Understanding CPP survivor benefits

Updated with 2016 rates

A question I’m often asked concerns how CPP benefits are calculated when someone is eligible for both a CPP retirement pension and CPP survivor benefits (commonly called a combined benefit).

Many people seem to be aware that these combined benefit calculations are subject to some kind of maximum amount, but what that maximum amount is, is clearly misunderstood. And being subject to a maximum amount is only a small part of the story.

In this article, I hope to help you understand the general process involved in the calculation and to clear up any misunderstandings, especially about the maximum. The calculation is relatively complex and although I’ve included most of the details, I’m not necessarily expecting you to calculate your combined benefit yourself.

WealthThree basic points to be aware of:

  • Combined retirement/survivor benefits are subject to a maximum. The way this maximum is applied depends on the age at which you started your retirement pension.
  • Even if adding your two benefits together would not exceed the maximum, you will not receive all of both benefits when they are combined.
  • If you started receiving your retirement pension earlier than age 65, it will be increased by a special adjustment to offset some of the survivor’s benefit that is “lost” as a result of the combined benefit calculation process.

CPP Survivor benefits calculations

Before I discuss the calculation of a combined retirement/survivor’s benefit, it’s probably useful to understand the calculation of a survivor’s benefit on its own.

There are two basic calculations for a CPP survivor’s benefit, depending on the age of the surviving spouse:

  • For a surviving spouse under age 65 (<65), a survivor’s benefit on its own would be 37.5% of the calculated retirement pension of the deceased contributor, plus a flat-rate benefit. The flat-rate benefit is $183.93 for 2016. Using this formula, the maximum <65 survivor’s benefit for 2016 would be $593.62 (37.5% of $1,092.50 + $183.93)
  • For a surviving spouse over age 65 (>65), a survivor’s benefit on its own would be 60% of the calculated retirement pension of the deceased contributor. Using this formula, the maximum >65 survivor’s benefit for 2016 would be $655.50 (60% of $1,092.50).

Combined benefit calculations

Now that you have a basic understanding of how a CPP survivor benefit is calculated on its own, let’s look at how it is recalculated when you are also eligible for a CPP retirement pension.

When combining a CPP survivor benefit with a CPP retirement pension, the survivor’s benefit will be reduced from the regular amount described in Survivor’s benefit calculations above, to the lesser of Option A or Option B, as follows:

Option A

Under this option, the combined survivor’s benefit is an amount that, when added to the survivor’s own calculated (or unadjusted) retirement pension, equals the maximum CPP retirement pension for that year (plus the <65 flat-rate benefit if applicable).

How this maximum amount works is commonly misunderstood. Many people think that if they start their CPP retirement pension early (at a reduced rate), they will be eligible for a higher survivor’s benefit if/when their spouse dies. This is not true, since it is their calculated retirement pension amount that is used when calculating the combined maximum, which is not the same as their actual retirement pension amount, if they started receiving it earlier or later than age 65.

What this means, is (using the 2016 maximum of $1,092.50 for an age-65 retirement pension):

  • Someone who started their CPP retirement pension at age 60 (with a 36% reduction) would effectively have a maximum combined benefit as low as $699.20 for 2016 (64% of $1,092.50).
  • Someone who started their CPP retirement pension at age 70 (with a 42% increase) would effectively have a maximum combined benefit as high as $1,551.35 for 2016 (142% of $1.092.50).

Let’s use an example. Andrew started receiving his own retirement pension at age 60. He is receiving $448.00 per month (based on a calculated retirement pension of $700.00, reduced by 36% for taking it early). His wife dies in 2016, when he is over age 65. Let’s say that her calculated retirement pension is $800.00, so that Andrew’s survivor’s benefit prior to being combined with his retirement pension would be $480.00 (60% of $800.00).

Under Option A however, the most that Andrew can receive as a survivor’s benefit is $392.50 ($1,092.50 minus his own calculated or unadjusted pension of $700.00).

Option B

Under this option, the combined survivor’s benefit is the normal survivor’s benefit calculation as described in the Survivor’s benefit calculations section above, reduced by the lesser of:

  • 40% of the earnings-related portion of the survivor’s benefit, or
  • 40% of their own calculated retirement pension

Note: By earnings-related portion, I mean the 37.5% or the 60% calculated in the Survivor’s benefit calculations section above.

Using the example of Andrew again, let’s look at how Option B works. As mentioned above, Andrew’s survivor’s benefit prior to being combined would have been $480.00. Under Option B, it will be reduced by the lesser of 40% of itself (40% of $480.00 = $192.00) or 40% of his own calculated retirement pension (40% of $700.00 = $280.00).

The lesser of these two amounts is obviously $192.00, so under Option B, the combined survivor’s benefit would therefore be $288.00 ($480.00 – $192.00).

Since Option A resulted in a combined survivor’s benefit of $392.50 and Option B resulted in a combined survivor’s benefit of $288.00, the lesser of those two amounts is obviously $288.00. Andrew’s combined survivor’s benefit will therefore be $288.00.

Special adjustment to the surviving spouse’s retirement pension

As if the combined calculation wasn’t complex enough already, there is a “special adjustment” that applies if the surviving spouse started receiving their own retirement pension earlier than age 65. The effect of this special adjustment is to partially offset the actuarial adjustment that was applied to their retirement calculation, for any amount by which their survivor’s benefit is reduced under either Option A or B above.

Carrying on with Andrew’s example above, his CPP retirement pension started at age 60, so this special adjustment calculation does apply to him. His uncombined survivor’s benefit would have been $480.00, but under Option B, it was reduced to $288.00 (a reduction of $192.00 as a result of the combined benefit calculation).

His special adjustment would be calculated by multiplying the amount of this reduction in his combined survivor’s benefit ($192.00) by the actuarial adjustment factor for his retirement pension (36%). The resulting amount of $69.12 ($192.00 x 36%) would be added to his retirement pension of $448.00 as a special adjustment. His net CPP retirement pension would therefore be increased to $517.12 ($448.00 + $69.12), making his net combined benefit $805.12 ($517.12 retirement pension plus $288.00 survivor’s benefit).

Gold star question!

