Family and finance

Tips to help make the most of your Canada child benefit

Contribute to your child’s financial future using your monthly tax-free benefit amount

If you’re a parent, you know that raising kids is costly from day one. It can be hard to think about putting money aside for their future, or your own, when daily expenses pile up.

As of July 2016, the government introduced the non-taxable Canada child benefit (CCB) to help eligible families offset the expenses of raising children under 18. The CCB replaces the Canada child tax benefit, the national child benefit supplement and the universal child care benefit.

The amount you receive is based on a number of factors including the number and ages of your children, your adjusted family net income and your child’s eligibility for the child disability benefit. An additional amount for the child disability benefit and related provincial or territorial programs might also be included.

After determining eligibility, Canadian parents can apply online and must file income taxes every year – regardless of employment status – to receive the benefit. For full eligibility and application details, visit the Canada Revenue Agency website.

With the rising costs of education and everyday expenses, setting aside a portion of your benefit amount for your child’s financial future could give them a welcome head start. Depending on your situation, here are a few ideas to consider to help you make the most of your monthly CCB cheque.

Make an RESP contribution

Opening a registered education savings plan (RESP) is an important investment in your child’s future. This tax-advantaged savings vehicle is designed to help you save for your child’s post-secondary education and related expenses, such as housing, food, books, technology and travel. There’s no limit to how much you can contribute each year, but there’s a lifetime maximum of $50,000 per child. As a bonus, the government will help you save through the Canada education savings grant (CESG), which provides 20 per cent on the first $2,500 you put into an RESP each year, to a lifetime limit of $7,200. Some provinces may also provide additional grants.

Start a savings account

With the ever-rising cost of living and uncertain job markets, setting aside a small amount of money for your child beyond their education costs could help to ease future financial burdens. Alternatively, you could contribute a portion of the benefit to your own savings account. This money could be used as an emergency account or to fund unexpected family expenses. If you’re worried about spending your CCB cheque as soon as it arrives, consider setting up automatic transfers that will divert it to your account. Once your emergency reserve is fulfilled, you might consider transferring additional funds to a longer-term investment, like a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) or tax-free savings account (TFSA).

Consider a life insurance policy

When you buy a permanent life insurance policy for your child early, it means they’ll be insured for life, regardless of any future health problems. Permanent life insurance includes features that can grow money inside your policy over time (called cash value). This money can be accessed during your child’s lifetime.* When your child reaches the age of 25, the policy can be transferred to them tax-free. Later in life, your child could have the option to access the policy’s cash value to contribute to things like supplementing their retirement income or establishing a financial legacy of their own.*

* If money is withdrawn from the cash value of a policy, it may be subject to tax.

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The information provided is based on current tax legislation and interpretations for Canadian residents and is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the date of publication. Future changes to tax legislation and interpretations may affect this information. This information is general in nature, and is not intended to be legal or tax advice. For specific situations, you should consult the appropriate legal, accounting or tax advisor.