Many parents funnel the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) and Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) into RESPs to get the government grants. However, if a family has a good income and savings rate, they could consider maxing out the RESP with their own funds and investing the CCTB/UCCB outside of the RESP.
That's because income earned from investing the CCTB/UCCB in a separate account for a child is not attributed to the parents but to the child. The returns will compound virtually free of tax.
Charlene Walker of Nepean, Ont. directed monthly family allowance cheques after her daughter's birth into a separate bank account and then into shares of Bell Canada through its Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIPs allow investors to automatically reinvest dividends and buy new shares at no cost). A few years later, Ms. Walker diversified into DRIPs at six companies. By 2008, her daughter's nest egg was worth nearly $85,000.
8. Other ways to launch the kids
There are a number of ways to invest in children's futures beside RESPs, as certified financial planner Alexandra Macqueen discusses in the February, 2009, edition of the Canadian MoneySaver magazine. The benefits of these alternatives include no limit on contributions and flexibility in the use of funds (which can be used to supplement RESPs or finance other ambitions such as starting a business).
One of the more popular seems to be informal in-trust accounts, which are easier to set up than formal trusts. Interest income is attributed to the contributing parent but capital gains are taxed in the child's hands. Consequently, growth investments would appear to be more appropriate for this channel.
Paying down mortgage and other debt is desirable in itself but it can also be a strategy for helping one's children get through college. That's because extinguishing debt frees up cash flow that can be directed as required during the post-secondary years. Other methods include juvenile life insurance (savings component grows tax free and can be withdrawn), tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) and the indoctrination of your offspring on the importance of saving allowances and working at part-time or summer jobs.
9. Let's give them a really good start
Some families have more options for assisting their children. "Our kids have RESPs but we haven't been diligent about maxing them out. We have also purchased income property for our kids' futures," says Dana from Ajax, Ont.
She expects the multi-residential properties will be paid off by the time each child is finishing high school. "They can use the income from the property to cover their expenses, or sell the property and use the proceeds to fund their endeavours, or live in one unit and use the cash flow from the others."
"Not everybody pursues traditional post-secondary education and we want our kids to have an option should they decide to go into business for themselves, work or learn abroad, or pursue graduate programs that their RESPs and other savings wouldn't have covered."
10. Buy the house right
Ask people what their best or worse financial moves were and some aspect of buying a house is a frequent response.
"My best move would be never spending too much on a home," says Tim Stobbs, author of the Canadian Dream: Free at 45 blog.
"We saved in our RRSPs for years and then bought a modest house [which was later sold] On the next house, we made sure to keep the mortgage to around $150,000. We will likely be mortgage-free by the end of current term, which would mean we only had a mortgage for less than 10 years."
Margot Bai, author of a personal-finance book, Spend Smarter, Save Bigger , says both her best and worse financial moves were directly related to buying a house.
"When I bought my first home, I locked in my mortgage for five years, a mistake that ultimately cost me about $10,000. By paying a penalty to break my mortgage contract, I was able to recover the penalty and gain another $5,000 over the next two years. Now I stick with open variable mortgages."