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RRSP Deadline for 2007 Taxes
Choosing A Financial Planner

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# Friday, 22 February 2008
Friday, 22 February 2008 16:06:41 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

Midnight of February 29, 2008 is the deadline for RRSP contributions for the tax year of 2007. RRSPs give Canadians a tax break, as well as letting your hard earned money grow tax-deferred. This differs from capital gains and interest accumulated on other investments, which are added to your taxable income for the year. As RRSPs are deducted from your taxable income, it effectively reduces the total amount that is subject to taxation. Waiting until retirement to cash in your RRSPs means that you are now in a lower income bracket, therefore you will pay less taxes, as your RRSPs are only taxable upon withdrawal.

RRSP is an acronym for Registered Retirement Savings Plan. It is not a specific financial product. It is rather a number of investments that are registered with the federal government specifically earmarked for your retirement. The Income Tax Act has a current list of eligible investments from which you can choose; the most popular is mutual funds, guaranteed investment certificates, accumulation annuities , segregated funds, and equities. However, you have a wide range of possible investments to choose from, depending on the financial risk you are willing to take. Some investment choices are quite volatile; they can make you a lot of money, but you must be prepared to take the risk of losing a lot of money. Others are more conservative; you may not make as much, but the risk factor is lower. Talk to your financial advisor about which types of RRSPs are best for your retirement savings plan.

Due to last year's federal budget, Canadians can now contribute to RRSPs until the end of the year in which they turn 71 as long as they are still earning income. This is a 2 year extension from the previous deadline. Once this deadline has been reached, 3 choices will be available:

1. Converted the RRSPs into a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) which is a tax-deferred retirement plan. Like RRSPs, the RRIF account is registered with the Canadian Revenue Agency. RRIFs are used to generate income from savings accumulated from the previous RRSPs. Once an RRSP has been converted into a RRIF, no further contributions can be made. RRIFs offer an annual minimum withdrawal which is cashed out and sent to the accountholder; this amount is tax free.
2. Purchasing an annuity. This is a good financial idea when interest rates are higher.
3. Cashing out. This is not recommended as taxes will have to be paid on the whole amount.

The 2007 tax year for the first time also offers senior couples the option to split their pension income. They can now allocate up to 50% of their eligible pension income to their spouse/common law partner. This includes company pension plan payments, RRIF payments as well as annuity income. For those who are still working and contributing to their RRSPs, it may be advantageous to contribute to a spousal RRSP if your spouse/partner has either no or little income for the year.

You can "over-contribute" by up to $2000 to your RRSP without being penalized. While you will not be eligible for the tax deduction, you will benefit as the earnings will be tax-free. Consider the option of borrowing money if you do not have the available funds to contribute the maximum amount; you may be able to make more money than you will spend on the interest for the loan. To calculate what your maximum allowable contributions are, use the calculator found at the Canadian Savings Bond website.

It's also important to decide who will be the beneficiary of your RRSP. By naming your spouse/common law partner, dependent child or grandchild, the proceeds upon your death may be tax-deferred even longer. Discuss this with your financial advisor in order to set up the most beneficial plan.

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# Tuesday, 12 February 2008
Tuesday, 12 February 2008 18:35:16 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

Most people assume that only those with wealth need a financial planner. However, everyone can benefit from professional financial advice, especially when it comes to retirement planning issues. Hiring or consulting with a financial planner can help Canadians avoid costly financial mistakes that can greatly affect their future.

A qualified financial planner will have a broad range of financial knowledge, including such issues as insurance, tax planning, investments and estate law. He or she will be able to help you coordinate your financial strategy with the other relevant parties, such as your estate lawyer, insurance broker, investment professional, etc. The financial planner you choose will be able to cover all aspects of your financial health, and make sure all these areas are sufficiently covered.

It's important to recognize that many provinces do not regulate the term financial planner. There is however a not-for-profit organization known as the Financial Planners Standards Council (FPSC) which sets the professional standards for the industry. The FPSC sets, enforces and promotes the highest competency and ethical standards in the financial planning industry. Planners who are recognized by the FPSC are denoted by the letters CFP, which stand for Certified Financial Planner. Financial planners who have this credential have passed a national examination for financial planning and are held to a strict professional ethic.