If you’ve made it to this point of my article and your head hasn’t exploded yet, I’ll give a gold star and a free CPP retirement pension consultation to the first person who replies with the correct combined calculation for the above example of Andrew, if he had still been under age 65 when his wife died. If no one replies with the correct answer within one month, I will provide the answer myself, and a free consultation will go to the person who comes up with the closest answer (and showing all calculation steps).

Note: There are special “‘grandfather rules” that apply to combined benefit calculations if the surviving spouse was born prior to 1933 or started their CPP retirement pension prior to 1998. Essentially this grandfather protection eliminates the 40% reduction described as Option B above, but it's even a little more complicated than that!

Written by Doug Runchey

Doug Runchey worked for the Income Security Programs branch of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada for more than 32 years, and was a specialist in the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security legislation, regulations and policy areas. He now runs his own company, DR Pensions Consulting, which provides pension advice, including detailed calculations for CPP retirement planning and “credit splitting” purposes. Doug can be reached by email @ DRpensions@shaw.ca or check out his website at http://www.drpensions.ca/.

158 Responses to Understanding CPP survivor benefits

  1. Cardhu
    Thanks for the comment, and thanks for your response to the gold star question. Not the answer that I have, but if you show me how you got your result, maybe I’m wrong?

  2. I must have missed a step … here’s what I did.

    Andrew’s own pension is $490.

    The basic (uncombined) survivor pension would be 37.5% of $800, plus $176.95 … or $476.95

    The Option A maximum I took to be $1012.50 less $700 = 312.50 … (I think this is where I erred?)
    The Option B maximum is $476.95 minus the lesser of 0.4 * 700 or 0.4 * (37.5% of 800) … which is 356.95

    The lesser of Options A & B was $312.50

    Special Adjustment would be 30% of (476.95 minus 312.50) … or 49.34

    Total combined benefit of $490 + 49.34 + 312.50 = 851.84


    I think I missed a step in Option A … should it be $1012.50 – $700 + $176.95 = 489.45 ?

    In that case the combined survivor benefit would be 356.95, and the Special Assessment would be 36.00, so …

    Total combined benefit of $490 + 356.95 + 36.00 = 882.95

    Any closer?

    • Cardhu
      You win the Gold Star and the free retirement pension consultation!
      Just email me at DRpensions@shaw.ca, along with a copy of your current CPP statement of contributions and any “what ifs”. I’ll do the rest.

    • Simke
      Thanks for trying to answer the Gold Star question, but as you can see above, cardhu came up with the correct answer.

  3. Only the government could come up with that last bit (the Special adjustment to the surviving spouse’s retirement pension). Every time they tinker they make the calculations more opaque. Good thing there’s people like you who can try to clarify these topics!

  4. I receive a survivor’s pension. I am having troubles figuring out what I will receive from CPP when I retire. It seems foolish to work longer when my own contributions are not fully considered.

  5. Victoria
    I can truly understand your concern, and the whole issue of combined benefit calculations does really complicate the decision of when to apply for your own retirement pension.
    I can probably help you with calculating your options if you email me at DRpensions@shaw.ca, but I do charge a fee for that service.

  6. In your example and challenge question where Andrew is under the age of 65 when he becomes a survivor and starts collecting the combined benefit of 851.84. WHat happens when he gets to age 65? Does the survivors benefit get calculated again and will it decrease or stay at its current level?

    • Alan
      A survivor’s benefit is always recalculated at age 65, regardless whether it is part of a combined benefit or not.
      The basic recalculation formula when it converts from an under-age-65 to an over-age-65 survivor’s benefits is that you lose the flat-rate portion ($176.95 for 2013) but you get 60% of the deceased contributor’s “calculated retirement pension” instead of 37.5%.
      For most cases this results in a decrease at age 65, but if the deceased was a maximum contributor (or nearly so) there can be a small increase.
      In the above example, Andrew would reduce from the $851.84 combined amount to the $835.60 combined amount.

      • It’s not a very big difference for Andrew. But for someone born in 1954 thinking about taking early retirement at age 60 in 2014 and is receiving a survivors benefit of 400 and has an estimated CPP benefit at 65 of 900 the difference is over a 100 less per month when he turns age 65. It doesn’t seem right that they would decrease the survivors just when you need it the most?

        • Alan
          You’re right about the survivor’s reduction being greater when the retirement pension is higher. If your age-65 retirement pension were max, you wouldn’t receive any survivor’s benefit at all at age 65 (although you would still be eligible for the special adjustment to your retirement pension, IF you took it early).
          I generally try not to explain or defend the government’s rationale for things like this, but the only thing I’ll say is that the CPP was designed as only one part of the social security system. Most people become eligible for OAS/GIS at age 65, and I think that is the explanation for the different survivor’s calculation at age 65.

  7. My wife has been diagnosed with terminal cancer so I have been trying to determine my income level on her passing. Your article is the only trustworthy information I have found on CPP Survivor Benefits. If your calculations under Option B apply, specifically the reduction of 40% of earnings-related portion of survivor’s benefit, then NO-ONE who receives CPP pension will get more than 60% -(40%*60%)= 36% of spouses retirement pension, and under the other calculations could even get less! This is a far cry from the 60% benefit, up to the maximum retirement benefit, that is always quoted by CPP and others.
    Am I correct?? In my case the combined benefit would be reduced from 1012.50 to 870.00 by this restriction.

    • Denis
      First, my sincere sympathy for you and your wife. I wish you both the best through this time.

      As far as the combined survivor’s benefit calculation, you’re correct insofar as the 36% maximum. The only thing to remember is that it’s 36% of her “calculated pension” (prior to any actuarial adjustment), not necessarily the amount that she’s receiving (if she started in earlier OR later than age 65.

      The only exception to the 36% maximum would be if 40% of the surviving spouse’s own calculated retirement pension was smaller than 40% of the deceased spouse’s calculated pension. In that instance, the combined survivor’s benefit could be somewhere between 36% and almost 60% (if their own retirement pension was very tiny).

      It sounds like this exception doesn’t apply to you, but I thought I should mention it anyway, just so that the 36% maximum isn’t seen as an absolute figure.

      If you wanted to email me at DRpensions@shaw.ca with details of your and your wife’s CPP retirement amounts and start dates, I would be happy to try and validate your $870.00 combined benefit calculation.

