#50by50ish #40 – Plan my retirement – b. Take a course
Since I work in the public service, I have a pretty good pension. Gold-plated, if you ask some people, at least in comparison to what the average private sector person can get from their employer. Indexed for inflation, guaranteed for life, forced savings with matching input from the employer, and for those who joined the public service before 2014, people often treat it like the classic private pensions that come with a magic number of 85 (and it used to be explained that way).
Basically pensions that use a magic number work as an addition of two things — your age + your years of service. If that number is 85 or above, you can take your pension with no penalty. More recently, there is often a small catch…sometimes you have to be at least a certain age, like 55 years old. In a perfect world, that would mean you would start working for an organization when you were 25, work for 30 years, and at the age of 55 you would have 55 years of age + 30 years of service = magic 85. Most people out there who know about pensions have heard of magic numbers, so why is there a course?
There’s a course for several reasons. First and foremost, the government manages the pension and they have an obligation to explain it to members i.e., what our mandatory pension gives us. To do this, the powers that be at Public Services and Procurement Canada have put together a detailed generic presentation deck on our public service pension plan. They share it with private contractors who are trained in the content, and thus there are financial planners across the country who can give the same presentation with the same information to the federal public service employees who work across Canada.
Second, there is WAY more to the pension plan than simply that number. Bells and whistles and options, oh my! Life insurance, death benefits, lump sum payments, what happens if you are less than 55 or under 25 or 30 years of service, what happens if you started working after 2014, what happens if you are with them less than 2 years, etc. It’s complex and detailed.
Third, the magic number formulas are the way pensions used to work and lots of other ones do, but it’s now more accurate to think of it as a combination of “age, service”, not “age + service”. Very few people are 25 when they start, work 30 years exactly, and hit 55 with the old style magic number of 85. So then the second clause kicks in, which makes the magic number idea almost meaningless now.
Under the pension, the focus instead is on what combination of age and pensionable service do you need to get an immediate annuity (monthly benefits with no reductions), with three scenarios:
- Retirement for disability –> any age and at least 2 years of service;
- Regular retirement –> Over 60 and at least 2 years of service; or,
- Regular retirement –> Over 55 and at least 30 years of service.
If you were in the second category, you’re magic number could be as low as 62. And yet you would qualify. The magic number doesn’t really apply anymore to that category and never did to the first.
I’m in the third category, which is where the magic number used to apply. However, with the new rules, it doesn’t. When I am 55, I’ll only be at 28 years of service or so, i.e. I don’t meet the second criteria, so while I *could* retire at 55, my pension would be hit by a reduction formula i.e. a penalty. If I wait until 57/58, I’ll meet both criteria –> over 55 AND at least 30 years of service. (And, FYI, the so-called old “magic number” would be 87/88, and meaningless).
(Someone on Reddit noted that I had skipped explaining the change from using magic number formulas in my first draft of this post, and it was confusing. Note that there are a couple of presenters out there modify the magic number slightly to still use it as they find it a simpler transition for some people to understand. You *can* keep the magic number idea in your head, if you prefer, if you think of there being a cap on age points as up to 55 points and a cap on years of service as up to 30 points. The disability option or over 60 options remain exceptions, and you can still add up to 85, but I agree with the Reddit people — keeping the magic formula explanation is too misleading, so hopefully the change shows more readily above now — as noted, the short version is that it has changed how the two variables are used i.e. it is “age and service” not “age plus service”.)
Fourth, there’s demand. I know of at least four different courses available. One is simply online, and as far as I can tell, just shares the basic deck with an audio track. There is also a half-day course that seems to go through the basic deck, except in person. A third course is a one-day course that goes a bit more in-depth, and then there’s the one I took — three days with each day broken into two half-day topics per day. In Ottawa, it is offered by the Retirement Planning Institute (RPI).
Lots of people have taken the courses before, and most who have taken the short ones thought they were “okay” while just about everyone raves about the three-day course. Pop wisdom says to take it once when you’re early in your career and once closer to the end of your career. Some would even go so far as to say that you should take it every 10 years as a refresher, but that seems like overkill to me. Maybe the half-day ones are somewhere in the middle, but I agree with taking it early and late in your career. There are definitely aspects that apply to different stages of your career and I wish I had realized certain aspects earlier (around RRSPs, for example).
