Tag Archives: CPP

Why some people don’t retire

 

We were chatting about retirement with a salesman at the local car dealership when he rolled out a bombshell – in his early 70s, he had no plans for retirement. He loved what he does and wants to keep on doing it for as long as he can. Maybe in his mid- to late 80s he might get a cottage, he says.

That made Save with SPP wonder if others aren’t retiring – and why.

The Wise Bread blog says there are five types of people who don’t retire – the “broke non-retiree, the workaholic, the successful investor, the life re-inventor and the mega-successful lifers.”

The article notes that “a startling 47 per cent” of Americans “now plan to retire “at a later age than they expected when they were 40.” The reason why – 24 per cent of Americans 50 and older have saved less than $10,000 for retirement.

For workaholics, the article notes, “it can be devastating to face retirement,” with many fighting it “tooth and nail.” Successful investors, the article notes, may have bought real estate, gold, or stocks early and now have enough money that they don’t need to work. Life re-inventors retire from one job and take on a new, totally different one, and the “mega-successful” tend to be CEOs, actors, star athletes, folks who have sufficient wealth to not worry about a formal retirement.

The New York Times reports that there are 1.5 million Americans over the age of 75 who are still working. Judge Jack Weinstein, age 96, still gets up for work every day at 5:30 a.m., the newspaper reports. “I’ve never thought of retiring,” he tells the newspaper. “If you are doing interesting work, you want to continue.” The paper says that those who are employed in jobs “in which skill and brainpower matter more than brawn and endurance” often keep going past usual retirement age, as do the self-employed and industry stars, like Warren Buffett.

An article in Market Watch picks up on another point – there are many people who don’t like the sound of retirement. “The idea of a retirement where a person has little responsibility, and, worst of all, interacts with very few people, just isn’t appealing to the current crop of pre-retirees,” the article notes.

A more Canuck-friendly view comes from Canadian Living, which lists the main reasons for not retiring as “you need the money, you like working, you hate retirement,” and significantly, “you’ll collect bigger benefits” and “you’ll lose your RRSP later.”

“If you collect your CPP at age 70,” the article points out, “you’ll get 42 per cent more than if you retired at 65.” Similarly, if you collect CPP at 60, you get 36 per cent less than if you collected at 65, the article states.

On the RRSP front, since you must convert your RRSP to a RRIF (or buy an annuity) by age 71, delaying retirement means you will have more money in retirement, the magazine notes.

These are all good points. Save with SPP notes that there are many folks who simply live in the now and won’t think about retirement until they must. The idea that we can all keep working forever is a nice one but tends to be an exception, rather than a rule.

We may not want to retire, but the vast majority of us probably will. Even if you’re in the group that has saved very little up until age 50, there is still time to augment your life after work with some retirement savings. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is quite unique in that it is open to all Canadians and provides an end-to-end retirement vehicle – your savings are invested and turned into a lifetime pension at retirement time. It’s a wise choice, even for those who don’t want to retire.

 

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Dec 17: Best from the blogosphere – Canadians need to save 11 times their salary by retirement

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Canadians need to save 11 times their salary by retirement

There are many “rules of thumb” in the world of money. One used to be that your rent should equal one quarter of your monthly take home pay. Another used to be that your house should be worth twice your annual salary.

According to research by Fidelity in the US, reported by Market Watch, people should have saved a year’s salary for retirement by age 30.

By age 40, Canadians should have saved three times their salary for retirement. And by “average retirement age,” usually early 60s, Canucks need to have saved 11 times their salary, the article says.

The article tempers the alarm it raises with these high figures by pointing out that they are just guidelines. “Everyone faces different circumstances, and therefore need varying amounts of money by the time they retire,” the article reports. “Some people may choose to rent or pay off a mortgage, while others may not have any housing obligations except for taxes and utilities. Some retirees may want to take more vacations, or have more medical bills to pay, or have intentions with their money, such as an inheritance for their children and grandchildren.”

And don’t forget that the contributions you make towards CPP and a portion of your income tax are retirement savings payments, since you will get a CPP pension one day and likely Old Age Security as well.

That said, Statistics Canada, via the CBC, reports that the average Canadian saves only four per cent of his or her income, and that there was a whopping $683.6 billion in unused RRSP room as of the end of 2011. The article notes that someone saving $2,000 a year from age 25 on would have $301,478 by age 65. That might not be 11 times his or her salary, but it is a pretty good number.

