Right side of the tracks: most affordable commuter Neighbourhoods

By Penelope Graham, Zoocasa

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

It’s a given that home buyers will pay a premium to live within big city limits: close proximity to work, lifestyle benefits and a comparatively healthy job market mean homes within a municipality’s core are in high demand.

While the concept of moving to further-away communities with lower real estate prices isn’t new, the suburbs near Canada’s largest cities are becoming a buying destination for home seekers at a faster pace. For example, homes within the Greater Toronto Area’s 905 region have appreciated 56.96 per cent over the past years, fueled by demand from spillover buyers from the 416.

This trend is mirrored on the west coast, where popular commuter cities Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and New Westminster have appreciated 6.5, 72.8 and 73.4 per cent, respectively.

Car commute costs add up

However, a long-standing argument against “driving until you qualify” is the opportunity cost of longer commutes. Those who choose to drive to an office in the downtown core need to factor in the cost of purchasing and maintaining one or more vehicles, as well as insurance, gas and parking. For this reason, neighbourhoods closest to well-serviced transit lines, such as rail, light rail or bus lines, tend to appreciate in value faster than their car-accessible-only counterparts.

“The cost of owning and operating one or more personal vehicles greatly outweighs the cost of taking transit,” states the Metro Vancouver-commissioned “Housing and Transportation Cost Burden Study”. It found the average auto-related commuter costs range from $13,500 to $17,700 annually, a “significantly higher amount than the average annual transit costs.”

That makes a pretty strong argument for suburban buyers to stick close to local transit stations when buying. But what regions provide the greatest value vs commute cost? To find out, Zoocasa crunched average home prices and transit pass prices in Canada’s two largest housing markets: Toronto and Vancouver. (Please refer to the infographic at the top of this blog.)

Toronto commuters could save $395,667

That’s the difference between purchasing the average home in the 416 compared to one in Malton, the most affordable neighbourhood located along the GO Transit Line, which services the majority of the Greater Toronto Area with commuter trips to downtown Union Station. Continue Reading…

5 common senior financial traps and how to avoid them

Scott Terrio’s Twitter feed (@CooperTrustee) reads like a financial horror story. Terrio, an insolvency expert at Cooper & Co. in Toronto, uses the 140-character medium to share the multitude of ways seemingly well-off Canadians end up buried in debt and turning to debt consolidation, consumer proposals, and even bankruptcy.

Canada’s record household debt levels have been a cause for concern for years, but Terrio sees a new problem on the horizon. Canadian seniors are the demographic increasing debt at the fastest rate.

Take Dorothy, an 81-year-old widow who owns a home with a 1st mortgage from a secondary lender. She refinanced a couple of years ago to do house repairs ($18,000), assist her son with divorce legal fees ($37,000), and to help her grandson with tuition ($8,500).

When her partner died she was no longer able to make the mortgage payments. A friend from church referred her to a mortgage broker.

The broker suggested a reverse mortgage,  which would let her stay in her house without the monthly mortgage payment. But the money from the reverse mortgage wasn’t enough to pay out the 1st mortgage after fees and penalties. She needed a private 2nd mortgage at 12 per cent to pay the balance.

Dorothy co-signed a $26,000 car loan for her nephew and co-signed with her son for funeral expenses ($12,000) for her partner. Her son stopped paying, so Dorothy was pursued (100 per cent).

She then ran into tax trouble by not having tax on her OAS & CPP deducted for the first few years. She owes $21,000 in tax, much of it penalties and interest.

This scenario is becoming more common among seniors today.

“Many are in a unique quandary. They’re asset-rich, but cash-poor. Cash flow is tight. Pensions are fixed, and many have underestimated retirement costs,” said Terrio.

So what do they do? Many seniors cash out assets to make ends meet. Others raid their home equity and take out lines of credit. All have financial consequences.

We asked Terrio to share the top financial traps seniors fall into and how to avoid them:

1.) Tax problems

Most seniors were used to being paid by their employers in after-tax dollars. At pension time, many don’t have taxes deducted to offset their Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan income and therefore end up spending taxable pension income.

Continue Reading…

Average Canadians stranded in storm of Liberal tax changes

By Dave Faulkner, CLU, CFP

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

On July 18, 2017, the Liberal Government announced a significant set of tax proposals designed to close certain tax loopholes that can result in high-income individuals gaining tax advantages that are not available to most Canadians, these include:

  • The elimination of “income sprinkling” by paying dividends to family members that own shares in a business or holding company.
  • The curbing of “passive investment income,” by imposing additional taxes on money sitting in a corporate investment account.
  • The conversion of a corporation’s regular income into capital gains using legal tax strategies that have been around for decades.

In recent interviews, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that average Canadian business owners need not worry about his proposals, because if you make less than $150,000 per year you will see no increase in taxes paid. He continues to state that he is going after only the wealthiest Canadians that use corporate tax loopholes to gain advantages over the hard-working middle class. It is important to note however, that what Bill Morneau refers to as tax loopholes are in fact legitimate tax planning strategies that have been available to all Canadians for many years.

To help sell these proposals proponents of the new tax have released simple spreadsheets illustrating the impact to an individual in Ontario earning $1.00 of business income who earns over $200,000 and pays tax at the top marginal rate of 53.53%. In other words, the wealthy 1%.

As a financial planner, I know first hand that most small business owners are not wealthy. They are hard working average Canadians who are struggling to build their business, often at the cost of not being able to make regular contributions to retirement plans. As a software designer, I know first hand that simple spreadsheets do not provide enough analysis to come to any meaningful conclusions, due to the complexity of our tax system. All they do is support the opinions of the author.

