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Making the most of an RESP

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With kids heading back to school, education planning and registered education savings plans (RESPs) are at the forefront of discussions that financial advisers are having with many investors – whether these clients have children in a postsecondary institution or saving for them to go into one in the future.

The RESP is an enticing vehicle for investors because the federal government provides a 20-per-cent matching grant through the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG), which is subject to both an annual maximum of $500 and a lifetime maximum of $7,200. The unused CESG accumulates each year a child is alive, even if no RESP is open. And if no contribution was made in a year of the child’s life, a double contribution can be made to reach back for a year of the grant. There are no annual limits on contributions, but there is a lifetime limit of $50,000.

When investors contribute toward a child’s RESP, conventional wisdom tells us that they should take advantage of the free money in the 20-per-cent CESG. But is that always the right decision? Let’s consider three scenarios for contributing to the RESP, assuming a 5-per-cent annual rate of return:

Scenario 1: The investor contributes $2,500 a year, beginning when the child is first born, to the maximum of $50,000. The RESP receives $7,200 from the CESG and produces total income and growth of $43,654. The total value of the RESP when the child is 19 years old is $100,854.

Scenario 2: The investor contributes $50,000 into the child’s RESP in the first year of the child’s life. The RESP receives only $500 in CESG, but produces income and growth of $83,492 for a total RESP value of $133,992 when the child is 19 years of age.

Scenario 3: The investor contributes $16,500 into the child’s RESP in the first year, then contributes $2,500 a year thereafter until reaching the lifetime limit of $50,000. The RESP receives the full CESG of $7,200 and produces income and growth of $62,386. The total value of the RESP when the child is 19 is $121,486.

What this shows is that front-loading RESP contributions is more valuable than receiving the government grant. Of course, for many people, putting $50,000 into an RESP in the first year of a child’s life is unfeasible, but the more that could be invested at once earlier on, the better.

If the RESP is maximized and additional educational savings are desired, two other methods can be used to save for a child’s education. First, if the child is 18 years of age or older, she will have contribution room in her tax-free savings account (TFSA). Thus, contributions could be made to the child’s TFSA to supplement the RESP. Second, if the child is under the age of 18, an informal trust could be used to save for her education. (A note on taxes: If the contributions to the informal trust come from the parents, then income from the account will attribute to the parents for tax purposes, but capital gains will not.)

When it’s time for the child to draw down on the RESP, the account is divided into three sections: contributions, CESG, and income and growth. The contributions could be withdrawn tax-free; but the the CESG and the income and growth must be withdrawn as an Educational Assistance Payment (EAP), which is taxable to the child.

There are no restrictions on withdrawing the contributions once the child is attending a postsecondary institution. The EAP does have some additional rules. The main ones are that the child must provide proof of attending a qualifying institution and that the withdrawal is limited to $5,000 in the first 13 weeks when the child begins postsecondary education.

Those restrictions aside, it’s best to maximize the EAP withdrawals over the contributions wherever possible. Any remaining grant is repaid to the government and any remaining income or growth is taxable to the subscriber (parent) as an Accumulated Income Payment (AIP).

The AIP not only has the detraction of being taxed at the subscriber’s marginal tax rate, but also carries a 20-per-cent tax penalty on top of that. The 20-per-cent tax penalty is taken off the top and then the remaining 80 per cent is included as income to the subscriber. The only ways to avoid this tax penalty and retain the value of the assets in the RESP are for the investor to transfer up to $50,000 of these assets to his or her registered retirement savings plan, if he or she has the contribution room, or to another child under a family RESP plan.

Having these EAP payments taxed in the child’s hands is the most advantageous. Even if the child is working while she’s in school and has income in excess of the basic personal amount, her education credits will be enough to offset any taxes owing from the RESP, in most cases.

As much as it’s advantageous to maximize the EAP, in the case of a family RESP, the subscriber must ensure he or she doesn’t exceed $7,200 of CESG withdrawal per child. Each child is permitted only $7,200 of CESG as a maximum. Thus, if more than that amount is withdrawn from the CESG for the older child, the government will demand repayment and take the overpaid grant funds back from the RESP. That, in effect, means those assets are lost to the younger child.

The RESP is a great savings tool. Understanding its intricacies will help to maximize its value. On the flip side, failure to do so could be a costly mistake for investors and their children.

Reprinted from the Globe and Mail, August 28, 2019.

