COVID-19 Communication Centre

 

April 21

On March 25, 2020, it became law that required minimum withdrawals from a variable benefit pension be reduced by 25 per cent. This is part of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

Variable Pension Benefit (VPB) members directly impacted by this change have already been notified by personal letter. This is for your information only. No action is required.

VPB minimum payments are based on a prescribed factor, your age (or your spouse’s age if chosen), and your account balance. The prescribed factors will be reduced by 25% to calculate the new minimum withdrawals.

If you are age 72 or older and withdrawing the minimum annual required amount as:

Scheduled monthly payments:

Your April payment will be calculated using the reduced factors.

Scheduled annual payment:

Please read the questions and answers below to determine how the reduction impacts you.

  • If you have already withdrawn your annual required minimum based on the factors prior to March 25, this cannot be reversed
  • If your annual payment is scheduled for after March 25 your payment will be calculated using the reduced factors

1. What changed?

The required minimum amount that must be withdrawn from your VPB account will be reduced by 25 per cent for 2020. For example, if your 2020 annual minimum amount was $12,000, the new annual minimum amount will be $9,000.

2. I am not age 72 yet? Am I impacted by these new minimums?

No, if you are not age 72 or older in 2020 you are not impacted by these new minimum withdrawal factors. If after reading this information you still have questions, please call our office to speak with a Pension Information Officer for further information.

3. Why am I not impacted if I am under age 72?

Saskatchewan variable pension benefits are not subject to a required minimum withdrawal until age 72 or older.

4. Why was the minimum withdrawal amount reduced?

The Prime Minister announced a new set of economic measures to help stabilize the economy during this challenging period. One of the measures reduces the required minimum withdrawals from variable benefit pensions by 25 per cent for 2020. This measure was delivered as part of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. The legislation containing this measure received Royal Assent on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 and is now law.

5. I have already withdrawn more than the reduced 2020 minimum amount. Can I put back the amount by which I’m over the new reduced amount?

No. If you have already withdrawn more than the reduced 2020 minimum amount this cannot be reversed. You cannot put money back into your VPB account.

6. Is the 25 per cent reduction to the required minimum withdrawals applicable for 2020 and future years?

No. These changes apply for 2020 only.

7. How do I make changes to my payment amounts or scheduled payments?

If you would like to change your payment amount or payment schedule, please use the Payment Schedule Change for Variable Pension Benefit (VPB) form on our website. You may fax, scan or take a photo of the form and email it or send it by letter mail.

 

August 27, 2020

To PEPP’s valued members, thank you for your patience during these past months. As the COVID-19 public health emergency changes, we wanted to share with you how PEPP is beginning the process of slowly returning to normal business operations in accordance with the guidelines outlined in the Province’s Re-open Saskatchewan Plan.

PEPP represents over 65,000 members and 147 employers across Saskatchewan. In order to continue to support PEPP we are taking a similar approach to the Province’s Plan. We are methodically phasing-in a plan to slowly lift restrictions on our business and services that have been directly impacted by the pandemic. I want to assure you that although the Agency is moving back to more traditional ways of doing business, we are following the guidelines and recommendations as set out in the Plan. The health and well-being of our members and staff continues to be of utmost importance to us. I would like to highlight for you some of the business operations already in place and some that will be starting shortly:

  • We have re-located our main reception area and meeting rooms to the main floor of 1801 Hamilton Street in Regina, to eliminate the need to use the building elevators. For your convenience, reception is currently open for drop off and pick up only at this time.
  • In-person meetings with our Pension Information Officers and Retirement Information Consultants will be offered starting September 1. We look forward to seeing you soon!
  • We are now offering our popular Your Path to Retirement Workshops virtually, and will soon be offering our in-person workshops once again. All currently scheduled workshops can be found on our website under the Plan’s home page.
  • Lastly, we will continue to offer members the option to have appointments over the phone or through video.

The Public Employees Benefits Agency (PEBA), which PEPP contracts to administer your pension plan, has implemented the best practices of business continuity processes and will remain prepared to serve our members at all times; our methods of support may need to change depending on the direction we receive from the Government of Saskatchewan and Public Health Officials, but we will continue to provide exceptional service to our plan members and stakeholders.

I would also like to remind you of the excellent resources on the pandemic that are available to you at www.saskatchewan.ca/coronavirus, the Government of Saskatchewan’s dedicated webpage on COVID-19. It includes the most up-to-date information and guidance for all Saskatchewan residents.

Please do not hesitate to contact PEBA if you have any questions about your pension plan. We recognize that this may be a prolonged effort, and wanted you to be fully aware of PEPP’s commitment to continue serving you during this time.

