All posts by Jonathan Chevreau

Retired Money: A third of OAS recipients can also expect Guaranteed Income Supplement

My latest MoneySense Retired Money column was published today and looks at the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) to Old Age Security. You can find the full column by clicking on the highlighted headline adjacent: What to expect when applying for GIS.

Service Canada says as of June 2017, 1.94 million seniors were receiving the GIS, roughly a third of the country’s 5.93 million OAS pensioners.

You can get an overview of the GIS program at the Service Canada web site. It says the first requirement to receive GIS is that you also qualify for and are receiving OAS. So that means you have to be age 65: unlike CPP (which can pay reduced benefits as early as age 60), there’s no such thing as early OAS or early GIS, except in certain special circumstances. If you were automatically enrolled in OAS, you should apply for GIS three months before your 65th birthday.

Maximum monthly GIS payments for a single is $871.86: tax-free!

How much can you receive if you qualify? Service Canada’s media relations department says that as of the July to September 2017 quarter, maximum GIS amounts for those receiving the full OAS pension of $583.74 a month are $871.86 a month for a single, widowed or divorced OAS pensioner (so adding the two, $1,455.60 a month); $524.85 if your spouse/partner receives full OAS, $871.86 if your spouse does not receive an OAS pension or the Allowance, and $524.85 if the spouse receives the Allowance.

Thresholds to qualify are very low

Of course, the fact that two thirds of OAS recipients do NOT qualify for GIS suggests that most people are unlikely to qualify: after all, GIS has been referred to in some circles as “Senior’s Welfare.”

In the case of a couple with a combined income of no more than $23,376 and where the spouse gets full OAS, the maximum monthly GIS for the other spouse is $524.85. If the partner is not receiving OAS and the combined income is no more than $42,384, the individual will get some GIS; they will get the full $871.86 monthly GIS benefit if they have no other income. In the case of a couple making no more than $42,384 and where the spouse is receiving the Allowance, the maximum monthly GIS for the other partner is $524.85. For updated numbers, click here.

Still, if you’re close to these thresholds there’s little to lose by seeing if you may qualify. It used to be that Service Canada didn’t always go out of its way to notify low-income seniors that they may qualify for GIS. This has since been rectified: free money that’s also tax free is certainly something worth investigating!

The “nice” problem of million-dollar RRSPs

Are million-dollar RRSPs a looming tax problem for soon-to-retire baby boomers or simply a nice problem to have?

My latest Globe & Mail Wealth column has just been published on page B9 of the Tuesday paper and online, which you can access by clicking on the highlighted headline here: The secret to paying less tax in retirement.

As one expert cited — Doug Dahmer, who often guest blogs here at the Hub — tax is perhaps the single biggest expense in Retirement. This often becomes apparent when those growing RRSPs the Boomers and others have been accumulating are forced to become RRIFs or Registered Retirement Income Funds at the end of age 71, at which point they become taxable at your highest marginal rate, just like  interest or employment income. Million-dollar RRSPs are not that uncommon, according to the sources consulted for the column, whether individually or shared by couples.

(I say”forced” but of course there are two alternative options: annuitize or cash out. Very few people choose the latter option, while annuitization or partial annuitiization is certainly a valid option as you progress through your 70s, although ideally when interest rates are higher.)

The initial RRIF withdrawal percentage is 5.28% at 71 but minimum withdrawal rates rise steadily over time, hitting 6.82% at age 80, 10.21% by 88 and reach 20% by age 95 and beyond.

Draw down RRSPs/RRIFs early, delay CPP/OAS to 70

As the article notes, this has two implications: one, since it’s unlikely most investors with balanced portfolios will generate returns as high as the withdrawal percentages, most RRIF recipients will start breaking into capital. Continue Reading…

What to expect when applying for CPP

What should you expect when applying for CPP (Canada Pension Plan) benefits? As my latest Retired Money column for MoneySense explains, age 64 is not just the age the Beatles ask the question “Will you still need me, will you still feed me?”

It’s also the age when Service Canada can be expected to reach out to you with a letter to your home address, giving you details of how the Government of Canada will feed you with CPP benefits once you turn 65 (or as early as 60 should you choose reduced early benefits).

But fear not, Ottawa will also  still need you, in the form of taxable revenue: like Old Age Security, CPP benefits are fully taxable.

The full piece can be accessed by clicking on the highlighted headline: CPP application: Here’s what to expect during the process.

The piece’s focus is on the actual application process but does touch on the age-old topic of the optimal age to start receiving benefits: which can be anywhere between age 60 and 70. The Hub has tackled this several times in its almost three years of existence. Use the search engine to the right and enter CPP, or click here.

