Tag Archives: RRSP

Apr 21: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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If there are snow flurries as forecasted for this week, it’s probably all my fault because I took our winter coats to the dry cleaners this past weekend. But when the temperature goes up, the temptation to put away boots and down jackets for another year is irresistible.

Sometimes your financial accounts also need a spring cleaning. In Spring Financial Cleaning Big Cajun Man recounts how he cleaned up his Quicken data files removing redundant accounts so they give him a more realistic financial picture.

Jim Yih reminds us that investing and taxes go hand in hand, particularly outside of your RRSP. That’s because different forms of investment income can provide significant tax benefits.

In spite of the plethora of personal financial blogs and other sources of financial advice available to Canadians, Brighter Life editor Brenda Spierling reports on Brighter Life that Women lag behind in financial planning. Does this sound familiar? She suggests that you create a financial plan and open an automatic savings plan or payroll deduction plan as soon as possible.

This week Robb Engen on Brighter Life writes tongue-in-cheek about Bank Slogans And Taglines, Translated. For example, he says TD’s “Open earlier, open later. Even Sunday” really means, “We don’t care that most of you want to bank online. We’re going to make you come in and speak to an advisor so we can sell you more products  any time, day or night.”

Finally, after a foot injury in January, on Give me back my five bucks, Krystal Yee reports that she laced on her running shoes for the first time 75 days later and that she is determiend to run and blog her way back to top physical condition.

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.

Kevin Press – BrighterLife.ca

By Sheryl Smolkin

27Mar-Kevinpress

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Hi,

Today we’re talking to Kevin Press as part of our continuing 2014 series of SavewithSPP.com podcast interviews with personal finance bloggers. Kevin is the Assistant Vice-President of Marketing Insights at Sun Life Financial in Toronto.

His blog, Today’s Economy has appeared on Sun Life’s Brighter Life platform since 2009. Kevin started his career in 1998 at Rogers Healthcare and Financial Publishing; where he had several editorial and marketing positions, including over 3 years as editor of Benefits Canada. He has also volunteered for the Canadian Pension & Benefits  Institute for almost 15 years in many roles, including as National Chair.

Thank you so much for joining me today, Kevin.

Sheryl, thanks so much for the invitation. It’s good to talk to you again.

Q. A blog is a major time commitment. How often do you blog? 
A. These days, it’s just once a week. I’m up every Wednesday but over the years it’s been sometimes twice a week, sometimes even three times a week in the early days.

Q. Why did you decide to start blogging in addition to your more-than-full time job and your volunteer activities? 
A. I love my job. I’m so proud of the team that I lead. But, the truth is – and I think you can relate to this – I don’t think I ever stopped being a journalist. I was asked to launch the Today’s Economy blog back in early 2009, right in the heart of the financial crisis, and that was really a very easy decision.

Q. I can understand that. You can take the man out of journalism, but you can’t take journalism out of the man! What are some of the topics you cover in your blog?
A. As I say, my chief goal is to help readers understand what is happening in the global economy, and here in Canada. So, in that sense, Today’s Economy is not a personal finance blog in the way that some of the others are. I certainly post a lot on personal finance, but primarily what I’m trying to do is focus on explaining key economic trends to a broad audience.

The Eurozone has been an amazing story to follow, and, more recently, emerging markets – what’s happening there now as the U.S. government slows down its quantitative-easing program. That’s a fascinating story. If I’ve helped Canadians understand these big stories, even just a little bit, then I think the blog is a success.

Q. Since you’ve started blogging, the Brighter Life platform has been expanded to include a number of other blogs covering a broad range of subjects. Tell me a little bit about a couple of the other bloggers and what they write about.
A. One of my favorites is Dave Dineen. He writes a blog called ‘Dave’s Retirement Journey’. Dave was actually a member of my team years ago, before he decided to take early retirement I think he’s helped a lot of Canadians make the transition to retirement successfully – just writing in the first-person about his experiences, making that transition himself.

