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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

 

Tips on Retirement Savings Plan

A retirement savings plan is a way of protecting your post-retirement financial lifestyle. However, in recent times, recessions, stock-market declines, housing market bubbles, joblessness, and, most recently, a global pandemic have created a series of challenges for people trying to start, grow, or maintain a retirement savings plan. With all the economic uncertainties, it’s natural to wonder if you’re doing all you can to protect your retirement nest egg. Taking a back to basics approach can instruct you on how to keep your retirement financial plan on track during uncertain economic times and beyond.

Consider these tried and tested tips that most financial advisors will recommend for a secure and enjoyable retirement.

  1. Make Realistic Budget and Lifestyle – Determining your retirement income needs starts with making realistic assumptions about your future. Because of increased life expectancy, retirement years are longer than they used to be. The average Canadian is expected to live to 78.79 years. Longevity can also be impacted by genetics, where you live, your marital status, and your lifestyle. All of these factors into how you plan for your retirement. It’s also good to be realistic about your post-retirement budget and lifestyle. Do not make the mistake of assuming that your post-retirement budget will be reduced. Retirement is becoming increasingly expensive, particularly in the first few years. It’s essential to have a plan to help mitigate expenses when you are no longer earning a paycheck.
  2. Have A Savings Plan – Based on these realistic lifestyle assumptions about your post-retirement days, you can begin to determine what you can do now to sustain yourself financially for at least 25 years post-retirement. The 4% rule is one popular method for working this out. In this model, you commit 4% of your savings for every year of retirement. Another approach is to draw down 2-3% of your total retirement portfolio annually, adjusted yearly for inflation.
  3. Consider Inflation – Speaking of inflation, failing to factor it into your plan could take a substantial bite out of your hard-earned nest egg. Inflation impacts how much your retirement savings will be worth over time, so understanding this is critical to ensuring that you have enough assets to last throughout your retirement.
  4. Grow Your Retirement Savings – Retirement means different things to different people, but the key is to enjoy this time of your life while making sure you don’t outlive your retirement savings. You are more likely to achieve this with a thoughtfully developed plan that allows you to withdraw money from your portfolio while enabling growth over the longer term. You can achieve this by using various investment vehicles with reasonable returns.

Bottom Line

Planning for the future is a complex and sometimes emotional process that is not easy to do without guidance. Financial advisors can help you remain objective and focused on your future goals. They also have the skills and tools you need to plan for a healthy financial future.

Book an appointment with us – CLICK HERE

Quitting your Job? What you Need to Know about Your Pension.

Employers are seeing a trend of their employees quitting their jobs. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused many to re-evaluate how they are spending their lives. Employees are valuing their time more than ever and are looking for opportunities where work life balance is a top priority. One worry that employees may have as they embark on their next stage of life: What happens to my pension?

The three most common retirement savings plans in Canada are: Defined Benefit Pensions (DBPP), Defined Contribution Pension Plans (DCPP), and Group Registered Retirement Savings Plans (Group RRSP). Regardless of which type of plan you are enrolled in; all is not lost once you leave your job. Each type of plan has special rules and provisions for what you can do with the money when you leave your employer.

What You Need to Know

  1. Defined Contribution Pension Plans – Defined Contribution plans are typically made up of a combination of employer and employee contributions. The retirement benefit is dependent on how much is in the account at the time and how it has performed in the markets. When you leave your job, you will have to transfer your pension into either a LIRA, LIF, or RRIF, depending on your province of residence. A LIRA is a locked in retirement account holding the pension money until it comes time to take an income from it, when it will be converted to a LIF. It is also possible to transfer pensions directly to a LIF, if age requirements are met. Provincial authorities are responsible for regulating pension money and most pension money is “locked-in”, which means there are age restrictions on when you can withdraw the money and limits on how much you can take. Rules differ from province to province.
  2. Defined Benefit Pension Plans – Defined Benefit Pension Plans guarantee an income to employees in their retirement. Defined Benefit plans may be made up of both employer and employee contributions, or just employer contributions. When you leave your employer and have a Defined Benefit plan, you will have two options: 1. Leave the money in the plan and take an income based at retirement based on contributions up until the point you leave. 2. Take the commuted value of the plan and transfer it to a LIRA. The LIRA will be subject to the same locking provisions as mentioned above. Whether or not to take the commuted value of a Defined Benefit plan is a financial planning issue that should be worked through with a professional. They will help you determine whether the income or lump sum would be more beneficial to your retirement plan.
  3. Group RRSPs – Group RRSPs are the most flexible pension option. When you leave your employer, you will be able to transfer your Group RRSP directly into your individual RRSP. Alternatively, you could withdraw the account in cash, but be prepared to take a tax hit.

