Longevity & Aging

No doubt about it: at some point we’re neither semi-retired, findependent or fully retired. We’re out there in a retirement community or retirement home, and maybe for a few years near the end of this incarnation, some time to reflect on it all in a nursing home. Our Longevity & Aging category features our own unique blog posts, as well as blog feeds from Mark Venning’s ChangeRangers.com and other experts.

Less than Half of Canadians have a Will and many don’t even know where to start: NIA

By Mark Venning, ChangeRangers.com

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Following Canada’s National Institute on Ageing (NIA) since their beginning in 2016, it’s been a year since I last commented on the value of the NIA as a knowledge resource for Canadians on topics related to ageing and longevity.

And I would say, their regular reports, generated often in collaboration with other groups, are also a resource for anyone engaged in comparative research outside this country.

Now here’s today’s feature on one report from the NIA files from 2023 so far

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way: Exploring Canadian Perspectives on Estate Planning.

When I first received my NIA email notification of this report on May 17th, I was not surprised in the least by the lead headline: “Less than Half of Canadians Have a Will – and Many Don’t Even Know Where To Start.” For over twenty plus years, back when I was working in partnership with financial planners to deliver seminars on later life transitions, this was always a commonly known fact, and most people who didn’t have a Will knew that they should have had one.

The April 2022 Ipsos survey for this NIA report was conducted in collaboration with RBC Royal Trust. As the report details, it all starts with overall Estate Planning, and this includes setting up a Will, Powers of Attorney (POA) for care and property and, what was less discussed twenty years ago, Advanced Care Planning. As it happens my Will and POAs are ready for some small updating, but this time advanced care will also be on the agenda.

So if, as the report suggests, people know the value of planning and the subsequent sad consequences from not doing so – what’s the reason for inaction? I recall facilitating group conversations where literally some have said things like “if I do a Will, I know fate will bring me an early death” or, “I don’t have enough of an estate to worry about.” Of course the other concern I heard was about the perceived high cost of legal fees which halted the move to getting to the matter.

How fortunate for me, straightforward household budgeting and for that matter, estate planning Wills and POAs were things I learned early on at home from my parents, not from the education system. Today, learning from professionals in these topic areas should not be that intimidating or made difficult to access. Regardless of your age, picking up this report would be a great start. Continue Reading…

RetireEarlyLifestyle.com interview on Financial Independence & the “Findependent” lifestyle

By Billy and Akaisha Kaderli, RetireEarlyLifestyle.com

Special to Financial Independence Hub

We at Retire Early Lifestyle like to bring you individual FIRE stories and interviews of interesting people. There is no one single way to retire, and it is our hope that in reading these interviews with those who are on the path to Financial Independence it will inspire you to do the same!

Meet Jon [Jonathan] and Ruth Chevreau

Jonathan (Jon) and Ruth Chevreau

RetireEarlyLifestyle: Could you tell us a little about yourselves? Are you financially independent now?

Jon Chevreau: I’d describe Ruth and me as financially independent, yes, although it’s hard to claim we retired early like yourselves.

I just turned 70 and am still writing and editing, as well as running my own website on Financial Independence. Ruth is a year younger and retired from full-time work when she turned 65. My last full-time employment was at age 61, so by my definition when I became freelance/self-employed that was the start of our Findependence.

But we COULD have left the salaried routine earlier if we had wished to do so: we paid off our mortgage decades ago and our financial assets in combination with small employer pensions and the usual Government pensions are more than enough to fund a modest lifestyle.

REL: What type of work did you do, and what your life was like before FIRE?

JC: I’ve always been a journalist and editor, as well as an author and blogger.

Initially I worked in staff newspaper jobs covering technology in the early 80s ‘for the Globe & Mail (one of Canada’s two national newspapers), then almost two decades covering personal finance and investing for the National Post (Canada’s other national newspaper). I was also editor-in-chief for MoneySense Magazine for a few years after the Post and continue to write and edit for them in addition to running Financial Independence Hub, which I launched in 2014 when I left my full-time job at MoneySense.

REL: Because Billy has a background in finance and securities, he’s very familiar with US investments. Tell us about Canadian-backed assets.

JC: Canada is similar to Australia in its investment profile.

We’re dominated by energy and materials stocks and by six big banks. We have virtually no health care stocks and our consumer staple stocks are really just publicly traded grocery store chains like Loblaw;  our tech sector is small. Every once in a while Canada spawns a technology winner: Nortel, which went bust after China’s Huawei “borrowed” some of its technology; Research in Motion, whose Blackberry was a big-time success until the Apple iPhone ursurped it; and currently Shopify is our big tech winner.

