Critical Illness – Are You Protected?

Why a Doctor Invented Critical Illness Insurance

Critical Illness insurance was invented by Dr. Marius Barnard. Marius assisted his brother Dr. Christiaan Barnard in performing the first successful heart transplant in 1967 in South Africa. Through his years of dealing with cardiac patients, Marius observed that those patients that were better able to deal with the financial stress of their illness recovered more often and at a much faster rate than those for whom money was an issue. He concluded that he, as a physician, could heal people, but only insurance companies could provide the necessary funds to create the environment that best-promoted healing. As a result, he worked with South African insurance companies to issue the first critical illness policy in 1983.

Medical practitioners today will confirm what Dr. Barnard observed – the lower your stress levels, the better the chances for your recovery. When one is ill with a serious illness, having one less thing to deal with, such as financial worry, can only be beneficial.

Your Life Could Change in a Minute!

Case Study A – Lawyer, Male 55

Tom was a successful lawyer with a thriving litigation practice. He had recently started his own firm and was recruiting associates to build the practice. He was a single father assisting his two adult children in their post-secondary education. Tom had always enjoyed good health, ate well, exercised regularly and was a competitive, highly ranked (senior class) tennis player.

At age 55, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In addition to the emotional angst and anger at receiving this diagnosis, he also was concerned about the financial impact this illness could have on both his practice and his support of his children. Fortunately, five years earlier, at the urging of his financial advisor, he had purchased a critical illness policy.

Within weeks of his diagnosis, Tom received a tax-free benefit cheque for $250,000. He immediately called his advisor to tell him how elated he was that the advisor had overcome his initial objectives to purchase the policy five years earlier. He went on to say that with having the financial stress alleviated, he was certain he would be able to tackle the treatment and concentrate on recovery in a positive manner.

Today, Tom is cancer-free, his practice is thriving, and his children are successfully working in professional practices.

Case Study B – Retired Business Owner, Female 52

Christina at age 52 was enjoying a good life that came partially from the sale of her business a few years before. Her investments were thriving and everything looked rosy. Then 2008 came along. Christina suffered a stroke. Fortunately, it was not a severe stroke. At first, the doctors thought that it was actually a TIA as many of her symptoms were minor. The next morning the MRI results confirmed that it was indeed a stroke and it had caused some minor brain damage.

Christina made a remarkable recovery and within a few short months was almost back to where she was before the stroke. If you didn’t know Christina, you wouldn’t have any idea that she had even had one.

As a successful business owner and mother, Christina had always been a big believer in the advantages of owning critical illness insurance. At first, she had some concern that because her stroke was not that serious and she had recovered so quickly, that her claim might not qualify for payment. These fears turned out to be unfounded as days after the stroke she received claim cheques for $400,000.

During her recovery period, Christina was fearful of having another stroke which caused her some stress however, she is certain that not having any financial worries during this time aided in her almost total recovery.

These two case studies, although quite different in circumstances illustrate some key points about Critical Illness insurance:

  • A life-threatening illness or condition can strike anyone regardless of age or health;

  • Financial security reduces stress which can assist in the recovery process;

  • You do not have to be disabled to be eligible for a Critical Illness benefit;

  • Although you need to be diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, you do not have to be at “death’s door” in order to have your claim paid;

  • The benefits are paid tax-free to the insured.

Reach out to me if you have any questions and please feel free to share this information with anyone you think would find it of interest.

Copyright @ 2024 FSB Content Marketing Inc.- All Rights Reserved

Strategies for Multi-Generational Planning

The Sandwich Generation was a term coined by Dorothy Miller in 1981 to describe adult children who were “sandwiched” between their aging parents and their own maturing children. There is even a term for those of us who are in our 50’s or 60’s with elderly parents, adult children and grandchildren – the Club Sandwich. More recently, the Boomerang Generation (the estimated 29% of adults ranging in ages 25 to 34, who live with their parents), are adding to the financial pressures as Boomers head into retirement.

It is estimated that by 2026, 1 in 5 Canadians will be older than 65. This means fewer adults to both fund and provide for elder care. Today, it is likely that the average married couple will have more living parents than they do children.

