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).

Duking it out: The RRSP vs TFSA

By Brandon Hill, CFP

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

I’ll never forget when I was growing up hearing my parents talking about “buying RSPs” (I got excited about saving money. I know… I’m a weirdo).

In my mind, they were this magical investment that people bought so they could multiply their money to one day retire. This term, “buying RSPs” is still used today; however, I think it adds to the confusion of what a RRSP really is.

I’m here to explain in plain English the difference between the RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) and the TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account).

What are they?

The best way to think of an RRSP or a TFSA is simply as an account that has special tax benefits. Just like your chequing account, you are able to deposit and withdraw money into a RRSP or TFSA; however, the special tax benefits make it slightly more complicated.

RRSP: When you deposit money into an RRSP, you’re allowed to deduct this amount on your tax return, saving you tax and increasing your refund. However, when you withdraw money from your RRSP, you have to pay tax on this amount.

TFSA: When you deposit money into a TFSA you do not get a tax deduction, although when you withdraw from your TFSA, you do not have to pay any tax.

All growth within an RRSP and TFSA is tax free.  

You can invest in many different ways inside the RRSP or TFSA, including: stocks, bonds, GIC’s, Mutual Funds, ETFs, and other more advanced options.

Continue Reading…

The Pros and Cons of Universal Life Insurance

By Lorne Marr, LSM Insurance

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Universal Life Insurance gives you flexible, cost-effective coverage that lasts a lifetime. It can be personalized to suit your changing needs and has a combined tax-advantage investment component that you can manage according to your risk tolerance and financial goals. Universal Life Insurance was invented by the recently deceased George R. Dinney in 1962. He explains the concept in his authorship of “Life Insurance as a Game.”

Universal Life Insurance allows you to adjust your premium payments (reasonable limits apply) as your needs or situation change. It is the ideal choice for people interested in flexible coverage. Unlike term insurance, which covers for a set number of years, universal coverage protects your family for life, as long as you keep up with the premium payments.

The policy has an investment component that gives you the opportunity to grow your wealth, so you have the option of using your life insurance while you are still alive. This means you can fund financial goals or leave more to your beneficiaries.

All the premium payments you make go into a policy fund. This fund pays for the cost of your coverage plus investments. The balance remaining after coverage costs are invested on a tax-advantaged basis. There are a variety of investment options for you to choose from, based on your risk tolerance and financial objectives.

How much your investment will grow depends on the performance of your investments and the amount of your premiums. The money in the investment portion of your account is yours. You can use it to make premium payments or a source of savings. You can use it as collateral for a loan, withdraw it outright or just let it grow for financial security for your loved ones. Don’t forget that borrowing or withdrawing funds from your policy reduces its cash value.

Pros of Universal Life Insurance

Universal Life Insurance provides many benefits, such as: Continue Reading…

What pessimists may say about top Canadian bank stocks

The big Canadian banks in the heart of downtown Toronto

We’ve recommended buying the five top Canadian bank stocks since the 1970s, but not everyone has agreed with that advice.

Canadian banks have gone through periodic and sometimes lengthy slumps, like any other stock group. They occasionally make costly management errors. On rare occasions, they have suffered from adverse regulatory decisions.

This is what pessimistic investors might say about top Canadian bank investments. But because these stocks have grown, paid high dividends and have generally been available at highly attractive prices, they’ve provided well-above average investment returns for decades.

Investor worry and the banks

Some investors fear the banks will lose out to “fintech” (upstart financial technologies, comparable perhaps to Uber or AirBnB). Or they wonder if the banks will get caught unawares when interest rates make their long-awaited upward move.

Our view is that the banks had a long time to prepare for the inevitable rise in interest rates, and the inevitable coming of fintech competition. In fact, they will probably wind up prospering in fintech, if not dominating it, as they did in stock brokerage, insurance and other financial areas that they have entered in the past few decades.

On the whole, investors have underestimated top Canadian bank investments for as long as I’ve been in the investment business. As a result, these stocks have often traded at attractive share prices. Because they were growing, and cheaper in many respects than other stocks, they gave conservative Canadian investors a near-ideal combination of pluses: above-average dividend yields and records; low-to-moderate ratios of per share price-to-earnings; and above-average long-term capital gains.

Look for top Canadian bank stocks with consistent dividends

Continue Reading…

The 2017 MoneySense ETF All-Stars

The fifth edition of the MoneySense ETF All-stars is available online here. This annual feature used to appear in the print edition of the magazine and was originally written by Dan Bortolotti, who is now a full time investment advisor with PWL Capital Inc., and well known for his Canadian Couch Potato blog.

In recent years, I’ve written it, with the assistance of an expert panel of ETF experts you can find in the link. They include Dan himself and his partner Justin Bender at PWL, Tyler Mordy at Forstrong Global Asset Management, Mark Yamada at PUR Data, Yves Rebetez, editor of ETF Insight), and Alan Fusty of Index Wealth Management. (The same members as last year).

As you’ll see, because the goal of the panel is to identify low-cost, well diversified ETFs that can be bought and held over the long run, we try not to make changes just for the sake of change. As a result, 12 of the 14 picks from 2016 are back in 2017, with two substitutions deemed necessary in the US equity and fixed income categories.

Changes in US equity and fixed-income categories

In the case of the US equity category, the panel stood pat with two Vanguard S&P 500 ETFs (hedged and unhedged) but replaced a third Vanguard ETF in this category, VUN, with a new offering, XUU, launched in 2015: the iShares Core S&P US Total Market Index ETF.

The other big change was in fixed-income. Four of our five fixed-income picks are back, with one major tweak: the removal of VAB, Vanguard Canadian Aggregate Bond Index ETF, and its replacement by ZAG, the BMO Aggregate Bond Index ETF.

For the most part, the panel was unanimous in making these two particular tweaks although of course there was a fair amount of debate throughout the process, which you can read about in the full article online.

 

Why Robb Engen’s 4-minute RRSP portfolio is tough to beat

I spent a total of four minutes working on my RRSP portfolio last year.

It wasn’t benign neglect:  my two-ETF all-equity portfolio really is that simple! I made four trades, which took about a minute each after determining how much money to invest, in which of the two ETFs to allocate the investment, and how many shares that would buy (plus a few seconds to enter my trading password).

The buying process is easy since I don’t have any bonds in my portfolio. I simply add money to the fund that brings my portfolio closest to its original allocation – 25 per cent VCN and 75 per cent VXC.

I don’t expect my four-minute portfolio to change much this year. I still plan on making four trades this year in my RRSP, and now that I’m contributing regularly to my TFSA again I’ll make an additional four trades in that account. Add 12 monthly contributions to my RESP and that brings my total time spent on investing to just 20 minutes a year.

Continue Reading…