Tag Archives: Canadian Pension Plan

Should the age of CPP/OAS eligibility be raised?

Results from the 2016 census show that there are now 5.9 million Canadian seniors, compared to 5.8 million Canadians age 14 and under. This is due to the historic increase in the number of people over 65 — a jump of 20% since 2011 and a significantly greater increase than the five percent growth experienced by the population as a whole. This rapid pace of aging carries profound implications for everything from pension plans to health care, the labour market and social services.

“The reason is basically that the population has been aging in Canada for a number of years now and the fertility level is fairly low, below replacement levels,” Andre Lebel, a demographer with Statistics Canada told Global News. Lebel also projects that because over the next 16 years, the rest of the baby boom will become senior citizens, the proportion of seniors will rise to 23 per cent.

Therefore, it is not surprising that a new study from the C.D. Howe Institute proposes that the age of eligibility (AOE) for CPP/QPP, Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) benefits should be re-visited. The AOE is the earliest age at which an individual is permitted to receive a full (unreduced) pension from the government.

Other countries with aging populations are raising the AOE for social security benefits. These include Finland, Sweden, Norway, Poland and the United Kingdom. In 2012, then Prime Minister Steven Harper announced plans to increase the AOE for OAS and GIS from 65 to 67 between 2023 and 2029. However, Trudeau reversed this very unpopular legislation (leaving the AOE at 65) in the 2016 budget.

In their report Greener Pastures: Resetting the age of eligibility for Social Security based on actuarial science, authors Robert Brown and Shantel Aris say their goal is to introduce an “evidence-based” analysis that can be used impartially to adjust the AOE for Canada’s social security system based on actuarial logic, not political whims.

However, they do not argue that current systems and reform plans are unsustainable. In fact, increasing life expectancy and increasing aged-dependency ratios are consistent with the assumptions behind CPP/QPP actuarial valuations. However, they suggest that if there are relatively painless ways to manage increasing costs to the programs, then they are worthy of public debate.

Their calculations assume that Canadians will spend up to 34% of their life in retirement, resulting in recommendations for a new AOE of 66 (phased-in beginning in 2013 and achieved by 2025) that would then be constant until 2048 when the AOE would shift to age 67 over two years.

Brown and Avis believe these shifts would soften the rate of increase in the Old Age Dependency Ratio, bring lower OAS/GIS costs and lower required contribution rates for the CPP (both in tier 1 and the new tier 2). This, in turn, would result in equity in financing retirement across generations and a higher probability of sustainability of these systems.

However they do acknowledge that there are some important issues that would arise if the proposed AOE framework is adopted. One of these issues is the fact that raising the AOE is regressive. For example, if your life expectancy at retirement is five years, and the AOE is raised by one year, then that is a 20% loss in benefits. If your life expectancy at retirement is 20 years, then the one year shift in the AOE is only a five percent benefit reduction.

People with higher income and wealth tend to live longer, so the impact of raising the AOE will be greater on lower-income workers than on higher-income workers. Access to social assistance benefits would be needed to mitigate this loss. The study suggests that it would be easy to mitigate the small regressive element in the shift of AOS by reforming the OAS/GIS clawback as the AOE starts to rise.

The report concludes that having partial immunization of the OAS/GIS and CPP/QPP from increases in life expectancy is  and logical and would help Canada to achieve five attractive goals with respect to our social security system:

  • Increase the probability of it’s sustainability.
  • Increase the credibility of this sustainability with the Canadian public.
  • Enhance inter-generational equity.
  • Lower the overall costs of social security; and
  • Create a nudge for workers to stay in the labour force for a little longer .

It remains to be seen if or when the C.D. Howe proposals regarding changes to the AOE for public pension plans will make it on to the “To Do” list of the current or future federal governments.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

April 17: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

In a guest post for the Financial Independence Hub, Certified Financial Planner Gennaro De Luca writes that based on his experience, men and women approach taxes and investing differently. For example, he says nine times out of 10 it is the woman who takes the bull by the horns to get the family’s taxes done. Women tend to be more involved and are much more apt to ask questions of their accountant or tax preparer about tax credits and government benefits the family may be eligible for.

