Monthly Archives: October 2016

Can your pension plan pay out for 30 years?

Piggy bank sculpted in sand on sandy beachKeep close watch on the financial health of your pension plan. The family retirement depends on it.”

A worthy nugget of information often lands within my purview: one that musters important implications for investors.

A recent US headline read “State pensions are awash in red ink.” The estimated shortfall ballpark was 1 trillion dollars. Ouch! Today various pension plans are underfunded, while others could easily be heading that way. Some pension income benefits may be reduced if the weaker funding levels don’t improve.

Say your family plans to retire around age 60 with a pension and at least one spouse lives to 90. Ask this critical question: “Can your pension pay expected benefits for 30 or more years?”

Anyone who is a member of a pension plan should take note of this unsettling situation: those who are still contributing, along with those now receiving pension benefits.

Pension plans rely on three sources of funding:

  • Employer contributions
  • Employee contributions
  • Investment returns

Ongoing low returns are devastating for many pension plans. Longer life expectancy places additional demands on pension payouts.

Some pension plans may incur problems in paying all the promised benefits. Every pensioner should assume all pensions can undergo changes – even CPP, OAS and Social Security.

Participating in pension plans may mean making some irreversible decisions.
Notable pension events occur when:

  • A choice is presented to join a pension plan, buy back past pension service or retire normally or early.
  • An early retiree is offered the option of staying with the pension plan or transferring the commuted value.
  • Accepting a commuted value shifts responsibility to provide in retirement to the employee’s hands.
  • Switching from defined benefit to defined contribution keeps the employee working longer.

Steady pension income has always been an important part of the retirement puzzle for many families.  Pension reductions can rattle some pillars and assumptions of retirement planning.

Consider what could happen to the retirement plan if the expected pension was reduced, say by 30%. Here are some key matters that arise:

• How would you make up the potential income shortfall?

• How much more investment capital would you require?

• Is there sufficient time to accumulate the additional funding?

Pension administrators typically provide an “annual pension summary.” Upon receiving the summary, every pension member should:

• Check the estimated funding level with the pension department.

• Review the most beneficial pension options to achieve family goals.

• Determine whether it’s more desirable to commence the pension early or later.

• Understand the implications of pension income splitting and $2,000 credit.

No doubt some retirement plans will face difficult choices. Hence, I favour starting this analysis at least five years before retirement. Long-term income goal adjustments may be necessary. There are no simple answers, even for pension plans that are rock solid today.

Be savvy and don’t assume that your pension remains iron clad forever. It may be called upon to deliver benefits for 30 years, perhaps more.

AdrianAdrian Mastracci, MBA,  is president and portfolio manager for Vancouver-based KCM Wealth Management Inc., specializing in designing and stewarding retirement portfolios

How executives can survive sudden job loss


By Bill Treasurer

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

The transition of a leader’s career from the top of the crest to the other side can actually be a beautiful thing. This is the time when your wisdom is ripest, when the bulk of your legacy has been established, and when your influence has left a tangible and positive mark.

At this stage of your leadership career, you are a leader in full. It’s worth noting that the leadership influence of many leaders became fully expressed late in life. Benjamin Franklin was 70 when he signed the Declaration of Independence (Samuel Whittemore was 81). Ronald Reagan was 69 when he became president, and 77 when he left office. Golda Meir became Prime Minister of Israel when she was 71. Dr. Ray Irani, the CEO of Occidental Petroleum, is currently 75 years old, making him the oldest Fortune 500 CEO.

While your leadership career may span many years, the current average retirement age in the United States is 62. Given that average life expectancies have been steadily growing, figuring out what to do with all that accumulated leadership wisdom and influence before you retire, will help soften whatever butt-kicks may come when the gates of your career close. (By butt-kicks, I mean embarrassing and humiliating moments in your leadership that serve as a starting point to discover your strengths and values, and become better).

