Still doing tax returns for my adult children & their spouses

Every year I ask myself, should I continue to offer to do tax returns for my adult children and their spouses? All of them have university degrees and are smart enough to file their own tax returns. My daughter was willing to do it one year using tax preparation software with only a little help from me.

Part of my problem is Canadians are not even aware of how much tax they pay. Plus we keep voting for governments that buy votes using our tax dollars. The average Canadian family will pay 42.9% of their income in taxes imposed by all three levels of government in 2016. (Federal, provincial and local) Tax freedom day was June 7, 2016 if Canadians paid their total tax bill up front. Our U.S. neighbours tax freedom day was April 24th and they will only pay 31% of their income in taxes.

There are a number of reasons why I continue to offer to do tax returns for the whole family. Having worked as a financial advisor, tax planning is a key element when putting a financial plan together. My tax knowledge and skill comes from working many years with accountants and tax lawyers ensuring that my whole family pays the least amount of tax.

Plus, the Canadian tax system is very complicated and is constantly changing with every federal and provincial budget. For example: many tax credits that were given by the Conservative government have been taken away completely by a new Liberal government.

For the 2015 tax year, the Liberals cancelled income splitting for families, a maximum tax credit of $2,000 for transferring up to $50,000 of income to a spouse with a lower income if they had a child under 18 years of age.

Some changes for 2017 include the elimination of the following credits:

  1. Education and textbooks credit
  2. Children’s fitness credit
  3. Children’s arts credit
  4. Public transit tax credit

Now, most retired Canadian seniors who don’t have a pension from their former employer are not even aware of a $2,000 pension credit. It requires opening a RRIF account, transferring $2,000 from their RRSP and then taking it out. They don’t have to wait until they reach the age of 71 in order to open a RRIF account. Plus, RRIF income can be split with your spouse if both of you are 65 years of age which could potentially add up to $4,000 of income tax free per year.

The Federal Liberal government will introduce a new budget on March 22 and there are rumors of more tax increases. Three things that Canadians should worry about;

  1. Higher capital gains inclusion rate from 50% to 75%
  2. Reducing the dividend tax credit
  3. Taxing your principal residency 

I will end this post with two well known proverbs. ” In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” & “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

 

Dollar-cost averaging using an option strategy

options

Most investors are familiar with dollar–cost averaging as a wealth building strategy. It involves investing a fixed amount of money at regular intervals over a long period of time. This type of systematic investment program is commonly used in company sponsored pension plans.

I use a similar approach by selling call & put options to build a stock portfolio. At first glance it sounds really complicated, but the math is simple as long as you can subtract and divide.

The two types of options: calls and puts (Investopedia)

A call gives the holder the right to buy an asset at a certain price within a specific period of time. Calls are similar to having a long position on a stock. Buyers of calls hope that the stock will increase substantially before the option expires.

A put gives the holder the right to sell an asset at a certain price within a specific period of time. Puts are very similar to having a short position on a stock. Buyers of puts hope that the price of the stock will fall before the option expires.

My strategy involves selling options and collecting a premium which will hopefully reduce the cost of buying a stock. For example: I recently wanted to add 200 shares of Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) to my stock portfolio.

Here is the math: I bought 100 shares at $72.22 on Oct 11th

Sold 1 call option Nov $72.50 for $3.40

Sold 1 put option Nov $72.50 for $3.65

Now both these options expire on Nov 18th, so the buyer of the call option can force me to sell my 100 shares for $72.50 and the buyer of the put option can force me to buy 100 more shares at $72.50 depending upon the share price on Nov 18th.

Scenario (1): What happens if the shares of Royal Caribbean are trading below $72.50 on Nov 18th?

The call option expires worthless and I will buy 100 shares that will cost me $72.50 – $3.40 (the call premium) – $3.65 (the put premium) for a total share cost of $64.45. If you add the cost of the 100 shares that I bought for $72.22 to the 100 shares for $64.65 and divide be 2, my dollar cost average per share is $68.84

Scenario (2): What happens if the shares of Royal Caribbean are trading above $72.50 on Nov 18th?

The put option expires worthless and I have to sell my 100 shares for $72.50 but the cost of my 100 shares that I bought for 72.22 have been reduce to $65.17 ( $72.22 – $3.40 call premium – $3.65 put premium), my net profit on the trade would $7.33 divide by $65.17 or 11.2 % in just  38 days. (Excluding trading commissions)

In order to use this strategy, you need to have a margin account with a discount broker and be approved for cash secured put option trading. The added bonus of this strategy is you can use it to buy most index funds and some EFTs, you don’t have to buy individual stocks. However, the option premiums on index funds & ETFs will be much lower because they are less volatile than individual stocks.

