Aug 042020
 

Past and future predictions

Last year I predicted rough waters for 2020’s economy, and suggested 4 investments to protect against uncertainty.

From November 2019

From a November 2019 blog post

How did those suggestions work out so far?

  • National real estate prices are +7% from last year.
  • Year to date my silver stocks (WPM.TO) is +79%.
  • Major telco stocks are down by about -3%.
  • XCB.TO, an ETF that tracks corporate bonds, is +8%.

An equal weighted basket of my picks would have earned a 23% return year to date. Not bad. πŸ˜€ Most index funds have only produced single digit returns during the same time.

What about for 2021?

Here are my top investment picks for the next 6 to 18 months.

  • North American real estate
  • Gold and silver
  • Large cap U.S. technology stocks

The rest of today’s post will attempt to unpack my reasons for choosing these investments. πŸ™‚

Continue reading »

May 112020
 

Why inflation matters

U.S. government bonds in 1990 were paying investors 8% a year. That sounds amazing! Especially for a low risk investment. πŸ™‚ But not everyone was buying them. Why? Because investment returns don’t tell the whole story. The inflation rate that year was 5.4%. That means the real rate of return on those bonds was only 2.6%. Stashing $100 under a mattress would have lost $5.40 in value during 1990. As Ray Dalio says, “cash is trash.”

 

Obtaining a mortgage from an unconventional lender

Earlier this year I bought a rental property and took on a new mortgage at 2.44% fixed interest rate for 5 years. After asking around different banks I decided to use monoline lender MCAP. They deal with broker channels and often have lower rates than the big banks. πŸ™‚

negative interest rate mortgage

Since this is an investment property the interest on the mortgage is tax deductible. My marginal tax rate is about 30%. So my effective interest rate after tax adjustment is 1.71%. But this is the nominal rate. To get the full picture we have to subtract the inflation rate. Last year Canada’s official inflation rate was 2.25%. So my real mortgage rate equals the nominal rate (1.71%) minus the inflation rate (2.25%) which comes toΒ -0.54%.

So I’m effectively paying a negative interest rate. I’m earning 54 basis points to borrow money. Woot! πŸ˜€ Personal finance author Robert Kiyosaki says smart people use debt to get rich. He’s right. I’m growing my net worth by literally having this mortgage.

The historical average inflation rate in Canada has been about 2% annually. Let’s assume it will continue to average 2% for the foreseeable future.

This is bad for my mortgage lender. The asset they are holding (my mortgage) will slowly lose value over time. Fortunately for them the 2.44% interest rate they charge me is still higher than the expected inflation rate.

 

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Jun 152018
 

Lifestyle inflation is when we spend more money when our income increases. This can feel natural because the more we earn the more we can afford to spend. But this can make it very difficult to save for retirement or meet other financial goals. Lifestyle inflation is what causes many folks to get stuck in the rat race instead of being able to retire sooner. Here are some ideas to help curb lifestyle inflation when we get that big raise next time. πŸ™‚

  1. Visualize the net amount of a raise after paying payroll and income tax.
  2. We don’t necessarily deserve nice things. But we deserve to be happy – which can be jeopardized if we overspend on nice things by sacrificing financial security.
  3. Hang out with friends who have similar spending habits to ourselves.
  4. Pay ourselves first. Set up an automatic transfer for a fixed amount of money from our bank account to an investment account every month.
  5. Define our goals and only spend new money if it will get us closer to those goals.
  6. Have inexpensive hobbies such as reading, blogging, hiking, playing music, and cooking.
  7. Realize that success doesn’t equate to material possessions.Β Better indicators of success are health, love, friends, family, and experiences. We should be happy with our quality of life without feeling the need to prove it to others.

Reaching a good balance of spending and saving is a personal journey for everyone. There are some people who save too much without enjoying life as it comes. There are others who impetuously spend too much without thinking of their future. Finding the sweet spot between the two extremes will bring us financial happiness. πŸ™‚ Happiness is like peeing our pants. People around us can see it, but only we can truly feel the warmth of it. πŸ˜€ Live for today but don’t forget to plan for tomorrow.

 

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Random Useless Fact:

QiZai is the only giant brown panda in the world left. He is literally one of a kind.

Nov 162017
 

Why Do Governments Target 2% Inflation?

The Bank of Canada maintains an inflation rate target of 2%.Β The official websites of Central Banks in the U.S.,Β in Europe,Β and in JapanΒ allΒ 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. πŸ™‚ 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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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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

 

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Random Useless Fact