Debt & Frugality

As Didi says in the novel (Findependence Day), “There’s no point climbing the Tower of Wealth when you’re still mired in the basement of debt.” If you owe credit-card debt still charging an usurous 20% per annum, forget about building wealth: focus on eliminating that debt. And once done, focus on paying off your mortgage. As Theo says in the novel, “The foundation of financial independence is a paid-for house.”

5 ways to turn your Savings into Capital Gains

By Sia Hasan

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Continuously adding to your savings account is a responsible and astute financial step towards a comfortable retirement. Unfortunately interest rates offered by banks on standard savings accounts make for really slow growth, which is barely enough to keep up with inflation. Fortunately, there are other investment options out there that can increase your money at a more decent pace, one of which is stocks. Here are five techniques to turning your spare cash into a portfolio that grows both in capital gains and dividend income.

1.) Start Small

You don’t need to pour all of your savings into stocks right away. Going about it slowly can minimize risk. For example, if you have $10,000 as your savings, start buying 10 to 20 shares of stocks per month. Consider increasing your order size or frequency of purchase as you gain more experience or as you get more data about specific companies. If company XYZ’s stock price has solid momentum, consider buying more of it.

2.) Dollar Cost Averaging

You can also do dollar cost averaging, which basically involves setting a budget to buy stock each month. For example, if you have $1,000 to invest per month and company XYZ’s stock costs $50 for this month, you buy 20 shares of it. The next month, it costs $40 per share, so you buy 25 shares. The month after that, it actually increase to $100, so you buy 10 shares for that month and so on.

3.) Strategize according to your Lifestyle

A methodical approach to investing is key to growing your investment portfolio consistently. Strategy removes emotions from the equation, which for an investor can be a detrimental quality or set of qualities to bring in the stock market. Figure out what strategy best fits you. Someone who is saving money month after month is probably occupied with a full-time job; hence there are limited hours in the day for monitoring prices and current positions. Continue Reading…

Why “Topping up to bracket” makes sense if you’re temporarily in a low tax bracket

My latest column in Wednesday’s Globe & Mail looks at a strategy called “Topping up to Bracket,” which can be useful to anyone who is temporarily in a lower tax bracket.

Click on the highlighted headline to access the online version, assuming you have Globe subscriber privileges or haven’t exceeded the monthly free click quota: A strong tax case for early RRSP withdrawals.

When might you be “temporarily” in a lower tax bracket than usual? This can of course happen when you lose a job or if you’re in your Sixties and transitioning between full employment (typically earning in higher tax brackets) and Semi-Retirement, when it’s tempting to “bask” in lower tax brackets.

Temporary because as Semi-Retirement progresses, you can end up moving back into higher tax brackets: for example, if you start to receive Old Age Security (OAS) at 65, then take Canada Pension Plan (CPP) a few years later, these are both taxable sources of income.

And the big hit can come at the end of the year you turn 71, when RRSPs must be converted to Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) or else annualized or cashed out. RRIFs entail forced annual withdrawal rates that keep rising between your 70s and your mid 90s.

So that makes “Topping up to Bracket” (a term used in a BMO Wealth Institute paper on the topic, published around 2013) a strategy not to be ignored. In practice it means making sure that in those low-earning years you at least bring into your hands each and every year the roughly $12,000 of untaxed earnings that’s called the Basic Personal Amount (BPA). And as the G&M column explains, it’s also a good idea to at least bring in the dollars that are in the lowest tax bracket (15% federally, 5% in Ontario), or roughly $42,000. There are of course higher tax brackets above that but the law of diminishing returns starts to kick in beyond the $42,000.

Note too that this is a “use it or lose it” proposition. If for example a year went by that you failed even to bring in even that $12,000 income that would not have been taxed, you can’t carry forward the opportunity to benefit from it the following year. You will of course have another opportunity for the BPA that year but it won’t double up because you neglected to earn low- or non-taxed income the previous year. Continue Reading…

Do men and women have different Savings Habits?

By Danielle Kubes

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

In an online survey about savings habits, financial comparison site Ratehub.ca reports that although Canadian men and women save almost the same amount of money, men have a greater level of confidence in their financial planning.

Inspired by 2014 Statistics Canada data that says Canadian women have lower financial literacy scores than men and were less likely to consider themselves “financially knowledgeable” (31% of women versus 43% of men), Ratehub.ca set out to discover if there truly is a gender divide. 

The company digitally surveyed a random sample of 1,087 Canadians in November, with respondents self-identifying their gender.

“Our survey revealed that while men and women differ in aspects of their financial planning, at the core, their personal finance goals and concerns are nearly identical,” the report says.

Both genders have similar financial goals

Indeed, both genders report almost the exact same financial goals. At the top of list of priorities is retirement, followed by travel and then having an emergency fund.

Both men and women prefer to save and invest in registered accounts, especially the registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) and tax-free savings account (TFSA). What they choose to invest in within these accounts — guaranteed income certificates (GICs), exchange traded funds (ETFs), stocks, or other products — is unknown.

Yet men and women diverge most in how confident they are that they’ll have enough money to retire: less than half of women, 41%, say they’re confident compared to over half of men surveyed, at 56%.

Odd, because both genders save almost the same amount of their salaries, with women saving 26% and men 29%.

