Hub Blogs

Hub Blogs contains fresh contributions written by Financial Independence Hub staff or contributors that have not appeared elsewhere first, or have been modified or customized for the Hub by the original blogger. In contrast, Top Blogs shows links to the best external financial blogs around the world.

92% of investors have a better mindset if they do this one thing, research finds

By Carol Lynde, Bridgehouse Asset Managers

Special to Financial Independence Hub

If you Google “what contributes to positive mental health?,” you’ll find helpful tips on exercise, diet, getting enough sleep and mindfulness. You’ll find advice on connecting with people, building resilience, gaining control over your life and getting help from a mental health professional. You might find mention that reducing your debt and controlling spending can reduce stress. But you’ll find very little about financial planning or that making a financial plan can contribute to positive mental well-being.

It can.

Bridgehouse Asset Managers recently released research confirming a direct link between planning your finances and positive mental well-being. The more financial planning activities you do, the better your sense of security, control, ability to bounce back from life’s challenges and positive mindset. Further, having a financial plan makes you less anxious about today’s financial issues, such as cost of living, debt levels and saving enough to retire.

The Bridgehouse national research project included focus groups and an online survey developed in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association (Toronto) and an advisory panel including mental health, legal and financial advisor experts from across the country. The research found that it’s not the amount of money you have, it’s doing something that counts. Planning your finances and creating a plan for the future leads to a sense of hope, security, resilience and control:  all attributes associated with positive mental health.

There’s a compounding effect: the more financial planning you do, the better your mental health. The survey asked participants how many of 10 financial planning activities they had completed and compared the results to their self-assessed mental state.

The research concluded the more activities respondents completed, the better their sense of security, control, ability to bounce-back and positive mindset. Financial planning activities included: calculating retirement requirements, calculating net worth, determining short-term goals, determining long-term goals, determining insurance requirements, establishing an emergency fund, creating a debt management plan, creating a budget, actively finding day-to-day savings and scheduling regular meetings with a financial advisor.

Of respondents who did seven or more financial planning activities:

  • 73 per cent expressed a sense of security about their financial situation.
  • 73 per cent felt in control of their financial situation.
  • 79 per cent felt an ability to bounce back if life throws tough challenges.
  • 79 per cent reported a positive mindset.

Respondents who took even small steps claimed positive mental well-being benefits. Of those who did only one-to-three financial planning activities:

  • 52 per cent reported a sense of security.
  • 54 per cent reported a sense of control.
  • 73 per cent felt an ability to bounce back.
  • 71 per cent reported a positive mindset.

According to regression analysis (a research method to rank contribution weighting), establishing/maintaining an emergency fund and scheduling regular meetings with a financial advisor were the two most important drivers of positive mental well-being and the ability to sleep at night. Continue Reading…

Automating Wealth: How to Systematize your Path to Financial Independence

Pexels/Tima Miroshnichenko

By Devin Partida

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Financial freedom: everyone knows what it means, but few understand how to achieve it. Those who do understand the role of automation in the process and how it allows them to focus on other vital actions necessary to reach their goals. Automating repetitive manual tasks can streamline financial management and improve decision-making.

Strategies for Automating your Finances

Becoming financially independent requires the right habits. However, consistently following a set pattern for saving, budgeting and other money-related activities can quickly feel repetitive. Automation can take care of the boring stuff, saving time and giving you more control over your financial situation. Here are some ways to go about it.

Automate Bills and Recurring Expenses

Bills you pay regularly — such as rent, mortgage, utilities, credit cards and subscriptions — take a significant part of your budget. These payments can cause stress and anxiety, especially if you have to keep track of them manually. Most banks offer automatic debit arrangements  that deduct monthly payments from your account on or before specified dates, ensuring your expenses are always covered on time.

Use a Budgeting App to Track Spending

Building long-term wealth begins with knowing where your dollars are going and how changing prices affect your budget. If you need help with your finances, a budgeting app will be your best friend.

These platforms can simplify expense tracking and help you identify where to scale back. Several are available, so feel free to explore until you find one best suited to your requirements.

Set up Automatic Transfers to your Savings Account

It’s easy to forget to transfer funds into your savings account, especially if you have many financial obligations. Like your recurring payments, you can also automate your financial conservation efforts. This method can help eliminate  the emotional side of decision-making that often makes saving money difficult.

Set Investments on Autopilot

Investing is a powerful way to grow your finances, but the inherent risks can be off-putting. Consider using a robo-advisor or investment bot to manage your portfolio, make data-driven decisions and minimize the time required to manage your investments.

For example, AI stock-trading programs can analyze historical information and current trends to predict market shifts, cluing you in on when to buy or sell a particular stock. Some systems can even tailor recommendations based on your budget and automatically make investing choices based on set parameters.