Matthew Ardrey
Written By:
Matthew Ardrey
VP, Wealth Advisor
matt@tridelta.ca
(416) 733-3292 x230

FINANCIAL FACELIFT: Rosy projection for long European vacation, then retirement in B.C. hides ‘substantial risk’

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Below you will find a real life case study of a couple who are looking for financial advice on how best to arrange their financial affairs. Their names and details have been changed to protect their identity. The Globe and Mail often seeks the advice of our VP, Wealth Advisor, Matthew Ardrey, to review and analyze the situation and then provide his solutions to the participants.

gam-masthead
Written by:
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published August 2, 2019

To celebrate the sale of their house for an impressive sum, Dave and Deborah are planning a long European holiday followed by a big move: from Toronto to a popular retirement destination in British Columbia, where they plan to buy a new home.

Dave, who is 67 and self-employed, will be retiring from a successful career in communications. Deborah, who is 57, is self-employed in the human-resources field. She plans to continue working part-time after they return from overseas. Together, they have substantial savings and investments.

“Our big change is that we have just sold our house in Toronto for $1.7-million net and will be taking a year and a half to travel in Europe when the sale closes,” Deborah writes in an e-mail. “The idea is to invest the proceeds from the house sale in a self-directed [discount brokerage] account consisting entirely of dividend equities,” Deborah adds. “My husband doesn’t like bonds as an investment.”

They would live off the dividends while they are in Europe, Deborah adds, then use the lion’s share of the principal to buy a house in B.C. Dave manages their investments. “He is the first to admit he is not a professional investor and feels he’s in a bit over his head,” Deborah writes. Once they return to Canada, their retirement spending target is $90,000 a year after tax.

We asked Matthew Ardrey, a vice-president and financial planner at TriDelta Financial in Toronto, to look at Dave and Deborah’s situation.

What the expert says

When their house sale closes, Dave and Deborah plan to use $53,000 of the $1.7-million proceeds to top off Dave’s tax-free savings account, Mr. Ardrey says. They plan to invest the remainder in “dividend aristocrats” and live off the dividend income while overseas. When they return to Canada at the end of 2020, they plan to buy a home for an estimated cost of $1.3-million.

Mr. Ardrey’s calculations include spending of $120,000 a year in Europe (which would not be covered entirely by the dividend income), retirement spending of $90,000 a year after tax, an inflation rate of 2 per cent a year, and that Deborah earns $20,000 a year working part-time to the age of 65. Both save the maximum to their TFSAs each year, but they no longer contribute to their registered retirement savings plans. They delay collecting Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits until the age of 70 to get the higher payments.

In addition to their house sale proceeds, the couple have $685,000 in RRSPs and $98,000 in TFSAs. Dave also has $544,000 in a corporate investment account that he can draw tax-free.

Next, Mr. Ardrey looks at the couple’s existing investments. Their current asset mix is 9-per-cent cash equivalents, 1-per-cent bonds and 90-per-cent stocks and stock funds. Of the 90 per cent in stocks, 45 per cent is in Canada, 38 per cent in the United States and 7 per cent is international. The historical rate of return is 5.4 per cent. Because they have a substantial proportion in exchange-traded funds, their investment cost is only 0.39 per cent a year, leaving them with a rate of return net of costs of 5.01 per cent.

“Based on these assumptions, Dave and Deborah will be able to meet their retirement goals,” Mr. Ardrey says. Deborah would still have total assets of $5.3-million by the time she is 90, the planner says. If they wanted to spend more and leave only their home as an estate, they could increase their spending by $24,000 a year to $114,000.

What could go wrong?

“Though this projection looks quite rosy, I would be remiss if I did not address the substantial risk in their plan,” Mr. Ardrey says. “Equity volatility.” Including the house-sale proceeds, Dave and Deborah would have 96 per cent of their assets invested in stocks during their stay in Europe.

They’d be ignoring a basic rule of investing: Don’t invest money that is needed short term in marketable securities.

“What if, during their European dream vacation, stock markets had a major decline?” the planner asks. That would affect their retirement plans dramatically. He looks at a second case where their portfolio suffers a 20-per-cent drop during that time. Rather than being able to surpass their spending target, they’d have to pare it from $90,000 a year to $84,000.

Mr. Ardrey suggests some alternatives. The $1.3-million they’ll need to buy a new home in a year or so should be invested in guaranteed investment certificates, or GICs, where they’d be sure to get their money back. “The primary goal of these funds needs to be capital preservation,” the planner says. Dave and Deborah should keep in mind deposit insurance limits, he says. Canada Deposit Insurance Corp. insures Canadian-dollar deposits at its member institutions up to a maximum of $100,000 (principal and interest) for each account. For example, they could open an account in Dave’s name, another in Deborah’s and a joint account at each of four institutions for $100,000 each. “So they could fill their need with four institutions for most of the savings and $100,000 more at a fifth,” he adds.

