OPTions Winter 2014, Number 58
In this issue:
- Defined benefit pensions provide significant benefits to Canadian economy, analysis confirms
- Changes to post-retirement insured benefits
- OPTrust appoints new Chief Investment Officer and Chief Risk Officer
- Popular website gets a facelift
- OPTrust pensions increase by 0.9%
- Extended telephone service hours
- You asked...
- Direct Contact schedule
- New rules for past divestment transfers
Defined benefit pensions provide significant benefits to Canadian economy, analysis confirms
Canadian retirees with defined benefit (DB) pensions are far less likely than other retirees to collect the government’s Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), shows a study on the economic impact of DB pension plans.
The study, conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), confirms that an estimated 10% to 15% of DB beneficiaries collect the GIS, compared with 45–50% of other Canadian retirees. DB pensions reduce the annual pay out of GIS, a supplementary government benefit provided to low-income seniors, by approximately $2–3 billion a year. The study also finds that defined benefit recipients contribute $14–16 billion annually to government coffers across Canada through income, sales and property taxes.
- In the years analyzed (2011 and 2012), DB beneficiaries spent $56-63 billion
- annually on durable and consumable goods
- DB pension beneficiaries paid taxes estimated at $14–16 billion annually:
- about $7–9 billion in income tax, $4 billion in sales tax and $3 billion in
- property tax
- DB pension benefits had the greatest impact on small towns, with DB pensions
- forming on average 9% of the total earnings in those communities versus 6%
- for large metropolitan areas
- The impact of DB pensions was especially strong in Ontario, translating into
- $27 billion in expenditures on consumables and durables, shelter, recreation,
- and services; and generating $6 billion in taxes.
For more information
Read the complete study, Defined Benefit Pension Plans: Strengthening the Canadian Economy and view the full size image.
The study was commissioned by a group of Canada’s leading DB pension plans: Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), OPSEU Pension Trust (OPTrust) and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP).
Changes to post-retirement insured benefits
On February 18, 2014, the Ministry of Government Services announced changes to the eligibility criteria and terms for postretirement insured benefits for members of the OPSEU Pension Plan, to take effect on January 1, 2017. Current eligibility rules allow all Plan members who have at least 10 years of pension service to receive these benefits at no cost to them.
Beginning January 1, 2017, the government is changing the eligibility requirements and cost-sharing terms for these benefits.
Eligibility: Members who do not meet the current 10 year eligibility criteria in the Plan by January 1, 2017 must meet the following criteria to qualify for postretirement insured benefits:
- 20 year qualification instead of 10 years;
- retirement to an immediate unreduced pension.
Cost-sharing: Any eligible member (under either the old or new eligibility rules) who has not started his or her pension before January 1, 2017 will be required to pay 50% of the premium costs to participate in the benefits plan.
Depending on your years of pension service in the Plan or the date you plan to start your pension, you may be affected by these changes:
Active and deferred members who intend to retire before January 1, 2017
If you have met the current 10 year eligibility criteria for insured benefits and intend to start your pension before January 1, 2017, you continue to qualify for insured benefits and there are no additional costs to you.
Note: You must retire by November 30, 2016 so you can start your pension by December 2016 (before January 1, 2017), to meet the retirement criteria.
Active and deferred members who intend to retire on or after January 1, 2017
If you meet the current 10 year eligibility criteria for insured benefits before January 1, 2017 but intend to start your pension on or after January 1, 2017, you will be required to pay 50% of the premium costs to participate in the insured benefits program. Based on current premium costs, the estimated annual cost to participate would be approximately $1,500 for family coverage
or $800 for single coverage.
Active members who will not meet the 10 year qualification on January 1, 2017
If you will not meet the current 10 year eligibility criteria on January 1, 2017, you will be subject to the new eligibility criteria. To qualify for insured benefits you must meet the new 20 year qualification as well as retire to an immediate unreduced pension. If you meet the eligibility requirements you will also be required to pay 50% of the premium costs to participate. Based on current premium costs, the estimated annual cost to participate would be approximately $1,500 for family coverage or $800 for single coverage.
OPTrust appoints new Chief Investment Officer and Chief Risk Officer
OPTrust has named Alex Macdonald to the role of Chief Investment Officer. Mr. Macdonald succeeds OPTrust’s CIO, Morgan Eastman, who retired at the end of 2013.
