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FINANCIAL FACELIFT: Lucinda wonders how to organize investments after the coronavirus accelerated her decision to sell her house

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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 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 7, 2020

At the age of 60, Lucinda is going from being without contract work and collecting the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to wondering how to invest and manage about $1.5-million – the net proceeds from her house sale in downtown Toronto. The deal, for a total of $1.7-million, is set to close in September.

“The [COVID-19] pandemic accelerated my decision to sell my house in case of a significant drop in housing prices,” Lucinda writes in an e-mail, and because contract work in communications is now hard to come by.

“I fear I won’t be able to find work anymore, meaning I might need to cut into my savings, which I wanted to avoid. So now I need guidance on how to map out my retirement savings strategically,” she adds.

“My plan had been to take a few months off to attend to house repairs and then look for another contract in the spring,” Lucinda writes. “Then the pandemic hit and the contracting job market – combined with my experience level – led me to conclude it may take a very long time, if ever, for me to be employed again.”

She has no plans to buy another place and has rented an apartment for September. A key goal is to help her daughter, her only child, who has just graduated from university, to get established.

A self-directed investor who uses a mixture of mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, Lucinda wonders how best to structure her investments to last a lifetime. She also wants to leave as much as possible to her daughter. She wonders, too, when to begin collecting Canada Pension Plan benefits. Her target retirement spending goal is $45,000 a year after tax.

We asked Matthew Ardrey, a vice-president and portfolio manager at TriDelta Financial Partners in Toronto, to look at Lucinda’s situation.

What the expert says

“Like many Canadians these days, Lucinda’s working life has been cut short by COVID-19,” Mr. Ardrey says. “So taking stock of her financial picture today and where it is going in the future is a prudent exercise.”

Lucinda estimates she will net $1,474,000 from her house sale after she pays off her mortgage and covers closing costs, the planner says. Her existing portfolio is a mixture of ETFs and mutual funds with an asset mix of 48-per-cent stocks and 52-per-cent cash and fixed income. The stocks are slightly overweight to Canada, but are otherwise well diversified geographically, he says.

“The historical returns on her portfolio asset mix are 4.39 per cent, with investment costs of 0.79 per cent, leaving her with a net return of 3.6 per cent,” Mr. Ardrey says. If inflation is assumed to be 2 per cent, this leaves her with 1.6 per cent above inflation, he adds.

If Lucinda sticks to her modest spending target of $45,000 a year to the age of 90, she would leave an estate of about $2.4-million in 2050, the planner says. She could spend another $42,000 every year before exhausting her capital. “That being said, I would not recommend this level of spending unless it is nearer to the end of her life, because there is no real estate to fall back on as a cushion.”

Lucinda has expressed concern about the direction of the stock market and low returns on fixed-income securities, the planner says. “She certainly has justification for her concerns.” The five-year Canadian government bond yield is a scant 0.31 per cent. “Though bond [prices] have had a great 2020 so far, in part due to interest-rate cuts, the long-term future of this asset class is definitely in question,” Mr. Ardrey says.

First off, Lucinda may want to look to an actively managed bond fund portfolio with solid yields that she can continue to hold for the coupons (interest payments), Mr. Ardrey says. Actively managed funds tend to do better in difficult markets. She is holding bond ETFs, most of which passively track market indexes.

With her increased wealth, Lucinda should consider hiring an investment counselling firm, which is required by law to act in the best interests of its clients, he says. (For a list of such firms, see the Portfolio Management Association of Canada website at https://pmac.org/.)

These firms can “create a strategy for her that will provide solid, ongoing income from both traditional and alternative asset classes,” the planner says. He recommends an asset mix of 50-per-cent equities, 20-per-cent fixed income and 30-per-cent alternative income – a class that includes funds that invest in private debt and income-producing real estate. The addition of alternative income investments, which do not trade on public markets, has the potential to boost fixed-income returns while offsetting the volatility of stock markets.

“The next couple of years will continue to be volatile in stocks,” he says. “But if she can ignore the volatility and focus on the dividend payments, she can use that income to pay for her lifestyle (with government benefits) without drawing on her capital.”

Lucinda should invest her new capital gradually, especially when it comes to buying stocks, Mr. Ardrey says. “I would not want to see Lucinda invest a substantial amount of capital, only to have the markets fall 20 per cent the following month.”