Jon & Ruth sitting on a sand dune in Morocco

But mostly the Toronto Stock Exchange is dominated by banks like Royal Bank, BMO, Bank of Montreal, and TD Canada Trust (all with some US presence) and energy giants like Enbridge and TransCanada Pipelines. An American investor can get away with almost exclusive home country bias since the US is roughly half the global market cap and many of the big players are international anyway.

Canada is maybe 3% of the world’s total market cap, so we are forced to look to the US and global markets to be properly diversified. Once upon a time we were limited to just 20% foreign content in our pensions and retirement plans but that got scrapped so now we can overload on the S&P500 if we wish.

REL: Are discount brokers available to you in Canada like Fidelity, Charles Schwab and Vanguard?

JC: Oh yes, mainly through the big banks, so there’s TD Waterhouse, RBC Direct Investing (both of which we use) and the other banks have similar operations. There are also several independent online brokers like Questrade. Fidelity and Vanguard have Canadian divisions but mostly to sell their mutual funds and ETFs.

REL: Are capital gains taxed more favorably than income in Canada?

JC: Yes. Only half of capital gains are taxed, so that means about half as much tax as is usually paid on interest income or employment income. Also, unlike the US, the capital gains tax in Canada does not rise or fall depending how long you held before taking a profit. Dividends paid by Canadian companies get a lower tax rate than foreign dividends, which are taxed like interest and so best held in tax-sheltered retirement vehicles like the RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan, similar to America’s IRA).

Ruth hiking in Spain

REL: Could you explain Canada’s Old Age Pension, how that works, at what age one can begin receiving it, and how one qualifies for it?

JC: Canada’s equivalent to Social Security is actually three programs we dub CPP/OAS/GIS.

The main one is the Canada Pension Plan, to which all employees must contribute. Like Social Security you can take CPP early (even at age 60) but it pays much more if you wait till 70.

There is also Old Age Security or OAS, which people normally take at the traditional Retirement Age of 65. You can’t get it earlier than that but like CPP, can defer it to 70 and get paid more. It’s funded by the government’s general tax revenues but it’s means-tested, so if you have taxable income above $80,000 or so (the threshold rises a bit each year), you start to have OAS taxed away and you lose it all around $120,000. This is for each person, so retired couples normally try to keep their taxable income below $80,000 each, so $160,000 between them.

Finally, there is the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) to the OAS: which is means-tested and aims to top up income for seniors who have no real pensions or retirement savings. Personally, we don’t plan on receiving GIS: most middle-income seniors worry more about preserving OAS benefits: CPP is taxed but benefits are not clawed back.

REL: Could you tell us a little about how your portfolio is structured?

JC: I always used to wonder [in articles] why anyone would need more than a single global balanced mutual fund or these days a comparable Asset Allocation ETF from firms like Vanguard, BlackRock or BMO ETFs.

I believe in diversification by asset class, geography, investment style, and market cap. To some extent I keep in mind the All-Weather Portfolio championed by Ray Dalio, or before that, Harry Browne’s Permanent Portfolio. The latter was 25% in bonds for deflation, 25% stocks for prosperity, 25% gold for inflation and 25% in cash for really bad times. Dalio is a bit like that but would add commodities and maybe real estate. I don’t believe you can consistently predict markets and asset classes so I believe in being exposed to all of these over the long haul, with perhaps shorter-term tactical tweaks if trends become obvious (like interest rates bottoming a year ago.)

REL: How big a part of your retirement plan does the Canadian-based healthcare play? Would you consider permanently relocating to another country? If so, which countries have you considered?

JC: Canadians are a bit spoiled with universal health care. US Democrats would probably call it socialized medicine.

Jon in Malaga, Spain

It’s not entirely free as Ontario levies an annual Health Premium [i.e. tax] depending on income, but it’s lower than private insurance would be. We don’t worry about sticking with a single employer just to keep their health care insurance, although of course some will buy private Blue Cross and that kind of thing beyond what employers provide.

We travel a lot: Florida for a while, more recently Morocco, Mexico and other Spanish-speaking places including Spain itself. But I doubt we’d permanently leave Canada.

Just today we were walking around our home turf by the lake in Toronto. It’s called Long Branch, which was originally a Summer Resort when founded in 1884: affluent families in downtown Toronto would take the street car to their summer “cottage” in Long Branch. It’s now just another bedroom community but only a 15-minute GO train ride from downtown Toronto.