The Bottom Line

There are exceptions to locking-in rules and each province has a different set of regulations. A financial advisor can help you understand the rules in your province and help you determine the best course of action of your pension money.

Book an Appointment with us – CLICK HERE

RRSP Basics

As each February concludes and RRSP contribution season ends, investors across Canada exhale feel a sense of relief and accomplishment. RRSPs are an extreme example of deferred gratification; doing something good now for a benefit that occurs much later.

As the North American society has moved away from employment-based pension plans everyone is responsible to save for their retirement, and Registered Retirement Savings Plan is a fundamental tool to save. This is especially true when publicly managed pensions like Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) do not provide enough income for most.

Saving for retirement takes planning and discipline, it is not easy to manage the important (retirement savings) with the urgent (immediate expenditures).

An RRSP allows Canadians to defer income tax on both the initial deposit and any growth those assets generate. Making the maximum contribution could save you almost $15,000 on this year’s tax bill depending on your income level and associated tax rate.

What you need to know

  • Contributions to your RRSP are deducted from your taxable income. If you earn $100,000 and make a $24,000 deposit, you are taxed on $76,000 for that year.
  • Contributions and earnings are subject to income tax when withdrawn, or at death (unless the RRSP is transferred to a surviving spouse).
  • Contribution amounts are based on your income level. 18% of your income can be deposited into your RRSP with the annual limit of $27,830 for the 2021 tax year and $29,210 for 2022.
  • Contribution room from previous years that has not been used is carried forward.
  • Contributions can be made at any time during the year, and until the end of February for the prior year’s tax return. This allows the prior year to conclude before the contribution amount is fully calculated.
  • Contributions can be managed based on your unique situation, current and potential earnings and the tax brackets that you fall into. For an Ontario resident paying the highest marginal tax rate of 53.53%, a $24,000 deposit will reduce your income taxes by $12,874.
  • Contributions can be managed between years to reduce overall taxes. Unused contribution room can be utilized for years when a higher tax bracket is being applied to your income. Depending on your situation it might be better to wait or make a deposit now.
  • Contributions often generate a tax refund. When your payroll deductions are accurate most people will not pay or get a refund when filing their taxes. An RRSP is not typically factored into these calculations, and the tax savings generated by an RRSP deposit often appears as a refund!

And finally:

Contributions that are made monthly typically grow larger than the same yearly amount deposited annually after each year has concluded.

  •  $2,000 deposited at the start of each month for 25 years grows @ 6% to $1,385,988
  • $24,000 deposited at the end of each February for 25 years grows @ 6% to $1,316,748
  • Without any additional deposits that’s a difference of   $69,240!!

This is often a conservative estimate. The difference is usually much larger because an investor who commits to monthly contributions and agrees to a PAC (Pre-Authorized Contribution) is much more disciplined. An annual, large payment is more susceptible to the negative effects of variations in year-end bonuses and a year of day-to-day spending. The temptation is to believe that, if skipped, payments can be caught-up later, which the effects of compound interest make it difficult to achieve.

The Bottom Line

Setting up an RRSP with a monthly PAC can help you retire sooner, because we cannot save what we have already spent.

Book an appointment with us to discuss setting up your RRSP or Monthly PAC – click HERE

What to Consider When Drawing Down Your RRSP

If you have been a good saver and contributed religiously to your RRSP, you should be rewarded with a sizeable six or seven figure RRSP that would make your retirement that much more enjoyable. The only issue now is – how do you get the money out of the RRSP without paying more tax than you should? Typically, it is advised that investors leave their RRSPs alone for as long as possible to take advantage of the tax-free growth. While this can be true for many people, it is important to crunch the numbers before you retire to make sure this makes the most sense for your unique retirement situation. Many retirees, especially those with a high net worth, may find there could be a more efficient way to withdraw retirement income.

What You Need to Know

The intended use of a RRSP is to defer taxes from the time you are in a high tax bracket until you get into a lower tax bracket, thereby saving some tax on your contributions and allowing the money to grow tax free for many years. At some point, however, you must take that money out. The government mandates that Canadians must convert their RRSP to a RRIF, or an annuity, at age 71. The government also mandates that a minimum amount be taken. The issue with waiting until you are required to convert to a RRIF and take income is that you have little flexibility as to what you can withdraw. If your RRSP is large, the mandatory withdrawal amount may push you into higher tax brackets

Let us look at an example of how this could play out. In this situation below, the retiree has waited until age 71 to start drawing down their RRSP:

Joe has a RRIF worth $600,000 and his minimum withdrawal at age 71 will be $31,680 (5.28% x $600,000 = $31,680) for the year. He receives the maximum CPP benefit of $14,445 annually and an OAS benefit of $7380. These three income sources alone will total $53,505. The lowest tax bracket for the year 2021 is $49,020. This means Joe has been pushed into a higher tax bracket! This is before the income from his rental properties, defined benefit pension plan, and income from his non-registered investments are calculated.

