Less than Half of Canadians have a Will and many don’t even know where to start: NIA

By Mark Venning,

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Following Canada’s National Institute on Ageing (NIA) since their beginning in 2016, it’s been a year since I last commented on the value of the NIA as a knowledge resource for Canadians on topics related to ageing and longevity.

And I would say, their regular reports, generated often in collaboration with other groups, are also a resource for anyone engaged in comparative research outside this country.

Now here’s today’s feature on one report from the NIA files from 2023 so far

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way: Exploring Canadian Perspectives on Estate Planning.

When I first received my NIA email notification of this report on May 17th, I was not surprised in the least by the lead headline: “Less than Half of Canadians Have a Will – and Many Don’t Even Know Where To Start.” For over twenty plus years, back when I was working in partnership with financial planners to deliver seminars on later life transitions, this was always a commonly known fact, and most people who didn’t have a Will knew that they should have had one.

The April 2022 Ipsos survey for this NIA report was conducted in collaboration with RBC Royal Trust. As the report details, it all starts with overall Estate Planning, and this includes setting up a Will, Powers of Attorney (POA) for care and property and, what was less discussed twenty years ago, Advanced Care Planning. As it happens my Will and POAs are ready for some small updating, but this time advanced care will also be on the agenda.

So if, as the report suggests, people know the value of planning and the subsequent sad consequences from not doing so – what’s the reason for inaction? I recall facilitating group conversations where literally some have said things like “if I do a Will, I know fate will bring me an early death” or, “I don’t have enough of an estate to worry about.” Of course the other concern I heard was about the perceived high cost of legal fees which halted the move to getting to the matter.

How fortunate for me, straightforward household budgeting and for that matter, estate planning Wills and POAs were things I learned early on at home from my parents, not from the education system. Today, learning from professionals in these topic areas should not be that intimidating or made difficult to access. Regardless of your age, picking up this report would be a great start. Continue Reading…

A Self-Checkup on your Financial Health to help your Mental Wellbeing

Image courtesy FPCanada


By Sahar Abdul Zahir, BlueShore Financial

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Many people view money as simply numbers that get you from point A to point B, and may not make a connection between how finances can also impact mental and physical health. However, FP Canada’s 2022 Financial Stress Index survey found that 38% of Canadians believe finances are their biggest source of stress, ahead of both health and relationship issues. More alarmingly, FP Canada’s study also found that 43% of respondents had lost sleep over financial anxiety.

There are a variety of reasons why many of us do not seek professional advice for our financial problems, ranging from not thinking we need the help, to being embarrassed, or not knowing where to go. Regardless of the reason, there is a clear link between finances, anxiety, stress, and mental health, and avoidance of the problem is not the answer. The good news is, there are many steps you can take today to help get yourself back on track.

Understand your relationship with money

Many people still believe that talking about money is taboo, or feel embarrassed to discuss financial troubles, even with a professional. Financial literacy should begin at an early age and continue as a lifelong learning process. Having an open dialogue around finances and money management as a family can be a good thing as your experience with money, or lack thereof, in your childhood can impact your attitude and emotions towards money later in life. Make note of impulse buying behaviour and what may trigger it: perhaps a hard day at work, or an argument with your partner. Understanding these spending patterns will allow you to find better ways to manage these stresses and adjust accordingly.

Financial health checkups

Just like doing a regular physical health checkup, having periodic financial wellness checkups is important for detecting any areas that you should focus on. This can be done by completing a thorough audit of finances, budgets, and plans with an advisor. An annual checkup can help you better prepare for the future and minimize the impact of any surprise events. Also utilizing online advice tools such as BlueShore’s Financial Wellness Checkup tool can help get you started, by providing an assessment of how you are doing, and advice on where you need to improve along your path to financial wellness.

Small cuts for long-term impact

We have all heard the latte-a-day and avocado toast analogy. While these items can seem like small expenses that are not likely to make a big impact on our overall financial health, they are really representative of our spending habits. Cutting out your morning coffee is not going to make you wealthy, but you may have some ongoing small expenditures that quickly add up and could affect your long-term financial goals. Continue Reading…

The superiority of Canadian “Robo Advisors” over mutual funds

By Dale Roberts, cutthecrapinvesting

Special to Financial Independence Hub

This is a battle between lower-fee Canadian Robo Advisor portfolios vs high-fee Canadian mutual funds. As you are likely aware, Canadians pay some of the highest investment fees in the world. Larry Bates, the author of Beat The Bank, calls those fees wealth destroyers. Lowering fees is one of the most predictable ways to increase your investment returns. More money stays in the right pocket; your pocket. By way of the Questwealth Portfolios (from Questrade) let’s have a look at the superiority of Robo Advisors over Canadian mutual funds.

