Average Canadians stranded in a storm of Liberal tax changes

(This article was originally published on the RazorPlan blog.)

On July 18, 2017, the Liberal Government announced a significant set of tax proposals designed to close certain tax loopholes that can result in high-income individuals gaining tax advantages that are not available to most Canadians, these include:

  • The elimination of “income sprinkling” by paying dividends to family members that own shares in a business or holding company.
  • The curbing of “passive investment income,” by imposing additional taxes on money sitting in a corporate investment account.
  • The conversion of a corporation’s regular income into capital gains using legal tax strategies that have been around for decades.

In recent interviews, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that average Canadian business owners need not worry about his proposals, because if you make less than $150,000 per year you will see no increase in taxes paid. He continues to state that he is going after only the wealthiest Canadians that use corporate tax loopholes to gain advantages over the hard-working middle class. It is important to note however, that what Bill Morneau refers to as tax loopholes are in fact legitimate tax planning strategies that have been available to all Canadians for many years.

To help sell these proposals proponents of the new tax have released simple spreadsheets illustrating the impact to an individual in Ontario earning $1.00 of business income who earns over $200,000 and pays tax at the top marginal rate of 53.53%. In other words, the wealthy 1%.

As a financial planner, I know first hand that most small business owners are not wealthy. They are hard working average Canadians who are struggling to build their business, often at the cost of not being able to make regular contributions to retirement plans. As a software designer, I know first hand that simple spreadsheets do not provide enough analysis to come to any meaningful conclusions, due to the complexity of our tax system. All they do is support the opinions of the author.

So, to help bring some meaningful analysis to the position that these proposed changes will not burden middle class business owners, Razor Logic Systems has deployed a temporary version of our financial planning software RazorPlan that addresses one aspect of these proposals, passive investment income. As the largest provider of financial planning software to independent Canadian financial advisors, upon request we will temporarily make this version available to any financial writers, bloggers, the media, and Minister Morneau.

Passive Investment Income

Currently, to eliminate double taxation, a portion of the income tax a CCPC pays on investment income is refundable. In Ontario, the combined Federal and Provincial tax rate is 50.17% made up of 19.5% non-refundable and 30.67% refundable only once the income is paid to the shareholder in the form of a dividend. This effectively ensures that the tax paid on $1.00 is the same regardless of where it originated. The tax proposal aims to eliminate the 30.67% refundable portion, claiming the low tax rate on active business income in a CCPC creates an advantage for individuals with a corporation compared to individuals who earn income personally.

To test this, I created two hypothetical retirement scenarios using RazorPlan and shared the results in a spreadsheet on Google Docs.

Pre-Retirement Analysis:

Bill Smith Jr. and his wife Mary are both age 55. They own a small dry-cleaning business and pay themselves $50,000 each per year. Over the years they have raised their 3 children, paid off their mortgage and managed to save $75,000 each in RRSPs which they both contribute $9,000/year to. After years of sacrifice they are now in the position of earning a profit of $25,000 before tax and plan to invest the after tax $21,250 in passive investments each year until they retire at age 65.

Assuming a 5% return on investment, my analysis calculates that they will have total investment capital of $755,000 (RRSP + Corporate). This along with CPP, OAS and the 30.67% refundable tax will provide an after-tax income of $56,800 in today’s dollars with inflation of 2.5% to age 90.

Should finance proceed with the elimination of the refundable tax, they will see a reduction in after-tax income in retirement of 3% to $55,100 in today’s dollars. If this is not going to be adequate, they would need to delay retirement by 2 years to grow their investment by $58,000, which is required to off-set the tax increase on passive investment income.

According to the Liberals, because they earn less than $150,000 they should pay the added profits to themselves and invest personally. Assuming they do and use the added income to top-up RRSP contributions and take advantage of TFSA, they will accumulate total investment capital of $761,600 by age 65 which will provide $57,000 of after-tax income, $200 more per year than what is currently provided by the status quo.

