What is the Tax Free Savings Account?
Most people have heard of the Tax Free Savings Account by now as it’s in our faces and on the menu at every financial institution and then some. Even so, I still have people ask me,What is the Tax Free Savings Account?
I hear it so often I understand now that some people don’t know about it or care to learn about it for one main reason. Simply, it’s because they have nothing to contribute or think they don’t. I realized if you have any “extra” money you would investigate your options and if you don’t, you won’t.
In Jan 2009, coined the little brother to the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) the Tax Free Savings Account was unveiled to Canadians 18 years of age and older. If you have the cash you can contribute $5000 a year (see note below) or $417 a month to max out your TFSA in 2012. Any more than that and you potentially face a penalty so make sure you know what you are getting into. Any unused portion can carry over into the next year as we have done with our unused portion.
Note Nov 26,2012: As of January 2013 Ottawa has hiked the TFSA amount you are able to contribute to $5500 per year. Start your engines Canada!
The best part is you never pay tax on what you earn inside the TFSA and it’s a great tool to save for retirement or savings. Every year we get a T5 from the Bank with interest earned in our “High Interest” joke of a Savings Account that we have to claim. I just think it’s rubbish but like some we are on the fence about what to do with our money.
Ask me what an Registered Education Savings Plan(RESP) is and I’ll tell you it’s a savings plan for your child’s education. I only know this because I love finance but since we have no kids there really was no need for me to research it. I still believe that we need to teach our children about money and that in part they should be responsible for saving for their education as well. My point is that if you don’t have kids, you don’t want to know or care about it, same goes with extra money and TFSA’s. Maybe that’s out of the box type of thinking but it’s what I believe.
I don’t know many young families that are able to pay for a mortgage, student loans, children, Insurances, RESP’s, RRSP’s, TFSA’s and any other debts or savings plans they might have. It’s overwhelming for some Canadians to simply pay for “life” let alone so-called perks along the way. I say so-called as nothing in life is for definite.
In 2011 Harper went on about (talked about) bumping the TFSA to $10,000 a year (but it never happened). That sounds good to me, especially if I have more than the $5k to put away. It’s no different then when you get a bump in your line of credit. No one forces you to use it but it’s there. Another perk is when it’s time for Seniors to convert their RRSP’s to a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) they can dump it into a TFSA to shelter it for if/when they need it tax free. Here’s hoping the TFSA is still around when we retire. If you’ve maxed out your RRSP and have money you can dump it in a TFSA… options are there.
There’s been talk about who benefits from a TFSA stating only the wealthy. I don’t agree although everyone’s belief of wealth is different. If you have defined benefits at work you might not want to be contributing to an RRSP so the TFSA is a perfect place to stash your money. If you are in a low-income tax bracket now and plan to be when you retire it makes sense to stump up the cash and park it in a TFSA. Keep in mind inflation when thinking about the future and how it will impact your finances and investments.
We purchased our house in 2009 at the height of the economic crash and missed out on an entire year of TFSA contributions. We still haven’t caught up nor are we maxing out our RRSP’s even though we likely can. I’ve had some questions about the amount of money in our savings but the reality is we are sitting on it until we make a decision. Currently we put away a combined total of $517 a month towards our TFSA’s. Living the frugal lifestyle like we do by using coupons, sourcing out deals and frequenting second-hand shops is not for everyone. I can tell you the rewards of not stressing over money makes it worth it for us.
I do believe that everyone should have an emergency savings plan and some even use the TFSA as a fall back in case something arises in their lives. You can easily pull your money from a TFSA at any time although if you are investing with-in the TFSA you may want to commit to some long-term investing. The RRSP on the other hand will cost you if you plan to dip in so think twice before you make that decision.
When people tell me they can’t afford to contribute to a TFSA I ask them if they have a budget. Most times the answer is no, but I want to, or I’m thinking about it, etc. We wouldn’t be able to contribute and save what we have today if it weren’t for smart spending and budgeting. If you spend more than you make, you are not saving and you will never save. You need a Budget, everyone does, no matter what supposed class of riches you belong to or think you belong to.
Once you know where all your money is going and paying off the fixed expenses you can then divide your money to other categories in the budget. Here is where you will be able to say, ok I can put $50 in a TFSA and I can contribute to an RRSP or RESP etc depending on what makes sense to you and your future.
So if you have to ask yourself if the TFSA is right for you then you need to talk to an advisor … also
- Investigate your finances
- Know your income
- What tax bracket are you in?
- Do you have defined benefits?
- Is your budget in check?
- What are your priorities?
If all else fails just remember a Rich Life doesn’t have anything to do with Money!
- How We Calculate Our Net Worth~Now Calculate Yours! (canadianbudgetbinder.com)
- Our Canadian Home-Tips to Save for a Down Payment (canadianbudgetbinder.com)
- First Time Home Buyer: HBP Or TFSA? (boomerandecho.com)
- Net Worth Update April 2012 CBB- Life is Good! (canadianbudgetbinder.com)
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