Category Archives: Personal finance

Financial stress can affect your health

By Sheryl Smolkin

Have you ever had that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize the sum total of everything you owe each month is more than your take home pay? You are not alone.

According to the latest Manulife Financial Wellness Index, two in five Canadians say they are financially unwell. Study respondents are concerned by debt (82%), not saving for retirement (60%), stressed due to their financial situation (67%) and 83% said they are not financially prepared to protect their loved ones in the event of death, serious illness or disability.

“We want to help Canadians live better and healthier lives. Looking at people’s wellness has traditionally included physical aspects, and in recent years focused more on emotional health,” said Sue Reibel, Executive Vice-President and General Manager Institutional Markets, Manulife. “Our findings show that the role of financial wellness, whether good or bad, affects overall well being and is an important contributor to helping Canadians reach positive emotional health.”

Financial wellness is based on the way an individual manages their overall financial situation, including budgeting, retirement planning, investing, debt management, financial protection and financial stress. Manulife’s research shows that money continues to be the greatest source of stress and it impacts an individual’s mental health leading to absenteeism rates and lost productivity.

Canadians who consider themselves financially unwell revealed that dealing with money is a factor of stress (81%, often/sometimes) and they are eight times more likely to have bad stress levels and may be distracted at work (49%, often/sometimes).

Healthy finances and a healthy lifestyle go hand in hand. Canadians who are financially well are more likely to be successful at managing their health according to the Financial Wellness Index. Those with low levels of financial wellness are almost five times more likely not to engage in any healthy activity.

Canadians who say they are financially well are more likely to say that their physical health is excellent (25%) or good (45%), they eat more fruits and vegetables (79%), get more exercise (68%), get regular health checkups (61%) and educate themselves on being healthier (46%).

In addition, if your employer offers group benefit plans, they have an impact on your financial wellness and health. Those who are financially well are more likely to have a group retirement (65%) and group benefits plan (79%) compared to those who are financially unwell (42% and 58%, respectively).  Also, those who have group benefits plans are more likely to score better on the stress index (56%) than those who do not have any plans (48%).

“Employers have an important role to play in their employees’ wellness, physically, mentally and financially. Their actions can positively impact the level of engagement and productivity of their teams, which in the long-term can impact their bottom line,” added Reibel.

About the Manulife Financial Wellness study
Environics Research Group surveyed 2,024 Canadians, 18 and over, between August 31 and September 7, 2016, asking them about budgeting, retirement, investments, debt, protection and stress. Respondents were equally split along gender lines, average age was 47, and quotas and weighting were used to ensure that results reflected the Canadian reality in terms of age, gender and region.

What if your tax return is late?

By Sheryl Smolkin

You left filing your 2016 income tax return to the last minute and a huge project came up at work. You look at the calendar and suddenly realize you have missed the May 1st deadline. Or you have been working outside Canada for several years and didn’t file a return because you thought you didn’t have to.

What happens if your tax return is late and what can you do about it? Here’s what the Canada Revenue Agency has to say:

Interest
If you have a balance owing , CRA charges compound daily interest starting May 1, 2017, on any unpaid amounts owing for 2016. This includes any balance owing if they reassess your return. In addition, they will charge you interest on the penalties starting the day after your return is due.

The rate of interest charged can change every three months. For the first quarter of 2017 the interest rate charged on overdue taxes, Canada Pension Plan contributions, and Employment Insurance premiums was 5%. However, if you overpaid your personal taxes, the interest rate paid to you is 3%. See Prescribed interest rates.

If you have amounts owing from previous years, CRA will continue to charge compound daily interest on those amounts. Payments you make are first applied to amounts owing from previous years.

Late-filing penalty
If you owe tax for 2016 and do not file your return for 2016 on time, CRA will charge you a late-filing penalty. The penalty is 5% of your 2016 balance owing, plus 1% of your balance owing for each full month your return is late, to a maximum of 12 months.

If you were charged a late-filing penalty on your return for 2013, 2014, or 2015 your late-filing penalty for 2016 may be 10% of your 2016 balance owing, plus 2% of your 2016 balance owing for each full month your return is late, to a maximum of 20 months.