What are the challenges?

The truth is that many members of the Sandwich Generation find the circumstances are both emotionally and financially draining. In the past, women have been looked upon to provide the primary care giving in the home while men take care of the income needs. Today, roles have changed with the majority of working age women employed outside of the home. As a result, financially, both parents are looked upon to provide for the family. For The Sandwich Generation helping their parents and their children at the same time, creates stress that can affect both their mental and physical health.

Risk Management in the Sandwich Generation

Having an effective financial plan becomes key in dealing with the challenges. As the main breadwinner in this situation, it is possible that three generations are dependent upon you. One of the first issues to be addressed then is how you protect your revenue stream.

Steps to Minimize risk for the Sandwich Generation

  1. Have an open and clear discussion about family resources and needs – The older generation needs to have a discussion with their children so that everyone knows what steps have or have not been taken to provide for the senior’s care when they are no longer able to care for themselves. This would also be a good time to initiate or continue any talk about what liquidity needs exist for taxes, long term care, funeral costs and last expenses etc.
  2. Complete a life insurance needs analysis – Where there is not sufficient capital to continue family and dependent’s income at the death of a breadwinner, life insurance can provide the necessary funds required to maintain lifestyle, pay debt, reduce mortgages, fund children’s education and provide money for aging parent’s care. Life insurance is an affordable way to guarantee future security.
  3. Review your disability and critical illness coverage – If there is not sufficient income that will continue to be paid should you become unable to work due to sickness or accident, consider long term disability coverage. Critical illness insurance will provide needed capital in the event of diagnosis of a life-threatening illness or condition. Not only will this provide financial support but will also improve your chances of recovery without the financial stress that often accompanies such a condition.

  4. Investigate Long Term Care Insurance
    – Having the appropriate amount of LTC insurance will help to reduce the stress of having to care for a parent when they are no longer able to fully care for themselves. Consider having all the siblings share the cost.
  5. Draft a Living Will or similar Representation Agreement – Making your wishes known to your loved ones in the event you are no longer capable of making medical decisions will go a long way to providing comfort to all concerned when difficult choices need to be made.

As you can see, being part of the Sandwich Generation can be very stressful – emotionally and financially. Having someone to talk to or being part of a support group dealing with this issue, will certainly help manage the emotional challenges.

Let’s connect soon to discuss what strategies you may need to implement to provide the financial security your family needs.

Copyright @ 2024 FSB Content Marketing Inc.- All Rights Reserved

Preparing Your Heirs for Wealth

If you think your heirs are not quite old enough or prepared enough to discuss the wealth they will inherit on your death, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, this way of thinking can leave your beneficiaries in a decision-making vacuum: an unnecessary predicament which can be avoided by facing your own mortality and creating a plan.

Avoiding the subject of your own mortality can also be an extremely costly to those you leave behind.

If you have a will in place you are ahead of the game. However, authors of the 2017 Wealth Transfer Report from RBC Wealth Management point out that a will is only a fundamental first step, not a comprehensive plan.

“One generation’s success at building wealth does not ensure the next generation’s ability to manage wealth responsibly, or provide effective stewardship for the future,” they write. “Knowing the value (alone) does little to prepare inheritors for managing the considerable responsibilities of wealth.” Overall, the report’s authors say the number of inheritors who’ve been prepared hovers at just one in three.

Two thirds of the survey’s respondents say their own wealth transfer plans aren’t fully developed – a critical barrier to having this discussion in the first place.

While the report focuses on wealthier beneficiaries in society, the lessons remain true for most: to make the best decisions about your wealth transfer, there needs to be planning and communication with your heirs.

1. Recognize that action today can help you create a better future

First, it’s important to acknowledge that creating an estate plan means contemplating your own death – an inescapable element of the process. It can also involve some awkward conversations, particularly if you’re not in the habit of talking about money with family and loved ones.

