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“Pension replacement” starts off by pointing out the current healthier state of U.S. private pension plans, however it laments that the healthier they become the more likely they will also become extinct. With the recently tightened and ongoing tightening of pension regulations (full funding by 2008, with seven years to make up shortfall) and accounting (balance sheet reporting of surplus/deficit, mark to market rather than smoothing) rules, the incentive to continue to sponsor plans is diminishing. Recent Aspen institute study suggests government and people should work together to increase savings through a combination of simple vehicles whose attractiveness is enhanced via tax deferrals and subsidies, but managed by the financial services industry. They also recommend that Social Security and financial services firms jointly sell low-cost annuities (great idea since government may be in unique position to deal with the longevity risk at a reasonable cost- though not everyone is happy with government’s role).
Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick in “There is a price to pay for investment guarantees”  remind you that there is no free lunch with guarantees; and they are expensive. Principal protected notes are designed to make money for the issuer, are expensive. You better get fully informed about all the costs (issuer, advisor), taxes on profits, who provides guarantee and when is it applicable, sellable before maturity? Jeff Opdyke in WSJ’s “Reducing the risk of variable annuities”  addresses the topic of guarantees in the context of the recent surge in interest in variable annuities. His message is the same; you are paying dearly for the guarantees on top of an already expensive product.
In WSJ’s on “New tools for picking the top ETFs” a number of good websites were identified for sources of research on ETFs. The following are worth looking at , and .
“Beyond the nest egg: what to ask yourself about retirement”  tackles the retirement questions that you should consider, beyond the financial ones, as you prepare for retirement. Adapted from WSJ’s “Complete retirement guidebook”, the question for your considerations include: What will you do (some field testing is suggested)? Work or not? Work motivated by need for money, fulfillment, social network? Volunteering- what you expect to get out of it? Move or not?
Tim Cestnick in the Globe and Mail’s “Make a will right, not write” enumerates what can go wrong with a handwritten (holograph) will. Not accepted in all provinces (don’t know about the states) and where accepted there are strict criteria associated with them. Handle with care!

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