Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Diversity in your investment portfolio

I will periodically be posting information that I think is of interest and that I have received.
Canadians who diversified their equity exposure and invested in US Equities in 2014 made a wise decision.  The S&P 500 is up 12% YTD while the S&P TSX has done roughly 6% (price only).  With 2015 around the corner this trend looks likely to continue.  The Canadian consumer remains highly leveraged, our housing market is overvalued and a slumping oil price means eastern provinces will be under pressure to pick up the slack from those in the west.  By contrast, the US housing market looks stable, unemployment levels continue to fall and as this week’s Muse explains, American consumers are in a better position to spend in 2015 than they have been for years.

Key Takeaways

Widespread spending

  • ‘I don’t think there’s a single headwind for consumers, it’s all tailwinds blowing at different strengths’ said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics Inc.
  • According to a Bloomberg survey, spending is anticipated to increase by 2.7% in 2015, compared to the 2.2% growth seen in the first three quarters of 2014
  • ‘We don’t have all our eggs in one basket anymore where we’re just relying on the wealthy to drive spending’ said Ellen Zentner, a senior economist at Morgan Stanley

Broad-based Hiring
  • The breadth of industries hiring last month was the most extensive since 1998, a strong sign that the expansion is having widespread benefits on the economy
  • Weekly earnings adjusted for inflation climbed 0.9% on average last month, the biggest increase in six years
  • Consumers’ incomes are forecast to grow 1.8% over the next 12 months, the most since 2008 according to a Thomson Reuters/U of Michigan consumer sentiment surve

Middle Class
  • Research by Goldman Sachs economists shows that middle-income households spend the most on gasoline as a share of total household purchases
  • Furniture stores, vehicle dealers, clothing outlets, restaurants and hotels are among the retailers that benefit the most from wage growth and accessible credit, according to Morgan Stanley
  • ‘You’ve got your debt down to levels that are reasonable, your labor market conditions are making some really significant gains, so people are feeling much more comfortable and they’re willing to spend’ said Michael Carey, chief economist at Credit Agricole CIB.  Carey forecast a 2.9% increase in spending for 2015

While there are clearly many signs that the American consumer will help to propel the US economy in 2015, especially given the current exchange rate, prudent investors will be careful not to overexpose their portfolios to US stocks.  The unpredictable nature of the markets should be enough to remind investors to focus on their long-term goals and seek a reasonable growth rate. 

Happy Holidays,
Information provided by Great West Life


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

2014 Year end tax tips

It’s that time of year again – Year End Tax Planning.  Each year, Jamie Golombek of Renaisance Investments puts together a list of tips. To see his full list click here  My abbreviated version follows.

1.     Are you between 60 and 64 and considering taking CPP early?  You may want to apply before Dec. 31, 2014 as the “downward monthly pension adjustment” increases from 0.56% in 2014 to 0.58% in 2015.

2.     Did you turn 71 in 2014?  You must convert your RRSPs to a RRIF or registered annuity before the end of the year.  If your spouse or partner is younger than 71, you can continue contributing to a spousal RRSP.

3.     Review which investments you hold in your RRSP, TFSA and non-registered accounts.

a.      Non Registered Accounts – Canadian dividends are taxed more favourably than interest income.

b.     RRSP – 2014 maximums (assuming that you have used all of your previous contributions) is limited to 18% of your income to a maximum of $24,270 less any pension adjustments.

c.      TFSA – You can contribute up to $31,000 in 2014 (if you have not contributed before).  If you have withdrawn funds from your TFSAs, make sure to check when you did it, as re-contribution room is not available until the following calendar year.

4.     Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP) and Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP) – the government has matching grants for both of these programs.  The RESP is designed to save tax efficiently towards children’s post secondary education. The RDSP is designed for people who qualify for a Disability Tax Credit and are under 49 years of age.  Contact me for information on both of these programs.

5.     Charitable Donations, Investment Expenses, Childcare Expense, some Business Expenses should be done before the end of the year to use the expenses on your 2014 taxes.  You have until March 2, 2015 to make your 2014 tax year RRSP deduction.

6.     As of 2014 Safety Deposit Box fees  are no longer deductible

There are many additional tax planning activities that you may be able to use to decrease your taxes.  Speak to your accountant or give me a call.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Toronto International Film Festival 2014

Another year of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has come to an end and it’s time for me to let you know what movies to watch out for.  This year, I only saw 18 movies (over 7 days). Only one was a Hollywood movie – Learning to Drive, staring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley.  It is a chick flick and was enjoyable. The plot summary - After her husband leaves her, a Manhattan writer (Patricia Clarkson) finds solace in her biweekly lessons with a Sikh driving instructor (Ben Kingsley), in this adaptation of Katha Pollitt’s 2002 essay for The New Yorker 

I always am asked which movie did I like the best.  Of the 18, I saw, there were only 2 that I didn’t think were TIFF quality and both were perfectly good “Made for TV” movies.  (Much better than the year I saw Mother and Son which was so bad, you can’t find it on Google.

Amongst my favourites were the following:

In this dazzling action epic set in pre-colonial New Zealand, the young son of a murdered tribal chieftain seeks vengeance on his family’s killers by learning the ancient Maori martial arts from a legendary warrior. This film is in Maori, shows how the 16 year old chieftain’s son grows up and develops the ability to make independent decisions that go against tribal customs.

Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet

The Prophet, by Lebanese author Kahlil Gibran, is among the most popular volumes of poetry ever written, having inspired millions of readers in over forty languages since its publication in 1923. Director Roger Allers (The Lion King) assembled an array of internationally acclaimed animators to realize episodes from the classic text by the renowned Lebanese poet, which are woven into the tale of a mischievous young girl (voiced by Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Quvenzhan√© Wallis) who attempts to free an imprisoned poet (Liam Neeson). This animation in this movie was incredible and it prompted me to re-read the poetry.

X + Y

If you were a nerd or know one, this movie is for you. A socially awkward teenage math prodigy (Asa Butterfield, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Hugo) finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad, in this warm and inspirational drama co-starring Sally Hawkins, Rafe Spall and Eddie Marsan.
If you’re into Jazz or drumming, you will enjoy this movie, which was filmed in 19 days.  An ambitious young drummer (Miles Teller) at a prestigious music academy clashes with a hard-driving instructor (J.K. Simmons) in this sizzling drama.  Miles Teller does all his own drumming.  By the end of the movie, I was exhausted, much like the young drummer at the end of   his incredible playing
Ethan Hawke directs this intimate documentary portrait of classical pianist, composer, author, teacher and sage Seymour Bernstein. The teaching style of Mr. Bernstein is in stark contrast to that of the Instructor in Whiplash, that there is no comparison.  The movie is worth seeing, just for the classical piano playing.
List of the Movies I saw:
·       The Lesson
·       The Dead Lands
·       The Crow’s Egg
·       Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet
·       Who Am I – No system is safe
·       X + Y
·       Kill me three times
·       1001 Grams
·       Red Rose
·       Whiplash
·       Theeb
·       Mr Turner
·       The Look of Silence
·       Run
·       Learning to drive
·       International Shorts
·       Li’l Quinquin
·       Seymour, An introduction

I received comments (by email) from a number of people in response to this blog.  I thought that I would add them below:

My favourite movie was definitely Second Chance, directed by Susanne Bier, Oscar winning director of After the Wedding and A Better World.

It's a story about a detective and his wife who have a newborn baby.  So do the junkie couple that he has arrested in the past and that he visits to find their baby neglected and lying in filth.  The detective's baby suddenly dies one night of SIDS and in the horror of the moment he races over to the junkie couple's apt and switches the babies, assuming that their child will die anyway and he can give their child a "second chance."  All these assumptions play out differently than anyone could imagine.