Here’s the review of Larry’s Beat The Bank. That is a must read. On Larry’s site you will also find a tool that will calculate the cost of high investment fees.

The Questwealth Portfolios

There are three simple ways that Canadians can leave behind their advisor and high fee mutual funds. If you want investment advice and managed global ETF portfolios, you can look to one of the Canadian Robo Advisors.

Here is a post on what is a Robo Advisor? As you’re about to discover, this is a far superior approach to a typical high-fee mutual fund. Also consider that most high-fee mutual funds in Canada are offered by salespersons and not ‘real’ advisors.

Questwealth is one of the Canadian Robo Advisors. And don’t be fooled by that Robo word. While you can choose to do everything online from start to finish, real humans are available for investment advice and guidance. And at a shop such as Justwealth you’ll have a dedicated advisor, with financial planning available.

You can have it all in a low-fee environment.

Not investing with Mom and Dad’s guy

Questwealth offers the Questwealth Portfolios. They are the lowest fee Robo offering in Canada. And they are famous for their advertising. Many younger Canadians are not following their Mom and Dad, running into the bank, Investor’s Group or AGF (or other mutual fund sales shop) to fill the pockets of advisors and mutual fund creators. Nope, they are learning how to self-direct and how to take control of their own wealth building destiny.

In one commercial the younger brother turns to his embarrassed older bro and offers …

You’re not still investing with Mom and Dad’s guy, are you?

It’s nice to see many Canadians become their own advisor. Keep that 2% or more in your own pocket. You’ll need bigger pockets, by the way.

Questwealth Portfolios vs Canadian mutual funds

Questrade suggests (based on the simple fee math) that over time Canadians could retire 30% wealthier. That said, it’s a much greater benefit than that 30% suggestion. Based on the return differential to date, you’d be looking at returns that are 50% better (or more) over a 30-year period. Retiring with 50% more is obviously life changing.

And of course, a 5-year performance is a shorter period, but it aligns with the known underperformance of high-fee actively-managed Canadian mutual funds.

Also, past performance does not guarantee future returns.

You’ll find a calculator on their site.

Here’s the Questwealth Portfolios vs typical or average mutual funds in Canada, to the end of February 2023. The mutual fund returns are based on Questrade calculations, looking at the available data for the mutual fund space. That list and returns for the individual mutual funds was also provided to me.

And here’s Questwealth vs the RBC Select balanced mutual funds.

And here is a post that looks at Justwealth vs Canadian bank mutual funds.

The outperformance is outrageous.

Ditch your high-fee mutual funds

It appears to be a no-brainer: ditch your high-fee Canadian mutual funds. If you decide that a Robo option such as the Questwealth Portfolios is right for you, you’ll find it is an easy process to make the move. They can help you with the transfer process.

Here’s the link to Questrade.

But please pay attention to any tax consequences should you have any taxable accounts. You might consider Justwealth if you need to transfer considerable taxable amounts. They can accept your taxable account mutual funds and will drawdown the assets over time in a tax-efficient manner.

Create your own ETF Portfolio

If you want to leave your mutual funds behind, you can also create your own ETF portfolio. Here’s the performance of the core ETF portfolios.

Continue Reading…

Learn to spot the investment Rules of Thumb that maximize portfolio returns

Some investment rules of thumb will help your portfolio, while others will cost you money. Here’s how to tell the difference.

You can find numerous investment rules of thumb that aim to tell you when to buy or sell. Most are based on chart-reading or technical analysis. All these work at times, but none work consistently. When they fail, the profits you miss out on are likely to overwhelm any risk they help you avoid.

Meanwhile, one of the top investment rules of thumb — that does work — is that you can cut way down on times when you really need to sell by consistently buying well-established, high-quality stocks.

