No financial plan is immune from risk. No amount of planning is going to eliminate risk entirely. In fact, there are many common risks in a financial plan that may cause issues down the road. What we need to do is identify what types of risk a financial plan may face and find ways to reduce that risk or mitigate it where possible.
When we talk about risk we naturally assume that means investment risk. While this is one common type of risk, there are also many other common risks we need to watch out for.
Some of these risks can be reduced or sometimes even eliminated with proper planning. For each major type of risk below, we’ve highlighted a few ways to help mitigate the impact this risk may cause, but even with these tips its usually impossible to eliminate these risks entirely.
A financial plan will typically cover 30-50+ years. Over this time span there are many unknowns that may occur. A good financial plan will be flexible enough to absorb these unknowns and still be able to reach the same goals with only minor tweaks.
This flexibility is important. It’s impossible to eliminate all these risks. It’s very likely that even the best laid plans will experience some disruption along the way. Having some flexibility, and knowing where that flexibility exists, will help reduce the stress and impact if the unfortunate were to happen.
For many retirees, CPP and OAS make up a significant portion of their retirement income. A disruption to either of these income sources can be very stressful. Even more so because this disruption follows the unexpected death of a partner or spouse.
Many retirees may not realize, but OAS and CPP survivor benefits are significantly reduced, anywhere from a 40% reduction to a full 100% reduction!
For lower income households, pension benefits like CPP and OAS can provide 50%-75% of their retirement income. For very low income households, CPP and OAS, when combined with other low-income benefits like GIS, can easily make up 100% of retirement income for some couples. Losing these benefits can be a big change to their retirement plan.
Even for higher income households, who may have significant assets in either RRSPs or TFSAs, it’s not uncommon for CPP and OAS to make up 25%-30% of their retirement income.
A disruption to this income can be devastating for some retirement plans, and what many people may not realize is the extent to which some of these benefits can be reduced when a partner passes away.
Although difficult and unpleasant to even think about, the impact of a partner passing is an important consideration for many retirement plans. It’s important to understand what changes there might be to both retirement income and retirement spending if the unfortunate were to happen.
For some plans, those which have a large amount of investment assets, the risk is smaller. Investment assets inside RRSPs and TFSAs can be transferred through spousal rollovers with no tax consequences. So, the disruption to these plans may be smaller.
But for most plans, the risk and disruption of an unexpected death can be quite large, especially in certain circumstances. In the worst-case scenario, the loss of CPP and OAS combined can represent more than $20,000 per year in lost retirement income!
Financial planning is a fascinating process. When building a financial plan there are equal parts of finance (math, numbers, money etc), and personal (values, goals, risk aversion etc). This makes every financial plan unique. No two financial plans are the same. Even when two people start with the exact same income, assets, debt and expenses, the fact is their plan will differ because they have different goals and personal values.
Even though the plan may differ, there are certain parts in a financial plan that never change. There are net worth projections, income projections, cash flow planning, income and expenses etc etc.
In this post, I’m going to highlight some of my favorite parts of a financial plan. These are what I would consider to be the best parts of a financial plan, the most interesting, the best of the best. But it doesn’t represent everything. There are many great parts of a financial plan and the “best” part can differ from plan to plan.
For example, we won’t talk about government benefits below, but for many households, especially those with children under the age of 17, government benefits play a big role in their financial plan. We recently did a plan for a young family where a few small changes allowed this family to reduce their income tax and increase their government benefits by $100,000+ over the course of their plan! That would definitely be the best part of that plan!
What we will cover in this post are net worth projections, debt payoff plans, planning around different income sources, and how we understand the “success rate” of a plan.
We’re always told to make sure we have beneficiaries designated on all our accounts. We’re told to make sure that our beneficiaries are in accordance with our final wishes and we’re also told to review them regularly.
But when it comes to the TFSA there is another, more important designation, the successor holder, and in some cases we don’t want to list a beneficiary on our TFSA we want to list a successor holder instead.
There are lots of benefits to having a beneficiary (or successor holder) designated on your account. It helps expedite things after you pass. It helps your loved ones access cash and investments faster. It helps avoid probate fees. And it helps keep assets from entering the estate and getting held up in the estate process.
