Dec 20: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

December 20, 2021

TFSAs – a handy tool for retirement savers and those drawing down their nest eggs

Writing in Investment Executive, Jeff Buckstein takes a look at how the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) can play a key role not only in saving for retirement, but in the trickier “drawdown” stage.

For starters, he writes, “many people quickly identify the registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) as a key component of successful retirement planning,” overlooking the “complementary role” the TFSA can play “in planning for and enjoying retirement.”

One interesting TFSA characteristic is that money saved within them does not – like in an RRSP – have to come from earned income. Examples of income that doesn’t qualify for an RRSP contribution would be dividends from a private corporation or business, or “a windfall, such as an inheritance,” Buckstein writes.

If you are a regular RRSP contributor who maxes out each year, any extra cash can be saved in a TFSA (up to the annual TFSA limit), he writes. As well, if you are in a company pension plan where your contributions produce a pension adjustment – which reduces how much you can contribute to an RRSP – the TFSA is a safe savings alternative, the article notes.

Quoting Tina Di Vito of Toronto-based MNP LLP, the article notes that “lower income clients who anticipate relying on Old Age Security (OAS) or the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) may be better off investing in a TFSA.”

That’s because withdrawals from a TFSA are not considered taxable income, like withdrawals from an RRSP, a registered retirement income fund (RRIF) or an annuity purchased with registered funds are. So TFSA income doesn’t impact one’s ability to qualify for OAS or GIS.

So what’s a good idea, investment-wise, for a TFSA?

The article quotes Doug Carroll of Aviso Wealth Inc. in Toronto as saying that since TFSA investments are going in to the account tax free and coming out tax free, “you probably lean a little more toward equities in there than you would in your RRSP.”

A more complex idea explored in the article is – for those with substantial TFSA savings as well as an RRSP – to draw down the TFSA income first, and try to delay touching the registered money until you have to at age 71. This strategy can reduce your taxable income over the longer term, the article explains.

Our late father-in-law used to use his TFSA as part of his RRIF withdrawal program. He’d withdraw funds as required from his RRIF, pay tax on them, and then put the after-tax income back into his TFSA to invest. This generated a regular and growing supply of tax-free income, he used to tell us with a broad grin.

Many of us semi-retired boomers didn’t get in on the TFSA, launched in 2009, until the latter years of our careers. If you are younger, and decades away from retirement, think of all the tax-free growth and income your savings could produce in the run up to your Golden Years.

If you don’t have a retirement savings program at work – or want to supplement the one you have – a great place to look is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. This made-in-Saskatchewan success story has been helping Canadians save for more than 35 years. Check them out today.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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