Nov 162017
 

Why Do Governments Target 2% Inflation?

The Bank of Canada maintains an inflation rate target of 2%. The official websites of Central Banks in the U.S., in Europe, and in Japan all appear to target this magical number when deciding how to conduct their monetary policies. But why? Inflation isn’t necessarily a good thing. There are ways to grow the economy and generate prosperity without increasing the cost of goods and services. But inflation does provide the government with two major advantages!

Governments tend to target 2% inflation rate

1. Taxation by Inflation

In the book, The Greatest Con, author Irwin Schiff explains that, “inflation is the government’s silent partner,” because it allows the government to earn more tax revenue, without officially increasing tax rates. For example, a mechanic who made $40,000/yr in the 1980s could be making $80,000/yr doing the same work today due to inflation. If his cost of living also doubled then this looks fine on the surface. However, an $80,000 income is subject to a higher tax bracket than $40,000. Since his marginal tax rate went up, the mechanic will pay a larger proportion of his earned income to taxes today than in the past. This is how federal income tax rates can remain the same, but workers end up paying more tax over time.

2. Eroding the Value of Debt

Inflation reduces the value of money. Let’s say we owe $100 to a friend and inflation is at 2%. We can pay back the $100 after a year. But by then its value would only be $98. Just about every major country in the world owes debt. The U.S. owes about $20 trillion. At 2% inflation, the value of this huge liability would fall by $400 billion a year. That’s a lot of debt to be forgiven. 🙂 The typical investor who buys fixed income funds would likely have government bonds in their portfolios. Unfortunately as a result of inflation, the bond holders (savers) get the short end of the stick while the government (borrower) becomes better off.

“As inflation shrinks the value of currency, it increases the relative value of equity investment. Thus, inflation is a process by which purchasing power is shifted from the middle and lower classes, who have their savings in fixed dollar investments, to the upper classes, who have the bulk of their wealth in equities.” ~Irwin Schiff

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Nov 072017
 

Your child’s education extends far beyond the classroom. Kids are constantly learning from their peers, their parents, and their environment. There are plenty of creative ways to engage in learning activities with your kids that’ll be fun for both of you. Below are just a few ways to bond with your children and enrich their minds.

  1. Tie Dye a Shirt

Get groovy with your kids by making tie-dye shirts together. Tie dying a shirt requires only a few simple materials, including a t-shirt, fabric dye, and rubber bands. This is a fun and easy way to teach your kids about color theory and let them get creative.

  1. Create a Family Tree

Teach your kids about your family heritage by crafting a family tree. This is a great time to pass down family stories, cultural history, and participate in family bonding. Learning about their own cultural heritage is also a good starting point to learn about other countries, cultures, and traditions.

  1. Design a Papier-Mâché Mask

Whether they’re celebrating Halloween, Mardi Gras, or just playing pretend, a papier-mâché mask is a creative alternative to picking up a mask at the store. Whether they want to be a robot or a superhero for Halloween, sharpen their creativity with a do-it-yourself papier-mâché project. Save on art supplies by using online deals like a Craftsy coupon code to craft on a budget.

  1. Go on a Scavenger Hunt

Guide them on a trip around town with a scavenger hunt. Take them to a fun destination like a theme park, city, or a campsite and create a list with riddles and clues they can use to find everything on the list. Engaging scavenger hunts get them outside and strengthen problem solving skills.

  1. Have a Water Balloon Fight

Get your kids outside and active with an old-fashioned water balloon fight. This is the perfect outdoor activity on hot days if you don’t have access to a pool or the beach.

  1. Read Aloud to Them

Don’t stop reading to your children just because they just learned how to read. Reading books to your children allows them to use their imagination to envision the settings and characters in their own mind. Create reading prompts to encourage them to think deeply about the themes of the story, and have them draw what they think the characters and story look like. This is much more engaging than having your child sit in front of a TV all day.

