Making Your Investments Tax-Free

Wanderer
Follow Me

Wanderer

The Wanderer retired from his engineering job at a major Silicon Valley semiconductor company at the age of 33. He now travels the world, seeking out knowledge from other wealthy people, so that he can teach people how to become Financially Independent themselves.
Wanderer
Follow Me

Hello again and welcome back to the Millennial Revolution Investment Workshop! New readers, please click here to start from the beginning.

mrinvestmentbanner

Because so many people have asked for it, today in the Investment Workshop we’re going to talk about how to make your portfolio tax-free (or at least, as close to tax-free as possible). Because the more taxes we pay, the more money the government gets, and fuck THAT noise.

Now, we’ve previously written about how to use our tax-sheltered accounts to get the government to help fund your retirement. As a refresher, go read that article before continuing.

Ready? Great.

The Accounts

For Canadians, you can open up both RRSPs and TFSAs with Questrade. Simply log in, click “Open New Account,” then under Account Type select the “Retirement” tab and pick either “Individual RRSP” or “TFSA.”

Under “Offer Code” make sure you use “feb23fb6,” which will give you $50 of free trades in there.

After that, you will need to fund the account either by making a new contribution or moving over your existing accounts. For TFSAs this should always be free. If your bank tries to charge for this “service,” simply wait until December, withdraw everything from your old account, then deposit it into your new account as a new contribution come January. MAKE SURE you do it in 2 separate years otherwise you will have over-contributed to your TFSA and will get hit with penalties from the CRA.

RRSPs typically DO cost money to transfer, but Questrade has an offer where if you transfer more than $25k, they will reimburse your transfer fees. Details here.

For Americans, you typically can’t move your 401k since it’s administered by your employer. You can open up a Roth IRA, however. Just select “Roth IRA” under the “Retirement” tab.

 

Your Tax Shield

For all practical purposes, we have 2 basic types of tax sheltered accounts: RRSP/401Ks, where you shovel in money and lower your taxable income, and TFSA/Roth IRAs, where you contribute after tax money. When you’re working, you want to shovel as much money as you can into both these accounts. In fact, if you’re serious about retiring before you’re 65, you should be maxing both out.

Why? Because when you put money into these accounts, that money is still your money, but any investment income you make with that money is now tax-free. These two accounts put together form your Tax Shield.

If you found yourself saying “Red Alert! Shields Up!” then congratulations, you are just as big a nerd as I am. Good job.

ANYHOO, the size of your Tax Shield as determined by how much cash is in each account, and you want this Tax Shield to be as big as possible because you want your portfolio to be able to fit inside this Tax Shield as much as possible. A perfect tax-free positioning for the portfolio we’re building in the workshop would fit completely inside our Tax Shield.

Note that it doesn’t actually matter in which account you put each asset, as long as it’s inside the Tax Shield somewhere. And also, you can move assets around your different tax-sheltered accounts anytime you want. For example, if you wanted to swap your Domestic Equities in your RRSP/401k with your bonds in your TFSA/Roth IRA for whatever reason, just sell them in one account and buy them in the other. Your balance won’t have changed and because all transactions were inside your tax shield, there would be no capital gains/losses to report.

The Spillover

Now, as your savings and your assets grow over time, you will soon find yourself in the happy situation of your money being too big to fit inside your Tax Shield. Woe is you! Woe, I say!

At this point, you have to pick some poor guy to kick out. If this was Survivor, we would make our assets run a series of challenges and gauntlets to determine who’s the most fit in a merit-based way, then we’d completely ignore that information and just gang up on one guy in a popularity contest to vote off the island. The law of the Jungle is unforgiving.

Sexily Unforgiving… Photo By Michael McCullough

BUT since we can’t do that, we pick the one that costs the least amount of taxes if left outside the Tax Shield. Remember, the types of income an ETF can produce are

  1. Interest
    • Taxed as marginal. Bad
  2. Capital Gains
    • Taxed when you sell, and at a lower rate. Pretty Good.
  3. Eligible Dividends
    • Taxed at an even lower rate. The Best.

Here, we have to sidebar to deal with Canada/US tax issues. In Canada, Dividends are better than Capital Gains because in Canada Dividends are taxed, but then you get a tax credit that can offset some or all it. Capital Gains are taxed at 50% of the normal rate. So while Capital Gains will always have SOME tax payable, a couple can make up to $100k in Dividends tax-free if they have no other income.

In the US, both Capital Gains and Dividends are taxed at the same rate, which is 0% up to $75k for a couple. So to Canadians, Dividends are better than Capital Gains, but to Americans, Capital Gains and Dividends are equally good. Interest sucks for everyone, though. Stupid Interest.

Now, that affects which assets would fare the best outside the Tax Shield. Since qualified dividends apply to Domestic Equities, those we can kick out without hurting us too badly. Preferred Shares also pay out qualified dividends. We’re not using them in this workshop, but just FYI.

If we still have too much money and not enough Tax Shield, International Equities would be the next to get kicked out. Their dividends are taxed at marginal, but at least their Capital Gains are taxed lower. Bonds would be the last to go.

So now we are as tax efficient as we can make it. When you’re working and your income is high, you will still have to pay some tax, but when you retire, something interesting happens.

Your Tax Shield actually expands. Because dividends are basically tax free when you have no other earned income, Domestic Equities basically comes back under your Tax Shield simply by the fact that you’re quitting. Fun, huh?

What About When I Retire?

Here’s where things get fun and/or tricky. You can’t spend money inside your Tax Shield. So you have to get it out. But you want to do it for free, right? I thought so.

Canada

In Canada, it goes like this.

