OAS to Increase by $1.13
Seniors will see
an increase in their monthly OAS cheques in July, but they’ll have to resort to
the 99-cent menu to buy anything with the extra pension.
Old Age Security is indexed quarterly and seniors have seen no increases since
October of 2014.
The maximum OAS (for those who have been in Canada at least 20 years and
started on their 65th birthday) increases from $563.74 to $564.87 – an increase
of $1.13 per month or 0.2%. Seniors who qualify for the Guaranteed Income
Supplement or Allowance will also receive the 0.2% increase beginning in July.
the US Vacation Property
With real estate prices
soaring in the US and the Canadian dollar falling in value against the greenback,
Canadians who invested in a vacation property in the US may be tempted to sell
their US cottage and purchase a Canadian cottage instead.
important to understand the tax consequences on both sides of the border before
an example to illustrate: Sarah and George purchased a home in
Phoenix in 2011 for $190,000US ($191,000CAN), including costs. Today, the home
is worth $290,000US (about $358,000CAN). This represents an accrued gain of
$167,000CAN (a $100,000 US gain in the States). The value of the couple’s home
in Canada, meanwhile, has increased only $20,000 over the same time
period. What are the tax consequences if the couple sells the US property and
uses the proceeds to purchase a cottage closer to home?
of the US property will create a taxable capital gain to be reported on a US
return ($100,000 US). In Canada, the capital gain could be minimized by
designating the US property as the couple’s principal residence for all but one
year from 2011 to 2015. However, the elimination of the capital gains tax on
the Canadian return comes at a price. If the gain is taxable in Canada, the US
taxes paid could be claimed as a foreign tax credit.
the gain is tax-free in Canada, the foreign tax credit cannot be claimed. At
the same time, claiming the US property as a principal residence means the gain
on their Canadian home becomes taxable.
the US tax cannot be eliminated, the only way to ensure that the same gain is
not taxed in both jurisdictions is to make sure that at least $100,000US of the
capital gain is taxed in Canada in the year of sale. That’s about $123,000CAN,
depending on the exchange rate at the time of the sale.
$167,000CAN gain, 26% of the gain could be exempted and the couple could still
claim the foreign tax credit. By choosing to designate the US property as their
principal residence for one year, 33% ([1+1]/6) of the gain would be exempt in
Canada, limiting the foreign tax credit claim.
choosing not to designate the US property as their principal residence, 1/6 of
the gain would be exempt, allowing the full foreign tax credit.
course, in this or any other case, the actual amount of taxes payable in the US
and Canada would have to be determined to ensure that choosing not to claim the
principal residence exemption for any of the years owned results in the lowest
overall taxes payable.
type of transaction, therefore, should be reviewed well in advance by a Tax
Services Specialist to get the best tax results over time for the sale or
deemed disposition of both residences.
Who Is Affected by the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan?
With the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan taking shape, the provincial government is giving Ontarians the chance to weigh in on the proposed provincial pension plan. The Ontario Liberals released a consultation paper on “key design questions” of the ORPP, such as low-income earners and the self-employed. The discussion paper provides more details on the ORPP, including who’s covered.Who’s Covered by the ORPP?
When the ORPP is in full swing, the provincial government anticipates three million people to make $3.5 billion each year in contributions. The ORPP looks to be mandatory for everyone except those with defined benefit pension plans and newer target benefit plans. Unlike defined contribution pension and group RRSPs, defined benefit pension plans provide you with a retirement benefit for your lifetime based on your earnings and your years of service. Target benefit plans are a middle ground between defined benefit and defined contribution – they act much like defined benefit, but your benefit could be reduced based on how the plan’s investments perform.
