Financial Post/Rechtshaffen: How wealth advisors provide a significantly higher value service for core clients than roboadvisors


Advisors know which clients to put on which path to achieve the best big-picture result

Several people have asked me lately about the Questrade TV ads that feature someone in their 30s going to what appears to be their parents’ financial advisor to tell them why they are leaving. My first thought was, “Why did they visit an advisor they don’t like, in one case even bringing their baby, just to say that they are leaving — who has time for that?” My bigger thought was that the ads underscore how different my job is to what services such as Questrade do.

The first thing to remember is that different people have different needs at different stages of their life. Where a good wealth advisor can provide significant value to a 75-year-old couple with decent wealth and a complicated family situation, they may not be able to add nearly as much to a 40-year-old couple who are simply working and putting away a little each month. The best case for all involved is to have an individual with a financial need that fits well with their provider, whether that is a computer, a bank branch, or a highly specialized wealth advisor.

In our business, we find that we provide a good fit for two core groups of people. The first are those who are retired or in a transition from being employed to being retired. Much of the work we do relates to how best to draw on funds when the paycheque ends, being tax efficient and generating sizable investment income along the way (regardless of stock market performance). It would also include developing strategies that start with a likely estate value and working backwards to determine how you best want to live the last major period of your life and what legacy is important to you. This list of issues is very different from the typical experience with a low-fee online brokerage.

The second group are those with high incomes, both employees and those with corporations. There remain a few approaches to truly help these people on the tax front both on an annual basis and for the rest of their lives. Taxation often plays a large role in their investment decisions, and unique strategies are often key to providing them the type of value they are most looking for. Again, these individuals are often missing out on the bigger picture if they are going to simply find the cheapest online provider.

When I think about the areas of greatest value that a good wealth advisor can provide, they rarely relate directly to the best investment returns or the lowest fees. They usually come down to how you can help someone to have a better life because of the advice they receive. These issues come down to four key areas. These will not apply to everyone. Some people are in better financial positions than others, but most still bring some level of financial stress and worry. The four areas are:

Reducing financial worry and stress

This often starts with showing someone what their financial future will very likely look like on an annual basis and giving them the comfort that they will not outlive their money. It may also provide a financial stress test to show that under some less-than-ideal scenarios, they still will likely be OK. This plan will help them answer questions around whether they can help their children and still be in good shape, or whether they can afford to do something that is important to them. Sometimes this will show them the opposite, and will create the need for either lowering expenses, the possibility of finding additional income, or developing some other plan. In cases where there is more than sufficient assets, this foundation often opens the door to the “what to do next” discussion.

Teaching people how to spend their money

For many who lean toward being savers with their money, it can be very difficult to change this habit even if the facts show that they will have a lot of money that they never spend in their life. This can be especially important in changing their lifestyle in early retirement years of good health. Helping people to spend more, do more and take advantage of the maybe five, 10 or 20 years of decent health in retirement can be one of the most rewarding parts of our job. It can also have a big impact on improving someone’s life.

Leaving a clear and structured family legacy that provides peace of mind

This is extremely important for those with a child or grandchild that may not be able to become financially self-sufficient. In addition, there are increasingly families with second and third marriages and myriad stepchildren. Navigating these waters successfully can be crucial to how someone is remembered by family for generations to come. Often, these issues weigh heavily on people’s minds, and having someone who can help them create a plan to look after these issues can be the biggest value an advisor can provide. As one of my older clients recently told me, “I hope I live to be 100, but if I don’t make it and something happens to me now, I know that everything has been taken care of and that I am leaving my family in good shape.”

Leaving a meaningful charitable legacy that enriches a person’s life

For those that are projected to have a larger estate than what they want to leave to their family, charitable giving is often part of their plan. The earlier someone is aware of this scenario, the better they can plan in order to provide the greatest gift for the least amount of after-tax dollars. It also may provide great personal joy and satisfaction from knowing the impact they are having on a charity while they are still alive.

While there are many people who may not be a fit for some or all of the four key areas above, that is OK — they are likely a fit for a different part of the financial world.

However, when someone asks me about whether Questrade and their TV commercials affect my business, I just think about how different the issues I deal with are from what most people want from a roboadvisor or direct broker.

Reproduced from The Financial Post – June 3, 2019.

Ted Rechtshaffen
Written By:
Ted Rechtshaffen, MBA, CFP
President and CEO
(416) 733-3292 x 221

FINANCIAL FACELIFT: Can this couple retire at 60 and afford to keep the cottage in the family?


