Tag Archives: Janet McFarland

Oct 31: Best from the blogosphere

If you buy a house or re-finance your existing home beginning in 2018, you may need a higher income to qualify for a mortgage.  Borrowers who are renewing mortgages will not have to meet the new stress-test standard as long as they stay with the same bank. However, renewals done with another lender will have to qualify under the revised standards because they require new underwriting.

As Sean Cooper explains in What OSFI’s (Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions) Tightened Rules on Uninsured Mortgages Means for Homebuyers on RateSupermarket.ca, under these new rules, buyers with a 20% down payment or more will have to undergo a more rigorous stress test, and qualify based on the highest posted five-year fixed rate – 4.64%, roughly 200 basis points higher than actual mortgage rates.

“Last year, in an effort to cool down hot real estate markets in cities like Toronto and Vancouver, Ottawa introduced new mortgage rules on only insured mortgages – meaning those who put less than 20% down.” Cooper notes. “But since then, the uninsured mortgage market has grown. So, to help reign in this segment of the market, OSFI is now proposing extending the stress test to uninsured mortgages.”

Lowestrates.ca blogger Alexandra Bosanac further clarifies in This is how OSFI’s new mortgage rules will affect Canadian homebuyers that the new OSFI rules will apply to buyers who apply for uninsured mortgages including those with a 20% down payment or more and those buying homes worth $1 million or more. “They will be stress tested to show they can afford a mortgage, either at the five-year average posted rate, or two percentage points higher than the rate their bank or broker offers them (whichever one is higher),” she says.

Bosanac offers an interesting example of how the new rule changes will impact homebuyers. A couple buying a home for $500,000 with a $125,000 down payment would be paying $1,743 a month at the the current lowest variable five-year mortgage rate in mid-October available in Ontario of 1.99%. However, under the new rules, that same couple will be stress tested prior to qualifying to ensure they can pay the mortgage at two percentage points higher — 3.99%. That means they will have to be able to show they can afford to pay a mortgage of $2,165 a month. That’s a difference of $422 a month, or $5,064 a year.

Globe and Mail mortgage columnist Robert McLister offers 10 ways the new mortgage rules will shake up the lending market. He suggests  that unless provincial regulators follow OSFI’s lead (which if history is a guide they won’t), it will be a bonanza for some credit unions because many credit unions will still let you get a mortgage based on your actual (contract) rate, instead of the much higher stress-test rate. He expects to see a rush of buying before the end of the year from people who fear they won’t qualify after January 1.

Furthermore, critics say new mortgage rules will push borrowers to unregulated lenders according to Globe and Mail reporters Janet McFarland and James Bradshaw. They spoke with OSFI superintendent Jeremy Rudin who acknowledged that OSFI is offloading risk to the unregulated lending sector, which doesn’t come under federal control, “That would not be an intended consequence, nor would it be a completely unanticipated consequence,” he told reporters.

Former MP Garth Turner blogging at The Greater Fool anticipates that real estate values will decline across the country as a result of the changes, which means home purchases could be a potential wealth trap, particularly for first time buyers who cannot afford losses.

In After Mom, he notes that in order to avoid paying mortgage insurance, many young buyers borrowed from parents to get over the 20% line so they would not have to pay mortgage insurance. As a result CMHC-insured loans plunged more than 40% at the same time real estate activity rose, the number of borrowers increased and overall mortgage debt swelled.

He concludes, “The average down payment gift from parents to kids in households making $100,000 or more is now over $40,000. Let’s hope Mom has a bunch more money to bail junior out when prices fall, rates rise and that first loan renewal comes round. Stress, baby.”

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.

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.

Your guide to upcoming CPP changes

In June 2016 federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers finally reached an agreement to expand the Canada Pension Plan. However, because the changes will be phased in over an extended period, there has been considerable confusion among many Canadians about how both CPP contributions and benefits will increase, and who the winners and losers will be.

The Globe and Mail reports that an expanded CPP is designed to address the shortfall in middle-income retirement planning that is occurring as a result of disappearing corporate pensions. “Most at risk are workers under the age of 45 with middling incomes – say, families earning about $50,000 to $80,000 a year,” note authors Janet McFarland and Ian McGugan. “Without the defined-benefit pensions that their parents enjoyed, many could hit retirement with little in savings.”

Here is what you need to know about the planned CPP changes.

Effects on CPP retirement pension and post-retirement benefit:
Currently, you and your employer pay 4.95% of your salary into the CPP, up to a maximum income level of $55,300 a year. If you are self-employed you contribute the full 9%.

When you retire at the age of 65, you will be paid a maximum annual pension of $13,370 (2017) under the program if you contributed the maximum amount each year for 40 years (subject to drop out provisions). People earning more than $55,300 do not contribute to CPP above that level, and do not earn any additional pension benefits.

The first major change will increase the annual payout target from about 25% of pre-retirement earnings to 33%. That means if you earn $55,300 a year, you would receive a maximum annual pension of about $18,250 in 2017 dollars by the time you retire — an increase of about $4,880/year (subject to the phase in discussed below).

The second change will increase the maximum amount of income covered by the CPP (YMPE) from $55,300 to about $79,400 (estimated) when the program is fully phased in by 2025, which means higher-income workers will be eligible to earn CPP benefits on a larger portion of their income.

