It's Your Money  

Ways to maximize your Tax-Free Savings Account

TFSA tips and tricks

In a welcome move for savers and investors, the federal government recently announced an increase in the Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) annual contribution limit to $7,000.

This adjustment, up from the previous limit of $6,500 last year, opens up increased opportunities for Canadians to grow their wealth tax-free. Since the TFSA room you have accumulates even if unused in previous years, this means that anyone born prior to 1991 will now have $95,000 of total contribution room as of Jan. 1, 2024.

As we explore this exciting development, it's essential to also revisit some valuable tips and tricks to make the most of the TFSA program.

The TFSA has been a game-changer for Canadians since its inception in 2009, providing a tax-efficient way for individuals to save and invest. The recent increase in the annual contribution limit to $7,000 is a positive step that acknowledges the rising cost of living and the importance of encouraging long-term savings.

With this adjustment, Canadians now have even more room to shield their investment gains and income from taxation. The TFSA remains a versatile tool, allowing individuals to invest in various asset classes, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and GICs, without incurring capital gains taxes on the returns generated within the account.

Maximizing your TFSA: Tips and tricks

1. Start early and contribute regularly—Time is a powerful ally when it comes to investing. Starting early and contributing regularly can help harness the magic of compounding. By contributing consistently, you not only take advantage of market fluctuations but also benefit from the potential for long-term growth.

2. Diversify your Investments—While TFSAs are a tax-efficient vehicle for various investment options, diversification is key to managing risk. Spread your investments across different asset classes to create a balanced and resilient portfolio. This way, you can mitigate the impact of volatility on your overall returns.

3. Reinvest dividends and interest—Rather than withdrawing dividends and interest earned within your TFSA, consider reinvesting them. Reinvesting compounds your returns over time, accelerating the growth of your portfolio. This strategy is particularly effective for those with a long investment horizon.

4. Take advantage of contribution room—If you haven't maximized your TFSA contributions in previous years, you can carry forward unused contribution room. This provides an opportunity to catch up on contributions and make the most of the increased limit. Be sure to check your contribution room regularly to capitalize on any available space.

5. Consider growth stocks for long-term growth: Growth stocks have the potential for substantial capital appreciation over time. Given the tax-free nature of TFSAs, consider allocating a portion of your portfolio to growth stocks that can benefit from compounding and generate significant returns over the long term.

6. Reassess and adjust your portfolio—Market conditions and your financial goals may change over time. Periodically reassess your TFSA portfolio and make adjustments as needed. This could involve rebalancing your asset allocation or reallocating funds based on changing market dynamics.

Remember, the TFSA is a powerful tool for both short-term goals and long-term wealth accumulation. Whether you're a seasoned investor or just starting, maximizing your TFSA requires a thoughtful approach, consistent contributions, and a commitment to staying informed about market trends and opportunities.

With the right strategies in place, Canadians can continue to enjoy the benefits of tax-free growth and build a more secure financial future.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Important to pay attention to the federal government's fall economic statement

What Ottawa is saying

Canada's fall economic statement, released by the federal government on Nov. 21, was a document that outlineed the country's economic priorities and policies.

For Canadian consumers, staying informed about the key elements of this statement is essential. In today’s column, I’ll summarize the most noteworthy components that directly impact the everyday lives of Canadians across the country:

1. Support for individuals and families—One of the asserted focuses of the fall economic statement was the well-being of Canadian households. The government outlined plans to extend financial support for individuals and families affected by the ongoing economic challenges. That included measures such as continued assistance for those who are unemployed or underemployed, helping to alleviate financial stress for some Canadians. It is important to be aware of what programs you may qualify for, including two new Employment Insurance (EI) benefits that were announced.

2. Healthcare investments—The statement emphasized the importance of bolstering Canada's struggling healthcare system. Increased funding for healthcare infrastructure, mental health services and pandemic preparedness was outlined. Consumers should be aware of those investments as they directly impact the accessibility and quality of healthcare services available to them.

3. Climate action and green initiatives—The federal government's expressed commitment to environmental sustainability was a recurring theme in their fall economic statement. The government again stated it will invest in green technologies, renewable energy projects and initiatives aimed at combating climate change. Consumers should pay attention to how those investments may influence the cost and availability of sustainable products and services in the market.