      • To clarify an error in my response above (3rd paragraph), I should have said:
        “The only exception to the 36% maximum would be if 40% of the surviving spouse’s own calculated retirement pension was smaller than 40% of the earnings-related portion of the survivor’s benefit.”
        In that situation, the combined survivor’s benefit would be reduced by 40% of their own calculated retirement pension and the end result would be somewhere between 36% and 60% of the deceased spouse’s calculated retirement pension.
        I hope this helps clarify a muddy situation, rather than muddying it further?

  8. Thank you Doug for your sympathy and all your help in clarifying this awful maze, information about which is not available to the general public except here. Kudos to you for this website.
    I am sure that a lot of bereaved people get a shock when they find out how little they get from CPP for a survivor benefit (I came across at least two Toronto Star articles highlighting the problem). For the record you did indeed confirm that my calculation was correct and I will receive $870 and not the $1012.50 which I was previously assuming based on CPP information. Better to know now than later. Thank you.

  9. Thank you so much for this. I have asked both financial advisor and tax accountant for this information. Both did not have an answer.

  10. I have a scenario similar to the ones shown in this article, and wonder if you can help me understand how they apply in my case.

    When I was 48, my spouse passed away leaving me with a survivor benefit of 541.41 per month. I’m about to turn 60, and so I’m considering whether I should start collecting my own CPP benefits. I understand that taking my CPP at this age means that my own benefit will be reduced by about 30%, but I suspect that 30% of my earned benefit plus my survivor benefit is close to the $1,038.33 maximum benefit anyways.

    I guess what I’m confused about is how my choice to take my CPP at age 60 effects my total CPP benefits … if I can expect to continue receiving 100% of my survivor benefit + 70% of my own earned benefit?

    Thanks in advance for your insights on this matter!

    • Daniel

      Unfortunately, receiving 100% of your survivor’s benefit plus 70% of your own retirement pension is never an option under the combined benefit formulas.

      When combined, your survivor’s pension will always be reduced by at least 40% of the earnings-related portion of itself or 40% of your own “calculated retirement pension”.

      And it would be reduced by more than that if your own calculated retirement pension (ie. the 100%) is close to the maximum of $1,038.33.

      If you want me to do some actual calculations so that you know what your choices are, you can email me at DRpensions@shaw.ca. My fee for this service is $75.

      • Shouldn’t the second paragraph be:

        When combined, your survivor’s pension will always be reduced by the lesser of 40% of the earnings-related portion of itself or 40% of your own “calculated retirement pension”.

        • Adrian

          It could be reduced by even more than that if bumping up against the maximum under Option A above.

          I take your point though, that the reduction will be at least 40% of the lesser of those two amounts.

      • Alan

        Great work! You lost me with some of what your spreadsheet does, but I played with it a bit and I’m impressed with what you’ve created.

        One small point that doesn’t affect the combined total but may be an issue if you’re trying to reconcile with a T4 breakdown, is that the “special adjustment” is actually considered part of the retirement pension amount, not part of the survivor’s benefit.

        Well done!

  11. Hi Doug,

    Question re: “Now that you have a basic understanding of how a CPP survivor benefit is calculated on its own, let’s look at how it is recalculated when you are also eligible for a CPP retirement pension.”

    Does the recalculation apply:
    – when you’re first eligible to apply for your own CPP (age 60), or
    – at normal CPP retirement age (65), or
    – when you actually start your CPP (any age between 60 and 70)?

    If the latter, receiving a survivor pension and being well below the maximum CPP contributions may add a powerful argument to the case of not applying for CPP early and delaying it, possibly to age 70, in which case you postpone the reduction of 40% in the survivor’s benefit for some years, while your own CPP is adjusted higher.

    • Adrian

      The combined benefit calculation occurs only once you’re actually receiving both benefits, and I agree with you that this generally changes the breakeven calculations in favour of taking your CPP at age 70.

      For some people however, taking it at age 60 isn’t a bad decision, especially if their calculated retirement pension will be decreasing with not working between ages 60 and 65.

      What seems to be totally obvious to me (based on all of the calculations that I’ve done) is that if you’re already receiving a survivor’s pension, taking your CPP at age 65 is almost never the best choice.

  12. Hi, I had a friend pass away. She was receiving a survivors pension from when her first spouse passed away. She had since remarried. Is her new spouse eligible for survivors pension on a % of the whole amount she was receiving or would it be calculated on just the CPP pension amount that she was getting on her own?


    • Cindy

      Unfortunately, the amount of the survivor’s pension for your friend’s spouse will be based solely on her own contributions, and won’t include what she was receiving for her own survivor’s pension.

  13. Hi Doug,
    A friend of mine, who is a immigrant, but now a Canadian citizen, is currently receiving a “widows pension” of $299.44 – which I presume is the same as a survivors pension? However, her deceased husband died abroad before she arrived in Canada, and never worked/lived here or contributed anything to CPP?
    She is now 62 years old, working full time and under the impression that the above pension will cease completely when she reaches 65? I gather from your article that this will not be the case, but will be combined with her CPP when she decides to collect it? Your comments would be much appreciated.

    • Maurice

      If your friend’s husband never worked in Canada, the “widow’s pension” that she is receiving is definitely not a CPP survivor’s pension.

      I suspect that it may be the “Allowance for a Survivor”, which I wrote about in a separate article: https://retirehappy.ca/understanding-allowance-survivor/

      If it is the Allowance that she is receiving, it will indeed end at age 65, when it will convert to Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).

      • Hi Doug,

        Many thanks for your explanation re probable “Allowance for Survivor”.
        If acceptable, I will contact you direct in a week or so with a request for a follow up set of calculations re (OAS) (GIC) & (CPP), which I of course, realise will be billable.

  14. My husband and I immigrated to Canada from the UK in 1947. My husband worked in Canada from 1947 til 1968 and I worked from
    1948 til 1968, when we took up employment in the USA. We
    returned to Canada in January 2002 and have been receiving
    pro-rated pensions–my husband

    CPP $146.47 and OAP $275.77, myself CPP $138.75 and OAP $275.77.
    My husband died on April 14, 2014 and I am now receiving $138.75 CPP and 275.77 OAP. I was advised I was not entitled
    to the $2500 Death Benefit because we only paid into both
    plans for three years within a certain time frame, but may
    be entitled if we worked the required balance of years in
    a different country. My husband worked for Continental
    Telephone Co. in Virginia, U.S.A. from 1974 until December 31,
    1982. Under a Canadian/American Treaty would that not entitle
    me to receive some form of Death Benefit?

