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How Advisors are Stress Testing their Clients’ Retirement & Financial Plans

We know that right now inflation, interest rates, talk of bear markets, and declining portfolio values are top of mind for nearly all Canadians — in particular, those who are either approaching retirement or are already there.

Our users have been telling us that they need more tools to facilitate these conversations in order to provide their clients with the peace of mind and level of service they need.

This is why we have recently built and released a brand new feature called Stress Testing. This feature is an add-on that allows you to apply historical or randomly generated rates of inflation and investment returns to your projections.

Stress tested projections aren’t meant to replace your original plans, so we always recommend starting with your base expected returns, and then making a copy to facilitate the stress testing discussion with your clients. When you’re having these types of discussions with your clients about what the sequence of returns risk is and how it may impact them, there are many variables to cover. We need to consider both sides of this – if we’re seeing negative returns during the contribution years, this will materially change the value of the portfolio come retirement time. If we’re seeing negative returns during the decumulation phase, perhaps we’re experiencing early market losses and later market gains, the portfolio may be depleting faster than expected.

There’s no way to know for sure how the sequence of returns risk could impact actual retirement portfolios, but we can model both randomized and historical data to get a good idea of potential outcomes.

You can watch a quick video overview on it here.

​Why we created Stress Testing:

During the interview process, there was consensus among users that the current uncertain economic environment was a top concern for advisors and their clients. There was a clear appetite for tools that enable purposeful discussions about the downside risk that can impact the success of the client’s financial plan. The usefulness of modelling the variability of returns and ranges of outcomes was evident.

How Advisors tell us they plan to use this new tool:

There are plenty of use cases for the new stress testing tool, which provides both historical and randomized return options, but here are the most common ones:

  • Show a range of potential future market returns and inflation rates so your client is comfortable with and prepared for more than a base case outcome. This can be combined by running a sustainable scenario to establish a more realistic after-tax spending target that considers the impact of lower than expected returns.

  • Model sequence of returns risk to demonstrate that the timing of when your client receives strong or poor performance on their investments matters, in addition to their overall returns. For instance, you can model a period of negative returns following retirement to show that selling investments to fund withdrawals in a bear market can have significant and negative impacts on the client’s likelihood of success.

  • Model strategies that can help minimize this risk such as a cash wedge or rebalancing into a more conservative asset allocation.

  • Model the first two use cases mentioned above by using their own (or their firms’) market assumptions — think customizing expected returns and standard deviation — to show the potential impact on their projections in context with their investment portfolio assumptions. This is especially useful for planners that support portfolio manager types of advisors.

What current users of this new functionality are already saying:

 

… “This is so fitting for the current times as economic and market conditions are uncertain, and not like any time in history” …
… “I love all the new features added in Snap. Also, love all the sessions and webinars offered by your team” …
… “This is a great tool for client education … the ability to look at the potential worst scenario and make changes accordingly to adjust for sustainability” …
.… “Snap gives a concise 1-page summary that I can use to show clients what their life will look like if they take different paths. And it’s easy for them to understand. It’s also flexible and quick. I’ve tried all the others and they were not as good. The new tool is the best resource we could have been given to have discussions with clients about the current market situation” …

Want to try it for yourself?

Sign-up for your 14-day free trial now and activate the Stress Testing feature. It’s free for 14 days, too!

How Financial Advisors Can Easily Provide Transparent Recommendations for Retirement Planning

As a Financial Advisor, you already know that your clients continue to demand more value in each and every client meeting. To facilitate this, Advisors rely on information, speed, and simplicity from their financial planning software during retirement planning discussions. Most likely, your clients are not coming to you, asking for a financial plan. They are, instead, coming to you with financial questions. As the expert, you know that these questions can be addressed through the financial planning process.

As you work through the financial planning process, what happens if you determine that retirement goals are either over or underfunded? What can you do to help, and how can you provide transparent recommendations to your clients?

