OPB News for Members
How OPB’s Client Service Advisors are helping members during the pandemic3 minute read
Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a great personal, professional and, for many, financial toll. Our Client Service Advisors, our in-house team of Certified Financial Planners (CFP®), have stepped up their efforts to deliver the highest level of service to members, helping them navigate how their pension and retirement plans fit within their shifting life and financial circumstances.
We asked our Advisors how they’ve assisted members during the pandemic and here’s what they shared.
Providing timely, continuous service
“Since transitioning to work-from-home, we’ve been able to support our members by effectively transitioning our services to accommodate our members. We’ve instituted one-on-one video meetings to replace face-to-face meetings, increased our flexibility on meeting times, and launched a secure document upload tool so members can provide us with key forms, elections, and records from the safety of their home. As a result, there has been minimal impact in our service delivery.” — GEOFF V.
Being even more empathetic
“Everyone is dealing with the challenges of COVID-19, such as having multiple generations working and learning from home, family members losing their jobs or being ill, and young parents helping with their children’s schooling. Going through this pandemic has raised my awareness around the importance of empathy for everyone’s unique circumstances and I focus on having a positive impact in my interactions with members.” — ANTHONY D.
“The level of trust that members have when speaking with us about their personal situations has struck me. We’re essentially a voice on a phone, but because we’re with OPB and we are reaching out to help them with their pension and financial issues, it often immediately creates a “trust connection” and I can hear their tone immediately become warmer. The “hello” is guarded, but once I introduce myself, their whole manner is open and wanting to engage in discussion.” — RENÉE V.
Being flexible in delivering exceptional service
With work-from-home, I have more flexibility in scheduling phone meetings. I find that members are grateful for our increased flexibility as they’re busy during the day and can find it challenging to find time to talk. Members trust us not only with their pension as one piece of their puzzle, but they also rely on us to help them understand how all the pieces fit together to form their whole financial picture.” — KASIA S.
Helping members navigate career and life events
"Our conversations with members need to be about the person first, and pension second. I realized very quickly the importance of establishing myself and OPB as a valuable, objective source of retirement and financial help. Because we can help inform decision making during critical points in a member’s career or when faced with life events that have financial impacts, we can make a real difference for the member and their retirement security.” — LAURIE A.
Creating deeper bonds with members
“I find sharing similar experiences on challenges during the pandemic with members, especially those with young children at home, helps everyone feel more comfortable about the circumstances we are facing. Everyone is really understanding about the interruptions that can occur even if we are having a serious discussion about pension matters and financial decision making.” — EVELYN L.
“During work-from-home, our calls with members have felt more like a chat with a trusted friend, which has allowed the Advisors to help members get to a good place with their pension and retirement planning. Members are showing a greater willingness to share their personal story and turning to us even more as their trustworthy, accessible Advisor.” — DAVID L.
As you may be aware, last fall the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Fraser v. Canada (Attorney General) that members of a federal government pension plan were eligible to purchase full-time pension credit for periods of employment when they temporarily reduced their working hours. OPB is taking proactive steps to ensure that the Public Service Pension Plan complies with the law following this decision.
Starting on August 1, 2021, active PSPP members have the option to purchase full-time pension credit for a period of employment where a member and employer agree to a reduced working hours arrangement (e.g., from full-time to part-time) on a temporary basis.
How does this affect me?
If you are currently in an arrangement agreed with your employer working part-time on a temporary basis, you will have the option to apply to purchase the full amount of credit. Apply within 24 months of the end of that period, your contributions will be matched by your employer. If you apply more than 24 months after the end of the temporary part-time arrangement the cost will be actuarial, which is likely to be more expensive.
If you are an active member who participated in a temporary part-time work arrangement agreed with your employer during a period in the past, a new buyback window of 24 months has been established to give you the option of purchasing full-time credit for that period with employer-matched contributions. This window will run from August 1, 2021.
You must apply to purchase this credit by July 31, 2023. Buybacks for employer-approved temporary part-time work arrangements outside this 24-month window will be at actuarial cost, which is likely to be more expensive.
Please note as well that the federal Income Tax Act places limits on the amount of full-time credit that can be accrued in respect of periods of part-time work.
For more information on eligibility and how to apply, visit opb.ca/temp-part-time.
Important Tax Considerations While Working from Home During the Pandemic2 minute read
As working from home has become more popular in recent years, many employees have been aware of the unique challenges and opportunities it presents. Now, many of our members find themselves in an unprecedented circumstance: working from home during a pandemic.
