Thursday, December 12, 2013

Top 5 Money Tips to Implement Before 2013 is Over

Less than a month left until a new year is upon us. To set you up for a great year ahead, here are my Top 5 Money Tips to implement before New Year’s. The best part? There is a “gift” for each one you implement!

1. RRSPs - This year’s maximum contribution room is 18% of earned income up to $23,800. Review your RRSP contributions - now is the time to plan for how you will fill your remaining contribution room in time for the March 3rd deadline. If your employer offers a matching retirement savings plan, check to make sure you are taking full advantage of your employers generosity! Oh go on, show your spouse some love - contribute to a spousal RRSP, as the benefit is the opportunity of income-splitting at any age. If you are expecting a year-end bonus, consider allocating it to your RRSP. Your “Gift” will arrive in April in the form of tax savings!

2. RESPs - If you already own an RESP, your contribution for 2013 has to be in soon. If you are a Grandparent planning to purchase Christmas gifts, just imagine how much more you will be remembered and appreciated for a gift of an education, over another toy. Most children tire of their toys within a few weeks or months, an education is a gift that lasts a lifetime. Your “Gift” will be receiving the Canada Education Savings Grant equal to 20% of your contribution up to a maximum of $2,500 which will be deposited to the RESP for each year you contribute.

3. Charitable Contributions - Make a charitable contribution before the year's end and receive a tax credit for the 2013 tax year. Contributions to your favorite charity are a great way to help those in need. Plan a family dinner around the topic of community service and giving back to your community. What a great way to educate your children about gratitude, while teaching them not everyone is so lucky. A few timely charities are Toys for Tots, Salvation Army and the Children’s Miracle. Your “Gift” will be receiving a 15% federal tax credit on the first $200 donated, and a 29% credit on any amount above $200. Spouses can pool their donation receipts to maximize tax credits!

4. Get Organized - Gather up the receipts for your tax deductible expenses such as medical bills, business expenses, children's fitness and art programs, tuition, and text books. By organizing now, you may even find an opportunity to make last minute purchases which will qualify for a tax reduction or credit when tax time comes around. Your “Gift” will be in the form of increased tax savings.

5. TFSAs - The Tax Free Savings Account 2013 limit is $5,500. Finally, you planned carefully all year, maximized your RRSP and RESP contributions and you have a little saving room left - don’t forget to top up your TFSA. Your “Gift” will be tax sheltered investment growth for as long as your money is in the TFSA. Bonus “Gift” is that money withdrawn is also tax free. Wow, I bet you didn’t realize the CRA was so generous!

~ Lise Andreana, CFP, CPCA, Continuum II Inc.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Buy-Sell / Shareholder Agreements for Business Owners

What does a Shareholder Agreement actually DO?

As Industry Canada will tell you, a shareholder agreement (also known as a buy/sell agreement) is an agreement - in writing - entered into by some (usually all) of the shareholders of a corporation. All those who are parties to the agreement must sign it. These agreements are specific to each company, but typically deal with the same issues, such as:

~ What happens at retirement
~ How the Captial Dividend Account (CDA) will be used
~ How disputes between shareholders will be resolved
~ How insurance will be used to fund the purchase or sale between parties

~ Tax implications and advantages - who gets them and when
~ How long shareholders will continue to be paid if they become disabled. Who will buy their shares, and for how much?
~ How shares will be dealt with at death. What formula will be used for the purchase price? Will the company buy them back as a redemption, or will a person buy them from the estate?

Buy-Sell Shareholders Agreement Checklist
Buy-Sell Agreement Checklist for Business Owners
Many business owners are under the impression that if they are business partners with family members an agreement isn't necessary. This could not be further from the truth, and often becomes even more important because situations can arise where you could go from being partners with your brother one day to being forced into a partnership with your sister-in-law the next.

Ultimately, shareholders have a say in the significant business decisions of the company while everyone is in the same position, healthy, and working. They are not necessary for a one-person corporation, but very valuable when there is more than one shareholder or if you are looking to bring in additional investors as you grow your business.

