This guest post is written by Mike from the The Oblivious Investor. This blog has been around for a few months and is very investment oriented (but not too techy) so I would recommend you check it out (I’m a regular reader).
• Provide an insightful piece of investing wisdom.
• Make you question your assumptions.
• Offend an entire industry.
So what is Bogle saying here? I think he’s making two distinct points. First, he’s making a statement about intelligent investing. Second, he’s offering a rather pointed criticism of the financial services industry.
Passive investing is a good thing
As to investment strategy, Bogle (as usual) is suggesting a system of passive investing. We can’t predict whether the market is about to go up or about to go down, and attempting to do so will only harm our performance. Similarly, attempting to pick individual stocks is unlikely to prove successful.
So if we stand to gain nothing by timing the market or picking stocks, what’s the point in watching the market? There is no point. All it can do it tempt us toward poor decisions. Better to ignore it.
Financial service is expensive
Bogle’s second point is one about the financial services industry in general, and it’s a bit less obvious. At their most fundamental level, financial markets exist to connect providers of capital (investors) with users of capital (businesses). Without a doubt, this is a valuable service.
However, in recent decades, the financial services industry has convinced us that it performs another service as well: Enhancement of investment returns. This is, however, impossible by definition.
There’s no way that investors—as a group—can earn more than the total earnings of the businesses in which they invest. The total return earned by investors must be equal to the return earned by the businesses in our economy, minus the costs of investing.
We can therefore conclude that, rather than enhancing investor returns, the financial services industry must in fact be reducing investor returns by the sum total of all the fees that they charge us. Sadly, these costs of investing—mutual fund sales loads, fund operating expenses, brokerage fees, etc.—now total in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year.
Conclusion – ignore the market
I think Bogle’s reference to the stock market as a “giant distraction” is his way of telling the reader precisely how much value he sees in the services offered by most firms in the industry.
Takeaway lessons for us:
1. Turn off BNN and CNBC, and
2. Do your best to minimize the investment costs you pay.
About the Author: Mike writes at The Oblivious Investor, where he regularly reminds readers to ignore the noise of the market. If you like this post, subscribe to his blog to read more.
The question all Americans want to know is whether they will receive a late Christmas present this year in the form of a 2nd economic stimulus check.
In 2008 the government sent out economic stimulus checks to 130 million Americans with the idea that this money would be spent on consumer goods and services thereby stimulating the economy. While the program was considered a success by some – it didn’t prevent the economy from slowing down into a recession with the possibility of a depression.
President-elect Obama has proposed an economic stimulus package for 2009 which will total almost 1 trillion dollars – or about $3300 for every single American.
Second economic stimulus check
So far there has been no mention of any stimulus checks (like in 2008) however that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Nothing has been approved or finalized so it is still possible. If a second economic stimulus check is going to happen in 2009 it would be more likely to appear later in the year if it looks like the initial stimulus efforts are not doing enough to get the economy going.
Stimulus tax cuts
Obama has proposed stimulus tax cuts of $1,000 for couples and $500 for individuals. If this passes, it might be the closest thing to an actual stimulus check that most Americans will receive in 2009. This kind of stimulus is not as much fun as getting a large check all at once since it would take the form of reduced withholding taxes on regular paychecks. However, in the end – extra money is extra money.
Emergency Energy rebate
One of the more controversial initiatives is an energy relief plan to help Americans pay their energy bills this winter. The $1,000 emergency energy rebate would be given directly to Americans and would be paid for by windfall profit taxes on the large oil companies.
This particular initiative might not have much of a chance given that with the rapidly dropping price of oil, home heating costs are going to be a lot lower than initially predicted as recently as a couple of months ago.
Infrastructure stimulus spending
The Obama stimulus plan is calling for a huge investment in roads and bridges and mass transit improvements. This will total $850 billion over 2 years. This portion of the plan is the main driver behind the goal to create 2.5 million jobs over 2 years.
I had a reader question the other day where they mentioned buying both XIU (iShares Cdn Large Cap 60 ETF) and XDV (iShares Cdn Dividend Index Fund ETF) for their portfolio. I had responded that although I wasn’t sure, I suspected that might be a lot of duplication in the two funds since XIU has all the biggest public Canadian companies – a lot of which are good dividend stocks and would probably also be in XDV.