But the fifth reason came up in the intro to the first session. In short, our pension is so different from most other people’s pension plans that our financial situation overall DOES NOT look like anyone else’s. Our pension plan rates, investments, risk profile, all of it looks very different from the average consumer out there, so why would we take a “general” pension course rather than one that focuses on OUR pension and OUR situation? I’ll come back to that later. I screwed something up awhile back in my financial planning, and this course would have allowed me to correct it. Not huge, but not nothing either.
I mentioned in an earlier post (#50by50ish #50 – Lose weight – Part 5, what changed?) that the course I took was broken down into six elements over three days:
- General overview of finances and retirement
- Legal aspects of retirement and aging
- Health and retirement
- Financial planning: Part 1
- Financial planning: Part 2
- Psychology and retirement
1. General Overview of Finances and Retirement
The first morning session is dedicated to the official deck prepared by the government. I found myself a bit surprised with it — it is remarkably good. No bureaucratese, no “on the one hand” waffling, it is relatively simple and direct. The deck walks you through the pension and benefits website, supplementary death benefit, leave without pay, actual retirement benefits (including indexing and bridge benefits), service buybacks, survivor benefits, group insurance benefits, and other services and information.
It is long and detailed, and incredibly useful. That session alone is worth the price of admission, and those who do the half-day elsewhere with just that deck are well-served, although I suspect it is better handled in person than in a recorded online version.
For me, I would say I liked four of the elements a lot from this session:
a. How the contribution rates are coordinated with CPP/QPP…Under CPP rules, you have to contribute to CPP. Everyone does, public servant or not. And when you turn 65, you’re going to get your CPP. So that is already in place. The maximum insurable salary / earnings under CPP for 2018 is set at $55,900. So your CPP contribution for the first $55,900 is already set … you are paying approximately 2.3% of that amount for CPP already. And they don’t want to “double tax” you, so for the first $55,900 of your salary, they charge you only an additional 9.83%. Add those two together, and you get 12.13%. So you pay 12.13% on $55,900 with some of the money going to CPP and some going to your public service pension. If you earn more than $55,900, you pay 12.13% on the rest.
In summary, the first $55,900 is harmonized so it comes out to 12.13% to two sources, anything above $55,900 is also at 12.13% but that all goes to the pension plan. Which means, drum roll please, you pay the same percentage all the way through, but it is coordinated with what you pay to CPP. I never knew how that worked before, and page 4 of their deck lays it out pretty well…I must confess however that the speaker ad-libbed a bit at this point and it was very helpful to have him help us “see it”. Hence why I think the in-person course is likely a bit better.
b. What you get for retirement…depending on your circumstances, it can be a monthly pension or a lump sum. Lump sums have a bunch of rules about tax limits, transfers to RRSPs or purchasing life annuities, for instance, but there is a nice breakdown of the various options (pp. 10-13). It doesn’t really apply to me since I’ll be doing the monthly pension, but it was good to know.
c. Explanations of the bridge benefit…pp. 26-28 cover your options related to a bridge benefit, i.e. a “top up” to my pension from, in my case, age 58 to age 65 to take into account that I may not take my CPP until age 65. I knew almost nothing about this and the short overview was extremely helpful. There are a bunch of options to work out, basically variables in terms of how long from my age of retirement to age of 65, and I’ll need way more info from a financial planner to work that out, but it was still eye-opening for how it worked.
d. Service buyback options…pp. 29-30 give you the bare minimum of information about service buybacks but the presenter went through it pretty well verbally.
In my case, I worked as a co-op student back in ’93 for eight months. They deducted pension stuff from me at the time, but when my service ended, they just paid it out i.e. paid it back to me. However, that is service that I can “claim” towards my 30 years, and all I have to do is pay what would have been contributed to the pension if I had paid into the service for those extra 8 months (the fact that I got paid back at the time means it is now “eligible” to be reclaimed as opposed to already being in my pension).
