Sep 052017
 

After the FED raised interest rates in the U.S., the Bank of Canada did the same. In July the central bank increased rates by 0.25%. This means the Prime lending rate at banks is now 0.25% more expensive for borrowers. What does this mean for Canadians in debt? It means we should reduce our debt balances to normalize our interest expenses and keep our debt load under control. 🙂

How to Adjust Debt Levels Based on Interest Rates

So if the interest rate is higher by 0.25% how much debt should we try to pay down? We can use the following formula to find out. 🙂

Debt amount to pay down = (Interest rate increase amount) x (total debt balance) ÷ (new interest rate on loan)

For example, let’s say I have a variable loan with $100,000 outstanding and my interest rate was 5% before the interest rate hike. So this loan was costing me $5,000 a year in interest payment. But the central bank raised rates by 0.25% so now the loan is costing me 5.25% or an extra $250 per year more than before. I want to know how I can lower my cost of borrowing back down to $5,000/year.

Debt amount to pay down = (0.25%) x ($100,000) / (5.25%)
Debt amount to pay down = $4,761

This means in order for my borrowing cost to stay at $5,000 per year, I will need to pay down $4,761 of my $100,000 debt balance. So at this point I have a decision to make. I can either pay down my debt quickly to bridge the $4,761 gap so I can go back to my initial budget. Or I can accept paying more interest (0.25% or $250 more) every year and work that extra cost into my budget.

Personally I like to adopt a combination of both. 🙂 Earlier this year I used half of my monthly savings to pay down debt, and the other half to invest. But after July’s rate hike I’m putting roughly 75% of savings into debt repayment, and 25% into new investments. Anyway, below are the results of my August finances.

 

Liquid’s Financial Update

*Side Incomes:

  • Part-Time = $1100
  • Freelance = $800
  • Dividends = $600
  • Interest = $300
*Discretionary Spending:
  • Fun = $300
  • Debt Interest = $1200

*Net Worth: (ΔMoM)

  • Assets: = $1,112,600 total (+900)
  • Cash = $3,000 (+500)
  • Canadian stocks = $148,500 (+2100)
  • U.S. stocks = $90,400 (-1000)
  • U.K. stocks = $19,700 (-200)
  • RRSP = $82,400 (-700)
  • Mortgage Funds = $31,500 (unch)
  • Peer-to-Peer Lending = $21,300 (+200)
  • SolarShare Bonds = $9,800
  • Home = $270,000
  • Farms = $436,000
  • Debts: = $478,700 total (-2,900)
  • Mortgage = $182,100 (-400)
  • Farm Loans = $187,800 (-500)
  • Margin Loans = $57,700 (-200)
  • TD Line of Credit = $11,200  (-1200)
  • CIBC Line of Credit = $24,000 (-500)
  • HELOC = $15,900 (-100)

*Total Net Worth = $633,900 (+$3,800 / +0.6%) 
All numbers above are in $CDN. 

 

 

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Random Useless Fact

According to Wikipedia, Iceland does not have a standing army. But it is recognized as the world’s most peaceful country.

Aug 312017
 

There’s a general rule of thumb that says if you retire you can safely withdrawal up to 4% of your nest egg every year without it running out before you kick the bucket. Financial advisor Bill Bengen, now retired, came up with this guideline after testing a variety of withdrawal rates using historical rates of returns for stocks and bonds. He published a study in 1994 about how 4% was the highest sustainable withdrawal rate retirees could use.

But 1994 was over two decade ago. How does the 4% rule hold up today, after the great recession? Bill recently did some further research into the topic and according to him, the 4% rule still holds true today. 🙂 In fact, he is even confident that retirees can safely withdrawal not just 4%, but actually 4.5% if they are okay with their nest eggs lasting for only 30 years.

15-08-retirement-plan

In a Q&A session on Reddit last week, Bill explained the methodology, details, and implications of his findings. He says that 4.5% is the “percentage you could “safely” withdraw from a tax-advantaged portfolio (such as an IRA, 401(k), RRSP, or TFSA) the first year of retirement, with the expectation you would live for 30 years in retirement. After the first year, you “throw away the 4.5% rule and just increase the dollar amount of your withdrawals each year by the prior year’s inflation rate.”

For example, if you had $1,000,000 in an RRIF, you would withdraw $45,000 in the first year of your retirement. Let’s say inflation during this year was 2%. This means in the second year you may withdrawal $45,900. Overall, Bill recommends a 50% equities/50% bonds mixture at the beginning of one’s retirement.

As for how recessions, interest rates, and government policies affect the safe withdrawal rate over time, Bill reassures us that these factors have little bearing on the safe withdrawal rate. There are only 2 major factors that count.

