As you know, the deadline for RRSP contributions for the previous tax year is usually March 1. That means you have time to think about your taxes and still purchase more RRSPs.
If you are a procrastinator and didn’t contribute to your RRSPs throughout the year, or you start working on your tax return and realize you are going to owe money, you may want to make a lump sum RRSP contribution ASAP.
Banks will take advantage of this urgency by advertising RRSP loans. How it is supposed to work is that:
- you borrow money with a known interest and payment plan
- make a larger RRSP contribution
- get your tax refund
- partially pay back your loan
- continue to make payments for the rest of the year or until the loan is paid off
Occasionally an RRSP loan is a decent idea, but usually there are some SIGNIFICANT downsides to this plan:
- You must have enough discipline to actually use the refund to pay back the loan. Unfortunately a lot of people get that money and use it as fun bonus money, figuring they can just pay down the loan every month as planned.
- Taking on debt can be risky. You never know what the future holds, and you or your spouse could lose your job tomorrow. Then you might need your tax refund for living expenses. And even worse, you’d still be stuck with your RRSP loan payments.
Plus, the math often doesn’t work in your favour.
The amount of money you will save when using an RRSP loan relies on three factors, only one of which is a guarantee amount.
- The difference between your tax rate when you invest the money and when you withdraw it.
We can make some assumptions, but your retirement income and the tax rates then are out of our control. If you end up having to pay more tax during retirement, then the RRSP was pointless, from a pure math standpoint.
- The rate of return you will earn on your investment.
Only GICs give you a guaranteed investment return, and the rate on an RRSP loan is going to be higher than on a GIC so this is something you are unlikely to ever do.
- The interest rate on the loan. This factor at least is known, as RRSP loans are typically at a fixed interest rate.
So this strategy can be beneficial to you IF:
- You earn more on your investment than you pay for your loan, AND
- You tax rate at retirement is the same or less as you are paying now
Instead, a much better strategy is to make automatic monthly or biweekly deposits into your RRSP account. Then you are earning every month, instead of paying the bank every month.
What’s your opinion on RRSP loans?
This article is by freelance writer, Sharon Skwarchuk. Ironically, due to my busyness and procrastination I didn’t get this posted before the 2017 RRSP deadline. So don’t be me – don’t wait until the last minute. Start your investing ASAP using automatic contributions so you don’t miss next year’s deadline – Meena
So it’s RRSP season once again. What exactly is RRSP season? It’s the time of year when people start thinking about filing their tax returns, and whether or not they need to buy RRSPs in order to create or increase a tax refund. The RRSP deadline for 2017 is March 1, 2018. This means that if you want to contribute to your RRSP for the 2017 tax year, you must do so by March 1, 2018.
Many people, including me, wonder if the RRSP is still the best solution for our retirement savings. Not so long ago, it was really the only option for reducing your potential taxes while saving for retirement.
There are a number of rules that must be followed with respect to RRSP contributions and withdrawals. But in a nutshell, the reasoning behind an RRSP is this:
You put money into it now while your income is higher. The money you deposit does not get taxed until you withdraw it, hopefully at retirement. And when you retire, your income will be lower (and you may have more tax credits), so the amount of the tax that you pay at withdrawal will be less than you would have paid when you earned the money.
That’s the logic, which makes sense if you can actually go the distance and not withdraw the money before retirement. But how realistic is that?
Speaking for myself, I had managed to save up about $25,000 in an RRSP over about 15 or 20 years. Then the oil recession hit Alberta, and my boyfriend‘s hours started getting cut. His annual income dropped from $110,000 to less than $30,000 over a three year period. When he got laid off, he was out of work for almost 15 months. And when you’re trying to make it on about less than half of what you were bringing in, you can’t get ahead – especially when you’re buying groceries and gas with your credit card. So our bills started piling up. I made the very difficult decision to cash in my RRSP.
But as some of you probably know, when you cash in an RRSP, the financial institution withholds a certain percentage immediately, (just like your employer does on your paycheques) and then the actual tax owing is calculated when you do your tax return. Needless to say, I ended up paying about 30% of that $25,000 to the government in taxes at a time when I really could have used that extra cash. So this was a definite downside to RRSPs.
Something else people often do in February is take out an RRSP loan. There’s a separate article about them here. To summarize, I don’t usually recommend an RRSP loan. An automatic savings plan throughout the year is a much better option.
So what about a Tax Free Savings Account instead of an RRSP? With a TFSA, you are currently allowed to contribute up to $5,500 per year into the TFSA (plus unused amounts from prior years), and you don’t have to pay income tax on the interest that you earn within that account.
Normally, you have to pay tax on any interest that you earn from an investment, but with this account, you don’t have to pay the tax. So if you earn $300 in interest, you don’t pay tax on that amount. That’s the great thing about this investment. You can also withdraw money from this TFSA without having to pay taxes on your withdrawal, because the taxes were paid on the money before you put it into the TFSA.
However, there are also certain restrictions with respect to this account, including how much you can deposit, so you need to make sure that you follow the rules.
So which is better – an RRSP or a TFSA?