These stocks can still drop sharply when the economy falters or bad news strikes, of course. But these are the stocks that snap back quickest and most reliably when the trend reverses and bad news comes less often. That’s why it generally pays to hold on to stocks like these through market setbacks.

Here are successful investment rules of thumb to help bring profits to your portfolio

  • Avoid buying and selling too often
  • Avoid buying too many low-quality investments
  • Avoid portfolio tinkering, especially when it comes to selling stocks that have gone up too far and too fast
  • Diversify across industry sectors
  • Avoid buying too many stocks in the broker/media limelight
  • Build a balanced portfolio
  • Utilize proven strategies for compound interest
  • Keep fees low with traditional ETF picks
  • Look for hidden assets
  • Look for dividend-paying stocks

One of the best investment rules of thumb is to stay out of new stock issues

Companies sell new issues (also called Initial Public Offerings, or IPOs) to the public when they feel it’s a good time to sell. That may not be, and often isn’t, a good time for you to buy.

In addition, the underwriting brokerage firms try to spark publicity about the new issue, and they pay extra commission (as much as double the regular rates) to spur their salespeople to sell the new issue to their clients. This tends to create a high-water mark in the price of the new issue. Unless the new company can follow up with business success, the price of the new issue may languish for months or years.

Some new stock issues — so-called “hot new issues” — depart from this pattern. They begin moving up as soon as they hit the market. Some even “gap upward” on their first day of trading: that is, their first public trading takes place well above the new issue price.

This possibility attracts buyers who fail to appreciate how rare it is. In addition, the underwriting brokers can generally tell when this is going to happen, by judging the reaction of their biggest clients (who of course get first pick on their new issues), and the media. They reserve most of their allotments of hot new issues to their biggest and best clients. Continue Reading…

ETF Fees: What you need to know before investing

By Sa’ad Rana, Senior Associate – ETF Online Distribution, BMO ETFs

(Sponsor Blog)

Investing in Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) can be a smart move for many investors, but it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of the costs and fees associated with these investment vehicles. In this blog post, we will decode the various expenses and provide valuable insights to help you make informed decisions.

Expense Ratio: Unveiling the Components

The expense ratio is a fundamental factor to consider when evaluating ETF costs. It encompasses several elements, including:

  1. Management fees: ETFs charge management fees for the professional management of the fund.
  2. Operating expenses: These expenses cover administrative costs, custody fees, and legal fees.
  3. Trading costs: ETFs incur costs associated with buying and selling the underlying assets that make up the fund.
  4. Taxes: ETFs may also be subject to taxes including, interest, dividend, and capital gains taxes, which are passed on to investors.

The expense ratio is typically expressed as an annual percentage of the total assets under management (AUM) and is deducted from the ETF’s net asset value (NAV). For instance, if an ETF has an expense ratio of 0.50% and an NAV per unit of $100, the annual cost to investors would amount to $0.50/unit.

Exploring Other Cost Considerations

  1. Tracking Error: Although ETFs aim to replicate the performance of an underlying index or asset class, certain factors such as fees, market conditions, market timing, currency, and tracking methodology can lead to a difference between the ETF’s returns and the index it tracks. This disparity is known as tracking error.
  1. Bid-Ask Spread: The bid-ask spread represents the difference between the highest price a buyer is willing to pay and the lowest price a seller is willing to accept for an ETF. Liquidity, market conditions, ETF characteristics, trading volume, and market maker activity influence the bid-ask spread. Narrower spreads are generally observed with higher liquidity and trading volumes, while wider spreads are prevalent with lower volumes and niche markets. Investors should consider bid-ask spreads, as they can affect transaction costs and overall investment returns. To mitigate these costs, investors can use limit orders to specify their desired price and potentially minimize the impact of wider spreads.
  1. Currency Hedging: ETFs provide easy access to assets from different regions worldwide. Investing in non-Canadian assets expose investors to two potential sources of return: the return of the security and the return of the foreign currency relative to the Canadian dollar (CAD). Currency fluctuations can have either a positive or negative impact on your total return. Currency-hedged ETF solutions are available and aim to mitigate the impact of currency fluctuations, allowing investors to participate in global markets as if they were local. It is important to understand however, that there is a cost for currency hedging. At BMO ETFs this cost is minimal as we use forward currency contracts to hedge purposes which are very cost effective.   Continue Reading…