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In a financial emergency, it’s a Survival 101 tactic to cut back on retirement saving or dip into money you already put away.

Asked what has changed in their household budget since the pandemic began, 57 per cent of the 1,051 adults surveyed for the credit monitoring firm TransUnion Canada earlier this month listed reduced discretionary spending. The next biggest change: Cutting back on retirement saving.

A total 31 per cent of people in the survey said they’d done this, but the results varied a lot by demographic. Thirty-three per cent of baby boomers and 39 per cent of Gen Xers made this cutback, compared to 20 per cent for Gen Z and 26 per cent for millennials. More alarming is the finding that an overall 16 per cent of those in the survey have used some of their retirement saving in the pandemic, including a substantial 21 per cent of the boomer contingent and 18 per cent of Gen Xers.

With a second wave of COVID-19 breaking over Canada and other parts of the world, worrying about a potential retirement savings crisis in the decades ahead seems an unnecessary distraction. But let’s not ignore the long-term repercussions. What you take away now from your retirement causes a two-part loss. One is the amount of savings you won’t have available later, and the other is the lost opportunity to earn investment income on this money over the years.

There’s no need to stress about this right now. But if you’re using tomorrow’s money to pay today’s expenses, make a mental note to recalibrate your retirement plan after the pandemic’s done and stability returns to your finances. You can try to backfill your missed saving or withdrawals from your retirement fund, or you can try to work longer. There are also lifestyle tweaks you can use to address your retirement shortfall. For example, maybe you stay in your current family home instead of moving to something larger and more costly in a few years.

It will take decades to identify the long-term effects of COVID on our health and finances. A more precarious retirement looks possible for some people, but there’s still time to fix that.


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Ask Rob

Q: I find it difficult to find the rules around rate-reset preferred shares at reset time. If the issuer decides to redeem the shares, what price must they pay, the current market or the issue price? If the holder decides to exchange the shares for a variable rate issue share, how is the exchange value determined?

A: Rate reset preferred shares have their dividend re-adjusted every five years to provide a yield that offers a pre-set premium over the five-year Government of Canada bond. If these shares are redeemed, expect to receive the usual $25 issue price for preferreds and not market prices. On the second question, consult the prospectus for your preferred shares for the exchange value. It should be available via the investor relations area of the website for the company that issued these shares.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.


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