That’s why even if you cannot pay your full balance owing on or before April 30, 2017 you should have filed the return on time to avoid the late-filing penalty.

Repeated failure to report income penalty
If you failed to report an amount on your return for 2016 and you also failed to report an amount on your return for 2013, 2014, or 2015, you may have to pay a federal and provincial or territorial “repeated failure to report income penalty.” If you did not report an amount of income of $500 or more for a tax year, it will be considered a failure to report income.

The federal and provincial or territorial penalties are each equal to the lesser of:

  • 10% of the amount you failed to report on your return for 2016; and
  • 50% of the difference between the understated tax (and/or overstated credits) related to the amount you failed to report and the amount of tax withheld related to the amount you failed to note on your return.

However, if you voluntarily tell CRA about an amount you failed to report, they may waive these penalties. For more information, see Voluntary Disclosures Program.

False statements or omissions penalty
In addition, you may have to pay a penalty if you, knowingly or under circumstances amounting to gross negligence, have made a false statement or omission on your 2016 return.

The penalty is equal to the greater of:

  • $100; and
  • 50% of the understated tax and/or the overstated credits related to the false statement or omission.

However, if you voluntarily tell CRA about an amount you failed to report and/or credits you overstated, they may also waive this penalty.

Cancel or waive penalties or interest
The CRA administers legislation, commonly called the taxpayer relief provisions, that gives them the  discretion to cancel or waive penalties or interest when taxpayers are unable to meet their tax obligations due to circumstances beyond their control.

The CRA’s discretion to grant relief is limited to any period that ended within 10 calendar years before the year in which a request is made.

For penalties, the CRA will consider your request only if it relates to a tax year or fiscal period ending in any of the 10 calendar years before the year in which you make your request. For example, your request made in 2017 must relate to a penalty for a tax year or fiscal period ending in 2007 or later.

For interest on a balance owing for any tax year or fiscal period, the CRA will consider only the amounts that accrued during the 10 calendar years before the year in which you make your request. For example, your request made in 2017 must relate to interest that accrued in 2007 or later.

To make a request fill out Form RC4288, Request for Taxpayer Relief – Cancel or Waive Penalties or Interest. For more information about relief from penalties or interest and how to submit your request, go to Taxpayer relief provisions.

Pension-income splitting rules can reduce total tax bill

By Sheryl Smolkin

I retired from my corporate job with a defined benefit pension before I turned 55 and I opted to begin receiving my CPP at age 60. And by starting my own business as a workplace journalist I also created another significant income stream.

In contrast, when my husband retired at age 65 he did not have a pension and he elected to defer receipt of CPP and OAS for a year. He also decided not to convert his RRSP into a RRIF until he is required to do so at age 71. Therefore, other than withdrawing funds from our unregistered investment account, he had no source of income.  As a result, when it came to filing subsequent income tax returns, the disparity in our income made us ideal candidates to benefit from pension-income splitting which has been available since 2007.

The way it works is that if you are receiving income that qualifies for the pension income tax credit you’ll be able to allocate up to half of that income to your spouse or common-law partner (and vice versa) each year. You don’t actually have to write a cheque because pension income-splitting is merely a paper transaction done via your tax return.

The type of pension income that qualifies for the pension income tax credit of up to $2.000/year and that is eligible for pension splitting differs depending on whether you were 65 or older in the year.

  • If you were under 65 as of December 31, 2016, “qualifying pension income” includes life annuity payments out of a defined benefit or defined contribution pension plan and certain payments received as a result of the death of your spouse or common-law partner.
  • If you were 65 or older in 2016, other defined payments such as lifetime annuity payments out of your RRSP, DPSP or RRIF also qualify for the pension credit. Qualifying pension income doesn’t include CPP, OAS or GIS payments.
  • It is worthwhile noting that pension payments from SPP qualify for the pension income tax credit.

The extent to which pension income-splitting will be beneficial will depend on the marginal tax bracket of you and your spouse or common-law partner, as well as the amount of qualifying income that can be split. In many cases, the optimal allocation will be less than the allowable 50% maximum.