Canada overall is a blessed place: we’re protected by two oceans and it’s nice having a friendly neighbor and military power to the south. The rest of the world probably considers us boring, which suits us fine: we’ll keep us a best-kept secret! At one point we considered Mexico as a way to avoid Canada’s long winter and relatively high taxes but the high apparent levels of crime in recent years scared us off. My parents were British and French so we like to visit the UK and France, as well as Spain. But we are happy to keep Toronto a home base and to visit places for months at a time through AirBnB.

REL: In your retirement life, what will you do about access to health care? Are you open to Medical Tourism?

JC: Again, Canada’s health care system is almost free for citizens and reasonably accessible. In fact, it’s so attractive that it may prevent some of us from permanently pulling up stakes. I can see Dental Tourism as more likely, as only recently have the NDP started to badger the Trudeau Liberals to provide universal free dental care for young people and low-income seniors.

Sadly, neither category is us!

REL: Are you a traveler or more of a stay-at-home, community kind of guy? Are you and your wife on the same page regarding retirement and travel?

JC: I think we are. Ruth retired from her full-time job in the transportation industry three years ago but still does a bit of consulting and a lot of church work, volunteering, tutoring and the like.

Lake Ontario, a 30-second walk from Jon and Ruth’s home

As I said to you before this interview, I still put in a “gruelling 3-hour day” Monday to Thursdays, with Friday mornings if necessary. Like yourselves, I can run the web site from anywhere with good Internet access. Most recently we spent 4 weeks in Malaga, Spain and I kept things going from there. But in our next stage we will try to avoid more of the long Canadian winter and spend 2 or 3 months at a time abroad in January/February/March. Continue Reading…

Retired Money: Americans cashing out of employer Retirement plans could benefit from Canadian approach

Yanwen Wang of UBC’s Sauder School of Business

My latest MoneySense Retired Money column, which has just been published, looks at an interesting study on trends in cashing out Retirement savings when American workers leave their jobs. You can find the full column by clicking on the highlighted text here: Should you cash out your workplace pension when you leave a job?

The paper, titled Cashing Out Retirement Savings at Job Separation, is co-written by a Canadian, Yanwen Wang, associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. The study, which is fairly technical, is also featured in a more accessible version in the Harvard Business Review. The article that ran on March 7, 2023 is titled Too many employees cash out their 401(k)s when leaving a job.

Canada and the United States differ in how retirement plans are treated on leaving jobs, so most of the column applies mainly to the United States. But there may be lessons for the US retirement system that can be drawn from the Canadian treatment.

Average American has more than a dozen jobs over a career

In the US, the average American worker will have 12.4 jobs over a career, prompting the report’s authors to write that “Employers should recognize that most people working for them will change jobs before retirement.” Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for their workers to cash out of their 401(k)s when leaving a job, instead of rolling them over and letting the money continue to grow in a tax-deferred manner.

A UBC press release issued early in April carries the alarming headline that “Americans are cashing out the retirement savings at an alarming rate.”  The study identifies a “key” problem: when they switch jobs, 41.4% of employees are cashing out of those funds — even though the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) imposes a 10% per cent penalty on anyone younger than 59.5 years old.

Here’s what Wang said via email about the implications for Canadian retirement: “Canada has some different fundamental rules around retirement savings withdrawal. It is hard or probably impossible to speak to the Canadian RRSP withdrawal based on our US-based study.”
Canadian plans have locked-in feature

In particular,  many Canadian RRSPs have a locked-in feature, Wang added: “which means that even at job changing cash withdrawals are not allowed unless the individual becomes non tax resident. The locked-in feature is a key feature not present in most US retirement savings accounts. I don’t have data but I believe the illiquidity feature substantially reduces 401(k) leakage. I think the U.S. can learn from the Canadian retirement system and consider something similar — a locked-in 401(k) on top of an emergency savings plan — to satisfy the long-term retirement needs as well as short-term liquidity emergency.”

Unlike Canada, American employees can cash out at any time whether they’re working or leaving a job: the only developed economy that does. As the article points out, “other countries require many months of unemployment and evidence of clear hardship before allowing someone to tap defined contribution retirement savings.”

 Researchers also found an interesting phenomenon whereby the more a generous employer “matches” employee contributions, the more the departing employee is tempted to cash out and spend what it regards as “house money” or “free money.” Thus, the authors write, “Right now, cashing out is the path of least resistance. People choose what is easy, not what is wise.”

The column closes with some findings from a recent H&R Block Canada survey released on April 3, 2023. It  found nearly half of Canadians are unprepared for retirement and more than a third (36%) between ages 18 and 54 believe they won’t ever retire.

AgeTech Careers are EPIC, don’t you know?


