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Why investors should pay for all investment fees out of non-registered accounts

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The Department of Finance Canada’s recent letter to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) stating that paying investment fees for registered accounts out of non-registered accounts does not constitute a tax advantage is a big win for investors, who are now free to pay their investment costs from any source they choose.

There are various advantages for investors to pay all investment fees out of a non-registered account. At the core, though, investors will end up with more money, after taxes, if they pay all the investment fees for a tax-free savings account (TFSA) or registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) from assets held outside of those accounts.

So, how did this all come about? In 2016, the CRA announced at a tax conference that its position on paying investment fees for registered accounts from non-registered accounts constituted an unfair advantage. Furthermore, the CRA stated that as of 2018, any taxpayer who engaged in this activity would be subject to a special advantage tax equal to the amount of fees paid outside of the registered account. The implementation was then postponed a couple of times pending a review from the Department of Finance.

Then, the Department of Finance sent a letter this past August recommending that the Income Tax Act be amended to reflect its finding that there is no advantage to paying registered fees outside of a registered account and that such a decision by a taxpayer may not necessarily be tax motivated. In effect, it means the CRA will not penalize a taxpayer for paying investment fees for a registered account from a non-registered account.

For financial advisors and investors, there are various benefits to taking this approach, which is a way to increase assets with no added risk.

For one, investors may have investments that are less liquid in the registered account. So, paying for investment fees from a non-registered account can provide ease of cash management over the portfolio. In addition, paying all investment fees out of one account rather than from multiple accounts may be easier from an administrative perspective.

The main advantage for investors, though, is that registered accounts have an ability for greater compounding of returns than non-registered accounts because of the registered accounts’ tax-deferred or tax-free nature. That was the CRA’s main issue with this practice.

As an example, let’s consider an investor who has $100,000 in a TFSA and $100,000 in a non-registered account. Each account incurs investment expenses of 1.5 per cent, or $1,500, annually.

If all expenses are taken from the non-registered account, it results in more assets growing tax-free within the TFSA, as they’re not impeded by investment costs. Furthermore, it helps the investor save taxes as the capital base in the non-registered account will be lower, which will result in lower taxes against the income within that account as well as lower taxes on the capital gains when the funds are withdrawn.

The strategy is similar for an RRSP, except that the income from the RRSP will be fully taxable when it’s withdrawn from an RRSP or from a registered retirement income fund (RRIF) once the investor reaches retirement. Thus, the investor reduces the capital in the non-registered account today in favour of a much larger payment from a RRIF in the future. Although that payment will be taxable, it will presumably be when the investor is retired and in a lower tax bracket. In addition, as inflation will erode the value of money, it’s preferable to pay $1 of taxes in the future than $1 of taxes today.

Although the advantage in the TFSA is clear, the advantage for the RRSP will be dependent on many factors, such as an investor’s tax bracket now and in retirement, inflation and even potential changes in tax policy.

For investors, this may not be the top tax-saving strategy available, but they should take advantage of every opportunity to improve their returns and reduce their taxes – especially when it can be executed with a simple administrative change.

 

Reprinted from the Globe and Mail, December 18, 2019.

Matthew Ardrey
Presented By:
Matthew Ardrey
VP, Wealth Advisor
matt@tridelta.ca
(416) 733-3292 x230

Pensions 101: The importance of understanding your pension

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I have been involved with the Financial Facelift articles since 2013 and in the financial planning industry since 2000. In my time working on the Financial Facelifts, I have been asked many questions about my calculations and recommendations; but bar none, questions about pension calculations have been the most frequent.

With that in mind, there is no time like the present to give a refresher course on how pensions work, how their value is calculated and why they are so important.

There are two main types of employee pensions in Canada, defined contribution (DC) and defined benefit (DB). Both are important to the financial well-being of their members in retirement, though they both work in different ways.

DC pension plan

The DC pension is more like a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) in the way it works than what most people would traditionally think of as a pension. In this type of pension typically both employee and employer make contributions to the plan. They are usually based on a percentage of income, up to the contribution limit. These contributions are then invested in underlying investments directed by the employee and vetted by the employer.

How the contributions affect RRSP room is fairly straightforward to understand as well. For every dollar contributed, the employee accumulates a dollar of pension adjustment and thereby their available RRSP room is reduced by a dollar. This is regardless of who makes the contribution. The only difference in the contributions is the employee contributions are eligible for a tax deduction and the employer contributions are not.

The purpose of the pension adjustment is to equalize the retirement savings an employee with a pension can make versus someone who does not have a pension.

