Friday, May 29, 2009

canadian bank Q2 earnings summary

The big five Canadian Banks have now all reported their second quarter earnings. Many times within these releases the numbers will always focus on the banks results versus analysts' expectations. The majority of these banks beat expectations.

Below is how the the banks fared versus last year's Q2, on an earnings per share, excluding extraordinary items basis. This is a measure of how their continuing operations are holding up amid this recession:

Bank of Montreal (BMO) = Down 25% from last year

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) = Down 12% from last year

Toronto Dominion Bank (TD) = Down 7% from last year

Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS) = Down 16% from last year

Royal Bank of Canada (RY) = Down 10% from last year

All dividends were maintained, and none were raised.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

how much can we afford?

When a person embarks on the tumultuous journey of a first time home purchase, or for that matter a second or third time home purchase, one of their top priorities is often 'how much can we afford?'. Better yet, I feel the question should be 'how much of our after tax and utility money should we allocate towards paying off our mortgage'.

If you choose to use online tools in order to give you this information, please avoid using this one: Canadian financial news source The Globe & Mail runs a great website called On this website down the left panel in the 'resources' section you'll find a link called 'Mortgage Snapshot'. This link contains the latest mortgage rates from various lenders as well as a chart titled 'How Much Can You Afford'. The chart indicates that if you earn a gross income is $120,000 you can afford a mortgage of $461,808, which provides a home worth $615,744 using a 25% down payment of $153,936 and a 5.8% interest rate. What!

Let's look at this a little closer. Let's assume this gross income is made up of a dual income couple earning $60,000 each per year. After tax, Employment Insurance Contributions, and Canadian Pension Plan Fees they would bring home about $44,000 each, or $88,000 per year. Let's remove RRSP contributions of a responsible 10% of gross income ($12,000 total). Let's also remove a conservative property tax amount of $2,500 per year, heating of $1,500/year, and electricity/water of $1,500/year.

We now arrive at a value of $70,500 for the money our lovely couple will actually have access to, after the tax man, heat, power, and retirement are all taken care of. This is $2,712 bi-weekly.

Using the 'What Will My Payments Be' calculator on we see that this couple's bi-weekly mortgage payment would be $1,333. Taking their mortgage payment as a percentage of the money they'll actually have access to, we arrive at 49%. If they decided to make accelerated bi-weekly payments instead to reduce their amortization time to under 25 years, the figure becomes $1,450 or 53% of their accessible funds. So more than half of their disposable income would go to mortgage payments, and this is not even accounting for other fixed costs like groceries and insurance. This situation would be far from ideal. In fact, it might not even be possible. Considering vehicles, daycare, clothes, gifts, cable tv, maternity leave, vacations, and a broken furnace, this mortgage does not seem feasible in the least.

The source for this information on the globeinvestor website is not listed. I believe that this chart is very poor resource for home buyers and it is irresponsible of The Globe & Mail to provide this resource to reader.

Monday, May 25, 2009

lil' wayne & buy & hold

"If 'buy & hold' is dead, then I am the embalming fluid"

Once again, I am using the world of rap music to derive my quotations about money and investing. Rapper, Lil' Wayne was talking about hip hop when he uttered this line in his single 'A Milli'. Lil' Wayne may wear his pants below his a$$, but he is a wise poet indeed.

The recent stock market collapse has certainly been an experience in observing perspective shifts from everyone from analysts, advisers, advertisers, to individual investors. Below are some of those new perspectives that have more than likely come from several sources over the last year or so. Whether it was an ING Direct commercial or your local politician you've likely heard some of these views lately:
  • Capitalism is dead, and no longer works as an economic system
  • More regulation, and less leverage is always better.
  • Everyone took on too much debt, and the recent crash will cause everyone to be very debt averse forever; let the de-leveraging begin.
  • The right thing to do with your money all along was to play it safe, and sock it all away in a savings account; assets with risk associated with them should be avoided at all costs.
  • Don't speculate, don't invest in stocks, don't buy real estate, don't take risks in starting a new business venture or making any kind of investment where loss is a possibility

...and my personal favourite:

  • 'Buy & Hold' as an investment strategy is dead.

All of these new postulations are the result of the human instinct to remember the most recent painful experience and alter one's thoughts and habits to correct for this. What has happened is akin to falling of your bicycle and breaking your arm. Perhaps walking is a better idea. Maybe you can't get places faster on your bicycle. The government should ban biking. Better yet, perhaps we should all stay in our houses. Do you want to buy a video game that simulates riding a bicycle? The real thing is far too risky and provides no real benefits to anyone.

Of course people are now saying that 'buy & hold' is dead. It's easy to think that buy & hold is a bad idea when the current 'hold' experience involves watching your investments fall by 40%. That hurts, for some probably more so than falling off of that bike. Does this in itself mean that buy & hold dead? I think not. Equities have been the best asset class to own over the long term, and I don't believe that will change. Try not to do all of your buying at the peaks and all of your selling in the valleys, and buy & hold will probably work out for you the longer you hold shares of quality firms that provide the goods and services that people want.