Retirement savings, like losing weight or getting out of debt, is overwhelming when you first set out to do it. But if you start small, and chip away over the years at your target, you will be surprised to see how far you’ve come when the time comes to log out of work for the last time.

If you’re not fortunate enough to have a pension plan at work – and if you do, and have extra contribution room each year – the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a great way to build your retirement savings. You can start small, or can contribute up to $6,200 per year. You can transfer savings in from other retirement savings vehicles. The money is invested professionally at a very low fee, and when you retire, you’ll have many options for turning savings into a lifetime income stream. Check it out today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

 

Nov 26: Best from the blogosphere – The fear of aging

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

The fear of outliving your savings
The old proverb, “live long and prosper,” popularized by Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, may be taking on a new meaning given some recent research.

According to recent research on aging from BMO Wealth Management, the possibility of a very long life, in the late 80s and beyond, is starting to scare Canadians over 55.

BMO found that 51 per cent of those surveyed “are concerned about the health problems and costs that come with living longer.” Forty per cent worry about “becoming a burden for their families,” while 47 per cent worry about outliving their retirement savings.

It’s clear that the spectre of long-term care costs near the end of life is a haunting one for those close to or early into their retirement years.

According to The Care Guide, the cost of long-term care – which is normally over and above the costs of renting a unit in a care facility – can range from $1,000 to $3,000 a month depending where you live in Canada.

That’s a big hit, considering that the average CPP payout in Canada  for a 65-year-old is only about $670 a month (as of July 2018) and the average OAS payment is only about $600. These great programs will help, but you may need to augment them with your own pension or retirement savings.

According to the CBC, citing data from 2011, the average annual RRSP contribution is only about $2,830. The broadcaster says someone saving $2,000 a year from age 25 to age 65 would have a nest egg of more than $300,000 at retirement. That sounds like a lot until you consider living on that for another 20 to 25 years.

A good way to insure yourself against the risk of running out of money is to buy an annuity with some or all of your retirement savings. An annuity will pay you a set amount, each month, for the rest of your life – no matter how long you live. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan not only provides you with a great way to save towards retirement each year you are working. It also provides a range of annuity options; check out SPP’s retirement guide for an overview.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

 

Home is where the hat is – unless it’s cheaper somewhere else

At the office, where we were involved in pension plan communications, we used to joke (as 30-somethings) about what our future retirement would look like.

One theory at the time was that where you would be in retirement would depend on your future income. If you had a big income, you’d be in the Big Smoke. If you didn’t, you’d be shopping for a double-wide trailer in rural New Brunswick.

While that’s an extreme example, our predictions from the ‘90s are coming true. Sometimes your retirement income will impact where you’ll live.

“If retirees could take their pick,” notes an article in Pay Day, posted on Yahoo! Finance, “most would probably want to spend their golden years somewhere warm, beautiful and affordable.” However, if a retiree is relying only on CPP and OAS, the article says, the list gets a little shorter.

The article suggests Moncton, NB; Lacombe, AB; Stratford, ON; Brandon, MB and Halifax, NS as places where limited dollars go the longest. These cities are selected because real estate is affordable, they have great services and healthcare, and the quality of life is high. Taxation rates and value for the dollar are also factors.

A similar list can be found in MoneySense.ca. The top seven retirement destinations are Moncton; Joliette, QC; Ottawa, ON; Winnipeg, MB; Canmore, AB and Victoria BC.

The MoneySense list looked for places that had “a thriving arts scene… a strong sense of community… easy access to airports… and pleasant weather.” Good transit is also important, the article notes.

We see many of our friends selling their big houses in Toronto and moving to smaller, more affordable communities elsewhere in the province. The idea here is that the proceeds from the sale of the house in the city are more than enough to buy a house in a smaller town, and you can bank the difference.

An important step you can take today to deal with tomorrow’s retirement living decisions is to bank a bit of your salary for life after work. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan provides you with an end-to-end system that turns your savings into investments, and those investments into future income.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Retirement “think tank” group looks for smart solutions for retirement security

The National Institute on Ageing is a relatively new university-based think tank focused on leading cross-disciplinary research, thought leadership, innovative solutions, policies, and products on ageing.

The NIA brings together thinking not only on the money side of retirement, but the health side as well.

So says the NIA’s Dr. Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald, PhD and FSA (she is also resident scholar at Eckler Ltd.), who recently took the time to speak with Save with SPP. “A happy, healthy retirement is not just about money,” Dr. MacDonald notes, adding that NIA hopes to tap into university, government and other worldwide research to come up with “better ideas that will help Canadians as they age.”