If you opt to pension split, a special election form (Form T1032) must be signed by the parties affected and filed with the CRA. If you file your return electronically, you should keep the election form on file in case the CRA asks for it. Another result of pension splitting is that the income tax withheld from your pension income will be reported on your spouse or common-law partner’s return, proportional to the amount of income being split.

Pension income splitting may also reduce the Old Age Security claw back while transferring income to your spouse who is taxed at a lower tax rate. In addition, your spouse can access the pension income credit of up to $2,000 for federal tax purposes and $1,000 for BC tax purposes, which would otherwise be unavailable without pension income.

The pension income splitting rules do not make spousal RRSPs obsolete, since spousal plans still have income splitting benefits for the years before you turn 65 or if you have not yet converted your RRSP to a RRIF or annuity. In addition, taking advantage of spousal RRSPs can increase your potential for withdrawals under the Home Buyers’ Plan and the Lifelong Learning Plan.

In 2014 and 2015 the Family Tax Cut credit provided a version of income splitting that allowed an individual to notionally transfer up to $50,000 of income to his or her lower-income spouse or partner, provided they have a child who was under 18 at the end of the year. The credit was capped at $2,000 annually. However, that form of income-splitting was abolished by the new Liberal government for 2016.

Other permitted forms of income splitting with family members are described here.

Changes you need to know about on your 2016 Income Tax Return

By Sheryl Smolkin

If your financial affairs are fairly straightforward and the only income you receive is from employment, you should have already received all of your tax slips and you may have already filed your income tax return, although it is not due until midnight on Monday, May 1st.

But tax slips for mutual funds, flow-through shares, limited partnerships and income trusts only had to be sent out by March 31st, so if you have multiple, more complex sources of income you are likely among the group of Canadians who are under the gun this month to finalize and file your returns.

Here are some of the things that have changed since last year that individuals and families should be aware of when they are assembling documentation and preparing their returns.

GENERAL/ADMINISTRATIVE
MyCRA: A mobile app from the Canada Revenue Agency now allows you to view your notice of assessment, tax return status, benefit and credit information, and RRSP and TFSA contribution room.

Auto-fill: If you use electronic software to do your taxes, the CRA will fill in many of the boxes for you. You sign into CRA MyAccount and agree to a download that will include information on your RRSP contributions, plus information from T4s, T4As and T5s. Users are advised to double-check the CRA’s data before they file.

INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES
Canada child benefit (CCB): As of July 2016, the CCB has replaced the Canada child tax benefit (CCTB), the national child benefit supplement (NCBS), and the universal child care benefit (UCCB). For more information see Canada child benefit.

Child-care expenses: The amount parents can claim for child-care expenses has increased by $1,000 annually, per child, to $8,000 for a child under six and $5,000 for a child aged between seven and 16 years old. For more information see line 214.

Canada Apprentice Loan: Students in a designated Red Seal trade program can now claim interest on their government student loans. For more information see line 319.

Northern resident’s deductions: The basic and additional residency amounts used to calculate the northern residency deduction have both increased to $11 per day. See Form T2222, Northern Residents Deductions. For more information see line 255.

Children’s arts amount: The maximum eligible fees per child (excluding the supplement for children with disabilities), has been reduced to $250. Both will be eliminated for 2017 and later years. For more information see line 370.

Home accessibility expenses: You can claim a maximum of $10,000 for eligible expenses you incurred for work done or goods acquired for an eligible dwelling. This deduction typically applies to home renovations to improve accessibility for individuals eligible for the disability tax credit for the year or for qualifying seniors over 65. For more information see line 398.

Family tax cut: The Family Tax Cut allowed eligible couples with children under the age of 18 to notionally split the income of the spouse with higher earnings, transferring up to $50,000 of taxable income to the lower income spouse in a taxation year. The family tax cut has been eliminated for 2016 and later years.

Children’s fitness tax credit: The maximum eligible fees per child (excluding the supplement for children with disabilities) has been reduced to $500. Both will be eliminated for 2017 and later tax years. For more information see lines 458 and 459.

