All posts by Jonathan Chevreau

Retired Money: How to boost retirement income by 50%

PUR Investing’s Mark Yamada

My latest MoneySense Retired Money column looks at an academic paper written by two Canadian investment pros, which explains how retirees can boost retirement income by as much as 50%. You can find it by clicking on the highlighted headline here: How to boost your retirement income by 50%.

In the recent Fall issue of the Journal of Retirement, PUR Investing Inc. president and CEO Mark Yamada and colleague Ioulia Tretiakova, the firm’s director of quantitative strategies, published a paper titled “Autonomous Portfolio: A Decumulation Investment Strategy That Will Get You There.” Click here for a summary.

Yamada and Tretiakova observe that the combination of rising life expectancy, minuscule interest rates and declining availability of employer-sponsored Defined Benefit pension plans is making retirement an anxious proposition, especially for the Baby Boom generation that is even now starting to storm the barricades of Retirement: 10,000 Baby Boomers retire every day in the United States, and roughly 1,000 a day in Canada.

Little wonder that one study (Allianz 2010) found 61% of those aged between 45 and 75 were more afraid of running out of money than of dying! Sure, you can decide to work a little longer, which lets you save more and cuts down the years you’ll need to withdraw an income, but there’s a limit to how long you can work (or find willing employers or clients). Ultimately, health and time are not on your side!

The full article describes Yamada’s Decumulation Investment Strategy, which is designed to let retirees better manage both retirement income and the probability of ruin.

Dynamic Constant Risk & Spending Rules

Unfortunately, the investment industry relies on historical risk and return data to project future returns, somewhat like navigating a car by peering through its rear-view mirror. Yamada aims to keep portfolio risk constant by reducing portfolio risk when market volatility rises and to increase portfolio risk when volatility falls (hence the term DCR, which stands for Dynamic Constant Risk). Continue Reading…

Large taxable foreign portfolio? Watch $100K and $250K thresholds for CRA’s T1135 form

If you’re a Canadian investor with a large taxable foreign portfolio, you need to be aware of your cost base, since exceeding $100,000 of so-called Specified Foreign Property (SFP) has to be reported to the Canada Revenue Agency.

This is examined in my (monthly) High-Net Worth column for the Globe & Mail Report on Business which was published online on Friday and was in the physical paper Wednesday, Nov. 15. You may be able to retrieve it by clicking on the highlighted headline: Pay Close Attention to Your Foreign Assets to Avoid Tax Troubles. (Depending on how often you access the site, access may be restricted to subscribers. I’ve summarized the main points below.)

If you file your own taxes, you may have noticed an innocuous looking “box” you may or may not tick each year that ask whether you own “Specified Foreign Property.” If you have a cost base of more than $100,000 of SPF you have to tick that box and fill out a CRA form called the T1135. For most Canadian investors the relevant investments will probably consist primarily of individual US stocks, ADRs and/or foreign equity ETFs trading on US and other foreign stock exchanges.

There is also a higher threshold of $250,000 you also should be aware of because this entails even more detailed reporting and paperwork, and the article suggests you may wish to avoid reaching that higher threshold. The $100,000 and $200,000 thresholds are per individual, not household, and again, it’s based on cost base not current market value.

Failure to comply can entail serious penalties.

How to stay below the threshold and still have foreign content

If you would rather not deal with more CRA paperwork and capital gains hassles, I’d argue you should try to stay below the $100,000 threshold, in which case you don’t have to tick the box on your tax return. Continue Reading…

CPP will be there for future generations, CPPIB head reassures Advocis

CPPIB president and CEO Mark Machin

My latest Financial Post blog looks at the misplaced perception that the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) might not be there for future generations. Click on the headline to retrieve the full article: No reason to fear CPP’s stability, CEO Machin says, but people do it anyway.

Mark Machin is president and CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB.)  Speaking Tuesday to financial advisors attending Advocis Symposium 2017 in Toronto, he said “unlike virtually every other industrial country in the world,” Canada “has solved its national pension solvency issues.”

While you could argue that even America’s Social Security system is not solid for the next generation of American retirees,  the CPP is on a solid actuarial footing. Canada’s chief actuary says CPP is sustainable over 75 years, assuming a 3.9% real [after-inflation] rate of return: CPPIB’s 10-year annualized real rate of return is 5.3%.

Despite this, many Canadians — and perhaps some of their advisors — continue to profess their belief that the CPP won’t be around for them by the time they retire. 64% believe either that CPP will be out of money by the time they retire, or don’t know whether it will be there to pay them in retirement, Machin told Advocis.

Half of retirees greatly rely on CPP

However, in practice, Canadians tend to have more faith in the CPP than they claim: 42% of working-age Canadians expect to rely on the CPP when they retire (up from just 13% 15 years ago). In 2016, more than half of Canadians who are actually receiving CPP said they rely “to a great extent” upon it.

