Entries from January 2021 ↓

RESP dos & don’ts

  By Guest Blogger Sinan Terzioglu

I’m a dad. And a financial guy. So I know an RESP can be a significant part of a family’s plan since post-secondary education costs are continually rising. According to the Canada Student Loans Program the tuition cost in 2035 will be over $17,000 per year, more than double the cost today.

Statistics Canada estimates nearly 50% of Canadian parents are not taking advantage of Registered Educations Savings Plans (RESPs).  So these families are not maximizing the potential and leaving money on the table – specifically the federal government’s contributions.  Ottawa supports families through the Canadian Education Savings Grants (CESG).  That adds a maximum of 20% per beneficiary up to $500 per year – $7,200 per beneficiary in total.

The lifetime RESP contribution limit per child is $50,000.  There are no annual contribution limits, but the CESG max is $500 a year.  So if you contribute $2,500 one year, the federal government will grant $500.  You can catch up on missed years but only one year at a time.  If you miss a year and contribute $5,000 the government will then grant $1,000 (two years of max contribution) – $500 for the current year and $500 for a missed year.

The best time to start contributing is as soon as you have a social insurance number for your new born. If you’re not working with an advisor it’s best to open a self-directed RESP at your bank’s discount brokerage or an independent brokerage and invest in diversified low-cost growth ETFs in the early years.  If you have more than one child or are planning to have more, open a family RESP which can be shared among your children.  If one child decides not to pursue post-secondary education, savings can be directed within the plan to the others.  Keep in mind though that the government grants cannot be shared but all other contributions can.

As with all investments, contributing early and consistently will provide the best chance of growing the money.  You get the automatic return of 20% per year from the government grant as well as the power of compound growth over time.  For example, contribute $2,500 per year for each child by putting in a little over $100 every two weeks for 14 years.  Over those years you would have contributed $36,000 and the government grants would total $7,200 – for a total of $43,200.  But with the money invested and earning an average annual rate of 6%, the account would grow to nearly $70,000.

Withdrawals are taxed in the hands of the beneficiary.  This is helpful as the child will very likely be in a low marginal tax bracket at the time of the withdrawals.  An individual or family RESP can stay open for 36 years so if your child doesn’t continue his/her education, you can keep the plan open in case they decide to resume studies later.  If your child is unlikely to pursue post-secondary education or all the funds in the plan are not required, you may be able to transfer up to $50,000 tax-free to your RRSP (if you have available contribution room) so long as the RESP has been open for at least 10 years and all beneficiaries are at least 21 and not currently pursuing higher education.

Anyone can open an RESP for a child – parents, guardians, grandparents, relatives or even friends.  The person(s) that establish an RESP are called ‘the subscribers’.  Funds invested in an RESP remain the property of the subscriber(s) until withdrawals are made for the benefit of the beneficiary.  An RESP is not a trust so if a subscriber dies the RESP will form part of his or her estate.  Therefore have a plan in place, clearly stated in a will, in case the subscriber passes away.  A subscriber can appoint someone as a ‘successor subscriber’ or can appoint a testamentary trust as successor subscriber but this is complex and expensive.  To avoid these challenges I generally recommend grandparents do not open an RESP for their grandchildren and instead gift the money to the parents and have them establish an RESP as subscribers.

In case of divorce, an RESP can be dealt with in a few different ways.  Under the Income Tax Act, RESPs are not required to be divided so both parents can continue to be joint subscribers and continue to contribute to the RESP, however, you cannot open a joint subscriber account once you are divorced.  An RESP can also be split equally and transferred from one RESP to another so long as the beneficiaries stay the same but it is more complicated than it sounds so it is likely best to keep the plan in place because if an RESP is split all future contributions will need to be coordinated.  Another important consideration is that an RESP is not protected from creditors so if you or your ex ever files for bankruptcy, creditors could demand all or part of the RESP.

There are many considerations when opening, contributing and withdrawing from an RESP.  It is a powerful investment opportunity to plan for the long term education needs of your family assisted by the government grants and ability to grow the money on a tax-deferred basis.  To avoid future complications consider many scenarios to ensure the RESP is maximized for the benefit of the kids.

Sinan Terzioglu, CFA, CIM, is a financial advisor with Turner Investments, Private Client Group, Raymond James Ltd.  He served as vice-president of RBC Capital markets in New York City and VP with Credit Suisse in Toronto.


Bubbly. Not a bubble.

RYAN   By Guest Blogger Ryan Lewenza

What is happening in these markets?!

I think some people have lost their minds and are throwing caution to the wind. If some people are not careful, someone could get hurt. I’m of course talking about GameStop and AMC Entertainment, which have exploded in value due to Robinhood-horny trading junkies who are joining forces on web chatrooms, essentially pumping and dumping struggling companies to boost their stock prices and profits and cause much pain to the hedge fund companies that are short these very securities. Basically there is a Wall Street ‘David and Goliath’ story currently unfolding on Wall Street and beyond, with billions at stake. Let me explain.

