Saving for retirement easier said than done

Concerns regarding Stephen Harper's transformations to Canada's pension plan.

I’m at that age, like so many readers of the Trail Daily Times, that all this talk about pensions has me apprehensive.

I’ve tried to set aside a bit of money over the years but reality and life keep getting in the way. Bills pop up, kids grow up, cars grow old and appliances break down.

All those things, and many more, take a bite out of anything that was earmarked “for the future.”

Now of course, pensions are a hot topic across the country thanks to our Prime Minister’s announcement in Switzerland of all places.

He’s planning a major transformation for Canada’s pension plan. It’s something I certainly don’t recall him addressing during his election campaign last spring but that doesn’t really matter in today’s political rulebook.

I agree there has to be some discussion about the future finances for the aging population but with this government I’m afraid discussion isn’t on the agenda.

There’s already a public backlash regarding the Conservatives idea of raising the Old Age Security (OAS) threshold from 65-years-old to 67. Harper’s reasoning is that the price tag for OAS will balloon in the next 20 years.

It always amazes me how confidently politicians can predict the future but when things happen, like the current economic slump or budget shortfalls, they claim they failed to see it coming or couldn’t do anything to prevent it.

I guess in the political realm foresight is 20-20 but hindsight is in the eye of the beholder.

Now banks are starting to tell us we need to start saving more because they believe we are too dependent on our employer plans, the country’s pension plan and Old Age Security.

Am I missing something or wasn’t the purpose of all of the above to help us in our retirement? Now we’re told not to depend on them but keep contributing anyway.

Oh yeah and no word yet on MP pension reform.

To recap our federal government, which runs billion-dollar deficits, is telling us to spend wisely. Bankers, who make more in a year than the average person does in a lifetime, are telling us to save more money.

It’s like Eric Clapton telling us playing guitar isn’t that hard. Or Tiger Woods saying golf is an easy game to master.

Now at the other end of the spectrum, another report released last month had health specialists warning us that we’re spending too much time working and need to balance our time at work with our time at play.

The theory is too much time spent at work will send us to an early grave.

It touched on yet another report that showed people who retire before 65 can expect to live longer and healthier than those who work right up until their final day of eligibility.

So there you have it.

The people who care about our health warn us too much work isn’t good for our health or our future.

The people who care about money tell us to work more and put more away for the years ahead.

How do you know which is the right way?  I try to do the best I can when it comes to preparing for the future but am I doing enough? On top of that I have today’s bills to pay too.

As always wisdom is found from those who have been through the ups and downs of life and most of the time that means our parents.  I once asked my Dad how much he had in RRSPs when he retired in the mid-80s. Raising seven kids with a single income and going from a farmer to a government job, he laughed at the thought of saving anything for his retirement.

He had a government pension from his years with the agricultural department and the mortgage was long paid off. The OAS kicked in for my parents and that’s how they lived the final decades of their lives in relative, but certainly not extravagant, comfort.

“You don’t need a lot,” he used to say to me, “As long as you have your health and a crib board.”

So that’s how I try to balance all the talk from the doomsayers about my retirement years and the money grubbing federal politicians who love to make plans for our money but recoil at the thought of touching theirs.

You can’t control the future, that’s a given. But you can take care of the present.

So that money that was supposed to go in my retirement savings this month? Well I’m taking some to enjoy time with my loved ones, a little bit to go skiing and some for my aquatic centre pass. I consider it an investment in my health instead of some company’s mutual fund plan.

If there’s any left over it will go towards savings and a couple of lottery tickets.

It may not help quell all the concerns experts have about my financial future but from my point of view I’m going to enjoy life while I can and not spend the next 15 years worrying if I will.