“Another option would be to purchase the home in B.C. before leaving on their trip,” Mr. Ardrey says. This would remove any uncertainty about what they will have to pay.

With the remaining investments, Dave and Deborah should look at revising their strategy to reduce their stock-market risk, the planner says. They should have a balanced portfolio of large-capitalization stocks with strong dividends and a mix of corporate and government bonds of different durations. Although Dave isn’t keen on bonds, they could enhance their fixed-income returns – and reduce volatility in their portfolio – by investing a portion of their capital in carefully vetted private debt and income funds, Mr. Ardrey says.

These private funds can be bought through an investment counsellor. If they hired one and put a portion of their fixed-income assets in private debt and income funds, they would have a projected return of 6.5 per cent with 1.25 per cent a year in investment costs, for a net return of 5.25 per cent. That’s better than the 5.01-per-cent historical rate of return on their existing portfolio and it would reduce their investment risk.

Client situation

The person: Dave, 67, and Deborah, 57

The problem: How sound is their plan to invest the proceeds of their house sale in blue-chip stocks and live off the dividends for the time they are in Europe?

The plan: Invest the money needed to buy the new house in GICs, or consider buying the house in B.C. now.

The payoff: Greatly reduced investment risk

Monthly net income: $8,335

Assets: Cash $15,000; stocks $544,070; her TFSA $79,640; his TFSA $18,775; her RRSP $419,995; his RRSP $264,640, residence $1.8-million. Total: $3.1-million

Monthly outlays: Property tax $685; home insurance $195; utilities $250; maintenance, garden $125; transportation $400; groceries $290; clothing $175; gifts, charity $80; vacation, travel $200; personal care $90; dining, drinks, entertainment $255; subscriptions $35; doctors, dentists $165; drugstore $35; phones, TV, internet $280; RRSPs $1,500; TFSAs $900. Total: $5,660

Liabilities: None

Want a free financial facelift? E-mail finfacelift@gmail.com.

Some details may be changed to protect the privacy of the persons profiled.

Matthew Ardrey
Presented By:
Matthew Ardrey
VP, Wealth Advisor
matt@tridelta.ca
(416) 733-3292 x230

TriDelta Q2 Report – The Fed to the Rescue

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The second quarter of 2019 has felt a little like Canada’s Wonderland. You climb the roller coaster, then you experience big ‘wind in your hair’ descent, then another climb. At TriDelta, we definitely work to smooth out your portfolio returns much more than the typical stock market, but I am sure that most of you still felt a bit of the roller coaster as you reviewed portfolios online or through monthly statements.

While the overall returns for equity markets were positive in the second quarter, volatility returned in May. After the stock market continued its strong year-to-date returns in April with the S&P500 (US) rising by 3.9%, the S&P/TSX Composite (Canada) increasing by 3% and Euro Stoxx 50 (Europe) up 4.9%, May saw the reversal of fortunes with the S&P500 declining 6.6%, TSX dropping 3.3% and Europe down 6.7%. June returns were positive again at +5% for the S&P500 (although only 1.8% in Canadian dollars due to a 3% increase in CAD during the month), +0.5% for the TSX and +3.7% for Europe.

Bonds performed well with the FTSE TSX Bond Universe index rising by 2.55%. during the quarter with much lower volatility than the stock market (bonds have sold off a bit so far in July). Preferred shares continued to struggle, with the BMO 50 Preferred Share index declining by 2.4% in the quarter, but have performed well recently with a 0.5% rise in June and so far +1.5% in July. Preferred shares continue to offer high tax-efficient dividend yields, especially relative to other income investments. If bonds prices stabilize, preferred shares could also enjoy some capital gain. For more information on the Preferred Shares market, the reason for its decline, and the opportunity for positive future returns, please click here.

While declines can be stressful, even during periods of overall rising equity markets, it is worth remembering that equity markets have typically provided higher returns than most other asset classes, particularly bonds, but with much higher volatility. Even though equity markets (as represented by the S&P500 in the US) have generated positive calendar year returns roughly 70% of the time, in a typical calendar year, equity markets experience declines of 5% or more 3 times and one decline of 10% or more.

TriDelta clients on average were up between 0.25% and 1.5% during the quarter with the biggest difference being the percentage exposure to Preferred Shares. Our basket of alternative investments continued to perform in line with expectations, with private debt funds up approx. 2%, mortgage investment funds up 1%-2% and real estate up 2.5%, outperforming stocks.

