Tag Archives: Robb Engen

Group vs Individual RESPs: What’s the difference ?

The “holy trinity” of tax-assisted savings plans available to Canadians are TFSAs, RRSPs and RESPs. RESPs (Registered Educational Savings Plans) are primarily designed to help families to save for post-secondary education.

Each year, on every dollar up to $2,500 (to a life time maximum of $50,000) that you contributed to an RESP for a child’s education after high school, a basic amount of the Canada Education Savings Grant of 20% may be provided. Depending on the child’s family income, he/she could also qualify for an additional amount of CESG on the first $500 deposited, which means $100 more if the 2017 net family income was $45,916 or less and up to $50 if the 2017 net family income was between $45,916 and $91,831.

In total, the CESG could add up to $600 on $2,500 saved in a year. However, there is a lifetime CESG limit of $7,200. This includes both the basic and additional CESG. Lower income families may also be eligible for the Canada Learning Bond (CLB) that could amount to an additional $2,000 over the life of the plan.

Contributions to RESPs are not tax deductible, but the money in the account accumulates tax-free. Contributions can be withdrawn without tax consequences and when your child enrolls in a university or college program, educational assistance payments made up of the investment earnings and government grant money in the RESP are taxable in the hands of the student, generally at a very low rate.

When our children were young, we purchased Group RESPs for them and their grandparents also purchased additional units. I was so impressed with the program that I even took a year before transitioning from family law to pension law and sold RESPs.

Each child collected about $8,000 from the plan over four years of university, which helped them to graduate debt free. Fortunately, both my daughter and my son took four straight years of university education so there was no problem collecting the maximum amounts available to them minus administrative fees.

However, I’ve come to realize the potential downside of Group RESPs so we started contributing $200/month to a self-administered plan with CIBC Investor’s Edge for our granddaughter soon after she was born. She is now 5 ½ and as I write this, there is already $22,000 in the account.

Our decision to self-administer Daphne’s RESP was influenced in part by what I learned from other personal finance bloggers about the potential downside of group plans.

Robb Engen notes that group plans tend to have strict contribution and withdrawal schedules, meaning that if your plans change – a big possibility over 18 plus years – you could forfeit your enrollment fee or affect how much money your child can withdraw when he/she needs it for school.

With a Group RESP, contributions, government grants and investment earning for children the same age as yours are pooled and the amount minus fees is divided among the total number of students who are in school that year. Typically the pool is invested in very low risk GICs and bonds.

In contrast, there are no fees in our self-administered plan other than $6.95 when we make a trade. The funds are invested in a balanced portfolio of three low fee ETFs. We can easily monitor online how the portfolio is growing and as Daphne gets closer to university age we can shift to a more cautious approach.

Macleans recently reported that the total annual average cost of post-secondary education in Canada for a student living off-campus at a Canadian university is $19,498.75 and it will be much higher by the time your child or grandchild is ready to go off to college. So learn as much as you can about RESPs, get your child a social insurance number, set up a program and start saving.

However, as Engen suggests before you choose a group or individual RESP provider make sure you read the fine print and ask about:

  • Fees for opening an RESP;
  • Fees for withdrawing money from a RESP;
  • Fees for managing the RESP;
  • Fees for services and commissions;
  • What happens if you can’t make regular payments;
  • What happens if your child doesn’t continue his or her education; and
  • If you have to close the account early, do you have to pay fees and penalties; do you get back the money you contributed; do you lose interest and can you transfer the money to another RESP or different account type.

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Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Jan 8: Best from the blogosphere

Welcome to a wonderful New Year. Most of the country has spent the last few weeks in a deep freeze with Saskatoon temperatures dipping below -30 C. It’s even -21 C in Toronto!

Nevertheless, residents of Spy Hill, Saskatchewan where the temperature was -43 with the wind chill on Christmas morning displayed their very warm hearts when they sprang to action on Christmas Day to help passengers on a frozen train.

Here is what a few of our favourite personal finance writers have been writing about during the holidays.

Jonathan Chevreau on the Financial Independence Hub reviewed the New York Times best seller Younger Next Year – Live Strong, Fit and Sexy Until You’re 80 and Beyond. Chevreau said, “The book is all about taking control of your personal longevity, chiefly  through proper nutrition but first and foremost by engaging in daily exercise: aerobic activity at least four days a week and weight training for another two days a week — week in and week out, for the rest of your life.”

Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen wrote Save More Tomorrow: The Procrastinator’s Guide To Saving Money. He discussed behavioural economists Shlomo Benartzi and Richard Thaler’s Save More Tomorrow program which not only suggests that monthly savings be automated but that savings rates be automatically increased when individuals get raises or earn more money from side hacks or freelance gigs.

Bridget Casey from Money After Graduation encouraged readers to see through their financial blind spots. “Reducing your spending and increasing your income by any amount is always good for your net worth, but if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, your efforts should be directed towards major wins ahead of small victories. A good exercise is to identify the three largest expenses in your budget and try to reduce them by 15% each or more,” she suggests.

Barry Choi explained on Money We Have why he is changing careers after 18 years. It was hard to walk away from a well-paid job in television but with a young baby, working the 3 PM to midnight shift was no longer sustainable. He got a part-time position as an editor for RateHub three days a week and he plans to continue writing for a variety of travel and other publications. Although he took a pay cut to leave his full-time position, his financial advisor helped him to realize he doesn’t need to make nearly as much as he thought to maintain the family’s lifestyle.

And finally, Globe and Mail personal finance columnist Rob Carrick offers the following  eight dos and don’ts for your personal finances in 2018:

  • DO brace for higher borrowing costs.
  • DON’T expect much improvement on savings rates.
  • DO expect more hysteria about cryptocurrencies
  • DON’T buy in unless you have the right mindset
  • DO be cautious with your investment portfolio
  • DON’T forget bonds or GICs
  • DO emphasize fees as a controllable factor in your investing
  • DON’T forget the value proposition

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Oct 23: Best from the blogosphere

Sustaining a blog for months and years is a remarkable achievement. This week we go back to basics and check in on what some of our favourite veteran bloggers are writing about.

If you haven’t heard, Tim Stobbs from Canadian Dream Free at 45 has exceeded his objectives and retired at age 37. You can read about his accomplishment in the Globe and Mail and discover how he spent the first week of financial independence here.

Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen writes about why he doesn’t have bonds in his portfolio but you probably should. He acknowledges that bonds smooth out investment returns and make it easier for investors to stomach the stock market when it decides to go into roller coaster mode. But he explains that he already has several fixed income streams from a steady public sector job, a successful side business and a defined benefit pension plan so he can afford to take the risk and invest only in equities.

On My Own Advisor, Mark Seed discusses The Equifax Breach – And What You Can do About It. In September, Equifax announced a cybersecurity breach September 7, 2017 that affected about 143 million American consumers and approximately 100,000 Canadians. The information that may have been breached includes name, address, Social Insurance Number and, in limited cases, credit card numbers. To protect yourself going forward, check out Seed’s important list of “Dos” and Don’ts” in response to these events.

Industry veteran Jim Yih recently wrote a piece titled Is there such a thing as estate and inheritance tax in Canada? He clarifies that in Canada, there is no inheritance tax. If you are the beneficiary of money or assets through an estate, the good news is the estate pays all the tax before you inherit the money.

However, when someone passes away, the executor must file a final tax return as of the date of death.  The tax return would include any income the deceased received since the beginning of the calendar year.  Some examples of income include Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS), retirement pensions, employment income, dividend income, RRSP and RRIF income received.

When the Canadian Personal Finance Blog’s Alan Whitton (aka Big Cajun Man) started investing, he was given a few simple rules that he says still ring true today. These Three Investment Credo from the Past are:

  • Don’t invest it if you can’t lose it.
  • Invest for the long term.
  • If you want safety, buy GICs.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

July 17: Best from the blogosphere

Many prolific personal finance bloggers don’t hesitate to share a surprising amount of information about their family finances and the milestones on their journey to financial freedom.

In his Net Worth Update: 2017 Mid-Year Review, Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen reports that he is well on his way to meet his, “big hairy audacious goal of Freedom 45.” To do so, his savings rate will need to remain high and he’ll have to avoid the evil temptation of lifestyle inflation. Currently his net worth is $574,296.