I like this strategy because it removes some of the emotion out of investing. In the past, I would take half a position in a stock but I found it hard to commit to buying the other half when the share price fell. Plus I would kick myself for not taking a full position when the share priced increased in value. I found averaging down or up was very difficult. In reality the decision of buying or selling is sold to the purchasers of the options for a fee. An additional benefit, option premiums are taxed as capital gains, as long as you are not making a living as a day trader.

Stay tune; I will post the results of this trade next month plus an additional trade based on which scenario unfolds.

Disclaimer: This post is for educational proposes and not an investment recommendation.

Obituary for Common Sense; unknown author

common-sense

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, why life isn’t always fair, and how, on occasion, maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not children are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job they themselves failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer aspirin, sun lotion or a sticky plaster to a student; but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband; churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar can sue you for assault. 

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by three step brothers; I Know my Rights, Someone Else is to Blame, and I’m a Victim. 

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

common-sense1

Common sense is a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge things, which is shared by (“common to”) nearly all people and can reasonably be expected of nearly all people without any need for debate.

Our education system gets a failing grade when it comes financial literacy. Everyone should know some basic money lessons like how to budget, the time value of money, implications of too much debt and how credit works.

Making financial decisions and managing  your investments still requires some common sense. You will be successful if you have some.

 

You need more than money to have a pleasurable retirement

9th hole

Having worked as a financial advisor, my main focus in retirement planning was building a sizable nest egg for clients’ to enjoy their golden years. I used to think that the senior who greeted me at Walmart, rang in my groceries or served me coffee needed the extra income in retirement. Did something gone wrong with their retirement plan or did they just fail to save enough to enjoy a life of leisure?

However, I am starting to think that these seniors may also be bored. Imagine, you have been traveling at 100 miles an hour at work and now have come to a dead stop in retirement. No one really prepares you for the shock of getting up in the morning with no place to go. What do you do with all that extra time?

Step One: Avoid the retirement shock, start to plan ahead

There is more to life than your work. Most of your work friends will slowly disappear once you retire. Having a social network outside of your work place is a key to a pleasurable retirement. A common mistake is not developing a balanced lifestyle before you retire. (All work and no play!)

One of my business associate retired at 63 and decided to start to play golf. He join a golf club and found that he didn’t really enjoy playing golf. He hated winning the most honest golfer award. (A prize for the worse score)

Here are a few networking opportunities to make some new friends prior to retirement:

  • Over 55 sports leagues, baseball, basketball, hockey …..
  • Racket, curling and golf clubs
  • Bowling & dart leagues
  • Church groups
  • Alumni groups – high school, college and sport teams
  • Being a scout leader for boys or girls
  • Coaching or being a mentor

If you don’t have any hobbies yet, I suggest that you plan to get some before you retire. Sitting on a beach under an umbrella drinking margaritas sounds great but you will get bored after a while. You may not have the time right now but many schools offer adult learning classes. A friend of mine took a class on how to fix small engines. It is never too late to learn something new and it might just keep your brain from turning to mush.

Step Two: Retirement is a life changing event, prepare to change

Married couples have to adjust to being together 24 /7 which can add stress to your relationship. It’s a good idea for couples to have different hobbies and interests. Spending some time apart makes for more interesting dinner conversations. For example, I like to golf and my wife enjoys genealogy.

Household chores can be a thorny issue. Sharing or dividing these tasks will depend on your individual skill levels. My wife does most of the cooking but I will do most of grocery shopping and together we maintain the lawn & gardens. I recommend scheduling your household chores to be done during a weekday, save your nights and weekends for socializing.

Avoid becoming a couch potato, it is a sure way to shorten your retirement years. A regular exercise program should be part of your everyday routine. You don’t have to go to the gym and lift weights to stay fit. There are many simple ways to keep active; walking, cycling and swimming, just to name a few. If you have a partner, find something that you both enjoy doing, having someone to workout with can help you get off the couch.

Step Three: Take on new challenges

Learn to play a musical instrument, speak a second language or better yet give back to the community. There are many fine organizations that are in desperate need for volunteers. You have a wealth of experience, professional expertise and invaluable personal wisdom that shouldn’t go to waste. You have a lot to offer, find things that you are passionate about.

In my case, playing football was a strong positive influence in my life. In honor of all my football coaches, I spent six wonderful years coaching kid’s football.

When people ask me what I do all day, I tell them; “I am so busy in retirement that I was surprised I found the time to work”! Remember, variety is the spice of life.

usa

What should an investor do about Brexit?

brits

Many of the worst investment mistakes I’ve seen have originated from an overreaction to the unknown. We have all witnessed substantial global upheaval in the past. Many of us have had a window seat to watch how Wall Street responds to uncertainty and turmoil. The financial markets don’t like uncertainty. Why? Because it’s extremely difficult to try to predict the future.

For instance, what will happen to all of the trade deals that are in place? What impact would this have on corporate profits? What about the bond markets, or the debt that is tied to the European Central Bank? Long term, will other EU countries follow Britain’s example? The list of questions goes on and on.

Far too many money managers placed huge bets on Brits staying within the EU. They all have egg on their faces. Now there is a rush to exit these positions causing market volatility. Their repositioning responses will not been good for your portfolio.

It has always been my philosophy that slow and steady wins the day. So what should you be doing to protect your life savings from the Brexit vote to leave? Actually, you probably shouldn’t be doing much at all. If you are properly diversified with limited exposure to any one country, you should probably sit tight for now.

Here is a four-point strategy to help investors:

  1. Don’t react by selling anything. To be sure, there will be some fear in the European markets, but this would not be a good time to react to that fear. This is an emotional component of behavioral finance, and history has shown that those investors who sell in the midst of a crisis usually end up doing so at the wrong time. They wind up selling low and buying high.
  2. Look for buying opportunities. The best time to purchase things on sale is when nobody else wants them. There may be some tremendous opportunities to purchase distressed assets, because many investors have given into fear and are running scared.
  3. Analyze how much of your portfolio is at risk. Most investors don’t have all of their portfolio in risky assets. Figure out how much of your portfolio is actually tied to risky areas and how much is reasonably safe. Odds are, if you are a well-diversified investor, you don’t have a high percentage of your portfolio tied to the European financial markets.
  4. Relax! We’ve experienced changes before, and sure enough, we will see more changes in the future. Most cannot be predicted. While changes of this magnitude can be worrisome, I urge you to fight through your fear.

Simply put, a well-diversified portfolio should protect you from most of the worst aspects of any volatility we may experience.

Why not go crazy and spend some money, you’re earned it?

devil & Angel

After working for decades, my retirement plan will finally allow me to enjoy life with few worries. It is so tempting to buy that luxury car, travel to some exotic destinations or remodel our home. Why not spend the money, I earned it and people say that can’t take it with you.

On the other hand, the financial meltdown of 2008-09 was scary, it reminds me that unexpected events could disrupt our travel plans and lifestyle choices. Life has thrown me a number of surprised curve balls over time so I remain cautious.

Surprise Curve Ball No. 1: Ailing parents

The Canadian Alzheimer society estimates that one out of five Canadians provide some form of care to seniors with long-term health problems. What if your parents need nursing or assisted living care and they don’t have the money to pay for it. Unfortunately, elder care is not cheap and costs vary depending upon where you live. (Surprise, my elderly mother has been diagnosed with early stages of dementia.)

In my area, estimates for a private room in a nursing home is around $50,000 per year and you need to apply two years in advance just to get in. An alternative would be to hire a live in caregiver if your parents own their own home. I am not a big fan of using a reverse mortgage to pay for a caregiver but all options should be investigated.

Another option that may lessen the financial impact on your retirement nest egg is to determine if it makes more sense for you to become the caregiver. One of my friends, will an ailing mother-in-law, used an agency to hire a full-time live in caregiver from aboard. Since his children had moved out, he had two spare bedrooms, one for care giver and the other for his mother-in-law. He was lucky that all his wife’s siblings agreed to share the extra costs.

 

Surprise Curve Ball No. 2: An adult child falls on hard times.

There are a variety of reasons why a child may need some financial aid. Most common are marriage breakdown, job loss, poor saving habits or bad decision-making. There is a disturbing trend for adult children to move back in with their parents. The media refers to them as Boomerang kids.”

Parents always want to help their children out of trouble. It helps to know how much money you can afford to give before it wreaks havoc on your retirement plans. Before making any decisions, determine how long you can provide any financial assistance and make it clear to the child up front that your financial aid can only last for a certain period of time. If they move back in, give them a moving out date. (Both my adult children have solid careers and stable marriages, so far so good!)

The risk of joining the sandwich generation is increasing

The new reality is low-interest rates over the past decade and talk of negative rates in the future could escalate the number of seniors requiring financial aid from their children due to illness. Your parents are living longer, 1 in 3 seniors are dying from Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Your children are getting married much later and are deeper in debt.

I recently emailed a follow blogger if he was planning to apply for social security at 62?  His answer: Still working, my youngest will be in college”

Sometimes you just have to be aware what is happening within your extended family. Here are two posts that could be of help.

Talk to your Elderly Parents about Money

Bank of Mom & Dad, Cutting the Purse Strings

Don’t be troubled if you have to put a limited on financial aid to your family. It’s okay to look after yourself first.