How Automation gets you Closer to Financial Independence

Financial freedom starts with defined goals backed by intentional action. Automation plays a massive role in shortening the path to achieving these objectives. Ideally, a well-framed goal only requires 3–5 steps to accomplish: anything more than that will likely complicate the process. Continue Reading…

ETF Fees Explained

By Danielle Neziol, BMO ETFs

(Sponsor Content)

Canadians are facing a lot of sticker shock lately. My grocery bill was how much? My mortgage payment is going to increase by what per cent? Don’t even ask me what it costs to fill up my car these days. With more money going to living expenses, it has become harder to save than ever. One simple way to get ahead is to be more aware of what we are spending — especially in times like these —  and to review our monthly expenses to see where there are opportunities to make cuts.

Our investment portfolios should be viewed no differently. If you are an investor who holds a mutual fund or an exchange traded fund (ETF) there are fees attached to your investments. It would be prudent to review the cost structure of the funds you hold to ensure that the fees make sense relative to the fund’s investment mandate. It would also be wise to review the cost of the funds you hold to see if that fee is competitive relative to similar products in the market. Fees detract from total portfolio returns, so anything an investor can do to manage these costs can help keep more money in their pockets.

Management Fees and MERs

Every investment fund has a management fee. This is the cost a fund manager charges to manage the portfolio operationally (buy and sell securities, rebalance, etc). The Management Expense Ratio (MER) is the bottom-line cost to the investor. It includes any taxes charged to the fund, as well as any added fees (such as leverage). An investor can look up the management fee and MER within the Fund Facts and ETF Facts of their funds. These are regulatory documents that can be found for every fund issued in Canada. Some asset managers advertise very low management fees but have higher, less advertised, MERs, so investors should always do their due diligence on the total fund cost to fully understand the bottom-line payment that they are making every year.

The MER is subtracted from daily returns. Therefore, it has a direct impact on the total return of the fund. And as investors we know that overtime, our total returns help build our overall wealth. Therefore, the lower the fee on the investment, the more money there will be for the investor at the end of their investment period.

Comparing Fees

Once investors are aware of the fees they are paying for their investment products, they have the ability to “shop around” to see if there are any products that may be a better fit in their portfolios or which offer lower fees. When comparing fees it’s important to understand what you’re getting for in return for what you’re paying for. Broad market index funds generally have the lowest fees in the market. For example the BMO S&P 500 Index ETF (ZSP) has an MER of 0.09%. Index funds tend to have the lowest fees because operationally they are easier to manage. A Portfolio Manager will go out and buy the stocks within a particular index, and rebalance when needed.1 Continue Reading…

Lowering the first rung on the housing ladder

Image courtesy of CMI/Envato Elements

By Kevin Fettig

Special to Financial Independence Hub


A recent report by Ontario’s Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) highlights the scarcity of homes under $500,000 in Ontario.

In 2013, 74% of residential properties had a value below this threshold. Today,  just 19% of homes are valued below $500,000.  While this situation varies from province to province, it highlights the significant challenges faced by first-time home buyers who find the first rung of the property ladder is nearly unreachable.

Most urban centers would benefit by encouraging lower cost paths to home ownership. One avenue for this is building properties on leased land. In certain areas of Vancouver, we already see this practice, often on First Nations or university-owned lands. Leased land provides two primary paths to homeownership: one involves placing mobile or manufactured housing on the leased property, while the other entails constructing permanent homes on the leased land.

More than 50 years ago, manufactured housing made up as much as 6% of Canadian housing completions. Today, it represents less than 1%. In the U.S., supporting the availability of manufactured housing is a key component of the administration’s effort to ease the burden of housing costs. Most of these initiatives focus on improving mortgage financing for these homes through housing finance agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Currently, Americans must rely on personal property financing (chattel lending) rather than conventional mortgages.

CMHC launched Chattel Loan program in 1988

In Canada, we’ve had a mortgage insurance product for these loan types for some time. The Chattel Loan Insurance Program (CLIP) was first launched by CMHC in 1988 as a 5-year pilot program. However, CMHC has never actively promoted the program, leading to a lack of awareness among lenders. Moreover, consumer preference for traditional stick-built housing and resistance from local communities to mobile home park developments have further hindered the adoption of the program.

Although the eligible amortization period can extend up to 25 years, some provinces have not allowed longer-term leases, making it challenging to finance structures on leased land, whether stick-built or manufactured. Even with an insured mortgage product, securing financing for manufactured homes can be difficult. Financial institutions often lack understanding of these structures, and the constraints on amortization period restrict the type of homebuyer. Consequently, the market has primarily targeted retirees seeking to downsize from larger family homes to smaller units. However, with appropriate financing options, these properties could also appeal to first-time buyers.

Building permanent homes on leased land is a second avenue to reducing home-ownership costs. Leased land communities are typically located close to small urban centres. The design ranges from townhouses to single family dwellings, and from traditionally built to manufactured. There are some larger institutional groups in this sector, including Parkbridge, a leading Canadian developer and operator of 106 residential and recreational communities across the country. CAPREIT, a Canadian real estate investment trust, also manages leased land communities but is not a developer. Continue Reading…