Tag Archives: RRSP

Sep 9: Best from the blogosphere

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

Three things we can all do to boost our savings: Motley Fool

If you’re just getting on the Retirement Savings train – or if you’re packing up your desk for the last time and getting ready for the main event of retirement – the Motley Fool Canada offers three tips on how you can improve your retirement savings.

According to an article posted on Yahoo! Finance Canada, the tips are billed as something “every single Canadian can do to help prepare themselves for a smarter, happier, and richer life in retirement.”

The writers at Motley Fool point out a fact that many of us tend to ignore – “the only way to consistently save money is by spending less, on average, compared to what you earn.” So if you are, for instance, earning $2,500 a month but spending (thanks to credit cards or lines of credit) $3,000 a month, you are in trouble.

The article says that the best way to ensure you are running your ship of state in the black is by preparing a budget, and sticking to it. The budget should not only include your usual repeat monthly items like rent, light, heat, gas, and other bills, but should factor in money for your vacation and other one-time events, the article says.

With budget in hand, the article recommends, you can follow savings tip number one – to “set aside at least 10 per cent to pay yourself at the end of every month or after each paycheque.”

By paying yourself first, you will grow your savings quickly and efficiently, the Motley Fool observes.

The second tip on offer is to “use Canada’s tax-incentivized savings programs to your benefit,” the article states.

The article cites the availability of the RRSP program, pointing out that contributions to such programs are tax-deductible. As well, money within an RRSP grows tax-free until that future time when you crack into it for retirement.

The article also notes the existence of TFSAs. While you don’t get a tax break on money you put into these savings vehicles, there’s no tax on investment returns and growth, “including capital gains and dividend or interest income,” the writers note.

The last tip from the Motley Fool Canada is a good one for those of us who invest in stocks.

“By investing in the stocks of high-quality businesses in which you possess a firm understanding — those run by experienced and competent management teams that companies that consistently pay their shareholders a regular monthly or quarterly dividend — investors can go a long way toward avoiding the mistakes that so often challenge those just starting out,” the article states.

Recapping the article, it’s important to include a strong commitment to savings in your budget, to take advantage of tax-sheltered savings programs, and to keep quality in mind when investing for the long term.

A nice addition to your retirement toolkit would be a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account. The contributions you make are, just like RRSP contributions, tax-deductible. You can “pay yourself first” by setting up automatic contributions that go from your account directly to SPP. And the money you earmark for savings is invested at a low fee by a highly competent plan with a strong track record of growth. Win-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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

The Wealthy Barber Returns, bearing some easy-to-follow advice

When David Chilton came out with The Wealthy Barber decades ago, it was remarkable in that was a financial self-help book that was fun to read and easy to understand.

His follow-up book, The Wealthy Barber Returns, does not disappoint. It’s friendly, clear, and helpful, and is not mired in overcomplicated examples, tables, and worksheets. It feels more like you are benefitting from the experience of a good friend who’s bested some of the financial headwinds that have you mired down.

He begins with the “painful truth” that unless you come from money or marry into it, “you’ll have to learn to spend less than you make,” a message that “clearly hasn’t sunk in with the majority of Canadians.” Because of that, he continues, “a disturbing number of us aren’t saving enough to fund our future goals, most notably, a reasonable retirement.”

People, Chilton writes, think saving “requires sacrifices today” that somehow lessen life. “Surprisingly, it’s quite the opposite! People who live within their means tend to be happier and less stressed,” he notes.

One way to spend less is to avoid going to places where you like to spend money, or to leave credit cards at home. “Giving into temptation is only a mindless swipe away,” he warns. Currency users look in their wallets and see “a finite amount of cash – the ultimate forced discipline.” Those with credit and debit cards carry “virtually unlimited funds,” which may explain why average Canucks have $15,000 to $25,000 in credit card debt, Chilton writes.

“Credit cards allow us to act wealthier than we are, and acting wealthy now makes it tough to be wealthy later,” Chilton points out.

Another way to ramp in spending is to learn the phrase “I can’t afford it,” he notes. He cites the example of home renovations, which almost always go overboard. “More than half of the people I know who are in trouble with their lines of credit… arrived there via excessive home-renovation expenses,” he observes. If you are going all out on the house with borrowed money while neglecting your RRSP or your kids’ education, Chilton warns, “yeah, that’s an issue.” Instead of paying for heated marble floors, buy slippers, he adds.

