Monthly Archives: October 2017

How alternative investments protect your Retirement in a down market

By Matthew Ardrey

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

When I review the portfolio of new clients as part of their financial plan, they almost always have at least one of the following concerns on their mind. They ask how long can stocks continue to climb, given it has been an eight-year bull market or how can their portfolio earn any income with interest rates being so low. More often than not they ask both.

These are real concerns I hear from real people I meet. More and more I am finding that traditional investment solutions are not enough on their own.

Consider how our investment world has changed since 1990. In 1990, an investor could purchase a Government of Canada bond yielding 9.9%, invest in equity markets with a 15X Price Earnings Valuation and lived on average to age 77. In 2017, that same Government of Canada bond yields 1.5%, the Price Earnings Valuation has increased to 22X and average life span is 82 years.

Coping with longer lives, low interest rates and inflation

So the average Canadian investor is now facing a longer life, with fully valued or overvalued equity markets and a fixed-income yield that barely keeps up with inflation even before taxes. Traditional investments can offer little in the way of a solution, especially without increasing the risk profile of my client.

This is where alternative investments can add real value to a portfolio.

Many alternative investment strategies provide yields well in excess of the 1.5% bond yield mentioned above, often averaging annual returns in the 6 to 8% range. The income produced from this part of the portfolio can be used to supplement the low current yields on fixed income.

In addition to return enhancements, alternative investments have a very low correlation to traditional investment markets. What this means is, their performance is not meaningfully impacted by changes in the equity markets. This not only provides diversification, but also portfolio preservation in times of negative volatility.

What are alternative investments? They are any investment that is not a public stock, bond or cash security. Some examples would be private debt, infrastructure, real estate and private equity. They invest in private income oriented investments they can generate stable, high levels of income or by using sophisticated equity hedging strategies to reduce volatility.

Alternatives can have barriers to entry

As with all great things, many investors will wonder, “What’s the catch?” Though there is no “catch” with alternative investments, there are barriers to entry for the average investor. The two main barriers to investing in alternative investments are:

  1. High investment minimums because the investor is not an Accredited Investor (has $1 million in investable assets or $300,000 of income)
  2. Many financial firms do not have the specialized skill set to analyze these investments and thus do not offer them

Though these barriers exist, they can be surmounted by engaging with an appropriate investment counselling firm. The advice provided by an investment counselling firm will allow an investor to access the alternative investment even if not accredited. The firm chosen should have a process to identify alternative investment solutions with proven money managers who have strong track records and a disciplined investment process. Thus, they can engage in the relationship with the alternative investment manager on your behalf.

During the past 30 years, pension plans have been achieving some of the highest returns. It is no coincidence that during the same time period their allocation to alternative investments has also increased substantially to enhance returns and decrease volatility risk.

Institutions have tripled allocation to alternatives

According the annual asset mix report produced by the Pension Investment Association of Canada, which reports on the $1.6 trillion invested by Canadian pensions, the allocation to alternative investments has increased from 10% in 1990 to 33% in 2015. This is an increase of over 200%!

These funds hold the financial future of thousands if not millions of Canadians in their hands. The “smart money” is moving out of the traditional investment world into the alternative one. Now you have the opportunity to do the same.

The world was a very different place in 1990. Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister of Canada, Microsoft released version 3.0 of Windows and The Simpsons first aired on TV. It only makes sense that the investing world would have changed since that time too. If your portfolio isn’t positioned to take advantage of the new investing reality, then my only question is what are you waiting for?

Matthew Ardrey, CFP, R.F.P., CIM, FMA is a VP, Wealth Advisor with TriDelta Financial. He has been providing unbiased advice to his clients on their financial planning and investment management needs since 2000. He can be reached at


Should buyers make a move in slower Autumn housing market?

By Penelope Graham, Zoocasa

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Depending on where you live in Canada, purchasing real estate in recent years hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk. Tight supply and rampant buyer demand (and alleged speculative investing) have pushed home prices to what some experts argue are unsustainable levels in the nation’s hottest markets.