Anna Sharratt does really good work for us on the health beat. She has a blog called Living Well. Gerald McGroarty writes about work issues, but I have to tell you, he’s written a piece recently about an extraordinary story. Last year, Gerald experienced a sudden cardiac arrest, and his wife, who is a registered nurse, saved his life.

Q. I’m going to have to look for that one.
A. It’s called ‘Could You Save a Life?’

Q. How many hits do you usually get when you or the other bloggers post?
A. It’s a really wide range. I’ve written posts that get no more than a couple of hundred visits and others have got well into the six-figures. I can tell you that after years of being a journalist, this blog reaches a larger audience by far than I’ve ever been able to connect with before.

Q. So what have some of your most popular blogs been?
A. The economic forecasts attract a lot of readers. Any of the retirement research we do like our Unretirement Index always scores well. Specifically, what we expected to learn from that research was that many Canadians will work past the traditional retirement age of 65 for lifestyle reasons. But because what we’ve actually ended up tracking are the evolving views of Canadians post-financial crisis it’s turned into even more of an interesting story.

Q. Poll after poll, particularly during RRSP season reveals that Canadians are not saving enough and that they’re worried about how they will live in retirement. Why do you think so many people find managing their finances so difficult?
A. We really believe that the way we can help Canadians most is empower them to act. So research shows, time and again, that adults want to do the right thing – they recognize that lifetime financial security is achievable. It’s just hard for them to get there, it’s hard for them to start. So our goal is to educate.

Q. You published 20 Smart Money Moves at the beginning of the year and you suggest that people maximize their employee benefits. Can you give me one or two examples where you think Canadians are really leaving money on the table?
A. First, a lot of employers sponsor capital accumulation plans – or defined contribution plans as they’re sometimes called – and match employee contributions up to certain limit. So, lesson number one – if you’re lucky enough to have one of those plans, take full advantage.

Lesson number 2 is if your employer offers a group registered retirement savings plan, do what I did. Move your individual RRSP funds over to the group plan – you save a lot in terms of management expense ratios.

The difference between the group environment versus individual RRSPs is quite dramatic. You still realize all the same benefits from your registered savings and you’ll get a better return in the long run.

Q. Interesting. I know the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has employer-workplace programs, and they also offer similar advantages.

Employers and insurance companies spend a lot of time and money communicating with benefit programs – why do you think so many employees are still not getting the message?

A. I think that a lot of folks struggle with the technical nature of the subject, and it really is incumbent upon financial institutions to keep working at finding ways to present information, in the most understandable fashion possible.

Q. If you had one piece of advice to help Canadians better manage their finances, what would it be?

A. One of the best things I ever did was take the Canadian Securities Course. The textbook alone is worth the price of the program. People who are interested in working in the industry very often take that as an early-stage educational opportunity. But what I took away from it was so much more. It’s just such a valuable learning experience. I think it will help you to understand your finances in a very meaningful way.

Q. The federal government is not interested in expanding CPP. A few provinces, Saskatchewan included, are rolling out the new pooled registered pension plans. Do you think PRPPs will be the carrot that helps more Canadians to save what they need for retirement?

A. I’m a big fan of PRPPs. I think they have that potential. The fundamental idea behind the PRPP is that too few Canadians (43%) have workplace pension plans. But even that number is misleading because so many of those folks are public sector workers. In the private sector, fewer than a quarter of workers work for an organization that sponsors a plan. So, the idea is that PRPP can fill that gap. And I’m very hopeful about their ability to improve the pension system in this country.

Q. Youth unemployment is a huge issue. Your Unretirement Index shows that older workers are working longer. Are seniors clogging up the pipeline? How do we get more young people into good jobs? How do we give them a good start?
A. This is such a tough story. I have to say this one of the stories, since I started blogging, that bothered me the most. The unemployment rate among young adults in this country has been stuck at about twice the national average since before the financial crisis.

