Retiring in Canada.
Pensions in Canada – Canada Pension Plan – Old Age Security – Registered Retirement Savings Plan
Getting a Retirement Pension in Canada
Canadian residents enjoy a variety of options when it comes to financing retirement. These options are:
Canada’s retirement age is 65.
For most people the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is the first port of call for retirement income.
Employees may stop working after their 65th birthday and begin receiving their CPP.
(Many Canadians retire before they reach 65, so we shall also look at earlier retirement options.)
Canada Pension Plan (CPP)
The contribution rate for employees to the CPP is 4.95% of gross employment income between $3,500 and $51,000 (2013) up to a maximum contribution of $2,356.20. These payments are matched by employers.
Self-employed people contribute 9.9% of their net income up to a maximum of $4815.74 (2013).
The CPP payment you are entitled to receive at 65 is one quarter of the average contributory maximum over your entire working life.
Some low-earning periods during your working life may be ignored so they do not result in your pension being lowered. The pension is intended to replace about 25 percent of your income from work.
The Canada Pension Plan is capped at a maximum of $1012.50 per month (2013). Many people do not regard this as a satisfactory income.
In fact, according to Service Canada, the average monthly retirement pension (at age 65) in October 2012 was just $528.49.
CPP with lower benefits is available at the age of 60.
If you wish to receive your CPP before your 65th birthday you will have 0.5% of your pension deducted for each month early you apply for CPP. From 2012 to 2016, this will gradually change from 0.5% to 0.6% per month.
The maximum deduction in 2011 was 30% which will gradually increase over the following four years to 36% by 2016.
CPP with increased benefits is available if you delay taking it until you are 70 years old.
If you postpone taking your CPP you can receive a benefit increase of 0.7% for each month you delay taking a pension. The maximum increase is 42%. No increases are available for delaying taking the pension beyond the age of 70.
Quebec has opted-out of the Government of Canada’s program. Instead, residents of Quebec may receive the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) with similar characteristics to the Canada Pension Plan.
Old Age Security (OAS)
The Old Age Security pension is the second of Canada’s federal pension plans available at the age of 65. However, unlike the Canada Pension Plan, it is a pension that is available to low-income seniors and immigrants who have not contributed to the CPP fund through taxation of income.
In order for Canadian residents to qualify for the Old Age Security pension, they must have lived in Canada for at least ten years after their 18th birthday or must have lived in Canada for at least twenty years after their 18th birthday if they are currently residing overseas.
The Old Age Security pension yields a much lower maximum monthly benefit of $546.07 as of 2013, but is much more accessible to those who have not earned taxable income throughout their life in Canada.
Receiving Old Age Security does not hinder one’s ability to work. Single pensioners receiving the benefit are entitled to work for a maximum net salary of up to $70,954 a year (2013). Earnings above this amount result in benefit deductions or a full benefit suspension if the net income exceeds $114,640.
Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)
Available as both individual and spousal accounts, a registered retirement savings plan allows Canadian residents to privately contribute funds towards retirement. RRSP accounts may be opened at any of Canada’s “big five” banks and can be paid into until the account holder is 71. The Canadian Government caps the amount you can pay each year into your RRSP. In 2013, RRSP contributions are capped at an annual maximum of $23,820, but have historically increased with inflation.
When you reach the age of 71, the RRSP must be cashed in for its full amount or matured into a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) or used to buy an annuity.
Withdrawals are taxable at your current tax rate.
One of the benefits of having an RRSP is that contributions are tax deductible. For example, an employee who pays 40% income tax will pay $400 less tax should he or she contribute $1,000 into an RRSP.
Available funds in an RRSP account may be withdrawn tax-free for specific purposes as outlined through the Canadian Government’s two special withdrawal programs: the Home Buyer’s Plan (HBP) and the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP).
Holders of RRSP accounts may withdraw up to $20,000 per year as tax-free income for the purpose of buying a home or to undertake post-secondary education. However, these withdrawal programs are regarded as loans and the recipient of the funds must repay what he or she took out in a preset amount of time.
For the purpose of education, the “loan” must be repaid within two years after the student has finished his or her study or 1,885 days after the initial withdrawal date. For the purpose of purchasing a home, the loan must be repaid within 15 years after a two year grace period. Funds not repaid by these dates must be declared as taxable income and will be subject to income tax payments.
In summary, RRSP contributions are tax-deductible while RRSP withdrawals are added to income and taxed. Only about 4 million of Canada’s 18 million workers benefit from an RRSP.
Supplemental Pension Plan (SPP)
Supplemental pension plans are available as employer to employee sponsorships. They come in two forms: defined benefit and defined contribution.
The value of a defined benefit SPP is often a fixed percentage your salary multiplied by the number of years you have been employed.
With defined contributions, it is more difficult to be precise about the plan’s value and your retirement income. These are determined by the value of the assets in the plan when you retire. Your employer pays a fixed percentage of your salary into your plan. Some employers may require you to match this contribution.
In 1991, 41 per cent of all Canadian workers were covered by defined-benefit plans. The figure is now less than 30 percent, as defined contribution plans have become more popular with employers. The majority of defined-benefit plans in Canada are held by public sector employees.
According to Statistics Canada:
“Although DC plans have some undeniable advantages for employees, their increased prevalence suggests a transfer of risk from employers to workers since 1991.”
You must be at least 55 years old to withdraw funds from a supplemental pension plan. As with other pension plans, you receive monthly payments for the duration of your life.
In the event that you leave a position before retirement age, you have the option to either allow the employer to manage the retirement funds in the SSP or transfer the available balance into an individual RRSP.