Government Financial Assistance Available to Seniors Who Know Where to Look
Financial literacy and planning is more important for Canadian seniors than ever before.
According to CARP, 600,000 Canadian seniors live in poverty and a 2014 report by Statistics Canada suggests that 1 in 4 seniors who live below the poverty line are single. It’s important for Canadian seniors to boost their retirement income by taking advantage of all of the financial programs available to them, but navigating the system can be a bit tricky, especially for seniors who are new to Canada. Learn more about how to find government assistance for seniors.
Government Financial Assistance Available to Seniors
The federal government offers a number of programs that provide seniors with a steady retirement income. The first step is to know about each program and check to see if and when you apply. If you are married then it is advantageous to consider how your combined income will affect your eligibility for each program. A certified financial planner is a great resource to help you navigate these programs, but if you don’t have access to one you can also visit Service Canada or call 2-1-1 for further information.
- Old Age Security Pension (OAS): If you are 65 years or older and have lived in Canada for ten years or more then you may qualify for this monthly benefit
- Canadian Pension Plan Retirement Pension (CPP): If you contributed to the CPP while you were working then you will be eligible for this monthly benefit
- Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS): This monthly benefit is available to low-income seniors who receive Old Age Security
- Allowance Program: Low-income seniors aged 60-64 whose spouse or common-law partner is eligible for or receives Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement may be eligible for this monthly benefit
- Allowance for the Survivor: Low-income widowed spouses who are not yet eligible for Old Age Security may be eligible to receive this monthly benefit
- Canadian Government Annuities: People who have contributed to the purchase of an annuity on their own or through an employer as a part of an employer sponsored pension plan should contact the Canadian Government Annuities Branch to determine the status of their Annuity
Provincial Programs to Assist Seniors
Each province offers unique financial programs and benefits to assist seniors.
For example, Alberta offers the Senior Financial Assistance Program (SFA) and Ontario offers a Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) which provides a guaranteed minimum income for Ontario seniors by topping up the federal Old Age Security (OAS) pension and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) payments for eligible seniors.
Check online to see what benefits your province offers.
Options for Seniors Who Are New to Canada
All of the above-mentioned programs are available to Canadian citizens, and most require seniors to have lived in Canada for at least ten years. What should you do if you are a senior who is new to Canada?
The International Benefit Program is a social security agreement that Canada has made with other countries to help seniors who are new to Canada qualify for pensions from Canada as well as from their country of origin. You may be eligible for the International Benefit Program if you have:
- Lived and worked in a country with an agreement with Canada
- Paid into the social security plan of your country of origin
Other Financial Resources for Seniors
There are a number of other financial resources that seniors should investigate:
1. Veterans Affairs Canada: If you are a Canadian Veteran then check with Veterans Affairs Canada to see if you are eligible for any additional financial benefits or programs like the War Veterans Allowance (WVA). If you served for a country other than Canada may want to check with the Veterans office in your country of origin to see if there are any additional benefits available to you.
2. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC): The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation invests $2 billion dollars a year to help Canadians find affordable housing. They provide seniors access to affordable housing and sometimes offer housing subsidies for seniors and other Canadians in need.
3. 2-1-1: Is a national service that provides access to local information for Canadians. The best thing about 2-1-1 is that you can call them 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. They can help you find information specific to your province and city about:
- Tax refunds and rebates
- Health care
- Home care
- Long-term care and housing
- Food programs
- Energy programs and rebates
- Social, recreation and education programs
- Help with pet costs.
Most Canadian seniors have spent their life paying into the programs and services mentioned above. Our country’s social safety net is designed to ease the financial struggle for Canadian seniors, but help is only available to those who apply.
Take advantage of the programs and services available to you. It’s worth the time to investigate to see whether you are eligible to receive a boost to your retirement income.
What government financial assistance have you taken advantage of? Share your stories and tips with us in the comments below.
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