The best time to draw inferences about what works is probably not during and post a large market crash. Ask yourself, what biases are those making these calls prone to? For the vast majority of us, the market crash will turn out to have been a good thing long term. That is if we avoid buying into the inferences drawn by those with broken arms.

For those interested, my other financial advisor is Kanye West.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

globalization's reversal

A fascinating article and concept heading the Globe & Mail's GlobeInvestor website today features Jeff Rubin, former CIBC economist, who has written a book about a very interesting theory regarding oil. The basic premise is that skyrocketing oil will reverse globalization causing the current economy to be turned on it's ear. He predicts $200 oil by 2012 or earlier.

Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller

"I think it will really restructure the economy in ways that people haven't even begun to imagine," he said. "But I think, ironically, it's going to be a return to the past ... in terms of the re-emergence of local economies."

Friday, May 15, 2009

net worth update, may 2009

It's time to report my bimonthly net worth. This particular report (May) is what I call my 'fiscal year', as I began tracking net worth in May of 2006.

Net worth results for the 2 Months Ended May 15, 2009:
  • Debt/Asset ratio dropped to 0.51 from 0.56
  • Net Worth jumped up 18.9% (to a record high)
  • Total Assets rose 5.9% (to a record high)
  • Total Liabilities shrunk by 4.3%
  • House Value/Total Assets fell to 66.4% (a record low)
  • Non-Registered Portfolio grew 20.5%

Calendar Year to Date Gain/Loss: +10.6%

2008 Fiscal Year Gain/Loss: +4.6%

This was by far our largest bi-monthly net worth gain ever. It feels good to be up this much after several months of weak net worth changes. The markets were in a deep hole in mid March and have climbed out of that hole to much higher levels today. We have also paid off about $5,700 of debt over the past 60 days.

Fiscal 2008 was extremely weak, as we grew our net worth by only +4.6%. This is completely attributed to the weakness in the stock market. The markets are down by 38% over the period. So against that headwind, I'll consider that not half bad.

We'll continue to do what we can on the savings front and either invest the money or pay down debt, depending on the level of the stock market. I don't claim to know where the market is going but lately I have felt it appropriate to pay down debt instead of investing at these levels.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

yellow pages cuts distribution

Yellow Pages Income Fund (YLO.UN) has cut their distribution by 31.6% to $0.80/unit annually. This move was based on their expectation for continued difficult market conditions, and their objective of securing additional financial flexibility. The company also announced that their preliminary dividend policy at conversion to a corporation in 2011 will be 60-70% of earnings.

Despite the extremely weak economy Yellow Pages announced results that were virtually flat to slightly up from Q1 2008. Organic online growth was up 30% and directories were essentially flat. YLO's consolidated net earnings actually rose 3.6% in the worst advertising market in years. This company continues to show their resiliency in unprecedented market conditions.

Since this stock was yielding 20%, the market was telling us that they were going to cut this pay out. Some analysts that I have heard believe that each and every income trust will have to cut distributions going into 2011, despite what management says. Count this as one, because YLO's management did claim that they would keep the current distribution through conversion and the financial crisis has proven that forecast to not be met.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Personal Finance Clinic

Whether you are in good financial health, directly experiencing the downturn in the economy or concerned about the state of your personal finances the authors of Canadian Capitalist, the moneygardener (that's me), and Triaging My Way To Financial Success are holding a Personal Finance Clinic for our readers.

We recognize that finding the answers to your questions on topics of personal finance can be difficult in the best of times; they should not be hard to find in the worst of times.

With the abundance of material published online and in print media on topics of personal finance we are holding a clinic to tackle your best questions on a variety of financial matters. Best of all no health card or credit card is needed.

Questions can be on topics that include personal savings, net worth, budgeting or investment fundamentals.

Readers simply need to send their question with identifying name to personalfinanceclinic@ before May 31st, 2009.

Canadian Capitalist, the moneygardener and Nurseb911 will each select an equal share of questions from all submissions based upon our readership, personal knowledge and ability to seek research on the topics asked.
Responses to specific questions can not be guaranteed to be 100% accurate.

Canadian Capitalist, the moneygardener and Nurseb911 are not certified investment professionals and are not licensed to provide financial advice. We hold no liability for responses and our answers are intended for educational purposes only.

When possible we will supply references and/or links to articles, content and alternative tools.

We cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered in the clinic due to both the number of responses and the limitations of our personal time.

We will not provide recommendations on specific investments or their potential for investment. We will not accept questions on any specific stock, mutual fund, ETF or financial product and their investment potential for a reader.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

net worth coast to coast & my ratios

Canadian Dream; Free at 45's net worth moved up 11% from his last update. The stock market rally, some savings, and a SK real estate revival are the reasons for the uptick.

Frog of Finance's net worth move up moved up 10% bringing him to par with his highest net worth ever. Real estate value increases, stock market gains, and debt repayment had all to do with the nice gain.

Million Dollar Journey's net worth moved up 4% thanks to the market's gains. That is a 6.7% year to date increase for the Maritime Super Blogger.

My Findependance Day saw his net worth jump by 10% as well. The market gains and an increase in his savings drove the healthy gain.

I update my net worth and associated ratios bi-monthly on or around the 15th of the month. My next update is two weeks from now on May 15. Here are the ratios that I like to track in my bi-monthly reports:

Debt/Asset Ratio
This is a ratio that shows me what kind of fundamental financial condition condition we are in. It would be great for one to have a million dollars in assets but if one also had a million dollars in liabilities I would not be as impressed. The aim is to use debt as a tool to grow our assets. For example our recent use of leverage in our non-registered investment portfolio is intended to provide fuel to grow the asset value of the portfolio as the market picks back up. The benefit of receiving dividends earlier is also a perk of this strategy. Our last Debt/Asset ratio was 0.56 (meaning we had $1.00 in assets for every $0.56 in debt)

House Value/Total Assets
I want our net worth to be made up of a diversified set of assets. I find it interesting to see what percentage of our total assets is the value of our primary residence. For now, the lower the better as I am aiming to diversify more into the ownership of dividend paying corporations in various sectors. Currently our House Value/Total Assets is about 70% (meaning that 70% of our total asset value is the value of our humble abode).

Friday, May 1, 2009

psychology & Wells Fargo @ $7.80/share

It’s funny how emotions and psychology influence us all as investors. Depending on one’s personality type, investment time horizon, future outlook, and current general state of mind, one can be desperately bearish or exuberantly bullish in the same stock market environment.

What investor’s have been through over the past 2 years is nothing short of one of the steepest, gut wrenching stock market declines ever. The S&P 500 index plunged from an all time high of around 1,562 in October of 2007 down an astonishing 57% to around 666 in early March of 2009. Most of this precipitous decline came after September 15, 2008 when global financial services firm, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., which was founded in 1850, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy marking the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Since early March a fairly significant relief rally has been built on the back of optimism for economic stabilization, and mild recovery. The market seems to be telling us that the next great depression and other worst case scenarios have been ruled out. The financial system is not collapsing, and some sparse ‘green shoots’ of recovery are starting to poke through the dirt and dead matter that toxic debt and upside down mortgages have left strewn around the world. The S&P is now up a full 30% from the depths of March. Some financial stocks like Wells Fargo, General Electric, and Manulife Financial are up as much as 156% from their single digit lows. If that wasn’t the bottom, this is a ride that investor’s will probably want to get off of.

For long term investors that were buying stocks as they fell, or maybe well into the market bottom they took heart in the fact they were buying when pessimism was abound and stocks were surely cheaper than they were at any time over the past decade. How those same long term investors are feeling now that stocks are 30% to 156% more expensive in the case of Wells Fargo is how psychology really wrestles with us as investors. I would imagine that many investors are now feeling frozen, and their appetite for buying into this market has waned. It is a little bit like a deer in the headlights, or better yet a deer that just got hit by a semi and survived.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

what you'll get free from equifax

Following up on my investigating your credit history for free post; I have now received my credit report back from Equifax. This arrived in the mail 4 business days after I phoned their automated request line. Below is a summary of what the report contains:

4 pages front and back were included.
This contains some personal information that they have on file for you including your prior addresses and a brief employment history. Mine seems to be accurate and complete back to 2002. This section also includes the date that Equifax opened a file on me.

This section first lists Equifax members who have received a copy of my credit file for credit granting followed by a list of authorized parties who wanted their records updated regarding my existing account with them. Very little detail and nothing real shocking here.

This is the meat of the report as it goes into detail on your account with each creditor. This includes a rating for each, for example R1 meaning 'paid as agreed and up to date'. Information on what your balance was at the time of last reporting, when the account was opened, your credit limit, and date of last payment made are included. Items listed here might include credit cards, student loans, lines of credit, bank accounts with overdraft, auto loans and leases, and other loans.

This section was interesting to read and I made sure that I went over it in detail to ensure accuracy. Everything was in order and aside from a very old credit card with a $0 balance, there were no surprises.

This section seems to be a place for official filings of secured loans/chattel mortgage, etc.

Section 5 'GLOSSARY'
This section just gives some general information on different credit terms and time frames for when records will be purged. They then go on to give some more general information about credit and Equifax and their services.

The last page is a Consumer Credit Report Update Form to request changes to your file.

Overall obtaining this report was beneficial, and I feel there is enough information here to set my mind at ease regarding my credit. Although I am a little curious, I don't feel the need to obtain my actual score.

One thing that I did not expect was the absence of our mortgage on this report. After some quick searching on the Internet I've learned that this appears to be common practice, as apparently a mortgage does not affect your credit score. This was a surprise to me and I still don't quite understand why this would be the case. Does anyone know anything about why mortgages are not included in Equifax reports?