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Saving for your First Home? What are your options?

By: Louai Bibi, Advisor Associate

So many Canadians are saving for their first home. Some of us might be on the brink of making that lifechanging purchase, others may still have some time ahead of them. Regardless of your timeline, we often ask ourselves questions like:

  • Should I invest this money?
  • What account suits my personal circumstance the best?
  • What are the pros & cons of each account?

I’ll preface by saying that if you are considering accessing your money within a 48-month window, we advise against investing in the market. While markets generally trend upwards most of the time (you might not feel like it if you started investing in 2022), we don’t have a crystal ball and we’d rather play it safe & ensure your hard-earned savings stay intact if markets happen to experience short-term volatility.

In terms of what accounts are available for first-time homebuyers, you have four great options:

  • A generic savings account
  • A tax-free savings account (TFSA)
  • A registered retirement savings account (RRSP)
  • A first home savings account (FHSA)

Your savings account is a great place to store your money when we’re on the brink of purchasing your home (think 48-month timeline, as we discussed above). The TFSA, RRSP, & FHSA all generally entail investing your money in the market. So how do you differentiate which account makes the most sense for you?

Well, let’s start with understanding what benefit each account offers a first-time home buyer:

The TFSA

The TFSA offers tax-free growth when you invest, so if your money grows from $50,000 to $100,000, you get to withdraw $100,000 tax-free, with no penalties and/or restrictions. This is pretty great in my eyes, as the last thing a first-time home buyer should be concerned with is taxes when they are going through an exciting life change. If you later decide purchasing a home no longer makes sense for you or that you need to push out your timeframe, you can keep trucking along & growing your wealth tax-free.

The RRSP

While primarily, used for retirement savings, first-time home buyer’s have an advantage when saving within this account. It’s widely known as the home buyer’s plan (HBP), which allows you to withdraw up to $35,000 from your RRSP to put towards the purchase of your first home. Generally, when you withdraw from a RRSP, that amount is taxed as income. When a RRSP withdrawal is for your first home, you can withdraw this money tax-free. The catch is that after a couple years, you need to begin paying back 1/15th of the amount you withdrew from your RRSP over the next 15 years. By participating in the HBP, you’ve essentially loaned yourself those funds from your retirement savings & they slowly need to go back to your RRSP to later fund retirement. This isn’t a ground-breaking implication, but you earlier heard me mention that we don’t have a crystal ball. We don’t know what the future holds & many homeowners are feeling the stress of higher interest rates impact their monthly payments. While a 1/15th of up to $35,000 per year may not feel suffocating to you while reading this, it certainly can add stress to the lives of others who are adjusting to the associated costs of home ownership.

The FHSA

This just launched in 2023 & the majority of financial institutions can’t even open these quite yet, as they are still building out the infrastructure required to be able to handle contributions, withdrawals & CRA reporting. This account shares a few characteristics that the TFSA & RRSP offer. You can contribute up to $8,000 per year (to a lifetime maximum of $40,000) and use these funds towards your home purchase tax-free. By the time 15 years has passed or you turn 71 years old (whichever comes first), you have the option of withdrawing these funds as cash, at which point it becomes taxable to you, or you can transfer the balance to your RRSP on a tax-deferred basis. While you are waiting for the FHSA accounts to be accessible at all financial institutions, you can save in a TFSA and/or RRSP & later transfer this account to the FHSA, with no tax implications.  Your contributions are tax-deductible just like your RRSP, which makes this unique from the TFSA.

Here are my favourite parts about this account:

  • Remember how I mentioned needing to repay 1/15th of your RRSP HBP withdrawal every year? This concept does not exist when you withdraw from the FHSA for your first home. There is no repayment schedule & I think that will put a lot of minds at ease, especially when we go through times where money is tight.
  • When our annual RRSP contribution room is calculated, its often based on a percentage of our earned income. The FHSA annual contribution limit is not linked to our earned income, but rather a set dollar amount prescribed by the government, which is currently $8,000/year. For those who may be newer to Canada and/or just starting their career & haven’t hit their salary potential quite yet, this may be a powerful tool to save!

When you should connect with us for help

You may want help establishing a savings target or building a roadmap to get from goal to reality. For others, our financial circumstances can be complex & may warrant a deeper conversation, like if you are a US citizen, or if you are just trying to understand where this piece of the puzzle fits in your overall wealth plan. Whether you are new a new or existing client, our door is always open to chat. Whether it is me, Mike, Shawn, or Corey, we’ll be happy to help you make an informed decision. Click HERE to book with us.

Conclusion

At this point, we have a baseline understanding of how each account works for first-time home buyers to make an informed decision. I’ve shared a table below that compares the features of the accounts that we have covered in this blog (click HERE for image source). Each of our scenarios are unique, so we do have to assess the merits of using each account on a case-by-case basis. My objective for this blog is to create general understanding of each account, as well as how they may or may not work in your favor. Buying your first home is a significant achievement & you deserve to have the right professionals by your side. Whether you need our advice, or the advice of a mortgage/tax/legal professional, we’ll put you in touch with the right person.


