TFSA

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.


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.


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.


Apr 4: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

April 4, 2022

Is working the new “not working” for older Canadians?

Writing for the Financial Post, Christine Ibbotson notes that her own research on retirement in Canada has found that more people than you would think are working later into life.

“According to Stats Canada, 36 per cent of Canadians aged 65 to 74 are still working full-time, and 13 per cent of those aged over 75 are also still working. I was surprised by this finding, and I am certainly not advocating working into your elder years or continuing to work until you die; however, obviously these stats show that a lot of Canadian retirees are not just sitting around,” she writes.

Ibbotson writes that this tendency to keep working past the traditional retirement age of 65 may be because older Canadians want to “feel purposeful.”

“Contrary to popular belief, there is no “right time” to retire and if you are in good health there is no real need for rest and relaxation every day until you die. Retirement was not intended for everyone, even though we now believe we all should have access to it. The 65-year age of retirement was chosen by economists and actuaries when social security was created, when life expectancies were much less than they are now, and only provides a generalized guideline,” she writes.

Continuing to work, she continues, has many added benefits, including “being socially connected, physically active, mentally sharp, and enjoying the benefits of additional revenue.” You may, she writes, have fewer health problems if you continue to work into your later years.

While it’s true that many of us still work part time into our 60s and beyond (raising a hand here) not because we need the money, but because we like it, that’s not always the case for everyone.

Some of us work longer than 65 because we don’t have a workplace pension, and/or have not saved very much in registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) or tax free savings accounts (TFSAs).

Recently, we looked up the average RRSP balance in Canada and found that it was just over $101,000. The average Canada Pension Plan payment (CPP) comes in around $672 per month, and the average Old Age Security (OAS) at $613 per month (source, the Motley Fool blog).

Ibbotson is correct about working beyond age 65 – we do it because we love the work and the income, but for those without sufficient savings, we may be working because we need the income. If you have a retirement savings program at work, be sure to sign up and take maximum advantage of it. If you don’t a great option for saving on your own is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

A personal note here – this writer’s wife is planning her SPP pension for next year. By contributing close to the maximum each year, and regularly transferring $10,000 annually from her other RRSPs, her nest egg has grown to the point where she plans to select one of SPP’s lifetime annuity options. Her first step was to get an estimate of how much per month she will receive from SPP; she has applied for her Canada Pension Plan, and apparently Old Age Security starts automatically when she hits 65 next year.

We’ll keep you posted on how this goes, but it’s exciting for her to plan life after work, with the help of SPP.

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.


Your Retirement Income Blueprint – a “do it properly, do it better” resource

March 31, 2022

From the get-go, where author Daryl Diamond describes his book as being a “do it properly” or “do it better” book on retirement income planning, rather than a “do it yourself” volume, a wonderfully written tome filled with valuable insights begins.

Your Retirement Income Blueprint makes great strides in explaining that retirement is not really “the back nine” of life. Retirement, he explains, is “not simply a continuation of the same thing (pre-retirement)… the playing field changes because there are such substantial differences between the planning approaches, investment strategies, risk-management issues and sheer dynamics of these two phases in someone’s life.”

There’s a lot to cover in a short review, so let’s look at some of Diamond’s retirement income gems.

Early on, Diamond explains the importance of having “a formal income plan, or blueprint, to show what your assets can realistically be expected to provide in terms of sustainable cash flow.” In other words, do you have enough income, from all sources, for an adequate retirement? Retiring without sufficient income, he warns, “can be a very unfortunate decision.”

On debt in retirement, he notes “ideally, you want to be debt free at the time you actually retire,” because otherwise, “you will have to dedicate income toward servicing the debt. And that is cash flow that could be used to enhance your lifestyle in other ways.”

Another great point, and this was one that Save with SPP personally used when planning retirement, is the idea of making a “net to net” comparison of your pre-retirement income versus post-retirement.

“That difference between your gross employment income and gross retirement income may appear quite significant, however, some analysis of your earnings statement may narrow this disparity. Compare what you are bringing home on a net basis with what your net income will be in retirement. You may find the difference in net pay is not as significant as you thought.”