  15. Eileen

    I don’t know all of the specifics to the Canada/USA agreement, but’s here’s a weblink with some information on it: http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/services/pensions/international/countries/unitedstates.shtml

    Have you applied for the death benefit and been formally rejected, or have you just enquired so far? If you applied and indicated on the form that your husband hand contributed to USSS, they should have automatically checked out to see if he would qualify through the agreement.

    I should point out that $2,500 is the maximum death benefit payable, and the actual amount is six times the amount of your husband’s “calculated retirement pension”, which would be the actual amount he was receiving if he started it at age 65, but it could be more or less than that if he started it before/after age 65.

  16. Thanks so much for these insights to the CPP Survior Benefit. I am wondering if you can tell me how the survior benefit is affected if the pensioner takes the reduced pension at 60? Is it 60% of the reduced pension amount?

  17. Linda

    Good question!

    The survivor’s benefit is 60% of the “calculated” or unreduced retirement pension, so it is not affected by when the deceased spouse decided to take his/her retirement pension.

  18. Linda, are you asking if the survivors pension or the one time survivors benefit is reduced? The survivors pension that the survivor is receiving does get reduced if the survivor retires early. BTW – I just updated the Excel spreadsheet at http://www.wiseoldcat.com/?q=node/24 with the 2014 figures.

  19. Hi Doug, thank you for all information on your site. I wander if you an answer my question. My spouse just passed away and I applying for survivor benefits now. I am 53, working at the moment and paying LAPP. I am wondering how having LAPP will affect my pension+ survivor benefits in the future if I’ll take the reduced pension at 60 or 65 or 70. We are both emigrants and I only start working in Canada in 2005.
    Thank you in advance.

    • Victoria

      I’m afraid that I don’t know much about the LAPP pension rules. I do know however, that your LAPP pension won’t affect your CPP amounts, but I don’t know if the reverse is true.

      There is no reason not to apply for your CPP survivor’s pension now, but you will certainly want to consider how the combined benefit rules will affect your amount in deciding when to apply for your own CPP retirement pension.

  20. hi there great stuff here.so much info. I am a little confused on survivor pension. I will make it short. I am 62 collecting my dear departed wifes surv. pension. and also my cpp. (approx. 1,000. I plan on retiring next year.manual labour has taken its toll. my question when I turn 65 how will this affect my cpp pension with my oas pension that I will get. thanks keep up the great work dave…

    • Dave

      When you turn age 65, there will definitely be a recalculation of your combined CPP retirement and survivor’s pension, and it will likely result in a lower amount.

      At the same time, you should become eligible for OAS and possibly GIS (depending on whether you also have other income).

    • Kriztine

      I don’t think you can reach them by email, at least not for any personal details. The best way to reach them is by phone at 1-800-277-9914.

  21. When spouses are receiving OAS and one dies is there any survivor calculation for their OAS or is it stopped and the surviving spouse has only their own OAS going forward? If so. then couples who are living together on their respective CPP and two OAS payments will see the surviving spouse’s income drop considerably as she/he will lose not only CPP income when it converts to a combined benefit but all of the spouse who died OAS income as well.

    • Nancy

      There is no survivor’s pension under the OAS program, so you’re right that the OAS simply ends. If the surviving spouse has limited income however, they may become eligible for more GIS under the single pensioner rate table.

      • And if as a result of the death the surviving spouse’s income rises into OAS claw-back territory, some or all of the survivors OAS would be lost as well.

        Such a situation can easily arise when the deceased’s assets, transfer to the spouse and or pension splitting is no longer available.

        While I doubt that too many will sympathize with such a survivor having that level of income, it is certainly unfair.

        If both people were receiving max OAS and Max CPP the loss is huge. One full CPP and both OAS pensions could be totally lost.

    • Glenda

      I wrote the article to ensure people understood how the combined calculations occur, but I can’t really answer why questions.

      • Dave

        Thanks for the reply. I only asked the question because I will need to explain to my mother in law why they take 40% off of her (she is the lower income). She is obsessed that the government is ripping her off and that she worked hard for her money so why is she being penalized. Up until I found your information I couldn’t even explain to her how it was calculated. Thank you for your excellent website and explanations.

        • Glenda

          I tend to agree with your mother-in-law in this instance, but the only rationale that I could offer is that the CPP functions more as a group social insurance plan rather than as an individual pension plan.

          Placing these restrictions on combined calculations when someone is eligible for both a retirement pension and a survivor’s pension is just one of the ways that the government ensures the solvency of the plan.

  22. My question is: I’m married to a Thai lady who is not a Canadian citizen so has no social insurance number..she has been to Canada several time and now has a multiple entry Temporary Residence Visa for 5 years which she is eligible to stay for 6 months at a time…then we go back and live in Thailand for the remainder of the year. Is she eligible for my CPP survivor’s pension.

  23. Darrell

    Yes, if you are legally married your wife would be eligible for your CPP survivor’s pension regardless where she lives.

  24. If you hadn’t continued to include age 60 and 70. I might have been able to understand this. However, what you did not tell about was what if you both retired at 65. Then what? Why do I ask? That’s easy. My wife recently passed away and my pension was reduced. I would be happy to have mine remain as it was. I can get along quite well on what I had. My pension amount was about 1/3 higher than hers.

    • Claude

      I’m a little bit confused by what you’re saying happened after your wife passed away. Your own CPP retirement pension would never change (up or down) because your wife died, unless you had “pension-shared” in which case your pension would revert back to only being based on your own earnings. Being eligible for a CPP survivor’s pension can never reduce your total payout from CPP.

      If you were receiving OAS/GIS as a married couple however, your GIS might be reduced once you were considered as a single pensioner.

      Can you give me more details so that I can understand what happened in your case?

      • My personal CPP as deposited directly into my bank account dropped by about $113 this month. My wife passed in December. We did not have a shared pension in any way and were not receiving the GIS.

  25. Hi this is great. Very interesting to say the least. I am 64 and have been collecting a CPP of around $700 per month since age 60 so a reduced pension. My wife passed away last year at 62 she was collecting around $440 CPP also reduced.My question is Doug is is it worth me applying for a combined survivor benefit so close to being age 65? I also receive a Public Service pension (Fed) that is reduced at age 65 .

