Dec 222016
 

Outgrowing The “Middle Class” Label 

Hello high-income earning friends! It’s been a few years since I’ve written about my income from a holistic point of view. So for the sake of transparency I thought I would give everyone an update on my income situation.

My salary is currently closer to $60,000 than it is to $50,000. I won’t disclose the exact figure because I work with people who read this blog. As for my side incomes, they have gone up as well. 🙂 I’m leaving out rental income below because I use the rent to pay my farmland mortgage so it’s basically a wash.

Gross side incomes per year.

  • Part time job – $10,000
  • Dividends – $8,000
  • Interest – $3,000
  • Freelance – $10,000

Total side incomes = $31,000/year

If we put all the numbers together we see that I am making in the rough range of $90,000. Sweet sassy molassy! I believe this means my income is no longer considered middle class anymore. I am now part of the trendy upper middle class. 😉

In any case, I’m earning more than $75K/yr, which is a very important psychological hurdle. According to the Wall Street Journal, the magic income level for maximum satisfaction is $75,000 a year. “As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until [they] hit $75,000. After that, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness.”

Retiring Early on a Modest Salary

It’s rare for graphic designers such as myself to ever earn a six figure salary. What this means is that I have to implement a different strategy for FI/RE than someone else who’s a doctor or engineer. To make up for a lower salary, I boost my earnings by moonlighting, and also by increasing my investment returns by taking on more calculated risks. The extra income streams essentially increase my income by $31,000 a year right now and should continue to grow over time. They should also make the eventual transition to retirement easier. And by using leverage to invest in growing companies and other profitable assets like farmland and high yield bonds, my total portfolio has continuously brought high returns since 2009.

This method of choosing individual investments is admittedly more risky than the passive, Boglehead market indexing strategy. But I’ve also been compensated with higher returns, at least so far. I can’t say this plan is guaranteed to work for everyone or that it’s sustainable long term. But I started investing in my early 20s. Today I’m almost 30 years old, and my passive income is about $1500 per month, while my expenses are about $3000. So it’s working out for me. The only issue is I don’t know how my leveraged portfolio will perform in a bear market or recession, which hasn’t been tested yet.

I believe in the next 12 to 24 months it’s very likely that I will be making $100,000 per year including all my income sources. Wow. Never in my wildest childhood dreams did I expect to earn so much. I know six figures isn’t what it used to be but it still feels like a huge amount of money to me.

Many other high income earners claim that they don’t feel $90K or $100K is a lot of money. I don’t know if they’re just being modest, but I certainly do feel much more privileged and happier now than many years ago when I earned only $40K.

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I used to believe that you have to be smart to make a lot of money. But apparently I’m living proof that someone with an average intellect can do so as well. I modelled my financial plan based on the brilliant minds that have already figured out the formula for success. All of my investment ideas and strategies can be boiled down to one simple philosophy; Do what other successful people do. 🙂 That’s it!

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Oct 102015
 

New Purchase: Royal Bank of Canada Stock

September has historically been a bad month for the stock market, and this year was no exception. This is why I didn’t invest aggressively last month. However now that it’s October, I decided to get back into buying more equities. 🙂

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So after looking through my watch list of different companies, I’ve decided to invest in shares of Royal Bank of Canada. 😀 I usually don’t keep disposable cash lying around so last week I borrowed $4,000 from my TD margin account and transferred the money into my TFSA to buy 55 Royal Bank shares (RY.TO) at $71.30 each.

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I know purchasing about $4K worth of stocks with no money down sounds a bit risky, but I think I’ve made the right decision here. 😀 The stock pays me a 4.43% dividend yield, which happens to be more than the 4.25% interest I’m being charged for the margin loan. As long as I plan to hold the stock until my retirement and can service the cost of the loan, then I don’t see any downsides to financing this entire purchase with debt. 🙂

Royal Bank Stock Analysis

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After doing some research and analysis on this company here are some reason why I chose to buy this stock.

