Jul 202020
 

Let others make your mortgage payments for you

If you’re tired of paying your mortgage on your own then this post is for you. The MIC manoeuvre is a legal tax strategy that allows you to effectively get other people to service your mortgage, so you don’t have to. How does it work? You simply borrow money to purchase Mortgage Investment Corporations (MICs) which generate investment income. This income is then used to cover the cost of both your new loan and your mortgage payments. ๐Ÿ˜€

Get help with your mortgage payments for free.

A MIC is a Canadian investment that holds mortgages secured by real property. It’s similar to a mortgage REIT in the United States. Some borrowers can’t get a mortgage from traditional lenders. But they can still obtain financing at a higher interest rate from alternative lenders such as MICs. If you invest in a MIC, the mortgage payment of someone else becomes your income! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Similar to its cousin the Smith Manoeuvre, both strategies make use of tax deductible debt and financial leverage to increase your net worth. But unlike the Smith Manoeuvre, the MIC Manoeuvre also increases your cash flow. It does this by removing the biggest expense from your household budget – the mortgage payment!

 

How to implement the MIC manoeuvreย 

Why service a mortgage like a sucker when you can get others to do it for you instead?

 

To keep calculations simple let’s say your current mortgage balance is $100,000. According to TD bank’s mortgage calculator, your monthly mortgage payment in the current interest rate environment would be $379. This works out to roughly $4,500 a year.

Everyone knows the best way to get rid of a home loan is to talk to actor Mortgage Freeman. But if you’re not that well connected, using the MIC manoeuvre will still save you that $4,500/year in payments. Here’s how it works.

Step 1

Start by opening up a home equity line of credit (HELOC.) Then take out $150,000 from it and put the money into a discount brokerage account. You can generally borrow up to 80% of the value of your home. HELOC rates are about 3% these days, and payments can be interest only. This means the minimum payment you will have to make on your HELOC debt is $375 a month, or $4,500 a year.

So far your combined debt is $250K ($100K mortgage + $150K HELOC.) Your annual payment to service this debt is $9,000 ($4,500 + $4,500).ย 

Step 2

This is where the magic happens.๐Ÿ˜‰ You take the newly funded $150,000 in your brokerage account and purchase a basket of Mortgage Investment Corporations, which can be publicly traded or private. In the past I’ve blogged about which ones I like and hold. Currently popular MICs such as Timbercreek and Atrium have yields around 8%. Disclaimer: I currently own both of them.

Using 8% yield as a benchmark, a handful of MICs worth $150,000 can expect to generate $12,000 in annual investment income.

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Sep 162019
 

One advantage of owning real estate is being able to access the value of the underlying asset for financial gains. The more properties we own, the more equity we can use to buy additional properties. This is why it’s often easier for homeowners to grow their net worths, but harder for renters. One of the best reasons to refinance is to lower the interest rate on your existing mortgage. Historically, many lenders agree that refinancing is a good idea if you can reduce your interest rate by at least 1.00%.

As we know, a mortgage balance gets paid down slowly over time. In the beginning you might have a $300,000 mortgage. But maybe after the first 5 year term is over, your balance is only $250,000. When you go to renew your mortgage you’ll likely have a couple of options. One is to continue paying down the $250,000 balance. Assuming interest rates haven’t changed, your monthly mortgage payments would also be unchanged, because that’s how mortgages are designed. But the other option is to refinance at a higher balance so your total loan amount is increased. By refinancing, you can access up to 80% of your home’s value less any outstanding mortgages. So if the value of your property is now higher than when you bought it, you could potentially borrow more than your initial mortgage amount against your home. ๐Ÿ™‚ But your monthly payments would go up in this scenario because you have more debt.

In order to figure out when is a good time to use one method or the other, we need to consider the following factors.

