Our Annual Statement expert responds to your questions

Posted for Members, May 26, 2016

The process of delivering Annual Statements to 27,000 active members each year involves the work of a dedicated team of pension experts. From collecting data and reviewing information to printing and shipping, we are committed to delivering accurate and timely Annual Statements to each active member of the Plan. Your employer also plays a critical role in making sure we have the data we need each year.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to get your Annual Statement to you each year? We’ve asked the expert!

Belinda Quinlan is the Manager of the Employer Services and Quality Assurance departments at the CAAT Pension Plan. These two teams – along with several other departments – are responsible for the Annual Statement process.

1. What is your role at the CAAT Pension Plan?

As the Manager of the Employer Services and the Quality Assurance groups, I oversee the Annual Statement process as part of a multi-department project team. The Employer Services team works closely with your employers – they liaise with the Human Resources and Payroll representatives to collect, analyze and confirm the contribution, earnings and service data that will be included in your Annual Statement each year. The Quality Assurance team checks that the information in the pension administration and data collection systems accurately reflects the data submitted by employers and is in accordance with Plan rules, and that calculations and outputs are correct. They also deal with complex member situations.

2. Why should members take time to read their Annual Statements?

Your Annual Statement includes a lot of information on both a personal level and a pension plan level. It shows you up to three potential retirement milestones: your normal, earliest reduced and earliest unreduced retirement dates. Your Annual Statement also shows the pension you earned up to December 31 of the statement year, as well as earnings and contribution information. Keeping track of these key dates and the pension you are accruing is an important part of retirement planning.

On the pension plan level, the Annual Statement is a requirement of the Pension Benefits Act legislation, and includes content that is required to fulfil our obligations as a registered pension plan. It is also used to keep you informed of any Plan changes that took place in the previous year.

3. Take us through the major steps of preparing Member Annual Statements.

Our preparation begins in the fall, which is when we design what the Annual Statement will look like, create a schedule, make any required changes to our pension administration system, and update the data requirements. We upload existing member information to our data collection system during the month of January and make any required changes. In mid-March, your employer provides data updates for each member to the end of the previous year. At this point we work one-on-one with your employer to ensure the accuracy of your data. This involves a number of validation steps and reviews before final data can be loaded into our pension administration system. This step can take several months in the case of larger employers, or when there are complex situations such as service purchases or marriage breakdowns. Once the data is finalized, we calculate the accrued pension, then print individual Annual Statements for each member, one employer at a time, and mail them to directly to your home address.

4. How does the CAAT Plan ensure accuracy in the Annual Statements?

We do our best to ensure that Annual Statements are accurate. We accomplish this by running various reports and validations throughout the entire process to check your data and correct it if necessary. We do a detailed review of a selection of individual Annual Statements for each employer. We also compare data on the current Annual Statement to data from the previous year, and flag any anomalies for further review. As information can come from various sources, data discrepancies may occur, and we ask you to review your Annual Statement each year and to contact us as soon as possible if you see any discrepancies.

5. What tips do you have for members to best understand their Annual Statements?

I strongly encourage members to take the time to read through their Annual Statement each year. It may look overwhelming at first, but your Annual Statement contains a lot of useful information and is worth the time to review it. Every year, be sure to focus on your retirement date milestones and the pension you have earned to the end of the previous year. By tracking these items, you can see how the value of your membership grows in the Plan over time. With personalized information, your Annual Statement is a useful part of retirement planning.

I also want to draw attention to the insert that is included in your Annual Statement. These pages provide instructions for reading your Annual Statements, and offer news and announcements that may be relevant to you.

6. What is the number one thing members ask about their Annual Statements?

Many members look forward to receiving their Annual Statements and want to know when to expect them. Pension plans are required to deliver Annual Statements by June 30, and we make every attempt to start delivering them well in advance. This year we started mailing Annual Statements to some employers in early April, and we anticipate having them all delivered before June 30. That being said, there will always be one-off cases that are a bit more complex, and these individuals may receive their Annual Statements later than their coworkers. For example, the Annual Statements for members who work at more than one employer require us to wait until we have data from all employers before preparing their Statements.

We also receive questions about beneficiary designations, especially if a member has a new spouse or has experienced a divorce or separation. If your beneficiary information needs to be updated, we ask that you complete and sign the Change of Spouse/Beneficiary form that is included with your Annual Statement and send the completed original document to your employer for secure transmission to us.  

7. How can members use their Annual Statement with the online 3-Step Estimator to learn more about their retirement options?

The 3-Step Estimator is a great way to estimate your future pension, but combined with your Annual Statement it becomes an even more powerful way to plan for retirement. By using your Annual Statement, you can eliminate any guesswork when entering your earnings and service information into the Estimator. Where your Annual Statement shows your normal and early retirement date milestones, the Estimator allows you to model any number of retirement scenarios and project your pension to different retirement dates. Most importantly, it allows you to estimate the impact future service and earnings growth will have on your pension, while your Annual Statement shows only the service and earnings up to December 31 of the previous year.

The 3-Step Estimator is easy-to-use, secure (the data you enter is not saved or transmitted to the Plan) and available 24-hours a day. It takes the average member less than five minutes to complete. When you get your Annual Statement be sure to visit our website and give it a try!

8. What is the most important thing members should take away from the Annual Statements?

The third page of your Annual Statement answers two of the most common pension-related questions – “When can I retire?” and “How much pension have I earned so far?” While this information is important, I think every member should take the time to review their Annual Statement in its entirety and really understand what this document means – you have access to a secure lifetime pension at retirement from a well-governed and professionally-managed pension plan.

 

Do you have a question about your Annual Statement? Visit the page Your Annual Statement to learn more, or email our Annual Statement expert at member@caatpension.on.ca.