One aspect that Dr. MacDonald has done much research about is the “decumulation” phase of retirement, the period when savings from the work years are used to finance life after work.

“Retirement planning used to focus on saving up until age 65,” she explains. You would then start spending and travelling, with “the old assumption (being) that you would begin to need less money as you aged, that you wouldn’t be spending as much by age 90.”

However, Dr. MacDonald notes, this type of thinking overlooked the possibility that retirees might eventually need to pay for age-related healthcare costs, including living in a nursing home.

In reality, many retirees in their 60s and even 70s “can still earn money, and can choose to downsize, or reduce spending. Their expenses are flexible,” Dr. MacDonald explains. “Once you are 80 to 85, there is less flexibility, expenses are increasingly less ‘voluntary’ (namely the costs arising from declining health) – so it is at this age when having a steady stream of income becomes much more necessary for financial security.”

What she calls “shifting socioeconomic customs” have driven changes in the way retirement money is spent and the effect it has on individuals and families.

“Society has shifted, women are now working more and are not able to provide elder care without accruing considerable personal expense,” notes Dr. MacDonald. Even still, the majority of caregivers are women. The NIA’s report on working caregivers, authored by Dr. Samir Sinha, a geriatrician and Dr. MacDonald’s colleague at the NIA,  shows that women are not only more likely to be working caregivers, but that they provide much more care to their elderly relatives than do men. What’s more, the typical age at which women provide care overlaps with peak career earning opportunities and with their own family building, which in turn causes a knock-on effect on their lifetime earnings and income potential. Financial independence in older age has significant ripple effects, beyond just the individual.

In the past, it used to be more likely that the family would look after elderly parents, helping to feed them, socialize them, prepare their taxes, transport them, and so on. And while 75 per cent of elder care is still done by the family, increasingly people are finding they have to or want to pay for their own care as they enter their late 80s and 90s. And while family caregivers play an important role in the lives of the elderly, people generally prize their independence. But independence also comes at a cost. “It costs a lot of money to replace (the care provided by family), it has become extremely expensive for nursing home care.,” says Dr. MacDonald.

While some retirees can afford to cover the costs of their own care, those who can’t must be assisted by the government, she explains. “The overall effect of this is that some older people aren’t decumulating their savings as expected. They are holding onto their money; they are concerned about the future,” she adds.

Dr. MacDonald is the author of a recent paper on this topic for the C.D. Howe Institute called “Headed for the Poorhouse: How to Ensure Seniors Don’t Run Out of Cash Before They Run Out of Time.” The paper suggests the creation of a government-sponsored LIFE (Living Income for the Elderly) program that would provide additional life income beginning at 85.

“LIFE would provide longevity insurance to Canadian seniors at their most vulnerable time of life… giving them choice, flexibility and income security at advanced ages,” she writes in the paper.

In an article for the Globe and Mail written last year, she suggests women – who live longer – consider not starting their CPP benefits until they are older. “Starting CPP benefits at the age of 70 instead of 65 will increase a person’s CPP by 42 per cent,” she notes in the article.

NIA is looking at other ways to boost income security for older retirees. One way, says Dr. MacDonald, would be to find ways “for people to stay in their own homes longer.” Another way would be to allow family members providing care to be paid. Currently rules generally allow paid caregiving by strangers, but not by someone’s daughter,” she notes.

We thank Dr. MacDonald for taking the time to talk with us.

Remember as well that before decumulation can occur there needs to be retirement savings. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers a flexible savings program for individuals.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Interview with HOOPP’s Darryl Mabini

Factor high healthcare costs into your retirement savings strategy: HOOPP

One of the biggest problems retirees can face is unexpected, major healthcare costs in retirement – and that possibility should be factored into retirement savings.

So says Darryl Mabini, Senior Director, Growth & Stakeholder Relations for the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP). HOOPP is a $77.8-billion public sector defined benefit pension plan serving healthcare workers in Ontario.

HOOPP recently produced a four-paper series called Retirement Security – Is it Attainable? One of the four papers, called Seniors and Poverty – Canada’s Next Crisis found that 12.5 per cent of Canadian seniors – and a startling 28 per cent of senior women – live in poverty.

A factor behind this, the series suggests, is the lack of good workplace pension plans (the defined benefit type, which provides pensions based on a percentage of your earnings, is rare outside the public sector) and inadequate personal retirement savings.

