Helping children up the property ladder can harm your retirement

The Globe and Mail – Retirement Planning Article by Diane Jermyn

Should you help your children buy their first house?

It’s a question many parents are considering, especially in cities such as Toronto or Vancouver where a teardown can sell for upward of a million dollars.

According to a 2017 national survey conducted by Leger on behalf of the Financial Planning Standards Council, 37 per cent of Canadian parents intend to assist their children with the purchase of their first home …

The biggest question financial advisors would ask the parents in this situation is this: Can you afford it? Making a decision to help your children buy a house now could impact your own standard of living down the road.

Ian Black, a fee-only financial planner and portfolio manager at Macdonald, Shymko & Co. Ltd. in Vancouver, is seeing a lot of parents helping their children get a footing in the overheated Vancouver market.

But he warns that giving $50,000 or $100,000 to your children for a downpayment could push parents onto the negative side later if the markets turn and your net worth falls.

“It’s most common for parents to give to the kids when they’re trading down themselves to a condo or retirement home and have cash because they’ve just sold their house for $3-million,” Mr. Black says.

“First, you need to do some analysis to see if you can really afford to give some away. You still want to have a cushion in case you need a higher level of care later and may have to move into a more expensive medical facility.”

He also says it’s pretty rare that a downpayment loan from parents ever gets paid back. He suggests that clients structure it as a loan, but that’s more as a protection in case of divorce.

“If you register a mortgage on the property, and your son or daughter gets divorced and the house is sold, the money would come back to you because that mortgage has to be repaid at the time of the sale,” Mr. Black explains. “It’s a bit tricky because the kids likely aren’t actually paying that second mortgage back. It’s just to protect the parents in case the kids divorce.”

While emotions and guilt often come into the decision, he says parents need to help their children put it into perspective and be realistic about how much they can buy. That may mean the children have to move further afield, say to Langley, B.C., southwest of Vancouver, or buy a townhouse instead of a single-family home.

“At some point, it has to be tough love,” Mr. Black says. “Set the limits on what you can give and have that discussion, disclosing what you’re comfortable with. Or say, we’re not going to be able to help you out. We’re just not in a position to do that.” Click here to read the rest of this article

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