Decumulate & Downsize

Most of your investing life you and your adviser (if you have one) are focused on wealth accumulation. But, we tend to forget, eventually the whole idea of this long process of delayed gratification is to actually spend this money! That’s decumulation as opposed to wealth accumulation. This stage may also involve downsizing from larger homes to smaller ones or condos, moving to the country or otherwise simplifying your life and jettisoning possessions that may tie you down.

5 sensible steps to improve your 2018 game plan

“Your future depends on many things, but mostly on you.”
—Frank Tyger (1929–2011), cartoonist, columnist and humourist

Designing the investment plan for the long haul requires much serious thought. Unfortunately, investors shortchange themselves on two fronts. Firstly, they spend far too much time selecting investments. Secondly, and more important, they spend too little time researching and establishing their investment policies and strategies. The ones that the plans should put into effect to reach personal goals.

In my experience, few investors actually have a sensible game plan that is being followed. Too often, this results in a collection of “flavour of the day” investment selections. Designing the appropriate investment plan is essential, particularly the asset mix targets.

“Understanding the major investment risk factors brings perspective to the plan. The ability, willingness and need to take risks are your top three.”

Happily, this situation is easy to rectify. A new year is about to make its grand entrance. Let us take a breather to contemplate a few improvements.

Stewarding the finances is truly a long journey. If you were my client, I would start with this question, “What is important about investing to your family in 2018 and beyond?

My observation is that many investors opt for preservation of capital. Others focus on portfolio growth. The rest concentrate on the retirement income stream. Lifestyle needs are also high on the pecking order.

I touch on a handful of key steps in designing your game plan:

1.) Retirement prospects

Determine the family’s desired retirement income goal in today’s dollars. Calculate the size of portfolio to reach and sustain the goal. This provides portfolio direction and purpose. Estimate the personal rate of return required to achieve the retirement nest egg ballpark. Then treat that rate of return as the “investment benchmark” for the game plan.

Once the personal rate of return is identified, there is likely no need to incur higher investment risk than necessary. This is especially important to retired investors. Consider all the investment accounts owned as part of the big picture, not in isolation. Revisiting your “asset location” best practices helps fine tune the game plan.

2.) Investor profile

Analyze which type of investor profile suits and feels best. The most familiar ones are labeled as preservation, income, balanced, growth and aggressive. In my experience, investor profiles change infrequently.

The majority of investors are comfortable within 40% to 60% allocated to stocks and the remainder to cash and bond selections. For example, a balanced profile typically allocates about 50% to stocks, 40% to bonds and 10% to cash instruments.

3.) Asset mix 

Asset mix decisions have the greatest impact on portfolio outcomes than any other factor. Studies show that these decisions explain a substantial amount of variations in total portfolio returns. Continue Reading…

Advanced RRSP Strategies (Beyond the Basics)

RRSPs are a valuable tool for many taxpayers, which is why they are the backbone of many retirement plans. Getting the most out of your RRSP often involves thinking several years ahead, rather than just when the contribution deadline is looming.

Here are five RRSP strategies to get you thinking beyond the basics:

Claiming RRSP deductions

Most of us claim our RRSP deductions in the tax year we make the contribution, but you don’t have to. In fact, you can choose to deduct only a portion or none at all and carry it forward.

If you expect to move into a higher tax bracket next year from say, a big promotion, or the sale of rental property, you should still make your contribution to take advantage of tax-free compounding. But, it may be worth waiting to claim the deduction the next year (or later) when your marginal rate will be higher and you will get a substantially bigger tax refund.

Level out income

Continue Reading…

How to build a sound and profitable Retirement portfolio

By Patrick McKeough,

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

To decide if an investment belongs in your portfolio for retirement, you need to take a close look at its attributes or features. But, just as important, you need a close look at how well the investment suits your needs. A superficial look can steer you in the wrong direction.

From time to time, for instance, investors say “Now that I’m retired, I can’t invest in stocks any more. I can’t risk a 30% to 40% drop in the value of my portfolio.” But these same investors may buy annuities without considering the fact that annuity rates are related to bond yields. Both are at historically low levels. A revival of inflation could do extraordinary damage to the purchasing power you get from the fixed returns on bonds or annuities.

Retirement planning and four key factors to consider when investing for retirement

Retirement planning is the process of setting retirement goals, estimating the income needed to meet those goals and assessing your potential sources of retirement income. These days, more investors suffer from what you might call “pre-retirement financial stress syndrome.” That’s the malady that strikes when it dawns on you that you don’t have enough money saved to be able to earn the retirement income stream you were banking on. The best way to overcome this is with sound investing.

Additionally, here are four key factors to consider for retirement saving:

  • How much you expect to save prior to retirement;
  • The return you expect on your savings;
  • How much of that return you’ll have left after taxes;
  • How much retirement income you’ll need once you’ve left the workforce.

Should you consider investment products in your portfolio for retirement?

