CANADA CHILD BENEFIT PROGRAM SHOWS FINANCIAL DISCRIMINATION AT ITS BEST

CANADA CHILD BENEFIT PROGRAM SHOWS FINANCIAL DISCRIMINATION AT ITS BEST

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice). 

(boutique-tax-credits-pushing-singles-into-poverty)

From CBC News-”New Canada Child Benefit program payments” July 20, 2016 (cbc) – Analysis of new Liberal Canada Child Benefit program and old Conservative UCCB program

The old Universal Child Care Benefit or UCCB (Conservative) provided $160 per child per month for children under six and $60 per month for children aged six to 17. That money was paid out to families regardless of income level.  The Conservative philosophy was that there should be some component of assistance for families that was universal.  However, this benefit was to be included as income and required payment of taxes.

Conservative universal approach could be viewed as all families should receive some component of assistance.  Just because they make a lot of money they should not be penalized, they should not be losing out and not getting any government benefits,  (Note: only for families, ever singles don’t matter).

The new Liberal program Canada Child Benefit (CCB) begins this month and combines the CCTB and UCCB into one payment that is entirely income tested up to $190,000 of income. The new payment is also tax-free making it more expensive than the UCCB.   Less than $30,000 in net annual household income generates benefit $6,500 for each child under six and $5,400 for children aged six through 17 tax free. 300,000 fewer children would live in poverty in 2016-17 compared with 2014-15.  The Liberals also reduced the tax rate from 22.5 per cent to 20 per cent for middle-class Canadians earning between $44,700 and $89,401 a year.  The Liberal (Trudeau) approach is that these benefits should be based on income testing.  Wealthier families can carry more of the load…they don’t need additional government handouts.

Since provinces also provide some child benefits, there was concern that provinces would clawback CCB from children on social assistance.  So far eight provinces has indicated they will not clawback CCB.

Illustration provided shows Ava Williams as a Toronto social worker with a net income of about $30,000, who lives in community housing. As a single mother of four children between the ages of six and 17, she says the new program will boost her old annual federal benefit payment by about $6,000 per year with added benefit of the new payment being tax free.  Something does not add up for the totals given..  One wonders if she means an additional $6,000 to what she received in 2015.  Assuming her net income is under $30,000 and her children all under the age of 18, it appears she will receive somewhere between $21,000 and $26,000 in child benefits, for a total net income between $51,000 and $56,000 all tax free.  This is in additional to subsidized housing and other possible federal and provincial benefits such as GST/HST credits with no clawback of the benefits..

An example of additional benefits received on a provincial basis with no clawback is Alberta.  In Alberta the non taxable child benefits are applied to working families with children under 18 and a net income starting at $25,500 with phasing out up to less than $41,220 per year.  Total annual maximum benefits for one child could be up $1,863, two children $3,107, three children $4,073, and four children $4,762.  Ava if she lived in Alberta with four children could receive total tax free federal and provincial child benefits of approximately $55,762 plus subsidized housing ($30,000 net income $21,000 CCB and $4,762 Alberta child credits). (There is no clarification on her marital status, which should not matter, but many readers wanted to know where the father was).

SYNOPSIS OF APPROXIMATELY 2500 READER COMMENTS FROM TWO NEWS ARTICLES

Approximately 2500 reader comments from two news articles were reviewed.(not number of readers, as some some readers comment many times)  The majority of comments were classified into the following major categories:

-Negative comments (most were negative)

-Not happy with amounts received between new Liberal and old Conservative benefits or  it is not enough

-Positive comments (very few)

-Bashing of political parties (Liberals versus Conservatives)

-Worried about future debt generated by benefits

-Many comments bashing Ava and where is the father of these children

-Other programs would be more beneficial than the child benefit program

-Program will be abused

-Benefits given for children but seniors and disabled receive much less

-Singles feel they have been left out of process and families of all types bash singles

-Divorce and death of one parent as well as other causes have impact on poverty

-Child benefits not only on federal level, but also provincial level

-In addition to benefits, should also be teaching budgeting and financial responsibility

-Immigrants

-Education

-Advantages of Child Benefits

-Benefit programs – have lots of other programs in addition to child benefit

-Eighteen years a long time for benefits

-Misconceptions about what is benefit versus welfare

-In addition to benefits, income taxes also cut for middle class

-Net worth and assets

Because of the length of the post, only issues regarding ‘Singles’ and ‘Net Worth and Assets’ will be discussed here.  Other categories will appear at the end of the post for those who wish to review all other categories in their entirety.

Reader comments regarding SINGLES

Single response-We’re sending cheques to families with household incomes up to $190,000/year yet there’s nothing for the 30% of single female seniors living in poverty. There’s a number of programs for single female seniors. I’m sure though that you and I would agree that it’s not enough.

Reader response-For all you single people out there, if you want to get tax free money , you better get married and start having kids because that is the only way you will get a tax shelter.

Single response – Nobody ever wants to help single people with no kids. Ever occur to you that I have no kids because I am responsible and do not want to bring kids into a life of poverty?

Reader response –  According to the left if you are single and no kids you need no help. You are well off and should pay more taxes.

Reader response -or you are selfish and don’t want to spend money on anyone but yourself.

Reader response – Don’t worry, that ‘right person’ is out there somewhere.

Reader Response -Yet other people’s kids will be the ones to take care of you when you are elderly. Don’t you think that’s worth a little bit of investment?

Single response – If the govt had money to throw away they could have reduced the tax rate for all of us, not just those who think they are poor because they gave birth to 4 kids.. Single people get NOTHING, just pay up more.

Reader response – We don’t have another human depending on us for life and those who have taken that responsibility deserve the help managing the full time obligation.

Reader response – I doubt that that is what he meant at all. A sense of responsibility is not selfishness.  Having kids is one of the most important things you’ll ever do. Granted, you cannot anticipate every life outcome, but generally speaking a responsible adult has an idea of their finances, and where they expect their finances to be in future. Most adults can actually budget their grocery store purchases – I believe they can budget the price of a child.   And having babies is not a right. Nobody should be under any obligation to financially support a stranger’s kids.

Reader response – You should be asking yourself why you need help if you’re single with no kids.

Reader response -And second, it’s not to say that single people with no kids can’t or shouldn’t receive support, it’s just that why would you need support for being single or having no kids? If you’re also elderly, or disabled, sick or unemployed sure, but being single and having no kids isn’t making it harder for us to live reasonably.

Single response – Hey, maybe all the poor single people – the disabled, etc., will simply die off and make room for all the government-supported kids.

Single response – as a childless middle aged man I am sick of paying for everybody’s kids, especially the Harper garbage boutique tax credits for hockey and ballet school.

Reader response – More likely you don’t get along with women very well or can’t find someone that will have your kid. Ever occur to you that poor kids may not necessarily have been born that way and that layoffs and economical hits create poor kids? That divorce also creates poor kids. Death of a spouse creates poor kids. You can be a millionaire and bring kids into the world and then have your investments tank the next day and you’re poor.

Reader response – If you are single your costs are much, much lower than if you have kids. Your contribution to the economy is also lower. When I go out to dinner my contribution is 5 times what a single person will bring to a restaurant but I still only need one table. This creates jobs as well. My kids go to swimming lessons (jobs and economic boost), they take the bus (jobs and economic boost), eat food and wear clothes and you name it. Grow up.

Reader Response – Single people do not pay more in taxes, that is a lie.

Single response – they certainly don’t get all the freebies (singles)

Reader response – I don’t think it’s that single people with no kids expect support, it’s simply that they perhaps don’t understand why people with kids should get rewarded with their tax money for having babies.

Reader response– Everyone at some point has paid taxes, not just single people. To say that only “single” taxpayers are funding tax benefit programs is hogwash.

Single responseSingle and no kids myself, in my early 50s, barely able to keep a roof over my head even with a full-time job and living frugally. Where’s *my* handout/monthly allowance from the gov’t?

ANALYSIS OF COMMENTS REGARDING SINGLES

It is clear that families with children (and even some singles) are financially illiterate and have no understanding of what it costs a single person to live.  Living Wage for Guelph and Wellington (2013 living wage of $15.95 per hour), a bare bones program to get low income and working poor families and singles off the street, allows a calculated living wage income for single person of $25,099 with no vehicle, food $279, transit and taxi $221 (includes one meal eating out per month).  (In 2015, the living wage for Guelph and Wellington has been set at $16.50 per hour). Note, this is not Vancouver, Toronto or Calgary where living costs are much higher.

Singles get no benefits except in abject poverty.  In both Liberal and Conservative programs, families with children (including single parents) get the benefits while ever singles and divorced persons without children get nothing.

Singles pay more.  Yes, ‘singles pay more taxes’ is a false statement.  Truth is that singles, person to person, pay same taxes, but get less benefits.  From the time they are married until one spouse is deceased, married or coupled families with children will likely have received shower, wedding, baby gifts, possibly maternity/paternity leave benefits, child benefits times number of children, TFSA benefits times two, reduced taxes, pension-splitting,  possible survivor pension benefits, and then want to retire before age 65.  In certain cases some of these families will not have paid a full year of taxes.  Single parents will receive child benefits and possible other benefits as well.  When all the benefits that families with children receive are taken into consideration, ever singles and early divorced persons with no children do pay more.