As for when to start taking Canada Pension Plan benefits, the planner suggests Lucinda wait until she is 65. “If Lucinda took her CPP at age 60, she would get $7,848 a year. So by the time she turned 74, she would have collected a cumulative total of $109,872 ($7,848 multiplied by 14 years).”

If she waited until age 65, Her CPP would be $12,144 a year. In 9 years, she would have collected $109,296.

“So, if Lucinda lives beyond age 74 and a few months, she would be better off taking CPP at age 65 than 60,” the planner says. Getting the larger amount starting at 65 would overtake the advantage of getting the smaller amount earlier starting in her 74th year, he adds.

Client situation

The people: Lucinda, 60, and her daughter, 26.

The problem: How to invest the proceeds of her house sale to last a lifetime and leave an inheritance for her daughter. When to take CPP.

The plan: Start CPP at 65. Consider hiring a professional investment counselling firm. Enter the stock market gradually. Consider actively managed bond funds and alternative fixed-income investments to potentially boost returns and lower volatility.

The payoff: The comfort of knowing she may be able to spend a little more than she plans and still leave a substantial estate.

Monthly net income (budgeted): $3,750.

Assets: Bank accounts $52,000; mutual funds $48,400; TFSA $61,500; RRSP $374,600; net proceeds of house sale $1.5-million. Total: $2-million.

Monthly outlays (forecast): Rent $1,650; home insurance $15; electricity $50; transportation $150; groceries $400; clothing $50; vacation, travel $300; personal discretionary (dining, entertainment, clubs, personal care) $500; health care $230; phone, TV, internet $90; miscellaneous future discretionary spending $315. Total: $3,750.

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

FINANCIAL FACELIFT: Should Wilfred and Wendy diversify their Canada-heavy stock portfolio as they inch closer to retirement?

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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 July 3, 2020

Now in their 50s, Wilfred and Wendy plan to hang up their hats soon, sell their Manitoba house and move to a warmer clime. Wilfred is 58, Wendy, 53. Wilfred retired from his government job a few years ago and is now collecting a pension and working part time. He plans to continue working until shortly before Wendy is 55, when she will be entitled to a full pension. Both have defined benefit pensions indexed 80 per cent to inflation for life that will pay a combined $82,956 a year.

“We want to travel more in our younger years, so we would likely need more income in the first few years of retirement,” Wilfred writes in an e-mail. Their retirement spending goal is $75,000 a year after tax plus $25,000 a year for travel. With no children to leave an inheritance to, “we want to use up all our invested funds,” he adds. “We are extremely active, healthy people who have good chances of living a long life.”

They’re considering moving to British Columbia for the “milder winter weather and greater recreational opportunities,” Wilfred writes, but would only do so if they could buy for about the same price as their existing house fetches.

The stock market drop this spring left them feeling their investments are not sufficiently diversified, Wilfred adds. “I would like to diversify our stock holdings away from Canada only.”

We asked Matthew Ardrey, a vice-president and portfolio manager at TriDelta Financial in Toronto, to look at Wilfred and Wendy’s situation.

What the expert says

Wilfred is planning to retire fully in the spring of 2021 and Wendy in January, 2022, Mr. Ardrey says. “With the goal in site, they would like to ensure that they are financially ready for the next stage in their life,” the planner says.

First off, the pair do not keep an accurate budget, Mr. Ardrey says. “As we went through this exercise, they revised their monthly spending upwards by $1,200.” The updated numbers are shown in the sidebar. “Before they retire, I would strongly recommend that they do a full and accurate budget, he adds, because a large discrepancy in their spending “could have a dramatic effect on their financial projections and their ability to meet their obligations in retirement.”

Wendy has three options for her pension, the planner says. She can take $3,874 a month with no integration of Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits. Or she can take $4,320 a month to the age of 60 and $3,688 a month thereafter with CPP integration. The third choice is $4,621 a month to the age of 60, $3,989 a month to 65 and $3,375 a month thereafter with integration of both CPP and OAS.

According to the pension administrator’s website, the purpose of integration is to provide a more uniform amount of income throughout retirement, rather than having less income initially (prior to CPP and/or OAS eligibility) and more income in the later years (when CPP and OAS commence). Integration provides an opportunity to increase the cash flow early in retirement which, for some, is preferred.