The content and wording in your shareholder agreement is crucial. The liability, tax, succession planning and management implications are huge. It is essential to get it right.

You need to consider factors such as (to name but a few) classes of shares, capital gains exemptions, insurance, and what type of "triggering events" will impact buy-sell procedures (death, bankruptcy, critical illness, and buy-outs).

To assist you in creating a document that works best for your business, we have created a Buy-Sell Agreement Checklist. You'll find it on our website in the Continuum II Inc. Business Owner's Resources Toolbox, full of helpful templates and tools to ensure you are making informed decisions on everything related to your business.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Women and Finance Event a Great Success!

The night: November 21st, 2013.

The guests: 16 bright and curious women of all ages and backgrounds.

The venue: Stir Kitchen Store, Brant Street, Burlington, Ontario.

The reason: Continuum II Inc. knows from experience that women aren't always involved with the investment planning and wealth management in their family, no matter how smart, educated, and able they may be. We also know how important it is for women to be empowered with the information they need to make informed decisions, plan well for their future, and feel secure. That's why we created our Women and Finance Events series, the first of which kicked off earlier this month with fantastic results!

Welcomed by Peter Andreana, CFP, and Anita Fair from Continuum II Inc., our guests were introduced to a trusted local Estate Lawyer and some fascinating speakers from NEI Investments. Along with a delicious feast prepared by registered nutritionist Sarah Powell in Stir! Kitchen Store's private kitchen and event space, attendees were treated to a wealth of information on topics as varied as estate planning and socially responsible investments.  

Guests asked a myriad of unique questions of our experts, helping them understand things like how to protect their daughter's real estate ownership and rights if a boyfriend moves in, and how more and more clothing companies are being encouraged to implement socially responsible business practices so that socially-minded investors can feel good about investing in their stock.

With so much good food and valuable info, it's no wonder we had a waiting list!

More Women and Finance Events are coming soon, so connect with us by phone or social media to stay in the loop. We'd love to see you there.

Join our facebook community.
Follow us on twitter.
Call us anytime at 905-332-6633

Monday, November 18, 2013

Budget Worksheet and Best Practices

There are many ways to reduce the expenses in your monthly budget. The most obvious is to eliminate frills.  For example, consider whether you need to buy a muffin on the way to work when you could bake a dozen every weekend for a fraction of the cost.  Make coffee at home instead of grabbing it from the drivethru window.  Wait for sales before you do your holiday shopping.

When it comes to the essentials, clipping coupons has become much more popular in recent years - and it’s easier than ever because so many deals are advertised online. Searchable sites such as collect and summarize discounts on goods and services across the country. Meanwhile, lets you order a range of coupons on brand name products that are mailed to you free of charge.

In categories such as cable and communications, consolidating services with one company can save you money through bundling. If you have several providers, call them up and ask for their best deal on the telephone, internet, and television services your family needs. While you may not enjoy playing hardball, the reality is that you will often only get their best deals by threatening to leave for a competitor, so don't be shy.  

Many Canadians can also quickly reduce their debt costs by paying off high-interest credit card balances and consolidating debt in a lower interest single line of credit.

Get your whole family involved in the quest for new saving strategies because this works best when it is a joint effort. If you have children or grandchildren, keep them motivated by rewarding them for their best ideas with a money free treat - such as a game of catch at your favourite park.

A simple budget doesn’t take much time to set up and can help you see very clearly where your money goes each month - and where there may be opportunities to reduce costs. Collect your household’s bank statements and bills and then record your expenses in categories such as those listed on the following Budget Worksheet. This will help identify where your money is going and how much you are spending monthly.  Next, turn to your income. Add it all up and calculate a monthly average for your income as well.  Lack of awareness is the single biggest obstacle to creating a great savings plan for you and your family.  Get started with this worksheet (just click to enlarge), and give us a call at 905-332-6633 when you're ready to build your wealth and put together a successful retirement plan for you and your loved ones.  For more tools & tips, visit the Continuum II Inc. Resources page of our website.  

monthly budget worksheet template

Monday, November 11, 2013

Health and Benefits Plans: Tips and Best Practices

Navigating the world of Health and Benefits plans can seem overwhelming to a business owner.  With so many options, so many conditions, and so much paperwork involved, it can become a full-time job (just make sure it isn’t you, or your employee’s, full time job and deal with a broker that handles all the “admin” for you.)

