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How to avoid common pitfalls with asset rollovers in survivor situations

Asset rollovers in survivor situations
If you expect that one spouse will outlive the other in your clients’ retirement projections, it’s useful to project the surviving spouse’s financial situation after the death of their spouse. We call this a Surviving Spouse Scenario in Snap Projections financial & retirement planning software.

Here’s a quick summary of what happens to your clients’ assets upon the first spouse’s death and how to avoid common pitfalls around asset rollovers.

What happens to their RRSPs?

Key terms: Annuitant and Beneficiary.

When an RRSP annuitant dies, you can roll the RRSP over to a beneficiary on a tax-deferred basis. The beneficiary must be a spouse, a common-law partner (CLP), or a financially dependent child or grandchild with a mental or physical disability.

When an RRSP annuitant dies, they are deemed to have received their RRSP assets just before death; this generally means the RRSP value at the time of death is included in the taxable income of the deceased for the year of death. However, the CRA allows a “qualified beneficiary” to receive the proceeds and report the income inclusion on their tax return instead.

When the beneficiary contributes the amount to their RRSP, they can claim a deduction to offset that taxable income inclusion. Keep in mind, though, that the beneficiary’s RRSP contribution room doesn’t change.

To avoid possible pitfalls, have your clients review their beneficiary designations to keep them updated and make sure their will matches everything else to avoid financial disasters like this one.

What happens to their RRIFs?

Key Terms: Annuitant, Successor Annuitant and Beneficiary.

When the annuitant of a RRIF dies, the rollover is performed similarly to that of an RRSP. The remaining amount received from the RRIF in the year has to be reported on the annuitant’s income tax return for the year of death unless one of the exceptions below occurs:

  • The annuitant names their spouse the successor annuitant of the RRIF. In this situation, the RRIF continues, and the spouse becomes the successor annuitant under the fund. All amounts paid out of the RRIF after the annuitant’s death become payable to that successor annuitant.
  • The spouse or partner is named in the RRIF contract as the sole beneficiary, and the entire eligible part of the RRIF is directly transferred to an RRSP, PRPP, SPP, or RRIF under which the spouse or CLP is the annuitant.

Possible pitfalls can include not starting the RRIF early enough. Often, it makes sense to make partial withdrawals in retirement from both registered and non-registered accounts. Snap Projections allows you to fully control the amount of withdrawals from any asset, which means you can decide and adjust how much clients should withdraw from their RRSP, RRIF, LIF, TFSA or any non-registered asset.

What happens to their TFSA?

Key Terms: Successor Holder, Survivor and Beneficiary.

If designated as a beneficiary, the surviving spouse has the option to contribute and designate all or a portion of a survivor payment as an exempt contribution to their own TFSA without affecting their own unused contribution room, subject to certain conditions and limits.

A TFSA does not terminate on death; the successor simply replaces the deceased as the plan holder, and the plan continues with all rights passing to the successor.

The successor holder is the person named to inherit the TFSA. There are two types of successor holders:

  • Survivor: a spouse or CLP at time of death. The survivor can designate all or a portion of the TFSA to contribute to their own TFSA without affecting their own contribution room.
  • Beneficiary: a child or qualified donee. The beneficiary can contribute all or a portion of the TFSA to their own TFSA only if they have unused room.

To avoid potential pitfalls, make sure your clients have named a successor holder − not just a beneficiary.

What happens to their non-registered assets?

An automatic rollover rule applies, and the spouse will receive the assets with no tax consequences. The disposition and transfer is deemed to have happened at ACB − not FMV, which would trigger taxes (Income Tax Act, Section 74.2).

The automatic rollover applies unless a couple “elects out” of section 74.2 and wants to have the transfer happen at FMV, which can be desirable in certain situations, for example if you want to trigger capital gain taxes in the estate of the deceased spouse.

How are asset rollovers handled in Snap?

If the projections of the spouses end in different years, the assets are automatically rolled over in the following manner:

  • Registered assets are rolled over on a tax-deferred basis,
  • TFSA assets are rolled over on a tax-free basis, and
  • Non-registered assets are rolled over at ACB, not FMV (without triggering capital gain tax).

The combined page (please see the screenshot above) will show the value of their combined estate in the last year when both spouses are alive, the estate of the deceased spouse at the end of his/her projections, and the estate of the surviving spouse at the end of his/her own projections.

