Jan 222018
 

Why Bonds Are So Important

A fundamental skill to successfully managing wealth is knowing how to diversify our assets. This means we must own both equity and fixed income, with the correct weighting and balance. There isn’t a single solution that fits everyone’s situation. But in general bonds help to protect our wealth against volatility when the stock market goes crazy, which it tends to do once in awhile.

Some kind of mix between safe assets such as bonds, and growth assets such as stocks, has proven to work very well in good economic times and bad. For example, a mix of 80% stocks and 20% bonds in a diversified portfolio would have returned about 8% on average over the past decade, which is not bad since that includes the stock market crash of the 2008 financial crisis.

Financial problems are often cited as the number one reason for divorce. But having some solid bond exposure can bring stability to a relationship. It’s clear that couples are more likely to stay together if they have strong bonds. 😎

The Best Bond Exchange Traded Funds

So what’s the best way to buy bonds? Personally I like to invest in bond ETFs, which hold individual bonds so I stay diversified within this asset class. The following funds are the best Canadian bond ETFs to buy for investors looking at a medium or long term time horizon. I’m no expert but these funds are the best in their categories that I can find. 🙂

  • BMO Aggregate Bond Index ETF (ZAG) 
    A broad index fund that holds both government and corporate bonds. Very diversified.
  • BMO Mid Corporate Bond ETF (ZCM)
    An index fund that holds only corporate bonds with maturities between 5 to 10 years.
  • iShares Canadian HYBrid Corporate Bond Index ETF (XHB)
    Holds lower quality corporate bonds (Mostly BBB rated) with a minimum maturity of 1 year.
  • Horizons Active Corporate Bond ETF (HAB)
    Actively managed corporate bond fund that seeks moderate capital growth and generate high income.
  • BMO Long Corporate Bond Index ETF (ZLC)
    An index fund that holds only corporate bonds with maturities over 10 years.

Here’s a table so you can easily compare all of them. 🙂

Comparing Bond ETFsZAGZCMXHBHABZLC
Price/unit on Jan 2018$15$16$20$11$18
Gov’t / Corporate %72 / 280 / 1000/ 1000 / 1000 / 100
Net Assets (billions)$3.4$1.4$0.5$0.6$0.4
MER (fees)0.14%0.34%0.51%0.60%0.34%
Weighted Avg duration7.5 years6.3 years5.9 years6.2 years13.3 years
Annual yield3.00%3.10%4.00%3.10%4.10%
Avg YTM2.50%3.30%4.00%3.20%3.90%
% Credit AAA410020
% Credit AA3213051
% Credit A173303861
% Credit BBB1054805138
% Credit BB or Lower002000
1 year total return1.5%1.2%3.3%2.6%5.9%
3 year avg return1.4%2.3%3.3%2.5%3.4%
5 year avg return2.7%3.6%3.9%3.2%5.1%
Additional informationMorningstar: 4

Federal 37%
Provincial 35%
Corporate 28%
.
.

Avg coupon: 3.2

$6,300 to DRIP

Morningstar: 5

Energy 31%
Financial 26%
Real estate 12%
Commun 12%
Other 19%

Avg coupon: 3.5

$6,300 to DRIP

Morningstar: 3

Energy 30%
Commun 23%
Industrial 17%
Financial 13%
Other 17%

Avg coupon: 4.7

$6,200 to DRIP

Morningstar: 5

Financial 43%
Energy 18%
Infrast 16%
Commun 10%
Other 13%

Avg coupon: 4.0

$4,200 to DRIP

Morningstar: 5

Infrast 43%
Energy 33%
Commun 10%
Financial 7%
Other 7%

Avg coupon: 5.4

$5,600 to DRIP

 

  • The Average duration refers to how sensitive the ETF is to changing interest rates. Longer duration bonds offer higher yields, but are also more sensitive to interest rate movements.
  • The weighted average yield to maturity (YTM) includes the interest payments and any capital gain or loss that the investor will realize by holding the bonds to maturity.
  • The Credit rating is how risky a bond is. The lower the rating, the more likely the company is to default on its debt obligations.

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Jan 152018
 

How to Prepare for Higher Borrowing Costs

My debt to income ratio is about 500% while the national average is around 173%. Readers sometimes email me and ask what I will do when interest rates rise. My answer is simple.

I tell them I will pay down my debts in an accelerated manner prioritizing the highest interest loan first. I will limit my monthly interest expense to no more than $1,500. Doing this will adequately protect myself from interest rate risk. Sounds like a solid plan, right? 😉

But I know not everyone will agree. :/ Back in 2014 I noticed some people were concerned that I had taken on excessive risk because my debt level was too high. This sentiment echoed around various internet forums. Here are some examples I’ve saved.

The last commentator wanted to know how I’m doing now. That’s what I’ll be discussing in today’s post. 🙂

But first, here’s a look at my debt summary in 2014. The numbers are taken from my net worth update 4 yrs ago.