Without planning the outcome you leave may not be the one you would choose:

“Despite their efforts, parents don’t always succeed in translating good intentions into effective actions. They tend to resort to the informal, in-house learning methods they received in childhood,” say the RBC report’s authors. “Without intending to, parents repeat the lessons that contributed to the weaknesses of their own financial education. In the end, they are not equipping the next generation with the right skills to build lasting legacies.”

2. Understand the tax implications early.

To many, the taxes due on death will almost certainly come as a shock. In many cases, the single largest tax bill you will pay could be the one that your executor handles for you.

In Canada, leaving your assets to your spouse will defer these taxes until he or she disposes of the property or dies. However, if a spouse is not inheriting your assets and real property, planning for this “deemed disposition” is needed to allow your heirs time to make appropriate decisions about your property and legacy.

You may want to consider strategies that will greatly reduce the impact of the taxes to your estate. These strategies could include the use of joint last to die life insurance.

To illustrate how the growth in value of property can result in taxes payable at death, consider an asset which many Canadians own and enjoy – the family cottage.

Recreational real estate in many cases has “been in the family for years.” It often will have appreciated in value significantly since its purchase. Say you purchased the family cottage for $100,000. If the property is now worth $500,000, half of that gain – $200,000 is added to your income and taxed as such in the year you die. That will result in a tax bill of approximately $100,000.

If your family does not have the liquid funds available to pay this bill, the cottage or some other asset will need to be sold to pay the Canada Revenue Agency. Purchasing life insurance to pay the taxes due at death is one way to bequeath the family cottage to heirs. This will allow your children to continue to enjoy the property without having to raise the money to pay the taxes.

All capital property – except your principal residence and investments held as a Tax-Free Savings Account – is dealt with in a similar manner. If your stocks, real property, and other assets have appreciated in value since you first purchased them, half of that amount will be added to your taxable income in the year you die. If your assets included commercial or rental property against which the Capital Cost Allowance has been claimed, there may also be a recapture of depreciation. Again, deferral is available when assets are left to a spouse but if they are left directly to children or other heirs, the taxes become payable when you die.

As if this is not bad enough, the full value of your RRSPs or your RRIF must also be deregistered and included on your final tax return if the RRSP or RRIF is not left to a surviving spouse.

3. Get help to build your plan, then share it with those who matter.

Estate planning typically isn’t a “do-it-yourself” project. Instead, you’ll probably need to rely on a network of professional advisors who can bring their expertise to different parts of your plan.

Once you have your plan in place, it’s time to ensure that the people who are impacted by it are aware of your wishes.

Members of your professional network can help explain your plan to beneficiaries and help those who inherit your assets to understand your preferences and the decisions you’ve made.

Let’s get together to review or create your wealth transfer plans and discuss how you can get assistance in communicating those plans to the people who matter the most.

As always, please feel free to share this article with anyone you think would find it of value.

Impact of Higher Capital Gains Inclusion Rate on Financial & Estate Planning

One change proposed in the April 16, 2024 Federal Budget is raising the inclusion rate on capital gains from 50% to 66.7%. For individual taxpayers, the initial $250,000 of capital gains remains taxed at the 50% inclusion rate. However, for corporations and trusts, the increased inclusion rate applies to all capital gains. These adjustments are slated to come into effect starting June 25, 2024.

What does this mean for individual taxpayers?

Income taxes on realized capital gains are increasing. For example, in B.C. with a top marginal income tax rate of 53.5%, taxes paid on capital gains under $250,000 are taxed at 26.75%. Now, for gains over $250,000 the tax rate increases to 35.85%. For most taxpayers, many of whom would not realize over $250,000 of capital gains in a taxation year, this change will not have any impact. However, for those who do realize such a gain the additional tax could be significant.

Consider someone who has just sold recreational property. If the amount of gain on that Whistler ski cabin, for example, was $500,000, the tax payable on the transaction will increase from $133,750 to $156,500. If that same property had been held in the family for generations the increase in taxes, with the new inclusion rate, could be substantial.

The same will be true for BC residents who own rental properties or investment portfolios that they wish to sell and generate profit. For each $100,000 of capital gain over the $250,000 limit they will pay an additional $9,100 in income tax.