Here’s the first kicker, which I already knew. You buy back at your PRESENT rate of pay. In other words, I have to make my contributions of 12% (as calculated above) for 8 months of salary at my current salary, not what I was making as a co-op student. Well, pooh. I wish I knew back then not to take it but just to leave it there. I have another six months in ’96 that was a probationary period, and I can reclaim that too. So I can buy back up to 14 months of service by making just over a year’s worth of extra pension contributions.
The obvious lesson learned, which is not a surprise, is that if you have any service eligible, you want to buy it back as soon in your career as possible because it will be cheaper. If you can buy back a year of service at a current salary of $50000, you’ll pay approximately $6000 to do it ($50K x 12.13%). If you wait and do it later when you’ve got promoted and earning $100K, you’ll pay $12K. Since most people’s salaries continue to increase as a public servant through inflation and promotions, the sooner the better. I didn’t do that and because I didn’t do this great 3-day course earlier in my career, I never thought about it until recently when I’m nearing the top of my lifetime salary rates.
So then we come to the second kicker – figuring out if the buyback is worth it. I certainly wanted to know how to calculate if it was worth it for me to do in my specific situation. I had already asked the official pension people for an estimate of the current cost of all my buyback options rolled together into one lump sum, and they gave me my total. About $17K. Wow. That’s a LOT of money.
As the guy was presenting, he must have read my mind and said essentially, “Some of you may be wondering if you should buy back or not. And as a professional financial planner, I can tell you that it all depends on your situation, you have to weigh the variables and other costs, and decide in the end that the answer is yes.” In 20+ years of advising public servants, he said there were only two situations where it wasn’t in the client’s interest, and both times they were very close to retirement and the purchase was going to mess up other investments.
I was a bit skeptical, I admit, but it was like he was still reading my mind. “If you’re skeptical about that, here’s the real question you’re asking. Should I invest in a gold-plated protected pension, guaranteed for life, and indexed for inflation every year? Yes, as much as you can.” A pretty clear picture. Of course, it depends on where that $17K is sitting right now and if you have it available, but generally, yes. It is also heavily related to something else for me, and I’ll cover that in the hard core financial section below.
The third kicker for me was a small nuance of how you pay that money to the government / pension plan. I already knew there was an option to just pay it all at once, and just write them a cheque. But I don’t have $17K sitting in a bank account screaming “use me, use me for pensions”. I also knew that a second option was to have them estimate when my retirement date is and pro-rate it over my paycheques until I retire. Not a bad option. But the real kicker I didn’t know was that I can transfer FROM MY EXISTING RRSP to the pension plan. I can take $17K of investments I ALREADY HAVE and just MOVE the money over? Hot damn. Sign me up and call me ready for retirement 14 months earlier. Now THAT’S exciting!
2. Legal aspects of retirement and aging
The first afternoon was a substitute presenter, a lawyer who had done the course before, and he was there to talk about the legal aspects of retirement. Now, the course is being taught in the NCR, and some people live in Ottawa and some people live in Quebec. And some people have property in both, or have lived in one and now live in the other. Some married, some not. Some divorced and remarried, some single. So there was a lot of interest in WHAT IF scenarios.
There are a few basic things they were trying to accomplish with the session. It was a lot of “if this, then that” but the overall message was, “if you want our life to be difficult, do whatever you want; if you want to make certain things simple, here’s what you can do.”
For example, have a will, or more accurately, DON’T DIE WITHOUT ONE. It is just way more complicated for everyone involved if you die without a will. Seems obvious, but I confess that Andrea and I didn’t do our wills when we were younger, waiting instead until Jacob was born. We were living together and had even bought a home together, yet hadn’t executed full wills. Not terrible since we were common law in Ontario, but potentially disastrous if we were in Quebec. We have them now, of course, and so we weren’t really interested in that part. We understand the basics, I’ve done the executor duties for my dad and mom, I’m good to go for the most part. But there was a young couple in the course who were in our old shoes, didn’t have wills, and were suddenly seeing the complexity of their situation in being common-law with no will and living in Quebec.
