Don’t Get Surprised By OAS and CPP Survivor Benefits

Don’t Get Surprised By OAS and CPP Survivor Benefits

For many retirees, CPP and OAS make up a significant portion of their retirement income. A disruption to either of these income sources can be very stressful. Even more so because this disruption follows the unexpected death of a partner or spouse.

Many retirees may not realize, but OAS and CPP survivor benefits are significantly reduced, anywhere from a 40% reduction to a full 100% reduction!

For lower income households, pension benefits like CPP and OAS can provide 50%-75% of their retirement income. For very low income households, CPP and OAS, when combined with other low-income benefits like GIS, can easily make up 100% of retirement income for some couples. Losing these benefits can be a big change to their retirement plan.

Even for higher income households, who may have significant assets in either RRSPs or TFSAs, it’s not uncommon for CPP and OAS to make up 25%-30% of their retirement income.

A disruption to this income can be devastating for some retirement plans, and what many people may not realize is the extent to which some of these benefits can be reduced when a partner passes away.

Although difficult and unpleasant to even think about, the impact of a partner passing is an important consideration for many retirement plans. It’s important to understand what changes there might be to both retirement income and retirement spending if the unfortunate were to happen.

For some plans, those which have a large amount of investment assets, the risk is smaller. Investment assets inside RRSPs and TFSAs can be transferred through spousal rollovers with no tax consequences. So, the disruption to these plans may be smaller.

But for most plans, the risk and disruption of an unexpected death can be quite large, especially in certain circumstances. In the worst-case scenario, the loss of CPP and OAS combined can represent more than $20,000 per year in lost retirement income!

The Best Parts Of A Financial Plan

The Best Parts Of A Financial Plan

Financial planning is a fascinating process. When building a financial plan there are equal parts of finance (math, numbers, money etc), and personal (values, goals, risk aversion etc). This makes every financial plan unique. No two financial plans are the same. Even when two people start with the exact same income, assets, debt and expenses, the fact is their plan will differ because they have different goals and personal values.

Even though the plan may differ, there are certain parts in a financial plan that never change. There are net worth projections, income projections, cash flow planning, income and expenses etc etc.

In this post, I’m going to highlight some of my favorite parts of a financial plan. These are what I would consider to be the best parts of a financial plan, the most interesting, the best of the best. But it doesn’t represent everything. There are many great parts of a financial plan and the “best” part can differ from plan to plan.

For example, we won’t talk about government benefits below, but for many households, especially those with children under the age of 17, government benefits play a big role in their financial plan. We recently did a plan for a young family where a few small changes allowed this family to reduce their income tax and increase their government benefits by $100,000+ over the course of their plan! That would definitely be the best part of that plan!

What we will cover in this post are net worth projections, debt payoff plans, planning around different income sources, and how we understand the “success rate” of a plan.

Taking CPP Early Or Late? The Soft Benefits

Taking CPP Early Or Late? The Soft Benefits

In the last blog post we looked at the financial considerations when deciding to take CPP early or late. But personal finance is never just about the money. Half of personal finance is personal. The “best” path varies from person to person even when the numbers are exactly the same. When it comes to taking CPP early or late these personal considerations can make a big difference.

There are many “soft benefits” to taking CPP early or late. These benefits can make taking CPP early look more favorable…  or it can make taking CPP later look more favorable… it just depends on how much YOU value each benefit.

Before deciding to take CPP early or late it’s important to understand what your goals are for retirement. Not just financial goals but personal goals. What do you want to do in retirement? What does your retirement look like? This may inform some of your decisions around these “soft benefits”

It can also help to have a financial plan and see how taking CPP early or late helps you achieve your financial goals. Everyone is different, and the decision to take CPP wont be the same for everyone.

Taking CPP Early Or Late? How Long Until Breakeven?

Taking CPP Early Or Late? How Long Until Breakeven?