On retirement, the employee can transfer the value of the plan to a locked-in retirement account (LIRA), use it to purchase an annuity or a combination of the two. With recent federal budget changes a variable payment life annuity (VPLA) or an advanced life deferred annuity (ALDA) are also options to consider.

The current value of this pension is easily known by taking a look at the value of the underlying investments. What is unknown is what future income this pension will produce. As the name says, it is a defined contribution pension, which means the contributions to the plan are known, but the retirement income is dependent on the investment returns earned and contributions made.

One of the main benefits of a DC pension is that it forces the employee to make retirement savings. By having it as part of the employment culture, and the savings coming right off of one’s pay, it encourages employees to save for their future.

The other key benefit of the DC pension is the employer contributions to the plan. Each plan is different. Some employers may choose to match employee contributions, some may choose to make contributions regardless and some may combine the two in some fashion. No matter how they do it, the benefit is clear to the employee, it is free money toward their retirement savings.

The DB pension plan

The DB pension is what most people think of when they think of a pension. This type of pension provides a known future income stream to the employee – in other words, a defined benefit to the employee. For this benefit the employer, and sometimes the employee, make contributions to the plan that are invested to provide the future income stream. Depending on the investment performance, this may require more or fewer contributions from the employer.

While the end result – a guaranteed income stream – is easy to understand, getting there is a bit complicated. For starters, the DB pension adjustment is harder to calculate than its DC counterpart. Formulas that determine your future benefit involve such inputs as one’s yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE), final average earnings (FAE) and years of service.

To further complicate the DB pension calculation, some pensions have Canada Pension Plan/Old Age Security integration. This is where a bridge payment is made between when the pension commences and age 65 to be later offset by the receipt of CPP and OAS. To note, this integration is not perfect, often being different than the actual CPP and OAS received.

There is also the matter of survivor benefits. If the pensioner is married/common-law, then the pension will pay out a survivor benefit to the spouse upon the death of the pensioner. The automatic selection is typically 60 per cent of the full pension amount, but a higher or lower percentage can be selected. This will raise or lower the actual calculated pension payment based on mortality rates.

So now that we have a base understanding of how the pension gets paid out at retirement, we can discuss the next problem: What is the pension worth today? Unlike the DC pension which has an easily determined value, the DB pension “commuted value,” is another matter entirely.

So, how much money is needed today to pay the employee a pension for the remainder of their life? The main factors that can influence this calculation include:

· Age at retirement

· Penalties for early retirement

· Mortality of the pensioner and, if applicable, the spouse

· Current age

· Expected rate of return on the investments (often called the discount rate)

· Pension indexed or not

· Rate of inflation

Change any one of these factors and the commuted value can change drastically. Why is this so important? For a number of reasons.

First, if the employee dies before starting the pension, often the surviving spouse does not receive a survivor pension. Instead they receive the commuted value of the pension eligible to transfer into their RRSP. This happens without tax implications, much like an RRSP rollover on death.

Even if the pensioner does not die but ceases employment with the employer who has the pension plan, then one option is to take the commuted value and transfer it into a LIRA in their name. Depending on the length of service, this is a common outcome versus waiting to take the pension at their normal retirement date.

Finally, at retirement the pensioner can choose to take the commuted value instead of taking the pension. Why would someone do that? I have gone through this exercise with many clients over the years and some of the main reasons for making this choice are:

· Financial flexibility – With pension unlocking rules available in some provinces, the pensioner can access more of their funds earlier or keep them tax-deferred longer. Either way, there is increased choice about how to deal with the asset.

· Limited life span – The commuted value can provide a larger death benefit for the surviving spouse. (With most survivor pension benefits being a percentage of the full pension payable or having to take an actuarially reduced pension to receive 100 per cent survivor benefits, the full commuted value can provide more value than taking the payments at a reduced level.)

· Company/pension concerns – though this is rare and there are some funding guarantees, one only has to look at the collapse of Nortel or, more recently, Sears Canada to see examples of where a DB is not fully secure.

· Increased wealth potential – As I mentioned previously, each pension is different. It is prudent to take a look at what the breakeven rate of return is. In other words, what would the portfolio created from the commuted value have to earn to match the pension payments. If the comparable rate of return is reasonable, the pensioner may consider in their best financial interests to take the lump-sum. This happens more often than you might think.

Regardless of what option is chosen, the benefits of the DB pension are apparent. Most of the savings required and all of investment risk in building the retirement portfolio is the responsibility of the employer. This takes the decision to save for retirement out of the hands of the employee.

The value of the DB pension – especially if indexed to inflation – of a long-standing employee will provide a solid base on which to retire, even if the employee has no other assets. If someone worked 35 years at an employer with a DB plan, they could conceivably replace 70 per cent of their pre-retirement salary if they had a pure 2 per cent pension formula. This would, of course, also drive a substantial commuted value if that option was chosen.

