For the first time ever, seniors outnumber children under the age of 15. With millions of baby boomers set to leave the workforce in the coming years, this gap will only grow over time. Maybe that's why Seniors came out one of the big winners in last month’s federal budget. The Liberals made changes to government benefits that are the backbone for budgets of many low-income seniors. The changes put more money in the pockets of future seniors, as well as those receiving government benefits today.
Old Age Security
The Liberals turned back the clock on the Conservative’s plan to raise the age of eligibility for Old Age Security (OAS) from 65 to 67. The changes were set to gradually take place from 2023 to 2029. This will mean thousands of dollars back in the pockets of seniors. Using the maximum monthly payment amount for OAS from April to June 2016 ($570.52), that would mean an extra $13,692.48 in the pockets of seniors over two years.
Related article: Three Big changes to OAS
Not everyone is happy with the changes to OAS. With the average life expectancy rising each year and fewer people in the workforce, many argue that keeping the eligibility age at 65 makes no sense. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau justified his decision by saying it would be cruel for manual labourers to work beyond 65. Nevertheless, keeping OAS at 65 puts Canada at odds with other G8 countries who have been gradually raising the age for senior government benefits.
Guaranteed Income Supplement
Low-income seniors also benefit from the federal budget. The federal government is reversing the Conservative’s decision to raise the eligibility age for Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) from 65 to 67 for GIS.
Those who are currently receiving GIS also stand to benefit from the federal budget. The Liberals are raising GIS by up to $947 per year. About 900,000 seniors will benefit from the bump up. The maximum GIS top-up is also being double, representing a 10 percent increase in GIS payments for the lowest-income seniors. Those earnings less than $8,400 stand to benefit the most (the graduated benefits are phased out for those earning above that amount).
Related article: Understanding Guaranteed Income Supplement
That’s not all. Eligibility for GIS is now based on individual, not family income. This is beneficial for seniors who no longer live together due to reasons outside their control. For example, if the husband or wife moves to a long-term care facility due to deteriorating health, GIS eligibility is now based on individual, not combined income, recognizing the higher cost of living of living apart. The bottom line is this means more money in the pockets of senior couples.
If you’re impacted by these changes, it’s a good idea to be proactive and sit down with your financial planner to update your financial plan. Lowering the eligibility for OAS and GIS could mean you can retire that much sooner.