Second, they wanted us to understand that if you’re in Quebec, and you’re not married, your support and survivorship rights are limited. When he started explaining it, the back of my neck started to itch. It didn’t sound right to me, because I thought a bunch of stuff had changed. See, I’m a weirdo pants when it comes to law stuff. I read things most people glaze over when they see. So a few years ago, when the Quebec Court of Appeal granted spousal support to the wife of the Cirque du Soleil owner even though they weren’t legally married, the tabloids went nuts for the amounts of money involved, the newspapers talked about a legal milestone, and legal papers talked about how this meant another province now recognized common law support rights. And I read the last two sources (newspapers and legal papers) and thought “Okay, so Quebec is mostly like everyone else now for common law marriages”. Interesting. A throw-back interest to my law school days.
Except the lawyer was saying that what I thought was now the law in Quebec was not actually the reality.
This guy was reading my mind too because he said, “Now you may have thought that changed when the Quebec Court of Appeal did blah blah blah…” and I was like, “Yes! Exactly!”. Except I had missed something. The Supreme Court of Canada overturned it. I totally missed that happening, partly because I didn’t read the tabloids, the newspapers treated it as “Okay, nobody gets rich, no story”, and the legal papers basically said, “Okay, same as it always was, nothing to see here.” They talked about the decision / outcome of who won, but not the legal implications or issues at stake, at least not in the same level of coverage. It wasn’t revolutionary, it was “same old, same old”. But it is now back to the the way it used to be, and common law spouses can get seriously SCREWED.
Unfortunately, the session did not have a clear presentation that he was following. As I said, the lawyer was substituting for the guy who was supposed to do it, and while he was certainly knowledgeable, it was more like 3 hours of him saying, “Here’s an issue…if you live in Ontario and you’re married, it works this way. If you’re in Quebec and married, like this. If you’re in Ontario and COMMON LAW, then this; Quebec, this. If you’re divorced on a Thursday while wearing a hat shaped like a Beaver…”. It was hard to follow a lot of the twists and turns, and 80% of it didn’t apply to Andrea and I. Of the remaining 20%, we had most of it already covered.
I didn’t feel I got a lot out of the session other than “have a will” (some interesting elements of why you shouldn’t do a holographic will, which was GOOD to know, as I have considered using a kit and/or redrafting the one we have from the lawyer that I’d like to tweak every so slightly and if I do, I should really use the full lawyer for it and just pay the freight), don’t own properties in multiple provinces if you want your life to be simple, don’t get divorced, and if you’re together in Quebec, life is a LOT easier legally if you’re actually formally married. Again, you can have a simple life, or you can have a complicated one, particularly if you don’t do things the right way but want something different from the default.
3. Health and retirement
In a separate blog about my health and weight loss, I blogged about the health session (#50by50ish #50 – Lose weight – Part 5, what changed?) and that I was pretty disappointed with it. It had a knock-on effect of inspiring some other thoughts about my health, but it wasn’t a great session. I was expecting a tightly focused presentation about health in retirement and what to expect, and instead it was a general “health” presentation that was good for anyone at any stage of their life. I liked the presenter, a doctor in the military, but the main thrust of the presentation was “what will limit how long you live?”.
Based on the Ontario Health Study, she listed the five biggest factors:
- Exercise — How active are you?
- Tobacco — Do you use any?
- Diet — What do you eat?
- Alcohol — How much do you drink?
- Stress — How to you choose to react to life?
Nothing revolutionary in there. It did feed into a larger narrative I have been working on about “am I saving for retirement in terms of (x) investments?” such as health investments, planning investments, financial investments, social investments, etc. But overall, I thought it was “meh”. She did close out with some references to the importance of powers of attorney for personal care, as had the lawyer, but I really would have expected that one of the two of them would have spent a fair amount of time on this. After all, weren’t we talking about health in retirement or legal issues in retirement, when those are likely to be needed at some point?
They didn’t ignore them, but they didn’t spend any real time dedicated to them either. I also confess that I had thought that this session also included the psychology component, and while there were a few references, I was really disappointed it was missing. It wasn’t until the start of the third afternoon that I realized there was a whole session on psychology and so I was a little too harsh perhaps.
Yet I don’t want to imply it was useless. There were some interesting bits. For example:
- She referenced Dr. Mike Evans’ “23 and a half hours” video on YouTube that went viral a few years ago, and his site, www.reframehealthlab.com.
