Slow and steady wins the exercise race, advises author Alyson Rodgers

Many of us, as we reach that certain age, begin to notice the little aches, pains and extra pounds that the “golden years” seem to want to pack on.  We can’t turn back the hands of time, perhaps, but we can equip ourselves to be ready for its onslaught.

So notes Alyson Rodgers, author of Health and Fitness for Seniors: Exercise Solutions for Baby Boomers. This short, helpful book makes the important point that we all “can still benefit from exercise, regardless of age, medical condition, or genetics.”

Rodgers advocates “regular but moderate exercise,” ranging from 15 minutes to one hour, three to five times a week. The trick – moderation – will avoid the burnout of overdoing exercise, and the physical pain that can accompany it, she writes. A shorter, more sensible program of exercise will be easier to stick with, she notes.

It’s best to “work it in at a comfortable pace, and to keep it challenging,” she writes.  Her book outlines specific, easy-to-follow exercises for a variety of different situations and for different medical and physical conditions.

In the book’s chapter on balance and flexibility exercises, Rodgers notes that targetted exercise programs can help set up your body “to defend itself against the all-too-natural slips and tumbles we all take from time to time.” Balance can be improved through standing and sitting exercises, the book notes. There are great ways to improve one’s flexibility, and an exercise ball is a great tool for helping in that regard, the book says.

In addition to boosting the body’s natural line of defence, exercise helps avoid the risk bone loss (a frequent side effect of being sedentary) and can control weight, she writes. As we get older, she notes, “our metabolisms slow down, but our eating doesn’t.”

Rodgers also says energy should be spent on making the home safer – grip bars, anti-slip mats, and de-cluttering are among the strategies listed.

This well-written and positive short guidebook is well worth a read, and is available at your local bookstore or on Amazon.ca.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Jun 18: Best from the blogosphere

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Workplace pensions disappearing, putting savings onus on you
Writing in the Financial Post, Jason Heath notes that while most Canadian retirees think they saved enough for retirement (42 per cent said they had saved enough, 44 per cent wished they had saved a little more), much of that saving – about 25 per cent on average — came from their workplace pension plans. That’s a problem going forward, Heath writes, because workplace pension plans are becoming quite scarce.

“There have been trends in Canada towards reducing employee pension coverage, shifts towards temporary and contract workers and an increase in self-employment,” he writes. “These all put more personal responsibility onto today’s workers to save proactively to be tomorrow’s happy retirees.

Many of us already know that the Saskatchewan Pension Plan provides a great way for us to save on our own. Those savings can augment your company’s plan or can represent your own personal retirement plan. Sign up today – visit saskpension.com for more details.

What are the best places to retire in Canada?

MoneySense magazine recently put together a video on how to choose a place to retire in Canada.

The magazine says that retirees want to live somewhere that is close to an airport, has a thriving arts and culture scene, good weather, and good healthcare.

What places made their list? Number 1 choice was Victoria, B.C. MoneySense says B.C. has the warmest weather in Canada, and Victoria, while a bit pricey (over $574,000 for the average home), is steeped in history and culture and blessed with fine hospitals.

Taking second place was Ottawa, a larger city with more than 974,000 residents, which has many museums and art galleries, a good and mid-sized airport, and excellent healthcare. Housing is still a bit expensive, with the average price around $481,000.

Number 3 was Orillia, Ontario, which is about two hours’ north of Toronto. This beachfront town of 32,000 has lots of history and culture, a large casino nearby, and boasts affordable housing averaging under $300,000.

An unofficial runner-up selected by the Save with SPP blog might be Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a fine, young-feeling university city with great healthcare and those long, sunny, and non-humid summer days of bright sunshine. Northern lights in the winter, too.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Research suggests retiring early can extend your life

Retirement is a sort of grey area for most of us – a destination that we’d like to arrive at one day, but one we know very little about.  But research shows that life after work may have the hidden benefits of extending your life and boosting your health.

A Dutch study, published in the journal Health Economics, found that a group of male retirees who retired at age 55 were 2.6 per cent less likely to die within the next five years than those who didn’t retire early. The study, authored by economists Hans Bloemen, Stefan Hochguertel and Jochem Zweerink, is reviewed in this New York Times article.

