“Actually retiring can be scary but it doesn’t have to be. Thanks for being there for us to make this an exciting rather than a scary transition.” That is how one couple that Rockcliffe Wealth Advisors (RWA) has worked with closely viewed our process and its implementation. Their experience involved an early retirement, a moderate pension for one spouse, some non-registered holdings, a fully paid home, and significant registered assets. The Rockcliffe Retirement Income Optimizer (RIO) program was integral to their success in achieving their retirement goals.
We had worked with them for over ten years but worked with them particularly closely in the three to five years leading up to their retirement. Initially we established a clear sense of their values and their goals for retirement. We focused not only on when, and how much, and how long retirement income would be required, but also on what activities, interests and passions they planned to pursue in retirement. We quickly realized that a two-phased retirement income strategy would be best with a somewhat higher income in the first twenty (healthier) years and a slightly reduced level of income for the balance of their lives. From there, risk tolerance levels were assessed. We verified that they were able to retire early and maintain their lifestyle under multiple growth scenarios.
We were able to implement a “Three Piles of Money” approach to their retirement using three different types of assets: Non-Registered Investments, Registered Investments, and Investment Grade Participating Cash Value Life Insurance.
Spousal RRSPs were utilized to help split income and save taxes. We established some Guaranteed Minimum Withdrawal Benefit plans (GMWBs) shortly after they were introduced with some of their registered assets. These will provide a guaranteed minimum level of income for life to help cover fixed expenses in retirement. We also established a well diversified portfolio of non-registered investments initially that we later transitioned into corporate class investment funds to both reduce and defer the annual tax burden on these investments. Immediately prior to their retirement we eliminated all debt.
As we moved closer to their actual retirement date we established a “Cash Wedge” within their portfolio. (These are cash and ultra short-term investments that are designed to provide a minimum of three years of retirement income at all times.) The rest of their portfolio was then available to be invested in assets that were one risk category lower than the one we used in the accumulation phase of preparing for their retirement.
Once retired we employed pension income splitting, and “topping-up to bracket” strategies to ensure that government tax credits and benefits such as Old Age Pension (OAS) will be preserved. At the individual investment selection level, funds were chosen that have managers who have an active management style and also have a strong, steady history of outperforming their peers.
Ongoing education by RWA at each review with this couple helped them both understand the strategies, tactics, and tools being used to create and protect their retirement dreams and their retirement income. Each review has also served as an opportunity to ensure that the overall plan evolves so that it can handle unexpected needs or demands.
The heartfelt appreciation we have received from this couple is gratifying. We love long-term relationships of mutual respect focused on achieving goals that really matter.