Employers that offer alternative retirement savings plans, such as defined contribution pension plans, group RRPSs and pooled PRPPs, would be forced to join the ORPP. This would be quite a financial burden for employers, who would have little incentive to continue to offer these plans, if they must also pay into the ORPP. The government looks to be open to discussion, mentioning employers may be able to adapt their pension plans to be exempt from the ORPP.Self-Employed Individuals
When the ORPP was first proposed, many self-employed individuals were concerned about the financial burden it would put on their business. According to the Ontario Ministry of Finance , 700,000 people in Ontario reported self-employment income in 2011. Currently, self-employed individuals don’t have the option of opting out of the CPP. If you’re self-employed, you must contribute both the employer and employee portion of the CPP.
If you’re self-employed in Ontario you can breathe a sigh of relief. It doesn’t look like you’ll be forced in to joining the ORPP. Self-employed individuals are ineligible to join because of the federal Income Tax Act. However, the provincial government is looking into a voluntary opt-in. This seems like a win-win situation for the self-employed. The ORPP would provide self-employed individuals with some stability in income in their retirement, provided they choose to join.
Unlike the self-employed, small business owners would be forced to join. When you’re starting up a business, cash flow is key. Forcing small business owners to join the ORPP could result in tough decisions. While many large employers are in the position to absorb the added cost of the ORPP, small businesses struggling to stay afloat may have to freeze wages or lay off employees to balance the books.Low-Income Earners
The ORPP looks to be similar to the CPP in many respects, including how low-income earners are treated. Similar to the CPP, if you earn below $3,500, you will not be required to contribute to the ORPP.
Similar to the CPP, the ORPP will count as taxable income toward means-tested government benefits like the Guaranteed Income Supplement. Instead of helping low-income earners, the ORPP could result in claw-backs to the GIS. Not only will low-income earners lose a portion of their GIS, they’ll also be forced to start contribution to the ORPP. With many of these folks struggling to pay for the necessities of life like rent and food, contributions to the ORPP will take money out of the pockets of those most in need.
There’s still plenty of time to weigh in on the newly-proposed ORPP.
ORPP is now a Legislative Requirement
Bill 56, an Act to require the establishment of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan was introduced and received first reading in the Ontario Legislature on December 8, 2014.
With this Act, the Ontario Government is now committed to the implementation of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) no later than January 1, 2017.
While the legislation is short on detail, it is specific on the broad base structure of the Plan and the requirements that will be part of the final legislation.
The Act requires:
• Establishment and implementation no later than January 1, 2017
• An obligation to create an administrative entity to administer the Plan
• Implements a requirement for any Employer, public body or the federal government to provide information, including personal information, deemed required by the Minister
• The collection of information is exempt from subsection 39(2) – Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
The legislation also establishes basic requirements of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan:
• Maximum contribution rate of 3.8% combined from employee and employer
• Maximum threshold equal to $90,000 (in 2014 dollars), adjusted to reflect increases established from 2014 to 2017 under the Canada Pension Plan.
• Minimum threshold to be established
• The obligation to deduct contributions from salary and wages will provide for transition rules concerning the rates.
The Ontario Government intends, through questionnaires and public consultations, to collect the feedback of Ontario residents and employers on the final aspects and implementation of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan
The Power of the TFSA
As the calendar year changed on January 1, so did the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) contribution room available to all adult residents of Canada.
Although indexing did not increase the earned contribution room, everyone can now contribute at least $5,500 more to their TFSAs. Those who made withdrawals in 2013 can now put back the money withdrawn in addition to the extra $5,500. For those who have never made a TFSA contribution, the accumulated TFSA room is now $36,500 (less if they are between 19 and 24).
Through the power of tax-free compounding the TFSA can yield spectacular results, especially for those who are young enough for compounding to do its magic.
If you’ve put the maximum into your TFSA at the beginning of each year and it earned 5% income in each year, your current balance (after your last deposit) will be over $40,800. See the table below.