So, it would seem the Liberals are correct, provided they invest for retirement the Liberal way. The only problem with this logic is that they may have other reasons for not wanting to take all the profits out of the business, in which case they would most certainly be worst off.

Post-Retirement Analysis:

Bill Smith Sr. is 71 years old and recently widowed. Last year when his wife died he sold his small barbershop in an asset sale. Although he wanted to sell his shares, he agreed to the asset sale due in part to the current refundable tax the Liberals are planning to eliminate. After paying taxes he netted $400,000 in passive investments in his company.

In addition to the passive investments he has $200,000 in RRSPs for a total of $600,000 in savings. This along with CPP & OAS will allow him to spend $50,240 per year after-tax to age 90, assuming a 5% return on investment and inflation of 2.5%. Should the Liberals eliminate the 30.67% refundable tax this will reduce his after-tax income by 6.7% per year to $46,900. An annual cost of $3,340!

To be able to maintain the same after-tax income he is projected to have today, he would need to increase his return on investment from 5% to 6.9%, an increase of over 37%! Another alternative, according to the Liberals, would be to wind-up his company and invest the after-tax proceeds personally. This will allow him to take advantage of current and future TFSA contributions. If done in one year, he would pay over $159,000 in personal income taxes along with $8,200 in Age Credit and OAS clawbacks.

Winding-up as it turns out would cost even more, reducing after-tax income to $42,300, a 16% reduction. Even if the Liberals implement some form of grandfathering, the increase in accounting fees will also be a hardship to average Canadians. Replacing a tax increase with added tax-filing fees does not help average Canadians.

Bottom line, the refundable tax mechanism as it stands today works and is fair to all Canadians, regardless of how much wealth they may have. I ask all financial advisors to write their MP to express your concern over the destructive impact eliminating the refundable tax on passive investment income will have on your client’s retirement planning, past and future.

Want to tell your MP what you think about the proposed legislation? You can look up their contact information with your postal code using this tool.

Dave Faulkner, CLU, CFP is a Financial Planner in Alberta and CEO of Razor Logic Systems Inc., developer of RazorPlan financial planning software.

Savings and Retirement Projections

Keep it Simple… but not too Simple!

Recently, I had a discussion with a new RazorPlan user. He told me in the six weeks since he started using RazorPlan, he had seen a significant increase in client engagement and a major improvement in case size and closing ratio when meeting with new prospects.

My first instinct was to point out the benefits of keeping things simple when discussing financial recommendations with prospects and clients. He agreed, but pointed out that some advisors can take simple too far.

To illustrate his point, he told me a story about a recent appointment he had with a new prospect to discuss their savings and retirement plans. Here’s the true story, told from the perspective of you, the advisor. (The names of the clients are made up to protect their privacy.)


Meet Roger and Bea

You were referred to Roger and Bea by their son Cecil who is a client of yours. A few months ago when reviewing Cecil’s life and critical illness insurance, you learned that his parents had recently retired and that they were dealing with a local investment firm to prepare a “retirement plan”.

Over the summer months, you attempted to arrange a meeting with Roger and Bea, but they were always busy enjoying the summer weather. You remained in contact by sharing various articles on savings and retirement strategies.

At the end of August, you contacted them to arrange a meeting after Labor Day to which they agreed, even though they did not feel there was anything you could help them with. After all, their current investment advisor had already prepared a retirement plan for them.

Read the full article on RazorPlan.com.

There are “diamonds in the rough” in your files

This week, the world’s largest uncut diamond was auctioned by Sotheby’s in London. At a whopping 1,109 carats, the white diamond was anticipated to fetch as much as $90 million (however, the bidding failed to reach the reserve price of $70 million).

The main thing that I found most interesting about this story, is that the diamond, discovered in the Karowe Mine in Botswana, was not found by the old method portrayed in movies, which is somebody standing in muddy water. The company installed state-of-the-art technology in 2015 which is credited for making the find.

This got me thinking about the financial advice business and a time when I helped an insurance advisor find a diamond in the rough of his files.

