2018 year-end financial checklist
Author: Sound Choices
December 7, 2018
The content in the below article is meant for Canadian investors only.
December can be a time of reflection. When we look back at the previous year and recognize achievements – and hopefully don’t dwell too much on what could have been done better.
The holiday season is also about gathering together with family and friends. To celebrate new members of your group, but also to notice that others may need extra support.
And while we don’t want to add to your already growing to-do list, adding these items could help make sure your financial matters are set up for 2019.
- Have you designated beneficiaries for all your accounts? The beneficiary is the person or entity that will receive the proceeds from your account when you die – by naming a beneficiary, you eliminate any doubt as to who you want that money to go to. If you haven’t specified one, the default is your estate – and there could be significant delays and paperwork involved to release the funds.
- Are your beneficiaries up to date? Do they take into account any life events that have happened? It’s up to you to make sure your beneficiaries reflect any changes in your life.
2. Health-care planning
- If you notice at a holiday gathering that one of your friends or family needing more help, knowing when to start a conversation or what to ask can be difficult. But it’s important to seize the opportunity, so you can make sure they’re prepared.
- AGF’s health-care needs checklist can help guide the conversation and the health-care record sheet will help capture the key information you’ll need, such as contact information, medications, etc.
3. Emergency fund
- Unexpected expenses or critical life events can have a detrimental impact on your finances if you don’t have an emergency fund.
- Three to five months of living expenses (at least) can help weather a storm and minimize reliance on credit cards and loans.
- If you don’t have any money set aside, take a look at your budget to see if you can reduce discretionary expenses like entertainment or dining.
- Make contributions – so you can receive the government grants. RESP savings can be supplemented with government education savings initiatives – but in 2016, 3.4 million children were not benefiting from any education savings incentives*. Read “Don’t leave money on the table” to find out more.
- If your child turned 15 this year and has never been a beneficiary of a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), you need to contribute at least $2,000 before the end of the year in order to receive the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) for 2018 and be eligible to receive the CESG for 2019 and 2020. Find out more at Special CESG rules for beneficiaries age 16 and 17.
- Withdraw money for post-secondary students. There are two types of withdrawal options – the Educational Assistance Payment (EAP), which consists of the CESG and earnings, and the Post-Secondary Education (PSE) Withdrawal, which is the investment principal (the money you invested). The EAP is taxed in the hands of the beneficiary, so if you make a withdrawal before year-end, it will be included in the student’s income for 2018. Here’s what you need to know about withdrawals.
- Sort out any unused RESP money. If the beneficiary has graduated, you can do a final EAP up to six months after the student has left school. Read “what happens to unused RESP money.”
- Visit AGF.com/RESP to learn more about RESPs.
- Make your 2018 contribution, if you haven’t already. For 2018, the contribution deadline is December 31 and the contribution limit is $5,500. If you don’t contribute, your eligible amount is added to your contribution room and can be carried forward indefinitely. Your contribution room is tracked and confirmed by the CRA.
- Withdrawing money? If you’re planning to withdraw money from your TFSA soon, consider doing it before year-end. The amount withdrawn is added back to your contribution room in the following calendar year so if you withdraw before December 31, this amount would be available to contribute again in 2019.
- Visit AGF.com/TFSA for more information on TFSAs.
- Contribution deadline – March 1, 2019. While the 2018 contribution deadline is still a couple of months away (March 1, 2019), if you haven’t contributed already, it’s not always easy to find the money to do so after the holiday season. The 2018 contribution limit is the lessor of $26,230 or 18% of 2017 earned income from your previous tax year, minus any pension adjustments, plus unused contribution room from previous years. Your contribution room is tracked and confirmed by the CRA.
- Delay withdrawals. If you’re planning to withdraw money for the Home Buyers Plan or Life Learning Plan and can delay until early 2019, the first repayment would be delayed by a year. To find out more about both programs and the repayment schedules, read “Two less-traditional ways to use RRSPs“
- To learn more about RRSPs, visit AGF.com/RRSP
- If you’re 71, convert your RRSP to a RRIF. At the end of the year in which you turn 71 years of age, your RRSP matures and must be converted to either a life annuity or a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF), or deregistered. A RRIF is an RRSP in reverse – RRSPs allow you to accumulate tax-sheltered savings for retirement, while a RRIF generates a taxable retirement income stream from these savings – which still continues to grow and remain tax-sheltered. An RRSP can be rolled into a RRIF at any time, but you are not required to do so until the year you turn 71.
- If you already have a RRIF, withdraw the minimum amount. Each year (beginning the year after the RRIF was opened), a taxable “annual minimum amount” must be withdrawn. If your RRIF isn’t your main source of retirement income, you may forget to withdraw the minimum amount – this must be done by December 31 of the year following the one in which the RRIF was established and then each year thereafter. For example, if the RRIF is opened in November 2018, the first withdrawal must occur by December 31, 2019.
- Additional resources on RRIFs can be found at AGF.com/RRIF.
Contact your financial advisor to ensure your year-end checklist is complete.
* Source: 2016 Annual Statistical Review, Canada Education Savings Program, Employment and Social Development Canada. The number of beneficiaries who have ever received Additional CESG is being used as a representation for children from middle- and low income families who have benefited from RESP funds. However, Canadians who opened an RESP before the introduction of the Additional CESG in 2005 would have had to subsequently request the Additional CESG. Given that some Canadians may not have made the new request for the Additional CESG, the numbers being used to represent middle- and low-income families are considered to be understated.
This information is based on material believed to be reliable and is provided as a general source of information and should not be considered any personal investment or tax advice. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy at the time of publication, however AGF Management Ltd. and its affiliates cannot guarantee 100% accuracy of this information, and is not responsible for the development and creation of this material. It is important for investors to consult with their financial and tax advisors before making any investment or tax planning decisions.
The contents of this Web site are provided for informational and educational purposes, and are not intended to provide specific individual advice including, without limitation, investment, financial, legal, accounting or tax. Please consult with your own professional advisor on your particular circumstances.
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