The book provides a chart showing gross employment income being 33 per cent greater than retirement income – but only about 12 per cent different on a net basis, because the retiree isn’t paying into Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS), a company pension or company benefits.

Diamond points out that the investment principles for retirement saving differ from the retirement income, or “using your nest egg” years.

“When people begin to draw income from their portfolios, their focus changes from ‘rate of return’ to ‘risk management,’” he writes. “Capital preservation becomes the number one issue, because with capital preservation, you also have sustainable income,” he adds. The goal is longevity of your income – meaning, not running out of money.  

Diamond sees annuities as a way to ensure you don’t run out of retirement income. The book shows how your CPP, OAS and company pension – along with an annuity purchased with some of your retirement savings – can create a guaranteed lifetime monthly amount for your core, basic expenses. The rest of your income can be used for discretionary, fun expenses, he explains.

Diamond isn’t opposed to the idea of taking one’s Canada Pension Plan benefits early. He advises us all to “assess whether or not there is merit to do so in your own situation.” He makes the point that while many of us live long lives, some of us don’t, so deferring a pension carries a risk.

He sees the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) as becoming “one of the great tools at our disposal. I look for ways to help retirees fund their TFSA accounts to the maximum, whether that be through taking CPP early, withdrawing additional amounts out of registered accounts or even moving other non-registered holdings systematically into them.”

He suggests that using one’s registered retirement savings early in retirement may be preferable to deferring them until the bitter end at 71. “Deferring all of your registered assets can create real tax problems in the future and could eliminate main credits and entitlements that you would otherwise have been receiving,” he explains.

Near the end of this excellent book, Diamond alerts retirees to what he calls the “three headwinds” that can “be a drag on” any retirement income solution – taxation, inflation, and fees. Attention should be paid to all three factors when designing a retirement income solution, he writes.

When you retire, Diamond concludes, it’s when “your ticket gets punched… and baby, you had better enjoy the ride.” The three commodities that will support a great retirement are your state of health, your longevity and “your income-producing assets and benefits.” Only the last commodity is one that you can fully control, he says.

This is a great book and highly recommended for those thinking about retirement.

Do you have a handful of different registered savings vehicles? Consolidating them in one place can be more efficient than drawing income from several sources. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan allows you to transfer in up to $10,000 per year from other registered vehicles. Those funds will be invested, and when you retire, your income choices include SPP’s family of 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.


Rich Girl, Broke Girl shows the steps women need to take to gain control of their finances

December 30, 2021

Financial author Kelley Keehn thinks women need to be in charge – not unwilling passengers – when it comes to steering their financial ships of state.

Her well-written (and entertaining) book, Rich Girl, Broke Girl provides step-by-step directions to help women gain control over debt, day to day expenses, investing and of course, retirement savings.

As the book opens, Keehn notes that while most women are told they can “financially achieve anything, dream as big as any man, accomplish anything,” they often get blamed if they fail, and are told to leave finances to “someone else in (their life),” or to “marry rich.”

The stats, she writes, show that many women don’t like others being in charge of their money. A full two-thirds of women “whose partners are the primary breadwinners feel trapped,” Keehn writes. “Seven in ten women wish they had more power in their financial futures,” she continues. “Sixty-four per cent of women wish they had their own money set aside just in case.”

She then tells the story of “Mack,” a young woman who tried to strike out on her own, but lacked financial knowledge, didn’t know the cost of things, tried to live an impossibly unaffordable life, blew her credit on a single trip, then got behind and didn’t ask for help, ultimately forcing her to move back home.

An “anti-budget,” Keehn writes, is the solution here. Track every dollar, categorize spending, multiply expenses by 12 to create an annual budget, and then “trim the excess… (and) reallocate.” Fictional Mack could save $3,255 a year, writes Keehn, by saving just 50 per cent on her discretionary expenses.

The book looks at the ins and outs of credit, and then, cohabitation.

