When and Why You Should Conduct an Insurance Audit

As our lives grow and change with variable circumstances, new additions, and job transitions, our needs for insurance will also evolve. Additionally, economic fluctuations and external circumstances that influence your insurance policy will need frequent re-evaluation to ensure that you are making the most appropriate and financially favorable decisions. Perhaps you aren’t sure whether you should conduct an insurance audit or not. The following scenarios are usually a good indication that you should thoroughly assess and review your current policy contract: 

  • Bringing new life into your family? A new baby may not only prompt you to adjust your beneficiary information, but it is likely to change or influence your coverage needs.
  • Changing jobs? Probationary periods may not provide the same level of disability or accident insurance.
  • Is your policy nearing the end of its term? Be sure to compare prices for new policies as they can sometimes be more affordable as compared to renewing the current plan.
  • Has your marital status changed? Your insurance policy will likely need updating to reflect such.

The specific type of insurance policy you carry as well as personal details certainly influence coverage and premium prices, so if any of the following factors apply to you, be sure to update your policy accordingly. You might be eligible for a rate reduction. 

  • Changes to your overall risk assessment like smoking cessation, dangerous hobbies, high risk profession etc.
  • If you have experienced improvements to a previously diagnosed health condition.
  • Do your policy’s investment options still fall in line with current market conditions?
  • Have you used your insurance policy as collateral for a loan? Once that loan is paid off, collateral status should be taken off the policy.

Insurance policies generated for business purposes should also be regularly reviewed to make sure the policy still offers adequate coverage to meet the needs of the company and includes the appropriate beneficiary information. With life happening so quickly, it can be easy to forget about keeping insurance policies up to date, however, major changes can have a profound impact on coverage and premiums. Be sure to conduct insurance audits often to ensure your policies are still meeting your needs. 

Contact us to see how we can help. 

Why You Should Consider Critical Illness Insurance

If I did a straw poll, I’m sure I’d find that the majority of those asked have some form of life insurance. The reasoning behind taking out this cover is usually centered around the desire to provide protection and security to their family and loved ones in the event of their death, which is clearly an admirable objective. But, if I asked the same group of people who of them had critical illness insurance – essentially, a policy that pays out if you become too ill to work – in all likelihood the number would be much smaller.

Why is this? It makes sense on paper that people would want to sustain their level of income in the event that they become disabled or too ill to work, yet some of the most common objections include the price, a preference to save themselves for such an event (often known as being self-insured) or simply a sense of denial that this could ever happen to them.

Critical illness insurance varies from policy to policy but typical conditions that it covers in Canada includes heart attack, stroke and cancer. Unlike other types of insurance that provide income replacement, if you are seriously ill, critical illness insurance provides a lump sum benefit that can be used in any way you choose.

The benefits of critical illness insurance

Whilst taking out any kind of insurance policy comes down to personal choice and one’s own individual circumstances, many independent financial experts recognize the benefits that critical illness insurance can offer. Here are some of them:

  • Whilst saving and self-insuring can seem like an attractive alternative, it simply isn’t an option for many. Even if you are fortunate enough to have the means to save for such an eventuality, you would need to be able to guarantee a solid and consistent return on your investment for it to outweigh the financial benefit of critical illness insurance – some estimates put this at a rate of around 10% return for 20 years.
  • Whilst some employers do offer company disability plans, they typically do not pay out the full amount of your pay cheque on an ongoing basis, which can have the potential to have a serious impact on your personal finances, just when you need such a worry the least. What’s more, one of the major advantages of a critical illness policy is that, if you are able to return to work and therefore begin earning again, you still have the benefit of the lump sum that has been paid out under the policy – offering you an incomparable measure of financial freedom to potentially pay off your mortgage or put your kids through university. Essentially, offering you much more financial freedom.

In short, there are no perfect answers in the area of your personal finances, but if you are looking for an option that has the potential to offer you a real sense of peace of mind to secure the financial future of you and your family, critical illness insurance is certainly an interesting avenue to explore.

Tax Planning Tips for End of 2018

Now that we are nearing year end, it’s a good time to review your finances. 2018 saw a number of major changes to tax legislation come in force and more will apply in 2019, therefore you should consider available opportunities and planning strategies prior to year-end.

Below, we have listed some of the key areas to consider and provided you with some useful tips to make sure that you cover all of the essentials.