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.

Written by:
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published May 24, 2019

François and Jacquie are wondering if they’re on track to retire at the age of 60 and still live comfortably. He is 54, she is 53. They have two children, ages 17 and 19.

François earns $105,000 a year before tax, while Jacquie earns $230,000. They both have defined contribution pension plans to which their employers contribute.

In the meantime, they want to pay off the home equity line of credit (HELOC) taken out to expand their Toronto bungalow. Their next project will be to landscape their yard. Their retirement spending goal is $70,000 a year after tax.

A key goal is to maintain the Muskoka-area cottage François and his sister inherited and pass it on to their children in turn. The cottage is self-sustaining, with rental income covering expenses, François writes in an e-mail. They also want to travel.

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

What the expert says

First, Mr. Ardrey looks at cash flow. Although their spending is taking up much of their income today, that will not be the case once their daughters have graduated from university, he notes. All postsecondary spending is anticipated to end by 2024.

François and Jacquie are aggressively paying down their HELOC – making regular monthly payments plus annual lump-sum ones – and plan to have it paid in full by mid-2020. When that is done, they will landscape their house for $30,000 and buy a new car for $60,000. “After that point, we assume excess cash flow will be saved toward their retirement.”

The surplus funds will go first to catch up with their tax-free savings account contributions. They will be caught up by 2022, after which they will contribute the maximum each year. The remaining surplus will go to a non-registered investment account.

François is saving $100 a month to his TFSA and Jacquie $300 to hers. François is also saving $917 a month to his RRSP and $533 to his defined contribution pension plan (DCPP), which is matched by his employer. Jacquie is saving $1,600 a month to her DCPP, with her employer contributing $610 a month. They also have $210 going to a registered education savings plan.

Jacquie and François plan to downsize their home when he is 70 and move into a condo that is half the value of their current home. They plan to begin taking Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits at 65.

Next, their investments. Based on the underlying asset mix (60-per-cent globally diversified equities and 40-per-cent Canadian and global bonds), they have a historical rate of return of 4.88 per cent. Their non-DCPP investments are invested primarily in “F”-class mutual funds with wrap account fees. The total fee is 1.99 per cent. (F-class funds have lower management expense ratios because they do not pay trailer fees to the adviser.) The planner assumes their pension assets will have the same asset mix when they retire. He uses an inflation rate of 2 per cent, retirement spending of $70,000 a year, including $10,000 a year for travel, and that both of them live to the age of 90.

“Based on these assumptions, they will have more than enough wealth to carry them through retirement,” Mr. Ardrey says. At Jacquie’s age 90, they will have an estate of $8.7-million, of which $4-million is in investments and $4.7-million is in real estate and personal effects. If they chose to spend the $4-million of investment assets, they could increase their spending by $4,000 a month or $48,000 a year.

“That being said, there is a significant tax liability remaining on the cottage when passing it to their two daughters,” Mr. Ardrey says. If the cottage rises in value along with inflation, there would be a $2-million capital gain on François’s half when he dies.

To effectively prepay the tax for their children, François could consider buying some permanent life insurance. The funds from the policy could be used to pay the taxes owing on the cottage and make it less likely the beneficiaries would need to sell it to pay the tax.

Depending on François’s health, this could be expensive, Mr. Ardrey says. But it would give François and Jacquie the freedom to spending their savings without worrying whether there will be enough left in their estate to pay the capital-gains tax.

By the time François and Jacquie retire in a few years, they will have about $2-million in investments. “Paying 2 per cent in investment costs and using mutual funds to execute their strategy is not the best plan,” Mr. Ardrey says.

Instead, they should consider hiring an investment counsellor to develop a well-rounded and lower-cost portfolio of large-cap stocks with strong dividends as well as corporate and government bonds. Investment counselling firms have a fiduciary duty – like a trustee – to act in the best interests of their clients.

If Jacquie and François wanted to diversity the bond portion of their portfolio to boost their returns, they could look into fixed-income securities not available to the average investor, Mr. Ardrey says. Like government bonds, these fixed-income alternatives tend to have little correlation to the stock market. “We would recommend carefully vetted private debt and income funds with solid track records.”

Client situation

The person: François, 54, Jacquie 53, and their children, 17 and 19

The problem: Can they retire at 60 with $70,000 after tax? Can they afford to keep the cottage in the family?

The plan: Retire as planned with a comfortable cushion. Consider taking out permanent insurance to help offset capital-gains tax that will be payable on François’s share of the family cottage when he dies. Review investment portfolio to lower costs and perhaps boost returns.