But of course, this is not a new story. Youth unemployment hit 17.2 percent in the ’92 recession. It hit 19.2 percent in 1983. What’s interesting and what was a surprise to me is  that there actually is no evidence to support the notion that young people can’t find work because older workers are retiring later.

There are lot of good ideas out there about how to help young Canadians. I think the best relate to the choices that young people make in terms of their careers and their education.

There are certain areas of the economy that are more dynamic. There are certain skills that are more marketable. And I think if young people are as strategic as possible, and as parents, I think if we can help our kids be as strategic as possible in making education and career decisions, then they will be well positioned to transition more easily to the workforce. 

Q. So, one of your New Year’s resolutions was to write a Today’s Economy e-book. How’s that going for you?
A. Oh, I love you holding my feet to the fire. What I’ve done is I’ve put together a collection of posts that are not quite so time-sensitive, that still stand up over time.

A lot of what I write is about what’s happening right now and probably won’t have relevance a year, two years down the road. I think that we can help to tell the story of what’s been happening in the economy since 2008 and I’m targeting the second half of the year to pull that together.

Q. You’re ahead of me on that one. Thank you very much, Kevin. It was a pleasure to talk to you today.

A. So good to talk to you again, Sheryl. Thanks for talking to me today.

This is an edited transcript of the podcast you can listen to by clicking on the graphic under the picture above. If you don’t already follow BrighterLife.ca, you can find it here and subscribe to receive blog posts by email as soon as they’re available.

Mar 10: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

This week we have a number of interesting blogs on a variety of topics relating to how you save and spend your money.

On Boomer & Echo Marie Engen asks How Safe Are Your Bank Deposits? Canada is widely considered to have one of the safest banking systems in the world.  But several large financial institutions have failed in the past, so it is  important to understand Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation limits for banks ($100,000/account) and provincial plans covering Credit Unions and Caisses Populaires.

Jim Yih discusses a hypothetical financial counselling session with Jack and Jill and how they decide to save their extra cash flow of $500/month. They choose to contribute $200 extra to their RRSPs for the long term as long as their incomes were higher than the 32% marginal tax rate.

Their tax saving will be used to pay down the mortgage unless they believe he markets will produce future returns of 7% or more. They will also allocate the remaining $300 per month to their TFSAs. This will give them flexibility to use savings in this account to pay a lump sum on their mortgage, top up their RRSPs or open RESPs in the future.

On Canadian Dream: Free at 45, Dave shares how he and his wife are living a (relatively) stress-free life. They live on one salary so if either of them loses his/her job they can still manage financially. The fact that they don’t have children or other dependants helps to make this a practical alternative.

If you have just opened a trading account with a new discount broker or you have accounts in different places and want to consolidate, you’ll need to transfer your holdings between brokers. The Canadian Capitalist has put together a detailed checklist on what you have to do to make this process as painless as possible.

And on Sustainable Personal Finance, Miranda questions whether there are times you should put your ideals ahead of your pocketbook. That could mean giving just a little bit extra to causes that are near and dear to your heart, or making a commitment to socially-responsible investing.

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.

Jim Yih – retirehappy.ca

By Sheryl Smolkin

27Feb-retire happy with Jim

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Hi,

Today we are continuing with the savewithspp.com 2014 series of podcast interviews with personal finance bloggers by talking to Edmonton-based financial educator and author Jim Yih.

Jim’s blog Retire Happy was recognized as the 2011 Best Personal Finance Blog in Canada by the Globe and Mail. He is very active in social media and also made MoneySense’s 2013 list of the top 10 financial tweeters.

While he has been blogging for just over three years, Jim is well known as a personal finance columnist in the Edmonton Journal and other Canadian media for the last 14 years. He also has written eight books.

His company Retirement Think Box consults with innovative employers to incorporate financial education and wellness into their benefit programs using the full spectrum of communication tools including workshops, web-based learning, audio/video presentations and electronic newsletters.

Thank you so much for joining me today Jim.

Thank you very much for having me. I’m excited about this Sheryl.

