TD

Mar 9: Best from the blogosphere

March 9, 2020

Retirement saving – starting late is OK, and chipping away at it when you can a must

More and more ink (or more accurately, pixels) is being taken up with worried commentary that Canadians aren’t saving enough for retirement, and that our ship of state is sailing into choppy waters.

But a story by the Canadian Press (CP) that appears on MSN News suggests that there’s no need to panic – but there is a need to plan.

The story quotes Dilys D’Cruz of Meridian Credit Union as saying “if you’re 50 you still have 21 years left to contribute (to an Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)), it is not as dire as you might think.”

D’Cruz tells CP that while people “may be afraid to look at the numbers,” it’s best, as a first step, to get a financial planner and put together a plan.

Take stock of what retirement savings you have, she says in the article. Do you have a workplace plan from current or past employment? Do you have RRSPs?

Next, she tells CP, you need to consider “what you want your retirement to look like” before doing the plumbing work on your plan. “Do you want that big lavish lifestyle of travelling or is it maybe a quieter lifestyle that you want, what does it mean for you,” she says in the article.

The article cites recent research from Scotiabank that found that while 68 per cent of Canadians say they are saving for retirement (62 per cent of those age 18-34 are saving, versus 74 per cent of those aged 35 and 54), only 23 per cent say retirement saving is their top priority.

TD’s Jenny Diplock, also quoted in the article, agrees, saying that while the general rule of thumb for retirement saving is to start as early as you can, “starting at a particular age may not be realistic for some folks.”

She also suggests having a financial plan, but adds that once you commit to saving, the best way to go is to make it automatic. This will “help cement the habit,” the article explains.

As well, when a cost ends – when you stop paying daycare, or a mortgage – that’s a good time to direct more money to retirement savings, the article suggests.

“As your life situation changes and there are changes in your personal circumstances, you may find that you have additional cash flow that can be used to complement your savings plan,” Diplock tells CP.

Summing it all up, it appears the worst thing you can do about retirement savings is to do nothing at all. Save what you can when you can, and ramp up savings as living costs – debt, housing, childcare – fall by the way. As each impediment to saving falls by the way, your freed up cash can be put to use for your retirement plan.

If you’re not someone with a workplace pension plan – or if you are, but want to supplement those savings – an ideal vehicle is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You have flexibility with SPP – if you can only contribute a little bit in a given year, you can contribute more later; contributions are variable up to an annual limit of $6,300. Be sure to visit SPP’s site to learn more!

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

March 26: Best from the blogosphere

March 26, 2018

I’m just catching up after a few weeks in the Punta Cana sunshine. The resort where we were staying had excellent wifi everywhere so there was no escaping the relentless news cycle, especially in my home province of Ontario where the Progressive Conservative party elected Doug Ford as their new leader.

Shifting the focus back to Saskatchewan, Advisor.ca reports that there will be no longer be a provincial sales tax on agriculture, life and health insurance premiums. Premier Scott Moe pledged to bring in the exemption during the recent Saskatchewan Party leadership race. He said in a statement that the government is committed to helping families and small businesses. He added it will not impact the government’s three-year plan to balance the budget by 2020. The exemption covers premiums for crop, livestock and hail, as well as individual and group life and health insurance. It is retroactive to Aug. 1, 2017, the same day the province started adding the 6% PST to insurance premiums.

Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen did the math on investment fees and he says the results weren’t pretty. Readers who shared their portfolio details with him revealed accounts loaded with deferred sales charges (DSCs), management expense ratios (MERs) in the high 2% range and funds overlapping the same sectors and regions. Portfolios filled with segregated funds were the biggest offenders. Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers professional fund management for 1% per year on average.

If you are planning foreign travel in the near future, Rob Carrick’s Globe and Mail article One bank dings clients who travel, while another lightens the load is a must read. He notes that Scotiabank recently introduced a strong new travel reward credit card that doesn’t charge the usual 2.5% fee on foreign currency conversions. In contrast, TD has been advising account holders that effective May 1, it will raise the foreign-currency conversion fee on ATM withdrawals and debit transactions outside Canada to 3.5% from 2.5%.

On Money After Graduation, Bridget Casey offers tips on how to hustle as a new parent. As a self-employed individual she didn’t qualify for government-sponsored leave which means she had to self-fund her own maternity leave. She has managed to get her baby on a schedule (the EASY Baby Schedule, if you’ve heard of it), and she says her days of procrastination are gone. She has also stopped working for free for “exposure” or attending events to “network.” Finally, she has hired a part-time nanny.