Liquid’s 2014 Debts Balance Interest Rate Annual Interest Cost
Mortgage$200,0002.95%$5,900
Farmloans$208,3003.40%$7,082
Margin Loans$52,9004.25%$2,248
HELOC$17,9003.60%$644
TD Line of Credit$33,7005.25%$1,769
CIBC Line of Credit$14,0004.50%$630
RRSP Loan$5,0004.00%$200
Total Debt Balance$531,800  
Average Weighted Interest Rate 3.47% 
Total Cost of Debts$18,474

 

Back then I had nearly $532K of debt, charging me an average interest rate of 3.47% per year.

I was paying $1,540 per month in interest. But I was cash flow positive and saving about $1,000 per month. I felt like I had everything under control. So I didn’t understand why people claimed I was overly leveraged. I thought maybe I was missing something. But as Bobby McFerrin would say, “don’t worry, be happy.” 😀 So that’s what I did.

And here’s what my debt looks like today, 4 years later. 🙂

Liquid’s 2018 DebtsBalance Interest Rate Annual Interest Cost
Mortgage$180,3002.80%$5,048
Farmloans$185,3004.30%$7,968
Margin Loans$57,0002.40%$1,368
HELOC$14,9003.70%$551
TD Line of Credit$5,0005.45%$273
CIBC Line of Credit$17,5005.00%$875
Total Debt Balance$459,000  
Average Weighted Interest Rate 3.49% 
Total Cost of Debts$16,083

 

So my debt costs me $16,083/yr or $1,340 per month right now. This is actually $200 per month lower than in 2014, despite interest rates being higher today.

Yay. Bobby was right. There was no need to be worried. 😀

Nearly every asset class I hold long positions in has produced decent returns since 2014. Had I not borrowed and used other people’s money to invest I would have missed out on all the investment gains.

 

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Jan 092018
 

Summary of Financial Market Returns

2017 was a great year for investors, particular for those with long exposure to emerging markets overseas. 🙂 Nearly every asset class experienced positive returns. The best performing one was cryptocurrencies. It grew from a market capitalization of $20 billion to $800 billion in the last 12 months. To put that into perspective that’s about 1% of the global stock market which is valued at roughly $80 trillion.

North American Markets in 2017

  • Canadian dollar stronger by 7.0%
    (This means more purchasing power and cheaper imports, such as produce from California. Yay!)
  • U.S. dollar weaker by 6.6%
    (U.S. investments are on sale.)
  • The average CAD/USD exchange rate was 0.77
    (This may be important for tax filing purposes if you traded U.S. securities.)
  • Canadian S&P/TSX stock index total return = 9.1%
    (6% from price appreciation + 3.1% from dividends.)
  • S&P 500 U.S. stock index total return = 21.8%
    (Amazing! But the Nasdaq index which contains technology stocks was up 30%.)
  • Canadian Aggregate bond index ETF (ZAG) total return = 3.0%
    (Interest rates are still very low.)

Foreign Markets in 2017

The MSCI group contains thousands of stocks from 24 developed markets around the world. Data below courtesy of Yardeni Research.

  • Average change across all MSCI countries in 2017 = 17.5%. Up from 8.2% in 2016.
  • EMU refers to the European markets specifically.

In December I sold some Bitcoin and Litecoin to pay down some of my debt. I’ve saved up a cash cushion of $10,000 because I intend to pick up some new stocks over the next few weeks.

Liquid’s Financial Update

*Side Incomes:

  • Part-Time = $1100
  • Freelance = $1200
  • Dividends = $900
  • Interest = $300
  • Trading income = $2,500
*Discretionary Spending:
  • Fun = $500
  • Debt Interest = $1300

*Net Worth: (ΔMoM)

  • Assets: = $1,158,900 total (+8,200)
  • Cash = $10,500 (+2000)
  • Canadian stocks = $168,200 (+4000)
  • U.S. stocks = $107,000 (+1200)
  • U.K. stocks = $21,400 (+400)
  • Retirement = $91,300 (+200)
  • Mortgage Funds = $32,200 (+200)
  • P2P Lending = $22,200 (+200)
  • Home = $270,000
  • Farms = $436,000
  • Debts: = $462,300 total (-6,400)
  • Mortgage = $180,600 (-300)
  • Farm Loans = $185,800 (-500)
  • Margin Loans = $57,500 (-1400)
  • TD Line of Credit = $5,500  (-1200)
  • CIBC Line of Credit = $18,000 (-3000)
  • HELOC = $14,900

*Total Net Worth = $696,600 (+$14,600 / +2.1%)
All numbers above are in $CDN. 

My net worth has increased $126K year over year. Not too shabby. 🙂 This gain was mostly thanks to the Canadian and U.S. stock markets reaching record highs.

Many experts suggest to rebalance one’s portfolio once a year to ensure it still matches up with long term goals. Stocks outperformed bonds last year. So here is what my asset allocation currently looks like.