Eligible educator school supply tax credit: If you were an eligible educator, you can claim up to $1,000 for eligible teaching supplies expenses. For more information see lines 468 and 469.

INTEREST AND INVESTMENTS
Tax-free savings account (TFSA): The amount that you can contribute to your TFSA  every year has been reduced to $5,500.

Dividend tax credit (DTC): The rate that applies to “other than eligible dividends” has changed for 2016 and later tax years. For more information see lines 120 and 425.

Labour-sponsored funds tax credit: The tax credit for the purchase of shares of provincially or territorially registered labour-sponsored venture capital corporations has been restored to 15% for 2016 and later tax years. The tax credit for the purchase of shares of federally registered labour-sponsored venture capital corporations has decreased to 5% and will be eliminated for 2017 and later tax years. For more information see lines 413, 414, 411, and 419.

What’s new on your 2016 tax return: Sale of a principal residence

By Sheryl Smolkin

For many Canadians, the family home is the most valuable asset they own and an important factor when they are planning their retirement. When you sell your principal residence, any increase in value is not subject to capital gains tax. However, if you sold your principal residence in the last year, there is a new form you will need to complete for the first time when you file your 2016 income tax return.

Your principal residence can be any of the following types of housing units:

  • A house
  • A cottage
  • A  condominium
  • An apartment in an apartment building
  • An apartment in a duplex, or
  • A trailer, mobile home, or houseboat.

For one of the above to qualify as a principal residence you must have owned it alone or jointly with another person. In addition, you, your current or former spouse or common-law partner, or any of your children must have lived in the home at some time during the year.

You are only allowed to designate one home as your principal residence for a particular year. If you are unable to designate your home as your principal residence for all the years you owned it, a portion of any gain on sale may be subject to tax as a capital gain. The portion of the gain subject to tax is based on a formula that takes into account the number of years you owned the home and the number of years it was designated as your principal residence.

The principal residence exemption calculation formula is:

The extra year in the top of the equation (the “one-plus rule”) means that when a person moves, both the old home and the new home will be treated as a principal residence in the year of the move, even though only one of them can actually be designated as such for that year.  However, for dispositions occurring after October 3, 2016, the “one-plus” factor applies only where the taxpayer is resident in Canada during the year in which they acquire the property.

In years prior to 2016, there was no need to report the sale on your tax return if the entire gain was eliminated.  However, on October 3, 2016 the federal government announced that, starting with the 2016 tax year, the sale of a principal residence must be reported on Schedule 3 of the tax return in order to claim the principal residence exemption.  This change applies also for deemed dispositions, such as a deemed disposition due to change in use of the property.

The purpose for the new reporting requirement is two-fold. The federal government wants to ensure that Canadian residents only claim the capital gains exemption for principal residences in appropriate circumstances. In addition, under the new rules, foreign buyers who were not residents at the time a home was bought will no longer be able to claim a principal residence exemption.

There are two other major changes to the Income Tax Act (ITA) regarding the reporting of the disposition of a principal residence:

  • Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) can, according to new ITA s. 152(4)(b.3), reassess a taxpayer outside of the normal reassessment period, if the taxpayer does not report a disposition.  Normally for individuals the reassessment period is three years from the date of the initial notice of assessment, with some exceptions.
  • If the disposition of the principal residence is not reported on the tax return as required, a late-filing penalty can be imposed @ $100 per month x the number of months late, to a maximum of $8,000.  New ITA s. 220(3.21) is added to this effect.

For a more in depth assessment of how changes to the principal residence exemption may impact you, contact your accountant or other tax advisor.

Déjà-Boom: boomerang kids collide with retirement goals of boomer parents

By Sheryl Smolkin

Do you remember the American romantic comedy film Failure to Launch? The film focuses on a 35-year-old man who lives in his parents’ home and shows no interest in leaving the comfortable life Mom and Dad have made for him there.

Well, kids staying at home longer is no longer just an urban myth. The boomerang effect is in full swing as many millennials continue to lean on the boomer generation for financial support, according to a recent TD survey. At a time when the older generation should be preparing for retirement, many instead are experiencing a “déjà-boom” effect, as children or grandchildren return to the family home or need financial assistance.