  1. Paint a Masterpiece Together

It’s never too early to teach your kids about art. Pick an artist, show them pictures of their works, and try to imitate it together. Choose artists like Van Gogh or Georgia O-Keeffe, learn their techniques, and emulate their work. Don’t worry about it being perfect—it’s all about letting them express themselves and learning something new.

  1. Become Make-Believe Scientists

Get your kids interested in science by performing experiments with them. Teach them how plants grow by planting flowers and greenery, show them how to measure things by baking together, and create a geyser using Diet Coke and Mentos. Teach your kids the scientific method with fun activities so they can learn to think critically about their environment.

  1. Visit the Zoo

What better way to get your kids interested in the environment than by visiting the zoo? If you have a zoo in your area, take your child on a field trip so they can learn about different animals. See if the zoo offers tours or educational activities for kids. The zoo provides the perfect opportunity to educate your kids about the importance of environmental conservation.

  1. Play Charades

Charades is a cheap and fun way to spend time together. Get the whole family involved by splitting up into teams. This game encourages shy children to step out of their comfort zone and makes for a great laugh for everyone participating.

 

Educating your kids doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Engage and bond with your little ones by participating in these activities.

Oct 252017
 

Canada’s trade deficit rose to a disappointing $3.4 billion in August, one of the highest ever recorded. Economists had predicted $2.6 billion, lol. They were way off. Both imports and exports were down, which suggests the entire economy may be in trouble.

It doesn’t help either that Canada’s currency has advanced 7% over the past 6 months, largely due to the 2 interest rate hikes earlier this year. According to insolvency firm MNP, 40% of Canadians fear they will be in financial trouble if rates increase again. And 42% say they are only “$200 or less away from financial insolvency, with little cushion to pay unexpected bills or expenses at the end of the month.” This is troubling news. 😔 Consumers will have to be more careful about how they spend their money going into 2018.

With domestic spending expected to fall, and an extended period of large trade deficits, a slowdown in our growth domestic product (GDP) is inevitable. Canada is essentially buying more stuff than we’re selling, which basically means we’re spending beyond our means and going into debt. Due to these factors, we can expect negative repercussions in the financial markets as well. Slower domestic spending means lower sales for domestic producers and their stock prices.

“Given enough time, investors will realize fewer investment opportunities domestically and begin to invest in foreign stock markets, as prospects in these markets will be much better. This will lower demand in the domestic stock market and cause that market to decline.” ~Investopedia

Economists are anticipating annualized GDP growth of about 2.5% for the third quarter. That sounds too optimistic to me. Given the numbers we have today I would expect a more modest growth rate of 1.6% annualized for Q3, 2017. I guess we shall wait and find out later this year.

It can be difficult to find investments in a slow growing environment. But we can always look for opportunities outside of Canada. 🙂 Afterall, if we search globally, we will likely find more bargains, and probably better bargains, than in any single country. This is why I invested in Germany through Dream Global (DRG.UN) a couple of years ago. Canada’s real estate prices were too expensive, so I looked elsewhere for a bargain, and I found one! Dream Global is a Canadian REIT but conducts most of its business in Germany. Hurra! 😀 If we use the iShares S&P/TSX Capped REIT Index ETF (XRE) as a benchmark for Canadian REITs, then since my purchase in 2015, DRG.UN has outperformed XRE by over 30%. Yay! Property prices in developed countries around the world, including in Germany, have risen a lot over the past 2 year and are no longer cheap. But I believe there are still other undervalued sectors around the world today. 🙂

 

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Random Useless Fact

Muhammad Ali reportedly went 2 months without sex before a big fight, claiming it made him stronger in the ring.

 

 

Sep 152017
 

Median Income Grows to $70,336

The results from last year’s national census about family incomes have been released. Below is a table showing how much we all made in 2015. Overall the median national income was $70,336. This means half of Canadian households made more than this number, and the other half made less.

