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Bring the Compass on your Hike. Why should you plan twice?

By: Shawn Todd, CFP

Just before the New Year of 2023 – I was fortunate enough to go for a short adventure trip with my wife Michele, where we planned to do some extraordinary hiking in Arizona.  The first thing I did when I packed for my trip on the days we hiked – was making sure that I had packed a GPS, a compass, enough water, and had a plan.  It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised on how many people venture out with just their shoes.  I saw many with no gear, or the wrong gear.

Some short stats:

  • 57.8 million hikers every year in the US.
  • There are 4 deaths per 100,000 hikers
  • 70% of hikers who die are male

Looking at these stats – right away it becomes a very good message to me that not only should I be careful, but I should always be packing a compass.  I’m male, I hike, I Iove my wife and family, and I’m planning a hiking trip.

When it comes to our personal lives, and our business lives, it’s very easy to overlook what you need to be packing in your ‘day to day’ backpack.  It’s very easy to be comfortable with life ‘as it is right now’. The home & your after-hours routine, and your work & your normal ‘day at the office’ routine all flow one day to the next without any issues.  Sometimes we neglect how each of these affects the other. How impactful our personal lives are with our work, and how significant a role our work plays in providing comfort in our personal lives.

 

 

The merging of our personal and business lives give way to four key themes on this Venn diagram above. These dual areas are:

Time – how much time can we spend with our loved ones, what kind of quality time is it?  How much flexibility does our business provide us, how hard have we worked to have it be this way?

Security – Our business without questions provides the security for us to make decisions that affect our spouse, our children and ourselves.  Where are the children going to post-secondary school?  Do we need to have two incomes or just one in the home? What will happen if one of our family is sick and needs care? Does our life feel safe and secure?

Income – We all start off with a life wanting to not be only concerned about money.  You may be more interested in your community, in charity, in just time with loved ones.  The income that comes in now, and the income that may or may not come in – if you weren’t working – will impact most of the decisions we make with the other three areas – time, security, and our goals.

Goals – This is where it’s always interesting.  Every single person has different goals, different needs, and different wants.  Spending a great deal of time here, really helps with a good foundation to mapping out where we want to go in life [and mapping out what trails we want to explore on that hike]

Many times, when we meet new clients – and we ask – “would you like us to spend time doing financial planning for you personally, and also for you corporately?” they may feel initially positive about it, but also feel slightly tentative about planning twice.  Why would I need to do this?

Some more short stats:

  • 96 percent of small business [with 1-100 employees] survive for one full year
  • 70 percent of small businesses [1-100 employees] survive for five full years
  • There are over 1.3 million businesses in Canada with employees
  • Small businesses provide over 70% of the total private labour market
  • A healthy growth rate for a small business should be between 15%
  • A business will double in 5 years at a 15% growth rate
  • 350 people out of 100,000 [ages 45-49] will be diagnosed with Cancer [87 times the chance of dying hiking]
  • 1,000 people out of 100,000 [ages 60 and older] will be diagnosed with Cancer [250 times the chance of dying hiking]

Spending time planning can’t take away all the risks of business failure, of financial stressors, or of getting a critical illness that impacts your business. It certainly can help make you aware of your blind spots.  Having an opportunity to see the risks, whether they are in your investment portfolio, in providing enough retirement income, or possibly in your business structure – really help make you more aware of your current situation, and your future situation combined.  You wouldn’t go on a hike without the proper gear, and I wouldn’t suggest you tackle life and business without the proper gear.

Take the time to review your own strategy and plan. If you’re unsure on areas, or need guidance, consider having a finanical plan completed, or updated.  Keeping both your personal and corporate worlds safe is key.  If you need to pack a compass to stay on track, I’d certainly recommend doing so.

Just my thoughts for the day,

Shawn Todd, CFP

Why I bought Millions of Dollars in Life Insurance (and an absolutely incredible disability policy)

I’ve been reading a lot of material in the past few weeks about posting content on Linked In. The last few articles that I have written, have been received with moderate success from the financial planning community. I absolutely love getting onto a topic that I’m passionate about, and helping people connect with what might be a new way of looking at things! Ottawa local and Linked In guru Michaela Alexis preaches vulnerability in her article 5 Must Read Tips for Writing a Killer Linked In Article If you haven’t had a chance to read this article – and are interested in writing content – it’s a really great start.

So let me be vulnerable.