Duplicate holdings is a common problem in mutual funds – especially in a market like Canada where there are not a lot of different companies to buy for the larger funds.
I decided to do a bit research and find out if there was as much duplication as I suspected in the two funds. The question I want to answer is if it is worthwhile to own both funds for diversification purposes or will just one do.
Number of companies in common
The first and simplest criteria was how many companies are in both ETFs. This isn’t necessarily all that meaningful since one ETF might have a lot of XYZ company whereas the other might only have a small holding.
XIU 60 has 61 holdings (can’t they count?), XDV dividend has 31 holdings, there are 15 companies that they have in common. This seems like quite a bit since it means that half of the companies in the dividend ETF are also in the XIU ETF.
Amount of market cap in common
What I did here is take the companies that are in both ETFs and compare the percentage holdings and add up the smaller number. For example if CIBC was 9% of the dividend fund and 5% of the XIU then I counted that as 5% in common (by market cap). This totalled up to 31%. This was a smaller number than I expected which means that a good portion of the dividend ETF is not represented in the XIU 60.
Measuring correlation between the ETFs
The next test I did, which should have been the first and only test since it is the only one that has any real meaning is to measure the amount of correlation between the two ETFs. Correlation is a measure of the relationship between the prices of the two ETFs.
A measure of 1 means that they always move in price exactly the same way, a measure of 0 means they are completely uncorrelated and a measure of -1 means they always move in price in exactly the opposite direction. One of the main concepts behind building a portfolio is to try to find different assets that are not correlated with each other.
To accomplish this I needed some historical price data which I managed to find at Yahoo Finance. To figure out the correlation I used the Excel correl function (is there anything Excel can’t do?). XDV dividend has only been around since the end of 2005 so the data is only for a bit less than 4 years. Not being a stats guy I’m not sure if this is a long enough period to be meaningful but it’s all I’ve got. Regardless, the correlation “r” number was 0.72 which implies some benefit for diversification but not a whole lot.
The last thing I looked at was performance. Since the time period is fairly short I’m not looking to see which ETF did better but rather to look at the difference in performance. Ishares.ca website has a handy calculator just for this purpose. I choose the last 3 years since the next category was 5 years which wouldn’t work for XDV dividend.
3 year total return
XIU Large Cap 60 = -12.98%
XDV Dividend = -18.19%
From what I’ve read the XDV dividend has a higher ratio of financials than the XIU 60 which is probably one of the reasons for the big performance difference. The XDV dividend has a higher mer (0.5%) than XIU 60 (0.17%) which would account for about 1% of the 5% difference.
I looked at 4 categories to see how different XIU and XDV are:
Similar companies – half of the XDV dividend companies are in XIU.
Correlation – over the last 4 years the correlation is 0.72.
Performance – the two ETFs were about 5% off in terms of total performance over 3 years.
What does it all mean? Hard to say – there are much better ways to diversify your portfolio – REITs, small cap, foreign holdings would likely all have correlations that are less than 0.72. I’m also not crazy about the higher mer of the dividend ETF.
I think if you want to have most of your equity in Canada then buying partially overlapping ETFs might be the only way to diversify without getting into individual stocks. Personally I like to be diversified over the whole world so for me, the XIU Large Cap 60 by itself is good enough – in my case adding XDV would not increase my diversification enough to make the higher mer worthwhile. XIC (TSX 300) is also a good choice.
I recently found out about a company (INO) that offers free stock trading videos online. While I’m not into active trading anymore (at one time I had a big interest in it), there are plenty of investors out there who love to trade stocks.
INO offers free online videos which are basically educational trading strategy lessons for someone who wants to trade stocks. This particular link leads to four different videos by trading experts who give up some of their secrets.
First you go to an intro page where you must register to watch the videos – this involves a basic registration – no banking info or credit info is required.
The four videos available:
Market Wizard Insights – Jack Schwager explains the traits and behaviour patterns that supertraders have in common.
Applying Technical – 90 minute video – verteran market analyst John Murphy explains how he looks at the markets.
Five New Tools for Winners – Jake Bernstein is probably the most prolific writer and researcher of material for today’s individual trader.