We each have about $10k of personal exemption in our tax returns each year. And because an RRSP withdrawal counts as income, that means you can take $20k of income (per couple) out of your RRSP each year without paying any taxes. And in Canada, our TFSA contribution room goes up by $5500 each year whether we make money or not, so that means each year we should be doing this in retirement…

That’s withdrawing $20k from our RRSPs, contributing $11k of that into our TFSAs, and leaving the remaining $9k in a regular investment account. And because TFSA money can be withdrawn anytime, we then do this to fund our living expenses.

Over time, we will shrink our RRSPs until the only thing left there is bonds, and once that happens we will just withdraw the interest they generate while leaving the bonds themselves inside.

USA

For Americans, it will be a similar but slightly different, vastly more complicated strategy. Well, it’s not that complicated, but there are more steps to it.

The hoops we have to jump through are because both the 401ks and the Roth IRAs put penalties in place if you withdraw before the age of 59 1/2, so we have to do some fanciness to get around that. Of course, if you’re above that age just ignore all this crap since it doesn’t apply to you, ya old geezer.

First, we have to convert our 401k’s to a Traditional IRA. This can be done all in one shot and is tax-free. Talk to your investment brokerage on how to do this.

Next, we roll over part of your IRA into your Roth IRA. This amount is taxable, but with no other income you should be able to get it out tax-free using your standard deductions and personal exemptions. For an American couple this adds up to around $20k each year.

Then 5 years later, you can start withdrawing that first rollover tax-free from their Roth IRA. Do this each year and you will create a pipeline of money you can get out tax-free from your Tax Shield, even though you’re below 59 1/2!

This maneuver is called a 5-year Roth IRA Conversion Ladder, and we wrote about it in more detail here.

And We’re Done

So there you have it. Make your portfolio tax-free, and you will never have to pay taxes ever again in retirement.

Now you may be wondering why in our Investment Workshop we’re only using a single investment account. That is because my actual RRSPs and TFSAs are all maxed out doing exactly this, so I had no extra room to open up accounts for this Workshop. Sorry 🙁

As always, consult with a tax professional before you actually do anything because tax laws may have changed since time of publication.

WORKSHOP TOOLS:


How much does it cost to participate in this investment workshop? NOTHING. Because that's how we roll. All we ask is that you sign-up using the following affiliate links to keep it free forever:


For Canadians:
Questrade

For Americans:
1) TD Ameritrade
(Important: Note that you have to specifically enroll in the commission-free ETF program once you open up your account. It’s free to enroll but if you don’t they will charge you a commission when you make your purchase.)
2) Personal Capital


Disclaimer: The views expressed is provided as a general source of information only and should not be considered to be personal investment advice or solicitation to buy or sell securities. Investors considering any investment should consult with their investment advisor to ensure that it is suitable for the investor’s circumstances and risk tolerance before making any investment decisions. The information contained in this blog was obtained from sources believe to be reliable, however, we cannot represent that it is accurate or complete.

89 thoughts on “Making Your Investments Tax-Free”

  1. In the beginning if I do not have enough to max both RRSP and TFSA, which one do you suggest I contribute to. I’m a student so I usually get tax credits, so I’ve been utilizing a TFSA instead of an RRSP, since I don’t think the RRSP would benifit at the moment, until I have a higher income.

    1. I try to strategize a bit with RRSPs and tax brackets. No sense in contributing to an RRSP in the lowest tax bracket if you anticipate being in a higher tax bracket later, and contribution room carries forward. TFSAs are the way to go.

    2. As a student I assume you are young. Since all growth inside a TFSA is tax free, you should be maximizing this before even touching your RRSP. Since you have the benefit of decades of compound interest, the more you put in your TFSA now, the more it will grow and the more you can withdraw later in life completely free of tax.

      RRSP money is all taxable income, so all the growth inside your RRSP is taxable when you withdraw it. Sure, if you withdraw it slowly during retirement you may never pay tax, but what good is it if you have an RRSP with a million bucks in that you can’t withdraw whenever you want?

      TFSA all the way, once its maxed, RRSP. And don’t be a tool and fill your TFSA with bonds and other useless crap that own’t grow. Fill it with foreign equities and hold on tight.

      1. Yes, it is internationally invested across seas and in the USA, only 25% is bonds to mitigate some of the market volatility.

          1. Do the match on this one, for High income earners, (40% tax bracket) Max your RRSP every year, as this money will be taxed, you want to keep the balance of Bonds here.

            You will get a tax return, put that in your TFSA. (invested in Equities, maximum growth) The compound return from the TFSA, pays the tax on the RRSP, upon withdrawl, and in 10 years, your base deduction will go up, so plan your RRSP and Income estimates on that to judge how much to put in.

            If you income is going to the same or more at Retirement, there is no point in using an RRSP, as all the gain’s will be taxed at the same rate. therefore, for high earners, the TFSA is actually a better vehicle.

            cheers
            D.

  2. Taking advantage of tax sheltered retirement accounts is what got us to FIRE much quicker than expected. We’re in the US and try and keep our bond and REIT allocations in tax sheltered accounts. And use our after tax brokerage for investing in stocks. Since I no longer have any income, next year we should be able to get all of our dividends tax free 🙂

  3. Great workshop, though this is where it’s starting to go over my head a little :D. So for someone like me, who only has money in a TDAmeritrade account with the stocks and bonds we’ve picked during this workshop, and no money in a 401k (my employer doesn’t offer one) or a Roth IRA, (I actually have one from Vanguard, I just haven’t put any money in it) how does this work? Do I need to be doing anything right now? Should I place the domestic equities (this is the VTI, correct?) into my Roth IRA? I can’t even figure out how to do that – is that from selling? And from which website would I do that? I’m probably coming off as a total noob, but this is where I’m at ;D.

    Also, a slightly unrelated question, but when are we purchasing more shares of our ETFs? I’ve been following along every week and I thought by using DCA that we would be spreading out our purchases into two-week increments. Should I be buying now, wait a week, or is it just dependent on when we get paid?

    Thank you so much!

