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# Tuesday, 30 September 2008
Tuesday, 30 September 2008 14:08:26 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

Almost every senior in Canada will apply for their pension and benefits through Canada's Public Pensions. Basic financial assistance is also available to survivors and those who are too disabled too work, as well as their children through these programs. Canada's Public Pensions are delivered through the Old Age Security (OAS) and Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Having an understanding of the different programs as well as rules and regulations can help to determine what you are eligible for, and what will be required in the future.

Old Age Security Program

This is a monthly benefit that most Canadians are eligible for if they are 65 years of age or over and meet the residency requirements. Employment status and history are not factors that determine eligibility. Benefits paid out are subject to federal and provincial taxes; those with higher income will repay part or all of their benefits through this taxation system. Eligibility is determined solely by being 65, residing in Canada for at least 10 years once the age of 18 was reached, and:

• Being a Canadian citizen or legal resident of Canadian as of the day before the approval of the application or;
• If no longer living in Canada, having been a Canadian citizen/legal resident as of the day before they stopped living in Canada.

The amount of benefits received is determined by the length of residency in Canada. Any person who has lived in Canada for a total of at least 40 years after the age of 18 may qualify for full benefits. For those who haven't lived in Canada for at least 40 years since the age of 18, they may still be eligible for a full pension if they were 25 years of age or over on July 1, 1977 as well as:

• Was residing in Canada on July 1, 1977 or
• Was residing in Canada before July 1, 1977 after reaching 18 or
• Was in possession of a valid immigration visa on July 1, 1977

In these cases, the person must have lived in Canada for the 10 years immediately prior the approval of the OAS application. Absences during this 10 year period may be offset if, after reaching age 18, the applicant lived in Canada before these 10 years for a time period sufficient to total three times the length of absence, as well as resided in Canada for at least one year before the application’s approval.

For those whose absence from Canada was due to working abroad for a Canadian employer, i.e. armed forces, banks, this time can be counted as residency. Qualification is based on returning to Canada within 6 months of termination of employment or having turned 65 while still employed. Proof of employment as well as proof of physically returning to Canada must be provided. This provision may also apply to spouses and dependents and Canadians who have been working abroad for international organizations.
For Canadians who do not meet the criteria for a full OAS, they may qualify for a partial pension. This is calculated at the rate of 1/40 of the full monthly pension for each full year lived in Canada after the age of 18. This amount cannot be increased as a result of added years of residence in Canada once it has been approved. However, late applicants for OAS may be eligible to receive retroactive payments for up to 11 months plus the month in which the application was received if all conditions of eligibility have been met. If clients cancel their OAS benefits and later wish to have them reinstated, they are not entitled to any retroactive payments.

Guaranteed Income Supplement

The GIS is intended for Canadians who are receiving a basic, partial or full OAS pension and have little and/or no other income. These supplemental payments may start in the same month as the OAS payments, but must be re-applied for every year or by filing an income tax return by April 30. As this supplement is based on income, it will increase or decrease yearly depending on any changes in reported income. Unlike the OAS, the GIS is not subject to income tax. This supplement is not payable outside of Canada for more than 6 months, regardless of previous residential history. Applicants for the GIS must be receiving an OAS pension; there are certain income limits for the applicant as well as spouse/common-law partner. Sponsored immigrants from countries that Canada has agreements with are not eligible for GIS during their sponsorship period (10 year maximum) unless:

• Has resided in Canada for a minimum of 10 years since turning the age of 18 or
• Has resided in Canada as either a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident before or on March 6, 1996 and is eligible for benefits January 1, 2001 or earlier or
• Has been receiving OAS benefits for the month of March 1996 or earlier

The amount of the supplement is based on marital status as well as income. Any other income that the person is receiving i.e. foreign pension, interest, dividends, rental income, wages, worker's compensation payments, etc will be calculated to determine eligibility and/or amount of the benefit. This also applies to any income brought into the family by a spouse/common-law spouse. Income from the previous year is generally used to calculate the benefit for the current year that runs from the current July to the June of the following year. In cases where the applicant has retired and/or incurred loss of pension income an estimate for the current year can be substituted for the income for the preceding year.