Note that you can further adjust the spending that the surviving spouse needs to maintain their lifestyle as their spending level can be different from the couple’s combined spending. This is an essential functionality in the financial & retirement planning software as it not only allows you to adjust the spending in different phases of their retirement (active vs. passive) but also enables you to be very precise in planning for the surviving spouse.

If you have any questions regarding rollovers, get in touch with me over email or click here to book an online demo so we can show you step by step how rollovers are handled in Snap.

Financial Planning for Business Owners: What you need to know about RDTOH



Integrating a holding company or an operating company into the personal retirement projections of your business owner clients is useful as often their businesses accumulated sizeable assets and these assets will play an important role in funding their retirement.

Taking the funds out of the corporation in an efficient manner can add significant value for your clients and the Refundable Dividend Tax on Hand (RDTOH) account is a key component in that equation.

What is Refundable Dividend Tax on Hand (RDTOH)?

RDTOH is a federal mechanism available to Canadian-controlled private corporations (CCPCs) that allows, under certain circumstances, for a corporation to be refunded a portion of income tax paid. The refundable portion is calculated based on the aggregate investment income generated by a corporation (Part I Tax) and on eligible dividends received by a corporation (Part IV Tax) and tracked in the RDTOH account.

The RDTOH account balance is tracked annually (typically with the corporate tax return), and when dividends are paid out to the shareholder(s) of the corporation and if the RDTOH balance is positive, the corporation receives a dividend refund.

To make it easy to take advantage of RDTOH, the balance is tracked automatically in Snap Projections. The balance is calculated based on your selected corporate portfolio settings and the corporate asset mix, and updated based on dividends declared from the corporation.

Why RDTOH is useful?

RDTOH mechanism gives you more accuracy in terms of planning for your clients when investing in and withdrawing funds from their corporation and gives you some control over the corporate taxation as well.

This is useful because you can now be much more precise in modelling investing in a corporation. For example, you can evaluate different strategies to take the funds out of the corporation via salary, non-eligible dividends or eligible dividends and determining their impact on personal and corporate taxation. You can also test an approach of completely taking the funds out of the corporation and investing them personally.

Is RDTOH available in Snap Projections?

Yes! We are excited to announce adding RDTOH to the Business / Corporate Component in Snap Projections. Here is some more information on how it works.

RDTOH affects only investment income generated by the corporation and it does not impact the remaining corporate component’s functionality; including the active business income section.

This means you can generate both active business income and passive business income (i.e. investment income) in one corporation and both income streams will be taxed separately. That way, in Snap Projections, a corporation can act as a holding and an operating company at the same time, and you do not have to resort to setting up multiple corporations to model active and passive business income separately, which can be a closer representation of the reality for your clients.

You can continue to use the corporate component as part of an income splitting strategy for your clients – if both spouses are shareholders of the corporation you will be able to declare a dividend to one or both spouses.

You can add multiple corporations to the client’s projections and easily report on all of them within one client- friendly report.

In the end, you are able to provide your clients with an additional level of comfort that all of their assets are properly accounted for.

If you have been trying to model RDTOH in excel, you’ll love this new functionality in Snap Projections. That’s because the corporate component is as easy to use as the rest of the Snap Projections platform.

If you haven’t tried the corporate component in Snap yet or if you are curious to learn how it works, you can click here to watch a short video of the Corporate Component.

Otherwise, you can click here to book a short demo with us. You’ll learn how you can use it to plan more effectively for your clients with corporations.

Why client education matters today more than ever?


Why client education matters today more than ever


Over the weekend, I stumbled upon an article talking about how a mix of three basic Vanguard index funds (referred to as the Bogle Model) outperformed some of the best and brightest institutional investors managing college endowment funds.

It’s staggering that such a simple strategy could match (and even outperform) some of the top institutional investors in the world. The article is titled “A lesson in investing simplicity: Why the Bogle Model beats the Yale Model”, and you can read it here.

This led me to contemplate the truly important aspects of financial and retirement planning.

I’ve been hearing from advisors that their clients have a hard time understanding the value of financial planning. Clients are often unimpressed with long, complex financial plans that are rarely reviewed and never updated.

Advisors wish there was a simple way to show their clients useful concepts or illustrate why one approach is better than another – often interactively, right in front of their clients’ eyes.