Whether you want to consult with a financial planner, or plan on hiring one, the following  tips will help you choose the planner who’s right for you:

• Have a basic idea of what you want. While your financial planner will help you come up with a concrete financial plan, have a general idea of what your goals are as well as thoughts regarding insurance, estate planning, investing, etc.
• Be prepared. Do your homework to familiarize yourself with various financial planning strategies as well as the terminology.
• Get referrals.  Ask your friends and/or colleagues who they use for their financial planning. You can also contact the FPSC for a referral to a professional financial planner.
• Ask to see qualifications.  A professional will have no problems disclosing their education status, what their degree is in, as well as if they are qualified as a Certified Financial Planner.
• Shop around. Plan on interviewing several financial planners. Ask such questions as how long they’ve been in business, whether their assistants will be handling your account, etc.
• Do a background check. You can contact their professional associations to see if complaints have been lodged against someone, and if so, what the outcome was.
• Ask for references. If the financial planner you plan on using has associations with other professionals i.e. insurance agents, investment counselors, etc., ask for their phone numbers so you can ask them questions.
• Know what to expect. Get a document in writing about the method of compensation, qualifications, etc. so you know exactly what the financial planner is offering, as well as the method of payment.
• Reassess the situation on a regular basis. If you are hiring a financial planner on a long-term basis, know what's going on. Schedule regular visits with your planner so he or she is aware of your changing needs, as well as time constrictions.

Once you have decided on which financial planner you will be using, whether for a consultation or a long-term relationship, you’ll need to do some thinking on your own about your finances. While your planner is there to give you valuable advice, you need to be knowledgeable about your financial status, as well as the areas you need the most help with. The areas that are most common in financial planning are:

• Budgeting: Regardless of income, everyone should have a household budget. Making and following a budget will let your financial planner know exactly how much money you will have every month to invest or save. This will help your planner to set up a plan that will best suit your needs. Your planner will also have suggestions about how much money you will need every month in order to reach both your short and long term financial goals.
• Saving and investing: In order to reach any sort of financial goals, this needs to be determined. You will have to decide on short term financial goals such as savings for a vacation, new cars, etc. You also need to decide on long term financial goals such as age of retirement, university education for your children, etc. A financial planner will be instrumental on helping you figure out the exact amounts, and the best investing plans for you in order to reach your goals. You and your planner will also have to decide what level of risk is going to be involved in your investment strategy.
• Insurance: Your planner will be able to look at what you currently have insurance for, and whether or not it is sufficient coverage. It's important that you have the right coverage so that your assets are protected, as well as coverage for if you can no longer work, etc. The proper amount of life insurance is also important should anything happen. Your financial planner can work in conjunction with your insurance broker to make sure that all your insurance needs are covered.
• Debt: Your goal should be to get out of debt, and your financial planner can help you devise a way to make that happen. Make sure you have all the information such as credit card balances, loan statements etc. in order to accurately calculate the total amount you owe.
• Taxes: This is an important part of your financial plan. Your planner will be able to help you with a strategy that can minimize your tax liability. Proper tax planning is essential to a successful financial plan.
• Estate: Your financial planner can help you make sure your plans are carried out as you wish. Depending on the size and intricacies of your will, your financial planner may also be one of your executors. You can also get advice on the taxation issues that will be applied to your estate.
• Retirement: In order to enjoy your retirement, you will need to have money saved. Letting your planner know at what age you want to retire, and the type of lifestyle you would like to have will enable him/her to set up the proper investment strategy for you.
• The whole financial picture: It's obvious that are many factors to consider when setting up a successful financial plan. This is where a planner is the most help; to put together all these components and give you the best advice in order to attain all your goals.

A financial planner, whether for a consultation or a long-term relationship, can be a great asset. Even if you don't have a complex financial situation, getting some help and clarity on your financial issues can make sure that you have the latest information and advice available. Your planner will be able to consider all the aspects involved and help you attain your goals. For more information on financial planning and choosing a qualified planner visit the Financial Planners Standards Council, you can also obtain a list of qualified professionals in Canada.

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