- I’ve often thought of retiring to a “country location” or at least something like a cottage, and so this session actually prompted Andrea and I to talk about it a bit more too. I read Big Box Reuse by Julia Christensen (BR00115) a year or so ago, and one of the examples in it was about health care in a retirement area of cottages in Michigan (I think). One element the doctor mentioned was that rural healthcare has a huge impact on your life expectancy — yes, you’re not experiencing the stress of city life, but you may also experience an hour-long wait for emergency care. If you dial 9-1-1, who in that area is responsible for responding? Not likely a huge issue for our likely options, but an interesting element.
- She gave some links on the benefits and steps to becoming an e-patient with a copy of your own medical record, as well as lists and checklists for all your health planning needs.
At the end of the presentation, there was a “call to action” component, and I don’t think it really resonated with anyone. She had a list of 35 things that people “could” commit to, such as being an organ donor, developing an “attitude of gratitude”, or doing a cancer screening, and the range of things was just too great. I think if she had grouped them to say, “Let’s do ONE thing from column A, ONE thing from column B, etc.” to get us to commit to three things, she might have had a good ending. Instead, it just sort of fizzled out.
4 and 5. Financial Planning Part 1 and 2
The afternoon of the second day and the morning of the third day were more elaborate presentations on what was covered in the upfront overview / introduction on the first morning. Truth be told, this is the main reason people take the course — the real financial stuff. The rest is “add on”.
I loved the session from the beginning, including the opening question. I’m paraphrasing, but essentially, “If you were taking a trip which would last two to three weeks, how much research and planning would you do?” and then the second question, “If your retirement lasts 25-30 years, how much time have you spent planning for it?”.
Such a simple question, but it contributed to my overall thoughts on retirement planning. Honestly? We’ve done the basics for financial, but I’ve never really spent much time planning the rest of retirement. From my other posts, that planning includes health in particular, but I’m also wondering about the psychology side. So I’m going to spend a bit of time on it in the next six months. Picturing what retirement might look like for me.
After the quick intro, we got to the second thing that I learned I had already screwed up. There is a pie-chart showing sources of seniors income, and notes that for most, the breakdown is:
- 28% pensions;
- 21% OAS;
- 18% CPP;
- 13% ongoing employment;
- 12% investment; and,
- 8% other.
It’s a typical pie chart for the “average Canadian retiree”. And most banks will show you something similar when you talk to them. Except public servants are not the typical retirees. Our pension is great, guaranteed for life, and indexed. It drastically changes our risk profile and our likely sources.
So what did I screw up? My risk profile for my RRSPs. Based on the “typical sources”, I rated myself as moderate for risk, somewhat conservative, and I did my RRSP investments accordingly. Except I have this amazing pension that has almost zero risk, which means if I want an overall balance of moderate, the RRSP investments are less important, and could have been done as high risk for that small portion. I never thought about it when we met with the bank, and they didn’t say anything about us having a different overall risk profile than most Canadians. They don’t know our pensions. However, even when we saw a financial planner a few years ago, he didn’t flag it for our investment choices either. Interesting. Not a huge issue, but I should have done it differently years ago.
The next part of the financials was a lot of extra info and learning about CPP and OAS, as normally they are the next two biggest resources. But most of it was flagging different scenarios and variables around “when do you take your CPP?”, highly relevant assuming in my case that I go at age 58. Do I take it at age 60 or 65? What does that look like? What impact does that have on bridging? Throw in survivor benefits, drop out years, spousal benefits, disability benefits, and clawbacks, and it’s a complicated set of questions. The course isn’t designed to answer the questions so much as getting you to know which questions tend to apply to you. On a cynical side, one might say they are advertising “come see us and we’ll go through in detail” as the presenters are registered financial planners, but to me, that’s just part of the industry, as they do the presentations in part to drum up business. But the presentation was still rock-solid.
The next source is ongoing employment, and listening to them talk about it, I developed less and less interest in continuing paid employment after retirement. I had always assumed that I might do some consulting work, but I’m not as sold on that option. Combining work income with retirement income might raise me up enough in the tax rates to wipe out some of the benefits of the retirement income in the first place. It certainly risks messing up the tax benefits of RRSPs.