For those of you lucky enough to have a workplace pension plan, understanding how it works is an important first step in financial literacy. They don’t teach this in school, though I think they should. Whether it is the more straightforward DC pension or the more complex DB pension, understanding how to maximize the benefits and choose the best options available are important steps on your road to financial independence.

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The DB plan: crunching the numbers

The pension adjustment (PA) for a defined benefit pension is more complicated to calculate than its defined contribution counterpart.

The calculation for the PA equals nine times the value of the benefit earned for the year (2 per cent of final average earnings is the maximum value of the benefit permitted by the government in pension calculations – someone with a 2 per cent pension who works for 35 years would have 70 per cent of their former income in pension) minus $600.

  • For example, if the employee had a 2 per cent pension with a $100,000 salary, the PA = 9 x ($100,000 x 2%) – $600 = $17,400. Note: While the PA will reduce the amount of available RRSP contribution room available, only a portion – the employee’s contributions to the pension – is tax deductible.

So, based on this example, the DB plan will reduce this person’s RRSP contribution room by $17,400.

The formula to calculate the future benefit varies as well. Most DB pensions work on a percentage of earnings. Often the earnings are a final or best average of some time period, such as three or five years.

Next, a percentage is applied to the average earnings figure. As stated above, 2 per cent is the maximum per year, though the percentage can be lower than this. Plans may also have tiers of earnings often separated by the average year’s maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE) over the final three or five years.

(YMPE is the earnings level set by the government – $55,900 for 2019 – where an employee maxes out on their CPP contributions. So any income above YMPE does not require a payroll deduction for CPP. It is often used in pension formulas as part of a CPP offset.)

Lastly, are the years of service an employee has in the DB pension. The formula of earnings and percentage is multiplied by the years of service.

  • A typical formula for an employee with a salary of $100,000 and 30 years of service may look like this: (1.4% of Final Average Earnings (FAE) up to YMPE plus 2% of FAE above YMPE) x Years of Service, or
  • (1.4% x $55,900 + 2% x 44,100) x 30 = $49,938 for $100,000 of FAE.

So, in this example, the employee can expect to have a future benefit, or annual income post-retirement, of $49,938.

Matthew Ardrey
Presented By:
Matthew Ardrey
VP, Wealth Advisor
matt@tridelta.ca
(416) 733-3292 x230

FINANCIAL FACELIFT: What can I do to be more financially successful as I enter my 40s?

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Below you will find a real life case study of an individual who is looking for financial advice on how best to arrange their financial affairs. Their name and details have been changed to protect their identity. The Globe and Mail often seeks the advice of our VP, Wealth Advisor, Matthew Ardrey, to review and analyze the situation and then provide his solutions to the participants.

gam-masthead
Written by:
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published November 8, 2019

Philip has a well-paying government job with a defined benefit pension plan, for which he is “fortunate and grateful,” he writes in an e-mail. He earns $112,000 a year in salary plus another $9,500 a year, net of expenses, consulting.

At 40, though, Philip is feeling uneasy about his prospects and wondering “how to better manage my finances for the near and distant future.” His near-term goals are to buy a new car and, in five years, a larger condo than the one-bedroom he owns now. In pricey Toronto, this would mean taking on a much bigger mortgage. He still has 23 years left to go on his existing mortgage loan.

Long term, Philip’s goal is to retire from work at age 58 and maintain his lifestyle. He recognizes that these might be competing goals. “I’ve been managing my finances to the best of my knowledge, reading up on budgeting and investment strategies, and now worry if I’m on the right track,” he writes. “What can I do to be more financially successful as I enter my 40s?”

He asks, too: “Am I saving enough for retirement at 58 with a desired after-tax income of $70,000? Am I investing my money wisely? Will I be in a position to purchase a bigger condo in five years?”

We asked Matthew Ardrey, a financial planner and vice-president of TriDelta Financial in Toronto, to look at Philip’s situation.

What the expert says

In reviewing the initial numbers Philip submitted, Mr. Ardrey detected a few things that seemed out of whack. As it turned out, Philip had overstated his consulting income and understated his expenses. After adjusting his income, there is still some missing money, the planner says. Philip is saving about $850 a month outside his registered retirement savings plan. “The remaining $895 per month is real budget leakage,” the planner says. “The first thing Philip should do is a full and complete review of his budget.”

Philip acknowledged this in a follow-up e-mail. “I’m clearly not accounting for all my expenses and travelling,” he writes. “I need to be more mindful of this.”

