Decumulate & Downsize

Most of your investing life you and your adviser (if you have one) are focused on wealth accumulation. But, we tend to forget, eventually the whole idea of this long process of delayed gratification is to actually spend this money! That’s decumulation as opposed to wealth accumulation. This stage may also involve downsizing from larger homes to smaller ones or condos, moving to the country or otherwise simplifying your life and jettisoning possessions that may tie you down.

Retired Money: Still a place for Spousal RRSPs

My latest MoneySense Retired Money blog has just been published, which you can find by clicking on this highlighted link: Tax Strategies using spousal RRSPs.

This is the second in a series: the first one focused on pension splitting and can be found here: Pension splitting is now ten years old. The Financial Post also ran a related piece called Spousal RRSPs are an often overlooked retirement savings tool.

As these pieces note, income splitting usually works best for families when two spouses are in different tax brackets. Particularly if one spouse is a big earner and the second isn’t making peony at all.

As CIBC Wealth’s Jamie Golombek observed in this piece in the FP — Tax Season is Upon Us — the Family Tax Cut is no more as of 2016: that was a version of income splitting that let families with children under 18 transfer up to $50,000 of income to his or her lower-income spouse or partner. But “seniors need not worry,” Golombek added: seniors can still split eligible pension income with spouses or common-law partners.

And spousal RRSPs still present non-seniors with another valid income-splitting alternative, again assuming that a couple occupy disparate tax brackets.  As the MoneySense piece phrases it, all those years the high-earning spouse is saving for retirement, the ideal solution would be to get a tax deduction for RRSP contributions but when it comes time to receive the income, to receive it in the hands of the lower-income spouse.

And that’s exactly what a spousal RRSP does. The contributor can deduct the amount of the spousal RRSP deposit from his/her (higher) earned income, while the recipient (the husband in our example) owns the investments. The aim is to equalize retirement income of both spouses, and to have the RRSP funds withdrawn by the recipient spouse at his or her lower tax rate.

Unlike pension splitting, you’re not restricted to splitting just 50% of the income: you can have 100% of it taxed in the lower-earning spouse if so desired. This income splitting also helps the couple each qualify for the $2,000 pension credit.

There are plenty of nuances to this, such as splitting CPP or QPP income after age 60. But as Chris Cottier, an investment advisor with Richardson GMP Limited, says, the spousal RRSP is generally a “no-lose” proposition.

Retired Money: Pension Splitting is now ten years old

Pension Income Splitting can dramatically lower taxes for senior couples considered as a family unit

The latest instalment of my MoneySense Retired Money column is now available: click on the highlighted text to access the full version of the column: Pay Less Tax with Pension Income Splitting.

As I note, It’s hard to believe but the great boon of pension income splitting has now been available to Canadian retirees for a full decade. Coupled with the 2009 introduction of TFSAs, these two tools have certainly been a welcome addition to the arsenal of retirees and semi-retirees.

Pension splitting can generate many thousands of dollars in additional after-tax income for retired couples, particularly if – as is often the case – one of them enjoys a generous defined benefit (DB) pension and the other does not.  Pension splitting is based on the fact that Canada’s graduated income tax system imposes far higher rates of tax on big earners than on modest or non-existent earners. Pension splitting can result in a highly taxed income and a low-taxed one being merged (conceptually speaking) into what amounts to a modest mid-level amount of tax for the couple as a whole, putting thousands of extra dollars into the family’s collective pocket each year.

The tax benefits vary with the marginal tax rates of both spouses.  With pension splitting, if one spouse has no pension and the other has a $60,000 pension the couple as a whole ends up being treated exactly like a couple with two $30,000 pensions. The bonus is that both spouses can claim the $2,000 pension income s and the higher-income spouse may no longer be subject to clawbacks of Old Age Security.

Pension Splitting is a paper transfer at tax time

Continue Reading…

Vanguard Canada launches four new domestic Fixed Income ETFs

Vanguard Investments Canada Inc. has announced that four new domestic fixed-income ETFs began trading on the TSX today, doubling a lineup that previously included a couple of short-term bond index ETFs, an aggregate bond index ETF and two currency-hedged foreign bond ETFs.

The new funds add coverage to government and corporate bonds,  long-term bonds, and to domestic short-term government bonds. The full release is here on Canada Newswire. Here are the names, ticker symbols and Management fees of the four new ETFs:


TSX Symbol

Management Fee1

Vanguard Canadian Corporate Bond Index ETF



Vanguard Canadian Long-Term Bond Index ETF



Vanguard Canadian Short-Term Government Bond Index ETF



Vanguard Canadian Government Bond Index ETF



These four new ETFs round out a list of domestic fixed-income ETFs that also include the Canadian Aggregate Bond Index ETF (VAB), the Canadian Short-term Bond Index ETF (VSB), the Canadian Short-term Corporate Bond Index ETF (VSC) and two foreign (US and global) bond index ETFs hedged back into the Canadian dollar (VBU and VBG respectively). You can find the full list, including the four new products, here. (Select Fixed Income as the asset class to zero in on the full list of nine bond ETFs.)

In the press release, Vanguard Canada head of product Tim Huver said “These ETFs provide the flexibility to position portfolios along the yield curve and take advantage of targeted exposure to corporate and government bonds.”

TFSA Primer 2017

“Many investors are wondering whether to pursue a TFSA or RRSP strategy. Quite simply, the TFSA, which started in 2009, compliments both the RRSP and RRIF.”

It need not be an either/or approach.
Wise investors embrace the Tax-free Savings Account (TFSA) in pursuit of long term goals, like retirement.


I summarize my 2017 TFSA primer:

1.) How TFSAs work


• Canadian residents, age 18 or older, who have a Social Insurance Number can open a TFSA.

• One TFSA account per individual should suffice most cases. Be aware of plan fees if you own more than one.


• There is no deadline for making TFSA contributions as the unused contribution room is carried forward.

• A withdrawal in any calendar year increases the TFSA room in the following year.

• TFSA contributions can be made in cash or “in kind” based on the calendar year.

• Deemed disposition rules for “in kind” contributions are the same as those for RRSPs.

Your maximum TFSA deposits are as follows:
Continue Reading…

4 key factors and 3 tips to consider when investing for retirement

We recommend that you base your investing for retirement on a sound financial plan. Here are the four key factors that your plan should address to ensure that your retirement investing generates enough income in retirement:

1.) How much you expect to save prior to retirement;

2.) The return you expect on your savings;

3.) How much of that return you’ll have left after taxes;

4.) How much retirement income you’ll need once you’ve left the workforce.

Stick with conservative estimates to account for unforeseen setbacks

As for the return you expect from investing for retirement, it’s best to aim low. If you invest in bonds, assume you will earn the current yield; don’t assume you can make money trading in bonds.

Over long periods, the total return on a well-diversified portfolio of high-quality stocks runs to as much as 10%, or around 7.5% after inflation. Aim lower in your retirement planning —5% a year, say — to allow for unforeseeable problems and setbacks.

Above all, it’s important to remember that while finances are important, the happiest retirees are those who stay busy. You can do that with travel, golf or sailing. But volunteering, or working part-time at something you enjoy, can work just as well.

One thing we encourage all investors to do is perform a detailed study of how you spend your money now. Then, you analyze your findings to see what personal expenses you can cut or eliminate. This too can have fringe benefits, especially if it helps you break unhealthy habits. You may be surprised at how much you’re spending and how much more you could be saving for retirement.

Dollar-cost averaging brings automatic profits

Continue Reading…