Tim Stobbs is an engineer in his thirties with two kids living in Regina, Saskatchewan who decided working until 65 sounds like a bad idea. At first he thought Freedom 45 might work, but he is now aiming to retire on his 40th birthday. Since he is mortgage free, and his May 2017 Net Worth is $972,000, early retirement could be right around the corner.

Krystal Yee has been sharing her financial goals and challenges for 10 years on Give me back my five bucks. Her recent blogs The real cost of moving in Vancouver, How I’m saving for travel this year and May 2017 Goals: Recap will give you some perspective on how this busy professional freelance writer is managing her finances and what she hope is her final household move until retirement!

Are you expecting an addition to the family? Personal finance and travel writer Barry Choi (Money We Have) and his wife have been Getting the baby room ready and buying all the necessary bits and pieces from furniture to car seats to strollers. He figures they have spent about $1040 so far. And these expenses are in addition to the costs of IVF which he estimated at $25,000. Although he says, “I’m on the hook for 20 years and I could do a running tally but the costs may terrify me,” he is thrilled at the prospect.

Bridget Eastgaard (Money After Graduation) is also contributing to the personal finance blogger baby boom. She notes that many millennials want to become parents, but their finances are holding them back. The combined burden of student loan debt and sky-high housing prices make having a family seem like an unaffordable dream, but it doesn’t have to be.

How to save for Baby? “You have an Emergency Fund, you have a Retirement Fund, and now you need a Baby Fund — a dedicated savings account to afford all pregnancy, birth, and child-related expenses.” Eastgaard advises. “Ideally, you would start this before you even begin trying to become pregnant, but even if you find yourself with an unplanned baby like yours truly, a Baby Fund is a crucial first step to ensuring your family starts off on the right financial foot.”


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

April 17: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

In a guest post for the Financial Independence Hub, Certified Financial Planner Gennaro De Luca writes that based on his experience, men and women approach taxes and investing differently. For example, he says nine times out of 10 it is the woman who takes the bull by the horns to get the family’s taxes done. Women tend to be more involved and are much more apt to ask questions of their accountant or tax preparer about tax credits and government benefits the family may be eligible for.

Robb Engen on Boomer & Echo discusses which accounts to tap first in retirement with Jason Heath,  a fee-only financial planner. Heath says it may make sense for people who retire early to withdraw funds from their RRSPs first and defer CPP and OAS until age 70.

Retire Happy veteran blogger Jim Yih outlines the top 5 new retirement trends and how they will affect your retirement. For example: retirement is not about stopping work; many people are “phasing into retirement.” Furthermore, long term care is an essential component in a retirement plan.

10 simple ways to save money at the gas pump was recently posted by Tom Drake on the Canadian Finance Blog. Who knew that avoiding unnecessary weight in your car; using cruise control on highways and driving under 100 km/hour could save you money?

And Sean Cooper recounts the story of his unexpected $1,300 furnace repair bill in the depths of a Canadian winter. Luckily, he is mortgage-free, so he had the necessary money sitting in his savings account. But his experience shines a spotlight on the importance of saving up an emergency fund in advance.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Mar 13: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Well another RRSP season is in the bag, but that doesn’t mean you should put saving for retirement on the back burner for another year. If you haven’t done so already, it’s a great time to review your finances and arrange to have both registered and unregistered savings deducted at source so your nest egg continues to grow even when you are busy doing things that are a lot more fun than financial planning.

This week we feature more money-saving tips from some of our favourite bloggers.

Guest blogging on Retire Happy, Tom Drake reports on 10 financial success stories from 2016 to inspire your new year. One of my favourites is how Jason Heath who blogs at  Objective Financial Partners is raising his children so they place more emphasis on experiences rather than stuff. And Brenda Hiscock from Objective Financial Partners has been energized since she took a month off to complete Yoga teacher training at an ashram in Nassau.

Robb Engen from Boomer & Echo gives his take on the “the latte factor” and how it impacts the savings habits of millennials. He says, “At the risk of offending an entire generation, here’s what’s really going on: If you’re buying coffee every day, or ordering $22 [avocado and feta cheese] toast several times a week, maybe you’re just too lazy to brew your own coffee at home and cook for yourself.”