My liquid investment portfolio contains 82% equities, and 18% fixed income, while a year ago it was at 90% and 10% respectively. I have increased my fixed income exposure because I’m closer to retiring. Yay.

As we head into 2018 I plan to reduce my debt while continuing to max out my tax advantaged investment accounts. By the end of the year I aim to be collecting $18,000 in forward dividend and interest income. 🙂 My liquid asset allocation goal is to be somewhere between 75% to 80% equities, and the rest in fixed income.

My 2018 watchlist includes the corporate bond ETF (TSE:ZCM), Parkland Fuel Corp (TSE:PKI), North American Preferred Shares ETF (TSE:XPF), and more Lending Loop loans. 😀

 

——————————————————————–
Random Useless Fact

Jan 022018
 

Hello friends. It’s a new year. 😀 My investment strategy for 2017 was simple; to buy dividend growth stocks and alternative investments. Dividend stocks and alternative assets tend to grow in bull markets but also hold up well in recessions. The plan is to earn respectable returns while reducing risk to the downside. Here are my 2017 results.

Average return on investable assets = 18.9%

Overall I am quite thrilled with this outcome. 🙂 The broad Canadian stock market index (S&P/TSX Composite) returned about 9% in 2017. I remain convinced that a dividend based investment strategy works better than index funds.

Another variable that worked to my advantage is geographical diversification. Most equity markets in foreign countries performed extremely well. For example, the S&P 500 index in the U.S. gained 20%. Holding U.S. and European stocks helped me a lot this year.

The Best of 2017

Liquid’s Top 10 Best performing stocks of the year:

  1. Canopy Growth Corp (WEED) +213%
  2. Match Group Inc (MTCH) +82%
  3. Caterpillar (CAT) +64%
  4. Avigilon Corp (AVO) +63%
  5. Dollarama (DOL) +59%
  6. Amazon.com (AMZN) +58%
  7. Premium Brands Holdings (PBH) +55%
  8. Deere and Co (DE) +55%
  9. Blackberry (BB) +54%
  10. Netflix (NFLX) +53%

The Worst of 2017

Liquid’s Top 10 Worst performing stocks of the year:

  1. Crescent Point Energy (CPG) -45%
  2. High Liner Foods (HLF) -23%
  3. Cineplex (CGX) -22%
  4. Cameco Corp (CCO) -14%
  5. Viacom (VIAB) -10%
  6. Halliburton (HAL) -8%
  7. Keyera Corp (KEY) -7%
  8. Boardwalk REIT (BEI.UN) -7%
  9. Target Corp (TGT) -6%
  10. Goldcorp (G) -5%

We can’t win them all. But as long as we get it right most of the time then everything will work out eventually. 🙂

 

.

2017 Investment Breakdown

All returns mentioned below are internal rate of returns (IRR) unless otherwise stated.

TD Portfolio 
Annual return = 16.3%
Net Asset Value = $190K

This includes my entire RRSP portfolio, most of my TFSA and a small cash account all held within TD Direct Investing. The combined return over the last 12 months was 16.28%.

I hold about 15 individual securities in my TD TFSA, and another 30 in my RRSP account. If you are interested to see exactly what they are I’ve listed all the stocks on my portfolio page. 😀

Note: Past performance doesn’t guarantee future results and readers should not take any stocks I buy as recommendations.

 

Interactive Brokers – Non Registered Portfolio
Annual return = 25.3%
Net Asset Value = $158K

This is where I have my margin account. I hold Canadian, U.S. and U.K. securities in here – mostly preferred stocks and dividend stocks due to the preferential tax treatment of their returns. One reason the return is so high in this portfolio is because I am using leverage (borrowing money to invest.)

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Dec 262017
 

Year In Review

It’s been a year since I began investing in the peer to peer lending platform Lending Loop. I was anticipating a return of 8% when I first wrote about it. However things turned out better than I expected. I started the year with $20,000 and have earned just over $2,000 in interest now. So my year to date return is currently about 10%. I’m really happy with that! 🙂 Here’s a recent snapshot of my account.

Here’s what my account looked like back in June.

I currently hold about 40 different loans. I usually commit about $500 to $1,000 per new loan. Each company has a different credit rating based on its likelihood to pay back debt. The table below shows how Lending Loop categorizes the risk bands.

I generally invest in the range between B and C rated loans. The interest rate I receive on the investment should be high, but I don’t want super risky loans with high rates of default. I do my research on a company before I invest so I do not automatically put money into every C+ loan that Lending Loop offers. I don’t have any A or A+ rated loans because the rates of return on those after fees are too low for me.

The reason I was expecting only 8% annual return is because I had factored in loan defaults that would cut into my gross interest earnings. However, across my ~40 different loans not a single one has defaulted yet. 😀 Phew. Thank goodness for that. *Knocks on wood* But I’ve only been on this platform for 12 months. Most loans in my portfolio have a lifespan of 24 to 36 months. So as time goes on I should probably expect to see some defaults, but hopefully not a lot.

 

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