“I thought it would be interesting to compare her three options to find which would be the most lucrative over her lifetime,” Mr. Ardrey says. Option No. 1 is the clear winner, he says, giving the largest cumulative value of payments to the age of 90.

To illustrate, by 72 Wendy will accumulate $961,000 of pension with no integration, compared with $956,000 with integration of CPP and OAS.

In drawing up his plan, Mr. Ardrey assumes Wendy chooses the first option and that they both begin collecting government benefits at 65. He also assumes they buy a condo in B.C. in 2023 for about the same price as they get selling their current home. Because it is a long-distance move, he assumes transaction and moving costs total $100,000.

“Before we can discuss their retirement projection, I need to address their investment portfolio,” Mr. Ardrey says. Wilfred is right to think they need to diversify, the planner adds. They have a portfolio of nearly $800,000 invested almost all (97 per cent) in Canadian large-cap stocks. “Further concentrating their position, they have that 97 per cent spread over only 13 stocks, and of that, 62 per cent is in only five stocks,” Mr. Ardrey says. This exposes them to “significant company-specific risk,” he says.

As well, the Canadian stock market is not as diversified by industry as U.S. and international markets, so it can lag at times. “For example, in the recent market recovery, financials and energy have been lagging, which are two of the three major sectors on the TSX,” he says.

To illustrate, the planner compares the performance of the TSX and the S&P 500 indexes from Dec. 31 and from their February highs to the market close on June 24. The TSX is down 10.4 per cent from Dec. 31 and down 14.8 per cent from February. The S&P, in contrast, is down 5.6 per cent from year-end and down 9.9 per cent from February.

“Having a portfolio almost entirely allocated to stocks in retirement is a risk that Wilfred and Wendy cannot afford,” Mr. Ardrey says. He offers two alternatives. The first is a geographically diversified portfolio with 60-per-cent stocks or stock funds and 40-per-cent fixed income using low-cost exchange-traded funds. Such a portfolio has a historical rate of return of 4.4-per-cent net of investment costs.

Or they could hire an investment counsellor that offers carefully selected alternative income investments with a solid track record, Mr. Ardrey says. Adding these securities to their portfolio ideally would lower volatility and provide a higher return than might be available in traditional fixed-income securities such as bonds, the planner says.

Either way, they meet their retirement spending goal of $75,000 a year after tax, plus $25,000 a year for travel until Wilfred is 80.

Client situation

The people: Wilfred, 58, and Wendy, 53

The problem: How to ready themselves financially to retire in a couple of years.

The plan: Draw up an accurate budget, continue saving and take steps to diversify their investment portfolio to lower volatility and improve returns.

The payoff: Financial security with a comfortable cushion.

Monthly net income: $11,230

Assets: Bank accounts $51,000; his stocks $78,000; her stocks $135,800; his TFSA $86,500; her TFSA $78,000; his RRSP $232,217; her RRSP $186,767; estimated present value of his pension plan $464,000; estimated present value of her pension plan $677,417; residence $425,000. Total: $2.4-million

Monthly outlays: Property tax $270; home insurance $75; utilities $185; maintenance $200; garden $50; transportation $580; groceries $600; clothing $200; gifts, charity $200; travel $2,000; dining, drinks, entertainment $350; personal care $150; subscriptions $50; dentists $30; health and dental insurance $100; cellphones $130; cable $200; internet $130; RRSPs $1,025; TFSAs $1,000. Total: $7,525

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

FINANCIAL FACELIFT: Should millennial savers Sid and Kamala hit pause on their plans to buy a house?

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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 May 22, 2020

Fear of missing out has inspired millennials Sid and Kamala to save diligently in hopes of buying a house in the Greater Toronto Area. They also think they’re “bleeding money” by paying rent, Sid writes in an e-mail.

Sid is 34 and earns $55,000 a year in the hospitality industry. Kamala, who is 29, earns $35,000 a year in health services. The house they are eyeing is $880,000. For now, though, the house-hunting is on hold because Kamala and their toddler are stuck overseas, where they were visiting family.

“My question is whether to stay put in the rental market and focus on investing, or get into the housing market by depleting my savings,” Sid writes. “If we buy a house valued at $880,000, will we have any savings left for retirement?” They hope to retire from work when Sid is 60 with $48,000 a year after tax in spending.

