RRSP

Some common RRSP mistakes we all need to avoid

August 4, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The RatesDotCa blog adds a few more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by Martin Biefer

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


AUG 1: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

August 1, 2022

More had pension coverage in 2020, but six in 10 don’t: Statistics Canada

New research from Statistics Canada shows that 57,000 more Canadians had registered pension plans in 2020 than in 2019, reports Investment Executive.

However, the article notes, 2020 – the first year of the pandemic – saw fewer workers overall due to COVID-19. So while a greater percentage of workers had pensions, the overall worker pool actually shrunk that year, the article notes.

Let’s dig into the other findings.

“Nearly 6.6 million Canadians had a registered pension plan in 2020, up by 57,000 (0.9 per cent) from 2019,” Investment Executive reports, citing Stats Canada data.

“The increases came in Quebec (33,000), Ontario (25,200) and British Columbia (16,800), while fewer workers in Alberta (-23,400) and in Newfoundland and Labrador (-3,500) had pensions,” the article continues.

Defined benefit pensions – the type where the payout is pre-determined, and is typically a lifetime pension that may offer inflation protection – represented “the lion’s share of pensions in Canada,” the publication notes. 4.4 million Canadians were covered by this type of plan in 2020, the article adds.

Defined contribution pensions – basically capital accumulation plans, where savings are invested and whatever is in the kitty at retirement is turned into income – accounted for 18.4 per cent of all registered pension plan members. The Saskatchewan Pension (SPP) is this type of plan.

Overall, the article reports, “almost four in 10 (39.7 per cent) workers in Canada were covered by a registered pension plan in 2020, up from 37.1 per cent in 2019.”

“The increase in the coverage ratio was due to a decrease in labour force numbers, attributable to the pandemic, rather than an increase in the membership in the registered pension plans,” StatsCan stresses in the article.

Participation in workplace registered pension plans has been in decline generally this century, Investment Executive reports. “This level of coverage was last seen in 2001 (40.2 per cent), then trended downward before having a peak year in 2009 (39.4 per cent), after which point it resumed its downward trend.”

There are a couple of takeaways from this article. First, it suggests that over six in 10 workers in Canada weren’t covered by a registered pension plan in 2020. That’s going to be a problem as more folks without pension coverage at work converge on their retirement years.

On the positive side, these days in the sorta-kinda post-COVID world, employers are finding it harder to attract and retain employees. Many are improving the benefits they offer their teams, including adding or upgrading pension programs. Let’s hope this more positive trend continues.

If you don’t have any kind of pension arrangement at work, fear not. There’s a great do-it-yourself option out there through the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Any Canadian with registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) room can sign up for SPP, and you can then contribute up to $7,000 annually to the plan. If you have an RRSP, you can move those funds to your SPP account – transfers of up to $10,000 a year are permitted. Your savings are professionally invested at a low cost in a pooled pension fund, and when it’s time to stop the whole work thing, you can arrange to receive some or all of your savings as a lifetime monthly pension via SPP’s annuity program.

Be sure to take a look at what SPP has to offer!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


Looking back on what the experts say – Save with SPP

July 21, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

Prof. Luc Godbout, remarking on the trend of people working longer, had an idea on how to tweak the retirement system to accommodate the needs of older workers.  Allowing Canadians to postpone Old Age Security until age 75, and moving the conversion dates for RRSPs/RRIFs to 75, would “optimize the mechanics of pension plans, and also encourage Canadians to remain in the workforce, which improves health and also helps with Canada’s looming labour shortage.” Here’s where you can find the full article.

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

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

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

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

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


JUL 11: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

July 11, 2022

Even if you have zero saved for retirement, these steps will get you started

One of the findings of a recent survey from the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) was that “32 per cent of working Canadians said they have yet to save anything for retirement.”

South of the border, reports GoBankingRates via Yahoo! Finance, the situation is similar, with 23 per cent of Americans having saved nothing for retirement, and “25 per cent of Americans between 45 and 55 years old” not having even started saving.