So the key question for most investors is why the strength in April and June vs. declines in May? And more importantly, are we in for weak equity markets like we experienced in Q4 2018 when the S&P500 fell 20% from its peak before recovering? Or can we expect strong market conditions, like Q1 2019 when nearly all major markets were up at least 10%?

Earnings, valuations, cash flows and growth rates should ultimately dictate long-term returns for investors. In fact, most classic equity and market valuation models are based on trying to forecast future earnings and cash flows from an investment based on growth rates, but also bond yields. Sometimes, short-term declines are the result of seasonal factors, or major headlines, such as the continued trade discussions between US and China and in May the threat of US tariffs on Mexico. Often though there may be no clear reason for short-term declines. But in recent years, accommodative monetary policy has definitely been a factor in the strength of (and sometimes weakness in) the equity markets.

Why Central Banks Matter?

Central Banks main goal is to use monetary policy (primarily by setting government interest rates, but also by buying and selling government or related bonds in the market) to keep inflation at stable, predictable levels (price stability). The US central bank, the Federal Reserve, actually has two mandates of price stability and full employment.

Since 2008, central banks lowered interest rates to unprecedented levels and even engaged in quantitative easing, buying long dated bonds, to lower longer-term interest rates. The actions of central banks influence money supply, bond yields and even overall economic growth as more flexible monetary conditions can help protect companies and investors. Companies with higher levels of debt can more easily pay and finance credit. Lower borrowing costs can increase profits for corporations and can be used for dividend increases or share buybacks. Lower rates also encourage individuals and endowments to invest in riskier assets when holding cash that offers only meager returns. Higher dividend paying equities appear more attractive in a low yield environment as they offer higher yields than bonds with the potential for upside (they also have the potential for downside if prices drop). Higher valuations seem more reasonable in an environment of low rates, so stock prices go up and investors seeking higher returns bid up growth stocks.

The Q4 2018 sell-off was impacted by fears of slowing growth, a breakdown in US-China trade discussions, but also due to more hawkish central banks. In fact, when the US Federal Reserve (the ‘Fed’) raised rates in December, then commented that it expected future interest rate increases AND expected further reductions in its bond holdings, this threw fire on an already nervous equity market, accelerating declines in stocks, before recovery began just after Christmas.

Presently, US President Trump is demanding that the Federal Reserve reduce rates, Wall Street is anticipating a rate cut later this month AND at least two more rate cuts within twelve months. If this were to occur, the Bank of Canada, which has been neutral, would have to lower rates as well or see the Canadian dollar rise significantly due to the higher yield of Canadian bonds vs. US bonds. The problem is that while yes the world’s growth rate is slowing and lowering rates would help spur growth, most US economists do not see the need for rate cuts. They still anticipate GDP growth of over 2% in both 2019 and 2020, slower, but still a good growth rate for an advanced economy ten years into a recovery. They expect the unemployment rate, already near historical lows, to decline even further, and for inflation to be slightly above 2% (the Fed’s target rate), so these economists do not see a need for near-term rate cuts. (Source: Blomberg Economics, July 8, 2019). Most members of the Federal Reserve are economists. So who will win? Wall Street and the President or the more conservative economists? Much like the Kawhi Leonard watch to determine which basketball team he signed with, the Fed’s decision will also be followed and analyzed throughout the summer.

US Federal Reserve Interest Rate Expectations

The green line reflects the projected Federal Funds Rate (interest rates) per members of the Federal Reserve at July 12, 2019. The yellow line reflected those projections at December 31, 2018. For example, at the end of 2018, the Fed expected rates to stay at approximately 2.4% in one year’s time and now expect rates to be closer to 1.5% over that period.

At TriDelta, we think the result is likely to be somewhere in the middle. We will get at least one rate cut in 2019, but possibly later than July and we may see only 1-2 additional cuts within the next 12 months. If this is the case, Wall Street is likely to be disappointed and we could be in for a few months of volatility.

As a result, we have focused equally on capital preservation as well as growth. The stocks currently in the equity portfolios have higher yields than the overall market, as well as lower volatility (Beta) and cheaper valuations (as measured by Price / Earnings ratios). We also presently hold higher levels of cash in our equity funds. Our bond portfolios hold shorter terms to maturity than the Canadian bond universe and has improved its credit quality. We also continue to believe that investing a portion of clients’ portfolios in income-focused alternative investments should provide less volatility and a higher level of income than a typical stock and bond only balanced portfolio.

