Tag Archives: RRSP

Another Look At Life Annuities (Part 1)

By Sheryl Smolkin

Receiving a regular paycheque makes it easy to budget. The amount that appears in your bank account every month is what you have available to spend on necessary and discretionary items.

But once you retire and have to figure out how to make your lump sum savings last for the rest of your life, budgeting isn’t as easy. How much can you afford to spend? What if your investments earn less than you expected when you set up a withdrawal plan?

One way to add financial certainty is to buy a life annuity with all or a part of your retirement savings. A life annuity is purchased from an insurance company for a lump sum amount and it guarantees that you will receive a set monthly amount for life (unless the annuity is indexed).

While payments from a basic life annuity typically end when you die, at an additional cost you can add provisions like a guarantee period (i.e. payments will be made for a minimum of 10 years even if you die) or a joint and survivor feature that will continue to pay out until the death of the last spouse.

Annuities are purchased from licensed life insurance agents representing insurance companies. Life insurance agents are compensated by commissions that are factored into the cost of the annuity.

Life annuities have got a bad rap in recent years because with lower interest rates they are more expensive to purchase. Also, many people do not like the idea that they lose control of their money and that upon the death of the last annuitant or the expiry of the guaranteed payment period, the principal will not revert to their estate.

However, the upside of an annuity purchase is that if you live beyond the age that it is assumed you will live to when the original annuity purchase is made, your return on investment could be much higher than if you invested the money yourself.

If you purchase an annuity with funds from a registered plan (i.e. SPP, RRSP, DC pension plan) you must begin receiving payments by the end of the year you turn 71. Because all of the money in your account has been tax-sheltered, the full amount you receive monthly will be taxed at your incremental rate.

In contrast, you can purchase an immediate or deferred annuity from a non-registered account. For example, at age 65 you could opt to manage a portion of your money for the next 15 years, but use a lump sum to purchase a life annuity beginning at age 80. Your monthly payments will be higher than if the annuity started at age 65. Furthermore, only a portion of the benefit representing investment earnings after the purchase will be taxed.

You can use the RetirementAdvisor.ca Standard Annuity Calculator (or other similar online calculators) to model either the size of the lump sum it will take to generate a specific monthly benefit or the amount of the monthly benefit a specific lump sum will generate.

Monthly benefits you receive from the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security or a defined benefit pension plan are in effect, life annuities. Depending on your expected expenses and the amount of savings you have available, you may decide you do not need additional annuity income.

In the conclusion to his 2013 book “Life Annuities: An Optimal Product for Retirement Income”[1], Moshe Milevsky, Associate Professor of Finance at York University’s Schulich School of Business notes the following:

“Behavioural evidence is growing that retirees (and seniors) who are receiving a life annuity income are happier and more content with their financial condition in retirement than those receiving equivalent levels of income from other (fully liquid) sources, such as dividends, interest, and systematic withdrawal plans. Indeed, with growing concerns about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in an aging population, automating the retiree’s income stream at the highest possible level—which is partly what a pension life annuity is all about—will become exceedingly important and valuable.”

If you have rejected an annuity purchase in the past or if you have never seriously considered investing in a retirement annuity, it may be time to take another look.

You can also use your SPP balance to purchase a life annuity directly from the plan. For more information about SPP annuities, take a look at Understanding SPP annuities. Because you purchase the annuity directly from SPP, there are no commissions or referral fees and you can be sure you are getting competitive rates.

[1] This book can be downloaded in pdf and ebook format at no cost.

More Saskatchewan residents living pay cheque to pay cheque

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK

More working Canadians and Saskatchewan residents are living pay cheque to pay cheque, As a result they are saving less and falling further behind in meeting their retirement goals according to the sixth annual National Payroll Week Research Survey, conducted by the Canadian Payroll Association (CPA). 

Nationally, more than half of employees (51%) report that it would be difficult to meet their financial obligations if their pay cheque was delayed by a single week. In Saskatchewan, the percentage is even higher – 56% say they are living pay cheque to pay cheque, up from an average of 52% over the previous three years.

Another finding confirms that more than a quarter of those surveyed are living very close to the edge. A total of 26% say they probably could not pull together $2,000 over the next month if an emergency expense arose. In Saskatchewan, 28% would be hard pressed to come up with the funds.

The low savings rate has become even more prevalent this year. Half of all employees nationally (57% in Saskatchewan) are putting away just 5% or less of their pay, up from an average of 47% of employees over the past three years (41% in Saskatchewan). Financial planning experts generally recommend a retirement savings rate of 10% of net pay.

Part of the reason for low savings is that 44% of employees nationally, and 54% of employees in Saskatchewan, are spending all, or more than, their net pay. Among the top reasons for increased spending, the survey identifies: children, home renovations and education.