Alan Whitton aka BIGCAJUNMAN started the Canadian Personal Finance Blog 13 years ago and he says he is still financially crazy. He believes debt is a bad thing, he doesn’t buy individual stocks and thinks pay day loans are the devil’s work  (all of which sound pretty sane to me). He links to previous blogs he likes to re-read and enjoy plus blogs he has posted that have received the most views.  Take a look here. No doubt you will find some interesting reads.

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 on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Canadian Xennials* Feel the Retirement Savings Squeeze

February 1, 2018

For Canadian Xennials* (34-40), day-to-day life is getting in the way of saving for retirement. According to a recent survey from TD, three-quarters (74%) of this micro generation say they would like to contribute more than they currently do, but everyday financial obligations take precedence.

Seven in ten Canadian Xennials say they feel overwhelmed due to juggling other financial obligations with saving for retirement. These include common expenses such as monthly bills (cited by 60 %), paying off credit cards and personal loans (44%), mortgage payments (33%), childcare costs (24 %), home maintenance costs (22%), and repaying school loans (13%).

“We can all have the best of intentions when it comes to preparing for retirement, but then life gets in the way and we start to feel the retirement savings squeeze,” says Jennifer Diplock, associate vice president, personal savings and investing, TD Canada Trust. “Monthly bills fall due or we are faced with a loan repayment, and that can mean we end up contributing less than we should towards our retirement.”

When asked whether they agree they are too young to think about saving for retirement, there’s a notable shift between those 18 -34 (42%) and those 34 -40 (16%).

In fact, Statistics Canada identified that 72.2% of households with a major income earner aged 35 to 44 have a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP), registered pension plan or tax-free savings account (TFSA) but many are not contributing as much as they would like, with more than three-quarters of Xennials surveyed by TD (77 per cent) saying they plan to start contributing or to contribute more to retirement savings in the next five years.

As a result, half of Xennials describe themselves as feeling uncertain (52%) or unprepared (49%) for their retirement. The survey also indicates that the stresses felt by Xennials are reflective of the experience of other Canadians. For instance, while three in five Xennials point to the savings barrier of monthly bills, 62% of Canadians share this concern.

“The reality is that we all have to juggle our financial commitments to find the right balance when it comes to preparing for retirement,” said Diplock. “There are simple steps we can take to ease the retirement savings squeeze.”

For those looking to get on with their busy lives no matter which life stage they are at, while also setting aside enough funds for retirement, here are some suggestions.

Work towards the retirement you want
It may seem a long way off, but it isn’t too soon to start by thinking about what you want to do in retirement. You might want to travel the world, spend time volunteering or begin a new career. Because everyone wants a different retirement, there is no one financial template to follow. Once you’ve set out your vision, the next step is to establish a retirement savings goal. A useful and detailed online tool is the Canada Retirement Income Calculator which can show you how much you may need to put into savings in order to live the life you want in your retirement years.

Save your way
While juggling financial obligations, many people find making smaller weekly, bi-weekly or monthly Saskatchewan Pension Plan, RRSP or TFSA contributions easier than paying a large lump sum at once. Setting up a pre-authorized payment plan means finding the right schedule and plan for you. Peace of mind comes from knowing that you are steadily moving towards your retirement savings goal. For example, if you receive a pay raise at work or start a new job, you can increase the amount you are saving.

Examine your expenses   
Whether it’s paying back your loans or scrutinizing your monthly bills to determine essential expenses, determine how much you should pay yourself too. These are small steps we can all take to maximize the amount we spend doing the things we like most, while still saving for retirement.

The earlier, the better
Whether or not you are a Xennial, there is no time like the present to start saving for your future. Keep in mind that the earlier you start, the more you can benefit from compound interest.  With compound interest, the interest you earn is added to your principal investment, so that the balance doesn’t merely grow, it grows at an increasing rate. Whether your retirement feels like a lifetime away or is just around the corner, it’s important to factor in your retirement savings when planning your monthly budget. Receiving financial advice early on can help you put a sustainable saving structure in place to help keep your financial priorities and goals in check.

*Defined as the generation born between 1982 and 2004, millennials are aged between 13 and 35. The generation before, Gen X, spanned another 20 years, beginning in 1961 and ending in 1981. With such a large cohort, it’s hard to imagine everyone in these demographics identifies with the perceived persona of these generations. Enter Xennials, the new term being used to describe people born between 1977 and 1983.

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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 on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Déjà-Boom: boomerang kids collide with retirement goals of boomer parents

March 16, 2017

By Sheryl Smolkin

Do you remember the American romantic comedy film Failure to Launch? The film focuses on a 35-year-old man who lives in his parents’ home and shows no interest in leaving the comfortable life Mom and Dad have made for him there.

