Categories
Wealth

What if the Canadian Government Gave Everyone $45k at Birth

Governments exist to provide public goods (like streetlights) and to socialize certain individual costs (like healthcare) for the overall benefit of its population. It can be argued, therefore, that in addition to free healthcare it might be in a society’s best interest to ensure a secure retirement for every citizen.

Many governments already do this to some extent. In Canada, for example, people who contributed to the Canada Pension Plan will benefit from a schedule of payments upon retirement. Those who haven’t contributed may receive alternative retirement funding, such as the Old Age Supplement and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

None of these provide for a particularly flush retirement, however it keeps most of Canada’s retired residents housed and fed.

What if, instead of providing supplemental income at retirement, the government gave a lump sum to each person born in Canada? The lump sum would be untouchable until retirement, and would be invested on the baby’s behalf until he reaches age 65.

Assuming a nominal return of 7% and inflation rate of 2%, a $45,000 investment at birth would equate to $3.7 million in nominal terms and just over $1 million in real terms (after inflation) by age 65. All things equal, this should provide a comfortable retirement for every person born in Canada, eliminating the need for OAS and GIS. Moreover, employees would no longer need to contribute to CPP or individual retirement portfolios, freeing up more money for consumption, if desired. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s assume people continue to contribute to CPP.

Providing $45,000 to every resident at birth would likely lead to a number of unintended consequences – such as birth tourism – but let’s leave that to the side and examine whether the broad idea is even feasible. This is a high-level conceptual look, not a thorough scientific analysis, and is meant to spark ideas and generate discussion, not propose ultimate solutions.

According to Statistica, it is expected that about 375,000 babies will be born in Canada in 2020. Therefore, to provide $45,000 for every baby born would cost about $16.875 billion annually. A ton of money. Yes, but not in relative terms.

How could $16.875 billion in new spending ever not be a ton of money? According to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) – a department within the Canadian federal government – planned spending on OAS and GIS in 2017-2018 was $51.155 billion. Far more than the cost of the lump sum at birth, with much worse end results. Using the 4% rule of thumb for sustainable withdrawals, a $1 million portfolio could sustainably generate $40,000 in annual income (in today’s dollars). In contrast, OAS and GIS currently provide maximum $7,368 and $10,992 in annual income.

That’s 54% less retirement income at 3 times the annual cost to the Canadian government. While this analysis doesn’t consider all the nuances and knock-on effects, the idea seems worthy of further discussion.

2017-2018 Planned spending figure
Categories
Life Wealth Work

“We All Have 24 Hours a Day”

“We All Have 24 Hours a Day”.

Have you heard people say this before? Usually it’s said by someone humble-bragging about how they manage to work 10 hours a day, raise children and run three marathons a year. Of course, they’re usually saying this to someone who can’t seem to find time to work out (or something similar that can easily be dropped off the list of daily activities).

Yeah, we all have 24 hours a day. But, unfortunately, we don’t all have the tools to make the most of those 24 hours.

Let’s look at two extremes.

Julie is a single mother that works full time as a line-worker in an automobile factory. Her two kids are in grade 3 and 6. Her day starts at 6am when she prepares breakfast, lunches and shuttles her kids to before-school care. Julie gets to work in time for a 9 hour shift. By the time the school and work day is done and everyone is back home, it’s usually around 6pm. Just in time to prepare dinner and help with homework. Of course, this assumes that Julie has already gone grocery shopping earlier in the week. By the time dinner and dishes are done, it’s easily 8 or 8:30pm. Exhausted – mentally and physically – Julie now has about 1-2 hours of free time.

Does Julie catch up on some housework? Maybe. Self care? Likely not.

That’s where Julie’s 24 hours goes.

Compare that to Eddie, who is married with two children in grades 3 and 6. Eddie’s wife – Francine – is a marketing consultant and he works as a bank executive. They have a nanny, maid and comfortably hire people to help with household maintenance, like gardening. Their nanny manages the children full time, grocery shops, makes meals and handles school pickup and dropoff. Eddie and Francine work long hours, but often squeeze in some gym time at lunch or go for a run after work. They frequently attend functions after work to network for whatever moves come next.

Notice the difference?

Julie, Eddie and Francine are all equally busy. However, one family has way more sources of help than the other.

Some might blame Julie for her predicament. “She shouldn’t have gotten divorced”, “she should have worked harder and gone to university”, etc. What people fail to grasp is that Julie made the best of her situation. She came from a working class family that didn’t have money for the extra layers of support provided to Eddie and Francine in their youth.

Julie really had no choice but to reduce the burden she placed on her family by working at McDonalds through high school to help with bills. She blasting through community college and then took whatever decent job came first. Then came the children and emotionally abusive husband.

Eddie and Francine, on the other hand, came from upper-middle class families, which themselves hired nannies and maids. Their first jobs were handed to them by their parents’ friends, and were in junior corporate positions. Their parents never needed help with bills and Eddie and Francine could both comfortably educate themselves up to the masters level. While Eddie leveraged his junior corporate jobs into full time work, Francine took a risk and started her own business. If it failed she could always move back with her parents. By the time they married, Eddie and Francine were already getting more than their 24-hour’s worth.

“We All Have 24 Hours a Day”

There are 24 hours in a day, but unfortunately that time isn’t allotted the same way across classes.

If you’re someone who can afford help, count your blessings and realize that you have a huge advantage.

If you’re someone who can’t afford help, I suggest you identify your top 3 priorities in life and allow yourself to leave lesser priorities untended.

Categories
Wealth

Free Financial Education Webcasts

The Canadian Securities Institute (CSI) – the Canadian organization providing Canadians with financial education and licensing exams – is releasing a number of free webinars to the general public in support of financial literacy month.

I’ve listed the free upcoming and previous (replays available) webcasts below. Click here to register.

MANAGING MONEY AND DEBT WISELY

Date: November 4, 2020
Duration: 60 minutes
Time: 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm EST
Cost: Free

Build a solid foundation of financial knowledge to make the most of your income, meet financial commitments and make wise spending decisions. Know how to track expenses and budget to feel more in financial control.

PLANNING & SAVING FOR THE FUTURE

Date: November 17, 2020
Duration: 60 minutes
Time: 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm EST
Cost: Free

Understand how to set objectives, identify paths, and take concrete steps to achieve your life and financial goals—such as education, retirement, and more. Develop an understanding of financial products and service options.

PREVENTING AND PROTECTING AGAINST FRAUD AND FINANCIAL ABUSE

Date: November 24 2020
Duration: 60 minutes
Time: 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm EST
Cost: Free

Be aware of the signs to watch out for, learn how to minimize the risks and know what to do if you are a victim. Anyone can fall prey to financial fraud. New scams frequently emerge to target people resulting in financial loss.

CANADIAN BANKS WEBINAR

Date: October 21, 2020
Duration: 60 minutes
Time: 11:00 am to 12:00pm EST
Cost: Free

This webinar will uncover the critical factors in steering a leading North American bank through turbulent times. It will identify the strengths of Canadian banks and discuss the key developments in risk management.

PROJECT FINANCE AND INFRASTRUCTURE BRIEFING: THE IMPACT OF COVID-19

Date: October 19, 2020
Duration: 60 minutes
Time: 2:00pm to 3:00pm EST
Cost: Free

This webinar explains the multiple ways by which the coronavirus pandemic has affected the project finance and infrastructure sector including unprecedented traffic declines, continuing negative impact on projects in construction and a weakening credit quality of sub-sovereign off-takers.

CANADIAN HOUSING OUTLOOK: UPWARD CLIMB

Date: September 23, 2020
Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: Free

As remote working has become the norm, more Canadians are opting for home-ownership outside of congested cities, furthered by the Bank of Canada’s mortgage rate cuts. This webinar discusses emerging risks and opportunities in the Canadian housing market, including highly localized findings from our neighbourhood and city / town-level forecasts.

SUPPORT BUSINESS RECOVERY WHILE MANAGING CREDIT RISK

Date: September 16, 2020
Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: Free

During this webinar, we will examine the steps lenders must take so they can support their clients’ rebuilding efforts while managing their own risk exposure, focusing in on cash flow, working capital and projections. We will also explore the risks most likely to persist as the economy recovers, the impact of an uneven recovery on various sectors, and the impact of government stimulus.

CANADA—SOVEREIGN AND PROVICIAL WEBINAR

Date: July 9, 2020
Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: Free

Canada and its provinces face significant deficits, large increases in debt, and a prolonged recovery from the pandemic’s unprecedented shock. Join the Moody’s Sovereign team as they discuss their view on credit pressure in Canada.

NAVIGATING PROBLEM LOANS AND SME CREDIT RISK DURING THE PANDEMIC

Date: June 30, 2020
Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: Free

In this webinar, we’ll address the macroeconomic impact of the pandemic, how SMEs in particular have been impacted, and what skills lenders will need to appropriately assess business viability and, ultimately, repayment capacity.

IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS ON CANADIAN STRUCTURED FINANCE

Date: June 15, 2020
Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: Free

This webinar will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian Structured Finance sector. It will cover topics including Credit card ABS, Auto ABS, RMBS, Covered Bonds and ABCP.

HOW TO BECOME YOUR CLIENT’S FINANCIAL ARCHITECT

Date: May 7, 2020
Duration: 45 minutes
Cost: Free

This webinar focuses on the importance of collaborating with clients during this unprecedented time and beyond. We will discuss the tools you need to become your client’s Financial Architect, reinforcing your value to existing clients and helping to attract others.

BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS: INVESTING DURING A CRISIS

Date: April 29, 2020
Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: Free

Decades of social science research indicate that we are poor planners, fickle savers and self-destructive investors, and much of the reason lies in how we process information and make decisions. This webinar focuses on how to become better financial architects for clients by understanding the behavioral challenges while making financial decisions, especially in times of crisis.

HOW ARE YOU DOING? HOW ARE YOUR CLIENTS DOING? – ADVISOR TOWNHALL

Date: April 7, 2020
Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: Free

Advisors are on the front lines, and under tremendous pressure, to deal with the expectations and stresses of clients during this unprecedented time. This webinar talks about how advisors can navigate these challenging times and get through this crisis. It also prepares them for the opportunities in its aftermath.

Register here for any of the above upcoming webcasts or webcast replays.

Categories
Wealth

8 Simple Wealth Hacks for Financial Literacy Month

November is financial literacy month so here are some easy wealth-creating hacks:

  1. Sleep on major purchases. This allows time for emotional excitement to ease, so you can rationally consider your actions. Often, either the novelty of the potential purchase wears off or you forget about it altogether.
  2. Consider the pre-tax cost of purchases. Someone in a 30% tax bracket that pays a 13% sale tax needs to earn $161 to buy something that costs $100. (($100*1.13)/0.7)). Take this one step further and consider the number of hours you must work in order to earn that $161. You might re-consider more discretionary purchases.
  3. Immediately allocate your pay raises. For example, if you receive a pay raise of $100 month, you could increase your automatic monthly mortgage payment by $50, investment contribution by $25 and bank the rest. You’ve invested in your future while retaining a bit more spending money.
  4. Consider the ‘real estate’ required for each purchase. If a purchase simply adds to home clutter, perhaps it isn’t really needed.
  5. Start investing at a young age. The longer investments have to compound, the less you need to invest over your lifetime to reach a specific goal. In fact, if feasible, parents and grandparents can provide a 20yr head-start by investing a small amount during infancy.
  6. Avoid unnecessary expenses. Many administration fees, late fees, overdraft fees, etc. are unavoidable with good planning.
  7. Time vs. money. Your time is finite, so it’s important to balance time with money. If a purchase earns you valuable time to spend with family or build a business it might be worth the expense.
  8. Less investing activity is best. For most, the best investing strategy is to invest when you have the money and remain invested as long as possible. Few people – even professionals – are able to time the markets. So keep it simple and stick to a routine.
Categories
ETFs and Funds Investing Wealth

88% of Canadian Equity Funds Underperform

It’s a stock picker’s market, right? Investment manager earn their keep during down markets, right? Actively managed mutual funds can take advantage of market dispersion and volatility to pick outperforming stocks, right?

Wrong.

Yet again – through up markets, down markets, calm markets and volatile markets – Standard and Poors (S&P) proves that the myth of active investment management is pure bullshit.

S&P periodically releases the SPIVA Scorecard, which compares the performance of active mutual funds against their benchmarks. Whether looking at Canada, US or UK, this report has repeatedly shown that active managers underperform.

The SPIVA report is probably the most accurate of all mutual fund evaluations because of what it doesn’t leave out. The SPIVA Scorecard accounts for mutual fund survivorship bias. This adjustment is critical to understanding the true extent of manager underperformance over time.

Here’s how S&P explains this important adjustment:

Many funds might be liquidated or merged during a period of
study. However, for a market participant making a decision at the beginning of the period, these funds are part of the opportunity set. Unlike other commonly available comparison reports, SPIVA Canada Scorecards remove this survivorship bias.

Standard & Poors SPIVA Canada Scorecard

Facts (from the SPIVA Canada Scorecard- ending June 30, 2020):

  • 88% of Canadian equity funds underperformed their benchmarks over the past year, in line with the 90% that did so over the past decade
  • On an asset-weighted basis, Canadian Equity funds returned a dismal 7.9% below the S&P/TSX Composite over the past year.
  • U.S. Equity funds posted the highest returns over the past year, with a 6.7% gain on an equal-weighted basis and 10.8% on an asset-weighted basis. Both of these metrics fell short of the 12.1% gain of the S&P 500 (CAD), with 84% of funds failing to clear this hurdle over the past year.
  • U.S. equities offered the best returns over the past decade, with the S&P 500 (CAD) gaining 16.9% per year, but active funds were unable to keep up: 95% fell short, by an average of 4.1% per year on an equal-weighted basis.
  • 53% of all funds in the eligible universe 10 years ago have since been liquidated or merged.

The performance tables below compare mutual fund categories (e.g. ‘Canadian Equity’) against their benchmarks (e.g. ‘S&P/TSX Composite’). The first table shows equal weighted returns (average fund return) and the second shows asset weighted returns (average fund returns weighted by size of assets in a fund). As you can see, there is significant underperformance across all time periods and categories.

This is not just an issue with the Canadian mutual funds industry. Here are some facts about the performance of mutual funds sold in the US:

Facts (from the SPIVA US Scorecard- ending June 30, 2020):

  • In 11 out of the 18 categories of domestic equity funds, the majority of funds continued to underperform their benchmarks.
  • 67% of domestic equity funds lagged the S&P Composite 1500® during the one-year period ending June 30, 2020.
  • In 13 out of the 14 fixed income categories, the majority of funds failed to keep up with their benchmarks.
  • Fund liquidation numbers across segments regularly reached into the 60% range over a 15-year horizon.

The equal and asset-weighted performance comparisons for US mutual funds are equally bad and just as significant as fund underperformance in Canada.

Why do most mutual funds underperform?

It’s simple.

1) Mutual funds charge a fee that can be as high as 3% in some cases (most are probably closer to 2%). Just to perform in line with the benchmark a fund manager has to outperform by the fee charged. They are starting from behind.

2) Mutual fund managers are trying to outperform against millions of other professional investors, all with the same public information. By the very nature of the market, there will be people who are wrong and people who are right. It is very difficult to be repeatedly right about something impacted by an infinite number of variables. Hence, the chance about being right about a particular portfolio (relative to a benchmark) at any point in time is about 50/50. Those odds are reduced over longer periods of time (the odds of flipping heads once is 50%, the odds of flipping heads twice in a row is 25%).

In that it provides no value added, investment fund management is therefore a commodity. An allocation to diversified portfolio of stocks has value, but the overlay of ‘active investment management’ provides no additional value (actually, it subtracts value as shown above). Investors should not pay for something that isn’t delivered. Therefore, investors should not pay active management fees, which are significantly higher than passive fees. This difference in fees could mean the difference between retiring well or retiring broke.

Categories
Real Estate Wealth

What is the True Cost of a Reverse Mortgage?

If you own your home (i.e. mortgage free) and over age 60, you’ve likely seen ads for reverse mortgages. A 30 second ad can make a reverse mortgage appealing, however you must consider the true cost.

Note: For reference I’ve posted a couple ads below:

Essentially, a reverse mortgage is a loan (using your house as security) on which you don’t have to make re-payments. Instead, any interest accrued on the loan simply gets added to the principal. While the thought of not making payments can sound enticing, a reverse mortgage can be one of the more expensive ways to access money in retirement.

People get reverse mortgages to access the equity in their homes to pay off debt (including a pre-existing mortgage), cover medical expenses or make home modifications. Many use a reverse mortgage – as opposed to other forms of debt – because they don’t have to make payments until they (or their estate) sell their house. This frees up cash-flow. Homeowners are still expected to maintain the property and pay all property taxes and insurance costs, or risk foreclosure.

Before using a reverse mortgage, people must be aware of the total costs. I believe there are usually better alternatives.

First of all, the interest rates on reverse mortgages tend to be higher than conventional mortgages. Home Equity Bank sells the CHIP Reverse Mortgage and provides a bar chart that compares loan rates below. Based on the information they provide, the interest rate on reverse mortgages tends to be about double that of conventional mortgages, but cheaper than unsecured loans, credit cards, etc.

I frequently say reverse mortgages are expensive, but I’ll admit they’re still cheaper than some alternative forms of borrowing. However, there is more to the total cost than the interest rate alone.

Since you’re not making interest or principal payments on the loan, interest expenses get added to the principal. This is what really drives the cost of a reverse mortgage.

Effectively, as the mortgage compounds you pay interest on interest. In other words, the amount you owe grows at an exponential rate over time. The table below – again provided by Home Equity Bank – shows how a $150,000 loan becomes $204,939 in only five years at a 6.34% mortgage rate.

If we extend that scenario to ten years, the total amount owed becomes $282,299. That’s almost double the amount of cash originally received when the loan was originated.

The CHIP Reverse Mortgage allows homeowners to access up to 55% of the value of their house. So let’s imagine you’re sitting on a fully paid-off houses in Toronto worth $909,090. Using a CHIP reverse mortgage you can borrow $500,000. As you can see in the graphic below, in ten years, you owe $940,996 – more than the value of your home when you took out the loan.

Of course, during the decade the value of your home might also rise, in which case you would still have positive equity. Regardless, in the end you’re paying $1.82 back for every dollar you borrowed. As you can see, the cost of a reverse mortgage is almost equal to the amount of the original loan.

Some borrowers might not be bothered by this – in the end it’s not their loan to repay. At death, the estate will sell the house, repay the reverse mortgage and whatever’s left over will go to the deceased person’s heirs.

However, the family unit might not want to sacrifice a million-dollar asset in exchange for $500,000, while praying the house appreciates in value over time so there’s something left over. Despite the experience in Canada over the past couple decades, housing prices don’t always rise – just ask someone who owned a Toronto home in the 1990s.

A fully paid-off house represents your lifetime of sacrifice and effort. To swap it for half its value and hope to get something in the end is a waste and a gamble, in my opinion. While history has shown that real estate prices keep up with inflation, this should not be the expectation when getting a reverse mortgage. In my opinion, any form of borrowing should be made under the most conservative assumptions.

If you or anyone you know is considering a reverse mortgage, PLEASE be aware of the true costs. Get the family together and consider whether it makes more sense for other family members to help cover retirement expenses to help preserve ownership of the house within the family. If you must borrow, consider using a more conventional loan that gets repaid over time. This will help avoid the costs of compounding.

If there are no other alternatives consider selling the house.

In this case you’d get $909,090 today. (For simplicity’s sake, I’m not considering transaction costs of either selling or entering the mortgage.) The $500,000 could be used to fund retirement costs. The remaining $409,090 could be invested and withdrawn to pay for an apartment. If your investments earned 5% and you withdrew $2,000 per month for an apartment you’d still have $361,917 after ten years. Would you have this much in equity in your house in ten years? Maybe. Maybe not. The thing is the liability is a sure thing, the asset price is not. Of course, the value of the portfolio isn’t a sure thing either. However, it is liquid and that has value.

Finally, I think it could be a great idea to use the $409,090 to purchase a larger house so you can live with the rest of your family. The money then remains in the family (as opposed to paying rent to an outsider) and everyone is together.

Categories
Wealth

Should Parents Pay for College?

A friend of mine (let’s call her ‘Jane’) recently brought up the cost of putting her children through college. It turned out she was paying all the bills.

This would be great if she could afford it.

But she can’t.

Jane is 51 years old and earns roughly $90,000 per year. She will likely happily work for another 15 years. Currently she has about $400,000 in retirement savings and plans to aggressively save during her remaining working years.

To help her children pay for college, she has withdrawn some of her savings and tapped into a line of credit.

As a parent, I can understand the instinct to do everything you can for your children. However, I don’t believe parents should put their retirement at risk to pay for their kids’ education.

I realize I’ve probably ticked off a few people.

What is the parental obligation?

The moral argument that parents are obligated to provide an education for their children is strong. I agree that people shouldn’t have kids if they’re not willing to set them up for the world. However, what that means has evolved over the decades. Today that might mean a masters degree. But what were parental obligations 50 years ago? And what will they be 50 years from now?

The parental obligation seems to have grown over the years. Regardless, parents with college aged children today should have known what they were getting into, but at what point does the obligation end? Maybe never. I don’t know.

Of course, the decision is more than moral. It’s pragmatic. Money doesn’t appear out of thin air, and for that reason there are many additional considerations.

Who’s paying for retirement then?

Let’s put the moral argument to the side.

There is a pressing financial issue facing parents today. The cost of post-secondary education continues to rise faster than incomes. While it is increasingly necessary to get a college education, it is also increasingly financially unattainable for many people.

This is happening while much of the world faces a retirement crisis. People simply have not saved for retirement. Jane is one of the lucky ones, yet she still faces a shortfall if she doesn’t continue to aggressively save and invest.

Jane’s ability to fund her retirement is at odds with her desire to pay for her children’s education. She probably cannot do both.

Her window of opportunity to remain self-sufficient in retirement is closing. The more she financially commits to her children’s education the less likely she will retire as planned. Of course, plans have a way of going wrong anyway. Any number of unexpected events – ill health, redundancy – can cut her timeline to retirement in half. Jane has limited time and lots of downside risk.

In contrast, her children will have 60 years ahead of them once they graduate from college. If they pay for their own education, this is plenty of time to repay debts. If they pursue the right career path, they likely have much more upside than Jane has downside. Moreover, if Jane’s retirement is adequately financed she will retain independence. If Jane sacrifices her retirement to pay for her children’s education she will invariable depend on them (perhaps even live with them) once she stops working. Whether this is good or bad is up to the family to decide, but you must recognize that each option comes with trade-offs.

The biggest trade-off for Jane’s kids if they self-fund their education is they will be saddled with debt on day 1 of their working lives. That seriously restricts their ability to take entrepreneurial risk. It also forces them to take the first job that comes their way, perhaps sending them down a path they didn’t envision. Debt is restrictive and stifling.

As you can see there are no clear cut answers (unless you’re rich), but here is what I think:

  1. The decision to go to college and pursue a stream must be carefully evaluated. College is simply too expensive to use as a place to find yourself. Students (and parents) must have a path in mind and need to fully understand the return on investment of a college degree.
  2. Education costs should be shared by both parents and children. Everyone needs a stake in the game. Not only does this reduce the burden, I believe it builds commitment. The more a student is aware of the difficulty in paying for college, the harder they’ll work to get the most out of their education.
  3. Avoid paying for college using debt. If any debt must be incurred, the child should borrow (not the parent). The downside risk for a middle-income, middle-aged parent struggling to save for retirement is simply too large.
  4. Prepare well in advance. In anticipation of college costs (even if the child is still a toddler) cut some expenses. Forgo a trip or two. Importantly, the child must participate in these sacrifices starting at an early age. And when they can get a part time job, a significant portion of their earnings should be stashed away for school.

I don’t have all the answers, but I hope I have provoked some discussion.

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Categories
Wealth

How Jeff Bezos Made All His Best Decisions

“All of my best decisions in business and in life have been made with heart, intuition, guts — not [with] analysis.” — Jeff Bezos

“When you can make a decision with analysis, you should do so, but it turns out in life that your most important decisions are always made with instinct, intuition, taste, heart.” — Jeff Bezos

“There wasn’t a single financially savvy person who supported the decision to launch Amazon Prime. Zero. Every spreadsheet showed that it was going to be a disaster. So that had to just be made with gut.” — Jeff Bezos

More from Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos participates in the Milestone Celebration Dinner at the Economic Club of Washington in Washington, D.C.:

Trust your gut. Subscribe to DumbWealth (free).

Categories
Wealth

How Much Should You be Saving?

How much should you be saving? Many people have no idea.

David Bach, author of The Automatic Millionaire, provides his recommendation:

Why does it rise with age? According to Bach, “typically the older you get the more you earn and spend. And if you lose your job it can take longer to find a job that replaces that income.”

I’ve witnessed this first hand. It frequently takes a senior executive 1-2 years(!) to find comparable employment. I can only imagine how devastating this can be to the ego, savings account and family dynamic. Since senior executives tend to be in their 40s or 50s, they probably have exhausted marriages, college-aged kids and massive responsibilities. There is no worse time to stop the regular paychecks.

This is where years of socking away money into an emergency fund helps. But how many people are doing this? The reality is quite bleak – 26% of Americans have no emergency savings at all. This means they’d be dipping into their retirement funds if an emergency occurs. Unfortunately, the median retirement account savings for Americans is only $5,000.

Unfortunately, these dollar amounts leave most people far behind target. JP Morgan provides a table (below) that illustrates how much people should have saved, given their age and salary. (I’ve also provided other retirement savings target tables below.)

Source: JP Morgan
how much money should i have saved by 25
Source: Fidelity
Source: T Rowe Price
Source: T Rowe Price

The problem I have with all of these tables is that they’re based off a multiple of your current salary. Not only that, but the multiple rises with income. This presumes that you plan to retire into a lifestyle that requires your full current salary.

Most people require about half their salary during retirement. In dollar terms, many retirees could live happily off $40-50k. For those of us who live frugally and plan to continue doing so during retirement, the actual dollar amount required at retirement might be much lower than the estimates provided by these tables.

If you’ve calculated your estimate and feel like you’re way behind, you’re not alone. According to GoBankingRates.com, almost 1/3 of people in the prime of their careers (aged 35-54) have ZERO retirement savings.

Source: GoBankingRates.com

Why are people so unprepared?

The average person is financially illiterate. In 2011, the Investor Education Fund conducted a survey and found that only 29% of respondents could pass a basic financial literacy test. If people don’t understand basic personal finance, they sure as hell aren’t taking the right steps to secure their financial future and prepare for emergencies.

The average person must become more invested in their financial future. I’m happy to see that the Ontario government is working towards mandatory financial education in high schools. More must be done. Unfortunately, by the time a student reaches high school many bad financial habits have already formed. Parents still have the ultimate responsibility teach their children values and behaviors that support financial freedom and flexibility.

As I alluded to earlier, the risk of ignorance is financial ruin, divorce and missed opportunities for your kids.

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Categories
Life Wealth

The Fisherman and the Businessman

Are you working for ‘someday’? Are you working to save for tomorrow? We all are. But why?

As humans we benefit from foresight, and we know that a better retirement usually requires time and effort today. But what if we’re all doing it wrong?

These aren’t my words. I don’t know where this story originated, but I think it’s important for all to know:

One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.

About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach, trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. “You aren’t going to catch many fish that way,” said the businessman to the fisherman.

“You should be working rather than lying on the beach!”

The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, “And what will my reward be?”

“Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!” was the businessman’s answer.

“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman, still smiling. The businessman replied, “You will make money and you’ll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!”

“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman again.

The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman’s questions. “You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!” he said.

“And then what will my reward be?” repeated the fisherman.

The businessman was getting angry. “Don’t you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!”

Once again the fisherman asked, “And then what will my reward be?”

The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, “Don’t you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won’t have a care in the world!”

The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “And what do you think I’m doing right now?”