There is a way to do it, and many successful advisors have figured it out.

As I thought more about this, I noticed that all successful financial advisors for whom client meetings seem to come easily and whose businesses are thriving are the ones who focus on simply educating their clients.

The value of client education

Is investing in client education worthwhile?

Our experience at Snap Projections and my conversations with hundreds of advisors prove that it is.

It turns out educated clients are typically more satisfied clients. Satisfied clients become long-term, loyal clients. These are also the clients who tend to generate referrals.

There is even industry research on this topic. Ontario-based Credo Consulting Inc. released a report revealing that “the likelihood a client will provide a referral to his or her advisor gradually grows with that client’s increasing levels of financial literacy” (Investment Executive, February 2017, p.10).

“The takeaway is that spending time educating clients on financial matters is valuable and worthwhile because the more clients understand, the more likely they are to recommend you.”, according to Brandon Bertelsen of Credo Consulting Inc.

Why is client education more important today than ever?

Because nobody is doing it.

A lot of advisors like to focus on complexity when justifying their value, and it backfires.

What they need to do first is start educating their clients on the basics.

Clients may be embarrassed that they don’t understand simple things about their retirement.

That’s a great place to start adding value.

Show them how they can fund their retirement by layering various income sources, or what would happen to their retirement cash-flow if they deferred their CPP and OAS.

Help them understand if their current spending is sustainable or if they need to save more, and how their current spending and saving habits will affect their estate.

If you educate your clients, it will benefit your clients and your business.

If you want to see the impact of client education done well, you may want to read Diane’s story. In less than 10 months, Diane managed to increase her client retention by 100% and boost referrals by 10%, all while saving a lot of time. She used the exact approach I see many successful advisors using. Here’s a link to her story.

How to effectively illustrate HELOC scenarios for your clients



Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is a revolving line of credit secured by your clients’ home. In Canada, your clients can access up to 65% of the value of their home through a home equity line of credit.

There are many reasons why your clients may want to consider HELOC and why you may want to have an easy illustration of HELOC in your financial planning software.

Why HELOC illustrations are important?

HELOC is an attractive option to access additional cash to fund retirement lifestyle or to cover unexpected expenses, typically at a much lower interest rate than a traditional line of credit.

In markets with elevated real estate prices, for example in Vancouver or Toronto, HELOC offers a solid alternative to downsizing, which which may not always be practical and carries additional costs.

How to effectively illustrate HELOC for your clients?

Here are a few useful tips on illustrating HELOC scenarios for your clients.

Illustrating HELOC can be accomplished in three easy steps. You can use Excel or your financial planning software. We are going to use Snap Projections financial & retirement planning software in this example.

Step 1 – Add a new loan named HELOC with a $0 balance and the interest rate.

Step 2 – Enter the amount the client withdraws every year on the main scenario page. The amounts can be the same or they can be different for every year (or annually indexed at a specified percentage, e.g. at inflation).

Step 3 – Click Run Scenario. The withdrawals from HELOC are added to your client’s cash flow and can be used to cover retirement lifestyle or other expenses.

The Net Worth chart clearly illustrates client’s liabilities that are partially offset by increasing value of their home. Additionally, it is helpful to see the net worth line to visually evaluate the practicality of HELOC in each situation.

If you would like to learn more about illustrating HELOC scenarios for your clients and how to effectively incorporate them into your financial planning process, click here to book a short online demo with us and we’ll show you how to do that.

We hope these tips will help you better serve your clients with clarity and ease.

Introducing Fully Automated Pension Income Splitting



Pension income splitting is an important mechanism, and should be a feature in any Canadian financial planning software, that allows to transfer the taxable eligible pension income from one spouse to another for the purpose of decreasing their joint tax liability.

The pensioner is the individual who receives eligible pension income and who elects to allocate part of that income to his or her spouse or common-law partner called the pension transferee.

Automated Pension Income Splitting

We just rolled out a powerful new feature that allows you to automatically perform pension income splitting for your clients, so you no longer have to go through the process manually. That’s the advantage of a financial planning software – it fully automates the tedious parts of planning for you!

If you turn on Automated Pension Income Splitting in your scenario, Snap will calculate the optimal amount of taxable income to be shifted from one spouse to the other, up to the allowable maximum in each year.

Defined Benefit pension income, RRIF income, and LIF income are all eligible for splitting.