YearContributionInterest EarnedEnding Balance2009$5,000$250.00$5,250.002010$5,000$262.50$10,512.502011$5,000$525.63$16,038.132012$5,000$801.91$21,840.032013$5,500$1,092.00$28,432.032014$5,500$1421.60$35,353.632015$5,500$1767.68$42,621.32
For the younger generation, consider the potential for a tax-free retirement. Making the maximum contribution each year starting at age 19 would yield a nest egg of about $900,000 at age 60 (assuming 5% annual return, 2% inflation, no change in maximum contribution levels and no withdrawals). Even in today’s dollars, that’s $400,000 in spending power. For a couple that’s $1.8 million dollars. Even assuming an extended 40-year retirement, that’s an indexed tax-free pension of over $74,000 a year ($33,000 in current dollars).
Four reasons why you should still take CPP early
I’ve written extensively about the issues around taking CPP early. It’s one of the big conundrums of Canada Pension Plan and my conclusion is that it still makes sense to take CPP as early as you can in most cases. Here’s four questions to ask yourself in determining if it makes sense to take CPP early.Will you still be working after 60? Under the old rules, you had to stop working in order to collect early CPP. The work cessation rules were confusing, misinterpreted and difficult to enforce so it’s probably a good thing they will be a thing of the past.
Starting January 1, 2012, you can start collecting CPP as soon as you turn 60 and you no longer have to stop working. The catch is that as long as you’re working, you must keep paying into CPP even if you are collecting it. The good news is that paying into it will also increase your future benefit.What is the mathematical break-even point?
Under the old rules, the decision to collect CPP early was really based on a mathematical calculation of the break-even point. Before 2012, this break-even point was age 77. With the new rules, every Canadian needs to understand the math. Here’s the example of twins that I used before, with the break-even point updated to 2015 values.
“Janet and Beth are twins. Let’s assume they both qualify for the same CPP of $502 per month at age 65. Let’s further assume, Beth decides to take CPP now at age 60 at a reduced amount while Janet decides she wants to wait till 65 because she will get more income by deferring the income for 5 years.
Under Canada Pension Plan benefits, Beth can take income at age 60 based on a reduction factor of 0.58% for each month prior to her 65th birthday. Thus Beth’s benefit will be reduced by 34.8% (0.58% x 60 months) for a monthly income of $327.30 starting on her 60th birthday.
Let’s fast forward 5 years. Now, Beth and Janet are both 65. Over the last 5 years, Beth has collected $327.30 per month totaling $19,638. In other words, Beth has made $19,638 before Janet has collected a single CPP cheque. That being said, Janet is now going to get $502 per month for CPP or $174.70 per month more than Beth’s $327.30. The question is how many months does Janet need to collect more pension than Beth to make up the $19,638 Beth is ahead? It will take Janet 113 months to make up the $19,638 at $174.70 per month. In other words, before age 74.4, Beth is ahead of Janet and after age 74.4, Janet is ahead of Beth.”
This math alone is still a very powerful argument for taking CPP early. Another way to phrase this question is, “How long do you expect to live?”
Note that under the new rules, the mathematical break-even point will change again in 2016, when the reduction factor will increase from 0.58% per month to 0.6%. So for the above example, in 2016, Beth would get $321 instead of $327.30 at age 60. This will move the break-even point from age 74.4 to age 74.When will you most enjoy the money?
When are you most likely to enjoy the money? Before age 74 or after age 74? Even though the break-even point is three years sooner, for most people, they live the best years of their retirement in the early years. I call these the ‘go-go’ years (which is one of three phases of retirement).
Some believe it’s better to have a higher income later because of the rising costs of health care. Whatever you believe, you should plan for. It might be worthwhile to look around your life and see the spending patterns of 70, 80 and 90 year olds to assess how much they are really spending. Are they spending more or less that they did when they were in their active retirement years.What happens if you Leave money on the table?