Next, Mr. Ardrey looks at the car purchase. He assumes Philip buys a new car at the beginning of 2021, taking $5,000 from his savings for a down payment and making monthly payments of $300 for five years. If interest rates stay low, he could likely finance the car at zero interest “or near to it.”

Philip is contributing about $12,200 a year to his defined benefit pension plan, plus making $3,100 a year in additional voluntary contributions (AVCs) to a work RRSP run by his pension plan manager. He is putting $10,200 a year into a savings account.

When Philip sells his condo and buys a larger one in 2025, he will no longer be able to tuck away $10,200 a year in his savings account, the planner says. The condo purchase price, adjusted for inflation, is assumed to be $911,000. Not only will he have transaction costs, Philip will have to pay off his existing mortgage. Mr. Ardrey’s forecast assumes Philip takes on a new mortgage of $590,000 at 4 per cent interest, amortized over 25 years. His payments will rise to $3,092 a month from $1,705 now. Unless he makes extra payments, he will still have a mortgage balance of about $344,465 outstanding when he retires from work in 18 years. To pay off the mortgage before then, he would have to make extra payments of $8,800 a year, putting a strain on his finances, the planner says.

At age 58, Philip will be eligible for an unreduced pension of $73,000 a year, plus a bridge benefit of $15,250 a year to age 65. “Both are indexed to inflation, which is assumed to be 2 per cent,” Mr. Ardrey says. By then, Philip’s spending target will have risen in line with inflation.

Philip’s spending goal is over and above any mortgage payments he might still be making, the planner notes. “Based on these assumptions, Philip would fall short of his goal,” Mr. Ardrey says. By the time Philip turned 65, he would be running budget shortfalls of about $45,000 a year in future dollars, the planner says. This would fall after his mortgage was paid off – assuming he could hang in that long – but he would still be in the red by about $20,000 a year.

“He would need to reduce his retirement spending by $1,000 per month or work another six years until age 64,” the planner says. By working longer, his pension would be larger and the number of years he would be retired smaller.

What if Philip stays put and doesn’t buy the more expensive place?

Suppose, instead, he moves his savings ($59,000) to a tax-free savings account, tops it up to the maximum ($63,500) and contributes $6,000 to it each year? With savings of $10,200 a year, that would leave him with $4,200 to put into a non-registered investment account. Both the TFSA and the non-registered account would be invested in a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds. The assumed rate of return would be 5 per cent, Mr. Ardrey says.

These small changes could be enough to enable Philip to achieve his goal of retiring at 58 and spending $70,000 a year, the planner says. “The big differences would be the better rate of return than he is getting in his savings account, the continued ability to save each year that he is working and a smaller mortgage, hence smaller mortgage payments, in retirement.”

Philip has been using his savings account as an emergency fund, Mr. Ardrey says. “Instead of holding large amounts of cash, I’d suggest he use a secured line of credit against his home.”

Client situation

The person: Philip, 40.

The problem: Can he afford to buy a bigger place and still retire early with $70,000 a year?

The plan: Work longer, invest the cash stash and consider putting off the condo upgrade entirely.

The payoff: Recognizing that he can’t achieve all of his goals at once and may have to make some choices.

Monthly net income: $7,940

Assets: Savings account $59,000; chequing account $5,000; RRSP and AVC (additional voluntary contributions) $63,000; estimated present value of DB pension $376,800; residence $610,000. Total: $1.1-million

Monthly outlays: Mortgage $1,705; condo fee $455; property tax $200; home insurance $30; hydro $35; car insurance $250; fuel, maintenance, parking $355; groceries $250; clothing $55; vacation, travel $200; dining, drinks, entertainment $950; personal care $35; club memberships $35; other personal $25; health care $20; disability insurance $200; phones, TV, internet $125; RRSP $255; pension plan $1,015; spending that is unaccounted for $895. Total: $7,090. Surplus $850 to savings

Liabilities: Mortgage $345,000

Want a free financial facelift? E-mail finfacelift@gmail.com.

Some details may be changed to protect the privacy of the persons profiled.

Matthew Ardrey
Presented By:
Matthew Ardrey
VP, Wealth Advisor
matt@tridelta.ca
(416) 733-3292 x230

FINANCIAL FACELIFT: Can Chelsea and Chad ‘make it all work’ with a second baby on the way and a possible career change?

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Below you will find a real life case study of a couple who are looking for financial advice on how best to arrange their financial affairs. Their names and details have been changed to protect their identity. The Globe and Mail often seeks the advice of our VP, Wealth Advisor, Matthew Ardrey, to review and analyze the situation and then provide his solutions to the participants.

gam-masthead
Written by:
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published October 4, 2019

Chelsea and Chad are earning big and saving mightily, but with a second baby on the way, Chelsea is mulling a possible career change that would cut her income substantially. They are both 34 with a toddler, a mortgage-heavy house in Toronto, and two rental condos.

