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.”

Do global bond yields matter any more?

U.S. 10-Year vs. 10-Year German Bund

By Kevin Flanagan, WisdomTree Investments

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Do global bond yields matter anymore? Following the results of Election Day and the subsequent response in the U.S. bond market, this was certainly a valid question. Indeed, with U.S. Treasury (UST) yields ascending rather visibly, a key investment force (relative yield advantage vs. the rest of the G7 universe) that had helped keep UST yields in check, if not push them even lower, seemed to fall off the fixed-income radar.

With the first quarter of 2017 now in the books, and the markets almost five months removed from the U.S. election, we thought it would be useful to provide some insight as to where the UST 10-Year yield resides now, and consider whether the relative yield advantage still exists.

While it has not always been a one-way street to the upside, G7 10-year yields have all risen to varying degrees, with the one notable exception being the UK, where gilts have actually seen a decline of 6 basis points (bps) since November 7. Italian 10-year yields fall on the other end of the spectrum, as the 10-year has experienced an increase of 61 bps, while the gain in France has been pegged at 50 bps. To put this in some additional perspective, the rise in the UST 10-Year was +56 bps. Rounding out the 10-year yield tallies: Canada +41 bps; Germany +18 bps and Japan +12 bps.

It should also be noted that the experience thus far in 2017 seems to have been a bit more country/region specific and not just the kind of broader move in global rates that investors have witnessed before. To be sure, here in the U.S., Treasury yields have been responding to developments in Washington D.C., such as the Fed pushing up its first rate hike three months earlier than expected and continued political headlines in the first few months of the Trump administration.

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The Long & Short of it: Long vs. Short-term Mortgages

Interest rates have nowhere to go but up. No doubt you’ve heard this line if you’ve bought a home or had to renew your mortgage at some point in the past decade, followed by an eager banker or mortgage broker urging you to “lock in” now.

Most homeowners in Canada prefer fixed-rate terms for predictability and peace of mind, with five-year terms being the most popular.

Yet despite its popularity, the five-year fixed rate is likely the least advantageous term for borrowers.

Going Long: 10-Year Mortgage Term

For those looking for greater protection against (eventual) rising interest rates, a longer term is worth a look. A 10-year fixed rate mortgage today can be had for as low as 3.69 per cent.

Another reason to consider a longer mortgage term: a safeguard against the possibility of a housing crash. What happens if prices fall 20 per cent or more in the next few years, wiping away your home equity before it’s time to renew? A 10-year term, while more expensive than a shorter term, does offer a double-dose of protection in case prices fall or interest rates rise substantially. Continue Reading…

The stress of moving sideways in high-priced housing markets

By Penelope Graham, Zoocasa

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Think breaking into the Toronto real estate market is tough? Try making a lateral move; there’s a whole new crop of challenges facing those looking to cash in on their home’s equity, according to a recent bank report.

While much has been made over the plight of first-time buyers, they’re not the only ones feeling the pinch. Home owners with a long-term position in the market and who have become considerably house-rich — namely baby boomers — are also put off by the market’s challenges.

And while this generation has received criticism for hunkering down in their family homes rather than adding them back to the supply of low-rise, detached housing, the fact is many would love to cash out: but they face the same hurdles as their millennial counterparts.

According to a recent poll conducted by CIBC, two in five Canadian homeowners planning to sell their homes are poised to profit on their home sale — but 62% are reluctant to put it on the market due to the high cost of buying another home.

“In today’s market, homeowners are facing a conundrum as to whether to buy, sell or stay put,” says David Nicholson, vice-president of CIBC Imperial Service. “Buying or selling your home is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make. That’s why it’s important to make the decision for the right personal and financial reasons and see past the noise in the marketplace. Evaluating the pros and cons as part of an overall financial plan can help you decide what’s best for you.”

Sixty-seven per cent of boomers (aged 55 and up) indicated they wished to downsize to a smaller home, condo or nursing / retirement home.

The search for affordable options

Most downsizing boomers aren’t looking to acquire another million-dollar detached property, but recent price surges within the condo market may leave them feeling as though their options are limited. The Greater Toronto Area market has infamously experienced a 33% year-over-year price increase, and much of that double-digit growth has spilled over into the condo segment.

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Millennial Money: An experiment in money-saving hacks

As both a student and a millennial, my eyes are always peeled for helpful tips and advice on how to manage my finances. I recently came across this article from refinery 29 about “10 Bizarre Money Habits Making Millennials Richer.”

While I usually try and avoid this ‘listicle’ format, I was intrigued enough to look into it. The list surprised me in that it actually did include some new tips I hadn’t heard about before, like literally freezing your credit card (See image to the left).

I decided to run a little experiment based on this article, and I’m sharing the results with you now. I didn’t think it would be feasible to try and implement all ten of the habits. Besides, some of them don’t apply to me (I no longer have a car or any recurring payments coming out of my bank account), so I decided to focus on just a few of the tips to see how easy they really were to put into action.

Tip 1: Pick a denomination and save it

The first tip I implemented was to pick a denomination and save it, always. Unlike the article, I don’t get paid in cash (or at all really, apart from payment for blogs like this), so the only time I come into contact with physical cash is when I take it out of an ATM or get cash back at the grocery store.

I thought I’d start small: I would save all my £2 coins [the UK pound is the currency where I currently live, in Scotland] in a jar on my desk. This actually turned out to work quite well for me, as my current wallet is a card carrier without any space for coins. Every time I received change I separated out the £2 coins,  then made sure to move them into the jar every couple of days. After three weeks of this method, though, I had only saved around £12. Turns out, £2 coins aren’t given out that frequently as change.

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What first-time home buyers should know about FHA loans (U.S.)

By Cher Zevala

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

For most people, a home is the most significant purchase they will ever make, as well as one of the most complex. Finding a home is actually the easiest part in most cases, but financing the purchase can be stressful.

That stress is only amplified when you want to purchase a home, but don’t necessarily meet lender qualifications for an attractive mortgage. Simply put, it’s not always easy to get a mortgage for a home. Lenders have strict criteria in terms of down payment, income, and credit history, and failing to meet those criteria can mean disappointment, at least when you work with a traditional lender. Thankfully, there are other options for purchasing a home, such as an FHA mortgage.

What Is an FHA Mortgage?

An FHA mortgage or loan is a home loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration (in the United States).  Borrowers who get a mortgage under this program must purchase mortgage insurance, which protects the lender in the event of a default. The agency itself does not issue the loan, but instead works with traditional lenders, providing assurance that the bank will not lose money on the deal.

FHA loans are attractive to many home buyers because they typically have less stringent qualifications in terms of down payment and credit score, but still offer competitive interest rates. For instance, while a buyer who only has a 10 per cent down payment and a credit score of 600 is not likely to qualify for a traditional loan, he or she has a better chance of getting financing via an FHA loan. Continue Reading…