  • It can print currency. Due to fractional-reserve banking, all chartered banks can create new money through lending. This license to manipulate the money supply in the market has many unique advantages.
  • Safety and stability. RBC is currently the largest company in the country, worth $106 billion by market capitalization. An economy of scale offers RY a competitive edge against smaller rivals. Even if Canadian banks run into solvency problems in the far future, the CMHC or other Crown corporations will probably step in to bail them out. In the U.S. the government’s TARP program in 2008 transferred $431 billion to struggling U.S. banks.
  • Growing profits. Royal Bank continues to deliver earnings growth year after year. According to stock analysts the estimated earnings in 2017 will be around $7.35 per share, which would make RBC 19% more profitable than last year’s actual earnings.15-10-royal-bank-stock-earnings-growth
  • Attractive valuation, relative to historical averages. The P/E ratio is used to determine how much investors are willing to pay for a stock. A high ratio signals that buyers are willing to pay a premium for the shares. But lately the trailing P/E ratio of Royal Bank (Blue line below) is at the lowest it’s been in years! This P/E compression won’t last forever so right now looks like a good time to start accumulating a position.15-10-ry-royal-bank-price-to-earnings-ratio-historical
  • Growing dividends. According to its investor’s relations, RY has increased dividends by more than 400% since the year 2000. It increased dividends almost every year, except during the financial crisis period.
  • Protection against rising interest rates. RBC holds about $463 billion in net loans. If it can charge even 0.25% more interest on average, then that’s an additional $1.16 billion of revenue every year, minus loan lost provisions. A rising interest rate environment benefits all banks. The more interest homeowners pay for their existing mortgages over the next 25 years, the more money Royal Bank can make from those loans. 🙂
  • Potential split soon. The stock tends to split 2:1 when each share reaches around $80 to $90. The most recent split was in 2006, and then in 2000 before that. The share price is currently around $74 today. Stocks splits create more demand since each share becomes more affordable to own for new investors.

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Jul 202015
 

Experts worry that the recent interest rate cut in Canada will lure people to rack up even more debt. Bankruptcy trustee Doug Hoyes warns, “the more debt you have, the greater your chances of going bankrupt. It’s simple math.” He predicts bankruptcy numbers will “skyrocket when interest rates rise and people are saddled with ballooning debt payments.” Yikes. That doesn’t sound good. 😐

Anyway, last week I borrowed $1,420 from the bank to purchase 100 shares of Corus Entertainment (CJR.B) for $14.20/ share in my non-registered account. Normally I wouldn’t buy a stock with 100% borrowed money but with credit this cheap how can I say no? 😀 Besides, the dividend from CJR.B is twice as much as the interest I pay on the margin loan so it’s totally sustainable as long as the dividend doesn’t get cut, lol. 🙂

CJR.B Dividend Payout History

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Corus is a large media company in Canada that operates both TV networks and radio stations. It owns brands including YTV, Treehouse, Nickelodeon Canada, W Network, OWN Canada, and Movie Central (including HBO Canada and Encore Avenue.)

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Apr 132015
 

15-04-expensive-internet-memeNorth Americans pay a lot of money for high speed internet access. One way to get around this costly expense is to own the means that produce the service. This means buying shares of the internet service providers that we use. Telecommunication companies are usually very generous to their shareholders as many pay out up to 40% of annual profits to their owners. Over time this gives one the opportunity to have a reoccurring internet bill pay for itself.

Step 1: Figure out your current internet service fee.
Step 2: Save an equal amount of money earmarked to buy shares of your internet provider.
Step 3: Continue buying shares every year for 20 years.
Step 4: Now use the dividend income you receive from your ISP to pay your internet bill. 🙂

Example: If we currently pay $50 a month for one of Bell’s internet plans, we can simply set aside another $50 a month to buy Bell stocks (BCE) on the TSX. This gives us $600 a year to invest in BCE. To save on trading fees we can buy the shares once a year, not every month.

The average price of BCE last year was around $50 so every year our $600 savings can buy us 12 shares of BCE. After 20 years we’ll have 240 shares total. Bell currently pays its shareholders $2.6 per share every year. With 240 shares, we would get $624, or about $600 after tax, with the dividend tax credit, for most people.

At that point we can essentially use Bell’s dividends ($600/year) to pay for the cost of our internet usage ($600/year.) 🙂

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Feb 032015
 

Nobody likes to pay banking fees. But most monthly service charges can be waived if we sign up for additional accounts/services, or keep the minimum monthly balance in the account. (eg: maintain at least $1,500 in a Bank of Montreal chequing account to waive the $4 fee.)

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My personal account is with TD Canada Trust, which charges $3.95/month unless a minimum balance of $1,500 is held in the account at all times. But sitting on unused money can be a waste of capital. 😕 So 3 years ago I introduced an alternative solution to deal with those pesky bank fees. Rather than pay the bank to hold my money, I made the bank pay me instead! 😉

Hedge Bank Fees with Bank Stocks

Here’s what I did in a nutshell.

  1. Transfer the $1,500 from my chequing acct to my brokerage acct and use it all to buy TD shares (38 in today’s shares)
  2. Receive dividend payments every quarter as a TD Bank shareholder
  3. Use said dividends to pay for the $3.95 monthly service fee associated with my chequing account

(see my original post from February 2012 for more details.)

Since it’s been a few years I thought I’d post an update to show how my strategy has turned out so far.

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