Personally, I prefer a TFSA. I want to be able to take out the money when I need it without having to pay tax on it. Plus all the interest that I earn within the TFSA is tax-free. And for some reason, I find it easier to contribute to a TFSA than I do an RRSP. Don’t ask me why – I think it’s psychological. I think I feel better knowing that I’ve already paid the taxes on this money, and when I withdraw it, I can have it all because the government has already taken their share.
I also think that I prefer to contribute to a TFSA because it feels more like a choice than an obligation. To me, an RRSP feels like an obligation- it’s like something you have to do because you’re a responsible adult. And I hate it when people tell me that I have to do something.
Finally, I want to say that I am not a financial advisor in any sense of the word. All I am giving you is my own personal opinion from my own research and my own experiences and observations. As always, the final choice is up to you.
As a financial planner, I can discuss with you the reasons why a TFSA or an RRSP is preferable in your situation. A case can usually be made for some of both. But on a strictly mathematical sense there is a rule of thumb to follow. (Unfortunately, it requires some guess work.)
Your Situation Best Option
- Current income is lower than planned retirement income TFSA
- Current income is higher than planned retirement income RRSP
- Current income is the same as planned retirement income Either
I think the suggestion to contribute automatically monthly or bi-weekly is an excellent one. You earn more money by contributing throughout the year, and it’s easier on your budget, than doing the lump sum contribution next February. So start today! I’m working with the robo-advisor WealthBar, and they are an excellent tool for low cost, super easy investing – in TFSAs, RRSPs, and RESPs.
Simple Investing Tips
I get a lot of questions about investing.
- How should I start?
- How does the stock market work?
- What is high risk or low risk?
- How do I not lose all my money?
I have plans to write a mini-book. But in the meantime here are my simple rules for investing*. If followed I think these will give you reasonable returns with a reasonable amount of risk.
- Use a diversified method.
Buy stocks (shares in Canada, also called equities) and bonds. Invest in various countries and industries. Don’t put a big chunk of money into Bitcoin or marijuana stocks or whatever other fad of the week, unless you can afford to lose it all.
- Use a passive investing method.
Numerous studies have shown that active management only sometimes earns you more money than the average stock market increase.
From the Globe and Mail
- Use a low cost method. Related to the above point, when fees are taken into account it is rare for high cost, active methods to outperform the low cost, passive methods over time.
- Perform routine rebalancing between asset classes, or have the company do it for you (as happens with robo-advisors and passive-method portfolio funds). This means you will always be buying low and selling high, without trying to time the market.
- DON’T PANIC (any HGTTG fans?) Sell. Some ways to avoid panic selling are:
- Don’t sell until you actually need the money.
- Don’t put short-term investments in the stock market.
- Ignore the noise. When everyone else is panicking, stick to your strategy. During the big stock market drop in the USA in 2008, within a few years the markets recovered nicely. If you didn’t sell when everyone else did you wouldn’t have lost any money.
*I did not invent these rules. I just agree with them and invest by them. And I think most people should, too.
Want more info? Book an appointment and we can talk about your particular situation.
Want more reading material. My two favourite sources for Canadian investors are the website, Canadian Couch Potato, (start with the top tabs) and the magazine, Canadian Money Saver (check your library; you might get lucky).
The company that makes the financial planning software I use, recently put out this little retirement calculator. You’ll enter a few pieces of information and it will tell you how much income you might have during retirement, and how that compares to other Canadians.
It’s completely free. And there’s no obligation to purchase anything or talk to anyone. Try different scenarios to see how retiring earlier or saving more will affect your lifestyle.
If you want to talk further about your retirement plans or other money concerns, contact me . . . who knows you might even get a free coffee!
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What does a comprehensive financial plan entail? Read all about it here.
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I’ve decided to use a tiered fee structure for holistic financial plans for two reasons:
- To avoid planning services being unaffordable for low to moderate income people, who are as entitled to good financial advice as anyone else.
- To reflect the fact that the more money that is coming into a household, the more money a good financial plan can help you save.
This simple method takes the household income, multiplies it by an increasing percentage, to determine the total plan cost.
Household Income % of Income Fee with GST
$20,000 1% $210
$30,000 2% $630
$40,000 3% $1,260
$50,000 4% $2,100
$60,000 5% $3,150
Above $60,000 cost is 5% of household income plus GST, up to a maximum of $5,250.
Payment plans are available and will be discussed when you decide to move forward.
I think this is a good balance between being able to provide services to whoever needs them, being able to pay myself and cover my expenses, and balancing the cost of the plan to the benefits to be obtained.
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If neither of these work for your situation or location, we can talk with phone or Skype and email.
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If you have a specific question, bring all related documents and information. Also bring your list of questions if you have one.
For a no-obligation initial consult, be prepared to answer questions related to your goals, preferences, and current financial concerns.
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Expect the first appointment to take 30-60 minutes. For the actual services to be completed, it varies depending on your needs and schedule.
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We’ll talk about your most pressing concerns and what you hope to get out of the coaching sessions.
If we seem to be a good fit for each other, there will be some paperwork to review. This includes your personal information and information about me and my business, such as:
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We’ll schedule a time for the next appointment.
You will be given “homework” to work on – additional data gathering, and/or completing more personal information forms, in anticipation of our next session.
After the Appointment
Before I start any work I will give you a letter summarizing our conversation. I will also describe the services I will be providing and provide you a quote for the work. You will need to confirm your acceptance of this.
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