Atlantic provinces and Quebec saw the lowest median incomes for some reason. There seems to be a trend for younger people to leave Newfoundland and Labrador in search of better job opportunities in other provinces. I often hear people complain that jobs pay less in B.C. than in other provinces. According to the data above, it appears B.C. is right in the middle with a rank of 7 out of 13 for household incomes. Not too bad. 🙂

 

Comparing 2015 Incomes to 2005

Keep in mind that inflation (as measured by CPI) has eroded about 19% of our money during the 10 year span between 2005 and 2015. But the data is inflation adjusted to 2015 constant dollars as a commentator pointed out below.

However income is just one aspect of personal finance and doesn’t necessary determine how well off households are. For example just about anyone who held real estate in Canada between 2005 and 2015 would have experienced tremendous growth to their home equity. This wealth could be used to either create passive income or lower their housing costs through gradually reducing the cost of their mortgage over time.

  • To be in the top 10% of all income earners in Canada you would have to make over $93,390.
  • To be in the top 5%, you’d have to earn at least $120,219
  • To be in the top 1%, you’d require an income of $234,129 or higher.

If you want to know exactly how you compare to other people of your demographic, you can plot your income on this fun interactive chart released by Statscan. 🙂 This is for individual incomes. For example, I learned that for my ripe-old-age of 30, my earnings are in the top 10% of my cohort. Not too shabby.

 

Additional key findings from the Census

  • Ontario had the slowest growth in median income since 2005.
  • Fewer children living in low income. But there are more low income seniors.
  • The incomes of 32.0% of couples were fairly equal (both earning from 40% to 60% of the couple’s total income).
  • Same-sex couples have higher incomes. For example, over 12% of male same-sex couples had household incomes over $200,000, compared with 8.4% of opposite-sex couples. (Time to find me a boyfriend, lol. Just kidding.)
  • 67% of the population aged 15 and over reported income taxes. This means about 1/3rd of Canadians didn’t pay income tax in 2015.
  • Of 14 million households, 65% are saving for retirement.

Overall this was a pretty cool look at recent Canadian household incomes. 🙂

 

Sources:
https://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/170913/t001a-eng.htm
http://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/census/2016/income/
http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/statistics-canada-census-2016-income-hightlights-1.4287179

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Random Useless Fact

Aug 172017
 

Holding some cash for emergencies or opportunities is a sound idea. But having too much cash sitting around instead of putting the money into investments can be financially unwise.

Like most things in life, there is a cost component to cash – which is that cash usually produces lower returns than other asset classes such as stocks or bonds. One advantage of holding cash is to deflect volatility in a portfolio. But with a longer time horizon investors can manage volatility by using fixed income vehicles instead of cash. Long term corporate bonds from large, stable companies such as Enbridge pay 3.5% or higher annual returns, easily beating the interest earned in a savings account. 🙂

According to investment management company, BlackRock, people who have allocated their money towards cash or cash equivalent assets actually lost purchasing power in the past. The value of their savings slowly whittled away at 0.8% per year on average between 1926 and 2014. This gives a whole new meaning to cash poor.

Holding cash for one or two years isn’t a big deal because the loss is very small. But over time it can build up to significant loss of buying power. The longer the investment time horizon, the less cash investors should consider holding. For a multi-decade horizon and high return objectives, which is the strategy I’m personally using, having excess cash savings would be a liability because it produces negative real returns. Sometimes the risk is not being aggressive enough with our investment plan and losing out on easy gains.

According to a survey by State Street’s Center for Applied Research, globally retail investors are holding 40% of their assets in cash. Uh oh. If someone has 60% of their portfolio in bonds, and the rest in cash then they could be making zero progress with their portfolio after inflation and tax.

If I’m sure I won’t touch my money until I retire, then I should take advantage of my long time horizon. This is why I don’t keep more than 1% of my net worth in cash, unless I’ve earmarked savings for a large, specific purchase. 🙂

 

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Random Useless Fact