“As a parent or grandparent it’s natural to want to help our kids and grandkids who may be facing financial challenges such as finding full-time employment or paying their day-to-day expenses,” says Rowena Chan, Senior Vice President, TD Wealth Financial Planning. “It’s important that this desire to help is balanced with your own goals for retirement.”

Overall, 62% of the boomer generation feels the “déjà -boom” effect is preventing them from saving enough for retirement. The survey also revealed that the trade-off between providing financial support and saving for retirement is placing boomers under a considerable amount of financial stress. It’s not surprising that more than half (58%) of boomers report feeling financially stressed and say their retirement savings are being impacted by their extended financial support of boomerang kids, as one in four Canadian boomers admit to supporting their adult children or grandchildren.

“While the déjà-boom effect may be an unexpected event in retirement planning, it is important for pre-retirees to remember that it’s not too late to plan for the future and achieve their goals. A lot can be accomplished in the 10 to 15 years before retirement and planning ahead is a key step in making the journey as smooth as possible,” Chan continues.

The added financial stress brought on by this arrangement isn’t unnoticed by millennial offspring. In fact, almost half of millennials (44%) who depend on their boomer parents or grandparents for support are aware that their financial situation will mean fewer retirement savings, while 43% of millennials admit they are willing to cut costs when facing economic difficulty before asking for financial help.

“Both generations recognize this isn’t an ideal situation, which means important conversations need to take place so everyone is on the same financial page,” says Chan. “Sitting down with someone who understands different family dynamics is a great first step to set defined goals and establish a financial action plan to best serve both generations.”

TD offers the following advice for boomer parents who are working towards retirement and boomerang kids who want to be independent:

Be Ready for Whatever Life Throws Your Way
Despite this new reality, it is important to understand that your retirement goals are still within reach. Meeting with a financial planner and doing a goals-based assessment is key to determining what your options might be for supporting your kids while keeping your plans for retirement on track.

Negotiate the Return
Discuss how everyone can contribute to the household budget and operations. For example, you may be able to cover the basics like room and board, but other living expenses like cell phone bills, car payments, or financial support for recreational activities are additional costs that your offspring could  cover independently. Also, consider having everyone pitch in on the costs of running the day-to-day operations and dividing the household chores. 

Prepare to “Relaunch”
Whether it’s your newly-married daughter, her spouse and child, or your son who recently graduated and has moved back home, there are plenty of opportunities to educate all family members on the importance of being fiscally responsible and working toward financial independence. Invite them to join in your financial conversations to discuss how to navigate their current circumstances and establish good financial habits.

Decide When to Release
As you and your offspring are mapping out financial action plans, identify a date when you will no longer be financially committed to each other. As you approach this date, set up a series of mini-goals that will allow you to free up funds to divert toward your retirement savings while ensuring that your kids are meeting the savings targets they set in their own financial plan.

Work with your planner to ensure these goals are S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measureable, Agreed upon, Realistic and Time-based. S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting provides the preparation, focus and motivation needed to achieve your objectives.

And watch or re-watch the movie “Failure To Launch” if you can with your boomerang kids. There is nothing like a good laugh to defuse any tension that may be associated with kids moving back home!

Home insurance myths you need to know about

By Sheryl Smolkin

If you’ve have ever had a fire or theft, you know how important home insurance is. But you may have had a shock when you learned that the policy did not cover the full replacement cost of your home or that you would not be reimbursed for the antique car stored in your garage when the house went up in smoke.  That’s why it’s important to clear up some home insurance misunderstandings, so you are fully aware of what your policy does and does not cover.

Insureye has compiled a comprehensive list of home insurance myths.  Here are 10 of my favourites:

1. You must have home insurance. Unlike auto insurance, home insurance has not been made mandatory by the government. however, if you own the property and have a mortgage on it, often, your bank or lender will require that you hold an active home insurance policy and name them on that policy. If you do not own the property but are renting it, your landlord may require insurance coverage.
2. If I have a home insurance policy, I am protected against sewer backup. Sewer backup damage occurs when the sanitary and storm sewer systems cannot handle high volumes of water, which causes water to back up into your home through toilets and drains.

