Seniors: Help us keep our savings: Group calls on Ottawa to ban minimum RRIF withdrawals, universal pension plan

An organization representing seniors in Nova Scotia is hearing from many seniors concerned about their retirement savings and pensions, which have taken a serious hit with the current stock market turmoil.

Some seniors, who were just scraping by with their current investments, are now really hurting, said Bill VanGorder, head of the newly-formed Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.

“(The) pain you hear and see in people who are struggling with this is palpable. The economy is hurting everybody, but, boy, do we really want to treat our seniors this way,” he said.

CARP, a national non-profit organization, based in Toronto, and various retiree groups across the country, have been calling on the federal government to take action to help seniors, who are required to make mandatory withdrawals from their retirement savings, even though their portfolios have lost much of their value over the last couple of months.

“People who are turning 70 these days, (who) could be forced to sell investments at current low rates, could just see their whole future wiped out,” Mr. VanGorder said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

The groups are calling for an immediate moratorium on mandated minimum RRIF withdrawals, measures to protect pension fund holders and the creation of a universal supplementary pension plan for those without any retirement savings.

Seniors were extremely disappointed when no relief came in the throne speech this week. They are now hoping the federal government will announce measures to help seniors in its economic update next week, Mr. VanGorder said.

A national survey released this week shows that about 42 per cent of Canadians over 40 are now thinking about deferring their retirement by an average of 5.9 years, due to the current financial climate. More women (50 per cent) than men (36 per cent) feel this way, according to the survey carried out in October by Desjardins Group.

This is in contrast to the results of Desjardins’ earlier surveys, which showed that most Canadians believed they would meet their retirement objectives, regardless of market volatility.

Mr. VanGorder said CARP is hearing from a lot of people who are not yet retired.

“They are beginning to realize what they are going to be facing themselves.”

At its inaugural meeting in October, the Nova Scotia chapter of CARP asked seniors to identify the most important issues they want to see addressed.

Health care and financial concerns topped the list.

“There is a lot of concern — everything to do with retirement, not just the current RRIF (Registered Retirement Income Fund) question, but the whole way seniors are depending on what they thought were secure ways to look after their future.”

© The Chronicle Herald