For a number of years there has been a trend of ‘democratization’ of financial services, which basically means making banking and investing easier through the use of technology. This includes things like online banking, lower and more transparent fees, ETFs, roboadvisors, a greater use of technology and specifically apps and chatrooms. Robinhood was the latest iteration of this long-term trend.

Robinhood is a financial technology (fintech) company that combines commission free online trading with an investing app where investors communicate with one another. In these chatrooms, and others like Reddit, they pitch ideas and try to get everyone on board and move stock prices. Well, they’ve been quite successful lately since these renegade day traders have pushed a few struggling US companies from rags to riches in just days, shocking even this well-seasoned investor.

The company getting the most press is GameStop, which, as can be seen below, has skyrocketed from $20 a few weeks ago to $350 on January 27th. How can a struggling company rise 16 times in just a week or two?

First, these Reddit investors look for beaten down companies with large short positions. A short position is simply selling the stock first, then hoping it goes down and buying it back at a lower price. There are a number of big hedge funds that are short these struggling companies with the belief they will fall further and they aim to profit from this.

Second, once they have their short targets they start talking it up in their chatrooms, trying to induce others to start buying shares in the company and getting it moving higher. As this happens it starts to feed on itself as more and more investors rush to buy the stock and bid it up. Then the hedge funds, who are short the stock, get ‘squeezed’ where they have to put in more money as their position drops in value. It becomes a kind of negative feedback loop where more and more investors pile, pushing up prices higher and higher until it inevitably pops.

Some view this as the small retail investor getting back at the big bad hedge funds, who have no qualms over shorting stocks and trying to force companies into oblivion. Essentially, they are getting some of their own medicine.

My problem with all this is: 1) the potential impact to the broader markets and financial stability; and 2) it’s based 100% on pure speculation and market manipulation rather than based on any fundamental research or real economic value. GameStop’s market cap went from US$1 billion at the start of the year to $25 billion in a few weeks! If that’s not rampant speculation and froth then I don’t know what is!

GameStop Rallied from $20 to over $350 in Just Two Weeks

Source: Stockcharts.com

But it’s not just GameStop and AMC where I’m seeing some ‘bubbly’ conditions. Turning to the next market darling – Tesla. Yes I get it, it’s an amazing company on the cusp of a new revolution, but it’s still just a car company, who soon will have much more competition (GM just announced that it will stop selling gas powered cars by 2035). Consider this.

Tesla’s market cap has increased from US$80 billion a year ago to US$850 billion today, just shy of a trillion dollars. If we sum up General Motors and Ford Motor Co, their combined market cap sits at just US$125 billion today. So Tesla is nearly 6 times bigger than both companies combined!

And what do you get for this?

Last year Ford and GM’s revenues were a combined US$240 billion versus Tesla at US$30 billion. On total car sales, Ford and GM sold a combined 7.5 million cars to Tesla’s 500,000 cars last year.

I get that Tesla’s growth prospects are much higher, it’s the extreme valuations I have a problem with.

Tesla is Worth More than GM and Ford Combined

Source: Bloomberg, Turner Investments

I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up Bitcoin. It’s price has surged from US$7,000 a year ago to US$32,000 today or an increase of 3.5 times. I fully admit that I’m stumped about Bitcoin and where it’s heading since I believe it’s based on little actual monetary value. But at the same time, there is a lot demand for a relatively finite currency. If more money is flowing into an asset with limited supply then it could easily go higher in the short-term. But I remain steadfast in my belief that bitcoin is in a bubble and one day could pop.

Is Bitcoin in a Bubble?

Source: Bloomberg, Turner Investments

Lastly, this article (https://ca.yahoo.com/news/robinhood-traders-covid-stocks-142924970.html) gave me a good chuckle recently. It profiles this young couple on how they are making all this money from trading on Robinhood and apparently its super easy. From the article I liked this quote the most, “I see a stock going up, and I buy it. And I just watch it until it stops going up, and then I sell it. And I do that over and over, and it pays for our whole lifestyle.” So that’s what I’ve been doing wrong all these years! I have seen this mania before and it generally doesn’t end well. These traders are confusing luck for skill!

So I am seeing some areas of ‘bubbly’ conditions, but to be clear, I don’t believe this translates into an overall market bubble like that seen in 2000. As I outlined in our outlook report I see the potential for a big economic recovery this year, higher corporate earnings, and very supportive central banks. Give this we’re still bullish on the equity markets for this year, but these ‘bubbly’ conditions could lead to some short-term volatility so be prepared and as always, stick with the balanced and diversified portfolio.

Ryan Lewenza, CFA, CMT is a Partner and Portfolio Manager with Turner Investments, and a Senior Vice President, Private Client Group, of Raymond James Ltd.