We’re facing new personal and professional hurdles, like forming makeshift workspaces and evaluating whether our home internet connection is strong enough to accommodate our current circumstances (like handling multiple Zoom calls). Many have incurred additional costs to be able to work from home effectively. The tax season is now upon us and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has introduced a new option for claiming work-from-home expenses that you should consider.
Before you begin assessing your work-from-home expenses, it’s important to understand the two different methods you can use to claim them on your 2020 income tax return: the temporary flat rate method and the detailed method. While both methods have their advantages, you should consult with your tax specialist to understand which option is best suited to you.
Temporary Flat Rate method
When using the temporary flat rate method, you may be eligible to claim up to $400 in work-from-home expenses. To be eligible for this deduction, you need to have worked from home more than 50 per cent of the time over a period of at least four consecutive weeks in 2020 due to COVID-19. If you meet this requirement, you can claim up to $2 for each day you worked from home, up to a maximum of $400 (this is not a $400 payment from CRA, but rather a $400 deduction on your total taxable income for 2020).
Example: Jill started working from home on March 2, 2020. She worked from home for more than 50 per cent of the time over a period of more than four consecutive weeks; in fact, she accrued 200 work-from-home days (excludes days off, Public Holidays, vacation, sick days and leaves of absence). Using the temporary flat rate method, Jill claimed $2 per day, equaling $400. If she had worked fewer than 200 days, she would have claimed the total number of work-from-home days multiplied by $2. If she had worked more than 200 days, she would have claimed the $400 maximum or considered filing under the detailed method.
If you choose to use the detailed method, you must separate your personal and professional expenses. Also, if you decide to deduct work-space-in-the-home expenses (such as your hydro bill), you must determine the amount of workspace you use in your home. To be eligible to use this deduction method, you need a signed completed copy of the T2200S form or the T2200 form from your employer. This method requires that you keep receipts and supporting documentation of your claimed expenses (you cannot claim any expense that will be reimbursed by your employer). The CRA has now expanded their list of eligible expenses that can be claimed as work-from-home expenses during the pandemic, such as a portion of your utilities or condo fees, and even home internet access fees (some conditions apply).
To learn more details about filing work-from-home expenses, please visit the CRA website at canada.ca/en/revenue-agency(opens in a new tab).
Not so long ago, the dream of retiring with a pension seemed very simple. You worked with one company for your entire career, announced your retirement effective your 65th birthday, and went on to live happily with your employer pension. A few decades ago, the idea of retirement at 55 gained popularity, and the concept of early retirement became prominent in the minds of many young people entering the workforce. Today, early retirement is an ambitious goal for many Ontarians — but is it really the right goal for you?
While early retirement may provide an enhanced quality of life for many, there are many things to consider before deciding if early retirement is the right move.
As a member of the Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP), your first step is to review your Annual Pension Statement (APS) to see if you have an early unreduced retirement date (EURD), and what that date is. After you’ve looked that up, there are three questions to ask yourself when considering when and how best you can achieve your desired retirement lifestyle:
- How much income will I receive? Retirees have three primary sources of income in retirement — employer pensions, government benefits (i.e., CPP and Old Age Security) and personal savings. Understand how much you will have if you retire early versus a typical retirement date of age 65.
- How much money will I spend? You might spend less on clothes and commuting, but it’s important to consider other ways you’re likely to spend in retirement — travelling, entertainment, hobbies, renovations, etc. Create a budget to project your anticipated spending.
- How long will I live as a retiree? Planning for retirement means facing the uncertainty of how long you’ll be able to enjoy retirement. Consider the age at which you plan to retire, your family’s history of longevity and your current and future health status.
OPB has resources available to you to help with the financial component of retirement planning. Our online Retirement Planner on OPB’s e-services portal allows for income and expenses to be recorded and “what if” scenarios to be explored. Our Client Service Advisors are also available to assist with creating a detailed retirement plan and to help you make financial decisions regarding the transition from your working life to retirement.
This extra time at home may provide the opportunity to create or refresh your retirement plan. We want you to be encouraged and excited about retirement life, especially now that Canadians are on average living between two and three decades past their normal retirement date. And remember, we are here to help!
Have you considered your estate plans? Estate planning conversations can sometimes be difficult ones, but we’re here to help. We spoke with David Lee, one of our Client Service Advisors, on what to think about when making your future plans. The important conversation “I usually recommend that members start with the basics,” says David. The first step is to have an open conversation with your family. “It’s one of those topics that we usually avoid with our family members, because we don’t want to talk about death and who gets what or how much, but it helps your family understand your wishes and minimize the risk of future disputes and disagreements,” he adds.