This way, with just one click you can help your clients minimize their total tax liability. This leads to instant savings for your clients.

To enable this feature in Snap, click Settings on the client’s main scenario page and select Scenario.


Under Advanced Settings, check the “Enable Pension Income Splitting” box.


Once automated Pension Income Splitting is turned on, you will see the exact amount being split for each year as a negative value in a client’s scenario page, and a corresponding positive value in the same column on the spouse’s scenario.


If you would like to learn more about automated income splitting feature in Snap Projections financial projections software, click here to book a demo call with us.

We are very excited about this new feature and we hope it will help you develop better projections for your clients in less time.

Key Takeaways from the IAFP Symposium



Recently I attended the IAFP Symposium in Vancouver, BC. It is one of the top conferences for Canadian financial planners and was, as always, packed with valuable content. I wanted to share with you the key takeaways from the conference, so you are aware of the current developments, trends and opportunities in the Canadian financial planning industry that you can hopefully use for the benefit of your own practice.

There are two things that I think the Institute of Advanced Financial Planners (IAFP) nailed when it comes to structuring the conference.

First, there is a realistic case shared with all participants before the conference that presenters can refer to in their presentations (this year’s case was about a moderately dysfunctional family and their family businesses). Although fictitious, the case was realistic enough to provide an arena to exercise different financial planning strategies and approaches. Since the attendees have the chance to review the case before the conference, they are generally familiar with it, and the presenters can go straight into addressing the challenges in the case without spending additional time describing the problem. This ends up being a massive time saver and makes knowledge sharing more efficient.

Second, the symposium offers an optional Advanced Education Day before the actual conference. If you want to get more proficient at your craft, you can come a day earlier and learn more.

In terms of industry trends, there was no single overarching theme at the conference this year. It seems CRM2 (not applicable to a large portion of the attendees) is old news and everyone has gotten used to robo-advisors co-existing in the market.

Potentially worth emphasizing though is a more subtle underlying trend towards goal-based planning and investing that transpired in several sessions. I wouldn’t even call it a trend, per se. It’s more of an evolution or natural progression in well-functioning wealth management practices. It seems goal-based planning will play an increasingly important role as the industry evolves and especially after the CRM2 is fully implemented, primarily because it is very client-focused and therefore tends to better address client needs.

My Top 5 Most Remarkable Presentations

I‘ve cherry-picked 5 sessions from the symposium that I felt were particularly important and valuable:

Gregg Filmon, President of Value Partners Investments, drew a parallel between the financial advice industry and the medical industry, suggesting that the former could learn much from the latter as the medical industry is deeply process-driven. He unveiled the process he applied at his company: it starts with clearly defined goals that are client-focused (not advisor-focused) and involves proven battle-tested methodology offering clear benefits and results to clients. It also includes managing client expectations by educating them about possible outcomes and enlisting their support via mutual accountability. The approach he outlined is simple, effective and powerful.

Sam Sivarajan, Managing Director, Head of Manulife Private Wealth, brought an interesting perspective to inter-generational wealth transfer by focusing on behavioural finance aspects that affect investor decision making. There are many cognitive biases that cost investors, including the anchoring effect, the IKEA effect, the overconfidence bias and the action bias. The role of an advisor is to be aware of these biases and help properly manage them for clients.

Sam made an interesting remark about risk questionnaires that is worth mentioning. Although required by regulators, he pointed out that the questionnaires are generally not very useful at determining different cognitive biases, and their overall value might be limited in a goal-based investing approach.

Tom Bradley, President of Steadyhand, offered a useful perspective on portfolio construction in a near-zero interest rate world. After 35 years of declining interest rates and excellent bond returns, he claimed investors need to shift gears. His presentation focused on the role of fixed income in portfolio design; he discussed the return expectations for fixed income and argued that the 2016 FPSC guidelines of 4% as the rate of return for fixed income are overly optimistic.

Fixed income traditionally constituted a large portion of portfolios and played an important role in diversification and protecting the downside. If fixed income may not qualify for the job anymore, what are the alternatives and can they do a better job? If so, how do they fit into overall portfolio design? Tom went on to describe alternatives, giving scores for various investment instruments like GICs, mortgage funds, high yield bonds, dividend stocks and multi-strategy hedge funds. He rated them based on three components: expected return, diversification and downside. Overall, this was a valuable session and I highly recommend reviewing his slides if this interest you.