We know how complex it can be, so to help you ensure you are making the most of the plan that you have, and avoiding common mistakes that can be costly to both you and your employees, we've developed a list of tips to help you.  To enlarge and/or print this list, simply click on each image below.

Health and Benefits Plan Tips and Best Practices

Tips for Health and Benefits Plans

As always, if you would like further clarification or assistance, we're here to help - anytime.  Just call Continuum II Inc. in Burlington at 905-332-6633.  For more tools & tips, visit the Continuum II Inc. Resources page of our website.

Monday, November 4, 2013

How To Find The Right Financial Advisor & Insurance Broker

Finding the right financial advisor is one of life's most important tasks, whether you're a prudent individual, investing wisely for your own retirement, or a savvy business owner with more complex needs to consider like succession planning.

It's wise to explore a few different options before making a final decision on whose style, credentials, and services will best match up with what you need.

There are many factors to consider, and to help you make sense of them all, we've developed a handy checklist to help you choose the right financial planner.  Simply click on the image below if you'd like to see it in larger format and print it out.

How To Choose The Best Financial Planner

Finding the right Insurance Broker is equally important, especially for Entrepreneurs.  As a business owner, you have a lot on your plate and time is finite.  You're building your team, your client base, and your legacy.  With such important tasks ahead of you, there is good reason to delegate what's left.  

When it comes to the Health and Benefits Plan you provide your employees, you can't be sidetracked by explaining all the details to each member of your team when they have questions, or stepping in to help during the claims process.  Even if you have a Human Resources department to help, there are always more productive ways they can contribute to your organization.  You and your team deserve to partner with a Benefits Broker who takes all the workload off of you, leaving you with more time to focus on what's truly important to your company's future.

If you or your employees are forced to deal with 1-800 numbers for questions, or you don't see your Broker at least four times a year, then you need to re-evaluate the level of service you're getting.  It could be much, much better.  And no, it doesn't have to be more expensive at all.  In fact, there's a good chance it could be less.

To help you explore whether you should be expecting more from your Benefits Broker, we've developed a short quiz:

If you would like clarification on any of the points listed above, please don't hesitate to call us at 905-332-6633.  Making sure you have the right financial advisor and insurance broker to set you up for long term success is our top priority.

For more tips & helpful tools, visit the Continuum II Inc. Resources section of our website.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Women and Finance: What You Need to Know

In our many years in business, we are often asked about the topic of financial advice for women. While in theory it seems like financial advice should be relatively gender-neutral, the reality is that is simply not the case.

There are several reasons for this. One of which is the statistically proven fact that women tend to live longer than men. Statistics Canada's most recent life expectancy stats show that - on average - women outlive men by 4-5 years.  

While this may not seem like a huge gap, imagine the amount of challenge a woman might face if, at age 79, she was never a part of the financial and retirement planning discussions in her household and suddenly needed to be responsible for it all. Financial planning can be a complex topic at any age, but certainly more so as we advance in years and are dealing with the loss of a spouse at the same time. 

If you're interested in digging a little deeper into your own future, you can try out Canadian Business Magazine's Life Expectancy Calculator for some insights into what you can expect based on factors like height, weight and physical activity.  While obviously no tool can predict the future 100%, for financial planning purposes, this is a good exercise.  How can you plan how much you need for retirement without a reasonable estimate of how many retirement years you have ahead of you?

The second reason financial advice for women often needs to be approached differently from their male counterparts is the simple fact that for many generations, the teaching of these skills were simply not part of the educational process for women, both at home and in school. In recent years, especially with the increasing average age of marriage and the improved accessibility and democratization of the investment world (thanks to online trading and online banking), women are becoming both highly educated and empowered to take control of their own finances.  

