When and Why You Should Conduct an Insurance Audit

As our lives grow and change with variable circumstances, new additions, and job transitions, our needs for insurance will also evolve. Additionally, economic fluctuations and external circumstances that influence your insurance policy will need frequent re-evaluation to ensure that you are making the most appropriate and financially favorable decisions. Perhaps you aren’t sure whether you should conduct an insurance audit or not. The following scenarios are usually a good indication that you should thoroughly assess and review your current policy contract: 

  • Bringing new life into your family? A new baby may not only prompt you to adjust your beneficiary information, but it is likely to change or influence your coverage needs.

  • Changing jobs? Probationary periods may not provide the same level of disability or accident insurance.

  • Is your policy nearing the end of its term? Be sure to compare prices for new policies as they can sometimes be more affordable as compared to renewing the current plan.

  • Has your marital status changed? Your insurance policy will likely need updating to reflect such.

The specific type of insurance policy you carry as well as personal details certainly influence coverage and premium prices, so if any of the following factors apply to you, be sure to update your policy accordingly. You might be eligible for a rate reduction. 

  • Changes to your overall risk assessment like smoking cessation, dangerous hobbies, high risk profession etc.

  • If you have experienced improvements to a previously diagnosed health condition.

  • Do your policy’s investment options still fall in line with current market conditions?

  • Have you used your insurance policy as collateral for a loan? Once that loan is paid off, collateral status should be taken off the policy.

Insurance policies generated for business purposes should also be regularly reviewed to make sure the policy still offers adequate coverage to meet the needs of the company and includes the appropriate beneficiary information. With life happening so quickly, it can be easy to forget about keeping insurance policies up to date, however, major changes can have a profound impact on coverage and premiums. Be sure to conduct insurance audits often to ensure your policies are still meeting your needs. 

Contact us to see how we can help. 

Real Estate or Investments?

One of the age-old financial quandaries asked of financial advisors is “shall I invest in property or funds?”. Predictably, the answer is not at all straightforward and depends on many factors, including your own financial style, personality and circumstances. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each choice to help you to be better informed about which could be the most lucrative option for you:

Benefits of investing in funds

It’s all too easy to go along with the generally-accepted myth that investing in property is a sure-fire way to secure your financial future. After all, house prices have appreciated in general terms for several years now and have become a very popular way for young people to invest for the future – this could also be, in part, down to the fact that their parents have benefited from the property booms of the past and made their own money this way, therefore presume the same will work for their children.

It’s fair to say, then, that investing the stock market is a much less common and popular way for people to invest their money. Despite market crashes, long term fund ownership is hands down the greatest creator of wealth in history and high quality funds generally not only increase their profits every year but also pay out increased cash dividends too.

Other advantages of fund ownership include the fact that you can diversify your portfolio easily, borrow against your funds easily and also benefit from the fact that funds are much more liquid than real estate, giving you maximum financial flexibility.

So, why do fewer people invest in funds than real estate?

It could be due to the two market crashes that have occurred since 2000, making people wary of getting involved in what they perhaps see as a complex and inherently risky way to make money. Many fail to take the long-term view of funds and the fact that, to financially benefit in the best way, you need to ride the highs and lows for a number of years to get a good return on your initial investment.

Another reason could be the fact that many people underestimate the real cost of home ownership. Additional costs such as maintenance, insurance and mortgage interest must be factored into investment calculations but are often not, making property a seemingly more attractive investment option.

Drawbacks of investing in funds

You really have to be in this game for the long term to see your money grow consistently and many people don’t have the discipline or patience to hold their nerve and keep their money in the same place for a prolonged period. This can often result in cashing in one’s funds too early and missing out on long term benefits. Similarly, because the prices of funds can fluctuate so much, many are too nervous about investing and don’t see the opportunities to purchase more funds at reduced prices to benefit them in the long term.

Benefits of investing in real estate

Many individuals in their twenties and thirties who are just starting out thinking about how best to secure their financial future feel more comfortable with investing in property and the notion of “owning one’s own home” – likely brought about by their parents’ influence, as discussed above. They perhaps feel more confident in the process, terminology and philosophy of real estate and believe that they are more likely to succeed in this area.

