Category Archives for "Retirement"

How to Prepare for your Taxes in 2021

By Randall Orser | Covid-19 , Investments , Personal Finances , Personal Income Tax , Retirement

For Canadians preparation for our 2020 tax return is going to look a little different this year.  Many of us take a closer look at our financial situations at the beginning of a new year with a view to reducing our tax bill and boosting our tax refund.  However this new year the two biggest changes we have to take into account are any emergency benefits and relief measures we may have received due to the pandemic and the amount that we can claim if we worked from home in 2020 due to Covid. 

Covid-19 Benefits

The CERB benefits you received are taxable - when you first received these benefits the government did not withhold the tax at source so you will have to include 100% of this money in your income for the year and you will have to pay tax on it.  The government will send you a T4A tax reporting slip for 2020 showing the amount that you will have to report.

The amount of tax that you will have to pay will depend on your total income for the year.  For example if your work income was $27,000 and you received $8000 in CERB benefits your taxable income for the year will be $35,000 and both your earnings and the CERB amount will be taxed the same way.  If your income is less than $12,000 for the year you will not have to pay any tax on your income. 

If you received the Canada Recovery Benefit, Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit or Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit that became available in September the government withheld 10% in taxes at source.  However this may be insufficient to cover your tax due for 2020.  In addition if your additional income for 2020 is more than $38,000 then you may have to pay back the CRB at a rate of $0.50 for each dollar you received, so you should set aside some funds to cover the tax you may owe.  

If you received Covid-19 benefits that you were not entitled to, you were asked to return the funds by the end of 2020.  You were not obligated to do so but it would have been the best scenario for most people.  If you did not pay the money back then the amount will show up on your T4A for 2020 and you may have to pay taxes on it.  Any repayments will be shown on a T4A slip for 2021 which will allow you to claim a deduction on your 2021 income and benefit return.  This process is based on general rules in the Income Tax Act that apply to repayment of taxable income.  

The Simplified Home Office Deduction

2.4 million Canadians worked from home because of Covid-19 this year and may be able to claim some home office costs on their 2020 tax return without providing receipts or asking employers to fill out a T2200 form.  If you have been working from home for more than 50% of the time over at least four consecutive weeks in 2020 due to Covid-19 you will be able to claim a deduction of $2 for every day up to a maximum of $400.  The CRA calls this a temporary flat rate method of calculating the home office deduction.

For those who have more significant home expenses you will need to use the more detailed method to calculate the home office break.  You need to gather together all your home expenses including utilities, internet, heating, hydro etc to decide which method you want to use to claim your home office expenses.  For more help use the CRA's new online calculator.  

From an article by Erica Alini

When Should you Start Contributing to an RRSP?

By Randall Orser | Investments , Personal Finances , Retirement

The annual deadline for contributing to your RRSP is coming up soon, this year the deadline falls on March 1st.  This is the time of year when many Canadians consider if they should start to contribute to an RRSP, or if they already contribute, should they add to their plan, how much and when.

When you contribute to your RRSP that amount is deductible from your total income for that year which means that you can reduce your taxes due.  In addition income earned in your RRSP such as interest, dividends and capital gains grows tax free until it is withdrawn.  So if you contribute to an RRSP early in life when you retire you will benefit from the compound growth accumulated over time.  Funds in your RRSP can also be used to buy a home through the Home Buyers Plan, or to further your education using the Lifelong Learning Plan.

If you are wondering whether to contribute to your RRSP or your Tax Free Savings Account experts say that if you are in a higher income bracket should pick a RRSP over a TFSA so you can take advantage of the tax deduction today and withdraw retirement funds at a lower interest rate in the future.  If you are in a lower income bracket and you are unsure if can keep the money invested long term it is probably better to contribute to your TFSA.  

If you are wondering when you should contribute to your RRSP experts recommend contributing small amounts regularly throughout the year instead of a lump sum at the deadline, it can sit in a savings account until you are ready to invest it.  Once you do invest it leave it there to grow tax free, it is out of sight and out of mind.  As long as you do not go over your contribution room allowed (as shown on your Notice of Assessment) you can put money in and claim the deduction that year or in a future year, this is a good strategy for people who are currently have a lower income but expect it to rise in a future year.  