Should you take CPP early or late? Are you considering taking CPP early? Are you wondering if you should delay? Should you take it early at age 60? Should you wait until regular retirement age at 65? Should you delay until age 70, the last date possible?

When to start taking CPP is just one of the many difficult decisions soon-to-be retirees face as they approach their retirement date.

It’s a big decision, and like many financial decisions there are many aspects to consider when deciding when to take CPP.

When a soon-to-be retiree is deciding to take CPP early or late there are both financial considerations as well as non-financial considerations to weigh.

Taking CPP late can provide a financial benefit if you plan to live past a certain age. This is a number and it’s easier to evaluate but it’s based on longevity, which is a big unknown.

Taking CPP late also has non-financial considerations. There are “soft benefits” to delaying CPP. Depending on how much you value these soft benefits they can be worth quite a bit as well.

Even when two people have the exact same financial situation, they may choose different times to start CPP simply due to these longevity questions and soft benefits.

When deciding to take CPP or delay its first important to get basic understanding of how CPP works and how CPP payments change each year as you delay.

What Is A Good Retirement Budget?

What Is A Good Retirement Budget?

One of the most important aspects of your retirement plan is knowing how much you plan to spend during your retirement years. Knowing exactly what spending looks like in retirement is one of the most important (and sometimes the hardest to determine) parts of a retirement plan. Even small changes in spending can have a big impact on the success of a retirement plan, so making a good retirement budget is critical.

Depending on your level of spending, that last $10,000 in spending could incur marginal tax rates of 30-40%+. For example, going from $70,000 to $80,000 per year in spending will incur a high marginal tax rate on that extra spending. If we’re using RRSPs to fund part of retirement then we’d need to make pre-tax withdrawals of $14,286 to $16,667 just to support that last $10,000 in spending.

If there was no tax we could support that last $10,000 in spending with financial assets of around $250,000 (this varies from situation to situation but for simplicity we’ll assume a 4% safe withdrawal rate). But to support the taxes on those withdrawals we need much more. To support that last $10,000 in spending we need between $357,142 and $416,667 in registered assets!

This is why getting your spending assumptions right is very important when building a retirement plan.

This is where guidelines like the 70% rule can be very dangerous. It might be ok to use these rules of thumb when you’re 20-30 years away from retirement but when you’re 5-15 years away from your retirement date they can be very misleading.

To create a solid retirement plan we want to build a detailed retirement budget. We want a budget that is built from the ground up, category by category, and is based on facts. It’s more accurate to say how much you’ll spend in each category and then add it up versus using a general guideline like the 70% rule. Plus, it provides a great opportunity to review your spending and ensure it aligns with your values and goals.

There are a few key considerations when building a retirement budget.

Different Ways to Split Income With A Spouse

Different Ways to Split Income With A Spouse

Splitting income is an interesting tax planning opportunity for couples. Because we’re taxed individually on our income it can be advantageous to split income and reduce the overall income tax bill for the household.

The goal of income splitting is to perfectly split the household income and the corresponding tax bill. Splitting income 50/50 is the ideal way to minimize the household’s income tax. However, the CRA doesn’t like this, and there are lots of rules in place to prevent income splitting in certain situations.

Income attribution is what happens when you split income that you shouldn’t have. Even if you didn’t earn that income it can still be attributed back to you and needs to be captured on your annual tax return.

For example, if the higher-income spouse gives the lower income spouse $10,000 to invest, any income earned on that investment is attributed back to the higher income spouse, even if it doesn’t get paid into their account and/or they don’t receive a T5/T3 tax slip.

Income attribution is a huge deal. It requires people to properly report their income. The onus is on the couple to split their income properly. If a household doesn’t properly split their income, and they fail to report income attribution, it can come back later in the form of an audit and/or fines & penalties.

The goal with income splitting is to avoid these attribution rules and legally split income to the extent it’s possible.

Income splitting isn’t for everyone but many people can benefit from at least some basic income splitting.

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