Skip to main content

Prescription overload is becoming a growing concern for those 65 and above.SelectStock/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Content from The Globe’s weekly Retirement newsletter. To subscribe click here.

It was while working in acute care at McGill University Health Centre that the epidemic of overmedication in older Canadians became clear to physician Emily McDonald.

“We were seeing older people coming in with fall fractures, hip fractures, delirium, confusion,” Dr. McDonald says. “And a lot of it could be pretty easily traced back to medications or combinations of medications that they were taking.”

Going over the list of prescription medications they were taking, it was clear many were not appropriate, she says. The diagnosis was prescription overload.

“It’s a massive problem,” says Dr. McDonald, an associate professor of medicine and director of the clinical practice assessment unit in general internal medicine at McGill University Health Centre.

“More than half of people over the age of 65 are taking more than five medications and when you look in long-term care – the most vulnerable people – they’re taking at least 10 medications a day. Dene Moore reports

Has this baby boomer couple saved enough to retire?

Margaret, 61, recently retired and her husband Simon, 70, retired from work five years ago. Although neither has a pension, they have a home in the Greater Toronto Area, a cottage, and substantial savings.

“We are looking for advice on how to draw down our assets for the best tax advantage and longevity of our funds,” Margaret writes in an e-mail. Over the past year or so, they withdrew $100,000 from their savings to lend to their daughter to help with a down payment. As well, they bought a new truck.

Short term, they have some foundation work to do on their cottage and they’re planning a trip to Europe.

Simon is drawing $16,800 a year from his registered retirement income fund. He’s getting $12,170 annually in Canada Pension Plan benefits and $8,255 in Old Age Security. Margaret recently converted her registered retirement savings plan to a RRIF as well and is wondering how much she should draw. She also wonders when to begin collecting CPP and OAS benefits.

Their retirement spending goal is $8,000 a month, or $96,000 a year, after tax. Have they saved enough?

In the Globe’s latest Financial Facelift column, Matthew Ardrey, a vice-president and portfolio manager at TriDelta Financial in Toronto, reviews their situation.

In case you missed it

Why friendships are even more important in retirement

Retirement is a time for picking up old hobbies, trying new activities and travelling the world (when there’s no pandemic to worry about). But amid all of these life changes, maintaining one key constant makes the difference: relationships with friends.

Retirees without close connections with friends and family are at greater risk of physical and social isolation, a recent Edward Jones survey notes. It cites a Statistics Canada report showing that one in four adults over the age of 65 is socially isolated, with too little contact and interaction with others. The pandemic has prompted more Canadians to pause and think about what matters most to them in life, the Edward Jones report says, and relationships with friends and family are at the top of the list.

Retirement is “a sacred time for friendship” – and was long before the pandemic came along, says psychologist and friendship expert Marisa Franco. Not only is there more time to spend with other people, but friendships tend to be more fulfilling during a person’s retirement years. Josie Kao reports

Why more advertisers should be targeting baby boomers

Baby boomers’ words and actions are powerful, given they account for a huge chunk of the population and have more financial might than younger generations after decades of accumulating wealth from co-operative stock markets and rising real estate prices. It’s a generation with a lot of influence – but you wouldn’t know it by watching mainstream advertising, where the focus is overwhelmingly on youth.

A concentration on younger demographics may have made sense decades ago when brand loyalty was a thing and advertising could create a customer for life – but that kind of devotion is long gone. “Once you hit 55, it’s like you don’t see any creative briefs, a media buy or research targeting anyone that old. It is like you fall off a cliff,” says Jeff Weiss, chief executive officer of Age of Majority, a consulting company for marketers looking to tap into older consumers in Canada and the U.S.

Marketers are missing out on billions of dollars in sales by neglecting the 55-plus “active agers,” according to research from the consultant, who splits his time between Boston and Toronto. Paul Brent reports

What else we’re reading

The global population is growing older, faster, than anyone expected (and why Canada needs to be ready)

In the midst of the global pandemic and other alarms, few of us noted a milestone that will influence the shape of the world to come, says the Globe’s John Ibbitson in a recent article written with Darrell Bricker, the chief executive officer of Ipsos Public Affairs.