In the meantime, they are planning a big trip. “Our dream is to go to Serengeti [National Park] in Africa to see the wildlife migrations one day,” Sid writes. They also want to help their son with postsecondary education.

“Is it feasible?” Sid asks.

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

What the expert says

Mr. Ardrey explores how things might unfold financially if Sid and Kamala buy the house they want early in 2021 for $880,000. For the down payment and the estimated $15,000 in purchase costs (land transfer tax, moving costs, legal costs and furnishings), they have more than $200,000 in cash equivalents sitting in non-registered investment accounts, Mr. Ardrey says. The remaining $680,000 would be financed by a mortgage.

To help with their mortgage payments, they plan on renting out the basement for the first 10 years, Mr. Ardrey says. They expect to get about $1,400 a month. The planner assumes taxes, utilities, insurance and maintenance add another $1,500 a month over and above the $3,220 mortgage payment. One third of these costs – plus a third of the mortgage interest – will be tax deductible as long as they are renting it out.

Sid is expecting to inherit $50,000 in a few years. When he does, they plan to travel to Africa at a cost of $10,000, depositing the remaining $40,000 in their tax-free savings accounts.

“Based on these numbers, and assuming no large increases in their income, the house purchase is only viable with the renter in place” at least until the couple retires in 2046 rather than the 10 years they are planning for, Mr. Ardrey says.

As for the child’s education, their registered education savings plan contributions of $210 a month will fall short, the planner says. With food and housing, each year at university is estimated to cost $20,000, rising at double the rate of inflation, or 4 per cent a year. “With their savings, they will be able to cover about half these costs,” he says. The remainder will have to be covered by loans, grants “or other means.”

When they retire at Sid’s age 60, he is estimated to get 75 per cent of the maximum Canada Pension Plan benefit he would otherwise be entitled to and Kamala 50 per cent. By the age of 65, both will have 40-plus years of residency in Canada, allowing for full Old Age Security payments.

Their investments have a historical rate of return of 4.95 per cent a year, with an average management expense ratio of one percentage point, for a net return of 3.95 per cent. After subtracting inflation, estimated at 2 per cent a year, they will have a real return of 1.95 per cent, Mr. Ardrey says.

“Based on the above assumptions, they just break even with their $48,000-a-year spending goal,” the planner says, “with no room for unforeseen expenses or emergencies.”

To improve their circumstances, the couple could buy a less expensive home. It could be a smaller one in their desired neighbourhood or one farther afield, making their commute to work longer. Either way, they would not likely be able to command such a high rent from the lower-level apartment, the planner says.

Instead, they might want to consider one or more of the following:

Increase their annual savings now through a forced savings program, but “this would be difficult to do when they are already pushed to the edge of their budget,” Mr. Ardrey says. Or they could plan on renting out the apartment throughout their retirement years. “This would allow a non-investment asset – their home – to generate income for them,” the planner says. “They need to decide if they want to continue to have someone in their home and if so, for how long.”

Alternatively, they could sell the house and downsize after they have retired from work. Or they could work longer or spend less when they retire, “not a preferable choice,” the planner says.

The best alternative, Mr. Ardrey says, would be to improve their investment strategy. They have multiple accounts at several different financial institutions. They should consolidate at one financial institution and develop a diversified strategy using exchange-traded funds, he says.

As their portfolio grows, they should look to move to an investment counselling firm that can offer private investments to supplement the couple’s diversified equity and fixed-income strategy. If all goes well, they should be able to increase their returns net of fees by about one percentage point, the planner says. This would give them more of a financial cushion without having to sacrifice their lifestyle.

One thing that could work in Sid and Kamala’s favour is the potential effect of COVID-19 on house prices. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. recently estimated that in a worst-case scenario, house prices could fall as much as 18 per cent over the next 12 months, which would knock $158,000 off the price of their desired home. “If that were to happen, it would certainly make their financial goals that much more achievable,” Mr. Ardrey says.

Client situation

The people: Sid, 34, Kamala, 29, and their toddler.

The problem: Can they afford to buy the house of their dreams?

The plan: Gain a solid understanding of the potential risks and trade-offs involved in buying the house they want.

The payoff: A greater potential for financial security.