-There is a the perception by families that a reason to have children is that they will take care of future generations.  Financial responsibility implies that everyone including families should be financially paying for and taking care of themselves.  Future generations do not deserve to have heavy tax burdens placed on them to finance this generation and future generations of parents and children.  Likewise, financial responsibility implies that children do not deserve huge inheritances, while singles have a much more difficult time achieving same standard of living and saving for retirement as families with children.

Reader Comments regarding NET WORTH AND ASSETS

Comment-Liberals are so dumb that they don’t even know that the measure of true wealth is NOT income but net worth.  Are they so stupid to think that a lot of your neighbors, who declare zero income (and I know a lot of them) but can afford Jaguars and Bentleys and multi-million dollar homes really are poor? My wife and I are middle class folks, who live in a modest townhouse in Vancouver who won’t qualify for this now because we “make” too much. Sorry, Justin Trudeau, but 150k a year in Vancouver won’t get you very far.

Comment-if you only make $30,000.00 a year, maybe stop after the second child. Kids are expensive.  “According to MoneySense.ca, the average cost of raising a child to age 18 is a whopping $243,660. Break down that number, and that’s $12,825 per child, per year — or $1,070 per month. And that’s before you send them off to university.”

Comment – Take my numbers for example:   Property tax in Oakville Ontario is very high. I live in a 3000 sq/ft house on a tiny 90×90 lot and property tax is $12,000 a year.  Food cost for a family of 3 is about $15,000 a year, Utilities is $9000, Gas/Car/Insurance (2 cars) is $13000, Clothing/Phone/Living Expenses $8000.  I am only listing off the big expenses. Not including a lot of the little things. That comes to $57,000 a year. Hardly enough to live.

Reader Response to above-That sounds more like someone living beyond their means. And taxpayers are expected to step in and assist families like yours who have a more luxurious lifestyle than most could even dream of.   If you mean 3 kids, maybe, but 3 people, well, then you want too much. A family of 3 in a 3,000 sq. ft house? $300 in groceries a week for for 3 people? Did you know your taxes would be that high before you bought the house? If so, then you brought that on yourself.

ANALYSIS OF COMMENT REGARDING NET WORTH AND ASSETS

-Sense of entitlement.  It is absurd how the wealthy and rich families believe they are entitled to everything (3,000 square foot house)..

-Net worth and Assets.   None of these benefit plans include elimination with high net worth and assets, so again, the wealthy and rich families are receiving benefits they do not deserve.  One of our last posts (see link at top of page) showed how families with considerable assets ($500,000), one spouse working and four children under age of six would receive considerable benefits while never paying a full year of tax if they retired at the age of 60 when their youngest child turned 18.

-Middle-class families with higher income levels for child benefit program complain they don’t receive same level of benefits.  Yet they refuse to acknowledge that they are the ones who would also receive the reduced tax rate from 22.5 per cent to 20 per cent for middle-class Canadians earning between $44,700 and $89,401 a year.

CONCLUSION

It is completely obscene how governments and politicians can implement programs that do not look at net worth and assets.  Families units (including singles) with high net worth and assets and low (of any kind) income do not deserve to get child benefits and other wealth-creating benefits and programs.

It is also financially discriminatory when governments and politicians only include certain family units in their financial formulas.   In Canada, family units with children benefit most while ever singles and early divorced persons without children get nothing.  In the USA, Bernie Sanders has managed to accomplish some wonderful things for financial fairness.  However, even some of his accomplishments agreed to by Hillary Clinton again target only certain family units, that is those with children (free college/university for families with incomes $125,000 or less and paid parental family and medical leave).  Most politicians, whether right or left leaning, only talk about families, with most benefits given only to families.  Singles are never mentioned let alone included in financial discussions and formulas.  What if singles want to go to college/university to get a better wage?  Why are they are not included?

Many of the reader comments correctly identify divorce and death of a spouse as having a big financial  impact on family units.  However, it is also irresponsible for family units to not have life insurance to cover these life circumstances.  Life insurance for spousal death should be mandatory, just like car and house insurance,  and should be ample enough to cover big ticket items like mortgages.  Maybe divorce insurance should also be implemented and made compulsory so that ever singles are not forced to support divorced family units.

For many years there have been great universal government programs in place like public school education, and health care.  For financial fairness, absurd programs like the child benefit programs need to be replaced with universal day care, government paid for college and university education (at least first couple of years of university) and affordable housing (should be available to all types of family units).Then, if wealthy families want to send their privileged children to elite private schools, day care and university, they can spend their own money to do so.

Benefit programs like income splitting and pension splitting under Conservatives are bad policy as they discriminate against singles, and the  widowed and divorced (and spouses earning equal incomes).   Benefit programs should focus on the poor with inclusion of net worth and asset assessments  in the financial formulas.

Governments, politicians, and families need to become financially educated on what it costs ever singles and early divorced persons without children to live.  All Canadian citizens deserve equal financial dignity and respect regardless of the type of family unit they are in.

Once children become ever single and early divorced without children adults, they should not become invisible and made to feel like they are no longer financially important to society.  All lives matter including ever singles and early divorced without children adults.

Additional Reader Comments:  click on link below:

CANADACHILDBENEFITSCOMMENTS2 (1)

(This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice).

‘SELECTIVE’ DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM FINANCIALLY DISCRIMINATORY FOR SINGLES AND THE POOR

‘SELECTIVE’ DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM FINANCIALLY DISCRIMINATORY FOR SINGLES AND THE POOR

These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.

Democratic socialism or socialized democracy has achieved some very good things for equalization of social rights in Canada such as the Canada Pension  Plan, Employment Insurance Plan and universal public healthcare as well as human rights policies.  Also included are benefits meeting the current basic needs of society for all – care for the elderly, school systems and social security systems such as Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement.  This has resulted in improving the lives of women, First Nations, racialized Canadians, the poor and the elderly by social equalization.

Worker benefits won by unions have greatly benefited fairness in working conditions: such as equal pay for equal work, weekends off, lunch and work breaks, vacation and sick leave, minimum wage, eight hour working  day, overtime pay, child labor laws, safety and health laws,workers compensation, pensions, health care insurance, etc.  The list goes on and on.

Unfortunately, some of  the social and economic equalization has been undone by governments giving tax cuts to profitable corporations and high income individuals, giving boutique tax credits to only certain parts of the population and replacing progressive tax systems with flat tax systems.  Results of unequal social benefits include lack of affordable housing (violating Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs), high student debt and less  job security.

Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour has been a contentious issue.  The ruling social democratic party in the province has said it is not fair for a single parent to work 50 hours a week and then have to stop at the foodbank to feed the family.  Review of research states the premise behind ‘a minimum wage policy supported by a strong social policy is an efficient mechanism against poverty and income erosion of the poorest households.  Minimum wage is one of the instruments which can control wage disparity and in this way reduce income inequality’.

An editorial view in the Calgary Herald, April 22, 2018  ‘Meddling with Wages’ (meddling-with-wages) argues against increasing the minimum wage :

‘a higher minimum wage of $15 will add further pain to employers and hurt those the measure is intended to benefit.’

The editorial implies that the single parent referred to in above paragraph does not happen very often and only occurs for two per cent of the provincial population.  The editorial  then goes on to state that most of the two per cent are not single parents, but youth getting a start in the labour force by working part time while living at home.

‘ The minimum wage was never intended to be something a single person could support a family on.  Raising the minimum wage….further imperils the the viability of small businesses and creating greater incentive to trim by shedding jobs and cutting hours.

Canadians are helping low-income families through generous supports from both the federal and provincial governments .  More should be done to lift people out of poverty, of course, but it should be achieved with programs that boost their skills and increase their employability.  It should  not be done by clumsy government meddling.’

Blog author’s comments:  Writer states that the minimum wage was  never intended to be something a single person could support a family on. Really?  REALLY?   The premise behind a minimum wage policy supported by a strong social policy is an efficient mechanism against poverty and income erosion of the poorest households.  Minimum wage is one of the instruments which can control wage disparity and in this way reduces income inequality.  To say that a young person still living at home does not deserve a wage equivalent to a single parent is like saying all those persons working in sweatshops in Bangladesh also don’t deserve a wage equivalent to the same jobs performed in non-third world countries.  Also, raising the minimum wage helps the economy through increased spending on the necessities of life and more taxes being paid to support social programs.

Two reader comments put a proper perspective on the results of not increasing the minimum wage.  First comment (from Canadian Poverty Institute at Ambrose University) ‘Businesses should pay decent wages’ (pressreader):

 ‘…..If  minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it would be around $15 today.  While education and training programs may reduce poverty, demands for austerity would cut exactly these programs.  In abdicating responsibility to pay decent wages, business uploads the cost of low wages to government.  Poverty costs the provincial government $7-9 billion annually.

A business model based on poverty wages is untenable. Decent wages are the cost of doing business.