Another benefit could be the fact that, by purchasing a property, you feel that you own something tangible, as opposed to the money invested in funds and shares which could be said to exist only online or on paper.

Finally, many take comfort from the fact that it is potentially harder to be defrauded in relation to real estate as there are so many varied, physical checks that one can perform to verify the facts, such as property inspections, tenant background checks etc, whereas with funds, a lot of trust has to be given to the management company or auditors.

Drawbacks of investing in real estate

There are a number of hidden costs to real estate, particularly if your property is unoccupied for a period of time and you are still liable to pay taxes, maintenance etc. It’s also true that the maintenance of a property can be a time consuming as well as an expensive business, due to the requirement to deal with routine as well as emergency issues.

What’s more, it’s true that the actual value of real estate hardly ever increases in inflation-adjusted terms, therefore the returns can be healthy but the true value of the property doesn’t actually change. It’s due to this that many feel that investing in funds is a much more solid and lucrative way to receive good returns.

Talk to us, we can help you determine what works best for you.

 

 

Do you REALLY need life insurance?

You most likely do, but the more important question is, What kind? Whether you’re a young professional starting out, a devoted parent or a successful CEO, securing a life insurance policy is probably one of the most important decisions you will have to make in your adult life. Most people would agree that having financial safety nets in place is a good way to make sure that your loved ones will be taken care of when you pass away. Insurance can also help support your financial obligations and even take care of your estate liabilities. The tricky part, however, is figuring out what kind of life insurance best suits your goals and needs. This quick guide will help you decide what life insurance policy is best for you, depending on who needs to benefit from it and how long you’ll need it.

Permanent or Term?

Life insurance can be classified into two principal types: permanent or term. Both have different strengths and weaknesses, depending on what you aim to achieve with your life insurance policy.

Term life insurance provides death benefits for a limited amount of time, usually for a fixed number of years. Let’s say you get a 30-year term. This means you’ll only pay for each year of those 30 years. If you die before the 30-year period, then your beneficiaries shall receive the death benefits they are entitled to. After the period, the insurance shall expire. You will no longer need to pay premiums, and your beneficiaries will no longer be entitled to any benefits.

Term life insurance is right for you if you are:

  • The family breadwinner. Death benefits will replace your income for the years that you will have been working, in order to support your family’s needs.

  • A stay-at-home parent. You can set your insurance policy term to cover the years that your child will need financial support, especially for things that you would normally provide as a stay-at-home parent, such as childcare services.

  • A divorced parent. Insurance can cover the cost of child support, and the term can be set depending on how long you need to make support payments.

  • A mortgagor. If you are a homeowner with a mortgage, you can set up your term insurance to cover the years that you have to make payments. This way, your family won’t have to worry about losing their home.

  • A debtor with a co-signed debt. If you have credit card debt or student loans, a term life insurance policy can cover your debt payments. The term can be set to run for the duration of the payments.

  • A business owner. If you’re a business owner, you may need either a term or permanent life insurance, depending on your needs. If you’re primarily concerned with paying off business debts, then a term life insurance may be your best option.

Unlike term life insurance, a permanent life insurance does not expire. This means that your beneficiaries can receive death benefits no matter when you die. Aside from death benefits, a permanent life insurance policy can also double as a savings plan. A certain portion of your premiums can build cash value, which you may “withdraw” or borrow for future needs. You can do well with a permanent life insurance policy if you:

  • …Have a special needs child. As a special needs child will most likely need support for health care and other expenses even as they enter adulthood. Your permanent life insurance can provide them with death benefits any time within their lifetime.

  • …Want to leave something for your loved ones. Regardless of your net worth, permanent life insurance will make sure that your beneficiaries receive what they are entitled to. If you have a high net worth, permanent life insurance can take care of estate taxes. Otherwise, they will still get even a small inheritance through death benefits.

  • …Want to make sure that your funeral expenses are covered. Final expense insurance can provide coverage for funeral expenses for smaller premiums.

  • …Have maximized your retirement plans. As permanent life insurance may also come with a savings component, this can also be used to help you out during retirement.

  • …Own a business. As mentioned earlier, business owners may need either permanent or term, depending on their needs.