“Those who are trying to save but finding it hard to succeed should consider directing a portion of net pay into a separate savings account and/or a retirement savings program,” says CPA President and CEO, Patrick Culhane. “They can speak to their organization’s payroll practitioner to arrange this.” 

Retiring older and needing more retirement savings 

Fully 79% of Canadian employees and 75% of Saskatchewan employees expect to delay retirement until age 60 or older – up from 70% and 57% respectively over the past three years. The number one reason cited for retiring later in life is that employees are not able to save enough money.

Employees continue to raise the bar in terms of what they think they will need to retire comfortably:

  • Fewer now feel that savings under $500,000 will be sufficient (10% in Saskatchewan, down from an average of 11% over the past three years; 18% nationally, down from an average of 21% over the past three years).
  • Many think between $500,000 and $2 million will be required (71% in Saskatchewan, down 1 % from an average of 72% over the past three years; 68% nationally, up from an average of 60% over the past three years).

Yet despite upward adjustments in perceptions of what constitutes an adequate nest-egg, the vast majority of employees are nowhere near reaching their goals – 75% nationally and 74% in Saskatchewan say they have put aside less than a quarter of what they will need in retirement (up from an average of 73% and 70% respectively over the past three years). And even among employees closer to retirement (50 and older), a disturbing 47% of employees nationally (and 43% of employees provincially) are still less than a quarter of the way there, indicating a significant retirement savings gap, according to Culhane.

Debt overwhelms many

Over one-third of employees (39% nationally and 34% in Saskatchewan) say they feel overwhelmed by their level of debt (up from an average of 32% and 29% respectively over the past two years). Nationally, 1 % of respondents this year indicate they do not think they will ever be debt free, and one-third say their debt has increased from last year.

The number one step that employees believe they can take to improve their financial situation is to earn more (27%), while spending less dropped to second place from last year and decreasing debt remained flat. “Earning more is not always feasible,” says Culhane. The CPA suggests that automatic savings through payroll is the best strategy for financial well-being.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan allows members to contribute up to $2,500/year to their SPP account using a credit card online, through online banking, automatic debit from their bank account or credit card or by sending a cheque. Up to $10,000/year can also be transferred to SPP from a personal RRSP.

Companies can also set up SPP in the workplace and employee contributions can be made by payroll deduction.

 

 

 

 

Nov 10: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Just before Halloween, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a limited income- splitting proposal, based on a contentious election promise from the 2011 campaign. The new measure which will be effective for the 2014 tax year allows a parent with children under 18 to transfer $50,000 of taxable income to a spouse in a lower income tax bracket. The maximum benefit is capped at $2,000.

Whether you think this was “a trick” or “a treat” will depend on your tax bracket and whether or not only one of two parents in your family is earning income. Here are what some financial bloggers and columnists have to say about the new provisions.

In How Income Splitting Works, Dan Wesley at “Our Big Fat Wallet” explains existing permissible methods of income-splitting like paying your spouse to work in your business or spousal RRSP contributions. He then concludes by discussing the recently announced new income splitting measures for families.

In The truth about income splitting: We take what we can get, Globe and Mail columnist Rob Carrick writes, “It’s a niche benefit that discriminates against single parents, favours families with one big earner and applies to no more than 15% of households, according to estimates from various think tanks.

Law Professor Katherine Lahey blogs at “Canadians for Tax Fairness.” She writes that income splitting and other announcements to family benefits announced at the same time amount to Huge Tax Cuts for Rich Families

The Canadian Council for Policy Alternatives links to a blog David MacDonald wrote in 2011 when the Harper government first floated the idea of income splitting for families. He sheds light on the The Real Numbers Behind Income Splitting and like Lahey said the impact could be “Robin Hood in reverse,” i.e. taking from the poor to give to the rich.

Richard Welland suggests on his blog Your Estate Matters that The “Family Tax Cut” is not income splitting in spite of media reports. He’s reviewed the amendments and thinks that at most it is “simulated income splitting.” He goes on to explain how the program will work.

And finally, in several earlier blogs, on Retire Happy, the ever popular Jim Yih posted   Income Splitting Strategies in Retirement and Income Splitting Strategies for Families, while acknowledging that opportunities for income splitting in Canada are few and far between.

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

Oct 6: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

It’s October already! How time flies. Here are some interesting posts from some of our favourite, always prolific personal finance bloggers.

On Balance Junkie, Tom Drake discusses options for Banking on Your Mobile Phone. There are smartphone apps to run your business, create a budget, check your bank account and set up mobile payments.

