Nov 142016

If our employer gives us the option to collect our paychecks one month in advance, but charge a one time fee of 1% then I’m sure a lot of people would like the idea. Maybe we won’t use it, but it’s nice to know we have that option to get paid a month early if we want to! 🙂 This is similar to when a bank, car dealership, or credit card company offers us a loan that has a 12% annual interest rate.

Both examples are essentially the same thing. We receive some money in advance, accrue a small fee, and eventually pay back the full amount with either labour or cash savings. Workers are willing to pay that extra 1% fee if it means giving them the freedom to choose when to spend their money. Maybe they really want to take a family vacation now instead of next month before the busy and more expensive holiday traveling season. It’s nice to have the option to do so even if it means giving up 1% of their income because of tradeoffs. Some people are even willing to accrue a 5% charge. In that case, they can take a vacation 5 months in advance. When most people think about debt, they focus on the borrowing cost or interest charges. But when they think about getting an early paycheque, they focus on the financial benefits of the premature income. But both situations can be thought of as balancing time and money. 🙂

I think if people start to look at debt as a financial tool rather than a burden, they will see that borrowing money is a natural part of life and we shouldn’t be afraid of it or patronize debtors.

Random Useless Fact:

Sometimes the best response to provocation is not to engage.


Sep 192016

The Effects of Debt on Your Health

According to a Globe and Mail article I recently read, people have gotten sick and depressed thinking about their debts. “Researchers and health professionals are making the case for treating personal debt as a public health problem.” Oh no. 🙁 Dr. Donna Ferguson, a psychologist in Toronto says, “I think that it’s a major crisis. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”

The average consumer debt in Canada is only about $21,000. Personally I don’t think that’s a whole lot. Yet psychologists are calling this a “major crisis.” 😠 People are blaming debt for making them feel physically ill. But I have much more debt than they ever will. So if having a healthy relationship with debt is their primary goal, then they should do something to keep their stress under control. 🙂

Luckily I have a solution to help those consumers. If we want them to get better we have to address the root of the issue. The problem is with individual psychology, not with debt. Instead of creating more health problems for borrowers and increase the burden on our public healthcare system, like what Dr. Ferguson suggests, let’s try to educate people about the truth so we can prevent people from feeling ill in the first place.

So here’s my simple yet effective tip to help anyone who may have debt anxiety:

If you don’t think you can handle the debt, then don’t borrow the money. 😀

Sometimes the negative consequences of debt are blown out of proportion. The ASA, a financial support organization, has even made a horror video to show the trepidation and paranoia that comes with having student loan debt, which further supports the common narrative.


Some people have this irrational fear that if we have debt then somehow it will come to get us like the boogeyman. 😆 But the reality is nothing bad will happen as long as we make the payments on our debt.

Missing a Debt Payment is No Big Deal

The consequences for delinquent debt are very lenient towards borrowers. The bank can’t just take our house away as soon as we stop making mortgage payments. In my neck of the woods for example, the bank has to first draft up a foreclosure petition if a mortgage payment is 3 months late. Then the court hearing will be a month later. And then the property goes into a redemption period for up to 6 more months. So we have plenty of time throughout this entire process to get our payments back on track. We can even sell our house if it’s worth more than the mortgage balance.

For other types of debt, if money becomes tight we can enter into consumer proposal or apply for other debt relief options. We’re usually given at least 3 months to catch up on our payments before it goes to a collections agency. Despite the scary rumors, consumer debt cannot physically harm us. We won’t be assaulted or locked up if we’re late on our credit card payments. Nobody will drag us to jail because we failed to make a car payment, lol. The worst they can do to us is take the car away and tarnish our credit score. But I think that’s only fair. Our vehicle is being repossessed only because we broke the debtor/creditor agreement first.

So there’s no reason to get all worried and stressed out over a reasonable amount of debt. 🙂 We just have to be smart and not borrow too much.

Random Useless Fact:

If the original Power Rangers series were made today in 2016, it would probably offend too many people and be banned from airing in most countries.


The yellow ranger was Asian. The red ranger was Native American. The pink ranger was portrayed as a ditsy white girl. The black ranger was black. And in later episodes they introduced the white power ranger who was the strongest.