The biggest potential impact of the increased inclusion rate on capital gains will be in estate planning. When a taxpayer in Canada dies, he or she is deemed to have disposed of all their capital property at fair market value. For estates with a large amount of non-registered investments, rental, and recreational property as well as other appreciable capital property, the inclusion rate of 66.7% will increase the final tax bill considerably.

What does this mean for owners of private corporations?

For private corporations (and trusts) there is no reduced inclusion rate for the first $250,000 of gain. Every dollar of realized capital gain is taxed based on an inclusion rate of 66.7%. Using the ski cabin in the first example, if that property had been held in a corporation, upon its sale, the full $500,000 would attract tax based on 66.7% inclusion, increasing the total tax payable to $179,150.

Many successful professionals earn their income in a private corporation retaining surplus income not required for immediate expenses to accumulate corporately for future use. The proposed tax increases on both corporate investment realization and shareholder access to proceeds have been substantial.

There is a vehicle for Canadian-Controlled Private Corporations (CCPCs) known as the Capital Dividend Account. This notional account allows a tax-free flow of the non-taxable portion of capital gains to the shareholder. The amount of tax-free capital dividends has now been reduced because of the increased inclusion rate. For instance, if a corporation realizes a $500,000 capital gain (using the example of a B.C. company with a 50.7% investment tax rate), the corporation’s tax liability would be $169,084, compared to the previous $126,750 with a 50% inclusion rate. Prior to June 25, 2024, the tax-free capital dividend flowing to the shareholder would be $250,000, decreasing to $166,500 thereafter. Consequently, more tax paid within the corporation translates to fewer tax-free proceeds for the shareholder.

For corporations, capital gains will increase their Adjusted Aggregate Investment Income (AAII) more quickly due to the higher inclusion rate. This will have the effect of accelerating the erosion of the Small Business Deduction (low rate of tax on the first $500,000 of active business income) which is reduced by $5 for every $1 of AAII.

Planning Opportunities and Strategies

What are some planning tips and strategies that can be used to mitigate the effect of these new provisions?

  • If you are holding investments with more than $250,000 in deferred capital gains, consider declaring them prior to June 25, 2024. This will require careful consideration as it will require tax to be paid sooner than originally expected. It may also have some Alternative Minimum Tax implications so take this strategy under advisement;

  • Consider a further diversification of your investments to limit capital gain exposure. Cash value life insurance, in particular Participating Whole Life, has been growing in popularity for several years, primarily due to its stable growth and tax-exempt status. This product could prove beneficial in a re-allocation of current investments;

  • Permanent life insurance products have long been used in providing necessary estate liquidity to pay taxes at death. With estates now having a possibility of higher taxes due to the higher inclusion rates, the amount of life insurance held for this purpose should be increased;

  • For owners of private corporations holding capital investments, consider allocating some of those investments to personal ownership to take advantage of the lower inclusion rate for up to $250,000;

  • Corporations should also consider diversifying and re-allocating corporate surplus to a tax-exempt life insurance policy owned by the corporation. This will shelter those investments from high passive corporate investment income tax as well as help protect the Small Business Income Tax rate on the first $500,000 of active business income;

  • You may also want to reassess corporately owned life insurance to help provide for the estate liquidity needs of the business owner, since the death benefit of the policy in excess of its ACB can be paid to the surviving shareholder or family tax free from the Capital Dividend Account.

As in previous budgets, there is currently no draft legislation enacting the provisions of the April 16th budget. Once enacted, however, the terms of the budget impacting the inclusion rate of capital gains will be effective June 25, 2024. It would be prudent to discuss your planning and develop strategies sooner rather than later.