Let’s go back to Beth who could collect $327.30 at age 60. Let’s pretend that she gets cold feet and decides to delay taking CPP by one year to age 61. What’s happened is that she ”left money on the table.” In other words, she could have taken $3,927.60 from her CPP ($327.30 x 12 months), but chose not to, to be able to get more money in the future. That’s fine as long as she lives long enough to get back the money that she left behind. Again, it comes back to the math. For every year she delays taking CPP when she could have taken it, she must live one year longer at the other end to get it back. By delaying CPP for one year, she must live to age 75 to get back the $3,927.60 that she left behind. If she delays taking CPP until 62, then she has to live until 76 to get back the two years of money she left behind. Why wouldn’t you take it early given this math? The main reason is that you think you will live longer and you will need more money the older you get.My two cents
I think if people understand the math of Canada Pension Plan, most people will take it early. In 2012, you can take it early even if you are working. The bad news is you will get hit with a bigger reduction with the new rules. Some say its also bad news because you will have to keep paying into CPP if you are working (under the new rules). To me, that’s not such a bad thing because paying into it also increases your future benefit so it’s not like you are not going to get your money back. I don’t think the increased reduction is enough of a deterrent because a bird in your hand is better than two in the bush.
Four Financial Numbers You Really Need To Know
When tracking your own financial progress from year to year, there are four financial numbers that you focus on in particular. They’re easy to calculate using information that’s readily available (mostly from your T4 slip and bank/investment statements) and it takes very little time:Your Net Worth
To calculate your net worth you take the value of everything you own and subtract the value of everything you owe. (Assets – Liabilities). This simple calculation is a great benchmark to track from year to year because it clearly shows you if you’re making progress in building wealth and creating financial security.Your Net Income
Thanks to taxes and other deductions there’s often a dramatic difference between our gross income and the amount we actually take home each pay cheque. Too often we focus on the gross amount rather than the net and this can lead to an over inflated view of how much we actually have available to spend. Basing your lifestyle on the $75,000 you make gross rather than the $50,000-$55,000 you take home (depending on which province you live in and your benefit premiums) gives you a distorted view of your financial situation and may leave you wondering where on earth all your money goes. Focusing on your net income figure allows you to make real plans for your money and helps you track whether your financial situation is improving year by year.Your Savings Rate
Taking the amount that you save each year and dividing it by your gross income gives you your savings rate. The savings rate in Canada has been less than 5% for a long time which is a big problem when you consider that experts have long recommended saving 10% of our gross income for retirement. It’s an even bigger problem when you factor in saving for other goals. Simply put, if you’re not saving then you’re not building a “buffer zone” to protect yourself against an unexpected drop in income or increase in interest rates. This makes you vulnerable. Putting a spotlight on your savings rate and doing what you can to maintain or increase it each year will help you stay out of debt and build a solid financial foundation.Your Credit Score
Your credit score is a reflection of how much debt you are currently carrying, how much you have available and your payment history. Creditors use your score as an indicator of whether you can handle new debts and how likely you are to default on loans. A low credit score makes it hard to access credit and can mean that you pay higher interest rates than someone with a higher score. Keeping track of your credit score and monitoring the information in your credit report helps you stay on top of your finances and detect any errors or any issues relating to identity theft. You can order a free copy of your credit report once a year by mail from Equifax and Trans Union. Equifax also allows you to access your credit score online for an additional charge.
Taking a look at each of these financial numbers at the start of each year, gives you a candid snapshot of your personal financial situation and allows you to identify any areas that you especially need to focus on over the next 12 months. It also lets you to see your progress from year to year which can be a great motivator.
CPP – Now or Later?
One of the more difficult decisions for those approaching retirement is when to start receiving their CPP retirement pension.
In part 1 of this article, we will look at a number of factors that must be weighed to make that decision.
You can elect to begin receiving your CPP retirement pension as early as age 60 – but at a price. There is a penalty of 0.6% for each month the pension starts before your 65th birthday. Those who start at age 60 will suffer a penalty of 36% of their pension entitlement. Thus, if your Statement of Contributions from Service Canada shows that you would be entitled to a $1,000 per month pension at age 65, your pension will only be $640 per month if you start at age 60. If you continue to work after you receive your pension, you must still continue to contribute to CPP until age 65. After you reach 65, you can opt out of contributing if you’re already receiving your pension. On the bright side, those extra contributions will earn you a small additional pension called a post-retirement benefit.