Robb Engen on Boomer & Echo discusses which accounts to tap first in retirement with Jason Heath,  a fee-only financial planner. Heath says it may make sense for people who retire early to withdraw funds from their RRSPs first and defer CPP and OAS until age 70.

Retire Happy veteran blogger Jim Yih outlines the top 5 new retirement trends and how they will affect your retirement. For example: retirement is not about stopping work; many people are “phasing into retirement.” Furthermore, long term care is an essential component in a retirement plan.

10 simple ways to save money at the gas pump was recently posted by Tom Drake on the Canadian Finance Blog. Who knew that avoiding unnecessary weight in your car; using cruise control on highways and driving under 100 km/hour could save you money?

And Sean Cooper recounts the story of his unexpected $1,300 furnace repair bill in the depths of a Canadian winter. Luckily, he is mortgage-free, so he had the necessary money sitting in his savings account. But his experience shines a spotlight on the importance of saving up an emergency fund in advance.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Pension-income splitting rules can reduce total tax bill

By Sheryl Smolkin

I retired from my corporate job with a defined benefit pension before I turned 55 and I opted to begin receiving my CPP at age 60. And by starting my own business as a workplace journalist I also created another significant income stream.

In contrast, when my husband retired at age 65 he did not have a pension and he elected to defer receipt of CPP and OAS for a year. He also decided not to convert his RRSP into a RRIF until he is required to do so at age 71. Therefore, other than withdrawing funds from our unregistered investment account, he had no source of income.  As a result, when it came to filing subsequent income tax returns, the disparity in our income made us ideal candidates to benefit from pension-income splitting which has been available since 2007.

The way it works is that if you are receiving income that qualifies for the pension income tax credit you’ll be able to allocate up to half of that income to your spouse or common-law partner (and vice versa) each year. You don’t actually have to write a cheque because pension income-splitting is merely a paper transaction done via your tax return.

The type of pension income that qualifies for the pension income tax credit of up to $2.000/year and that is eligible for pension splitting differs depending on whether you were 65 or older in the year.

  • If you were under 65 as of December 31, 2016, “qualifying pension income” includes life annuity payments out of a defined benefit or defined contribution pension plan and certain payments received as a result of the death of your spouse or common-law partner.
  • If you were 65 or older in 2016, other defined payments such as lifetime annuity payments out of your RRSP, DPSP or RRIF also qualify for the pension credit. Qualifying pension income doesn’t include CPP, OAS or GIS payments.
  • It is worthwhile noting that pension payments from SPP qualify for the pension income tax credit.

The extent to which pension income-splitting will be beneficial will depend on the marginal tax bracket of you and your spouse or common-law partner, as well as the amount of qualifying income that can be split. In many cases, the optimal allocation will be less than the allowable 50% maximum.

If you opt to pension split, a special election form (Form T1032) must be signed by the parties affected and filed with the CRA. If you file your return electronically, you should keep the election form on file in case the CRA asks for it. Another result of pension splitting is that the income tax withheld from your pension income will be reported on your spouse or common-law partner’s return, proportional to the amount of income being split.

Pension income splitting may also reduce the Old Age Security claw back while transferring income to your spouse who is taxed at a lower tax rate. In addition, your spouse can access the pension income credit of up to $2,000 for federal tax purposes and $1,000 for BC tax purposes, which would otherwise be unavailable without pension income.

The pension income splitting rules do not make spousal RRSPs obsolete, since spousal plans still have income splitting benefits for the years before you turn 65 or if you have not yet converted your RRSP to a RRIF or annuity. In addition, taking advantage of spousal RRSPs can increase your potential for withdrawals under the Home Buyers’ Plan and the Lifelong Learning Plan.

In 2014 and 2015 the Family Tax Cut credit provided a version of income splitting that allowed an individual to notionally transfer up to $50,000 of income to his or her lower-income spouse or partner, provided they have a child who was under 18 at the end of the year. The credit was capped at $2,000 annually. However, that form of income-splitting was abolished by the new Liberal government for 2016.

Other permitted forms of income splitting with family members are described here.

Jan 9: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Fireworks on Parliament Hill and across the country ushered in Canada’s sesquicentennial or 150th birthday. I’ll never forget babysitting on New Year’s Eve in 1967 and hearing Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy for the first time. It’s still one of my favourites!

