credit card debt is dropping.

“Across the board in all age groups, we’re starting to see people pay more than they actually spend on a credit card, which is a real positive behaviour change in terms of consumers,” Rebecca Oakes of Equifax tells The Canadian Press in the article.

That’s great, but when things return to “normal,” will we still be saving and paying off debt?

CTV suggests a few things to do with any extra cash you may have accumulated as normality begins – and there are more tempting things to spend your money on than during the locked-down pandemic.

Finance expert David Lester is quoted in the article as suggesting one destination for extra bucks would be an emergency fund, which should be enough to cover “six to nine months of expenses.”

Next, Lester tells CTV that your retirement piggy bank should not be neglected in the rush to spend, spend, spend.

“It could go into your tax-free savings account (TFSA) or registered retirement savings plan (RRSP), but we should just get used to saving 10 to 15 per cent” for retirement, he states.

If you spend with a credit card, Lester says it’s important to pay off the card each month, and to avoid letting a credit balance begin to grow.

He recommends that you pay off credit card balances first, as soon as you get paid, “and then going to zero (balance).”

If you are setting a budget for the world after the pandemic, be realistic, adds Lester.

There were a lot of things we couldn’t do – many of them expensive – that we may not want to spend as much on post pandemic, he explains. We lived without them for a long period of time, Lester tells CTV.

“Maybe it was travel, maybe it was movies, maybe it was having coffee at home, or not buying expensive clothing,” he says in the article. “So see what you really don’t miss and go back through that budget line-by-line and see what you don’t have to add back on now that things are opening up. We don’t want to go back to that bad spending that we were doing before.”

Our late Uncle Joe frequently would pull us aside and recommend the 10 per cent rule – bank 10 per cent of your money off the top, and live on the remaining 90 per cent. “You will never have any problems,” he said. It’s very sensible advice.

Pay yourself first, the old adage goes. And if you are putting away that cash in a retirement account, you are paying your future self first. You’ll be making life easier down the road, because you’ll be entering retirement with money in the bank and at the ready. A great way to pay your future self first is to set up an account with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. They’ll invest your savings, at a low cost and a historically strong rate of return, and at the appropriate time, will help you convert those savings into retirement income. After all, they’ve been delivering retirement security for an impressive 35 years!

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.

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.