Well, kids staying at home longer is no longer just an urban myth. The boomerang effect is in full swing as many millennials continue to lean on the boomer generation for financial support, according to a recent TD survey. At a time when the older generation should be preparing for retirement, many instead are experiencing a “déjà-boom” effect, as children or grandchildren return to the family home or need financial assistance.

“As a parent or grandparent it’s natural to want to help our kids and grandkids who may be facing financial challenges such as finding full-time employment or paying their day-to-day expenses,” says Rowena Chan, Senior Vice President, TD Wealth Financial Planning. “It’s important that this desire to help is balanced with your own goals for retirement.”

Overall, 62% of the boomer generation feels the “déjà -boom” effect is preventing them from saving enough for retirement. The survey also revealed that the trade-off between providing financial support and saving for retirement is placing boomers under a considerable amount of financial stress. It’s not surprising that more than half (58%) of boomers report feeling financially stressed and say their retirement savings are being impacted by their extended financial support of boomerang kids, as one in four Canadian boomers admit to supporting their adult children or grandchildren.

“While the déjà-boom effect may be an unexpected event in retirement planning, it is important for pre-retirees to remember that it’s not too late to plan for the future and achieve their goals. A lot can be accomplished in the 10 to 15 years before retirement and planning ahead is a key step in making the journey as smooth as possible,” Chan continues.

The added financial stress brought on by this arrangement isn’t unnoticed by millennial offspring. In fact, almost half of millennials (44%) who depend on their boomer parents or grandparents for support are aware that their financial situation will mean fewer retirement savings, while 43% of millennials admit they are willing to cut costs when facing economic difficulty before asking for financial help.

“Both generations recognize this isn’t an ideal situation, which means important conversations need to take place so everyone is on the same financial page,” says Chan. “Sitting down with someone who understands different family dynamics is a great first step to set defined goals and establish a financial action plan to best serve both generations.”

TD offers the following advice for boomer parents who are working towards retirement and boomerang kids who want to be independent:

Be Ready for Whatever Life Throws Your Way
Despite this new reality, it is important to understand that your retirement goals are still within reach. Meeting with a financial planner and doing a goals-based assessment is key to determining what your options might be for supporting your kids while keeping your plans for retirement on track.

Negotiate the Return
Discuss how everyone can contribute to the household budget and operations. For example, you may be able to cover the basics like room and board, but other living expenses like cell phone bills, car payments, or financial support for recreational activities are additional costs that your offspring could  cover independently. Also, consider having everyone pitch in on the costs of running the day-to-day operations and dividing the household chores. 

Prepare to “Relaunch”
Whether it’s your newly-married daughter, her spouse and child, or your son who recently graduated and has moved back home, there are plenty of opportunities to educate all family members on the importance of being fiscally responsible and working toward financial independence. Invite them to join in your financial conversations to discuss how to navigate their current circumstances and establish good financial habits.

Decide When to Release
As you and your offspring are mapping out financial action plans, identify a date when you will no longer be financially committed to each other. As you approach this date, set up a series of mini-goals that will allow you to free up funds to divert toward your retirement savings while ensuring that your kids are meeting the savings targets they set in their own financial plan.

Work with your planner to ensure these goals are S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measureable, Agreed upon, Realistic and Time-based. S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting provides the preparation, focus and motivation needed to achieve your objectives.

And watch or re-watch the movie “Failure To Launch” if you can with your boomerang kids. There is nothing like a good laugh to defuse any tension that may be associated with kids moving back home!


One in three Gen-Xers expect to work during retirement

January 5, 2017

By Sheryl Smolkin

According to a recent TD survey, more than two-thirds of Canadians between the ages of 35 and 54 say they’re not saving enough for retirement, and one in four say not being ready for retirement is keeping them up at night. As a result, the majority of Gen-X Canadians (60%) who aren’t saving enough do not expect to be able to retire on time and half as many (29%) expect to still be working in some capacity during retirement.

The top barrier preventing Gen-Xers from retiring on time is everyday financial demands like living expenses, mortgage or rent, and childcare costs (61%), followed by existing debt (42%) and major unexpected life events such as divorce or death of a spouse (19%). Given these challenges, it’s not surprising that more than half (54%) of Gen-X Canadians surveyed say they need help meeting their financial goals, with a majority feeling guilty about not saving enough for retirement and wishing they had started earlier.

If you have fallen behind in saving for retirement, here are some ways you can get on track to achieving your savings goals and become retirement-ready.

Track your spending
More than three in five (61%) Gen-Xers attribute everyday financial demands as the reason they don’t expect to retire on time. Keeping a record of your spending is a simple way to see where your money goes each month and look for ways to cut back on expenses to free up funds and help boost your savings.