“Have the money talk with your partner early,” Keehn advises. If your partner is a saver, and you are a “live for today” spender, that collision of views could harm the relationship, she notes.

There’s a great, detailed overview of investing, which looks at cash, fixed income and equities, as well as other investment vehicles. Keehn recommends a diverse approach to investing. Don’t invest in just one stock, but a diversified portfolio, she explains. Understand the risks of equity investing, but don’t fear them and put all your money in fixed-income, Keehn adds.

She explains the difference between buying stocks and bonds yourself versus buying units in mutual funds – the latter can have high fees, she warns.

Keehn points out how even the modest inflation we’ve experienced in the past five years can “erode your wealth.”

In the section on tax shelters, Keehn says it is best to think of registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) and Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) “as an empty garage. You have to put “cars” (investments) into them, and depending on the rules of the tax shelter, there are different perks and penalties.”

With both, you can invest in a “plethora” of different vehicles, from “guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) and savings accounts to stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds and more.” Only the tax treatment of the “cars” is different – you get a tax deduction for funds placed in an RRSP, and they grow tax free, but are taxed when you take money out. There’s no tax deduction for putting funds in a TFSA, but no taxes on growth, and no taxes due on any income taken out of the TFSA.

She talks about the need to maximize your contribution to any company-sponsored retirement savings plan, because otherwise, “you are leaving money on the table.”

Keehn offers some thoughts on the idea of paying off mortgages quickly as a strategy – perhaps, she writes, it’s less of a good idea given the current low mortgage rates – if you have debts at a higher interest rate, perhaps they should be targeted first.

She’s a believer in getting financial advice when you run into problems.

“It’s natural to feel ashamed of our money mistakes. However, our problems compound when we can’t manage on our own and don’t seek help. Think of it this way: Would you formulate a health-improvement plan before going to your doctor to see what’s actually wrong with you? Probably not.”

This is a great, clear, easy-to-follow walk through about a topic that many people don’t like to deal with. If you’re living paycheque to paycheque, with no emergency savings, this book offers you a blueprint for getting out of trouble and building financial independence. It’s a great addition to your financial library.

Kelley Keehn spoke to Save with SPP last year and had great additional insights about the stress Canadians feel over money matters.

Did you know that in-year contributions you make to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan are tax-deductible? In 2022, you can contribute up to $7,000 per calendar year, subject to available RRSP room. As the book suggests, funds within a registered plan like SPP grow tax-free, and are taxed only when you convert your SPP savings to future retirement income. 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.


Dec 20: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

December 20, 2021

TFSAs – a handy tool for retirement savers and those drawing down their nest eggs

Writing in Investment Executive, Jeff Buckstein takes a look at how the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) can play a key role not only in saving for retirement, but in the trickier “drawdown” stage.

For starters, he writes, “many people quickly identify the registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) as a key component of successful retirement planning,” overlooking the “complementary role” the TFSA can play “in planning for and enjoying retirement.”

One interesting TFSA characteristic is that money saved within them does not – like in an RRSP – have to come from earned income. Examples of income that doesn’t qualify for an RRSP contribution would be dividends from a private corporation or business, or “a windfall, such as an inheritance,” Buckstein writes.

If you are a regular RRSP contributor who maxes out each year, any extra cash can be saved in a TFSA (up to the annual TFSA limit), he writes. As well, if you are in a company pension plan where your contributions produce a pension adjustment – which reduces how much you can contribute to an RRSP – the TFSA is a safe savings alternative, the article notes.

Quoting Tina Di Vito of Toronto-based MNP LLP, the article notes that “lower income clients who anticipate relying on Old Age Security (OAS) or the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) may be better off investing in a TFSA.”

That’s because withdrawals from a TFSA are not considered taxable income, like withdrawals from an RRSP, a registered retirement income fund (RRIF) or an annuity purchased with registered funds are. So TFSA income doesn’t impact one’s ability to qualify for OAS or GIS.

So what’s a good idea, investment-wise, for a TFSA?

