FALSE ASSUMPTIONS OF ARTICLE ‘FOUR WAYS SINGLE SENIORS LOSE OUT’
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.
(On searching internet a few days ago this article was found – ‘Four ways single seniors lose out’ by Ted Rechtshaffen, Financial Post October 13, 2012. While the intentions of the article are great, the assumptions and categorization of singles is false.)
In his October 13, 2012 article Ted Rechtshaffen (four-ways-single-seniors-lose-out) talks about four ways that single seniors financially lose out. Portions of the article are outlined in part here (full article is available online):
“Being part of a couple in old age has so many tax advantages that losing a spouse through divorce or death can be very costly. Given the fact that so many more single seniors are female, this unfairness is almost an added tax on women. Becoming single in old age could cost you tens of thousands of dollars through no fault of your own. The current tax and pension system in Canada is significantly tilted to benefit couples over singles once you are age 65 or more….
Here are four ways that single seniors lose out:
1. There is no one to split income with. Since the rules changed to allow for income splitting of almost all income for those aged 65 or older, it has meaningfully lowered tax rates for some…If you are single, you are stuck with the higher tax bill.
2. CPP (Canadian Pension Plan) haircut… If one passes away, the government doesn’t pay out more than the maximum for CPP to the surviving spouse. They will top up someone’s CPP if it is below the maximum, but in this case, they simply lose out almost $12,000 a year.
3. RSP/RIF (Retirement Savings Plan/Retirement Income Fund) gets folded into one account. This becomes important as you get older and a larger amount of money is withdrawn by a single person each year — and taxed on income…her tax bill will be much larger… than the combined tax bill the year before, even though they have essentially the same assets, and roughly the same income is withdrawn.
4. Old Age Security (OAS). The married couple with $50,000 of income each, both qualify for full Old Age Security —… If the husband passes away, you lose his OAS, about $6,500. On top of that, in the example in #3, the wife now has a minimum RIF income…and combined with CPP and any other income, she is now getting OAS clawed back.
The clawback starts at $69,562, and the OAS declines by 15¢ for every $1 of income beyond $69,562. If we assume that the widow now has an income of $80,000, her OAS will be cut to $414.50 a month or another $1,500 annual hit simply because she is now single. In total, almost $8,000 of Old Age Security has now disappeared. As you can see, a couple’s net after-tax income can drop as much as $25,000 after one becomes single.
On the other side, there is no question that expenses will decline being one person instead of two, but the expenses don’t drop in half. We usually see a decline of about 15% to 30%, because items like housing and utilities usually don’t change much, and many other expenses only see small declines.
In one analysis our company did comparing the ultimate estate size of a couple who both pass away at age 90, as compared to one where one of them passes away at age 70 and the other lives to 90, the estate size was over $500,000 larger when both lived to age 90 – even with higher expenses.
So the question becomes, what can you do about this?
I have three suggestions:
1. Write a letter to your MP along with this article, and demand that the tax system be made more fair for single seniors. You may also want to send a letter to Status of Women Minister…as this issue clearly affects women more than men.
2. Look at having permanent life insurance on both members of a couple to compensate for the gaps. Many people have life insurance that they drop after a certain age. The life insurance option certainly isn’t a necessity, but can be a solution that provides a better return on investment than many alternatives and covers off this gap well. If you have sufficient wealth that you will be leaving a meaningful estate anyway, this usually will grow the overall estate value as compared to not having the insurance — and not hurt your standard of living in any way.
3. Consider a common law relationship for tax purposes. I am only half joking. If two single seniors get together and write a pre-nuptial agreement to protect assets in the case of a separation or death, you can both benefit from the tax savings.
Ultimately, the status quo is simply unfair to single seniors, and that needs to change.”
Ted Rechtshaffen is president and wealth advisor at TriDelta Financial, a boutique wealth management and planning firm. www.tridelta.ca
The first thing that is so wrong with this article is the definition of single versus married/partnered in marital status. The senior persons mentioned in this article are not single. According to Statistics Canada definitions, they are widowed or divorced/separated (after age 65). Persons who are true and ever singles have none of the financial benefits/losses mentioned in this article. And if persons are divorced/separated, especially at an early stage of their marriage, they also do not have many of the benefits/losses mentioned here. (The earlier the divorce/separation in life, the greater is the loss of benefits that married/coupled persons enjoy).
- Being part of a couple in old age has so many tax advantages…How true!
- The current tax and pension system in Canada is significantly tilted to benefit couples over singles once you are age 65 or more….This statement is not completely true. The system is even more unfair for singles who are true (‘ever’) singles, not widows. Singles who are true singles have been excluded from the discussion.
