How To Apply For EI: Employment Insurance and EI Sickness Benefits

By Robb Engen | March 19, 2020 |
Posted in
How to apply for EI and EI Sickness Benefits
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc upon the global economy. Efforts to contain the virus, such as public closures, social distancing, and self-isolation will mean that hundreds of thousands of Canadians will be laid off from their jobs. Many more have self-isolated and will lose the ability to earn an income. This article will explain the ins and outs of Employment Insurance and EI Sickness Benefits, including how to apply for EI, how much to expect, how long to expect it for, and what other measures the federal government has put in place to help Canadians who suddenly find themselves without a job.

To quickly summarize:

How to apply for EI:

Employment Insurance is administered by the federal government. Eligible applicants can apply for EI online here – scroll to the bottom of the page under ‘Apply now’ and click ‘Start application’.

Which EI benefits to apply for:

Apply for EI Regular Benefits if you have been laid off, or your workplace has been shut down.

Apply for EI Sickness Benefits if you are sick with COVID-19 or have self-isolated (quarantined). 

* Note – the government has waived the one-week waiting period for new sickness benefits claims and implemented a new toll-free number for these calls: 1-833-381-2725. It does not require a medical certificate right now.

What to have before you apply:

Make sure to obtain a record of employment (ROE) for any jobs you’ve had in the past 52-week period.

Eligibility:

You qualify for EI based on the eligible hours you’ve worked in the past 52 weeks. You will need between 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment to qualify for regular benefits. This is based on the unemployment rate in your area during the qualifying period.

How much can you receive?

For most people, the basic rate for calculating EI benefits is 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount.

As of January 1, 2020, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $54,200. This means that you can receive a maximum amount of $573 per week.

Employment Insurance (EI) Benefits and Leave Overview

Employment Insurance (EI) provides regular benefits to Canadians who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. The cause may be due to a shortage of work, seasonal layoffs, or mass layoffs. These individuals are available for work, and able to work, but can’t find a job.

The key is to always apply for EI benefits as soon as you stop working. You can apply for benefits even if you have not yet received your Record of Employment (ROE). You may lose benefits if you delay filing your claim for more than four weeks after your last day of work.

You may qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) regular benefits if you:

  • were employed in insurable employment;
  • lost your job through no fault of your own;
  • have been without work and without pay for at least seven consecutive days in the last 52 weeks;
  • have worked for the required number of insurable employment hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter;
  • are ready, willing and capable of working each day;
  • are actively looking for work (you must keep a written record of employers you contact, including when you contacted them).

You may not be entitled for benefits:

  • if you voluntarily left your job without just cause
  • if you were dismissed for misconduct
  • if you are unemployed because you are directly participating in a labour dispute (for example, a strike, lockout or other type of conflict)
  • during a period of leave that compensates for a period in which you worked under an agreement with your employer, more hours than are normally worked in full-time employment.

Number of hours required to qualify for EI

The number of hours of insurable employment needed to qualify for EI depends on your situation. However, in all cases, the hours of insurable employment used to calculate your benefit must have been accumulated during your qualifying period, which is the shorter of:

  • the 52-week period immediately before the start date of your claim; or
  • the period from the start of a previous benefit period to the start of your new benefit period, if you applied for benefits earlier and your application was approved in the last 52 weeks.

Exception: In some cases, the qualifying period may be extended to a maximum of 104 weeks if you were not employed in insurable employment or if you were not receiving EI benefits.

You will need between 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment based on the unemployment rate in your area during the qualifying period to qualify for regular benefits:

Look up EI Economic Region by Postal Code to find out the unemployment rate in your region and the number of hours to qualify for regular benefits.

If you received a notice of violation regarding prior EI benefit periods, the number of insurable hours required to qualify is increased.

You must accumulate 600 insurable hours to qualify for sickness, maternity, parental, compassionate care, or family caregiver benefits.

