It might seem counterintuitive to spend down your own retirement savings while at the same time deferring government benefits such as CPP and OAS past age 65. But that’s precisely the type of strategy that can increase your income, save on taxes, and protect against outliving your money.
Why Take CPP at age 70?
Here are three reasons to take CPP at age 70:
1. Enhanced Benefit – Take CPP at 70 and get up to 42 percent more!
The standard age to take your CPP benefits is at 65, but you can take your retirement pension as early as 60 or as late as age 70. It might sound like a good idea to take CPP as soon as you’re eligible but you should know that by doing so you’ll forfeit 7.2 percent each year you receive it before age 65.
Indeed, you’ll get up to 36 percent less CPP if you take it immediately at age 60 rather than waiting until age 65. That alone should give you pause before deciding to take CPP early. What about taking it later?
There’s a strong incentive for deferring your CPP benefits past age 65. You’ll receive 8.4 percent more each year that you delay taking CPP (up to a maximum of 42 percent more if you take CPP at age 70). Note there is no incentive to delay taking CPP after age 70.
Let’s show a quick example. The maximum monthly CPP payment one could receive at age 65 (in 2021) is $1,203.75. Most people don’t receive the CPP maximum, however, so we’ll use the average amount for new beneficiaries, which is $714.21 per month. Now let’s convert that to an annual amount for this example = $8,570.
Suppose our retiree decides to take her CPP benefits at the earliest possible time (age 60). That annual amount will get reduced by 36 percent, from $8,570 to $5,485 – a loss of $3,085 per year.
Now suppose she waits until age 70 to take her CPP benefits. Her annual benefits will increase by 42 percent, giving her a total of $12,169. That’s an increase of $3,599 per year for her lifetime (indexed to inflation).
2. Save on taxes from mandatory RRSP withdrawals and OAS clawbacks
Mandatory minimum withdrawal schedules are a big bone of contention for retirees when they convert their RRSP to an RRIF. For larger RRIFs, the mandatory withdrawals can trigger OAS clawbacks and give the retiree more income than he or she needs in a given year.
The gradual increase in the percentage withdrawn also does not jive with our belief in the 4 percent rule that will help our money last a lifetime.
You can withdraw from an RRSP at anytime, however, and doing so may come in handy for those who retire early (say between age 55-64). That’s because you can begin modest drawdowns of your retirement savings to augment a workplace pension or other savings to tide you over until age 65 or older.
Tax problems and OAS clawbacks occur when all of your retirement income streams collide simultaneously. But with a delayed CPP approach your RRSP will be much smaller by the time you’re forced to convert it to a RRIF and make minimum mandatory withdrawals.
With careful planning (and appropriate savings) your retirement income streams by age 70 could consist of CPP and OAS benefits, small RRIF withdrawals, plus – the holy grail – TFSA withdrawals, which do not count as income and won’t affect means-tested benefits like OAS.
3. Take CPP at age 70 to protect against longevity risk
Here’s where the counter-intuitiveness comes into play. Most default retirement projections will have you taking CPP at age 65 (or earlier) while delaying withdrawals from your RRSP and/or LIRA until age 71.
As I suggested above, the idea is to spend down some of your RRSP before age 70 to fill the gap left by deferring your CPP benefits. Good luck getting your commission-paid advisor to buy into this approach. I doubt many advisors would like the idea of spending down your savings early in order to maximize retirement benefits from CPP.
“Spend your risky dollars first because they may not be there for you in your 80s, depending on how your investments do. A bigger CPP cheque, however, will definitely be there for you.” – Fred Vettese
Spending down your RRSP in your 60s while deferring CPP until age 70 is like converting your risky assets (personal savings in the stock market) into a guaranteed income stream for life.
Related: 5 ways to save your retirement
Think about it. Will you still have the required mental faculties at age 80 or 90 to continue managing your own retirement assets? Or would you prefer to enjoy spending those assets in your 60s and 70s, knowing you still have an enhanced (and guaranteed) income stream to last a lifetime?
If your biggest fear in retirement is outliving your money then why not design your retirement income streams to protect against that very fear? Instead, most retirees take their CPP benefits the first chance they get – leaving additional money on the table and giving up a portion of that longevity risk protection.
Let’s hear it: Retirees, when did you take CPP? Soon-to-be retirees, have I given you a compelling argument to take CPP at age 70?