Why a will is important
David also advises members on the importance of having a will in place, and recent data supports that need: an Angus Reid Institute poll from 2017 showed that more than half of Canadians don’t have a will. “The will is the key element when it comes to estate planning, because it allows members to provide for an orderly distribution of their assets in accordance with their wishes.” Having a will minimizes the burden on your family members after your death. Without a will, your assets will be distributed according to provincial law. “If members don’t have a will, I usually recommend they get professional legal help drafting one,” says David.
Already have a will? When is the last time you reviewed it?
“Sometimes members have designated someone as executor or estate trustee and that person has since died, so I always tell members to keep their will up to date.” Ensure that the person you’ve named as your executor or estate trustee is still able and willing to fill that role — even with a will, there are a variety of steps they will have to go through with financial institutions after your death, so it’s critical that you’ve named someone that you feel will be able to handle that responsibility.
What about a power of attorney?
David also advises that you may want to consider drawing up a power of attorney document. A power of attorney is a legal document that names the person or people who can make decisions on your behalf. If you’re no longer able to make decisions for yourself, the person named in your power of attorney for personal care can make decisions about things like your health care and housing and the person named in your continuing power of attorney for property can make decisions about your financial affairs.
Other things to consider:
David also offers these quick takeaways for you to consider in your estate planning:
Life insurance: “Review your life insurance policy periodically and do a quick needs analysis to make sure your coverage is appropriate.”
Beneficiaries: “Check your pension, life insurance, and registered accounts to ensure your beneficiary designations continue to reflect your wishes and that any contact details are up to date.”
Contacting OPB Advisors
If you have questions about your survivor benefit entitlements or would like to discuss considerations for estate planning, our Advisors are available at no cost to help you over the phone or through a video call. To book a one-on-one session, log in to your e-services account and select ‘Book My 1-on-1’. You can also contact our Client Care Centre to set up an appointment.
We’re excited to announce the redesign and launch of e-services, OPB’s member portal. As part of our ongoing commitment to service excellence, and with your valuable feedback in mind, the modernized portal will launch in the fall of 2021 and you will enjoy a sleek new look and modern design. Exciting, right?
Here’s what you can expect.
- Multi-Device Access: Enjoy a more responsive and consistent experience from your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.
- Updated navigation: Use the Quick Links menu to easily find the information you need by accessing popular pages.
- Improved accessibility: Key accessibility features, including larger text sizes, improved colour contrast and screen reader compatibility, allowing more of our membership to enjoy an inclusive digital experience.
- Enhanced security: You’ll be able to access the portal using an enhanced login process that is simpler and more secure — because keeping your information safe is always a top priority.
We value your feedback
Throughout the ongoing redesign process, members like you will participate in research studies to help us create the types of client experiences that will meet your needs. The new portal will include enhancements created in direct response to the feedback provided in these studies, including the ability to use a personalized username (instead of your OPB Client Number) to access the portal.
Want to get involved?
If you would like to participate in a redesign research study, please register for e-alerts through e-services to keep informed on upcoming sessions. If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for more
The enhancements that we are introducing this year are just the beginning of our e-services modernization efforts. We are committed to improving our client experience online by launching new features and further enhancements in the years to come. Register for e-alerts and visit the News section on our website for the latest updates about our upcoming relaunch!
As you read in our communication to you last fall, we have transitioned to providing your Annual Pension Statement (APS) electronically.
In the past, we have always provided your statement through two channels — we uploaded a digital copy to your e-services account, and we mailed a copy to you. This is a change our members have been asking for and we’re very excited to move to digital delivery. Not only is this the most environmentally friendly choice, it also means you will never need to worry about misplacing your statement. You can view your three most recent statements online (as applicable).
Efficient & environmentally friendly: receive a paperless APS!
To opt for paperless delivery of your APS
- Make sure we have your home email address.
- Make sure you are registered for e-services.
- Log into your e-services account or contact us to change your communication preference. Under “My Account” there is a “Communication Preferences” page, where you can select the ‘electronic’ option.
We will need you to make this selection by November 30, 2021 in order to process your request for next year’s APS. If you prefer to continue receiving your APS by mail, no action is required; you will receive your APS in the mail and online unless you change your preferences. If you have any questions, please contact us.
OPB News provides general information relevant to PSPP members. This publication is not to be relied on as legal, financial or tax advice. Please note that if there is any conflict between the contents of OPB News and the legal documents governing the PSPP, the legal documents governing the PSPP will prevail. For detailed and personalized advice about the PSPP, or retirement planning more generally, please contact one of OPB's Client Service Advisors. You can do this by logging into e-services and using the Book my 1-on-1 feature.