Archive for the ‘Retirement planning’ Category

As the ‘baby boomers’ rapidly approach the magical age of 65, more and more questions are being asked about retirement income.  For most people their retirement income will be made up a combination of government programs and pension plans.  For those who have worked most of their lives, the income stream is made up of a combination of CPP, pension, RRSP and depending on income level from all these OAS (old age security).

For those who haven’t worked or haven’t worked much the situation is a bit different.  You may not have worked much because you have been a stay-at-home mom or situation in life has prevented you from working all of your life; regardless the reason here’s options that’s available to you.

1. CPP – As a paid into program, how much you receive will depend on how much you contributed to the program.  In most cases if you have worked a little bit you will be entitled to some CPP (Canada Pension Plan). Normally CPP sends out estimates before retirement age, so please do review their documents to ensure that they are accurate.  For those who worked but may have taken a break in working to raise your children you maybe able to have up to 7 years credited to your work time and thus increasing what your CPP payments.  See Child-Rearing Provision webpage for more details.  You will have to fill out some forms to have this added.

If you have not received any estimates as you approach 65 (actually you can do this at any time and if you are moving out of the Canada to work, I suggest you get this before you leave) you can request a copy of your contribution statement on-line, via mail.

2. OAS (Old Age Security) Pension – is a program to provide income supplement is available to anyone who has lived in Canada.  Because it is part of the general revenue, no contribution is required.  However, there’s a residency proviso.  The program is the largest pension program offered by the government and you may even be entitled to the program even if you don’t live in Canada (US residents!)  In this post will assume that you currently lives in Canada.  To qualify for the program you must be:

  • 65 and over
  • Canadian Citizen or legal resident
  • lived for more than 10 years in Canada after age of 18

You can apply after 64, but the government may auto enroll you.

How much you will receive will depend on how long you have lived in Canada.  If you have lived in Canada for 40 years after the age of 18 you will be entitled to the maximum amount as long as claw-back does not occur.  The current maximums can be found at Service Canada website.   It’ is $6618.48 per year, hardly enough to live on.

OAS Claw Back – OAS is available to everyone, but for those who have pension plans and other retirement income stream there’s a claw back clause for those who have sufficient private income stream that it is deemed that they don’t need government support.  While I have heard a lot of clients complaints about claw back from client, it is important to recognize that the claw back doesn’t happen until you have more than (in 2013) $70,954 in private retirement income.  I think what irks people is that they give it to you and then take it away.   To minimize OAS claw back, it is important to income split between spouses especially if one is receiving a good pension and one is not, but that’s another topic and post entirely.

GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) – Because the government recognizes  that $6618.48 isn’t enough to retire on, for those Canadians who does not have any other additional source of income, they have a separate program called GIS for those who makes less than $16, 728 (2013).  You can be entitled to this program at age 60 if your spouse is 65 and collecting OAS and GIS.  For single people the eligibility starts at age 65 when you are eligible for OAS.  You will have to apply for this program. However, once you applied, you don’t have to re-apply but will be required to file taxes every year.  This program for singles has maximum pay out of $8974.32.  The actual amount you will receive will depend on how much income from all sources you have.  Check out this webpage (scroll down half way) to get the table or download the pdf.

So the government will essentially ensure you have about $16,000 of income to live on.  While it’s better than nothing, it isn’t designed for you to live well.  If you live in a low housing cost area, this amount might be barely sufficient to offer a none destitute life.

For those of you who are in need of all of these program, I would highly recommend setting up a meeting with your local Service Canada representative who can walk you through all of the programs and help you apply for them before you turn 65 so that your entitled payments will start once you turn 65.

As always, please let me know if this post is helpful and if there’s other topics you would like to have covered.


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This is one of the best defence of Defined Benefit Plans I have seen for a while… but given the current trend, these won’t be around that long

I understand why DPP are not popular with companies, it shows up on their books as liabilities and it can keep growing as their employees live longer, but it is by far the best type of pension to have.