Optimizing Wealth Through Asset Re-Allocation

If you are an active investor, your investment holdings probably include many different asset classes. For many investors, diversification is a very important part of the wealth accumulation process to help manage risk and reduce volatility. Your investment portfolio might include stocks, bonds, equity funds, real estate and commodities. All these investment assets share a common characteristic – their yield is exposed to tax. From a taxation standpoint, investment assets fall into the following categories:

Tax-Adverse

The income from these investments are taxed at the top rates. They include bonds, certificates of deposits, savings accounts, rents etc. Depending on the province, these investments may be taxed at rates of approximately 50% or more. (For example, Alberta 48.0%, BC 53.5%, Manitoba 50.4%, Ontario 53.53%, Nova Scotia 54.0%).

Tax-Advantaged

These investments are taxed at rates lower than those that are tax-adverse. These investments include those that generate a capital gain (stocks, equity funds, investment real estate, etc.), or pay dividends. The effective tax rate on capital gains varies depending on province from approximately 24% to 27%. For non-eligible dividends, the range is between approximately 37% to 49%.

Tax-Deferred

Tax-deferred investments include those investments which are held in Registered Retirement Savings Plans or Registered Pension Plans (such as an Individual Pension Plan). One advantage of these investments is that the contribution is tax deductible in the year it was made. The disadvantage is that the income taken from these plans is tax-adverse as it is taxed as ordinary income and could attract top rates of income tax.

The growth in cash value life insurance policies such as Participating Whole Life and Universal Life is also tax-deferred in that until the funds are withdrawn in excess of their adjusted cost base while the insured is still alive, there is no reportable taxable income.

Tax-Free

Very few investments are tax-free in Canada. Those that are tax-free include the gain in value of your principal residence, Tax-free Savings Accounts (TFSA’s) and the death benefit of a life insurance policy (including all growth in the cash value account).

While Canada is not the highest taxed country in the world (that distinction belongs to Belgium) it is certainly not the lowest. (According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada sits as the 23rd highest taxed country in the world). It is also true that in addition to the taxes Canadians pay while they are living, the final insult comes at death.

Generally speaking, you have three beneficiaries when you die. You have your family, your favourite charities, and the Canada Revenue Agency. They all take a slice of your estate pie. Most people would rather leave more to their family and charities than pay the CRA more than they need to.

As our estates grow, they include funds that we intend to leave to our children and possibly to charity. They also include funds we are likely never going to spend while we are alive.

The secret to optimizing the value of your wealth for the benefit of your estate is to reallocate those assets that you are never going to spend during your lifetime from investments that are tax-exposed to those that are tax-free.

One of the best ways to do this is through life insurance. As mentioned earlier, assets which are tax-free include the death benefit of a life insurance policy. Systematically transferring funds from the tax-exposed investments to, for example, a Participating Whole Life Policy, not only eliminates the reportable tax on the funds transferred, it greatly increases the overall size of the estate to be left tax-free to your beneficiaries – your family and your charities.

Case Study

Let’s consider Ron and Sharon, aged 58 and 56 respectively. They have been told that they have a liquidity need of approximately $1,000,000 which would become payable at the second death. They are also unhappy about the taxes they are paying annually on their investments. They elect to reallocate some of their assets to a Participating Whole Life policy for $1,000,000 last-to-die policy with premiums of $35,000 per year for 20 years.

Over this period, they will transfer a total of approximately $700,000 of investments exposed to income tax to a tax-free environment. If we assume that their life expectancy is 34 years, the Whole Life policy will have grown to a death benefit of approximately $2,630,000*. This represents a pre-tax equivalent yield over this period of approximately 11%. Not only is there more than enough to pay the tax bill but there are funds left over for the family and any charitable donation they wish the estate to make.

In addition, with the transfer from a taxable to tax-free investment, income taxes that would have been paid during their lifetime has also been reduced. Along the way, the Participating Whole Life policy has a growing cash value account which could be borrowed against should the need arise. At the 20th year for example, the cash value of the policy (at current dividend scale), would be approximately $1,071,000.

This case illustrates only one example of how it is possible to optimize the value of an estate through asset re-allocation. By using funds you are never going to spend during your lifetime, you can create a much larger legacy to benefit others while reducing the total cost of your tax bill.

If you would like to investigate this concept to determine the value it can provide you and your family, please be sure to contact me. As always, please feel free to share this information with anyone you think would find it of interest.