    • John

      Dave is 100% correct that you should apply for a CPP survivor’s pension immediately. It can be retroactive for up to 11 months.

      If you had been receiving the survivor’s pension first, that should affect your decision of when to start your retirement pension.

      If you’re receiving your retirement pension first however, there’s never any advantage to delaying receipt of a survivor’s pension.

      • Thank you for your replies. I have contacted CPP and I do qualify for survivor benefits.I should recieve a benefit in a couple of months. Thanks again.

  26. Hi, this is obviously a question best answered by Doug but as a keen observer of this blog/site I would have thought that the best approach would have been, following your wife’s passing to immediately apply for the benefit. I don’t see any upside to any delay.

    • After patiently waiting to see what would happen in March, I now see that they have reduced my personal CPP by $96 from $965 to $869. I got a letter from CPP about survivor benefits and the form shows that I should get the maximum. I called the funeral home where my wife and I had made our arrangements earlier and as part of their service they had had me fill out the forms for both a funeral expense and the survivor’s benefit. I started a call to the number given on their web site, but after finally getting in line, I realized that I would be holding on to the line behind several hundred people.

      • Claude

        I’m still willing to help you straighten this out if you want to email me. I’ll also participate with you on a 3-way telephone call with Service Canada, but I can’t guarantee that we’ll get through easily or quickly.

  27. Hi Doug, you explained above,

    “What this means, is (using the 2013 maximum of $1,012.50 for an age-65 retirement pension):

    • Someone who started their CPP retirement pension at age 60 (with a 30% reduction) would effectively have a maximum combined benefit of $708.75 for 2013 (70% of $1,012.50).”

    Question, would the “special adjustment” be in addition to the 708.75 or is it included in it.?


    • Dave

      The “special adjustment” would be in addition to the $708.75. I know that it’s a bit confusing, but I worded it that way to indicate that you can’t assume that everyone’s combined maximum is the same.

    • Dave

      Yes, if you are sharing your CPP pension with your wife, that sharing will end with the month that you die and your death benefit and survivor’s pension will be based on your full pension amount.

  28. i have an interesting scenario…
    I was 33 when my husband died. We did not have any children. I was told I would collect survivor benefit from his contributions once I hit 65. Mind you, if I had had a child, I would have the survivor benefit now, and for the past 25 years. Then I was told I could remarry and still collect the survivor benefit at 65.
    I am almost 60, and my new husband supports me while I manage he property and do volunteer work. I was going to take early pension, but I was told I would lose my survivor benefit. Is this true? I feel I have been discriminated long enough from losing a husband under the age of 35 and didn’t have a child at the time of his death. Can you provide some advice?

    • Nancy

      It is not true that you will lose your survivor’s pension by applying for your CPP retirement pension early. In fact, the exact opposite is true. You should become eligible for the CPP survivor’s pension as soon as you start receiving your own CPP retirement pension.

      To make sure that happens, I suggest that you submit a new application for a survivor’s pension at the same time that you submit your application for a retirement pension.

      • What is the difference between survivor benefits and survivor pension. There are two different applications on line. I contacted Service Canada and they said it was the same thing. Thank you

        • Debbie

          I’d need to see the two applications to be sure, but survivor’s pension and survivor’s benefit are sometimes used to mean the same thing under CPP.

          There is also the “Allowance for Survivor” though, under the OAS program.

  29. Such great info. Do you know if the QPP calculations and criteria are identical? Their website is not as detailed in providing similar info. Thanks so much!

    • Mike

      I’m afraid that I don’t know that answer for sure. CPP and QPP had almost identical rules when they first started out, but they haven’t always made the same legislative changes since then.

  30. Question:

    You write under the Option A heading “Under this option, the combined survivor’s benefit is an amount that, when added to the survivor’s own calculated (or unadjusted) retirement pension, equals the maximum CPP retirement pension for that year (plus the <65 flat-rate benefit if applicable)."

    Does that mean that the flat-rate benefit is always added in afterwards? Take an example of someone who can get the max CPP benefit (currently $1065), takes it one year early starting in 2015 at 0.58% reduction per month, and is entitled to a survivor benefit (say he has already been getting it because spouse died a few years ago). His CPP base benefit is $1065 – 6.96% x 1065 = $990.88. Under option A for the survivor benefit, he gets $0. But as he is under 65, he still gets the flat rate, currently $181.75. In total that is $1172.63, more than $1065. I have looked at the CPP legislation, and I read it this way too. Though it seems odd to me that it could be possible to get more than that maximum. Is this right?

    • Brett

      You are 100% correct, except they would even get a little more than that by way of the “special adjustment” to their own retirement pension amount.

      Of course the flat-rate portion would end when they turned age 65, and they would be reduced to the amount of $990.88 plus their revised special adjustment.

      • Thank you for your response!
        Yes, I knew there would be the special adjustment as well, but I left it out on purpose just to make the flat-rate thing clearer.

  31. I receive a monthly combined benefit of $901.75. I have a reduced Canada pension and a survivor benefit. Will this amount be reduced at Age 65? I am now 64. Thanks.

    • John

      Your CPP survivor’s benefit will definitely be recalculated at age 65, and that usually results in a reduction of a combined benefit at age 65.

      You can try calling Service Canada at 1-800-277-9914 to see if they will estimate this recalculation for you, or you can email me at DRpensions@shaw.ca and I will do so for a $25 fee.

  32. Doug; Thank you for the insight info on Survivor Benefits. Altho I comprehended somewhat, I do have a concern. I am recieving Surivor Benefits from my partner since 2008 (520.50). I registered for early retirement as of Nov. 15, 2015.
    I recieved in the mail, Allowance for Survivor Benefits and it was calculated from my 2014 empoyment income. As per the calulations from Service Canada: Survior Benefits decreases to 385.41 and my early CPP is calulated 310.54(Tl: 695.95). My question: What relevance does my 2014 income play into the calculation?. Is this “allowance….” just another way to confuse us poor Canadians.
    Thank you
    Still confused..Blair

    • Blair

      The Allowance for Survivor benefit is part of the OAS program, and like GIS, entitlement to it for any payment year (running from July to June) is normally based on your income from the previous calendar year. That means that your 2014 income normally determines your entitlement for the period of July 2015 thru June 2016.