How Behavioural Biases Kept Me From Becoming An Indexer is a confession from Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen that it’s tough to sell a portfolio of high performing winning dividend stocks – his “babies” that he has nurtured through a five-year bull market. Nevertheless the more he reads about, writes about, and teaches others about investing, the more he is convinced that convinced that passive investing (indexing) is the right approach.

4 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Mutual Fund by Our Big Fat Wallet’s Dan Wesley include how the fund has performed as compared to other funds and the costs of ownership. Like Engen, he concludes that if an actively managed fund can’t beat the index, you’re likely better off with a low-cost index Exchange Traded Fund (ETF).

Whether you are a snowbird planning winter away from Canada’s cold climate or dreaming of a one week all inclusive getaway, take a look at Frequently Never Asked Questions for your Travel Medical Insurance on Bank Nerd. Did you know that in general, an emergency due to a pre-existing condition is not covered?

And finally, on Retire happy, Sarah Milton addresses the question Should New Canadians join a Group RRSP? She agrees that RRSP accounts are intended as a vehicle for retirement savings but says that doesn’t mean they only have value if you plan to retire in Canada.

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

Sept 22: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

I recently put together a list of 40 highly-regarded but very different personal finance blogs and this week Best from the Blogosphere taps into this resource to bring you some new voices.

Switching careers is a life-altering decision, and one that needs to be thought through with care. The gals at Frugalista Finance have been there and done that. In Careers 101: Planning for a career change, they compile a step-by-step checklist to help you make sure you’re on the right track to career bliss.

If you are lucky enough to have a defined benefit pension plan, you may wonder if there is any point also belonging to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan or contributing to a personal registered retirement savings plan. The author of the blog Use RRSP with DB Pension? on “Blessed by the Potato,” says the answer depends on a few factors, chief amongst them your expected tax rate in retirement versus your tax rate now (or in the near future if you choose to contribute now but defer the deduction).

Have you been waffling about finding a financial advisor? Sandra Schmidt, an advisor with Sun Life in Vancouver says there are five financial planning milestones an advisor can help you prepare for:

  • Buying your first home.
  • Merging your finances.
  • Starting a family.
  • Setbacks.
  • Retirement.

Dan Bortolotti is an investment advisor with PWL Capital in Toronto and author of the award-winning blog Canadian Couch Potato: Your complete guide to index advising. While Dan is well known as an advocate for using exchange traded funds, he readily acknowledges implementing such a strategy is more complicated if you and your partner have several accounts.

The Model portfolios he typically recommends are ideal for investors who have a single RRSP account. But life isn’t so simple once you’ve accumulated a significant portfolio. Chances are you’ll be managing two or three accounts, and if you have a spouse there may well be a few more. In Managing Multiple Family Accounts he says it’s generally most efficient to consider both partners’ retirement accounts as a single large portfolio.

And finally, in order to enhance their income, many people opt to get a part-time job in addition to their regular day job. Nelson Smith on Financial Uproar mines twitter postings to come up with a humorous series of tweets he calls How Not To Get A Part-Time Gig. Bad grammar and spelling certainly don’t help these people make their case.

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

How to save for retirement (Part 3)

By Sheryl Smolkin

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See Part 1 and Part 2.

In the first two parts of this series on how to save money for retirement we focused on how to get started and some of the registered and unregistered savings plans available to Canadians.

This final segment looks at some other ways (in no particular order) you can both grow and preserve your retirement savings. And making sure your children are educated to effectively manage their finances is a big part of this discussion.