Lines of credit “are helpful, yet insidious…. when drawing from your line of credit, always remember this incredibly basic but ultra-important fact. It’s not your money, it’s the bank’s,” he writes. Be careful at the bank with credit lines, because if you ask for a $30,000 line you may get approved for much more. “Just say no,” he writes. “You are your own credit-control board.”

You don’t want to take debt into retirement, Chilton states. “It drains cash flow, creates worry, and is subject to interest rate risks that will most assuredly follow Murphy’s Law,” he adds. He’s also leery about reverse mortgages.

In a chapter on retirement, Chilton says that most experts recommend that you put 10 to 15 per cent of your gross income away for retirement. “Don’t despair, though,” he writes. “A relatively small cutback in your spending rate can dramatically increase your savings rate.”

He concludes by reminding readers to “pay yourself first” by directing a set portion of your earnings to savings. The Wealthy Barber Returns is a great read, an insightful overview, and is non-threatening. You won’t feel like you’re a financial failure after you read it, but you will learn to recognize (and correct) your own bad habits.

If you are thinking of paying your future self first, why not set up an account with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan? The amounts you contribute will be carefully invested, will grow, and will be harvested in the form of a future lifetime pension. It’s an option worth checking out!

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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Why people aren’t saving – an interview with Doug Hoyes

As co-founder of Hoyes and Michalos, a debt relief firm, and a commentator on personal finance, Doug Hoyes has seen it all when it comes to debt.

And he has a straightforward view on why Canadians aren’t saving much for retirement, telling Save with SPP that these days, “people don’t save for anything.”

The savings rate, he notes, was as high as 15 per cent in 1980 and has plunged to “less than one per cent” today. In other words, people are saving less than a penny of every dollar they earn.

“People don’t save anything; it’s just not a thing we do anymore,” he explains. “I think the cost of living is high and job security is low.” The old “job for life” days are long gone, and people now expect to have multiple jobs through their working career, he explains.

“You are seeing sporadic employment, contract work – it is hard for people to put down roots and save. And house prices are rising sharply, and everything costs more. We’re not able to save, and we are seeing more people using debt to make ends meet,” he says.

Those who do try to save tend to be punished for their efforts – savings account and GICs pay interest in the low single digits, and if savers look to invest in mutual funds “there are high fees, and they take on risk,” he explains. Since low-interest lines of credit are so prevalent, for many people, debt has replaced savings, a practice that Hoyes says just isn’t sustainable in the long term.

Save with SPP asked how this lack of saving affects retirement plans.

“It’s become uncommon to have a pension plan (a traditional defined benefit plan) at work,” he says, “unless you work for the government. It’s just not a thing newer companies offer.” He says that from an employer’s point of view, “it is a hassle to set them up, and there is a potential for liabilities that need to be funded, and more money needing to be put in.” Sears and Nortel show the potential downside for employees and DB pensioners if the parent company runs into financial trouble, he notes.

So traditional pension plans in the private sector have generally been replaced with things “like a group RRSP, where there is zero risk (for the employer).” Employees are satisfied with a group RRSP because they “know they are not going to be there, at the same employer, for 50 years,” and a group RRSP is portable and easy to transfer, Hoyes explains.

With more and more working people dealing with debt, it’s not surprising to Hoyes that more seniors are retiring with debt, a situation he says can lead to disaster.

“In retirement, your income goes down, and while some of your expenses that were related to work go down, others will go up,” he explains. “Your rent doesn’t go down when you retire, so your cost of living is about the same.”

Retired seniors, living on less and still paying down debt, face other problems, he says. It’s more common for retirees to divert savings to “helping their adult kids.” Examples of this might include a divorced child moving home, or college and university graduates, unable to find work, staying home instead of moving out. So the seniors may use up their savings or borrow to help the children, “as any parent might,” but that drives them into a financial crisis, he explains.

With debt to pay and possibly little to no workplace pension, many seniors are heading back to work. Others, Hoyes notes, are starting to have to file for insolvency.

“Maybe you only have CPP and OAS coming in, and you have a $50,000 debt that you can’t service – you may need to file for bankruptcy and make payments through a trustee,” he explains.

We thank Doug Hoyes for speaking to Save with SPP.

If you don’t have a pension plan at work, consider opening a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account. It’s like setting up a personal pension plan. The money you set aside is invested for you at a low fee, and when you are ready to collect it, it’s available as a lifetime pension with several survivor benefit options.

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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Even those with workplace retirement savings plan coverage still worry about retirement: Aon research

Recent research conducted for Aon has found that Canadian workers in capital accumulation plans (CAPs), such as defined contribution (DC ) pension plans or group RRSPs, while confident about these plans and their own finances, “find it hard to save for retirement and are worried about having enough money to retire.”

