Key pension decisions

Achieving the retirement lifestyle you want depends on many things – your health, your plans for travelling, volunteering or even starting a new career – but among the most important is having the financial wherewithal to ensure your retirement lifestyle goals become reality. If you are a member of a pension plan, you have some important decisions to make which will have a strong impact on the amount and length of your pension.

Decide when your pension payments will begin.

If you have a defined benefit pension plan it may reduce the annual benefit if you retire before reaching a certain age or completing a minimum service requirement. However, your plan may have a bridging benefit to offset an early retirement pension reduction that is paid from the date of early retirement up to age 65, then ceases

Decide whether or not your pension benefit transfers to your spouse when you die.

You can usually:

  • Elect to receive a life-only pension that ends when you die. It will deliver a higher monthly benefit to you than a joint and last survivorship pension but will not provide a continuing benefit for your spouse after you die.
  • Select the joint and last survivorship option. While your monthly benefit will be lower, the “joint and last survivor” option is usually better unless your spouse has his or her own pension, Registered Retirement Savings Plan, and/or non-registered assets or adequate insurance coverage.

Decide how much the survivor benefit will be.

Not all plans allow you to do this – check the details of your plan. In most jurisdictions, the ‘standard’ survivor benefit is 60% of the pension that was being paid to you prior to death. The higher the survivor benefit percentage, the lower the monthly benefit paid to you.

Decide to receive your pension benefit for a guaranteed minimum number of payments.

Some plans allow you to choose to receive monthly pension payments over a minimum term of 5, 10 or 15 years – meaning that even if you die prematurely, the benefit will be paid for the minimum period you selected.

Does your plan have a CPP (Canada Pension Plan) or OAS (Old Age Security) integration option? If so, you can choose to receive an advance on your pension in the form of larger monthly payments until age 65, when CPP and OAS benefits normally begin. Do you have the option to transfer the commuted value of your pension to a locked-in account? Instead of receiving a monthly lifetime pension, you transfer the commuted value of your pension to an account you control.


You have key pension decisions to make that will have a profound effect on your retirement. What’s right for you? Ask your professional advisor.


This column, written and published by Investors Group Financial Services Inc. (in Québec – a Financial Services Firm), and Investors Group Securities Inc. (in Québec, a firm in Financial Planning) presents general information only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any investments. Contact your own advisor for specific advice about your circumstances. For more information on this topic please contact your Investors Group Consultant.

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About the Author

As a Regional Director at Investors Group it is my mission to grow the Okanagan Region of Investors Group. I help recruit, train and develop Consultants at Investors Group. I am always looking for professionals that would like to be their own boss and enjoy the training, support, rewards and compensation for being a successful Consultant. Also ensuring that we continue to be involved in the community in which we live.

As a Financial Consultant it is my passion to serve clients by giving them full financial planning advice. This includes investments, insurance, retirement & estate planning and tax reduction strategies.

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Contact Karen by email at:  [email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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