However, following a slew of new policy changes introduced over the last year — such as Metro Vancouver’s foreign buyer tax and the Ontario Fair Housing Plan — those red-hot conditions have changed, with real estate boards from both markets reporting slower sales in the months following.

That’s made a dent in the national numbers, reveals the latest analysis from the Canadian Real Estate Association: with a 11 per cent drop in sales from last September. This is despite the typically busier autumn market, which is often the last chance for buyers to make a serious go of it before the snow — and holiday season — sets in. Seasonally adjusted activity was up slightly month over month at 2.1 per cent.

Too soon to call for market stability: CREA

While this could indicate market conditions are starting to settle after what has been a turbulent spring and summer market, it’s too soon to call it a trend, say CREA’s analysts.

“National sales appear to be stabilizing. While encouraging, it’s too early to tell if this is the beginning of a longer-term trend,” stated CREA President Andrew Peck.

Calmer sales activity hasn’t translated to greater affordability, though: home prices continued their ascent, with benchmark prices rising in 13 of MLS’s tracked markets. It’s the first time in seven years that all markets have seen simultaneous growth, with the national average price coming to $487,000.

However, prices are increasing at a slower pace than at the market’s peak, and that’s mainly due to the lost steam in the detached house segment since March. One- and two-storey single family homes appreciated by 7.9 and 7.2 per cent respectively, compared to the sizzling condo market, which saw 19.8 per cent appreciation, and townhouses at 13.5 per cent.

Continue Reading…

In Victory Lap it’s not about “more money”

One of Steve Nease’s cartoons from Victory Lap Retirement

My view about money changed once I left the corporate world. “Why?,” I wondered.

Early in my life I was lead to believe money was the most important measure, the one thing that matters on a personal scorecard. I became wired to succeed, earn promotions and win awards. All in the pursuit of “more money,” money for the family, money for more stuff.

This pursuit came at a cost; pressure to produce personal results in a competitive environment doesn’t come without hard work, long hours and time away from the family.

We end up spending more time at work or thinking about work when we are out of the office. We sacrifice time with our families and time pursuing our passions. All that time working in a corporate environment causes you to conform; to become the corporate person somewhere along the way you lose the freedom to be the real you. We trade our true personality in exchange for economic security: a security which in today’s environment is not even guaranteed.

My relationship with money changed when I finally began to feel financially secure late in my career. My priorities changed and I was able to step back and realize that my career was only providing financial security, but little else.

I learned that the worst thing you can do is to spend time working at a job that does not provide fulfillment, all for a little more money. Living, maybe existing is a better word, causes you to lose yourself a little bit each day. You find yourself sitting at work, glancing now and then at your pension statement, trying to hang on for a retirement which if not planned gets you away from work, but still may not be fulfilling.  Sure, you can save a little more for a retirement, but you really have no idea how you will spend your time. The paradox is that for many of us our financial situation is at an all-time high, but the quality of life is at an all-time low.

I was lucky to be “retired” by the Corp.

In hindsight I was lucky to be “retired” by the corp.; it freed me to pursue what Maslow calls self-actualization. Continue Reading…

Trevor Parry’s Open Letter on Liberal Tax Reform retreat

By Trevor Parry

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

I thought it might be of use to prepare a brief review of where we stand with regards to Bill Morneau’ s infamous July 18, 2017 tax proposals.

As you are aware, attempting a profound degree of subterfuge, Mr. Morneau announced some “minor” tax changes aimed at bringing “fairness” to the taxation of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations (CCPC). What he in fact brought forward was the most fundamental change to corporate taxation since the introduction of the current Income Tax Act in 1972. This was coupled by a paltry 75-day consultation period, most of which coincided with summer vacations and harvest.