Once you’ve identified some monthly savings, consider arranging for those funds to be transferred automatically into Saskatchewan Pension Plan, a Retirement Savings Plan (RSP) or Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). As you identify even more savings over time, you can increase the amount transferred automatically each month. Remember to also factor in any additional money you receive throughout the year such as annual raises or bonuses.

Tackle your debt while also saving
Four in ten (42%) Gen-Xers attribute existing debt as a top reason that prevents them from retiring on time. While everyone’s financial picture is different, there are a few key steps you can take immediately to help pay down debt while building up savings:

  • As you start tracking your spending and becoming more in control of your finances, take a look at where your money is going and determine where you can free up cash flow to go towards paying down debt.
  • Seek out groups and communities – either online or in your neighbourhood – where you can sell stuff you no longer use or need, and use those funds to pay down your debt. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure.
  • Look for tips and tools online, like this Debt Repayment Calculator, to help you become organized by determining how much you owe and prioritizing what to tackle first. You can stay on top of your debt more easily when you have a repayment plan.

According to the survey, of Gen-Xers who are already saving for the future, the majority (64%) rely on RSPs to help fund their retirement. If you have RSP savings room, this video will show you how easy it is to join the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP is an easy, flexible, cost-effective way that any Canadian over age 18 can save $2,500/year. You can also transfer an additional $10,000 a year into your SPP account from another RSP.


Big Cajun Man shares RDSP, RESP expertise

July 17, 2014

By Sheryl Smolkin

Alan Whitton and his son Rhys
Alan Whitton and his son Rhys

 

podcast picture
Click here to listen

Hi,

As part of the savewithspp.com continuing series of podcast interviews with personal finance bloggers, today I’m talking to the “Big Cajun Man,” author of the Canadian Personal Finance Blog.

In real life, he is actually, Alan Whitton, a mild-mannered government civil servant and father of four, living in Ottawa. Alan has been blogging about finance and consumerism for about ten years, focusing on real life experiences.

As a result, he has written extensively about Registered Disability Savings Plans and parenting a disabled child.

Welcome, Alan.

My pleasure Sheryl.

Q: First of all Alan, tell our listeners where your alter ego name, “Big Cajun Man,” came from.
A:  Well, I was playing golf with friends and was wearing a straw hat and someone yelled at me, “What do you think you are, some kind of big stinking Cajun man?” and the guys I was playing with have called me that ever since.

Q: Why did you start blogging?
A: Well, I started initially just on BlogSpot as sort of an open letter to my mother because at the time, my wife was pregnant with our fourth child, who was a bit of a surprise. Then I realized I could write about other things and I was always interested in money so I figured I’d just start blogging about it.

Q: How frequently do you post?
A: I try to write four or five posts in a week. The Friday post is usually a ‘best of’ what I’ve seen during the week.

Q: How long are the blogs and how complex are they? Do they vary?
A: Oh, it’s usually somewhere between four and eight paragraphs. What shows up, or what I read about or something that happens in my life is usually the catalyst for the more interesting ones.

Q: Tell me about some of the topics you write about.
A: Well, family and money and how families work with money, a little bit on investing, a lot more on disability and how families can deal financially with kids with disabilities or loved ones with disabilities. And that really, again, arose because when Rhys was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, I had to learn about all this so I figured I’d write about it too.

Q: And, how old is Rhys now?
A: He is 9. I have three beautiful daughters who are 24, 22 and 20, and my son who has just turned 9. It’s a multi-generational family. That’s why I end up writing about things like university costs and parenting a 9-year old.

Q: There are probably over a dozen personal finance bloggers in Canada. What’s different about your blog. Why do you think it’s a must read?
A: I don’t know. I mean, my point of view as a father of a multi-generational family is interesting. I always have had a different perspective on things. I leave a lot of the specific investing ideas to some of the more qualified chaps like Michael James and Rob Carrick. I mostly just talk about John Public’s point of view of things.

Q: How many hits do you typically get for your blogs?
A: Between 8,000 and 12,000 a month. It started off very slowly and I think with the backlog of over 2,500 posts there’s a lot of people who just search and end up finding me accidentally.

Q: What are some of the more popular blogs you’ve posted?
A: Well, anything under my RDSP and RESP menus are popular, like how to apply for your child’s disability tax benefits. And on the RDSP side of things all the fights I’ve had with TD about putting money in and taking money out. Also, surprisingly, I wrote one simple blog that just said “I am a civil servant,” and let me tell you, that one caused no end of excitement.