    1. You can put in $5500 this year into your Roth if you’re under 50, ($6000 if you are above 50 this year) per person (so $11000 for you and a spouse) and another $5500 on Jan 1 for next year. It doesn’t have to be linked to any employer.

      1. You can put new money into your Vanguard Roth every year from your bank account or by selling stock in your taxable brokerage account if you wish to.

    2. Yeah, I realized after the fact that I timed our first buy on like the 3rd week of the month or something, which was dumb. I wanted to wait a week so I could resync with people’s 1st-and-15th pay schedules.

      As for your other questions, you’ll have to do this quickly as the calendar year is almost up. If you do NOT have a work-sponsored retirement plan, it will make the most sense for you to open up a traditional IRA, then contribute the max $5500 in it. Because of the lack of 401k, you should be able to deduct it all from your taxable income, meaning you will generate a tax refund. Check here for details:
      https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/ira-deduction-limits

      And to fund it, because you’re with TD Ameritrade you should have all free trades on the ETFs we’re using. Open up a Trad IRA with TD, sell your ETFs, then transfer those proceeds (and whatever else cash necessary to get to $5500) into your Trad IRA account, then re-buy the same assets. Your portfolio will now be exactly the same, but tax-free, and you’ll get a tax refund come April.

      Double check with TD that you can do this, but do it quickly. Once January rolls around your contribution room gets lost.

      1. You recommend opening and funding a traditional IRA over a Roth? I stupidly opened a Roth one yesterday and funded it before waiting for your answer, though I haven’t actually purchased any ETFs with that. The funds are just sitting in my account – can I transfer them to the traditional IRA once I open that? Do you know if there are any fees associated with that? I can’t seem to find a lot of info for my basic questions. Also, I’ve noticed in a few of your replies here that you recommend low income earners to put their funds in a TFSA. I make an average income, about $40,000 – should I also put it in a Roth, or does it make more sense to put it in a traditional IRA for the tax break? Sorry for all the questions!

        Thank you!

        1. Oh, that’s fine. No retirement plan has ever blown up because you funded the wrong IRA account.

          Subtle difference between Canada and the US: In Canada, if you don’t make an RRSP contribution, that unused contribution room rolls over to the next year, so if we Canucks are earning a low income (like a pathetic finance blogger) and expecting our income to go up next year, it makes sense to “save” that RRSP room for later.

          You Americans can’t do that. Once the year rolls over that contribution room is gone forever, so it doesn’t make sense to “save” your Trad IRA contribution room for later years of higher income. So that’s why it makes sense to fund your Trad IRA before your Roth IRA. You get a tax refund rather than nothing.

          That being said, don’t worry about it. Just fund the Trad IRA in January and then you’ll have both! Double the tax-free money! Muhahaha!

          1. Do you mean fully fund the Roth now and then in January fund the traditional IRA, but for the 2017 year? I don’t want to miss out on the tax break for 2016 so I may just leave the $1,000.00 in the Roth and then fund the rest of the traditional IRA just to get a nice little chunk in there and for the tax break. Does that make sense?

            Also, if we’re doing a 60/40 allocation, does that mean each IRA is funded with a 60/40 allocation, or that both IRAs combined should equal a 60/40 allocation? I’m just starting the building phase for my accounts, so I’m curious if it makes more sense just to get the money in there with ETFs and not worry about which assets are in which account, or if I should try to put specific assets in specific accounts like you recommend above?

            Sorry for so many questions, it’s just starting to get a bit confusing! Thanks for getting back to me on this, I really appreciate it! You guys are awesome!

  4. Hey guys,

    Great article, as always! 🙂

    I was under the impression that a witholding tax applies when you withdraw money from your RRSP (before the legal age). No?

    Thank you!

    1. Yup, but you get it back come tax time. It’s just a withholding tax, like on your paycheck. Once you do your “real” taxes, you calculate your actual taxes owing and the CRA corrects any discrepancies.

  5. Seems odd that you’re writing this after you’ve gone through the purchasing phase of the investment workshop.

    RRSP’s and TFSA’s should not be equally valued. Your TFSA is the single greatest retirement tool you have and should absolutely take priority over an RRSP. You get taxed on anything you withdraw from an RRSP, so all growth inside it is essentially treated as income upon withdrawal which also affects your OAS (and generally you can’t dip into them throughout your life like you can a TFSA). If you have to pick between both, absolutely your TFSA is the best option as all growth inside it is completely tax free (and withdrawing has no effect on OAS), unlike your RRSP which is just tax deferred. The only exception might be if you are very close to retirement, reducing the potential growth inside your TFSA.

    “Note that it doesn’t actually matter in which account you put each asset, as long as it’s inside the Tax Shield somewhere. And also, you can move assets around your different tax-sheltered accounts anytime you want”

    This is also pretty poor advice, it absolutely matters where you put your equities and fixed income. Your TFSA should always hold high growth assets like foreign equities/ emerging markets. If you put bonds in your TFSA it’s a totally wasted opportunity for high growth, tax free returns. Canadian Equity is also very favourably treated when it comes to tax and should be held in a taxable account, if you need one. If not, sure the TFSA is fine for now, but it should be the first to be moved to a taxable account when you need one.

    Your RRSP should generally hold fixed income assets as any growth is taxable. You don’t want all your growth to be inside an RRSP where tax is just deferred. Since fixed income receives the worst tax treatment, it’s best to keep this inside a tax efficient account rather than a taxable one.

    Finally, your taxable account (if you need one) should hold Canadian Equity. Canadian Equity is the most tax efficient investment in Canada so if you have anything in a taxable account it should be this.

    It should be noted that any foreign dividend paying investments will get taxed a withholding tax by in the country it is held in. In the US this is 15-30% of dividends that are withheld. The only exception is if you hold this in an RRSP, where there is an agreement for the tax to be excused in this case. As such if you plan on holding foreign dividend paying investments, it’s advisable to hold it in your RRSP. Do not hold them in a taxable account or TFSA as you will be hit with a 15-30% withholding on your dividends.

