Monthly Archives: July 2017

Is the Fixed Income Market buying what the Fed is Selling?


Fed’s Balance Sheet Normalization Guidelines (in billions)

By Kevin Flanagan , WisdomTree Investments

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

In the post-Federal Reserve (Fed)-meeting world of the money and bond markets, there seems to be a disconnect between what market participants are thinking and the Fed policy decisions actually being made. It is a case of the market not buying what the Fed is selling.

In other words, the term “policy mistake” has begun to enter the discussion, as the U.S. Treasury (UST) arena appears to be operating under the assumption that the Fed should perhaps ease up on its tightening campaign because

(a) inflation has been slowing in recent months, and

(b) economic growth has been lackluster. This line of reasoning concludes that the policy makers will go too far with their rate hike and balance sheet normalization plans, to the detriment of the economic setting.

Based on the Fed’s actions at the June FOMC meeting, the policy makers do not seem to be deterred in their “full steam ahead” outlook, as they envision yet another rate hike this year and expect “to begin implementing a balance sheet normalization program this year” as well. (On Wednesday, July 27, the Fed kept interest rates unchanged — Editor.)

So, let’s assume economic and financial conditions do live up to the Fed’s expectations, what then will their plan look like for phasing out their reinvestment program.

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Can you retire on a million dollars?

In your 20s and 30s, retirement is so far away that you can barely see it on the horizon. The best way to get there is to save what you can afford – say 10 per cent of your income – and then readjust your financial compass as you get closer and have more information.

You might start the journey with the idea that you need a million dollars or more once you reach your destination. To get to one million by age 65, a 30-year-old would need to save $8,500 per year for 35 years, assuming a 6 per cent annual return.

Saving for Retirement

It’s not easy to save $700+ per month in your thirties. Competing priorities like a mortgage, car payments, and raising children often means that retirement savings are put on hold.  Put off saving until you reach 40 and you’re now faced with the daunting task of saving more than $1,400 per month for the next 25 years to reach that million dollar mark.

Some might feel it’s prudent to pay off the mortgage and max out children’s RESPs before ramping up their own retirement savings. By age 50, most of those obligations should be taken care of which should now free up significant cash flow to save for retirement. It’ll need to be significant to reach a million. With only 15 years to go now, compound interest is not on your side, and so you’ll need to save nearly $3,400 per month – or $40,000 per year – to get to your retirement goal.

A tempting alternative at this point is to adjust your expected rate of return. After all, with an 8 per cent return you’d only need to save $2,800 per month, and at 10 per cent you’d need to put away less than $2,400 per month.

But the more realistic approach would be to adjust your expected retirement age and then figure out if a million dollars is really the amount you need to enjoy a comfortable retirement. You’d be surprised to learn you can live off much less.

Related: Have you considered a permanent retirement overseas? Read this:

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Cryptocurrencies 101: “So what the heck am I supposed to do?”

By Tony Humble

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

If you are like 99.9% of Canadians, you are probably wondering what this crypto-thing is all about.  Your stream of consciousness likely goes something like this: What is Bitcoin?  And what the heck is Ether?  Will they change my life?  How can I make money on it? Could I lose money on it? What….?”

Allow me to open the secret door a crack for you.

At this moment in time, the early adopters are cleaning up.  They saw the potential of Bitcoin and Ether, and bought it when it was cheap.  Now they are sitting on a pile of value, much like Amazon investors who bought at the IPO price of  $16.00 in 1997 – except they have only seen a 64-times growth, to $1,010 today.  The cab driver in Calgary who took Bitcoin for a $5 fare a few years ago years ago is reportedly now a multimillionaire.

There is still money to be made, however, which is why you are seeing somewhat self-serving forecasts by service providers and pundits, of Bitcoin and Ether in particular hitting $20,000 and more.  That could happen, but so could Dow at 100,000, and as most of us know, the road to that particular Nirvana is full of potholes and unexpected dips and swerves.

Cryptocurrencies are not “securities”

Importantly, cryptocurrencies are not “securities” and do not appear to fall under the rules of most of the Western regulatory system that governs the sale of securities.  That of course would appear to free this new highly valuable (and growing) form of electronic money from the constraints faced by “unaccredited” investors.  Right now, if you want to buy a piece of a private company, you cannot buy their securities from a financial intermediary unless you meet the extremely high bar set by the regulators.

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5 overlooked costs when Upsizing Homes

By Penelope Graham, Zoocasa

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Planning to upgrade to a larger home? Trading in a petite Toronto condo for greater square footage is in the five-year plan for many homeowners. And the opportunities to trade up are better than they have been in years; recent provincial rules to calm the housing market have softened the pace of price growth and created frantic multiple offer situations, giving prospective home buyers some much-needed financial breathing room.