If you are married or common-law you can also consider contributing to a spousal RRSP.  In this instance the higher earning spouse will contribute to the spousal RRSP and will receive the tax break which will reduce the overall taxes the couple has to pay.

If you are unsure about the best way to save for your retirement it is a good idea to consult a financial advisor.

From an article by Brenda Bouw

Personal Finance Resolutions for 2021

By Randall Orser | Budget , Happy New Year , Investments , Personal Finances , Personal Income Tax , Retirement

As 2020 disappears into our rear view mirror and 2021 is upon us once again it is time to think about  our financial New Year's Resolutions.  As always it is best not to be too ambitious with your financial plans for the new year or you might be unable to stick to them.  Instead take a realistic look at your current financial situation and focus on quick and easy ways to manage personal finance tasks that will help you this year and in the future.  Here are some things to consider:

Top up your Emergency Fund - Financial experts recommend setting money aside for emergencies but even so most of us do not have an emergency fund.  Many people will have dipped into their emergency fund during 2020 so now is a good time to start rebuilding it if you are able to.  You should aim to have enough to cover your expenses for 3 to 6 months should you lose your job, enough to cover unexpected vehicle repairs, house repairs or medical expenses.

Contribute to your RRSP - This is a good time to open a RRSP if you don't yet have one.  If you regularly contribute perhaps you can increase your contribution in 2021 if you have enough room without over contributing.  

Sign up for Automatic Bill Payments - This will help you to not miss payments on your bills.  Include a minimum payment on your credit card which will avoid late payment fees.  Consider an automatic payment to your savings account from each pay check, what you don't have you don't miss!  It is usually easy to set up automatic payments on your bank's website.

Switch from a Bank that Charges Monthly fees to one with no Monthly Fees - There are many banks and credit unions out there that do not charge monthly fees for regular personal banking transactions.  Switching your account could save you at least $100 a year and maybe more.  If you don't want to change banks ask if your current one will waive your monthly fees.

Make Calls and Lower your Payments - It could be worth spending time calling your service providers especially for internet and cable to see if there is a way to reduce your monthly rates.   You should also look into the interest rates that you are paying on your credit cards and think about changing to a card with lower fees or cash back.  As most of us are not travelling at present it might be a good idea to get rid of your travel points credit card with it's high fees and change it to a regular card with a lower rate.  You could also try and negotiate a lower rate with your credit card company.

Update your Beneficiaries - Have you reviewed your will lately? This is a good time to make updates to your beneficiaries or any other information as your circumstances may have changed.

Check your Credit Report - Make sure that your credit report does not contain any errors or charges relating to identity theft as your credit score will affect your ability to get loans or lower rates on your credit cards.

Change your Passwords - It's a new year and time to change those passwords especially for your bank account and credit cards.  You should be doing this every three months but at least once a year will help to avoid identity theft.

Do a Subscription Audit - Take a look at your monthly subscriptions for streaming tv services, apps, news providers etc.  How many of these do you actually use?  If you have not used it for a while and don't intend to use it in the foreseeable future then deactivate it.  You can always reactivate it later if you need to.

Tweak your Budget - Though setting a budget can be intimidating it will help you to keep track of your spending.  If you are working from home and not spending money on Starbucks and lunches perhaps you could put that money into your savings account?

From an article by Mike Winters

Need Money? Should you Withdraw from your RRSP?

By Randall Orser | Budget , Personal Finances , Personal Income Tax , Retirement

Most of us do not think about withdrawing from our RRSP until we retire, but in some instances it might make sense to cash in a portion of your savings early to help finance your studies, buy a home or help you get through financial difficulties during the present pandemic.  Here are some examples of times you might want to access your RRSP funds.