By Mark Venning, ChangeRangers.com

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Attending three AGE-WELL EPIC conferences on-line since 2020, my level of understanding of Canadian research and development in ageing and technology, or AgeTech (as it is universally called now), has truly deepened. It could be said that AgeTech became epic in 2022 as AGE-WELL, Canada’s technology and aging network established in 2015, spelled out the acronym EPIC – Early Professionals, Inspired Careers in AgeTech.

Updating from my blog post last May – An EPIC AgeTech Adventure Continues, the EPIC-AT is a national health research training platform, designed to prepare graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and early career researchers to be future leaders in digital health solutions for older adults with complex health needs.

Hosted at the University of Toronto EPIC-AT is powered by AGE-WELL, led by researchers from 11 universities and research hospitals from across Canada.

While it could be argued that AgeTech is still in its adolescent stage, as many people I speak with have no idea what it really is, never mind how large in scope it has become so far; it is worthy to repeat how much AgeTech will become more prolific over the remainder of this decade, assuming research is supported and consumer awareness and adoption is widely acknowledged. So the good news is that at this point, the modest $13M funding in EPIC-AT runs through to 2027.

If you are wondering how all this research manifests itself in the marketplace, recently AGE-WELL published its revised AgeTech Startup Map for 2023 and here you will get up to speed on the 114 Canadian companies in eight categories from, for example, Supportive Homes & Communities to Healthcare & Health Service Delivery and Cognitive Health & Dementia.

From Dementia to Deep Space

On further note, sometimes the discussion on AgeTech can take you to far out places, and on Feb.2, 2023 the EPIC-AT Webinar I attended, did just that – it took me to Deep Space, in one of the longest webinar titles ever, “The Challenge of Deploying Large Scale Digital Health-Based Support to Older Adults Aging at Home:  When Deep Space Travel Offers Opportunities.” Actually it was quite uplifting so to speak, to learn how the far out the journey with AgeTech might take us. Continue Reading…

The benefits of Early Retirement


By Billy and Alaisha Kaderli, RetireEarlyLifestyle.com

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Retirement is something that many people look forward to in their later years, but what if you could leave your career earlier?

The idea of retiring before the typical age of 65 may seem like a pipe dream to some, but it is becoming more and more of a reality for many people whether by choice or through layoffs. There are numerous benefits to this decision, both financially and in terms of lifestyle.

Financial Advantages

One of the main reasons people strive for early retirement is the financial benefits it provides.

To prepare, it’s important to have a solid financial plan in place. This is a great way to learn the skills of creating a budget, tracking your spending, and paying down debt. We learn the value of maximizing retirement contributions and investing in non-IRA accounts. It’s the time to build up retirement savings before beginning to withdraw from them. You can do this on your own, as none of this requires a professional advisor.

Acquiring these tools makes us financially strong and builds our self-confidence which then carries itself forward into other areas of our lives.

Of course there is the need to factor in the potential for unexpected expenses, such as medical bills or family emergencies. Which is why we recommend a few years of cash held in a highly liquid account such as Fidelity® Government Cash Reserves, FDRXX, currently paying over 4%. Access to this cash can also help in market downturns so you are not forced to sell at lower prices in order to live your lifestyle.

Another financial advantage is the ability to minimize taxes.

By retiring early, you may be able to reduce your taxable income and utilize tax-efficient investment strategies. For one thing, you will no longer be paying payroll taxes. Withdrawing money from your retirement accounts in a strategic manner, such as using Rule 72T before you are eligible, can minimize your tax burden in the future and potentially save you a significant amount of money in taxes over time. We did this as a monetary bridge until our Social Security was available. Once we started to receive these payments, we let our IRAs build back up again.

Lifestyle Improvements

Leaving your job or career early also offers a number of lifestyle improvements. For one, you will have more free time to pursue your passions. You could travel more, take up new hobbies, and spend more time with loved ones. We used this opportunity to give end-of=life care to our parents when that time came, something we could not have done while maintaining a full work schedule.

Early retirement can also allow you to lead a healthier lifestyle, with more time to exercise, cook healthier meals, and prioritize your mental health. You could even volunteer and give of your expertise and talents, something you never had time for while working your 9-5.

If you choose to become financially independent outside of your paycheck, you have the ability to avoid burnout. Many people feel overwhelmed by the demands of their jobs, and early retirement can provide a much-needed break while opening up new vistas for you. You are able to take a step back, reflect on your priorities, and perhaps even discover new interests and pursuits.

We did!

Taking advantage of options that seem to just appear

In our case we chose to travel the world, which gave us new perspectives on how to live our own lives. There is no one singular way to do anything, and seeing how other cultures approached community, family, and even the cooking of their food and the learning of a new language, opened up our eyes as well. Continue Reading…