Tag Archives: Canadian Pension Plan

JUL 20: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

Canucks doing better than we think at retirement saving: report

It’s somewhat rare to see a headline saying Canadians are on track for retirement saving, but that’s the key point of new research from HEC Montreal’s Retirement and Savings Institute.

The study, funded by the Global Risk Institute, was featured in a recent Benefits Canada article.

The positive news – “more than 80 per cent of Canadians aged 25 to 64 are prepared for retirement and the vast majority have a high probability of being prepared,” the magazine notes.

According to the research, which was conducted featuring a large sample of more than 17,000 Canadians, those who are the best prepared are those whose household earnings are below the national median, and “those covered by pension plans,” Benefits Canada notes.

Those who are in the worst shape – somewhat surprisingly – are “upper-middle earners without retirement savings,” the magazine reports, adding that CPP and QPP improvements may benefit that segment of the population down the road.

The authors of the study used what they called a “new stochastic retirement income calculator,” which unlike many calculators, models “the evolution of private savings, accounting for individual and aggregate risk; taxation of savings, including capital gains; employer pensions; a realistic stochastic modelling of work income; the value of housing; and debt dynamics.”

So for those, like us, who got lost at “stochastic,” it seems that this calculation takes into account risk, taxation, future work income, housing prices and levels of debt when calculating what one actually needs to maintain the same standard of living in the life after work.

That calculation showed that on average, participants would have 104.6 per cent of the net income they need, once they are retired, to maintain their pre-retirement living costs.

We can share a personal experience here. When the head of our household decided to get an estimate of what her pension from work would be, she was at first a little dismayed to see that the gross annual pension income – despite 35 years of membership in her workplace plan – was lower than what she was making at work. But when she looked at the net, after-tax income, or take-home pay, it was actually higher. It’s because she’s paying less income tax, no longer making pension contributions, and no longer paying into CPP and EI. That all makes a big difference on the bottom line.

So, the authors of the study conclude, “on average, if (Canadians) retire at the age they intend to, maintain their saving and debt payment strategies and convert all of their financial wealth into income, Canadians have net income in retirement which is higher than their pre-retirement income.”

The reason for the high numbers may be that for those making at or below the median income  “are well covered by the public system even if they have no savings or [registered pension plan] coverage,” the authors of the report state in the Benefits Canada piece. It’s those with income above the median and who also lack workplace pensions – about 15 per cent of Canadians – who need to worry, the article concludes.

If you don’t have a retirement program through work, and don’t really want to take on saving and investing on your own, an excellent option is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. The plan will invest your contributions at a very low investment cost, thanks to the fact the SPP is not operated on a “for profit” basis. Since its inception in the late 1980s the SPP has grown the savings of its members at an average annual rate of eight per cent. And when the time come for you to convert those savings into a lifetime income, the SPP has flexible annuity options to turn your hard-saved dollars into a lifetime income stream.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

JUN 8: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

Will pandemic make us rethink our retirement plans?

Financial author Alexandra Macqueen, writing in MoneySense magazine, notes that we’ve always planned for retirement based on the assumption that things will be pretty much stable between the “now” of working and the “then” of retiring.

But, she asks, how will things change when the “now” is totally thrown into chaos by the pandemic?

Up until recently, she writes, we have thought about early, late, or part-time retirement. “All of these variations on the retirement theme have been built on a relatively steady set of economic conditions and assumptions: that housing and financial markets will remain stable, the economy will continue to function, and Canadians will continue to pay the Canada Pension Plan premiums and income taxes that keep CPP and Old Age Security payments flowing,” she explains.

But, she writes, the global pandemic and its “resulting economic fallout… could reshape retirement in Canada.”

First, she says, the idea of early retirement has always been associated with the idea that there are “fallbacks” if things don’t go smoothly – “returning to paid employment, harvesting home equity or counting on continued asset growth.”

But if jobs are scarce, property values drop and “markets tumble,” Macqueen notes, “these backup plans may not be available. As a result, more Canadians may opt to remain in their paid employment (if they’re employed) longer.”

As well, Canadians may find work hard to come by generally, and if they work part-time or via “gigs,” retirement savings will also be difficult to come up with, another reason Macqueen gives for seeing fewer early retirements going forward.