  • If you want to become a homeowner but you are finding it difficult to save up enough for a down payment, through the Home Buyers' Plan (HBP) you may be able to get the financial boost that you need.  Under this plan you can withdraw up to $35,000 from your RRSP to buy or build a home provided that you are a first time buyer (defined as not having owned a home in the four year period preceding a home purchase).  The amount that you take out is repayable over 15 years.  Repayments are made as a RRSP contribution designated as a repayment on your tax return.  If you don't make a repayment the amount required will be included as income on your tax return.  Contributions must be in the RRSP for 90 days before they can be withdrawn under the HBP.
  • If you want to further your education by learning new skills or training for a new career you can enrol in the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) that allows you to withdraw funds from your RRSP to fund your tuition and help with other costs.  The plan allows you to withdraw up to $10,000 in a calendar year up to a total of $20,000.  The funds have to be repaid over a period of ten years avoid it being included as income.  
  • If you have income volatility an early withdrawal might make sense. Only the HBP and the LLP allow you to withdraw funds from your RRSP tax free if you have no other income in the withdrawal year your tax rate may be low.  Alternatively you could move the money from to a TFSA without paying much tax.  In both your RRSP and TFSA you need to make sure when you are making withdrawals and paying back that you do not go over your contribution limit in a year.    
  • If you expect to have a clawback on your OAS and you decide to retire at 60.  In that instance your income will probably drop until you reach age 65 when you will start to receive your company pension, CPP, OAS and money from your RRSP.  As your total income at age 65 may exceed the OAS clawback limit ($79,054 in 2020) your OAS will be subject to a clawback and 15% tax.  It would make sense to withdraw money from your RRSP over these five years probably saving you a lot of tax.  If you don't need the money it might make sense to use your RRSP for income until you reach age 70 as each year you defer claiming your government benefits means that they will increase.

However you decide to use your RRSP you need to do it with caution bearing in mind that the intent of a RRSP is to contribute regularly to a fund and let the money grow over the years until you retire.  Don't forget that any withdrawals are taxable.

From an article by Margaret Craig-Bourdin

Think Carefully Before Lending Money to Relatives or Friends

By Randall Orser | Budget , Personal Finances , Retirement

In this time of Covid-19 it is important to consider all the implications of loaning money to friends or relatives. The pandemic has resulted in many Canadians having financial problems due to losing their job and they inevitably turn to friends and relatives to help them out.  Before you make the decision to loan them money you need to consider the following:

  •  It is important to put yourself first, especially now,  you need to ask yourself if you can really afford to lend money.  Everyone wants to help their friends and family but extending a loan should not cause you to be in financial straits.  It would be better for the loved one to consider applying for the various government programs available especially those for small businesses. You need to keep all the cash that you need and be prepared for the worst case scenario in your own circumstances.   You should not sacrifice your retirement plans to help your kids out even though you want to and you need to be realistic about the risk of not getting your money back.
  • Be prepared to never see your money again, the loan that you make may become a gift as even with their best intentions their circumstances may mean that they are unable to pay you back.  You could ask for collateral against the loan, but that depends on how far you are prepared to go to collect and also protect your relationship with that person. A parent who lends money to a child should also consider other family members and and view the loan not as a debt but as an advance on their inheritance.
  • Ask why they need the money, if you are advancing a loan then you should know why the money is needed so ask questions.  If you are loaning someone money to help maintain a lifestyle that they cannot really maybe it would be better to ask questions to understand their circumstances and advise them as to how they can reduce their spending.  You may be able to help in other ways rather than loaning money such as buying groceries.  
  • Set the terms, establish terms for the loan, specify the amount, the date the loan should be repaid or a repayment schedule and whether or not you will be charging interest. To secure the loan you could register an asset such as a debt free vehicle or the borrower could name you as an irrevocable beneficiary in a life insurance policy.  This makes it possible to protect the loan amount up front from other creditors for example in the event of bankruptcy.
  • Think twice about guaranteeing a loan, as this can be risky, you may end up on hook for not only the debt but the accrued interest.  A lender may not feel that they are involved in the loan if they do not provide the funds but in fact they are taking on a new debt obligation if the borrower defaults.  Be aware that your children may have their eyes on your assets and what they may inherit and may use emotional blackmail to get the money they want.  It can be difficult to say no to them if you have loaned them money before.  Even if you do help out especially to keep a business afloat, it may be a short term solution and the business may not improve its financial situation under the current circumstances and closing down may be inevitable.

If you seriously considering extending a loan to a friend or relative, it might be prudent to get some guidance from a professional beforehand.

From an article by Mathieu de Lajartre

Over-contributed to your TFSA or RRSP? Here’s what you should do.