So, to help bring some meaningful analysis to the position that these proposed changes will not burden middle class business owners, Razor Logic Systems has deployed a temporary version of our financial planning software RazorPlan that addresses one aspect of these proposals, passive investment income. As the largest provider of financial planning software to independent Canadian financial advisors, upon request we will temporarily make this version available to any financial writers, bloggers, the media, and Minister Morneau.

Passive Investment Income

Currently, to eliminate double taxation, a portion of the income tax a CCPC pays on investment income is refundable. In Ontario, the combined Federal and Provincial tax rate is 50.17% made up of 19.5% non-refundable and 30.67% refundable only once the income is paid to the shareholder in the form of a dividend. This effectively ensures that the tax paid on $1.00 is the same regardless of where it originated. The tax proposal aims to eliminate the 30.67% refundable portion, claiming the low tax rate on active business income in a CCPC creates an advantage for individuals with a corporation compared to individuals who earn income personally. Continue Reading…

Toronto Rentals vs. Hong Kong: A matter of perspective

There’s been plenty of discussion recently surrounding Toronto’s hot housing market. First-time buyers are being priced out and young prospective home buyers are being pushed further and further away from the city’s desirable centre. With all this talk, it’s easy to get caught up and lose perspective, but lucky for you, I’m here to remind you to count those blessings (however meagre they may be).

Sure, the housing situation in cities like Vancouver and Toronto may be less than ideal, and yes, something should be done to improve the way things are going. However, there are far more dire housing situations in other top-tier cities, which, when compared to Toronto, really make everything here seem — dare I say –breezy?

Related Read: INFOGRAPHIC – July GTA Sales Plunge 40%

Taking A Global Rental Perspective

Take, for instance, Hong Kong. As those who’ve read my posts on Findependence Hub may know, I lived in Hong Kong teaching English. It is one of the most bustling, vibrant cities I’ve ever experienced, but I can only defend it so much once the subject of housing prices comes up. Year after year, Hong Kong tops all the lists of ‘most expensive housing,’ and having rented there for a year, I have to concede defeat on that point. For what you get in Hong Kong, there is much to be desired.

 

Chevreau’s Hong Kong apartment was tight on square footage.

Chevreau’s Hong Kong apartment was tight on square footage

If you’re like most millennials and looking to break into the housing market for the first time –- perhaps in a Toronto condo –- you’ve most likely experienced the disillusionment that inevitably comes when you realize the prices you’re looking at paying, even after this summer’s price correction. In the city of Toronto, the average price per square foot, or PPSF, is around $649 with an average home cost of around $550,000. This number spikes to $800 PSF if you’re looking to put down roots in ‘downtown Toronto’ (anywhere south of Bloor, west of Yonge, east of Bathurst).

Related Read: 5 Ways to Get Ahead in the Toronto Rental Market

Continue Reading…

What rising interest rates mean for the stock market, and how to cope

By Matthew Wilson

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

We’ve all seen the headlines: “Interest rates are on the rise.” The United States has raised rates three times since December and the Bank of Canada is now on the move after seven years of silence. Here’s what you need to know and how to prepare:

How high will rates go?

Before we start worrying about how this impacts our investments, let’s first look at how high we can expect them to go.

To do this we simply need to open the history books and look at (on average) how many times the Bank of Canada has raised interest rates when entering an increasing rate cycle. They never simply raise rates once and be done with it; they typically raise in a continuous cycle over the course of several years. Here’s what I mean:

  • 1999–2000: 4 rate hikes
  • 2002–2003: 5 rate hikes
  • 2004–2007: 10 rate hikes
  • 2010: 3 rate hikes

So, on average, whenever the Bank of Canada starts a cycle of raising interest rates we can expect to see approximately 5–6 increases.

It’s safe to say we won’t get back to the days of 16% interest rates as seen in the early 90’s, but we can expect to get back to the 3%–6% range that we saw throughout the early 2000’s.

Between 1990 and 2017 Canadian interest rates have averaged 5.92%, so as we currently sit at 0.75% we have quite a way to go. Here’s what I mean. Please refer to the graph that’s at the top of this blog.  As you can see we are just starting to come off the bottom: early days!

When do higher rates start to impact investments?

Just because interest rates are moving higher doesn’t necessarily mean bad news for the stock market, at least not yet.

Take the US for example. In their last four rate increase cycles they raised interest rates 10 times (on average) during each cycle. The US stock market (S&P 500) moved up an average of 23% during each of these cycles.

So, it’s not all doom and gloom, but there is a point at which we need to start getting concerned.

This tipping point typically comes once we get into the 4%–5% range. Why?Because as we near the end of a rising interest rate cycle it can start to slow down the economy in a number of different ways:

Firstly, it means higher borrowing costs for corporations and consumers, (i.e. higher mortgage rates, auto loan rates, lines of credit, etc). For corporations, this means less profit because they are spending more money on interest.

Secondly, it means more competition between bonds and equities. Right now you can get stock dividends paying a nice 4%–5%, but as bonds get up into this same range we start to see an outflow of cash from the equity markets and into the bond markets – seeing as bonds are incredibly less volatile, and if they are paying the same yield, people will naturally go with the less risky investment.

Essentially, bonds start competing with the equity markets, and with so many baby boomers retiring on fixed incomes they can’t afford the volatile swings of the stock market so they switch to bonds.

How long until we need to start worrying?

As mentioned above, markets don’t typically start to feel the impact of rising interest rates until we reach the 4%–5% range.

Continue Reading…