Chelsea earns $250,000 a year in sales, Chad $115,000 a year in technology. Their condos – their principal residences before they got together – are both generating positive cash flow. With the “main breadwinner” taking a year off and big mortgage payments, they are wondering how to “make it all work.”

They ask whether they should continue paying down their home mortgage aggressively, and whether they should borrow against their rental units to invest. “There is a lot of money coming in and out of our accounts monthly, with property tax, condo fees, and so on,” Chelsea writes in an e-mail. They wonder whether they are managing it optimally.

“We just keep saving but with no clear goal in mind or understanding if our planning is sound,” she adds. They have a “strong desire to maintain a safety net,” and to have a “sound strategy for retirement.”

We asked Matthew Ardrey, a vice-president and financial planner at TriDelta Financial in Toronto, to look at Chad and Chelsea’s situation.

What the expert says

Mr. Ardrey started by running the numbers Chad and Chelsea provided for their income, savings and expenses. To his surprise, his software showed the couple had a $45,000 a year surplus – even after accounting for savings and tax refunds from RRSP contributions. “I believe this is significant leakage in their spending that they have not recorded,” he says.

“Because most people know what they earn and what they save, I can only assume this is being spent,” the planner says. He has included an additional $45,000 worth of expenses in their plan to account for the discrepancy. This takes their adjusted spending to $205,000 a year, including mortgage prepayments.

“This is the primary issue that Chelsea and Chad need to address before any others,” Mr. Ardrey says. “A material change in expenses will affect all financial projections and analysis, including making sure they have sufficient life and disability insurance,” he adds. “I recommend that they go through a detailed budgeting process as soon as possible.”

Both Chelsea and Chad have defined contribution pension plans or group registered retirement savings plans at work to which both they and their employers contribute. As well, they both make maximum contributions to their tax-free savings accounts.

In addition to the registered savings, they make an extra payment of about $12,000 each quarter ($48,000 a year) on their mortgage, and tuck away $2,000 a month ($24,000 a year) in a non-registered savings account. In the past, they have used this money for RRSP top-ups, TFSA contributions and mortgage payments. More recently, they have been setting it aside to help offset the drop in income during Chelsea’s mat leave. Chelsea will get 60 per cent of her salary for the first 16 weeks and employment insurance benefits thereafter.

Their rental properties bring in an additional $19,800 a year for Chelsea and $14,820 for Chad after expenses, but before taxes.

Chelsea and Chad have a $719,000 mortgage on their principal residence and a $42,000 mortgage on one of the rentals.

It is unfortunate that Chelsea and Chad have so little debt against their rental properties and so much against their principal residence, because the rental mortgage interest is tax deductible, but interest on their principal residence mortgage is not.

Although a common thought would be to leverage the equity in the rentals to pay off the principal residence, the Canada Revenue Agency has recently disallowed a similar strategy. For interest to be tax deductible, the use of the borrowed money must be to produce income, the CRA says. The intention of the transaction and the assets pledged for security are both immaterial in this determination. The agency is reviewing tax deductibility on a case by case basis.

Chad and Chelsea ask whether they should use their surplus cash flow to pay off the mortgage or invest. They might be better off financially investing, Mr. Ardrey says. That’s because the after-tax cost of the mortgage interest is low: 2.54 per cent based on the current mortgage rate on their principal residence.

“To break even on investing instead of making extra mortgage payments, assuming a 50 per cent tax bracket and earning interest income, they would need to earn 5.1 per cent on their investments,” he says. This would be even more appealing if they engaged in tax-efficient investment planning and had more of their returns coming from dividends and capital gains, Mr. Ardrey says.

For their children’s education, the annual RESP savings of $2,500 for each child will fall short of the future costs by about 50 per cent, the planner says. The current average cost of postsecondary education is $20,000 a year. Historically, these costs have outpaced inflation, so he assumes the education costs rise at the rate of inflation plus two percentage points. If Chad and Chelsea want to fully fund their children’s education costs, they will be in a position to do so at the time simply by redirecting the surpluses from their non-registered investing to the education expenses, he says.