The global actuarial and HR firm’s report, Global DC and Financial Wellbeing Employee Survey, also found that “fewer than half” of those surveyed have a particular goal for retirement savings, and that “depending on other sources of income, many find their current plan contribution levels are inadequate to ensure their total income needs in retirement,” according to an Aon release.

Among the other findings of the report:

  • Of the 1,003 respondents, only 27 per cent saw their financial condition as poor
  • Almost half of those surveyed say outstanding debts are preventing them from saving for retirement
  • Two of five who are in employer-matching plans (where the employer matches the contributions made by the employee) are not taking full advantage of the match
  • Of those who expect to fully retire from work, two-thirds expect to do so by age 66; 30 per cent expect to keep working forever in some capacity.

Save with SPP reached out to one of the authors of the research, Rosalind Gilbert, Associate Partner in Aon’s Vancouver office, to get a little more detail on what she made of the key findings of the research. 

Do you have a sense of what people think adequate contributions would be – maybe a higher percentage of their earnings?

“I don’t believe most respondents actually know what is ‘adequate’ for them from a savings rate perspective.  The responses are more reflective of their fears that that they don’t have enough saved to provide themselves a secure retirement.  Some may be relating this to the results of an online modeller of some kind, or feedback from financial advisors.

“I also think that many employees don’t have a clear picture of the annual income they will be receiving from Canada Pension Plan/Old Age Security to carve that out from the income they need to produce through workplace savings.  Some of this comes back to not having a retirement plan in terms of what age they might retire and, separately, what age they might start their CPP and OAS (since both of those drive the level of those benefits quite significantly).”

Is debt, for things like mortgages and credit cards, restricting savings, in that after paying off debt there is no money left for retirement savings?

“We were surprised to see the number of individuals who cited credit card debt as a barrier to saving for retirement. Some of this is the servicing (interest) cost, which is directly related to the amount of debt (and which will increase materially if interest rates do start to rise, which many are predicting).

“I think that the cost of living, primarily the cost of housing and daycare, is currently quite high for many individuals (particularly in certain areas like Vancouver), and that, combined with very high levels of student loans, means younger employees are just not able to put any additional money away for retirement.  There is also a growing generation of employees who are managing child care and parent care at the same time which is further impeding retirement savings.”

We keep hearing that workplace pensions are not common, but it appears from your research that participation rates are high (when a plan is available).

“This survey only included employees who were participating in their employers’ workplace retirement savings program.  So you are correct that industry stats show that overall coverage of Canadian employees by workplace savings programs is low, but our survey showed that where workplace savings programs are available, participation rates are high.”

What could be done to improve retirement savings outcomes – you mention many don’t take advantage of retirement programs and matching; any other areas for improvement?

“In Canada, DC pension plans and other CAPs are not as mature as they are in other countries such as the UK and US.  That said, we are now seeing the first generation of Canadians retiring with a full career of DC (rather than DB) retirement savings.  Appropriately, there has been a definite swing towards focusing on decumulation (outcomes) versus accumulation in such CAPs.

“From service providers like the insurance companies that do recordkeeping for workplace CAPs, this includes enhanced tools supporting financial literacy and retirement and financial planning.  Also, many firms who provide consulting services to employers for their workplace plans encourage those employers to focus on educating members and encouraging them to use the available tools and resources.

“However, if members are required to transfer funds out of group employer programs into individual savings and income vehicles (with associated higher fees and no risk pooling) when they leave employment, they will see material erosion of their retirement savings. Variable benefit income arrangements (LIF and RRIF type plans) within registered DC plans are able to be provided in most jurisdictions in Canada, but there are still many DC plans which still do not offer these.

“It is more difficult to provide variable benefits when the base plan is a group RRSP or RRSP/deferred profit sharing plan (DPSP) combination, but the insurance company recordkeepers all offer group programs which members can transition into after retirement to facilitate variable lifetime benefits.  The most recent Federal Budget was really encouraging with its announcement of legislation to support the availability of Advanced Life Deferred Annuities (ALDAs) and Variable Pay Life Annuities (VPLAs) from certain types of capital accumulation plans.

“There is still more work to be done to implement these and to ensure that they are more broadly available and affordable, but it is a definite step in the right direction.  A key benefit of the VPLAs is the pooling of mortality risk while maintaining low fees and professionally managed investment options within a group plan.  The cost to an individual of paying retail fees and managing investments and their own longevity risk can have a crippling impact on that member’s ultimate retirement income.”