* Values shown are using Manulife’s Par 100 Participating Whole Life policy assuming the current dividend scale with premiums paid for 20 years.

Donating to Charity Using Life Insurance

If you are interested in creating a legacy at your death by making a charitable donation, you may wish to investigate using life insurance for that purpose. There are different ways you can structure life insurance for use in philanthropy. The most common are:

Gifting an Existing Life Insurance Policy

If you currently own a life insurance policy, you can donate that policy to a charity. The charity will become owner and beneficiary of the policy and will issue a charitable receipt for the value of the policy at the time the transfer is made, which is usually the cash surrender value of the existing policy.

There are circumstances, however, where the fair market value may be in excess of cash surrender value. If for example, the donor is uninsurable at the time of the transfer, or if the replacement cost of the policy would be in excess of the current premium, the value of the donation may be higher. Under these conditions, it is advisable for the donor to have a professional valuation of the policy, done by an actuary, prior to the donation.

Any subsequent premium payments made to the policy by the donor after the transfer to the charity will receive a charitable receipt.

Gifting a New Life Insurance Policy

In this situation, a donor would apply for a life insurance policy on his or her life with the charity as owner and beneficiary of the policy at the time of issue. All premiums made by the donor on behalf of the charity would be considered as charitable donations.

Gift of the Life Insurance Death Benefit

With this strategy, an individual would retain ownership of the policy but would name the charity as the beneficiary. Upon the death of the insured, the proceeds would be paid to the charity and the estate of the owner of the policy would receive a charitable receipt for the death benefit proceeds. The naming of the charity can be made at any time prior to death. There is no required minimum period that must be satisfied prior to naming the charity as beneficiary.

As long as the life claim is settled within 3 years of death, the executor of the estate has the option to claim the life insurance donation on:

  • The final or terminal return of the insured;

  • The prior income tax year’s return preceding death of the insured;

  • Both the current and prior year tax returns with any excess amount able to carry forward for the next five subsequent years;

  • Any combination of the above.

With this strategy, there are no charitable receipts issued while the insured is alive, only after death when the insurance proceeds are paid to the named charity.

Replacing Donated Assets to the Estate

There may be circumstances where a sizeable donation is made to a charity that would greatly reduce the value of the estate that would be left to family or other heirs. For donors who are concerned that their heirs would receive less than originally intended as a result of this donation, purchasing life insurance to replace the donated asset is a possible solution.

The previous headings represent the ways in which life insurance can enhance or complement philanthropy. As well, life insurance can be a valuable addition to a charitable giving program in that it enables the donor to bequeath a larger donation than otherwise would be possible with just hard assets alone.

If you have been or are contemplating making a significant charitable donation, be sure not to overlook how life insurance can enhance your gifting plans.

Debt Is a Four-Letter Word

Debt today is so common, you might say it can’t be avoided. Most people are not in a position to purchase a house or car for cash, while those who can buy such things outright may prefer to finance and keep control of their capital.

The truth is, while most of us see debt as a bad thing, any money borrowed to generate income or increase net worth can be considered “good debt.”

If the amount borrowed is invested for an overall gain, the debt is a tool. Borrowing to further your education, for example, is good debt since an education generally increases the likelihood you will earn more in the future. Most often, too, the interest paid on this type of debt is tax deductible.

Examples of Good Debt:

  • Education. Student loans for university, college or trade school education can be good debt. As mentioned, interest rates are usually quite low, and repayment is commonly deferred until after graduation. In general, educated workers earn considerably more than uneducated ones, making the cost of borrowing easier to repay. A student loan is the first experience many Canadians have in borrowing and in managing (i.e., paying back) a large fiscal obligation.

  • Business ownership. Many entrepreneurs start their businesses with borrowed funds. For a person with a strong business plan, good entrepreneurial instincts and a desire to succeed, assuming such a loan can be the best investment an individual can make.

  • Real estate. Whether a primary residence or revenue property, real estate has proven to be a prudent long-term investment.

  • Investing. Borrowing to invest allows you to put more money into your investment in an effort to earn extra returns.