    I should note though, that this only applies if you directly own a stock or ETF from a US exchange. If you hold US stocks through an ETF or mutual fund, this 15% is automatically withheld, even if held in your RRSP.

    To summarize:

    TFSA – Foreign Equity/Emerging Markets
    RRSP – Fixed Income/Foreign Dividend Investments
    Taxable Account – Canadian Equity

  6. @Vancouver Brit “If you have to pick between both, absolutely your TFSA is the best option”

    Do not agree here. The TFSA vs RRSP discussion boils down to one simple test: If your tax rate (or income, as a proxy) is higher when you contribute than when you withdraw, then RRSP is absolutely, unequivocally a better choice. If your tax rate is will be higher when you withdraw, then the answer is TFSA, avoid RRSP like the plague.

    You know the first part – your tax rate now – the rub is that nobody can say with absolute certainty what their tax rate will be when they withdraw. To some extent it is controllable (ie dependent on income, which one might choose to reduce in a situation of over-abundance), but to some extent it is not (set by the government, and they can change it).

    So you have to make a best guess. If you are earning $150k/yr (as these people were) then you are basically paying the top tax rate possible, and depending on your circumstances, it may be a very, very safe (if not totally absolute) conclusion that your withdrawal rate will be considerably lower.

    So the real question is: What is your tax rate today? And based on your age, income, plans, career, whatever – what will it be later? If you have any reasonable confidence that it might be lower when you withdraw, RRSP is a far better choice. The life situation of the authors of this blog illustrate my point precisely.

    1. Thanks, you are correct in that it boils down to that but there are far more implications to consider than just that. I have instant access to my entire TFSA whenever I want without worrying about taxation. With an RRSP you are limited to a certain withdrawal every year for it to be worthwhile. You can never know when you will need money, so having to worry about what a tax rate will be upon withdrawal isn’t ideal. TFSA’s offer complete freedom and can be accessed throughout your life whenever you want. In fact, your TFSA can also act as an emergency fund, an RRSP cannot without tax implications. Upon retirement, withdrawing has no effect on income tested benefits like OAS and various other tax credits for a TFSA either.

      Also, for an RRSP to be worthwhile, you HAVE to invest the tax savings you get each year from using the RRSP in order for it to be worthwhile. If you put $10,000 into an RRSP and don’t invest the $2,500 (or whatever) from reduced taxation back into your investments, the TFSA is much better. Many people see their tax back as an excuse to buy the latest iPad or go on vacation.

      Essentially an RRSP boils down to guesswork. If it’s very obvious like your example of earning $150k, sure an RRSP might be worth it. If you’re an average earner who doesn’t know what their tax will be in 20 or 30 years, a TFSA offers far more freedom IMO.

      At the end of the day though, most people contribute to both and the TFSA limit is quite low. I’m going to max my TFSA every year and put the rest into an RRSP.

      1. All great points, but irrelevant. If you’re going to retire early, you’re gonna need a savings rate of at least 50%, which more than covers maxing out both accounts. If you can’t max out both accounts, you’re not retiring before your 60’s. Sorry.

        1. If you start early enough you could retire in your mid 40’s with a 30% savings rate quite easily, that’s our ambition for the time being. Maybe not in our 30’s but still 20 years earlier than most.

          Saving from age 25 – 45 and maintaining a 30% savings rate with an 8% ROI should easily provide enough to retire. Admittedly that’s an aggressive return but for a heavy equity position it’s more than achievable.

          1. Hey! You mathed that shit up! A 30% savings rate plus 8% ROI equals 25.4 years working. Great job!

            You and I may disagree on some things, but I think we can both agree that you’re gonna be JUST fine because you clearly understand the math and know what the Hell you’re doing. High-five!

  7. If you are self-employed in the U.S. you can open a SEP IRA or Solo 401(k).

    Also a Health Savings Account for medical accounts and a state Medical Savings Account to save on state taxes on your healthcare premiums. All these have benefits similar to conventional retirement accounts.

    Also, because I only have a small percentage of bonds in short-term Treasuries with not much income, I keep that in my taxable account.

  8. Good work!

    This is the best withdrawal strategy I’ve seen for the typical Canadian early retiree. You mentioned preferred shares which would make the strategy even better as a fixed income diversifier and for the tax credit.

  9. Your comment:

    “And also, you can move assets around your different tax-sheltered accounts anytime you want. For example, if you wanted to swap your Domestic Equities in your RRSP/401k with your bonds in your TFSA/Roth IRA for whatever reason, just sell them in one account and buy them in the other. Your balance won’t have changed and because all transactions were inside your tax shield, there would be no capital gains/losses to report.”

    is incorrect. You cannot move funds from an RRSP to a TFSA and have no tax consequences. A move from an RRSP is a deemed disposition and will be taxed as income. A move from TFSA to RRSP is ok, as long as you have contribution room in your RRSP. That’s a critical point and you may wish to clarify for your readers.

    1. I think they meant you can move allocations around without any consequences, rather than funds itself. As in, you can sell equities in your TFSA and replace them with bonds, and sell bonds in your RRSP and replace them with equities with no effect.

      I still don’t really agree with this as it is still much better to hold certain investments in certain accounts, but I see where they are coming from.

        1. Hey, you guys are on the ball!

          Swami, great observations and VB, great volley back. I actually agree with you VB. Equities should be held in a TFSA while bonds in an RRSP because of the potential for capital gains. My intention was to get people to contribute to their RRSPs/TFSAs without worrying about which assets should go where because they can fix that later without any tax consequences.

          What I’ve discovered during my short blogging career is that the WORST thing you can do when teaching someone about finance is to blast them with information about all the stuff they have to do correctly RIGHT NOW. That just makes people freeze up and do nothing.

