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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Many Canadians feel they are forced to work longer before "Freedom 55" retirement years

   Canada column published on Sunday, Sept. 11/11


   By Jim Fox

   Goodbye “Freedom 55” as more cash-strapped Canadians are forced to work longer before retiring.
   Freedom 55 was a Canadian financial corporation’s advertising slogan, referring to being able to retire at age 55 – before recessionary and taxation impacts of recent years.
   Now, more than two-thirds of Canadians say they have set back their retirement plans because they can’t save enough to quit working, a survey by the Canadian Payroll Association has found.
   The survey said 57 percent of Canadians live from paycheck to paycheck and about half save less than 5 percent of their annual net pay for retirement, not the 10 percent recommended by planners.
   It is “particularly troubling” that 74 percent of workers say they have been able to save less than a quarter of their retirement savings goal, said Dianne Winsor, association chair.
   Even with Canada’s socialized “free” medical care, financial planners recommend keeping at least three months of expenses, such as for rent, mortgage, bills and groceries, available as an emergency fund.


   Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he is as “irritated” as shoppers over the price gap that continues to exist across the Canada-U.S. border.
   With the Canadian dollar strengthening for five years and worth more than the U.S. currency, consumers “deserve to pay a price that reflects the strength of the Canadian economy,” he said.
   Flaherty wants to know what’s behind higher prices in Canada and asked the Senate finance committee to investigate.
   He asked the committee to look into how prices are impacted by the size of the smaller Canadian retail market, transportation and freight costs, tariffs on consumer goods, real estate costs and other factors.
   The Bank of Montreal said Canadians now pay on average 20 percent more for many items.


   News in brief:
   - New Democrat Member of Parliament Olivia Chow said she won’t seek to succeed her late husband Jack Layton as leader of the socialist party. The Toronto politician said she would continue in Parliament but not as the leader. Layton died last month of cancer only three months after his party was elected to become the official opposition in the House of Commons.
   - In a tight battle for customers with Tim Hortons, McDonald’s is spending $1 billion to renovate its Canadian locations for a “cozier” look. The fast food giant will tear out the old plastic interiors at the 1,400 restaurants and install leather furniture, plasma televisions and even fireplaces.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s unemployment rate rose last month to 7.3 percent from 7.2 percent in July with the loss of 5,500 jobs – the first setback in five months.
   Concerns over a struggling economy at home and abroad helped pull the dollar lower Friday to $1.0033 U.S. The U.S. greenback returned 99.67 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada has again kept its key interest rate unchanged at 1 percent while the prime lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets were lower Friday, with the Toronto Stock Exchange at 12,391 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 1,781 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 10, 15, 29, 32, 34 and 40; bonus 6. (Sept. 3) 14, 15, 25, 32, 41 and 42; bonus 49. Lotto Max: (Sept. 2) 2, 3, 8, 13, 18, 20 and 23; bonus 10.


   Regional briefs:
   - The Liberals seeking re-election on Oct. 6 in Ontario want to give a tax credit of $10,000 to employers who hire professionals who have immigrated to Canada. Calling it a “bizarre scheme,” Conservative leader Tim Hudak said it is merely an “affirmative action program to hire foreign workers” when 500,000 people in the province can’t find work.
   - Vancouver police want an end to massive outdoor parties that led to violence and $2 million in damage after last June’s final Stanley Cup playoff hockey game. A review said festival-style public gatherings need to keep the size of crowds manageable and ban alcohol. A government review found the police were not prepared to handle the 150,000 people who were in the streets that night.
   - Nova Scotia and Newfoundland was preparing for huge waves and riptides over the weekend from Hurricane Katia. While the Canadian Hurricane Centre didn't expect Katia to come ashore, there would be huge swells along the Atlantic Ocean shoreline.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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