How does the FHSA compare to the RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan and a TFSA? 

FHSA RRSP HBP TFSA
Contributions are tax deductible Yes Yes No
Withdrawals for home purchase are non-taxable Yes Yes Yes
Annual contribution amount is tied to income level No Yes No
Account can hold savings or investments Yes Yes Yes
Unused annual contributions carry forward to the next year Yes Yes Yes
For first-time home buyers only Yes Yes No
Total contribution amount limit $40,000 $35,000 Cumulative
Can check contribution room remaining in CRA MyAccount TBD Yes Yes

 

Future Outlook

By: Corey Butler, Wealth Advisor

2022 is in our rear-view mirror and 2023 is now staring us in the face with a sea of uncertainty. Inflation, supply chain, Covid, China, Ukraine war, stagflation, interest rates… it never ends. This is where you come to the realization that you can only control your own day to day decisions and life. The world has, and will always have, issues. As far back as we can look, there is always civil unrest, famine, war, and natural disasters. So why do we react with such negative assumptions when we know history always repeats itself? Markets go up and markets go down. Buyers and sellers get to make their decision on what something is worth and whether there is upside or downside.

If we look at real estate which is under pressure as of late with massive interest rate increases by both the Bank of Canada and Federal Reserve. Market values have certainly retreated as of late, offering a lower entry point for buyers, but with interest rates at current levels, we essentially end up in the same place with monthly payments vs 2021 pricing. The exposed variable rate debt has gotten much more expensive but when compared to the 5-year fixed rate, the variable is still cheaper option. We need to accept that these rates are going to stay much higher than what we experienced throughout the pandemic. Historical Prime Rate Average has been 5-6%.  If you look out over the next 20-25 years at a modest 5% growth rate on real estate, you still have more than doubled the home value.  It is an incredible asset class.

There are so many conflicting outlooks across all sectors which result in complete paralysis in making decisions or taking a stance. A well-diversified investment portfolio is truly the key to your success during turbulent times. “The trend is your friend until it’s not, and trying to catch a falling knife hurts a lot.” These are wise words bestowed on me from mentors that I have had the pleasure to work beside.

An Investment Policy Statement “IPS” is one of the best ways to keep yourself on the straight and narrow to not get tactical during turbulent times. An IPS becomes your compass to help you find the North Star. It should be reviewed annually with your wealth advisor to ensure risk, goals, and behaviour are on track. If you currently have not created an IPS roadmap, please feel free to reach out and we can grab a coffee to discuss.

NEW YEAR! NEW APPROACH!

By: Michael Lutes CFP, CLU

Certified Financial Planner

It’s a brand spankin’ new year, (2023 baby!). The calendar has turned, the slate is wiped clean, you’re at mile zero! You have twelve whole months to kick some butt when it comes to managing your money and financial planning! (Wow, I’m getting energized just writing this!!)

Perhaps you’ve already begun brainstorming ways to improve your finances in 2023. Maybe you’re hunting for new tax-efficient planning strategies. Or you think your investment portfolio could use a revamp. Or, after spending time with loved ones over the holidays, you’re inspired to audit your insurance and estate plans.

Or, like so many of us, you truly don’t know where to start.

Here’s a tip…

Start with your values. Let those values motivate your goals, life objectives, dreams. Whatever you want to call them, start there.

So, what are your values? Seriously, yours, what are they? Take a moment, take a minute, take whatever time you need…

No, no, no, not THOSE values…. those are the values you think you should have. The ones your brother incepted inside of you when you were chatting over the holidays. Or maybe those values are the ones your Instagram feed is telling you to have – fancy cars, fancy food, fancy vacations, fancy clothes, fancy blah blah blah.

Not those.

I’m talking about YOUR values. The ones that truly reflect the deepest sense of what cultivates happiness in you. The ones that make you feel authentically happy to just be. The ones that when you’re living in alignment with them you are at your most satisfied, most at peace, most content, and most fulfilled.

THOSE are your values.

(Ummm, I thought this was a financial planning blog…no?)

How does this apply to financial planning?

While considering all the calculator stuff – tax, investment returns, insurance, etc. – the best financial planning is done in a space where decisions of how to use your money – or capital (more on capital later) – are in alignment with your values. This is where financial confidence builds. This is where the real financial planning magic happens.

In this space, you stop obsessing over moves in the stock market, you don’t really care what shows up in the daily financial news, you can genuinely listen to your neighbor’s stock tip from their cousin who “worked on wall street” and effortlessly separate opinion from truth and move on.

This is the space where you can be totally and completely confident and fulfilled in your financial decision making, because you know it aligns to your values and your life objectives.

So, when it comes to financial planning this year, start with your values – dig deep, be real, be honest, be reflective – and let your values motivate your goals that ultimately drive your decision making.

Do this, and you’ll be kicking butt in 2023!

And if you’re one of us who, like most, need help uncovering their values and articulating their goals, we recommend talking to a trusted advisor who can help you through the process. If you don’t have a trusted advisor, schedule some time with us – we love to help!