Ensuring a decent income is a shared responsibility.  Individuals are doing their part by working.  Business must do its part by paying people appropriately, not relying on government and taxpayers to pick up the tab.’

 

Opinion letter from second reader ‘Creating a more humane province’ (pressreader):

‘By concentrating heavily on the economics of the minimum wage (and indeed, low wages in general), the editorial misses the central point that wages are more about increased opportunity for inclusion and participation.  To deny an expansion of these dimensions to low-income workers, simply because of stereotypes, economic short-termism and the assertion that only two per cent of people actually work for minimum wage, reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be a citizen of this province.

I’m glad our provincial government continues to act in the interests of ordinary citizens and realize that the expansion of justice has a cost.  A higher minimum wage, together with the provision of living wages, is the price we can and should pay for the creation of a more just, humane and inclusive province.’

Then there are those who have no regard for left-wing politics.  An example is Calgary Herald editorial comment: ‘How soon we forget the economic carnage of left-wing policies’ (calgaryherald). The argument made is that:

‘those who ignore socialist history are doomed to repeat it…..If nobody had ever tried left-wing policies before, we might be justified in giving this “new” socialism a chance.  Unfortunately, the world has long been a laboratory for socialist policies with mostly disastrous results.

Democratic socialism has left valuable legacies – like subsidized, widely available health care and education – but also has created a lot of economic carnage.  During the 1970s, big-spending, left-wing governments in Canada, Scandinavia and Great Britain created high unemployment and sluggish growth before buckling under the weight of their taxes and debt…

……The province’s premier doesn’t understand, or perhaps doesn’t care, that raising taxes makes struggling citizens poorer, and just transfers wealth from the already wounded private sector to the public sector.

She wants to appease her union comrades by massively raising the minimum wage , which will raise inflation , hurt less profitable industries and reduce employment…..How did our collective memories become so short?’

Reader’s opinion letter ‘Right-wing policies fail’ (pressreader) in response to this editorial states:

 ‘This column is nonsense….The highest rate of unemployment in the U.K. in recent years were under the reign of Margaret Thatcher.  Currently, the only people who benefit from the right wing U.K. government’s policies are the rich.

Food banks, unknown in my younger years, are common and very necessary.

It’s also true that the province’s unemployment rate is unacceptable, but to criticize the premier is wrong.  If our economy had been less dependent on oil and gas, we would be better off.

The right-wing trickle-down economic theory is utterly discredited.’

‘SELECTIVE’ DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM

As noted in the above, there has been much that has been good about democratic socialism, but there also has been negative outcomes to democratic socialism.  One negative is what we will call ‘selective’ democratic socialism  where certain members of society get more social benefits than others.

Examples of ‘selective’ democratic socialism:

Women not being paid same amount as men for same job – Unions have forced the private sector to enforce social benefits such as eight hour day, overtime pay, vacation and sick pay, etc., and  above all equal pay for equal work, but the private sector in many cases still has neglected to pay women the same wage for doing same job as men.

There are many who object to the wages and pensions federal and provincial civil and public servants receive. They say these employees are paid too much money, thus causing economic concerns.  The irony of this negativity is that one reason why the budgets for civil, public and union employees is higher is that women are actually paid the same wage as men doing the same job.

It would be nice if right-wing financial think tanks used some outside the box thinking and conducted studies on how much of the budgets of unionized employees is dedicated to paying women equally to men.  Or, vice versa, how much more money would it take to pay women in the private sector equally to men?

Keep minimum wages low and don’t  consider living wages ‘Selective’ democratic socialism allows the top employees (elite one per cent and the rich) to outpace wages of those at the bottom.  Then, because they have the money to do so, they will bypass the democratic social programs of health care and public schools to pay for elite services of private health care and private schools.

Married/Coupled person get more benefits than singles and the poor (singles often excluded from these benefits) – Many persons leaning to political right and working in the private sector view defined contribution public pensions to be unfair as they perceive money for these pensions to be coming from the public purse.  However, they also refuse to recognize that singles receiving public pensions are supporting/subsidizing the public pension plans of married/coupled persons.  While married/coupled persons are receiving their public pensions, they have been given a boutique tax credit where they get to pension split (benefit added on top of benefit), thus paying less income tax.  Singles don’t get to do this and poor married/coupled persons do  not get the same benefits from pension splitting as the rich.  Yet another level of ‘selective’ democratic socialization is added to the mix when widowed persons (who now technically are single) get a supplementary public pension from their deceased spouses.

It is very difficult for political parties to eliminate the unfair pension splitting tax credit for fear of being voted out. A solution to making the playing field fair for singles versus married/coupled persons could be to give singles a fully refundable tax break during their pension years that is equivalent to amounts received in pension splitting by married/coupled persons.   For the widowed person’s public pension marital manna benefit, a solution to remedy this could be to give the widowed spouse whatever is left of the pension in a lump sum just like single deceased persons receive in their estates upon dying.  Again, it would be nice if financial think tanks would use some outside the box thinking to evaluate how fair the public pension system is to singles versus married/coupled persons and to analyze who really is getting the bigger slice of the pie.

Affordable housing prices out of reach for singles and poor families – Another ‘selective’ democratic socialist outcome is when affordable housing solutions are put in place, but the poor still pay more per square foot  for this housing.  The housing prices are out of whack when rich proportionally pay less per square foot (often the bigger the house the less they seem to pay per square foot), but ‘ever’ singles, early divorced persons and poor families pay more.  As a result, they also pay more in housing and education taxes, real estate fees and mortgage interest charges than the rich since these are based on price and not the square footage of the housing.

What better evidence is there of this than the case where a single person from San Francisco created a  ‘pod’ in the living room of an apartment so he could have a private place to sleep instead of the couch (singles-deserve-affordable-housing). Another is ‘free rent for sex’ advertisements resulting from the out of control Vancouver housing market (pressreader.)

Then there is the insanity of the charmed lives of the rich building luxurious playhouses for their children (pressreader).  These playhouses range from $7,000 to $100,000 and may include electricity, fireplaces and cabinets.  The sleeping pod of the San Francisco single man could probably be the size of the doghouse for the pets of the children owning these playhouses.

‘Selective’ democratic socialism where families get social benefits and singles are excluded – Many government and business financial solutions and social programs appear to include only families with singles being excluded.  One example is Habitat for Humanity who build houses for families only, not singles.

‘Selective’ democratic socialism above all means FAMILIES RULE – Government and politicians in their discussions talk mainly about family, family, family and the middle class instead of talking about ‘families and individuals’.  Singles are rarely included in the discussions.  ‘Selective’ democratic socialism by definition is exclusionary and selects families to receive benefits with singles rarely being included equally in the benefits.

CONCLUSION

These are just a few examples of ‘selective’ democratic socialism.  How positive or negative democratic socialism has been is in the eye of the beholder.  However, it is very hard to say that there have been more negatives than  positives when one looks at the list of all the accomplishments of union rights and democratic socialism.

Now, if only ‘ever’ singles, early divorced singles and poor families were included equally to other members in society in democratic social formulas, the world would be an even better place.

This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.

 

CONTINUED FINANCIAL ILLITERACY OF FINANCIAL GURUS EQUALS FINANCIAL DISCRIMINATION OF SENIOR SINGLES (Part 1 of 2)

CONTINUED FINANCIAL ILLITERACY OF FINANCIAL GURUS EQUALS FINANCIAL DISCRIMINATION OF SENIOR SINGLES (Part 1 of 2)

(This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

In February, 2016 the Broadbent Institute and Richard Shillington of Tristat Resources in Canada has published the report:  “An Analysis of the Economic Circumstances of Canadian Seniors” http://goo.gl/HNP2Ee

The report information is mainly directed towards poverty of seniors without an employer pension plan (roughly 47 per cent) and therefore, many of these seniors have wholly inadequate retirement savings.

Using LIM (low-income measure) senior poverty has increased from a low of 3.9 per cent in 1995 to 11.1 per, or one in nine, in 2013.  The poverty rates for single seniors, particularly women (at nearly 30 per cent), are very high and need to be addressed, (Page 2).   (LICO, or Low Income Cut Off, is not used here because it is not a true income poverty indicator as it was set in 1992 where families spend 20 per cent more of their income on necessities than was typical and has not been reset since.)

(It should be noted in the report that single seniors does not refer to marital status, but the fact that they live alone.  Therefore, single seniors includes ‘ever’ singles, divorced/separated, and widowed seniors living alone.)

In Canada, the income-tested OAS (Old Age Security) and GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) benefits together provide a regular minimum economic guarantee and are used to supplement regular income (from CPP-Canadian Pension Plan, private pensions and private savings) to lift seniors out of poverty.