This is not to say good debt is without risk. If you take out a leverage loan and your investment fails, you will find yourself owing the borrowed amount plus interest, regardless. Real estate markets can fall, businesses often fail, and there are no guarantees that an education will result in higher income or stable employment.

With that in mind, it is important to think about insuring your loans to protect your family and estate from unwanted liabilities if you die, become critically ill, or disabled.

Bad Debt

Unlike good debt – borrowing to acquire assets that are likely to increase in value – bad debt is incurred when we purchase assets that will decrease in value. Some examples:

  • Automobiles. As soon as you drive that shiny new car off the lot, it loses value and continues to do so for as long as you own it. Unless you use your vehicle for business purposes, paying interest on a car loan makes little sense.

  • Credit cards. If you use credit cards to buy clothing, consumables and other goods or services, you are building a balance of bad debt. Credit card interest rates are extremely high, and rewards cards often charge additional annual fees, making any balance you carry a prohibitively expensive liability.

  • Vacations. Travel now and pay later is simply a bad idea. Once the joy of the vacation wears off, the borrower is left with a high-cost travel loan.

In between good debt and bad debt lies the consolidation loan. Although it is used to merge all “bad” debts, it makes the burden easier to bear by lowering interest costs and monthly payments.

Get Rid of Debt!

Two plans often recommended for getting out of bad and consolidated debt are the debt snowball method and the debt stacking method.

Debt Snowball Method

  1. List all of your debts in ascending order from the smallest (by amount owed) to the largest.

  2. Pay the minimum payment on every debt every month.

  3. Determine how much extra you can pay each month; begin paying off your smallest debt with this amount plus your minimum payment.

  4. Continue to pay this amount until your smallest debt is repaid.

  5. Once the smallest debt is paid, add your minimum payment from debt #1 (now retired) plus the extra you were paying on it to the minimum payment due on debt #2, your second smallest amount owing. Each time one debt is paid off, your payment amount “snowballs,” grows larger, as it is added to the next.

  6. Continue doing this until each debt is retired.

Debt Stacking Method

  1. List all of your debts according to their interest rates.

  2. Continue to make all minimum payments on each balance.

  3. Work out how much additional money, over the minimum payment, you can afford to pay each month, and add this to your minimum payment being made on the loan with the highest interest costs.

  4. Once the highest-interest balance is repaid, start paying the debt with the next highest interest rate.

  5. Continue until all bad debt is retired.

Whichever strategy you use, make sure non-deductible-interest debt is paid off before you tackle the “good” debt.

Anyone concerned about debt load is well advised to seek the advice of a qualified financial planner who will help develop an action plan and recommend risk-management steps. As a qualified planner, I would be most happy to assist you in your debt-management efforts. Please feel free to call me at any time.

Basic Planning for Young Families

As a young family, you will be facing a lot of new challenges that you may or may not be prepared for along the way. Whether it’s children, a mortgage, or unexpected expenses that come up, now is the perfect time to start thinking about all the potential pitfalls that may arise.

In this article we want to share some of the ways that insurance can help you stay ahead of these issues, as well as how to prepare yourself for some of life’s obstacles that you and your family may face.

What Issues Should You Worry About the Most?

Now that you’re starting a family, your life is just one piece of the puzzle. Your spouse and any children are also top priorities, meaning that you should consider what could happen to everyone in a variety of scenarios. Here are some crucial questions you and your partner should discuss;

What happens if one of us dies? – While this question may seem a bit morbid, it’s a necessary possibility to plan for, particularly if you are a one-income household. Even with two breadwinners, chances are that your bills and financial responsibilities are too much for one person, meaning that you need to supplement any lost income as a result of one of you passing away.

What happens if one of us becomes disabled? – Disability can cripple a family unit almost as much as death. Not only do you have to worry about losing income because you or your spouse can’t work, but you will likely have mounting medical bills that will exacerbate the situation.

Even if one of you can still work, is the disabled spouse able to care for the children? Will his or her disability impact their ability to do simple tasks, like buying groceries, picking the children up from school or even changing diapers? If the worst should happen, you need to be ready.

