Want to Increase Your Tax Return? Reduce Your Tax Bill? Open an RRSP!

People. Let me get real with you for a second. Tax season is upon us, and there is this magical unicorn of an account in Canada called an RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan). It will help you reduce the amount of tax that you owe the government, and/or increase your tax return. Interested? I thought you’d be! I just maxed out my RRSP before the March 1, 2018, deadline. So get on it, open your account, and start contributing!

“BUT ALANNA, I DON’T KNOW WHAT AN RRSP IS?”

Funny you should say that out loud! I had an infographic created last year about the RRSPNote that the date on the infographic is for 2017 and this years’ deadline is March 1, 2018!) And if you’re like, “Alanna, I don’t want to look at this cool and helpful infographic you had made for your readers”, then read on Donkey Kong.

What is aN RRSP and why should I have one?

A registered retirement savings plan is an account that will help you save for a happy and financially stress-free retirement. Want to live on a boat in the middle of the ocean, scuba diving all day, surrounded by Great White Sharks? Yes. Please. Mountain climb in the middle of Vancouver Island feeding freshly caught salmon to Grizzly bears every day? Fuck, yes – who wouldn’t? The RRSP will help you achieve your dream retirement, but you need to start right NOW. There are two main reasons why:

1. The money that you contribute to your RRSP is deductible from your taxable income.

Um…. what?

Example time! Say you made $40,000 in 2017, and contribute $3000 to your RRSP. When it comes time to file your taxes, you can claim that $3,000 contribution as a deduction and can calculate your income as if you’ve made $37,000. This will likely put you in a lower tax bracket, saving you money and/or increasing your tax return. Cool, huh?

Yes. Yes, it is cool.

2. The savings in your RRSP are able to grow tax-free. Within your RRSP you can invest in stocks, mutual funds, ETF’s, bonds, and other investments. If you make profits from these investments, they are not taxable until you withdraw the funds, which ideally occurs when you retire. And when you retire and have very little income, you will be in a lower tax bracket than you are now (hopefully), and will have to pay less tax on your withdrawals. Kapeesh?

YAS QUEEN.

sweet BOULDER HOLDERS. how do I start?

You can set up a managed RRSP through a Robo-Advisor like Wealthsimple (which helps to reduce your MER fees, rebalance your portfolio, and is just all around awesome), or you can open one up through your bank, credit union, trust, or insurance company. You can also have your RRSP self-directed, and manage it all on your own (that’s what I do!) However, if you’d like to go that route, I’d suggest contacting me for more information on how to do this.

I’m sold! But I need some more facts.

  • If you work and file an income tax return, are under 71 years old, and have a social insurance number, you should definitely consider opening up an RRSP.
  • Your RRSP contribution room changes every year, and is calculated based on the following:
    • 18% of your earned income from the previous year, with a maximum of $26,230 for the 2017 tax year;
    • Whatever remaining amount is available after any company contributes to your RRSP. If your company contributes 10% of your earned income from the previous year, you can only contribute the remaining 8%.
  • You can withdraw up to $25,000 for a down payment on your first home, and not pay any tax under the Home Buyer’s Plan. However, you have up to 15 years to repay the full amount back into your RRSP.
  • Wanna go back and hit the books? You can withdraw up to $10,000/year, or up to $20,000 in total to help pay for your education using the Lifelong Learning Plan. All you have to do is repay at least 10%/year for up to ten years.
  • It isn’t mandatory that you deduct your RRSP contribution on your tax return in the same year that you made the contribution. You can hold off and deduct it in a future year if you think you will be making more money down the road. So, if you have room in your RRSP and just want it generating some kind of income through an investment, you can just leave it in your RRSP and let that shit grow. Yay compound interest!
  • You can set up a spousal/common-law RRSP, which you can contribute to, but your common-law partner/spouse owns. This reduces their taxable income with your help.

RRSP vs TFSA – CONCLUSION

The RRSP and TFSA are great accounts for all Canadians and you should definitely consider opening up one or both of them, and start contributing ASAP. Depending on your financial situation and short/long-term goals, one account may be more beneficial than the other. If you are only making $25,000/year and are in a low tax bracket, you’d probably be better off with a TFSA. But let’s say you get a raise and go from making $25,000/year to $60,000/year, it would probably be worth contributing to your RRSP to put yourself into a lower tax bracket, saving you some money at the end of the year.

