General

Large taxable foreign portfolio? Watch $100K and $250K thresholds for CRA’s T1135 form

If you’re a Canadian investor with a large taxable foreign portfolio, you need to be aware of your cost base, since exceeding $100,000 of so-called Specified Foreign Property (SFP) has to be reported to the Canada Revenue Agency.

This is examined in my (monthly) High-Net Worth column for the Globe & Mail Report on Business which was published online on Friday and was in the physical paper Wednesday, Nov. 15. You may be able to retrieve it by clicking on the highlighted headline: Pay Close Attention to Your Foreign Assets to Avoid Tax Troubles. (Depending on how often you access the site, access may be restricted to subscribers. I’ve summarized the main points below.)

If you file your own taxes, you may have noticed an innocuous looking “box” you may or may not tick each year that ask whether you own “Specified Foreign Property.” If you have a cost base of more than $100,000 of SPF you have to tick that box and fill out a CRA form called the T1135. For most Canadian investors the relevant investments will probably consist primarily of individual US stocks, ADRs and/or foreign equity ETFs trading on US and other foreign stock exchanges.

There is also a higher threshold of $250,000 you also should be aware of because this entails even more detailed reporting and paperwork, and the article suggests you may wish to avoid reaching that higher threshold. The $100,000 and $200,000 thresholds are per individual, not household, and again, it’s based on cost base not current market value.

Failure to comply can entail serious penalties.

How to stay below the threshold and still have foreign content

If you would rather not deal with more CRA paperwork and capital gains hassles, I’d argue you should try to stay below the $100,000 threshold, in which case you don’t have to tick the box on your tax return. Continue Reading…

CPP will be there for future generations, CPPIB head reassures Advocis

CPPIB president and CEO Mark Machin

My latest Financial Post blog looks at the misplaced perception that the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) might not be there for future generations. Click on the headline to retrieve the full article: No reason to fear CPP’s stability, CEO Machin says, but people do it anyway.

Mark Machin is president and CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB.)  Speaking Tuesday to financial advisors attending Advocis Symposium 2017 in Toronto, he said “unlike virtually every other industrial country in the world,” Canada “has solved its national pension solvency issues.”

While you could argue that even America’s Social Security system is not solid for the next generation of American retirees,  the CPP is on a solid actuarial footing. Canada’s chief actuary says CPP is sustainable over 75 years, assuming a 3.9% real [after-inflation] rate of return: CPPIB’s 10-year annualized real rate of return is 5.3%.

Despite this, many Canadians — and perhaps some of their advisors — continue to profess their belief that the CPP won’t be around for them by the time they retire. 64% believe either that CPP will be out of money by the time they retire, or don’t know whether it will be there to pay them in retirement, Machin told Advocis.

Half of retirees greatly rely on CPP

However, in practice, Canadians tend to have more faith in the CPP than they claim: 42% of working-age Canadians expect to rely on the CPP when they retire (up from just 13% 15 years ago). In 2016, more than half of Canadians who are actually receiving CPP said they rely “to a great extent” upon it.

Continue Reading…

How Group Annuities can help employers protect Defined Benefit pensions

Source: Mercer Pension Health Index published October 2, 2017

By Brent Simmons, Sun Life Financial

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Recently, employees and retirees of Sears were stunned to learn they may not receive all of their defined benefit (DB) pension when it declared bankruptcy. They learned their pension plan was underfunded and the company had requested that it be allowed to stop making the contributions required by Ontario laws. The plight of Sears employees and retirees has left many Canadians wondering if their DB pension plan is healthy and if their DB pension is safe.

The pension challenge

With a DB pension plan, a company promises their employees a pension for life and is responsible for paying the pension: whatever the cost ends up being. The problem is that low interest rates and choppy equity markets have made the funding level of many pension plans look like a roller roaster ride. This can be seen in the chart at the top of this blog.

Another challenge facing pension plans is that Canadians are living longer, meaning that pensions need to be paid for a longer time. A common rule of thumb is that one year of additional life expectancy at age 65 can increase the cost of the pension plan by 3% to 4%.

In a tough economy, the need to contribute to a pension plan can often come at a time when a company’s core business is also facing financial difficulties. If a company becomes bankrupt, then the company likely won’t be able to pay the contributions owed to the pension plan and employees may indeed face a shortfall in its pensions.

How Group Annuities protect their employees’ pensions 

The good news is that a growing number of Canadian companies are taking steps to protect their employees’ pensions. They are buying group annuities to transfer the financial risk of their pension plans to insurance companies, which are subject to strict regulations and must have funds on hand at all times to pay promised pensions. With a group annuity, an insurer assumes responsibility for providing the pensions to a company’s retirees in exchange for a fee, and the retirees continue to receive their promised pension.

Continue Reading…

How Millennials’ financial priorities differ from previous generations

By Gabby Revel

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

There is some truth and some fiction to the idea that millennials are not responsible with their finances. On the one hand, today’s youth is particularly adept at saving money and meeting their financial responsibilities on a monthly basis. However, millennials appear to have less foresight, as they’re not as interested in planning for their financial future as Generation Xers and Baby Boomers were.

Financial freedom

The most important element of a paycheck for millennials is the financial freedom it offers them. A study by Bank of America and Merrill Edge discovered that this generation is better at saving money compared to other generations, but what they choose to spend this money on differs greatly from older workers.

This same study discovered that 63% of millennials value financial freedom above all, meaning they set aside a certain amount of money to continue living their lifestyle of choice. This means planning for social trips or vacations, eating out at fancy brunch restaurants on Sundays and using Uber as one of their primary forms of transportation.

A survey by BMO Wealth Management found that 26% of millennials  —  ages 18 to 34 — believe “saving more” is their most important priority with finances. A further 25% value reducing and eliminating debt at the top of their list, while 20% want to invest effectively, 17% focus on budgeting and 5% believe in spending on personal needs or goals above all. All in all, millennials are reinventing the wheel in regards to where their finances should go, but they might pay the price moving forward.

Disregard for retirement

 A chunk of today’s youth has yet to begin planning for retirement, as they’re not thinking about what their needs will be in the future. Some believe Social Security (or in Canada CPP/OAS) will get them through their golden years, which only nets the average retiree about $1,300 per month nowadays. Others buy into the carpe diem or YOLO mentality that’s been instilled within millennials.

Continue Reading…

“I’m nearing Retirement and the stock market is at an all-time high. What should I do?”

On October 19 Fortune published an article with the headline:

“30 Years after Black Monday, the Dow Hits an All-Time High”. 

The article goes on to speculate:

“only time will tell if we have another crash ahead of us. But in the meantime, investors seem to think that skepticism and caution may be just what we need to avoid one.”

Connecting the all-time high to the Black Monday crash from over 30 years ago smacks of the kind of fear-driven nonsense that characterizes much of financial markets journalism these days.  The article raises the temperature further by pointing out that:

“this marks the fourth thousand-point milestone for the Dow this year, painting a very different picture than what was seen in 1987.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the Dow had never before hit more than two of these milestones in a year.”

Transforming meaningless data points into blood-pressure-raising insights is a coveted skill for both market journalists and stock market analysts alike.  After all it’s their jobs to get people to act: stock analysts to compel trades, journalists to direct readers/viewers to the skilled money managers that advertise in their pages or on their programs.

I’d be a poor headline writer.  The first one I came up with, “Dow Hits an All-Time High more than 500 Times Since 1987 Crash” wouldn’t inspire much fear or anything else.  The fact is that markets go up most of the time as is clearly displayed in the index data series shown at the top of this blog,  courtesy of Dimensional Fund Advisors. Continue Reading…