RESPs and High Fee Mutual Funds

RESPs and high fee mutual funds seem to go hand-in-hand in Canada. Most RESPs, are set up with an “adviser” of sorts (usually at a bank), who makes helpful suggestions as to where your money should go. The question to ask, who profits from this advice? Sometimes both adviser and investor, but always the adviser.

Mutual Fund companies want you to buy high MER funds for 18 years, so they can profit from you. This does not mean RESPs and high fee mutual funds are inevitable.

High Fee Mutual Funds

Whether your investment goals succeed is not their goal. Their goal is to extricate as much money from you in fees and increase their profits. Mutual Funds are businesses, sometimes with shareholders, and employees who want bonuses, remember that and you will be fine. Who and how are profits made, is always the question to be answered.

I have friends ask me about RESPs, as they are aware that my kids have graduated from University, so they ask if I used the  program. My answer is yes, but  I start with warning them that when I set up these accounts they were Canada Trust Mutual Fund accounts. The CT Mutual Funds turned into TD Mutual Funds, but it was not until later that I learned about the TD E-series funds I should have used (and the bear trap in using them).

The typical answers or comments that I get (that really cause my gears to grind) are:

  • I talked to my Manulife One guy and he helped set up the account for us.
  • While I was at the bank, I saw an adviser who set up some RESPs.
  • My insurance broker said they had a really good product for RESPs so I had her set it up for
  • Someone told me about these great Group RESPs, sounds like a great idea I usually go for a beer after hearing this stuff, and sometimes I just weep.

Let’s unwrap these malodorous gifts, first, your Manulife One guy is going to put you into Manulife Mutual Funds because that is where he (or she) makes their money. These funds have MERs that are far too high for a shorter term savings program like the RESP.

The same is true for your local bank. I once mentioned the TD E-series funds to my Bank’s “TD Mutual Fund Expert”, she looked them up and said that she couldn’t  actually  sell me those  funds. I asked why, the  answer, “they don’t let me”. So TD doesn’t allow their “Mutual Fund Expert” sell some  of their Mutual Funds? In fact you can buy only their I-series in your account, you cannot access their E-series, D-Series, O-series or any other unless you have a TD Trading Account).

Your insurance company’s RESP is going to be closed and the only thing you can buy is their High MER funds. I hope you are noticing a great deal of repetitiveness here.

The Group RESP thing, I had to go look up and then almost cracked a tooth while clenching my teeth. Group Scholarship trusts are throwbacks to before the day of the  RESP. They can work for folks, and their forced savings is a good thing for many folks, but read all the rules very carefully. What are the penalties if you take money out quickly (or early)? Are there penalties if your child doesn’t go to post­ secondary school? What are the rules about what is a post-secondary education.

If I could just hand someone a simple outline like say this article, this article or this article, I would, but I guess no one writes about RESPs much? Yes, that is sarcasm, why do people spend more time worrying about what organically grown kale they want to  buy, than this important  investment?  Rhetorical  question, don’t  answer that.

Are RESPs a Good Idea ?

An RESP is a great idea for your kids’ education, but don’t jump at the first one you see. Do some research; know what you are buying and how much it is going to  cost you. Mutual Funds and other associated firms are hoping you get confused in terms of how much you pay in management fees. It can get confusing especially with the grant money going into the account which can muddle your figures. Your goal is trying to pay the least in fees, and maximize your growth and grants received.

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Helping Kids With University Costs, Idea #214

If you are planning on trying to help your kids out with their University costs (or other post-secondary ideas), an RESP is a must (just for the free money), however, that is not the only way to ensure you can easily help out your kids reach their educational dreams (or your dreams for their eduction).

I have learned after 8 years of paying for children’s expenses for school, that the most debilitating university costs are not tuition, it is the cost of accommodation. At one point in the 8 years I was

  • Paying the mortgage on my house
  • Paying rent of 3 separate apartments across Canada

When did I become so rich that I could afford this (you might ask)? (sarcasm alert) I most assuredly did not, the RESP money helped somewhat, but these kind of costs can almost double your family living expenses. Living expenses for your kids at school really do add up.

There are remedies for this kind of expense (luckily):

  1. Do not allow your child to move away from home while they are going to University. Whether you really want to inflict this on yourself, is a question you must ask, but that will eliminate many of the living expenses. I know at least one set of parents that said, “I will pay for your tuition, and give you a car to use, if you stay at home. If not, it is all on you.”
  2. Pay off your house before your kids get to University, that way you are rich enough to be able to pay for the rent on “N” different apartments (or residence rooms) (where N is greater than 1).
  3. Make your kids pay for their living costs.
  4. Make your kids pay the whole shot. They want an eduction, time to learn about money at the same time.

Option (2) on the list is a very good target to try to hit, but kind of hard if you are maxing out your RESP, TFSA, and RRSP savings targets as well, but still something to keep in mind!

Options (3) & (4) sound heartless, but I know plenty of folks who paid for their entire University career, because their parents couldn’t help out, and they seem to have survived.

Keep in mind, University costs are not just tuition costs.

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RESP Sometimes Doesn’t Make Sense

RESPs are a great savings tool for parents (or Grandparents) who want to help young folk with the always rising costs of a post-secondary education. With the government add-ons, the whole system really does make sense, if you are planning on helping your children out, but I started wondering would there be a time when putting money into an RESP would make no sense?

There are some very obvious scenarios when savings doesn’t work, like if you are carrying credit card debt, and are having problems “making ends meet”, then putting money in an RESP might not make a lot of sense. Pay off your debt, then get onto the savings bandwagon, with the RESP.