Josh Schmidt, tax lawyer at Moodys Gartner Tax Law LLP, defined the three most pressing tax issues facing the family in the fictitious case. The issues were around selling the business to their employees (which may require significant tax considerations), important tax elements to a divorce and tax issues surrounding estate freezes. He highlighted these key issues and individually discussed the purpose, considerations and mechanics when applying any of these strategies to other similar cases.

John Burns, Senior Financial Planner with the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, presented one of the most engaging ethics sessions I had the pleasure of attending. The brilliance of this session relied on a comparison of the IAFP and FPSC codes and standards for its professional members. For those who are unfamiliar, the IAFP administers the Registered Financial Planner (RFP) designation, and the FPSC is a professional standards-setting and certification body that certifies Certified Financial Planner (CFP) professionals and FPSC Level 1 Certificants.

While certain professional standards revealed close similarities, (For example, “IAFP Canon 1 – act in the best interest of the client” and “FPSC Principle 1 – A CFP shall always place the client’s interest first”), other standards differed, where the wording chosen by the IAFP seemed clearer and stricter (For example, “IAFP Canon 3 – disclose all sources of compensation relating to client relative to recommendations made and services provided (…)” and “FPSC Rule of Conduct #8 – When doing financial planning – A CFP shall disclose in writing – an accurate and understandable description of the compensation arrangements being offered (…)”).

I found this comparison very interesting, especially in light of FPSC lobbying to regulate financial planners and to establish a single harmonized set of standards for individuals who can call themselves financial planners.

Best Practices in the Canadian Retirement Planning Project

What makes financial planning particularly hard is the fact that it operates at the confluence of three large disciplines: economics, accounting & tax, and law. Client cases may require an individual to have deep knowledge in all of these areas, while achieving proficiency in any of these individual disciplines may take years of practice.

To help planners, especially younger and less experienced ones, maintain high standards and keep track of different planning strategies and approaches, we decided to start gathering a set of best practices. This is one of the reasons behind the Best Practices in Canadian Retirement Planning Project, which Snap Projections launched earlier this year. This project is intended to gather best practices in retirement planning among Canadian financial planners and freely share these practices with the rest of the industry.

We recognize that no matter what tools you use to create retirement projections for your clients, there is value in having a set of best practices and guidelines that is technology agnostic, meaning that you can apply them using any technology, even an Excel spreadsheet.

If you would like to participate in this project, please let me know by contacting me at this email. We’ll arrange an interview with you to document the principles and strategies you use when helping your clients plan for retirement.

What Kind Of Advice Are Investors Looking For?

what kind of advice

Savvy financial advisors know that the key ingredient of their success is knowing what their clients and prospects truly want.

This makes perfect sense because if you know what is on your prospect’s mind, it is much easier to start a conversation with her, build trust and instantly deliver value.

So, what kind of advice are investors looking for?

I found some useful information on this topic at one of the sessions during the CIFP’s 14th Annual National Conference.

Peter Bowen, CPA, CA, Vice-President of Tax and Retirement Research at Fidelity Investments Canada shared some of their internal research on this matter (please see the photo I snapped at the conference).

According to Fidelity’s research, there has been a lot more interest in retirement planning and retirement income planning. Retirement planning and retirement income planning is by far the most desired service among the consumers (nearly 70% of all respondents).

Tax planning, other savings goals and estate planning were the remaining services that placed 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively with approximately 20% – 30% of respondents indicating their interest in these services. The remaining categories included health care related services and insurance.

How should we interpret this research?

I always try to be cautious when interpreting industry surveys. Mostly because there can be some confirmation bias at play. Also, we typically don’t get much insight into the methodology behind the survey, the data collection and pre-processing, types of questions asked, population size or its structure.

Nonetheless, these results intuitively make sense to me. First, because a vast majority of consumers are likely to be familiar with only one aspect of financial planning (i.e. retirement planning). They may be less familiar with estate, tax planning or financial management.

Second, I am not surprised that the majority of the respondents seek retirement planning advice. There are 13.6 million people in Canada 50 years old and older. That’s about 37% of the Canadian population. This large segment of the Canadian population is going to be predominantly focused on planning for their retirement.

How does this research help you?

As an advisor, I would consider these results as an opportunity to structure your practice around what the market currently needs, and try to fulfill that need.

