By Sheryl Smolkin
Over the last few weeks bloggers and mainstream media have been reacting to Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s surprise pre-election announcement of the government’s intention to add a voluntary component to the Canada Pension Plan. Here is sample of some of the buzz created by this proposal.
I wrote Voluntary CPP contributions will favour high earners on RetirementRedux and the blog was re-posted by John Chevreau on the Financial Independence Hub. I believe that too many questions remain unanswered and if voluntary CPP contributions are locked in until retirement, even when middle or low earners finally bite the bullet and set up a payroll savings plan, chances are they will opt for an RRSP or TFSA so they can get at the money in an emergency. Because employers probably won’t have to match contributions, there will be incentive for employees to contribute more money to CPP.
On Retire Happy, Jim Yih questions whether voluntary CPP contributions are a good idea. Yih also notes that the devil is in the details, and suggests that if there is no employer matching there is little difference between voluntary contributions to CPP or RRSPs (individual and group). Lower cost investing may be a plus but he says investors already have access to lower cost investments through Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs).
In the Globe and Mail, Bill Curry reports that the Conservative government rejected a voluntary expansion of the Canada Pension Plan five years ago as overly expensive and misguided, a history that is raising questions as to why it is now proposing that very idea. “This was rejected unanimously by our partners in the federation when we met and discussed the issue because it would not work and because the CPP would be unable to administer it,” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told the House of Commons in September 2010.
In the StarPhoenix, Andrew Coyne writes Whether voluntary or mandatory, there is no need to expand the CPP. He says, “If people are saving about as much as they want to now, then forcing them to save more in one way, through an expanded CPP, may simply result in an offsetting reduction in their other savings, in their RRSPs or TFSAs.” He also opines that those of modest means are already well-served by the existing CPP and the further you climb the income scale, the hazier the case for public intervention becomes.
And finally, a Toronto Star editorial says Harper’s pension ‘fix’ falls short. This piece suggests that by far the best way to forestall a retirement income crisis would be to expand and enhance the existing, highly acclaimed CPP, by upping the input from employers and employees alike. With $265 billion in assets and an enviable 18.3% return last year, the plan has expert management, huge scale and a low-cost structure. Employers and workers pay equally, to a combined maximum of just under $5,000 this year. It locks in contributions over the long haul and it provides a safe, predictable retirement income.
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