We thank Rosalind Gilbert for taking the time to connect with us.

If you don’t have access to a workplace pension plan, or do but want to contribute more towards your retirement, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be of interest. It’s a voluntary pension plan. You decide how much to contribute (up to $6,200 per year), and your contributions are then invested for your retirement. When it’s time to turn savings into income, SPP offers a variety of annuity options that can turn your savings into a lifetime income stream.

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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Retirement in Canada: Author Klassen likes concept of phased retirement

If you’re looking for a thoughtful, fact-filled and interesting guide to planning for your golden years, then Retirement in Canada by Thomas R. Klassen is a wise addition to your retirement reading collection.

Retirement, writes Klassen, is a complex issue both financially and demographically. He notes that the huge wave of retiring baby boomers is unprecedented. “Two-thirds of those 65 and over who have ever lived are alive today,” he writes.

For this huge group, he asks, will traditional definitions of retirement still work? “Retirement typically involves a substantial and sustained reduction in the amount of time spent in paid employment,” he explains. “Yet such a definition fails to include the many Canadians who spend decades in unpaid labour, such as working at home to care for children or other relatives.” What, he asks, does retirement look like for that group, “those who have not worked for money for an extended period of time?”

The old idea of retirement was ending employment at age 65 and never working again. However, Klassen notes, “it is relatively rare for retirement to mean the complete and irrevocable stoppage of work.” There is, he continues, “nothing magical about 65,” and Canada’s very first old-age pension program started at 70. Women, he writes, can still give birth after age 65 through in vitro, a 100-year-old completed a marathon in 2011, students graduate university in their 80s and 90s, and “workers in a range of occupations remain employed years, and in a few cases, decades past age 65.”

Canadians are now living longer. In the 1920s, life expectancy for Canadian men was 59 and for women, 61. These days, most Canadians will live to at least 85.

Will the burden of paying for all these retirees fall upon younger Canadians?

Klassen takes issue with the old-age dependency argument, the “impression of a future world in which a relatively few younger workers will have to support a multitude of retired people.” First, the retirees depend “on savings, such as pensions, accumulated during decades of employment,” rather than on younger workers. Second, such thinking assumes that everyone 15-64 “is employed – that is, they are workers – and that everyone 65 and over is retired and not employed. This is clearly not the case.”

In fact, he writes, older Canadians work past age 65 in ever-larger numbers, either because “they have no choice but to continue earning employment income,” or because “they live to work, rather than work to live.”

The idea behind mandatory retirement at 65 was “to press for adequate pensions from employers and for state programs for older citizens,” he writes. A related idea was to clear the decks for younger people to take the jobs vacated by retirees. When mandatory retirement was ended, Klassen notes, this thinking was revealed as “a fallacy,” based incorrectly on the assumption that the number of jobs in the economy is finite.

While government retirement income programs generally work well, the other main savings vehicles – RRSPs and workplace pensions – aren’t running at maximum efficiency. Klassen notes that only 39 per cent of workers had access to a workplace pension plan in 2010, and that only 25 per cent of those eligible for a private pension joined.

An issue, he suggests, might be affordability. Families in their 30s have significantly less wealth than those in their 60s, who are living in mortgage-free homes and are experiencing their highest levels of income.

So, given all this, will retirement be a good thing for most of us?

Klassen concludes by noting that “most Canadians can expect satisfaction with, and in, retirement after an initial period of adjustment.” He adds that “there is no magic transformation that occurs upon retirement,” so “those with higher levels of satisfaction with life before retirement will likely continue to be fortunate and fulfilled in retirement.”

If you are someone who has not joined a workplace pension plan, or don’t have access to one, the Saskatchewan Pension is well worth checking out. You can start small, and make contributions when you can, and then ramp it up as your income improves over time. It’s a flexible plan that is a sensible retirement savings ally.

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. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

May 6: Best from the blogosphere

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

Tax-free pension plans may offer a new pathway to retirement security: NIA

With workplace pensions becoming more and more rare, and Canadians generally not finding ways to save on their own for retirement, it may be time for fresh thinking.

Why not, asks Dr. Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald of the National Institute on Ageing, introduce a new savings vehicle – a tax-free pension plan?

Interviewed by Yahoo! Finance Canada, Dr. MacDonald says the workplace pension plan model can work well. “Workplace pension plans are a key element to retirement income security due to features like automatic savings, employer contributions, substantial fee reductions via economies of scale, potentially higher risk-adjusted investment returns, and possible pooling of longevity and other risks,” she states in the article.