How much you can receive

It’s impossible to know the exact amount you will receive before until your application has been processed. For most people, the basic rate for calculating EI benefits is 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount. As of January 1, 2020, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $54,200. This means that you can receive a maximum amount of $573 per week.

How long you can receive EI regular benefits

You can receive EI from 14 weeks up to a maximum of 45 weeks. The exact length of time depends on two factors:

  1. The unemployment rate in your region at the time of filing your claim
  2. The number of insurable hours you have accumulated in the last 52 weeks or since your last claim, whichever is shorter.

How EI Benefits are calculated

The amount of weekly EI benefits is calculated by Service Canada as follows:

  • Adds up your total insurable earnings for the required number of best weeks (the weeks in which you earned the most money, including tips and commissions) based on the information you provide and/or your Record of Employment
  • Determines the divisor (number of best weeks) that corresponds to your regional rate of unemployment
  • Divides your total insurable earnings for your best weeks by your required number of best weeks
  • Multiplies the result by 55% to obtain the amount of your weekly benefits.

Regions with the highest unemployment rates will be calculated using the best 14 weeks, while regions with the lowest unemployment rates will be calculated using the best 22 weeks. Other regions will fall somewhere between 14 and 22 weeks, depending on their unemployment rate.  

EI Family Supplement

Low income families may be eligible to receive the EI family supplement.

The family supplement rate is based on:

  • your net family income up to a maximum of $25,921 per year; and
  • the number of children in the family and their ages.

The family supplement may increase your benefit rate up to 80% of your average insurable earnings. If you and your spouse claim EI benefits at the same time, only one of you can receive the family supplement. It is generally better for the spouse with the lower benefit rate to receive the supplement.

As your income level rises, the Family Supplement gradually decreases, so that once the maximum income of $25,921 is reached the supplement is no longer payable.

Taxable EI benefits

It’s important to note that EI benefits are taxable, no matter what type of benefits you receive. Federal and provincial or territorial taxes, where applicable, will therefore be deducted from your payment.

Related: CPP Payments – How Much Will You Receive From Canada Pension Plan?

Before you start your EI application

You will need the following personal information to complete the online EI application:

For EI regular benefits

  • your Social Insurance Number (SIN).
  • your mother’s maiden name.
  • your mailing and residential addresses.
  • your complete banking information to sign up for direct deposit, including the financial institution name, bank branch number, and account number
  • names, addresses, dates of employment, and reason for separation for all your employers over the last 52 weeks
  • your detailed version of the facts (if you quit or have been dismissed from any job in the last 52 weeks)
  • the dates and earnings for each of your highest paid weeks of insurable earnings in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is the shorter period. This information will be used, along with your Record of Employment, to calculate your benefit rate.

Be sure to sign up for direct deposit to get your payments as quickly as possible. EI payments are deposited automatically into your bank account two business days after your EI report is processed.

Note that if you did not sign up for direct deposit at the time of your EI application, you can still sign up through My Service Canada Account.

How To Apply for EI Benefits

You first must submit an application online to determine whether you are eligible to receive EI regular benefits. The application will take about 60 minutes to complete.

You will be asked for your email address when you apply for Employment Insurance benefits. If Service Canada needs more information about your claim and cannot reach you by phone, a Service Canada agent will send you a toll-free number by email, asking you to call an agent.

After you apply for EI

If you are entitled to receive EI regular benefits, you should receive your first payment within 28 days of the date your application and required documents were received.

There may be a one-week waiting period before you start receiving EI benefits. Note this waiting period has only been temporarily waived for EI sick benefits – due to COVID-19.

If you are not eligible to receive EI benefits you will be contacted by letter or telephone with an explanation. If you disagree, you have the right to request a reconsideration.

Note that while your EI claim is active, you must submit reports every two weeks to show you are still entitled to receive EI. Failure to do so can mean a loss of benefits.

An EI claim will end if:

  • you receive all the weeks of benefits to which you were entitled; or
  • the payment timeframe during which you can receive benefits ends; or
  • you stop filing your bi-weekly report; or
  • you request a termination of your claim to file a new claim.

Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits (COVID-19 Update)

Employment Insurance sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement. It is available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine, to allow them time to restore their health and return to work. Canadians quarantined due to COVID-19 can apply for EI sickness benefits.

If you are eligible, visit the EI sickness benefits page to apply.

Service Canada has adopted new measures to support Canadians affected by COVID-19 and placed in quarantine, with the following actions:

  • The one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits will be waived for new claimants who are quarantined so they can be paid for the first week of their claim
  • Establishing a new dedicated toll-free phone number to support enquiries related to waiving the EI sickness benefits waiting period
  • People claiming EI sickness benefits due to quarantine will not have to provide a medical certificate
  • People who cannot complete their claim for EI sickness benefits due to quarantine may apply later and have their EI claim backdated to cover the period of delay

Important: If you are directly affected by COVID-19 because you are sick or quarantined and you have not yet applied for EI benefits, please submit your application first before contacting Service Canada. This will prevent delays in establishing your claim.

If you have already completed the application for EI sickness benefits whether you are sick or quarantined and would like to have the one-week waiting period waived, call the new toll-free phone number: 1-833-381-2725

Do not visit or enter any Service Canada office if you are experiencing symptoms such as cough, fever, difficulty breathing, or you are in self-isolation or quarantine.

What If You Don’t Qualify for EI?

The newly revised aid package announced by the federal government on March 25, 2020 combines two previously announced support benefits – the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit – into one new benefit:

  • The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

The CERB will pay $2,000 per month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Payments will be made every four weeks, covering the period of March 15 – October 3.

A worker is defined as a Canadian resident who is at least 15 years old and who had an income of at least $5,000 in the last 12 months. Who is eligible?

  • Canadians who have lost their job
  • Canadians who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone with COVID-19
  • Canadian working parents who have to stay home without pay to take care of their children

This applies to wage earners, contract workers, and self-employed individuals who are not otherwise eligible for EI. The CERB also applies to workers who are still technically employed, but not receiving income due to disruption at work from COVID-19.

The application portal for CERB should be available in early April, and payments will start to flow 10 days after submitting an application.

Provincial support to fill in the gaps

Many provinces have also announced significant programs and measures designed to fill in the gaps or provide immediate relief to Canadians who may be faced with unemployment due to the COVID-19 global pandemic and economic shutdown.

For instance, in Alberta, there is a payment of $573 per week for a total of two weeks available for those who self-isolate. Those looking to apply can do so at Alberta.ca.

Expect other provinces and municipalities to roll-out additional measures to assist employees, self-employed and small businesses deal with this unprecedented economic shutdown.

My Pension Decision: Deferred Pension or Commuted Value

By Robb Engen | March 17, 2020 |
Posted in
My Pension Decision: Deferred Pension or Commuted Value
There are few personal finance decisions more difficult or complex than the choice between taking a deferred pension in retirement or a lump sum (commuted) value today. It’s a choice many Canadians face each year if they leave a job with a defined benefit pension plan. (If you have a defined contribution pension plan, there’s no “commuted value” and the decision whether to stay in or leave the plan is, as a result, much simpler.)

Deferring the pension may be the smarter choice for many pension plan members, but two powerful forces work against that decision. For one, our lizard brain prefers instant gratification and would rather have the money now to spend and invest as we please. The second force working against the deferred pension option may come from your financial advisor – particularly if he or she is compensated by a percentage of your investable assets.  

To be fair, depending on your situation taking the commuted value may indeed be the right choice. Each pension decision is unique based on your individual circumstances and the details of your pension plan. That’s why it’s important to get unbiased advice and input into your situation to help you make the best decision.

Further complicating matters is that your pension plan provider typically requires you to make a decision within six months or so. Fail to send in the paperwork on time and the default decision will be to keep you in the pension plan. A timely decision needs to be made.

That’s where I find myself today as I review my termination papers from the Universities Academic Pension Plan (UAPP).

