The Sleep-Easy Retirement Guide

The Sleep-Easy Retirement Guide takes some of the surprises out of life after work

December 31, 2020

If there’s one thing that working Canadians can’t quite grasp with their imagination, it’s what things will be like when they step away from full-time work.

David Aston’s The Sleep-Easy Retirement Guide is a great and refreshingly Canadian-focused look at what lies ahead – and what you need to think about to ensure you make the best of it.

The book begins by noting that the old days of “full-stop” retirement at 65 are gone. “You can retire much earlier than 65 or much later. You can leave work full-stop, or you can work in a second career, or you can work as little or as much as you want or need to with part-time employment or on contract,” he writes. You can also start a business or just go for “the traditional retirement of leisure.”

So saving, Aston writes, is a bit tricky, because you normally start saving “many years ahead of when you will have a clear picture of what your financial demands will be in retirement.”

Aston sees three “paths” for retirement savings. The “Steady Eddie” approach involves saving “at a constant rate throughout your working life.” If a 25-year-old put 10 per cent of his or her salary into retirement savings annually for 40 years, there would be $1 million in the nest egg at age 65.

Other approaches give you the same result – a “gradual ramp up” means you start at six per cent per year and increase to 30 per cent for the 25 years before age 65. Or, there’s the “mortgage first, save later” approach where, after mortgage is done, you save 35 per cent of income for the 13 years left to retirement.

If working part-time, or at something different, is part of your “life after full-time work” plans, Aston provides a handy list of tips for older job-hunters, who may not have looked for work for a while. Among the tips are getting familiar with today’s more tech-focused approach to human resources, such as the use of Skype or FaceTime for interviews, and LinkedIn for shopping your resume around.

The book has many great chapters focused on decision points. Maybe you’re at age 65 with a reasonable stash of money in your RRSP. Aston’s detailed charts show how retiring at 68 instead can boost your annual cash flow by an impressive $11,360, thanks in part from holding off on withdrawals from savings and taking Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits later.

Another set of tables looks at what couples and singles spend in retirement. For an average couple, here’s what goes out: $44,000 a year for shelter, mortgage, vehicles, groceries, health and dental, home and garden, clothing, communication, financial services and transportation. But wait, there’s more – they’ll spend a further $16,400 on “the extras,” which include recreation and entertainment, restaurants and alcohol, a second home, travel, pets, gifts and charities, and miscellaneous perks.

Aston says an important concept is to have a “sustainable withdrawal rate” from savings, so that you don’t run out. He recommends taking four per cent out of your savings each year, if you start at age 65. The four per cent figure assumes “a blend of both investment returns and drawdown of principal.”

If you don’t want to risk running out of savings, Aston says an annuity may be for you. “An annuity gives you the opportunity to purchase your own defined-benefit pension plan,” he explains. They “are an ideal product for many middle-class Canadians who are concerned about outliving their wealth,” Aston adds.

This well-written, thorough and very informative book ends with some very good advice. “Behind the goal of a life well lived,” writes Aston, “it helps to have the support of finances well-managed.”

Did you know that Saskatchewan Pension Plan members have the option of receiving their savings in the form of a lifetime annuity? The annuity delivers you a payment that stays the same, and lands in your bank account every month for the rest of your life. And, depending on what annuity option you pick, it can continue on to your surviving spouse. Not an SPP member yet? Check their website and find out how you can sign up!

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.