Monthly net income: $5,900

Assets: Cash and cash equivalents $210,655; his RRSPs $45,425; his TFSAs $23,505; her RRSPs $3,760. Total: $283,345

Monthly outlays: Rent $1,900; home insurance $20; electricity $40; transportation $450; groceries $400; child care (grandparents are main caregivers) $100; clothing $25; charity $20; personal care $50; dining out $200; subscriptions $30; drugstore $20; cellphones $100; internet $45; RRSPs $700; RESP $210; TFSAs $425. Total: $4,735. Surplus of $1,165 goes to unallocated spending and saving for down payment.

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

The coronavirus has created a tremendous financial opportunity for workers with a pension

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Unique opportunities sometimes come in extreme times.

The one detailed below on commuting the value of your pension won’t be an option for many, but for those with the ability to take advantage, it could meaningfully improve their retirement finances for years to come.

This opportunity is based on three fundamental facts.

First, the current or commuted value of your pension is much higher when interest rates on 5 Year Canadian Bonds are low. The five-year bond is trading near historic lows, at 0.57 per cent at the time of writing.

Secondly, you can use the paid-out pension money to buy some very solid long-term Canadian investments with dividend yields of six per cent or more.

Finally, the effective marginal tax rate on Canadian dividends is very low. In Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, you don’t pay any tax on such dividends at $40,000 of taxable income, and only 7.6 per cent at $70,000 of taxable income.

Let’s take a look at each of these facts.

Why low interest rates make your pension worth more today

Canadian money and Why low interest rates make your pension worth more today.This only relates to the one-time value of defined-benefit (DB) pension plans, since defined-contribution plans go up or down in value each month based on the investment value of your account.

Low interest rates can be great for DB plans because they are valued on a specific date — usually monthly. This value is essentially meant to compensate you for what the pension would need to set aside to cover your pension payouts.

Let’s say you needed to get $50,000 a year from a guaranteed investment certificate. If interest rates are 10 per cent, you would need $500,000 invested to generate the $50,000. If interest rates are one per cent, you need $5 million to generate the same amount. Today, the pension plan needs to set aside much more money to ensure it can meet the fixed needs of your lifetime pension.

The value of your pension is made up of several factors. Needing $5 million to generate $50,000 is a very generic example, but the difference could mean getting $250,000 or more on a full mid-level pension if you retire today compared to if you retire when rates are two percentage points higher.

Of particular interest is that pension plan managers do not want you to take the commuted value. They don’t want to lose assets at the best of times, but especially not at the most expensive times when interest rates are low. If they wanted you to take out the cash, they would provide more education to make your decision easier. In our experience, you often have to push hard to get answers to key questions that might help you make better informed decisions.

Keep in mind, too, that with some plans you can make the decision to take the cash instead of the pension right before you retire. With other plans, you have to make the decision to take the commuted value of a pension as early as age 50 or 55. This is an important question to ask your manager.

What to do with a cash payment

One of the keys to making such decisions is to understand that this isn’t play money. This is your retirement pension. You want to invest wisely and lean conservative. If a portfolio won’t do as well as your pension, then you should keep the pension.

We often analyze pensions for clients to determine the break-even point if someone was to live to be 90. This point will depend on whether a pension is fully indexed to inflation, and must account for any other health benefits that might be included.

Having said that, because of the low interest rates at this time, the rate of return required to do better than a pension payout is generally in the range of 2.75 per cent to four per cent today. If the pension funds are invested at, say, a three-per-cent annual return until age 90, and funds are drawn out exactly the same as they would be in a pension, the investments will be worth zero at age 90, the same as they would be for the pension if you pass away at 90 with no survivors.

Over the long term, three per cent is a pretty low hurdle to clear. It is much easier now. As an example, we put together three investments with a combined yield of more than seven per cent that could help you achieve this return.

George Weston Preferred Share – Series D: The current dividend yield on this fixed-rate or perpetual-preferred share is 6.2 per cent (at the time of writing). The share price is still down almost 15 per cent from March, but we believe that you will see some decent price recovery in addition to the dividend.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce common shares: The current dividend yield is 7.5 per cent. No Big 5 Canadian bank has cut its dividend since the 1930s. It is possible they would, but very unlikely. The stock is still trading almost 30 per cent lower than it was in mid-February, but even if the stock price never goes up, and the dividend never rises, 7.5 per cent a year is a decent return. The good news is that both the stock price and dividend are very likely to meaningfully rise during your retirement years.