Retirement planning is a great start of a meaningful conversation with a new prospect. It facilitates understanding of their needs and goals.

A set of retirement projections provides great insight into their current situation and helps to quickly pinpoint any potential issues regarding insurance, investment planning, estate or cash flow & debt issues.

Also, a retirement planning service is a great way to demonstrate the value of your services to your clients. It helps you build and maintain a relationship with clients by educating them on how to make better financial decisions.

Interested in seeing how Snap Projections helps your clients make better retirement financial decisions? Click here to book a demo and we’ll show you how.

Interactive Financial Planning – A Game Changer In The Client-Advisor Relationship

Interactive Financial Planning


Last week I got a call from Kevin, a financial advisor who told me that he presented a financial plan to his clients in real time, which was apparently a huge success. I appreciated the update and got back to work.

It wasn’t until I received several other very similar calls that I started paying closer attention. I realized this wasn’t just a fad — it was a trend. When I looked back at the last 12 months, I noticed the most successful advisors all follow a particular pattern.

Instead of doing planning the traditional way, they adopted a new way to converse with clients by presenting their financial plans interactively. This new trend is a true game changer in the client-advisor relationship. The best part is that it takes almost no time to implement in your practice.

We call this new trend interactive financial planning because it’s based on a real time client-advisor interaction.

Why does presenting projections to your clients interactively matter?

The standard approach in the industry is as follows: you gather the client’s data, develop a plan, print a 50-page report, and walk the client through the report during the meeting.

While it may work for some clients, this approach is limited and not very effective.

Here’s what’s wrong with it:

  • It fails to discover all client goals. Essentially, it assumes the advisor and client are already perfectly clear on the client’s retirement goals and needs. In reality, the client’s goals may change; the client may not even be aware of some of their goals or may not be confident in knowing their needs. An advisor may simply miss the mark and fail to uncover previously undiscovered goals.

  • It starts the conversation in a negative way by focusing the client on a large shortfall required to funding their retirement. While this gets the point across quickly, a better way of approaching this is simply pointing out how long their money will last given their current spending or determining their maximum after-tax spending in retirement. This approach puts the client in the driver’s seat regarding their spending/saving decisions and increases their commitment to those decisions.

  • It wastes time. If a client decides to modify their goals or even make some small but meaningful changes to their plan, the whole effort of creating the plan needs to be repeated, often leading to follow-up meetings. Since any such updates may take a long time time, client engagement and satisfaction suffers.

  • It intimidates the client and makes them feel unintelligent. Most clients feel overwhelmed by long reports and complex plans, even though they may not say it. The truth is they don’t understand 50-page reports. Have you seen the way their eyes glaze over? They’re not trained to consume complex financial reports — that’s your job. They need something simple and meaningful, containing just the right level of detail that makes sense to them.

  • It doesn’t motivate the client to enter into a relationship with you, especially at the prospecting stage. Instead, it forces them to do a lot of work up front without seeing the immediate reward. Often just looking at the financial planning questionnaire is enough to scare prospects away.

  • It’s not interactive, so it’s not engaging. Printed reports are static. You can’t just increase your client’s spending by $3,000 a year in the printed report and show them how their money suddenly runs out at age 84. You can’t impress upon them the value of making even a $500/month contribution to their RRSP or TFSA and the positive impact on their asset growth. Low engagement reduces their ability to understand what really drives their projections, which leads to very bad financial decisions — the kinds of decisions from which they can’t recover.

Kevin and other successful advisors have figured out how to present financial plans in a way that completely engages the client.

Here’s an approach successful advisors have adopted in their practices:

  • While still prospecting, and even before asking clients to share their financial information, they show a sample set of projections. They point out the tradeoffs between contributing to an RRSP vs. a TFSA vs. non-registered assets, discuss taking CPP early or deferring it, and show the OAS clawback and talk about how to avoid it. They review estate taxes and bring up common issues, like not having sufficient insurance coverage to address a potential tax liability. Through this process they educate clients, show them the value of financial planning, and illustrate their own value as an advisor. At that point, the clients can’t wait to see projections with their own numbers. They have a huge incentive to work with you as an advisor, and it becomes easy for you to land new clients.

  • After the client engages them as their financial advisor, the advisor prepares baseline projections with possibly one or two alternative scenarios to get the conversation going. Once the projections are complete, they walk clients through their numbers. They confirm income, assets, and debt, making sure all the numbers are correct. This helps to reduce mistakes and clarify omissions.