The financial industry has created income-producing investment products to cater to investors who are wary of stock-market uncertainty. These products can provide steady income that’s higher than bond interest, or dividend yields from stocks. However, these products are almost always subject to hidden fees and risks that continually drain your capital, or leave it vulnerable to unexpected losses.

Successful investors understand that occasional market plunges are normal and unavoidable. A drop of 30% to 40% in stock prices is rare. But after the plunge ends, stocks bounce back and eventually recover. Meanwhile, if you follow our Successful Investor approach, you’ll still have dividend income. What’s more, you don’t need to (and probably won’t) sell at the low in prices.

You can maintain reserves for your cash flow needs by selling some stocks every year, during times of high and low prices.

Continue Reading…

Retired Money: the case for laddering Annuities

“The more bells and whistles, the lower the monthly income,” from annuities, says Caring for Clients’ Rona Birenbaum,

My latest MoneySense Retired Money column looks at the case for laddering annuities in order to avoid the problem of committing funds to annuities at interest rates that are only now coming off their historic lows. You can retrieve the whole article by clicking on the highlighted text: A low-risky annuity strategy to beef up your retirement cash flow.

Many investors are already acquainted with the concept of “laddering” guaranteed investment certificates (GICs), or bonds with different maturities. Maturity dates are staggered over (typically) one to five years, so each year some money comes due and can be reinvested at prevailing interest rates. This minimizes the likelihood of investing the whole amount at what may turn out to be rock-bottom interest rates, only to watch helplessly as rates steadily rise over time.

The same applies when it comes time for retirees or near-retirees to annuitize. At the end
of the year you turn 71 you must decide whether to convert your RRSP into a RRIF,
cash out and pay tax (few do this), or thirdly to annuitize.

Fortunately, annuitization isn’t an all-or-nothing decision. You can convert some of your RRSP to a RRIF and some to a registered annuity. You can take a leaf from the GIC laddering
concept and buy annuities gradually over five, ten or even more years. As regular Hub contributor Patrick McKeough observes in the piece, laddering annuities can reduce the potential downside: “You could buy one annuity a year for the next five years. That way, your returns will increase if interest rates rise, as is likely.”

Tally up how many annuities you may already have

Mind you, few observers believe in converting ALL your disposable funds into annuities. After all, as another Hub contributor — Adrian Mastracci — notes, you need to take inventory of the annuity-like vehicles you already may have, or expect to have: such as  employer-sponsored Defined Benefits, CPP or OAS. Some investors may have a high component of annuity-like income without realizing it, and many families may already have five or six such sources of annuity-like income.

Certainly you need to consider both the benefits and drawbacks of annuities. The main benefit is they are a form of longevity insurance: making sure you never outlive your money no matter how long you live. There’s a case for having enough annuities that your basic “survival expenses” (shelter, food, heat, transport etc.) are taken care of no matter what. Finance professor Moshe Milevsky is also quoted in the article to the effect there are compelling financial and psychological reason to at least partly convert to annuities. And Milevsky is famous for making a distinction between “REAL” pensions (like DB pensions) that behave like annuities, as opposed to vehicles like RRSPs and TFSAs, which provide capital that only have the potential to be annuitized. Hence the title of Milevksy’s excellent book, Pensionize Your Nest Egg.

But annuities are not perfect. Apart from the common reluctance to commit to buying annuities at today’s still-low interest rates, there’s also the matter of the irreversible nature of the decision to convert some capital to an annuity. You’re handing over a large chunk of change to an insurance company and should you die earlier than expected, they in effect “win,” to the partial detriment of your estate. If on the other hand you live to 120, then YOU “win.”

Continue Reading…

Forced Early Retirement? 7 things you should do right now

By Michelle Arios

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

There are a lot of life situations that can lead someone to retire much earlier than they had initially anticipated. It could be illness, injury, the need to move quickly, an emergency family circumstance, or even a company closing its doors. Why you’re being forced to retire isn’t nearly as important as the silver lining you need to find in your situation, and what steps you’ll take to get there.

1.) Get a great Savings plan

Your normal savings account may not be enough to carry you through. It might help to change your current savings account to one that gives you a better interest rate, particularly if you’re going to consolidate your retirement accounts. It might also help to supplement your savings with some investments that will grow with time.

2.) Work out your new Budget

People in retirement often live on fixed incomes, especially if their spouse is also retired. You need to be sure your money can go as far as you need it to, and that might mean breaking apart your old budget and determining where and how you can best reduce costs while maintaining your quality of life. There are some easy-to-use smartphone apps that might help you do that.

3.) Downsize your Home

The expenses of maintaining a household are high. If you’re retired, you probably don’t need all the extra space anyway. Finding a roommate can help, and so can selling your previous home to purchase a smaller home that’s easier to maintain. Often times, utility bills will significantly go down on a smaller property. You’re also gaining some extra cash and a little more financial longevity.

4.) Find affordable alternatives

Monthly costs, like health insurance and cellular phone bills, can often add up to a lot of money. You might want to consider shopping around for a better deal. Continue Reading…