Sep 152016

Staying in Debt Forever

Sometimes I get asked if I will ever be debt free. Unfortunately I don’t have a good answer for this question. In my previous post earlier this week I discussed the debt spectrum, which describes debt as a financial state along a sempiternal line. This line stretches out in both directions and has no ends in sight because it’s hard to put a limit on the amount of debt we can lend or borrow. For example, it’s common today for regular folks in Zimbabwe to hold literally quadrillions of dollars of debt in their outdated, but still existing currency. 1 quadrillion looks like this: 1,000,000,000,000,000.😁

Compared to a huge number like that, it would appear most Canadians have a much more reasonable amount of debt. 🙂


Of course that’s not a fair comparison, but the point is almost everyone has some form of debt or another. Since I believe in the debt spectrum concept, I don’t view debt as something that I can ever remove from my life completely.

To me debt is a continuous road that I’m constantly on. There’s no beginning and no end. I’m either a net debtor or a net creditor. I’m either buying debt or I’m selling debt. I use leverage when interest rates are low. I lend money to people who need it when interest rates are high. I might do both at the same time. Debt will always be a part of my life just as it is a part of the broader economy. My position on the debt spectrum will constantly shift from left to right depending on changing circumstances. But I will never not be on the spectrum.

Even in a high interest rate environment where I’m a net creditor, there could still be unique opportunities where I would borrow money. For example, I could use promotional credit card rates where I can borrow money at 2% and invest in a safe bond that yields 4%.

So it’s hard to answer the question if I’ll ever be debt free, because the idea of being “debt free” is kind of irrelevant within the context of the debt spectrum.

Being “debt free” on its own doesn’t mean a whole lot anyway. A barista could be debt free with a net worth of $0. But a stock broker could have $5 million worth of index funds in his portfolio with the help of a $50,000 margin loan. The first person is broke while the second person is a financially independent millionaire. But it’s impossible to tell by simply looking at their debts. This is why the debt spectrum is much more useful.

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Sep 122016

A Philosophy on Debt

Many people have this oversimplified, binary view on debt which suggests you either have debt, or you don’t. But the world of debt isn’t black and white. Much like women’s erotic fantasies, debt tends to operate in many Shades of Grey. 😀 However instead of only 50 shades, the debt spectrum covers an infinite span of possibilities! But don’t get too excited yet, ladies. Let me first explain how debt really works. 😉

What is the Debt Spectrum?

A blog reader recently asked if I will always carry a certain level of debt. It’s hard for me to answer this question without first explaining what debt means to me. So today’s post will cover a slightly more advanced topic of personal finance; the Debt Spectrum.

I will discuss this important concept and how I use it to make decisions about whether to borrow money or pay down debt. 🙂 Let’s get started.

Whenever I think about debt I imagine a spectrum.

The debt spectrum can be thought of as a horizontal line that stretches forever in both directions. Along this line are numbers representing how much debt we owe. For example if we have a $100,000 mortgage and $20,000 student loan debt, then we would be situated at the +$120,000 mark on the spectrum.


It’s important to remember that this continuum measures net debt owed. So for example in my case, I owe about $470,000 of debt. But I also own about $40,000 of other people’s debts. So my net debt owed is the difference between the two, which is +$430,000. I’ve marked this on the image above.

Why is this Important to Know?

The way to make money is to improve our investment returns. The way we do that is by maximizing profit while minimizing risk. The debt spectrum is an essential tool to gauge our investment risk. It can give us an overall indication of our debt profile so we know if we’re under-leveraged, over leveraged, or positioned just right. 🙂

How to Make Use of the Debt Spectrum

There is no specific formula for calculating where we should be along the debt spectrum. But here are 6 important variables that should factor into our decision.

The 6 Debt Spectrum Variables

  1. The cost to borrow (AKA: interest rates)
  2. Personal health condition
  3. Risk tolerance
  4. Investment objectives
  5. The state of the economy
  6. Future goals 

We’ll use myself as a case study to work through each of these variables.

  1. The average borrowing cost across all my debt outstanding is about 2.9%.
  2. No health problems.
  3. I have a good income, and no spouse or kids yet to take care of so my risk tolerance is quite high.
  4. Main objective is growth. Secondary objective is hedging.
  5. Slow economic growth with loose fiscal and monetary policies.
  6. Become financially free

So based on these factors which are true about my particular situation, I am sitting at $430,000 of net debt owed. This feels about right to me as I don’t find it hard to keep up with my debt repayment. But I’m also in a good position to capture any future market gains.