  1. Keep fees low: You ignore investment fees at your peril, says Toronto Star personal finance editor Adam Mayers in a recent article. The simple chart below illustrates what happens if you invest $6,000 a year for 40 years in a registered retirement savings plan. It assumes your RRSP earns a little over 5% a year and ignores taxes.
    1. In a utopian fee-free world, your money is worth $785,000 in 40 years.
    2. In a 1-per-cent fee world, you’ll have $606,000 (23% less).
    3. In a 2-per-cent fee world, you’ll have $435,000 (45% less).
    4. Annual fees in the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) average 1%.fees
  2. Understand your risk tolerance: You should have a realistic understanding of your ability and willingness to stomach large swings in the value of your investments. Investors who take on too much risk may panic and sell at the wrong time. Other factors affecting your risk tolerance are the time horizon that you have to invest, future earning capacity, and the presence of other assets such as a home, pension, government benefits or an inheritance. In general, you can take greater risk with investable assets when you have other, more stable sources of funds available.
  3. Develop an asset allocation plan: Once you understand your risk tolerance, you can develop an asset allocation strategy that determines what portion of your retirement account will be held in equities (stocks) and fixed income (bonds, cash). The investment allocation in the SPP balanced fund is illustrated below.
  4. Rebalance: The asset allocation in your portfolio will change over time as dividends are paid into the account and the value of the securities you hold goes up or down. Rebalancing helps you reap the full rewards of diversification. Trimming back on a winner allows you to buy a laggard, protect your gains, and position your portfolio to benefit from a change in the market’s favorites.Balanced-Fund-Web
  5. Auto-pilot solutions: Balanced funds including the SPP balanced fund are automatically rebalanced. In your RRSP or company pension plan Target Date Funds (TDFs) are another way to ensure your investments reflect your changing risk profile. Developed by the financial industry to automatically rebalance as you get closer to retirement. TDFs are typically identified by the year you will need to access the money in five year age bands, i.e. 2025, 2030 etc. They are available in most individual registered retired savings plans and in your employer-sponsored group RRSP or pension. However, all TDFs are not alike so consider the investment fees as compared to the expected return before jumping in.
  6. Educate yourself: Personal finance blogs contain a wealth of information about everything from frugal living to tax issues to how to save and invest your money. You can find out about some of them by listening to our podcast series of interviews on savewithspp.com or reading the weekly Best from the Blogosphere posts. Some posts are better than others so caveat emptor. But blogs like Retirehappy and Boomer & Echo have huge archives so you can find answers to virtually any virtually personal finance question.
  7. Choose your retirement date carefully: We are living longer so your money has to last longer. And starting in April 2023, the age of eligibility will gradually increase: from 65 to 67 for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension. Even if you are among the minority who have a defined benefit pension, retiring early means you will get a reduced amount. Whether you keep working because you need the money or you love your job, you will have a more affluent retirement if you work full or part-time until age 65 or longer.
  8. Develop other income streams: One of the things that stayed with me after reading Jonathan Chevreau’s book Findependence Day is the importance of having multiple income streams in retirement. So even if you are saving at work or in an individual RRSP, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. While you may not want to work at your current job indefinitely, you may be able to use your skills or hobbies to do something different after retirement. For example before I retired I was a pension and benefits lawyer. Now I augment my retirement income by writing about workplace issues.
  9. Start RESPs for your kids: The following two Globe and Mail articles by financial columnist Rob Carrick brought home to me the impact that your children’s debt and failure to launch can have on your retirement.
    1. Carrick on money: Will millennials ruin parents’ retirement dreams?
    2. Parents of Gen Y kids face their own financial squeeze

Registered educational savings plans allow you to accumulate money for your children’s education tax free and receive government grants that add to your savings. When the money is paid out, your child pays taxes, typically at a lower rate. Saving for your kids’ education now so they can minimize student loans down the road is one of the best investments you can make in your future ability to retire sooner rather than later.

  1. Raise financially literate children: And last but not least, educate your children about money so they grow into financially responsible adults. Every event from the first allowance you give your kids to buying Christmas gifts to planning for college is a teachable moment. Someday your offspring may be managing your money and ensuring you are properly taken care of. That’s when all of your great parenting skills will definitely come home to roost!

Aug 11: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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I’m on a mission to find new retirement bloggers to feature in this space who have interesting insight for SPP members of all ages who are planning to retire in the near or distant future.

I discovered Your retirement income blueprint today. This week’s blog Donor-directed taxes – You decide who gets your money! Is fascinating. If at age 71 you don’t need your mandatory RRIF withdrawals to live on, melt down your registered account and the tax liability through a donor-directed charitable giving fund and direct your tax dollars to causes you care about. The net result may also reduce your income to a level where you can avoid the OAS clawback.

GetSmartAboutMoney.ca tackles the perennial question How much you need to save for retirement? It also includes 7 tips for last minute savers including some tough love. The author suggests if you have to choose between saving for retirement and your children’s education, put money in your RRSP first. Let your children get jobs or borrow to help pay for their education. Later, you may be able to help them pay off their student loans, which carry lower interest rates.

On My Own Advisor, Mark tells Gary’s story about how he and his wife retired comfortably on less than $1 million in invested assets which seems to be the big, scary number these days. They bought a 35’ 5th wheel and a truck to tow it a they spend winters in Myrtle Beach and come back to Canada in the summers. They also can afford occasional cruises to warmer climates.

The Blunt Bean Counter Mark Goodfield is posting “the best of previous blogs” while he concentrates on improving his golf game this summer. In One Big Happy Family – Until We Discuss the Will he tackles the taboo subject of whether you should discuss your will with your family.

And Retired Syd who writes Retirement: A full time job, just finished up a five-week visit to Manhattan on her annual home-exchange vacation. She saw the city with the fresh eyes of a tourist, as she guided friends around. The notes she receives from readers help her to also view her retirement (six years and counting) in a new and more appreciative way.

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