By Randall Orser | Investments , Personal Finances , Personal Income Tax , Retirement

It can be an easy mistake to over contribute to your TFSA or RRSP especially if you have an amount automatically contributed each month. If you find that has happened to you there are some basics that you should know to remedy this situation.

RRSP Contributions

The penalty for RRSP over contributions is 1% per month for each month that you are over the limit.  The CRA  does allow you a $2000 grace amount for over contributions but that amount is not tax deductible.  The best way for you to correct an overpayment is to withdraw the amount, though it will be subject to taxes.  You will be able to claim an offsetting deduction if you meet certain conditions (link to CRA Website).  The main condition is that you make sure the the over contribution is withdrawn in the year that it was made, the year in which you receive an assessment for the year of contribution, or in the year following each of these years.

If you meet the conditions for offsetting deduction you can have withholding tax waived on the withdrawal by filing form T3012A.  If you don't do this then the tax withheld at source can be claimed as tax paid on your tax return.  It is very important to keep track of your RRSP contributions and make sure that you withdraw any over contribution so as to penalties that may arise.

TFSA Contributions

Over contributions to TFSA's happens often especially when people have multiple accounts in different banks and they lose track of those accounts over time.  As the limits allowable have varied depending on the year it can become really confusing to contributors.  Two common mistakes are:

  • Replacing a TFSA withdrawal in the same year - if your contribution limit has already been reached you have to wait to replace a withdrawal until January in the next calendar year.  This often happens when the TFSA account is used in the same way as a savings account with repeated withdrawals and contributions which can create an over-contribution as withdrawals do not lower the contribution limit.
  • When a TFSA balance is transferred to another institution, if this is not done as a direct transfer it will be counted as a second contribution and the withdrawal amount will not be added to your  TFSA room until the following year.

TFSA over contributions are 1% per month over the term of the over-contribution until the year end based on the highest excess amount for the month.  There is no $2000 grace amount as with a RRSP and penalties for over contribution must be paid by June 30th.

For more information on TFSA contributions see the CRA's TFSA Guide (RC4466) which also provides you with a RC343 worksheet  for you to keep track of your contributions and withdrawals.  It is also important to review your notice of assessment that you receive from the CRA which states how much contribution room that you have in your TFSA and RRSP for the current year.  It is a good idea to compare the CRA amounts with your own records.   In addition you can get a copy of your contribution history from the CRA's My Account service.

From an article by Denise Deveau

Planning for the Future of Your Business

By Randall Orser | Business , Retirement , Small Business

In 2011 the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses conducted a poll that revealed that only 10% of small business owners had a succession plan.  As a small business owner you need to plan for your company's future change of ownership.  A careful exit strategy will help you to maintain the value of your company and your legacy and will ensure a smooth transition to a new owner.

A good succession plan will maintain positive relationships with employees and business partners that will help to bring a good sale price.  It will provide financial security for your heirs and other stakeholders as a plan is in place to deal with unexpected events such as death or illness.

Changes in ownership can be stressful for employees, suppliers and customers so your succession strategy needs to include communication plans to make sure that everyone is kept informed during the changeover thereby ensuring that the business continues to run smoothly.

If you expect to be leaving your business within the next five years you need to start planning right away.  Even if your business is fairly new you need to have a plan in place should the unexpected happen.  

Susan Ward a Canadian business writer says that 70% of businesses do not survive the transition from the founder to the second generation due to poor or no planning, and she offers the following tips for succession planning:

  1. Start business succession planning early, five years in advance is good, ten years is better. Think about including a business exit strategy right into your initial business plan.
  2. Make sure that you involve your family in all business succession planning discussions.  This will help to ensure that everyone is aware of your plans.  It is important to pay attention to the personal feelings, ambitions and goals of all members of the family who might be directly involved with the succession.
  3. Plan realistically, if your children do not have the skills or have no interest in taking over the company from you then consider a different family member who might be more capable.  If there is no one in the family to take over the business then you should consider selling it.  Whatever you decide it should be in the best interests of the business that you have worked hard to make successful.  
  4. Don't plan for everyone to have an equal share in the business.  It is fairer for those who have an active part in running the business to have a larger share of the ownership of the business than non active family members.  You could also transfer complete ownership to your chosen successor and make other financial arrangements for other members of the family.
  5. Make sure that you work with and train your successor for a few years so that they are ready and able to take over the reins should the need arise.  It can be difficult to teach someone your business skills and share decision making but it will be in the best interests of the business. 
  6. Make sure that you get outside help with your succession planning from your lawyer, accountant and financial planner.  They will help you to put together a good plan as well as plan asset transfer tax strategies to minimize taxes due upon your death. 