We will continue to monitor market conditions, particularly leading indicators, developments in trade discussions and their impact on the world economy, as well as technical factors that may give indications of potential market movements and which sectors to favour.

Update on Private Investments

At the end of Q2, both TriDelta Fixed Income and High Income Balanced Funds made additional distributions based on investments being sold or maturing. Distributions for the Fixed Income Fund were roughly 0.5% and just over 13% for the High Income Balanced Fund. Additional distributions are expected near the end of Q3 as certain bonds mature and others are sold.

Summary:

We continue to search for value in under covered areas of the market, such as a promissory note issued by a leader in the litigation finance field that pays our clients a 10% yield, as well as stocks, preferred shares and bonds trading below historical averages or offering higher levels of growth than are priced in by the market. We are also focused on capital preservation, income and reducing overall risk through prudent management and diversification.

We hope that you have a chance to enjoy the sunshine and good weather that we are presently experiencing. Summers in Canada are too short, so they must be savoured.

 

TriDelta Investment Management Committee

Cameron Winser

VP, Equities

Ted Rechtshaffen

President and CEO

Anton Tucker

Exec VP and Portfolio Manager

Lorne Zeiler

VP, Portfolio Manager and
Wealth Advisor

What Happened to the Preferred Shares Market?

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The stock market suffered a big market drop in the Fall / early Winter, but has since had a substantial recovery. Bonds posted solid returns this past year. Preferred shares have had a very different experience. They declined last year, had a modest recovery and have sold off again in the past few months, leaving many preferred share investors wondering what has happened to the preferred share market and will it ever recover.

The Past Year

Preferred share returns have been anything but preferred over the past few years. In the past 12 months to May 31, the BMO 50 Preferred Share Index has declined by nearly 13.5% on a total return basis (including dividends received), with Fixed Rate Resets down 15%, Floating Rate Preferreds down an incredible 27% and only Perpetuals providing a positive return of 4.3% (price only return is still -1.3% for the past twelve months). On a five year basis, preferred share returns, including dividends have been essentially flat, but on price alone basis, preferred share prices have dropped nearly 23%. Fixed Reset preferred shares have seen their prices drop by over 30% in that same period.[i] Weren’t these investments supposed to be safer than stocks? Does it make sense to still hold them and when can investors expect a positive return?

Preferred Share Structure

Preferred shares are considered to be a hybrid security as they pay a fixed coupon payment (although sometimes the coupon payment is reset at specific intervals) similar to bonds. They also rank between bonds and equity in terms of security, i.e. a preferred shareholder is paid out after the bondholders, but before equity holders and preferred shares offer daily liquidity as they trade on the stock exchange (TSX). For these reasons, they were considered safer and less volatile than equity, but not as safe as bonds.

For many years, preferred shares were an income focused investment that either paid a consistent dividend amount (perpetuals) or the dividend amount changed with short-term interest rates (floating rate). These preferred shares offered a higher yield than equivalent bonds, but the yield premium today is substantially more than it has been historically. Many perpetual preferred shares are paying yields of 5.5%, a 3.8% premium over 30 year Government of Canada bonds that yield only 1.7%.

Things changed dramatically in the preferred share space when fixed reset preferred shares entered the market. Fixed rate reset preferred shares, which pay a fixed dividend rate for 5 years from date of issue are structured in the issuer’s favour. On the 5 year anniversary date, the dividend rate is reset based on the yield of the 5 year Government of Canada bond plus a specific premium yield that was set out at inception. But, if yields have gone up or if the issuer can finance at a cheaper rate, the preferred share can be called at par value.

The rate reset preferred shares became very popular with investors following the 2008 financial crisis, as they were looking for shorter-dated, higher yielding hybrid securities. Fixed resets now comprise approximately 75% of the entire preferred share market.

Many investors thought in 2008 – 2010 that they were buying a 5 year fixed rate preferred share, either not understanding or caring about the rate reset structure. In many cases, these preferred shares may have been mis-sold as 5 year fixed investments without contemplation of the risk that the dividend rate could be reset lower (reset risk) on the anniversary date.

In late 2014-2015 when oil prices cratered, Alberta went into recession and the Bank of Canada cut interest rates, many rate reset preferred shares dropped substantially in price. For example, a preferred share with a 5% yield, but with a rate reset formula of 5 Year Government of Canada plus 2%, saw the new dividend rate drop to 3% or less as 5 year government of Canada bond yields slipped below 1%. Prices on some rate reset preferred shares dropped over 30% within a year. While prices of rate reset preferred shares did go up when the economy started to improve and bond yields started to climb, the sheen had come off rate reset preferred shares.

