Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is one of the pillars of retirement income benefits for Canadians. For the past 20 years since I have been in the financial industry, there has always been a perception that CPP may not be there in retirement.
Is the CPP in crisis?
That's what we've been led to believe for the past 20 years but the hysteria about the CPP s more of a myth than reality. Back in 1996 when there was tremendous fear that a looming pension funding crisis might cause the collapse of CPP. At that time, CPP received $11 billion in contributions but paid out $17 billion in benefits, with an asset base of about $35 billion. Unless something was done, the plan's collapse would be only a matter of time. The solution was to make some significant increases to the contribution rates and the creation of the CPP investment board to allow funds to be invested into market based securities.
CPP has come a long way since then. Today CPP is in a strong financial position and Canadians should feel good about CPP being there when they retire. Here's some of my thoughts about why I think CPP will be there in the future.
- In 2009, the total assets of CPP sits at about $116 billion dollars and is expected to continue to grow from increased contributions and investment income.
- Back in 2000, The chief actuary of Canada, who reviews the health of the CPP every three years, said in his 2000 report that CPP is sound for at least 75 years. CPP continues to operate on the basis of a 75 year amortization period.
- The CPP reserve fund is segregated from general government revenue. In other words, CPP is a separate pot of money that belongs to all Canadians that have contributed to CPP. All Fund assets belong to CPP contributors and beneficiaries.
- CPP is a pay as you go system. Part of the money that is paid into CPP through contributions is used to fund the money leaving CPP for retirement benefits. If there is not enough money to fund the outgoing funds, CPP can simply increase contribution amounts which has been a significant reason for the growth of CPP in the last 10 years.
- The CPP was reformed in 1997 to stave off a funding crisis. And now, there is a surplus of contributions every year. In other words, there is more money coming into the plan through contributions than money going out as a result of benefits being paid to Canadians.
- CPP is about to undergo some more significant changes to help preserve the longevity of this key asset. I will discuss some of these proposed changes in a follow up article next week.
Despite the good news, it seems that most Canadians still think CPP may not be there in the future. In fact, public opinion research conducted last month shows that almost two-thirds of Canadians are still unaware that the CPP was successfully reformed 10 years ago.
In terms of your own retirement planning, I think you should incorporate CPP into your plans and assume you will get something. The best way to figure out how much is to simply contact Service Canada to get your CPP statement of contributions.