“People saving for retirement don’t factor in the healthcare costs when they get older,” explains Mabini. While Canadians are proud of their universal healthcare system, he notes, they “are not aware of what it doesn’t cover.”  Some long-term care costs are not covered by provincial plans and can cost thousands a month, he notes. Treating chronic diseases and illnesses can also be expensive in retirement, particularly if you don’t have health benefits, says Mabini.

So retirement income – having enough of it – is critical. “We found that about 40 per cent of Canadians are covered by a workplace pension plan. For the other 60 per cent, it is do-it-yourself; they are saving on their own,” Mabini says. But doing it on your own is hard – the savings are voluntary, not mandatory, and no one tells you how much you actually need to save to be able to afford retirement, he explains.

“Our research found that the amount people have saved is heavily impacted around age 85, once long-term care costs are factored in,” he says. Those who are age 85 and older are at risk for having insufficient income, and because of their longevity; it is usually women who come up short on retirement income, Mabini notes.

“The problem is that those without a good workplace pension plan tend not to save on their own,” he says. They think CPP and OAS will be sufficient, he adds. “The most you can get from CPP, and few get it, is about $12,000 a year at age 65. With OAS, it is about $8,000.” While $20,000 a year may sound OK for a retiree, it isn’t enough when facing long-term care costs of thousands a month, Mabini says.

If you don’t have money to cover healthcare costs, you have to depend on government income supplements and other programs which are not always readily available, he notes.

“There needs to be more education about the importance of retirement savings, and the risks of not having a workplace pension,” he says. “Saving on your own can work, but putting away two per cent of what you make is not adequate for some people. People need to realize the risk of senior poverty.” If you are saving on your own, Mabini recommends setting an income replacement target, making savings automatic and ideally mandatory, pooling, and having a way to turn those savings into a lifetime income string.

The full findings from HOOPP’s Retirement Security series can be found here.

We thank Darryl Mabini for speaking to Save with SPP. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan provides an excellent way to save for retirement if you don’t have a workplace plan, and it offers annuities to turn your savings into a lifetime pension. Find out more at www.saskpension.com.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

The Cost of Funerals in Saskatchewan

In 2017 the life expectancy for the total Canadian population is projected to be 79 years for men and 83 years for women. Of course, some people will die younger and others will live into their 90s and beyond. However long you live, eventually your funeral expenses and other debts must be paid for before your executor can distribute your estate to beneficiaries. 

How much does a funeral cost?
Canadian Funerals Online (CFO) notes that historically the funeral industry has not openly disclosed funeral prices, and many funeral home websites do not even publish a price list. However, these days you can find more funeral homes providing open disclosure of the cost of various funeral packages. Nevertheless, the cost of a funeral can still vary significantly depending on where you live and which funeral services provider you use.

There are two corporate funeral companies operating in Canada – Service Corporation International [Branded as Dignity Memorial] and Arbor Memorial.  Although not a rule, CFO reports that typically corporate funeral homes can be more expensive than family-owned funeral homes and that in the funeral industry, economies of scale do not always operate in favour of consumers.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that you investigate prices from more than one funeral home. Of course, this may not be practical or possible in the stressful period following the death of a loved one.

In a recent article on lowestrates.ca, Rebecca Lee discussed how much it costs to die in Canada. She reported that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for the dozens of after-death decisions you’ll have to make. There’s also no one-size-fits-all price tag.

In an interview with Lee, Founder and CEO of Basic Funerals, Eric Vandermeersch, said that after-death costs can be as low as $1,500 or as high as $20,000. And while he pegged the average overall cost at $8,500, he admitted that the number varies wildly based on each person’s preferences, values, and culture.

“It’s like saying I want to buy a car, what should I budget for.” Vandermeersch explained. “There are a lot of options. There are people looking for just the basics and there are people looking for more traditional ceremonies.”

Lee enumerated some of the after-death arrangements you or your family will have to decide on. Some are required and others are mandatory. All costs are approximate and will vary based on city, province, and personal preference.

  1. Death certificate ($15-$22) and registration (about $55).
  2. Transfer services ($100+).
  3. Shroud, casket, or urn ($0-$3,000+).
  4. Body preparation ($125-$525)..
  5. Formal ceremonies (visitation, memorial, funeral) plus staffing fees ($2,000 and beyond).
  6. Burial plots and niches ($1,000 and beyond).
  7. Burial or cremation services ($1,000 and beyond).