If you delay starting your pension beyond your 65th birthday, you’ll receive a larger monthly benefit. Your pension will be increased by 0.7% for each month you delay – for up to 60 months. If you delay until your 70th birthday, your pension will be increased by 42%. For example, if you were entitled to a $1,000 per month pension at age 65, and you delay until age 70, your pension will be $1,420 per month. On the down side, you’ll have to continue contributing to age 70 if you continue to work. Those extra contributions will earn you an additional post-retirement benefit.
Perhaps the most difficult question to answer is “How long will I live?” The longer you live, the longer you’ll receive your pension and therefore the more you’ll get from CPP. A general rule of thumb is that if you’ll live beyond age 74, you will benefit from delaying the start of CPP. If you live to age 80 or beyond you’ll get more from CPP if you delay starting to age 70. The average Canadian who makes it to age 65 will live to about age 85.
When you die, the maximum death benefit from CPP is $2,500. If you have a spouse, they will be entitled to a survivor pension of 60% of the deceased taxpayer’s pension entitlement.
The maximum CPP retirement pension for 2015 is $1,065 per month (excluding any post-retirement benefit and increase for delaying). That maximum includes both the taxpayer’s own CPP retirement pension and any survivor pension that they are entitled to. This means that where both spouses have CPP pension entitlement, the amount of the survivor pension may be reduced or even eliminated.
Trust Legislation Enacted
inform their high net worth clients of recently enacted changes to tax benefits
arising from the use of trusts.
will require the review of their wills prior to the new rules taking effect on
January 1, 2016.
criticism of the federal budget proposals, on December 16, 2014 Bill C-43, Economic Action Plan 2014 Act,
No. 2 was enacted. When all of the provisions of the new
legislation come into force it will affect traditional estate planning in two
Rate Estates (GRE). Many traditional tax saving practices will only be
available to a Graduated Rate Estate (GRE). Only certain estates of deceased
persons qualify as GREs, and GREs can only last for up to 36 months.
Testamentary Trusts: The income of a spousal testamentary trust in the
year of death of the beneficiary spouse will be deemed to be the income of the
deceased beneficiary spouse and not the spousal trust.
to discuss the ramifications with your clients, as the effect of the
legislation may be objectively inequitable in certain circumstances. For
example, envision a case where the heirs of the deceased beneficiary spouse
(those who will end up paying the tax) are different from the residuary
beneficiaries of the spousal trust. In situations such as these, the heirs of
the deceased beneficiary spouse will pay the tax but will not receive the
assets. Currently, there is no remedy for this situation after the fact and
therefore estate planners would be prudent to advise their clients of this.
advisors may wish to argue that there should be certain grandfathering
provisions in the new legislation for wills that can no longer be changed; for
example, because the maker now lacks capacity or is already deceased (and the
will has not been probated).
These could be
devastating oversights that may lead to adverse tax results and/or expensive
Here is the basic information
regarding withdrawals from a tax-free savings account:
will create additional contribution room equal to the amount of the
withdrawal, for deposits in future years
(not in the year of the withdrawal).
earned in and withdrawals from a TFSA will not affect eligibility for
federal income-tested benefits and credits such as
income supplement (GIS)
exemption tax credit
paid related to the TFSA will not be tax-deductible.
can be made, with the investments being transferred to a non-registered
account, or as a contribution to an RRSP, subject to available RRSP
contribution room. When in kind withdrawals are made, the value of
the transaction will be the current market value of the investment.
This will be the contribution amount if the investment is transferred to an
RRSP. If the investment is transferred to a non-registered account,
the current market value at time of withdrawal will be the cost basis for
the non-registered investment. Any subsequent capital gain or loss
when the investment is sold will use this value as the cost basis.