The GIS is paid out in 2 basic payment rates: Single (includes widowed, divorced and/or separated people) and Married (where the spouse/common-law spouse doesn't receive either the basic OAS pension or the allowance). Although the supplement rate is higher for single people, each spouse/partner is entitled to benefits; the combined benefits therefore are usually higher than that of a single person. The maximum monthly benefit for a single person will be reduced $1.00 for every $2.00 of other monthly income. If  both spouses/partners are receiving the OAS pension, the monthly payment will be reduced $1.00 for every $4.00 of other monthly income. For a person who is receiving a partial OAS pension, the supplement may be increased by the difference of the partial pension and the full pension. If a spouse is a pensioner but their partner is not receiving either the OAS pension of the Allowance, the pensioner can apply for the Singles rate of the GIS and the supplement will be reduced by only $1.00 for every $4.00 of the combined monthly income. The first $1.00 reduction will be made only when the combined yearly income of both people has reached 12 times the basic OAS pension plus $48.00.

Allowance and Survivor's Allowance

This allowance is paid monthly and includes an allowance for those whose spouse/common-law partner has died. This allowance is designed to help those who are facing financial troubles; i.e. the surviving member of the relationship as well as those couples living on the pension of only one spouse. This allowance must be reapplied for annually and are not considered as income for tax purposes. For people living outside of Canada, this allowance cannot be paid out for more than 6 months, regardless of how long the person initially resided in Canada. The Allowance is paid to the spouse/common-law partner of a OAS pensioner, or to another qualified survivor. The person applying for the Allowance must be between the ages of 60-64 and have been living in Canada for at least 10 years since the age of 18. The applicant must have been a Canadian citizen or legal resident of Canada on the day before the application's approval. To qualify for the Allowance, the annual income of the survivor or the combined yearly income of the couple cannot exceed certain financial limits; these are established quarterly. The Allowance will be discontinued once the recipient becomes eligible for their OAS pension at 65, leaves Canada for a minimum of 6 months, or dies. For couples who receive the Allowance, payments will be discontinued if the pensioner spouse/partner ceases to meet the eligibility requirements for the Guaranteed Income Supplement, or if the couple separates/divorces. The Allowance will also stop if a survivor either remarries or lives in a common-law relationship for a period exceeding 12 months.

A sponsored spouse/common-law partner of an OAS recipient or survivor between 60 and 64 with less than 10 years of residence in Canada after reaching 18 is not eligible for the Allowance for the period of their sponsorship (up to a 10 year maximum), unless:

• Was receiving a pension in or before March 1996 or,
• Was residing or had resided in Canada as a Canadian citizen or permanent resident before March 7, 1996 and will be receiving a pension in or before January 2001

This is an income-tested benefit; the maximum payable amount to the spouse/common-law partner of a pensioner is equal to the combined full OAS pension and the maximum GIS at the married rate. The maximum amount for a person whose spouse/common-law partner has died will be somewhat higher. The maximum monthly Allowance is reduced $3.00 for every $4.00 of the beneficiary’s monthly income for a widowed spouse/common-law partner, or the couple’s combined monthly income. This will happen until the OAS-equivalent is reduced to zero; then for a couple the GIC equivalent of the Allowance portion and the pensioner’s GIC are reduced by $1.00 for every additional $4.00 of their combined monthly income. For survivors, the GIC equivalent portion is reduced $1.00 for every $2.00 of additional monthly income.

In the case of non-sponsored immigrants, the benefit will be prorated. Entitlement will be established at the rate of 1/10th of the benefit for year of residence in Canada after attaining the age of 18; this will be increased an additional 1/10th for every additional year of residence in Canada. This applies for people who haven’t resided in Canada for 10 year after turning 18 and:

• Had/was not residing in Canada as a Canadian citizen or permanent resident before March 7, 1996 or
• Was residing in Canada on or prior to that date as a Canadian citizen or permanent resident but will not be receiving a pension in or before January 2001


Information regarding the Canadian Pension Plan will be featured in the next blog as Part 2 of this article and will be posted in the next 2 weeks.

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# Tuesday, 16 September 2008
Tuesday, 16 September 2008 10:59:35 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

 

 Life insurance is an important part of every Canadian's financial security. Life insurance will ensure that your survivors are not encumbered with your debt, as well as providing them the finances that will enable them to live without your income. Therefore, it is imperative to make sure that any claim made against your life insurance policy does not get denied due to incorrect information on the application.


 Life insurance rates can be based on factors such as your health status, habits and/or lifestyle. Higher premiums will be applied to people who smoke, are grossly obese, and/or engage in "high risk" activities, i.e. skydiving, car racing, etc. These higher rates reflect the greater likelihood that you may die earlier than what is statistically determined for your age. Your life insurance application will ask questions regarding your health status in order to determine which rates you are eligible for.

