What is the best way to save money for a house? This is an interesting question and the old advice might require a new perspective given the reality of the current housing market. Home prices have changed dramatically over the last few years and this is impacting how people are making decisions around home ownership.
Over the last few years we’ve seen the average home price increase faster than our ability to save for a down payment. This can make it difficult to save money for a house and this can push home ownership to later stages in life.
This trend in home ownership has been happening for decades, with home ownership shifting later and later. This may be due to a number of factors but there is a definite trend towards purchasing a home later in life.
In 1981 approximately 55.5% of those who were over age 30 lived in their own home.
In 2016 approximately 50.2% of those who were over age 30 lived in their own home.
With the continued increase in home prices since 2016 it’s reasonable to assume that home ownership will continue to shift into the 30+ age group.
So if purchasing a home is happening later in life, does that change the way we save money for a house? Does that change the way we build up our down payment?
Conventional financial advice would suggest that any savings required in the next 1-5 years should be kept in something safe, like a GIC or a high-interest savings account. Historically this meant that savings for a down payment would go into one of these safe investment vehicles.
But what if someone is starting their career in their early 20’s and isn’t planning to purchase a home until their early 30’s, late-30’s or maybe even their 40’s? Should they still be saving for a down payment in a safe investment like a GIC?
Maybe, or maybe not. In this post we’ll explore a different way to save money for a house. A way that is perhaps more reflective of purchasing a home later in life.
Income splitting is often talked about in reference to high-income earners, but what about the average Canadian family? For high-income earners there are income splitting strategies like spousal loans or “income sprinkling”. Spousal loans are for families with lots of non-registered savings and a large difference in marginal tax rates between spouses. “Income sprinkling” can be used by families who own a corporation (although with the new TOSI rules has changed dramatically).
But what about your average Canadian household? Are there are income splitting options for them?
One very accessible type of income splitting is a spousal RRSP. Unlike other income splitting strategies this one is very easy to set up, it doesn’t require a lawyer, and it’s easy to understand.
The big benefit of a spousal RRSP is that the average family can use it to “equalize” their registered assets before retirement. This allows for a more equal distribution of income in retirement and a lower overall tax bill for a household.
In addition to lower income tax it also opens up more opportunities to maximize government benefits in retirement.
But you might be wondering, isn’t it possible to split income after age 65 anyway?
While its true that after age 65 income splitting is much easier to do, it’s still a best practice to try to equalize registered assets before age 65. This allows for the maximum flexibility when creating a retirement drawdown strategy, especially when retiring early.
Equalizing registered assets can be extremely beneficial, especially before the age of 65 when there are fewer income splitting opportunities, for this reason we sometimes want to look at using a spousal RRSP to help split income in the future.
Having an emergency budget is not a new concept, it’s something we’ve written about before, but for retirees it’s particularly important.
An emergency budget is a slightly reduced budget that can be executed in times of uncertainty.
For retirees, “uncertainty” is at its highest during a recession, when investment assets have drastically reduced in price. But “uncertainty” could also be high during a long periods of below average investment returns, stagnate economic growth, or high inflation rates.
Emergency budgets are important for retirees that rely on investment assets to fund part of their retirement spending.
Often, retirement projections are done using an average rate of return. This provides a nice pretty graph but doesn’t accurately represent the range of investment returns retirees may experience in retirement.
Variable investment returns are one of the largest risks a retiree will face. A period of low or negative investment returns early in retirement can be devastating to a retirement plan. This is known as sequence of returns risk. The sequence in which a retiree experiences investment returns can have a big impact on their retirement plan. A series of low or negative investment returns early in retirement can have a very negative effect.
One important way to counteract the effect of sequence of returns risk is to reduce the draw on investment assets during periods when stock market returns are low and/or negative for a period of time.
Reducing the draw on investments, even by a small amount, helps increase the success rate of a retirement plan.
There are a few important factors when creating an emergency budget.
When it comes to retirement planning, one of the biggest fears is often the risk of running out of money. It can be worrisome to think about what could happen if you’re unable to support your expenses in the future.
Sometimes these fears can lead to people choosing a more conservative risk profile, or holding a lot of cash, but taking these defensive measures can often increase the risk of running out of money in the future.
A more conservative asset allocation decreases market risk, the risk we take on when we invest in the stock market. But a conservative asset allocation actually increases other types of risk, like the risk of running out of money, or the risk of being impacted by high inflation rates.
A more conservative asset allocation can actually increase risk in retirement, especially for longer retirement periods. Your typical 30-40 something couple has a very good chance of either one making it to age 100+ in the future. There is a 25% chance that one of them will make it to age 98 and a 10% chance that one of them will make it to age 101!
Without making other changes, like a lower withdrawal rate, more flexibility with spending, part-time income etc, being more conservative can actually lead to a much higher probability of running out of money before age 100.
Let’s explore why this is the case and what you need to consider when creating your retirement plan…
Low-income retirement planning requires a very different set of tools than your average retirement plan and this can sometimes lead to trouble when a soon-to-be low-income retiree gets advice that has been tailored for someone with a much higher income.
What we need to consider for a low-income retiree is very different than for your average retiree and the recommendations in a low-income retirement plan can sometimes be the opposite of a regular retirement plan.
The drawdown of investment assets, the timing of CPP and the timing of OAS are among many factors that differ in a low-income retirement plan.
When it comes to low-income retirement planning we’re primarily concerned with one thing, government benefits. We want to ensure that the way we save pre-retirement and the way we create income after retirement does not impact the amount of government benefits received.
This can be very tricky and can often lead to some less than obvious recommendations.
Before we get into some ideas to consider around low-income retirement planning lets look at why government benefits are the main consideration.
Are most people taking CPP early or late? Delaying CPP can have many advantages (and a few downsides). Delaying CPP to age 70 can see monthly CPP benefits increase by over 220% vs benefits taken at age 60.
Delaying CPP provides a lifelong inflation adjusted pension, and for those with no defined benefit pension this can be very appealing.
But as it turns out, very few people choose to delay CPP to age 70.
So, if delaying CPP has so much appeal, why aren’t more people choosing to delay?
In the analysis below we’ll see that the vast majority of people are taking CPP at or before the age of 65. Using these statistics for CPP starting age we’ll see that very few people choose to delay CPP past age 65 and only a very small percentage choose to delay all the way until age 70.
If delaying CPP to age 70 has so many advantages, why are most people choosing to take CPP early?