If none of the 6 variables change then my position on the debt spectrum shouldn’t change either.

If I come back a year from now, I can use my position on the debt spectrum today as a reference point to compare my financial progress. This will help me make better decisions over time as I keep track of my benchmarks. Let’s play around with the first variable (borrowing cost) to demonstrate how this works.

The Effects of Changing Interest Rates

Let’s say next year my average borrowing cost increases from 2.9% to 3.5%. Assuming all other factors remain the same, this means I have to lower my overall debt and move left on the debt spectrum.


This is because I can’t afford to service 3.5% on my debt as it stands today. So I may lower my net debt by $30,000 in order to keep my minimum debt payments the same amount every month. This way, I’m preventing any additional risk or financial burden to my cash flow.

On the other hand if my interest rate falls from 2.9% to 2.3% then I would go out and borrow more money which means moving right on the debt spectrum by accumulating more debt.


In this scenario, I can afford to borrow more money because the cost to service debt has gone down while nothing else in my life has changed. So I may increase my debt by $30,000 in this situation, and invest the money in an asset which has an annual expected return higher than 2.3%. For example, Enbridge Inc (ENB), a relatively stable blue-chip stock, currently pays a 3.6% annual dividend and has been gradually increasing its dividends for the past 60+ years! 😀

Enbridge recently agreed to acquire Houston-based Spectra to create an energy infrastructure empire. 95% of all cash flow in the combined company will come from long term contracts that are unaffected by oil and gas prices. The newly formed energy giant is basically guaranteeing continued annual dividend growth in the 10% to 12% range all the way through 2024.

I would simply ask myself which of the 2 scenarios below would MOST LIKELY lead to a better financial outcome for me 10+ years from now?

Option 1: Borrow money at 2.3% today to invest in Enbridge that pays 3.6%.
Option 2: Don’t take any action.

After doing the proper due diligence, I’ll probably conclude that option 1 would have a greater probability of making me more money in the long run. So that is most likely what I would do if my average cost to borrow went down to 2.3%.

At the end of the day if borrowing becomes cheaper, I increase my debt. And if borrowing becomes more costly, I reduce my debt.

The principle behind this strategy of moving back and forth on the debt spectrum is to maximize returns for the future without compromising security in the present.

The debt spectrum helps me track and evaluate how my overall debt should move when circumstances such as interest rates change. It’s also important to use the debt spectrum in conjunction with my stress tests to help me understand where my limitations are so I don’t lose my shirt in the next market correction.

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Apr 182016

“The more debt I have the richer I get” 

It’s easy for the Irish to build wealth, because their capital is always Dublin. But the rest of us have to find others ways to grow our net worth. I recently listened to an episode of Palisade Radio, where the host, Collin Kettell, interviewed Robert Kiyosaki, an American investor and the author behind the Rich Dad Poor Dad book series. According to Robert, one way to build wealth is by using debt. Here’s a part of the interview.

“People think I am a real estate guy, but I am not. Really, I am a debt and taxes guy. You see, the more debt I have the richer I get, and the more debt I have the less taxes I pay…. The 1% does not pay tax. They are also deeply in debt, but it is good debt – debt that makes them rich.” ~ Robert K

I currently have $490,000 of debt. If Robert K. is correct then maybe I should borrow even more money so I can become financially independent sooner, haha. But in all seriousness he does bring up some interesting points. Borrowing money allows us to invest more than what we currently have in savings. This magnifies the returns or losses of our investments depending on how they perform. He also suggests that having more debt leads to lower taxes. This can also be true. For example if we buy a rental property with a 20% down payment then the interest we pay on the mortgage debt can be deducted from our salary which will lower our taxable income, which means we pay less tax. 🙂


Robert is also not a fan of the 401(k), which is similar to the company matching RRSP program in Canada. He believes it’s basically another kind of tax. For example an American worker may put $100 into a 401(k) and their employer will supposedly “give” them another $100 for free. But Robert argues that this reasoning is bullocks because it’s suppose to be the worker’s $200 in the first place because it’s part of the cost to keep someone hired. “The company isn’t doing you any favors,” he claims.

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