What every woman must know: how to best save for retirement

Women get a raw deal in retirement. Their income is typically less than that of men. Here are some easy ways for women to save for retirement.

What every woman must know: how to best save for retirement

Make the most of the Canada Pension Plan

There are ways for women to boost CPP benefits. Make sure you take full advantage of the retirement benefits available.

  • Child rearing drop-out provision: If you have children born after December 31, 1958, you may be able to get higher benefits by applying for the child rearing drop-out provision. It recognizes the time you spent out of the workforce.
  • Join your husband's business: If your husband is self-employed, join in as a partner or an employee. If you don't have the specific skills involved for the work that he does, you can still do the bookkeeping and banking. Not only does this provide the tax advantage of splitting income, but it is also a way for women who are at home with children to work flexible hours and contribute as an employee to the Canada Pension Plan, thus building more retirement income of your own.
  • Married women's entitlements CPP: You are entitled to survivor benefits if your husband contributed to the plan — and subsequently dies. If you separate or divorce, you can apply for a division of credits that accumulated during the marriage so that you also receive a pension.
  • Workplace pensions: Survivor benefits are available from workplace pension plans if your husband dies before you. Upon separation or divorce, most provinces provide for a sharing of assets, but there is no automatic provision for dividing a pension at source. You will have to capitalize the value and this sum will be added to the value of assets to be shared. You are entitled to a lump sum that will provide a future income stream that would be equivalent to what you would get in future pension payments, but your husband would get his full payments from the pension plan. Federally regulated pensions and a few private ones do provide for a division at source by agreement of the spouses.

Know what it means to be unmarried partners

More women choose to cohabit with their partner than ever before, but this could prove financially disastrous as in most provinces it gives you no property rights under family law.

  • Understand your position: You can live with a man for 30 years and have children together, but if he leaves, you are not automatically entitled to any of his property.
  • Check pension rights: Check what happens to your partner's workplace pension if he dies, either before or after retirement. Has he designated you under the plan?

Buy a joint life annuity and save

Even if you and your partner have saved for years, if you buy the wrong annuity at retirement you could face financial disaster. Make sure you and your partner take out a "joint life" annuity, which pays a reduced amount after the first partner dies, usually half or two-thirds.

How RRSPs can help

If you are at home with the children and your husband is contributing to his RRSP, suggest that he contribute half to his own plan and half to yours. He will get the full tax benefit and the family will gain the income-splitting benefit upon retirement. The added bonus — income of your own.

Your retirement should be a time of restful leisure, not financial stress. Follow these tips to make sure you're prepared to spend your golden years in comfort.

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