I left my job at the University of Lethbridge at the end of December with just over 10 years of pensionable service under my belt. My options include:

  1. Remain in the pension plan and take the deferred pension option, which would pay $1,241 per month beginning in June 2045 (age 65), and then a monthly amount for the rest of my life that’s pegged to increases in inflation over time.
  2. Take the transfer option of $290,143. The maximum prescribed transfer value (to a LIRA) is $134,028. The remainder would be paid in cash, subject to withholding taxes, and fully taxable as employment income in the year it is paid.

Deferring the Pension

I’ve long been a proponent of deferring CPP and potentially OAS up to age 70 to lock-in enhanced benefits that are inflation-protected and paid for life.

Pensionized” income, whether from a defined benefit plan, or from government benefits such as CPP and OAS, is extremely valuable. It protects against longevity risk – the risk of outliving your money – and gives retirees a stable floor of income that’s guaranteed for life, in addition to protecting against inflation risk and providing a “guaranteed” retirement (or retirement income) start date.

Plus, the more guaranteed income I have waiting for me in retirement, the more risk I can take with the rest of my portfolio (RRSP and TFSA), potentially keeping my 100 percent equity portfolio intact longer than I originally planned.

So why is this even a choice, given that this defined benefit pension offers some inflation protection (60 percent of the average increase in Alberta’s Consumer Price Index for the previous year), and would pay me nearly $15,000 per year starting at age 65?

To answer this question let’s look at the commuted value option, plus a couple of other factors that are giving me pause.

Taking the Commuted Value

When I last updated my net worth statement, I pegged the value my defined benefit pension plan at ~$224,000. Seeing the valuation north of $290,000 was a pleasant surprise (low interest rates drive up commuted values).

In fact, if I could simply transfer that entire amount to a LIRA then I would have already made up my mind and taken the commuted value.

Not so fast. What’s this maximum prescribed transfer value all about? You can read about it in detail here, but in a nutshell, it takes my age, annual pension benefit, and something called a present value factor to determine the maximum transfer value (MTV).

In my case the annual pension benefit is $14,892, and anyone under the age of 50 has a present value factor of 9.0. (The factors for other ages are set by Income Tax regulation, and are available in the article linked above.)

$14,892 x 9.0 = $134,028

Again, that’s the maximum amount I could transfer to a LIRA to invest on my own. If I did so I’d most likely invest in VEQT – the all-equity asset allocation ETF from Vanguard.

The remaining $156,115 would be fully taxable and paid out in cash. Not ideal.

I would have the option to roll some of that amount into my RRSP. Unfortunately, I don’t have any unused RRSP contribution room.

Another factor to consider is that I quit my job in December and so I don’t actually have any employment income (salary) coming in this calendar year. My wife and I incorporated our online business several years ago and planned to pay ourselves dividends this year.

What that means is it wouldn’t necessarily be that punitive (tax-wise) for me to take a fully taxable cheque for $156,115 in 2020, compared to the tax I was expecting to pay anyways. If I opt for the commuted value, I just wouldn’t pay myself anything from the business this year, and perhaps even reduce the dividends we planned to stream to my wife this year.

That’s deferred income we can leave in the business where it’s taxed at a lower rate.

See why every pension decision is unique? Even though I’ve helped several clients wrestle with their own pension decisions, I decided to reach out to an expert to take a look at my options and give me some objective and unbiased advice.

Deferred Pension or Commuted Value? 

Alexandra Macqueen is a certified financial planner, educator, and author. She’s kindly offered her expertise to look at my pension options. Here’s her response:

As a general rule, when advising someone about their pension options I focus on three big issues:

  • The health of their pension plan,
  • Their personal financial plans, and
  • Understanding their options.

Let’s go through these one by one.

1) The health of your pension plan

In deciding whether or not to stay in your plan, the overall health of your pension plan should be one of your considerations – and it might even be the most important one.

What do I mean by the “health” of a pension plan? A “healthy” plan is one that is set up to meet its pension promises to you over the long term. Because your plan, if you stay in it, doesn’t start paying out to you for 25 years, you would have to feel confident that the plan would be healthy – that is, well-funded – for a very long time.