          It’s all about spoon feeding. One concept at a time, baby! Once concept at a time.

  10. Should I be moving my questrade account to a questrade TFSA for this workshop now? FYI I have not maxed out my TFSA contributions.

    1. Yes. Open up a TFSA with Questrade, then call them and ask that your ETFs in your investment account be moved over in-kind so it doesn’t trigger any sell orders and therefore annoying commissions.

  11. Curious, if you are aiming for an early retirement are there any restrictions on when you can withdraw from your RRSP? I believe there are withholding penalties for an early withdrawal, but I find it hard to define what an early withdrawal is. Is there an age restriction?

    If I want to retire at 40 and I have a huge chunk invested in my RRSP, can I access it without penalty other than tax owing?

    1. We need to make a distinction between 1) mandatory withholdings made by your financial institution and 2) the amount you’d ultimately need to pay on your tax return.

      When you withdraw funds from an RRSP, the financial institution will withhold 10% on amounts up to $5K, 20% on amounts from $5K to $15K, and 30% on amounts over $15K. (Note that the brackets are the same, but the percentages are halved, in Quebec). So if you were to withdraw $10K from your RRSP, the bank would withhold $1,500. (The only way to avoid this is if you turn your RRSP into a RRIF once you’re 71).

      Once you file your tax return, assuming you have no other sources of income, you’d report $10K in taxable income, then, as Wanderer correctly noted, your basic personal amount (a tax credit) will reduce your taxes payable to zero – and you’d get a full refund on what was withheld.

      In other words – in the first year, you’d take the hit, but you’d get the money back the following year. So there’s a lag when it comes to realizing the cash, but ultimately the withdrawals are tax-free, if you stick to the amounts Wanderer suggested.

      1. I re-read your post and maybe I didn’t answer the question in a useful way. Aside from the temporary tax hit, there are no other penalties to withdrawing your RRSP early.

        If you don’t mind me asking, what do you define as a “huge chunk”? If you let me know a ballpark figure, and a ballpark estimate of your annual cash flow needs, I can suggest the best way to withdraw it.

        1. Grande, great points. Man, you guys know your shit!

          And VB, the trick is to melt it down gradually, $20k at a time each year once you retire. I’ve got like $400k in there, so it’ll take me 20 years, but that’s OK! Build it quickly, get it out slowly. As long as you do it for free.

          1. Awesome, good to know. Thanks for both of your responses. Reason I ask is I’m aiming for an early retirement and am curious if you can over contribute to your RRSP, whereby you have a load of money in there and you can’t access it. Seems you can access it, you just have to take it slowly in order to avoid taxation.

            I guess you can over contribute if you, say, have $1,000,000 in your RRSP and nothing anywhere else, and you need $50,000 a year to live off of, you’re going to get hit with taxes by withdrawing that much. I guess the goal is to aim to have just enough in your RRSP so as to not trigger taxes upon withdrawal.

            Think I’ll stick to filling my TFSA (and my wifes) until they’re full, let the RRSP contribution room keep growing, then start hitting that hard when we’re potentially in a higher tax bracket. I’d also consider an RRSP loan, but I’m not too familiar with it (could write an article about that one!)

            1. Hell no! Going into debt to max out your RRSP makes no bloody sense. If your cash flow is so out of control you can’t even fund an RRSP without debt, you’re not gonna retire.

              1. I agree when it comes to longer term debt, but I’ve done it as a short term thing. In February right before the RRSP contribution deadline, I’ve borrowed several thousand $ off my line of credit to boost my RRSP contributions for the previous tax year, and then paid it off in March when I got my (boosted!) tax refund. I don’t borrow more than I know I’ll be able to pay off right away though.

                It is slightly more optimal than not borrowing, because otherwise some of my contributions would fall in the following tax year, and I’d have to wait a whole year on the corresponding refund (giving the govt an interest free loan meanwhile).

                It would be *most* optimal to get my workplace to withhold less in taxes from my paycheque in the first place, based on a regular RRSP contribution schedule, but it’s a small workplace and I am flying under the radar regarding my high savings rate; I am not having that conversation with the lady who handles HR. 🙂

  12. The 15% withholding tax for dividends on CAD-listed US holdings is usually not a big concern though, right? At least not compared to foreign exchange transactions to directly buy the US listings. In Part 3 you chose VUN, XEC, and XEF instead of the US listed equivalents. I do something similar for a number of reasons – avoiding forex charges as above, and the fact that these funds generally do not have a high divident yield anyway.

    1. It’s a withholding tax, just like the withholding tax on your paycheck. You report it on your tax returns and then you get a refund depending on your tax situation. No biggie.

      1. The one exception is if it’s in your TFSA. In that case, the 15% is withheld, and you can never get it back.

        Thus, it’s preferable to hold US equities either in your RRSP (so there’s no withholding tax) or in a non-registered account (so you can claim back the withholding tax when you file your tax return).

  13. Any UK readers here? Saved my stash using 40% plus tax relief. I know I can get 25% out tax free then after that am stuck with only my personal allowance. My issue is that this means I can only draw £11k between the ages of 55 and 62, when my first chunk of final salary kicks in. Is there any fancy alternative, like family trust or similar?

      1. Haha I wish I could. Unfortunately I moved to Canada before I gave two shits about personal finance or retirement (age 24) so all my knowledge has been gained by reading Canadian/US blogs.

  14. So is the idea of this stage of the workshop to move our ETF stocks into a TFSA/RSP? Do this internally with Questrade up to our yearly limits?

    Or is a separate investment strategy?

    Sorry if there is an obvious answer I have missed.

