“I used to be a risk taker back in my day, but now that I’m in my ‘no-go’ years, I know I need to play it safe with my investments,” says 82-year-old Joyce. “I'm a widow and I rely on my deceased husband’s pension, my CSS Pension, CPP and OAS benefits for my day-to-day expenses. I’d also like to leave something to my grandkids when I’m gone, so I don’t want to be exposed to much market risk anymore.”
Since retiring from her position at the local co-op two decades ago, Joyce eventually converted her CSS Pension funds into Variable Benefit (VB) payments in 2006 when the Plan started offering that retirement income option, and after she exhausted her other savings outside the Plan. While VB payments allowed her to stay invested in the Plan’s investment funds, the payments are not guaranteed for life.
“Back then, I worked with a financial advisor and he recommended I start out with three years’ spending reserve in the Money Market Fund and leave my remaining pension funds in the Balanced Fund so that I would still have some opportunity for decent asset growth. Every year afterwards, I transferred the next year’s worth of retirement income needs into the Money Market Fund to replace the money I spent the previous year,” Joyce explains.
When the Balanced Fund incurred a significant loss during the Financial Crisis, Joyce was prepared and still had three years’ income in the low-risk Money Market Fund which did not decline during the crisis. She did not transfer any funds from the Balanced Fund to the Money Market Fund that year, allowing her Balanced Fund investments to recover in 2009.
“I’ve enjoyed having the flexibility to move portions of my pension funds into lower-risk investment options so I can wait out market downturns and still meet my retirement spending needs,” she says. “Now that I’m in late retirement, though, it hurts to see any type of drop in my pension account.”
When Joyce next met with her financial advisor, he pointed out that she has the option to convert some or all of her remaining pension funds into a CSS monthly pension or an annuity from an insurance company.
“I didn’t realize I could convert my Variable Benefit account with CSS into an annuity or CSS monthly pension until my advisor mentioned it. He suggested I consider converting some or all of my remaining CSS pension funds into an annuity or CSS monthly pension. This will provide me a guaranteed income for life and means I don’t have to worry about market ups and downs anymore. My grandkids might get lucky and get a share too,” she says with a laugh.
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