As is the case with freshwater flood protection, most providers offer some sort of OPTIONAL sewer backup protection, but just a few providers include it in their standard default home insurance policies.

3. If I am away on vacation, my house is covered. If you simply leave for vacation without taking precautions, you are not always covered. Thus, if you go away during the “usual heating season” then you usually need to either:

  • Shut off the home’s water supply and empty all pipes;
  • Take steps to ensure the home’s heating is maintained.

If you don’t take one of these two precautions, then you may not be protected against water damage resulting from frozen pipes that burst.
Check with your provider to determine what length of vacation requires you to take extra precautions, such as somebody visiting your place on a regular basis in your absence. Different policies may require different frequency of those visits, but in general it is every 3-7 days.

4. If I have valuables, they are covered. A standard home insurance policy covers your personal property and most valuables up to the selected limit of insurance. It’s important to note that sub-limits often apply to specialty property, like jewellery or furs. For these items, you have the option of adding coverage to your policy. Often, you will need to provide proof of value (e.g. an appraisal or a receipt).
5. Home insurance covers the market value of my house. Home insurance does not cover market value, only the rebuilding or replacement value of your house. If your house burns down, the purpose of home insurance is to cover the costs required to re-build the house as it was before the loss. Rebuilding value is typically lower than market value because it does not include the value of the land.

An insurance policy can often include costs to clean up the debris, such as after a fire.

6. Home insurance automatically covers upgrades to the home or condo. Home insurance will not automatically cover your kitchen, washroom or other upgrades. Typically, you must advise your insurance provider of these upgrades when they happen. You need to find out how your policy treats upgrades and, eventually, add them to the policy.
7. It is fine to overstate the value of the damage. Overstating the value of damage is a dangerous thing to do. That’s because your insurance provider will conduct their own assessment/ investigation to check your claim. If they determine that you were overstating your claim, your entire claim can be denied and your policy can be cancelled. You risk ruining your credibility and your ability to get home insurance elsewhere.
5. Condominium corporations provide insurance that covers my condo. Condominium corporation insurance will cover the overall building structure, its exterior finishes, roof, windows and common areas like elevators and hallways. It does not cover the contents of your condo, its upgrades and 3rd party liability should you cause damage to other condo units (e.g. flooding).
9. If my dog bites and injures someone, my home insurance will not protect me. I need a special insurance policy. As long as you properly answered any questions relating to your pets in the application and investigation process, then your policy will cover costs associated with your dog biting and injuring a third party.
10. My belongings, left in a storage locker that I rent, are protected by my home insurance. Not necessarily. Most insurance providers specifically exclude personal property left in a rented storage locker (unless that locker is in the basement of the apartment building that you live in).

 

10 things you need to know about RRSPs

By Sheryl Smolkin

It seems like registered retirement savings plans have been around forever. They were initially introduced in 1957 to promote savings for retirement by employees and self-employed people.

Over the years since there have been changes to the program, primarily in the form of increased contribution limits both as a percent of earned income and as an increase in the maximum allowable deduction.

If you have an RRSP or are considering opening one, you may think you are well-informed about the program. However, here are 10 things about RRSPs you may find interesting.