Having a beneficiary also helps to keeps things private. When you don’t have a beneficiary list on your account, your assets pass through your estate. Estate information is available to the public, so any assets passing through your estate are out there available for everyone to see. By naming a beneficiary on your account, the assets in that account avoid your estate and go directly to the beneficiary. They’re kept private and no one knows the details.
But when it comes to the TFSA there is another designation that you can make on your account. The difference is subtle, but like many things in personal finance the impact can be HUGE.
When it comes to the TFSA you can designate someone a beneficiary but you can also name someone a successor holder.
Here’s the difference…
Families in Canada have a very unique financial planning opportunity that isn’t available to other Canadians. This opportunity can help boost their savings and provide them with more cash flow to save in the future. With a bit of careful planning families can reduce their overall marginal effective tax rate and save more money.
First, a little background…
In Canada, there are two types of “tax rates”. The first is income tax. This one is easier to understand. As your income increases you pay more income tax. The second tax rate is actually a “benefit claw back rate” and it works the same way as tax rate, the more your income increases the less you receive in benefits. In Canada, most government benefits are “clawed back” based on household net income. This means that as you earn more income your benefits will be reduced, or “clawed back”, and the effect is the same as income tax.
Families have a unique tax and financial planning opportunity because some government benefits don’t get clawed back until family income is well into the $100,000+ range. This means there are certain tax strategies that are unique to families, even those with above average incomes.
All families with children under the age of 17 are eligible for the Canada Child Benefit (CCB). The Canada Child Benefit is one of the most generous benefits in Canada, it’s even available to high-income earners, but it also has one of the highest claw back rates too. But, with careful planning it’s possible to avoid some of these claw backs, increase your annual benefit, and as a result increase your annual savings as well.
Claw back rates on the Canada Child Benefit range from 3.2% to 23% for each extra dollar you earn. The exact claw back depends on the number of children and your household net income.
The claw back means that if you earn an extra $1,000 this year, your benefit could be reduced by $32.00 to $230.00 next year!
This is even higher for low-income families who also receive other government benefits, like the GST/HST credit or Trillium benefits in Ontario, which all have claw back rates as well.
The opportunity for families is that RRSP contributions will DECREASE their taxable net income and will INCREASE their benefits. That means that a $1,000 RRSP contribution this year will INCREASE your Canada Child Benefit by $32.00 to $230.00 next year!
This means that families in particular can strategically save using an RRSP instead of a TFSA and boost their government benefits. This is counter to most financial advice that suggests low-income Canadians should prioritize their TFSA first. While this advice might be true for many low-income Canadians, it’s not necessarily true for families.
We’re going to take a look at four examples to show you just how impactful this type of financial planning can be.
Note: These are examples only, specific to Ontario, and should not be used for financial planning purposes. Income tax and benefit rates are very dependent on family income, income split, ages of children, province of residence etc. To understand the impact for your family we recommend building a custom financial plan with an advice-only financial planner.
Note: The following is a guest post from lawyer Manda Ivezic. Manda practices in real estate, wills & estates, and small business law in London, Ontario and provides wills at a very reasonable rate of $300 for an individual and $475 for a couple.
A recent LawPRO survey estimated that 56% of adult Canadians don’t have a will. Wills were least common for 27-34 year olds, 88% didn’t have one, and 71% of respondents didn’t have a power of attorney at all.
Why do so many of us put off wills and estate planning? Common reasons to delay estate planning include:
You’re too young to anticipate your death – you see yourself living a long and full life, dying of old age far in the future. You have plenty of time ahead of you to take care of your will.
It’s overwhelming or unpleasant to think about.
You think it’s unjustifiably costly.
You don’t think you’re wealthy enough to need a will.
You don’t realize how important it is, because you don’t understand what exactly will happen in the absence of a will or power of attorney.
The problem with putting off wills and estate planning is that you can’t safely assume how the future will play out.
Delaying may mean it never gets done – an accident or illness could make you incapable of creating a will. Not preparing will and estate plan only makes a bad situation worse. The consequences of dying without a will can easily outweigh the time and lawyer’s fee.
As well, a lawyer’s input can result in substantial cost savings down the line compared to the upfront cost, maximizing what is left to your beneficiaries. A will also saves time and trouble down the road. At the very least, appointing an executor will prevent someone having to apply to court to be appointed as your estate’ executor – an avoidable burden at the worst time for your family.
Get this task out of the way and give yourself peace of mind. Here’s what you need to know when creating a will and estate plan…