Dr. MacDonald and her NIA colleagues are calling for something that builds on those principles but in a different, tax-free way, the article explains. The new Tax-Free Pension Plan would, like an RRSP or RPP, allow pension contributions to grow tax-free, the article says. But because it would be structured like a TFSA, no taxes would need to be deducted when the savings are pulled out as retirement income, the article reports.

“TFSAs have been very popular for personal savings, and the same option could be provided to workplace pension plans. It would open the pension plan world to many more Canadians, particularly those at risk of becoming Canada’s more financially vulnerable seniors in the future,” she explains.

And because the money within the Tax-Free Pension Plan is not taxable on withdrawal, it would not negatively impact the individual’s eligibility for benefits like OAS and GIS, the article states.

It’s an interesting concept, and Save with SPP will watch to see if it gets adopted anywhere. Save with SPP earlier did an interview with Dr. MacDonald on income security for seniors and her work with NIA continues to seek ways to ensure the golden years are indeed the best of our lives.

Cutting bad habits can build retirement security

Writing in the Greater Fool blog Doug Rowat provides an insightful breakdown of some “regular” expenses most of us could trim to free up money for retirement savings.

Citing data from Turner Investments and Statistics Canada, Rowat notes that Canadians spend a whopping $2,593 on restaurants and $3,430 on clothing every year, on average. Canadians also spend, on average, $1,497 each year on cigarettes and alcohol.

“Could you eat out less often,” asks Rowat. “Go less to expensive restaurants? Substitute lunches instead of dinners? Skip desserts and alcohol?” Saving even $500 a year on each of these categories can really add up, he notes.

“If you implemented all of these cost reductions at once across all of these categories, you’d have more than $186,000 in additional retirement savings. That’s meaningful and could result in a more fulfilling or much earlier retirement,” suggests Rowat. He’s right – shedding a bad habit or two can really fatten the wallet.

If you don’t have a retirement plan at work, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is ready and waiting to help you start your own. The plan offers professional investing at a low cost, a great track record of returns, and best of all, a way to convert your savings to retirement income at the finish line. You can set up automatic contributions easily, a “set it and forget it” approach – and by cutting out a few bad habits, you can free up some cash today for retirement income tomorrow. 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, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Apr 8: Best from the blogosphere

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

Feds roll out concept of deferred annuity to age 85

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best things to do in retirement – more work?

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Mar 4: Best from the blogosphere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Shelties, Duncan, Phoebe and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Jan 14: Best from the blogosphere

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

Blogger sees CPP expansion as helping hand for retirement saving

While many politicians and financial think-tanks like to refer to Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions as a tax – one they say is being increased through expansion of the program – at least one blogger sees it as a positive step towards retirement saving.

The Michael James on Money blog recently took a look at the issue of CPP expansion.

In his post, James notes that many observers say CPP expansion is “unnecessary,” and cite average saving figures as proof that a bigger CPP is not needed.

“But averages are irrelevant in this discussion,” writes James. “Consider two sisters heading into retirement. One sister has twice as much money as she needs and the other has nothing. On average, they’re fine, but individually, one sister has a big problem. CPP expansion is aimed at those who can’t or won’t save on their own.”

And while there are many programs – CPP, Old Age Security, and the Guaranteed Income Supplement – designed to ensure “we don’t… see seniors begging for food in our streets,” the CPP is something that working Canadians and their employers pay into, rather than a taxpayer-funded program, he explains.

He makes the point that CPP should not be an optional savings program, like an RRSP. “If CPP were optional, too many of those who need it most would opt out. The only way CPP can serve its purpose well is if it’s mandatory for everyone,” he writes.

These are excellent arguments. The days when everyone had a pension plan at work, and the CPP was a sort of supplement to it, are long gone. According to Statistics Canada, the number of men with registered pension plan coverage dropped from 52 per cent to 37 per cent between 1997 and 2011. For women, coverage increased to from 36 per cent to 40 per cent during the same period. That means more than 60 per cent of us don’t have a pension at work.

CPP expansion helps fill that coverage void. If workplace pension plans were on the increase, certainly CPP expansion wouldn’t be necessary – the statistics show that’s simply not the case.

If you don’t have a pension plan at work, you can self-fund your retirement through membership in the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Any Canadian can join and contribute up to $6,200 annually to an SPP account. When you retire, SPP takes the headaches out of the process for you and converts your savings into a lifetime income stream. You can start small and build your contributions as your career moves forward.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22