Continue Reading…

Sun has set on the Golden Days of DB pensions: How to survive the New Retirement

My latest Financial Post column can be found online, by clicking on the highlighted headline: Sun has set on the Golden Days: How to survive the ‘New’ Retirement. It can also be found on page B8 of the Friday paper under the headline Senior Investing Gets Critical.

The piece is based on a half-day conference held in Toronto on Wednesday sponsored by Franklin Templeton Investments. The third annual Retirement Innovation Summit was an equal mix of sessions on Retirement readiness and updates by Franklin Templeton executives on the current state of the markets.

The big theme was the well-established (two decades now) shift from the guaranteed-for-life Defined Benefit pensions earlier generations enjoyed, to market-variable alternatives like Defined Contribution pensions. As a result, longevity risk and market risk has been gradually shifting from the shoulders of employers to those of their workers/employees. And that in turn has meant that would-be retirees have to devote a lot more attention to the markets and investing than older generations that enjoyed what seems in retrospect to be a “golden age” of retirement income security.

Retirement is a gradual process, not a cliff

As for Retirement Readiness, one speaker described how Retirement itself has become more tentative. Instead of moving abruptly from 100% work mode to 100% leisure the moment you reach the traditional retirement age of 65, workers are experimenting with retirement and more often than not returning to the workforce, only to rinse and repeat.

Since the US financial crisis, the numbers of people aged 65 or more who are still working full-time has been on the rise. Of those still working after 65, only one in five did so because they felt they had to because of shaky personal finances. For the other four in five, it’s “because they want to or truth to tell, their spouse wants them out of the house,” the speaker said.

Furthermore, among both full- and part-time workers in that age category, 40% reported they had retired twice already: they had quit the working world, returned a few months or years later, then quit again and then returned to work again.”

Taking a Retirement Victory Lap

So much for the so-called “Retirement Cliff.” This of course is a major theme of the book I co-authored with Mike Drak: Victory Lap Retirement. We basically argue that retirement is a long process that involves slowly moving into. After all, you never see an airplane land by suddenly putting on the brakes in mid-air and dropping vertically: there is a gradual “glide path” to a smooth landing.

So it is with Retirement in our view: call it Semi-Retirement or an encore career or a legacy career but in essence it’s about moving gradually over five or ten years from 100% full-time work to perhaps 80%, 50%, 30% and so on, so that by the time you’re fully retired (perhaps in your 70s), the shock to your system is much less severe.


WealthBar Q&A: How one Robo-advisor handles Retirement Income Planning

WealthBar CEO Tea Nicola

What follows is a sponsored Q&A session between Hub CFO Jonathan Chevreau and Tea Nicola, Co-Founder and CEO of WealthBar, a robo-adviser.

WealthBar provides financial planning with lower-fee ETF portfolios and actively managed Private Investment Portfolios.

Through their financial advisers, easy-to-use online dashboard and financial tools, they are making investing more accessible for Canadians from coast to coast.




Jon Chevreau

Jon Chevreau: Welcome, Tea. While many so-called robo-advisers seem to focus on young people building wealth, what about the end game? How do you handle the shift for older investors from accumulation into spending your savings in retirement? 

Tea Nicola: Once a client who is accumulating assets decides that retirement is on the horizon and they let us know, we lead them into the retirement transition process. At this stage, they probably have a pretty good idea as to what they would like to spend after taxes. Their goal is to understand now if their savings and all their sources of income will be enough to fund their retirement years.

The conventional wisdom is to collect all the sources of income that the client will have and analyze it year by year. This step is essential to make sure that the goals are met. That includes the monthly cash flow for basic expenses, the annual travel budgets and one-off purchases as well as any legacies that they may desire.

We then make sure their savings can meet all those goals. If there are shortfalls, we adjust the savings rate to meet the goals by the time they want to stop working. Then, we iterate this every six months or so, both before and after the retirement date. We do this to make sure the transition is smooth and that routines are appropriately established.

Jon: You’re talking about managing expectations?

Tea: I would call it being realistic about expectations. For instance, we need to be careful about talking about a monthly income when it comes to drawing down on retirement savings.

What we typically see is an uneven drawdown, with extra spending in the first few years of retirement. The client is in a rush to do all the things they held off on while working. So, they go on world tour, get a golf membership, enjoy some fine dining, or generally treat themselves to something special. But after a few years, their spending habits ‘normalize.’ The initial exuberance declines and their expenses follow suit. You get cases like one client in her 90s, who is literally worth millions, who now has monthly expenses of about $2,000 a month.

With that in mind, our financial plans help clients to achieve the goals they want to achieve, without necessarily boxing them into a lifestyle category that doesn’t really apply for most of their retirement. This involves very realistic, practical planning that I would say goes into a bit more depth than other robo-advisers, or even many traditional wealth management firms.

Jon: Sometimes you’ll hear a kind of magic number bandied about for how much people need to retire. $1 million. $2 million … Is there a guideline that really makes sense?

Tea: It depends on the person, which is why financial planning needs to be tailored for each individual. Just like with salaries, we know that someone making $75,000 can feel like they’ve got as much money as they could possibly need. Continue Reading…