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Pensions: The ‘it’ benefit

Suddenly, everyone is talking – intelligently – about pensions

By Todd Humber

Pension geeks of the world rejoice — your time has come. Terms like defined benefit and defined contribution, which used to only roll off the tongue of the actuaries, have gone mainstream.

The days of blank stares when you asked the average Joe if he had a DC or DB plan are over. Now, intelligent pension conversations are happening at dinner parties and backyard barbecues across the country.

This point was driven home for me on the weekend while talking to friends and family. My mom, a retired teacher, showed up for an afternoon barbecue with a glossy communication from the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan in tow.

While hanging out with one of my best friends at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, watching the TiCats edge the Toronto Argonauts, the conversation steered away from football into the realm of post-retirement benefits and how lucky he is to be a member of a DB plan. We’re both still in our late 30s, so it’s not like retirement is suddenly looming large.

But there’s no denying pensions are suddenly cool. That point was driven home even further this morning, when Glenn Kauth from Law Times and Canadian Lawyer —sister publications to Canadian HR Reporter — reported from the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) conference in Halifax that pensions are a hot topic at the bar.

“I have often marveled myself at the interest in pension law,” said Andrew Hatnay of Toronto’s Koskie Minsky LLP at the conference.

Pensions are hot in politics too. There’s plenty of handwringing about the future of the Canada Pension Plan in Ottawa, be it discussion of pooled registered pension plans (PRPPs) or pressure to increase CPP contributions and benefits.

And try to find a bargaining table anywhere where pensions aren't front and centre.

For employers, all this interest has significant ramifications for the recruitment and retention of talent. Employees appear to be more educated and knowledgeable about pension plans than ever before.

Employers with good plans should brag about them more, driving home the benefits of staying on the payroll for the long haul. It’s always been a tremendous competitive advantage, and it’s one organizations can capitalize on now that the average worker has seen the light.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. He can be reached at

Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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