    1. I agree; what is our next move? Purchase the same quantities as 2 weeks ago?
      Open up a TFSA or RRSP investment account, and start purchasing under our tax shield?
      How easy is it to continue investing as such, then push the investments into an RRSP (or TFSA) at the end of a year?
      Would we need to sell then re-buy everything?
      Looking for some action items. =D

      1. Right.

        I was a bit vague because I can’t say EVERYONE DO THIS THING since it depends on your tax situation. But if you have unused RRSP or TFSA room, open up an RRSP or TFSA account with Questrade. If your income is on the high side, open up an RRSP. If on the lower, TFSA.

        Then, transfer your assets into your new tax-free account in-kind. Call up Questrade and get them to help you do that. That way, you don’t have to sell your ETFs and trigger commissions.

        Then, continue investing, but now tax-free!

  15. Hi,

    Great article!! This is super helpful to see how to get money out of those retirement accounts if you retire early. So it seems like you’re recommending to put money into TFSA, or Roth IRAs, when you’re at a lower income bracket, but Roth IRAs are not tax deductible, so have you calculated out the tax savings of contributing to a traditional IRA now vs withdrawal in the future. Assuming I’m at 15% tax bracket now, wouldn’t it be beneficial for me to save money on taxes now vs taxes later?

    For example,
    5,500 into Traditional IRA saves me $825 in tax dollars now, which I can invest and grow.
    5,500 into Roth IRA save no extra money.

    If I did this for 10 years I would have extra $8,250 invested plus the growth on this extra money. Once I’m retired, even if the growth is taxed at 15%, I’d still be better off with the extra $8,250 I saved along the way.

    Am I missing something here?

    1. Your analysis is correct.

      The confusion came about because of my Canadian POV. In Canada, if you don’t contribute to an RRSP the contribution room carries forward, so if you’re in a low tax bracket year it makes sense to “save” the room for later years. That makes no sense to you Yanks. So Trad IRA usually makes sense over Roth because of exactly what you said.

      The only exception is when your MAGI falls between the Trad IRA limit for deductibility and the one for Roth IRA eligibility. Then it makes more sense to contribute to a Roth IRA rather than a nondeductible Trad IRA, since the Roth doesn’t force you to pay taxes on withdrawal.

  16. How would you deal with retirement if you also have income from a pension? Let’s say that you will collect $30k/year from a pension, which would be taxable income. You’d want to put $11k of that into your TFSA, and use the rest for spending.

    How would you draw down your RRSP though? You can never take that money out tax free since your income is above the limit. Do you just leave it in there forever untouched? What is better to have, RRSP investments that you take out with tax? Or taxable income, but dividends that you can claim tax credits on? Am I missing something simple here?

      1. You have a pension?!? Geez, I thought you guys were all extinct, like unicorns of yetis.

        If you have a pension that eats up your personal exemption, then yeah you can’t draw down your RRSPs tax free. You’ll have to draw your RRSP down at the lowest 15% tax rate, but your pension will more than make up for that tax burden, so you’ll still be ahead of us poor pensionless SOBs.

    1. This is a good problem to have! You’re not missing anything simple. If you’re getting a $30K pension annually, there’s nothing you can do to avoid taxes. Your first ~$10K of income will be tax-free, and then the next $20K will be at a 20% marginal rate, and the rates will rise from there.

      In a situation like this, it`s hard to discuss specifics, because there are so many variables. Are you willing to tell me (ballpark), your age, current income, and current amount saved (broken down between RRSP, TFSA and unregistered)?

      1. It’s still pretty theoretical at this point, I still have years to go, I’m trying to get a handle on all of this though. I’m 27 with a maxed out TFSA and about $20k in an RRSP. I believe the pension would start at age 55 with a potential max of 35k, although I think it would be lower if I retired early. I need to look into the details more.

        If I was looking to retire at age 40 for example, would it be ideal to draw on the RRSP to bleed it down for most of my income prior to receiving pension? because I know the tax bracket will be even higher then. Or just take the 10k from RRSP and the rest from TFSA? I think it will depend on the specifics when I do retire, but it would be nice to go in with a plan and change it along the way.

        1. As a general principle, to the extent possible, you should try to “smooth” or even out your income. (The reasoning is because this will minimize the total taxes you`re paying over the course of your life due to the progressive tax system).

          So then it comes down to how the numbers work. It sounds like you`re planning to have 15 years of early retirement before the pension starts. If you expect to have $450K saved up, you`d take out $30K per year from 40 to 55. Then, from age 56 onwards, you`d get $30K a year from your pension. That`s an ideal scenario. If you have more than that, you could take out say $35K per year from 40 to 55, and $5K a year from 55 onwards (which would also give you $35K in taxable income with the $30K from your pension).

          Of course it’s impossible to plan everything out so precisely in practice, but these are general principles for your situation.

          Also, since you know you’ll have around $30K per year in retirement, definitely try to maximize your TFSAs before you even start on your RRSPs.

  17. If I withdraw 5000 from TFSA, say from capital gain
    Next year, how much I can contribute
    —-
    How can I buy from one account and sale into another one?
    —-
    In questrade, when I want to contribute to RRSP or TFSA more => can I just transfer from Margin inside Questrade

    1. Next year, you get that $5k back, plus another $5500 just for being you (and the fact that a calendar year rolled past)

      You can swap assets, but you can’t move balances. For example, if you had $10k in Bonds in your TFSA and $10k in equities in your RRSP, you can swap which assets are held in which account be executing a $10k SELL BONDS in your TFSA, a $10k BUY BONDS in your RRSP, a $10k SELL EQUITIES in your RRSP, and a $10k BUY EQUITIES in your TFSA. After those settle, you’d have $10k equities in your TFSA and $10k bonds in your RRSP.

      Yes, I believe so. Chat with Questrade on how exactly to do this.

      1. Hi Wanderer, thank you for this information. So to clarify then, you have to sell the asset you want to ‘swap’ in each account and buy it back in the other account. There may still be some effect related to the difference between the buying and asking price, but otherwise would trigger no real tax consequences. Is this correct or is there something I am missing?