Another interesting scenario I ran into was, what if you have not paid off your own student loans (in Ontario OSAP), by the time your kids are born, should you put money into an RESP, while you are still paying off your own student loans? As with all of these questions, the answer seems to be: it depends.

If you have enormous student loans and cannot keep up enough to make the payment plan set up for you, then maybe an RESP is not a great idea. You should also contact the Student Loans folks and point out that you are having problems paying your loan off.

Typically Student Loans (from the Government) have a relatively low(er) interest rate, and given the automatic 20% kick on for an RESP deposit (up to $2500) you need to do the math on whether you want to pay into the RESP or pay down your loan faster. As I do not believe in the concept of Good Debt, I would suggest paying off the Student Loan First and then try to catch up with the RESP (yes, I know the interest on Student Loans is favorable to your taxes, but it is still money spent on money already spent).

RESP

A Building Block to Savings ?

If you have a Student Line of Credit with a bank (that you opened while at school) and that needs to be paid down, I would strongly suggest that you should pay that down before putting money into an RESP for your child. The Banks rates are usually variable in these situations, so a sudden up tick in interest rates could spell disaster in terms of this debt-load.

The idea of paying off student loans, while putting money into an RESP seems like a contrary idea to me, but I am curious to hear what my readers might be thinking in this area?

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RESP Proof of Enrolment

I have written before about Money to Get Money, complaining about how extricating your money from your child’s RESP is an overly complex process, but let me step back and explain the importance of the RESP Proof of Enrolment that most financial institutions need to allow you to withdraw money from the RESP account. Different schools have different ways of giving you a proof of enrolment , some charge you for it (about $10) some give you a PDF for free (Acadia U did that).

RESP proof of enrolment

How Much Will You Need for her to get to school
Image courtesy of jk1991 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The problem you have is that most schools will not give you the RESP Proof of Enrolment, until you pay the fees, so you can’t have money from your RESP, until you have already paid for your fees. This means, you most likely, will need a line of credit (or a savings account) with the amount of your fees available to you (seems a little backwards, needing enough money to pay for your fees, so that you can get out enough money from a savings program to pay your fees).

You can also use the RESP Proof of Enrolment in other ways: you can use it for Positive Enrolment for your insurance provider (Manulife likes it). Most insurance providers want you to do a Positive Enrolment action by either going on line, or supplying proof that your child over the age of 18, is at school (and can remain covered by your insurance policy).

Another important aspect of your RESP journey.

 

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The Business of University Fees

For those of us who have kids about to return to University we are about to see the onslaught of fees that are charged by all Universities (in Canada). University fees continue to be become more and more intricate, complicated and expensive.

There are many fees being charged, but the two that caught my eye (on my daughter’s university fees bill from Queen’s University) were:

Grad Health Insurance 2016 Fall 2016/09/30 $280.00
Grad Dental Insurance 2016 Fall 2016/09/30 $220.00

For those who do not want to do the arithmetic, that is $500 for 4 months.

university fees

Don’t see any beer taxes on the tuition bill (luckily)

Remember that if your child is in school your health insurance plan covers both Health & Dental (if you are covered that is), so you really don’t need to pay this fee, and most universities will allow your child to opt out of the charges (which seem quite high to me). I have checked with our friends at LSM Insurance who think the fees are a little high, but not too bad. Another factor to take into consideration is that a lot of Health Plans have positive enrollment clauses (I am with SUN Life for health insurance and that is the case), where you must every year (after a child turns 19 I think) go to the Insurers web site (or send in a form) stating that your child is still at school, or the child loses their coverage under the plan.

How easy is it to opt-out of the health and dental in the university fees schedule ? At most schools, not as simple as you might think, and deciphering which fees are optional, and which are mandatory is a real quagmire of data.

I remember folks opting out of fees when I was at University, but typically those were the folks that were paying their own way, and didn’t want to pay for things they weren’t going to use.

What are some other fees from Queens University ? These add up to almost 25% of the tuition bill we are paying (note that residence or living expenses are not here either). Still think you won’t need an RESP to help your kids go to University? I’d also like to remind those with younger kids that there is no legislation limiting the fee levels (tuition yes) or how much they can increase.

Charge Amount
Student Assistance Levy $40.15
Education Society Fee $10.00
Athletics $168.41
Student Wellness Services $58.93
Campus Observation $0.50
Work Bursary Program $5.38
Student Life Centre $21.50
SGPS Society Fee $45.72
Telephone Aid LIne Kingston $0.75
Legal Aid $5.00
Sexual Assault Crisis Centre $1.25
Canadian Federation of Student $16.24
SGPS Student Advisors $3.81
SGPS Accessibility $3.00
The Queen’s Journal $3.50
CFRC $7.50
Walkhome $19.86
Oxfam $0.87
Bus-It $66.25
Qns Internl Affairs Associatio $1.00
SGPS Sports Fund $2.00
Queen’s Food Centre $1.25
HIV Aids Regional Srvcs. $1.00
Union Gallery $3.00
Queen’s Daycare $1.00
Four Directions Aborig Stdnt C $1.00
Dawn House Women’s Shltr $1.07
Q Intern Stdnt Soc Bursary Pgm $0.71
Student Refugee Support $3.37
Reelout Art Project $1.80
Positive Space Program $0.34
Kingston Youth Shelter Project $1.00
Yellow Bike Action Group $0.60
Ban Righ Foundation $3.00
The Grad Club $20.00
Centre for Teaching & Learning $1.35
Sexual Health Resource Centre $0.92
SGPS Sustainability $1.50
Levana Gender Advocacy Centre $0.81
Kgston Loving Spoonful Charity $2.00
Grad Health Insurance $280.00
Grad Dental Insurance $220.00

No-Fee Scotiabank Value Visa

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