Frequently Asked Questions

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Who are you?

Planswell is a team of smart people working together to change the financial industry for the better. We started by building software that uses proven principles of financial planning principles to calculate how to maintain the best possible standard of living throughout your life. More than 90,000 Canadians have created plans with us, and we’re focused on reaching as many people as possible.

Why are you doing this?

Until now, financial planning has been only for the wealthy. The financial industry has thrived on high fees, high interest rates, low transparency, and excluding most people from getting good advice. Planswell is here to change all that. We’re the first company to build excellent financial plans for everyone, and to make implementing a plan as affordable as possible. It’s a big mission, and we hope you’ll join us.

What are your qualifications?

Our team members have a wide variety of financial credentials and backgrounds including CFA, CA, CPA, PFP, CFP, CIM, LLQP and degrees in economics, mathematics, computer science, finance, law and business from universities like University of Toronto, Western, Waterloo and Harvard. Many of us also have experience in traditional financial institutions such as CIBC Wood Gundy, London Life, RBC Dominion Securities, TD Wealth and Investors Group, so we really understand what’s broken and how to fix it.

Are you a robo-advisor?

No, we’re a financial planning company. Sure, we enable you to invest online like a robo-advisor through our relationship with Planswell Portfolios (see About Investing for details), but that’s where the similarities end. The lifelong planning and guidance that we provide, along with the integration of investments, insurance and borrowing, allows you to realize infinitely more value.

Are you secretly owned by a big company?

No, we’re independent and plan to remain this way. We do obtain many of the financial products that we recommend for your plan from big companies, but that’s part of the magic. Instead of those companies dictating the terms of your financial life, we make them work for you. If we don’t like what we’re getting from one place, we’ll go somewhere else to find you a better deal.

Where are you located?

Planswell HQ is at 100 Lombard Street in downtown Toronto (see map). We serve clients all across Canada.

What if I need to talk to someone?

You may have questions about your plan. You may need to make changes, or you may simply need to bounce something off a financial professional. We have Plan Pros ready to talk to you by phone or email seven days a week. You’re also welcome to visit us at our office.

What happens if you go out of business?

In the unlikely event of our demise, all of your money will remain safe. If you have investments with Planswell Portfolios, they will continue to be held by BBS Securities Inc., whose job is to independently safeguard your funds. Your insurance policies will continue with the insurance companies that issued them. Your mortgage will continue with the lender that provided it to you.

How does Planswell make money?

If you asked a professional financial planner to make a plan for you, not only would it take weeks, it would typically cost several thousand dollars. Our patent-pending technology enables us to produce your plan quickly and at no cost. If you like your plan, we’ll happily implement it for you, and that’s when we make money in much the same way as traditional financial companies, but with three major differences: lower fees for everything, good advice on straightforward products, and unbiased recommendations. We don’t just deal with investments, we also shop around for the best insurance and mortgage rates to help you feel better about your money.

What is a financial plan?

Great question! At Planswell, a financial plan shows you the absolute best thing to do with your money every month so you can enjoy the highest possible standard of living for the rest of your life. A true financial plan takes into consideration investments, insurance, and mortgages/borrowing.

Is this about budgeting?

Not exactly (although we do have an awesome budget calculator for that). We won’t tell you to spend less on the things you enjoy. You can save as much or as little as you wish, and we’re like a crystal ball that shows you exactly what that means in terms of when you can retire and how much income you can expect in retirement. We hope you’ll take advantage of this rare insight to make the financial decisions that will make you happiest.

How do I know my plan is right for me?

Your plan is fully customized based on the inputs you provided. Our patent-pending technology makes millions of calculations in seconds to give you clear recommendations. The investment amounts and account types are designed to maximize your after-tax results. The insurance recommendations are tailored to cover your debts and replace your income. Any mortgage recommendation is calculated to meet your borrowing needs at the lowest possible cost.

How often do I update my plan?

