Understanding the Canada Pension Plan

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is a retirement pension benefit paid out by the Federal Government to eligible individuals or their families. The amount received is based on what you have contributed to the plan during your working years and for how long you made those contributions.

The CPP was established in 1966 and has undergone several changes since then with more significant changes on the horizon. For those who work in Quebec, the provincial plan is referred to as the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP).

CPP Eligibility

  • The standard age to start receiving the CPP pension benefit is age 65. However, a person can become eligible for the reduced CPP as early as age 60. If you want an even increased pension benefit, you can postpone your CPP pension until after age 65 (up to a maximum age of 70).
  • To be eligible, you must have worked in Canada and made CPP contributions
  • You must apply to receive the CPP pension benefit and can do so for up to 12 months before you plan to start receiving the benefit.

CPP contributions

The contribution rate for CPP is 5.25% (or 10.50% if self-employed) on earnings above $3,500 up to $61,600 in 2021. If you earn $3,500 or below (Yearly Basic CPP Exemption), you do not contribute to CPP and for earnings above $61,600 (Yearly Maximum Pensionable Earnings – YMPE), no CPP is deducted.

The maximum CPP contribution for employers and employees is $3,166.45 each. CPP contributions are required from age 18 but are no longer required after you start receiving CPP benefits or turn 70.

CPP Enhancements for 2021 and Later

The CPP is being updated and the changes are in two main phases.

Starting in January 2021, you will see an increase in your CPP contribution rate from 5.25% to 5.45%. What this means is that your total annual CPP contribution will rise to 10.90% (your contribution + your employer’s contribution) of your pensionable earnings. Self-employed individuals who participate in the CPP will pay the full amount.

CPP contribution rates will continue to climb annually until 2023 when they level off at 5.95% (or 11.90% combined). See the table below for rates.

YearEmployee contribution rateEmployer contribution rateSelf-employed contribution rate
20184.95%4.95%9.90%
20195.10%5.10%10.20%
20205.25%5.25%10.50%
20215.45%5.45%10.90%
20225.70%5.70%11.40%
2023 and later5.95%5.95%11.90%

The second phase of CPP enhancements starts in 2024 with changes to the maximum pensionable earnings that you make contributions on. In 2024 and 2025, an additional 8% in contributions (4% for employees and 4% for employers) will apply to earnings between the YMPE at the time and a new earnings upper limit.

Impacts of the Enhanced CPP

The original CPP was designed to replace 25% of your average work earnings, up to a limit. With the enhanced CPP, pension amounts are expected to replace 33% of your average pre-retirement income.

The current maximum annual CPP benefit is $14,445. When the new CPP is fully implemented, retirees can expect to receive approximately $21,000 in today’s dollars.

While the maximum impact of this increase will not be seen until 2065, those who make contributions under the new system started seeing an increase from 2019.

How much CPP will you get?

Your monthly CPP pension payment will depend on how many years you worked and contributed and your average salary during this time. Let’s break it down:

The current maximum monthly CPP benefit is $1,203.75, while the average monthly payment amount for new beneficiaries is $689.17. Most people will not receive the maximum amount either because :

A. They have not contributed to the CPP for at least 39 years between the age of 18 and 65, or
B. They have not made the maximum CPP contributions during their working years for at least 39 years. The maximum annual CPP contribution is based on the Yearly Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE) announced by Canada Revenue Agency every year.

Based on the way the CPP is set up, if you immigrated to Canada in your 30’s (like me) or later, you should not expect to receive the maximum CPP amount.

This highlights the need for “new Canadians” to aggressively maximize alternative retirement savings/investing plans available including the Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP), Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA), and other non-registered accounts.

Related: How Much Money Will You Need In Retirement?

If you want to calculate an estimate of how much CPP benefit you will receive at retirement, you can use Service Canada’s Retirement Income Calculator. Have your CPP Statement of Contribution handy… it is available on your My Service Canada Account.

You can also obtain this information by calling them at 1-877-277-9914.

What Age should you choose to take CPP?

If you begin taking CPP benefits early, your CPP payment is reduced by 0.6% for each month you receive it before age 65. Conversely, if you begin taking your CPP later (i.e. after age 65), your CPP payment is increased by 0.7% for every month that you delay receiving up to age 70.

Therefore, an individual who starts receiving CPP benefit at age 60 will get 64% (less 0.6% x 60 months) of the benefits they would be eligible for if they had waited till age 65. And the individual who waits until age 70 before they start receiving benefits will get 42% (plus 0.7% x 60 months) more than they would have been eligible for if they had taken it at age 65.

Deciding on what’s best for you depends on your peculiar circumstances. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Factors that should be taken into consideration include: your life expectancy, health status, current income, debt level, number of years worked, amount of benefits you qualify for, plans to continue working, etc.