Some of  the key findings of the report include:

  • The proportion of the population receiving the GIS is higher for senior singles than couples, and higher for single women (between 44 per cent and 48 per cent) than for single men (between 31 percent and 37 per cent), (Page 3).
  • ‘Roughly half of those aged 55-64 with no employer pension  benefits….. have savings that represent less than one year’s worth of the resources they need to supplement OAS/GIS and CPP.  Fewer than 20 per cent have enough savings to support the supplemented resources required for at least five years, (Page 3)…..For those with incomes in $50,000-$100,000 range, the median value is only $21,000…..(Page 3).
  • The overall median value of retirement assets of those aged 55-64 with no accrued pension benefits is just over $3,000.  For those with annual incomes in the range of $25,000-$50,000. the median value is just over $250.  For those with incomes in the $50,000-$100,000 range, the median value is only $21,000, (Page 3).
  • Only a small minority (roughly 15-20 per cent) of middle-income Canadians retiring without an employee pension plan have saved….enough for retirement.  The vast majority of those families with annual incomes of $50,000 and more will be hard pressed to save enough in their remaining period to retirement (less than 10 years)…..(Page 3).
  • The seniors’ poverty gap is $2.5 billion in aggregate annually, due to the 719,000 poor seniors (469,000 singles and 250,000 living in an economic family.)  A 10 per cent benefit increase in the GIS to address this gap would cost $1,628 million, and would reduce the number of poor seniors (married/coupled and singles) by about 149,000, (Page 3).
  • In the recent election, the Federal Liberal Party promised to increase the GIS by 10 per cent for single seniors.  (NOTE:  this does not include coupled seniors).  A simulation using Statistics Canada’s Social Policy Simulation Database and Model (SPSD/M) suggests this would cost $700 million and remove about 85,000 single seniors from the poverty roles, with a reduction in the singles poverty rate of 5.7 percentage points, (Page 3).  (Singles poverty rate of 5.7 percentage points from approximately  28 per cent for senior single females, and 24 per cent for senior single males, that’s all???)

Factors Affecting Seniors Poverty

As of July 2015, the income-tested maximum annual OAS/GIS benefits for seniors aged 65 and over with no other source of income were $15,970 for singles and $25,746 for couples…..The GIS is phased out as income rises and is reduced to zero above an annual income (thus calculated) of $17,136 for single seniors and $22,068 for senior couples, (Page 9).

Reliance on the GIS is greater for single seniors than it is for senior couples across all age ranges…..  For example, 41 per cent of all seniors over 85 receive the GIS, while only 30 per cent of seniors aged 66-69 receive it. (Page 9).

Pension Coverage (Page 12)

The difference in incomes at retirement between those seniors with and without a pension income is stark…..The difference is not all due simply to the presence or absence of an employer pension plan.  Those who have had an employer pension plan are more likely to have had better paying jobs, and jobs with health and other benefits.  As well, it is possible for those who seek out jobs with a pension are more likely to be those motivated to save for retirement.  But certainly, participating in a pension offers advantages that make it easier to have a higher income at retirement, (Page 12).

For couples, those without pension income have significantly lower total incomes ($52,000) to compared to those with pension income ($68,000).  This is despite their higher income from earnings ($19,100 for those without pension income, compared to $7,200 for those with pension income).

For individuals, the story is very different:  They are more likely than couples to be over the age of 70, and much less likely to be employed.  For single women, the median incomes are $18,000 for those without a pension and $30,400 for those with a pension  For men, the medians are $19,000 and $37,300, respectively.  These gaps are significant, (Page 12).

LIM (Low Income Measure) is used in this report and is based on after-tax income to assess poverty of seniors.  This measure shows what proportion of persons have after-tax incomes that are less than half of the median or midpoint to comparable families.

Two criterion to assess adequacy of income at retirement are:  1)  poverty criterion, and 2) replacement rate concept, (Page 13).

Generally,  the median incomes for those without pension income is just over half for those with pension income, (Page 13).

The report goes on “to suggest that a significant proportion of those without an employer pension plan will not have saved adequately for retirement and will suffer a major loss of income”.

Retirement savings without employer pension (Page 14-16)

Report states that from Survey of Financial Security for 2012 about half of families (what is the definition of family here?) aged 55-64 without an employer pension have virtually no savings; indeed 78 per of them have less than $100,000 in retirement savings.  Lower-income families eligible for OAS/GIS along with CPP may still have little or no drop in income, however inadequate that income might be, (Page 14).

….Vast majority of these families with annual incomes of $50,000 and more will be hard pressed to save enough in their remaining period of retirement (less than 10 years) to avoid a significant fall in income.  It appears that at least 25 per cent have very limited retirement assets despite incomes of $50,000-$200,000, (Page 15).

The report does state that ‘analysis presented in tables is somewhat simplistic because it ignores the impact of public benefits (OAS/GIS and CPP) on the amount that future seniors need to save.  It is also accepted that many seniors need less income in retirement in order to maintain the standard of living that they had pre-retirement.  The actual replacement rate required-the ratio of post-retirement to pre-retirement income-varies by how it is measured (pre- or post-tax).  Seventy per cent is commonly used, although it varies by individual circumstances and tastes; higher values are more appropriate for the poor, and lower values are more appropriate for the very wealthy’, (Page 15-16).

Retirement savings compared to income (Page 16-20)

Tables show widespread under-saving using calculations of 70 per cent pre-tax replacement rate…

Some do not need to save for retirement to get 70 per cent replacement because their income is quite low (below $21,429 for singles and $35,714 for couples).  These individuals and couples were deleted from table 5…..,(Page 16).

To illustrate, a family with an income of $100,000 (pre-tax) is assumed to need $70,000 (70 per cent of $100,000), and will get roughly $25,000 in public support.  Thus, they will need to make up $45,000 per year from their private savings, (Page 16).

Even those with an income of more than $100,000 are unlikely to have more than five years worth of the required supplemental income in their retirement savings; only 21 per cent meet this criterion……(Page 17).

In summary, regardless of income, few of these families have enough savings to supplement their income for even one year.  Only 15-20 per cent have enough for five or more years. (Page 17).

…..Many of those who argue that there is no looming pension crisis have included home equity as a liquid asset.  This analysis has not treated home equity as a retirement asset because the replacement rate analysis has as its objective an income that allows one to enjoy a lifestyle comparable to that which existed pre-retirement.  We do not include home equity here because we accept that the pre-retirement lifestyle for many middle- and moderate-income Canadians include continued homeownership, (Page 19).

One Option:  Reducing seniors poverty with GIS

The report then makes suggestions for decreasing poverty rate. One option is reducing seniors poverty with short term changes to GIS.  One of the paragraphs is as follows:

Table 6 presents estimates of the poverty gap using Statistics Canada’s SPSD/M microsimulation model. The poverty gap is the total amount of money that would be needed to raise the incomes of all poor seniors to the LIM poverty line-ignoring any  behavioral impacts of the transfer programs used to achieve that goal…..The poverty gap is $2.5 billion in aggregate, which is due to the 719,000 seniors:  419,000 singles and 250,000 living in an economic family.  The average gap is $2,400 for singles and $5,500 for seniors in a family, (Page 20-21).

Table 7 represents the results of increasing the single and married GIS amounts by the same percentage.  One should keep in mind that there is an incentive for seniors to appear as singles to governments even if they are living as a couple.  This is because the GIS for senior couples is less than twice the amount for singles.  An increase in the GIS for singles only (with no increase for couples) would increase this so-called ‘tax on marriage’ and associated incentives.  This would encourage couples to hide their cohabitation from the authorities for financial reasons, (Page 21).

The notation (# 28) at the bottom of page 21 states:  While legislation treats those cohabiting the same regardless of their marital status, it is easier to deceive the government if you are not married.  (Really???  How is this so when single status needs to reported on income tax returns; lying about marital status is a felony?).

Taking one example (from Table 7) of the tabulated results, a 10.0 increase is estimated to increase the cost of the GIS by $1,628 million to yield a poverty rate of 10.5 per cent and to reduce the number of poor seniors by about 149,000, (Page 22).

The (Federal) Liberal Party’s proposal in the recent election was to increase the GIS by 10 per cent for single seniors.  The SPSD/M simulation suggests that this would cost $700 million and remove about 85,000 single seniors from poverty, with a reduction in the singles poverty rate of 5.7 percentage points.  While a reasonable starting point, clearly much more can be done to reduce the poverty rate, (Page 22).

Conclusions

Poverty rates for seniors have been trending up since 1995.  Rates remain unacceptably high for single seniors-particularly women-and the worsening trends in pension coverage point to further increases in poverty in the future.  The GIS is the most effective federal mechanism in the short term for reducing the poverty rate and the impact of poverty on seniors, and it can be targeted at senior singles who need it the most, (Page 23).

(This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

 

FAMILY: INCLUSIONARY OR EXCLUSIONARY TERM AND FINANCIAL DISCRIMINATION

FAMILY:  INCLUSIONARY OR EXCLUSIONARY TERM AND FINANCIAL DISCRIMINATION

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

Today, February 15, is designated Family Day in Canada and was originally created to give people time to spend with their families, but also provides a day off between New Year’s Day and Good Friday as they are approximately three months apart.

The word ‘family’  can have many different meanings.  One definition is “a fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children.” While this definition is a traditional definition, there are other family units excluded by this definition, such as couples without children or other variations on the family unit. Another definition is “two or more people who share goals and values, have long-term commitments to one another and reside usually in the same dwelling.”  In addition to a more universal family definition, there are many who consider a group of friends to be family, and adults who consider pets also to be members of the family unit.