Next, Mr. Ardrey looked at how Chelsea’s lower income would affect the family finances. If Chelsea changes careers, earning $125,000 a year, they will not be able to make extra payments to their mortgage for the time being. As well, they would not be able to add to their non-registered savings. They would have to reduce their spending by a significant amount: $20,000 a year after-tax, to $137,000 a year. That’s a reduction of the $48,000 for the extra mortgage payments and $20,000 of actual spending. This would continue until their first child is 12, in 2029. If they are both working full-time with good income, they will likely have to have some form of before and after school care, the planner says. By the time the older one is 12, most agree that they can be responsible enough to babysit.

The reduced savings would affect their retirement, but they would still be able to retire comfortably, Mr. Ardrey says.

Finally, Chad and Chelsea would benefit from having a full financial plan prepared, Mr. Ardrey says. “A comprehensive financial plan will create a road map for them to follow.” In their case, it is not the retirement that is unclear, it is the next 10 years, he adds. “Having a plan will help them make the right financial decisions for both today and tomorrow.”

Client situation

The person: Chad and Chelsea, both 34, and their children.

The problem: How to prepare themselves financially for the career change Chelsea is considering. Should they keep paying down the mortgage, or should they borrow to invest?

The plan: Draw up a budget that tracks their actual spending to determine where the leakage is. If Chelsea changes jobs, be prepared to cut spending and halt the mortgage prepayments for a few years.

The payoff: A clear road map across the next decade or so when their cash needs will be greatest to open roads later on.

Monthly net income: $22,900

Assets: Bank accounts $100,000; her TFSA $69,000; his TFSA $71,000; her RRSP (including group RRSP) $233,000; his RRSP $83,000; his DC pension plan $8,000; RESP $9,500; principal residence $1-million; her rental condo $700,000; his rental condo $350,000. Total: $2.6-million.

Monthly outlays: Mortgage $3,820; property tax $695; home insurance $160; utilities $160; maintenance, garden $75; extra mortgage payments $4,000; transportation $455; groceries $350; child care $1,300; clothing $200; gifts $50; vacation, travel $1,000; dining, drinks, entertainment $380; grooming $75; subscriptions, other personal $60; drugstore $10; life insurance $275; disability insurance $225; phones, TV, internet $70; RRSPs $3,500; RESP $210; TFSAs $835. Total: $17,905. Surplus: $4,995.

Liabilities: Residence mortgage $719,000 at 2.54 per cent; rental mortgage $42,000 at 3.15 per cent. Total: $761,000.

Want a free financial facelift? E-mail finfacelift@gmail.com.

Some details may be changed to protect the privacy of the persons profiled.

Matthew Ardrey
Presented By:
Matthew Ardrey
VP, Wealth Advisor
matt@tridelta.ca
(416) 733-3292 x230

Making the most of an RESP

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With kids heading back to school, education planning and registered education savings plans (RESPs) are at the forefront of discussions that financial advisers are having with many investors – whether these clients have children in a postsecondary institution or saving for them to go into one in the future.

The RESP is an enticing vehicle for investors because the federal government provides a 20-per-cent matching grant through the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG), which is subject to both an annual maximum of $500 and a lifetime maximum of $7,200. The unused CESG accumulates each year a child is alive, even if no RESP is open. And if no contribution was made in a year of the child’s life, a double contribution can be made to reach back for a year of the grant. There are no annual limits on contributions, but there is a lifetime limit of $50,000.

When investors contribute toward a child’s RESP, conventional wisdom tells us that they should take advantage of the free money in the 20-per-cent CESG. But is that always the right decision? Let’s consider three scenarios for contributing to the RESP, assuming a 5-per-cent annual rate of return:

Scenario 1: The investor contributes $2,500 a year, beginning when the child is first born, to the maximum of $50,000. The RESP receives $7,200 from the CESG and produces total income and growth of $43,654. The total value of the RESP when the child is 19 years old is $100,854.

Scenario 2: The investor contributes $50,000 into the child’s RESP in the first year of the child’s life. The RESP receives only $500 in CESG, but produces income and growth of $83,492 for a total RESP value of $133,992 when the child is 19 years of age.

Scenario 3: The investor contributes $16,500 into the child’s RESP in the first year, then contributes $2,500 a year thereafter until reaching the lifetime limit of $50,000. The RESP receives the full CESG of $7,200 and produces income and growth of $62,386. The total value of the RESP when the child is 19 is $121,486.

What this shows is that front-loading RESP contributions is more valuable than receiving the government grant. Of course, for many people, putting $50,000 into an RESP in the first year of a child’s life is unfeasible, but the more that could be invested at once earlier on, the better.

If the RESP is maximized and additional educational savings are desired, two other methods can be used to save for a child’s education. First, if the child is 18 years of age or older, she will have contribution room in her tax-free savings account (TFSA). Thus, contributions could be made to the child’s TFSA to supplement the RESP. Second, if the child is under the age of 18, an informal trust could be used to save for her education. (A note on taxes: If the contributions to the informal trust come from the parents, then income from the account will attribute to the parents for tax purposes, but capital gains will not.)