How are we saving for future expenses, like college or retirement? – If you’re like most Canadians, you probably worry about having enough money saved for your children’s post-secondary education and your retirement.

As a young family, you may believe that retirement is an event that’s too far off to consider right now, but the fact remains that when you begin saving for retirement will have a significant impact on how comfortable your retirement will be. Sooner rather than later is advisable for both retirement and university savings. Remember, kids grow up fast and you will want to be ready to help them avoid crippling student debt.

How Insurance Can Help

Worrying about the future can be stressful, which is why it’s imperative that you and your spouse put a plan into place. Thankfully, insurance policies can help create peace of mind for both of you, so let’s look at some of the options available;

Life Insurance

Regardless of your current financial situation, if you or your spouse dies suddenly, it can derail your plans, and it could put your family at risk of accruing debt. When discussing life insurance plans, here are a couple of things to consider;

The Differences Between Term Insurance and Whole Life?

Term Insurance

  • With term life insurance you pay premiums for a specified duration (i.e., 20 years).

  • Your monthly payments are relatively inexpensive.

  • The policy either terminates or renews at a substantial cost at the end of the term period.

  • This kind of policy is excellent if you want peace of mind while the kids are still young

  • Or if you want to avoid high initial premium prices.

Whole Life Insurance

  • Whole life insurance is a permanent plan that can provide protection for as long as you live.

  • Some Whole Life policies become paid up (e.g. 20 pay Life) and stay in force until death or the policy is surrendered.

  • With this type of coverage, you could have a policy on which you have not paid any premiums for decades and when you die your family will receive the death benefit.

  • Another advantage of whole life insurance is that you can contribute money that can also help with retirement. Should you require funds while you are alive, you can borrow against the cash value of your policy or cash surrender the policy in the unlikely event you don’t need it.

Disability Insurance

As we mentioned, a disability can hurt your family as much as a death can. Depending on your employer, you may be eligible for disability insurance through a group plan. One thing that you don’t want to solely rely on, however, is government benefits such as the Canada Pension Plan. Unless you’ve been paying into CPP for many years, your disability benefits most likely would not be enough to cover expenses and lost wages.

Instead, it’s probably best to get an individual disability insurance policy so that you know you’re covered and won’t face any financial shortfalls.

Investing in Your Family’s Future

University education and retirement are two massive expenses for which you should be prepared. Also, if you don’t have a house yet, you should plan on paying a mortgage for up to 30 or 40 years as well. Here are some tips to help you save money for these life events;

Start Early

You may think that saving for these things means that you have to put most of your paycheck away each month. However, even if you save $25 a week, that’s better than nothing. Over time, the money will grow and earn interest, meaning that you can wind up with a significant amount when the time comes.

Open a Registered Educational Savings Plan

When it comes to planning for post-secondary education, an RESP is an excellent way to put aside money for your children. The government will also pay a bonus of up to $500 per year (to a maximum of $7,200) on eligible contributions. There is no annual maximum contribution limit, but the lifetime maximum is $50,000.

Contribute to an RSP (if no company pension plan)

Registered Savings Plans allow you to invest for your retirement and deduct your deposit from your income for income tax purposes. Usually, the maximum allowable contribution is the lesser of 18% of your previous year’s earned income or the maximum contribution amount that changes each year. The maximum contribution for 2023 is $30,780.

Open a Tax-Free Savings Account

Perhaps even before starting an RSP, consider opening a Tax-Free Savings Account.

  • An individual aged 18 and older may contribute up to $6,500 to a TFSA. This can be done every year with the maximum limit adjusted for inflation and rounded out to the nearest $500.

  • Funds contributed to a TFSA are not tax-deductible, but the growth and any withdrawals are tax-free.

  • If you have not contributed to a TFSA, you have been accumulating deposit room for the years you did not contribute. As of 2023, that deposit room has increased to $88,000.

There is an old saying, that people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. The sooner you start that planning the more effective it will be.

As always, please feel free to share this information with anyone you think would find it of interest.