4. Job creation and economic recovery—The economic recovery post-pandemic is still a top priority, and the economic statement outlined measures the government hopes will stimulate job creation and economic growth. Those include support for businesses, infrastructure projects,and innovation initiatives. Canadian consumers should keep an eye on how these measures contribute to job opportunities, wage growth and the overall economic prosperity of the nation.

5. Housing affordability—Soaring housing prices across Canada have been a growing concern and are impacting almost everyone at this point. The government's statement attempted to address the issue by introducing measures to improve housing affordability. Those included incentives for first-time homebuyers, increased support for affordable housing projects and efforts to address speculative activities in the real estate market. Consumers, especially those in the housing investment market, should be aware of these initiatives and how they might impact their ability to buy or rent a home.

6. Digital transformation—As the world becomes increasingly digital, the economic statement recognized the importance of investing in technology and innovation. That included funding for digital infrastructure, expanding broadband access and supporting the growth of the technology sector. The hope is, that will lead to improvements in digital services, increased connectivity and potential advancements in the tech products and services available to Canadians.

The fall economic statement was meant to be a roadmap for Canada's economic future, and its impact is far-reaching. Staying informed about the key elements outlined in the statement is crucial for making informed decisions about your finances, healthcare and overall well-being.

Canadians must be vigilant in understanding the policies and initiatives that will shape their economic reality in the months and years to come.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

How early should you talk to your children about finances?

Money lessons for kids

In the ever-evolving landscape of managing your finances, imparting financial knowledge to the next generation is more critical than ever.

For Canadians, instilling a sense of financial literacy in their children is not just a good practice; it's an essential one. The question arises: when is the right time to start these conversations about money and finances?

Experts agree that the earlier parents begin discussing financial matters with their children, the better and this conversation can start as early as preschool. While young children may not grasp complex financial concepts, introducing them to basic ideas about money can lay the groundwork for a strong financial foundation and future lessons.

One effective way to introduce the concept of money to young children is through hands-on activities. Creating a play store at home, complete with toy money and items for sale, can help children understand the basic principles of buying and selling. This interactive play not only makes learning fun but also serves as a practical introduction to the value of money.

As children enter elementary school, parents can gradually introduce more complex financial concepts. Teaching them about the importance of saving money, setting goals, and making choices within a budget can be done through relatable scenarios. For instance, giving children a weekly allowance and encouraging them to save for a desired toy or treat can instill the value of delayed gratification and saving for future needs.

Middle school is an opportune time to delve into more advanced financial topics. Parents can introduce the basics of budgeting, explaining how income and expenses work together. Discussing the concept of interest, both earned through savings and paid on debts, can help children understand the impact of financial decisions over time.

High school marks a crucial period in a teenager's life when they are preparing for greater independence. Parents should take advantage of this stage to provide more in-depth financial education. Topics such as credit scores, loans, and the importance of responsible borrowing become particularly relevant as teenagers approach adulthood.

Moreover, parents should initiate discussions about the cost of post-secondary education and the various financing options available, including RESPs (Registered Education Savings Plans) in Canada. By involving teenagers in decisions about their education and the associated financial implications, parents can empower them to make informed choices about their future.

In addition to formal financial education, parents should leverage real-life situations as teachable moments. Involving children in everyday financial activities, such as grocery shopping, comparing prices, and understanding sales and discounts, can reinforce practical financial skills.

As technology becomes an integral part of daily life, teaching children about digital financial tools and online security is crucial. Explaining the basics of online banking, the importance of strong passwords, and the risks associated with sharing personal financial information online prepares children for the increasingly digital financial landscape.

It's important to note that financial education is an ongoing process. As children grow and their financial responsibilities evolve, so too should the depth and complexity of the financial conversations. Encouraging an open dialogue and being responsive to children's questions fosters a positive attitude towards money and finances.

The journey toward financial literacy in Canada begins early, and parents play a pivotal role in shaping their children's financial attitudes and behaviors. By starting the conversation in the preschool years and progressively introducing more advanced concepts as children grow, parents can equip their children with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the complex world of finances in Canada and beyond.

Regardless of what age your children are today, and if you feel like you’ve missed the opportunity to start early, it’s never too late to begin this learning process with them.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Tax planning strategies to consider before the end of the year

Minimize your tax liabilities

As 2023 draws to a close, Canadians are once again presented with the opportunity to take advantage of various year-end tax planning strategies.