The article quotes Doug Carroll of Aviso Wealth Inc. in Toronto as saying that since TFSA investments are going in to the account tax free and coming out tax free, “you probably lean a little more toward equities in there than you would in your RRSP.”

A more complex idea explored in the article is – for those with substantial TFSA savings as well as an RRSP – to draw down the TFSA income first, and try to delay touching the registered money until you have to at age 71. This strategy can reduce your taxable income over the longer term, the article explains.

Our late father-in-law used to use his TFSA as part of his RRIF withdrawal program. He’d withdraw funds as required from his RRIF, pay tax on them, and then put the after-tax income back into his TFSA to invest. This generated a regular and growing supply of tax-free income, he used to tell us with a broad grin.

Many of us semi-retired boomers didn’t get in on the TFSA, launched in 2009, until the latter years of our careers. If you are younger, and decades away from retirement, think of all the tax-free growth and income your savings could produce in the run up to your Golden Years.

If you don’t have a retirement savings program at work – or want to supplement the one you have – a great place to look is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. This made-in-Saskatchewan success story has been helping Canadians save for more than 35 years. 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.


Nov 22: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

November 22, 2021

New retirement plan’s goal is to “coast” into retirement

Writing in the Toronto Star, Lesley-Anne Scorgie reveals a new variation on the “financial independence, retire early” or FIRE plan.

This new variant, she tells us, is called the Coast FIRE plan.

But let’s backtrack. What exactly is the basic FIRE plan?

Scorgie writes that the FIRE movement was born in the late 1990s.

“These people were obsessed with early retirement and were willing to sacrifice just about anything to contribute significant sums of money to their nest egg as quickly as possible so that they could quit their jobs generally before age 50 and start to ‘live,’” she explains.

But, she says, for many this FIRE plan meant “going without vacations, eating beans daily and just being a cheapskate.” The idea was that foregoing the “extras” in life would allow one to put away thousands a month until having enough money to retire completely by age 50.

“I have two major issues with the concept,” she writes. “Firstly, the lifestyle of ultra-frugality is not appealing. Secondly, banking many thousands of dollars every month throughout your 20s, 30s and 40s is pretty unattainable for most people living in just about any city in Canada. The cost of living and debt are major preventative barriers.”

She goes on to point out “also, who retires at 50? You could have a whole other life, career and so on at that age!”

This is where Coast FIRE puts a different spin on the plan.

There is still an emphasis on financial independence, writes Scorgie, but “you steadily build up your nest egg until it reaches a point where it can grow independently through the power of compound interest and reinvested returns to the ultimate nest egg size you want, without you having to save another dime after you get to that initial savings point.”

So rather than having a hard stop to work, this variant of the plan has you basically creating a significant wealth creation nest egg that allows you to bolster your retirement income significantly when it’s time to log off for a final time.

And that’s the significant difference – the frugality and penny-pinching ends when your nest egg has reached its target amount.

“Once you reach the point where you no longer need to add another dollar to your retirement portfolio, you can have loads more freedom to do what you want like — work part-time or at a different job you like better, enjoy more cash flow for vacations and fun because you no longer have to tuck away 20 per cent of your income into your registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) and tax free savings account (TFSA),” she writes.

To figure out this retirement math, you need to have a general idea of when you want to retire (age) and the approximate money you will need for financial independence at that age. Scorgie says there are many Coast FIRE calculators out there to help you figure out your numbers, but key to the calculation is “current age, desired retirement age, a safe withdrawal rate… and an inflation-adjusted growth rate.”

This is a great column, and Scorgie’s views make a lot of sense. Many of us, for instance, only put away enough money in RRSPs to get us a tax refund each year. Not putting away enough when you are young makes it harder to catch up later.

Scorgie concludes by recommending that we all get some financial advice to ensure our savings plan is sound, also a wise suggestion.

If you are looking for a retirement savings vehicle that can generate steady growth and good returns during the time between now and the time to “coast” into retirement, consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. While past performance is not an indicator of future growth, the plan has averaged returns of eight per cent since its inception in 1986. That’s helped many of us build our retirement nest eggs. 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.