Charbonneau: Boomers unlikely to retire before 75

David Charbonneau / Kamloops Daily News
September 11, 2013 01:00 AM

What do you call Canadians who save for retirement? Destitute in their old age.

Despite good intentions, Canadians are not saving enough for retirement according to a survey conducted last month by the Bank of Montreal.

Almost one-half of baby boomers said they didn't have enough to retire on: only one-third of the $650,000 nest egg they aimed for.

It's not just the lack of will-power that makes saving a failed strategy. Boomers find themselves sandwiched between caring for aging parents on one side and adult children who can't find decent jobs on the other.

Boomers lost a lot of money in the Great Recession of 2008 which saw stock market investments evaporate and returns on the remainder tumble. Those who have retired are borrowing just to maintain lifestyles.

Equifax Canada says that debt for those over 65 increased by 6.5 per cent last year.

The prospect of Freedom 55 is looking more like Servitude 75. Respondents to the BMO survey said that they would have to work longer before retiring and 71 per cent said they would have to work part-time after retiring. Others hoped to sell off assets like collectibles, antiques, and even their homes. Some planned to rent out parts of their homes.

It doesn't have to be that way. Despite all the bad news about pension plans or the lack of them, well-run plans exist - as well as the bad and ugly as 20,000 Nortel workers discovered when the company went bankrupt. They were last in a long line of creditors who were paid off with their pension investments.

A good pension plan must be walled-off from failed businesses where over-paid and incompetent CEOs can't get their hands on them. A good plan has defined-benefits so that retirees know how much they're getting and can plan ahead, unlike defined-contribution plans in which benefits are determined by the vagaries of the stock market.

Bigger is better - so big that they are essentially tied to whole national economies not mere giants like Nortel.

A superb pension plan exists - the Canada Pension Plan. It's in a separate pot so the government can't get its hands on it. It's big and dependable. In 2000, payouts were guaranteed until 2075 and last year, forecasts got rosier as the rate of return was a incredible 10 per cent.

The problem is that it only pays an average of $28,000 annually including Old Age Security, not because it performs poorly but because the government limits the amount that you can contribute.

For ideological reasons, the Harper government won't let you contribute more to the CPP because, you see, governments shouldn't be in the business of pension plans.

Many disagree, including CIBC president Gerry McCaughey. He told a business audience in
February that Canadians should be able to contribute more to the CPP.

Additionally, the Canadian Labour Congress, most provincial premiers and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities all agree that expansion of the CPP is a good idea.

Yes, Canadians, a defined-benefit government pension plan is yours. Too bad you can't contribute enough to keep you out of poverty.

© Copyright 2015 Kamloops Daily News

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