If the maximum has been
contributed to a TFSA, and then a withdrawal is made, no further amount can be
contributed (without penalty) until the following year. On January 1st of
the following year, the withdrawal amount from the previous year will be used
to increase your regular annual contribution room.
Family Tax Cuts Could Fatten December Coffers
It’s always a good idea to re-evaluate the requirement to make the December 15 quarterly tax instalment payment (December 31 in the case of farmers) but this year end it’s even more important because the introduction of the Family Tax Credit for 2014, which has the potential to reduce family taxes by up to $2000.
Who has to pay taxes by instalment? Those taxpayers whose net taxes owing is more than $3000 in 2014 and in either 2013 or 2012. Net taxes owing include personal income taxes plus CPP and EI premiums owing on self employment.
What’s different this year is that couples with children at home (under age 18) where one spouse is in a higher tax bracket than the other are likely to benefit from the Family Tax Cut of up to $2,000. The credit will be calculated on new form Schedule 1-A.
The New $2000 Family Tax Cut
This new federal non-refundable credit will provide up to a maximum of $2,000 in tax relief to benefit one-earner or two-earner couples where one spouse’s income is taxed at a higher rate.
The higher income spouse can transfer up to $50,000 to the lower- income spouse. To qualify for the Family Tax Cut the taxpayer must
• be a resident of Canada at the end of the taxation year;
• have a spouse or common-law partner;
• have a child who is under the age of 18 at the end of the year and who resided with the taxpayer or their spouse or common-law partner; and
• not be confined to prison or similar institution for 90 days or more during the taxation year.
To claim the Family Tax Cut credit, couples must file income tax returns. Either parent can claim the credit but not both. However, if the parents of a child are divorced or separated, and have remarried or have a new common-law partnership, one parent in each of the new family may claim the credit of up to $2,000. The child must reside with each couple during the year in that case. If the parents have joint or shared custody, there may be cases where it is the same child who resides with each parent.
The Family Tax credit cannot be claimed for a year in which the couple does not file an income tax return; elects to split pension income; or in cases where one of the spouses becomes bankrupt.
The Family Tax Credit will be calculated as the difference between
· the combined taxes payable (after all credits are claimed) by the couple, and
· the combined taxes that would be payable by the couple, if the higher income spouse could have notionally transferred taxable income to the lower income spouse.
If the difference exceeds $2,000, then the credit would be limited to $2,000.
Timeless investment wisdom from The Intelligent Investor
“To invest successfully over a lifetime does not require a stratospheric IQ, unusual business insights or inside information. What’s needed is a sound intellectual framework for making decisions and the ability to keep emotions from corroding that framework.” –The Intelligent Investor, Benjamin Graham
If you only read one investing book in your lifetime, it should be Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor. Perhaps the greatest investing book ever written, the book will make you a better investor, whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or you use an advisor.
Graham was a mentor for none other than Warren Buffett, the greatest investor of all time, and his book is filled with the kind of folksy wisdom that Buffett has become known for. Here are some of my favourite quotes from The Intelligent Investor.
“The sillier the market’s behavior, the greater the opportunity for the business-like investor. The intelligent investor is a realist who sells to optimists and buys from pessimists.”
Most people are financially inept, making mistake after mistake, and it has dire consequences to their financial and retirement planning. When making investment decisions, they zig when they should zag. Buy low, sell high? If you can set your emotions aside and buy when things look bad, your returns should improve measurably. Good investors see opportunity amid the carnage. Buy low, not high as many do.
“How your investments behave is much less important than how you behave….The investor’s chief problem – and even his worst enemy – is likely to be himself. “
Our own behavior is, indeed, our greatest threat as investors. Investment markets don’t determine our success, but it’s how we react to them does. Make rational decisions, not emotional ones. Buy good companies and keep them as long as they remain good investments. Trade rarely, unless it’s to buy more of those good companies when their shares tumble. Buy and hold, the Warren Buffett way.