Did you know that in the early 1970's the average age a woman married was just 22 years old? Compare that with 2008 when the number had risen to over 29! Imagine how much financial management needs to happen in those 7 years as an active income-earning member the workforce.

With additional complex factors affecting many couples, such as separation or divorce, stepchildren or the family businesses, the legal details can become very overwhelming - especially if any information comes as a surprise. With women entrepreneurship on the rise, it is important to factor-in how to protect your retirement planning from any challenges your personal business may face.  Peter Andreana, one of our experts at Continuum II Inc, recently explained to The Globe and Mail how important it is to mitigate those risks. Read more of his comments for entrepreneurs in the full Globe and Mail article.

It is for all these reasons that we consistently strive to reach out to our female clients and ensure they are a true participant in their wealth management, financial planning, retirement planning, and estate planning. Leaving these matters to fall on the shoulders of just one spouse is not ideal. Being active and engaged in the process early on removes the challenge of getting up to speed later in life, and it certainly minimizes any uncomfortable surprises coming to light at that time.

We're excited to kick off the first of our Women Client Appreciation Events with a Girls Night Out & Dinner at Stir Kitchen Store in Burlington, Ontario. This special evening will combine some valuable and empowering financial planning information with a night of culinary learning led by a professional chef. Clients will be invited to bring a female friend or relative to help spread even more knowledge and awareness of these vital issues. Watch for details coming to you soon via email, or give us a call at the office at 905-332-6633 to put your name on the list for this limited space event! We will be running more of these special events for our much-appreciated women clientele in the future, so don't worry if space fills up this time!

Latest Feature Article: The Insurance and Investment Journal

At Continuum II Inc, we're always thrilled to be asked to contribute to media articles that help spread the word about how important it is to have a solid and holistic financial plan - especially when it comes to retirement.

Our recent feature in the September issue of The Insurance and Investment Journal features some great history and advice from Continuum II Inc. founder Lise Andreana, and son Peter Andreana, who has followed in her footsteps at the family business.

Find out why Lise wrote the book "No More Mac n' Cheese", how Peter "earned his own stripes" before joining Continuum II Inc., and where the name "Continuum II Inc." came from.

Read the full article here at The Insurance and Investment Journal website.

Monday, August 26, 2013

How Much Will University Cost in 2017 in Canada?

Congratulations! You've started High School (or your child has - in which case, we recommend reading this together). You have a lot of exciting times ahead of you, and some character-building challenges too. Along with achieving the grades you want, and the extra-curricular successes too, you're likely already thinking about what you'll do after you graduate. Well, good!  You should be thinking about it, even though it's four years away. You don't need to decide what University or College you'll be going to yet - or even what program you might like to study - there's plenty of time for that. should definitely start saving for that day starting right now.

So let's talk about How Much University or College will Cost in Canada in 2017.

Your Education Awaits!
There's no time like the present to create a financial plan to save the money you need to pursue your post-secondary dreams. Let's get right into the details so you know exactly what kind of costs you're looking at. Let's say you want to go to the University of Toronto. Great school...lots of interesting programs of study...and not too far away from Burlington when you want to come home for Thanksgiving so no expensive flights to consider.  

A detailed look through the UofT website will show you that University of Toronto's tuition cost for 2013 is $5,865 for a Bachelors Degree program in Arts & Sciences. Tuition typically rises approximately 3-4% per year, which is higher than general inflation (at least in the recent past where it has ranged from only 1-2%), so if that trend holds, by 2017 it should be just over $6,600. That's a lot of money, and that's just the tuition to get you into classes for 8 months. If you're looking to go into Applied Sciences & Engineering, the basic tuition jumps to $12,363. That means over $14,000 for tuition alone in 2017. Pre-Med is over $20,000 for the 2013/2014 school year. That's $22,600 in four years. Wow.