As our contribution to Canada’s big birthday, in this space we will continue to direct you to the best from Canadian personal finance bloggers from coast to coast with an occasional foray south of the border. We hope you will let us know what you like and what we may have missed.

Recently Ed Rempel addressed the perennial question, Should I Delay CPP & OAS Until Age 70? and included some real life examples. While he illustrates that many Canadians can benefit from waiting until age 70 to start their government benefits, he agrees that if you are retired at 65 and have little income other than these two government pensions, you may have no option.

Barry Choi on “Money We Have Have” explores 5 differences between cheap and frugal people. He thinks calling a frugal person cheap is pretty insulting. “Frugal people understand the value of money and are willing to pay when it counts,” Choi says. “On the other hand, cheap people are only looking for ways to save money regardless of how it’s done.”

With credit card bills that reflect holiday excesses hitting mailboxes this month, many of us are looking for ways to save money. Canadian Finance Blog’s Tom Drake breaks down ways to save money both monthly and annually.

Think about your energy use and your water use to figure out ways to save money on your electricity billgas bill and water bill. Two other services that have many opportunities to cut back include the cable bill and cell phone bill.

“Reducing these five bills could easily save you over $100 a month, or more than $1,000 in a year. That’s not too shabby at all,” he notes.

For Alyssa Davies at “Mixed Up Money” an emergency fund (which she calls money to protect your other money) of three months pay is not enough. She has another account called her “comfy couch” for the months she overspends or under-saves.

When Davies wrote the blog she only had $583 in her comfy couch account but that small amount was all it took to make her feel comfortable. She says, “Whenever I need to use some of that money, I simply take it out, and replace the amount the next time I have available funds to do so. If you’re anything like me, you will want to find a magic number that allows you to breath without feeling like a giant horse is sitting on your chest.”

And finally, Retireby40 says he had a terrific 2016 and achieved 9 out of 11 goals. His approach for setting New Years goals is to set achievable objectives; make the goals specific and measurable; and, write them down so he can track his progress. Several of his goals for 2017 include increasing blog income to $36k, redesigning the blog and save $50,000 in tax-advantaged accounts.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Oct 12: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

I recently returned from travelling in Europe to glorious fall colours, shorter days and a chill in the air. Although we saw beautiful things in wonderful places, as we landed I couldn’t help thinking that we have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, right here at home.

Whoever is elected as the next Prime Minister, Canadians will continue to enjoy considerable peace and prosperity. There are poverty and income inequality issues we definitely need to address, but unlike refugees from war-torn countries, most of us have a roof over our head and food on the table.

Here are a few interesting blogs and media stories that appeared in my absence you may find informative when you’ve had enough turkey and pumpkin pie.

If you have been putting off joining SPP or increasing your RRSP contributions, take a look at Create a Money Machine: The Effect of Compounding by Billy Kadeli from RetireEarly.com on the Financial Independence Hub. He tells young people how they can create their own “personal money machine” by investing early and taking advantage of compounding.

Blonde on a Budget’s Cait Flanders suggests you can Choose Your Own Financial Adventure. When faced with financial options at a key milestone or crossroads in your life, pick the smarter choice to protect your financial future instead of ending up in debt or even bankrupt.

In July, Sean Cooper wrote Take Car Insurance into Consideration When Buying Vehicles. Car insurance costs vary depending on the type of vehicle you choose. Before test driving vehicles and falling in love with one, he recommends that you get car insurance quotes for each model. By making car insurance part of your new car decision, it will give you a clearer idea about the total cost of ownership.

And on the election front….

Adam Mayers at the Toronto Star writes that Your Vote Gets a Better CPP or a bigger TFSA, but not both. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and his Conservatives support a $10,000 TFSA limit. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau do not. But the quid pro quo is that the parties vying to defeat Harper agree on an expanded CPP.

If you or a family member have student debt, you will be interested to know that Liberal platform includes student debt relief. If elected, Trudeau would increase the Canada Student Grant for low-income students by 50% to $3,000 a year for full-time students and $1,800 for part-time students. As well, graduates would be required to start paying their debts only after they’re earning at least $25,000 a year.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

How will the ORPP affect Saskatchewan?