Q. Jim, you are well known to Canadians as a result of your column in the Edmonton Journal for over a decade, your books and your speaking engagements. Why did you also decide to also start a blog?
A. Good question! Originally, the blog was simply a place to host all of the articles that I have written over the past 17 years. I never realized what blogging would evolve into and how interactive it can be.  At the end of the day, the reason for RetireHappy.ca is to help Canadians retire to a better life and make retirement the best years of your life. I hope that does not sound too cheesy but RetireHappy is a major Canadian resource for retirement, investing and personal finance. We really focus on timeless information.

Q. Tell me the topics that are covered in your blog?
A. Retirement is a big topic and we try to cover issues around things like investing, taxes, money management, estate planning, government benefits (very misunderstood) and really any issues around general finance.  We even cover lifestyle issues like health, working in retirement and psychological issues.

Q. How often do posts appear? How frequently do you personally post?
A. We publish new content 3 to 4 times a week. I used to write 2 to 3 times a week but it got to be too much.  I have a fulltime business as you mentioned. Now I only write once a week and I have brought on a team of other writers to provide opinions and content.

Q. Tell me about the group of other bloggers who post regularly and the added dimension they bring to the blog on a day to day basis.
A. I’ve been around for over 23 years in the financial industry. I’ve got lots to say and opinions to share but I also believe there are many different ways, ideas and strategies to achieve success. So I’ve brought on some great writers in the last 18 months with lots of experience and ideas and I think it makes for a better experience at RetireHappy.ca.

  • Donna McCaw is retired and travelling the world and sharing practical retirement experiences. She has also written a retirement book called “Its Your Time”
  • Sarah Yetkiner has built a nice following with her articles on money personalities and the psychology of personal finance.
  • Doug Runchy is very active and specializes in writing about government benefits.  He responds quickly to all comments and he’s just a tremendous resource for our readers.

I’ve assembled some successful great financial advisors like Scott Wallace and Wayne Rothe. And we’ve got some other writers coming aboard this year like Chad Vinimitz, Sean Cooper and Meagan Balaneski. So we’re increasing our contingent of writers and I think it’s proven to be a good strategy.

Q. How many hits does your blog typically get?
A. We get 5000 to 10000 page view per day. We have thousands of people on our newsletter and email list and following us on Twitter. I’m humbled by how quickly this has grown and the size of our following.

Q. What have some of the most popular blogs been?
A. Since inception, my articles on CPP and taking CPP early have been consistently popular.  And now with the addition of Doug Runchey talking about it, all the articles on CPP and OAS continue to grow in popularity.

But we also have some Online guides that are designed to be great resources for readers. The most popular is our Online Guide on RRSPs, next would be the one on RRIFs, others include one on RESPs, Government Benefits and Financial Advisors. We are currently trying to update all of these.

Q. If someone is checking out your blog for the first time, should they just dive in, or do you recommend a place to start?
A. There is so much there. We often talk about how to make it easy for readers when there is 17 years of content on the site. So I have 3 suggestions:

  • Use the search bar at the top. Type in anything related to retirement and personal finance and we’ve probably written about it.
  • There’s also archive page where we’ve organized every article by category.
  • Or if you have no idea what you are looking for, start at the bottom of the home page with the must read articles and the most popular articles.

Q. What have some of the spin-offs from blogging been for you? 
A. I think its interacting with awesome people online that is the most rewarding. I’ve met a lot of cool people across Canada and even around the world.

I’ve connected with great Media personalities like Rob Carrick, Gail Vaz-Oxlade, Bruce Sellery, etc. I’ve met awesome bloggers like Frugal Trader, Preet Banerjee, Blunt Bean Counter, the Canadian Couch Potato, Boomer and Echo, Tom Drake and so many others.

I also love interacting with readers who write in and tell us how the site has helped them.