Try the Canadian Retirement Income Calculator

The piece also links to a useful web tool provided by Service Canada: the Canadian Retirement Income Calculator, which you can access by clicking on the highlighted text.

Continue Reading…

Alternative Investments for the Masses

Is it time for the average investor to look into alternative investments to the traditional balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds?

In a column in Thursday’s Globe & Mail Report on Business, I look at a relatively new mutual fund from Mackenzie Investments that gives both average and affluent investors a way to diversify their portfolios into alternative investments or asset classes.

You can find it by clicking on the highlighted headline: Alternative Investing for the Masses.

The Mackenzie Diversified Alternative Fund (“MDAF”) is positioned as a low-risk way to diversify beyond the typical “balanced” fund or balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds. As the article says, both traditional stocks and bonds appear pricey at this juncture, and studies show that putting up to 20% of a total portfolio can smooth returns. Indeed, many giant pension funds have far more than that, including such well known pensions as Ontario Teachers and OMERs.

Non-traditional asset classes seen as “alternatives” include private equity, infrastructure, emerging-market debt, limited partnerships and a host of other investments not easily accessed by the average investor. Pension funds can get their own direct access to alternatives but for individuals many were available only through “offering memorandums” available only to those considered sophisticated investors: with $1 million in investible assets or combined annual family income of $300,000.

Low entry point, liquid

By contrast, the Mackenzie fund can be purchased for as little as $500, like most mutual funds, and unlike many hedge funds, can be liquidated on demand like any other mutual fund.

The article goes into the fee issue: the A series has an Management Expense Ratio (MER) of 2.42% and the F series 1.25% (advisors will then tack on their own fee, typically another 1%). But affluent investors get a price break under the Mackenzie Private Wealth Solutions’ preferred-pricing program, with the basic management fee for household wealth in all Mackenzie funds tapering down from 0.8% to as little as 0.5% for $5 million dollar portfolios.


Low future returns? The coming bull market in advice

A bull market in advice? This novel idea is the basis of my latest Motley Fool blog, which came out of the 2017 Vanguard Investment Symposium held this Tuesday.

Hopefully, the title is self-explanatory. Click on the highlighted text to access the whole blog: Lower future returns from balanced portfolios means a bull market in advice.

Click through to get Vanguard’s forecasts for future returns. Suffice it to say that they don’t believe the next five years will be as good as the last five years have been for balanced investors.

All of which means good financial advice will be at a premium.  Naturally, Vanguard believes that the lower expected future investment returns are, the more important it is to reduce costs and taxes, which of course its low-cost index funds and ETFs facilitate. But it also believes advisors can help investors by addressing the so-called  “behaviour gap.” It’s been well documented that poor investing behaviour (buying high, selling low) are destructive to returns, which is why a good financial advisor can more than recoup his/her fees.

Advisors can add 3% value per a year

Many fee-based advisors use the kind of investment funds Vanguard provides and Vanguard believes good advice can “add value” of roughly 3% per year to clients’ investment returns.

Behavioural coaching is the single biggest value-add: 150 basis points (1.5%). “Staying the course is difficult,” but “a balanced diversified investor has fared relatively well,” said one Vanguard presenter quoted in the Motley Fool piece, Fran Kinniry.

Behavioural coaching is followed closely by 131 beeps for cost-effective product implementation (using low expense ratios). This alone can add 1 to 2 percentage points of value, Vanguard says, attributing the finding to “numerous studies.” Rebalancing accounts for another 47 beeps, and Asset Location between 0 and 42 beeps (as opposed to Asset Allocation, which it says adds “more than 0 beeps.”)

A proper spending strategy (identifying the order of withdrawals in the decumulation stage) accounts for another 0 to 41 beeps. All told, the potential value added comes to “about 3%,” Kinniry says.

Vanguard says a “strong move to fee-based” compensation is accelerating. In 2015, 65% of advisors’ compensation came from asset-based fees, while wealthier investors are “most willing to pay AUM-based fees.” Gradually this will ‘flow down” to less well-heeled clients, “as smaller balances can now be well-served” in a fee-based model because of scale and technology.

Using Cerulli data from 2015, Vanguard estimates the median asset-weighted advisory fee is 1.39% for the mass market ($100,000 assets), 1.28% for the middle market ($300,000), 1.09% for the mass-affluent market ($750,000), 0.92% for the affluent market ($1.5 million to $5 million) and 0.70% for the High Net Worth market ($10 million or more).

On average across all clients, the median fee is 1.07%.