Starting a family is probably one of the most complex periods in a person’s financial life. There are changes to income, expenses, insurance, investments (RESPs) etc.
Anticipating and managing all these changes can be overwhelming. It’s good to have a framework to help understand what changes you can expect and how large they may be.
It’s also a good idea to prepare yourself financially for all these big changes. There are a few things you can do to prepare your finances for a decrease in income and an increase in expenses.
Generally you can separate the financial changes when starting a family into six different areas.
There are changes to…
– One-time expenses
– On-going expenses
– Taxes and Gov. Benefits
In each of these areas there are different financial impacts that come with starting a family. Some of these impacts are positive and some are negative.
For example when it comes to Income, most new parents can expect to receive the Canada Child Benefit, one of the most generous benefits in Canada. This government benefit could add thousands to a new parents annual income (plus its non-taxable!) But at the same time a new parent may take 12-18 months off work which has a very negative impact on Income.
There are also many new expenses a new parent will face. There are one-time expenses, on-going expenses and then short lived but high cost expenses like daycare.
To help a new parent plan all these changes we need to look at each area separately to understand what changes we might expect.
Congratulations! You’re starting a family or have already started a family and through all the craziness of raising children you’re also thinking about setting up an RESP. That’s fantastic!
As a new parent you now get access to a special tax advantaged account called the RESP and it comes with some special features that all parents should take advantage of.
As the name implies, the Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) is meant to help parents (or relatives) save for a child’s post-secondary education.
There are a few benefits to the RESP that make it attractive to parents. One is that investments inside the RESP are able to grow tax free. The second is that contributions receive a matching grant of up to 20% or $500 per year, whichever is lower. Plus there are even extra grants and learning bonds available for lower income families.
But with all the attractive features of an RESP there are also some restrictions. These restrictions can sometimes be worrisome for parents and cause them to avoid setting up an RESP for their children. In this post we’ll explain what an RESP is, what you’ll need to set one up, some of the terminology you’ll encounter, and finally how to withdraw from your RESP in the future.
One of the hardest things about RESPs is choosing the right investment and managing the allocation between stocks and bonds. There are so many RESP investment options and it becomes especially challenging when families have more than one child. When families have a few children, who are perhaps a few years apart in age, it becomes very challenging to set the right asset allocation for the investments inside the family RESP.
Why is it important to set the right asset allocation?
Asset allocation is a large driver of risk. The more equity assets in a portfolio, and the less fixed income assets, the more risk. There is always risk when investing, whether that be in stocks or bonds, but stocks have always had a “risk premium”. That means they have a higher risk but also a higher return.
When managing asset allocation in an RESP we need to be very careful because were typically investing over a few different time horizons.
A 16-year old high school student is going to have a very different asset allocation in their RESP than a 4-year old pre-schooler. We want to make sure the 16-year old has money for post-secondary in two years and isn’t going to lose half of their education fund during a downturn. On the other hand, our pre-schooler has loads of time, so we can take on a bit more risk and hopefully grow their education savings over the next 14+ years.
It’s these different investment horizons that make investing inside an RESP especially challenging (even more so for self-directed RESPs where the individual investor is making all the decisions).
Typical investment horizons for RESPs include…
When you first have children, there is a lot going on. Sleep deprivation, diapers, crying, screaming, feeding, more diapers, cribs, car seats, more crying. It’s overwhelming. So it’s entirely understandable that making RESP contributions for your child is the last thing on your mind.
Even for someone like me, who’s a bit of a personal finance geek, opening an RESP and making contributions was the least of my concerns. For at least 12 months I put off opening an RESP.
Putting off opening an RESP for a little while is ok. But put it off too long and you may miss some free money from the government.
Here’s what you need to know about opening an RESP, making RESP contributions and catching up on the free money from the government.