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