The next big change Macqueen predicts is that of Canadians finally coming to terms with their debt.

“The economic fallout from COVID-19 also means that many highly indebted Canadians will need to take a fresh look at the spending that got them where they are, because the security of the income or assets they expected to use to retire the debt has diminished or even disappeared,” she explains.

With no investment returns to pay down debt with, and with housing prices uncertain, Canadians may be forced to downsize their primary residence purely to save on mortgage costs, cut back on big vacations and fancy home renovations, or in extreme cases enter “a consumer proposal or bankruptcy proceedings to resolve outstanding debt,” she warns.

Finally, the COVID-19 era and its volatile market may result in a return to simpler and less risky retirement finances, such as guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) and annuities.

GICs carry almost no risk – they pay out a set amount of interest depending on the term of the certificate.

“A life annuity is a financial product, sold by an insurance company, that pays a guaranteed monthly income to the annuitant(s) for as long as they are alive—sort of like a “DIY version” of a defined-benefit pension,” notes Macqueen, co-author of a book on the subject, Pensionize Your Nest Egg.

Summing it up – we may need to work longer to have enough savings to retire on, or to pay off debt first before retiring, and when the wonderful day arrives, we might want to convert savings into a guaranteed lifetime income via annuities and GICs.

If you’re a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, the idea of converting your retirement savings into a guaranteed lifetime income stream is already part of your retirement tool kit. SPP has a variety of annuity options available that will ensure you get a monthly cheque for as long as you’re alive. Check it out today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Time to use realistic yardstick to measure senior poverty: John Anderson

It’s often said that Canadian seniors are doing fairly well, and that the rate of senior poverty experienced back in the pre-Canada Pension Plan days has dropped considerably.

However, says Ottawa-based union researcher John Anderson, the yardstick used to measure senior poverty levels needs to be updated to international standards. He took the time recently for a telephone interview with Save with SPP.

Currently, says Anderson, a “Market Basket Measure” (MBM) system is used to measure the cost of living, a “bizarre” system that factors in the cost of housing, clothing, food and other staples by province and region. By this old system, it is reckoned that 3.5 per cent of Canadian seniors live in poverty, although recent tweaks to the measurement process will see this number jump to 5.6 per cent.

The intricate MBM system – unique to Canada — goes into arcane details such as “what clothes you should have, how many pairs of long underwear, what kind of food you should buy, how many grams of butter. And there’s a sort of built-in stigmatization of rural living; it’s assumed that you don’t need as much money to live in a rural area as you do to live in Toronto,” Anderson says. The opposite is often true, he points out.

LIM system a better comparator

Anderson says the rest of the world uses a different measurement, one that’s much simpler, Anderson explains. The low income measure (LIM) scale defines poverty as being “an income level that is less than 50 per cent of the median income in the country,” he says. “This gives you a very clean comparison.”

By that measure, a startling 14 per cent of Canadian seniors are living in poverty, which is more than triple that figure that MBM currently quotes. “When you think about it, it means they are making less than half of what the average Canadian earns,” he explains. “They are not earning a lot.”

Why are today’s seniors not doing so well? Anderson says there has been a decline in workplace pensions over the years. “The numbers are way down,” he says. As recently as 2005, there were 4.6 million Canadians who belonged to defined benefit plans through work. By 2018, that number had dropped to 4.2 million, “at a time when we have seen a significant increase in the population, and more seniors than ever before.”

Defined benefit plans are the kind that guarantee what your monthly payment will be. About two million Canadians belong in defined contribution plans, which are more like an RRSP – money contributed over a working person’s career is invested and grown, and then drawn down as income in retirement.

“Only 25 per cent of workers have defined benefit plans now. And only 37 per cent have any kind of registered pension plan. Most have nothing,” says Anderson. This lack of pensions in the workplace, and the tendency towards part time and “gig” work that offers no benefits, is a primary reason why senior poverty is on the upswing, he contends.

“The kinds of jobs people are in today have changed,” Anderson explains. “People are working more non-standard jobs, gig jobs, contract work. Many are not even contributing to the CPP.” They tend not to be saving much on their own with these types of jobs, so it means that “when they retire, if they work that way, they don’t get much of a pension.”

