When planning for retirement it’s important to have at least some idea of the income you’ll be receiving.  One source of income that’s often over-estimated is your Canada Pension Plan benefits, or CPP benefits.

Financial planning tools always enter the maximum CPP benefits that can be received with corresponding reductions for early payments.

The CPP maximum amount (in 2012) is $986.67 a month at age 65.  However, this amount is based on contributing the maximum amount of your pensionable earnings from age 18 to age 65.

Related: Will A Pension Plan Handcuff You To Your Job?

CPP Benefits: How much will you get?

The amount of your CPP benefits depends on how much, and for how long, you contributed to the plan.

To compensate for periods when you’re not in the paid labour force, such as unemployment, schooling, illness and disability, up to 15% of your low earnings periods are not counted toward CPP benefits.

Also, periods of lower earnings from staying home caring for children under the age of seven can be excluded from the calculation.

I know that I won’t receive the maximum amount of CPP benefits.  I’ve had several years of unemployment, when my children were young and when I was attending school.  I’ve had years of lower income from part-time work and partial years.

Related: Should You Keep Your Company Pension Or Take The Commuted Value?

I’ve had very few years of earning the maximum pensionable earnings.  So how much will I actually receive?

Check out Service Canada

You can access a wide range of online services related to government benefits at www.servicecanada.gc.ca.  These services include EI programs, your tax information and, what I need for my purposes, CPP programs.

To register for your account you need to apply for a registration code, which is a 7-digit number that will be mailed to you.  You enter your name, social insurance number and date of birth.

When I attempted to register, surprisingly, my name was not found in the system.  After double checking my typing (I’ve been known to misspell my name), I was stumped.  After a brain wave, I entered my maiden name – and there I was.

I received my code in the mail and I was anxious to see if there were any more errors.  You first go to “Access My Service Canada Account” and follow lengthy registration instructions to create a User ID and password which is called your access key.  You can then access your personal information.

CPP Contributions and Benefits

I was anxious to view my CPP Statement of Contributions and it seemed to be accurate – all my earnings history is there for all my single and married years.  I was interested in checking out my estimated monthly CPP benefits.

Related: Is Our Old Age Security Program Sustainable?

It shows the monthly retirement pension amount you could receive if you were 65 today, if you apply at age 60 and if you wait until age 70.

Also shown are disability benefits, survivor benefits and lump sum death benefit amount.

Of course, these amounts are estimates only and they will be more accurate the closer you are to retirement as they assume the income level will remain the same.

There’s a good retirement income calculator that gives payment amounts for different scenarios, such as various retirement ages and future income projections.

Related: Why Baby Boomers Aren’t Prepared For Retirement

I urge every Canadian to register on this site and check your information for accuracy.

What about me?

I had a lengthy conversation with a government representative about having my incorrect name on the site.  I have been married for decades and have been employed and completed income taxes using my married name, so why the inconsistency now?

The representative didn’t seem to think there was any urgency to this situation – when will it become urgent…when I turn 65? – but he did give me some phone numbers to contact for more information.

In the meantime, I’m going to busy trying to find myself.

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6 Comments

  1. Ross Taylor on September 12, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Very interesting article but two thumbs down to Service Canada for making a service so hard to navigate I have pretty much given up – and I’m not some raging technophobe either

    • Joe on September 12, 2012 at 11:26 am

      Yeah, typical government operation: extremely inconvenient. It’s really the way that people in government think — customers need to serve the system rather than have the system serve customers’ needs. Send me a print-out with my Notice of Assessment, then I’ll gladly check my CPP information (and, almost inevitably, correct errors made by the Gov).

      • Boomer on September 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm

        @Ross Taylor
        @Joe
        I didn’t have any trouble navigating the site and I found what I was looking for easily enough. I’d rather check the website than deal with telephone reps who always act like I’m a dim-wit for even making an enquiry.
        I’m hoping the incorrect name situation will be solved quickly and easily – but, hey, this is government.

        • Joe on September 13, 2012 at 10:14 am

          I’m sorry, but if any of the Big 6 Banks designed a system as awkward as that (or, in my experience, as terrible as ServiceCanada’s online EI system is), they’d be abandoned en masse.

          The EI system was literally down for two weeks for me, when I was seeking my parental benefits, in May/June. And every time I called in, they were sure to ask me like the snide bureaucrats that they are: “Why don’t you access this with the online system?”

          They have lots of call centre staff who are wonderful — at redirecting you to online resources or sending pamphlet. Nothing else. Nobody has an answer, and the Assistant Deputy Ministers and Associates at ServiceCanada seem to think it’s a hallmark of productivity that so many taxpayers are forced into using their crappy online system. It’s not.

          • Boomer on September 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm

            @Joe: Yes, it’s sure frustrating when you can’t get the information you need.



  2. James on September 18, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    We have something similar to the CPP benefits in the United States. We get a social security statement that shows us how much we contributed and how much we can expect if . . . then there are a few scenarios listed. Anyhow, it is good to review each statement as you get them for any errors. If there are any it can be a long painful process getting them fix. So it’s better to start the process now then when you reach retirement age.

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