      I say “normally” because there is a provision whereby you can be paid on your estimated current income if you’ve had a reduction in your income due to retirement or a decrease in a pension etc. You should contact Service Canada at 1-800-277-9914 if this is your situation.

  33. Doug,

    I just stumbled across your site, great information! I’ve been receiving a Survivor’s Pension since 2000 and decided to take my personal CPP at age 60. I’m now 61 (how did that happen?). Anyway, this is the only place I have ever heard that there is a recalculation of the combined benefit at age 65. Of course I’m a bit concerned about this so I’ll use the spreadsheet from wiseoldcat to try and come up with a number. Thanks again.


    • Laura

      Yes, your combined pension will definitely be recalculated at age 65 and I suspect the result will be a decrease.

      If you tell me what your survivor’s amount was immediately prior to applying for your retirement pension, plus tell me the combined total was after that(and how much each component was if you know), I will try to estimate your age-65 amount.

      It will also be interesting if you called Service Canada at 1-800-277-9914 to get their estimate.

  34. Hello,
    I am 62 years old receiving 470.00 spousal allowance. If I decide to apply for early CPP will this affect my amount of the above mentioned allowance? I have worked for 5 years and am wondering whether I should apply for CPP now or wait till age 65 when my spousal allowance stops.

    Your input will be very much appreciated.

    • Rafique

      Assuming the spousal allowance that you’re referring to is the “Allowance for a Survivor” under the OAS program, the short answer is Yes it will be affected if you receive any other income, including your early CPP.

      The good news is that this effect is somewhat delayed, as for instance if you start receiving your CPP in 2016 this normally won’t affect your Allowance until July 2017.

  35. Doug,

    My wife and I just got married. She has been receiving survivor benefits from CPP since her late partner passed away almost 8 years ago. She is 61 and currently drawing her own CPP as well. Is she still eligible for the survivor benefit now that we are married?


  36. my husband just passed away over a month and half ago, i am only 43 with our daughter 16 just wondering what basicallly i will receive in surivors benefit with a child, i applied the end of november 2016 and how long will i recieve the benefit . thank you

    • Tracey-Lynn

      The amount of your CPP survivor’s pension depends on your husband’s lifetime average earnings since he was age 18. Assuming that he contributed for enough years, the minimum survivor’s pension for your age is $183.94 monthly and the maximum is $593.62. There is also a monthly child’s benefit of $237.69 that will be payable until your daughter turns 18, or until she turns 25 as long as she’s attending school or university fulltime.

  37. If my wife and I are each receiving the reduced (taken at 60%)MAXIMUM Cpp, how would the survivor pension (of one of us) be calculated/
    Is there a maximum that it can total. Would either of us be entitled to ANYTHING?

    • Lex

      If you’re receiving the maximum CPP for whatever age you started receiving it, you basically won’t receive any survivor’s pension unless you’re under age 65, in which case you’ll always receive the flat-rate benefit portion ($183.93 for 2016).

      At a minimum though, your CPP retirement pension will be increased by the “special adjustment” described in the above article.

  38. Hi Doug,

    My dad passed away in December. My mom contacted me saying that she needs a copy of the death certificate and his SIN to apply for his CPP credits. My parents were common law until they separated in 1995, and my mom has since been remarried for several years. I’m not overly comfortable with this request, but is this something she can do, or is she “disqualified” since she was remarried well prior to his passing?

    • Jessica

      Your mom isn’t eligible for any survivor’s pension as a result of your dad’s death. I think what she wants to apply for is a CPP credit split, which is very different from a survivor’s pension. She’s far too late to apply for a CPP credit split though, as she would have had to applied within 4 years of the date that they separated.

      There would be no harm in giving your mom a copy of your dad’s death certificate and his SIN, but there would be no benefit in doing so either.

      • Jessica

        Also,there is likely a one time CPP death benefit payable of up to 2500.00. The person responsible for your Dad’s estate should apply for it. I believe it has to be done within 60 days of death.

        • Thanks Doug! That’s what I thought.

          Thanks Dave. I’ve already applied for the death benefit as trustee of the estate.


  39. Hi Doug

    Great work but I am a bit confused by the reduction factors used in your example. You state that Andrew’s wife died in 2016. You also state that Andrew began his CPP when he was 60. If he is now over 65, he would have had to begin his pension in 2011 or earlier (when the old early reduction factors were still in effect). Shouldn’t his calculated pension then be $448/.7 =$640 rather than the $700 that you calculated ($448/.64).

    Thanks for the clarification


    • Tony

      You are 100% correct when you identify this flaw in my example. I thought it might be more confusing if I used the “old” reduction factor, but I see that it had the opposite effect. Sorry about that!

  40. My head aches from these calculations which are obviously a make work project for bureaucrats. My husband died July 24th, 2015 at age 83 and was receiving CPP of $1,037 monthly. I am 81 and received my own CPP of approx. $650 since I took it at age 61 or 62. After their calculations I am receiving only $298. of my husband’s CPP and I feel that is not right. I have written to our new finance minister to suggesst he looks into how widows are being treated under this scheme and hope he can do something in his new budget to help. Why cannot they have a simple calculation, a percentage of what he got without all the gobbgledeygook?

    • Dorothy

      I agree with your comments 100%.

      I’m certainly not trying to justify the calculations, but I do want to ensure that everyone understands that it’s not as simple as saying that it’s both amounts added together up to a set maximum amount.

      • I also agree with your comments but the issue is just not “widows” it is “survivor’s”. If your husband had out lived you he would have only received a max of about $60 added to his amount. The calculations are extremely confusing and the CPP literature/website very misleading by saying ones spouse may receive 60%. I appreciate that “may” is a qualifier but it is nevertheless (IMO) very disingenuous.

        My brothers wife died last year and he got 42% of her normal pension, making his total CPP now about 600 per mth. As Doug has confirmed in the past if you are collecting your own CPP it is impossible to get 60% of your spouses CPP upon their death.

        • What the govt. does not realize is that the expenses for rent and bills are exactly the same when only one pension is received and yet I have much less than half what we both used to get. We both worked and paid into the pension so I think the govt. is not being fair to us to not give us very much back while they have nice cushy pensions at our expense. Rant rant!!!!!