  1. Encountering a major bear market early in retirement.
  2. Encountering high inflation during retirement.

Bill explains that both these factors “drive the safe withdrawal rate down.” His research is based on data going back to 1926. He tests the withdrawal rates for retirement dates beginning on the first day of each quarter, beginning with January 1, 1926. The average safe withdrawal rate for all those 300+ hypothetical retirees is, “believe it or not, 7%! However, if you experience a major bear market early in retirement, as in 1937 or 2000, that drops to 5.25%. Add in heavy inflation, as occurred in the 1970’s, and it takes you down to 4.5%.” So far, Bill has not seen any indication that the 4.5% rule will be violated. Both the 2000 and 2007 retirees, who experienced big bear markets early in retirement, appear to be doing okay with 4.5%.” 🙂

Continue reading »

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

Aug 102017
 

It seems like every month the stock market is reaching new highs. Stock investors like myself have benefited greatly from the second longest bull run in history. 🙂 But it’s becoming very difficult to find value in traditional asset classes such as stocks, bonds, and real estate. So I’ve been looking at cryptocurrencies recently. As with any potential asset class my goal is to measure the future potential benefits of an investment and compare it with the risks.

Anyone can create a cryptocurrency as long as there’s a community backing it. That’s why there are over 1,000 digital currencies in the world today. According to Coin Market Cap, the 3 most popular ones are Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple, in order of market capitalization. There are many smart people supporting these digital currencies built on blockchains, which is essentially a public record of transactions. For example I’ve been following investor Brock Pierce on Twitter. He used to be a child actor in many Disney movies lol, but what Brock Pierce is doing today is very promising for the cryptocurrency market. According to his crunchbase profile, he’s been in the venture capital space for over a decade now and is trying to make Bitcoins more mainstream. In an interview last month with The Guardian, he predicts that the “underlying technology of blockchain is going to impact our world more than the internet has.” And he’s not alone. Patrick Byrne, the CEO of e-commerce giant overstock.com, firmly believes that Wall Street will be forced to accept Bitcoin technology faster than most people think. Byrne’s company was the first major retailer to accept bitcoin as payment starting in 2014, long before competitors like Microsoft and Dell.

One major barrier to entry with bitcoin has been the lack of acceptance among merchants. From a consumer point of view, there’s not much point in holding an asset that hardly anyone recognizes. But if cryptocurrencies really catch on with mainstream consumers then now may be a good time to buy and hold some digital coins for diversification purposes. The price of bitcoin has risen 500% in the last 12 months, according to coindesk. And the price of Ethereum has gone up over 2500%. Wow! 🙂 I don’t have any digital currencies yet but I’m tempted to put a small amount of money into either Bitcoin or Ethereum and hold it for the long term. One problem is that buying cryptocurrency can be difficult for Canadians. Both the established banking system as well as the government really don’t like blockchain technology because it’s decentralized and not easy to tax or control.

For anyone interested to gain exposure to the price of bitcoin without actually buying any, there’s a fund for that. 🙂 Investor Barry Silbert has been one of the most active angel investors in Bitcoin. He has funded over 40 bitcoin-related startups such as BitGo, BitPay, Coinbase, Gyft, Kraken, and TradeBlock. He also launched the Bitcoin Investment Trust, which is publicly traded under the symbol GBTC in the United States. This trust solely invests in and derives value from the price of bitcoin. This gives investors the chance to benefit from bitcoin price movement through a traditional investment vehicle, without the hassle of buying, storing, and safekeeping bitcoins. But personally I would rather own a digital currency directly so not to pay management fees, especially when I plan to hold for a long time.

When it comes to investing in alternative asset classes, it’s worth looking at digital currencies. I don’t intend on investing in Bitcoins right now. I will continue to do more research on it first. Even if I decide to purchase some in the near future I will keep my cryptocurrency exposure to less than 1% of my net worth. Bitcoin may outperform stocks over the next 10 years, but it also carries a lot of liquidity and volatility risk.

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Random Useless Fact

Potato chip bags are not full of air, but of nitrogen gas. This is done to prevent the chips from oxidizing and going stale in the bag.

 

Aug 092017
 

It was a slow month in July. But  at least I’m back in the black. 🙂 Household expenses were pretty normal, but incomes were above average; I received $800 of interest payments from a variety of loans such as P2P lending contracts and mortgage investment corporation funds. Yay!

Liquid’s Financial Update

*Side Incomes:

  • Part-Time = $1100
  • Freelance = $700
  • Dividends = $800
  • Interest = $800
*Discretionary Spending:
  • Fun = $300
  • Debt Interest = $1100

*Net Worth: (ΔMoM)

  • Assets: = $1,111,700 total (-2,000)
  • Cash = $2,500 (-2800)
  • Canadian stocks = $146,400 (Unch)
  • U.S. stocks = $91,400 (-200)
  • U.K. stocks = $19,900 (-200)
  • RRSP = $83,100 (+500)
  • Mortgage Funds = $31,500 (+500)
  • Peer-to-Peer Lending = $21,100 (+200)
  • SolarShare Bonds = $9,800
  • Home = $270,000
  • Farms = $436,000
  • Debts: = $481,600 total (-4,400)
  • Mortgage = $182,500 (-400)
  • Farm Loans = $188,300 (-500)
  • Margin Loans = $57,900 (-2400)
  • TD Line of Credit = $12,400  (-600)
  • CIBC Line of Credit = $24,500 (-500)
  • HELOC = $16,000 (unch)

*Total Net Worth = $630,100 (+$2,400 / +0.4%) 
All numbers above are in $CDN. 

I took some savings in July and paid down some of my higher interest debts. Now that the cost to borrow is 0.25% higher I have to lower my overall debt to not become overwhelmed by interest payments.

 

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Random Useless Fact

Sometimes tough love is the best way to learn.