  1. Contributions to RRSPs are deductible from total income, reducing income tax payable for the year in which contributions are made. Most withdrawals are taxed as income when they are withdrawn. This is the same tax treatment provided to Registered Pension Plans established by employers.
  2. No income earned in the account is taxed (including interest, dividends, capital gains, foreign exchange gains, mortality credits, etc.).
  3. You can set up an individual RRSP for yourself; a spousal RRSP using your RRSP room that will trigger income in your spouse’s name when funds are withdrawn; or, become a member of a group RRSP established by your employer or an affinity group.
  4. Contributing more than $2,000 over your deduction limit is subject to a significant penalty tax (1% per month on the overage amount).
  5. You can withdraw dollars or assets from an RRSP at any age. Withholding tax is deducted by the institution managing the account. Amounts withdrawn must be included in your taxable income for that year. The tax withheld reduces the taxes owing at year end. There are two exceptions to this process – the Home Buyer’s Plan and the Lifelong Learning Plan.
  6. Contributing to an RRSP is not enough. In order to meet your retirement savings goals you need to decide which of the myriad of investment instruments in which you will invest the money in your account and monitor results over time. Both independent financial advisors and advisors employed by financial institutions can help you come up with a plan.
  7. Almost all financial institutions and brokerage houses will be happy to set up a monthly automatic withdrawal program so you don’t have to come up with a big lump sum at the end of the year. They can also reduce your tax withholdings on an ongoing basis so the impact of monthly reductions to your salary is much less.
  8. If you have a defined benefit or defined contribution pension plan, your RRSP room will be reduced. However, if the expected pension you will receive from your company is lower than the income replacement you will require to live in retirement, you should still be saving additional amounts in an RRSP.
  9. Unused RRSP room is a great way to tax-shelter unexpected lump sums like an inheritance, an award for wrongful dismissal or a bonus.
  10. You may wish to borrow money to make RRSP contributions. However, if the interest rate on the loan is greater on the expected return in your RRSP and you can’t afford to pay the loan back on time this would likely not be a wise financial decision. See other possible strategies for borrowing to invest in an RRSP.

Who does NOT need an RRSP?

By Sheryl Smolkin

In the first two months of every year financial institutions across the country advertise heavily encouraging every Canadian to open a registered retirement savings plan and make a maximum contribution.

And if you haven’t made all of your permissible RRSP contributions in earlier years you are an even more attractive target because chances are you have thousands of dollars of additional unused RRSP contribution room.

But in spite of the fact that I have been preaching the retirement savings gospel for decades, I agree with other pundits that there may be some circumstances in which it doesn’t make sense for you to top up your RRSP. For example:

  1. Low marginal tax rate: If you have a low marginal tax rate, you may be better off saving in a tax-free savings account or other non-registered savings and wait until you are earning more money to use up your RRSP savings room (which can be carried forward). Of course you could make the RRSP contribution in a year of low earnings and wait until a future year when you are more affluent to take the tax deduction.
  1. High interest debt: If you are carrying high interest credit card or other debt, your priority should be to pay off that debt as soon as possible to avoid further interest compounding. Then put controls in place to avoid getting into further debt. Once you have retired the debt, the additional cash flow can be used to make tax deductible RRSP contributions.
  1. Short -term goals: If you have high priority short-term objectives such as saving a down-payment for a house, funding your education or taking a family vacation, a TFSA is a more flexible savings vehicle. Your TFSA contributions accumulate tax-free. All or part of the balance can be withdrawn without tax consequences. And contribution room in the amount you withdraw will be restored the following year.
  1. Higher retirement income: RRSP contributions are most tax effective if you make them at a time when you are in a higher tax bracket but you have a reasonable expectation that your income in retirement will be lower when you must convert your RRSP account into a RRIF and begin withdrawing funds. However, you may live frugally and build a business in your prime working years. As a result, by the time you retire your income from money in the business, registered and un-registered funds is higher than prior to age 65.
  1. Great DB pension plan: Contrary to what you may have read, the defined benefit pension plan is not completely dead in Canada. For example, a small number of employees of private companies, federal public servants and some provincial employees will have generous monthly pensions when they retire. In these circumstances having a large taxable income in an RRSP maybe a great idea if RRIF withdrawals push your annual income over the threshold and as a result your Old Age Security is clawed back ($74,789 in 2017).
  1. Business owner: Unlike employees, incorporated business owners can control their compensation. If corporate income is not needed for personal living expenses, for example, it can be retained in a corporation to defer income taxes. The tax cost of withdrawing dividends (in retirement) could be significantly lower than the tax cost of withdrawing RRSP or RRIF dollars, which are be fully taxable.

Nevertheless, for all but a small number of people who fall into the categories above, an RRSP is a splendid idea. And consider using some of your RRSP contribution room to contribute to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (up to $2,500/year) or transferring in up to $10,000/year to the SPP from your RRSP. Your money will be professionally managed and at retirement you can purchase an annuity that will pay you for life.