Pre Med? Pretty Expensive.
In addition to getting in the door of your classrooms, you'll also need books to support your learning, and the basics of food & shelter if you want to live on (or near) campus. There's nothing that compares to the excitement and camaraderie of living in residence or near campus with fellow students and new friends, so do your best to budget for this option so that you can choose what you really want when the time comes. UofT's student services suggests presently budgeting $1,000 per year for incidental costs, plus at least $1,000 for books & class supplies, along with between $5500 - $15000 for food & shelter for 2013/2014.  Just for one year!

What does this all add up to at a minimum by 2017? A conservative estimate would be at least $15,000 if you are doing an Arts & Sciences degree, living in a shared rental dwelling near campus, making your own budget-friendly meals, and living very frugally (ex: no shopping trips to The Eaton Centre or rounds of drinks at the bar). For a four-year degree, that's at least $60,000, and that is a lot of money to save. That's a brand new BMW paid in-full!

Sound daunting? Well don't stress out just yet. Everyone is in the same boat. And certainly not everyone has the expectation that their parents can or will pay for the whole bill. Studies we've encountered in the past actually show that the students who had to contribute significantly to their own education expenses outperformed academically when compared to those whose parents paid the entire amount for them. This makes perfect sense as it is only logical that you would try harder to succeed when you've worked hard for the money to get yourself there in the first place. So if you have to pay some or all of your post-secondary expenses, consider it a blessing in disguise rather than a hardship.

A Student Loan Can Help! Visit CanLearn's website.
It's worth noting that there are loans and grants that can help. To find out more information about the Student Loans and Student Grants process, you can visit the CanLearn website.  These loans and grants can make a significant difference to your ability to afford post-secondary education. While grants are yours to keep, loans will ultimately need to be paid back after you graduate. What is also very important to know is that the interest rate that kicks in after graduation can be often much higher than the going rates you could get from a bank loan and interest starts accruing immediately after you graduate, even if you don't have to make payments right away. There are also criteria you must meet in order to quality for loans and grants, so this is a process you should investigate as early as possible in order to help you set realistic goals for how much you should save over the next four years. For example, those coming from a middle-income family of 4, where the household income is over $84,569 would not qualify for a grant this year, although you could still potentially qualify for a loan. 

Start Saving Now
Ideally though, you and your parents will create a savings plan right now that will help you save as much as possible before University begins. That way, if you are not eligible for a grant or loan, you will still be set up to successfully budget your way through your desired degree. Even if you do qualify for grants or loans, it will be ideal to have extra savings in the bank earning interest while you're pursuing your degree, and finish school with ample funds to a) repay any loans before interest kicks in and b) begin your career and your life as an independent adult.

Now that you know what you need to save (ex: $60,000), the next step is to review where you’re at right now. Do you have an RESP that your parents set up for you? Do you have savings bonds from Grandma & Grandpa that haven’t matured yet? Take stock of your existing savings – if any – and factor that into what you still need to save.

Rebalance That Porfolio
This is also a good time to review what exactly those existing monies are invested in and ensure they are secure now that you’re inching closer to post-secondary life.  Where RESPs are concerned, for example, know that the closer you are to starting post-secondary education, the more safe and conservative your RESP investments should be. That may involve rebalancing and reviewing your asset allocation within that RESP at this time given that its now only four years away. You (or your parents/financial planner) may have had that money in riskier investments to maximize growth while you were younger, but conservative investments are crucial right now, as you cannot afford to be invested in things that have a chance of fluctuating before you graduate (like volatile stocks). You want to avoid losing any value this close to when you need those funds. It may be wise to have the money in a high interest cash account or a ladder GIC for added stability and predictability  - especially for budgeting purposes.

Even if you are in a position where you or your parents have never contributed to an RESP yet, it is still not too late to start as long as you're 15 or younger. You must, however, start contributing before you turn 16 or you will not be eligible for the free government contribution that makes RESPs so attractive. That government contribution is known as the CESG (Canada Education Savings Grant) and amounts to at least 20% of the first $2,500 you contribute in any calendar year. There are more conditions and benefits to be aware of (ex: $2,500 unwithdrawn dollars must be contributed in the year you're 15 and haven't ever contributed yet, or $100 minimum contributed and unwithdrawn each year from age 12-15) if you started a bit late. You can find out more information about the CESG here.