Q: What is the essence of that particular blog?
A: I was trying to blow up some of the very negative views people have about civil servants. I mean, I worked in the private sector for over 20 years. I‘ve been a civil servant for 4 years.

Q. Tell me some of the key features of Registered Disability Savings Plans and what parents of disabled children need to know about them.
A: Well, just that right now they’re sort of the poor stepson at most financial institutions. I mean they’re not very flexible. Typically, at worst, they’re really just savings accounts. You can buy GICs or the bank’s mutual funds, which usually have very high management fees.

From what I can tell so far, TD Waterhouse is the only trading partner or trading house that has an RDSP where you can actually buy whatever you want like ETFs. But even the TD plan is not very well set up. It’s pretty cumbersome to put money into.

Q: What’s cumbersome about it?
A: Well, I can’t set up a weekly automatic withdrawal. I have to put money aside into another TD trading account. Then I have to phone up every once in awhile and transfer the money from the trading account into the RDSP. And then I have to call back after the money’s cleared to say, “And now I want to buy these ETF’s or index funds.”

Q: Why is that?
A: I don’t know. I’ve asked TD that a whole bunch of times. It’s just the way the system works. I’ve poked at them as best I can. I’ve asked a few other people to poke at them, but I haven’t really received a satisfactory answer.

Q: Are there legislative rules about how you can invest RDSPs?
A: Not, necessarily. It’s just the banks are putting that kind of limit on things because it’s not a big money maker for them. They’re not going to make a fortune on amounts people deposit into RDSPs.  Whereas with RESPs, there are more people with kids going to university.

Q: What are the contribution limits on RDSPs?
A: The overall lifetime limit for a particular beneficiary is $200,000. Contributions are permitted until the end of the year in which the beneficiary turns 59. Up to a certain amount every year, depending on how much money you make, will be matched by the government.

Based on parental income, an RDSP can get a maximum of $3,500 in matching grants in one year, and up to $70,000 over the beneficiary’s lifetime. A grant can be paid into an RDSP on contributions made to the beneficiary’s RDSP until December 31 of the year the beneficiary turns 49.

Q: Do you have a favorite personal finance blogger that you read religiously?
A: I’ve got a couple. I like reading Michael James “On Money”, but he’s a friend of mine. I really like the Canadian Capitalist, but he’s sort of taken a hiatus. “Boomer & Echo” and the “Canadian Couch Potato” are quite good and so is “My Own Advisor.” I’ve met most of these guys at various conferences. I also read Squawkfox and have had extensive correspondence with her on Twitter.

Q: What, if any, money making opportunities or spin-offs have there been as a result of your blogging career?
A: Well, I don’t do this for the money which is obvious given how little I make at it. This is more of a cathartic thing for me.

Q: If you had only one piece of advice to readers or listeners about getting their finances in order, what would it be?
A: Get out of debt. Debt is a bad thing. There’s no such thing as good debt. It’s all bad. Don’t fool yourself into thinking there’s livable debt like a mortgage or maybe paying for your university. Somehow carrying debt has been normalized in the last 30 years or so but it’s still really not ok.

Thank you very much, Alan. It was a pleasure to talk to you.

Thanks for the opportunity Sheryl.

This is an edited transcript you can listen to by clicking on the link above. You can find the Canadian Personal Finance Blog here.


Apr 21: Best from the blogosphere

April 21, 2014

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

If there are snow flurries as forecasted for this week, it’s probably all my fault because I took our winter coats to the dry cleaners this past weekend. But when the temperature goes up, the temptation to put away boots and down jackets for another year is irresistible.

Sometimes your financial accounts also need a spring cleaning. In Spring Financial Cleaning Big Cajun Man recounts how he cleaned up his Quicken data files removing redundant accounts so they give him a more realistic financial picture.

Jim Yih reminds us that investing and taxes go hand in hand, particularly outside of your RRSP. That’s because different forms of investment income can provide significant tax benefits.

In spite of the plethora of personal financial blogs and other sources of financial advice available to Canadians, Brighter Life editor Brenda Spierling reports on Brighter Life that Women lag behind in financial planning. Does this sound familiar? She suggests that you create a financial plan and open an automatic savings plan or payroll deduction plan as soon as possible.

This week Robb Engen on Brighter Life writes tongue-in-cheek about Bank Slogans And Taglines, Translated. For example, he says TD’s “Open earlier, open later. Even Sunday” really means, “We don’t care that most of you want to bank online. We’re going to make you come in and speak to an advisor so we can sell you more products  any time, day or night.”

Finally, after a foot injury in January, on Give me back my five bucks, Krystal Yee reports that she laced on her running shoes for the first time 75 days later and that she is determiend to run and blog her way back to top physical condition.

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.