Key Tax Deadlines for 2018 Savings

December 31, 2018:

  • Medical expenses

  • Fees for union and professional memberships

  • Charitable gifts

  • Investment counsel fees, interest and other expenses relating to investments

  • Student loan interest payments

  • Political contributions

  • Deductible legal fees

  • Some payments for child and spousal support

  • If you reached the age of 71 in 2018, contributions to your RRSP

January 30, 2019

  • Interest on intra-family loans

  • Interest you must pay on employer loans, to reduce your taxable benefit

February 14, 2019

  • Expenses relating to personal car reimbursement to your employer

March 1, 2019

  • Contributions to provincial labour-sponsored venture capital corporations

  • Deductible contributions to a personal or spousal RRSP

Family Tax Issues
  • Check your eligibility to the Canada Child Benefit
    In order to receive the Canada Child Benefit in 2019/20, you need to file your tax returns for 2018 because the benefit is calculated using the family income from the previous year. Eligibility depends on set criteria such as your family’s income and the number and age of your children and you may qualify for full or partial amount.

  • Consider family income splitting
    The CRA offers a low interest rate on loans and it therefore makes sense to consider setting up an income splitting loan arrangements with members of your family, whereby you can potentially lock in the family loan at a low interest rate of 2% and subsequently invest the borrowed monies into a higher return investment and benefit from the lower tax status of your family member. Don’t forget to adhere to the new Tax on Split Income rules.

  • Have you sold your main residence this year?
    If so, your 2018 personal tax return must include information regarding the sale or you may lose any “principal residence” exemptions on the capital gains from the sale and thus make the sale taxable.

  • If you’re moving, think carefully about your moving date
    If you are moving to a new province, it’s worth noting that your residence at December 31, 2018 is likely to be the one that your taxes are due to for the whole of the 2018 year. Therefore, if your move is to a province with higher taxes, putting your move off until 2019 may therefore make sense, and vice versa if you are moving to a lower tax province.

Managing Your Investments
  • Use up your TFSA contribution room
    If you are able, it’s worth contributing the full $5,500 to your TFSA for 2018. You can also contribute more (up to $57,500) if you are 27 or older and haven’t made any previous TFSA contributions.

  • Check if you have investments in a corporation
    The new passive investment income rules apply to tax years from 2018 and you therefore need to plan ahead if the rules affect you. They state that the small business deduction is reduced for companies which are affected with between $50,000 and $150,000 of investment income, therefore the small business deduction has been stopped completely for corporations which earn passive investment income of more than $150,000.

  • Think about selling any investments with unrealized capital losses
    It might be worth doing this before year-end in order to apply the loss against any net capital gains achieved during the last three years. Any late trades should ideally be completed on or prior to December 21, 2018 and subsequently confirmed with your broker. Conversely, if you have investments with unrealized capital gains which are not able to be offset with capital losses, it may be worth selling them after 2018 in order to be taxed on the income the following year.

Estate and Retirement Planning
  • Make the most of your RRSP
    The deadline for making contributions to your RRSP for the year 2018 is March 1, 2019. There are three things that affect how much you may contribution towards your RRSP, as follows:

    • 18% of your previous year’s earned income

    • Up to a maximum of $26,230 for 2018 and $26,500 for 2019

    • Your pension adjustment

Remember that deducting your RRSP contribution reduces your after-tax cost of making said contribution.

  • Check when your RRSP is due to end
    You should wind-up your RRSP if you reached the age of 71 during 2018 and your final contributions should be made by December 31, 2018.

Other Considerations
  • Make your personal tax instalments
    If you pay your final 2018 personal tax instalment by December 15, 2018, you won’t pay interest or penalty charges. Similarly, if you are behind on these instalments, you should try to make “catch-up” payments by that date. You can also offset part or all of the non-deductible interest that you would have been assessed if you make early or additional instalment payments.

  • Remember the deadline for making a taxpayer-relief request
    The deadline is December 31, 2018 for making a tax-payer relief request related to the 2008 tax year.

  • Consider how to minimize the taxable benefit for your company car
    The taxable benefit applied to company cars is comprised of two parts – a stand-by charge and an operating-cost benefit. If you drive a company car, it’s worth considering how to potentially minimize both of these elements. The taxable benefit for operating costs is $0.26 per km of personal use, therefore you should make sure that you reimburse your employer where relevant, by the deadline of February 14, 2019.