There’s lots of pundits that think that Defined Contribution Plans are just as good, but the problems is that the only way to make really good returns (average investor’s return is 3% after inflation) is to own companies, which individual investors just can’t do.  Defined Pension Plan usually have a pension board who has the money to buy companies.  In Canada, the Teacher’s pension plan is one of the largest owner of commercial real estate, they even owned the Maple Leafs for a while.  

Maybe the solution is a new type of pension plan where it’s defined contribution, but managed by a fund manager like it’s currently managed so that the money can be pooled, something like TIAA-CREF.  This way there’s no liability for companies and the funds management is out of individual hands who in general is terrible at managing money. 

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I watched a bit a marathon of “Say Yes To The Dress” from TLC last week.

As a financial planner, my first reaction to the show was wanting to scream “DON’T WATCH THE SHOW!” as it will skew your perception of how much a wedding dress should cost.  I don’t think I saw a budget less than $3000!  And all for what?  One day of make believe and grand delusions?  Ask yourself, do you remember what dress the brides wore at a wedding you have attended 2 years ago?

To be fair, the whole show is not completely without merit.  After a few episodes I started to see how the process of choosing ‘the right’ dress can be a metaphor for making any emotionally charged financial decision.  I see many of the same pitfalls arise every day as a financial planner.  There were :

  • those who want everything but aren’t willing to pay the price
  • those who are looking for the ‘perfect’ dress and so afraid that they will regret their decision that they don’t make any decisions at all
  • those who love everything and can’t decide

The show is set in Klinefield’s, a ‘mass affluent’ bridal store in New York.  In one episode Randy, the fashion consultant, told us his cardinal rules about wedding dress shopping which I think are rules we can follow anytime we are making other large dollar, emotionally charged financial planning decisions in our life:

1. Don’t try on a dress outside of your budget, it will only lead to tears – isn’t that so true?  Our wants will always outpace our needs.  Even in the dream factory that is Klinefield’s the first rule is not to temp yourself.  Life would always be easier if you had more money, but if you don’t have it then why tempt yourself? This is where understanding how much money you have and can spend will keep you grounded.  As I’ve said before, you need to be realistic…and Think Poor. Live in the bliss of ignorance.

2. Don’t keep secrets from your consultant –  Yes, they want to sell you something, but they also want you to be happy, even if for no other reason that you will come back they can sell you something else.  Just remember the advice you get is only as good as the information you provide.  If you tell me you have no debt and want to retire at 65, my advice to you will be very different than if you have lots of debt and you want to retire at 55.  So don’t waste your time and the time of your advisor if you are not going to help them to be successful in helping you.

3. Leave the entourage at home – Don’t be surprised if everyone has a different opinion of how to achieve financial success; too much advice is not necessarily a good thing.  Reading all of the financial blogs and books isn’t necessarily going to help you (except this one of course). It may sound cheesy, but a better way to spend your time is to get to know yourself and what your goals are.  There is always a financial solution out there to get to your goals…just as there is always a dress out there for you. The trick is finding the dress or the financial plan that you can afford and that you can live with.

4. Stop shopping once you found the dress – The fundamentals of financial planning are actually pretty simple and universal.  You will need a tailored plan to suit your needs, but once you have plan, stick with it.  Stop trying to find the ‘better’ plan.  Changing course and second guessing yourself won’t help you and will only cost you more money if you make rash corrections to your plan over the short term.

5. Always wear underwear – Well that goes without saying… you never want to be naked at Klinefield’s or in your finances.  Make sure you always have a rainy day fund that is separate from your other accounts.

I would add one more cardinal rule:

6. Keep some perspective on what is really important – In many ways the rush and excitement of the wedding dress purchase is like the initial stages of your financial planning. Wrapped up in each stock purchase or mutual fund selection are all the hopes and dreams of your whole life, career, family and retirement. The wedding dress encapsulates everything brides dream about their marriage. But the dress itself is for just one moment in time.  It’s a lot of work and done right it can be the foundation of something wonderful but it isn’t the marriage. Try to think of your financial planning as if you are buying that wedding dress and planning for the entire marriage that comes after it. Just like in marriage,  the real return on your investment comes from years of hard work, communication and self-reflection.

So say yes to the dress or to your financial plan, but remember these rules to keep your head out of the clouds.

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