Bridging Income Fund: Bridging Income is a well-run firm that offers secured private lending and factoring. The fund has delivered consistent annual returns of eight per cent or more, with little correlation to stock markets. It has also provided positive returns for the past 70-plus months without a single negative month. We have worked with the fund since its inception seven years ago, and this has provided investment benefits to our clients.

The above three are clearly not meant to be an investment portfolio, but they represent a sample of what can be purchased today, often at higher yields than normal because of the decline in markets.

Tax and dividend considerations

Usually, the commuted value of a pension is paid out in two forms. The first would be funds that are tax sheltered and paid out into a registered retirement savings plan or similar account. You don’t pay tax on the transfer, but you will pay full income tax on the funds when they are ultimately withdrawn from the account.

The second form usually comes out as a taxable lump sum. There is a maximum transfer value for a pension, with anything above this amount considered taxable income. The general rule is that the larger your annual income as an employee, the higher percentage of your pension payout will likely be taxable. There are some strategies to lower the tax payment, but it is important to fully factor in the tax bill when determining what pension option makes sense.

In the three investments mentioned above, the George Weston and CIBC investments pay out eligible Canadian dividends, while the Bridging Income payout is considered interest income.

For a pension payout, we would hold Bridging Income in a tax-sheltered account. For the Canadian dividends, we are very comfortable holding them in a taxable investment account, because of the low tax rates on this income. Even for someone who has a total taxable income of $90,000, the tax rate on Canadian eligible dividends is just 12.2 per cent in Ontario and 7.6 per cent in B.C. and Alberta.

One of the negatives of a pension is that you don’t have control of the cash flow. It comes in every month, fully taxed, whether you need the cash or not. If you take the commuted value of your pension, you have much more control over cash flow and income, and this can be very valuable over time, as shown by the Canadian dividend income example.

The bottom line is that historically low interest rates along with higher-yielding investments can be a very rare opportunity that comes out of unfortunate circumstances. If your company or organization is strong and you are very risk averse, then keep your pension as is. If you don’t fall into that group, you should at least explore your options, especially now.

Reproduced from the National Post newspaper article 14th April 2020.

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

FINANCIAL FACELIFT: Can this couple still retire in three years after their investments took a major hit?

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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 April 10, 2020

Robert and Rachel have worked hard, raised three children and – thanks to high income and frugal living – amassed an impressive portfolio of dividend-paying stocks, which they manage themselves. When they approached Financial Facelift in February, their combined investments were worth about $2.7-million.

After the coronavirus tore through financial markets last month, their holdings tumbled to a little more than $1.8-million by late March, a drop of roughly $900,000, or 33 per cent. Markets have since bounced but are still well below their February highs.

“The recent market downturn caught us by surprise,” Robert acknowledges in an e-mail, “but we are hoping we can weather the storm.”

Robert, a self-employed consultant, is 57. Rachel, who works in management, is 52. Together they brought in about $285,000 last year, although Robert’s income prospects for this year are uncertain. They have three children, ranging in age from 9 to 19.

“We feel burned out,” Robert writes, “but we have no company pensions or other safety blankets. Can we retire now?”

Leading up to retirement, the couple want to do some renovations costing $100,000 and take up recreational flying, which they estimate will cost about $150,000. Their goal is to quit working in three years with a budget of $100,000 a year after tax. Can they still do it?

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

What the expert says

“The rapid decline and subsequent volatility of their investments is a result of how they are investing,” Mr. Ardrey says. Their portfolio is 85 per cent common stocks and 15 per cent preferred shares, the planner notes. “Of the common stock, about 90 per cent is Canadian. This lack of diversification in their investment strategy will affect their retirement plans.”

For the first quarter, major stock markets were down more than 20 per cent, he says. “The fixed-income universe in Canada was up 1.56 per cent for the quarter.” Having some fixed-income securities “would have mitigated the couple’s losses.”

In preparing his forecast, Mr. Ardrey weighs some different situations. He assumes their investment returns from this point forward equal the long-term average for this type of portfolio of 6.25 per cent. This rate of return continues until they retire from work in three-and-a-half years.

When Robert and Rachel retire, the planner assumes they reduce their exposure to stocks and switch to a balanced portfolio of 60 per cent stocks and 40 per cent bonds. This would give them a return of 4.5 per cent. “From there we can compare how much impact this market decline had on their portfolio.”

