Monthly Archives: September 2017

How mortgage rule changes impact affordability

By Alyssa Furtado

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

The mortgage market in Canada is heavily regulated. Both the federal government and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) control almost every aspect of residential mortgage lending.

The government decides what criteria people must meet when getting a mortgage in Canada. Rules apply to almost every aspect of the mortgage, ranging from the maximum amortization to the minimum down payment required when buying a home.

In the last few years, the government has taken action in response to rapidly rising house prices in an effort to keep people from taking on mortgages they can’t afford. A number of changes have been made to mortgage rules since 2012. Dry descriptions of the changes make it difficult to understand their true effect.

Instead, let’s take a look at some examples of how some recent mortgage rule changes affect their ability to borrow.

Sarah and Rachel

Even though Sarah and Rachel are choosing a three-year fixed mortgage with a rate of 2.39% for their condo purchase, new “stress testing” rules introduced in October 2016 mean they have to qualify at a substantially higher mortgage rate than they’ll actually get. The qualifying rate is set by the Bank of Canada (BoC), and is currently 4.84%. When checking a mortgage payment calculator, they find that even though their monthly payment will be $2,352 at their chosen rate, they’ll need to prove they can afford payments of $3,043.

A new rule pertaining to minimum down payments that came into effect in February 2016 will apply to Sarah and Rachel as well. The minimum down payment on a home sold for over $500,000 was raised to 5% of the first $500,000, and 10% of any amount thereafter. For their $540,000 purchase, Sarah and Rachel have to save a little longer: the minimum down payment went up to $29,000 from $27,000. They’ll also need to pay for CMHC insurance since their down payment is less than 20%. Continue Reading…

Retired Money: Is your pension covered by a Pension Guarantee Fund?

My latest MoneySense Retired Money column just went up and covers the subject of  a Pension Guarantee Fund for employer-sponsored Defined Benefit pension plans. The United States and United Kingdom both have versions of these but as the piece points out, the only Canadian province to have one is Ontario.

Click on the highlighted headline to access the full article: What to know about the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund.

Earlier this year, the Ontario Government announced that its Ontario Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund (PBGF for short) was boosting the amount of guaranteed pension (should a plan go bust) from the previous $1,000 a month to $1,500 a month. But as I point out, depending on how a plan is funded, because of partial payouts in the case of plan insolvency, this actually means pensioners are protected for somewhat more than $1,500 a month.

So, according to my sources, in the case of a pension fund that’s 50% funded on windup because of a bankrupt plan sponsor, someone with a $3,000 monthly pension would receive $1,500 from the funded part of the $3,000 pension, plus $750 from the PBGF, which tops up the unfunded part of the first half of the pension.

Established in 1980, Ontario’s PBGF covers more than 1,500 DB plans and 1.1 million members in the province. Participation is mandatory for most DB plans registered in Ontario. As the article notes, the amount of protection is somewhat less than in the US and UK: the US one covers a whopping $5,000 a month. Even so, $1,500 a month sure beats the non-existent guarantees of the other nine Canadian provinces.

What if your pension is not covered by a PBGF?

One source in the article suggests that those in pension plans carefully scrutinize the solvency of their employers’ plans. And if you’re in a DB plan and don’t have any PBGF, you might consider taking the commuted value and rolling it into an RRSP or equivalent vehicle, where you’d have more control over the fate of your retirement funds.

Continue Reading…

My RRIF playbook: what you need to know in 2017

“Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples.” — George Burns (1896–1996) Comedian, actor, singer and writer

There are three retirement accounts everyone ought to understand. They are the RRSP, the TFSA and the RRIF (Registered Retirement Income Fund).  I submit that the early part of each year is preferred to review the RRSP and TFSA. That leaves the RRIF to be dealt with well before year-end.

Start paying special attention to planning the RRIF, even if you don’t yet need one.

Be very mindful of the RRIF. Recognise its purpose and how it complements the other two accounts. Review it periodically to ensure it stays on track.

The RRIF is firmly entrenched as a prominent retirement planning vehicle, serving as an essential foundation of retirement nest eggs. For example, starting a RRIF at 71 implies long planning, often to age 90 or more: especially if there is a younger spouse or common-law partner.

Three conversion choices for RRSPs

RRIFs typically result from the aftermath of mandatory RRSP conversions. Three conversion choices include cashing the RRSP, purchasing a variety of annuities and using the RRIF account. The RRIF is most popular because it provides considerable flexibility. Avoid cashing RRSPs.

Continue Reading…

6 unexpected expenses you need to prepare for

By Lidia Staron

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Truer words were never spoken. We all know how life can be full of surprises: some of them happy while others can be a huge pain in the backside.

We’re talking about unexpected expenses here. Even when you’ve already set your budget,  you’re sticking with it, and you’ve got some savings set aside, you can still get knocked off your financial track due to a cost you never anticipated paying for. While you were patting yourself on the back for your financial savviness, life was preparing to throw you a curveball. To help you expect the unexpected and plan your savings accordingly, we’ve listed six of the most overlooked costs that are just waiting for you around the corner.

1.) Home repairs or replacements

It’s a fact of life that everything breaks down eventually, especially if it experiences everyday wear and tear. Your home won’t last forever, especially since you and your family are living inside it everyday. Anything that breaks down will need to be taken care of right away. Plumbing, electricity, a leaking roof, a flooded kitchen, a broken oven, termites …  all  these are things you never think of saving for when you plan your budget.

2.)  Health-related bills (Dental and vision care)

We all know you need to save up for those emergency room visits and prescriptions you may need to fill. But have you ever considered that you may suddenly need to pay your dentist or eye doctor a visit? If you’ve ever had a really bad toothache that turned out to be a root canal in your future, then you know this is something that needs to be placed in your “health budget” right away. Continue Reading…

Borrowing to invest? Beware of rising interest rates.

Del Chatterson

By Del Chatterson

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Your financial advisor is probably not recommending it and you may be naturally averse to more borrowing, but it is hard to ignore the basic principles of financial leverage from Finance 101. (The principles have not changed, since I first taught the course in 1972!)

As explained in a chapter on Capital Budgeting, companies and investors should continue to invest in projects until the marginal cost of capital equals the marginal rate of return: assuming you select projects in order from the highest return to the lowest return and that the cost of borrowing increases with the total amount of loans outstanding.

So in the example chart shown to the right, you would borrow and invest up to $1.0 million, which is the point where the expected rate of return declines to meet increasing cost of borrowing at about 5%.

You may have confirmed the theory from your own experience. Your current portfolio has a few investments that are achieving better than 10% or 12% returns, most congregate around the long-term average of 7% to 8% and a few continuing disappointments are returning below 5%, or worse.  Your lowest cost of borrowing is probably the mortgage you signed in 2015 at 2.5% or a car loan at 1.9%, but your subsequent borrowing for a personal line of credit is at 3.25%.

Continue Reading…