This is why we created Recommendations. This new feature will empower Advisors to quickly illustrate to their clients their retirement spending goal, what they are on track for already, and what options they have to close any gaps. This means that now, Advisors can run more “what-if” scenarios in less time and with less effort. As a result, they can spend more time creating value for their clients through meaningful discussion and less time is spent on manual (trial and error) software operations.

The Recommendations feature is ideal for clients who are either pre-retirees or younger clients who are starting to plan for their futures. With Snap’s new recommendations feature, you can now instantly help your clients explore what actions they can take TODAY to ensure their future retirement goals are met.

 

We know that one of your clients’ most important questions is: how much can I afford to spend during retirement?

But what happens when that number isn’t enough? What happens next if you determine that your client can’t afford to spend what they need or want once they retire? That’s when the next round of questions start.

  1. How much MORE do I need to be saving each year in order to reach my goals?
  2. What age can I afford to retire at?
  3. How much do I need to reduce my annual spending by to ensure I don’t run out of money?
  4. Or, how much do I need to save from the sale of this business or property to ensure my retirement goals are fully funded?

Why we created Recommendations:

During the interview process, there was consensus among users that automating the recommendations process would be highly valuable, for several key reasons. Advisors tell us that their clients continue to demand more value and service from each and every meeting, and expect to receive answers quickly to their most important questions.

If the answer to “how much can I afford to spend” is not what the client was hoping for, the next line of questions will be around what can be done now to impact that number.

What our Advisors have told us they need:

After an Advisor meets with a client and inputs all required data to produce a base financial plan, Advisors say they then want the software to auto-calculate how much retirement spending their client is on track for and what options they have to close any existing gaps. Advisors tell us they also want the ability to make swift plan alterations and then have the software re-calculate these areas. Finally, they want the option to have the software implement the recommendations for them, creating transparency behind the recommendations and saving valuable time.

This is exactly why we built the new Recommendations feature.

How Advisors tell us they plan to use this new tool:

Here are the most common use cases for the Recommendations feature.

  • Identify gaps/vulnerabilities between clients’ retirement goals and their current situation.
  • Illustrate how the timing of retirement can affect the achievement of specific retirement goals.
  • Illustrate how additional annual savings can help to achieve retirement goals.
  • Establish whether some of the client’s capital assets can be repurposed toward goals other than retirement, such as purchasing a second property, supporting a loved one, or budgeting for an annual trip.
  • Explore ways to increase estate value, such as funnelling a portion of capital assets into an insurance estate strategy or investing into a business.
  • Illustrate how much money a client needs to put away today to achieve their retirement plan in the event of a windfall due to something like selling a business/land or receiving an inheritance.
  • Present how unfavourable market conditions [by using the Stress-Testing module] can affect retirement funding strategies by combining stress testing with recommendations.

 

What current users of this new functionality are already saying:

…. “Recommendations will save me time on calculations and quickly allow me to generate client-facing what-if scenarios” …

… “This will save me time because it eliminates the need to produce multiple stand-alone what-if scenarios. I can now do it on one page” …

… “Recommendations will allow me to quickly produce high-level recommendations with little effort. It enhances the client-facing experience”…

… “It looks awesome! The automatic savings feature that optimizes where to save and is showing the before and after tax required savings is exactly what we need. Thank you.”

Want to try it for yourself?

Sign-up for your 14-day free trial and access the new Recommendations feature today.

How Financial Advisors Easily Provide Tax Planning Advice with Snap Projections

As you help your clients work through the many stages and phases of retirement income planning, financial planning, and creating long-term projections, the importance of tax planning undoubtedly remains a top priority and focus throughout these discussions. Whether you’re a Financial Planner, Advisor, or an Investment or Wealth Manager, chances are that your clients are coming to you for financial and retirement planning advice. 