In May 2011 on a day long ATV ride ride with some friends, colleagues and clients in the Calabogie area – I had a terrible accident. It was probably our fourth or fifth annual ride with about ten riders. I had just spotted a beautiful long hill in a sandy field, and I was determined to drive my ATV up to the top to have a look. Half way up this rolling hill the ground just ended – it was a cliff. With absolutely no time to react – I went over the side of the tall cliff first (large unforgiving 800lb ATV came second), and the ATV fell with me landing hard right on top of my back. Immediately, I knew I was badly injured. At the end of the day – I had broken 5 vertebrae, 3 ribs, and split my liver.

So I’ve gotten the accident out of the way, and this helps with the setup of this article. I’m really trying to let you in on what was happening for me the moments after that accident. I was absolutely terrified. Not only was I worried that I may not survive this incredible accident, I was worried as I had a family that I wanted to get back to. I had three kids to raise, and when my beautiful girlfriend (now my amazing wife) walked in the hospital room – it gave me all the energy I needed to get charged up to start my mending!

Once the dust settled, and I had days and days of lying and healing – there were a few things that I really had on my mind;

  • If I end up not being able to walk again – will I have enough income from my group and disability plans?
  • Was my will set up the way that I wanted it? Does it contain my last set of instructions in the way that I really intended?
  • What would I change about my life insurance and risk plan if I could?
  • Would I be able to climb Mt Kilimanjaro with my girlfriend? (we had just made plans and booked our trip)

Months later – I had healed and made a recovery.

So I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t have enough set up for my disability plan (and would have probably had to live a life I wouldn’t have enjoyed), and my will and life insurance program needed some tweaking. Sometimes, we get a good bounce in life – and this was my second chance.

I’m going to share with you the reasons why I reviewed these questions, and set up a robust insurance program after my accident;

  1. I have a family that I absolutely love. My wife and my kids are what gets me up in the morning, and what keeps me inspired every single day. Sometimes we’re busy, sometimes we’re laughing and goofy, and sometimes we’re all doing separate activities (especially as the kids get older). At the end of the day – what we have in our home is my entire life.
  2. It’s the best way to have a couple Million dollars sitting on the sidelines when you need it. I once had a client ask me to build him a financial plan – “but please don’t use life insurance – I don’t like it. So I did. I built a beautiful financial plan – and it showed a need to save $17,000 / month for five years (and assumed that he didn’t get sick or die for that period). It wasn’t a hit. He ended up liking the insurance in the plan – and it ended up saving him a lot of money. I enjoy having knowledge that when I need it – regardless of how much I’ve saved, or where I am at in my life cycle – the money will be there.
  3. I don’t like spending money when I don’t have to. Structuring my plan right made it cash flow neutral. It may be a monthly expense – but having return of premiums or some cash value features allowed me to have a plan that returns this to me later on. A typical 35 yr old could easily spend $20,000 – $30,000 on premiums between now and retirement age (as an net negative expense) or they can re-arrange what they are doing and make this neutral, or an treat it like an investment, and come out with thousands in savings, and a nest egg.
  4. I’m a business owner. I like risk, and growing my business. Some elements of my world I can’t afford risk. My business, and my income is one of them. Walt Disney wouldn’t have been able to keep trucking on his Disneyland idea without it – a good read here What? Walt Disney used Life Insurance?
  5. I enjoy travelling, having goals, and just simply not worrying about uncertainty. It’s incredibly re-assuring to be able to book that scuba dive trip, or take a hike on a beautiful Caribbean island without worrying about mortality.

6. It’s immediate. Sometimes you just don’t get that second chance. It’s the ATV day with your pals, or it’s that golf game with your friends. It may just feel like another day, and give you no second thoughts. Sometimes and somewhere – your day doesn’t end the way you wanted. On an average, we are supposed to be here until 85 yrs of age, but sometimes we get sick, a medical result comes back we didn’t expect, or someone runs into our car. It can be totally unplanned, unexpected, and change of world forever. It might mean your income ends, or it could mean you don’t go home (ever). Having an insurance plans allows me to know that (a) the money is all there (b) every person that I love has something I wanted them to have (c) if I live through whatever terrible day I’ve had – I’m going to have an income (and then I can start with my game plan on recovery and overcoming whatever has just happened)

By the time I was done healing I had renewed my insurance strategy. I talk about this day with my clients – because sometimes people have a hard time imagining something terrible happening to themselves. I don’t mind sharing my story – it has a good ending. I made some great changes – and I also was also able to climb that mountain with Michele!

