Three basic pillars comprise the Canadian retirement system.

The first is a publicly financed system of pension benefits: Old Age Security (OAS), Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and Allowance programs. Most Canadians aged 65 or older qualify for OAS, but income limits apply. GIS provides an added benefit for low-income citizens and residents. Up to certain income limits, Allowance programs provide further benefits for spouses, widows and widowers.

The second pillar is the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and its parallel Quebec Pension Plan (QPP). All employed Canadians between the ages of 18 and 65 contribute to one or the other in order to receive benefits after retirement. In response to Canada’s growing senior population and the need to maintain reserves, changes in benefits are being phased in over the next few years. More specific information about how these changes will impact your retirement is available at the Service Canada and the QPP websites.

The third pillar consists of registered pension plans (RPPs) and registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs). RPPs are employer-sponsored defined benefit plans that, at retirement, provide a pre-determined percentage of working salary. RRSPs, administered by regulated financial institutions, are defined contribution plans that provide a retirement benefit based on accumulated contributions and investment income. They may be individual, group or deferred profit-sharing plans.

Health care is ensured through Canada’s single-payer, national health care program, often called Medicare.

For more information, see “Gray Matter” online resources at