At its core, a solid tax planning strategy will have invaluable long-term benefits for your clients. It will ensure that there are no unnecessary taxes being paid during the asset decumlation phase, help to keep investments efficient, provide ample opportunities and insights for charitable donations, maximize both your clients after-tax spending and estate value …  I could go on, but I think you get the picture so I’ll stop there. 

Likely, you already know all of this – the real issue here is how to facilitate, implement, and execute these tax planning conversations without creating additional work in your already jam-packed schedule. The good news is that this is the very objective of this blog post — to help you provide tax planning through your financial advisory process in an efficient and streamlined way. 

I’m going to focus on how you can do these things within Snap Projections, a leading Canadian financial and retirement income planning software for Financial Advisors, Planners, and Investment Managers. We’re designed specifically to help small to medium Advisory teams and Independent Financial Advisors serve their clients effectively and efficiently. 

So, let’s start with asset decumulation.

Asset decumulation is a major component of retirement income planning and it rarely gets the attention it deserves. Everyone talks about saving and investing but no one ever talks about the best way to spend during retirement.

As a financial planning tool, Snap’s primary objective is to maximize the longevity of your client’s portfolio by minimizing or deferring tax liability, thus providing them with the highest possible amount of after-tax spending throughout their retirement. 

Snap’s default logic to maximize your client’s cash-flow during retirement is to first drain the non-registered accounts, followed by the TFSAs, and then the registered accounts, outside of any RIF or LIF minimums. This will keep marginal tax rates as low as possible during the early years of retirement. 

In some cases, this strategy won’t align with your clients’ objectives so it’s simple to create your own decumulation strategy by setting your own default (we call this the cash flow management logic). Additionally, you can make manual overrides to the default withdrawals.  

But you may still be wondering, what is the best way to decumulate the assets in a projection?  

This is a simple question on the surface, but the answer isn’t always obvious. We would need to define the client’s goals first. 

For instance, are we optimizing for the

  • Highest retirement income?
  • Highest estate value?
  • Lowest estate taxes?
  • Short-term liquidity?
  • Long-term growth?

We suggest using this Financial Planning Questionnaire with your clients to ensure you fully understand their needs, goals, dreams, and desires. This knowledge is what will put you in the position to truly help them. Plus, it makes your data entry much easier. You do not need to be an existing Snap user to take advantage of our questionnaire. 

 

Between the default CFM logic, and the pension income splitting, Snap Projections does perform initial optimizations on the order of withdrawals, and for 90% of cases, the defaults work very well.

However, you can modify the default algorithm (to essentially create your own default logic) and achieve even more desirable results. You can use the CFM Order column to change the order around and see if that results in either a higher cash flow or higher estate value, depending on the goals of the client. As well you can change the conversion age for RRSPs and LIRAs, and see whether drawing the minimums sooner or deferring them until later creates a better outcome.

In most cases, the defaults work great for quick planning. However, if you want to invest some time optimizing for a specific goal, you can create copies of the base scenario and see if changing the default settings yields a more favourable outcome for your client.

What about charitable donations?

Planning for charitable donations is an essential part of both tax and estate planning modelling the impact of any potential decisions for your clients not only provides them with a massive value with respect to tax planning, but will help ensure their legacy dreams become reality. 

In Snap Projections, you can easily plan for assets, insurance, and cash donations and have the associated tax credits applied to your projections. You can see the guide on that here

What about tax credits, deductions, & taxable benefits? 

In Snap, entering these critical pieces of the tax planning pie are simple. You can see the step-by-step guide here in our help section that will help you set those things up to ensure each plan is totally customized for your client. 

What about maximizing RRSP & TFSA contributions?

Unused RRSP and TFSA contribution room is tracked and shown easily in Snap to ensure your clients are leveraging those opportunities. You can see the breakdown of how those calculations are done here and what assumptions the software starts with. 

If extra funds are being invested or saved during the decumulation phase, Snap’s default logic will be to maximize for tax efficiency, automatically maximizing first the RRSP and then the TFSA. The software does the calculations for you, and you can easily modify the default logic and create your own decumulation and contribution strategy as well. 