  18. Okay, so I’ve read through the workshop and (most) comments trying to sift through someone in a similar situation as me. But of course, I don’t think there is, mainly because I’m far too daft to fully understand this yet.

    My situation:
    – Had 2 different mutual funds in an RRSP account with TD (NOT eSeries funds)
    – Transferred both accounts to Questrade in kind (and got hit with 2 x $84 transfer fees. Only had $21K in there)
    – I now would like to follow along with this and purchase ETFs

    Questions:
    – Do I need to first sell my mutual funds, THEN put in the ETF buy orders?
    – Is there another way to do this without it costing me any more money?

    This may be an easy answer but again, I’m a total newb. Thanks!

    1. HI Olivier,
      Did you get an answer personally? I”m looking to do the same with my bank RRSP funds and have not pulled the trigger yet to move them to Questrade b/c I am not sure what to do.

      1. Hi there,

        I did, actually. I’m trying to remember exactly what I did. The short of it is that you can change the type of investment account you have at any time with Questrade, so long as they’re both registered. So I simply moved all my funds into a registered trading account and bought my ETFs from there. No other associated fees. I did take a hit on the initial TD to Questrade transfer though, like I had mentioned.

        Hope that helps!

        1. Thanks, Olivier. Just to clarify, when you mean registered trading account, do you mean just like a RRSP or a TFSA? I have opened both with Questrade. I’ve been asked if I want to switch over my funds “in-kind” or as cash. Did you do it in cash or “in-kind”? Because my bank stuff is in mutual funds and an ETF – but I want to figure out how I can distribute it myself into the Questrade account as RRSP and TFSA differently…without all of it having to go only into the RRSP one.

          1. Yeah exactly. Any type of registered account that shelters your assets from tax (so long as you don’t withdraw early).

            Oh that’s right, the in kind vs. cash thing. I did it in-kind as it simply transfers the funds over to the new account. “Cash” will sell off your assets at current market value, but will also be removing their registered status, if I’m not mistaken.

            I believe there is a way to allot a certain amount in each new account that you have. Is there no field where you can specify this? If not, I encourage you to get in touch with Questrade directly as they can be quite helpful. Otherwise, pull the trigger. It’ll cost you with the transfer fees, but you’ll ultimately save on the management fees in the long run.

  19. If a non-US citizen (and not Canadian either), non-resident, invests in the US stock market, will they be required to pay taxes to the US government when they choose to start withdrawing their savings/investments? We live in the middle east, and we currently do not pay any taxes here, so this is new for us. We already have US bank accounts and social security numbers. Thanks!

    1. Because we’re using Vanguard/iShares Canada ETFs, it just looks like a domestic ETF to our tax people. We get a tax slip that we then report on our tax return. We don’t file a US tax return or anything like that.

      Check with your brokerage in your country of residence. They’ll know the answer for your specific situation.

  20. I checked with the CRA website and it informs me that on Jan 1st 2016 I had $41000 worth of TFSA contribution room.

    Does this mean that i can invest up to this amount and then every year after my contribution room increases by $5500?

    Technically I cannot just invest $5500 per year i can invest $41000 dollars whenever I choose and this amount will increase by $5500 every year unless the government changes the yearly contribution allowance??

    1. That’s correct. As of today, you can make a $41,000 deposit (assuming you didn’t make any earlier in the year).

      Assuming you don’t do anything for the rest of this year, as of January 1st, 2017, you can make a deposit of $46,500.

  21. @wanderer, I have been trying to follow the comments but I’m so confused because I’m from the states and we have different plans. I tried to check out the IRS site, but still don’t really understand. Here’s my questions:
    If you make under 100K a year, what is your 401K limit? 18,000K?
    Can you still contribute to a traditional IRA if you have a 401k?
    Can you still contribute to a roth IRA if you have a roth 401K? What is a max limit per year?

    P.S. I have not max out anything if 401K limit is 18,000K and roth IRA is 5,500. Since I have not maxed out my 401K or roth IRA, should I be investing in TDameritrade?

  22. Hello Wanderer!

    Great post! So much information. Thank you for taking the time to write this all down in such a clear way!

    I have 1 question. In your post you say :

    “Over time, we will shrink our RRSPs until the only thing left there is bonds, and once that happens we will just withdraw the interest they generate while leaving the bonds themselves inside.”

    During your early retirement, if you only keep bonds in RRSP (for taxes efficiency) and you only withdraw stocks from the RRSP, how will you keep your 40/60 (bond/stock) asset ratio?

    By only selling stocks in the RRSP, aren’t you slowly increasing your portfolio bonds ratio over time? Isn’t that going to affect your portfolio gains over time? How can you make this work while keeping in mind the 4% safe withdraw rate?

  23. What about the 30% withholding tax for early RRSP withdrawal? Did you guys just avoid that altogether somehow? (Was your strategy for early retirement to use withdrawals from your TSFAs for the first bit, and then rely on the RRSPs later in life to avoid the penalty?

    1. In retirement, when your earned income drops to zero, you can withdraw up to 10,000 each tax free. The withholding tax is refunded when you do your returns.

  24. Hi Wanderer,

    I just following your post, Thank You for all the investment posts, I just started the paper work to open an investment account with TDAmeritrade and also My Employer doesn’t provide a 401k plan so I am going to open up a traditional IRA as well. As I was reading this post, You have replied to one of the questions:

    “Yeah, I realized after the fact that I timed our first buy on like the 3rd week of the month or something, which was dumb. I wanted to wait a week so I could resync with people’s 1st-and-15th pay schedules.
    As for your other questions, you’ll have to do this quickly as the calendar year is almost up. If you do NOT have a work-sponsored retirement plan, it will make the most sense for you to open up a traditional IRA, then contribute the max $5500 in it. Because of the lack of 401k, you should be able to deduct it all from your taxable income, meaning you will generate a tax refund.”