As you pull together the documentation to file your 2016 income tax return, you may be looking forward to a big tax return. Mark Seed, author of My Own Advisor says, “When it comes to tax planning my advice is: Don’t assume a big fat tax refund every year is good. If you’re always looking forward to the juicy refund it simply means the government kept some of your money and you could have had it working for you instead throughout the year.”

Big Cajun Man Alan Whitton admits to being a bit of a pack rat which creates clutter and can can lead to hoarding. So in this Lent season he is trying something new. For each day of Lent he is going to fill a bag (of any size) with things he no longer uses and donate the contents to charity. Other ideas for Lent are pay with cash for all 40 days or go for at least a one mile walk every day.

And finally, Barry Choi who blogs at Money We Have shares 6 things he bought used (and you should too). They include a three year old Subaru Impreza Hatchback ($18,000 instead of $30,000 new), a re-sale condo (stable maintenance fees and more space) and used video games online for about 25% less.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Oct 31: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Last week we included links to blogs and articles discussing the implications of the new mortgage rules announced by Finance Minister Bill Morneau in early October. But the ultimate impact of these changes on individuals and the housing market are still emerging. Here is some additional insight you may be interested in.

RateSpy.com’s mortgage expert Robert McLister writes that the Feds Nuked the Mortgage Market. He calls it “a stealth rate hike” by federal policy-makers that is an end run around Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz  who has opted not to drive up Canadian interest rates.

Even Liberal MPs are concerned new rules will shut out first-time homebuyers  and they are wondering why Morneau didn’t consult the national Liberal caucus or the House Finance Committee prior to making the announcement intended to cool down the overheated housing market in major urban centres.

But Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen says Cool It. The Feds Aren’t Killing The Housing Market. He acknowledges that home builders are upset with the feds for introducing new rules, but says maybe this time the feds got it right. Commenting on this blog, Michael James from Michael James on Money says, “Maybe new rules will save some from the biggest financial mistake of their lives.”

If you or someone you know has been saving for a down payment, Canada’s New Mortgage Rules: This Is How Much You Can Afford in the Huffington Post includes a great chart that will help prospective buyers to determine how much house they can afford with 20% down based on a benchmark qualifying interest rate of 4.64%.

And finally, Sean Cooper says in spite of the new mortgage rules, First-Time Homebuyers Shouldn’t Throw in the Towel. He says, “While I’m not a fan of parents gifting their adult children their entire down payment, there’s even more reason now for parents to top up their child’sdown payment to reach 20% and avoid the stricter qualifying rate.” He also believes first-time homeowners should avoid buying “too much house.”


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Aug 8: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

And just like that, it’s August! The days are getting shorter and families are starting to think about getting the kids back to school and getting serious about the upcoming round of fall activities.

Those of you sending your kids off to college or university will be interested in The Business of University Fees by Big Cajun Man aka Alan Whitton on the Canadian Personal Finance blog. Did you know if your child is still in school he/she is probably still covered under your group medical plan at work and most universities will allow you to opt out of the university’s plan?

If you have received your first child benefit cheques and haven’t already spent them on back-to-school supplies, here are 3 Great Ways to Use Your Canada Child Benefit Payment  by Craig Sebastiano on RateHub. RESP contributions, TFSA deposits or charitable donations, anyone?

And talking about TFSAs, take a look at Robb Engen’s TFSA Dilemma and Solution on Boomer & Echo. Like many of us Robb has a ton of TFSA contribution room ($50,500) He plans to turn his $825 monthly car payment – which ends in October – into future TFSA contributions, starting in January 2017. That’s $10,000 per year to stash in his TFSA, which at that rate would catch-up all of his unused room by 2027.

Have you reviewed your life insurance lately? Are you and your partner adequately covered so if one of you dies, the other can continue to pay the family bills? Bridget Eastgaard from Money after Graduation says Cash-Value Life Insurance Is For Suckers, Buy Term Instead.

And finally, Should you work part-time in retirement? by Jonathan Chevreau on moneysense.ca includes an analysis commissioned by Larry Berman, host of BNN’s Berman Call and Chief Investment Officer of ETF Capital Management. It illustrates the powerful impact of earning just $1,000 in part-time income each month between the age of 65 and 75; or in the case of couples $2,000 a month between them.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Apr 18: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

We’re back and there is more than ever to share with you! We took a two-month break, but our favourite bloggers were still hard at work. So we have lots of great stories to tell you about in the weeks to come.

The Liberal government’s first Federal Budget was tabled last month. It eliminated some measures enacted by the Conservatives and others will be phased out over time. On the Financial Independence Hub, Paul Phillips from Financial Wealth Builders gives a financial planner’s perspective on Budget 2016. One surprise he notes is the elimination of the tax deferral on fund switches within a mutual fund corporation.

The significance of not having a great credit rating may not hit until you apply for a credit card or mortgage and are either turned down or not approved for the amount you need. Blogging on Money after Graduation, Bridget Eastgaard discusses five easy steps to build good credit. Because 18% of credit reports contain errors, she regularly checks her credit report to ensure her student loan payments have been properly recorded, no credit cards were opened under her name through identity theft, and that companies have complied with her requests to close credit accounts.

Robb Engen is a well know blogger at Boomer & Echo and over the years he has shared lots of ideas about how to more effectively earn and save money. While he does not encourage calls from his office on evenings and weekends, he says it is a fair trade off because his employer covers his cell phone bill. In fact, he estimates that he has saved more than $9,500 over the last 12 years (144 months x $66 per month) because in a series of jobs over that period he has never spent a dime out of his own pocket on a cell phone plan.

As the balance in your RRSP grows over time, it can be hard to resist the temptation to tap into your nest egg in an emergency or just because you “need” something that is above and beyond your current budget. Retire Happy’s Sarah Milton gives three good reasons why withdrawing money from your RRSP before retirement is not a great idea.

And finally, personal finance maven Gail Vaz-Oxlade recently announced she has written her last blog. While we know from personal experience that blogging week in and week out can be challenging, her fans (myself included) will miss her consistently great advice. Fortunately, most of the archived blogs are timeless.

So for those of you who are considering buying a home this spring, we are linking to one of her better articles. She makes a great argument for spending a little time saving for a down payment rather than locking yourself into a mortgage payment that strangles your cash flow while you pay exorbitant amounts in interest and insurance premiums.

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Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Dec 28: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

This is the last Best from the Blogosphere for 2015 and I’m taking a break, so the next one will be published on January 25, 2016. We wish all savewithspp.com readers a healthy, prosperous New Year.

As we look back on 2015 and ahead to 2016, there is much to think about. We have a new Federal government, the loonie is at an all-time low and Canadians have extended extraordinary hospitality to Syrians and other refugees from war-torn lands.

Here are some interesting stories we are following:

In TFSA vs. RRSP: How are Canadians saving? I interviewed Krystal Yee (Gen X), Tom Drake (Gen Y) and Bonnie Flatt (Boomer) to find out how Canadians are taking advantage of the tax-sheltered savings vehicles available to them.

In What Sean Cooper Really Achieved By Paying Off His Mortgage In 3 Years Robb Engen from Boomer and Echo tells us that Sean Cooper didn’t just pay off his $255,000 mortgage in three years; he taught us all a lesson in personal branding. Mr. Cooper, a pension analyst by day, mild-mannered blogger by night, took an almost Machiavellian-like approach by achieving fame through mortgage freedom at age 30.

Jim Yee offers some Year End Finance Strategies that will take advantage of ongoing changes to our tax rules. For example, in 2016, the new Liberal government will be lowering the tax rate on the middle income bracket from 22% to 20.5% so those individuals making more than $45,283/year but less than $90,563/year, deferring income to next year might save some tax dollars.

On the Financial Independence Hub, Doug Dahmer writes about the timing of CPP benefits. He says the CPP benefit for a couple can be in excess of $700,000 over their lifetime and the study demonstrates that the difference between starting your benefit at the least beneficial date and starting at the best date can be more than $300,000.

And finally, Rob Carrick at the Globe and Mail offers some thoughts on how to prepare for a frugal retirement. Frugality is assumed to be a virtue in the world of personal finance writing, but on the outside, frugality is sometimes a synonym for cheap. He refers to a blogger on Frugalwoods who argues that making the choice to be frugal is about asserting your independent thinking about money.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.