I’m excited about my life and the future adventures coming, and excited about knowing that I have a strong plan to support me. Think about your plan, and make those changes you’ve been thinking about. It’s one of the best steps you could take (and then consider travelling to Africa and hiking Mt Kilimanjaro – it’s incredible! “Go Climb a Mountain: – my buddy said. Click here to get this on your bucketlist.

Just my thoughts for the day,

When not to use a RRSP

This is a timely conversation.  After a recent discussion with several young clients in the past couple of weeks, the topic of when not to use a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) has been re-occurring.

At one recent example – a good client of ours brought her daughter in to sit with us, and produced a list of items she wished for us to talk about with her college aged daughter.  One of the items she wanted discussed was “investing in an RRSP”.  You can only imagine the surprised look on my client’s face when we reviewed that investing in an RRSP may not be the best idea at this time.

“You don’t want my daughter to save in an RRSP?” my client offered to me, “I always thought the best advice would be to start the RRSP right away?” she said.

This is such a very common conversation, and I can see why.  The belief that the RRSP is the best and only way to save is so ingrained in our belief structure, it almost feels wrong not to listen to it.

There are some times and situations when we should be looking at other alternatives to the RRSP.  This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be saving, it just means there may be a better place to save (often a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA)) depending on the person’s situation in life.

Here are some situations that we should potentially not save in an RRSP:

  • Low salary, and / or beginning a career: One of the easiest conditions to catch, is the person with a low salary, and / or beginning a career. If they are currently being paid a below average salary and in one of the lowest tax brackets, it may not be the best choice for them to be placing deposits into their RRSP.  Often the immediate disadvantage here will be the loss of the potential tax credit for that year (if depositing elsewhere).  The best move may be a deposit to a TFSA in that year, and then ultimately a transfer of the TFSA to an RRSP at a later time (and presumably in a year that they are earning more).  A transfer of the TFSA to an RRSP at age 30 (at an average salary) instead of age 20 (at a below average salary), may result in thousands of dollars more in the hands of the saver.  The RRSP works the best when the money is deposited at a higher income tax bracket, and removed in a lower income tax bracket.  If this isn’t going to be the case – you may wish to consider your strategy.
  • Above average pension, and RRSP already starting to grow sizably: Again with the perception that the RRSP is the only way to save we often come across many people who in addition to their above average sized pension, continue to contribute to RRSPs with as much zeal as possible. RRSP savings may work well for these clients in earlier years – when they are just growing their accounts, but as the account sizes begin to take on six figures – they should start doing some planning on how and when they will get that registered money out.  The RRSP income will come out taxable, and care should be taken on how this will look in addition to their pension amounts.
  • Next year you will be paid significantly more. If this is the case – then you may wish delaying your RRSP deposit until next year. By doing so, you will be entitled to a much larger tax break.
  • You are a brand new business owner. New business owners may often experience some early successes, and start bringing in some sizeable savings deposits wanting to invest it in their RRSP. Some issues that they may not be predicting on their short to mid-term time horizon may be; the purchase of new equipment, hiring of new staff, low earning business years, and the need for immediate liquidity.  As RRSP income is taxable, it can be a discouraging experience to deposit $20,000 one year, to only receive $12,000 of it back in your hands when you need it the most.  It may be best for the budding owner to defer their RRSP deposit, and deposit their savings in a TFSA. TFSA income would be non-taxable.
  • You are carrying high interest debt. In the event that one is carrying high interest debt on credit cards, or other high interest debt – they may wish to consider paying down these debts before investing. Often someone is particularly eager to save any new money in an RRSP when they opportunity presents itself, but the reality may be that the money may be best spent paying down the debt they hold.  If you are paying 18% high interest debt rates – it makes more sense to pay that back, than earn 6% in the RRSP.

These are all common situations, and I find that simply talking about these with clients, often helps unravel some of the questions that we have when utilizing RRSPs.  Through good discussion comes clarity.  RRSP investing is a terrific solution for many people.  The design, features and implementing of an RRSP is usually an attractive solution which allows many to receive a timely cheque in the mail in the spring.  Not understanding when you shouldn’t be investing in an RRSP sometimes isn’t as clear, and really needs to be discussed more often.