Even so, you may also want to consider paying down a portion of your mortgage. A lump-sum amount—even a modest $10,000 or $20,000—put toward the mortgage principal can significantly reduce the amount of interest one pays in total on the life of the mortgage. Making a mortgage prepayment provides a huge psychological boost, too.
Katie and Tom, given that you are a fairly young, perhaps your salaries are not at the point where the tax deduction from a large RRSP contribution is significant and impactful. RRSP contributions trigger larger tax deductions (and possible refunds) at higher salary levels (say, $80,000 or more). If both of you have salaries that are modest but still growing, putting some of the critical illness payout money in each of your TFSAs is a better choice right now. Investments in those TFSAs will generate solid, tax-free returns for a lifetime—leaving the RRSP contributions for a later time when salaries are higher and the tax benefit will be greater.
Still, because you are not required to claim the tax deduction from RRSP contributions in the year the contribution is made, you have the option of contributing now and “spreading” the tax deduction over a few years. If you want to consider this plan, you should speak to a tax accountant and see how this deduction approach can be of maximum benefit to you over the coming years.
Remember, TFSAs provide more flexibility than RRSPs. The money inside TFSAs can be allocated to shorter-term goals and objectives (like saving for a down payment on a cottage, as payment for tuition towards upgrading your professional skills in the coming years, etc.), or to longer-term goals, including retirement. An RRSP, however, is an investment that will generally have more impact at retirement.
Since you have significant outstanding contribution room for both your RRSPs and TFSAs, it may be prudent to allocate significant sums to all of these plans. One possibility is to maximize contributions to each of your TFSAs and then contribute $30,000 to $40,000 or so toward each of your RRSPs. Again, an accountant can help you decide the most tax-efficient way to make this contribution.
You don’t say how old your children are, but putting money aside in RESPs for them should continue to be a priority. Just make sure the money is invested in a good mix of growth and fixed income investments to have the best chance of getting good returns in the accounts before the kids go off to post-secondary school. You are already on the right course with your RESP investments.
When the time comes to replace your vehicle, you may want to consider vehicle financing at that time rather than using cash reserves that may be better allocated to other areas of your investment plans. Consider buying a vehicle directly from the vehicle manufacturer (and not the dealership). Over the last few years, such manufacturer financing has been at interest rates below 2%—and occasionally even at 0%. The “cost of money” with the financing option over a five-year term at the prevailing rates is under $1,000—so very affordable.
And while many families no longer consider an emergency fund an important piece of their financial puzzle (preferring instead to lean on a line of credit if necessary), it’s a good idea for young families like yours to have one. Medical emergencies, house or car maintenance emergencies, and other unforeseen financial events can happen at a moment’s notice. It’s best to be prepared and have the money easily accessible. Consider keeping at least enough money to cover three months of living expenses in an account to cushion for just such emergencies.
Finally, you may want to seek out the help of a fee-for-service financial planner. These professionals offer an objective, unbiased opinion on your finances and can help you put together a financial plan that would keep you on track to meeting your financial goals over the next few years. Many offer a free 30-minute consultation (either by phone or in-person) and do not sell any financial products. Do a quick Google search to find planners in your area. Interview two or three and settle on one you feel comfortable with. For financial well-being, what gets monitored gets improved. By finding a good fee-for-service planner, you can help ensure your financial goals will be met—whether it be with your homeownership goals, investments, or retirement planning.
Heather Franklin is a fee-for-service financial planner in Toronto.
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