Why is retirement seen as good for health?
The Dutch study found that those who were retired had fewer signs of digestive and cardiac trouble – less stress, less “road” eating, and less sitting in traffic.

The Times article also cites US research that concluded retirement is, for health purposes, like finding out you are 20 per cent less likely to develop a serious illness, such as diabetes or a heart condition.

A similar study in Australia found that “retirement was associated significantly with reduced odds of smoking, physical inactivity, excessive sitting and at-risk sleep patterns.” You can have a look at the Australian study, called Retirement: A Transition to a Healthier Lifestyle.

A lot of times we are sort of trapped in our thinking on the topic of retirement. We wonder (and worry) how we will manage to live on less money than we made at work. But the research points to a nice new way to frame our thinking. Retirement may be the time of life when we can really focus on our health and well-being. We’ll be liberated from the stress and strain of the workplace, and able to take the time to look after ourselves.

So as you plan your retirement, SPP can help you with the financial side. What you make of the other side – the opportunity to look after yourself – is up to you.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Jun 11: Best from the blogosphere

The pros and cons of annuities

Annuities are usually insurance against something bad – but there’s a kind of insurance that you can look forward to, explains Moshe Milevsky, Professor of Finance at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

In his YouTube video, Why Annuities Now?, Prof. Milevsky talks about how annuities are really insurance “against something that is a blessing, longevity.” Longevity insurance is “the insurance you buy to protect you against the cost of living for a very long time.”

An annuity is certainly something to think about when converting your SPP savings into retirement income. It’s a way to set up your savings to provide you with a fixed monthly income for your life – and there are ways to also provide for your survivors. Check SPP’s retirement guide for an overview of the annuity options the plan provides.

The retirement spending “smile”

Writing in the Financial Post, Jason Heath talks about the “retirement spending smile” that seems to occur for most of us. What is the smile? We generally spend more money in our early retired years, see a decline in the middle, and then see spending increase in the end – on a chart, it looks like a smile.

Research, the article notes, finds that “spending tends to rise by more than the rate of inflation in later years, on average.” This, the article notes, is likely due to the fact that in extreme old age, “few 95-year-olds cut their own grass, live independently in their homes, or avoid prescription drugs.”

The article warns us that spending may rise modestly if we are fortunate enough to live into our late 80s, and advises that idea to be part of our financial planning.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

New blogger takes over from retiring Sheryl Smolkin

After nearly seven years of writing insightful and highly informative blogs for the SPP, Sheryl Smolkin has decided to retire. We certainly wish her all the best – good health, long life, and many adventures on the road ahead.

Our new blogger is Martin Biefer. Martin has been writing for 35 years, most recently with the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, but before that with community newspapers in Ontario and Alberta, and for the old Southam company, in their business magazine division.

Martin retired from working full time a few years ago and returned to his hometown of Ottawa, where he lives with his wife, his large and crazy Sheltie, and his cat. He’s trying to break 100 now and then at the golf course, occasionally doubling out at the Legion darts on Wednesdays, and taking line dancing lessons at the nearby Richmond Arena.

He and his wife are SPP members. “I was fortunate enough to have a pension from work, but I still had room for RRSP savings. The SPP is so flexible. I’m actually quite excited to see what will happen when the day comes that I turn the savings into income.”

Martin plans to write not only about saving for retirement, but ways to save generally, the ins and outs of retirement, the importance of health and fitness as we age, and much more.

“I can already see the importance of growing your network of friends once you leave the workforce,” he says. “A lot of seniors find themselves isolated, and that’s not good for their mental health. We are social animals and we need lots of interaction to stay energized.”

For Martin, there are obstacles to saving these days that weren’t there in the past. “Homes are 10 times more expensive than they were when my folks bought in the 1960s. So a mortgage is a much bigger deal than it used to be. People are carrying around much more debt than ever before, and that can prevent them from saving.”

The solution, he says, “is to start small. If you can afford only $5 a week, start with that. Put that away before you pay the bills and buy the groceries. And when you can, increase it to $7.50, then $10. You won’t even miss it, and you’ll be on the road to being a saver.”

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Jun 4: Best from the blogosphere

Whether you’re just starting out on your own, building your nest and populating it, or gearing down for the golden years, there’s one constant you can rely on. There’s always room for more money.

So how to save? The lady of this house has developed what she calls her Rules of Acquisition, which she thinks of before buying anything. Before paying full retail price, she asks – “can I get it on sale?” Better, she wonders, “can I get it used?” And finally, “can I get it free?” There’s no shame and much to be saved by checking out yard sales and thrift shops, she advises.

Here are some more suggestions from a quick search of the Internet:

The U.K. based Mumsnet site had a great discussion on the topic. The three most common ideas were shopping for sale items, reviewing insurance (home and auto) and looking for cheaper options, and avoiding restaurant meals – “packed lunches every day,” one poster advises. You can see the full website here.

Closer to home, the My Money Coach blog suggests collecting your change and depositing it in savings account, and thinking of savings more like we think of bills – putting a set amount aside each month. The blog offers helpful steps on this second point, the “pay yourself first” approach that can be automated, and concludes with discussion of the importance of a written spending plan. Here’s where you can have a look at the rest of the blog.

The Huffington Post agrees on the idea of less restaurant eating, and adds putting a nix on daily coffee shop indulgences and online shopping. Their post is here.

Our good friend Steve Martyn’s one-page financial plan focused on knowing how much you are making, and how much is going out. If you spend less than you make, you are winning the battle. Steve also advises paying very close attention to hidden fees.

Our late Uncle Joe advised us all to live on 90 per cent of earnings. “You will never have any problems in life if you do that,” he said.

Sifting through all this advice, three themes emerge:

  • You need to be aware of how much you are spending, versus how much you make – a plan
  • There’s usually a way to get things you want for less than full retail price – be a patient shopper
  • Just as you plan your spending, plan to save; pay yourself first

You can make good use of the savings. A great destination for retirement savings is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. If you’re a member, direct some of your savings there – and if you want to sign up, visit their site today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Happy Retirement Sheryl!

Last week Sheryl Smolkin announced her retirement and talked about how SPP has changed her life.  If you missed the blog you can read it here. Sheryl has been part of our Social Media team for the last seven years, helping us write our original policy, getting us started with Facebook posts, hosting on our YouTube channel and of course has being the voice of savewithspp.com since 2011.

Sheryl lives in the Toronto area, however she writes content that is relevant across Canada. Her writing style makes the blogs easy to read and packs a lot of information into a few hundred words. We covered many topics over the years, mixing current events with general topics that everyone in Canada should know about everything financial.

Sheryl and I have worked closely together on the blogs since the beginning; I have gained so much knowledge not only from reading her posts, but also from asking questions and getting advice for the writing I do at SPP. We both like traveling and seem to travel close to the same time which makes it fun to hit our deadlines for our weekly best of posts and our regular weekly blogs.  But we always got our “act together” so we didn’t miss a week, even if our inboxes were full of emails saying “Are the blogs ready for review I am leaving on Wednesday?”.

As I said to Sheryl, I have mixed feeling about her departure from savewithspp.com. I am happy she will be able to spend more time with her family and traveling, but I will miss hearing from her and reading her blogs.

Thank for you for being a mentor to me and putting up with me as I moved from a mid-20 something to an early 30 something. Enjoy your retirement and remember those of us who are still working.

Happy retirement Sheryl!

Stephen Neiszner

May 28: Best from the blogosphere

Of the 500+ blogs I have written for savewithspp.com, monitoring the blogosphere to link you with the best of the personal finance world has been the most rewarding. While some personal finance bloggers generate money from google ads on their websites,  forge corporate relationships, sell courses or develop an enhanced reputation in their chosen field, the vast majority write for free, just because they have information they want to share with others.

Here is a completely unscientific list of some of my favourites who I have featured time and time again in this space. If you want to continue following them, sign up to receive emails notifying you when their latest blogs are posted.

Boomer&Echo: Rob Engen and his mother Marie Engen are the writing team that generate a consistent stream of always engaging blogs about everything to do with saving and spending money.