    This portion of the answer I am not very clear:
    And to fund it, because you’re with TD Ameritrade you should have all free trades on the ETFs we’re using. Open up a Trad IRA with TD, sell your ETFs, then transfer those proceeds (and whatever else cash necessary to get to $5500) into your Trad IRA account, then re-buy the same assets. Your portfolio will now be exactly the same, but tax-free, and you’ll get a tax refund come April.

    Could you please provide clarification on these
    Open up a Trad IRA with TD, sell your ETFs, – Once I open a Trad IRA, Am I selling the ETF’s that I previously bought as part of the Investment Portfolio?
    Your portfolio will now be exactly the same, but tax-free, and you’ll get a tax refund come April – How does the portfolio becomes tax-free? Could you explain a little more on this?

  25. Hello,

    I just want to make sure i understand correctly. If i maxed my RRSP and my TFSA, the extra savings would be considered as my spillover and i will have to pay tax on them (so i will be taxed on my income + my spillover). Only when I retire that i will be gaining back the taxes that i paid over the years because i would gain from the tax free dividend?

    If you save like 70% of your salary, you will max out very quickly the RRSP/TFSA. There is no way to not be taxed on the surplus, right? I mean if you are aiming for 1 millions and you said you were able to put $400K in RRSP and the max of TFSA right now is $52K. It means that $550K were taxed along the road to the 1 million. Were you taxed a lot since it was in addition to your salary?

    Thank you

  26. Hi

    This is an interesting discussion…
    My two cents…
    When you retire (65) most probably will get (CPP+OAS) around $1500 per month ($18000/year) which automatically will put you in a tax bracket of 15%. In case that you have some other income (interest in non-registered accounts, rents, part-time job…) then will move to 20% tax bracket or more…
    In this situation all the withdrawn money from RRSP will be taxed at 15%, 20% and up…
    I will say that the $10000 rule with no tax is not applicable at all.

    If you have too much in RRSP then will be a big taxation on your saving!!!
    If you have less then doesn’t do too much difference.

    Here are a few recommendations for RRSP and retirement:
    -if you earn less then 60k-70k and are less then 50 years old then do not bother with RRSP… do not make too much sense use it. If you earn over 100k then contribute to your RRSP…
    -make sure that the RRSP account is not getting to big (I will say max 300k)
    -if you put money in RRSP make sure that you keep a balance of the contribution with your spouse… the one with higher income can contribute for the other person and deduct the contribution on his name
    -retire a few ears earlier and do not apply for CPP. Also you can delay the CPP and get ~7% increase in the pension for each delayed year (better then investing the money)… During these early retirement ears live on RRSP withdraws…. if you contributed at ~40% tax bracket you can withdraw at 15% max 20% bracket.
    -have your spouse on your RRSP accounts as successor not beneficiary… makes a big difference if you pass away
    -split the income (it is allowed in retirement) with your spouse if has lower income then you (it is not allowed for the withdrawn money from RRSP accounts)
    -keep all USA investments, all interest investments (REITs), bonds and small growth investments in RRSP
    -all growth, canadian, small-cap, high return investments in TFSA

    Tip: You can transfer your stocks from TFSA to RRSP without selling/buying steps… it is called in kind transfer… talk with your brokerage

    Good luck to all!!!

  27. Hi FIRECracker and Wanderer,

    Thank you for your workshops. I follow your blog every day and I love it. It is very straightforward and simple for us to understand. I just opened a Roth IRA, traditional IRA, and individual accounts from TDAmeritrade. And I’m going to open a 401k account from my work.
    I want to retire early, so I will need to withdraw money from either 401k, or tradition IRA or Roth IRA before 60 years old. As in your workshop, I should roll over the money from 401k and traditional IRA to Roth IRA for 5 consecutive years so that I can withdraw money tax free.
    So my question is “Is the money that rolled over from 401k or tradition IRA to Roth IRA also being taxed ?”
    Thank you.

    1. Yes. That money gets added to your taxable income every year. The idea is that once you retire, your earned income will drop to 0, so you should be able to get that money out tax free within your standard deduction. In 2016, a married joint-filer will have $12600 of deduction room. Then once it makes it into the Roth IRA and you wait the required 5 years, you can just withdraw that money out without any further tax consequences.

  28. Hey everyone,

    I feel like a lost boy in this blog. When i read this blog and the comments, I feel like you guys know your shit about taxes. Lets say i am trying to aim for early retirement around 37. I can only take out 20K max per year per couple without being taxed. How can I manage if i need more money than that without paying a dime in taxes.

  29. Hey Guys.
    I’m loving this workshop but a lot of it doesn’t make sense to me or isn’t relevant when you refer to Canadian and US websites, facts, figures, rules, government policies blah blah.

    Do you have enough of an Aussie audience to make it worth doing an Australian version of this workshop? *on the ground praying that you do*!

    It would be such a great help as i’m super keen to learn!
    Thank you!!!

    Jordan.

  30. I discovered this blog through researching financial independence after a stressful transition at work. I find that reading your blogs is therapeutic to me. Thank you for saving my mental health. I have a question about having both a traditional IRA and an employer sponsored 401k. If I have a traditional IRA, wouldn’t I be contributing post tax money to it since my work only deducts pretax income to contribute to my 401k? This would negate the pretax benefit of having a traditional IRA and getting the pretax feature because id be using my post tax paycheck money to fund it?

    1. You’d be using post tax money to fund your traditional IRA, however, that would reduce your taxable income and you would get a refund when you file your taxes. That being said, check your contribution limits on the IRS website. If you have access to an employer sponsored 401k, that reduces how much you can contribute to your traditional IRA.

      Also, it is possible to accidentally contribute too much to your traditional IRA, not be able to deduct it and no be able to withdraw without penalties, so be VERY careful with the limits and consult a tax professional before you do it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social Media Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com