The Statistics Canada definition of ‘family’ indicates there must be two persons legally living together to be defined as a family.  When census information is collated, the population is called:  “Census families and persons not in census families”.  Singles are included in the “persons not in census family” category.

For Canada Revenue Agency income tax purposes, singles are persons who have never married or whose marriage has been legally annulled.  (Those who  live with a common-law partner are not included in this category).

The word ‘family’ can be inclusionary or exclusionary depending on the closeness (or distance) of the relationship of the persons in the family unit.

It is interesting to note that present political discussions both in Canada and the USA talk about the financial decline of the ‘middle class family”.  Singles and low income are left out the discussion.  Many benefits have been given to the married/coupled persons and family units with children, but singles are generally left out of the benefits or receive less in benefits.

An example of financial discrimination in Canada is the targeted tax relief for seniors where senior singles pay no tax on $20,000 and married/coupled seniors pay no tax on $40,000.  For single seniors this amounts to only $1,700 per month, but for married/coupled seniors this amounts to approximately $3,400 per month.  Living costs are inadequately covered for singles, but are more adequately covered for married/coupled seniors.  It is a well known fact that singles require approximately 70% of living costs for married/coupled persons living together as a family unit.

The mentality of government, decision makers, businesses and families in this country is to serve only the rich and middle class families while generally ignoring singles, low income and no income individuals and families.   Families will often talk about how important the family unit is for them in regards to maintaining close ties to friends and families.  They talk about about how their ‘hearts are eternally and inexplicably changed’ when bearing their children, but same hearts appear to become ‘hearts of stone’ when these same children become adult singles, low income or no income persons and families.  These disadvantaged persons are tossed out or are less important in financial  formulas and decision-making processes.

CONCLUSION

The definition of family as to whether it is inclusionary or exclusionary is in ‘the eye of the beholder’ and depends on which ‘side of the fence’ is beholder is on.   An exclusionary example is the one given above on targeted tax relief.  The financial ‘family’ by devaluing singles and low income takes on a ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ persona, or also could be said to take on an ‘about-face’ persona or doing the exact opposite where the greed of business and personal gain takes on more importance than treasured family values.

Financial fairness of singles, low income and disadvantaged would be better served if they were financially treated as equal family members instead of being financially categorized as ‘worth less’ or ‘worthless’ to the rich and married/coupled persons in financial formulas. This would give more truth to why Family Day is celebrated on this day of February 15.

This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.

 

GOVERNMENT CPP BAFFLEGAB MORE IMPORTANT THAN FINANCIAL DISCRIMINATION OF SINGLES AND QUALITY OF LIFE

GOVERNMENT CPP BAFFLEGAB MORE IMPORTANT THAN FINANCIAL DISCRIMINATION AND QUALITY OF LIFE OF CANADIAN SINGLES

These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.

There has been much discussion lately as to whether the CPP (Canada Pension Plan) system should be changed.  The objective of the government is for country to live in a society that takes care of its citizens.  The reality is that some citizens are being taken care of more than others, that is the rich and married/coupled persons while singles and low income are being financially discriminated against.

EXAMPLES OF FINANCIAL DISCRIMINATION

  • TARGETED TAX RELIEF PROGRAMS FOR SENIORS-The Federal Conservative government has a targeted tax relief program where a single senior can now earn $20,360 and a senior couple $40,720 before paying federal income tax.  Program claims that approximately 400,000 seniors (or 7 to 8% of total Canadian seniors) have been removed from the tax rolls altogether.  This so called tax relief for seniors allows federal tax relief for senior singles equal to $1,697 per month and for senior couples $3,393 per month.

The tax relief for senior singles hardly covers a rent or mortgage payment of $1,200 and $250 for food per month (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need), but amply covers this amount for a senior couple.  For a couple $1200 for rent or mortgage and $500 for food leaves $1693 (or 50% of $40,000) for other necessities and medications and maybe even a nice little vacation all tax free.

It is a well-known fact that singles require more income to that of a married/coupled persons living as a single unit.  In Equivalence scales (Statistics Canada 75F0002M – Section 2 ‘The LIM and proposed Modifications’ (75f0002) (equivalence-scales) if singles are assigned a value of 1.0, then couples require 1.4 times for income, not 2.0. $20,360 times 1.4 equals $28,504 ($2,375 per month) (updated November 18, 2017).  If the federal government cared about income equality and quality of life for senior singles, it would increase the tax free amount for singles.  By not applying equivalence scales to  income for senior singles, they lose $678 a month or approximately $8,000 Lost Dollar Value annually in quality of  life to married/couple retired persons.  (From age 65 to 90, this amounts to $20,000).

When income for senior married/coupled persons is over $40,000 they again get another benefit, that is pension splitting, which singles cannot use increasing quality of life for married/coupled persons over senior singles.  This is a tax benefit piled on top of another tax benefit.

The number of senior ‘ever’ singles (never married, no kids) and divorced/separated persons comprises only about 13 per cent of the population, so how much would it cost to bring the quality of life for these citizens up to the standard of tax relief for married/coupled persons?  The answer is ‘not very much’ in comparison  to what has been given to  married/coupled senior persons.

“Ever” singles are told every day they are worthless and worth less than married/coupled persons even though they have worked 35 – 40 years subsidizing mother/baby hospital care, EI paternal/maternal leave, education taxes even though they have had no children and paid more taxes than families.

  • GOVERNMENTS IGNORE COURT RULINGSRe Allowance Program and Credits, (policyalternatives) 2009 Policy Brief, “A Stronger Foundation-Pension Reform and Old Age Security” by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, page 4, states this program discriminates on basis of marital status as confirmed by case brought under Charter of Rights where federal court agreed program was discriminatory, and ruled it would be too expensive to extend program on basis of income regardless of marital status.’  So what is happening?  Age eligibility for Allowance will change from 60 to 62 beginning in 2023 with full implementation in 2029.  In this democratic, civilized country let’s just ignore federal court rulings and continue a $? million discriminatory program.  Article suggests that ‘OAS (Old Age Security) and GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) combined should be increased to at least bring it up to after-tax LICO (Low Income Cut Off) for single individuals.’  And why should married/coupled people get discriminatory marital status benefits where unused credits like Age Credits can be transferred to spouse?

Gross financial discrimination for singles occurs when governments choose to completely ignore court rulings.  Lost Dollar Value to singles:  unable to calculate.

  • PENSION SPLITTINGIt is immoral and ethically irresponsible for governments to deny that pension splitting benefits the wealthy most.  For families who can be exempt from paying 10 – !5 percent income tax on $100,000 and maintain the same income level during retirement as they had during their working years, even though they have less expenses during retirement, is financially discriminating to  singles who cannot pension split.  (This information was revised April 10, 2016 – Lost Dollar Value:  From estimate on income splitting, it has been suggested that income splitting would provide tax relief of $103 for income $30,000 or less and $1,832 for income of $90,000 and over or an average of $794 overall.  If $800 ($794 rounded off) is calculated times 35 years (age 65 to 90), then Lost Dollar Value will equal $28,000.)
  • HOUSING-Financial gurus seem to be leaning towards renting instead of home ownership.  This creates further hardship  for singles and the low income.  If young married/coupled persons are being told that they will probably need to rent because housing prices are out of reach, where does this leave singles and low income persons?  Trend now is towards tiny houses with composting toilets and tanks for storing water, but the rich don’t want to see tiny houses in their backyards.

Try telling singles and low income person that renting is the better alternative when they pay more per square foot and quality of housing is lower than that of houses for families.  If they have problems with not enough income for housing, they are told they should go live with someone.  These people ought to try ‘walking in the shoes’ of singles living in one room or communal situations, where because of low income, they don’t have their own bathroom, and it becomes a ‘dog eat dog’ world where others will, for example, steal food because there is not enough money to buy food. (cprn.org)

The housing market (rental and ownership) is financially completely upside down.  Instead of the rich and middle class paying more for the greatest amount of square footage, they are paying less for the greatest amount of square footage and niceties associated with that.  Singles and low income will be living in hovels, thus violating Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs principle.

  • IF MONEY IS THERE YOU WILL SPEND IT, IF IT IS NOT, YOU WON’TFinancial studies have come to  conclusions that for people in the lowest income quintile on average have replacement rates of 100 percent, implying their real standard of living actually rises after retirement.  This is such a lie and is totally irrelevant to singles and low income persons.  If there is a poor quality of life before retirement, there still will be a poor quality of life on 100 percent replacement income for singles that does not meet the 1.4 income equivalent (updated November 17, 2017) to that of married/coupled persons living as a single unit.

CONCLUSIONS

Governments, decision makers, some financial advisers to the government. and think tanks are financially illiterate about the financial discrimination of singles.

It seems to be more important for governments to ensure that upper-middle class and upper class maintain their standard of living than it is to treat singles fairly.

Unprecedented growth in value of houses will result in huge tax-free wealth for families and married/coupled persons to the financial detriment of singles and low income.