Mining your book using state-of-the-art technology

In 2012, I was helping a dual-licenced insurance advisor that was new to using RazorPlan financial planning software. He was having difficulty using this “new technology” with existing clients for insurance planning. You see, like so many other advisors he felt he knew everything about his clients and with each file we reviewed he would say something like “I have all their business” or “they don’t need more insurance”.

I challenged him to let me simply pick 10 files at random and he would arrange a meeting which I would participate in as the Estate Planning specialist. The first file I choose was for a 64-year-old client where the advisor “had all their business”; reluctantly he agreed to setup the meeting so I could do a RazorPlan analysis.

At the meeting I followed my normal insurance review agenda (click here for a copy) where I discovered not 1 but 2 large corporate owned 10 year term policies that he had purchased from another insurance advisor that is no longer in the business. Total amount of coverage was over $10,000,000!

Next, instead of focusing on the term insurance, I followed my agenda and transitioned to RazorPlan to get more information about the client’s situation. I used what I call the “Know My Client” agenda (click here for a copy) as I wanted to understand the big picture and the needs, if any, of the client.

To make a long story short, RazorPlan effectively illustrated to the client that he needed the coverage long-term to pay the taxes at death on his business. RazorPlan also established that he could more than afford the annual premium (which was in excess of $100,000) needed to convert the 10-year term to a permanent plan. The client signed an Agent of Record change form and scheduled a follow-up for the next week where the advisor converted both term policies to permanent insurance.

So what is your “diamond in the rough” story and was a new technology responsible for the find?


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Financial reviews are powerful tools for clients and advisors

Any financial advisor that has ever purchased (or thought about purchasing) another advisor’s book of business knows two things to be indisputably true. First, there are unfulfilled client needs (and therefore revenue opportunities for the advisor) in virtually every book of business. And second, the best way to discover these opportunities is to contact every client to arrange a short review meeting to get to know the client and understand their needs.

One advisor’s client is another’s referral

When an advisor considers buying a book of business, they know nothing about the clients and therefore have no preconceived notions as to what gaps the clients may have in their coverage or what their needs might be. New clients are uncharted territory, full of opportunities to discover.

On the other hand, an advisor’s own book of business is often seen as familiar, and devoid of any new opportunities. When asked about opportunities in their existing books, many advisors use phrases like “they don’t need that” or “I already handle all of their insurance needs”. The familiarity of our own clients can blind us to their real needs.

The simple truth is that your existing clients represent many new opportunities for you in the same way that a referral, which is another advisor’s client, is a new opportunity. You just have to know how to find these opportunities.


The RazorPlan Review

To help advisors get better at discovering opportunities to serve their clients better, we have developed a review process that uses the RazorPlan financial planning software to analyze the current situation along with a meeting agenda and checklist designed to complement this analysis.

Click here to download a copy of the Insurance Policy Review Meeting Agenda and the Financial Review Checklist for use with RazorPlan financial planning software.


We call this process the “RazorPlan Review” and it can be conducted in any client meeting. The review takes a few minutes to complete and will immediately provide you and your clients with an analysis that will clarify their financial situation and demonstrate the value you provide as their trusted advisor.


In addition to providing additional planning value to you and your clients, adding the RazorPlan Review to the meetings you already conduct with clients requires little effort and provides you with a number of opportunities to address their unfulfilled needs. Below I have outlined 5 areas that a RazorPlan Review can bring added revenue to your practice.

Insurance Products

Life and living benefits insurance is designed to solve financial hardships that are created when a family’s primary bread winner dies, becomes disabled or suffers a critical illness. Insurance can also be used for capital creation to pay deferred income taxes, protect a business or to create an estate where one did not previously exist.

Conducting a RazorPlan Review provides you with an understanding of your client’s financial situation and personal attitudes that far exceed any insurance needs analysis or ‘Know Your Client’ form.

The RazorPlan Review will also show you how to identify more advanced insurance planning strategies such as:

  • Insured Retirement Plan
  • Estate Bond / Corporate Estate Bond
  • RRIF Estate Protector
  • Asset Estate Protector
  • Insured Annuity

In addition to helping you to identify clients with more advanced insurance needs, The RazorPlan platform will also assist in determining product suitability so that the recommendations you make are appropriate and address the needs of your client.