  • When they show the projections to the client (often using a large screen in their office or a projector in the conference room), they don’t stop there. They modify numbers, re-run projections, and show the client the differences in real time. This is the moment when client engagement goes through the roof. Often, this leads to new information from a client or reveals interest in another set of goals. As an added benefit, after you explore the options together, there is a lot less need for them to play with the numbers on their own. Overall, clients feel more confident in the direction and become a lot more invested in the process.

  • Presenting clients their projections interactively is game changing. It allows you, the advisor, to have a much deeper, much more meaningful conversation with your clients. It also orients the clients on their financial goals rather than on market factors you can’t control, like the rates of return of particular stocks or funds in their portfolio. Instead, this approach focuses the conversation on what clients can control, like spending, saving, and building useful habits around their finances.

Working with a great advisor is one of the best decisions most Canadian consumers can make. At least that’s our view here at Snap Projections. A great advisor is someone who can help clients proactively address issues and help them achieve the most daunting financial goals, like a successful retirement.

Overall, this new approach does wonders for the client-advisor relationship. It allows you to build stronger relationships with your clients. Client satisfaction goes up with each meeting, so it’s no wonder that client’s share of wallet, and not to mention referrals, increase as well. Ultimately, this approach helps great advisors get an edge and differentiate themselves in the market.

Still not convinced?

You may want to read Diane’s story.

In less than 10 months, Diane managed to increase her client retention by 100% and boost referrals by 10%, all while saving a ton of time. She used the exact approach I talk about here. Diane is a veteran of the industry. She has developed over 8,000 plans in her career and she knows what works well. Here’s a link to her story.

Running Retirement Projections with Clients


Over the last 2 years, I had the privilege of speaking with over 1,000 Financial Planners, Investment Managers and Financial Advisors at large, medium and small organizations all across Canada.

1,000 people. Think about that. It’s a big number. It’s 1,000 unique points of view!

These different views have given me a fascinating perspective on how each person runs their practice. I learned about their favourite tools, what works well for them and about their day-to-day challenges. I have to admit, it’s been an illuminating process.

Running Retirement Projections with Your Clients

I would like to share what I learned about running projections with clients in interactively (You could also do the same thing online, via a screen sharing software).

Running financial projections with your clients interactively is at times a contested topic. Some advisors swear they will never do it, but the ones who have tried insist they can’t imagine their practice without it. Here are their best tips and insights, so that you can introduce, improve or perfect, this practice with your own clients.

Let me first clarify that running projections with your clients doesn’t mean literally developing projections from scratch while your clients sit and watch. It means that you’ve already developed a set of draft projections with a few different scenarios, and then you can show different options to your clients when you meet with them. For example, you can change current or maximum level of their spending, illustrate downsizing, or show the impact of delaying CPP & OAS, etc.

But let’s take it a step further than just showing the above alternatives. You can also make small modifications, for example by changing the spending level by $2,000 a year or reducing the rates of return by 1%. Showing differences like these to clients is key because you get to educate them on the sensitivity of different parameters. They often have an “Aha!” moment when they finally understand how their projections work. Then, you don’t need to convince them to review and update their projections next year, they’ll ask you for it!

This also helps to catch errors and inconsistencies. Some clients just slap their numbers together. This happens not because they don’t care. They just don’t understand how important is to use accurate spending numbers. When they see the impact of small changes on their projections, they instantly understand the value of using accurate numbers and do their homework properly.

On the flip side, you wouldn’t believe how many times clients overstate, double up or leave things off intentionally. A good practice is to go over their income, assets, debt, etc. with them to make sure we have the right numbers. You can make them more comfortable with “re-stating” their numbers by saying “when we look at a lot of numbers all at once, sometimes we miss things”. This way the client is validating our inputs to make sure all numbers are correct.

The mere act of sitting next to your client and showing what-if scenarios right in front of their eyes creates a powerful bonding moment. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder like this establishes you as working together, which increases trust. Clients also tend to better appreciate the service that you provide if they truly understand what you do for them. Finally, the effect of educating someone is a lot more powerful and long-lasting than mere persuasion. Obviously, all of this leads to better client retention.