  • How tight is your budget?ย 
    If you are already struggling to make ends meet, then it’s usually not a good idea to refinance at a higher balance. Just keep to the lowest amount until your income and spending situation improves.
  • Are there any investment opportunities out there?
    If you expect a good return on a potential investment, then it may be worth it to borrow more money against your home. For example, the Canadian Apartment Properties REIT (CAR.UN) has performed somewhat predictably over the years. Its 1-Year, 3-Year, 5-Year, 10-Year, and even 15-Year returns have all averaged over 10% per year. If my mortgage rate is 3% then that’s a 7% gap minimum, before taxes. It’s reasonable to assume that a margin of safety of 7% is a low level of risk, considering the stability of Canadian real estate.
  • Do you have any other debts?
    Using home equity is a great way to pay out higher interest debt through a refinance. For example, let’s say you have outstanding car loans, student loans, and credit card balances that combine to equal $50,000. Chances are these are all charging a higher interest rate than your mortgage. So instead of refinancing at $250,000 you could simply grow your mortgage debt to $300,000. And use the extra $50,000 to pay off your other debts, saving interest expenses over time.

In terms of how to get more equity out of your home, you could either take on a home equity line of credit, or blend and extend your current mortgage with your lender. Please be aware there are costs associated with refinancing. If you want to refinance in the middle of your term to access equity or lower your interest rate your lender will charge you a penalty. For fixed mortgage rates this penalty is the greater of 3 months interest or the interest rate differential payment (IRD). For variable mortgage rates this is simply 3 months interest. There may also be lawyer fees involved with a refinance. You can also have multiple mortgages from different lenders at the same time, but a 2nd or 3rd mortgage will often come with a higher interest rate and may not be worth it. So it’s important to consider which type of refinance you need before renewing your mortgage. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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Random Useless Fact:

Jan 242019
 

Putting Household Debt into Perspective

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Canadian households currently owe more than $2 trillion. Our average debt to income ratio increased to 170%, making us number 1 among the G7 countries. ๐Ÿ™‚

But do we actually have too much debt? Well perhaps not. Comparing Canada to the G7 group conveniently omits other highly developed countries. Australia’s national broadcaster claims its country has a household debt to income ratio of 200%. And reports of Netherlands, Denmark, and other Nordic countries are even higher than that! So in reality Canada is far from being the most indebted country in the world.

The cost of borrowing also affects the degree to which people will go into debt. For example, in the U.S. a typical mortgage today would cost about 4.5%. But in Canada you can get a mortgage for only 3.0%.ย  If the debt is cheaper to service then people will be naturally inclined to borrow more. ๐Ÿ™‚

There’s a whole slew of other economic, legal, and political variables that make it nearly impossible to accurately compare household debt from one country to another. These kinds of comparisons would never be published as a scientific study because you have to correct for way too many variabilities. But they make for intriguing headlines nonetheless. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Nov 162017
 

Why Do Governments Target 2% Inflation?

The Bank of Canada maintains an inflation rate target of 2%.ย The official websites of Central Banks in the U.S.,ย in Europe,ย and in Japanย allย 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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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Jul 132017
 

Lending Loop Update

Earlier this year I blogged about investing $20,000 in a peer-to-peer lending platform called Lending Loop. My goal was to make 8% return overall, net of fees and write-offs. To be frank I was a little apprehensive at first when I learned about the high interest rates.

I wondered if it was really possible to earn 15% or higher rates of return consistently. Being greedy, I decided to give Lending Loop a try. I primarily invested in B and C loans because they are relatively safer, although the returns are lower than loans in higher risk categories.

Here’s what my Lending Loop portfolio looks like after half a year of investing. This screenshot was taken at the end of June.

As we can see I have made about $846 so far. Yay! ๐Ÿ™‚ That’s about 4.2% return, or 8.5% annualized return. This is very much in line with my expected 8% return I had initially set as my goal. I have invested in roughly 30 different loans so far on the platform, each loan averaging $700 of principal. Thankfully none of them have missed a payment yet so I’m really pleased about that. ๐Ÿ˜€

If this trend continues I should be able to earn a double digit return by the end of the year! But this rosy picture assumes there are no defaults on my loans for the next 6 months. ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway, I will update again at the end of the year so we shall see what happens.

Unlike investments in a tax advantaged account, my Lending Loop returns will be taxed at my marginal tax rate, which is about 30%. This means if I earn 8.5% from the P2P investment, I will only end up making roughly 6% return after tax. To me 6% after tax is pretty good and certainly beats many alternative options out there. ๐Ÿ™‚ As interest rates are starting to climb slowly in North America, fixed income investments such as Lending Loop should continue to be attractive for investors looking for yield.

 

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Random Useless Fact:

Due to the lower surface gravity of Mars, if you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you would weigh only 38 pounds on Mars.