Despite his attempted strategic deception, a robust group of stakeholders representing a wide cross section of the Canadian economy mobilized to challenge these proposals and carry the message to Canadians that what was being proposed was fundamentally at odds with any rational conception of fairness, but instead a punitive attack on small business, professionals and family farms.  The government was inundated with over 21,000 submissions.  Last week we saw what I believe will be the first of several stages of government retreat from these proposals.

Few of the proposals will end in legislation

It is my contention that given the profound opposition that these proposals have engendered, both within the Federal Liberal caucus and from many sectors of the Canadian economy that little, if any of the proposals will actually find their way into legislation.  Even the revised proposals create such layers of byzantine complexity that they are largely unworkable, elevate the roll of a CRA auditor well beyond their current capability and increase compliance costs exponentially for most Canadian economic enterprises.

If I may I would like to review the proposals and revised positions:

I) Surplus Stripping

The initial proposals called for an expansion of the ill-conceived section 84.1 of the Act.  This is the infamous section that resulted in it being more advantageous from a tax perspective to sell your business to your next door neighbour rather than to your children.  The proposals had called for restrictions on sale beyond simply spouse or children to include extended family members.  It also placed the power of determination of defining “arm’s length” to a CRA auditor.  The proposals also introduced a new omnibus anti-avoidance measure, section 246(1) that would have eliminated the ability to implement a common post mortem strategy, commonly referred to as “pipeline.”  It would have made redemption strategies the only acceptable means of undertaking post mortem tax planning, threatened retroactivity and potentially exposed business owners (and their estates) to taxation rates in excess of 70%.

Mr. Morneau fully retreated from this proposal on Thursday of last week. There has been guidance provided by the Department of Finance that section 84.1 will now be substantively reformed to remove or reduce impediments to inter-family succession.

Whether this will be restricted to farm and fishing corporations, or be a general provision applying to all CCPC’s remains to be seen.  I am hopeful that the Department of Finance will actually survey the tax planning community for guidance on what is prudent an efficient.

The conclusions regarding the retreat from the earlier proposals are as follows:

  1. The cancellation of s. 246(1) restores traditional planning including “pipeline” and maintains that estate freezes are still relevant and prudent planning option.
  2. Attacks on potential Capital Dividend Account (CDA) credits have been terminated.  The use of corporately owned life insurance is still a preferred planning method.

II) Capital Gains

The proposals, both directly and through the Taxation of Split Income (TOSI) proposed a radical curtailment of the ability to claim the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE). The LCGE would have been restricted to individuals over the age of 18.  It also would have eliminated the ability to claim the LCGE where shares are owned by a trust.  This is of course a common planning technique with both tax and non-tax rationale.  The ability to income split, creditor protect corporately held assets and insurance and multiply the LCGE all require a family trust as a central element of any freeze transaction or other selected reorganization strategies.

Retreat welcomed by tax planners

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How to find a stable career

By Sarah Davies

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Perhaps the only thing more important than wealth or power is stability. Things come and go all the time when a situation isn’t stable, and it’s hard to plan an uncertain future. Obtaining a career that provides stability is a must. The workforce is changing, and so are the kinds of jobs that are available. If you want to settle in to your desk and never need to find another one, you might need to change the attitude you bring to work with you. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself with a stable job and the tools you need to prepare for your financial future.

Let the numbers guide you

When deciding on a career path, look at projections. As technology continues to change the world, something big is going to happen. Certain jobs won’t exist anymore, and jobs we never had a need for previously are going to pop up. Some paths are more stable than others, and you want to pick one that’s still going to exist in ten years. While the positions themselves may change with time, simply being familiar with and experienced in the industry can keep you afloat.

Think about what you want, versus what you need

There’s objective stability, and there’s subjective stability. For example, there will always need to be customer service representatives. That is a career that won’t go away. But can you always be a customer service representative? Will it drive you crazy after a while? Will your patience wear thin? Stability needs to come from both sides. You have to find a career path with longevity, but it needs to be a career path that you’ll be happy with for the long haul. Consider your future self when making a decision.

Develop versatile skills Continue Reading…