This is, however, only part of the story. Satisfied clients are then more likely to refer their colleagues, friends and family to you. Have you ever wondered why this happens? It’s quite straightforward. When your client’s financial future is uncertain, they are faced with an unknown, painful situation. When you help them solve it, and they gain clarity around their retirement, they’re compelled to share their story and help others overcome the same problem. This is how referrals work on the most basic level of the limbic system in our brains.

Should I Run Projections with My Clients?

There’s no clear answer, but why not give it a try? You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Now, how can you ensure that this endeavour is successful?

First, you need to make sure the tool you use to run and update projections can run the scenarios quickly. If you want to know more about what elements to pay attention to when it comes to evaluation of software tools, you may want to read What makes financial planning software fast?

From a privacy perspective, you also want to be able to hide other clients’ information before you open up the software in front of your client or prospect. In Snap Projections, there is a convenient “Show all Clients” checkbox on the Clients page. By unchecking it, you hide all your client data, leaving only the “New Client Scenario” button and the search fields that you can use to locate your client’s file.

This his how this page looks like with the checkbox unchecked:

Show all clients - off

If you want to see all your clients again, just click the “Show all Clients” checkbox, and you’ll see your full list of clients:

Show all clients - on

Finally, if you’re showing the projections to your clients online (remotely), you’ll want to use a good screen sharing software. We wrote about some tools advisors use in 9 Software Programs to Help You Grow Your Financial Planning Practice. Check it out if you’d like to learn from other advisors like you.

If you haven’t seen Snap Projections in action yet, go ahead and watch a 5-minute Snap Projections Video. If you’ve already seen the video and you want to request access to Snap, you can book a demo here.

What makes financial planning software fast?


Since one of the key frustrations for a Canadian financial planner is the excessive time it takes to create a new set of retirement projections, we knew the software had to be fast (you can read about all other reasons why we developed Snap Projections here).

But, what does it mean for the software to be fast?

We had to break down the experience of a financial planner using the software and consider this question from many angles. We looked at the speed of data entry, the speed of calculations, the quickness of the user interface and how the overall software design can make a planner more efficient.

Speed of Data Entry

A well-designed user interface can dramatically speed up the data entry process. We knew the user interface had to be intuitive, easy to understand and simple to follow. It also needed a minimal number of required data fields to enter before you can create client’s projections.

That’s why we don’t ask you to enter a lot of client data in Snap Projections. For example, you don’t need to enter a client’s address or SIN as they are not material to creating projections. You only need their income, assets, debt and a few parameters around their retirement, for example their retirement age and the after tax spending they need in retirement, to run your first scenario.

new client

Speed of Calculations

How quickly the software runs its calculations is critical for the planner as well. We’ve made great strides in this area. Any individual runs (i.e. Run Scenario) used to take a few seconds. Now, they run in just under 1 second and may take another one to display the results (depending on the speed of your internet connection).

By far the largest gains were made on Sustainable Scenario that allows you to calculate the maximum level of after tax spending for the client, without the risk of them running out of money. The sustainable scenario runs, crunching hundreds of thousands of numbers, previously took up over a minute and now run in seconds.

And, since the calculations are running in the cloud, they don’t depend on your computer. They run equally quickly on a fast desktop or an older laptop. You don’t need to constantly reinvest in your hardware to maintain the optimal speed of calculations. Rather, you can focus on what matters the most – helping your clients make better financial decisions.

Quickness of User Interface

This aspect was a bit tougher to address as many Web-based applications seem, and sometimes are, slower than their counterparts written for a particular operating system.

We circumvented this problem by focusing our full attention on the area of the application where the planner spends the most of her time – the main scenario screen (see below). All updates on this screen are done instantly without the need to reload the page. This way the user experience is exceptional as the update speed is incredibly fast so the user doesn’t have to wait at all for the software to respond.

main page

Good Design Makes You More Efficient

We tried to design the software in a way that lets you create projections fast so you can see the results quickly. But if you want to get deeper and change some variables under the hood, you can.

This way you can instantly become productive. Straightforward projections take little time while you still have an option to override the default settings and make more client-specific decisions – if you need to.

From all of the optimizations above, this one is perhaps the most profound. Why? Because it fundamentally makes you a more efficient and a more productive planner.

If you haven’t seen Snap Projections in action, you can watch a 5-min Video of Snap Projections to see how it can make you a more efficient and a more productive planner. Here’s the link.