So there you have it! Everything you needed to know about the RRSP. If you’re still hella confused and need some more guidance, please contact me! I’ve helped over 100 millennials and Gen-Y’ers figure out what’s best for them and how to get started – and I can help you too!

 

North America’s Student Loan Problem and What Borrowers Can Do to be Successful

This is Tom! He is American. But we share the same financial problems here in Canada. He has a financial blog called Fired Up Millennial. He wrote this article! Enjoy. 

Student loan debt is an ever-growing problem in the United States, but it’s also an issue in Canada.

The average student graduates with around $25,000 CDN ($20,000 USD) in debt. The average American college student in 2014 finished with about $30,000 in student loans. And that number isn’t going down anytime soon.

The cost of post-secondary education is only going to continue to rise. Graduates in 2018 and beyond can expect to graduate with near-crippling amounts of debt and high monthly payments.

How Student Loan Debt is Affecting Grads

When a student graduates with that much debt, it immediately puts them behind in terms of standard ‘life milestones’. Buying a home or car, getting married, starting a family, or starting a retirement account are examples of those milestones.

In Canada, the rate of unemployment for recent graduates was 13.9%, and many of those who find work aren’t getting jobs in their chosen fields. They are often underemployed as well, earning far less than they expected—but still having to make student loan payments.

In the United States, 56% of 18 to 35-year-olds say they’re in the same boat. They’re putting off buying a home, car, or in many cases even moving out of their parents’ home. Getting married and having children is last on the list of milestones to be achieved; the vast amount of student loan debt is affecting marriage and birth rates among college graduates in North America.

Why Aren’t They Moving Forward?

The number one reason that millennials give for being unable or unwilling to take on those life milestones is their student loan payment. With well over half of graduates saying that their student loan debt projections affected their choice of career and 61% of entrepreneurs being held back by student loan payments, the debt weighing on college graduates affects not only the lives of the graduates but all facets of society.

What Millennials Can Do

It might seem hopeless but there are ways that millennials can pay down debt faster and get on with their lives. One of the more obvious options is to pay more than the minimum payments. Most loans offer an interest rate deduction if you have autopay set up. And if you can put an extra $25-50 toward your loans each month, you’ll see even more of a difference because you’ll be deducting from the amount that’s accruing interest.

Refinancing is another viable option. There is no shortage of companies that offer a number of refinancing possibilities. You could apply for a lower interest rate, which decreases the cost of the loan over time. If you end up with both a lower monthly payment and interest rate, still pay the higher amount you were paying before the refinance to pay off the loan quicker.

However, think twice about getting a refinance loan that lowers your monthly payment. If you drop your monthly payment and then start paying only the lower amount, it’ll take you much longer to pay the debt off—exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to do.

It’s Time to start budgeting – for real

One of the most important things you can do to cut your student loan debt down is to design a budget and follow it. First, budget for shelter, food, and absolutely critical things—your gym membership, Starbucks habit, and Netflix are not actually mandatory. Next, budget for your loans and any other debt. Entertainment, fun, and ‘wants’ only come after the first two categories are taken care of. The more fat you can trim from your spending, the faster you can pay down those loans and reclaim those monthly payments.

Lastly, if you come into any extra money, such as a tax refund or bonus cheque at work, use it to make an extra principal payment on your loan.

Conclusion

Student loan debt isn’t an American problem or a Canadian one. It’s an issue affecting all of North America, and even people who aren’t taking out student loans. Real estate, entrepreneurs and small businesses, and many other facets of society are affected by the lessened spending power and financial ability of graduates with the burden of student loan debt.

Even if you’re feeling buried by your education debt, it doesn’t need to be hopeless. There are options, and if you stick to a plan you can get your debt paid off early, and get on with living your life.

Tom blogs over at FIREdUpMillennial.com where he talks about his goal of achieving FIRE – Financial Independence/Retire Early. Tom loves exploring and talking about ways to make the best money decisions so money doesn’t ever have to be an obstacle. Follow him on Twitter @FIREdUpMillenn.

 

Thanks so much for the guest post Tom! If you need some more advice about budgeting, getting your own debts under control, or just getting your financial sh*t together, feel free to contact me.

Happy 2018 To You. Now Get Your F*cking Budget Together.