Marital manna benefits like pension splitting has created a nanny state where married/coupled persons want it all and once these benefits are in place, it is very difficult to get rid of them.  Married/coupled persons have been made irresponsible by their own government.  They are not living a lower life style in their retirement.  A further question is whether these programs will be financially sustainable.

Assumption that retirement income only needs to replaced at 70 percent, for example, does not hold true for both singles and married/coupled persons, because singles require 1.4 income equivalent to married/coupled persons living as a single unit (updated November 17, 2017).  Twenty thousand dollars a year is not an adequate quality of life retirement income for Canadian senior singles.

GOVERNMENTS NEED TO ADDRESS FINANCIAL EQUALITY FIRST FOR ALL CANADIAN CITIZENS REGARDLESS OF MARITAL STATUS, THEN TWEAK CPP.

This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.

ARE FAMILIES REALLY MORE FINANCIALLY INTELLIGENT IN MANAGING FINANCES?

ARE FAMILIES REALLY MORE FINANCIALLY INTELLIGENT IN MANAGING FINANCES?

These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.

Financial Post personal finance profile “Put Cash Toward the Kids’ Education” and in Calgary Herald on January 16, 2016 (financialpost)

The following is a condensed version of the financial profile of Harry 39, and Wendy 38, a British Columbia couple with two children ages two and a few months old.  (Question:  Did they marry later in life resulting in a low net worth at this time in their life because it is more difficult to accumulate net worth while single than as married/coupled persons?)

Their take home pay is $9,100 a month plus $240 take home universal child care benefits put into place this year by the federal government for total annual take home pay of $112,000.  They both have defined benefit retirement pension plans, so it should be noted that contributions to their plans have already been deducted before take home pay total.

Their expenses include real estate mortgage, property tax, and home repair $3,489, car costs $550, food and cleaning supplies $1,200,  clothes/grooming $150, charity/gifts $200, child care $850, entertainment $120, restaurant $280, travel $150, miscellaneous $626, utilities $350, phone/cable/internet $200, home and car insurance $325.

For savings they contribute $800 to TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account), and $50 to RESP (Registered Education Savings Program).

Their assets include house $500,000, cars $20,000, savings including RRSP Registered Retirement Savings Plan), RESP, TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account) and cash $40,700.

Their net worth equals $150,700.

What they want:

  • retire at age 55
  • buy a condo for the children’s grandparents to use when they are in town and to rent out at other times

Financial Planner Analysis

  • they haven’t made wills or appointed guardians for their children
  • they have no term life insurance
  • they can’t retire at age 55, but they can retire at age 59
  • they can’t afford to buy a condo as they don’t have the money for down payment
  • they should fully contribute to their children’s education plan into order to get the government benefit

Retirement plan

  • if they retire at age 59 assuming they remain with their present employers, their total income would be $96,732 plus Harry’s $9,570 CPP(Canadian Pension Plan) and Wendy’s $12,060 CPP.
  • At age 65, with the addition of OAS (Old Age Security), their total income will be $111,146 before income tax.  There will be no clawback on OAS and with pension splitting, they will  pay only 14% income tax and have a monthly take home income of $7,965 to spend.

Other Financial Analysis By Blog Author

  • they want to retire at age 55, but their children will only be ages 15 and 16,  and their mortgage won’t be paid off until Harry is age 63.  How financially intelligent is this?
  • they are not taking advantage of ‘free’ government benefits of $500 per child by not maximizing children’s RESP.
  • Harry is an immigrant who came to Canada at age 30 (nine years ago), and he wants to retire at age 55.  He will have contributed to Canadian financial coffers for only 25 years.  If he retires at age 59 he will also get what could be a 15% tax reduction with pension splitting at age 65.  Canadian born singles and single immigrants do not get these same benefits and are subsidizing married/coupled immigrants who in many cases have taken more from the Canadian financial coffers than they have put into it.
  • with pension splitting and no clawback on OAS, they will only pay 14% income tax. Singles with equivalent pension income pay a lot more income tax.  (It is stated elsewhere in the article that Wendy’s tax rate at present time while working is 29%).
  • their food and restaurant (including some cleaning supplies) budget is over $1400 a month for two adults and two very young children (does not include entertainment budget of $180 month).  Their restaurant budget is $280 alone and yet many families think singles should live on only $200 a month for food.

Lessons Learned

  • married/coupled persons and families receive marital manna benefits while they are parents and while they are retired.  One could say the only persons who contribute fully to the Canadian tax system while getting less benefits are singles.
  • married/coupled persons and families are not any more financially intelligent at managing their finances than single persons.
  • married/coupled persons and families all want to retire at the age of 55 regardless of their financial circumstances.  Most singles do not have this option.  Why should families bringing in $9,000 a month after tax income get $240 after tax child benefits and child education benefits and, then when they retire early at age 59, also get what is probably a 15% pension splitting tax reduction resulting in take home income of $8,000 at age 65 when their children are grown up?  This is a very rich retirement income that most singles cannot aspire to.
  • Families, governments and decision makers all talk about expensive it is to raise children.  For one Canadian child, the cost is about $250,000.  So if cost is spread over 25 years of the child, cost per year is $10,000 per year, or in the case of this family $20,000 per year for two children.  Their total after tax income is almost $10,000 per month, so approximately two out of twelve months income will be spent raising their children.  The remaining income is for themselves.  Add in another month of income for the children’s education ($10,000  times 20 years equals $200,000 not including government top up) and that still leaves them with nine month of income for themselves.  So again, how expensive is it to raise children when this family has over $80,000 a year to spend on themselves?
  • When families (including married later in life) in top 40% Canadian income levels can retire at age 55 and 59, they spread the family financial myths and lie to singles, low income families, themselves, the world and God about how expensive it is to raise children and why they need income splitting and pension splitting.  Low and middle class families are paying more and getting less for government programs.  Singles of all income levels are paying even more and getting less (singles are considered to be in the upper 20% quintile of the Canadian rich with before tax income of only $55,000 and up.  Wow, that is really rich).
  • singles know that they are paying more taxes and getting less in benefits.  They also know they are subsidizing families when they work 35, 40 years without using mom/baby hospital resources,don’t use EI benefits at same level as families for parental leave, and don’t get marital manna benefits during retirement.
  • singles know they have been financially discriminated against by being left out of government financial formulas and are not seen as financial equals to married/coupled persons.

This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.

 

SENIOR SINGLES PAY MORE – Part 4 of 4

RESPONSE TO LETTERS ON UNFAIR SINGLE SENIORS TAXATION

These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.

(This opinion letter was originally published in a local newspaper on September 9, 2015.  Since there is a space limit for number of words that can be submitted to newspapers, additional comments that do not appear in the original published article have been added here in italics).  This blog post was updated on December 1, 2017 replacing 60-70% of living costs to 1.4 equivalence scale (equivalence-scales) for singles.

 Here we go again.  Opinion letters from last two weeks show married/coupled people cannot put themselves into singles’ financial shoes without dumbing down singles’ opinions and sticking singles’ finances into family financial boxes.  Unfortunately, singles finances don’t work that way.  Following is a response to both letters.

Re TFSAs (Tax Free Savings Accounts), caps must be set on TFSA amounts.  Otherwise, wealth spread between married/coupled people and singles and low income people will exponentially widen with less money collected in tax systems, and ability to pay for public programs such as education disappearing.  Most singles, single parent and low income families are unable to max out TFSAs at lower limit, let alone higher limit (and RRSPs-Registered Retirement Savings Plans).

Re income splitting benefits, multiple discussions show wealthy families benefit more than other families.  Present format implies households with singles, single parents (don’t get to stay home to raise kids) and parents with equal incomes don’t deserve same financial equality.  Re pension splitting married/coupled people already get two of everything including pensions.

You say bizarre conclusions have been reached.  Let’s talk bizarre.  Re Allowance Program and Credits benefits, 2009 Policy Brief, “A Stronger Foundation-Pension Reform and Old Age Security” by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, page 4 policyalternatives.ca, states:

‘this program discriminates on basis of marital status as confirmed by case brought under Charter of Rights where federal court agreed program was discriminatory, and ruled it would be too expensive to extend program on basis of income regardless of marital status.’

So what is happening?  Age eligibility for Allowance benefits will change from 60 to 62 beginning in 2023 with full implementation in 2029.  In this democratic, civilized country let’s just ignore federal court rulings and continue a $? million discriminatory program.  Article also suggests that:

‘OAS (Old Age Security) and GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) combined should be increased to at least bring it up to after-tax LICO (Low Income Cut Off) for single individuals.’

Why should married/coupled people get discriminatory marital status benefits where unused credits like Age Credits benefits can be transferred to spouse?

Conservatives are so proud they have initiated targeted tax relief benefit where single senior can now earn $20,360 and senior couple $40,720 before paying federal income tax.  Using simple math, tax relief for single seniors is only $1,697 per month, for senior couples $3,393 per month.  Rent or mortgage payment of $1,000 per month is barely covered for singles, but is amply covered for senior couple.

BMO Retirement Institute Report “Retirement for One-By Chance or Design” 2009 .bmo.com and other reports state present tax systems give huge advantages to married/coupled people with singles never married or divorced at some point throughout their entire working career usually subsidizing married/coupled people.

