Ric opened a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) for his daughter Erin, as soon as it became available in 2008. He had heard about the RDSP through Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN), a family-led organization in Vancouver dedicated to building inclusive communities. Since opening Erin’s RDSP, her family has chosen a fairly conservative investment strategy and has made a contribution of $1,500 per year, with a total contribution to date of $15,000. Now, after 10 years of accumulating interest, as well as federal grants and bonds, Erin’s RDSP is worth over $90,000. Erin has received almost six times the amount her family has contributed personally, through interest and government contributions. As Ric says, “No matter what, the gains of the RDSP are second to none. The fact that Erin is only 41 years old and already has more than $90,000 in her RDSP has truly given me peace of mind for Erin’s future.”
Yet despite the fact that, as Mike Berton recently mentioned, the RDSP may provide one of the best returns on investment available, to date, only 38.9% of British Columbians who are eligible for an RDSP have opened one.
Partnering to Spread the Word
In response, Disability Alliance BC (DABC), BC Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS), and Plan Institute, developed Access RDSP, a “one-stop-shop” for all things RDSP. With the support of the Vancouver Foundation, we provide the free direct assistance that many people need to apply for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) and to open an RDSP. One example of how we do this is through the Disability Planning Helpline, which provides information about the RDSP and other aspects of disability planning.
Helene Eschbach, one of our advisors, brings her experience as an educator to her work on the helpline, where she answers questions about the RDSP and the DTC. A BC Retired Teachers’ Association (BCRTA) member, she previously worked as a primary teacher for the Vancouver School Board for twenty years. Her experience teaching informs how she now supports callers, taking the time to explain the concepts and ensure they receive the information they need. She’s also familiar with different disabilities and understands the difficulties that children and adults face in their daily lives. Her own lived experience as a parent of a son living with a disability enables her to build trust and kinship with the individuals she supports. “When I speak with clients they learn that I have personal experience with the RDSP. This helps to build trust and makes it easier for me to provide the information and support that they need.” Helene has witnessed first-hand how the RDSP can help families build financial security and urges everyone who qualifies to open one. “RDSP grants and bonds are available to individuals who are residents of Canada, under 50, and qualify for the Disability Tax Credit. It is a wonderful plan. It will give you peace of mind and provide a better life for your loved one with disabilities in the future. Even if you are over 50 and have the Disability Tax Credit, you still have an opportunity to save, tax free, for your future.”
Access RDSP Support
The Access RDSP program also provides a referral service between the three partner organizations, so individuals and families can receive prompt and appropriate support depending on their needs and what stage they are in the process. Garry, a 49-year-old individual, contacted DABC in late fall about opening an RDSP. Due to his age, he needed to open an RDSP by December 31 to activate government grants and bonds. He was given DTC support, then referred to Plan Institute in early November. Two Plan Institute advisors then worked with him to clarify his needs and assist with receipt of his government ID, which is required to open an RDSP. By mid-December, he had opened his RDSP. As he had opened his plan before December 31, he was also eligible to receive $9000 in government grants and bonds. He was then referred back to DABC for further support with tax filing that would benefit his RDSP.
One of the most common questions we have been asked when we tell people about the benefits of the RDSP is, “but what if I am unable to contribute anything to my RDSP, how would it grow or be of benefit to me?” The federal government may contribute up to $20,000 through the Canada Savings Bond to plans for qualifying individuals under 50. No contribution is required to receive the Bond. In addition, in British Columbia, all children with an RDSP, as well as adults living on low income, are eligible for the Endowment 150 Grant, a free $150 grant to jumpstart savings in an RDSP. The receipt of the Endowment 150 will also trigger a matching grant from the federal government. So far, through the Access RDSP partnership, we have distributed over $306,000 to families in British Columbia through the Endowment 150 Grant program.
Other free supports and services offered by Access RDSP include:
- DTC/RDSP information sessions and teleseminars for individuals and professionals
- One-to-one support with Disability Tax Credit applications
- RDSP navigation for Indigenous individuals and families living with disabilities
- RDSP tutorial and calculator – rdsp.com
Chris, a helpline caller who received one-to-one support recently told us, “I don’t like asking for help, but I found RDSP stuff so hard to figure out by myself. Helene walked me through everything, gave me great references, and helped me get my confidence back.”
Though we are proud of the impact this partnership has had so far, we are well aware that our work is not done. We continue to work together as we strive to increase uptake, distribute more Endowment 150 Grants and ultimately ensure that the RDSP is in the hands of every eligible Canadian.
For further information and support, you can contact Access RDSP by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, call the helpline at 1-844-311-7526 or visit: www.rdsp.com
Endowment 150 – $150 grant for BC residents!
The Endowment 150 program (also called E150) helps individuals and families save for their future by providing a one-time $150 grant to help their Registered Disability Savings Plan grow. E150 grants are available to the following BC residents:
- Adults with a disability, who are under 60 years of age (if 59, the individual must apply before the end of the calendar year in which he/she turns 59), have received income assistance sometime after January 1, 2008 or have income below $25,000 per year, and have an RDSP.
- Children with a disability, who are under 18 years of age and have an RDSP.
Grant applications can be submitted online, by email or by Canada Post. There are no deadlines Endowment 150 applications at this time, we accept applications on a rolling basis. For more information about the criteria and application details, go to www.rdsp.com/Endowment-150
By Nicole Dunne – Originally published in Post Script Magazine