News Article

Poll results: Changing age to receive OAS an unpopular move

Posted: April 04, 2012

Pushing back the age at which seniors receive Old Age Security (OAS) is certainly not a popular move, judging by responses to Knowledge Bureau Report's March poll. Of the 176 readers who responded to last month's question "Should the government raise the age at which you begin to receive OAS benefits?'' 132 or 75% said "No.î Only 25% said "Yes.î

But those who tempered their "Nosî by suggesting the age change be phased in should be pleased with the approach announced in the March 29 federal budget. Economic Action Plan 2012 calls for the age to increase to 67 starting in 2023 with full implementation by 2029. As pointed out in Knowledge Bureau Report's Special Report: Budget 2012, that is an 11-year notification period followed by a six-year phase-in.

Still, the overriding concern of those who said "Noî is the financial well-being of seniors, especially homemakers and the self-employed who don't have company pension plans. Then there are those for whom working another two years is not an option, the unemployed and the unhealthy. There is no doubt in the naysayers' minds that eliminating two years of OAS income will bring financial hardship.

"It will make life too difficult for people,î said Liz. "I see so many so-called "old-age pensionersî working at A&W and Home Depot, so they can afford to live. We should be taking care of the elderly, not seeing how little they can live on.î

It is the baby boomers who are the source of the concern. The leading edge of this demographic blip turns 65 this year. Add in the increasing life expectancy ó 79 for men and 83 for women ó and the pace of boomers tapping the Canada Pension Plan and OAS benefits will only accelerate over the next 18 years. The federal government estimates the annual cost of the OAS program will grow to $108 billion by 2030 from $38 billion in 2011.

It is that long-term cost that concerns those who said "Yes, the age should be raised.î As one reader commented: "Taxpayers can't afford it in future.î

Added another: "When instituted, OAS was intended to give the elderly some financial security for the last few years of their lives. It was never intended to keep people for 30-plus years.î

Donn had this to say: "We Canadians are far too reliant on our ëentitlements.' We must be open to ways to reduce our costs, for OAS, health care and other taxpayer-funded benefits. The age demographics mean we live longer and work longer. We must not allow ourselves to fall into the trap [in which] Greece finds itself.î

But most boomers will escape the effects of the budget's change in eligibility. Only those born on or after Feb. 1, 1962, will have to wait until they are 67 to receive the OAS. That should provide some relief to people like Sharon.

"Too many boomers, like myself, are now approaching retirement having been stripped of assets by the last recession,î commented Sharon, "with no time to recuperate. To delay OAS would add a great deal more financial hardship to what we already bear, as income-earning potential is markedly reduced; lack of jobs has created a huge barrier to financial stability for all ages in this country.î

We'll give the last word to a reader firmly on the "Noî side. "I have worked since I was 18,î he wrote, "and I don't want to be working at 70. If I live to 65, I want my pension.î

Knowledge Bureau Report would like to thank all our readers for participating in the March poll. To read the comments, click here. Next, we would like to hear from you concerning the amount of income taxes you pay. Do you feel you are getting value for your tax dollar? See our poll question below; we look forward to hearing from you.