  41. Hi Doug, what’s the main differences between the CPP death benefit vs CPP Survior’s benefit for a survioring spouse who’s older than 65 years old and isn’t receiving her own CPP (never worked in Canada). Thank You, Lawton

    • Lawton

      The CPP death benefit is a one-time payment intended to help with funeral costs. The CPP survivor’s pension is a monthly benefit paid to the surviving legal or common-law spouse for life.

  42. I am perplexed; my tax consultant says I do not have to continue CPP payments when I turned 65 (I am 67 and still working full time). I currently receive a spousal CPP as I lost my husband May 2014. I don’t want to throw good money away. I am trying to work until I’m 70 so I can have my 35 year pension. I am at a loss to understand any of this.

  43. I am NOT receiving my own CPP only the spousal CPP. I realize I probably will not receive anything other than the max so I will probably start receiving my CPP. Would it be better for my to still pay until 70 for the extra that would top it off? I am trying to have as much money as I can as a widow when I retire at 70.

    Thank you.

    • Grace

      The amount of your CPP survivor’s pension depends on:
      – what age your husband was when he started receiving his CPP;
      – what age you are presently;
      – whether you’re currently receiving your own CPP, and if so how much and when it started

      • Mu husband started receiving CPP at age of 60 and after a few months he was receiving Disability CPP
        I’m 61 and not receiving CPP

        • Grace

          If your husband received CPP disability until he turned age 65 and if $765.97 was his CPP retirement pension amount, your CPP survivor’s pension will be approx $471.18 while you’re under age 65 and $459.58 after you turn age 65.

    • Grace

      I probably didn’t ask you enough questions originally. I assumed from your earlier comment that $765.97 was the amount of your husband’s CPP retirement pension, and if so my earlier answer should be correct. If $765.97 was the amount of your husband’s CPP disability pension however, then $331.28 is the correct amount for your CPP survivor’s pension while you are under age 65, and it will reduce to approx. $235.63 when you turn age 65.

  44. Hi Doug,
    I have somehow survived my husbands death of a glioblastoma multiform in his left temporal lobe ( he died 4 month after diagnosis), now both our boys have attended university and obtained their degrees….Steve would be so proud. So in december I turn 60….I thought I would apply for my pension until I read this:”What seems to be totally obvious to me (based on all of the calculations that I’ve done) is that if you’re already receiving a survivor’s pension, taking your CPP at age 65 is almost never the best choice.” So I should wait?regardless of the head explotion…should I wait.

  45. Hello doug. super information and thanks! my question is.. my husband is on cpp disability benefits of 987.10 per month. He has ALS and i will soon be a widow.
    Can I work a full time job and collect the surviver benefit until i retire? I am only 47 and he 49. We have 1 19 yr old son in university. Thanks Theresa

    • Theresa – I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s situation, but yes you can receive a monthly survivor’s pension regardless whether you’re working or not. I would estimate the amount of the survivor’s pension to be $441.77, plus your son will continue to be eligible for a monthly child’s benefit of $237.69 while he’s under age 25 and attending fulltime university.

  46. I’m also sorry to hear of your situation. Your own CPP decision making is still many years away but before considering starting your own at age 60 get Doug to do the math for you. Its likely to your advantage to delay starting yours until age 65 or beyond.

  47. Doug I am a recent widow. I was already getting some of my husbands CPP as we were separated and he was in care. My CPP was small, so combined not a lot. Now he has died, after three months of waiting am told I get $275 or so widows pension. However. I am in social housing, I get GIS and Trillium benefits. For about $200/mo. I pay 1/3 of my income in rent. And this extra could make it taxable, which up to now I haven’t had to pay. Then I lose the GAINS and Trillium funds, so could be worse off. Next year should be able to think of getting out of social housing. So. Can I ask them to hold off getting the widows pension and have it later? Is there a penalty?

    • Cassandra – Yes, you can ask them to cancel your CPP survivor’s pension as long as you do so within 6 months of receiving your first survivor’s payment and as long as you pay back any survivor’s amount received. When you want to reapply, you will be eligible for a maximum of 11 months retroactivity on your survivor’s pension.

  48. Doug There is a weird and wonderful calculation for the amount a widow received from her deceased husband’s CPP but it means absolutely nothing if she is already receiving her own CPP because he too worked all her life. She can only receive a maximum amount of $1,093 between both her own and her husband’s CPP> To add insult to injury when she received the $2,500 towards funeral expenses that is added ot her income so the following year her CIS is reduced. This year for me that means a reduction of $219.00 monthly which means I have to move from the apartment I have lived in for 10 yrs. It is so unfair to change the GIS based on a one time payment!!!!! They based their decision on a taxable income of just $13,000 for the year 1915 when my husband died. Tghis does not seem right at all Can you please look into that??

    • Dorothy – The CPP death benefit is not supposed to be counted as income for GIS purposes. Advise Service Canada that this has happened in your case, and your GIS should increase accordingly.

  49. If my friends wife died when he was 34 he was only receiving $86.32. He recently turned 45 in sept 2016 but we just noticed he did not receive a payment this month.
    Is there an adjustment period once you turn 45?

  50. my name is Cecile .my husband passed 22 years have un conjoint de fait .I was told that my CPP. would be lost unless I permit my conjoint to have access to it .the conjoint could do the same for me .Is there a special form that I would have to fill in order to have access to what is left of his pension after he dies.

  51. Hi Doug, very informative article. Thank you.
    My husband became disabled at age 32 (he had been in university for a total of six years after age 18, which would affect his CPP total) and collected the disability pension until age 65.
    Should he predecease me, would the fact that he collected disability rather than CPP for all those years affect the survivor’s benefit calculation?

  52. I have a basic question which I cannot find an answer to on any website I visit. I have been in a common-law relationship for 10 years. I have been legally separated from ex-husband for 24 years but never officially divorced. I am being told that unless I divorce my ex-husband and marry my current common-law husband before I turn 60, he nor I will be eligible for any of each other’s Survivor or CPP benefit’s. I am 59 and he is turning 58. Is there any truth to this?

      • Thank you so much! With all the new policies and having to use Phoenix and Services Canada – getting a straight answer anywhere is almost impossible and quite frankly, I’m getting too old for this. I feel bad for anyone who isn’t computer savvy or as informed as you are (myself included). Thank you for sharing your knowledge. There may come a day soon where I might like to hire you for more specific advise.

