Victory Lap

Once you achieve Financial Independence, you may choose to leave salaried employment but with decades of vibrant life ahead, it’s too soon to do nothing. The new stage of life between traditional employment and Full Retirement we call Victory Lap, or Victory Lap Retirement (also the title of a new book to be published in August 2016. You can pre-order now at You may choose to start a business, go back to school or launch an Encore Act or Legacy Career. Perhaps you become a free agent, consultant, freelance writer or to change careers and re-enter the corporate world or government.

The changing perceptions of Normal

Image courtesty Outcome/Creative Commons

By Noah Solomon

Special to Financial Independence Hub

In response to rapidly accelerating inflation, central banks began raising rates aggressively at the beginning of 2022. Ever since, wild swings in bond markets have had a tremendous impact on virtually every single asset class.

This month, I examine the recent spike in rates from a historical perspective. Importantly, I will discuss the likely range of interest rates over the foreseeable future and the associated implications for financial markets.

When the Fed and other central banks were confronted with financial disaster in late 2008, they slashed interest rates to zero and deployed additional stimulative measures to ward off what many thought could be another Great Depression. Global rates then remained at levels that were both well below historical averages and the rate of inflation for the next 13 years.

In 2008, the runaway inflation of the 1980s and the painful medicine of record high rates that were required to subdue it were still relatively fresh in people’s minds. At that time, had you asked anyone what would be the most likely result of keeping rates near zero for over a decade, their most likely response would have been runaway inflation. And yet, inflation remained strangely subdued. According to most experts, this unexpected result is largely attributable to a relatively benign geopolitical climate and a related push toward global outsourcing.

This led to the notion of a “new normal” in which inflation was permanently expunged. Over the span of only 13 years, people went from fearing inflation to believing that it was a relic of the past unworthy of serious consideration. This false sense of comfort caused central banks and investors alike to be caught off guard in late 2021 when they realized that inflation had not been permanently vanquished but was merely hibernating.

These sentiments were evident in bond markets. After rates were slashed to zero during the global financial crisis, investors were skeptical that they would remain there for long before stoking inflation. Longer-term rates remained well above their short-term counterparts, with the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries retaining an average 1.9% premium above the Fed Funds rate from 2009 – 2020.

However, 13 years of ultra-low rates with no sign of inflation allayed such fears, with the yield spread crossing into negative territory late last year and reaching a low of -1.5% in May of 2023. Even the rapid acceleration in inflation in late 2021 failed to fully disavow investors of the notion that the era of low inflation had come to an end, with current 10-year rates falling below their overnight counterparts.

10 U.S. Treasury Yield Minus Fed Funds Rate (1995 – Present)


Equity markets danced to the same tune as their bond counterparts. When central banks cut interest rates to zero during the global financial crisis, investors were dubious that inflation would not soon rear its ugly head. Multiples remained relatively normal, with the P/E ratio of the S&P 500 Index averaging 16.4 for the five years beginning in 2009.

Over the ensuing several years, investors became complacent that the world would never again experience inflation issues, with the S&P 500’s P/E ratio climbing as high as 30 by early 2021. Multiples have since remained somewhat elevated by historical standards, indicating that markets have not fully embraced the fact that inflation may not be as well-behaved as what they are used to.

S&P 500 P/E Ratio (1995 – Present)


The Rising Tide of Declining Rates: Not to be Underestimated

According to legendary investor Marty Zweig:

“In the stock market, as with horse racing, money makes the mare go. Monetary conditions exert an enormous influence on stock prices. Indeed, the monetary climate – primarily the trend in interest rates and Federal Reserve policy – is the dominant factor in determining the stock market’s major direction.”

The 2,000-basis point decline in interest rates from 1980 to 2020 not only turbocharged aggregate demand (and by extension corporate revenues), but also dramatically lowered companies’ cost of capital. In tandem, these two developments were nothing short of a miracle for corporate profits and asset prices. Continue Reading…

The waiting is the hardest part, and the most profitable times for investors


By Dale Roberts

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Investors are starting to notice that their portfolios have been treading water for a couple of years. Over the last two years, a global balanced growth portfolio would essentially be flat. Of course, move out to 3-year, 5-year and 10-year time horizons and we have very solid to generous returns.

At times investors have to wait. We build and springload the portfolio waiting for the next aggressive move higher. In fact, these holding periods can be beneficial: we are loading up on stocks at stagnating or lower prices. We’re able to buy more shares. The waiting is the hardest part for investors. But it is essential that we understand the benefits to sticking to our investment plan.

