Getting ready for retirement

Retirement is one of life's major milestones. You'll need to plan and consider a variety of options – some may support your personal vision of retirement better than others.

n addition to your own retirement goals, you'll have to consider when retirement might be achievable for you and the type of retirement income you'd like to set up.

It's important to learn about your options so you can make decisions appropriate for your situation. A great first step is to make a written retirement plan. 
We recommend that you start early so that you can make adjustments if you need to.  

Not sure where to start? Our experienced, professional 
staff are here to help. Please contact us. 

When can I retire?

Retirement age

  • The CSS Pension Plan's normal retirement age is 60.

  • You may qualify for early retirement when you reach age 50 or earlier if your age plus years of continuous service with one or more participating employers equals a factor of 75. Your early retirement date is indicated on your annual statement.

  • ​Your age plus years of continuous service can equal 75 before age 50 if you started working for a participating employer before age 25.

Working past age 60

If you decide to work past age 60, you and your employer will continue contributing to the Plan either until your employment terminates or until November 30 of the year you turn age 71 – whichever comes first.

You must convert your CSS account balance into retirement income before the end of the year you turn 71.

Your pension account

In a defined contribution (DC) pension plan like CSS Pension Plan, your contributions, employer's contributions and investment earnings make up your pension account balance.

The size of your balance at retirement will be an important factor when determining how much your monthly retirement income will be.

Whether you decide to retire at age 50, 60 or 71 (or somewhere in between) – it's up to you.

Generally your account balance grows over time. So delaying retirement tends to increase your retirement income for two reasons – your account balance is likely to be higher, and the length of time that you'll need a retirement income is likely to be shorter.

If you retire at age 50, for example, your expected monthly pension payments will be lower than if you retire at age 60.

To check your account balance​, sign up or log in to myCSSPEN.​​

Retirement income options

Once you retire, the pension funds you've accumulated over the years will become your retirement income.

You'll have various retirement income options to consider, so it's important that you take some time to figure out the best course of action.

Keep in mind that your options will vary depending on the pension laws​ for your province.

You can set up retirement income payments either with the CSS Pension Plan or your financial institution. 

Benefits of remaining in the CSS Pension Plan include:

  • Continued access to the Plan's investment funds
  • Continued personalized assistance from the Plan's Retirement and Pension Advisors
  • Substantially lower investment and administrative costs
  • No commissions or trailer fees
  • A continued voice in the Plan through delegates

Reasons why you might consider leaving the Plan are:

  • Access to a broader array of investment options
  • Consolidating your pension funds with other assets
  • Moving your funds to a provider or advisor located closer to you

Options with the CSS Pension Plan​

Making the decision

Your retirement choices will depend on several factors, including your objectives, personal situation and the market/economic environment.

How you choose to use your CSS funds is a complex decision. Our Retirement and Pension Advisors are here to help if you wish. Contact us​ if you need assistance.

Some factors to consider when making the decision are:

  • Do you want a fixed retirement income, or are you willing to accept a variable income?
  • Will you be comfortable managing investments after retirement?
  • If you have a spouse, does he/she have his/her own source(s) of retirement income?
  • What other savings and assets might be available for retirement?
  • Is it more important to maximize your retirement income or make sure that unspent funds remain with your family or estate?
  • What public benefits (CPP/OAS/GIS) do you expect to receive?

Accessing your funds

Before you can draw retirement inc​ome, you have a little paperwork to do.

You can convert all or a portion of your account into a CSS monthly pension. A monthly pension provides you with a fixed monthly income for life.

You can use both your locked-in and non-locked-in funds to set up a pension payable directly from the Plan.

