Top retirement benefits most people forget to use

Most people over 65 in Canada qualify for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension, but many pensioners aren't fully aware of other benefits available to them. Here's some entitlements you may have missed.

Top retirement benefits most people forget to use

1. The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)

  • This payment goes out to singles with an income lower than $13,464 a year, or couples with less than $17,568 of income, excluding GIS and OAS.
  • The GIS is based on annual income.
  • You must be 60 to 64.
  • If you're 60 to 64 and the widow of a GIS recipient, you may be eligible for a survivor's allowance.

2. Canada Pension Plan (CPP)

  • If you're the widow or dependent child of a contributor, you could be eligible for a lump sum death benefit or monthly survivor benefits.
  • You and your spouse could apply to share your CPP retirement pensions as long as you're both 60 or older to save on your income tax.
  • If you have children born after December 31, 1958, you may be eligible for higher benefits.

3. International benefits

  • If you've lived and worked in another country, you or your family could be eligible for old age, retirement, disability or survivor benefits from that country, in addition to your Canadian entitlements.
  • Canada has social security agreements with 46 countries.
  • For more information, call 1-800-454-8731.

4. Other credits

  • Age tax credit: If you turned 65 before the end of the year, you may be able to claim the age tax credit, which is calculated on the basis of income.
  • Pension tax credit:If you're 65 or older, the first $1,000 of pension income is eligible for a 17 percent federal tax credit. You can apply for a provincial credit as well, which varies from province to province.
  • The GST/HST credit: Apply for this credit every year. You may qualify after you retire, even if you didn't qualify before.
  • Government-assisted home renovations: The federal government's Home Adaptations for Seniors' Independence (HASI) program helps homeowners and landlords pay for minor home adaptations to extend the time low-income seniors can live in their own homes independently.
  • Financial aid for medical bills: Seniors are eligible for free eye tests and prescriptions. Eyeglasses, hearing aids, wheelchairs, dentistry and nursing-home fees can be claimed on your tax return.
  • Veterans' entitlements: Veterans may be eligible for additional benefits, from an independent living allowance that might cover lawn care, snow shoveling and other hard-to-manage tasks for the elderly. Veterans can also qualify for a monthly pension for disabilities, prescription drug and other health care coverage, and even help with burial costs.
  • Senior's rates: Once you turn 65, or even 60, you're eligible for a wide range of senior's discounts. Find savings on restaurant meals, department store purchases (shop on Senior's Days), public transit fares, automobile insurance, bus or train tickets, movies and other attractions.

You shouldn't have to worry about your income and important expenses once you've retired. A quick check for these benefits and entitlements can make sure you're getting everything you can to enjoy your life after work.

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