The payoff: Financial security with the option of spending more than planned.

Monthly net income: $17,100

Assets: His TFSA $6,000; her TFSA $15,000; his RRSP $351,000; her RRSP $227,000; market value of his DCPP $91,000; market value of her DCPP $350,000; RESP $77,000; residence $1.95-million; share of cottage $1.5-million. Total: $4.56-million

Monthly outlays: HELOC $3,480; property tax $760; property insurance $300; utilities $385; maintenance $100; transportation (insurance, fuel, maintenance for two cars) $930; grocery store $900; clothing $50; university expenses $800; additional HELOC (annual lump-sum payment divided by 12) $2,700; gifts, charity $220; vacation, travel $1,000; other discretionary $100; dining, drinks, entertainment $885; personal care $250; pets $100; dentists $50; life insurance $76; TV, internet $180; his RRSP $917; RESP $210; TFSAs $400; pension plan contributions $2,133. Total: $16,926

Liabilities: Line of credit $120,000

Want a free financial facelift? E-mail

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

Matthew Ardrey
Presented By:
Matthew Ardrey
VP, Wealth Advisor
(416) 733-3292 x230

FINANCIAL FACELIFT: This 72-year-old’s portfolio is 97% in stocks. Is she taking on too much risk as retirement nears?


Below you will find a real life case study of an individual who is looking for financial advice on how best to arrange their financial affairs. Their name 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.

Written by:
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published April 26, 2019

After a long and successful career, Ellen has retired from consulting and is winding down her corporation. She is 72, single and well off.

Still, she has concerns. She has roughly $1.8-million in savings and investments, the lion’s share of which is in stocks. She does her own investing, choosing stocks that pay steady and rising dividends with good management and solid earnings.

“I understand the risk is high,” Ellen writes in an e-mail. “If a recession like the one in 2008 hits, it will greatly reduce the asset value,” she adds. “Any advice on the portfolio and risk management would be much appreciated.”

Ellen is healthy and active and aims to do her best to stay that way so she can continue to travel extensively. Yet aging will impose constrains on travel, Ellen acknowledges, so she’ll likely be spending less on travel over time. “Other emerging issues,” such as health care, will increase the demands on her savings in her later years.

She is concerned about having enough money to “live in a first-rate senior residence and eventually a first-rate nursing home if necessary,” Ellen writes. Her retirement spending target is $65,000 a year after tax, although her actual spending is lower.

We asked Matthew Ardrey, vice-president of TriDelta Financial in Toronto, an investment counselling firm, to look at Ellen’s situation.

What the expert says

First, Mr. Ardrey looks at Ellen’s income. She plans to wind the corporate account down over 10 years to minimize the taxes owing on the withdrawals. To do this, she will need to withdraw about $38,500 a year, which will be taken as taxable dividends. She had been drawing a bit less than $10,000, so this will increase her income.

Ellen gets $7,121 in Old Age Securities benefits and $7,872 in Canada Pension Plan benefits, numbers that will rise in line with inflation. She also makes mandatory minimum withdrawals from her registered retirement income fund (RRIF) and receives dividends from the stocks in her taxable investment accounts.

Ellen’s lifestyle spending is $40,500 a year, plus $10,000 a year for travel. Her only savings is the maximum annual contribution to her tax-free savings account (TFSA).

Looking ahead, Ellen figures she’ll sell her Toronto condo when she is 80 or so and move into a high-end retirement residence that will allow her to transition onsite to a nursing home if need be, Mr. Ardrey says. In drawing up his forecast, he assumes she sells the condo for $589,000 at the age of 80, minus 10 per cent for selling costs, and the balance is added to her investment portfolio. Her living costs rise from about $50,000 to $72,000 a year in current-year dollars.

Now for her portfolio. A full 97 per cent of Ellen’s investment assets are in stocks. If she leaves it as is, she could earn 6.4 per cent a year on average, the planner estimates. He assumes an inflation rate of 2 per cent a year.

“Based on these factors, Ellen will have more than enough to retire,” Mr. Ardrey writes. “In fact, she has a substantial financial cushion.” To illustrate, if she keeps her spending roughly the same, she would leave an estate of $3.4-million at the age of 90, he says. If she wanted to spend it all, she could increase her spending by a whopping $90,000 a year, more than double what she is spending now. That would mean an increase in her current spending from $50,000 to $140,000, and her spending after she moves into a retirement home from $72,000 to $162,000.