Q. I recently read that Scotiabank found that 31% of Canadians planned to contribute to their RRSP for 2013, down from 39% last year. And BMO said 43% of those surveyed planned to contribute, down from 50% in 2013. Why do you think these numbers are dropping?
A. We live in a world that’s all about spending. Every major holiday has turned into an excuse to have a big giant sale. Saving money is simple but not easy. Spending is easier. Spending is more fun. There are more opportunities to spend than to save. That’s led to too much debt and I think for all of us, this can led to lower savings.

Q. What role do you think participation in the Saskatchewan Pension Plan can play in Canadians’ retirement saving plans?
A. What I like about SPP is that they have tried to make savings simple, easy and affordable. I think a lot of people need that. SPP has simplified investment options, the fees are lower, the returns are decent and the process is streamlined and easy. You can even contribute using your credit card!

I think the easier we make it for Canadians to save, they more likely they will do so. More choice sometimes paralyzes people from making decisions. So I think simpler options are necessary and SPP has done that and it’s available to all Canadians.

Q. How can people calculate how much they will need to retire and the amount of money they need to produce that income stream?
A. The average Canadian will need $2.654 million dollars by the time they retire . . . .

That’s a fictitious number of course, but we are all seeking a number. There are millions of calculators out there to help people find it.

However, for most people, the calculation is less important than their savings rate.  The formula is so simple. This is not rocket science. Save 10% of your income for as long as you possibly can. Start as early as you can. The more you save the more you will have in retirement.

Q. What do you think the biggest hurdle is for Canadians who want to get their financial affairs in order and save for retirement?
A. For most people, the hurdle is themselves. You need motivation, action and discipline. Eighty percent of what you need to become financially successful and retire happy you already know:

  • Put together a game plan
  • Set goals
  • Spend less than you earn
  • Pay off debts
  • Pay yourself first
  • Know your spending

Q. If you had one piece of advice to help Canadians get over this hurdle, what would it be?
A. Do something but not too much. Make small changes one step at a time. Find some like-minded people to support your goal. Try to make it fun. If you are competitive try to compete with someone to meet or exceed your savings goals.

Thanks Jim. It was a pleasure to talk to you today.

I really enjoyed our discussion, Sheryl.

This is an edited transcript of the podcast you can listen to by clicking on the graphic under the picture above. If you don’t already follow RetireHappy, you can find it here and subscribe to receive blog posts by email as soon as they’re available.

Feb 24: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

RRSP season is almost over for another year so remember to make your Saskatchewan Pension Plan contribution by Monday, March 3, 2014 in order to get a tax deduction on your 2013 income tax return.  But the need to spend carefully and save regularly is an important part of everyday living.

On retirehappy.ca, Jim Yih reports that 7 Causes of Financial Stress including high debt levels, low savings rates and increasingly complex financial markets are keeping many people up at night.

In The Insanity of “RRSP Season” Young and Thrifty blogger Kyle says anyone with a basic handle on grade 9 math ought to know that making periodic contributions to a registered plan (either a TFSA or an RRSP) is a better choice than procrastinating until the last minute and then trying to scratch together the money to fit in under an arbitrary deadline.

Blogger Krystal Yee on givemebackmyfivebucks.com says she will have to dip into her emergency fund and suspend TFSA and RRSP payments for some time because she was recently laid off. But 44 comments from her fans leave no doubt that she will land another great gig before long.

The pros and cons of withdrawing RRSP contributions are explored once again by Tom Drake on the Canadian Finance Blog. While the lost opportunity cost of taking out money and losing RRSP room are important, he acknowledges that in some emergencies RRSP withdrawals may be unavoidable. The good news is that if you need money because you lost your job, you will pay taxes on the money at a lower rate.

Many of you may be aiming for early retirement as early as age 55. However Dave Dineen on Brighter Life reminds readers that some sources of retirement income don’t kick in for another five years or more so you need to have a plan to bridge the gap or early retirement could be a financial nightmare.

And on Boomer & Echo Robb Engen identifies 6 Fees Worth Paying and notes that trying to avoid fees can sometimes be false economy. For example, the return on investment if you buy a Costco card, use an annual fee credit card or join the CAA can easily exceed the initial amount you have to pay.

