Building Wealth

For the first 30 or so years of working, saving and investing, you’ll be first in the mode of getting out of the hole (paying down debt), and then building your net worth (that’s wealth accumulation.). But don’t forget, wealth accumulation isn’t the ultimate goal. Decumulation is! (a separate category here at the Hub).

5 small steps to improve your physical health & 5 for your financial health

Duke University conducted a two-year study of 218 healthy adults of normal weight to determine if a modest, sustained calorie reduction would show appreciable benefits. The plan was to reduce calories consumed by 25 per cent, but participants were unable to achieve that much.

(Author’s note: I sure couldn’t do it! A 25% reduction in my 2,000 daily calories would leave me staggering around at only 1,500 per day.)

Participants were able, however, to cut calories by an average of about 12 per cent.  This smaller change allowed them to stick to the plan without any adverse effect on mood (wherein lies a useful message in itself). The results? Lowered blood pressure; decreased insulin resistance; as well as a drop in several predictors of cardiovascular disease.

But the most appreciable result concerned C-reactive protein, a substance produced by the liver and a marker of inflammation in the body. The participants’ C-reactive levels plunged by almost half: a remarkable 47%!

It’s a no brainer that poor dietary habits would exacerbate internal inflammation. But very often this is an invisible menace (see my article ‘The Truth About Inflammation’, October 2015). Most of us remain blissfully unaware of any chronic inflammation cascading throughout our bodies. Yet this exposes us to chronic health risks as a result of knocking the body out of whack. In my case, I had the aforesaid silent inflammation and observable inflammation, which I felt in my poor old joints. And I am pretty convinced that chronic inflammation was one factor in my developing cancer.

An elevated C-reactive protein level can be a valid identifier of inflammation in the body. So, if just a 12% calorie restriction can reduce this marker by almost 50%, this is as good information as that available to an insider trader.

In the blindness of youth, so many of us can compromise our health in a mad dash for wealth. But from the other end of the lifespan, a good many seniors would gladly sacrifice some wealth for even a smidgen of better health. Those who don’t make time for their health early on in life more often have to make time for illness later.

5 ways to improve your physical health

So, if you are young, young at heart, worried that you are no longer young, here is some insider information. Five smart, little investments you can make, the aggregate interest of which, over time, will have compound into positive health returns. Continue Reading…

The Robo RRSP and 11 lame excuses for not maxing your RRSP contribution this year

Can you trust your retirement to a robot? Illustration by Chloe Cushman/National Post files

With the annual RRSP season coming to a close next week (the RRSP contribution deadline is March 1st), there’s plenty of media coverage to remind investors of this fact. Two this week came from my pen (or electronic equivalent).

Earlier this week, the Financial Post published the following column you can retrieve by clicking on the highlighted text of the headline: Can you Trust your Retirement Savings to a Robot? 

By robot, we are referring of course to so-called Robo-Advisers or automated online investment “solutions” that generally package up various Exchange-traded Funds (ETFs) and handle the purchase, asset allocation and rebalancing at an annual fee that’s generally is far less than what a mutual fund or two might deliver. (that is, usually 0.5% plus underlying ETF MERs, compared to 2% or more for most retail mutual funds sold in Canada.)

The piece begins with a fond nod to a topic I used to write about periodically in the FP in the 1990s, at the height of so-called Mutual Fund Mania. It was then that I would write about a set-it-and-forget it approach we dubbed the Rip Van Winkle portfolio, which was simply two mutual funds (Trimark Income Growth, a balanced fund) and  a global equity fund (Templeton Growth) that in effect did (and still do, I suppose) everything the modern robo advisers do. The difference is that because of ETFs, the robo services are about a quarter of the price of the old “Rip” portfolio.

But speaking of undercutting, and as the piece also notes, both “Rip” and the robo services have been undercut by the three new Vanguard asset allocation ETFs that were announced on February 1st, more of which you can find in the Hub blog I wrote at the time: Gamechanger? As I noted there, the Vanguard ETFs seem to be ideal for TFSAs (especially VGRO, the 80% equities offering) but of course they are also ideally suited for a “Rip” like RRSP core offering: VBAL (60% equities) for the typical balanced investor, VCNS (40% equities) for very conservative investors and perhaps those now in the RRIF stage who are required to make forced annual (and taxable) withdrawals.

Motley Fool Canada: 11 myths equals 11 lame excuses for not maxing your RRSP

Meanwhile, Motley Fool Canada has just released a special report I wrote titled The 11 Most Common RRSP myths.  The report builds on several RRSP myths that CIBC’s Jamie Golombek published earlier this year, which you can find here, and my FP commentary on them here.  The report adds several new myths submitted from veteran advisers like Warren Baldwin.

You can also view this promotional email on the RRSP report by Motley Fool Canada Chief Investment Officer Iain Butler.

Top retirement advisor tips to get the most from your savings

All investments come with a mix of risk and potential reward. The greatest danger comes when you understand the mechanics of an investment, but you’re missing some of the details. Your understanding of the potential reward can make you greedy, while the gaps in your knowledge limit your natural, healthy sense of skepticism.