Mr. Macdonald has 25 years of investment management experience with an outstanding track record of delivering strong investment results and building collaborative teams. Most recently he held the role of Executive Vice President, Canadian Investments and Global Investment Strategy with Manulife. He has also served as President of Laketon Investment Management and held a
number of progressively senior roles with Canada Life.
Mr. Macdonald holds a B.A. in Economics from Queen’s University and an MBA from York University. He is also a CFA charterholder and holds the Financial Risk Manager (FRM) and Professional Risk Manager (PRM) designations.
Morgan Eastman built our investment operations from a small team to a diverse group with sophisticated capabilities. In Alex Macdonald, we have found a worthy successor who will continue to build on our track record of strong, long-term investment results,” said CEO Bill Hatanaka. “We are delighted to have him join our organization.
Anca Drexler was appointed to the newly-created role of Senior Vice President, Enterprise Risk Management and Asset Mix Research (Chief Risk Officer). Ms. Drexler becomes the top risk officer for OPTrust, responsible for OPTrust’s enterprise risk management strategy and programs.
Ms. Drexler joined OPTrust in 2001 and has been a key member of the organization’s investment team. Most recently she held the position of Managing Director, Investment Research and Risk.
Ms. Drexler has a B.Sc. in Math and Statistics from the University of Toronto, an M.Math from the University of Waterloo and is a CFA charterholder. She has also completed the Program for Leadership Development at Harvard Business School.
Anca Drexler has demonstrated tremendous leadership at OPTrust in our investment research and risk management activities,” said Bill Hatanaka. “I am delighted to welcome her to the organization’s Executive Committee.
Popular website gets a facelift
OPTrust has unveiled its fresh and dynamic new website giving you a better online experience. When you visit optrust.com you’ll notice a modern look and several new features.
The website is structured to make it easier for you to find information with fewer clicks. The new design is a facelift rather than a change in how the overall site functions.
The site navigation is easier with more efficient organization of information about your pension.
- The home page reflects OPTrust’s various stakeholder groups – potential members, members, retirees and employers.
- The main banner features information about the OPSEU Pension Plan.
- News and publications are prominently displayed in the right-hand column.
- A link to Online Services is spotlighted in the top right-hand corner.
- General information about OPTrust including pensions and investments is at the bottom.
Life stage approach
Members have access to a dedicated section directly from the home page where resources are easy to navigate and information is segmented into different life stages:
- New to the Plan
- Buying back pension service
- Leaves of absence
- Divested members
- Leaving your job
- Planning for retirement
- Planning for your survivors
In each section the information is divided by: what you need to know, what you need to do, when to contact us, forms and background material for more information.
The site also complies with accessibility standards making it easier for people with disabilities to get information they need in a format that works for them.
5 reasons to visit optrust.com
Remember to add OPTrust’s website to your bookmarks. When online you can:
- Log in to your secure Online Services account
- Keep up to date with news about your pension plan
- Access a wide range of online forms and tools
- View different retirement scenarios using the pension estimator
- Download publications including OPTions.
OPTrust pensions increase by 0.9% in 2014
In January 2014, OPTrust pensions increased by 0.9%. The annual increase applies to all OPTrust pensioners, survivor pensions and to the deferred pensions of former and divested members.
The adjustment is the result of the OPSEU Pension Plan’s inflation protection provision and reflects the rise in the cost of living in Canada.
The inflation protection feature is designed to protect your pension during your lifetime. For example, a pensioner who retired in December 2003 with an annual pension of $23,873 will receive $28,528 from OPTrust in 2014 – a 19% increase over a 10-year period.
How increase is calculated
OPTrust calculates the annual increase by dividing the CPI average for the two 12-month periods ending the previous September. The 2014 escalation factor and resulting 0.9% increase was calculated as follows:
Consumer price index
The Consumer Price Index (CPI), produced by Statistics Canada, is a measure of price movements. The CPI is calculated by comparing the retail prices of a representative “shopping basket” of goods and services at two different points in time. This "shopping basket" includes a range of goods and services including food, fuel, transportation, home energy and shelter.
For more information on the Consumer Price Index, visit the Statistics Canada website at www.statcan.gc.ca.
Extended telephone service hours
You asked and we listened. As part of a pilot project, OPTrust has expanded our telephone hours to serve you better and offer you more time to talk about your pension in private.
Monday to Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Regular telephone hours remain the same on Fridays (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.).
