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My top financial to-do’s before 2019

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With parties, gift buying, baking and holiday prep, December seems to come and go in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, the new year will be upon us and while it may be tempting to put financial matters on hold until then, I’ve highlighted eight important actions to ensure you start 2019 in good financial shape.

  1. Contribute to an RESP

Unlike the RRSP deadline, which is 60 days after the end of the year, the RESP deadline is December 31. Each year you can contribute $2,500 per child and for that you will get a Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) of 20%. That’s a $500 grant for a $2,500 contribution. If you have not maximized RESP contributions in past years, you can double up one year at a time. That means you can put in $5,000 per child as a catch-up contribution and you’ll get $1,000 in grant money.

  1. Convert your RRSP to a RRIF

If you turned 71 this year, you’ll need to switch your RRSP to a RRIF before the December 31 deadline. There is no need to change your existing RRSP investments as they can be transferred “in kind” to your new RRIF, as long as you are staying with the same financial institution. While some financial institutions will make the switch automatically, make sure this is the case. Otherwise your RRSP may be deregistered and the entire value may become taxable income.

  1. Make charitable donations

If you are planning on making a charitable donation, do it before the end of December so that you can take the tax deduction on your 2018 tax return. Instead of donating cash, you might want to think about whether to donate appreciated securities. Not only will you get a receipt for the fair market value but you won’t pay capital gains tax on that appreciation.

  1. Make TFSA withdrawals

If you are planning on making a TFSA withdrawal in the next few months, consider making it before the end the year. By withdrawing the money in December, you can recontribute that amount as early as January 1, 2019. But if you wait until January to make the withdrawal, you won’t get the contribution room back until January 1, 2020.

  1. Minimize Capital Gains Taxes

An important part of maximizing your long-term returns involves minimizing the taxes you pay. One strategy is to utilize tax-loss selling to minimize or eliminate the capital gains tax you pay after selling certain investments at a profit.

  1. Contribute to a spousal RRSP

If you are investing in a spousal RRSP, it’s a good idea to make the contribution in December as opposed to the New Year. By deferring the contribution to January 2019, you’ll need to wait an extra year (January 2022) before you can withdraw the money to avoid attribution of income. The one-month difference in the contribution date can make a year’s difference in how the withdrawal is taxed.

  1. Give yourself a financial check-up

It’s important to take stock of your current financial situation and review how you have done over the past year. Did you meet your financial goals? Did you pay off the debts that you hoped to? Did you keep within your budget? Answer these questions thoroughly and honestly and if there are some areas that need improving, commit to making those changes now.

  1. Speak to your financial advisor

As you can see, there are a number of actions you should take before the end of the year in order to minimize your taxes and maximize returns. Now is an important time to speak with your financial advisor to ensure your financial situation is in order and take action, if required. For more information, contact me at 416-777-4944 or mark.shimkovitz@raymondjames.ca

Mark Shimkovitz is a Financial Advisor with Raymond James Ltd. Information provided is not a solicitation and although obtained from sources considered reliable, is not guaranteed. Raymond James advisors are not tax advisors and we recommend that clients seek independent advice from a professional advisor on tax-related matters. The view and opinions contained in the article are those of the author, not Raymond James Ltd. Raymond James Ltd., member of Canadian Investor Protection Fund.