Cait Flanders: Cait Flanders has written about all the ways she continually challenges herself to change her habits, her mindset and her life. This includes paying off debt, completing a two-year shopping ban and doing a year of slow living experiments. And in January 2018, she published her first book, The Year of Less  (a memoir), which became a Wall Street Journal bestseller.

Canadian Dream: Free at 45: I have been reading Tim Stobbs since we blogged together on moneyville for the Toronto Star. He has beat his initial target, retiring recently at age 40, but his blogs about retirement are still a great read.

Jessica Moorhouse:  Jessica Moorhouse is a millennial personal finance expert, speaker, Accredited Financial Counsellor Canada® professional, award-winning blogger, host of the Mo’ Money Podcast, founder of the Millennial Money Meetup and co-founder of Rich & Fit. Don’t miss How I Survived a Trip Across America Using Only Chip & Pin.

Millenial Revolution: Firecracker and Wanderer are married computer engineers who retired in their early 30s. They blog on Millenial Revolution. They opted to not buy a home because they believe home ownership is a money pit. Instead they travel the world living on their investment income. Reader case studies where Wanderer “maths it up” are particularly fascinating.

Money After Graduation: Money After Graduation Inc. is an online financial literacy resource founded by Bridget Casey for young professionals who want to build long-term wealth. Whether readers are looking to pay off student loans, invest in the stock market, or save for retirement, this website has valuable resources and tools including eCourses and workshops.

Retire Happy Jim Yih and his team of writers publish top quality financial planning information. They believe there is a need for timeless information because too many financial and investing sites focus on minute-by-minute investment ideas, changing markets and fast paced trends.

Sean Cooper: Sean Cooper’s initial claim to fame was paying off his mortgage by age 30 which he has documented in his book “Burn Your Mortgage.” Since then much of his writing has focused on real estate-related subjects. He has recently qualified as a mortgage broker and will be leaving his day job as a pension administrator to launch a new career.

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For me, retirement beckons. This is my last Best from the Blogosphere for savewithspp.com. My own blog RetirementRedux has been dormant for some time as I have focused on writing for clients but I plan to revive it now that I have more time. Feel free to subscribe if you are interested.

May all of your financial dreams come true, and when the right time comes, I wish you a long, healthy and prosperous retirement.

 

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.

How SPP changed my life

Punta Cana: March 2018

After a long career as a pension lawyer with a consulting firm, I retired for the first time 13 years ago and became Editor of Employee Benefits News Canada. I resigned from that position four years later and embarked on an encore career as a freelance personal finance writer.

In December 2010 I wrote the article Is this small pension plan Canada’s best kept secret?  about the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for Adam Mayers, formerly the personal finance editor for the Toronto Star. The Star was starting a personal finance blogging site called moneyville and he was looking for someone to write about pensions and employee benefits. I was recommended by Ellen Roseman, the Star’s consumer columnist.

The article about SPP was my first big break. I was offered the position at moneyville and for 21/2 years I wrote three Eye on Benefits blogs each week. It was frightening, exhausting and exhilarating. And when moneyville began a new life as the personal finance section of the Toronto Star, my weekly column At Work was featured for another 18 months.

But that was only the beginning.

Soon after the “best kept secret” article appeared on moneyville, SPP’s General Manager Katherine Strutt asked me to help develop a social media strategy for the pension plan. Truth be told, I was an early social media user but there were and still are huge gaps in my knowledge. So I partnered with expert Leslie Hughes from PunchMedia, We did a remote, online presentation and were subsequently invited to Kindersley, Saskatchewan, the home of SPP to present in person. All of our recommendations were accepted.

By December 2011, I was blogging twice a week for SPP about everything and anything to do with spending money, saving money, retirement, insurance, financial literacy and personal finance. Since then I have authored over 500 articles for savewithspp.com. Along the way I also wrote hundreds of other articles for Employee Benefit News (U.S.), Sun Life, Tangerine Bank and other terrific clients. As a result, I have doubled my retirement savings.

All my clients have been wonderful but SPP is definitely at the top of the list. I am absolutely passionate about SPP and both my husband and I are members. Because I was receiving dividends and not salary from my company I could not make regular contributions. Instead, over the last seven years I have transferred $10,000 each year from another RRSP into SPP and I would contribute more if I could.