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.

8 reasons to join your company pension plan

By Sheryl Smolkin

20Feb-pensioneronpileofmoney

One of the best ways to ensure you retire with the pile of money you need to live on is to join your company pension plan. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers individual and business plans for employers to use as part of their employee compensation plans.

Since maximum annual SPP contributions are $2,500 per year, some participating employers also offer group registered retirement savings plans or defined contribution pension plans for RRSP contributions over the maximum SPP limit.

Here’s why saving for retirement at work can help you retire sooner with more money:

  1. Employer matching: Employers generally make some kind of contributions on behalf of members. SPP offers several forms of matching options in their business plans:
  • Dollar for dollar match: For every $1 an employee contributes, the employer contributes $1 up to the $2,500 maximum.
  • Annual match: A set amount, for example $500 per year if the employee contributes a minimum of the same amount.
  • A start-up plan where the employer contributes a one-time start up amount like $1,000 when the plan is set up.
  • A performance plan: Employer contributions can be tied to a variety of different criteria, such as meeting sales targets, length of service and yearly performance.
  • Other customized matching plans can be developed.

2.   Lower fees: The average management expense ratio for a retail mutual fund may be from 2.3 to 2.6 per cent depending on the asset class. In contrast, a company-sponsored plan administered through an insurance carrier can typically negotiate much lower fees. In 2013 SPP had a management expense ratio of 1%.

3.   Payroll deduction: Payroll deduction promotes disciplined savings. Also, taxes withheld from the rest of your pay are reduced. It’s like getting your refund through the year, instead of when you file your tax return in April.

4.   The pros manage your money: The people who manage group insurance plans are usually the same people who manage other pension plans. They tend to be long-term investors and so are less likely to react impulsively to short-term events.

SPP hires independent money managers to invest member funds. The Plan’s Board of Trustees establishes the Investment Policy and then delegates investment decision making responsibility to the fund managers. The Board monitors investment performance quarterly and reviews the investment policy at least annually.

5.  Available retirement planning services: Most employer-sponsored programs offer full retirement planning services and information specific to you. These features are largely unavailable to an individual investor. Free in-house retirement education sessions are often included.

6.   Transfer of other retirement savings: Your employer may allow you to transfer RRSP or pension money from other accounts into the company plan. There is a huge advantage to aggregating your money in one account instead of having pots of money in multiple places. That’s because it’s much easier to develop an investment strategy if the money is under one umbrella. Also, the more assets there are in the plan, the lower the fees for everyone. SPP allows you to transfer-in $10,000 from your RRSP.

7.   Locking-in: If you can’t get your hands on the money easily when you want a new HD television or a new car, chances are better that you will have a bigger balance at retirement. A registered pension fund must generally lock-in your money until your early retirement date and the SPP is subject to the same rules. Money in Group RRSPs cannot be formally locked-in, but your employer may discourage you from withdrawing funds by suspending the company match for some period of time when you do so.

8.   Post-retirement options: When you retire, you will have to transfer the money in your DC pension plan or Group RRSP into personal accounts with financial institutions. If your company plans are with insurance carriers, some of them have established Group RRIFs available only to former members of group plans they manage for clients. While investment fees in these Group RRIFs may not be as low as in the original employer plans, they will generally not be as high as retail fees charged to individuals.

SPP members have several options for dealing with the funds in their account when they retire. One option is the simplicity of SPP annuities, through which your funds stay invested in SPP while you receive a fixed monthly pension for your lifetime no matter where you live.

Also see:
Ten Things You Need to Know About Your Company Pension Plan, Rob Carrick, June 9, 2012
Income that lasts a lifetime – MoneySense, Sarah Efron, April 2nd, 2012

Book Review: RRSPS THE ULTIMATE WEALTH BUILDER

By Sheryl Smolkin

Feb13-BookcoverRRSPSPape1

If an alien parachuted into Canada in the first two months of the year and needed to quickly understand the what, when, why and how of registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs), there is no better source of information than Gordon Pape’s new book RRSPs The Ultimate Wealth Builder.