Still, the plan as it stands has considerable risk, Mr. Ardrey says. Of the 97 per cent in stocks, Ellen has 6 per cent in one U.S. holding. The remaining 93 per cent is in Canadian stocks. Seventy per cent of her holdings is invested in just four stocks.

If the stock market dropped in the near future the way it did in 2008-09, “it could have a substantial impact on her portfolio and her retirement plans,” Mr. Ardrey says. The main Toronto stock index lost 35 per cent of its value in 2008 and did not return to its former high until 2014, he notes.

To help manage risk, the planner suggests a portfolio that is diversified geographically and by sectors. He also recommends asset class diversification by adding both fixed-income (bonds) and alternative income investments that are carefully vetted by an investment counsel firm for sale to its clients.

“The ones we would recommend for Ellen are more on the conservative side, focusing on income-generation strategies through private debt, accounts receivable factoring and global real estate,” Mr. Ardrey says. “These strategies have been shown to add value to portfolios by increasing returns over traditional fixed income while having little to no correlation to stock markets.”

If Ellen shifts to a portfolio of 50-per-cent stocks, 20-per-cent fixed income and 30-per-cent alternative income, she could expect a rate of return of about 6.5 per cent a year, the planner says. “She would be earning that return with substantially less risk.” She would have investment costs of about 1.25 per cent, 60 per cent of which would be tax-deductible in her non-registered and corporate accounts, he says.

She’d leave an estate of $2.7-million, or if she wanted to spend it all, she could increase her spending by $81,000 a year. That would mean an increase in her current spending to $131,000 a year, and her spending after she moves into a retirement home to $153,000.

“Ellen is in excellent shape to enjoy her retirement,” Mr. Ardrey says. “In fact, I would encourage her to enjoy it more!”

Client situation

The person: Ellen, 72

The problem: How to reduce the risk in her overly concentrated portfolio.

The plan: Diversify by country, industry and asset class. Cut stock holdings and add fixed-income and alternative income securities.

The payoff: Greater peace of mind.

Monthly net income: $6,655

Assets: Cash and short-term $16,180; taxable investment accounts $679,506; corporate account $310,579; TFSA $98,426; RRIF $680,627; condo $505,000. Total: $2.29-million

Monthly outlays: Property tax $240; home insurance $30; utilities $70; condo fee $645; handyman $40; transportation $490; groceries $250; clothing $430; gifts, charity $90; vacation, travel $800; personal care $300; dining, drinks, entertainment $285; subscriptions $31; study courses $100; health care $190; phones, internet, TV $179; TFSA $500. Total: $4,670. Surplus of $1,985 goes to travel, spending that might be underestimated and investment account.

Liabilities: None

Want a free financial facelift? E-mail

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

Matthew Ardrey
Presented By:
Matthew Ardrey
VP, Wealth Advisor
(416) 733-3292 x230

Q1 TriDelta Investment Review – Everything is good again….isn’t it?


After double digit declines in Q4 2018, Q1 2019 saw a significant bounce back.

We saw double digit increases in the TSX at 12.4% and in Canadian dollar terms, the S&P500 at 10.8%, with a 7.1% gain in the Euro Stoxx 50 and 2.8% in Japan.

Leading the way in gains in Canada was the ‘Health’ sector which is primarily Cannabis names, which were up 45.9%!! I.T. was up 27.3% in Canada and 20.5% in the broad U.S. market. While the gains were fairly broad, not surprisingly, many of the biggest gains came from more volatile sectors that saw the biggest declines in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The key question is where does this leave us?

Can we relax and look for another 5% to 10% gain in stocks through the rest of the year?

Are we headed for a third straight quarter of extreme volatility?

Where do we see things today and what are we doing about it?

The last couple of quarters, we have focused on 5 factors moving markets. If we review them as of April 2019, they are now telling us the following:

  • Interest rates/bond yields – after meaningful increases in the first half of 2018 on both the overnight rates and longer term rates, the mood has definitely shifted with long term rates declining meaningfully, and short term rates seemingly on hold for a while. A stable interest rate environment gives investors the confidence to take advantage of cheap borrowing costs and increase allocations to equities, pushing the stock market higher.
  • Fears of higher inflation – in part due to lower growth expectations globally and in part due to lower wage growth in the U.S., the fear of higher inflation has meaningfully pulled back. One more fear that has eased and allowed stocks to pull forward.
  • U.S.-China Trade Wars (and broader trade conflicts globally) – The stock market has responded well to confident statements from Trump and more frequent high level meetings between the countries on trade. While there remains real uncertainty, we believe that there will be tangible improvement on this front, including an announced agreement with small ‘victories’ for both sides.
  • High US stock market valuations and earnings expectations – Today, with higher valuations and mixed earnings reports, equity valuations are becoming a little more expensive again. Forward earnings are trading about 4% higher than the long term average multiples.
  • Global Growth – Investor concerns about continued slow global growth have resurfaced, particularly after the IMF (International Monetary Fund) cut its 2019 global growth forecast this week to a mere 3.3%. Growth rates were closer to 4% just 2 years ago. The IMF stated that the world economy faces downside risks brought by potential uncertainties in the ongoing global trade tensions, as well as other country- and sector-specific factors.

So if we look at this little scorecard, three of the five are pointing more positively for stock market returns, and the last two are more negative.


Where that leaves TriDelta after the very good returns in the first quarter, is that we have become a little more cautious. In early January, we went from higher cash levels in our funds to being fully invested in stocks. Today we are holding some cash taking a small amount off the table from Canadian and global stocks. We are not overly negative; just a little more cautious than early in the year. We are also monitoring technical indicators to see if further defensive measures should be taken.

We are also lowering our small exposure to energy after a strong increase in oil prices this quarter.

Interest Rates

U.S. – The Federal Reserve is not likely to lower rates unless we see a significant slowdown in growth. This is in part because they don’t see a strong case for lowering rates at this point, and they don’t want to send a negative signal to the marketplace. Medium and long-term rates have already come down meaningfully. We see this likely coming to an end, although medium and longer-terms yields are not necessarily rising back up for the time being.

Canada – There is a little more concern about slowing growth in Canada and the need for the Bank of Canada or the government to provide some form of stimulus. We don’t see short term rates falling in the near term, but there could be a drop later in 2019. The mid and long-term rates have already fallen meaningfully and we don’t believe there is room for much more of a decline unless the economy slows down dramatically.

Preferred Shares

We are currently leaning a little more towards straight, fixed rate preferred shares, as they offer dividend yields of over 5%, should benefit from the lower long-term bond yields and are much less volatile. Rate reset preferred shares continue to be undervalued with yields often over 5.5%, but they have shown greater volatility for longer periods than would be expected, and this could continue.

Alternative Investments

As this sector grows, it becomes even more important to understand the managers and those that have a longer track record of success. At TriDelta, we are sticking pretty close to the few managers that have delivered very steady returns and who we believe will be best able to adjust to a low interest rate environment, while strategically adding additional managers that we think can enhance portfolio returns, add stability to a portfolio or reduce volatility.

An Inverted Yield Curve – what is it and should we fear it today?

There has been a lot of talk about inverted yield curves and that it is a precursor to a recession.

An Inverted Yield Curve is one where short term yields are higher than long term yields.

Traditionally if you put money into a 5 year government bond you would expect a higher return than in a 30 day T Bill. This is due to a couple of main reasons. The first is that you will not have use of your money for 5 years vs 30 days, so there is a premium paid for locking in your funds. The second is that there is a bit of an uncertainty premium. If you invest for 5 years and interest rates go up, you are missing out on participating in those higher potential yields.

In an inverted yield curve, you have a situation where you are getting paid more for a short term investment than a long term one. This is not that common, and it is often caused by concerns about future growth, disinflation and expectations of future interest rate declines.

What creates the situation is when the market believes that interest rates will be moving lower, i.e. an expectation of future interest rate cuts by the central bankers, and there is demand to lock in longer term rates at higher yields before they decline. As more long bonds are bought, it pushes the yield down and continues until the market decides that these lower yields are no longer appealing. The end result can be an inverted yield curve. One other action that creates an inverted yield curve is when the Federal Reserve raises short term rates at a fairly fast pace and longer term rates don’t keep up.

The chart below lists the last 9 Yield Inversions in the US and duration until the subsequent recession. The average time lapse before a recession starts is 14 months in the 7 cases where there was a recession following a yield curve inversion.

Date of Inversion Time to a recession
April 11,1968 19 months
March 9, 1973 7 months
August 18, 1978 16 months
September 12, 1980 9 months
December 13, 1988 18 months
February 2, 2000 12 months
June 8, 2006 17 months
Late 1966 No recession for 3 years
June 1998 No recession for 2.5 years

If we keep in mind that there will always be a recession at some point in the future, and that there was not a recession for at least a year in 7 of the past 9 instances of inverted yield curves, we do not believe a recession is imminent in the U.S. If the Federal Reserve or US government react to declining growth rates, the economy can continue to grow in 2020 as well. Economists forecast that the U.S. grew at about a 1.5% pace in the first quarter of 2019 but expect 2.4% for the full year.