That will leave many people with nothing in retirement except Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, Anderson says. Neither the OAS or the GIS has “really kept up” with increases in living costs. The most anyone can get from these two programs is about $1,500 a month, for a single person, he says. “These major government pension plans have not yet taken a leap forward,” he says. “The government has improved the Canada Pension Plan, and people will benefit from that (in the future),” he explains, but these other two pillars should get a look too.

Looking forward

Anderson says by moving to a LIM-based measurement of poverty, governments could have a more realistic basis on which to make program improvements.

“We already have a form of universal basic income for seniors through the OAS and the GIS,” he says. “The monthly amounts these pay out need to be raised.”

The goal should be to raise income for seniors to the LIM target of 50 per cent of Canada’s median income which is $30,700 per person based on median after tax income for 2018.

He also thinks that the OAS should be an individual benefit, rather than being designed for couples or singles. “You get less per person with the couples’ benefit; people should get the same amount,” he explains.

He says seniors today face an expensive retirement, with possible time spent in costly long-term care homes. “Can I survive when I retire – this isn’t a question that our seniors should have to worry about,” he explains.

Anderson remains optimistic that the problem will be addressed. The Depression prompted governments of the day to begin offering OAS; experience during and after the Second World War led to the introduction of EI and the baby bonus. CPP benefits started following a serious period of senior poverty in the 1950s. “We have to do better, but maybe there’s a silver lining with the COVID-19 situation, and maybe government will take a closer look at this issue again,” he says.

We thank John Anderson for speaking with Save with SPP. John Anderson is the former Policy Director of the federal NDP and now a union researcher.

If you don’t have access to a workplace pension, consider becoming a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s an open defined contribution plan – once you’re a member, the contributions you make are invested and grown over time, and when you retire, you have the option of turning your savings into a lifetime monthly pension. Check them out today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

The New Retirement’s views stand up well a decade later

A decade ago, Save with SPP was in the audience to hear Sherry Cooper present the chief findings of her then-new book, The New Retirement.

A lot has happened since then, but the noted financial writer’s thoughts stand up well a decade later.

Cooper was among the first to predict that boomer retirements would be different from those of their parents. “Boomers see retirement as a period of regeneration rather than degeneration,” she notes.

However, she adds, boomers are far less frugal than their parents. “Early boomers were the first in their generation to enter schools, the job market, and the housing market,” she explains. Late boomers “had very different life experiences and have found it tougher to amass wealth.”

Cooper noted early that women generally are in better health than men, and as a result, will live longer – a key retirement income consideration. That fact, she writes, “is all the more reason why women should understand their household finances and have a large-enough next egg and long-term insurance to assure comfort and security in later years.”

The author, an economist, correctly notes that people would tend to work later than expected. “Older workers have higher productivity and deal with problems more effectively than younger workers,” she writes. At the event Save with SPP attended, a slide showing Mick Jagger popped up when this point was raised, and it’s interesting to note that Sir Mick is still rocking his way into yet another decade.

She anticipated the need to expand the CPP, noting that back in 2008, CPP was “far less generous than Social Security. In today’s dollars, maximum annual CPP payments are only $10,365.” She pointed out that Old Age Security provided about half as much at maximum and is subject to clawbacks for some.

Other correct prophecies – increased private spending by boomers on healthcare, such as the “considerable burden of long-term care,” plus costs to society for the increasing number of retired boomers needing medical care – are made.

Cooper advocates pre-retirees to adopt a “lifestyle plan for retirement,” indicating that knowing how you want to live will tell you how much you need to fund that particular lifestyle. She says we should think of retirement as a “multi-stage” event, decades long, so planning ought to consider what you’ll be doing in your 60s versus 70s, 80s and 90s.

She talks about the “financial nightmare” of longevity risk, the danger of outliving your savings, and was one of very few financial experts at that time period who talked about the value of having annuities as part of your retirement plan.

The book also sets out a “default” investment portfolio for retirement savers – 15 per cent of the nest egg should be invested “in high quality stocks and real return bonds,” and 85 per cent equally invested in stocks and bonds. This, she says, should get you to age 85, and at that point, you can annuitize what’s left for lifetime income.

This book was one of the first Save with SPP added to our retirement library, and it stands up very well today. It’s a well-recommended read, beautifully and clearly written with frequent recap sections to make sure you’re following along.