Investment Products

Most investment advisors would like to think they manage all of their client’s investment assets. However, research suggests that the more money a client has to invest, the higher the likelihood that the client spreads their investable assets among multiple advisors.

For clients with modest assets to invest, although they tend to use one advisor for all saving and investing needs, they rarely invest to their full ability.

In addition to potentially uncovering investment assets not managed by you, the RazorPlan Review will estimate annual savings required to meet your client’s planning objectives. Over time, a RazorPlan Review can assist in developing a level of trust that will position you to manage more of your client’s assets.

Annual Reviews

Whether your focus is on insurance, investment or comprehensive financial planning advice, preparing a plan for your client is only the beginning of an on-going process. With each review, you will discover changes to the client’s personal and financial situation, each presenting new opportunities and challenges that may affect the original recommendations made.

There are many life changes that can cause financial hardships to clients, including divorce, loss of employment, forced retirement, or the death of a loved one. Clients can benefit enormously from their advisor’s help in these situations.

However, many life changes create new and exciting opportunities for clients, such as marriage, birth of a child, job promotions, or the start-up of a new business. In these situations, additional coverage may be needed or your client may want professional advice.

Providing a RazorPlan Review as part of your service and value proposition is a proven way to retain your clients and keep them on track with their planning objectives, regardless of type of challenges and/or life changes they may face.

Client Retention

No matter how long you have been in the business, client retention is important to every financial advisor. The loss of a client to a competitor, regardless of the size of the account, is usually related to a perceived reduction in the value you provide as the advisor.

When you are perceived as a provider of product, the value you add is often directly related to how that product performs. If, due to market conditions the product fails to perform as expected, then in the eyes of the client the value you add is also diminished.

The RazorPlan Review helps to shifts the focus of the relationship away from provider of product to that of trusted advisor. There will still be clients that leave, but improving retention will have a significant long term impact on your revenues and the value of your business.

Estate Retention

Much has been written about Canada’s aging population and the impending transfer of wealth to a new generation. To be sure, this wealth transfer represents a great opportunity for financial advisors as younger clients look for advice on investing their new-found wealth.

Less commonly mentioned, however, is the potential downside that many financial advisors face. For instance:

  • Many financial advisors do not have a relationship with the children of their aging clients, suggesting that the children may use a different advisor to help manage their inheritance or to seek advice from on matters related to their life, disability and critical illness insurance.
  • Some portion of the assets to be inherited will be used to pay off mortgages and/or make major purchases.
  • Income taxes will take a big bite out of potential inheritances, up to 50% in the case of RRSPs and 25% for unrealized capital gains. Probate, trustee and legal fees will further reduce what is left for heirs.

The RazorPlan Review provides you with the opportunity to engage the next generation with their own insurance and investment planning needs, helping to create relationships that will increase the likelihood that you will retain assets when they are transferred. Financial advisors that do not provide any form of a financial plan can expect to lose a significant percentage of the business under their management.


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How three advisors use Razor Plan to deliver results

(This is a guest post by technology and digital media specialist, Jay Palter.)

by Jay Palter

When Dave Faulkner set out to design a new financial planning software, he had one primary goal in mind: to create a powerful tool that was simpler and easier to use than all the rest.

He saw many advantages in doing this. For instance, a simpler tool would mean more advisors could offer planning services to their clients. Also, advisors would spend less time crunching numbers and more time advising and helping their clients. Perhaps most importantly, a simpler tool would help clients to gain a better understanding of how their planning decisions would affect their financial futures.

For this article, I reached out to a number of financial planners and advisors that are actively using Razor Plan in their practices. Here are three of their stories.

Razor Plan helps Scott Plaskett focus more time on advising clients

Scott Plaskett owns and operates Ironshield Financial Planning, based in Etobicoke, Ontario.