In January of 2021 I wondered aloud in a MoneySense post if the markets might not like what they see when we get to the other side of the pandemic. That’s an interesting post that looks back at the year 2020, the year the world changed with the first modern day pandemic. That suspicion is ‘kinda’ playing out as the markets stall and try to figure things out.

That’s not to suggest that my hunch was an investable idea. We have to stay invested.

Stick to your plan when the market gets stuck

Patience is the most important practice when it comes to wealth building. When done correctly, building life-changing wealth happens in slow motion and it is VERY boring.

Boring is good.

Waiting can be boring. But maybe it can look and feel more ‘exciting’ if we know what usually happens after the wait. Stock markets work like evolution. There are long periods of stagnation and status quo and then rapid moves and change.

Instead of boring, maybe it should feel like a kid waiting for Christmas. The good stuff is on its way.

Here’s an example of a waiting period, from 1999. The chart is from iShares, for the TSX 60 (XIU/TSX). The returns include dividend reinvestment.

And here’s the stock market ‘explosion’ after the wait.

That’s more than a double from the beginning of the waiting period.

And here’s the wait from 2007, moving through the financial crisis. Ya, that’s a 7-year wait. Talk about the 7-year itch, many investors filed for divorce from the markets.

It was a costly divorce.

Markets went on a very nice run for several years. Continue Reading…

Timeless Financial Tip #9: Beware Conflicted Financial Advice

Lowrie Financial: Canva Custom Creation

By Steve Lowrie, CFA

Special to Financial Independence Hub

There’s only so much you and I can do about life’s many surprises. Some things just happen, beyond our control. Fortunately, to make the most of your hard-earned wealth, there is one huge and timeless best practice you can control: You can (and should) avoid seeking unbiased financial advice from biased sales staff.

How do you separate solid investment advice from self-interested promotions in disguise? Here’s a handy shortcut: Are the investments coming from your friendly neighborhood banker? If so, please read the fine print — twice — before buying in. Due to inherently conflicting compensation incentives, most banks’ investment offerings are optimized to feed their profit margin, at your expense.

Compensation Incentives Matter … a Lot

I’ve been covering the conflicted compensation beat for years, like in On Big Banks, Conflicting Compensation and Bad Behaviour, and my message has remained the same, for all the same reasons:

Compensation drives behaviour.

It’s human nature.  It’s true for Canadian bankers and their investment offerings. It’s also true in the U.S. and around the globe.

For example, a 2017 Consumer Federation of America report, “Financial Advisor or Investment Salesperson?” reflects on this very conflict:

“After all, people expect salespeople to look out for their own interests and maximize profits, but advisors are expected to meet a higher standard. … Investors who unknowingly rely on biased salespeople as if they were trusted advisors can suffer real financial harm as a result.”

Let’s imagine I’m a banker, on a bank’s payroll. Pick a bank, any bank. Assume I’m at any level, from teller to VP. Here’s how my compensation package is likely structured:

  1. I can expect to earn more if I promote my employer’s proprietary Widget X products over any comparable, but generic Gadget Y offerings. Sure, Widget X will cost my customers more. But by helping me and my bank thrive, aren’t we both better off?
  2. I and my team may even score special perks if we exceed our Widget X sales quotas. There may be contests, celebrations, or at least positive performance reviews.
  3. In fact, if I don’t sell enough Widget X’s (or if I sell too many Gadget Ys), my performance reviews may suffer. I could lose my job, or at least not rise in the ranks.

Under these sales-oriented conditions, guess which investment product I’m going to recommend as often as I can? As a bank employee, I may well care about my customers. But the bottom line is that they don’t determine how much or little I am paid for my efforts. When my bank’s profits rise or fall, so does my career.

“Our Way or the Highway” Investments

In theory, banks have plenty of flexibility to structure their investment lineup however they please. They could promote the same low-cost, globally diversified, evidence-based mutual funds and ETFs that independent, fee-based, evidence-based financial advisors typically deploy.

Instead, most banks tend to heavily promote their own, proprietary investment products: built, managed, and priced in-house.

In its title alone, a 2023 The Globe and Mail report speaks volumes about this approach: “Pervasive sales culture at Canadian banks designed to push customers into high-fee products.” Its authors observe:

“The commission earned from selling the bank’s products may be five times higher than on a GIC, for example. In this way, the system incentivizes the sale of funds with higher fees, even when a GIC might be a better fit for the client.”

Suitable vs. Fiduciary Advice

At best, your bank’s compensation conundrums may leave you paying more than necessary for sound investments. Worst-case (and from what I’ve seen, more likely), you’ll end up overpaying for the “privilege” of holding investments that fail to fit your short and long-term personal financial goals.