CPP Payment Dates in 2021

  • January 27, 2021
  • February 24, 2021
  • March 29, 2021
  • April 28, 2021
  • May 27, 2021
  • June 28, 2021
  • July 28, 2021
  • August 27, 2021
  • September 28, 2021
  • October 27, 2021
  • November 26, 2021
  • December 22, 2021

CPP Provisions

CPP is adjusted annually for inflation: CPP benefits are adjusted annually to account for increases in the cost of living based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

General drop-out provision: This provision drops-out up to 8 years of your lowest earning years when calculating your CPP benefits. This helps to reduce the impact of periods when you had low or zero earnings and increases the maximum CPP pension you qualify for.

Child-rearing provision: In addition to the general drop-out provision, if raising children caused you to stop working or to earn a lower income, the child-rearing provision boosts your CPP benefits by excluding this period when calculating your CPP benefits.

Pension sharing: You can share CPP benefits with your retired and eligible spouse or common-law partner. This may result in tax savings if one spouse or partner is taxed at a higher marginal rate.

Additional CPP Benefits

Survivor’s pension

The spouse or common-law partner of a deceased contributor may be eligible to receive a monthly survivor’s pension. The maximum CPP survivor’s benefit for 2021 is $650.72 (under age 65) and $722.25 (over age 65).

Death benefit

This is a one-time, lump-sum payment made to the estate of the deceased contributor. The maximum death benefit payable is $2,500.

Children’s benefits

These are monthly payments provided to dependent children of a disabled or deceased CPP contributor. The children must either be under 18 or not more than 25 and enrolled as a full-time student in a recognized school or university.

Related Posts:

Conclusion

The CPP pension benefit is one of 3 government benefits available to seniors in retirement. Others include the Old Age Pension (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).

It is great to have these benefits available in retirement. However, they are unlikely to be sufficient in catering to all your retirement needs. For new Canadians, the eligible amount is likely to be even lower, so it is important that you start to plan for retirement today.

Learn about all you need to know about the Canada Pension Plan here. #CPP #OAS #Pension #retirementplanning #retirement
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Enoch Omololu

Enoch Omololu is a personal finance expert and a veterinarian. He has a master’s degree in Finance and Investment Management from the University of Aberdeen Business School (Scotland) and has completed several courses and certificates in finance, including the Canadian Securities Course. He also has an MSc. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Manitoba and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan. Enoch has a passion for helping others win with their personal finances and has been writing about money matters for over a decade. His writing has been featured or quoted in the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, MSN Money, Financial Post, Winnipeg Free Press, CPA Canada, Credit Canada, Wealthsimple, and many other personal finance publications.

His top investment tools include Wealthsimple and Questrade. He earns cash back on purchases using KOHO and monitors his credit score for free using Borrowell.

14 thoughts on “Understanding the Canada Pension Plan”

  1. If I delay receiving my CPP are they assuming I’m also still contributing? Or can I retire from my job at 65, not contribute or collect and still get an increased pension at 70?

    Reply
  2. My brother in law’s August 28th,2019 CPP payment was $50 less (according to him)than previous months.Briefly would you know of reason for this ?
    This is the first month of OAS credit to his account.He turned 65 on June2 2019 and applied and received CPP for over a year now.
    Many thanks for your time.

    Reply
  3. Hello. I would like to retire in June of 2020. I will only be 52 years old but have contributed to it since I was 18. I was told by my father and a couple other senior that I have to keep working and contributing until I am 55. I contacted CPP the other day and the lady I spoke with said that this is not true. You can stop working whenever you want, your CPP would just reflect this when you start collecting. It sound all reasonable to me, however my father and a few others keep telling me otherwise…lol
    Please confirm.
    Thanks!
    Sharon

    Reply
  4. Hi Enoch,
    I am a new arrival to Canada and i would like to know more about the pension system. I just started with a new company and i work in hospitality. i was told that my company doesnt have pension plans. What are my options?
    Thanks,
    your response is greatly appreciated.

    Reply
  5. HI. I divorced my husband in 1990. he is eligible for old age pension in June of 2020. Would I be eligible for a spouse allowance?

    Reply
    • @Beatrice: Unfortunately, the spousal allowance does not apply if you are already divorced or separated from your spouse or common-law partner who is now eligible for OAS.

      That being said, if you now have another spouse or common-law partner who qualifies for OAS benefits, you may be eligible.

      Reply
  6. you have to remember that you have to give to cpp for 10 years or when you pass you do not receive the death amount for my mother died at 87 and she ended up being self employed so she paid for 6 years to cpp when working for someone else after she didn’t put in so i was informed that if you don’t pay in for 10 years you do not receive the death amount.

    Reply
  7. I live in Australia but I am waiting for Canada Pension from you .. I want as much importation to help me updated information of the Pension thankyou

    Reply
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