​From an article by Susan Ward and Freedom 55 Financial

Covid-19 Now is the Time to get Serious About Your Financial Wellness

By Randall Orser | Budget , Personal Finances , Personal Income Tax , Retirement

A survey done for the MNP Consumer Debt Index when the Covid-19 pandemic started showed that 49% of Canadians asked were $200 or less away from being able to settle their bills and 25% of these people said they were already behind on their payments. In this uncertain economic environment are many are unable to realize their life goals and some even face bankruptcy.  

Lack of financial security is a big cause of stress, lack of sleep and tension in relationships as people and couples are unsure about what their future will look like.  In fact 41% of Canadians say that money concerns are the biggest cause of stress in their life  The fear of the financial impact of the pandemic is a greater contributor to mental health than getting sick or losing a loved one.

This information begs the question "Why are people finding themselves in this financial predicament? There are a number of answers to this question including costs rising faster than wages which has caused many to incur debt, but the big reason has to be ignoring the necessity of financial planning.  Financial planning includes saving for the future, retirement and making informed financial decisions and living within one's means and building a emergency fund. The pandemic brings to the forefront this long avoided issue, it is time to become responsible for your financial health. 

Many use the lack of financial knowledge as a reason for not planning. This is no excuse for avoiding the issue as financial literacy can be gained from books, seminars, blogs, websites and from working with a financial planner, there is lots of help out there.  Here are some tips that may help your immediate financial situation:

  • Make a new financial plan, your income may have been reduced and you need to revise your budget and priorities accordingly.  If you are not able to pay your bills, you should not be contributing to your child's college fund making contributions to your RRSP.   
  • Don't worry about paying down debts quickly, make minimum payments and put the rest into an emergency fund.  Your emergency fund should be enough to cover three to six months of  expenses should your income be severely reduced.
  • Take advantage of the help that your bank may be offering such as reduced interest rates on credit cards, deferred mortgage payments and low interest loans or lines of credit to pay off higher interest debts.
  • Instead of making plans for the next 10 or 20 years make your financial plans cover a shorter period of time. 

Making the decision to start taking control of your finances or making your financial goals more realistic will help you to deal with the stress that the pandemic is causing.

See our previous articles for more information:

​Financial Skills you Should Have Learned in High School

Reasons why you Should Budget your Money

Ever Wondered how the Government Spends Your Tax Dollars?

By Randall Orser | Business Income Taxes , Personal Income Tax , Retirement , Sales Taxes

Most of us hate paying our taxes and believe that we are paying too much.  Unfortunately, all of us have to chip in so that the federal government can provide the essential public services that we need in our daily lives. 

Torstar Community Brands took a by-the-numbers look at how the federal government spent our tax dollars between 2012 and 2018.  As with most of us it has been a challenge for the government to make ends meet, and an analysis of six years’ worth of financial statements shows that they have spent considerably more than they have taken in.  The gap has widened by $1.2 billion in the last fiscal year.  So, where did our money go?

In the fiscal year 2017-2018 government spending was as follows: 

29.84% went to National defence, crown corporations and other direct programs – including more than 100 departments and Crown corporations.  The government departments included Citizenship and Immigration, Indigenous Services and Infrastructure Canada and cost billions to operate.   

15.30% went to transfers supporting health and other social programs 

15.23% went to benefits for the elderly.  Transfers to elder benefits have been increasing over the years as these benefits programs were originally designed on a presumption of lifespan that is outdated as people are living a lot longer now.  By 2030 one in four Canadians will be a senior compared to one in seven in 2012.  However, the government still benefits from seniors as they pay income tax on their RRSP withdrawals.

14.17% went to other transfer payments 

7.05% went to benefits for children 

6.58% went to public debt charges 

5.93% went to employment insurance

5.91% went to fiscal arrangements and other transfers

Where does this money come from?

