I start a lot of my initial client meetings with the following a metaphor.
Picture yourself on a sea voyage to a place called “retirement island”. Our job today is to make sure your ship is sea worthy, that you have adequate supplies for the journey, (including life preservers) and that you bring enough cargo with you to survive once you get there. As we all know, retirement island, is a desert island and apart from the monthly visits of the S.S. Government Pension, everything you will need to live on retirement island will need to brought with you.
A lot of Canadians are jittery about investing. And who can say they’re wrong to worry? Between slumping oil prices, and the Canadian dollar’s dramatic ups and downs, the economy has taken a big hit in recent years. So has investor morale. Market volatility, along with economic uncertainty seems to be the new normal. The sea we are traveling on is choppy to say the least.
But even in a harder investment climate, diversification, with at least some stocks and bonds, is in my opinion the only way to beat inflation. This is specifically why today’s stormy conditions are leading some investors to consider taking a look at included segregated funds as part of the investment portfolio in the cargo hold of their ship.
A recent issue of “Solutions for Financial Planning” the client periodical from Manulife Financial, contained a fantastic article on the features and benefits of segregated funds. Much of the following information has been gleaned from that article and my personal experience in the financial planning industry.
What is a segregated fund? I’m glad you asked.
One way to look at it is to say that a segregated fund is a way to put a life preserver around your money.
A segregated fund incorporates the potential for growth offered by a broad range of investment funds with the particular wealth protection features of a life insurance policy. Segregated fund contracts can help reduce vulnerability to loss through a number of different guarantees. These guarantees include things like income levels, death and maturity, potential protection from creditors, and estate planning, all from one product.
For most investors worried about market risk and volatility, a segregated fund’s most attractive features are it guarantees. After all, there are very few in guarantees life.
With a segregated fund contract, you will positively receive at least 75 per cent of your deposits (up to 100 per cent in some cases), minus any withdrawals, when the contract matures. This is called the maturity guarantee, and it applies on a set date. The maturity date occurs after a minimum number of years have elapsed or when the owner attains a certain age, (usually age 100). Even if markets decline during the period you will still receive the minimum guaranteed amount. If markets rise, your savings grow. Some contracts will even allow you to reset your maturity date so you can lock in growth.
One important detail about segregated fund contracts is that they are actually life insurance policies. Only life insurance companies can offer them, and only licensed life insurance representatives can sell them.
Segregated fund contracts vary widely. They can offer a diverse range of guarantees, features and fees. We are here to help and can explain the differences and recommend the various options that are available to you.
Segregated funds commonly suit more conservative investors, especially during stormier seas and more volatile markets. For investors who don’t want to lose sleep over the market ups and downs, the guarantees that come with segregated funds can provide some peace of mind and help offer smoother sailing. They also appeal to people for whom estate planning and the potential for protection from creditors is a top priority.
Segregated fund contracts also include a death benefit guarantee, similar to the maturity guarantee, if you die while the markets are down your estate or named beneficiary will receive a pre-determined percentage of the original deposit, regardless of the market value of the fund at the time. The guarantee can be up to 100 per cent, depending on the type of contract selected and the age of the purchaser. Your named beneficiary gets the death benefit in the event of your untimely passing. You can name anyone as your beneficiary, family member, friend or even your favourite charity.
Keep in mind that the guarantees are a type of life insurance, which you are going to pay for. Segregated fund costs are similar to the fees charged for comparable mutual funds and include management fees, insurance fees, operating costs and applicable sales tax. A contract might also include a charge for early with drawl. We can provide you with an itemized list of all fees prior to making any investment decision.
Given all of these advanced features a segregated fund contract could be just the answer for investors looking to minimize their exposure to risk and still take advantage of the upside potential of stock based investing. So that when you finally arrive at retirement island, your ship is intact and you can relax on the beach for the rest of your days. Given the ups and downs of today’s markets, they certainly deserve a closer look. Why not give me a call to discuss whether segregated funds are right for you?
Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated a small farm, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, has written 3 books on Economics and Ethics and presented his ideas to business owners and leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.
Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations. He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs and everyday families to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 613-295-4141.