As you can see from the example above, waiting until the last minute to start taking an income from your registered investments can have unintended consequences. Aside from simply paying higher taxes, there are income tax implications that need to be considered as you move to higher tax brackets as well. At age 65, you gain two tax advantages: the Age Amount non-refundable credit ($7635 for 2021) and the Pension Income credit ($2000 for 2021). The Age Amounts is income-tested and it reduces by 15% of the amount your net income exceeds $38,893 for 2021. This claw back also applies to your OAS, which begins if your income exceeds $79,054. Both credits could be affected by RRIF minimums that become mandatory at age 71, therefore:

  1. Pushing you into a higher tax bracket
  2. Cause a partial or total loss of your Age Amount tax credit
  3. Cause a partial or total claw back of your OAS income

And since the minimum withdrawal rate gets larger as you get older, this issue will only worsen as you age.

Here are some strategies that could help you pay lower taxes on your RRSP withdrawals:

  1. Consider deferring your CPP and OAS. Both Canadian pensions allow you to defer until age 70 to start receiving them, and you get rewarded for the deferral by receiving higher amounts. You can then use RRSP withdrawals to fill the income gap that the CPP and OAS would have provided, so you can draw down your RRSP at a lower tax bracket.
  2. When you stop working, you normally fall into a lower tax bracket, so top up your income to your existing tax bracket with RRSP withdrawals.
  3. Start a RRIF at age 65 to take advantage of $2,000 pension income credit. No matter how much income you have. This pension credit will allow you to withdraw $2,000 tax free from your RRIF, if you do not have any other pension income. So, fund the RRIF with your RRSP money to take $2,000 out tax-free each year.
  4. If your spouse’s RRSP value does not equal yours, you can start to equalize the amounts by withdrawing from yours to put into a spousal RRSP, if you have contribution room. The tax on your withdrawal is eliminated by your equivalent contribution into the spousal RRSP.

The Bottom Line

Always take to a financial advisor before starting RRIF payments. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to planning for retirement income. Everyone must consider their own financial situation when deciding how and when to start taking an income from your RRSP. Some things to talk to your advisor about: a) the amount of your minimum RRIF withdrawals at 71 b) how secondary income (rental income, side business etc.) will affect your tax bracket c) the best time for you to start OAS and CPP. It is important to ensure all your income sources are working as tax efficiently as possible so that you can get the most out of your hard-earned retirement savings!

Book an Appointment with us to discuss your RRSP – click HERE

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Converting an RRSP to a RRIF

If you are nearing retirement, you may be starting to think about creating retirement income for yourself from your RRSPs. Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) are considered accumulation vehicles.  This means they are used to save for your retirement in a tax efficient way. When the time comes to start using your hard-earned savings to fund your retirement, you may want to consider moving them to a payout vehicle called a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF).

Much like an RRSP, a RRIF is a tax deferred account that allows your investments to grow without immediate tax implications. The purpose of a RRIF is to distribute your savings to you in your retirement years while still allowing your money to grow tax deferred.

What You Need to Know

When to Convert Your RRSP to a RRIF

You can convert your RRSP to a RRIF at any time, but you must do so by the end of the year that you turn 71. This conversion must be done regardless of whether you need income. Once you convert your RRSP to a RRIF you must start taking scheduled income.

If you are under 71 and do not require a steady stream of income, it is often beneficial to keep the funds in an RRSP. This way you can still take money out, if necessary, but the account can continue to grow without being drawn down on a regular basis.

How to Convert Your RRSP to a RRIF

It is important to convert your RRSP directly a RRIF to avoid unnecessary taxation. The process is simple but should be done with the guidance of a financial advisor to ensure the conversion is done correctly and in a timely manner.

Step 1: Fill Out a RRIF Application – Converting a RRSP to RRIF will require that you open a new account. Your advisor will prepare the paperwork for you.

Step 2: Name Beneficiaries – Registered accounts allow investors to name a beneficiary. Beneficiary designations allow money to be passed quickly and directly to a spouse or qualified dependent in the event of your death. Spouses and qualified dependents are eligible to receive the proceeds tax free. You can leave the money to anyone you wish; but they will be taxed on the amount received.

