Thursday, January 26, 2017

RRSP Strategies

Top 10 RRSP Strategies

It seems that every year thousands of Canadians rush to make a last minute Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contribution before the inevitable deadline. If this sounds like you, how do you know the decisions you are making are right for your financial future? It's important to remember that an RRSP should be individualized and must fit well with your own personal financial goals and plan.

The 2016 contribution deadline is March 1, 2017. Consider these RRSP strategies:

1. Contribute early: Make your contribution as early in the year as possible. Tax-deferred compounding makes those early dollars grow dramatically. Early in life, and early in the calendar year; both make a positive difference.

2. Contribute the maximum: Take advantage of compounding and get the maximum tax break by contributing your limit. In respect of 2017, you can invest up to 18% of your 2016 earned income, to a maximum of $26,010, less your pension adjustment or past service pension adjustment for 2016. Remember, while you can "carry forward" any unused contribution room to subsequent years (until age 71), you can never replace the lost growth opportunity.

3. Invest monthly: Many investors find it easier to reach their annual RRSP maximum by making contributions every month. You may find it easier to have the RRSP contribution automatically deducted from your bank account each month, or you may choose to belong to a Group RRSP and make your RRSP contribution by payroll deduction through your employer. Remember, it's a good idea to increase your monthly contribution if your income rises, and be sure to keep up with inflation.

4. Contribute to a spousal RRSP: A spousal RRSP allows the spouse with the higher income to contribute to an RRSP owned by the lower-income spouse. The spouse with the higher income takes the immediate tax deduction, but the money in the RRSP should be taxed in the other spouse's hands, usually at a lower rate, when it is withdrawn later into retirement. This is an excellent way to income split in retirement and reduce your combined tax rate.

5. Diversify: Different types of investments react differently to economic events. By diversifying your portfolio and holding various types of investments, you protect yourself against the day-to-day fluctuations in any one category. To achieve long-term growth you should diversify. Some investors limit themselves to fixed-income investments. The biggest danger with conservative type investments is inflation which can erode your purchasing power. If this sounds like you, consider a small amount of diversifying into growth oriented securities - such as equities and equity mutual funds - to earn returns that can protect you against inflation and provide long-term growth potential

6. Resist the 'dip' into your RRSP: Usually there is nothing to prevent you from accessing the money in your RRSP - but consider the consequences before you do so. First of all, withdrawals attract tax at your marginal tax rate. Tax withholding at the time of the RRSP withdrawal may be as low as 10%, or as high as 30%, but you should determine how much more tax you'll have to pay when you file your tax return. Secondly, you cannot restore the lost contribution room. The amount you can contribute to an RRSP in your lifetime is limited and a withdrawal erodes some of this potential.

Special circumstances can help you access money in your RRSP without these consequences. The Home Buyer's Plan and Life Long Learning Plan allow tax-free withdrawals with the ability to re-contribute. However, even in these plans there is no ability to replace the tax-deferred growth that was lost when you made the RRSP withdrawal.

7. Consolidate your investments: If you are the type of investor who doesn't want to spend a great deal of time managing several plans, you may want to consolidate your investments into one portfolio. Yes, you should have a diversified portfolio of investments working for you, but you can usually combine them under one RRSP umbrella. This strategy also means you will get one consolidated statement, which may make it easier to track your plan.

8. Designate a beneficiary: Consider who should be designated to receive the plan assets in the event of your death. Without a designated beneficiary, the account will go through your estate and be subject to probate and other fees. You should talk to us about the tax and other consequences of designating a beneficiary to your RRSP. Who you appoint as beneficiary is also very important, as there are different rules depending on if it is a spouse or other party. This strategy does not apply in Quebec.

9. Get expert help: We are here to help you make the right long-term investment decisions. Together, we should review your plan at least once a year to make sure that it is still on track with your long-term goals.

10. Have a Plan: Investing, whether in an RRSP or non-registered, is part of a financial plan, but it is important to clearly understand that investing alone is not a plan. If we have yet to work together to build your personal financial plan, call or email us today to get the ball rolling towards achieving your retirement and other financial goals.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Shape up your finances for 2017

January is the month of resolutions, commit yourself to taking control of your financial house. When making your list of financial resolutions, we encourage you to consider the following;

Be honest with yourself
To help establish a budget, lay everything on the table, debts and all. It’s only when you know how much money you owe that you can realistically start to develop a financial plan to pay it off. Need a little extra help? Try using an app like Mint or Expense Manager to track your day to day expenses.
Think ahead
Build an emergency fund to cover unforeseen expenses. As financial advisors, we always encourage our clients, if they can, to save enough to cover at least three months worth of expenses.

Do your homework
Once your goals are clarified, make your plan. When establishing your plan, be sure to explore all of your investment options.

Ask an expert
Need a little extra help with your homework? Don't be afraid to ask for help. A financial planner, like our experienced team here at Continuum II, will help you to look at your financial situation as a whole. We will take into consideration your goals, your habits and your retirement needs and help you better forge a plan to save.

Be consistent
Start small with your investments and grow over time. Don’t start with anything you can’t afford to maintain. It is more efficient to make continuous investments, than to do large sums every once and awhile. Be consistent, it will pay off in the long run.

Establish goals
Set goals for yourself so you know how to allocate your savings, then create savings plans for each goal. Consider making automatic monthly payments to each goal. Note: It's important to prioritize your goal. While you may be longing for some sunshine, paying off your taxes is more pressing.

Focus on your finances.
Take a break from all the day-to-day responsibilities that stand in the way of planning your financial future. Many people take more time planning for their summer vacation than they do for retirement. This year, focus on your financial future.