Burial vs. Cremation
According to CFO, as a very general guide a cremation is likely to cost a quarter of the cost of a burial.  A simple, direct cremation in Canada can start at around $600, whereas a cremation with a service, and extra disbursements (obituary notice, viewing, funeral flowers, etc), may cost in the region of $4,500.  As mentioned above, cremation service costs will vary depending upon your province and area. The cremation rate in Canada is at 65% making cremation by far the popular choice for families today.

Direct cremation is becoming more popular.  A direct cremation is when the deceased is simply collected from the place of death and transferred to the funeral home or crematory for an immediate cremation.  No service is conducted prior to the cremation [although sometimes a brief family viewing is conducted].

The cremated remains are returned to the family within a few days in a basic urn.  This is the least expensive means by which to conduct a funeral.  It can even be arranged online today, without the need to visit a funeral home.  Family can then arrange their own memorial at a later date at a place that suit the family.  This also puts the family in control of the memorial process, instead of paying a funeral home for this service.

CPP Death Benefit
The Canada Pension Plan death benefit is a one-time, lump-sum payment to your estate that can help to pay for funeral costs. The amount of the death benefit depends on how much and for how long you contributed to the CPP.  In January 2016, the average death benefit paid was $2,296.85 and the maximum was $2,500.

To calculate the amount of the death benefit, Service Canada first calculates the amount that the CPP retirement pension is or would have been if the deceased was age 65 at the time of death. The death benefit is equal to six months’ worth of this calculated retirement pension up to a maximum of $2,500.

If an estate exists, the executor named in the will or the administrator named by the Court to administer the estate applies for the death benefit. The executor should apply for the benefit within 60 days of the date of death.

If no estate exists or if the executor has not applied for the death benefit, payment may be made to other persons who apply for the benefit in the following order of priority:

  • The person or institution that has paid for or that is responsible for paying for the funeral expenses of the deceased.
  • The surviving spouse or common-law partner of the deceased.
  • The next-of-kin of the deceased.

The death benefit is equal to six months’ worth of this calculated retirement pension up to a maximum of $2,500.

Also see:
Saskatchewan Funeral Costs Guide
The Prepaid Funeral: Advantages & Disadvantages

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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.

April 2: Best from the blogosphere

With the abolition of mandatory retirement in Canada, when you opt to actually leave the world of paid work for good is your own decision. There are financial milestones that may influence you  such as when you think you have saved enough to support yourself in retirement, but when you are ready to let go is also dependent on many more intangible factors.

After all, you not only need to retire from your job or your encore career, but you have must have something to retire to. For example, in the last several years I have joined a choir, been elected to the choir board and started taking classes at the Life Learning Institute at Ryerson in Toronto. Yet I’m still not quite prepared to give up my part-time business as a personal finance writer.

I was reminded of this conundrum reading a personal column by David Sheffield in the Globe and Mail recently. He wrote, “Turning to the wise oracle of our time, Google, I search: When do you know that it is time to retire? Most answers are financially focused: ‘When you have saved 25 times your anticipated annual expenditures.’ One site tackles how to be emotionally ready to quit work: ‘The ideal time to retire is when the unfinished business in your life begins to feel more important than the work you are doing.’”

The changing face of retirement by Julie Cazzin appeared in Macleans. She cites a 2014 survey by Philip Cross at the Fraser Institute. Based on the study, Cross believes Canadians are actually financially—and psychologically—preparing themselves to retire successfully, regardless of their vision of retirement.

“The perception that they are not doing so is encouraged by two common errors by analysts,” notes Cross. “The first is a failure to take proper account of the large amounts of saving being done by government and firms for future pensions …. And the second is an exclusive focus on the traditional ‘three pillars’ of the pension system, which include Old Age Security (OAS), the Canada and Quebec Pension plans (CPP/QPP), and voluntary pensions like RRSPs.”

He notes that the research frequently does not take into account the trillions of dollars of assets people hold outside of formal pension vehicles, most notably in home equity and non-taxable accounts. Also, he says the literature on the economics of retirement does not acknowledge the largely undocumented network of family and friends that lend physical, emotional and financial support to retirees.

Retire Happy’s Jim Yih addresses the question How do you know when it is the right time to retire?  After being in the retirement planning field for over 25 years, Yih believes sometimes readiness has more to do with instinct, feelings and lifestyle than with money. “I’ve seen people with good pensions and people who have saved a lot of money but are not really ready to retire.  Sometimes it’s because they love their jobs,” he says. “Others hate their jobs but don’t have a life to retire to.  Some people are on the fence.  They are ready to retire but worry about being bored or missing their friends from work.”