Time To Look for a Part Time Job
Factor in any additional funds you may be expecting over the next four years, such as annual contributions from parents, grandparents or family. Do your best to factor in the interest or earnings you’ll see from those existing funds as well in the next four years. The remaining amount is what you will need to earn and save before University/College starts. Any shortfalls would suggest that you need to consider earning that additional income via a part time job throughout high school, and potentially while you are at University as well.

So if you need $60,000 and you have $20,000 in savings planned from existing investments and/or parental contributions, you have around $40,000 left to raise in the four years you’re in high school.  That’s $10,000 per year. Totally doable with a part time job, especially in the summers when you can work more hours.  Given minimum wage is $10.25, you would need to work 975 hours per year to earn $10,000 (a little more actually, considering there are government deductions on your paycheck). That boils down to around 20 hours per week for 52 weeks. Or...if you can work full time in the summer for just 8 weeks, that’s 320 hours right there, leaving only 15 hours per week of part-time work the rest of the year.  That’s three 5-hour shifts per week. Not so daunting after all!

Another great way to save money is to choose a school near home.  Lise Andreana, a certified financial planner with Continuum II Inc, and the author of money-management book for 20-somethings  “No More Mac ’n Cheese,” urges students to stay at home for university if it’s possible. “You have to think in the long term,” said Andreana. “If you can avoid student debt, do it, because it’s going to take you decades, maybe, to pay that debt off once you graduate.” Read more of her views in a recent article in the Financial Post.

Remember, the sooner you get your plan on paper, the sooner you can start making it a reality.

What is your plan for post-secondary saving? Do you feel better prepared now? We'd love to hear your comments below or on our facebook page

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Health and Dental Group Insurance Options in Ontario

If you own your own business, you know how important it is to build a strong team of employees.  You can't do it all yourself. As you may also know, one of the best ways to attract and retain great people is by providing an attractive compensation plan that includes key benefits like health and dental insurance. For many families, those costs can add up over the course of a career, so having an employer that helps them handle those expenses is a huge selling point.

You may think your company is too small to be able to offer these types of group benefits, but fortunately that is not the case. At Continuum II Inc., we often put together full company employee benefits plans for organizations as small as one employee!  While the range of options in the marketplace is a little more limited for business with 1-5 employees, we are always able to put together several competitive quotes for consideration. And for companies with over 10 employees, the options in the marketplace get significantly more competitive.

In Canada, the insurance industry is made up of insurance Providers (such as Manulife, Blue Cross, Sun Life and Great West Life) and Brokers (such as Continuum II Inc.).  You can deal with an Agent who works exclusively for one Provider, or you can deal with a Broker, who deals with many.  Obviously the main benefit of dealing with a Broker is choice. Our ability to seek out the perfect plan for your needs and budget - no matter what insurance provider it comes from - is a huge advantage.  While that choice and cost savings often seem like the biggest advantage, there are actually others that are equally important, such as our personalized service, dedicated account manager, and the workload we completely lift off your business by essentially becoming your Benefits HR Department - that's where the true time and money savings add up!

So let's talk about the types of plan options that you could consider.  At Continuum II Inc., we have grouped the many offerings into some helpful tiers that we refer to as Bronze, Silver and Gold. As you'll see from the chart below, there are advantages to your employees in each tier, and it's important to note that these are not set in stone either. Any plan we create can be fully customized to meet your needs and budget.

So if you're ready to take your plan to attract and retain the best employees to the next level - with great benefits including health & dental - give us a call at Continuum II Inc. We'll put together the best plan for your team, and then take away all the workload associated with managing it.  It's a win-win!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Succession Planning Strategies for Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs

If you own and lead a business, there's a very important question you need to ask yourself: Do You Have a Succession Plan in Place?   

The statistics are surprisingly low when it comes to the number of business-owners who currently have a written succession plan in place.  Numerous studies in recent years consistently show less than half of Canadian business owners do.