That’s because your banker may be required to offer products that are broadly “suitable” for you, but as I’ve described before, like in What is the Cost of a Financial Advisor?, they don’t have to be the best choice for you.

There’s a big difference between suitable versus fiduciary advice. Your banker’s role as an “adviser” may sound comforting. But make no mistake. Regardless of their title or compensation, they are not in a fully fiduciary relationship with you; they don’t have to always place your highest, best interests ahead of their own. Continue Reading…

How to find your likely estate value and lifetime tax bill (for free!)

By Ted Rechtshaffen, CFP

Special to Financial Independence Hub

In my role as a Portfolio Manager, Financial Planner and President at TriDelta Private Wealth, the number one question that people ask is “Will I run out of money?”

This question comes from people with a $10 million net worth, a $3 million net worth, and a $300,000 net worth.  There may be different levels of angst involved but they still wonder.

The fundamental issue is fear.  Even if it isn’t rational, there is always a bit of fear about running out of money.  Even if running out may mean different things to different people.

Of course, for those with more wealth, the related question is almost always “Am I paying too much in tax?” and “Is there tax smart things that I should be doing that I am not?”

While we do a lot of work in each area with Canadians, we decided to build a free tool to help answer that number one question.  We have done this through our TriDelta My Estate Value calculator.  By someone entering in several core pieces of financial information, the calculator does some pretty heavy lifting.  Behind the scenes are actuarial tables to show life expectancy, tax tables, and a variety of stated assumptions around inflation, real estate and investment growth expectations.

The output is an estimate of your likely estate value in future dollars, along with a lifetime estimate of your income taxes paid.

You will find the calculator here:

My Estate Value Calculator – TriDelta Private Wealth

Donation Calculator

One other tool we have put together is a donation calculator.  It takes the information from the My Estate Value calculator and provides some ability to see the impact of annual charitable giving.  What if you gave $5,000 a year?  What would be the impact to your likely estate value and to your lifetime tax bill?  What if you gave $10,000 or $20,000 a year?  One of the reasons that we put this together is that many Canadians would give more to charity of they felt confident that they could afford to do so.  This calculator helps to show in real time the impact of higher levels of giving.  The link is here: Donation Planner – TriDelta Private Wealth

We have found that even among the free tools online, most are focused on retirement savings, and deliver a monthly savings target.  The My Estate Planner calculator is focused on the years after retirement, and what potential estate you will be leaving to your family and/or charity. Continue Reading…

Artificial intelligence is evolving in different ways – how can you best profit?

While Get Rich Quick publishers use AI for email advertising, investors combat their spam with AI-based anti-spam programs. Meanwhile, what’s the best way to profit from AI with less risk?

Image courtesy Pexels/ThisIsEngineering

AI continues to make gains, mostly in communications. (In contrast, early adopters are still waiting for a licensed, insurable, road-worthy self-driving car.) You also hear a lot about AI-related start-ups. Most seem aimed at improving existing devices and/or cutting business costs. Many have highly specific goals.

Meanwhile, AI will keep attracting investment interest.

Here’s how AI has changed one industry

As you’ve probably noticed, a boom is underway in the investment-newsletter publishing business, at least in its “GRQ” segment. (GRQ is an acronym for Get Rich Quick.)

GRQ publishers sell newsletters and related products to subscribers. Their expertise is in newsletter marketing, not investing. Many publish numerous newsletters that may offer conflicting advice. When one publication puts out a stream of bad recommendations that drive off too many customers, the publishers change the publication’s name and/or investment specialty. That way, they always have one or more fresh titles that still have customer appeal and can operate at a profit.

GRQ publishing has been around for many decades, if not centuries. But it really went into high gear in the early 2000s. That’s when email began to replace postal mail as the main carrier for newsletter advertising, and costs began to plummet.

In the days of postal mail advertising, it cost a publisher perhaps $1 per “name” to offer a newsletter subscription to prospective customers. Publishers had to create, print and mail elaborate mailing pieces. They had to rent prospect names from direct competitors, or from other publishers in the same or related fields.

Compared to the costs of paper/postal mailings a decade or two ago, today’s costs of email advertising are close to negligible. Now publishers spend heavily in other areas: direct marketing consultants, specialized writers of advertising copy for email marketing, and so on.

Some newsletter publishers seem to be using AI to help them create email ads in ever larger numbers, to send to investors who never asked for them: spam, in other words. Continue Reading…