We recommend updating your plan every six months to make sure it’s still consistent with you and your goals. However, you may want to update it more often if there’s something new going on, such as a change in your work, finances or family. Updating can be done from online and only takes a few minutes.

How can I see the calculations within my plan?

If you want further insight into how we developed your plan, check out this document. It explains the financial philosophies, facts and estimates that go into our recommendations.

What if I already have benefits at work?

Great! You should take full advantage of your benefits, and we can account for them in your financial plan. If it looks like you need to supplement your workplace pension, add some more insurance protection, or streamline your borrowing costs, we’ll help you make everything work together.

How do financial advisors and financial planners differ?

Confused about the difference? You’re not alone. A financial advisor is a general term that refers to any professional giving you advice on your personal finances and is licensed to sell any type of financial product. A financial planner on the other hand is a type of advisor that creates programs for their clients dedicated specifically to meeting their short and long-term financial goals – otherwise known as a plan.

Who’s managing my money?

Planswell Portfolios is an operating name of Higgins Investment Group Inc., a registered portfolio manager in the provinces of B.C., Alberta and Ontario. Chief Investment Officer, Gordon Higgins, holds CA and CFA designations, as well as an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University. Over the past 30 years, he has managed investments for major mutual fund and insurance companies. Planswell Holdings is a separate company that builds free financial plans for Canadians and is not registered to provide securities advice. That’s why we refer folks who make plans with us over to Planswell Portfolios to have their investment portfolio designed and implemented. Please note that all of the following information about investing refers to products and services offered by Higgins Investment Group Inc. operating as Planswell Portfolios, and not by Planswell Holdings Inc.

Why does Planswell Portfolios use ETFs?

Two reasons. First, they give you access to thousands of stocks and bonds around the world. Over the past couple of decades, investing in a broad selection of investments has proven to be more effective than trying to pick only the “winners.” Secondly, ETFs bring the cost of investing way down. Every dollar you save in fees is a dollar that can stay invested and grow into many more dollars for you.

How do ETFs differ from mutual funds?

ETFs and mutual funds hold similar investments, but the fees are vastly different. The value of your mutual fund account is quoted after fees, which makes them difficult to see. But considering the fees are well over 2% per year on average, they make a huge impact. Some estimates say the average mutual fund investor loses $250,000 of their retirement savings to fees. Planswell Portfolios uses ETFs with an average fee of just 0.17% per year, and the savings stay in your pocket.

How much does Planswell Portfolios charge?

The fee you pay depends on the size of your account. In addition to the fees below, the ETFs in your account have management fees that average about 0.20%. There are no fees for deposits, withdrawals, trading or rebalancing your account. The management fees listed below include GST/HST.

First $5,000 Up to $99,999 $100,000 or more Free for one year 0.50% 0.40%

What types of accounts does Planswell Portfolios offer?

You can invest in a regular individual or joint account, as well as accounts with special tax features, such as a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA), Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA), and Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF).

How does Planswell Portfolios perform?

Planswell Portfolios’ philosophy is to capture the returns of the market. Therefore, you should expect your portfolio to reflect the average performance of various stock and bond markets, minus the fees you pay. Mutual fund managers and stockbrokers might imply that they can offer better performance, but the data shows this is almost never true. One thing for sure is that they will charge you much higher fees.

How much should I invest?

There is no minimum or maximum investment. Generally speaking, you can build the most wealth and smooth out the bumps in the market best by investing a fixed amount every month. Your plan tells you exactly how much to invest each month to reach your goals and Planswell Portfolios makes it easy to do so automatically.

How do I transfer my other investments to Planswell Portfolios?

In most cases, all it takes is your digital signature on a standard transfer document. The Client Success team will walk you through the process quickly. If your bank wants to charge you a fee for transferring, they can even arrange to pay it for you up to certain limits.

How does Planswell Portfolios keep my information secure?

The company’s data security is as good or better than your bank. That means technical things like data encryption and data logging as well as physical things like keeping confidential paperwork safely under lock and key.