The prolific writer has authored and co-authored over 20 books with down-to-earth investment advice, many of which have become best sellers. And this one is definitely another winner.

RRSPs were created by Louis St. Laurent’s Liberal government and have been around since 1959. Of course as Pape explains, there have been many important tweaks along the way.

  • Contribution levels have jumped from 10% of earned income (maximum of $2,500) to 18% of the previous year’s earned income (maximum of $24,270 in 2014.)*
  • Since 1996, unlimited carry-forwards of unused contribution room have been permitted.
  • Contributions can be made until age 71. The maximum age was reduced to age 69 as part of the government’s austerity program in 1997, but raised back to 71 in the 2007 budget. Now there is growing demand to bump it up further to age 73.
  • Registered retirement income funds (RRIFs) were added to the program in the 1970s, allowing taxpayers to further tax-shelter funds after retirement subject to mandatory minimum withdrawals.

Early chapters of the book set the scene with an extensive RRSP vocabulary (Chapter 2) and the rules relating to contribution levels, deadlines, carry-forwards and spousal plans (Chapter 3).

In Chapter 4 Pape says the most common mistake people make is to walk into their bank and say, “I want to buy an RRSP.” “You invest in an RRSP so the type of RRSP you select will have a huge impact on how your money will grow over the year,” he says.

If you are a regular RRSP contributor, you may think you have little to learn about the subject. But here are a few interesting tidbits I picked up that you may not be aware of:

  • You can contribute in one year and defer your tax deduction to a later year when your earnings are higher and the deduction is worth more.
  • If you don’t have sufficient cash but you have a self-directed RRSP, you can make a contribution “in kind” of another qualified investment at its fair market value. For example you can contribute a $5,000 GIC maturing in three years.
  • If you receive a retiring allowance or severance pay it can be transferred directly to your RRSP without withholding tax even if you do not have contribution room. You can transfer in $2,000 times the number of years or part years you were with the employer up to and including 1995 without withholding tax. You can also make an additional tax-free contribution of $1,500 for each year or part year prior to 1989 in which no money was vested for you in a pension plan or deferred profit sharing plan.

Pape also shares important details about making RRSP withdrawals for buying a home or returning to school and the complex RRSP mortgage and repayment rules.

For example, did you know that if your RRSP funds are used to invest in a mortgage for you or your children, interest payments have to be made at market rates?

In addition, non-arm’s length RRSP mortgages must be administered by an approved lender under the National Housing Act and insured either through Canada Mortgage and Housing or a private company like Genworth MI Canada.

Chapters 12, 13 and 14 thoughtfully address the perennial questions: RRSP or mortgage pay down? RRSP or debt pay down? RRSPs or Tax-free savings accounts.

The one area where I disagree with Pape is on the merits of an employer-sponsored Group RRSP. He says they are often not a great deal because employers can’t contribute to them directly; Group RRSP contributions reduce your total contribution level for the year; and Group RRSPs frequently offer a limited number of investment options.

In my experience working as Canadian Director of Research for a global actuarial consulting firm, smart employers view their Group RRSP as an important attraction and retention tool. They generally incent employee participation by grossing up salary to match or partially match employee contribution levels.

In addition, fees are often lower than individual RRSPs opened with retail financial institutions and there is a large (but not too large) selection of diversified investment funds for employees to choose from. Interactive websites plus in person and online education are also frequent valuable group RRSP add-ons.

What I do not disagree with is that RRSPs can be a powerful machine for creating wealth that you ignore at your peril! RRSPs The Ultimate Wealth Builder can be purchased online from Indigo books for $13. An e-reader version is also available for $13.99 from the Kobo bookstore.

*Contributions to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan of up to $2500/year form part of your RRSP contribution limits. You can also transfer $10,000 from your RRSP to SPP each year until you are 71 without tax consequences. In 2013 the SPP balanced fund earned 15.77%.

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