What about spousal situations?

When you’re dealing with spousal scenarios, Snap is going to do all the heavy lifting for you. You have all the advanced options you need to optimize the situation with easy access to elements like pension income splitting and even basing the minimum RRIF withdrawals on the age of the younger spouse

You can easily set up a spousal RRSP or model a surviving spouse scenario (that includes asset rollover) by simply modifying the projection length for one person. It really is that simple to show your clients what their financial situation could look like if one spouse passes away earlier than expected. 

You can watch a live event recording here where we work through a case study, showing how to model a surviving spouse scenario in Snap. 

What about transparency & compliance?

We spend a lot of time talking with our users, as our product truly is a user-led design. Our product team works continuously to improve, iterate, and build the new features our current users are requesting. 

One thing we know first hand is that lack of transparency and hidden calculations is an absolute deal-breaker for Financial Advisors, especially when it comes to tax planning. If your client pushes back or asks a question, you need to be confident with what you’re presenting and you need to know you’ll be able to not only answer their questions but explain how the numbers were generated. If you’re a CFP or a QAFP, your designation requires that you understand how the software you’re using for financial planning works. You can read more on those rules here.  

This is exactly why you will find tax charts to show you what is under the hood and behind those high-level numbers on the main planning page. You can see what those look like and how the calculations are generated right here. And, we make it easy for you to export these tax tables and entire spreadsheets into Excel, should you need to pull the information out of the software for your own verification purposes. 

With respect to compliance, we provide multiple resources to help cover you. Our Financial Planning Questionnaire can help you satisfy your KYC requirements, and our reports provide a full summary of key values for the plan (including our Life Needs Analysis tool) to share with your clients. All assumptions are included within the report for complete transparency and documentation purposes.

What about updating last year’s plans?

Updating old plans can be cumbersome, but it doesn’t have to be. With Snap, you’ll be able to rebase and update your plans with the click of a button. Upon accessing an outdated plan in the New Year, you’ll be prompted to rebase your scenario. You click the button, and that’s it — you’re done. The rebasing will cover all annual updates for income amounts, asset values and costs, RESP grants, debt balances, government benefits, contribution rooms, tax settings, charitable donations, and more. You’ll just want to confirm and validate that all the projected new year values are accurate before proceeding with your plan. 

What are the key elements of the plans to compare for opportunities to make improvements?

One of the biggest challenges Advisors bring to us is that they can’t create multiple what-if scenarios for their clients in real time. In Snap, it’s, well, … a snap. You can see how quick and easy it is to create multiple what-if scenarios here

Once you’ve built out multiple what-if scenarios to compare various strategies and potential outcomes, there are some specific areas where you will want to look for tax information and any potential opportunities for improvement. 

To compare the scenarios here are a few areas to look at:

  • An Estate Summary is available for any year of the plan by clicking the Estate Before Tax value on the Planning page and for the final year of the projection in the report.
  • The Marginal and Effective tax rate columns on the Planning page, or on the Cash Flow Summary page of the report.
  • The Total Tax paid during the projections, not including estate tax (click the blue icon at the top of the Total Tax column).
  • The Estate after Tax column in the Net Worth Projections page of the report for each year for all scenarios.

What about tax planning for clients with corporations?

Snap integrates both personal and corporate financial planning seamlessly with an optional corporate planning model (available in our Advisor Business plan) that can be layered onto your personal projections. You can get a brief overview of the module in this video here, it’s about 8 minutes long. 

You can review the basic corporate assumptions we use here, and learn more about how we handle and track the refundable dividend tax on hand and how to customize your fixed income and equity return allocations here

Snap understands the importance of having those tax planning conversations with your clients. This aspect of financial planning is extremely important to your clients’ overall financial success and health, especially during those retirement and decumulation years. Our goal is to make it as simple as possible for Advisors to model and demonstrate these scenarios effectively in order to help their clients reach their financial goals.