Sincerely,

Louis Martel, Board Chair Public Employees Pension Plan

August 27

To PEBA’s valued members and stakeholders,

To PEBA’s valued members and stakeholders, thank you for your patience during these past months. PEBA proudly serves 100,000 members and over 900 employers across numerous pension and benefit plans in Saskatchewan. I want to share with you how PEBA is beginning the process of returning to more normal business operations in accordance with the guidelines outlined in the Province’s Re-open Saskatchewan Plan.

I want to ensure you that although the Agency is moving back to more traditional ways of doing business, we are following the guidelines and recommendations as set out in the Plan. The health and well-being of our members and our staff continues to be of utmost importance to us.

I would like to highlight for you some of the business operations already in place and some that will be starting shortly:

  • We have re-located our main reception area and meeting rooms to the main floor for your convenience and to eliminate the need to use the building elevators. Reception is currently open for drop off and pick up only at this time.
  • In-person meetings with our Pension Information Officers and Retirement Information Consultants will be offered starting September 1. We look forward to seeing you soon!
  • We are now offering our popular Your Path to Retirement Workshops virtually, and will soon be offering our in-person workshops once again. All currently scheduled workshops can be found on our website under the Plan’s home page.

PEBA has implemented the best practices of business continuity processes and we remain prepared to serve our members at all times; our methods of support may need to change depending on the circumstances but we will continue to provide exceptional service to our plan members and stakeholders.

I would also like to remind you of the excellent resources on the pandemic that are available you to seek out information on www.saskatchewan.ca/coronavirus, the Government of Saskatchewan’s dedicated webpage on COVID-19. It includes the most up-to-date information and guidance for all Saskatchewan residents.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about your pension or benefit plans. We look forward to serving you.

Sincerely,

Dave Wild Associate Deputy Minister Public Employees Benefits Agency

Member Meetings
We are happy to announce our office will be open for in-person meetings with our Pension Information Officers and Retirement Information Consultants starting September 1st. We look forward to seeing you soon! When coming into our office for an in-person meeting, masks are strongly encouraged for the health and safety of our members and our staff. Whenever possible, over the phone meetings are still available by calling 306-787-2992.

Workshops for Members
We are now offering our popular Your Path to Retirement Workshops virtually, and will soon be offering our in-person workshops once again. All currently scheduled workshops can be found at Workshops for PEPP Members.

This report provides a summary of activities undertaken related by the Public Employees Pension Plan with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read the report here.

We understand your concern about your investments and about markets. We are monitoring global equity markets, and the historic nature of current world events. While past history does not always repeat itself, over the long term markets typically perform well following downturns.

1. Are you scared and don’t know what to do with your pension? What if it keeps going down?

We understand this is scary, but let’s think about what we can control. Our reaction to this. Let’s go back to basics. If you were to look back over the last 70 years of our economy, you would see this has happened before. Maybe not to this degree, but it has happened. So this is normal for markets to react to things, whether its war or a virus, we have been here before. What we do know is that every time this happened the market has recovered. We don’t believe this is any different. Financial markets have already recovered to near, or above, pre-pandemic levels. Every market downturn and recovery is different, which is why it is important to always invest in a manner that suits your risk and reward profile.

2. Are you retiring next year? What should you do about your pension?

We would strongly recommend you have a 1 on 1 phone call with one of our Retirement Information Consultants. These sessions are free and can be scheduled at your convenience to talk about your investments and your risk tolerance.

They can help you plan your cash flow in retirement. They will discuss with you the big picture - what other sources of income and what your expenses may be retirement.

3. Do you have some time before you retire?

If you are saving for the long term, one way to look at stock market declines is you are buying units at a discount. Your contributions are purchasing more units now at a lower price, and when the market rises again you will have more units for the rebound.

4. Why is the Bond fund going down in value? I thought bonds were “safe!!”

Although bonds are less volatile than some other types of investments, their value does change on a daily basis in any market condition. Typically, when interest rates go down, bond values go up. However in uncertain times like this, even though interest rates have fallen, the added risk and uncertainty associated with current economic outlooks in general have pushed prices lower.

5. Is the Money Market fund really the safest place to be?

The Money Market fund is similar to cash, providing investors with very low risk, but very low returns too. It is protected from market volatility, however, the risk of being fully out of the market is very real too. When investments start to recover, it is very difficult to get back into the market at the right time to ensure you get to participate in the recovery. Usually the best solution is to manage your account to suit your long-term goals and risk tolerance taking into consideration: when you plan to retire; the rate of return you need to achieve your goals; and any other sources of income you will have in retirement.