Like dieting and going to the gym more often, saving for retirement is something we know is good for us but is easy to avoid doing. GoBankingRates offers a few ways to fire up your own personal retirement savings program.

The first step is to start budgeting, the article notes. “When payday comes around, it’s tempting to pay for immediate expenses, such as rent and groceries, and use the rest of that money for spending and splurging. Instead, you should consider budgeting,” the article urges. “By setting aside a little money every month towards retirement, you will be able to enjoy that money in the future,” states Jay Zigmont of Live, Learn Plan in the article.

Next, the article continues, is addressing your debt load.

“Debt is a frustrating thing to have, but the sooner you are able to eliminate it, the more money you will have for saving for retirement, investing and spending,” the article tells us. This is a very valid point. Next time you get your credit card bill, see how much interest you were charged on the balance over the last month. That amount could go to savings if you were able to pay off the card.

To target your debt, the article advises you to first be sure to make at least the minimum payment on all debts. They then advise that you put any extra money you can on the debt with the highest interest rate. Once that one’s gone, add what you were paying on high-interest debt 1 to high-interest debt 2, and repeat until you are debtless.

A third idea in the article is goal-setting for savings.

“Make sure you know why you are saving,” Zigmont states in the article. “What do you want your retirement to look like? What are you willing to give up to get there? What is the dollar number you need to hit to retire? When do you want to do it by?”

If you want, for example, to have $20,000 in savings for 20 years of retirement, a target might be $400,000. For simplicity, we are not talking about interest rates and investment returns in this example, but both can help you get there.

Other ideas from GoBankingRate include investing your savings, rather than putting it all in a savings account. “Follow the general rule of only investing in things you understand,” Zigmont states in the article. “Take the time to learn what your options are and be sure to understand both what you are investing in.” In Canada, your choices include workplace pension plans, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs), Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) and plain old cash trading accounts. Be sure you know the limits and rules for each type of investment vehicle.

The final advice in the article is to “take ownership” of retirement. “The key to retirement is making it your own,” the article concludes. Do you want to fully retire, or move to part-time work? Having an idea of what your own retirement will be like will help guide your savings plan, the article concludes.

Over many years of reviewing books for Save with SPP, there was one piece of advice that really stood out, and actually worked for us when money was tight. That idea was to put aside five per cent off your pay for savings right off the top, and then live on the rest.

A barrier to savings is the feeling that you won’t have anything left over after bills and groceries. But if you take five per cent off the top, and put it somewhere where you can’t get at it to spend, you’ll be amazed how quickly the savings start to add up, and how little you miss the five per cent (eventually).

A safe and secure cookie jar for your newfound savings is available through SPP.

With SPP, you can stash away up to $7,000 per year in a locked-in, voluntary defined contribution plan. “Locked-in” means you can’t raid your savings for non-retirement expenses; you can only access the money once you reach retirement age. And during that run up, your money will be invested professionally and at a low cost. SPP is a sensible savings option available to any Canadian with RRSP room; check them out today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


Looking for tricky ways to boost your retirement savings

June 30, 2022

We’re living through some very weird times. First we get a pandemic that keeps many of us from working for an extended period of time, and the rest of us with nothing to spend our money on. Now we’re facing crazy inflation that is making even routine purchases very expensive.

Are there any tricky ways to put away a few bucks for retirement out there? Save with SPP decided to seek out a few new tricks – ideally ones we haven’t covered off before.

A GoBankingRates article posted on Yahoo! offers up 42 savings tricks.

One is to watch the fees in your retirement savings accounts, the article suggests. Here in Canada, this would be in registered retirement savings plans – RRSPs – or Tax-Free Savings Accounts, TFSAs. Do you have mutual funds that charge a high fee, say two per cent or even more? Maybe you can switch to a lower-fee exchange traded fund (ETF). Other ideas include renting out a spare room or an unused garage for extra savings cash, “shopping around” for the best possible insurance rate, and the idea of “putting every tax refund into savings.”