By the end of 2017 I started turning down work, but I was still reluctant to sever my relationship with SPP. However, as my days became increasingly full with travel, caring for my aged mother, visiting my daughter’s family in Ottawa, choir and taking classes at Ryerson’s Life Institute, I realized that I’m ready to let go at long last. After the end of May when people ask me what I do, I will finally be totally comfortable saying “I am retired.”

I will miss working with the gang at SPP. I will also miss the wonderful feedback from our readers. I very much look forward to seeing how both savewithspp.com and the plan evolve. My parting advice to all of you is maximize your SPP savings every year. SPP has changed my life. It can also change yours.

Au revoir. Until we meet again….

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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.

Wedding Insurance: Why you need it and what’s covered

You have been planning a wedding for months. The venue has been booked, invitations sent and the flowers selected. Then an immediate family member becomes very ill and the event has to be postponed. Or the banquet hall goes belly up and a hefty deposit is lost. These unfortunate events happen rarely, but when they do the extra expense can put a strain on an already tight budget.

According to an unscientific survey by Weddingbells magazine, there were 162,056 weddings across Canada in 2014, each with an average price tag of $31,685. Furthermore, a survey conducted in the same year by a Bank of Montreal subsidiary suggested that people in Saskatchewan and Manitoba planned to spend, on average, $27,200 on a future wedding. That figure was the highest in the country.

You insure your car, your home, your life and your health. But you may not be aware that you can also insure your wedding. Coverage may range from a wedding guest’s slip and fall to stolen wedding gifts to extreme weather on the day of the event that causes 50% of the guests to be unable to attend the wedding or reception. But there is a specific exclusion if a bride or groom gets cold feet and does not show at the last minute.

Pal Insurance Brokers Canada Ltd. is one company that offers Weddinguard insurance online. This insurance provides financial protection against many of those things that can go wrong with your wedding plans, subject to policy wording. You are eligible if you are getting married within 1 year and the reception date is at least three days in the future. You can see a pdf of the full policy and what it does and does not cover here.

You can get an online quote here. While researching this article I completed the online questionnaire for the four different levels of coverage and got the following pricing information, including up to $1 million of liability coverage.

Weddinguard Insurance

Potential reimbursement up to stated amount + premiums
Silver package Gold Package Diamond Package Platinum Package
Cancellation expenses $4,000 $10,000 $30,000 $50,000
Honeymoon cancellation $2,000 $2,500 $5,000 $5,000
Loss of Deposit $2,000 $3,000 $5,000 $6,000
Wedding photos and video $2,500 $5,000 $7,000 $7,500
Loss or damage to bridal attire $2,500 $2,500 $5,000 $7,000
Wedding presents $5,000 $5,000 $7,000 $8,000
Rings $1,000 $1,500 $3,000 $5,000
Cake and flowers $2,000 $2,500 $5,000 $6,000
Wedding stationery $1,000 $1,500 $3,000 $4,000
Rented property $1,000 $10,000 $15,000 $20,000
PREMIUM $250 $400 $650 $950

For destination weddings, PAL says underwriters must manually review the request for coverage which can take three or four days. There is also a special exclusion for Florida, Georgia and Caribbean weddings due to hurricane force winds in August, September and October.

Matt Taylor, general manager for PAL Insurance company recently told The Canadian Press that PAL sells between 1,500 to 2,000 wedding policies each year. Front Row Insurance also offers wedding insurance with policies starting at $105 and up to $5,000,000 in General Liability Coverage to cover damage to the wedding venue and injury to third parties.

Lacie Glover who blogs at  nerdwallet offers the following tips for buying the right policy for your wedding:

  • Look over your existing homeowners and renters insurance policies — or those of any relatives hosting or paying for the wedding — to see whether existing liability insurance will cover you.
  • Check the deductible, which is the amount deducted from a claims check. If one vendor doesn’t show up, and the deductible is higher than the deposit for that vendor, you’ll swallow the cost for that lost deposit.
  • Look at coverage limits. For cancellation coverage, you’ll want the limit to be close to your wedding budget, including the honeymoon.

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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.