A permanent insurance policy can help pay off estate taxes, so that the successors can inherit the business worry-free. Different people have different financial needs, so there is no one-sized-fits-all approach to choosing the right insurance policy for you. Talk to us now, and find out how a permanent or term life insurance can best give you security and peace of mind.

2019 Federal Budget

2019 Federal Budget

The 2019 budget is titled “Investing in the Middle Class. Here are the highlights from the 2019 Federal Budget.

We’ve put together the key measures for:

  • Individuals and Families

  • Business Owners and Executives

  • Retirement and Retirees

  • Farmers and Fishers

Individuals & Families

Home Buyers’ Plan

Currently, the Home Buyers’ Plan allows first time home buyers to withdraw $25,000 from their Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), the budget proposes an increase this to $35,000.

First Time Home Buyer Incentive

The Incentive is to provide eligible first-time home buyers with shared equity funding of 5% or 10% of their home purchase price through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

To be eligible:

  • Household income is less than $120,000.

  • There is a cap of no more than 4 times the applicant’s annual income where the mortgage value plus the CMHC loan doesn’t exceed $480,000.

The buyer must pay back CMHC when the property is sold, however details about the dollar amount payable is unclear. There will be further details released later this year.

Canada Training Benefit

A refundable training tax credit to provide up to half eligible tuition and fees associated with training. Eligible individuals will accumulate $250 per year in a notional account to a maximum of $5,000 over a lifetime.

Canadian Drug Agency

National Pharmacare program to help provinces and territories on bulk drug purchases and negotiate better prices for prescription medicine. According to the budget, the goal is to make “prescription drugs affordable for all Canadians.”

Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)

The budget proposes to remove the limitation on the period that a RDSP may remain open after a beneficiary becomes ineligible for the disability tax credit. (DTC) and the requirement for medical certification for the DTC in the future in order for the plan to remain open.

This is a positive change for individuals in the disability community and the proposed measures will apply after 2020.

Business Owners and Executives

Intergenerational Business Transfer

The government will continue consultations with farmers, fishes and other business owners throughout 2019 to develop new proposals to facilitate the intergenerational transfers of businesses.

Employee Stock Options

The introduction of a $200,000 annual cap on employee stock option grants (based on Fair market value) that may receive preferential tax treatment for employees of “large, long-established, mature firms.” More details will be released before this summer.

Retirement and Retirees

Additional types of Annuities under Registered Plans

For certain registered plans, two new types of annuities will be introduced to address longevity risk and providing flexibility: Advanced Life Deferred Annuity and Variable Payment Life Annuity.

This will allow retirees to keep more savings tax-free until later in retirement.

Advanced Life Deferred Annuity (ALDA): An annuity whose commencement can be deferred until age 85. It limits the amount that would be subject to the RRIF minimum, and it also pushes off the time period to just short of age 85.

Variable Payment Life Annuity (VPLA): Permit Pooled Retirement Pension Plans (PRPP) and defined contribution Registered Retirement Plans (RPP) to provide a VPLA to members directly from the plan. A VPLA will provide payments that vary based on the investment performance of the underlying annuities fund and on the mortality experience of VPLA annuitants.

Farmers and Fishers

Small Business Deduction

Farming/Fishing will be entitled to claim a small business deduction on income from sales to any arm’s length purchaser. Producers will be able to market their grain and livestock to the purchaser that makes the most business sense without worrying about potential income tax issues. This measure will apply retroactive to any taxation years that began after March 21, 2016.

To learn how the budget affects you, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

RRSP Tax Savings deadline – March 1, 2019

RRSP Deadline: March 1, 2019

This is the deadline for contributing to your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) for the 2018 tax filing year. You generally have 60 days within the new calendar year to make RRSP contributions that can be applied to lowering your taxes for the previous year.

If you want to see how much tax you can save, enter your details below!

Tax Planning Tips for End of 2018

Now that we are nearing year end, it’s a good time to review your finances. 2018 saw a number of major changes to tax legislation come in force and more will apply in 2019, therefore you should consider available opportunities and planning strategies prior to year-end.

Below, we have listed some of the key areas to consider and provided you with some useful tips to make sure that you cover all of the essentials.