It’s true that government benefits, while improving over the years, still don’t provide much more than a basic retirement income for Canadians. If you have retirement savings of your own, or through a workplace pension plan, you’ll have more income for the decades-long retirement phase of life. A good way to augment your retirement savings is by joining the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, a do-it-yourself open defined contribution plan. You provide the money, SPP will grow it over time and provide you the option of a lifetime pension at retirement. All good.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Dec 16: Best from the blogosphere

First wave of retiring boomers finding retirement disappointing

Retirement has always seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel for hard-working Canucks. But new research suggests that retiring boomers are finding it a little disappointing.

Writing in the Ottawa Citizen, noted financial journalist Jonathan Chevreau reports that new research from Sun Life finds “almost three in four retirees – 72 per cent – say retirement is not what they were expecting, and not in a good way.”

The 2019 Sun Life Barometer, he notes, found 23 per cent of retirees reported life after work was a tight money environment, where they were “following a strict budget and refraining from spending money on non-essential items.”

And those not yet retired are delaying their plans, Chevreau notes. A whopping 44 per cent of Canadians “expect they’ll still be employed full time at age 66,” and it’s because they “need to work for the money, rather than because they enjoy it.”

Why the strict budgeting? Chevreau notes that about half – 47 per cent – of those still working believe “there’s a serious risk they could outlive their retirement savings.”

The article says the lack of defined benefit pensions – the type where the retiree receives a pension equal to a percentage of what they were making at work – is one of the reasons for these concerns. Everyone without such plans is either saving in RRSPs or in defined contribution plans. In both these types of savings plans, you save as much as you can, and then turn that lump sum into retirement income, normally on your own.

This tendency for retirement plans to be savings plans designed to build a lump sum is, the article says “devolving responsibility onto the shoulders of individuals,” making the RRSP unit holder or DC plan member the person handling the risk of outliving the savings, known as longevity risk in the industry.

The article offers a couple of ways people can improve their retirement security.

Be sure, the article warns, that you are fully taking part in any retirement program your work offers. “Canadians are leaving up to $4 billion on the table,” the article notes, by not taking full advantage of plans where the employer matches some or all of any extra money they put in.

There’s also a worryingly large group of people who don’t have a workplace pension and aren’t saving on their own via RRSPs or TFSAs, the article reports. That group, the article says, will probably have to work well beyond age 65, but at least they will get more income from CPP and OAS if they take them at a later age.

The article concludes by noting that running day-to-day finances is “hard enough” for Canadians, which may explain the savings shortfall.

If you have a pension plan or retirement savings benefit through your work, consider yourself lucky, and be sure you are getting the most you can out of it. Can you consolidate pension benefits from other workplaces into the plan you’re in now, rather than retiring with several small chunks of savings? Are you eligible for a match, and if so, are you signed up for it?

If you are saving on your own, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be of help. You can save on your own through SPP, much like an RRSP, except SPP has the added advantage of offering a variety of annuity products when you retire – these turn your savings into a lifetime income stream that never runs out. As well, you can often transfer pension funds from past periods of employment into your SPP account – contact SPP to find out how.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Why people aren’t saving – an interview with Doug Hoyes

As co-founder of Hoyes and Michalos, a debt relief firm, and a commentator on personal finance, Doug Hoyes has seen it all when it comes to debt.

And he has a straightforward view on why Canadians aren’t saving much for retirement, telling Save with SPP that these days, “people don’t save for anything.”

The savings rate, he notes, was as high as 15 per cent in 1980 and has plunged to “less than one per cent” today. In other words, people are saving less than a penny of every dollar they earn.

“People don’t save anything; it’s just not a thing we do anymore,” he explains. “I think the cost of living is high and job security is low.” The old “job for life” days are long gone, and people now expect to have multiple jobs through their working career, he explains.

“You are seeing sporadic employment, contract work – it is hard for people to put down roots and save. And house prices are rising sharply, and everything costs more. We’re not able to save, and we are seeing more people using debt to make ends meet,” he says.