In your case, your plan would not only have to maintain its overall health until it starts paying you at age 65, you’d also want to make sure it could pay you for as long as you or your spouse are alive, which could be many decades more!

The way that a defined-benefit plan member can check on the health of their plan is to confirm the plan’s “solvency ratio.” For pension plans, the solvency ratio is the ratio of the plan’s assets to its liabilities, which are the pensions it has promised to pay. 

This information can be found in the plan’s annual report, and may also be available from a plan administrator in between annual reports – and just like you’d expect, a higher ratio is better. A plan that is fully funded, with a solvency ratio of 100%, is healthier than a plan with a solvency ratio of less than 100%.

It’s important to note, however, that solvency ratios can – and do – fluctuate over time, including for reasons that are beyond the plan’s control. Changes in interest rates, in particular, can swing a plan’s solvency up or down as the “cost” of future obligations gets cheaper (when interest rates rise) or more expensive (when they fall).

In your case, Robb, the long time horizon between when you’re leaving your job (end of 2019) and when any pension payments would start (in 2045) introduces a level of uncertainty that isn’t present for someone whose pension payments would start much closer to their job-leaving date.

Even if your plan was well-funded today, were you to stay in the plan, you’d be implicitly betting that the plan would retain its health over a long time period. This makes your personal situation quite different than someone who is wondering whether to stay in their defined-benefit plan and who would start to receive benefits within the next year or so, for example.

2) Your personal financial plans

Here’s another element of your situation that sets you apart from many Canadians: you not only know and track your net worth, but you have a net worth that’s made up of more than just the value in your pension plan. Heck, just having a personal financial plan that you monitor over time makes you ahead of the pack!

What this means is that for you, the “pension decision” is much lower stakes than it would be for someone whose retirement income is mostly expected to come from their pension – or from the income they generate from a self-managed portfolio, if they commute.

Because you won’t primarily be relying on these funds to provide the income you need in retirement, no matter what decision you make, you have much more flexibility in your approach to the decision about whether to leave your funds in the plan or not.

It’s also worth noting that you are considering these funds, whether commuted or not, as a source of retirement income – versus a windfall to be spent on a blowout vacation, house upgrades, or other consumer spending.

In addition, you also have flexibility in your overall income situation – and thus your tax position – in 2020, if you choose to commute your plan entitlement. As you know, if you commute out of your plan, you’ll face a tax bill, but in your case, you can minimize the impact of the tax payable by opting to take less out of your corporation as personal compensation this year.

These features of your situation – the commuted value representing a relatively smaller proportion of your overall net worth, a long time horizon in which you could invest the commuted funds to provide retirement income, flexibility around realizing taxable income in a year during which you’d have a tax bill associated with commuting, and your high level of personal finance knowledge and investment confidence – all combine to make your situation different than someone with a shorter time horizon, little or no investing confidence or experience, no ability to manage a tax bill stemming from commuting, and a greater reliance on the pension plan (whether commuted or not) to meet income needs in retirement.

Taken all together: for you, commuting out of the plan is much less risky that it might be for the “average Canadian” – even though you’d be taking on investment risk by managing the funds yourself.

3) Understanding your pension options

As you know from my recent post about “bad pension advice” on cutthecrapinvesting.com, in my experience people seeking input for their pension decisions from financial advisors can be led astray by inexperienced, inexpert, and conflicted advisors who don’t sufficiently understand what they’re doing and the issues their client is facing.

Many times, advisors who are providing advice about pension decisions don’t really appreciate the range of options a client may have, principally the “copycat annuity” option. In addition, an advisor who is principally or entirely compensated by managing assets faces a conflict of interest, as they stand to benefit if the client commutes their pension and then has the advisor manage the assets.

In your case, Robb, you’ve reduced the overall risk that would otherwise accompany your pension decision by building your knowledge base. The fact that you are aware of the risks you’d be taking on by commuting your pension puts you ahead of many Canadians (and even some advisors), should they face the same decision.