6. What is PEPP doing to manage my money during this time?

The Public Employees Pension Board has an excellent and diverse portfolio of investment firms from around the globe to manage the Plan’s investments. The Public Employees Benefits Agency (PEBA) as Plan administrator has a team that is regularly talking to the PEPP fund managers all over the world discussing the investments, opportunities, strategies and investment mandates. PEBA monitors PEPP’s investments everyday on behalf of PEPP members. PEBA rebalances the Plan as necessary to ensure that PEPP’s investment Options provide members with the exposures promised in the Plan’s Statement of Investment Policy & Goals and Fund Fact Sheets. Rebalancing is essentially buying low and selling high, whereby an overweight investment mandate or asset class is reduced and an underweight investment mandate or asset class is purchased.

7. Why didn’t my account value go up when the TSX and DOW did?

It usually is quite similar. What is tracked on the indexes around the world does not represent your PEPP account. The indexes (TSX and DOW) are “indicators” of markets that track a number of publicly traded companies. Your PEPP account will not move ‘in sync’ with any one market index.

PEPP investments are valued at the end of each business day. When you “hear” the market went down or up, that fluctuation will be priced into the unit price of each fund at the end of the business day. Again, the exact investments from the TSX and DOW are not held inside your PEPP account so the returns in your PEPP account can be different than the experience in the markets. You can look at the Plan’s Statement of Investment Policy & Goals or the PEPP Performance Bulletin for further information about PEPP’s performance benchmarks.

8. Is my account diversified?

Yes, if you are invested in a PEPP asset allocation fund (PEPP Steps, Conservative, Moderate, Balanced, Growth and Accelerated Growth) you are well diversified by:

  • asset class – equities, alternatives and income portfolios that invest in various asset classes within each portfolio;
  • geography - most asset classes held are varied geographically;
  • investment manager – PEPP has a number of excellent investment firms investing on behalf of the Plan and its members.

Each one of the asset allocation funds has the same three investment portfolios: equities, alternatives and income. Each fund holds different percentages of each portfolio relative to the amount of risk you want in your PEPP account. For example, the Accelerated Growth fund and the Conservative fund BOTH invest in equities; the Accelerated Growth fund just has a higher percentage of equities. The Bond and Money Market funds are single investment portfolio funds – income only; however they are diversified within that portfolio.

For more information about the diversification of PEPP’s investment options, please refer to the Plan’s Statement of Investment Policy & Goals or Information Summary.

Feeling uneasy about the markets recently? You’re not alone. Over the last month or so, the markets have seen a lot of ups and downs – somewhat related to the Corona Virus or COVID-19 as it is currently labelled. While most investment experts tell us to relax and stay the course, it’s easier said than done.

Behavioral economics tells us that investors often revert to making emotional decisions, rather than rational ones, during times of stress. This is dangerous because our attitude toward risk often depends on our emotional state.

Here’s a few tips that will may help guide you during this period of market volatility:

Look at the big picture – Instead of reacting to what has already happened, try to focus on the future. Keep the market condition in perspective and remember saving for retirement is a long-term goal.

Focus on the long term - While it’s hard to focus on the long term when markets are down, recall why you originally selected your investment option. Investments fluctuate on a day-to-day basis. But, the longer you stay in the market, the less the fluctuation affects the overall performance of your fund.

Diversify – PEPP looks after this for you. All of PEPP’s asset allocation funds are invested in a well-diversified portfolio of asset classes and investment managers. Diversification reduces the overall risk of your asset allocation fund because the positive performance of some investments off-sets the negative performance of others.

Understand your investor profile - We all have different retirement goals and different time frames for achieving them. Complete the My PEPP Investor Profile– it measures your tolerance for risk and analyzes your investment style to see what type of investor you are.

Look before you leap – Making hasty changes to your investment decisions based on short-term market fluctuations can have long-term consequences. If you are considering changing your PEPP investment option, review your investment strategy and Investor Profile.

Talk to one of our professional Certified Financial Planners® – Always feel free to call PEPP at 1-877-275-7377 with any questions, or to make an appointment with one of our Retirement Information Consultants who are also Certified Financial Planners®. They can review your investment portfolio with you and provide you with investment information that can help you make good informed decisions about your retirement planning.

If you have questions about COVID-19, we encourage you to visit the page dedicated to this on the Government of Saskatchewan website at:https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus

You can contact us at:

pepp@peba.gov.sk.ca
Toll Free: 1-877-275-7377 
Phone: 1-306-787-5442
Certified Financial Planners, Retirement Information Consultants: 306-787-3170

In the meantime, you may be able to the find what you’re looking for by logging in to your PEPP Access online account.

COVID-19 Resources

Government of Saskatchewan