  53. It really makes it hard to know when to Retire! If I have a Survivors Benefit for the last 10 years and trying to figure out whether to retire at 60 or 65 how does one ever know what to do? I have no clue what my overall working years since I was 18 would be- how do you find this out? Maybe 23 years or so as I was a stay at home Mom for my children. What my own CPP would be -who knows again how does one find this out?


    • Gayla – I agree that it’s a complex decision, and Service Canada isn’t always that helpful. You can obtain a copy of your “CPP statement of contributions” by calling Service Canada at 1-800-277-9914. Once you have that, you can email me at DRpensions@shaw.ca and I will do the calculations for you (for a fee).

  54. HI. Just a quick question. In canada, do you have to be married for a specific length of time before the spouse can receive the others pension benefit?

    • Vicki – The short answer to your question is “No”, although there used to be a provision in the legislation (rarely used) that was intended to prevent “death-bed marriages”. Under that provision, a survivor’s pension could be denied if the contributor dies within one year of the marriage IF it could be established that the deceased person knew they were likely to die within a year of marriage. The intention of this provision was to prevent “fake” marriages, where the main purpose was to establish eligibility for a survivor’s pension. I’m not sure whether this provision still exists or not.

  55. Great site that I just stumbled upon – getting a straight answer from Service Canada is like pulling hen’s teeth – so far, after several conversations (when I’ve actually gotten to speak with a rep.and not put on ignore), I haven’t received the same info twice – extremely frustrating.!
    Please clarify for me if you can, am I correct in assuming that since I’ve been receiving $1092./mo. from CPP since retirement in Sept 2016 at 65, I’ll be receiving no spousal death benefit at all? My wife passed in May/16,a month prior to her 65th birthday. She worked all her life as an RN and retired at age 61 and was receiving her CPP of $660/mo. until her death. I’ve worked all my life, paying the max. cpp amount every year, as did my late wife. There seems to be something unethical about her estate losing all her cpp benefits that she’d paid into for 40 years and not being allowed to recoup even a percentage of it. Feels like the feds are ripping her off just because they can

    • Wayne – Your wife’s estate will be eligible for the lump sum death benefit of $2,500, but if your own CPP started at age 65 and is the 2016 maximum of $1,092.50, unfortunately you won’t receive any of her monthly survivor’s pension.

  56. Wayne, I obviously don’t have your complete financial situation but if you receive OAS and now have received your late wife’s income earning assets(RN pension, investments etc.?)which when added to yours, puts you over $75000 per year, you’re going to lose some or all of your OAS because of the (OAS)claw back provisions.

    In fact when both spouses receive Max CPP and Max OAS and one dies shifting earnings to the other then its entirely possible for the household to lose over 2200 per month. I’m not sure I would call it unethical but it is certainly wrong in my opinion.

  57. I’m have been approved for Canada Pension disability my Canada Pension at 65 is $865. I also have been receiving a survivor benefit of $560 what would I recieve as a combined benefit

  58. I qualified for the max at 65 but took the 30% penalty to start at age 60, (67 now). So by your explanation, grossing up my monthly benefit to 100 % I would get nothing from the survivors benefit.

    However my wife who did take hers at 65 at 100% has benefits of $443, signifcantly less than max so she would get a survivor’s benefit in spite of having paid in much less than myself.

    So Basically CPP is really a taxation and re-distribution scheme based on supposed need, not contribution since those who paid in far less receive increases while those who paid in the max do not.

    So you can imagine the words I have for our government calling this a pension plan.

      • By the way, thx Doug – your site was the only place I was able to garner any solid information in how to actually calculate a combined retire/survivor benefit.

        The Gov sites were basically useless for this task … just vague and misleading.

        Again thank-you.

  59. Excellent info…my wife has a reduced CPP payment while I at 61 have not yet applied. If I were to pass away before applying what is the impact her CPP?

  60. Yes, all that math hurts my head. I used to like math. I have not worked a lot and am recently back into the work force and don’t understand CPP. Is the government contributing to my CPP or are they just keeping my and my employers money safe (ha ha)??
    I’ve seen a few things circling the internet. Is this true: A man’s daughter dies, she has no husband and no children. The father says that no one gets her survivor /pension? She paid into it, where does the money go?? Also if a spouse dies are you saying that the survivor does not get all of what his/her spouse put into it? Where does the money go that they and their employer put into it? How is that fair??

    • Hi Janey – No, the government doesn’t contribute to your CPP. They just collect and manage your and your employer’s contributions. It’s true that survivor’s benefits are payable only if you have a spouse and/or eligible children. CPP is designed as a group insurance plan, so if you collect less than you have contributed, your excess contributions remain in the CPP fund to pay benefits to others.

  61. Hello
    I have a question related to a survivor benefit when the deceased had delayed CPP benefits.
    It is not clear from the calculations if the survivor benefit gets any additional value whatsoever based on the deceased having delayed their CPP benefits (i.e. until age 70). Is the 42% increased value completely ignored in any subsequent calculations for the survivor amount?
    I anticipate claiming the maximum CPP amount at age 70 and was planning that same year for my spouse to claim their reduced CPP at age 60 (approximately $300). However it seems that if I were to die at age 71, any benefit of delaying my CPP benefits are lost in calculating the survivor benefit which changes some planning assumptions.

  62. I am 63 collecting 788 per month. My wife will be turning 60 in April. At 60 she would collect 650, at 65 she would collect 1,015. We are trying to figure out if there is any advantage of waiting till 65 when she would collect 1,015. But if I die during those 5 years would she not collect a survivor benefit that would put her at maximum anyway. My thinking is might as well start collecting at 60.

    • Is the amount your wife would collect at age 65 assuming she continues to work for five more years and continues to contribute to the CPP or does it take into account five years of not working?

  63. My wife was passed away at the age of 34 and I have applied the survivers benefit and CPP. I got a letter from them saying that there should be minimum 6 years contribution required for benefit. as per records there is only 5 year contribution made (2011-2015), in that case where will go the contributions made ? any chance to get atleast the contributions given ?

    • Hi Jacob – My condolences. When did she die? Did she have any earnings in 2016 or 2017? If not, you can’t get a refund of contributions. They just remain in the CPP fund.

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