Happy 2018 To You. From Me! I hope you’ve been having a productive 2018 so far, and that you’ve finished your budget for the upcoming year. I spent the first few weeks of 2018 working on my personal goals list (budget included). I’m a big planner, and there is something extremely satisfying about checking off a goal after I’ve completed it. I also need a little structure in my life, and I think it’s extremely important to always be learning and working towards something.

Here are a few of my 2018 personal goals:

  • Read 12 Books – I’m currently reading my second book “It’s Your Money, Honey”, and I am diggin’ it.
  • Contribute $5500 to my TFSA – I can happily say that I completed this on January 2, 2018, thanks to tracking my 2017 budget. Don’t know what a TFSA is? Check out the infographic.
  • Donate $800 to Charity
  • Learn the Justin Bieber “Sorry” Dance – this was also a 2017 goal that I didn’t complete but I am definitely going to learn it this year.
  • Meditate 3-4x/Week – this has been great. I love meditating. Mostly because I feel like I’m in The Upside Down.
  • Donate Blood 4 Times 
  • Volunteer
  • Prepare 26 New Vegetarian/Vegan Dishes – I’ve already prepared 4! I’m on a roll.
  • Max Out my RRSP – Don’t know what an RRSP is? Check out the infographic.

Updating Your Current Budget

I spent 3 hours over this past weekend reviewing my 2017 budget and re-organizing it for the year ahead. Some big things changed in my life last year that will affect 2018 and beyond. I also have some financial goals on my list that need to be incorporated into my current financial plan. This is what it looked like when I finished my first draft.

It is SO important to do, but more important to track it. And here’s why:

  • If you don’t track your budget, then what’s the point of making it in the first place? I have so many clients who constantly tell me that they have or had a budget but they don’t follow it. WHYYYYYYY? If you’re going to sit down and take the time to make yourself a plan, then you need to track it.
    • Have you ever tried to lose weight by eating the shittiest food possible and sitting on your couch for hours on end? How did that work out for you? Successful? I’m guessing…. probably not. You need to change your old habits and stick to the new ones. Tracking shit will work. Trust me.
  • Things change in your life all of the time. Maybe you got a new job, bought a new house, just had a cute little baby, or maybe you have a big trip coming up. Every year is different, and your budget needs to reflect those changes.
  • The economy changes. This is a BIG one for 2018! So much just happened in Canada and it’s going to affect our wallets. Interest rates just went up, the minimum wage increased in Ontario, and don’t forget about inflation!

What to do now?

After I completed the first draft of my budget, I crunched some numbers and made sure that it made sense. I just started a new job, and I have some upcoming trips that I’m planning for 2018 so I needed to cut back in some areas in order to accommodate for travelling.

I then turned to my Visual Budget tracking app (which I’ve been using for the last 5 years and LOVE more than avocado toast – what is up with that anyway?), and I updated all of my numbers. You should definitely use an app or find your own process that works for you. Just make sure it’s manageable because tracking does take time.

I like to input all of my transactions when they happen, but I know some people who do this on a weekly or monthly basis. Whatever works for you – just fucking do it. If you need another example of some categories that you may be missing, head to the resources page to check out the budgeting examples. This is what my budget looks like now….

Crisp. Clean. Easy to read and track. Puuuuuuurfecto.

conclusion?

You want to make sure that your net income is covering your expenses (savings and investments included)! I know that I’m on the right track. Are you? I just helped 20 other Torontonians create their own budgets at the “Getting Your Financial Sh*t Together” workshop at The Drake Hotel. You should have seen some of their faces after realizing how much they were spending on stupid shit. It’s a real eye-opener for some!

Are you spending more money than you’re making and living outside of your means? Where can you cut back? If you need some more information on creating your own budget or just needs some financial advice, contact me!

 

 

 

It’s Time To Get Your Financial Sh*t Together.

With 2018 right around the corner, don’t you think it’s time to get this adulting thing under control? It’s time to start thinking about your personal finances, and it all starts with a budget. Let me be your personal trainer for your bank account.

If you’ve been following the blog since it launched in January, you probably remember me saying that budgeting is one of the most important aspects of my personal finances. Budgeting was how I was able to save $20,000 in one year while living in Toronto to travel the world for 6 months. And it’s how I continue to live and SAVE in this so-called “expensive” city.

Have you ever thought that maybe you’re making your life more expensive than it needs to be?

WHY YOU NEED A BUDGET

Everyone who makes money should have a budget. It helps you figure out how much money you make, spend, and can ultimately save for short/long-term goals.