Should you stay or should you go?

Now that I’ve reviewed the “three big issues” that someone thinking about commuting a pension needs to consider: how do they apply to your situation?

In your case, Robb, due to your individual circumstances, I think commuting is likely the optimal choice for you. You are clearly confident in your approach to investing, you’ve built up other assets so the pension’s commuted value is a relatively smaller part of your overall net worth, you are able to manage the tax bill associated with commuting – and you have many years in which to grow the value of the commuted funds to provide the retirement income you want.

Your pension plan, in contrast, doesn’t seem to be as well-prepared for your retirement as you are. The most recent public statistics I can find about its solvency (from December 31, 2018), put its funded ratio at just over 57% – an improvement from the previous year’s 53%, but not the “A+” solvency ratio of 90%+ that I’d be more comfortable with.

All in all, if you’re looking for a support from me if you choose to commute, you’ve got it! As you and I both know, each situation is individual – but your situation tips the balance in favour of commuting, in my view. So take advantage of your flexibility, preparedness and knowledge, and (in the immortal words of the Steve Miller band): Take the money and run!

Final Thoughts

Many thanks to pension expert Alexandra Macqueen for providing such a thorough and useful analysis of my pension options. 

As you read this I hope it was clear just how unique each individual circumstance can be, and why generic rules of thumb cannot be applied to most pension decisions. So many variables, both personal and with respect to the pension plan, need to be considered in order to make an informed decision.

I found myself nodding along in agreement to Ms. Macqueen’s analysis of my pension decision. As you might expect, I agree with her conclusion: I’ll be taking the commuted value, transferring $134,000 into a LIRA to invest for retirement. The remaining $156,000 will be taxed and sent to me in cash.

That will change up our approach to income this year. I won’t take out any dividends from our small business this year, while we’ll lower the amount we planned to stream to my wife. This allows us to still meet our spending needs and savings goals, while leaving more money inside our small business where it’s taxed at a lower rate.

Clearly my circumstances are highly unusual. But the process of thinking through your options remains the same. Look at the health of your pension plan, the health of your personal finances, and understand the range of options available to you. When in doubt, work with an expert to help guide you through the decision.

Weekend Reading: Stock Market Roller Coaster Edition

By Robb Engen | March 14, 2020 |
Posted in
Weekend Reading: Stock Market Roller Coaster Edition
Last week felt like a year. It began Monday with one of the largest one-day stock market declines in history (S&P500 -7.6%) before Thursday said, “hold my beer”, and stocks fell an incredible -9.51% that day. Then markets rallied on Friday with one of the largest one-day gains in history (S&P500 +9.29%) to cap-off a roller coaster of a week in the markets.

How are you all feeling? Are you comfortable with your asset allocation? Have you used this market crash as an opportunity to rebalance? To add new money to your portfolio? 

I’ll admit to having a lot of anxiety after the markets closed on Thursday. Can you blame me? My all-equity RRSP portfolio was down 30% in one month(!). With no bonds to sell, and no unused RRSP contribution room, I’m left to ride out the roller coaster and take whatever the market gives me.

It’s a different story in my TFSA, where I still have $30,000 in unused contribution room. I played out a number of scenarios in my mind, one which would have me tap into my line of credit to immediately max out my TFSA. In hindsight, had I pulled it off before markets opened Friday, that might have been a great move. But here’s what I did instead:

Nothing.

That’s right. I didn’t panic. I didn’t engage in market timing. I didn’t change my strategy. 

I have a plan to contribute $1,000 per month to my TFSA this year, and increase that to $2,000 per month next year until I’ve used up all that contribution room. I don’t plan to touch my RRSP for 20 years. This is a long game.

That said, investors in their accumulation years can certainly view these types of corrections as tremendous buying opportunities. Stocks are on sale and since you’ll hopefully be a net purchaser of stocks for the next several decades, now is a great time to put some money to work in the market (but only if you have the money to invest).