In the fiscal year 2017 -2018 sources of income for the government were as follows: 

48.98% came from Personal income taxes 

15.4% came from Corporate income taxes 

11.72% came from Goods and Services Tax

9.37% came from other revenue

6.74% came from EI revenue

2.5% came from non-resident Income tax

1.89% came from other excise taxes and duties 

1.83% came from energy taxes

1.73% came from import customs duties

Canadians are taxed from 15% for those who earn $47,630 or less up to the highest rate of 33% for those earning $210,371 and over.  Although we all like to complain that we pay too much tax compared to other countries, it is worth considering the benefits that we receive from the government that many other countries do not provide to their citizens. 

From an article by Sheila Wang in YorkRegion.com 

Personal Finance New Year’s Resolutions

By Randall Orser | Budget , Investments , Personal Finances , Personal Income Tax , Retirement

The start of a new year is the perfect time to take stock of your financial situation and see how you can make changes to improve it.   You need to make firm resolutions to help you get closer to your financial goals whether it be saving for retirement, a down payment for a house or starting a business.  Here are some considerations that you might want to add to your resolutions list. 

RESOLVE TO DO BETTER IN 2020 – Identify the financial mistakes that you made in 2019 and how you could have avoided them so that you are armed with that knowledge to help you avoid making the same mistakes in 2020.

Prioritize Your Debts – Make a list of all your debts and organize them according to the annual interest rate.  Plan to pay off those with the highest interest rate first, these will probably be your credit cards.  It makes no sense to save money in an account with a low interest rate when you are paying high rates of interest on your credit cards. You might want to also think about selling any assets that you might have such as matured savings bonds and using the money to pay off high interest debts. 

Open a Registered Retirement Savings Plan – It’s never too late to start saving for retirement.  Meet with a financial planner and let them advise you about the right plan for you.  Even if you only contribute $50 a month it soon starts to add up and any contributions will help to lower to your income tax bill. 

Rebalance Your Investment Portfolio -  Meet with your financial advisor to ensure that your investments are still working for you, and that once attractive investments are still that way or no longer appropriate.  If your financial goals have changed then you may need to rebalance your investment portfolio.  

Set up an Automated Savings Plan – If your willpower to save money is not too great then consider setting up an automated savings plan with your bank.  “Paying Yourself First” is one of the most effective ways to save money.  With an ASP a specific amount of money will automatically be transferred to your savings account at regular intervals before you have the chance to get your hands on it.  With regular deposits like this earning compound interest your savings will grow faster.

Collect Your Change – You may think that this is not a great way to save money, but you could be surprised!  Whenever you pay with cash save the change or take the money that you get back from recycling bottles and cans at the store and put it into a jar. At the end of the year take the change you have accumulated and use it to pay down debt.  

Commit to No Spend Days – Plan on taking regular no spend days or weekends, eat at home, find free entertainment and skip shopping.  This is probably best done during cold and rainy weather that makes you want to stay indoors.  Maintain the habit throughout the year to get the best financial benefit.

Get Healthy Without Joining a Gym – Save money on expensive gym memberships by doing free exercise videos on-line, working out at the park or taking winter hikes.  There are a number of free apps such as Fitbit Coach and Nike Training Club that you can use to do workouts at home.

Cut Back on Your Bad Money Habits – these usually include eating out too much and buying too many clothes. Identify what makes you want to indulge in your bad habits and try a different activity to replace it.  If you eat out too much try prepping your meals for the week on Sunday and ask friends and family to help you. 

Start Using Personal Finance Software -  This will enable you to keep track of where your money goes.  If you don’t know how much you spend on coffee, haircuts, movie tickets or eating out how can you start to cut your spending?

Read a Financial Book Regularly -  Some books recommended for Canadians are:

Personal Finance for Canadians for Dummies (2018) Eric Tyson

Millionaire Teacher (2nd ed 2017) by Andrew Hallam

Wealthing Like Rabbits by Robert R Brown

Worry Free Money (2017) by Shannon Lee Simmons

Happy Go Money (2019) by Melissa Leong

The Value of Simple (2018) – John A Robertson

The Latte Factor (2019) David Bach

Retirement Income for Life (2018) Frederick Vettes

1 2 3