Saying farewell to Fiona May


Saying farewell to Fiona May

Posted by CSS Pension Plan on February, 3 2022
CSS Pension Plan

After dedicating 29 years to the CSS Pension Plan, Fiona May's time with CSS has officially come to an end – for it's her turn to retire. Yes, it may be hard to believe, but our Retirement and Pension Advisors retire too!


Fiona has helped guide our CSS members through their retirement journey for many years, many not knowing that behind the scenes she too was planning to embark on her own retirement journey.



Professional career

Fiona's early working career started with an assortment of jobs, from delivering newspapers, babysitting, to working at McDonalds in high school to retail at Eaton's.


From there, she went on to attain her Bachelor of Education from the University of Saskatchewan. Even though she did not pursue a career in education, her background in education was an asset for her job at CSS, as it helped her provide information to members in a way that is understandable.


"I've always been interested in helping people, and education can always be beneficial even if it's not used in a traditional setting," she says.


In 1993, she joined CSS part-time and helped with filing, reception, contributions and repayments. It wasn't until 1997 that she transitioned to full-time as Office Administrator, working reception and completing daily remittances and reports. She transitioned into pension administration towards the end of 1999 and became the Plan's first Retirement Planner in 2014.


In 2006, the Plan started offering Variable Benefit (VB) payments, which led her to start working in VB administration. Within that time, she was working towards earning her Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation.


"Being on the ground floor of the VB administration system was exciting, it offered the flexibility members were looking for. Before VB payments, CSS members had to transfer their funds to a financial institution if they wanted the flexibility that the pension (annuity) option couldn't provide," she says.


In 2014, we introduced the new retirement planning service.


"It was exciting being the first Retirement Planner and being able to expand the services that CSS members were looking for," she says. "Many members have worked in the co-op or credit union systems for years and were happy with the performance of the Plan over their working careers; however, there was a real gap in transitioning from accumulating funds for retirement and then figuring out the decumulation of the funds in retirement." 

Doing it for the members

"When I started at CSS, I had very little knowledge of pension plans and legislation," she says.


Over time Fiona became a pension expert, and her experience and knowledge made her an excellent resource for members to talk to and learn more about how their pension plan works.


"At the end of the day, our members want to be able to speak to a Retirement and Pension Advisor to get a clear overview of their options in retirement so they can make an informed decision," she says. "The Retirement and Pension Advisors can provide information to members in an unbiased, non-sales environment, which is difficult to find in the retail financial sector."


Fiona's commitment to CSS members was evident; she was reliable and relatable, many members trusted her for guidance and support through their retirement planning journeys.


"The one thing that I have consistently loved about working at CSS was the opportunity to talk to hundreds, if not thousands, of members about all sorts of pension and retirement questions. CSS has really amazing members and being able to play a part in their retirement journey has been an honor and a privilege," she says. 


 "I am grateful for all the people I worked with over the years who were always generous with their time and willing to answer my questions so I could develop professionally," she says. "I would like to especially thank former CSS General Manager, Bill Turnbull. He encouraged me to pursue my CFP designation and believed I could transition into the Retirement Planner role successfully."

Proudest moments and highlights

Earning her CFP designation was both a personal and professional highlight of hers. Although she expected it to take one year to complete, she soon discovered working on her designation, while working full-time and having a family, it was going to take a little longer – four years to be exact.


"I am extremely proud of the years I have worked at CSS, I really developed the ability to connect with people and explain complex concepts in a way that is relatable to members, so they are able to make informed decisions," she says. "A couple of my proudest achievements were becoming CSS' first ever Retirement Planner and helping develop the VB payment system the CSS staff use today."


One of her strengths she developed at CSS was speaking in front of people. But this didn't come naturally, she says.


"I developed the ability to speak in front of groups of people as we presented more Retirement Income Options (RIO) workshops. Initially, I would stand behind the podium and read from prepared notes as I was shaking badly, but as time progressed, I was able to stand in front of the room and deliver the information without reading from notes. The ability to be comfortable doing presentations has allowed me to grow and further develop my confidence."

Retirement plans

After many years of talking to members and helping them prepare for retirement, Fiona too was setting her own retirement goals and creating a plan.


"As I transition into retirement the only definite thing I have planned is to attend the gym in the morning, four times a week," she says. "I have been attending a CrossFit gym for the last five and a half years. I am looking forward to starting out my day at the gym and then seeing what the rest of the day brings."


She also plans to complete lots of projects at home that may have been put off in the past. Then once spring arrives, she looks forward to getting out in her yard and completing some landscaping projects. The most important thing she wants to do is "spend more time with my family and friends, especially my two amazing grandchildren," she says.  


"I would like to start travelling again," she says, the first place on her list being the Maritimes. "The plan would be to fly to Halifax, rent a car and drive through Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick."

Pieces of advice

"The best piece of advice I could give to anyone who is planning to retire is the importance of having a plan," she says.


"When CSS receives a call from a member who has just given their notice to retire and then wants to start drawing on their funds but has no idea what their options are or how much retirement income they will receive, the conversation can be difficult because sometimes the amount of income their retirement funds will generate is not what they were expecting or needing. It's important to put a plan in place as early as possible; however, those five to ten years before your anticipated retirement date are the most important time to start preparing," she says.


"I looked at different retirement dates and scenarios over the last number of years to make sure I would have enough funds in place to provide the retirement income I will need for the lifestyle I want," she says. "Without a decent plan, you have no way of knowing if you are on track of achieving the retirement you want."


Another tip: "It's important to ask lots of questions about all your options in order to have a better understanding and make a list of pros and cons. Listen to lots of different points of view. This will open up more questions and possibilities. Listen to the experts, but also talk to people you know who have retired and hear their personal story about their retirement decision," she says.

Retirement decision

Fiona decided to set up Variable Benefit (VB) payments with her retirement funds. 


"While there is longevity in my family, the current annuity rates are very low and even with volatility in the markets over time my funds are likely to earn a higher overall rate of return in a VB account than the current annuity rate," she says.


"I have created a spending reserve of two to three years' worth of payments in the Money Market Fund, which is the CSS recommendation to smooth out the volatility. Estate preservation is an important consideration for me. I want to ensure that if I don't spend all the funds, anything remaining will be paid out to my survivors," she says.  


She made the decision to retire with a great deal of thought and preparation and is excited to see what her next chapter in life brings.


"I would like to thank all of the members I have interacted with, as they made coming to work every day rewarding and enjoyable," she says.


"It was great being involved in a lot of projects over the years, from providing input as we updated our IT platforms in the late 1990s and early 2000s, to implementing VB payments and being involved in the early stages of developing our retirement planning service. These opportunities provided many challenges and opportunities for growth," she says.


"I want to thank all of the amazing people I have worked with over the years for their support. I am excited to see CSS continue to grow and evolve in the future."

CSS thanks you, Fiona

Fiona's dedication and support to the CSS Pension Plan was very much apparent. She always put the members first and provided the best service possible. She was a great value to the team and demonstrated growth, change, support and collaboration. She has seen CSS develop into the pension plan it is today. It is staff like her that make this pension plan run and operate, making it one of the top pension plans in the country. Thank you, Fiona.


Topics: News

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