Russell Investments “Spending Patterns in Retirement”, February 2010, russell.com states:

‘government transfers, such as CPP and OAS are generally not sufficient to cover Essentials of Retirement.  Problem is magnified for single retirees.  For example, in $35,000-$60,000 income category, couples spend only about 12% more than singles on essentials, yet receive about 80% more in government transfers’.

Eighty per cent more in transfers, why can’t married/coupled people grasp this fact?  Why can’t families understand that ‘ever’ singles have not used medical services for baby delivery, maternal/paternal paid LOA’s from work and many have not used any EI benefits?  Instead ‘ever’ singles are financially supporting and subsidizing families.

Reader #2 letter also talks about how expensive it is to raise a disabled child.  It is no different living as a disabled adult.  The Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH program in Alberta) allows only $1,588 a month for an unemployed disabled person of single status.

True living costs for singles must be recognized.  Using equivalence scales it is a well-established fact that living costs for singles are 1.4 to that of a couple.  If married persons own their homes outright, the cost of living is even less to that of singles who rent or have a mortgage.  If programs such as pension splitting and survivor benefits continue for married/coupled and widowed seniors, then at same time, singles and not widowed single seniors should get 1.4 equivalent scale enhancements through GIS and OAS relative to married/coupled persons’ baselines.   Equivalence scale of 1.4  for couples to that of singles’ federal tax relief of $20,360 income should equal $28,504 ($2,375 per month) not $40,720 for couples.  Why is that too much to ask?

Politicians and most families are financially illiterate in financial affairs of singles.  The Conservative political parties (provincial and federal) are particularly guilty of this as many marital status benefits have been implemented under their watch.

Further advice from reader letters state singles can live with someone else when they are already living in studio, one bedroom apartments, and basement suites.  Senior singles who have lived productive lives while contributing to their country want and deserve their own privacy and bathroom.  Many senior assisted living dwellings have in recent years built more spaces for singles who with one income pay more for that space than married/coupled persons.  Just how long should shared arrangements go on for (entire lives?) instead of correcting underlying financial issues?

Following examples show financial dignity and respect for singles (and low income families).  Attainable Housing (attainyourhome), Calgary, allows maximum household income of $90,000 for single and dual/parent families with dependent children living in the home and maximum household income of $80,000 for singles and couples with no dependent children living in the home.  Living Wage for Guelph and Wellington allows singles dignity of one bedroom and living wage income that is 44% of a family of 4 income and 62% of a family of two (parent and child).

Assumptions that middle class singles can live on average after tax income of $27,212 is bizarre.  Suggestion of $200 food budget and $110 transportation per month for singles is unrealistic.  At present gas prices, $150 per month is barely adequate for 30-40 minute drive to and from work.  For comparison, Living Wage for Guelph and Wellington (livingwagecanada) (2013 living wage of $15.95 per hour), a bare bones program to get low income and working poor families and singles off the street, allows a calculated living wage income for single person of $25,099 with no vehicle, food $279, transit and taxi $221 (includes one meal eating out per month).  (It should be noted that men require more calories; therefore, their budget for food will be higher.  Also in 2015, the living wage for Guelph and Wellington has been set at $16.50 per hour).

Reader #2 letter seems to include expenses such as utilities, insurance, and phone bill in family expenses, but excludes them from the single person expenses.  Reader #2 seems to think that $500.00 after food, transportation, clothing and rent expenses per month is ample money to cover miscellaneous expenses such as laundry, recreation and eating out plus the non-mentioned utilities, insurance and phone bill. The reader #2 letter then goes on to say:  ‘And, if a single person cuts out some of the recreational activities and eating out, could break even at the lower end.’  Once again there is that assumption that singles spend too much on recreation and eating out.  And, of course, there is no mention of singles having to save for emergencies or retirement.

While singles are living in their small spaces (average size of new studio, one bed and one bed/den new condo combined being built in Toronto is 697 sq. feet), majority of Canadian married/coupled people families are living in average 1950 sq. foot houses (2010) with large gourmet kitchens, multiple bathrooms, bedrooms for each child and guests, basement, garage, yard, and nice patio with barbecue, etc.

Families don’t take their own advice which they dish out to singles.  Senior couples or widowed don’t want to give up their big houses, but ask for reduced house taxes and senior’s school property tax assistance programs (Calgary Herald, “Not Now” letter to the editor, August 26, 2015).  If you can’t pay your house taxes, how about moving to smaller place or go live with someone (tit for tat)?  If families with kids don’t pay school property taxes as seniors, then homeowners who have never had kids should not have to pay school taxes throughout their entire lives.

Financial discrimination of singles is accepted in mainstream and is, indeed, celebrated.  Article like “Marrying for money pays off” (researchnews) implies married/coupled persons and families are more financially responsible.

In Calgary Herald article, August 7, 2012, Financial Post “Ten Events in Personal Financial Decathlon Success” (personal-financial-decathlon), the Family Status step says:

‘From a financial perspective, best scenario is a marriage for life.  It provide stability for planning, full opportunities for tax planning and income splitting and ideally for sharing responsibilities that can enhance each other’s goals and careers.  One or two divorces can cause significant financial damage.  Being single also minimizes some of the tax and pension advantages that couples benefit from’.

How nice!

There is no need for another political party as stated in Reader #1 letter.  In present political system, singles are losing financial ground.   Words ‘individuals’ or ‘singles’ rarely come to the financial lips of politicians, families or media.   What is needed is to bring financial issues of singles to same financial table as families and to make positive changes for both parties to financial formulas.  Singles are not asking for more financial benefits than families, but equivalency to family benefits as applicable at rate of 1.4 to that of household comprised of two persons.  They deserve this as citizens of this country.

So when singles are no longer able to live with financial dignity thus creating financial singles ghettos (financial bankruptcy because they are not included in financial formulas), just what will society do?  Apparently, they are looking for people to go to Mars.  Singles could always be involuntarily sent there.  Out of sight, out of mind.

This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.

 

SENIOR SINGLES PAY MORE – PART 2 OF 4

FINANCIAL FAIRNESS FOR SENIOR SINGLES NOT PART OF PLAN

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author and are not intended to be used as personal or financial advice).

This article was published in a local newspaper on August 19, 2015. The Conservative Party was in power federally at the time. In the October, 2015 federal elections the Conservatives were ousted by the Liberal Party. Proper names have been removed.)

In the midst of a Federal Election the financial rhetoric continues. The Conservative Member of Parliament, Wildrose, in his latest mailbox flyer, states that Conservatives have been committed to helping provide Canadian seniors with a secure and dignified retirement. The reality is that married/partnered people stand to gain much more from the Conservative Action Plan 2015 and other Conservative financial initiatives than individual/single seniors.

First, increases in the contribution limits of the TFSA account favors married/partnered people as the contribution limit per person is doubled. (The doubling of the TFSA was rescinded by the Liberals when they came into power in the October, 2015 federal election).

Second, pension splitting benefits applies only to married/couple people, not singles.

Third, the Age Credit benefits initiative increased by an amount of approximately $1,000. This benefit is incrementally reduced by 15% of net income exceeding approximately $35,000 and is eliminated when net income exceeds approximately $80,000. Any unused portion of the Age Credit can be transferred to the individual’s spouse or common-law partner. Comparable benefit of unused portion to individuals/singles without a spouse/common-law partner is zero.

Fourth, in the targeted tax relief benefits a senior couple can earn $40,720 without paying income tax (marital manna benefit), while a single senior can only earn $20,360 before paying income tax.

Fifth, Allowance for people ages 60 to 64 benefits are available to the spouses or common-law partners of GIS recipients. The spouse, age 60 to 64, of a senior with a single income of less than $31,584 may receive an allowance of $1,070.60 per month. This is an additional $12,000 per year. Furthermore, this benefit may also be available to immigrant married/coupled people who have been in the country for only ten years. Canadian-born and immigrant individuals/singles have nothing comparable to this benefit.

These are just a few of many more examples.

The following tables showing the income and net worth/wealth of unattached individuals versus families of two or more have been taken from MoneySense, The All-Canadian Wealth Test, January 2015 (moneysense) (based on Statistics Canada 2011 data)

____________________________________________________________________

INCOME TABLE

______________________________________________________________________________

INCOME

HOW DOES YOUR PAY STACK UP

_____________________________________________________________________

Quintiles                    Unattached Individuals        Families of Two or More

Bottom 20%                 $0 to $18,717                         $0 to $38,754

Lower-Middle 20%        $18,718 to $23,356                 $38,755 to $61,928

Middle 20%                  $23,357 to $36,859                 $61,929 to $88,074

Upper-Middle 20%         $36,860 to $55,498                $88,075 to $125,009

Highest 20%                 $55,499 and up                      $125,010 and up

______________________________________________________________________________

NET WORTH TABLE

____________________________________________________________________

NET WORTH

ARE YOU RICH?