Ironshield offers a range of financial planning programs and services to clients for a fee. For Plaskett, making the financial planning process a deliberate first step allows the client to really understand the plan and what’s involved in implementing it.

Razor Plan is the foundation of engagement with financial planning clients, says Plaskett. “Clients love the summary report page because they can see their options progress,” he adds.

As a former user of more complex financial planning software products, Plaskett became frustrated with their arduous process. Scenario planning was very involved and became a long drawn-out process.

“And it didn’t matter what scenario you created,” Plaskett says. “It never turned out that way.”

With a growing business, Plaskett faced a choice: hire a full-time financial planner or find better software.

That’s when he discovered Razor Plan and its unique approach to financial planning. Since we can’t predict the future, we don’t know what scenarios will unfold. But, Plaskett notes, we DO know what the options are.

Plaskett gathers data offline with his clients, then enters that data into Razor Plan and reviews the results with clients using the software. Razor Plan has so much more logic built into the calculations that it makes it easy for him to model different scenarios quickly.

“The software handles all the heavy lifting and allows me to spend more time advising my clients.”
~ Scott Plaskett.

Aurora Tancock’s clients know how ready they are for retirement

aurora-tancockAurora Tancock operates a financial planning practice, Aurora Tancock Financial Services, in St. Catharines, Ontario that specializes in retirement and estate planning.

Tancock loves the ease of use of Razor Plan, compared to other financial planning software in the marketplace.

Typically, she conducts a fact-finding meeting with clients after which she inputs their financial information into Razor Plan. Then, she brings clients in for a subsequent meeting and walks them through the information and analysis in the Razor Plan application.

The retirement options screen clearly shows if the client is on target and then allows Tancock to make easy adjustments to illustrate how working longer, saving more or taking greater risks with their investment portfolio will affect their readiness to retire.

Tancock meets with clients annually to review and update their financial plans. During these meetings she projects the Razor Plan software onto a television monitor which allows clients to easily see their progress towards their goals and feel part of the process.

“Clients love especially the one page summary that shows them where they currently stand and the four options they are given to work towards their goals.”
~ Aurora Tancock

Dan Anders likes Razor Plan’s client-centered design

dan-andersDan Anders is an independent estate and insurance advisor, based in Vancouver, BC. He specializes in the financial aspects of estate planning, and works with a national financial institution as well as his own clientele.

According to Anders, the financial industry has been doing financial plans the same way for the past 30 years and most clients don’t get much value from a 40-page financial plan. “What clients want is to know,” he adds, “is if they are on track for meeting their goals and what are the potential pitfalls along the way? That’s the beauty of Razor Plan – it gives clients the information they need and want,” says Anders.

Anders has used many of the competing financial planning products on the market and he likes the simplicity of Razor Plan. “It’s client-centric,” he says. “Most other planning software is designed for planners, but Razor Plan is designed for the client. And they express great appreciation frequently, because for the first time they clearly understand what we are trying to do for them.”

In his practice, Anders uses Razor Plan to offer clients affordable and meaningful planning services. Since financial plans are dynamic, they create meaningful reasons for him to sit down with his clients on a regular basis and stay up to date.

“As an estate and insurance professional, I’m not sure how you make an insurance recommendation WITHOUT a financial plan.”
~ Dan Anders


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4 reasons advisors should be using financial planning to help clients address all their insurance needs

Financial advice is in the spotlight.

A growing number of new mobile banking apps and online investing tools have placed financial advice at the centre of a much larger conversation about the value of advice. The financial media and social networks are changing the expectations of people when dealing with their financial advisors.

The value of good financial advice and the role of financial advisors in delivering it is top of mind for more and more clients. Financial planning can play a pivotal role in helping financial advisors provide the best advice to their clients, address more of their insurance needs and engage them in life-long service relationships.

In this article, I will highlight four ways that advisors can use The Razor to deliver more value and help clients see the big picture.


1. Financial planning increases client engagement

A financial plan is no longer viewed as merely a “nice to have” for clients. Financial planning needs to be a necessary part of the insurance needs analysis you conduct for your clients, if you expect them to fully engage in all the services that you offer.