If you find yourself with any of the following, you definitely need a budget.

  • You have troubles paying your bills and are in debt.
  • You have zero savings at the end of each month. Can I get an Amen?…. No. This is bad.
  • You have no idea where all of your money is going. You’re good at making it, but you’re better at spending it. You know who you are…
  • You want to plan for a big purchase such as a car, a home, or to go on a big trip.
  • You want to start putting money aside for important life events such as having children, going to school, getting married, and retiring.

let me help you!

Since launching the blog in January, I’ve helped over 50 clients in creating a budget, learning the basics of investing, and making a plan to pay off debts. I offer one-on-one consultations that can be done in person, or through video/phone call if you don’t live in Toronto.

I’ve helped clients with the following:

  • Managing personal finances by creating a personalized budget. I have my clients track their budget after our consultations.
  • Reduce monthly costs with easy to follow tips and tricks that put more money in your pocket at the end of each month.
  • Find ways to get rid of your debts (credit card, automobile, student debt etc.) and offer alternatives to lower your interest rates.

What are your consultations like?

Thanks for asking! It all starts with a conversation. I need to evaluate where your so-called “pain points” lie and what your future goals are. Once I have a better idea of that, we get into the nitty-gritty dirty bits of your finances; looking at your credit card/debit statements, reviewing your current debts/investments (if you have any), and setting you up on a plan that is easy to follow. These plans will work if you stick to them. Promise.

What Past clients have said:

Ready to go?

It’s as easy as sending me an email through the contact page or by emailing me at [email protected].

It’s time to stop stressing over your finances. Start living debt-free. Let’s get you set up on a plan that is easy to follow, non-threatening, and let me help you understand where all of your money is going. Thanks for all of the support and love over the last year. I can’t wait for what’s in store for 2018, and I can’t wait to help you get your finances on track.

 

 

What’s Up With These “Robo-advisors”

You’ve probably been on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter in the last 24 hours and have come across an ad for a company called Wealthsimple – Investing on Autopilot. Or maybe you’ve just heard from friends, family, and coworkers about these new Robo-advisors. So while you sit there, scratch your head, and wonder what this new type of tech is, I’ll explain it to you. As easily as possible.

What is a Robo-Advisor

A Robo-advisor is a new class of financial advisor. It uses algorithms to provide investment management and/or advice with little human supervision. Continue reading

How to Make More Money Meow

Do you know what makes me want to do the Cha-Cha Dance like this cute little kitten?

Alternative streams of income!

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL PEOPLE

I’ve struggled with the idea of a 9-5 job for a large part of my adult life. I’ve tried it before, but I just don’t think it’s for me. When you don’t have a steady income, it’s important to work as much as possible so you can financially support yourself. Since returning from my 6-month journey to South America and Southeast Asia, I have been predominantly working part-time at a restaurant so I can direct my energy on other passions (like this blog).

With this choice, I had to figure out alternative ways to supplement my income as the restaurant gig was only bringing in $2000-$2500 each month. I’m going to share some of those alternative streams of income with you in case you’re looking to make a couple extra bucks to help with bills, savings, or anything else you’re interested in purchasing.  Continue reading

Planning a Trip? Leave Your Financial Stresses on the Runway

Greetings from Wiesbaden, Germany! I’ve been here for the past week and a half for my Oma’s 80th birthday. This is me stuffing my face with the Thanksgiving dinner that we prepared for our German family. Do you know how hard it is to find a Turkey in this country? It’s not easy – let me tell you!

Travelling is an important part of my life, and it’s something that I try to do at least once a year. However, it can get expensive, and it’s something that definitely needs to be budgeted for. I’ve met lots of travellers who end up stressing during or after a trip because they’ve dug themselves so deep into debt.One of my personal goals is to help others create and manage their personal finances and budget for short or long-term goals. So, this post is a list of some handy tips to ensure that you have financially stress free travels.

Continue reading

My Favourite Apps and Websites For Free Stuff and Discounts!

As The Budget Babes, I’m constantly on the lookout for apps and websites that will allow me to save even more money while living in Toronto. I’ve come up with a list of my top 5 apps and websites that are free, and give me rewards just for using them. I hope you benefit from the list below as much as I have. I’ve saved a lot of money with very little effort. And because of that, it’s got me dancing like this….

1. BIKO

This is for all of you cyclists out there! Continue reading