This Last Year

There have been a few causes for the drop-off in preferred shares over the past year, but the drop has likely been too far and too fast, making many preferred share bargains, offering fairly high yields and the potential for price appreciation (see chart). The causes for the drop are below.

Bond Yields: The biggest investment change over the past year has been the shift in sentiment about interest rates. Early in 2018, the question was how many more times rates would rise and the yield curve reflected this. For example, 5 Year Government of Canada bonds were yielding 2.1% one year ago, but only about 1.35% presently. The yield curve has inverted for much of 2019. This is a scenario when longer-term interest rates are lower than short-term rates. The inverted yield curve often indicates that rate cuts are expected in the short-term and that the economy is slowing. Yet in this environment, stocks have gone up, bonds have gone up, while preferred shares have sold off dramatically.

As investors are supposed to be forward-looking, many have demanded higher current yields for their preferred shares, particularly rate resets, to offset the potential risk that the dividend rate will be reset lower. In many cases, the price drop has been overdone. Enbridge preferred share series D (ENB.PR.D) has seen its share price drop by over 20% in the past year. Yet, its dividend will not be reset for nearly 4 years and is currently paying a yield of 7.2%, nearly 6% higher than the 5 year Government of Canada bonds.

Index Funds: ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) offer many advantages to investors, such as low cost, liquidity and diversification, but many investors assume that the underlying investments within the ETF are just as liquid as the ETF itself. In the case of preferred shares, this belief is wrong. Preferred shares are often smaller issues of $200 million or less and since many investors have a buy and hold mentality, they do not necessarily trade much. When preferred share ETFs experience sell-offs, the underlying preferred shares have to be sold down, regardless of price. This can make a small decline in the market much more substantial.

Investors Fleeing the Asset Class (Once Bitten, Twice Shy): Many investors who lost money in 2015 on preferred shares have decided to sell their remaining preferred shares or to simply avoid the asset class, by allocating their money to stocks and bonds instead. The last time preferred shares experienced this huge sell-off, institutional investors, like pension funds, began to buy into the market. So far, these investors have not yet returned to this asset class, but at some point low prices and high yields should attract greater interest.

Are Preferred Shares Worth Buying Today?

In general, I think the answer is yes, but some areas offer more compelling value.

Perpetual preferred shares – As mentioned previously, these preferred shares pay the same rate in perpetuity with no risk of the rate being reset. The vast majority of issuers are high quality, investment grade companies, such as the Banks, Life Insurance companies, and Utilities. While their sell-off has been much less than other parts of the market, their prices typically go up when bond yields are dropping, as the consistent high dividend rate should be of greater value to income investors in a low rate environment. For example, as 30 year bond rates have dropped over 0.5% in the past year, long-dated fixed income investments should have experienced price increases of over 10% based on financial math.

As a result, many of these perpetual preferred shares are offering dividend yields of well over 5%, a premium of over 3.5% vs. government bonds. Considering that many investors who are in or near retirement need income from their investments and are targeting return rates of 4% – 6% in their financial plans, shouldn’t an investment that pays consistent, tax-advantaged dividends at a rate of between 5%-6% be in high demand? Yes. They should. For long-term income investors, these preferred shares offer yields high enough to meet their spending needs and an opportunity for capital appreciation.

Deep Discount Rate Reset Preferred Shares. The rate reset market, which has caused most of the problem, also offers great opportunities. Currently, there are many rate reset preferred shares offering yields of 6.5% or more, are likely 3 or more years away from being reset and are likely to be reset at similar or higher rates, so you are getting more than fairly paid for the interest rate risk.

Selected Opportunities in Perpetual Preferred Shares

ISSUER Current Yield [ii] Premium over Bonds [iii]
WN.PR.D (George Weston) 5.5% 3.8%
BAM.PR.N (Brookfield Asset Management) 6.0% 4.3%
ELF.PR.F (E-L Financial) 5.5% 3.8%
IFC.PR.F (Intact Financial) 5.5% 3.8%
SLF.PR.D (SunLife) 5.5% 3.8%

 

Selected Opportunities in Rate Reset Preferred Shares

ISSUER Current Yield Premium Over Bonds [iv] Reset Date Projected Reset Rate [v]
BPO.PR.T (Brookfield Properties) 7.6% 6.3% Dec. 2023 6.3%
ENB.PR.D (Enbridge) 7.3% 6.0% March 2023 6.0%
FFH.PR.E (Fairfax Financial) 5.4% 4.1% March 2020 6.5%
NA.PR.S (National Bank) 5.8% 4.5% May 2024 5.3%