India is no longer making enough babies to sustain its population. The National Family Health Survey, conducted every five years, revealed that the total fertility rate for the world’s second-most populous country had fallen to 2.0, below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman.

A generation from now, once the current cohort of young women has stopped having babies, India will join the ranks of countries around the world whose populations are in decline.

In their 2019 book Empty Planet, Mr. Ibbitson and Mr. Bricker note they predicted that the global population would peak at a much lower level and begin to decline much sooner than United Nations projections. Their forecast is coming true. Now we have to prepare for the consequences, they write.

An aging and declining global population will have many environmental benefits, such as easing pressure on the food supply and contributing to the effort to contain global warming. But it comes with major consequences for Canada and other countries that have low fertility rates and rapidly aging populations.

A solo senior sells her home – is she financially set for life?

Home ownership is not a retirement plan, writes Globe personal finance columnist Rob Carrick in this article.

But sometimes, things work out that way. He cites a reader whose mother-in-law recently sold her home about a half-a-million dollars. This 68-year-old is described as receiving about $600 a month from the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security, with little in personal savings.

“The house proceeds have to last the duration of her retirement, including rent, health care, etc.,” the reader wrote to Mr. Carrick. “How can I build a suitable portfolio for her? What online platform should we be using? What is a reasonable rate of withdrawal?”

Ideally, this reader’s mother-in-law would have some retirement savings to draw on so that she wasn’t dependent on selling the house. Houses may figure into your retirement planning, but it’s nice to be in a position where selling and downsizing are done for lifestyle reasons more than financial necessity.

Ask Sixty Five

Question: How are executor fees calculated? I’ve heard there are different percentages based on the estate and not all assets are included when you calculate them. Can you explain in more detail how it works?

We asked Susan Mabley, Head of TD Wealth Private Trust, to answer this one:

An executor is generally entitled to fair and reasonable compensation for administering

an estate. Ideally, the will provides guidance on the compensation calculation but if it doesn’t, the executor must look to the provincial rules for prescribed rates.

The rates and basis for fee calculations vary by province but the common law that has evolved in most provinces is a fee of approximately 5 per cent of the estate value (e.g. 2.5 per cent of all the assets collected and then 2.5 per cent of the assets distributed). If an estate was valued at $1-million, the executor fee could be $50,000.

Assets held in the name of the deceased only are typically included in the estate value. Assets passing directly to a named beneficiary, such as an insurance policy and registered plans, are generally not included in the executor fee calculation.

As an executor, it’s critical to maintain an accurate accounting and record of all assets, expenses and decisions made; the accounting should be shared with beneficiaries prior to distribution, including the calculation of the executor fee.

Beneficiaries can challenge the executor fee taken through a court process and the courts may adjust the fee based on (a) the size of the estate, (b) the care and responsibility involved, (c) the time required to administer the estate, (d) the skill and ability demonstrated by the executor, and (e) how successful the trustee was.

Corporate executors, such as trust companies, typically have a published fee schedule with declining percentage rates based on estate asset values and most start at rates below the “rule of thumb” of 5 per cent. Many corporate executors also offer discounts based on asset holdings already with the financial institution. The fee schedule is incorporated into the will (in most cases) removing any confusion around the fees.

Any fee taken by an executor is treated as income for income tax purposes for the executor. There are other approaches to paying an executor such as making a specific bequest to the executor in the will; this bequest would be treated as an inheritance rather than income.

To ensure the right solution for you is captured in your will, it is important to seek advice from estate and tax professionals who will consider all the nuances particular to your situation.

Have a question about money or lifestyle topics for seniors, or want to suggest a story idea for the Sixty Five series? Please email us at sixtyfive@globeandmail.com and we will find experts and answer your questions in future newsletters.