While common practices like tax-loss selling and charitable donations are widely discussed (and important to consider), there are other less conventional methods to also be aware of.

Here are a few additional ideas to consider to further enhance your financial strategies and minimize your tax liabilities:

1. Utilize the Home Accessibility Tax Credit (HATC)—The Home Accessibility Tax Credit is often overlooked but can be a valuable benefit for Canadians who have made home renovations to accommodate individuals with mobility impairments. Eligible expenses may include the installation of ramps, grab bars, walk-in bathtubs, or the widening of doorways. This tax credit can reduce your overall tax liability and improve the quality of life for your family members.

2. Family income splitting—While pension income splitting is a well-known strategy for Canadian retirees, income splitting within families can be a powerful tool. For example, if one spouse is in a lower tax bracket than the other, you can consider income splitting by transferring investments or assets that generate income to the lower-earning spouse. This can help lower your overall tax bill as a family.

3. Maximize the First-Time Home Buyers' Tax Credit (HBTC)—For those looking to enter the housing market, the First-Time Home Buyers' Tax Credit is a valuable resource. This credit provides a non-refundable tax credit of up to $750 for eligible first-time homebuyers. By ensuring you meet the criteria and file for this credit, you can reduce the financial burden of buying your first home.

4. Renovate your home for energy efficiency—Did you make energy-efficient upgrades to your home this year? The Home Renovation Tax Credit for 2023 (HRTC) provides tax incentives for eco-friendly renovations, such as installing solar panels or upgrading insulation. This not only reduces your carbon footprint but also offers tax savings.

5. Invest in “flow-through” shares—Flow-through shares offer unique tax benefits for Canadians who invest in resource exploration companies. These investments allow you to deduct exploration expenses, which can be particularly beneficial for high-income individuals looking to reduce their tax liability.

6. Explore employee stock options—If you're an employee with stock options, consider the potential tax advantages of exercising these options before the end of the year. This can be especially advantageous if you anticipate a significant increase in the value of the underlying stock.

7. Maximize the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) - The Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption allows Canadians to shelter a portion of the capital gains from the sale of qualified small business corporation shares, farm properties, or fishing properties. With careful planning, you can maximize the LCGE to reduce or eliminate the tax on the sale of these assets.

8. Consider investment loan strategies—While investment loans carry risk, they can also offer tax advantages. By leveraging borrowed funds for investment purposes, you can potentially deduct the interest expenses from your taxable income. This strategy should be approached cautiously and with the advice of a financial professional.

9. Explore family trusts and estate planning—Estate planning can significantly impact your financial situation. By establishing family trusts or implementing tax-efficient estate planning strategies, you can minimize the tax burden on your heirs and ensure a smoother transition of assets.

10. Dividend income splitting—If you have a corporation, consider income splitting through the payment of dividends to family members in lower tax brackets. This can be a tax-efficient way to distribute income and reduce your overall tax liability.

While the traditional year-end tax planning tips you hear each fall are important and valuable, it's equally essential to explore innovative and lesser-discussed strategies to optimize your financial situation and minimize your tax liabilities. The less conventional approaches mentioned in this column can provide unique opportunities for Canadians to reduce their tax burden, invest in energy efficiency, and ensure a comfortable financial future.

It's advisable to consult with a tax professional before implementing any of these strategies, as individual circumstances vary, and tax laws are subject to change. With careful planning and consideration, Canadians can make the most of their year-end tax planning efforts and position themselves for a more financially secure future.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More It's Your Money articles

About the Author

Brett Millard is vice-president and a member of the executive leadership team at FP Canada, the national professional body for the financial planning industry. A not-for-profit organization, FP Canada works in the public interest to foster better financial health for all Canadians by leading the advancement of professional financial planning in Canada. 

He has worked in the financial advice industry for more than 15 years and is designated as a chartered investment manager (CIM) and is a certified financial planner (CFP).

He has written a weekly financial planning column since 2012 and provides his readers with easy to understand explanations of the complex financial challenges they face in every stage of life. Enhancing the financial literacy of Canadian consumers is a top priority for Brett and his ongoing efforts as a finance writer focus on that initiative. 

Please let Brett know if you have any topics you’d like him to cover in future columns ,or if you’d like a referral to a qualified CFP professional in your area, by emailing him at [email protected].


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories