The Basic Truths About Investing

The first few months of 2022 have been tough for investors. Here’s a refresher on the best ways to weather uncertainty.

I have been through a number of periods like this in my career and am often asked by clients what they should be doing in response. There are 10 basic truths of investing that I have learned in my time as a Professional Financial Advisor. These touch on the importance of diversification, maintaining a long-term perspective and that time in the market is more important than timing the market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Diversification is still your most important investment strategy.

This one was and still is at the top of my list, and one that you would have heard me discuss in past commentaries. If recent history has shown us anything, it’s that diversification remains one of the best ways to manage volatility in your portfolio. Different asset classes and markets go up and down at different times, so combining them into a well-diversified portfolio will smooth out investment returns over time. This can help you manage through volatile markets like the one we have experienced so far in 2022. It will also help you stick to your long-term investment plan.

2. It’s time in the market that matters, not timing the market.

One thing I have learned is that it is extremely difficult to successfully time the market. It involves making two decisions – when to get out and when to get back in. Even if you manage to find the right time to get out of the market, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to get back in at the right time. As difficult as the market drawdown was in March 2020, sitting on the sidelines meant you likely missed out on some pretty impressive gains that followed shortly after the low. Missing even a few of the strongest days in the market can have a significant impact on your overall investment returns.

3. Someone’s portfolio will always be doing better than yours (or at least they will say it is!).

People will always tell stories of a hot stock or investment tip that made them money. Meme stocks, bitcoin and NFTs all come to mind. But no discussion of investment returns, or performance is meaningful without also considering the level of risk involved. To earn higher returns, you need to accept more risk or volatility. So those who are bragging about their investing success could have a very different risk tolerance or time horizon than you, or they may simply be exaggerating their results. Either way, you should not take this as an indication that your investment portfolio is inferior or that you are missing out on something.

4. Markets go through up and down cycles, but they have trended higher over the long term.

Markets do not simply go up in a straight line. They experience many ups and downs, driven by a host of different factors. Some of these are fairly small and are resolved quickly; others are larger and can take longer for markets to digest. What is important to remember is that downturns have happened before, and will happen again, but they are not a reason to panic. In the past, markets have always recovered and trended higher over the long term.

5. Markets are unpredictable, so focus on what you can control.

Market downturns can be painful, especially when they follow a period of strong gains and relatively low volatility like we saw in 2021. But you have no influence over what the market is doing, so in periods like these it’s important to focus on what you can control. This includes keeping your emotions in check, staying invested and focusing on your financial goals. Over the long term, investing success has less to do with the ups and downs of markets and more to do with how you react to that volatility.

What You Can’t Control WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
The Stock Market YOUR PERSONAL FINANCIAL GOALS
Inflation YOUR RISK TOLERANCE
Geopolitical Events YOUR TIME HORIZON
Interest Rates HOW MUCH YOU SAVE & INVEST
What people say on social media YOUR EMOTIONS – SOMETIMES

6. What matters isn’t what the market does, but what you do in response.

This one is an extension of #5, but it’s worth reinforcing. Being aware of how your emotions can impact your investment decisions during volatile periods, can help you avoid making poorly timed changes to your portfolio (see #2). This is easier said than done, even for professional investors. Ignoring the short-term noise in markets is key. So is sticking to the solid financial plan that you put together with your advisor. It’s what you do – or rather what you don’t do – during these volatile times that can make all the difference.

7. Volatility decreases the longer you’re invested.

All investments carry some degree of risk. If you want to earn a higher return on your investment, you have to be willing to accept more risk or volatility. If your tolerance for risk is low, then you will have to give up some return to achieve that. Understanding this relationship is a fundamental part of investing. That said, the volatility that comes from taking on more risk in your portfolio tends to decrease over time… especially if you are invested in a well-diversified portfolio (see #1).

8. The more frequently you check your portfolio, the more volatile it will feel.

It has never been easier to get up-to-date information on the status of your portfolio. But you must also remember that the more often you check it, the more volatile it will feel. That is because on a day-to-day basis, there is a 50-50 chance that it will have a positive or negative return. So, watching your portfolio every day can lead you to think your investments are riskier than they really are. Instead, stay focused on your long-term investing goals and review your portfolio less frequently. This approach can help as the likelihood of seeing a positive return increases over time. It reminds me of an old TV ad: “Just set it and forget it”!

9. Risk doesn’t look like risk when it’s earning a return — manage risk, don’t avoid it.

It’s easy to say that you are comfortable with a higher level of risk when the markets are going up. But some people quickly abandon that sentiment when markets are volatile. That’s because the fear of loss can far outweigh the anticipation of gains. Markets are unpredictable, we can’t change that fact. But you can manage the risk by diversifying your portfolio (see #1 again) and by focusing on what you can control (see #5).

10. Headlines often focus on the sensational, short term and negative — none of which should matter to investors.

There are always a variety of economic, financial, or political events that can give you a reason to not invest. This year is no different. But headlines are designed to grab your attention and shouldn’t be cause for alarm or a reason to make sudden changes to your portfolio. Looking beyond the headlines and keeping the previous nine points in mind can provide you with a solid foundation for navigating markets in good times and in bad. In the end, staying on track and achieving your financial goals should be the only thing that matters.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial, or other professional advice. Information presented is believed to be factual and up to date, but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change

There isn’t much you can do about the economy — keep focused on your Personal Financial Goals

Lately, I have had so many people ask me if we are heading into a recession. This seems to be the big question that is weighing heavily on the minds of some.

Last week, I was speaking with one person, who seemed to be thinking that this could perhaps be Financial Armageddon, and I asked, “Do you know what a recession is?”

She replied, “Not Really”. That’s why I am asking you.” Okay Fair point.

While some media headlines have suggested we are already are in a recession, lets take a look at what a recession is from a definition.

“A recession is a temporary period of time when the overall economy declines; it is an expected part of the business cycle. This period usually includes declines in industrial and agricultural production, trade, incomes, stock markets, consumer spending, and levels of employment. In purely technical terms, a recession occurs when two or more successive quarters (six months) show a drop in real gross domestic product (GDP), i.e., the measure of total economic output in the economy after accounting for inflation. In this sense, recessions are broad and can be particularly painful and challenging times for a country.”

A recession is simply when the economy slows down for at least six months. That’s it.

In Canada, recessions can also occur regionally because each province has exposure to different industries that are affected by different variables. A recession can occur in Alberta, for example, if the oil and gas markets decline, but not occur at the same time in Ontario if manufacturing and services remain steady, or vice versa.

Recessions do not occur very often because expansion usually occurs in the economy. Canada has experienced a total of five recessions since 1970 and twelve since 1929. Historically recessions have lasted between three to nine months; the most recent, the 2008–09 Global Financial Crisis, also referred to as the ‘The Great Recession’.

Here is an analogy. You are driving 50 km/h and you come across a school zone. You slow down to 30 km/h, then the school zone ends, and you resume driving 50 km/h.

Think of the car you are driving as the economy. You are humming along, then you slow down, then you resume your speed. Not really that scary, is it?  During a recession, the economy continues to grow, just at a slower speed.  Similar to the car analogy, you continue to drive through the school zone, just at a slower speed.

Recessions will occur over time, but they are not the financial Armageddon like the media portrays.  The reality is you might experience a dozen or more in your lifetime.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that they are fun, and I am not saying that some people won’t lose their jobs, or that some businesses won’t go bankrupt in a recession. Most definitely, some people will lose their jobs, and some business will go bankrupt. Unfortunately, bad things happen.

Keeping things in perspective, bad things do not just happen during a recession.  Let’s agree that economic casualties are bad irrespective of where we are in the economic cycle, and just focus on the concept of a recession for now.

So, if recessions happen as part of the economic cycle, and they are relatively short lived, what is all the fuss about? We know there will be some contraction in the economy but to be blunt, the 24/7 media machine needs to talk about something, don’t they?

Do you remember the Greek sovereign debt crisis? No? Well, not many people do. But did you know it lasted from early 2009 to late 2010.  For six months in 2009, Greek debt was the big story that everyone was focused on until the next crisis of the day came along.

Now, an economic slowdown is a little more complicated than just the fear of what might happen.

Right now, we are dealing with the worst inflation seen in 40 years.  Setting aside the crisis in the Ukraine, the surge in inflation we have seen since last spring largely reflects pandemic-related shifts in global supply and demand.

Looking specifically at Canada, we have three key elements that are driving inflation. The first is the global shift toward goods and away from services, combined with pandemic-related disruptions to supply chains. The second is a broadening of price increases to everyday items like food and energy, making it more difficult for consumers to avoid paying higher prices. And the third is the strength of the Canadian recovery and the overall balance between demand and supply in our economy.

The Bank of Canada has an inflation target of 2%.  One of the tools it has is to raise interest rates which started in March of this year.  The primary reason the Bank of Canada raises interest rates is to cause a slowdown in economic growth. Interest rates determine how much it costs for consumers and businesses to borrow. When rates increase, borrowing typically decreases.  The Bank of Canada hopes that by raising interest rates, consumers reduce spending and businesses delay new investments, which will help lower demand and temper prices.

We need to remember that measuring the economy is not instantaneous.  It takes time for these measures to work through the system which is why we hear some economists say we are already in a recession.  And since recessions might be as short as three months, a recession could be over before the official numbers come out.

So, what are you going to do about all this? Well, unless you run a central bank or a multi-national corporation, there isn’t much you can do about the economy. But what you can do stay focused on your personal financial goals. Tune out all the white noise and remember the 10 Truths About Investing.

  1. Diversification is your most important strategy.
  2. It’s time in the market that matters, not timing the market.
  3. Someone’s portfolio will always be doing better than yours – or at least they say it is.
  4. Markets go through up and down cycles, but the have trended higher over time.
  5. Markets are unpredictable, so focus on what you can control.
  6. What matters isn’t what the market does, but what you do in response.
  7. Volatility decreases the longer you are invested.
  8. The more frequently you check your portfolio, the more volatile it will feel.
  9. Risk doesn’t look like risk when it’s earning a return – manage risk don’t avoid it.
  10. Headlines often focus on the sensational, short term and negative – none of which should matter to investors.

Stay well, stay safe and stay focused on your financial goals!

 

Footnotes:

https://www.bankofcanada.ca/2022/03/getting-inflation-back-to-target/

https://www.bankofcanada.ca/2022/03/economic-progress-report-controlling-inflation/

https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/recession

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial, or other professional advice. Information presented is believed to be factual and up to date, but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change

5 Things to Help You Survive Your 40s and 50s

You know those days where everything feels like it’s going wrong and you’re so tired? Sometimes you don’t know what direction’s up. Those days are inevitable, but they can also be a lot more manageable when you know what you’re working towards.

Here’s 5 things that’ll help you survive—and make the most of! —your 40s and 50s.

1. Do work you truly enjoy

Brace yourself for the motivational platitudes… Life’s too short to do work you don’t enjoy. You’re never too old to start something new. It’s not too late!

They’re clichés for a reason.

We spend too many hours working and commuting to be in a career that gives us the Sunday night dreads. Doing work, we enjoy gives us the sense of purpose and energy we need to juggle our way through these years. And man, do we need all the energy we can get…

This doesn’t mean you have to storm into your boss’s office yelling, “I QUIT” so you can start a surf school in Hawaii (Although, go for it!). Maybe you do need a whole new career, but perhaps you just need a new position within your company, or to tweak the one you have so you’re working on different projects.

Bottom line, a more enjoyable career might be easier to get than you think. And it’s so worth it.

2. Have extra cash on hand for emergencies

Between your kids, your parents, your home, and even your pets (have you seen vet bills these days?!) someone’s bound to need something.

Having cash on hand means you’ll be able to cover these surprise expenses stress-free. So, the next time Fido needs an emergency run to the vet to get who-knows-what removed from his paw, your won’t have to rely on credit or give up your weekly brunches to cover it.

The general rule of thumb is to have three to six months worth of cash on hand in an emergency fund. In these years make it closer to six months worth, just to be safe.

3. Take care of your health

What’s that got to do with money, you ask? Everything.

We all know neglecting your health now can lead to big medical bills down the line, but that’s not really the point. Staying healthy means you can make the most of your time, and time is the most precious thing we have. What good is time off if you’re not healthy enough to enjoy it?

We’re not saying you should stop buying cookies and sign up for a triathlon, just a couple healthy habits can go a long way. Maybe that’s walking your kids to practice instead of driving, having healthier lunches at work, joining a hockey league with your friends… whatever works for your lifestyle.

4. Know what you’re working towards 

No, “retirement” doesn’t count. Get specific! How do you want to spend your time? What do you truly value? What makes you happy?

Spend more on that and less on everything else.

If you’re a homebody or someone who loves to entertain, it makes sense to put money towards renovations or a bigger house. But if you’re a travel junkie who sees wine tastings across Europe in their future, maybe you need to downsize and put those dollars towards your Italy fund.

Let go of what you think you should be spending on and working towards and get clear on what you actually want.

5. Set A Financial Plan

Once you know what matters to you and what you’re working towards it’s a whole lot easier to make a plan for your money. Setting a financial plan will put you in a good place for your financial goal.

You can estimate what that new house or wine tour will cost and save for it accordingly. You’ll know how much you’ve got leftover to spend today and you’ll know what spending will make you happy, and what won’t. The daily grind becomes a lot more manageable once you know you’re investing in the life you want.

Helping you Protect, Grow, Save and Manage is our passion.

Do you need to tidy up your financial plan, or maybe your looking for a second opinion? Email us at information@zakuskowalchuk.com to set up a time for a chat.

This article was written by Randy Cass, CEO, Founder, and Portfolio Manager at Nest Wealth.  Nest Wealth Asset Management  Inc., provides Portfolio Management to Zakus Kowalchuk LLP Clients.  This article originally appeared on the Nest Wealth blog on May 26th, 2017.

The information contained in this post is of general nature and should not be considered professional advice. Its accuracy or completeness is not guaranteed, and Zakus Kowalchuk LLP assumes no responsibility or liability.

What is a Professional Financial Advisor?

Do you like to talk about Insurance, Cash Flow Planning or Investment Planning? Financial Planning is a topic most people do not enjoy talking about openly. Kind of like when you’re asked to pick which Grandma is the better baker.

It can also be very confusing as there is a lot of moving parts, and how do they all fit together? But it shouldn’t be. With the right help creating a sound financial strategy – from investing and saving, to protecting your money and family it can be a rewarding experience. And the best part is you are never too old to start.

So, what’s a Professional Financial Advisor?

Simply put, a Professional Financial Advisor is your financial quarterback, advising you of options you may not have realized are available to benefit you. They will take the time to get to know you and find out what is important in your life. They will help you determine what financial well-being means to you. It might be things important to you, such as saving for a short-term purchase, saving for your children’s education or something long term like purchasing your first home. Every goal requires a plan that is unique to your financial situation, so there will never be one cookie cutter path to reaching your goals.

Areas that we help you with.

1. Insurance – you work hard to get where you want to be, and one unexpected life event can derail what you have been working towards. It’s not about the probability but the consequence of your death or being disabled or sick. How will you and your family manage if your pay cheque stops? Where will the money for mortgage payments come from or monthly living expenses?

2. Cash flow – We provide a plan to help you take control of your money so you can feel good about your spending and saving. A plan where you can achieve your short-term financial goals and see the long-term results when we sit down for a financial review.

3. Investment Planning – Whether you are retiring next year or decades from now, you need an investment plan customized to your goals. We will always design a strategy that encompasses both savings and investing which might include high yield savings, RSP’s TFSA and even Whole Life or Universal Life Insurance.

4. Tax Planning – Regardless of what tax bracket you are in, planning and properly using savings vehicles such as TFSA’s, Spousal RSP’s and permanent insurance can help you keep more of your money.

5. Income Planning – We work with you to identify all your income sources in Retirement and how they integrate with government benefits. We will also ensure they are properly positioned to keep income taxes at a minimum.

6. Wills and Estate Planning – We will work with you to identify how you would like your estate set up and look at strategies to preserve and protect your estate for your heirs.

7. Life Stages and Changes – Life is not static, and it does not always stick to a plan. Life is a journey that will see lots of changes – whether it is a career change, buying a new house or getting married, we are there to help you navigate the unchartered waters, keeping your plan in check.

So how does all this come together?

Well, we love to talk about all this stuff and to develop long term relationships with our clients. Our first meeting is centered around getting to know you and taking a snapshot of your financial picture. We ask questions to find out your attitude about money and based on your answers we select one or two areas to focus on right away. We require you to take an active role in our discussions to ensure the focus reflects your unique goals.

During a second meeting we will review recommendations and a course of action to help you achieve your goals. We look at the merits of each recommendation and discuss the tools available to help you get there.

Keep in mind, to navigate through the steps, it could be over several meetings or months depending on the complexity and any third-party professional that may need to be brought into the discussions.

From here we will lay out a mutually agreed upon “check in” with each other and when we will meet to review your plan. We won’t be able to drive your kids to soccer practice as I’ll be heading to the ball diamond, but we will do everything we can to make sure your goals are achieved.

Helping you Grow, Save, Manage and Protect is our passion.

Do you need to tidy up your financial plan, or maybe your looking for a second opinion? Email us at information@zakuskowalchuk.com to set up a time for a chat.

The information contained in this post is of general nature and should not be considered professional advice. Its accuracy or completeness is not guaranteed, and Zakus Kowalchuk LLP assumes no responsibility or liability

Savings vs. Investing…What’s the difference?

In my last blog I referenced the terms Savings and Investing and asked if you knew what the difference between the two are. Each have very different meanings, uses and maintaining a balance between the two, will help you reach your financial goals.

Before we get into looking at the differences between saving and investing, let’s agree that daily expenses like groceries and that cell phone bill are separate from savings, and should be treated that way.

Okay, now that we have that cleared up let have that chat savings!

Simply put……Saving is for today

Putting aside a percentage of your income each month into a separate savings is a great habit to develop and will help you achieve your short-term financial needs. These regular savings will help you manage your Cash Flow Plan, pay for vacations, deal with unexpected expenses, and use less credit.

You know the saying “save for a rainy day”. Rainy days in these instances refer to times of trouble, which is why we are always told to save for a rainy day. Rainy day funds are the same thing as emergency funds, so it doesn’t matter what you call your savings, it matters how you use them.

What would happen if your furnace needed replacing or the roof started leaking? Would you have enough in your rainy day account to cover the repairs, or would you have to turn to your credit card or line of credit putting you into debt? If your answer is to put it on the line of credit or credit card, you don’t have enough saved. Another way to tell if your savings are in good shape; is to watch your spending, and if you’re regularly dipping into your long-term savings to pay for short-term needs, you don’t have enough money in savings.

We have all heard that the general rule of thumb is to have between 6 and 12 months of living expenses in your savings……so how much do you have in savings?

Investing is for tomorrow

We can’t rely on our savings to fund long-term goals, like our children’s education and your own retirement. Why? Because money in our rainy-day account is held inside a savings account or even a high yield savings account which earns minimal interest, therefore produces minimal growth.

Investments, however, can grow over time.

A common belief about investing is that it’s risky, and while it is true that investing does involve taking on some degree of risk, putting too much in your savings leaves you at risk of not achieving your long-term financial goals. Even those high yield savings account may not be keeping up with inflation, which means you’re not saving as much as you think.

Over the long-term your investments will most likely produce better returns, giving you a better chance of achieving your long-term financial goals.

Let’s look at a comparison!

Using an example to demonstrate the difference between saving and investing, and how each can affect your bottom line.

Suppose you have a savings account with $5,000 and contribute $300 each month into a savings account that pays 2% interest. After 25 years your savings account will have accumulated to $124,757.51.

Now let’s say you have the same $5,000, but instead decide to contribute $300 per month towards a diversified investment portfolio that earns an average of 6% a year. After 25 years, you will have accumulated $225,333.60.

As you can see, Saving and Investing have very different outcomes. While saving helps you to achieve short-term financial goals like buying a new car or going on annual beach vacations, investments will be used for long-term financial goals such as your children’s or spending 6 months in a tropical or dessert city.

Having savings to cover those rainy days expenses means you are prepared for the curveball’s life loves to throw at us. Investments, on the other hand, are there for your long-term goals and the question isn’t if you should save or invest, it’s how much money should I save? and how much should I put towards investments?

Not on track….no worries, we can help you set up a savings and investment plan that will help you achieve your financial goals and give you financial peace of mind. Give us a call for a complimentary no obligation meeting.

Please email information@zakuskowalchuk.com or call 778-215-7230.

The information contained in this post is of general nature and should not be considered professional advice. Its accuracy or completeness is not guaranteed, and Zakus Kowalchuk LLP assumes no responsibility or liability.

Is Financial Peace of Mind Possible?

Do you have financial peace of mind?

Would your life be simpler if you didn’t have any financial worries? In reality, we probably will all face some level of financial worry, the question is how we deal with it. Here are a few tips to help reduce stress and achieve financial peace of mind.

Are your finances are keeping you up at night? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. A survey conducted by Leger Marketing of over 1000 Canadians between September 26 and October 1, 2014, discovered 42 percent of Canadians rank money as their greatest source of stress. I am confident in saying that this holds true in 2019. In fact, Canadians stress and worry more about their finances than they do work, health, or personal relationships.

Let’s look at some of the harmful effects of worrying, identify the stressors that may be affecting you, and go over a few strategies to help alleviate financial stress.

Harmful Effects of Worrying

Is there a day that doesn’t go by that you wonder what’s left in the bank account, how are my investments doing, or can I afford that beach vacation I so desperately need with my family? Or how about, will I ever be able to retire? Worrying about money has become so ingrained in our society that it’s accepted as a “normal” worry. Stressing over finances not only affects our quality of life, mentally and physically, but also the lives of those around you.

Stressing about finances can lead to:

A lack of sleep.

Laying awake at night, tossing and turning because of financial issues is no way to live. In the same study nearly half (48%) of respondents have lost sleep due to financial worries.

Ruminating about your finances won’t help you solve for financial concerns and will most likely make it harder for you to focus at work and could even cause some more serious health issues. Research has shown that rumination is associated with a variety of negative consequences, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, binge-drinking and binge-eating.

Pessimistic thoughts.

If you are always worrying about the negative outcomes, you have less time to focus on being productive, and less time to enjoy life. Worrying is a down payment of emotion on something that hasn’t even happened yet, and it keeps you from being present.

Strained relationships.

Money worries are the leading cause of marriages falling apart, according to a study out of Britain and would hold true here in Canada. A poll of over 2,000 British adults by legal firm Slater and Gordon found that money worries top the list of reasons why married couples split up, with one in five saying it was the biggest cause of marital strife.

Over a third of those surveyed said that financial pressures were the biggest challenge to their marriage, while a fifth said that most of their arguments were about money. One in five of those polled blamed their partner for their money worries, accusing them of overspending or failing to budget properly.

Couples that are open about personal finances argue much less about money than those who hide things from their partner. In a survey of 1000 Canadian Couples conducted by Leger Marketing, 58 percent reported that they never or rarely argue with their partners about money.

Behavioural issues.

We all react to stress in different ways and we all have our own ways to release stress. Some turn to the gym, while others may go for a hike in the mountains. However, it is not uncommon for those with financial stress to overeat, smoke, drink, or become withdrawn from their usual social situations, especially if they feel like no one understands, or can relate, to the situation they’re in.

General unhealthiness.

Heart disease, weight gain or loss, insomnia, cancer, high blood pressure, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression can all result from stressing over finances. Health problems create bigger financial stresses and can further take away from enjoying life.

So how do you alleviate these stresses and achieve financial peace of mind?

To have financial peace of mind, it is essential to plan today. Reviewing your finances, identifying the issues, and creating a plan to help you navigate through the stressful times is vital. There are a lot of financial stressors that affect us – think about the ones that you have faced or are facing. These can include: debt, losing a job, balancing a budget (we don’t like the word budget….ask us why), paying bills, not having an emergency fund, not having enough saved for retirement, arguing about money with a spouse or family member, outliving retirement savings, impulse spending, taking a loss on investments, and market volatility in general.

We have complied 8 things that you can do today to start down the path to financial peace of mind, even when times are tough:

1. Take control of your personal finances now.

Money can free us, or control us. It is what drives our economies, it’s taken the blame for divorce, and in a way, it is the product of all products. Yet, as much as we all make, most of us know very little about how money and personal finances work. We could blame our parents or teachers, saying “they should have prepared us better”, but it’s pretty clear that placing blame won’t help you learn how to file your taxes, help you negotiate a mortgage, create a cash flow plan, or help you invest to grow your wealth.

2. Create financial goals.

“An investor without investment objectives is like a traveler without a destination”. I love this quote because we all need a destination. What is your destination? And is it realistic and attainable? Do you have debt you want to pay off? Do you want to start an emergency fund or maybe you want to take a cruise around the world? Whatever your financial destination is, knowing what they are is the foundation to developing a plan to help you achieve them.

3. Cut costs to increase cash flow.

Create a Cash Flow Plan, not a budget to help you understand where you are spending money, whether it is on one off purchases or debts with high interest rates. For example, do you really need to spend money on cable every month if you watch Netflix or another streaming services as they can provide the same shows and movies at a fraction of the cost? Another area that you should review is the amount you pay each year in investments fees. The average Canadian equity fund charges Canadians some of the highest fees in the developed world, taking 2.35% of returns each year.

4. Stick to your plan.

Your Cash Flow Plan, Financial plan, Savings, and Investments are the keys to financial success. If you haven’t spent the time to go through the process take the time as it’s the blueprint to your financial peace of mind. It will help keep you on track and prevent you from making financial mistakes down the road. Sticking to your plan can also ease that fear-of-the-unknown feeling, because you’ll have a clear picture of your financial situation rather than having your finances be a black hole of worry.

5. Automation.

Have you forgot about the cell phone bill or maybe the dog license that comes once a year? I’m sure we have all missed a bill payment or two in our lives. Aside from freeing up your time, setting up automatic payments for bills, savings, and investments, can ensure you don’t miss a payment and eases some of the financial stress you take on. It also ensures you contribute to your savings and investments throughout the year versus scrambling to make those last-minute contributions. Less stress, more free time, and fewer emotional decisions are just a few of the benefits to automating your finances.

6. Save and Invest.

Do you know the difference between savings and investments? Savings are for today, and investments are for tomorrow. Growing your savings and investments over time will help you live the life you ultimately want to. Start early and make it automatic. If you’re thinking, “this won’t apply to me because I have no investments or savings really, and it’s too late to start now,” stop! It’s never too late to start investing and saving for your goals.

7. Stay calm.

This is the most important rule. Historically, investors with a well thought out Financial Plan with a diversified and well-allocated portfolio, often come out ahead financially. Seeing losses can cause investors to panic and make irrational decisions based off emotion. If you have trouble keeping calm during market fluctuations, we can show you strategies that reduce market volatility helping keep emotions out of the equation and prevent impulsive financial decisions and mistakes.

8. Ask for help.

We have all experienced financial stresses, but continued stresses about finances is a bad habit for our bodies, our peace of mind and it can be difficult to break. Working with a Professional Financial Advisor can help you achieve financial peace of mind by giving you back your time and reduce your financial stress.

Try our tips to help reduce stress and achieve your financial peace of mind. Life can be more fulfilling without financial worries and we can all take control of our money which is simpler than we think.

Please email information@zakuskowalchuk.com or call 778-215-7230 for a chat.

The information contained in this post is of general nature and should not be considered professional advice. Its accuracy or completeness is not guaranteed, and Zakus Kowalchuk LLP assumes no responsibility or liability.

Let’s talk Investment Fee’s

This seems to be a hot topic within our professional associations, investor groups and the media. And its something that we should all understand and be aware of.

There is one issue that comes up with several colleagues and that is the advertisements we seen on TV. In particular, the Questrade ads which claim you could retire 30% richer. These ads could be confusing, because the first thing that comes to mind is; can they generate that much more of a return? After all, we are all largely programed to think Rate of Return.

However, this is not what they are referring to, and in fact they are referring to Investment Fee’s. The impact that Investment Fee’s play on your portfolio can be significant over time. Let’s look at an example of how Investment fee’s can impact your portfolio:

If you have a starting portfolio with a value of $50,000.00, with an average rate of return of 5% over 20 years

Data: BC Securities Commission

Paying a 2.5% fee rather than a 1.33% fee on your $50,000 investment could reduce total returns by more than $20,878 over 20 years, assuming a 5% annual return.

Even a 1% difference in the fees you pay can have a big impact on your investment returns.

Understanding Investment Fee’s is important as I have demonstrated, but we cannot discount the value that a Professional Financial Advisor provides. Studies have shown that households that engage the services of a Professional Financial Advisor have 4.2 times the median assets verses households that do not use a Financial Advisor.

Professional Financial Advisors do more than help Canadians save for their future. They help protect the savings their clients have accumulated through comprehensive planning and deploying strategies using a wide range of life and health insurance and investment strategies. Employing the services of a Financial Advisor, clients are better protected today, and are better prepared for retirement than people who do not receive advice.

Understanding your Investment Fees is important, and once you do, you can evaluate the true cost of the investments in your portfolio and the services you are receiving from your advisor.

Remember, lower fee options shouldn’t reduce the value of services provided by your Advisor. Make it a habit to ask questions about Investment Fees, after all it is your money.

Would you like to see if you could be receiving more value and advice while lowering your fees? Email information@zakuskowalchuk.com or call 778-215-7230 for a chat.

Want more Insurance and retirement savings tips? Sign up for our free newsletter on our home page. www.zakuskowalchuk.com

The information contained in this post is of general nature and should not be considered professional advice. Its accuracy or completeness is not guaranteed, and Zakus Kowalchuk LLP assumes no responsibility or liability.

The ABC’s of RRSP

We are twenty-one days into what some advisors call “RSP season”, so we wanted to take a step back and help you better understand RRSPs and the benefits, here are the ABCs of RRSPs:

A: Automatic RRSP Contributions

Setting up an automated RRSP contribution plan (PAC) can substantially increase the value of your portfolio. Benefits include less stress as to when to invest, helps remove emotions from investing decisions, you avoid missing contribution deadlines, and you’re giving your money more time to work.

B: Behavioral Cash Flow Planning

With the holidays now over, you are probably avoiding your credit card statement and your bank account balances. The holidays can be an expensive time of year and even if you vowed not to over spend, there was probably that one gift you couldn’t resist. No worries we can help identify areas that can help pay out your debit and save you money that you can invest in your RRSP.

C: Contribution Limits

Yes, there are limits on what you can contribute to your RRSP. Contributions are either 18% of your pre-tax earned income, or to a maximum of $26,230.00. Contributions made in 2018 and the first sixty days of the new year can be used on your tax return to reduce taxable income.

The deadline for contribution for 2018 is March 1, 2019.

D: Diversification

Diversification is a risk management strategy that mixes a variety of investments within a portfolio. If a portfolio is properly diversified and constructed with different kinds of investments it’s more likely to generate higher returns and minimize risk for you, the investor*.

E: Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF)

What is an ETF? An exchange-traded fund (ETF) is an investment fund similar to a Mutual Fund, but it tracks an index like the S&P500 and is traded on stock exchanges. ETFs typically have lower fees than mutual funds and can hold assets like stocks, commodities, or bonds just like a mutual fund. Our Investment Partners use them to construct your portfolio – contact us to find out more.

F: Freedom

Having professional portfolio managers manage your investments can help free up your time, so you can enjoy spending more time on the things that matter.

G: Goals of the Retirement Kind

Having enough money for a comfortable and secure retirement is a great financial goal that everyone should have. Maxing out the contribution limit in your RRSP is one way to help you get there faster. However, you need to understand all your Investment vehicles including what pension income you will have before you maximize your RRSP account. You might have other financial goals including things like saving for your child’s or grandchild’s education or saving up for that dream vacation!

H: Holdings

Holdings are what your portfolio is made up of (like ETFs, options, bonds…etc.) The kind of holdings, and how many you have in your portfolio, can contribute to how diversified your portfolio is*.

I: Income

Having an income is necessary to building wealth and living! Income can be defined as money a person receives in exchange for providing goods or services. Income in Retirement is the amount you earn from savings to fund the things you want to do.

J: Justifying Fees

Can you justify paying high fees on your investments that eat up your returns? The value that your advisor provides is important, and they can help guide you towards all of your goals. This doesn’t mean you need to pay high fees for professional advice! It could be time to look at working with a firm like ours where we offer an investment platform without the high fees and without sacrificing sound financial advice and investment returns.

K: Know Your Client (KYC)

The Know Your Client (KYC) is a standard form in the investment industry that ensures advisors know detailed information about their clients’ risk tolerance, investment knowledge, and financial situation*. In other words, it’s how we get to know you at first!

L: Low Fees

Paying lower fees on your investments means more money for your bottom line in retirement.

M: Money

Money makes the word go around and making regular contributions to your RRSP can ensure you have enough money for a comfortable and secure retirement.

N: New Investment Platforms – you have choice!

Our Partners at Nest Wealth are Canada’s first “robo-advisor”, offering a simple and easy way to investing. Using smart technology and proven investment principles, they can monitor and manage your custom portfolio at a fraction of the cost.

They take a passive approach to investing and build your portfolio to “be the market”, not “beat the market”, because history has proven time and time again that you’re likely to accumulate more wealth by investing passively. So, while you’re busy with life, your Nest Wealth Portfolio Manager is busy monitoring and rebalancing your portfolio, and ensuring your assets are properly diversified, in order to help you achieve your financial goals.

Does this mean you don’t have an advisor? Not at all. We have Partnered with Nest Wealth to offer clients discretionary portfolio management, while we define, create and manage your financial plan and all the details that go into working with you to reach your unique and personalized goals.

O: Opportunities

Opportunities are the things you want to do! What do you want to do in five years, or fifteen years from today? We can help you plan and achieve these opportunities.

P: Passive Management

Passive management is an investing strategy and is the opposite of active management. Passive managers track the market and know successful investing is about time in the market, whereas active managers aim to time the market in order to beat it. Research has shown passive investing outperforms those that are trying to beat the stock market. Using this as a foundation, your portfolio will be designed to “be the market”, not try to “beat the market”, meaning our clients have constructed portfolios at a lower cost and are also likely to outperform most traditional portfolios over the long run.

Q: Questions

We know that you have questions about your financial planning activities, and we are always available to answer them for you. Be it over messenger, email, a phone call, or in person, we’re here when you need us.

R: Retirement

According to a study by Statistics Canada, 31% of those surveyed between ages 45 and 60 said their financial preparations for retirement were insufficient. Further, a study by RBC revealed 56% of non-retired Canadians were worried they wouldn’t be able to enjoy the life in which they are currently accustomed to. Are you worried? Will you be able to enjoy the lifestyle you want for you and your family?

S: Savings

Savings will typically be a savings account, and will be used to pay for kid’s activities, vacations or even those unexpected expenses. Savings allows us to use less credit, and ultimately ease our financial stress. We can’t rely on savings to fund our long-term goals, like retirement. Why? Because money in a savings account earns minimal interest and produces minimal growth.

Investing, on the other hand, can help grow your investments for long term goals like retirement. The question isn’t if you should save or invest, it’s how much money you should put towards your savings and how much should you put towards your investments. Working with an advisor can help you determine the best allocations.

T: Tax-Free

RRSPs have many benefits, two of which are not to be ignored: the tax refund you receive when you contribute to your RRSP, and tax-deferred growth. Money in your RRSP will eventually be taxed when you withdraw it, but because most people earn less income in retirement, the withdrawals should end up being taxed at a lower rate!

U: Unique

Each client is unique, so we work with you to identify your opportunities and then work with our Portfolio Manager to construct a custom portfolio for you.

V: Value

Investment fees in Canada are way too high. As I mentioned earlier, the value of using a Professional Financial Advisor is paramount. There are studies that show clients who work with an advisor are more likely to achieve their retirement goals than those who don’t. But quality advice shouldn’t be mistaken for high investment fees. As a client you need to ask yourself, is the advice I am receiving worth the thousands of dollars in fees that I am paying each year.

W: Wealth

What does Wealth mean to you? At Zakus Kowalchuk LLP, wealth means having more time, freedom, and choice. More time for our clients to spend on the things that matter most to them, more freedom for our clients to spend their time as they wish, and more choice as to how our clients spend their time and freedom on what brings them the most happiness.

Looking at it another way, to the young professional, wealth may mean being able to afford rent, food, and some after work drinks with coworkers. To the athlete, wealth may mean being able to afford equipment and training. To the cancer survivor, wealth may mean having a clean bill of health. And to the grandmother with five grandchildren and three great grandchildren, family may be the greatest form of wealth.

Have you ever heard the saying – you can always make more money, but you can’t make more time!

X: X Marks the Spot

X marks your target, whether it is a short-term opportunity or longer-term objective, meeting with an advisor can help you start mapping out your financial future.

Y: Yield

Yield is the income return on an investment (like interest or dividends) *.

Z: Zzz

I could have talked about having a “Zero Balance Credit Card” but to me the letter “Z” is the sound of you sleeping peacefully knowing you have a Financial Plan and that your portfolio is in good hands.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of your view of the market, contributing to an RRSP is a smart money move and is one strategy in the journey to creating opportunities for you and your family!

*Definitions sourced from www.investopedia.com

Want to discuss your RRSP Strategy? Please email info@zakuskowalchuk.com or call 778-215-7230 for a chat.

Want more Insurance and retirement savings tips? Sign up for our free newsletter on our home page.

The information contained in this post is of general nature and should not be considered professional advice. Its accuracy or completeness is not guaranteed, and Zakus Kowalchuk LLP assumes no responsibility or liability

What’s Your Number?

It’s the million-dollar question….no pun intended, but it’s a number you should have some clear direction around.

What if you were sitting with a travel agent, planning that dream vacation you want to take twenty or thirty years from now. Seems crazy right? You don’t know where it will be, how much it will cost or how long, but you are putting aside money every month for the trip. You’re not even sure how much to save or when you have saved enough. Crazy, huh? Well welcome to Financial Planning.

So, do you know your number?

When I meet with new clients and I ask them what their number is, some aren’t sure what to say, some kind-of have an idea and some have a clear number in mind.

Is your number one million dollars, two million dollars or something less? For everyone that is still in their working years, you are expected to anticipate your future expenses, the amount that you need to cover those expenses, so you can enjoy your golden years. Seems daunting?

As Financial Advisors, we can help you determine what your number is by using multiples of final salary to percentages pegged to your pre-retirement income. But no one formula fits every person or life stage, and there are a few other factors and questions that need to be talked about.

Here are a few questions that you’ve probably been asked:

– At what age would you like to retire?

– What do you want to do when you retire?

– Will you want to travel every year?

These are important questions, and the answers will help map out your number to fund your golden years. However, we also need to keep six planning factors in mind and how they relate to you in determining your number.

Pension Incomes: Will you have an employer sponsored Pension Plan?

There are still Canadians who have Defined Benefit Pensions. These pensions guarantee a monthly income in retirement for life. However, not all Defined Benefit Pension plans are as secure as others. One of the most notable examples is Nortel, where pensioners are not receiving their full benefits they thought would be there.

According to Statistics Canada, there are approximately 4.2 million workers with defined benefit pension plans. Of these, 1.3 million are privately funded putting them at risk if the company declares insolvency or becomes bankrupt.

The other pension plan that is more widely offered today is a Defined Contribution Plan. Defined contribution plans are pretty much like an RSP where both the employer and employee make contributions. The amount available for retirement income is linked to total contributions and market growth.

We also have the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) which pays a monthly benefit and is based on your earnings and how much you contributed during your working years. The maximum monthly amount in 2018 is $1,134.17 with the average being $673.10 a month.