“It’s tempting to use the extra money from your tax refund on a new toy or vacation,” the article states. “But these spurts of cash provide the perfect opportunities to give your retirement savings a big boost.”

The My Money Coach blog has some great ideas, including freeing up money for savings by paying attention to your pre-retirement cash flow.

“A very important key to saving for retirement in Canada – that many have lost sight of – is to earn more than you spend,” the blog explains.

If you are following a budget and still have little room for savings, the blog continues, “the next thing to do is to up your income. You can ask for a raise at work, or you can apply for a job that offers a higher pay and better benefits. You can also pick up extra shifts or take on a second job during the weekends or evenings, if your schedule allows it.”

Other ideas to boost cash flow (and create more savings) are “a side business or freelancing,” the blog notes. “Capitalize on one of your passions and see where it takes you.”

From the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) site comes a little bit of savings psychology advice.  “Try this little trick to motivate yourself,” the site suggests. Simply change the name of your savings solution. Seeing “My world trip,” “Better living” or “Playa del Carmen 2030” every time you log into… e-banking or (a) mobile banking app will remind you of your big dream, and give your motivation a boost,” states Daniel Bregenzer of UBS.

Other tips from UBS include making it “harder” to access your savings account so the temptation to spend it is lessened, “like keeping a box of chocolates out of sight,” and making savings an automatic habit.

Save with SPP can add a couple more.  First, if you get a cash gift card – say it’s issued as a rebate on a purchase of tires, or contact lenses, or whatever – did you know that you can use that gift card to make contributions to your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account? SPP allows you to make credit card contributions, and we have used gift cards quite a few times over the years. Here’s the page where credit card contributions can be made.

And, if you have a cashback card, what better place for the cash than your retirement savings plan – just set up SPP as a bill payment on your bank website or app, and when the cash is deposited, contribute it.

Whatever way you can wring a few extra bucks out of your living costs will work, and your future self will greatly enjoy the work your current self has put in!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


Book offers a plan for getting out – and staying out – of debt

June 23, 2022

“Debt,” begins Michael Steven in his book Getting Out of Debt, “is more than just a weight on your shoulders that causes stress and financial strain, it is a manacle that holds you back from achieving your dreams and becoming the best version of yourself.”

There are, he continues, “good debts and bad debts. Unfortunately, most people take on bad debts, either because they lack information or have competing priorities in life.”

There are a number of factors that can cause us to fall into debt, Steven writes. Loss of a job or reduction of income, a divorce, “poor money management skills,” underemployment, gambling and other factors usually are to blame.

There are also psychological issues behind debt, Steven notes.

“We also tend to define wealth from the standpoint of material possession. However, true and real success is being free from debt. Unfortunately, most people incur debt to purchase goods that depreciate in value and do not generate additional income. The desire to acquire certain social status drives people to make irrational financial decisions that eat into their future income and denies them the ability to invest in wealth creation.”

The Coles notes version of this important thought is that if we want toys to show off that we can’t really afford, we will burden ourselves with debt and rob our future selves of savings.

After reviewing the psychological impacts of debt – anger, regret, dread, shame, and so on – Steven looks at how to get out, and stay out, of the red ink.

First, he writes, you need to know “where you currently stand financially.” Figuring out your net worth – what you have minus what you owe – is a good first step.

Next, set goals for debt reduction. “Your goals should be realistic so they feel attainable, but aggressive enough to get you out of your comfort zone,” he writes. A budget is also a must, he writes.

The harder steps include controlling your expenditures – to “stave off the behaviours that initially got you into to debt,” and to control costs by cutting back on dining out, unused memberships, streaming services and subscriptions. Cut where you can, he advises.

Build an emergency fund, he recommends, so you don’t have to depend on credit for unforeseen expenses. As well, he writes, make saving a habit.

“If I told you saving is easy, I would be lying,” he writes. “Saving requires discipline, a habit you build over time. It can be hard to save instead of spend, but if you have to attain financial freedom, then saving is one of those things you will have to embrace.”