Call us at 416 681-6100 (in Toronto) or 1 800 637-0024 (toll-free in Canada). You can also send a secure message through your Online Services account at any time.
Question: Is there a way to know the estimated amount of my pension when I turn 65 and start CPP?
Answer:Yes. When you register for or log in to OPTrust’s secure Online Services site you can view an estimate of your pension amount before and after age 65. Your Annual Pension Statement, which is available this spring, also shows an estimate of your age 65 pension reflecting your lifetime pension.
Question: I start my Old Age Security pension in February. Does this affect my OPTrust pension?
Answer: No. Old Age Security is a separate benefit from your OPTrust pension. It has no impact on when you start your OPTrust pension or the amount you will receive when you retire.
Question: I started to buy back one year of pension service last spring. How can I find out my current balance?
Answer: When you sign in to your secure Online Services account you can view a summary statement of your buyback. The statement shows the total cost and balance to date. While online you can download a copy of your 2013 Annual Buyback Statement, which shows your payment summary at December 31, 2013.
Question: My buyback payments are scheduled to continue until 2015, but I’m planning to retire under Factor 90 this year. Can I keep making buyback payments after I retire?
Answer: No. You need to complete your payments before you retire to receive full pension service for your buyback. Otherwise, you will get pension service only for the paid portion of your buyback.
Having less pension service could affect you in two ways:
- your OPTrust pension will be lower when you retire, and
- your Factor 90 eligibility date might be delayed.
To complete your payments before you retire, please contact our Member and Pensioner Services staff.
It’s Your Pension – Get the facts
Want to know how your pension is calculated? Wondering when you can retire? OPTrust’s comprehensive plan booklet It’s Your Pension is a great place to start.
The detailed booklet describes important features of your pension plan from when you join to retirement and survivor benefits. Other key sections include:
- pension plan basics
- your contribution rates
- transferring pension service
- to and from OPTrust
- buying back pension service
- spousal relationships
- and more.
Learn more about your pension by downloading the booklet or contact OPTrust to have a copy mailed to you.
Want to know more about the OPSEU Pension Plan?
OPTrust Direct Contact sessions are a great way to learn more about your pension – directly from an OPTrust representative. Non-members who are eligible to join the Plan (e.g., fixed term or casual employees) are also welcome to come and learn more about enrolling in the Plan.
Getting ready to retire
Our evening seminars are tailored for members who are within 10 years of retirement, but all members are welcome to attend.
- how your pension grows over your career
- how your pension is calculated and when can you retire
- what your options are if you leave your job
- what “CPP integration” means and how it affects you
- how to buy back pension service
- what other benefits are available, and more…
Understanding Your pension
Lunch & learn seminars
OPTrust staff also offer shorter lunchtime seminars in workplaces across Ontario for members at any stage in their careers. Special sessions for fixed term/casual staff who may be interested in joining are also an option.
To book a lunchtime seminar for your workplace, you or your human resources representative can contact us at email@example.com.
See the schedule below for a session in your area and sign up online at optrust.com, or call us at 416 681-6100 or 1 800 637-0024.
Important: Space is limited. Please register at least two weeks in advance.
Direct Contact sessions are designed to give you an overview of the OPSEU Pension Plan. OPTrust staff cannot provide personal financial advice.
Future sessions will be scheduled for other communities across Ontario. View a complete, up-to-date schedule and register online.
New rules for past divestment transfers
On November 29, 2013, the Ontario government introduced Regulation 308/13 under the Pension Benefits Act (PBA) and announced that section 80.1 of the PBA became effective on January 1, 2014.
Both section 80.1 of the PBA and Regulation 308/13 set out new rules for the consolidation of pension benefits for past divestments which occurred prior to January 1, 2014.
In 2014, OPTrust intends to enter into transfer agreements with certain other public sector pension plans that will provide eligible divested members covered by the applicable transfer agreement the option to transfer their OPTrust pension benefits to their current pension plan.
Once the transfer agreements have been approved and signed by the administrators of each plan, OPTrust intends to provide eligible divested members with information packages that set out the details of their pension entitlement under the OPSEU Pension Plan. The plan is to do this through a staged and co-ordinated approach with other pension plan administrators over a period of several months.
The transfer calculations to be included in the election packages will not be affected by this staged-approach, i.e., the transfer calculations will not be dependent on the date the election options are sent out, but rather, they will be based on a common calculation date.
Further updates will be provided as information becomes available.