______________________________________________________________________________

Quintiles                     Unattached Individuals        Families of Two or More

Bottom 20%                 Negative to $2,468                  Negative to $67,970

Lower-Middle 20%         $2,469 to $19,264                   $67,971 to $263,656

Middle 20%                   $19,265 to $128,087                $263,657 to $589,686

Upper-Middle 20%         $128,088 to $455,876              $589,687 to $1,139,488

Highest 20%                 $455,877 and over                   $1,139,489 and up

______________________________________________________________________________

An individual/single person who has an income of more than $55,000 is considered to be in the top 20% ‘wealthy’ category, but has great difficulty living a ‘wealthy’ lifestyle on $55,000 especially if they have a mortgage or need to pay rent in their senior years (meanwhile wealthy family income is $125,000 and up). Women between ages 45 and 64 earn on average $23,000 less than men.

What is even more revealing is the net worth of unattached individuals compared to families of two or more. The MoneySense article makes the following comments:

“The collective net worth of the lowest 40% of individuals wouldn’t match the poorest 20% of families. Families can build wealth faster than individuals because they can pool resources, which enables them to pay down debts faster and make larger purchases. And what a difference it makes: between ages 55 and 65, families are worth, on average, a whopping $670,000 more than unattached individuals in the same age group”.

 

(It should be noted that the net worth is probably even higher for families of two or more, since it appears that single parents with children are included in families of two or more statistics.  Single and divorced/separated parents of children, especially if younger in age, should excluded from families of two or more and placed into  their own category for more accurate statistics -added January 20, 2016).

It is always prudent to have more than one source for verification of facts, so here are another two.

The “Current State of Canadian Family Finances 2013-2014” report by the Vanier Institute of the Family vanierinstitute.ca states that

“between 1999 and 2012 the net worth of families advanced more than it did for unattached individuals”.

The 2009 “Report of the National Seniors Council on Low Income Among Seniors” (seniorscouncil) states that:

“between 1980 and 2006, the unattached have the highest incidence of low income of any group, with 15.5 percent of unattached seniors living below LICO in 2006, a rate 11 times higher than that of senior couples (1.4 per cent)”.

So how can married/coupled people continue to demand more financial benefits? How can governments continue to increase the financial means of married/coupled people at the expense of unattached individuals/singles? And, how expensive is it really to raise children when families can achieve so much more net worth than singles? Financial fairness requires balance and elimination of unfair benefits such as income/pension splitting and ability to transfer credits from one spouse to another.

The Conservative MP claims to “stand up for Canada’s seniors who have helped make Canada the strong and prosperous country it is today”. However, this holds true more for married/coupled people in Canada than it does for individuals/singles. In his flyer, the Conservative MP wants feedback on the question “Am I on the right track to deliver support to seniors?” For senior individuals/singles the answer is a resounding and unequivocal “NO”.

Individuals/singles need to stand up, speak out and make facts such as the above known to their members of Parliament, those with decision-making power, and families. Individuals/singles need to decide which political parties are detrimental to their financial health and vote for the party which best meets their financial needs in the Federal election. They need to demand financial sensibility and equality. Financial discrimination of one segment of the population over another is a blatant violation of human rights and civil rights.

(This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

SENIOR SINGLES PAY MORE -Part 1 of 4

SENIOR SINGLES PAY MORE – Part 1 of 4

These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author and are not intended to be used as personal or financial advice.

(The next four posts will consist of four parts. Parts 1 and 2 will be two published Opinion letters, Part 3 will be two Opinion letters published by readers in response to letter in Part 2. Part 4 will be author’s response to the two reader letters in Part 3.)

(This Opinion letter was published in a local newspaper on June 24, 2015. The Conservative party was ousted by the Liberal party in the October, 2015 election. Proper names have been removed. Since published letters are restricted to number of words that can be published, some additional information is added in italics to this article.)

In the June 17, 2015 edition of a local newspaper, a Conservative Member of Parliament states that the Conservatives remain committed to seniors through various measures they have implemented since 2006. This includes targeted tax relief where a single senior can now earn $20,360 and a senior couple $40,720 before paying federal income tax. He states that approximately 400,000 seniors (or 7 to 8% of total Canadian seniors) have been removed from the tax rolls altogether, (he neglects to state federal tax rolls only). This year, he says there is more good news for seniors by reducing the minimum withdrawal for RRIFs (Registered Retirement Income Funds) and introducing a new Home Accessibility Tax Credit (this neglects to recognize that not all seniors own homes).

The above so called tax relief benefit for seniors allows federal tax relief for senior singles equal to $1,697 per month and for senior couples $3,393 per month. The tax relief for senior singles hardly covers a rent or mortgage payment of $1,200 and $250 for food per month (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need), but amply covers this amount for a senior couple. For a couple $1200 for rent or mortgage and $500 for food leaves $1693 (or 50% of $40,000) for other necessities and maybe even a nice little vacation all tax free.

The BMO Retirement Institute Report-Retirement for One-By Chance or Design 2009 bmo.com/pdf and cifps.ca/Public/Media/PDF states the following:

‘the present tax system is set up to give a huge advantage to married/coupled people with singles who were never married or were divorced at some point throughout their entire working career usually subsidizing married/coupled people’. (It is interesting to note that this statement in the original article appears to have been removed and is no longer present in URL shown above).

From Russell Investments ‘Spending Patterns in Retirement’, February 2010 russell.com it is stated that:

‘government transfers, such as CPP and OAS are generally not sufficient to cover the Essentials of Retirement-less than 70% coverage for the average retiree, and as a little as 30% for higher-income retirees. This problem is magnified for single retirees. For example, in the $35,000-$60,000 income category, couples spend only about 12% more than singles on essentials (i.e. food, housing, and clothing), yet receive about 80% more in government transfers’.

The senior population includes about 13% of ‘ever’ single seniors (never married, divorced or widowed) and divorced single seniors (the younger persons are when divorced, the more likely they are to be poor as seniors) and about 43% widowers, (who receive marital manna benefits like pension splitting while married and survivor pension benefits). It is a well-documented fact that singles require 60 to 70% income of married/coupled people depending on whether they rent or own a home with 70% likely being the more accurate figure (Moneysense, BMO Retirement Institute Report-Retirement for One-By Chance or Design, etc.).

So how does the Conservative tax relief program for seniors help ever-single seniors? It doesn’t. Instead, with the addition of marital manna benefits such as pension splitting and survivor benefits, individuals/singles are financially made to be not even 50% worthy of total married/coupled tax relief, but rather less than 50% of married/coupled tax relief. And immigrant families are also financially made to be more income worthy than Canadian-born and immigrant senior individuals/singles.

Governments, businesses and society all talk about ‘family, family, family’, but singles continue to be ‘kicked out’ or deemed ‘less worthy’ than married/coupled people in the ‘family’. The Conservative Prime Minister, Finance Minister, and Members of Parliament remain financially illiterate in individual/singles financial affairs.

The continued financial discrimination of singles must be eliminated by recognizing what it truly costs for ever-singles and divorced/separated senior singles to live in this country. If programs such as pension splitting for married/coupled seniors and survivor benefits for widows continue to be added, then at the same time, ever-single and divorced single seniors must be given equal financial status through enhanced programs such as GIS and 60-70% enhancement of singles’ income baselines over married/coupled person’s and widow baselines. Sixty per cent of couples’ tax relief $40,720 income equals $24,432 ($2,036 per month) and 70% of $40,720 equals $28,504 ($2,375 per month).

The Conservative Member of Parliament’s article is titled ‘Seniors play an increasingly important role in our society’. Unfortunately, married/coupled and widowed seniors are deemed to play a more financially important role than ever-singles or divorced/separated early in life singles even though singles have supported married/coupled and widowed persons throughout their lifetime through contributions by paying more taxes and getting less in benefits.

The senior population of Canada includes only about 13% of singles and divorced/separated persons, while widows comprise 43% of the senior population. If the marital manna benefits were taken away from the widowed persons (who by the way could now be considered to be living a ‘single’ lifestyle since they are now technically ‘single’) they would be on a more equal instead of a greater financial footing to ever singles and divorced/separated persons. Or, if looked at from another perspective since ever singles and divorced/separated persons comprise only 13% of the senior population, would it really cost that much more to give them the same financial benefits as widows? As citizens of this country senior ever singles and divorced/separated persons deserve and should be treated with same financial respect as widowed seniors.

To continue the common sense and critical thinking of this article, a simple rephrasing of the information is as follows:  Governments need to top up tax free amount for ‘ever’ singles and early divorced/separated senior persons to from $20,0000 to $28,000 (70% of $40,000) plus give to ‘ever’ singles and early divorced/separated persons 70% of whatever benefits are given to widowed persons.  To do nothing or less than this only continues the financial discrimination already been committed against ‘ever’ singles and divorced/separated persons.

LOST DOLLARS LIST’

Since it costs ‘ever’ single and divorced/separated seniors with rent or mortgage about 70% – 75% of married/couple seniors’ income, lost dollars of 70% for $20,000 extra that married/coupled seniors get tax free or $6,000 per year (age 65 to 90) will be added to the list.  Total value of dollars lost will be $150,000 ($6,000 times 25 for years age 65 to 90).

 

The blog posted here is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles. It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.