There’s a handy chapter on how to negotiate debts with your creditors, and a comparison of the main debt reduction strategies. With the “snowball” strategy, you start by paying extra on your smallest debt, and then when that is paid off, you add what you were paying on the smallest debt to the next smallest. The “avalanche” uses the same principles but starts with the highest debt first.

Once you have debt under control, you will have achieved the important state of financial discipline. “The main cause of financial problems is a lack of financial discipline and self-control,” he writes. “Therefore, achieving financial discipline should start with rewiring the mind and your perceptions about money. Start linking happiness to saving, investing, being debt free and having a good emergency fund that you can fall back on when things get tough.”

Stevens makes another key point late in the book – the fact that debt can restrict your retirement savings.

“It is highly likely that you slowed down or halted retirement contributions while paying off debt. Now that you are debt-free, though, you should work on building your retirement contributions…. always increase your retirement contributions as your income increases.”

He notes that paying off debt is a great accomplishment, but avoiding slipping back into debt requires the same discipline needed to pay it off. Boost your monthly savings once debt is gone, he suggests. “Target” your savings – save up for a trip, and pay for its costs only from that fund. Think before you spend – a used car may be better than brand new, a simpler wedding will help you avoid bringing debt on the honeymoon. You generally need to try and live within your means – meaning, spend less than you earn.

This is a helpful book and well worth a read. We have always felt that getting out of debt is very similar to losing weight – it’s an effort to lose the pounds and even more difficult to keep them off after you’ve succeeded. But in the long run it is good for you.

A good destination, post-debt, for your retirement savings is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, available to all Canadians with registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) room. With SPP, you get professional investing – a good thing to have in these volatile markets – at a low cost; your savings are pooled with those of other members to keep investing costs low. SPP will grow your savings and help your convert them into retirement income at the appropriate time. Find out more about SPP today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


May 30: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

May 30, 2022

SPP touted as a do-it-yourself retirement program

A recent Financial Post article outlines a major problem – how so many Canadians lack a workplace pension plan – and then shows how the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) can provide a do-it-yourself option.

The article, written by Sigrid Forberg, notes that the old days of working your entire career for one company, and then getting a pension from them, are “long gone.”

While 5.5 million Canadians were covered by “either a defined benefit or a defined contribution plan” by the end of 2019, that means that “only 37 per cent of Canadians are covered by a pension plan – leaving the other 63 per cent to save for retirement on their own.”

In the article, Wendy Brookhouse of Black Star Wealth in Halifax looks at the options those without workplace pensions have for saving.

“There are a lot of preconceived notions, there’s lots of rules of thumb out there that may or may not serve people, you know … ‘you need a million dollars to retire,’ or ‘you need X per cent of your pre-retirement income,” says Brookhouse.

Workplace plans make the savings simple, as an amount is deducted directly from your paycheque. But if you don’t have a plan at work, putting away money on your own “might feel like a big sacrifice,” Brookhouse states in the article.

Brookhouse recommends regular savings on your own, via either a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP), a tax free savings account (TFSA), or even life insurance.

Or, the article continues, Canadians without workplace plans could take a look at the SPP.

“Another option for those without workplace pension plans is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP). This plan was created by the Saskatchewan government in 1986 to help fill the gap for residents of the province who didn’t have access to a professionally managed pension plan. The program has since been expanded to all Canadians,” the article notes.

“The goal was to provide a collective non-profit — a trusted collaboration where people could finally get the really low fees they typically would get through a professionally managed plan,” states SPP’s executive director Shannan Corey in the article.

“In 2022, you can put up to $7,000 into the fund, depending on your personal RRSP contribution room. The fund currently has 33,000 members, with about $600 million invested. The historical returns are about eight per cent and annual fees are less than one per cent,” the article states.

With SPP, your contributions are locked in until you reach age 55, the article notes. At that point (or any time before you reach age 71) you can decide to convert your SPP savings into income, either by drawing the income down and/or receiving an SPP annuity. Saskatchewan residents have the added option of a variable benefit, the article explains.