The second day was devoted to taxes and various tax shelters (RRSP, Registered Life Annuities, Registered Retirement Income Funds, and Tax Free Savings Account). I confess that my knowledge on the intricacies beyond basic RRSPs is a bit limited. Even to the point of having thought “we have a TFSA” because Andrea has one, as opposed to us both being able or needing to have one. I am not even sure that I have ever really though in detail about the interactions between RRSPs and the tax system over the whole life of the investment — for me, it was always about “invest now, get the tax break now” rather than “is my marginal tax rate lower or higher than what it will be later?”. The presentation went through TFSAs vs. RRSPs in detail and was really well done. I even liked the overview of “what happens to your RRSPs at age 71” (i.e. what you convert them to). And last but not least, there were some good tips on RESPs that we need to follow up on, just to make sure we’re maximizing the usage for Jacob’s future.
After the tax shelters, the presentation moved on to more traditional investments and asset classes, namely guaranteed investments, fixed-income (bonds) and equity (stocks). This is where the risk profile came back in too…obviously, with a secure pension as the main asset, the rest of our allocation can look quite different from the typical retiree.
And then the course got REALLY hard-core. Pension-splitting. Age credit clawbacks. OAS recovery taxes. RRSP withdrawal before age 65. The tax implications of all of it. Cash wedge strategies.
If I thought the opening day session was worth the price of admission, this was that on steroids. It is the REAL retirement planning, and there were a LOT of great questions in there to think about. Sure, some of them didn’t apply, but a lot of them did. Things we had never even thought about. And, as I said, I have my buyback strategy and RRSP profile wrong considering that I’m a public servant. Things I wish I knew back when I was a new inductee, not someone within sight of his potential retirement date.
6. Psychology and retirement
As I mentioned above, there was some psych components in the health section, and I thought that was “it”. I had lost track of the fact that there was a whole afternoon on the topic and I was STOKED at lunch to come back and talk about it. But the session was disappointing. Not terrible, just not up to my expectations.
Don’t get me wrong, it started fine. She worked through asking questions about what “work” means to us, and what we give up in order to do it (things like time, freedom, health). But retirement represents a huge level of change for most people and is even rated higher than pregnancy for the degree of social adjustment required. Then she walked successively through personal identity, lifestyle and relationships. All key areas that are going to be impacted by retirement, and thus “risk” factors for you if they don’t go well. She was fun and engaging as a presenter, but she just didn’t have a frame for explaining things that well in my view.
What I really wanted was a deep dive on some of those issues, and I’ll blog about it in the future a bit, most likely geared towards personality types. If you use the matrix of introverts/extroverts and analytical/intuitive of Insights Discovery (if you’re in government, you’ve seen their work — it’s the basis for the four-colour lego blocks sitting on everyone’s desk), then analytical introverts are “blue”, analytical extroverts are “red”, intuitive introverts are “green” and intuitive extroverts are “yellow”. The colour isn’t that relevant other than to help you identify broad personality traits and remember them.
Now, if I took those four types and applied them to sense of personal identity, then the analytical types (blues and reds) are likely to be the most affected by retirement in terms of their sense of “who they are”. The reds are the cliché for big bosses who run companies or teams, and then retire and try to run their household. They’re used to being in charge, and they’re going to delegate tasks to family members and run a tight ship at home. Only to be told to ship out instead. If blues and reds don’t have anything to replace it with — a volunteering role, a new project to lead — they can often feel lost. Greens and yellows identify more with people, so the loss of their “work title” won’t affect them (leaving the people will, but that’s the opposite of the blues and reds).
The best example though is that a lot of athletes are strong reds. And when they are finished their athletic careers, they often have no idea who they are. They identified as a hockey player, a football player, a skier, and now, they’re not. So lots of athletes talk openly how they flounder for a long time adjusting to that change. It was “who” they were, and when they can’t do it anymore, they lose themselves.
There was almost none of this in the presentation. More like “it might be an issue for you”. Well, there’s an easy way to tell. If you get people to think about their personality profiles and decide if they are blues and reds, then you know that for them there is a REALLY HIGH chance that it WILL be an issue. Which means THOSE people need to think about mitigation strategies to offset the risk in retirement. If they want retirement to go well, they need to know how to handle that loss of identity.