Ready to Pass the Baton?
Having a plan - in writing - is essential for the well-being of both your business, and yourself.  A well thought-out strategy must be in place for what will happen to the business when you leave it, whether that is through retirement, illness, or untimely death. Keep in mind that a will is not the same thing as a succession plan.  A proper Succession Plan can help facilitate the right transition to keep your business running successfully, but also do so in a way that maximizes the financial opportunities and tax benefits to you and your successor(s).  Allow us to illuminate some of the key questions and considerations:

1. Have you identified the right person (or people) to take over for you in key leadership positions?  If you don't have someone internal you can pass the reigns to - especially on short notice - it's time to get moving.  It takes time to develop and prepare someone for such an important position, so the sooner you start preparing them, the better.  If the person you have in mind is external, and therefore unfamiliar with daily operations and personnel, it will take even longer.  There's no time like the present to get prepared.  Be sure you are actively developing this person to take over successfully and keep things running strongly.

Are You Prepared to Choose?
2. Does your Successor know your intentions?  Do other potential candidates know as well?  In cases of family businesses, there may be assumptions happening behind the scenes that you haven't considered.  If you have a child working with you in the business, that child may assume they will take over when you leave.  Of course, that may not be the best option if they do not presently possess the skill set necessary to do so.  If you have more than one child working with you, there may be issues of jealousy or anger that could come into play if one child is chosen over another.  Those emotions could have a negative effect on the business.  A plan that is known ahead of time - to all relevant parties - can significantly help avoid problems and frustrations later on.  You also need to consider that who is going to own the company is not necessarily the same thing as who is going to run the company.  If you want to leave the business to your children - even if they won't be running it - there are many tax implications that you will want to evaluate.  Succession plan strategies for family businesses involve many factors you'll need to consider wisely.

3. Are you planning to Sell your Business?  If you are considering this approach, you need to be aware of all the tax implications, as well as setting the company up to be sold for its maximum value.  That means having the company in a strong position with its customers and partners, and ensuring that position can be clearly communicated and documented for prospective buyers.  Knowing the future possibilities for your business, and how social and economic conditions could affect them, should also have you thinking about the best time to sell.  You have to consider that the best time to sell may not align with your ideal retirement date, so having a flexible plan is key. You should also have a buy-sell agreement in place that is in order and funded to reduce risk and minimize loss.  

4. Does the Succession Plan for your Business and your Personal Financial Plan align?  As the business owner, are you helping save for your retirement by paying yourself RRSPs and enjoying the lower tax rate of doing so, or are you assuming that all your retirement needs will be met when you sell the business?  Are you funding an IPP (Individual Pension Plan) that could be written off as a business expense?  You may also want to look into implementing an Estate Freeze.  There may be far more tax-effective strategies than what you are currently doing, and there's no better time than right now to put them in place.

Having a financial planner who is well-versed in Succession Planning is paramount to creating a plan that helps the business continue smoothly and successfully, and helps you retire with maximum financial benefit.

If you are ready to get your plan on paper, give us a call.  Continuum II Inc. is in the unique position of having a team of seasoned financial professionals - who also have a wealth of experience with succession planning - to guide you effortlessly through this challenging process and set your mind at ease.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Group Benefits for Small Businesses: How Do I Choose?

Did you know that offering competitive Employee Benefits is a key factor to both attracting and retaining top talent for your business?  And that retaining talent is crucial to improving your bottom line performance?

Canada's Top 100 Employers - a trusted survey that you've likely seen published in The Globe and Mail (and now in its 14th year) - ranks the excellence and desirability of Employers in Canada based on key factors that include "Health, Financial & Family Benefits" as a significant part of that rating.  How can you attract top talent vs. your competitors without this important factor?  The simple answer is: you won't.

A report by The Wall Street Journal on Employee Retention also confirms that "providing health insurance, life insurance and a retirement-savings plan is essential in retaining employees."  

When you don't retain good employees, you incur the costs of recruitment and retraining, which can add up fast and negatively impact your bottom line - not to mention the cost of the lost productivity happening at that temporarily empty desk.