In Canada the current growth forecast for 2019 is down to 1.5% and could see further downside if there are negative developments on trade, housing or the energy industry. We will continue to monitor the data, but continued growth, albeit at a slow rate is our current expectation.

Overall, an inverted yield curve does not meaningfully concern us for the rest of 2019.

How Did TriDelta do in Q1?

Overall, most clients had returns in the 4% to 7.5% range on the quarter depending on their individual asset mix.

Our 2019 Q1 returns were as follows:

TriDelta Pension Pool (Stocks) 8.4%
TriDelta Growth Pool (Stocks) 8.4%
TriDelta Fixed Income Pool 2.6%
TriDelta High Income Balanced Pool 5.8%
TriDelta’s Selection of Alternative Income Funds 1.5% to 2.3%

Other news and items of interest:

  • Taxes – if you or your Accountant have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
  • Tax Refunds – if you are receiving a tax refund it can be a good source of funds for doing 2019 contributions to RRSPs, RESPs, RDSPs and other savings vehicles.
  • World Trade – in January 2019 trade was down 0.4% year over year. It has averaged a year over year gain of 5.1% over the past 25 years.
  • Growth of Middle Class in Emerging Markets – Today India’s middle class represents 14% of the population (up from 1% in 1995). This is expected to grow to 79% by 2030 according to the Brookings Institute.
  • Retirement Savings Gap – According to a U.S. study from 2017 by the Employment Benefits Research Institute, 64% believe that they need over $500,000 for retirement. Actual savings for the average 65 to 74 year old was $126,000.

Q4 2018 was much worse than it should have been in markets, and Q1 2019 was much better than it should have been.

This leaves us at the moment with lower interest rates, low unemployment, a little lower growth, continued trade issues and slightly elevated market valuations. Overall, that puts us in a ‘not too hot and not too cold’ place where we are fairly comfortable. We don’t believe that a U.S. recession will happen this year, and expect low to middle of the range stock market returns for the near future.

At TriDelta we will continue to be nimble while focused on the client’s long-term plans. Portfolios are designed to provide a diversified asset mix that is built appropriately for the goals of each client, with an eye on tax minimization.

Here is to a beautiful spring for everyone.


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

FINANCIAL FACELIFT: Should this couple sell their house for a better retirement?


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 identities. 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.

Written by:
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published March 29, 2019

“Will we have to sell our house to finance our retirement years?” Tom and Tilly ask in an e-mail.

It’s a question that comes up frequently from people nearing that age when they plan to leave the workforce for good. Tom is 59, Tilly 60.

They’ve had conflicting advice from their current and former financial advisers. Their former adviser said they’ll have to sell their Hamilton-area home in 10 years. The new one says that won’t be necessary.

Tom earns about $137,000 a year working for a non-profit. Tilly has gone back to school to satisfy her love of learning and potentially give her part-time income later on. Her tuition is covered by a scholarship.

They wonder whether Tom can afford to hang up his hat in three years or so. He has a group registered retirement savings plan to which he and his employer both contribute. Tilly has a defined-benefit pension plan from a previous employer that will pay $12,090 a year starting at age 65, indexed to inflation.

Their retirement spending target is $75,000 a year after tax, about $15,000 of which is for travel. Before then, they need to fix up their house a bit and replace one of their cars.

“Are we on track?” they wonder.

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

What the expert says

Tom is saving $1,100 a month to a group RRSP, to which his employer contributes $630 a month, Mr. Ardrey says. They are each saving $700 a month to their tax-free savings accounts. Mr. Ardrey assumes they continue saving this amount until Tom retires, after which the RRSP savings cease and the TFSA contributions fall to $500 a month each.

They have a cash-flow surplus of about $1,400 a month, which they are saving to pay for $25,000 of home renovations and to replace a car for another $25,000.

The planner assumes they begin collecting Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits at age 65, about 70 per cent of maximum CPP for Tilly and 90 per cent for Tom. He recommends they apply to share their CPP to help lower their taxes. At age 65, Tilly will begin collecting her pension.

Because parents of both Tom and Tilly lived well into their 90s, Mr. Ardrey assumes they will both live to age 95.