Step 3: Determine a Withdrawal Schedule – There are several considerations when withdrawing from your RRIF:

  • Payments from a RRIF must begin the year after your 71st birthday.
  • All payments are considered taxable income in the year they are received.
  • RRIFs are subject to minimum withdrawal requirements and a certain percentage must be withdrawn each year. The percentage that must be withdrawn increases as you age. There are no maximum withdrawal amounts.
  • You can choose to receive payments monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.
  • You can elect use your spouse’s age to calculate the minimum withdrawal. This can allow you to keep the funds in the account longer and retain their tax deferred status.
  • Any withdrawals over the minimum amount are subject to withholding tax.

The Bottom Line

It is important to pay close attention to the timing of converting your RRSP to a RRIF. If the RRIF is not established by the end of the year in which you turn 71, the account will be deregistered and all the funds in the account will become taxable income to you in that year. Plan well in advance to ensure you keep the registered status of your investments!

Book an appointment with us HERE!

The Insanity of RRSP Season

As each February concludes and RRSP contribution season ends, investors across Canada exhale and exclaim, “Never again.”  Investors go through a swirl of emotions awaiting annual bonuses and jumping through hoops to make their annual RRSP contribution. And the next year, they will do it all over again. To change this hamster-wheel of hastily called meetings, sound recommendations hobbled by hurried decisions the planning should begin long before RRSP season. There is no time like the present to change the upcoming flurry of activity associated with RRSPs.

Most importantly of all, a last-minute approach to retirement saving and investing means that you do not benefit as much as you could. Instead of enjoying the rewarding experience of saving for the future, it becomes a panicked, last-minute appointment. This is far from the measured, planned and calm approach that trusted Advisors espouse. A new routine can be created with a Pre-Authorized Credit (PAC) that makes regular contributions to your RRSP.

 What you need to know

What would be the difference to an investor between depositing $24,000 per year at the end of February versus $2,000 at the beginning of every month?  The difference becomes clear when calculated over a 20-year period. In both scenarios an investor has contributed the same amount, $600,000 (25 x $24,000 or 300 x $2,000).

But the amount at the end of the period is not the same! 

  • At 6% after 25 years the annual $24,000 approach will yield $1,316,748
  • At 6% after 25 years the monthly $2,000 approach will yield $1,385,988

A difference of nearly $70,000!

In almost every case, this is a conservative estimate. The difference is usually much larger because an investor who commits to monthly contributions and agrees to a PAC (Pre-Authorized Contributions) is much more disciplined. An annual, large payment is more susceptible to the negative effects of variations in year-end bonuses and a year of day-to-day spending. The temptation is to believe that, if skipped, payments can be caught-up later, which the effects of compound interest make it difficult to achieve.

 The Bottom Line

Setting up a monthly PAC can help you retire sooner. The only difference is how frequently you make your RRSP contributions. Nothing more, nothing less.

Contact us to discuss starting or increasing your RRSP PAC!! Click Here!

3 Essential Considerations for Women Who Are Planning for Retirement

Retirement Planning is not the same for both women and men. Women face unique hurdles and risks that do not affect their male counterparts.  These risks include outliving their money, earning less but having more financial obligation, and aversion to take risks with their money.

What You Need to Know

  1. Longevity: On average, women live five years long than men do. This can have a big impact on the amount of money women need to have saved for retirement.  Women also tend to underestimate how long they will live for. Many women live into their 90’s, but only plan to live into their 70s. It is clear that longevity is one of, if not the, biggest risk women face when it comes to their finances. Women, on average, retire with only two-thirds the money that men do. So not only are they living longer than men, they are trying to do so on less.
  2. More Caregiving, Less Income: It is no secret that the burden on family rearing falls onto women.  Women are more likely than men to take time off to care for children or elderly family members, women are more likely than men to be single parents, women see wages drop after having a child (71 cents to the dollar for men), and women spend 50% more time than men caregiving. What we can derive from this information is that women are expected to work less, work FOR less, and spend more on their families.  This dramatically effects a women’s ability to save.
  3. Risk Aversion: Women tend to be more risk adverse than men. This desire for security within their investments can hurt their returns and put them even further behind when it comes to meeting retirement goals.  The tendency for women to be more risk adverse makes sense.  They are earning less, so therefore saving less, and have more family responsibility then men. Women may feel like they do not have the money to take risks and this needs to be accounted for when creating a retirement plan.