Related: This game will show you just how foolish it is to sell stocks right now

What about those of you who are retired, or soon-to-be retired? You likely viewed this crash through a different lens than me.

Falling stock markets cause serious damage to retirement savings and can significantly impact your ability to retire, or your ability to meet your desired spending in retirement.

Hopefully you have a plan that separates your long-term savings (stocks and bonds) from your short-to-medium term savings (cash and GICs). If you don’t, here’s an approach to consider:

  • Cash – Put one year’s worth of spending in a high interest savings account
  • GICs – Put three-to-five years’ worth of spending in a GIC ladder
  • Stocks/Bonds – Put the remainder of your retirement savings in a risk appropriate portfolio of stocks and bonds (preferably in low cost ETFs). Each year you’d replace your spending cash with the cash from a maturing GIC. Then you’d replace the maturing GIC by selling bonds, and you’d replace the bonds by selling stocks (but only in years when stocks are up)

Long-time (and newly retired) blogger Michael James shares a similar approach to his asset allocation in retirement.

This Week’s Recap

On Monday I opened up the Money Bag to answer reader questions about RRIF withdrawals, in-kind vs in-cash transfers, group RESPs, and how early retirement affects CPP benefits.

Many thanks to Sophia Harris at CBC for interviewing me for her piece on how the coronavirus is affecting your investment portfolio.

And to Erica Alini of Global News for interviewing me for her piece on how to prepare for a recession amid coronavirus.

We’ve officially cancelled our travel plans to Italy this April (obviously) and I’m happy to report that we’ve managed to get most of our money back. Aeroplan refunded our points balance, fees & taxes, and waived the cancellation fee of $75 per ticket ($600).

All of our Airbnbs had 24 hour cancellation policies and so we were able to cancel and get full refunds. 

The only outstanding items are about $400 worth of train tickets booked via Italiarail – who claims to be putting together a new refund policy next week that will help affected travellers – and a Vatican tour we booked through Expedia that has proven to be impossible to cancel online (error message). I will persist.

That should just leave me out of pocket $45 for a now useless international driver’s permit. Not bad.

Still need to cancel or rebook your vacation? Here’s a useful guide to every major airline and hotel’s cancellation policy.

Weekend Reading

A must-read for travellers, our friends at Credit Card Genius take a deep dive into travel insurance, credit card trip cancellations, and how major Canadian airlines and rewards programs are responding to this pandemic.

A Wealth of Common Sense blogger Ben Carlson with a look at how long it takes to make your money back after a bear market.

Is financial independence and early retirement really achievable for most people? Here’s why semi-retirement may be more desirable.

Here’s a very technical but useful look at various investing strategies, from “normal” dollar cost averaging, to lump sum investing, to market timing. This post actually helped snap me back to reality and carry on with my “normal” investing strategy.

The Bank of Canada slashed rates again by 0.50% in an emergency measure to support the economy. Expect once again for the big banks to pass along the full rate cut to their prime lending rates, meaning my mortgage rate is about to go to 1.95% and line of credit to 3.55%.

On the flip side, the rate cut is bad news for savers. Already we’ve seen rates on high interest savings accounts plummet as the major players have adapted to the new rate environment. Expect GIC rates to fall as well.

Could we possibly see negative interest rates in Canada? RateSpy explores the increasing probability.

Preet Banerjee’s latest video explains the differences between the major types of life insurance like Term Life Insurance, Whole Life Insurance, and Universal Life Insurance:

Here’s Gen Y Money on group, pooled, and scholarship trust RESPs and why you should avoid them.

Trust Morgan Housel to deliver the perspective we all so desperately need with a look at different kinds of decline.

Mr. Housel also wrote some useful tips to get through the Corona Panic.

More sobering thoughts from Michael Batnick on falling markets and dealing with internal and external pressure to “do something.”

Michael James shares a simple guide to when to buy and sell stocks.

Finally, Bryan Borzykowksi has been working from home for a decade and shares his top tips for productivity.

Have a great weekend, everyone!