Canadians are living longer—and many fear they will outlive their retirement savings. Today, nearly 50% of Canadians say they are having trouble making ends meet, and are concerned things will only get worse once they retire. Thankfully, there are numerous government programs designed to help senior Canadians remain financially independent.
While navigating the system can be a bit tricky, according to an online survey of 1,000 Canadians 60 years of age or older, the good news is the majority are receiving government support.
- Government support 73%
- Company pension plans 44%
- Investments 35%
So what type of programs are available, and how do they work?
Federal Financial Resources for Canadian Seniors
Old Age Security Pension (OAS)
A monthly benefit that all Canadians qualify for if the following three criteria are met:
- You are 65 or older (you can apply 6 months before you turn 65)
- You have lived in Canada for 10 years or more
- You have completed your annual income tax return
Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)
A non-taxable monthly benefit for Canadians with low incomes that can be added to their OAS pension.
A benefit for spouses or common-law partners of OAS recipients eligible for the GIS. You must be between 60 and 64 years of age (and therefore not yet eligible for OAS) but you can apply for this benefit as early as 12 months before turning 60.
Allowance for the Survivor
A monthly benefit for low-income individuals between the ages of 60 and 64 (and therefore not yet eligible for OAS) whose spouse or common-law partner has died and they themselves have not remarried or entered into a new common-law relationship.
Canadian Pension Plan (CPP)
If you contributed to CPP while you were working then you will be eligible for this monthly benefit. There are special provisions for people who reduced their earnings for a number of years to raise young children and there are sharing provisions for spouses and common-law partners. Note that Quebec has a similar program called the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP); individuals who paid into both CPP and QPP will have their contributions added together.
Canadian Government Annuities
Up until 1975, individuals or employers could purchase government annuities as pension plans. Now we have programs like OAS and CPP, but for those who did contribute to an annuity or purchased one on their own, the Canadian Government Annuities Branch handles the administration of annuities to their recipients. About 3 months before the annuity maturity date, recipients should receive a Certificate of Identity form, which must be completed and returned to start receiving benefits. If you purchased an annuity or are entitled to receive benefits from one, it is important that the Canadian Government Annuities Branch has your current home address.
International Benefit Program
If you've lived or worked in Canada and in another country, or you are the survivor of someone who has lived or worked in Canada and in another country, you may be eligible for pensions and benefits from Canada, the other country, or both.
If you’re still unsure about which programs you may be eligible for, check out the Benefits Finder Tool.
Some Additional Financial Resources
Canadian Veterans will want to check here to see if they are eligible for any additional financial benefits, such as the War Veterans Allowance (WVA). Living in Canada but served in another country? You may still be able to receive benefits through your native country; check with their Veterans office.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) invests $2 billion dollars a year to help Canadians (including seniors!) find affordable housing and sometimes offer housing subsidies for seniors and other Canadians in need.
Financial Advice for Canadian Seniors
We've all heard of 411, but have you heard of 211? This is a 24-hours a day, 7-days a week national service offering information specific to your city and province. And during normal business hours, you can speak to an actual real live person--a luxury nowadays! This service offers information on:
- Tax refunds and rebates
- Health care
- Home care
- Long-term care and housing
- Food programs
- Energy programs and rebates
- Social, recreation and education programs
- Help with pet costs
Despite receiving some assistance, 27% of Canadians report having to continue to work into their retirement years to support themselves, due mostly to debt. If this sounds like you, and you think you may need some help ridding yourself of debt, contact Credit Canada for some free advice. We can discuss your budget and finances, and help determine if a Debt Consolidation Program may be the right choice for you to enter your golden years entirely debt-free. Also, don't forget to check out our 6 Tips for Dealing With Debt Before You Retire and 5 Retirement Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.