Key Tax Deadlines for 2018 Savings

December 31, 2018:

  • Medical expenses

  • Fees for union and professional memberships

  • Charitable gifts

  • Investment counsel fees, interest and other expenses relating to investments

  • Student loan interest payments

  • Political contributions

  • Deductible legal fees

  • Some payments for child and spousal support

  • If you reached the age of 71 in 2018, contributions to your RRSP

January 30, 2019

  • Interest on intra-family loans

  • Interest you must pay on employer loans, to reduce your taxable benefit

February 14, 2019

  • Expenses relating to personal car reimbursement to your employer

March 1, 2019

  • Contributions to provincial labour-sponsored venture capital corporations

  • Deductible contributions to a personal or spousal RRSP

Family Tax Issues
  • Check your eligibility to the Canada Child Benefit
    In order to receive the Canada Child Benefit in 2019/20, you need to file your tax returns for 2018 because the benefit is calculated using the family income from the previous year. Eligibility depends on set criteria such as your family’s income and the number and age of your children and you may qualify for full or partial amount.

  • Consider family income splitting
    The CRA offers a low interest rate on loans and it therefore makes sense to consider setting up an income splitting loan arrangements with members of your family, whereby you can potentially lock in the family loan at a low interest rate of 2% and subsequently invest the borrowed monies into a higher return investment and benefit from the lower tax status of your family member. Don’t forget to adhere to the new Tax on Split Income rules.

  • Have you sold your main residence this year?
    If so, your 2018 personal tax return must include information regarding the sale or you may lose any “principal residence” exemptions on the capital gains from the sale and thus make the sale taxable.

  • If you’re moving, think carefully about your moving date
    If you are moving to a new province, it’s worth noting that your residence at December 31, 2018 is likely to be the one that your taxes are due to for the whole of the 2018 year. Therefore, if your move is to a province with higher taxes, putting your move off until 2019 may therefore make sense, and vice versa if you are moving to a lower tax province.

Managing Your Investments
  • Use up your TFSA contribution room
    If you are able, it’s worth contributing the full $5,500 to your TFSA for 2018. You can also contribute more (up to $57,500) if you are 27 or older and haven’t made any previous TFSA contributions.

  • Check if you have investments in a corporation
    The new passive investment income rules apply to tax years from 2018 and you therefore need to plan ahead if the rules affect you. They state that the small business deduction is reduced for companies which are affected with between $50,000 and $150,000 of investment income, therefore the small business deduction has been stopped completely for corporations which earn passive investment income of more than $150,000.

  • Think about selling any investments with unrealized capital losses
    It might be worth doing this before year-end in order to apply the loss against any net capital gains achieved during the last three years. Any late trades should ideally be completed on or prior to December 21, 2018 and subsequently confirmed with your broker. Conversely, if you have investments with unrealized capital gains which are not able to be offset with capital losses, it may be worth selling them after 2018 in order to be taxed on the income the following year.

Estate and Retirement Planning
  • Make the most of your RRSP
    The deadline for making contributions to your RRSP for the year 2018 is March 1, 2019. There are three things that affect how much you may contribution towards your RRSP, as follows:

    • 18% of your previous year’s earned income

    • Up to a maximum of $26,230 for 2018 and $26,500 for 2019

    • Your pension adjustment

Remember that deducting your RRSP contribution reduces your after-tax cost of making said contribution.

  • Check when your RRSP is due to end
    You should wind-up your RRSP if you reached the age of 71 during 2018 and your final contributions should be made by December 31, 2018.

Other Considerations
  • Make your personal tax instalments
    If you pay your final 2018 personal tax instalment by December 15, 2018, you won’t pay interest or penalty charges. Similarly, if you are behind on these instalments, you should try to make “catch-up” payments by that date. You can also offset part or all of the non-deductible interest that you would have been assessed if you make early or additional instalment payments.

  • Remember the deadline for making a taxpayer-relief request
    The deadline is December 31, 2018 for making a tax-payer relief request related to the 2008 tax year.

  • Consider how to minimize the taxable benefit for your company car
    The taxable benefit applied to company cars is comprised of two parts – a stand-by charge and an operating-cost benefit. If you drive a company car, it’s worth considering how to potentially minimize both of these elements. The taxable benefit for operating costs is $0.26 per km of personal use, therefore you should make sure that you reimburse your employer where relevant, by the deadline of February 14, 2019.

Contact us if you have any questions, we can help.