 

Preferred Share – Case to Buy Them Today

Warren Buffet has often said that the key to investing is buying good companies at fair prices. I believe anytime that you can invest in high quality assets at a cheap price is equally effective. Preferred share issuers are typically investment grade companies, so there is limited credit risk. The dividend payments rank in priority to equity holders and most importantly, they are trading today at substantial price discounts relative to the yield premium investors can collect over bonds. Perpetual preferred shares are paying premiums of nearly 4% over long dated bonds. Typically, this premium is closer to 2%. Rate resets do carry some interest rate risk but that can be reduced substantially by buying issues with different maturity dates while investors can collect premiums of 5% or more over bonds.

In late 2008 through 2009, I bought preferred shares for myself and my clients to earn a high dividend rate with minimal risk of default based on the high quality of the issuers. I also figured that there was a good chance for price appreciation when more normal market conditions returned. By 2011, many of those preferred shares were up over 20% and had paid over 10% in dividends. Preferred shares are unloved today, but definitely offer significant value and a high rate of tax advantaged income. Income investors who do not own them, should definitely consider adding preferred shares to their portfolios, while those that do own them presently will continue to receive high levels of income and may be rewarded for their patience.

[i] Source: BMO CM 50 Preferred Share Index – May 2019. BMO Capital Markets
[ii] Based on June 18, 2019 market prices
[iii] 30 Year Government of Canada Bond
[iv] 5 Year Government of Canada Bond
[v] Based on 5 Year Government of Canada Bond at June 18, 2019 and reset spread

Lorne Zeiler
Written By:
Lorne Zeiler, MBA, CFA
VP, Portfolio Manager
lorne@tridelta.ca
416-733-3292 x225

The Spousal RRSP – Does it still have a place in Retirement Planning?

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One of the more frequent questions I get from clients regarding their retirement planning is, with the pension income splitting legislation, are spousal RRSPs worthwhile anymore? The answer is yes, in several situations.

Before I outline the planning situations that are useful for spousal RRSPs, first a little primer on what they are and how pension income splitting changed the view of them.

Spousal RRSPs

A spousal RRSP is a RRSP account in which one spouse makes contributions based on his/her room to a RRSP in the other spouse’s name. This is a way to income split in retirement, as future withdrawals, subject to restrictions noted below, would be in the recipient spouse’s name and presumably in a lower tax bracket than the contributor spouse.

The restriction is on the withdrawal timing. If the recipient spouse withdraws any amount from the spousal RRSP in the year of a contribution or the two years following, the amount withdrawn attributes back to the contributing spouse. The only exception to that is a minimum RRIF payment.

In summary the contributing spouse receives the RRSP deduction at his/her current marginal tax rate and the future income is withdrawn at the recipient spouse’s lower tax rate in retirement, maximizing the RRSP tax deferral advantage.

Pension Income Splitting

The pension income splitting legislation introduced in 2007 allowed not only defined benefit pension income to be split between spouses, but also RRIF payments after the age of 65. No matter who owned the RRIF, both spouses could share equally in the income for tax purposes. As the RRIF payment could be divided 50/50 between spouses, the income splitting advantage of the spousal RRSP diminished.

The Case for the Spousal RRSP – Tax Efficient Decumulation

After years of saving, much of today’s tax planning is around decumulating assets. My clients not only want to drawdown their registered accounts but do so in the most tax efficient manner possible. For many, this opportunity often lies in time period between retirement and the receipt of CPP and OAS.

This is one of the most advantageous times to employ a RRSP meltdown strategy. With no further employment income, before receiving government pension income and with presumably little to no other income, RRSP withdrawals can be made with minimal tax consequences.

Take the example of an Ontario resident with no other income. If they withdrew $43,900 from their RRSP, they would only pay about $6,450 in taxes, or 14.7%. This is quite a minimal price to pay, especially if deductions for contributions were made at rates in the 40%-50% range. By adding in a spousal RRSP, for someone who would otherwise not have one, both spouses can make the same withdrawal, giving them almost $75,000 of after-tax dollars to live on.

To note, in order to maximize the advantage, the couple would need to plan the timing of the spousal RRSP contributions to avoid attributions on the withdrawals.

Even if the couple does not require this level of income, drawing it out at a lower tax bracket still makes sense. Subject to contribution limits, excess amounts can be saved into a TFSA, creating future tax-free withdrawal availability when incomes are higher due to government pensions.

