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.
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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.
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.
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?
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.
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
Retirement planning can be a complex process for us all, but if you are the owner of a small business it may can get even more complicated, due to the various factors and circumstances that you have to take into consideration. A common mistake made by small business owners is reinvesting extra money to grow their business, at the expense of putting it aside to save for their retirement.
Although there is no magic formula for getting started on a retirement strategy for your business, there are some general principles which might help you to get a handle on the steps that you need to take. One of the key ideas is the consideration of both your business and your personal finances and how to structure and integrate the two in order to create a robust retirement financial strategy.
Here are some tips on how to get started on a retirement plan.
- Set aside time to plan for the future – It’s important to make retirement planning a priority, or you run the risk of never getting around to it. A professional financial planner can help you to assess your personal circumstances and create a personalized plan that suits you and your business, with the right balance between saving and reinvestment to help your business to grow.
- Think about your future retirement income – Here are the main sources of retirement income that small business owners usually rely on:
- Equity held in your business – If your business is successful, you are likely to benefit from equity from it in your retirement. Selling your company is an option, particularly attractive to some as, in some cases, you could benefit from the lifetime capital gains exemption on the sale. Of course, finding the right person to run your business in the future is easier said than done. A clear succession plan, created in advance of your retirement, can help you to ensure that business continuity will be affected as little as possible and will give you peace of mind as you approach your retirement. You may also want to consider using the expertise of an accountant or mergers and acquisitions specialist to help you to value your business correctly and also look after your interests when liaising with potential purchasers.
- Alternatively, you may choose for your children to inherit your business, or you may decide to retain ownership of dividend-paying preferred shares in order to maintain an ongoing source of income.
- Registered plans – A Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) can offer personal tax deductions on your contributions, plus your savings will grow as tax-deferred whilst in the plan. In addition, tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) can be a useful way to save tax-free in particular circumstances.
- Consider offering a retirement savings plan to your employees – Paying your statutory contribution of the Canada Pension Plan is just the minimum – many small businesses choose to offer their employees enhanced pension contributions as an incentive or employee benefit. For example, you could match their RRSP contributions to a set limit, to help their retirement nest grow more quickly. Alternatively, you could offer a benefit plan with an investment contribution package from an insurance company, which can be a more straightforward and cost-effective choice.
- Be sure to diversify – As a small business owner, you should avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket, financially speaking, as this could leave you vulnerable to changes in the market. Try to diversify your investments and spread your funds in order to protect yourself and engage the help of a professional where necessary to help you to do so.
In summary, it’s important to remember that retirement planning is a process which is unique and personal to your own and your business’ circumstances and there is no uniform approach which works across the board. Take time to take stock of your current situation, as well as your goals for the future and this will help you to create a retirement plan that is right for your needs, both current and future.
Get in Touch
Tel: (780) 945-1010
Toll Free: (877) 460-6460
Suite 10, St. Albert Inn
156 St. Albert Road
St. Albert, AB
About Gordon Malic
Gord entered the financial business in 1987 and is the president of Charter Wealth Management, a company that provides comprehensive financial planning services to private clients. Risk management and investment strategies for owners and managers of private and public companies are Gord's main focus.