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.
If you want to see the new breakeven points for 2012 to 2016, visit Taking CPP early: The new breakeven points
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.