“It should be remembered that a decline of 50% fully offsets an advance of 100%.”
“Never buy a stock because it has gone up or sell one because it has gone down.”
I love good (emphasis on good) investments when they suck. The more they suck the more I like them. If Company A or ABC Growth Fund is a good opportunity at $10 a share, surely it’s a great opportunity at $5 a share as long as nothing has changed to its fundamentals.
Market declines are your greatest opportunity to buy into a rising tide at reduced prices.
“Even the intelligent investor is likely to need considerable will power to keep from following the crowd.”
The crowd is generally wrong. You’ll be more successful being a contrarian than a follower.
“The best way to measure your investing success is not by whether you’re beating the market but by whether you’ve put in place a financial plan and a behavioral discipline that are likely to get you where you want to go.”
It’s not the specific investments you buy that determine your financial success. Do you have a written, goal-based financial plan? Do you buy more of your good investments when times are bleak and your investments are under siege? These things will put you ahead of the guy who chases returns.
“Before you place your financial future in the hands of an adviser, it’s imperative that you find someone who not only makes you comfortable but whose honesty is beyond reproach.”
Do-it-yourself investors believe that they will be more successful by saving a little on their fees but having a pro guide your decisions can be far more important. I believe that most investors have neither the ability nor the interest in managing their own investments, and the mistakes they invariably make scuttle their retirement dreams.
“A defensive investor can always prosper by looking patiently and calmly through the wreckage of a bear market.”
As Sir John Templeton said, the best time to buy is when blood is running in the streets. We can’t predict the exact market bottom, but when markets are down 30 or 40 per cent, maybe it’s time to start buying. Or set up a systematic investment where money is directed monthly from your chequing account to your investment portfolio so you’re buying at all times – in up and down markets.
“Successful investing is about managing risk, not avoiding it.”
Market volatility is the friend of the intelligent, patient investor because it provides great opportunities to buy into a rising tide at sale prices.
Wishing you financial success.
Seniors, Retirement and Debt
“This idea that a mortgage is forever is a bad plan; this idea that debt is forever is a really bad plan. Debt will only steal your golden years away from you.” – Dave Ramsey
With the oldest of the baby boomers now in their late 60s, it’s hardly surprising that Canada has a higher proportion of seniors than ever before. Currently, more than 5 million Canadians are over 65 and that number will continue to increase as more “boomers” reach their senior years.
Throughout their lifetime, the sheer size of the boomer generation has transformed the world around them with every step: education, the workplace and society have all changed dramatically since the first boomer was born in 1946. Now, as they move into their 60s, it’s hardly surprising that the boomers are also transforming retirement. Many of these changes are positive but one change that is not so positive is the growing number of seniors entering their retirement years with debt.
Debt levels have been on the rise in Canada since the early 1980s when credit became more easily available. Living in a society which accepts and encourages debt as a means to acquiring everything our hearts desire has enabled many people to live their lives in a manner that past generations could never have dreamed of. The boomers were the first generation to take full advantage of the opportunities that credit provided and, consequently, they are also the generation entering retirement with more debt than any other generation before them.
According to a recent Canadian study:
· 12% of seniors entering retirement still owe money on mortgages
· 14% of retired seniors owe money on lines of credit
· 16% of retirees are making payments on car loans
· 21% of seniors entering retirement have credit card debt
It’s no coincidence that, while access to credit has increased over the last 30 years, the savings rate in Canada has decreased. Many seniors entering their retirement years with debts just haven’t enough in savings to cover their debt payments and their living expenses. They are also incredibly vulnerable to fluctuations in interest rates which might increase their payments. This may be the reason why bankruptcy rates among Canadians aged 65 and older are currently higher than for any other age group.