Whether buyers are looking to swap high-rise downtown living for options in other GTA markets —  such as a reasonably-priced detached home or condo in Hamilton,  for example —  the time is right to come off the sidelines and explore your real estate options.

However, upsizing your home can come with upsized expenses, which can take condo dwellers by surprise. Here’s what buyers should consider, beyond budgeting for a larger down payment and closing costs.

Blend A bigger Mortgage

Chances are moving to a larger property means taking on larger monthly mortgage payments. Just as you did with your starter home, it’s important to connect with a mortgage broker before starting the house hunt to determine your maximum budget, based on the down payment you’ve saved and the existing equity you’ve built up in your current home.

Depending on your existing mortgage, you may have a few options for new financing. If you have a fixed mortgage rate, the ability to port your mortgage, and are mid-term, you can simply move your mortgage over to your new home and get what lenders call a “blend and extend.” This approach combines your existing mortgage rate with what you’d qualify at for a new term, with your new interest rate the weighted average between the two.

For example, let’s say your existing mortgage has a remaining $250,000 balance, a fixed rate of 2.1 per cent, and two years left on a five-year term. Assuming interest rates have risen since signing up for your last mortgage and you now qualify at a rate of 2.69 per cent, your new, blended mortgage interest rate will be somewhere between those two rates.

However, while blending your mortgage can be a good way to take advantage of an existing lower rate and avoiding the fees associated with breaking a mortgage, it’s not an option that’s available to all borrowers. If your mortgage product doesn’t include the ability to port or transfer your mortgage (most variable-rate mortgages do not), you may be forced to refinance instead and pay the interest rate differential, or three months-worth of interest,  whichever is higher.

Ramp up your Reno Budget

Many larger, detached properties are considerably older than new condo stock, and you may need to shell out for a few upgrades. Be prepared for costs to add up quickly – older home renovations can range from cosmetic, like ripping up old carpeting, to important structural fixes. Some of the most common renovations in older homes include outdated electrical wiring — such as knob and tube, which is a fire hazard — and replacing old plumbing, like ki-tech or galvanized piping. Continue Reading…

Low future returns? The coming bull market in advice

A bull market in advice? This novel idea is the basis of my latest Motley Fool blog, which came out of the 2017 Vanguard Investment Symposium held this Tuesday.

Hopefully, the title is self-explanatory. Click on the highlighted text to access the whole blog: Lower future returns from balanced portfolios means a bull market in advice.

Click through to get Vanguard’s forecasts for future returns. Suffice it to say that they don’t believe the next five years will be as good as the last five years have been for balanced investors.

All of which means good financial advice will be at a premium.  Naturally, Vanguard believes that the lower expected future investment returns are, the more important it is to reduce costs and taxes, which of course its low-cost index funds and ETFs facilitate. But it also believes advisors can help investors by addressing the so-called  “behaviour gap.” It’s been well documented that poor investing behaviour (buying high, selling low) are destructive to returns, which is why a good financial advisor can more than recoup his/her fees.

Advisors can add 3% value per a year

Many fee-based advisors use the kind of investment funds Vanguard provides and Vanguard believes good advice can “add value” of roughly 3% per year to clients’ investment returns.

Behavioural coaching is the single biggest value-add: 150 basis points (1.5%). “Staying the course is difficult,” but “a balanced diversified investor has fared relatively well,” said one Vanguard presenter quoted in the Motley Fool piece, Fran Kinniry.

Behavioural coaching is followed closely by 131 beeps for cost-effective product implementation (using low expense ratios). This alone can add 1 to 2 percentage points of value, Vanguard says, attributing the finding to “numerous studies.” Rebalancing accounts for another 47 beeps, and Asset Location between 0 and 42 beeps (as opposed to Asset Allocation, which it says adds “more than 0 beeps.”)

A proper spending strategy (identifying the order of withdrawals in the decumulation stage) accounts for another 0 to 41 beeps. All told, the potential value added comes to “about 3%,” Kinniry says.

Vanguard says a “strong move to fee-based” compensation is accelerating. In 2015, 65% of advisors’ compensation came from asset-based fees, while wealthier investors are “most willing to pay AUM-based fees.” Gradually this will ‘flow down” to less well-heeled clients, “as smaller balances can now be well-served” in a fee-based model because of scale and technology.

Using Cerulli data from 2015, Vanguard estimates the median asset-weighted advisory fee is 1.39% for the mass market ($100,000 assets), 1.28% for the middle market ($300,000), 1.09% for the mass-affluent market ($750,000), 0.92% for the affluent market ($1.5 million to $5 million) and 0.70% for the High Net Worth market ($10 million or more).

On average across all clients, the median fee is 1.07%.