Butt-kicking tips for senior leaders

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Retireby40’s take on Semi-retirement and Victory Lap Retirement

Joe Udo of

By Joe Udo,

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

It might be surprising to new readers of Retire by 40 that I don’t believe in the traditional definition of retirement.

Yes, the site is titled Retire by 40, but I really meant Semi-Retire by 40. The idea is to leave the stressful corporate job life and continue to work part-time on something I enjoy. I don’t want to spend every day lounging by the pool or golfing at the country club. That sounds nice, but I’d be bored out of my mind in about three days! Full retirement can wait until I’m 70.

The problem is Semi-retire by 40 just doesn’t have the same impact as Retire by 40. There wasn’t a good word to describe what I was aiming for … until now. Mike Drak and Jonathan Chevreau’s new book Victory Lap Retirement describes exactly the lifestyle I wanted when I started blogging.

What is a Victory Lap?

The following paragraph from the book explains it perfectly: Continue Reading…

How Collecting can keep you young

Old postage stamps from various countries on wooden tableBy Cher Zevala 

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

For your entire adult life, you saved diligently for retirement, but if you want to make the most of your savings, you need to remain healthy for as long as possible. Being physically active will keep your body in good shape, but your mind also needs exercise as you age — which is why you should consider starting a collection.

Humans have a drive to collect things; it’s what helps our species survive and thrive in an unpredictable environment. However, now that you have the time, you can begin collecting items of interest that you can show off to friends and fellow collectors. Here are a few benefits to starting a collection so you can be happy and healthy for decades after you retire:

Reduce Stress

Stress is terrible for the mind and soul, but it does dreadful things to the body, too. Research shows that excess stress ages your body’s cells prematurely, causing all sorts of age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and hearing and vision loss, before you might naturally develop them. Unquestionably, the less stress you have in your life, the better.

Research also shows that having hobbies can reduce stress as well as exercise, which is to say: quite a lot. Unless you feel like going for a run ― and few retirees can truthfully say they do ― you might start finding something to collect to cut down your stress.

Appreciate Beauty

There is beauty in the world, and with the right collections, you can prove it. Artwork, jewelry, books, and even droll items like stamps and coins can be evidence of the sublime. It doesn’t hurt to have pretty things around you, but you do have to locate and gather the things you find most precious and appealing.

Continue Learning

Continue Reading…

Book Review: The Devil’s Financial Dictionary

41ixw3fyeLL._SX354_BO1,204,203,200_Like most closed shops, the financial industry features its own specialized vocabulary. As an investor, the key to understanding the financial industry is to understand the buzzwords and special terminology that are as often used to obfuscate concepts as to illuminate investors.

All of which makes Jason Zweig’s The Devil’s Financial Dictionary an invaluable tool for serious investors. Zweig is of course the Wall Street Journal’s eminent personal finance columnist. The book, published late in 2015, was inspired by Ambrose Bierce’s classic book, The Devil’s Dictionary.

As Zweig writes in his book’s introduction, “If investors are to be partners instead of pigeons, they must master the many ways in which Wall Street uses language to conceal rather than reveal information. Every profession is a conspiracy against the laity, and every profession’s jargon is meant to confuse and exclude those who aren’t part of the guild.”

If you learn nothing else, consider the following pithy observation by Zweig:

The denser the jargon, and the more polysyllabic the terminology, the more likely someone is hiding something from you.

Arranged alphabetically, as one would expect of a dictionary, this is a book you can peruse randomly; in fact, I’d suggest that approach. Without further ado, here are some sample definitions that got my attention and/or made me chuckle: as you’ll see, many of the definitions are simultaneously amusing and yet useful in penetrating the true meaning of many financial terms. They’re also quite cynical, which is half the fun: I’m sure Zweig had a blast writing them up in the first place.

ANALYST, n. A purported expert on a company who in theory estimates its value by breaking it down into its constituent parts but in practice functions as a salesperson and cheerleader.

CREDIT CARD, n. A thin slab of plastic that enables a person to feel pleasure today by incurring pain tomorrow. Continue Reading…