Entering retirement with large amounts of debt creates a number of challenges for retirees. Firstly, it increases the amount of money that is needed each month in order to cover the cost of living. Higher expenses mean that either you need a larger amount of savings to draw from or you need to cut expenses in other areas in order to be able to cover debt payments. Secondly, many seniors are also providing financial support to their aging parents as well as to their adult children and this often adds to their debt levels and/or hampers their ability to pay down debts. It’s not surprising that so many retirees caught in this “sandwich generation” identify finances as a major source of stress.
As with so many aspects of retirement planning, the seeds of success are sown long before your retirement date. Taking control of your financial health, focusing on building savings and reducing debts is always a good idea but it is especially important in the years leading up to retirement. Heading into your “golden years” with as little debt as possible gives you the freedom to build a lifestyle that focuses on your financial needs not the needs of your creditors.
|How receiving a partial OAS pension affects GIS amounts
As you may be aware, seniors who have limited income aside from their OAS pension may be eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), which is part of the Old Age Security (OAS) program.
If you have ever looked at the GIS rate tables on Service Canada’s website
, you may have noticed that the rates shown apply only if you are receiving the “full OAS pension.” The rate tables don’t really explain how much GIS you will receive if you’re receiving only a partial OAS pension (due to having fewer than 40 years of residence in Canada after age 18).
Receiving a partial OAS pension affects the amount of GIS that a pensioner will receive in two ways:
1. A pensioner receiving partial OAS will receive more GIS than someone receiving a full OAS pension, to make up for their lesser amount of OAS.
2. A pensioner receiving partial OAS will receive GIS up to a higher income, compared to someone receiving a full OAS pension
Why does someone receiving a partial OAS pension receive more GIS?
The intent of the GIS program is to ensure that anyone who is eligible for OAS receives at least a minimum level of income on which to live. There are various minimum monthly income levels established, depending on a pensioner’s marital status
For example, as of October 2014, the minimum monthly income level for a single OAS pensioner has been set at $1,328.14. If someone is receiving a full OAS pension ($563.74 for October 2014) and they have no other source of income aside from their OAS pension, that means that they will be entitled to GIS in the amount of $764.40 ($1,328.14 – $563.74).
However, if they are receiving only a partial OAS pension, that means that they must receive more GIS in order to reach that same minimum income level of $1,328.14.
Let’s use the example of Peter to see how this works. If Peter has resided in Canada for only 25 years when he becomes eligible for OAS, he will receive a partial OAS pension of $352.34 (25/40ths of $563.74). If he has no other income aside from OAS, he will be entitled to GIS in the amount of $975.80 ($1,328.14 – $352.34).
Why can someone receiving a partial OAS pension have a higher income before losing eligibility for GIS?
For the most part, the amount of GIS that someone is entitled to is reduced by 50 cents for every dollar of income that the person has from other sources (excluding the OAS). (The GIS rate tables actually function by reducing GIS by $1.00 monthly for every $24.00 of annual income.) If someone receives more GIS because they’re receiving only a partial OAS, it therefore follows that it requires a higher threshold before they lose all of their GIS entitlement.
Let’s use the above example of Peter to demonstrate how this works.
If a single pensioner receiving a full OAS pension has income of more than $17,088 annually from other sources, they won’t be eligible for any GIS. However, they will still receive their full OAS pension of $563.74.
If Peter has income from other sources totaling $17,088, he will need to receive GIS in the amount of $211.40 ($563.74 – $352.34), in order to be at the same overall income level as someone receive a full OAS pension.
Since his GIS will continue to be reduced by 50 cents for every dollar of other income that he has, that means that his GIS entitlement won’t be fully eliminated until he has a further $5,064 of income from other sources ($211 x 24). This means that the threshold for Peter to receive GIS is $22,152 ($17.088 + $5,064).
Is this situation fair?
It seems that the GIS top-up and higher income threshold for pensioners who have had their GIS topped up may put people who have lived their whole lives in Canada at a disadvantage, particularly since OAS payments are taxed and the GIS is not.
I have my own thoughts about the fairness of this situation, but I’m interested in hearing what other Retire Happy readers think.