When it’s time for the child to draw down on the RESP, the account is divided into three sections: contributions, CESG, and income and growth. The contributions could be withdrawn tax-free; but the the CESG and the income and growth must be withdrawn as an Educational Assistance Payment (EAP), which is taxable to the child.

There are no restrictions on withdrawing the contributions once the child is attending a postsecondary institution. The EAP does have some additional rules. The main ones are that the child must provide proof of attending a qualifying institution and that the withdrawal is limited to $5,000 in the first 13 weeks when the child begins postsecondary education.

Those restrictions aside, it’s best to maximize the EAP withdrawals over the contributions wherever possible. Any remaining grant is repaid to the government and any remaining income or growth is taxable to the subscriber (parent) as an Accumulated Income Payment (AIP).

The AIP not only has the detraction of being taxed at the subscriber’s marginal tax rate, but also carries a 20-per-cent tax penalty on top of that. The 20-per-cent tax penalty is taken off the top and then the remaining 80 per cent is included as income to the subscriber. The only ways to avoid this tax penalty and retain the value of the assets in the RESP are for the investor to transfer up to $50,000 of these assets to his or her registered retirement savings plan, if he or she has the contribution room, or to another child under a family RESP plan.

Having these EAP payments taxed in the child’s hands is the most advantageous. Even if the child is working while she’s in school and has income in excess of the basic personal amount, her education credits will be enough to offset any taxes owing from the RESP, in most cases.

As much as it’s advantageous to maximize the EAP, in the case of a family RESP, the subscriber must ensure he or she doesn’t exceed $7,200 of CESG withdrawal per child. Each child is permitted only $7,200 of CESG as a maximum. Thus, if more than that amount is withdrawn from the CESG for the older child, the government will demand repayment and take the overpaid grant funds back from the RESP. That, in effect, means those assets are lost to the younger child.

The RESP is a great savings tool. Understanding its intricacies will help to maximize its value. On the flip side, failure to do so could be a costly mistake for investors and their children.

Reprinted from the Globe and Mail, August 28, 2019.

Matthew Ardrey
Written By:
Matthew Ardrey
VP, Wealth Advisor
matt@tridelta.ca
(416) 733-3292 x230

FINANCIAL FACELIFT: Rosy projection for long European vacation, then retirement in B.C. hides ‘substantial risk’

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Below you will find a real life case study of a couple who are looking for financial advice on how best to arrange their financial affairs. Their names and details have been changed to protect their identity. The Globe and Mail often seeks the advice of our VP, Wealth Advisor, Matthew Ardrey, to review and analyze the situation and then provide his solutions to the participants.

gam-masthead
Written by:
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published August 2, 2019

To celebrate the sale of their house for an impressive sum, Dave and Deborah are planning a long European holiday followed by a big move: from Toronto to a popular retirement destination in British Columbia, where they plan to buy a new home.

Dave, who is 67 and self-employed, will be retiring from a successful career in communications. Deborah, who is 57, is self-employed in the human-resources field. She plans to continue working part-time after they return from overseas. Together, they have substantial savings and investments.

“Our big change is that we have just sold our house in Toronto for $1.7-million net and will be taking a year and a half to travel in Europe when the sale closes,” Deborah writes in an e-mail. “The idea is to invest the proceeds from the house sale in a self-directed [discount brokerage] account consisting entirely of dividend equities,” Deborah adds. “My husband doesn’t like bonds as an investment.”

They would live off the dividends while they are in Europe, Deborah adds, then use the lion’s share of the principal to buy a house in B.C. Dave manages their investments. “He is the first to admit he is not a professional investor and feels he’s in a bit over his head,” Deborah writes. Once they return to Canada, their retirement spending target is $90,000 a year after tax.

We asked Matthew Ardrey, a vice-president and financial planner at TriDelta Financial in Toronto, to look at Dave and Deborah’s situation.

What the expert says

When their house sale closes, Dave and Deborah plan to use $53,000 of the $1.7-million proceeds to top off Dave’s tax-free savings account, Mr. Ardrey says. They plan to invest the remainder in “dividend aristocrats” and live off the dividend income while overseas. When they return to Canada at the end of 2020, they plan to buy a home for an estimated cost of $1.3-million.

Mr. Ardrey’s calculations include spending of $120,000 a year in Europe (which would not be covered entirely by the dividend income), retirement spending of $90,000 a year after tax, an inflation rate of 2 per cent a year, and that Deborah earns $20,000 a year working part-time to the age of 65. Both save the maximum to their TFSAs each year, but they no longer contribute to their registered retirement savings plans. They delay collecting Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits until the age of 70 to get the higher payments.