Where is my money kept?

When you invest with Planswell Portfolios, your cash and securities are held by a Canadian custodian called BBS Securities Inc. The custodian’s job is to safeguard the assets for you, and to buy and sell ETFs for you when they are instructed to do so. This structure is designed to protect you, and is used by virtually every investment dealer in the country.

Is my account protected?

Yes, there are two levels of protection. Planswell Portfolios is not a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF), but the custodian of your assets, BBS Securities Inc., is a member. Customers’ accounts are protected by the CIPF within specified limits. A brochure describing the nature and limits of coverage is available upon request or at www.cipf.ca. In addition, BBS Securities carries insurance coverage of $10 million per account underwritten by Lloyd’s of London.

Why do I need insurance?

Around 50% of the time, saving money on a monthly basis and investing in a portfolio of stocks and bonds is enough to reach retirement in good shape. But the other 50% of the time, something will happen along the way, such as an accident, illness or even death. The role of insurance is to make sure that if one of these things happens to you or a family member, it won’t ruin your financial plan. You or your surviving loved ones will still have the money needed to sustain a consistent lifestyle.

What is Term Life insurance?

Term Life insurance pays a single tax-free lump sum benefit when the insured person passes away. Generally, we recommend enough Term Life insurance to pay off any debts that might be left behind, and to replace enough income so that the surviving family members can keep their home and maintain their standard of living.

What is Critical Illness insurance?

Critical Illness insurance pays a single tax-free lump sum benefit when the insured person is diagnosed with a serious illness, such as cancer, heart disease or stroke. Most policies cover about 20 more common illnesses. Generally, we recommend enough Critical Illness insurance to pay both your usual expenses plus any extra medical expenses for a whole year while you recover.

What is Disability insurance?

Disability insurance pays a tax-free monthly benefit equal to 65% of your salary until you are able to work again or until age 65, whichever comes first. This amount is designed to give you comparable take-home pay to when you were working. It is estimated that about one person in three will be at least temporarily disabled due to an illness, accident or injury at some point in their lives. This could be from something that happens on the job or something in your private life, such as a car accident, a back injury, or a medical disease.

How do I apply for insurance?

We’ll guide you through the application process. You’ll need to answer a few questions from us and also schedule a time with a nurse at your home or place of work to answer some additional questions and have a health check-up. You only have to deal with us, and we’ll find the best insurance company for your needs and deal with them for you.

Who provides my insurance policy?

We will shop the insurance market to find the best value for you based on your insurance recommendation, age, health and other factors. Your policy will be underwritten by a major Canadian insurance company, typically with a history of more than 100 years of paying their claims.

Why are you recommending a new mortgage?

If your plan includes a new mortgage, it’s because we can save you money. This could be because we can find a lower rate than your current mortgage (including any early termination fees) and/or because we can use the new mortgage to eliminate other debts you have. The goal is always to reduce your overall interest costs and putting more money towards building and protecting your wealth.

How does refinancing work?

A mortgage generally has the lowest interest rate you can get. So if you have other types of debt with higher interest rates, such as a credit card, line of credit or car loan, it might make sense to get a new mortgage for an amount big enough to pay off all of your debts. In many cases, the monthly payment on your new mortgage will be a lot lower than the payment on your old mortgage plus everything else you’ve been paying. The money you save each month can make a huge positive difference in your financial plan.

What are the advantages of a variable rate?

Over the past 50 years, variable rate mortgages have been 1% cheaper than fixed rate mortgages on average. It may not sound like a lot, but that difference could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage. When you choose a fixed rate mortgage, you are essentially betting that you can outsmart the bank, which almost never works out.

Who provides my mortgage?

We will shop the market to find the lowest interest for which you will qualify based on your location, choice of home, income history and other factors. Depending on where we find the best value for you, your mortgage could be funded by one of the major banks or by an established non-bank lender.

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