Looking at their investments, their asset mix has a historical rate of return of 4.4 per cent, with an average management expense ratio of 1.3 per cent, for a net return of 3.1 per cent.

“Based on these assumptions, Tom and Tilly can meet their retirement spending goals but with minimal financial cushion,” Mr. Ardrey says. That assumes Tom, who turns 60 later this year, retires at age 63. If they spend all of their investment assets, leaving only real estate and personal effects, they will have a cushion of only $2,400 a year.

“This is right on the line of success or failure,” the planner cautions. “Any one large, unexpected expense could have a significant impact on their retirement plan.”

If they sold their house, now valued at about $675,000, and downsized to a $400,000 condo at Tom’s age 85, “they would greatly increase their financial flexibility,” Mr. Ardrey says. This would give them a financial cushion of $9,000 a year. It would also give them the option of retiring earlier than planned.

An alternative would be to try to improve their investment returns. They are investing mainly through mutual funds. Given the size of their portfolio, they could benefit from using the services of an investment counsellor – particularly one who offers alternative income strategies as part of their overall asset mix, Mr. Ardrey says.

Although investment returns are not guaranteed, alternatives to stocks and bonds – funds that specialize in such things as private debt, global real estate and accounts receivable factoring – could potentially enhance returns on the fixed-income side of their portfolio while having little or no correlation to stock markets, Mr. Ardrey says. “They represent a unique diversifier.”

Their current asset mix is 40-per-cent fixed income, 20-per-cent Canadian, 15-per-cent U.S. and 25-per-cent international stock funds. He recommends 25-per-cent fixed income, 25-per-cent alternative income and 50-per-cent globally diversified stock funds. “With this new asset mix in place, we would expect a return of 6.5 per cent and investment costs of 1.5 per cent, for a net return of 5 per cent a year.”

If Tom and Tilly achieved this rate of return and downsized their house when Tom is 85, they could have a substantial cushion, the planner says: $19,200 a year. If they wanted to, they could retire when Tom turns 61 in 2020 and still have a cushion of $9,000 a year.

Client situation

The people: Tom, 59, and Tilly, 60

The problem: Will they have to sell their house to finance their retirement?

The plan: Try to improve investment returns, but keep an open mind to selling the house and downsizing in 25 years or so.

The payoff: Retiring as planned with a comfortable financial cushion.

Monthly net income: $8,455

Assets: Cash in bank $60,000; his personal and group RRSPs $395,000; her RRSP $245,500; his TFSA $44,500; her TFSA $37,000; estimated present value of her DB pension plan $187,250; residence $675,000. Total: $1.6-million

Monthly outlays: Property tax $460; home insurance $90; utilities $285; maintenance, garden $75; transportation $580; groceries $650; clothing $205; gifts, charity $250; vacation, travel $700; other discretionary $50; dining, drinks, entertainment $600; personal care $100; subscriptions $30; dentists, drugstore $20; life insurance $185; phones, TV, internet $270; his group RRSP $1,100; TFSAs $1,400. Total: $7,050Surplus $1,405

Liabilities: None

Want a free financial facelift? E-mail

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

Matthew Ardrey
Presented By:
Matthew Ardrey
VP, Wealth Advisor
(416) 733-3292 x230

FINANCIAL FACELIFT: To buy or rent a condo? Montreal couple search best route for saving towards retirement


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 identities. 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.

Special to The Globe and Mail
Published March 8, 2019

To buy or not to buy, that is the question for Ron and Rosemary, a couple living and renting in the Montreal area.

Ron is 43 and works as a project manager, Rosemary is 35 and works for a non-profit. Together they bring in about $190,000 a year. They’re considering a condo rather than a house because it would require less upkeep. They have no plans to have children.

Their question: Which is better, buying a condo in the $600,000 range “or continuing to rent throughout our lives?” Rosemary asks in an e-mail. “If we continue to rent, we would definitely be looking at renting a unit in a newer building with all of the amenities we want, possibly pushing the rental price per month to $2,500 or higher,” she adds.

Longer term, they are concerned about saving for retirement. Their postwork spending goal is $100,000 a year after tax, rising with inflation.

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

What the expert says

First, Mr. Ardrey looks at a scenario in which they continue to rent. They would move to a building with better amenities, increasing their rent by $500 a month to $2,500 a month, he notes. All other expenses would remain the same. The planner’s assumptions are based on a life expectancy of 90 for both.