Their original $2.7-million would have given them a net worth at Rachel’s age 90 of $10-million, adjusted for inflation, including their residence and rental property valued at $5.4-million, Mr. Ardrey says. If they chose to spend all of their investments, leaving the real estate for their children, they could have increased their spending from $100,000 a year to $136,000, adjusted for inflation, giving them a comfortable buffer.

With their current portfolio – about $2.2-million as of April 6 – they would have a net worth of $8.4-million at Rachel’s age 90, including $5.4-million in real estate. They would have the option of increasing their spending to $118,000 a year. “This is half of their former buffer, which is a significant difference,” Mr. Ardrey says.

Even if the markets returned double the couple’s historical rate of return, or 12.5 per cent, from now until they retire, “it would still not make up all of the difference of what they have lost,” the planner says. Their net worth at Rachel’s age 90 would be $9.5-million and they could increase their spending to $130,000.

This market downturn speaks to the value of a balanced, diversified portfolio and professional money management, Mr. Ardrey says. “In so many cases, people try to invest on their own without truly understanding their ability to tolerate risk, or without a financial plan in place” to help them understand the implications of market returns on their retirement.

He recommends Robert and Rachel gradually shift to a professionally managed portfolio that includes both large-capitalization stocks with strong dividends, diversified geographically, and a fixed-income component comprising corporate and government bonds. This strategy could be supplemented with some private income funds – which do not trade on financial markets – to stabilize their returns and potentially enhance their income.

By making this change, they could increase their rate of return in retirement from 4.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent, giving them an additional financial cushion of $12,000 a year. “This would be especially beneficial if markets take a long time to return to their former highs,” Mr. Ardrey says.

The plan assumes Robert will get 85 per cent of Canada Pension Plan benefits and Rachel 75 per cent, starting at age 65. They will both get full Old Age Security benefits.

Fortunately, this couple have ample resources, including real estate, that they can use to insulate themselves against unexpected expenses, Mr. Ardrey says. Many other Canadians who have been investing in the same manner do not. Worse, many investors may have other financial stresses such as a lost job or mounting debts that could force them to liquidate their portfolio at an inopportune time, the planner says.

“What the past month has shown is that there are significant risks to do-it-yourself investing and not having a proper asset mix in place – especially as you approach retirement.”

Client situation

The people: Robert, 57, Rachel, 52, and their three children.

The problem: Can they retire in about three years without jeopardizing their financial security?

The plan: Retire as planned but take steps to draw up a proper financial plan that includes a more balanced investment strategy.

The payoff: Lowering potential investment risk to better achieve goals.

Monthly net income: $16,720

Assets: Cash $32,875; stocks $589,775; capital in his small business corporation $157,080; her TFSA $82,220; his TFSA $57,035; her RRSP $446,145; his RRSP $621,755; her locked-in retirement account from previous employer $76,405; his LIRA from previous employer $184,825; registered education savings plan $81,260; residence $1,800,000; recreational property $650,000. Total: $4.78-million

Monthly outlays: (including recreational property): Property tax $1,215; home insurance $125; utilities $495; maintenance $240; transportation $650; groceries $1,105; clothing $435; gifts $215; vacation, travel $325; dining out, entertainment $385; pets $45; sports, hobbies $625; piano lessons $160; other personal $415; doctors, dentists $200; prescriptions $70; phones, TV, internet $140; RRSPs $1,830; RESP $630; TFSA $915; savings to taxable accounts $7,460. Total: $17,680.

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

Markets are fearful and history tells us that means the time to buy is right now

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Knowing what to do in the middle of a highly stressful and uncertain time is very difficult for investors. You have experts on TV telling you to horde cash, while others say today is the best day to buy. They all believe what they are saying, and everyone is really left to guess.

At our firm there are two things that guide us at times like this:

1. Have the right asset mix for you, and stick with it. Market changes should not meaningfully change your asset mix. Your asset mix should change mostly when your personal situation changes. Things like retirement, major purchases, divorce, or significant health changes — all of these might be times for a change to your asset mix.

This work on the correct asset mix insulates those with the least tolerance for losses from some of the damage when things go bad. For those not so insulated, they are OK with it because they understand that this is the price to be paid to get the upside as well.