It also goes without saying that when employees have access to great benefits and aren't worried about out-of-pocket costs, it helps to keep them healthy.  That means less sick time and more productivity from your team!

Forbes magazine asserts that Health Benefits is one of the Top 5 Reasons Employees Will Quit Their Jobs in 2013 along with stability, compensation, respect, and work-life balance.

It's simple.  You absolutely must provide an attractive health and benefits plan for your employees if you want the best - and you want to keep them.  So it's time to look at your business and think about how competitive and comprehensive you are in terms of perks like medical benefits, dental benefits, and group RRSPs (GRSPs). 

One of the things we specialize in at Continuum II is helping employers select the best benefits plan for their company.  We know it's a fine balance between creating a competitive plan that employees find worthwhile, and doing the right thing for the balance sheet where final costs and your budget are concerned.  Our process looks at the big picture with you and helps you identify and articulate all the things that matter:

We'll help you understand what you need, and create the financial path to get there for both you and your employees.

If you're a small to medium sized business with 5 to 500 employees, and you value their talent, want to retain them, and want to be sure you're getting the best value for your budget, we can help.

Make employee benefits a key part of your recruitment and retention strategy, and you'll see great results from the level of talent you'll be able to attract and, more importantly, keep!

Friday, April 12, 2013

What Is An Insurance Broker + Finding the Right One for Your Business

If you are a business owner, you likely already know that one of the best ways to attract and retain great employees is by offering them group health and dental insurance as part of their compensation plan.

Once you've made the wise decision to provide this benefit to your employees, the next step in the process is finding the right plan.  One that aligns with your financial budget, as well as with the needs of your valued employees.  That's where an Insurance Broker becomes a vital business partner to you.

In Canada, you have two different methods for obtaining this type of group insurance.  While some people think you can get it directly from a particular insurance company via the web or by calling, this is not actually an option for companies and small businesses.

The two actual options are:
  1. You can work with an agent who represents one particular insurer, and deal exclusively with the products and services offered by that insurer.  You need to keep in mind that this agent will be tied to one company's line of products and services, and not permitted to look at the full range of what's out there in the marketplace.  
  2. You can work with an Insurance Broker.
The advantage of working with an Insurance Broker is that when you do this, you can choose products and services from a wide range of insurance companies, thereby providing you with more options to find what truly suits your needs.  Insurance Brokers deal with many insurance providers, so they are not forced to recommend just one provider's options.  You can see all of the available choices, and work together to build a comprehensive package that is tailored to your specific needs.  The Insurance Broker does not work for any of the insurance providers.  The Insurance Broker works for you.

Continuum II in Burlington, Ontario is just such an Insurance Broker.  We have years of experience in helping our clients build group benefit plans that help attract & retain great talent, and do so in a way that balances the financial considerations of both the company and employee's contributions.  We provide a consistent point of contact whenever you need advice or information, and we make a point of visiting all our clients - in person - at least once every quarter to make sure we answer any questions you didn't have time to call and ask!

Continuum II deals with all the main insurance providers: Sunlife, Great West Life, Manulife, Blue Cross, Encon, Greeshield and Empire.

Even if you already have an existing plan in place, we are experts at looking at your current plan and finding small changes that can be made to impact big savings on your premiums.  In fact, we can become your agent of record and you can keep the exact same insurance carrier and benefits as you have right now, but start taking advantage of all we have to offer.

Our main priority - something no other Insurance Broker does - is not only to find you the right plan, but to take the administrative workload of managing the plan off your desk.  We know you're running a business.  We know how valuable your time is.  Instead of having employees come to you or your busy Human Resources team member when they have questions about submitting a claim or understanding the details of the plan, they can simply call us.   Leave the 1-800 #s in the desk!  We handle all those questions and deal directly with your people.  They know us by name and get consistency in who they deal with.  That leaves you with the time you need to focus on building your business.

If you are searching for expert guidance in building the right employee group benefits plan - from medical to dental and beyond - please give us a call.  We'd be delighted to help you navigate this important process, and find exactly what you and your employees need.