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COVID-19 Communication Center

 

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  • If you have already withdrawn your annual required minimum based on the factors prior to March 25, this cannot be reversed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The required minimum amount that must be withdrawn from your VPB account will be reduced by 25 per cent for 2020.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 I have already withdrawn more than the reduced 2020 minimum amount.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.

 

March 16

To PEPP’s valued members, As the global COVID-19 public health emergency continues to spread and create challenges for families and businesses worldwide, we wanted to share with you how PEPP is addressing many of the same challenges that our members may be facing.

PEPP represents over 65,000 members and 147 employers across Saskatchewan and our principal concern is now on prioritizing the most critical operations such as pension payroll and actively monitoring and managing plan investments. We are also focusing our resources so that we continue to remain available to serve our members and other stakeholders during this challenging time despite travel restrictions, social distancing and other challenges that impact our traditional ways of doing business.

The Public Employees Benefits Agency (PEBA), which PEPP contracts to administer your pension plan, has implemented the best practices of business continuity processes and they remain prepared to serve our valued members and other stakeholders during this time, however it’s important you are aware that our methods of supporting members and employers are changing to reflect the new pandemic guidelines.

Effective immediately, we have postponed all scheduled member workshops and presentations to plan employers in order to follow the social distancing advice issued by the Province. We are also limiting engagement with our members, employers and other stakeholders and encouraging these activities to be conducted by phone or email where possible. As this pandemic evolves, there may be additional changes to how we connect with members and I encourage you to check the PEPP website frequently for any updates. We will absolutely reschedule any planned large group meetings, workshops or presentations once the threat has passed. Members who have already registered for one of our many educational workshops, will be contacted by email and advised of any changes.

I would also encourage 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 PEBA, if you have any questions about your pension or benefit plans. 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, Darren Henderson, Vice Chair Public Employees Pension Plan

March 16

To PEBA’s valued members and stakeholders,

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to create challenges worldwide, I want to share with you how PEBA is addressing its operations and support to members and employers.

As a pension administrator, PEBA represents 100,000 members and over 900 employers across numerous pension and benefit plans in Saskatchewan and our principal concern is now on the safety of our employees, prioritizing the most critical operations such as pension payroll and actively monitoring and managing our plan investments. We are also focusing our resources so that we continue to remain available to serve our members and stakeholders during this challenging time despite travel restrictions, social distancing and other challenges that impact our traditional ways of doing business.

PEBA has implemented the best practices of business continuity processes and we remain prepared to serve our members during this time, however our methods of support are changing to reflect the new pandemic guidelines.

Effective immediately, we have postponed all scheduled member workshops and presentations to plan employers in order to follow the social distancing advice issued by the Province. We are also limiting engagement with our members, employers and other stakeholders and encouraging these activities to be conducted by phone or email where possible. As this pandemic evolves, there may be additional changes to how we connect with members and I encourage you to check our website frequently for any updates. We will absolutely reschedule any planned large group meetings, workshops or presentations once the threat has passed. Members who have already registered for one of our many educational workshops, will be contacted by email and advised of any changes.

I would also encourage 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 recognize that this may be a prolonged effort, and want you to be fully aware of PEBA’s commitment to continue serving you during this time.

Sincerely, Dave Wild, Associate Deputy Minister Public Employees Benefits Agency

As we continue to monitor Coronavirus (COVID-19) developments closely, the health and well-being of our members and staff is of utmost importance to us. After careful consideration, we have decided to further limit our in-person interactions with members to phone calls only.

Member Meetings – Now by Phone Only
Our Certified Financial Planners, Pension Information Officers and Benefit Information Officers remain available to support members by phone. All in-person meetings will now be done over the phone. Members who have in-person meetings scheduled will be contacted by phone at the scheduled time. If you wish to connect with us and schedule a consultation about your pension plan, please contact the Public Employees Pension Plan at 306-787-5442 or toll-free 1-877-275-7377.

Workshops for Members – Postponed
All Your Path to Retirement Workshops are postponed until further notice. Members who have already registered for workshops will receive an email to advise them of the cancellation. All postponed workshops will be rescheduled and members will be advised when these are available once again so please check your email and this website for updates. We thank you for your understanding as we continue to provide you with the best possible customer service in this troubling time. We are here to help!

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. We don’t know when the markets will recover but are confident that the downturn is not permanent.

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 these uncertain times, even though interest rates have fallen, the added risk associated with current economic outlooks in general have not produced that same reaction of pushing bond values up.

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

The Money Market fund is almost like cash which means you will have very limited growth. 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.

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 select number of publicly traded companies. Your PEPP account will not move ‘in sync’ with the market indexes.

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.

8. Is my account diversified?

I hear it’s good to be 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 - the 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 are diversified within that portfolio.

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

We currently have a significant number of staff working remotely. We constantly strive to provide you with exceptional service and apologize if you experience any delays.

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