The Bottom Line

So, what can women do to boost their retirement savings?  They must save more aggressively than men, and earlier than men. This can be easier said than done.  Working with an advisor early can help women get ahead. Setting up automatic monthly RRSP contributions, maxing out company pension plans, and having a plan in writing are all things women can do to accelerate their savings.

Click here to book an appointment with us today!

Defined Contribution Pension Plans vs Group RRSP: A Guide for Business Owners

Employers have several options available to them when it comes to setting up a retirement savings plan for their employees. Defined Contribution Pension Plans and Group RRSPs are the most accessible plans to most businesses. Here is what you need to know about each plan and how they can work for your employees.

What Is A Defined Contribution Pension Plan?

Defined Contribution Pension Plans are an employer sponsored retirement savings option available to Canadian business owners and their employees. Defined Contribution Pensions Plans are made up of a combination of employee contributions, employers’ contributions, and an optional voluntary contribution component. Defined Contribution Pension Plans are regulated by provincial pension laws, which varies from province to province.

What Is a Group RRSP? 

A Group Registered Retirement Savings Plan (Group RRSP) is an employer sponsored retirement savings plan. Group RRSP’s have many similarities to individual RRSPs with the only difference being that they are administered on a group basis. The plans are made up of employee and employer contributions, but unlike traditional pensions, the employer is not required to contribute any amount to the plan.

Similarities and Difference 

  1. Tax Deferred Savings: Both Defined Contribution Pension Plans and Group RRSPs offer tax deferred savings for employees that contribute to them.  Contributions are taken at the source before tax and contributed to the plans on the employee’s behalf. Both investment options allow employees investments to grow tax free until they retire, at which point the funds with be taxed as they are withdrawn.
  2. Contribution Limits: Both plans are subject to annual contribution limits. This amount is equal to a percentage of each employee’s income from the previous year. Both employee and employer contributions count towards this annual limit.  Both plans will also cause a pension adjustment to employees. This means their individual RRSP will be reduced based on the amount contributed to their employer sponsored plan. This keeps an equal playing field for those who do not have work pensions.
  3. Age Limits: Defined Contribution Pension Plans and Group RRSPs both require that employees stop contributing to the plan and start drawing on the funds at age 71. At this point, employees must convert the plans to an income fund that will pay them out a retirement income.  For Defined Contribution Pension Plans, this fund is called a Life Income Fund (LIF).  LIFs have minimum and maximum withdrawal requirements that plan holders must adhere to.   Group RRSPs holders have two options at age 71. Plan members can a) cash out the plan and pay all tax owing or b) convert the plan to a RRIF and start taking an income.  RRIFs have minimum withdrawal requirements that plan holders must adhere to.

Pros and Cons

Defined Contribution Pension Plans 

Pros

  • Attractive to Employees due to the employer matching component. This can greatly accelerate employee’s retirement savings
  • Funds are locked-in and therefore not accessible until the employee retires. They do not have the option to spend their retirement savings frivolously.
  • Funds grow tax free if they stay in the account
  • Employer Contributions are tax deductible
  • Typically, the investments offered in a pension plan have a much lower fee than traditional investments.
  • Simple, reduced selection of investment options available within the plan.

Cons 

  • Defined Benefit Pension Plans can come with higher administration costs and require continuous maintenance.
  • Due to the fact funds are locked in, employees have little to no flexibility in how they use the money they accumulate.
  • Employer contributions are expected. This can be a significant expense, depending on how many employees a business has.
  • Benefits at plan end are at the mercy of market fluctuations.

Group RRSP 

Pros

  • Employer contributions are not mandatory. This allows for businesses to offer their employees a retirement savings option regardless of the financial abilities of the company, with the flexibility for the company to contribute at any point if it becomes feasible.
  • Funds grow tax free if they stay in the account.
  • Group RRSPS have low start up and maintenance costs.
  • Generally, Group RRSP have a must larger investment shelf than pension plans.
  • No legislative regulation means flexibility for employees to dip into their savings if necessary ie. Home buyers’ program or Lifelong Learners Program.

Cons 

  • Employees have the option to withdraw from the plan at any time, which can severely impact their retirement savings.
  • Larger investment shelves mean more opportunity for employees to take unnecessary or unsuitable risk with their investments.
  • Employer Contributions are a taxable benefit to employees
  • Benefits to employee are not guaranteed and are subject to market fluctuations

Bottom Line

Both plans offer their advantages and disadvantages, with each having something unique to offer. Whichever you choose for your business, you can rest assured you are helping your employees work towards a financially secure retirement!

 

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.