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Our Stories

The following are real life stories from OTSB Group members. Their stories demonstrate that retirees should have the right to designate the spouse who will receive a spousal survivor pension benefit.

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Widowed before retirement, no benefit for a new spouse.

D.I. of Cornwall was widowed in 2008, after her husband passed away from cancer. They had married in 1997, two years after he retired from being a school teacher. He was a widower at the time of his retirement.

D.I. now lives on Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan pensions that total just over $1,000 per month, as well as her dwindling savings. She struggles to maintain her home and pay for utilities and other necessities. With little disposable income, she also struggles to maintain friendship and activities.

"Added to the financial hardship is the grief of knowing that my husband died worried and anxious that the teachers' pension that he thought would keep me financially secure after his passing is not there," she says.

Widowed just after retirement, pensioner could not name an eligible spouse.

Jan Hutton of Kitchener married a retired teacher who was widowed shortly after he retired. Despite the fact that his wife predeceased him and would never receive a spousal survivor’s pension, the couple learned that he could not designate his current wife as the beneficiary of his pension. Unfortunately, a miscommunication with OTPP initially left the couple with the understanding that she would be eligible to receive a portion of his survivor pension.

The couple was married for 23 years. After his death, Jan struggles to live solely on her OAS and CPP benefits. Additional family struggles, including supporting a disabled son, forced her to declare bankruptcy.

"He made his payments in good faith as a working teacher. The reality is that his contributions are being put back into the pot he helped to build, with no regard to his family or our legitimate needs," she says.

Pensioner marries after retirement and cannot designate eligible spouse.

Lois Maxim of Toronto worked and paid full-time into the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan from 1974 until she retired in 2003. Married in 2008, her husband is self-employed and works on a commission only basis.

"The state of our finances should not be the only reason that my spouse is eligible for survivor benefits from my pension," says Lois "In a province with laws regarding equal pay for equal work it seems when it comes to pension contributions, some are more equal than others."

Widow remarries and must take pension reduction to provide for her husband.

D.S., of Pembroke, retired at age 58 after more than 35 years of teaching. Her husband died after a long battle with cancer and she eventually remarried. In order to provide her new husband with a reduced spousal survivor pension, D.S. took a reduced pension now, which is permanent.

On this reduced pension she is also trying to help support her adult disabled son. She wishes she could do more for her daughter, who is battling cancer and is struggling financially.

"I believe it is unfair that my husband is unable to receive the full spousal pension," D.S. says. "I also believe it is unfair that if my husband predeceases me, my pension will not be reinstated to what it would have been. It is unfair that I would have to live my remaining years on this reduced pension when no surviving spouse could ever benefit from my sacrifice."

Members pay pension reductions for life, even though eligible spouse dies.

When Nancy Fenemore, of Mississauga, retired in October 2007, she decided to take a reduced pension in order to provide her husband with a larger survivor's pension. He had no pension of his own and she felt committed to doing all she could for him. Sadly, he died of cancer about four months after her retirement.

Recently, Nancy remarried. She is already living on a reduced pension, and her spouse at retirement has already died. However, she cannot provide a survivor pension to her new husband without taking yet another reduction - one worth thousands of dollars per year.

She was recently diagnosed with cancer. Though her prognosis is good, it awakened new concerns about how her current husband might cope without her survivor benefit.

"I do worry about his future without me and without the comforts that my survivor pension - which I earned - would bring to him," she says.

Widow recognized as eligible spouse by Government of Canada but not by OTPP.

One Ontario woman has faced significant challenges as the widow of an educator. Her late husband retired after 30 years of teaching and had been married for one year at the time of his retirement. That marriage lasted only one more year. Although it was a brief marriage, this ex-wife is now the only spouse that the OTTP rules will recognize as benefitting from a spousal survivor pension.

Without a survivors pension, the woman came out of retirement at age 57 to support herself after her husband’s death. Now a senior herself, she has depleted her savings and is seeking affordable seniors housing. Ironically, she is eligible to receive a CPP spousal pension -- meaning the federal government recognizes her as his eligible spouse, but the OTTP does not.