Some people may be unclear about what is considered a "smoker". If, for instance, you only have a cigarette once every several months, you most likely do not consider yourself as a smoker. Your life insurance carrier, however, takes a very different view to this. You are considered a smoker if you have had any tobacco products within 12 months of applying for coverage. This also applies to smoking marijuana. Having the "odd" cigarette or smoking marijuana will constitute you as a smoker when you apply for your life insurance; thereby running the risk of having to pay a higher rate.


For those people who have the occasional cigarette, it may seem unfair that they have to pay the "smoker’s rate" and just identify as a non-smoker. However, "fudging" on your life insurance application means you risk potentially having your claim denied and/or delayed while it is under investigation. Even if smoking in no way contributed to the death, the failure to honestly answer the questions on the application may cause the carrier to conduct an investigation; it may also be grounds for the carrier to consider denying the claim.


Honesty is definitely the best policy when it comes to applying for insurance. This will ensure that should a claim be made it will be processed quickly and your beneficiaries will not have to experience any delays. If you are unsure about what health status you should use on your application, make an appointment and discuss these issues with your broker. Remember to discuss any and all activities that may be considered high risk in order to avoid confusion at a later date. Also remember to consult with your broker if your status changes, i.e. you have been tobacco free for a minimum of 12 months. Full disclosure on your application means that you and your family will have the security of knowing that you are insured, and that should something occur, your family will not be subjected to an unexpected delay while the claim is being processed.

 

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# Thursday, 04 September 2008
Thursday, 04 September 2008 18:55:21 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

With many Canadian children entering university or college this September, many parents are concerned about the rising costs of tuition. Even with government grants and/or loans, you may need to help supplement your child's tuition, as well as supplies, housing, etc. Saving for your child's higher education should be a part of your budget in order to have the necessary funds when they are needed. An RESP also allows others to deposit funds into the account, i.e. grandparents, friends, other relatives.
 
One alternative you may want to consider is using a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP). This is a special savings account that you can set up that has the distinct purpose of saving money for your child's post secondary education. The Government of Canada allows this account to grow tax free until the child (the beneficiary) who is named in the RESP enrolls in their school of choice. Having an RESP also makes you eligible for such incentives like the Canadian Education Savings Grant and the Canada Learning Bond, which are only available to those who have an RESP.
 
An RESP can be opened through most financial institutions such as a bank or credit union. Some certified financial planners as well as group plan dealers may be RESP providers. Remember that some RESP providers may charge for service fees, and/or limit the amount and/or frequency of your contributions. Do some research to find the financial institution that will best suit your specific needs. All that is required to open up an RESP is your social insurance number as well as the social insurance number(s) of the child(ren) who will be benefiting from this plan. You will need to choose the type of RESP that will be the most beneficial for your specific needs. RESPs are available in 3 different types:
 
• Family Plan: This entitles you to name one or more children as the beneficiaries of this plan. A beneficiary must be related to you, but does not necessarily have to be your child; grandchildren and adopted children are also eligible for this program. A family plan will entitle you to name one or all of the children in order for them to be able to use the money while obtaining their post-secondary education. This is a good plan for those who do not wish to make regular monthly payments.
• Individual Plan: This is for one beneficiary only but does not have to be related to you. This plan also doesn't require monthly payments.
• Group Plan: This is administered by a group plan dealer; be advised that each plan will have its own rules. The group plan dealer typically will invest the money in low-risk securities, i.e. bonds, treasury bills and guaranteed income certificates (GICs). You will have to sign a contract agreeing to make regular payments into the plan over a certain time period. The group plan 'pools' your money with those of other participants (beneficiaries) who are of the same age. The total amount of money that each beneficiary gets is based on the amount in the pool, as well as the total number of students who are in school that year. You will be allowed to enter only one child (does not have to be related to you) in a group plan.
 
Once you have selected the type of RESP plan that is best suited for you, ask your RESP provider about all of your investment choices in order to fully understand the advantages and risks of your options. Some providers may offer a variety of investment options; others may already have a set investment plan in place.
 
The benefit of using an RESP is that the money will grow tax-free while it is in the RESP account. Any money that the investment earns will not be taxed until the money has been withdrawn to pay for your child's education. Money that is withdrawn from the RESP to pay tuition is taxed in the hands of the student. As students usually have little or no income, this withdrawal usually will be tax-free. The money that the investment earns while in an RESP will not be taxed until the RESP is closed due to the beneficiary not pursuing a higher education. If the beneficiary decides not to attend college or university, the money that you have contributed will be returned tax-free. The money that the investment earns while in an RESP will not be taxed until the RESP is closed due to the beneficiary not pursuing a higher education.

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