If you are still struggling with how to finance your retirement, take a look at Morneau Shepell partner Fred Vettese’s article in the March/April issue of Plans & Trusts. Vettese reports that few people are aware it can be financially advantageous to delay the start of CPP benefits. In fact, less than 1% of all workers wait until the age of 70 to start their CPP pension. However, doing so can increase its value by a guaranteed 8.4% a year, or 42% in total. And by deferring CPP, he notes that workers can transfer investment risk and longevity risk to the government.

Tim Stobbs, the long-time author of Canadian Dream Free at 45 attained financial independence and left his corporate position several months ago. In a recent blog he discusses how his focus has shifted from growing his net worth to managing his cash flow. His goal is to leave his capital untouched and live on dividend, interest and small business income from his wife’s home daycare. He explains how he simulates a pay cheque by setting up auto transfers twice a month to the main chequing account from his high interest savings account.

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.

Taxable, non-taxable employee benefits

When you are interviewing for a new a new job, perks like company-paid gym memberships, tuition reimbursement or a free cellphone may seem really attractive and influence you to accept the position. However, it is important to keep in mind that come tax time, all or part of the value of these employee benefits may be included in taxable income on your T4 slip.

Here are 10 things that may form part of your compensation and how they are viewed by CRA.

  1. Group benefits: Amounts your employer pays for your life, accident and critical illness insurance coverage are taxable benefits. But when the company pays all or part of the cost of your extended health care, dental plan, short-term disability (STD) or long-term disability (LTD) insurance you do generally not pay tax on the premiums. If you collect on your STD or LTD insurance you will pay taxes if any part of the premiums were employer-paid.
  2. Pensions/Group RRSPs: Your company’s contributions to your pension plan are not taxable. However, your employer’s contributions to your Group RRSP account are viewed as additional taxable income by CRA. But you can deduct RRSP contributions (up to $26,010 for 2017) so you will not actually have to pay taxes on Group RRSP contributions made by your employer on your behalf.
  3. Service and recognition awards: Cash, gift certificates and things like gifts of stock certificates and gold coins are always taxable benefits. However, you can receive tangible tax-free gifts or awards worth up to $500 annually in some specified circumstances, such as a wedding or outstanding service award. In addition, once every five years you can receive a tax-free, non-cash long-service or anniversary award worth $500 or less
  4. Clubs and Recreational Facilities – If your employer pays or subsidizes the cost of membership or attendance at a recreational facility such as a gym, pool, golf course, etc. it is considered a taxable benefit. But if the company provides a free or subsidized onsite facility available to all employees, it is not a taxable benefit.
  5. Tuition reimbursement: If you get a scholarship or bursary from your employer it will be a taxable benefit unless you took the program to maintain or upgrade your employment skills. For example, if you need an executive MBA to be promoted, no tax is payable on the value of company-paid tuition. Where the company gives your child a scholarship or bursary, generally neither you nor your son or daughter who gets the scholarship has to pay taxes on the amount.
  6. Transit Passes: Transit passes are a taxable benefit unless the employee works in a transit-related business (such as a bus, train, or ferry service business).
  7. Child Care Expenses are a taxable benefit unless child care is provided to all employees in the business at little or no cost.
  8. Mobile phone or internet: Charges paid by the company for the business use of your cellphone and internet are not taxable. If your phone or internet is used in part for personal reasons, that portion of the bill should be reported on your T4 as a taxable benefit. However, if the cost of the basic plan has a reasonable fixed cost and your use does not result in charges over the cost of basic service, CRA will not consider any part of the use taxable.
  9. Subsidized meals: If the company cafeteria sells subsidized meals to employees, this will not be considered a taxable benefit as long as employees pay a reasonable amount that covers the cost of food preparation and service.
  10. Discounts on merchandise: Generally, if your employer sells merchandise to you at a discount, the benefit you get is not considered taxable. A document posted on the CRA website in late 2017 suggested that CRA’s interpretation changed, but National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier subsequently announced there have been no changes to the laws governing taxable benefits to retail employees.

This chart illustrates whether taxable allowances and benefits are subject to CPP and EI withholdings. The employer’s Guide: Taxable Benefits and Allowances, including What’s New? Can be found here.

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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.