Keep in mind that once you've applied for a CSS monthly pension and your pension payments start, you cannot change the type of pension or stop the payments. So please choose carefully!​


The Plan offers two different types of monthly pensions:

Joint and Last Survivor Pension
  • You receive fixed monthly payments for life
  • If you predecease, your spouse may receive a survivor pension equal to 60%, 75% or 100%  of your initial payment for your spouse's life
  • The higher the spousal percentage the lower your initial payment
  • You may add a guarantee period of 10 or 15 years​
    • ​If you die during the guarantee period, the initial payment amount continues to your surviving spouse until the guarantee expires
    • Payments then continue to your spouse at the selected survivor benefit percentage for your spouse's life
    • If you both die during the guarantee period, the value of remaining guaranteed payments is paid to your beneficiary or estate
    • The longer the guarantee, the lower your initial payment​
Single Life Pension
  • You receive fixed monthly payments for life
  • When you die, the payments stop unless you add a guarantee period
  • You have the option to add a guarantee period of 10 or 15 years
    • The longer the guarantee period, the lower your initial payment
    • If you die during the guarantee period, the value of remaining guaranteed payments is paid to your beneficiary or estate
  • If you have a spouse, you cannot take this option unless he/she signs a written waiver
For in-depth information on each type of monthly pension, download the Ready to Retire booklet applicable to your province or contact us.

Depending on your province's pension lawsyou can transfer all, or a portion, of your CSS account to a variable benefit account so you can receive Variable Benefit (VB) payments.*

VB payments allow you to access your CSS funds through regular withdrawals, either monthly or annually.

As the name suggests, the amount of your VB payment may change each year.

There are several factors to consider with the VB payment option:

  • You are not guaranteed to receive an income for life. When all your funds are spent, your payments will stop.
  • You must still manage your pension funds after you are retired. You'll have to decide how to invest your pension funds in the Plan's four funds​.
  • You will be responsible for monitoring your investment earnings and adjusting the amount of your VB payments from year to year.
  • You can stop your VB payment until the end of the year you turn 71. Afterwards, you're required to withdraw a minimum amount each year.
  • In most provinces, VB payments for locked-in funds have a limit on the maximum annual amount you can withdraw.
  • All or part of the remaining balance in a VB account can be used to purchase a CSS pension or be transferred out of the Plan and into a qualifying product at a financial institution.
  • If you have a spouse, he/she must sign a written consent to elect this option.
  • If you have a spouse, he/she must be named as your specified beneficiary unless he/she signs a written waiver.

*VB payments are available in the following jurisdictions only: AB, BC, MB, NS, ON, SK and Federal

Contact the CSS Pension Plan at least three months before starting your monthly pension or VB payments for:

  • Pension projections or VB illustrations
  • Required application forms
  • Background information

For your payment to start in a particular month, please ensure:

  • We receive your completed application and other requirements no later than the 20th of the previous month (e.g. October 20 if the payment is to start in November)
  • Your employment is fully terminated by the end of the previous month

VB payments are payable the 15th of each month and monthly pension payments are payable the 26th of each month.

At retirement, you can choose to set up retirement income payments either with the CSS Pension Plan or your financial institution.

If you've already made the decision to transfer your pension funds outside the CSS Pension Plan, you'll need to complete the Application for Withdrawal or Transfer form.

If you decide you want to withdraw your pension funds soon after you finish working, remember that transfers and withdrawals cannot be done until the Plan receives your final contributions and a termination notice from your employer. This usually takes about one month.

Processing your request

Although pension legislation permits 60 days to process a transfer or withdrawal request, we typically process your request the week after we receive all properly completed documents.  

We will send your pension funds and accompanying documents to the financial institution by regular mail unless you make other arrangements.

  • If you are withdrawing non-locked-in funds as cash, we will mail a cheque (net income tax) to the address you provide on your application unless you make other arrangements. Non-locked-in funds must be transferred or withdrawn all at once.
  • ​Locked-in funds, however, can be used in portions but a $100 administrative fee applies to each transfer after the first.​

Typically you must not be working for any employer member of the Plan before you can convert your CSS funds into retirement income.

However, in some situations it may be possible for you to start a monthly pension or Variable Benefit (VB) payments from the CSS Pension Plan even though you are still working for an employer member of the Plan.

This is called phased retirement.


To apply for phased retirement, you:

  • Must be at least 55 years old
  • Must have written confirmation from your employer that they agree to phased retirement (your employer may require you to reduce your hours of work before agreeing)

Phased retirement also requires you and your employer to continue contributions to the CSS Pension Plan while you are drawing on your pension funds.

*Pension laws about phased retirement differ by province. Contact us for the most relevant, up-to-date information applicable to you.​