Runner up for me was Pride - wonderful true story.  It's already playing in theatres now, so if you have a chance to see it you'll really enjoy it.
Thanks for the summary of these movies.  We go to movies, perhaps twice a month.  We just saw "my old lady" with a wonderful cast.  Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith, and Kristen Scott Thomas (?) spelling.  So far this year I haven't seen anything that spoke to me since, "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" which is the best movie I have seen in years.  It was funny and poignant and not the least predictable.  That was a last year's movie.  I love to watch TCM movies, which are such fun.  I don't know if you get that channel, but it is amazing if one likes older movies.
The one we saw and did not like was The Riot Club. The acting and production was good but both of us left wondering, why make this movie?


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What the Insurance companies don't want you to know

I recently gave a talk at CAWEE (www.cawee.net), a networking group for entrepreneurs and executives.  The talk was adapted for their magazine  - Acclaim (http://issuu.com/cawee/docs/cawee_acclaim_issue_46_final/0) and I'm listing it here as well.

If you would like a pdf, please contact me and I'd be pleased to send it to you.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Is all publicity good?

I was featured in Acclaim, a magazine published by a great networking group - CAWEE (a women's networking group) .  Check them both out The article is titled - What do K
etchup Viscosity and Insurance Have in Common?  The Answer is Heather Freed

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

4 key retirement planning decisions

I was quoted in this article which appeared in both the Toronto Star and The Waterloo Record.

4 key retirement planning decisions: Roseman

Whether you retire early or late, you will make some big financial decisions. So, plan ahead and think things through.

Whether you retire early or late, you will make some big financial decisions. So, plan ahead and think things through.

Whether you retire early or late, you will make some big financial decisions. So, plan ahead and think things through.
Whether you retire early or late, you will make some big financial decisions. Your goal is to turn your government benefits, pensions and savings into a lifetime income.
Let’s go through the decisions one by one.
When will you apply for Canada Pension Plan?
You can take CPP retirement benefits starting at age 60 and get a reduced amount. You can take benefits at 65 and get a full amount. Or you can defer benefits after 65 (until 70) and get an enhanced amount.
Service Canada has helpful questions to ask in deciding when to take your CPP retirement benefits.
How long did you make CPP contributions? How much did you put in?
What kind of lifestyle do you want when you retire?
How much do you get? You can find the amounts paid at age 65 at Service Canada’s website: The average payment is $633 a month, while the maximum payment is $1,038.
When will you apply for Old Age Security?
You must be 65 to qualify for an OAS pension. Starting in April 2023, the age of eligibility will increase gradually to age 67. This change will affect people born in 1958 or later.
You have the option of deferring your OAS pension for up to 60 months after the date you become eligible in order to get a higher amount.
You may want to defer OAS if your income is high enough to put you into clawback territory. The government calls it pension recovery tax.
You will have to repay part of your OAS if your income exceeds $71,592 in 2014. You will repay the whole thing if your income is $115,716. (This applies to individual income, not household income.)
How much do you get? The maximum monthly amount for OAS recipients is $551.54 in the current quarter.
You can also get a guaranteed income supplement if your income is low. The threshold is $16,728 including full OAS pension for individuals and $22,080 for couples who are both receiving full OAS pension.
When will you convert your RRSPs into income?
Everything you hold in registered retirement savings plans must be cashed in or converted to income by Dec. 31 of the year you turn 71.
You can convert RRSPs to a registered retirement income fund (RRIF) or a life annuity any time. You don’t have to wait until 71.
Once you open your RRIF, you will have to make a minimum withdrawal that grows each year and pay full tax on the withdrawal.
You may want to convert your RRSPs earlier than the deadline and transfer any money not required for daily spending into a tax-free savings account or non-registered investment account.
This strategy can help you get more control of your taxes and avoid being pushed into a higher tax bracket. For retirees, it’s the after-tax income you have to consider, not the pre-tax income.
Will you replace your employee benefits?
You may have benefits that are paid for or subsidized by your employer. These include dental, optical, pharmaceutical and chiropractic benefits.
These benefits may be cut back when you retire – or when you turn 65, even if you are still working. Should you get coverage on your own? How much would you pay?
Heather Freed, a certified financial planner, helps guide people through the transition from group benefits to individual insurance.
The cost to replace health and dental benefits for a family is $250 to $350 a month, she says. The cost for a single person is $125 to $175 a month. These are average costs and exclude life insurance and disability benefits.
Before making a decision, there are two important things to know, says Freed. What is the value of your employee benefits? What coverage do you have and how many claims do you make?
If you’re a frequent user of employee benefits, find out if you can convert them to individual policies. The conversion deadline may be tight. So, pay attention and don’t delay.
These decisions can be challenging. Consider their implications carefully and find competent advisers to help you on your journey.