In addition to their house sale proceeds, the couple have $685,000 in RRSPs and $98,000 in TFSAs. Dave also has $544,000 in a corporate investment account that he can draw tax-free.

Next, Mr. Ardrey looks at the couple’s existing investments. Their current asset mix is 9-per-cent cash equivalents, 1-per-cent bonds and 90-per-cent stocks and stock funds. Of the 90 per cent in stocks, 45 per cent is in Canada, 38 per cent in the United States and 7 per cent is international. The historical rate of return is 5.4 per cent. Because they have a substantial proportion in exchange-traded funds, their investment cost is only 0.39 per cent a year, leaving them with a rate of return net of costs of 5.01 per cent.

“Based on these assumptions, Dave and Deborah will be able to meet their retirement goals,” Mr. Ardrey says. Deborah would still have total assets of $5.3-million by the time she is 90, the planner says. If they wanted to spend more and leave only their home as an estate, they could increase their spending by $24,000 a year to $114,000.

What could go wrong?

“Though this projection looks quite rosy, I would be remiss if I did not address the substantial risk in their plan,” Mr. Ardrey says. “Equity volatility.” Including the house-sale proceeds, Dave and Deborah would have 96 per cent of their assets invested in stocks during their stay in Europe.

They’d be ignoring a basic rule of investing: Don’t invest money that is needed short term in marketable securities.

“What if, during their European dream vacation, stock markets had a major decline?” the planner asks. That would affect their retirement plans dramatically. He looks at a second case where their portfolio suffers a 20-per-cent drop during that time. Rather than being able to surpass their spending target, they’d have to pare it from $90,000 a year to $84,000.

Mr. Ardrey suggests some alternatives. The $1.3-million they’ll need to buy a new home in a year or so should be invested in guaranteed investment certificates, or GICs, where they’d be sure to get their money back. “The primary goal of these funds needs to be capital preservation,” the planner says. Dave and Deborah should keep in mind deposit insurance limits, he says. Canada Deposit Insurance Corp. insures Canadian-dollar deposits at its member institutions up to a maximum of $100,000 (principal and interest) for each account. For example, they could open an account in Dave’s name, another in Deborah’s and a joint account at each of four institutions for $100,000 each. “So they could fill their need with four institutions for most of the savings and $100,000 more at a fifth,” he adds.

“Another option would be to purchase the home in B.C. before leaving on their trip,” Mr. Ardrey says. This would remove any uncertainty about what they will have to pay.

With the remaining investments, Dave and Deborah should look at revising their strategy to reduce their stock-market risk, the planner says. They should have a balanced portfolio of large-capitalization stocks with strong dividends and a mix of corporate and government bonds of different durations. Although Dave isn’t keen on bonds, they could enhance their fixed-income returns – and reduce volatility in their portfolio – by investing a portion of their capital in carefully vetted private debt and income funds, Mr. Ardrey says.

These private funds can be bought through an investment counsellor. If they hired one and put a portion of their fixed-income assets in private debt and income funds, they would have a projected return of 6.5 per cent with 1.25 per cent a year in investment costs, for a net return of 5.25 per cent. That’s better than the 5.01-per-cent historical rate of return on their existing portfolio and it would reduce their investment risk.

Client situation

The person: Dave, 67, and Deborah, 57

The problem: How sound is their plan to invest the proceeds of their house sale in blue-chip stocks and live off the dividends for the time they are in Europe?

The plan: Invest the money needed to buy the new house in GICs, or consider buying the house in B.C. now.

The payoff: Greatly reduced investment risk

Monthly net income: $8,335

Assets: Cash $15,000; stocks $544,070; her TFSA $79,640; his TFSA $18,775; her RRSP $419,995; his RRSP $264,640, residence $1.8-million. Total: $3.1-million

Monthly outlays: Property tax $685; home insurance $195; utilities $250; maintenance, garden $125; transportation $400; groceries $290; clothing $175; gifts, charity $80; vacation, travel $200; personal care $90; dining, drinks, entertainment $255; subscriptions $35; doctors, dentists $165; drugstore $35; phones, TV, internet $280; RRSPs $1,500; TFSAs $900. Total: $5,660

Liabilities: None

Want a free financial facelift? E-mail finfacelift@gmail.com.

Some details may be changed to protect the privacy of the persons profiled.

Matthew Ardrey
Presented By:
Matthew Ardrey
VP, Wealth Advisor
matt@tridelta.ca
(416) 733-3292 x230
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