Ron is contributing $645 or 8 per cent of his salary to a defined contribution pension plan with a 6-per-cent company match. Rosemary is contributing $475 a month to an RRSP with a $475-a-month match from her employer. They are stashing away another $1,000 a month in a bank account.

If they decide not to buy, the planner assumes they would transfer the $39,900 they have in their bank account to their tax-free savings accounts. Their budget allows for additional TFSA contributions of $500 a month each, money that is now going toward a down payment.

Ron plans to retire at 65 and Rosemary at 70. When they do, they will receive Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits. Because Ron is an immigrant to Canada, the plan assumes he will get 80 per cent of maximum CPP and OAS. Rosemary will receive 100 per cent. In addition, her monthly CPP benefit will be 42-per-cent higher than if she had started receiving it at 65.

Mr. Ardrey looks at the couple’s investments. Based on their current portfolio structure, they have a historical average rate of return of 4.4 per cent. The average investment cost of their portfolio, excluding Ron’s DC pension plan, is 1.7 per cent, leaving them a net return of 2.7 per cent. After inflation, forecast to be 2 per cent, their real rate of return is 0.7 per cent.

In retirement, Rosemary and Ron want to spend $100,000 a year. “Based on the assumptions above, they fall slightly short of their goals, running out of funds near the end of Rosemary’s life,” Mr. Ardrey says. If they cut their spending a bit, they could reach their goal, but they would have “zero financial cushion.”

Now he looks at a scenario in which they buy a condo for $600,000. They have almost $40,000 saved, so they will need a mortgage for $560,000 at an estimated 3.5 per cent, amortized over 25 years. Their payments would be about $2,570 a month.

Offsetting the mortgage expense is the fact they would no longer be paying rent. Living expenses in retirement would be $76,000 a year after the mortgage is paid off, substantially less than if they were still paying rent. Any budget surplus is assumed to be saved to the TFSAs each year.

“Based on these assumptions, Rosemary and Ron can reach their retirement goal,” Mr. Ardrey says. Not having to pay rent when they retire “is a major factor,” he notes. This cost reduction more than offsets the reduction in savings.

If they decided to spend all of their investment assets, leaving only their real estate and personal effects, they could increase their spending by $1,000 a month, inflation adjusted, the planner says.

“So of the two scenarios, the decision to purchase the condo is the financially preferred one,” he concludes. “In addition to the cash flow numbers being stronger, Rosemary and Ron would also have a real estate asset that in an emergency they could borrow against or sell if need be.”

Finally, Ron and Rosemary should review their investment strategy to improve their investment returns and lower their costs, Mr. Ardrey says. Their current asset mix is about 90-per-cent stocks and stock funds, and 10-per-cent cash and fixed income.

Instead, he recommends 65 per cent stocks and stock funds, 25 per cent alternative income investments and 10 per cent fixed income. Alternative income funds – which can be bought through an investment counselling firm – include strategies such as private debt, global real estate and accounts receivable factoring. “This would broaden their diversification into an asset class that has historical returns of 7 to 9 per cent a year and little to no correlation to equity markets,” the planner says.

Making this change could increase their returns to 6.5 per cent and reduce investment costs to 1.5 per cent.

The difference would be material. “If they remain renters, then they go from falling just short to being able to increase their retirement spending by $18,000 per year,” the planner says. In the condo scenario, the potential for extra spending would be even greater.

Client situation

The people: Ron, 43, and Rosemary, 35

The problem: Should they rent or buy?

The plan: Go ahead and buy the condo, but review investments to diversify their holdings, potentially improve returns and lower investment costs.

The payoff: Retirement goals met with a financial cushion besides.

Monthly net income: $10,800

Assets: Cash $39,900; her TFSA $5,470; his TFSA $5,300; her RRSP $88,030; his RRSP $79,030; market value of his defined contribution pension plan $10,000. Total: $227,730

Monthly outlays: Rent $2,000; tenant insurance $25; utilities $180; furnishings, decorating, maintenance $350; transportation $605; grocery store $900; clothing $320; gifts, charity $1,000, vacation, travel $1,000; dining, drinks, entertaining $900; personal care $350; pets $115; sports, hobbies $490; dentists $50; drugstore $10; phones, TV, internet $340; his DC pension plan $645; her RRSP $475. Total: $9,755 Surplus goes to saving.

Liabilities: None

Want a free financial facelift? E-mail

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

Matthew Ardrey
Presented By:
Matthew Ardrey
VP, Wealth Advisor
(416) 733-3292 x230