Even after the age of 65, the spousal RRSP can work in situations where the contributing spouse has income not eligible to split (i.e. non-registered investment income, executive top-up pensions or corporate earnings/dividends). In this case, having the recipient spouse earn the RRIF income solely on their own, instead of splitting 50/50 would be advantageous for tax planning in retirement.

The Case for the Spousal RRSP – Other Situations

Finally, there are some situations in which spousal RRSPs can be beneficial beyond income splitting in retirement.

If only one spouse is employed or has RRSP assets, by creating a spousal RRSP they can double the amount they withdraw to purchase a home under the home buyer’s plan (HBP). Currently the HBP allows for $35,000, based on the 2019 federal budget, to be withdrawn per spouse for the purchase of a qualifying home. If there is only one RRSP, then this is limited to half of the available amount if both spouses had a RRSP, either spousal or personal.

The spousal RRSP also works well if the spouses have a gap in their ages and the contributing spouse continues to work after the age of 71. After 71, they would be forced to convert their RRSP to a RRIF and could no longer contribute to a personal RRSP; however, if they have a spouse younger than age 71, they could continue to contribute to a spousal RRSP.

Though the spousal RRSP lost some of its luster when pension income splitting was introduced, there are still many situations where it is still applicable. Using this as part of your tax planning in both your accumulation and decumulation of your registered assets can save you thousands of dollars in taxes.

Matthew Ardrey
Written By:
Matthew Ardrey
VP, Wealth Advisor
matt@tridelta.ca
(416) 733-3292 x230

Financial Post columnist (Rechtshaffen) shows how many Canadians can afford Retirement Homes

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A financial expert and Financial Post columnist compares the costs of senior housing options including home care, long-term care and a retirement home.

A newspaper columnist recently contacted Amica to research an article on the cost of private retirement living. This wasn’t any reporter: it was Ted Rechtshaffen, a personal finance columnist for the Financial Post and the president and CEO of TriDelta Financial, a wealth management company he launched for Canadians looking for objective financial advice. He’s been named one of the Top 50 Financial Advisers in Canada by Wealth Professional Magazine. He’s also the son of a resident at Amica senior living.

Rechtshaffen’s column carried this headline: “Here’s what it costs to live in a retirement home — and the bottom line is less than you might think.” His article looks behind the monthly fee for a high quality seniors’ residence to debunk myths about the cost of private retirement living.

His aging clients often wonder if they can afford to live in a private retirement community, and how much extra in expenses they’ll pay. As he says, some seniors get “sticker shock” when they see that a nice residence costs $6,000 per month. “They wonder how they can suddenly add $72,000 to their annual expenses,” writes Rechtshaffen.

As the financial expert explains, it’s worth looking beyond the price tag to consider how moving to a residence for seniors would impact both your quality of life and your monthly expenses. (You can download this senior living financial planning worksheet to see how your finances compare with retirement expenses.) He says it’s important to consider these five factors behind the cost of retirement homes:

#1 Living at home isn’t free. Even if you have no mortgage, you may still be paying for rent, property taxes or condo fees, maintenance, utilities and food. Monthly expenses vary widely, but Rechtshaffen tallies how you’ll free up funds by moving out of a home. For more info, see six myths about the cost of senior living.

#2 How much does your lifestyle cost? You might be traveling, dining out, buying new clothes and spending on entertainment at age 70. By the time you’re considering a retirement residence you might be 15 to 20 years older: how might your spending change at 88?

#3 Get help from tax credits. If you’re paying for assisted living or a-la-carte health services in a private residence, these might be deducted from income under Medical Expenses or the Disability Tax Credit.

#4 You can tap multiple income sources. If you’re attracted to the high-level service, convenience and camaraderie associated with a good senior living residence, remember that you may have various sources of funding, including Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, RRSPs/RIFs and more.

#5 Will your long-term care insurance cover some costs? Some people carry this kind of insurance, which can help if you find yourself needing assistance and care as you age.

Read the full article by Rechtshaffen to find a list of key issues to consider for your own retirement situation. You can also see his table comparing typical costs associated with living at home with private care, living in a private retirement residence and living in a public nursing home. Living at home with full-time care could wind up costing more than you think, while living in a decent retirement home can offer comparatively great value. Check out the article to see the surprising math behind common senior housing options.

Reproduced from Amica Conversations.

Ted Rechtshaffen
Provided By:
Ted Rechtshaffen, MBA, CFP
President and CEO
tedr@tridelta.ca
(416) 733-3292 x 221
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