Scott Clausen

Nov 15: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

November 15, 2021

Canadian pension system earns a “B” rating

Canada’s pension system stacks up reasonably well against those of other developed countries, reports Wealth Professional.

The magazine cites new research from the Mercer CFA Global Pension Index, research that covered pension systems that served “65 per cent of the world’s population,” and notes that Canada retained its prior “B” rating.

“Ranked for adequacy, sustainability, and integrity, Iceland came top … with an overall score of 84.2, followed by the Netherlands (83.5) and Denmark (82.0),” Wealth Professional reports.

Canada, the magazine reports, came in at 69.8, putting it “ahead of countries including the U.S. (61.4), Germany (67.9) and New Zealand (67.4).”

So while “B” is not bad, there is still work to be done, the magazine article continues. A higher overall savings rate (thanks to COVID) and economic growth help, but there are still issues that need to be addressed, the magazine adds.

“While COVID-19 had a disproportionate impact on the retirement savings of certain groups, such as women, gender gaps in retirement savings have long existed,” Scott Clausen, a Mercer Canada partner, tells Wealth Professional. “Employers are encouraged to review the design of their pension plans, as well as other compensation programs, to ensure that they are not unconsciously disadvantaging women in their workforce,” he states in the article.

The article points out that “most of the Canadian workforce are left to save for their pension themselves rather than through workplace schemes.”

Clausen tells Wealth Professional that this shortfall in coverage represents an opportunity for the country.

“Employers can provide a pension to their employees, while delegating the governance and administration responsibilities to a third party, by joining a collective defined benefit pension plan or by providing an outsourced defined contribution pension plan,” he states in the article.

Making it easier for women to save is something that pension systems in Canada and worldwide need to improve on, says Mercer’s Dr. David Knox. He tells Wealth Professional “the world cannot sit idle as data shows that poverty among older people is more prevalent for women.”

He suggests making it easier for individuals to join pension plans generally, as well as adding some sort of pension credit system that factors in time spent caring “for the young and the old.” Decades ago, it was quite common for most employers to offer some sort of pension plan for their employees. Over the years, the level of coverage has slipped.

The bottom line is this – if there’s any sort of pension arrangement at your place of work, be sure to join and contribute to the maximum. After a while, like any benefit deducted from your paycheque, you won’t notice money being put away for your future.

If there isn’t a plan to join at work, the responsibility for retirement saving has been shifted onto your shoulders. If you’re not sure how to go about the job of saving, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be an answer. SPP will invest the money you contribute – professionally, and at a low rate – and then can convert your nest egg to retirement income down the road. This do-it-yourself pension plan has been getting it done for an impressive 35 years. Check them out today!

Written by Martin Biefer

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


NOV 9: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

November 9, 2020

Survey suggests we’ll work longer and have less retirement income

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Ian McGugan takes a look at a new survey from Mercer Canada that he says suggests “the recession created by the novel coronavirus (has) delivered a stinging blow to many retirement systems, including Canada’s.”

According to the article, David Knox, an author of the 2020 Mercer CFA Institute Global Pension Index, says the current economic downturn “will impact future pensions, meaning some people will work longer while others will have to settle for a lower standard of living in retirement.”

Worse, the article reports – women will suffer more than men from this situation.

“Many of the hardest hit will be women. They have suffered disproportionately large job losses in this downturn because many work in sectors, such as restaurants and retailing, that have been hardest hit by lockdown restrictions,” writes McGugan.

As well, Mercer’s Scott Clausen tells the Globe, the traditional “caregiver role” of women means they have tended “to work part-time or take breaks from their career, which reduces their ability to make pension contributions and accumulate time in a pension plan.” The pandemic, Clausen suggests in the article, has made this retirement savings disparity even worse.

Despite these apparent systemic problems, the Globe notes that Canada recently was ranked 9th out of 39 industrialized nations in meeting the retirement challenge, with a “B” rating.

There’s a second side to the story, the article continues. Not only are people facing challenges in earning money and paying into pension plans, but the pension plans themselves are having a tough time of things, the Globe reports.

Again citing the report, McGugan notes that “a major challenge for retirement planners everywhere is the falling returns from most pension assets. Declining bond yields, reduced company dividends and lower rentals from property investments have shrunk prospective returns.”

In an interesting sort of paradox, the country whose pension system is rated number one in the industrialized world (in the same Mercer survey) is having problems meeting its funding targets. Two large pension plans there may have to cut pension payments next year, reports Dutch News.

“The two biggest Dutch funds, the giant civil service fund APB and the health service fund PFZW had failed to meet official targets in the third quarter of this year. Both funds’ coverage ratios – the assets needed to meet their obligations – had fallen below 90 per cent in the July to September period. If this is the case in the final quarter of the year, they will have to make cuts to pension payouts in 2021. The two big engineering funds are also in the danger zone. Together the four funds cover some eight million pensioners and participants,” the news agency reports.

The key messages here are quite simple – due to the health crisis, many of us are working less, and others not at all. It’s difficult to save for retirement, either in a workplace plan or on your own, if you are earning less overall. At the same time, it’s tough sledding on the investment side for the world’s pension plans. Payouts, as in the Dutch example, could be less.

Members of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) have the ability to set their own contribution levels – there’s no set percentage of income that automatically comes off your pay. If you’re making less, or nothing at all, you can reduce or pause contributions without affecting your membership – and when better times return, you can ramp them back up again. Take a minute to check out the SPP today!