When it comes to retirement, you should be long-term focused, which takes a lot of the guessing and game playing out of the equation. The best retirement plan you can have is to start saving as early in your working career as possible. You then invest a steady or rising amount of that money in the stock market every year. When you follow this plan, you automatically profit from dollar-cost averaging. You will automatically buy more shares when prices are low, and fewer shares when prices are high.

Continue reading for more retirement advisor tips and strategies for saving.

Retirement advisor tip: Use an RRSP For Retirement

You have to learn a lot of things to become a successful investor, and few people learn them all in any logical progression. Instead, most of us move from one subject of interest to another, with a lot of zigs and zags in between.

But one tip is clear: If you want to pay less tax on your investments while you’re still working, investing in an RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) is the way to go.

To cut tax bills, RRSPs are a great option. RRSPs are a form of tax-deferred savings plan. RRSP contributions are tax deductible, and the investments grow tax-free. (Note that you can currently contribute up to 18% of your earned income from the previous year. March 1 is the last day you can contribute to an RRSP and deduct your contribution from your previous year’s income.) When you later begin withdrawing the funds from your RRSP, they are taxed as ordinary income.

Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) are also a great long-term retirement investment planning strategy

Converting your RRSP to a RRIF is clearly one of the best of three alternatives at age 71. That’s because RRIFs offer more flexibility and tax savings than annuities or a lump-sum withdrawal (which in most cases is a poor retirement investing option, since you’ll be taxed on the entire amount in that year as ordinary income).

Like an RRSP, a RRIF can hold a range of investments. You don’t need to sell your RRSP holdings when you convert—you just transfer them to your RRIF. Continue Reading…

Even more rookie mistakes that seasoned investors make

By Neville Joanes

(Sponsor Content)

Even though we all “knew it was coming” the precise timing of the market correction this month caught quite a few seasoned investors by surprise. Hey, it happens. No one can predict where the stocks go all the time. But how did you respond? Did you sell along with the herd — and lock in your losses? Or did you see this as a buying opportunity? How were you prepared for it in the first place?

Even the most experienced investors can get caught short in times like these. Recognize your investing biases that can lead to bad decision-making — and learn from them. Here are a few more that we didn’t cover last time. (See 3 rookie mistakes that seasoned investors still make.)

Confusing the familiar with the safe

Disney, Coca Cola and Starbucks are big brands. But are they safe, or even good investments — by virtue of their size?

Just a few years ago, you might have gotten the same feeling of rock-solid reliability about Nortel, Blockbuster or Kodak. Or Sears. Pan Am airlines. Netscape. Pets.com Or hundreds of other companies with billions in their war chests …  that aren’t even around today. By last year, just 60 companies remained from the original Fortune 500 list.

Investors have inherited the illusion of stability and power from size, possibly from our origins in hunting wooly mammoths with wooden spears. The big guys are hard to take down (we think). So even experienced investors will throw their money at blue-chip stocks and other institutional-style investments. It’s a half-baked hedging strategy.

When you have this bias, you don’t do the proper due diligence you would with other investments. Why look too closely, when the trading megafauna like Amazon or Apple just keep bounding onward and upward? Because the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

A big-name brand is not necessarily a bad bet. This is where a strategy of diversification comes in. By planting seeds in a range of investments instead of a single big-name brand, you’re in safer territory. Continue Reading…

Why Saving alone isn’t the best way to Financial Independence

By Elizabeth Lee

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

You’ve been told your entire life that you’ll never be able to accomplish anything unless you have a padded savings account: that every penny you can possibly set aside should be set aside, and you should absolutely never touch it.

You may even have been told that this is the only way you’ll become financially independent. You’ve been told wrong.

Saving is crucially important, but it’s important for entirely different reasons. You shouldn’t go out and spend your nest egg indiscriminately, but spending some of it might help you create a better and stronger independent (“findependent”) future. It all depends on how you strategize.

Why Saving is important

If you’re spending all your money as it comes in, what happens when you run into an expense you didn’t know was coming? Your car breaks down, you need to travel for a destination wedding, you find out you’re going to be a parent a little earlier than you’d originally planned, or you need to go to urgent care for a pesky sinus infection. How are you going to pay for it?

You had no idea that it was coming, and you didn’t budget for any of those things, because you didn’t know they were coming. If you don’t have savings, you might be set so far off track that you need to borrow to pay the bills. Without a savings account, you’re never truly protected from the financial variables life might throw your way.

Why Saving alone won’t make you Financially Independent

You need to spend money to live. Having a pile of money that isn’t doing anything for you won’t unlock a brighter future. Even in a high-yield savings account, the interest won’t amount to much. Financial independence means increasing your income, rather than just having an emergency stash to fall back on when something unexpected happens.

The idea of having savings is not to touch them unless you absolutely need to. The more savings you have, the more protected you are. But they aren’t helping you grow. Financial independence comes through growth, and it’s achieving that goal that will set you up for a smooth ride into your future. Continue Reading…