The Razor helps you do this by making the financial planning process client-friendly, interactive and easy for advisors. A typical financial plan analysis using The Razor takes about the same amount of time as a traditional insurance needs analysis. But unlike a typical insurance needs analysis, The Razor captures more information and about your client’s overall financial situation and helps you identify gaps in the client’s coverage that you can help to fill.

2. Save time with fast and efficient calculations

The Razor uses proprietary calculations to find the best solutions to your clients’ everyday financial problems. You start by engaging your client in meaningful discussions and needs analysis, then The Razor helps you quickly analyse any client situation to identify any gaps or shortfalls in coverage that should be discussed further with the client.

By focusing questions during the initial discovery meeting on the most relevant information, analysing the client’s situation in real-time is transformed from a long, complex process into an easy 15-minute activity that you can perform in all types of client meetings.

3. Address all your client’s insurance needs in one financial plan

Helping clients protect loved ones and ensuring that their plans for retirement are not at risk due to unexpected health problems is an important part of what insurance professionals do for their clients.

The Razor’s proven risk management methodology addresses all of your client’s insurance needs, including:

  • Life insurance for family security, wealth creation and estate planning;
  • Disability insurance for income replacement and retirement preservation;
  • Critical Illness insurance for lifestyle protection;
  • Long-Term Care insurance for retirement and estate preservation.

4. Help clients find the money

Recommending the right types and levels of coverage to your clients is only part of your job. Helping clients find the financial resources needed to pay for the coverage they need can sometimes be difficult, especially in these tough economic times.

The Razor’s interactive interface makes it easy to let your clients discover for themselves new ways for them to save money so that they can afford the right type and amount of coverage to protect their loved ones.


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Your clients will thank you!

It’s Not Just About Retirement Planning

I recently attended a presentation to a small group of financial planners leading up to on our upcoming release of version 4 of The Razor, our 4th since introducing it in 2012. In that meeting, we previewed a number of improvements and features the new version will offer financial planners to better engage clients in the financial planning process.

Listening to advisors in that presentation and a number of others over the past month have taught confirmed for me two things:

First, we nailed it. The feedback received after each meeting is a clear signal to us that we understand the needs of financial planners and we have delivered what they want.

Second, we failed in our most important message to financial planners. It’s not just about retirement planning!


On the surface, The Razor may appear to be just another retirement planning software tool. But The Razor is different; it’s not just about retirement planning, it’s about engaging the client to find what really matters so that the advice provided will be valued.

The Value of Clarity

All planning engagements must provide value to both the client and the advisor. The client sees value only when they feel more positive about their financial situation, while the advisor sees value only when the income to be earned is sufficient enough to allow for the amount of work that will be provided.

The advantage of The Razor is that it delivers value to both the client and the advisor equally and it does it all in one meeting with the client. Also, it doesn’t matter which sector of financial services the advisor works in, The Razor is effective for both investment and Insurance planning engagements.

Investment Planning

The Razor will identify potential problems with current savings and asset allocation strategies by estimating capital requirements based on the client’s objectives and return assumptions. It does this by automatically answering the most common questions clients have:. “How much can I spend?” “When can I retire?” “How much do I need to save?” and, “What rate of return do I need?”

Insurance Planning

The Razor compares the client’s income goal to the maximum sustainable income, creating opportunities to allocate excess cash flow to estate planning strategies. The Razor then estimates capital needed for income replacement, estate liquidity and terminal tax funding in addition to disability, critical illness and long term care needs.

Financial planning should be more about interacting with clients and less about crunching numbers. Value is not delivered by entering data into financial planning software and clicking the “Calculate” button. Advisors add value by helping clients understand what really matters and exploring the options available to them.

~ Dave Faulkner

In the real world, simplification is valued over complication. The Razor embraces simplicity and automation, without sacrificing precision, helping to engage clients interactively in the financial planning process.

To learn more, visit Razorplan.com and check out our new and improved version 4 software or register today for a FREE 30-day trial of The Razor.