“Our plan was designed for people who had gaps,” says Corey in the article. “The flexibility that we offer can really help people navigate those ups and downs a little better.”

Without having some sort of do-it-yourself retirement program in place, your options might be limited to working longer. The article cites the views of an actuary who argues that government pension benefits, which currently must be collected by age 70, should be allowed to be deferred to age 75. Do we really want to keep working that long?

Save with SPP can attest to the effectiveness of the SPP program; both this writer and our better half are members. There are no pre-set contributions, you can contribute in dribs and drabs up to $7,000 per year. So for us, small lottery wins, insurance payouts on dental visits, rebate cheques, and bottle deposits are sources of retirement savings. We also take advantage of making lump sum transfers from our other RRSPs into SPP.

Now, with retirement in sight for the boss, our SPP estimate says we are on track for a $500 monthly lifetime annuity payment for her next year.

SPP invests your money at a very low fee compared to typical retail mutual funds, and you are getting investing expertise at a time when markets are volatile and even a little scary. It’s an option that anyone lacking a workplace plan should check out – an all-Canadian pension solution built with Saskatchewan ingenuity! Check out SPP today.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


May 16: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

May 16, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

But other carrots are needed as well, he writes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by Martin Biefer

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


Understanding the basics of RRIFs with BMO’s James McCreath

May 12, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Apr 18: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

April 18, 2022

Canadians sock away $50.1 billion in RRSP savings

It appears the venerable registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) is alive and well, reports Investment Executive – and pandemic-related extra cash may be the reason why.

Citing Statistics Canada data, the magazine reports that “the number of Canadians that socked money away in their RRSPs increased in 2020, and their contributions rose too.”

In 2020, Canadians collectively contributed $50.1 billion in their RRSPs, the article notes. That’s an increase of 13.1 per cent over 2019, the article continues, and the number of contributors rose as well by 4.9 per cent.

Investment Executive reports that “the median RRSP contribution in 2020 came in at $3,600, which is the highest on record.”

Why did more people put more money away?

Well, the article states, “savings rose as public health restrictions limited consumer spending.” With little to spend money on other that food and fuel, the average Canadian was able to stash away “$5,800 in extra savings in 2020 on average.”

So, that extra pile of money found its way into people’s retirement savings kitties.

“With the added savings on hand, more Canadians put money into RRSPs. The proportion of taxpayers that made RRSP contributions in 2020 increased for the first time in 13 years, StatsCan said, noting that the share of taxpayers making contributions has been declining since the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) was launched as a retirement savings alternative,” the article reports.

While things are not as locked down (thank heavens) today as they were a couple of years ago, the retirement savings bug is still with us, reports Baystreet.ca.

More than $10 billion found its way into Canadian mutual funds this February, the site reports.

“That brought the total amount of mutual fund assets under management in Canada to $2 trillion as of March 1,” Baystreet notes. “In all, Canadians put $111.5 billion into mutual funds in 2021. That’s nearly four times the $29 billion in mutual fund sales in 2020, which was in line with average annual sales going back to 2000.”

So, let’s put those two thoughts together – Canadians are putting more money away in their RRSPs, including managed mutual funds. The trend seems to be that more money is going this way each year.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan allows you to contribute up to $7,000 annually towards your retirement nest egg. And you are allowed to transfer in up to $10,000 annually from other registered savings vehicles. SPP is a voluntary defined contribution plan – it has some of the characteristics of an RRSP and some of a managed mutual fund. Where SPP differs from a typical retail mutual fund is in the fees charged. SPP provides you with professional investment management, but SPP’s fee is typically less than one per cent – less than half of what most managed retail mutual funds charge. SPP has a stellar investing record, and – again, unlike a RRSP – SPP gives you the option of converting your accounting into a lifetime SPP annuity, among other retirement income options. Check out this made-in-Saskatchewan success story today!

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

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