2. Use data to minimize emotional investing. Our Sr. VP, Equities, Cameron Winser reviewed similar pullbacks over the past 70 years. Since 1950 there have been eight periods on the U.S. S&P 500 when there has been a decline of at least 15% in a 30-day period. Picking the absolute bottom is a guess each time, but at the end of that 30-day period of declines, the immediate and mid-term future was almost always positive.

These are returns without dividends, so they underestimate the actual returns.

Even without dividends, we can see the following:

  • Next 20 trading days (roughly 1 month) — the average return was 9.0 per cent and 7 of 8 were positive.
  • Next 40 trading days (roughly 2 months) — the average return was 12.3 per cent and 8 of 8 were positive.
  • Next 60 trading days (roughly 3 months) — the average return was 10.6 per cent and 7 of 8 were positive.
  • Next 260 trading days (roughly 1 year) — the average return was 28.7 per cent and 7 of 8 were positive.
  • Next 720 trading days (roughly 3 years) — the average cumulative return was 50.1 per cent and 8 of 8 were positive.

We looked at the same scenario for Toronto stock markets. We found nine situations of 15+ per cent declines in a 30-day period. The findings were largely the same.

  • Next 20 trading days (roughly 1 month) — the average return was 6.7 per cent and 8 of 9 were positive.
  • Next 40 trading days (roughly 2 months) — the average return was 8.0 per cent and 8 of 9 were positive.
  • Next 60 trading days (roughly 3 months) — the average return was 8.5 per cent and 6 of 9 were positive.
  • Next 260 trading days (roughly 1 year) — the average return was 21.8 per cent and 8 of 9 were positive.
  • Next 720 trading days (roughly 3 years) — the average cumulative return was 47.9 per cent and 9 of 9 were positive.

Fearful markets are a buying opportunityThis data tells a very important and clear story. Big pullbacks represent good entry points. As I write this, the S&P 500 has crossed the 15 per cent line from peak to trough this month.

This tells us that based on a pretty long history, if you buy into the market after a 15 per cent drop, you may suffer further declines over the next few days, but as you look further out, you will very likely be pleased with the timing of your purchase. It also tells us that if you are fully invested in stocks at a reasonable weighting for you, then now is definitely not the time to be selling.

People will say on each of these events “this time is different.” They are right. Each time the cause of the decline is different, but the constant is human emotion. Fear and greed. Human emotion is the same and it leads the markets to repeat patterns again and again.

The lesson of this fear and greed is that now is likely a good time to be invested in stocks. It may not be the perfect day, but it is very likely to be a good day, as long as your investment timeline is at least a year.

Other things to note is that of the list of 15+ per cent declines in the U.S., six of the eight had further declines of only zero per cent to five per cent after the 15 per cent point.

In October 1987, the decline was worse, but most of it happened on one day. On Oct. 19, Black Monday, the Dow fell 22.6 per cent. In this case, our theory still holds true, in that once that day was done, even though markets were very volatile over the coming weeks, the trend was clearly positive.

The other time with a larger decline was in October 2008. While many of us remember that it wasn’t until March 2009 that things actually bottomed out, let’s say you bought into the market in October 2008 after a 15 per cent decline. You would have had a pretty rough ride for several months, but you still would have been comfortably ahead by October 2009.

The 2008 example also leads to an important lesson at times like this. Patience is a key for investment success. We are currently in a very volatile market situation where every day is a roller coaster. This will likely continue for a few more days, maybe even weeks. It will not continue for months. Panic selling is not a long term activity. It feels like it when you are in the middle of the days or weeks that it goes on, but it will not continue for long.

The other reaction from many people at this point is they say that they will reinvest cash once things settle down. To borrow from Ferris Bueller: “Markets move pretty fast.”

“Once things settle down,” usually means that the market has had a solid recovery. Over the ‘Next 20 Days,’ six of the eight periods saw significant one month gains. You can certainly wait until some meaningful gains have returned, but there is often a sizeable cost for waiting.

Our key message here is that based on long-term historical data that has seen how actual investors react after a 15 per cent decline, this is a time to be adding to or sticking with your stock investments, and not a time to be selling out. Guarantees do not exist, but data, human emotions and history guide us on what to do.

Reproduced from the National Post newspaper article 6th March 2020.

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