By contrast, the intuitive / emotional greens and yellows are going to be worried about saying goodbye to everyone. They’re losing close friends, people who seem like family. One colleague retired, and because she didn’t want to say goodbye, she comes back for luncheons with the group about once a month (a regularly scheduled thing). She is a solid green (an intuitive introvert), and it is really important for her. I think it is part of what made her stay working past her retirement date — she would miss the people. Other people may choose to handle it by ensuring they have “replacements” at the ready — volunteer groups, a new social circle, joining a seniors group, something to provide the now-missing social interactions.
For me, I will indeed miss certain people, but I will also lose a lot of social interaction during the day. If I went with zero social interactions at home, that would be a risk to my happiness (I need some, but not as much as most). However, the loss of “identity” could be quite large for me. I’ve got ways to mitigate it, but easier to handle if you plan in advance rather than after the fact.
As I said, I was excited for the session and perhaps my expectations were too high. Five minutes in and I thought I could present a better frame than what I was seeing. Something that would tell people, “No THIS part is about YOU” and “this part maybe less so”. I’ve done a bunch of reading since then on some websites and books, and I think I’m going to blog about it in the future. Some really interesting stuff.
That’s a wrap
And that was it. The course was over.
The training was great, well worth the cost (even though work was paying for it), and I really liked the fact that they let you bring your spouse for free. Private sector, public sector, stay at home, whatever, they can come too. Andrea and I did the course together, and it led to some interesting side-conversations about various pieces. Given that I’m 8 years older than Andrea and will hit my retirement date about 7 years before her, it also means that some of what I’m looking for is a plan of “what I’m going to do while waiting for her to retire”.
For the first two months? I’m hoping to simply nap and read. 🙂
This is a great write up. I did the course a few years ago and agree that it is top notch, and that the second financial planning session is a real eye opener.
Thanks for the comment…I will likely end up doing some follow-up with them, just haven’t got to it yet!
Thanks for this post, I’ve been considering taking for a while and just not sure how to get enrolled. One big question I have had for along time is on RRSPs and whether or not to contribute. I am in a fortunate position in being able to max out an TFSA and RRSP while in the public service, but have not in my RRSP as I worry I will be in a higher marginal rate in retirement than I am now (I am still young–29). Have never been able to figure this one out.
The shortest answer is the course won’t tell you. 🙂 It’ll do basic overviews of the formulas but if you’re asking the question, you may already know the tradeoff. As someone noted on reddit, they found the investment portion quite basic, and that’s rather deliberate … they’re preaching about the pension, not the full range of investment vehicles available.
As for getting enrolled, the RPI webpage will tell you when the next one is and usually you just fill out the regular training form to have it approved by your manager. Assuming of course they’ll approve it and there’s room in the training budget for your group, etc. It’s not cheap, and some managers push the free webinars and 1 day ones over the full three day ones, purely on cost. There’s really no comparison though…
Thanks for the fantastic write up. I hoped you could possibly elaborate on whether the course offers info on quitting the public service, and what to do with your pension. I am considering leaving after 6-7 years in the service and not sure the many implications I need to consider: do I have RRSP room? Do I cash it out or leave in to retirement? etc.
Hi Jackie, glad you enjoyed the write-up. In short, no, there wasn’t much in there about what to do if you leave early, partly as that gets you in various investment vehicles, and they don’t really cover investment options (some people find that lacking in the course, but it’s not really the point of the course, in my opinion, so not surprised it’s not there). They do, however, offer investment / financial planning through their retirement institute options, and I think the first half-hour might be free (a lot of places it is).
Based on what I’ve seen, the cynical side of me thinks that almost all retirement planners are going to tell you to leave it where it is — gold plated, guaranteed for life, blah blah blah. Investment planners are all going to say, “no way, give it to us, we’ll get better returns”. Based on the conversation about investment risk, I would have left it where it was as a risk-free long-term investment probably. But I’m a lifer, more or less, so was never a question for me. Equally, if you think you ever might go back, you definitely want to leave it there. I pulled eight months out back in ’93, and got a thousand or so, something like that. To buy back that time now will cost me almost 10K. Ouch.
Your mileage may vary though, and I am far from an expert on investment options…