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15 ways Canadians can flourish financially in a COVID-19 world

COVID-19 has brought wide-sweeping change. The silver lining with any change is that it opens the door to new opportunities. Here are 15 thoughts on how a financial planner views moments in a time like this:

1. You now have more time to get your taxes prepared. You also have more time to pay your taxes for 2019 and your instalments for 2020.

2. Those of you with RRIF or LIF accounts are familiar with your requirement to take a minimum withdrawal each year which is fully taxable as income. This year, the minimum payment will be adjusted downward by 25% which will allow you to report less income on your tax return. Given the situation, this may also preserve some of your OAS if you’re currently being fully or partially clawed back. Cash flow could potentially be replaced by withdrawing the additional 25% from your non-registered account this year.

3. Somewhat surprisingly, the Government of Canada has recently confirmed that if you had previously withdrawn your original RRIF minimum payment earlier in 2020, that you will not be permitted to re-contribute the 25% excess withdrawal back into your RRIF.

4. Let’s recognize that stock markets are down. Let’s also recognize that they’ll go back up. How can we turn this moment into an opportunity?

5. If you make more money than your spouse, spousal loans are a great way to shift income. Now might be a great time to initiate new spousal loans because portfolio values are lower than they used to be and the eventual recovery could be captured by your lower income spouse.

6. In other circumstances (typically in retirement after age 65+ when RRIF, LIF, and pension income can be split between spouses), previous spousal loans can lose their merit. In some cases, it’s too costly from a capital gains perspective to repatriate funds back to the original spouse, so these loans remain in place for longer than they need to. If your portfolio has fallen in value then the capital gains cost to unwind a spousal loan may no longer be a detriment. You could look at this time as an opportunity to repatriate the loan and tidy up your overall affairs.

7. If you reported taxable capital gains on your previous three tax returns, you may look to trigger a capital loss today which you could carry back against those gains. The losses could also be carried forward and applied against gains in the future.

8. If you have a plan to unwind your RRIF, LIF, or investment holding company over the next several years, then you could look at this as an opportunity to extract some money out of those accounts now at their lower values (pay the tax on the dividend or RRIF/LIF income) and then shift your money into a personal non-registered account or TFSA to be better positioned for recovering equity values as we move forward.

9. Beware of superficial losses when selling anything at a loss. Your loss will be denied if you or someone affiliated to you re-acquires the same shares within 30 days of your sale. It’s important right now to not be out of the market, so consider buying something with a high correlation for the interim 30 day wait period. Once the 30 days are over, you can sell the replacement security and buy back into your original investment.

10. For others, now might be a good time to extract a taxable (EAP) withdrawal from an RESP plan. If your child is in post-secondary school, they will be taxed on the income. An EAP withdrawal now will allow you to take more investment units out now at a lower tax impact to your child. This money does not need to be spent right now! Instead, transfer it into your TFSA, or the TFSA of your child and store it there for future education expenses. The upside growth inside the TFSA will be tax-free, whereas it will be taxable to your child if left in the RESP. I’ll take tax-free growth over tax-deferred growth every day of the week.

11. The same goes for the PSE (non-taxable education withdrawal) portion of a RESP. This could be aggressively withdrawn and transferred into TFSA accounts. If you or your children have unused TFSA room, request every single dollar of available PSE withdrawals to shift money out of RESPs and into TFSAs. If your child is in post-secondary school, then there’s no limit on PSE withdrawals; use the withdrawal rules to your advantage.

12. Mortgage rates have also been volatile in this environment. It’s worth a check-in email with your lender to see if there are any opportunities for you to renegotiate your mortgage now or if it makes sense to wait. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

13. We’re living in unsettled times. Here’s some advice I’ve been telling my clients. Close your eyes and picture the world two weeks from now… what do you see? When I do that the future is murky and uncertain. Now do it again and extend the timeline. Try to envision the world a year from now. When I do that, it’s hard to imagine that we won’t be back to a very similar day-to-day lifestyle that we’re accustomed to.

14. Normalcy will return. The timeline is unknown, but we will get there. If we know where we are going then let’s take advantage of what we can do today to position ourselves best for that future.

15. Talk to your team of professionals. We are here for you.

Aaron Hector, Vice President & Financial Consultant,
Doherty & Bryant Financial Strategists (iAIC)

This article was published in T.E. Wealth’s Strategies newsletter. Read the full edition here.

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These articles are for general informational purposes only. Please obtain professional advice before taking any action based on this information. No endorsement or approval of any third parties or their advice, information, products or services should be implied by any references to third parties contained in any article. Trademarks cited in these articles are the respective properties of their owners.

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