A new year always represents an opportunity to do things differently. Some people set specific goals with action plans, others have a general sense of what they want to improve and act on it. According to a recent study by U.S.-based Fidelity Investments, 51% of people who made financial resolutions last year reported feeling better about their finances today — compared to just 38% who said the same but did not set goals.
In the spirit of the season, we offer this month-by-month guide to help you better organize and optimize your financial affairs. Even if you’re already in good shape, you might find something on the list that could help you improve your overall financial picture — and your peace of mind.
- Reflect back on 2014:
- Review prior year’s investment portfolio and discuss with your advisor your strategy for the upcoming year.
- If any significant changes or life events occurred; births or deaths, buying or selling of material assets, make sure to revise your Will and Power of Attorney(s) to reflect current wishes.
- Review balance sheet for all family entities (i.e. trusts, corporations, family members).
- Effectively redeploy cash balances to reduce debt or to obtain higher returns.
- Minimize non tax-deductible debt and consolidate where appropriate.
- Assess short term liquidity needs; set aside emergency funds covering a minimum of 3 months of living expenses.
- Pay interest on prescribed rate loan by January 30th. If you don’t have a prescribed rate loan, consider it; as rates are at their lowest levels 1% from January 1st – March 31st.
- Revise pre-authorized corporate tax remittance.
- Establish priorities for charitable giving. Revise pre-authorization of payments for changes in giving.
- Take advantage of tax sheltered compound growth.
- RRSP contribution deadline for 2014 is March 2nd 2015; maximum contribution limit for 2014 is $24,270.
- TFSA contribution room is $5,500 for 2015. Top up unused contribution room accumulated since 2009 and re-contribute any withdrawals from previous years.
- Consider spousal RRSP or RRSPs/TFSAs for kids over the age of 18.
- Review past unused contribution room in RESPs and take action. Only one year’s contribution can be carried forward in a given year to receive government grants.
- Collect receipts and other information for tax filings due in March (trusts) and April (personal).
- Consider paying out a taxable/capital dividend to preserve your operating company’s qualifying small business corporation status.
- First installment due on March 15th for taxpayers remitting quarterly.
- File trust tax and information returns by March 30th.
- File personal tax returns for all family members by April 30th.
- Pay any outstanding tax liabilities by April 30th (April 15th for U.S. filings).
- Revise personal tax installments for the balance of the year.
- Review Q1 investment portfolio results.
- Review life and disability insurance needs and coverage.
- Discuss income/family expectations for university/college children returning home to set expectations for the summer and September enrollment.
- Review your notice of assessment and take appropriate action.
- Second quarter installment due on June 15th for taxpayers remitting quarterly.
- File personal tax return by June 15th if self-employed.
- Pay out any prior year accrued bonus by June 30th for companies with a calendar year end.
- Consider sprinkling the capital gains exemption on shares in your business to other family members.
- Review Q2 investment portfolio results.
- Consider mid-year reflection on personal, business, family and financial goals, philanthropic/stewardship objectives etc. and develop action plan for implementation in Q3 and Q4.
- Determine most effective tuition funding strategy for upcoming school year. Also, review student living accommodation and opportunities to buy vs. rent.
- Encourage and support your children in establishing their own savings and investment plans.
- Third quarter installment due on September 15th for taxpayers remitting quarterly.
- Review shareholder’s agreement.
- Consider the merits of incorporating and/or an estate freeze.
- Consider transferring property to other family members to minimize current and future tax liability. If you have a child turning 18, there are additional opportunities.
- Review Q3 investment portfolio results.
- Review medical expenses for the past 12 months (including those of dependent parents) to determine if there are tax deduction benefits.
- Begin year-end tax planning:
- Review status of unrealized capital gains and losses on investment portfolio and take appropriate action to minimize taxes for the current and prior years.
- Consider a private or community foundation to shelter large capital gains.
- Consider flow-through shares or other tax sheltering opportunities.
- Ensure at least minimum RRIF and IPP withdrawals are made prior to year end.
- Last installment due on December 15th for taxpayers remitting quarterly.
- Make all charitable donations, TFSA and RESP contributions by December 31st.
- Ensure IPP contributions are made by December 31st or fiscal year end.
- Determine bonus/dividend policy for your company.
- Ensure amounts paid or payable from trusts to beneficiaries are properly documented.
- Income splitting: ensure family members are paid for work done during year.
- Any loans from the company to shareholders should be eliminated prior to year-end; otherwise shareholders will be deemed to receive a benefit equal to the value of the loan.
- Final review of tax loss selling opportunities. Remember carryback of losses to shelter gains from prior years.
- OAS and CPP benefits typically begin at age 65. At age 60, consider receiving CPP benefits early or alternatively, delay OAS and CPP in exchange for the higher monthly amounts.
- Benefits do not begin automatically; you must apply to receive benefits.
- December 31st of the year you turn 71 is the last day you can contribute to your own RRSP. Prior to year end contact your plan administrator to transition your RRSP to a RRIF account.
- If over 40, consider setting up an Individual Pension Plan (IPP) or Retirement Compensation Arrangement (RCA).