Those who do try to save tend to be punished for their efforts – savings account and GICs pay interest in the low single digits, and if savers look to invest in mutual funds “there are high fees, and they take on risk,” he explains. Since low-interest lines of credit are so prevalent, for many people, debt has replaced savings, a practice that Hoyes says just isn’t sustainable in the long term.

Save with SPP asked how this lack of saving affects retirement plans.

“It’s become uncommon to have a pension plan (a traditional defined benefit plan) at work,” he says, “unless you work for the government. It’s just not a thing newer companies offer.” He says that from an employer’s point of view, “it is a hassle to set them up, and there is a potential for liabilities that need to be funded, and more money needing to be put in.” Sears and Nortel show the potential downside for employees and DB pensioners if the parent company runs into financial trouble, he notes.

So traditional pension plans in the private sector have generally been replaced with things “like a group RRSP, where there is zero risk (for the employer).” Employees are satisfied with a group RRSP because they “know they are not going to be there, at the same employer, for 50 years,” and a group RRSP is portable and easy to transfer, Hoyes explains.

With more and more working people dealing with debt, it’s not surprising to Hoyes that more seniors are retiring with debt, a situation he says can lead to disaster.

“In retirement, your income goes down, and while some of your expenses that were related to work go down, others will go up,” he explains. “Your rent doesn’t go down when you retire, so your cost of living is about the same.”

Retired seniors, living on less and still paying down debt, face other problems, he says. It’s more common for retirees to divert savings to “helping their adult kids.” Examples of this might include a divorced child moving home, or college and university graduates, unable to find work, staying home instead of moving out. So the seniors may use up their savings or borrow to help the children, “as any parent might,” but that drives them into a financial crisis, he explains.

With debt to pay and possibly little to no workplace pension, many seniors are heading back to work. Others, Hoyes notes, are starting to have to file for insolvency.

“Maybe you only have CPP and OAS coming in, and you have a $50,000 debt that you can’t service – you may need to file for bankruptcy and make payments through a trustee,” he explains.

We thank Doug Hoyes for speaking to Save with SPP.

If you don’t have a pension plan at work, consider opening a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account. It’s like setting up a personal pension plan. The money you set aside is invested for you at a low fee, and when you are ready to collect it, it’s available as a lifetime pension with several survivor benefit options.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Dec 11: Best from the blogosphere

It’s getting close to the end of the year and the holiday season is upon us. Here are some examples of subjects  personal finance bloggers havw been writing about recently.

Marie Engen (Boomer & Echo) offers tips on How To Leverage Technology Into Good Financial Habits. She notes that most banks have a budgeting app that tracks your spending so you get a better idea of where your money is going. If all your accounts don’t reside with just one financial institution, there are lots of mobile apps and budgeting software available, such as the popular Mint.com, GoodBudget and You Need a Budget.

Chris Nicola on the Financial Independence Hub tackles the perennial question, Should you take early CPP benefits or defer as long as possible?  Using Statistics Canada figures, he calculates that a woman maximizes her total CPP payout by waiting until age 70, resulting in an average of $75k (36%) more than if she took it at age 60. A man maximizes his total CPP a little earlier, at age 68, receiving an average of $50k (27%) more than at age 60.

Maple Money’s Tom Drake addresses the question: Should You Invest in Group RESPs? He concludes that the risk with group plans comes if you drop out early. Many of these types of RESPs have high enrollment fees. It’s not uncommon to pay up to $1,200 in fees. With Group RESPs, you don’t pay that amount up front. Instead, it is deducted from your returns when you close the plan early. Therefore if you withdraw from the plan before it matures, you could face big penalties — and even have  your contributions eaten up by the fees.

And getting back to how to save money and still enjoy holiday entertaining and gift giving…..

Holiday décor hacks for having a dinner party by personal finance writer, on-air personality, speaker and bestselling author Melissa Leong suggests that you create your own decor very cheaply, whether by gathering some greens or acorns from outside and dumping them in a vase or using wrapping paper to wrap empty boxes, make napkin rings or use as a table runner.

What If This Christmas… You Didn’t Have to Worry About Money? by Chris Enns on From Rags to Reasonable offers the following suggestions:

  • Figure out how much you want to spend.
  • Figure out how much you can afford to spend.
  • Buy a prepaid credit card and use it as the ONLY way you pay  for Christmas-related materials.

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.

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.