The gap could potentially be explained in how able they are to grow those savings through investing. Eighty-five per cent of men invest their money, while only 76% of women do.

Of those that do invest, less women than men self-manage their investments, potentially indicating another worrisome lack of confidence in their financial knowledge.

This is supported by the original Statistics Canada data, which found women were less likely to state they “know enough about investments to choose the right ones that are suitable for their circumstances.”

Confidence doesn’t mean financial knowledge

But does confidence translate to actual financial knowledge? Apparently not. When Statistics Canada quizzed Canadians who rated themselves financially literate, one in every three women failed, while one in every four men failed. Continue Reading…

What does tax reform mean for high-yield debt?

By Bradley Krom and Josh Shapiro, WisdomTree Investments
Special to the Financial Independence Hub

In an earlier post, we highlighted the likely impact tax reform could have on investment-grade (IG) corporate debt. In part two, we turn our attention to the high-yield (HY) market.1 While a reduction in taxes should benefit all profitable companies, other provisions could lead to tough choices for some less-credit-worthy borrowers. As we’ve seen during the most recent earnings season, HY still presents a mix of opportunity and risk. Below, we highlight the contrasting impact of lower tax rates and potential changes in the deductibility of interest expenses.

Big Picture: lower taxes, higher free cash flow and earnings

On net, the proposed tax plan is a positive for high yield. Lower statutory tax rates should result in higher profitability metrics, greater free cash flow and a boost to economic momentum/growth, while extending the credit cycle. While all businesses won’t be impacted the same way, we feel comfortable concluding that tax cuts should bias credit spreads tighter for riskier borrowers, on average. Similarly, an increase in economic growth could also push nominal interest rates higher.

What about Revenue Offsets?

While the top-line impacts we highlighted above should be broadly positive, we believe other elements of tax reform warrant closer attention: most notably, the so-called interest deductibility provision.

In the current environment, companies choosing to finance themselves with debt are permitted to fully deduct interest payments. As a result, companies have an incentive to finance themselves with debt as opposed to equity. In order to help dampen the fiscal impact of tax cuts on the federal budget, the current proposal would limit the deductible amount of interest expenses to 30% of EBITDA.

Fundamentally, this provision should have a much greater impact on the HY market. Given that risky borrowers tend to pay higher interest rates and (all else being equal) tend to deploy more leverage, the 30% cap on deductions should impact a larger percentage of the market. As we show in the chart below, HY companies with leverage of approximately 5.5x would likely be unable to fully deduct their interest expenses. In the second chart, we show that this makes up approximately 40% of the total market.2

Market Impact

While attempting to draw broad-based conclusions about individual companies can be tricky, a few key points stand out. In our analysis of firms with public financials, we estimate that 91% of CCCs will be unable to fully deduct their interest expenses. Continue Reading…

What is Personal Finance and why is it necessary?

By Brenda Cagara

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Personal finance is the art of managing finance individually or for household purposes.

Why would I call it an art? As there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration, the word may seem simple but it is not.

These factors may include purchasing of financial products example, home and life insurance, credit cards mortgages, investments and vehicles: In other words, handling budget, savings, and spending monetary resources over time, taking into account various financial risks and benefits for future life events.

Nowadays, personal finance is regarded as a specialty on its own. Historically, it was taught as a part of home economics or termed as “consumer economics,” which was included as a curriculum in various schools, colleges and university. In 1947, Herbert A. Simon, a Nobel laureate, suggested a decision maker did not always make the best financial decision because of limited educational resources and personal inclinations.

In 2009, Dan Ariely suggested the 2008 financial crisis emphasized the fact human beings do not always make rational financial decisions, and the market is not necessarily self-regulating or corrective of any imbalances in the economy.  Therefore, it is crucial to obtain some basic information about this topic to help an individual or a family to make rational financial decisions throughout his or their lifetime.

Planning Personal Finance

To understand personal finance, one should first have at least a vague idea of financial planning. Financial planning can be defined as a process that requires regular monitoring and re-evaluation of income and expenses. It includes five components: assessment, goals, planning, implementation, monitoring and re-evaluation.

  1. Assessment. Financial position can be assessed by making a balance sheet or personal statement. A balance sheet includes value of all the personal assets and liabilities. A personal statement personal income and expenses.
  2. Setting up small targets acts as an incentive for a person to work hard enough to achieve a financial position is a smart idea. These goals can be divided into short term and long term. Long-term goals may be being retired at the age of 60 with a net worth of $15,00,000, whereas an example of short-term goal may be saving up to buy a new house, a car or a new television.
  3. Once we’ve decided our aims and objectives, we need to have a plan as to how we are going to go about it to achieve it. An ideal plan should include a road map to decrease expenses and a way to enhance earning.
  4. This is the most crucial part of the five steps and in fact the most difficult of all. Once a person comes up with an ideal plan, there should strict implementation of it with discipline and perseverance.
  5. Monitoring and reassessment. With time there are changes in every individual’s life, family and priorities. In order to accommodate these changes the plan will require some alterations over the period of time, making monitoring and reassessment very important.

Personal Finance Tips

1.) A budget is a financial roadmap allows you to live within your means, while having enough left over to save for long-term goals. A simple example of budget can be as follows:

Continue Reading…