- Benefits – Article correctly states that pension splitting, CPP, RSP/RIF and OAS are benefits to married people because the couple receives these benefits times two and is able to pension split, but widowed persons have less of these benefits. To this, true singles and early divorced/separated persons ask the question, “so what”? If widowed persons are now so called ‘single’ they should have to live same standard of living, not better than, true singles and early divorced/separated persons.
- Losses – Losses are correctly stated, however, true (‘ever’) singles and early divorced/separated persons have a hard time understanding why this is a hardship. Widowers are now ‘single’ so why can’t they live the same lifestyle as true singles and early divorced/separated persons?
- Higher tax bill – Why is this a problem? Widowed persons are now on more equal playing field to true single and early divorced/separated persons.
- Clawback – Again why is this a problem? True singles and early divorced/separated persons enjoy none of these benefits. Also, many true (ever) singles and early divorced/separated Canadian persons do not have the luxury of a $70,000 income.
Estate size $500,000 less
– Just more proof that married/coupled persons want it all and want more, more and more from the time of marriage until the death of their spouse/partner and even after the death of their spouse/partner. In article ‘The Added Price of Single Life?’ by Bella Depaulo (belladepaulo) talks about a A British study that showed true singles lose equivalent of $380,000 USA over a lifetime to married persons, so what is the problem with losing $500,000? Another good article is ‘The high price of being single in America’ theatlantic.com.
The article then goes on to make these enlightening points:
“There is no question that expenses will decline being one person instead of two, but the expenses don’t drop in half. We usually see a decline of about 15% to 30%, because items like housing and utilities usually don’t change much, and many other expenses only see small declines“.
It would be exceedingly wonderful if government, businesses, society and families (married/partnered) would recognize this fact for true singles and early divorced/separated persons instead of telling them “it must be their lifestyle” that is making them poor. Fifteen to 30 percent decline? Wow, singles would love these percentages to also be used for them especially since 60 to 70% income of married or partnered persons is often used (i.e. MoneySense articles). If only true singles and early divorced persons could say they should have the same benefits as widowed persons, that is, 70 to 85% income of married or partnered persons.
Unfair to single seniors? The most unfairness is to true singles and divorced/separated persons, not widows.
Regarding the suggestions that are made:
“Write your MP and demand that tax system be made more fair for single seniors”. The article refers only to married/coupled and divorced/separated seniors after the age of 65. It dis criminates by exclusion against true singles and early divorced/separated persons.
“Look at having permanent life insurance on both members of a couple to compensate for the gaps”. This is a great idea. The author of this blog has long thought this would be a solution to providing benefits to survivors once spouses have died and they would actually be paying for those benefits through premiums. At the present time, survivors are getting marital manna benefits, but then are asking for more as this article suggests. They are also getting survivors benefits from pension plans and paying very little for these benefits. An example is a pension plan where only $100 is deducted each month from living spouse for pension benefits in the thousand dollar range. Deduction of $100 per month or $1200 per year does not pay for survivor pension that is two-thirds of full pension of the spouse. Life insurance plans at present time do not extend to 90 years of age without excessive premiums. To stop all the marital manna benefits that survivors get, life insurance plans need to be extended to 90 years of age, and spouses need to pay premiums for entire life. Another critical thinking, outside the box idea is to eliminate marital manna benefits and make permanent term life insurance plans compulsory, just like house and car insurance, so that married/coupled persons would actually pay for the benefits they receive. This methodology would allow true singles and early divorced/separated persons to be on more level financial playing field to married/coupled persons since generally true singles do not need life insurance. A longer term for collecting premiums should help to offset the costs of the premiums that will be paid out. Permanent life insurance would ease burden that married/partnered benefits place on government programs. There also would then be more monies to bring government programs for true singles and early divorced/separated persons to have same standard of living as married/coupled and widowed persons.
- Consider a common law relationship for tax purposes. He says he is only half kidding. Really? According to Canada Revenue Agency rules this is not legal. Ever singles and divorced/separated persons cannot just shack up with someone for tax purposes. More true singles and early divorced/separated persons would be doing this if they could.
- Writers who wish to write about the financial affairs of singles should use correct definitions for singles. The persons in this article were not true singles. In other words, correctly identify who your audience is.
- Writers of financial institutions who wish to write about the financial affair of singles should include all singles in their discussions. To do anything less is discriminatory and disrespectful to singles who truly are single.
- By all means vote and contact your Members of Parliament, but insist that true singles and early divorced/separated persons (senior and otherwise) be included in financial discussions and formulas equal to and at the same level as widows and middle class families. (Seventy to 85% income of married/coupled persons would be wonderful).
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.
Visitor questions regarding blog. This is a WordPress blog designed by a hired individual.