By Sheryl Smolkin

At this point it is not clear how the Ontario Registered Pension Plan (ORPP) that will come into effect in 2017 will affect Saskatchewan says Katherine Strutt, General Manager of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

“I don’t believe the provincial government is interested in a mandatory pension plan,” she says.

The ORPP is a plan that will require employer and employee contributions to generate additional government benefits in excess of monthly Canada Pension Plan benefits. The average amount of CPP for new beneficiaries in January 2015 was $618.59/month. The maximum monthly CPP benefit in 2015 is $1,065.

Key features of the ORPP as set out in the consultation paper Ontario Retirement Pension Plan: Key Design Questions are as follows:

  • The plan would be phased in beginning in 2017 with the largest employers. Contribution rates would be phased in over two years.
  • Employees and employers would contribute an equal amount, capped at 1.9% each on an employee’s annual earnings up to $90,000. Earnings above $90,000 would be exempt from ORPP contributions.
  • Earnings below a certain threshold would be exempted to reduce the burden on lower income workers.
  • Contributions would be invested at arm’s length from the government. ORPP would pool investment and longevity risk and aim to replace 15% of an individual’s earnings.
  • Participation would be mandatory, but workers who already participate in a “comparable workplace pension plan” would not be enrolled in ORPP. The government says its preferred definition of a comparable plan includes defined benefit and target benefit multi-employer pension plans.
  • Additional conversations will be held on the best way to assist the self-employed.

An article on the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans website aptly summarizes some of the controversy that still surrounds the new program:

“The ORPP proposal has raised concerns among many plan sponsors of defined contribution (DC) plans because the government is proposing that they may not be considered comparable workplace pension plans. Many DC plan sponsors say they already provide adequate contributions. If those plans are not considered comparable, some question whether employers will continue them and/or lower their contributions in order to fund both ORPP and a DC plan.

Another concern is that mandatory contributions will reduce take-home pay and may result in the reduction of other workplace benefits. In the paper, the government said “ . . . some employers may take stock of their current approaches and make decisions about the right compensation mix going forward . . .’”

Both the federal Liberals and NDP parties have publicly supported a CPP enhancement. If either of these parties forms the newly-elected federal government in October, Ontario might opt to hold off on ORPP implementation until a similar national program can be adopted.

Mar 16: Best from the blogosphere

 

By Sheryl Smolkin

After two weeks away in the sun at a resort with flakey WIFI, I have lots of catching up to do! However, I managed to download the replica edition of several newspapers every day, so I wasn’t completely out of touch.

I was particularly interested in a series of editorials in the Globe and Mail articulating the newspaper’s vision as to how the retirement savings system should be reformed. The editorial team views higher TFSA contributions as an unwarranted future drain on the economy and advocates increasing RRSP contribution limits instead.

They also support ramping up CPP and eliminating RRIF withdrawal rules. You can read the whole series by clicking on the links below.

Reforming Retirement (1): How the TFSA turned into Godzilla
Reforming Retirement (2): Getting Ottawa’s mitts off your RRIF
Reforming Retirement (3): More RRSP, not more TFSA, please
Reforming Retirement (4): Canada needs to ramp up CPP, ASAP

Cait Flanders who writes Blonde on a Budget is in the 8th month of a year-long shopping ban. She says she has never been happier and shares 3 truths she discovered about her minimalist lifestyle plus information about her next minimalist challenge for 2015.

On Money We Have, Barry Choi writes about 10 Signs You’re Living Beyond Your Means. Several of my favourites are: when you have zero savings; low monthly payments are your only option; and, you buy only name brands.

Banking on Your Mobile Phone by Tom Drake on Balance Junkie reminds us that there are smart phone apps for business finance, budgeting, bank accounts and mobile payments. Paypal and Google Wallet are probably the most popular mobile payment apps. Most banks also allow to you pay by mobile with their own apps as well.

And finally, on Canadian Dream: Free at 45 Tim Stobbs writes about how a job in customer service that he was overqualified for in 2002 was a valuable experience because he had great co-workers, the company promoted from within and it had a defined benefit pension plan.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.