The second Federal pension is the Old Age Security. OAS yields a lower basic monthly benefit of $596.67 in 2018 and is subject to claw back rules.

From “Your Number” standpoint, the more reliable pension income you have, the less you potentially need to save…..maybe.

How long is your retirement going to be? One of the questions commonly asked is “when do you want to retire?” The earlier you retire, the more money you are going to need to draw from for the rest of your life. Will your number cover your retirement period for twenty years, thirty years or longer?

This seems to be basic right? but now you need to determine your Savings Rate.

The growth of your savings matters. We can all agree that the higher the rate of return on your investments, the better, and it could mean less you need to save. The opposite is true, the lower your investment return, the more you are going to have to beef up that retirement nest egg. If only it was possible to know in advance what your returns are going to be, planning would be some much easier. Future returns are unknowable. So be careful to use conservative return assumptions in your planning. Over-estimating future returns will result in under saving and increase the risk of outliving your money while in retirement.

Investment vehicles also play an important role in structuring retirement income. Investments such as Annuities are often overlooked for the potential of higher investment returns, but they could provide a steady known stream of income.

Retirement spending. Retirement means different things to different people. If your life style in Retirement will cost $100,000 dollars a year, you’re going to need to save more than someone who is comfortable living on $40,000 dollars a year. Knowing what your Retirement lifestyle looks likes is going to be is an important thing to consider. Remember that question I asked earlier? What do you want to do in retirement?

Are you a homeowner? If so, you have another asset that can potentially support you in retirement, perhaps in your later years. Real-estate can make up a significant asset for homeowners and if this asset doesn’t exist you will need to create a larger nest egg.

Legacy. Are you planning on leaving money or a specific asset to your children or even a grandchild? How about a favorite charity? Your number will need to represent the legacy that you want to leave.

No matter what your age, you should have at least some idea of what your number will need to be in retirement to live your desired lifestyle. As I already shared, you can use a multiple of final salary or a percentage pegged to your pre-retirement income. Most Financial Advisors set this number at 70% to 85% of pre-retirement household income.

Case Study

Let’s look at a savings rate of 5%

Meet Kara, a 30-year-old who earns $40,000 per year, and expects 1.5% raises each year until her retirement at age 67. Investing in a diversified portfolio with an expected annual rate of return of 6%, Kara will have accumulated $316,592.07 at age 67.

If Kara needs 75% of her pre-retirement income to fund her desired lifestyle, she will need $4,272.84 each month.

Based on her current savings she could withdraw $1,054.02 per month, include Canada Pension and Old Age Security, the savings rate of 5% is significantly short of her desired goal.

So, what is Kara’s number?

Using the same assumptions, Kara’s number is $902,000.00 which is a 14.25% savings rate. Adding in Canada Pension and OAS her retirement would be funded.

The bottom line is you need to know what your number is and what factors can have an impact on it. Planning is not something that you do shortly before you stop working. Rather it is a life long process that will go through several changes as your personal circumstances change.

Want to discuss what your number is? Please email info@zakuskowalchuk.com or call 778-215-7230 for a chat.

Want more Insurance and retirement savings tips? Sign up for our free newsletter on our home page.

The information contained in this post is of general nature and should not be considered professional advice. Its accuracy or completeness is not guaranteed, and Zakus Kowalchuk LLP assumes no responsibility or liability

Let’s Talk……..Critical Illness Insurance

If you’re like most people you understand the need for Life Insurance to help protect your family and provide for them when you are gone. You buy car and home insurance in the event of an accident or a flood. But what about helping to provide for your family if you are still with them but suffering from a Critical Illness?

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Canadians suffer from serious illnesses each year. In their 2018 publication, the Canadian Cancer Society estimates that 206,300 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in 2017, and that number is expected to increase. Similar projections regarding heart disease came from the Heart & Stroke Foundation, projecting that the number of people affected with heart disease has nowhere to go but up.

Thanks to advances in medical science, the majority will survive, but recovery is often long and carries a financial expense that can leave families devastated. While we are fortunate to live in a Country that provides Universal Health Care, there are a number of expenses that they don’t cover.

Non-medical costs may not be covered by provincial health plans or basic health insurance so you may have to cover things like:

· travelling to and from treatment or appointments

· some drugs

· child care

· home care

· nutritional or food supplements

· medical equipment or supplies

You may also need to take unpaid time away from work, or if you are self-employed, the financial impact of a Critical Illness can be hard for you and your family.

What can Critical Illness Insurance Do for Me?

Critical Illness Insurance provides a tax free benefit when you are diagnosed with a covered condition and you meet the waiting period. The full list of covered illnesses varies from provider to provider, but typically they will cover 25 conditions, which include Cancer, Heart Attack, Stroke and Coronary artery bypass which are considered the four “Big” conditions.

Consider these statistics

· 1 in 2 Canadians will develop Cancer in their lifetime.

· The average cost of a single course of treatment with current cancer drugs is $65,000 with the individual being responsible for up to $13,000 or more of the cost.

· 10min – Someone in Canada has a stroke every 10 minutes.

· 75% of those who have a stroke live with some impairment or disability.

· An estimated 564,000 Canadians are currently living with Dementia.

If you are diagnosed with a Critical Illness, how long could you live off your savings or would you need to redeem investments to maintain daily living. Could you reduce your expenses? Would you have to delay retirement? Go into debt? Or even downsize your home?

Critical Illness Insurance provides a benefit when it is critical and is designed to help take your mind off your finances so you can concentrate on getting better.

If you haven’t added critical illness insurance to your plan we can help…..Let’s have a quick chat to make sure your family and your future are secure.

The information contained in this post is not intended as insurance, investment, tax or legal advice and is provided as information only. To learn more please email us at information@zakuskowalchuk.com

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