Dec 172014
 

Flawed and Unreliable

The debt to disposable income (DTI) ratio represents the ratio of one’s debt to his after tax income. I want to know who’s daft idea it was to make this number the most widely used and talked about metric to determine our financial risk. It’s rubbish. :-x

Debt” is a balance sheet item (net worth,) but “income” deals with budgeting (income statement.) Debt is simply a static number, while income requires the element of time in order to exist. One has a set monetary value while the other is a reoccurring event. Comparing the ratio of debt to income is like comparing net worth to spending. Or, for the engineers out there, like comparing a scaler against a vector. The two variables that make up the ratio are loosely correlated at best, but it’s not a very relevant measurement for any practical purpose. :|

The other problem with this ratio is it’s heavily influenced by monetary policy. 30 years ago the typical mortgage rate was 18%. The cost of carrying a loan was extremely expensive, almost prohibitive. Thus the debt to income ratio was under 80%, quite low. But today, the cost of servicing a mortgage is only around 3%, so more Canadians can easily afford to take on larger mortgages. This increases our overall debt levels which skews the DTI ratio. We consumers will naturally increase our borrowing if the cost of credit is cheaper. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re at greater risk of insolvency.

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This is why the debt to income ratio isn’t a very reliable metric to use over long periods of time. It’s impractical to compare debt and income to begin with. The added effects of changing interest rates only makes the wonky ratio even less valid. :(

Statistics Canada recently announced that our average household debt to disposable income ratio hit a record high of 162.6% in the third quarter, which has generated a lot of discussion in the media. But giving so much attention to this insignificant ratio is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Don’t we have more important data to study?

Alternatives to the Debt to Income Ratio

I believe a much better metric to measure consumers’ financial situation is the debt to net worth ratio. Debt to net worth (or equity) ratio is what businesses use to determine if they are borrowing too much. They use this ratio to determine debt related goals for themselves. Total-debt-service (TDS) ratio is another helpful way to gauge our debt default risk because it measures how much we pay each month towards debt against how much money we make over the same period. Actually, the Americans often use the TDS ratio, but they refer to it as their “debt to income ratio.” If you’re confused this comment should help clear things up.

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Jul 052014
 

It’s not easy being an investor these days. We’re facing higher taxes. We’re being vilified by the media, and we often feel distanced from our friends and families because of our life choices. The struggles we face are real :| but our voices have not been heard. Below are several examples of first world investor’s problems.

The Crude Reality

During the last couple of weeks the price of crude oil (WTI) fell slightly. As I’ve disclosed before I own many oil companies like Suncor and Crescent Point Energy. These businesses make more money when the price of oil is higher. So sadly my stocks have been going sideways these last couple of weeks.

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Of course no one else is complaining because gasoline prices at the pumps fell slightly in recent weeks. But the lower oil price is really hurting my potential profits. Crescent Point shares are only up 12% year to date, and Suncor is only up 22%. How will I ever get by on these dismal returns? :P

Choosing Sides

Last month the Federal government conditionally approved the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project. This is great news for Enbridge investors. But most of my co-workers and friends are upset about Ottawa’s decisions. They don’t think the pipeline should be built, and they represent the majority. According to some sources, 80% of B.C. residents are opposed to this project.

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So now I’m torn. I care about the environment as much as my friends do, but I also want my investments to do well. I can’t talk to anyone about this because I haven’t told my friends that I’m an Enbridge shareholder. I don’t want to risk the political backlash. I just avoid conversations if this topic comes up. And I have to make up excuses to not join my pals in anti-pipeline protests, which looks like fun. Being an investor really puts a damper on my social life, and I have to miss out on fun activities with my friends because otherwise I’d feel like a hypocrite :(

Exploiting Your Friends

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