Ellen Roseman writes about personal finance and consumer issues. You can reach her at eroseman@thestar.ca or www.ellenroseman.com

Sunday, April 6, 2014

It's 2013 Tax Time :-(

Canadians had to pay over $1 billion in additional taxes in fiscal 2012 alone, mostly because what they reported on their tax returns didn't match the dollar amounts provided by employers, financial institutions and other sources, according to CRA. As well, the tax agency rejected almost one in every five tax credit and deduction claims that year.
In addition to collecting additional taxes, the CRA will charge interest, currently at a rate of 5% on any overdue tax amounts, Golombek points out. You fail to file a return by the deadline or under-report income repeatedly you may also have to pay a penalty.
Golombek has some tips to avoid costly errors:
  • Double-check that you've included all income from all sources;
  • Compare information on tax slips to investment statements or other supporting documents to ensure accuracy;
  • If you're missing information, do your best to get it; estimate amounts when information doesn't arrive in time to file;
  • Report all RRSP contributions, even if you're going to claim the deduction in a later year;
  • Determine if you are eligible for a deduction or credit before you claim it;
  • Make sure your current address is on file with employers, financial institutions and the CRA so that you receive all tax slips and correspondence;
  • Be punctual - file your return by the deadline, which is April 30, 2014 for most taxpayers, and respond to any direct CRA correspondence within the required timeframe.

Monday, February 24, 2014

More about Heather Freed

The following article appeared in the "Off Bay Street News" in the January 2014 issue of The Insurance and Investment Journal.

Monday, January 27, 2014

web sites of general interest

I am so tired of winter (and I assume that you are too), so I   thought I would do something different in this month's e-newsletter.

While browsing the web, I came across a few interesting sites.

The first one is 33 Amazing Ideas that will Make your House Awesome.  While none are particularly practical, I really like #5 - Beach sand under your work desk; #6 - spiral staircase slide; #14 - a wall that plays music when it rains; and if you live in a condo or apartment building, #33 - balcony pool.  Perhaps you prefer the pirate ship bedroom or the hammock over the stairs.  There's something in these pictures for everyone (even your cat). 

If Chris Hatfield turned you onto space, you can check out the photographs taken from space by Guy Lalibert√©, the founder of Cirque du Soleil. I saw some of these photos at the Thompson Landry Gallery in the Distillery District. They are works of art and some you need to stare at for a while before you can translate them to the map that you're used to seeing.  

Finally, for those of you who have a Bucket List and are curious what other people have put on their list, here are some popular ones. They range from drawing faces on all the eggs in your fridge; to go bungee jumping; to eat kangaroo meat (I think kangaroos are too cute); to put a piece of gum on the Market Theatre Gum Wall in Seattle (that I didn't know existed); to throw a dart at a map and travel to where it lands.

If nothing else, these web sites will make you forget that it's January in Toronto for a few minutes and put a smile on your face.