Contact us if you have any questions, we can help.

Buy a $20,000 RRSP for $3,200

Financial Planning for business owners is often two-sided: personal financial planning and planning for the business.
Business owners have access to a lot of financial tools that employees don’t have access to; this is a great advantage, however it can be overwhelming too. A financial plan can relieve this.
A financial plan looks at where you are today and where you want to go. It determines your short, medium and long term financial goals and how you can reach them. For you, personally and for your business.

Financial Planning for Business Owners

Financial Planning for business owners is often two-sided: personal financial planning and planning for the business.

Business owners have access to a lot of financial tools that employees don’t have access to; this is a great advantage, however it can be overwhelming too. A financial plan can relieve this.

A financial plan looks at where you are today and where you want to go. It determines your short, medium and long term financial goals and how you can reach them. For you, personally and for your business.

Why do you need a Financial Plan?

  • Worry less about money and gain control.
  • Organize your finances.
  • Prioritize your goals.
  • Focus on the big picture.
  • Save money to reach your goals.

For a business owner, personal and business finances are connected. Therefore both sides should be addressed: Personal and Business.

 

What does a Financial Plan for a Business include?

There are 2 main sides your business financial plan should address: Growth and Preservation

Growth:

  • Cash Management- Managing Cash & Debt
  • Tax Planning- Finding tax efficiencies
  • Retaining & Attracting Key Talent

Preservation:

  • Investment- either back into the business or outside of the business
  • Insurance Planning/Risk Management
  • Succession/Exit Planning

 

What does a Personal Financial Plan include?

There are 2 main sides your financial plan should address: Accumulation and Protection

Accumulation:

  • Cash Management – Savings and Debt
  • Tax Planning
  • Investments

Protection:

  • Insurance Planning
  • Health Insurance
  • Estate Planning

 

What’s the Financial Planning Process?

  • Establish and define the financial planner-client relationship.
  • Gather information about current financial situation and goals including lifestyle goals.
  • Analyze and evaluate current financial status.
  • Develop and present strategies and solutions to achieve goals.
  • Implement recommendations.
  • Monitor and review recommendations. Adjust if necessary.

 

Next steps…

  • Talk to us about helping you get your finances in order so you can achieve your lifestyle and financial goals.
  • Feel confident in knowing you have a plan to get to your goals.

Estate Planning for Business Owners

Writing an estate plan is important if you own personal assets but is all the more crucial if you also own your own business. This is due to the additional business complexities that need to be addressed, including tax issues, business succession and how to handle bigger and more complex estates. Seeking professional help from an accountant, lawyer or financial advisor is an effective way of dealing with such complexities. As a starting point, ask yourself these seven key questions and, if you answer “no” to any of them, it may highlight an area that you need to take remedial action towards. 

  • Have you made a contingency plan for what will happen to your business if you are incapacitated or die unexpectedly?
  • Have you and any co-owners of your business made a buy-sell agreement?
  • If so, is the buy-sell agreement funded by life insurance?
  • If you have decided that a family member will inherit your business when you die, have you provided other family members with assets of an equal value?
  • Have you appointed a successor to your business?
  • Are you making the most of the lifetime capital gains exemption ($835,714 in 2017) on your shares of the business, if you are a qualified small business?
  • Are you taking care to minimize any possible tax liability that may be payable by your estate in the event of your death?

Estate freezes 

The process of freezing the value of your business at a particular date is an increasingly common way of protecting your estate from a large capital gains tax bill if your business increases in value. To achieve this, usually the shares in the business that have the highest growth potential are redistributed to others, often your children, meaning that they will be liable for the tax on any increase in their value in the future. In exchange, you will receive new shares allowing you to maintain control of the business with a key difference – the value of the shares is frozen so that your tax liability is lower and that of your estate when you die will also be reduced. 

Paying for Education

Post-secondary education can be expensive, however having the opportunity to plan for it helps with making sure that you’re capable to meet the costs of education. In addition, when you have a plan, it’s easer to make financial decisions that align with your goals and provide peace of mind. In the infographic, we outline 7 sources of funds for paying for post-secondary education: 

  • Registered Education Savings Plan
  • Tax Free Savings Account
  • Life Insurance
  • Scholarships, grants, bursaries
  • Personal Loans, Lines of Credit
  • Government Student Loan
  • Personal Savings