For a worker at the $79,400 income level, CPP benefits will rise to a maximum of about $19,900 a year (estimated in 2016 dollars). Contributions to CPP from workers and companies will increase by one percentage point to 5.95% of wages, phased in slowly between 2019 and 2025 to ease the impact. The federal finance department says the portion of earnings between $54,900 and $79,400 will have a different contribution rate for workers and employers, expected to be set at 4%.

The enhancement also applies to the CPP post-retirement benefit. If you are receiving a CPP retirement pension and you continue to work and make CPP contributions in 2019 or later, your post-retirement benefits will be larger.

Impact on CPP disability benefit/survivor’s benefit
The enhancement will also increase the CPP disability benefit and the CPP survivor’s pension starting in 2019. The increase you receive will depend on how much and for how long you contributed to the enhanced CPP.

Impact on CPP death benefit
There is currently a one-time lump sum taxable death benefit of $2,500 for eligible contributors of $2,500. This amount will not change.

The main beneficiaries of the CPP changes will be young employees, who are less likely to have workplace pension plans than older workers. To earn the full CPP enhancement, a person will have to contribute for 40 years at the new levels once the program is fully phased in by 2025. That means people in their teens today will be the first generation to receive the full increase by 2065.

The recently released Old Age Security report from chief actuary Jean-Claude Ménard which includes the GIS illustrates how higher CPP premiums scheduled to begin in 2019 will ultimately affect the OAS program.

The report reveals that because of the planned CPP changes, by 2060, 6.8% fewer low-income Canadians will qualify for the GIS, representing 243,000 fewer beneficiaries. This will save the federal government $3-billion a year in GIS payments.

In other words, higher CPP benefits mean some low income seniors will no longer qualify for the GIS, which is a component of the Old Age Security program. The GIS benefits are based on income and are apply to single seniors who earn less than $17,688 a year and married/common-law seniors both receiving a full Old Age Security pension who earn less than $23,376.

Also read: 10 things you need to know about enhanced CPP benefits

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.

Does CPP expansion help low income earners?

By Sheryl Smolkin

Low earners stand to gain little from an expanded Canada Pension Plan (CPP), according to a new C.D. Howe Institute report. In “The Pressing Question: Does CPP Expansion Help Low Earners?”, authors Kevin Milligan and Tammy Schirle show the large differences in the net payoff from the expanded CPP for lower and higher earners.

Federal and provincial finance ministers agreed in June to expand the Canada Pension Plan. Under the status quo, CPP offers a 25% replacement rate on earnings up to a cap of $54,900. The expanded CPP will add a new layer that raises the replacement rate to 33.3% up to a new earnings cap of about $82,900 when the program is fully phased in by 2025.

To pay for this, both employer and employee contributions will be raised by one percentage point up to the existing earnings cap, and by four percentage points between the old and new earning caps. This expansion will be phased in during the period 2019 to 2025 for contributions, with benefits being phased in over the next 50 years commensurate to contributions paid.

This reform will substantially raise expected CPP benefits for most young workers now entering the workforce. For lower- and middle-earning workers, the higher replacement rate will lead to an eventual benefit increase of about 33% over existing CPP benefits.

For a high-earning worker, the maximum CPP benefits will increase more than 50% over the status quo. These expansions are large enough to make a noticeable difference for the younger generation of workers as the expanded CPP matures over the coming decades.

However, the C.D. Howe study authors note two important shortcomings of the new package hamper its effectiveness, both related to low earners.

First, low earners are already well covered by the existing suite of public pension benefits – many now receive more income when retired than when working. Why expand coverage where it is not needed? As a contributory pension, the CPP risks worsening the balance of income between working and retirement years for low earners.

Second, the income-tested withdrawal of some government-program benefits wipes out much of the impact of extra CPP benefits for many low-earners. Around one-third of Canadian seniors currently receive the income-tested Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), so concerns about interactions with income-tested benefits have a broad base.

In order to be eligible for the GIS in 2016, a single, widowed or divorced pensioner receiving a full OAS pension cannot have over $17,376 individual income. Where a couple each receives a full OAS pension they will not be eligible for the GIS if their combined income exceeds $22,944.

To summarize these issues: expanding CPP for low earners risks making some Canadians pay for pension coverage they don’t need. To make matters worse, extra contributions may reduce the living standards of low earners today for modest net rewards in retirement tomorrow.

The CPP agreement-in-principle reached by the finance ministers may address some of these concerns by offering an improvement to the Working Income Tax Benefit alongside the CPP expansion. It is possible that an expanded WITB could effectively counteract increased CPP contributions by some low earners, but no details of the WITB expansion have been provided to date. Nevertheless, low earners would still face the problem of CPP-GIS interactions that undercut the impact of expanded CPP benefits.

In a Globe and Mail article, authors Janet McFarland and Ian McGugan also note that expanded CPP does not do much to help people who do not collect CPP in the first place. That describes many senior women who spent most of their lives as homemakers and so earned little or nothing in CPP benefits. About 28% of single senior women over 65 live in poverty, according to a study this spring for the Broadbent Institute by statistician Richard Shillington of Tristat Resources.

In addition they say the planned CPP changes will also do only a limited amount to help affluent savers because the maximum amount of income covered by the plan will increase to only about $82,800 by 2025. Therefore, those with six-figure incomes will still have to save on their own if they want a retirement income that will replace a considerable portion of their incomes above the expanded limit.