The Art of Morphing – Every position is the right position when things go exactly as planned. If not??
There are two types of resp accounts that you can have: individual and family. This post will outline some of the rules and differences of these account types.
Individual Plan RESP
Individual plans can only have one named beneficiary. The beneficiary can be any individual named by the subscriber including the subscriber (Individuals can open RESPs for themselves). There are no age restrictions on this type of account, however CESG and other grants can only be paid to beneficiaries under the age of 18. The beneficiary on the account can be replaced by anyone else but if the new beneficiary is not blood related to the subscriber then any CESG (grants) have to be repaid. The last contribution date is the end of the 21st year of plan’s existence. Plan has to be collapsed during it’s 36th year.
Family Plan RESP
Family plans can have one or more beneficiaries. The beneficiaries must be connected to the subscriber by blood or adoption. This includes children, grandchildren or siblings of the Subscriber, either by blood, adoption, or marriage. The beneficiaries must be under 21 years old when named. Beneficiaries can be removed or added anytime during the life of the plan.
If there is more than one beneficiary then the contributions have to be allocated to each beneficiary. For example if you have twins you might set the allocation at 50% for each child. If you have two kids that are different ages and you don’t set up the resp until the second child is born then you might choose to allocate more of the contribution to the older child in order to catch up on their contributions.
One rule which is always in effect for both types of plans is the maximum lifetime grant amount of $7200 per child. If you have a situation where both of your children have received the maximum grant and you want to transfer some of the contributions to a different beneficiary then you will lose the corresponding grants. This also applies to transfers with individual accounts as well.
So which is better? Family or Individual?
If you only have one child then the individual account is the obvious answer. For multiple child families it may appear at first glance that family accounts are more flexible than individual accounts however in fact they are pretty much the same thing, because the rules allow transferring money between any type of accounts. In case one of your kids doesn’t go to school, it doesn’t matter whether you have your kids in a family account or individual accounts since you are allowed to transfer money to the kid(s) who are still going to go to school in either case. I would suggest that family plans are slightly better if you have more than one child mainly because it will save on account fees and it might simplify the paper work a bit. Bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter so pick the cheapest and most convenient option.
Tip – If you have one child, you can set up a family account for future expansion
Multiple RESP accounts for same beneficiary – Communicate!
When setting up a RESP for a child, it’s important to communicate with other relatives and friends who might have also set up a resp for the same beneficiary. The government will add up all the contributions attributed to each beneficiary in order to enforce the various grant limits and maximum amounts. This applies to any RESP accounts set up for a beneficiary – it doesn’t matter if they are set up in different financial institutions by different subscribers.
You might be wondering why someone would set up an RESP for a relative (ie nephew) rather than give the money to the parents to set up an RESP? For one thing, if that parent is not as financially sound as you are and perhaps you don’t trust them, you might not want to give them the money directly for fear that they won’t set up the RESP account or maybe they will withdraw the money before the child goes to school. Another scenario is if the child doesn’t go to school, the money goes back to the subscriber, so you might want to make sure you get your money back in that case.
More detailed RESP information
Check out the RESP rules page for a list of more detailed RESP articles on this site.
When the RESP beneficiary (student) is ready to go to school, the subscriber (owner of RESP account) needs to start withdrawing money from the RESP account. To withdraw money you have to provide some proof to your resp provider that the resp beneficiary (child) is going to an approved post-secondary school. You don’t have to show receipts for specific purchases.
Two types of money in the RESP account
In your RESP account, there are two different types of money: contributions and accumulated income.
The contribution amount is the sum of all the contributions that you made to the account over the years.
The accumulated income is made up of grants, capital gains, interest, dividends earned in the account.Any money that is not a contribution is considered to be accumulated income.
This distinction is important because the taxation of withdrawals from the contribution portion of the account is different than withdrawals from the accumulated income portion.
Contribution withdrawals are not taxed.
EAP (educational assistance payments) which are withdrawals of accumulated income, are taxed as income at the hands of the student.
The good news is that students have the personal exemption, as well as tuition tax credits which helps lower their tax bill. Obviously income earned during summer jobs or on co-op work terms will affect their taxes as well.Another bit of good news is that you can tell your financial institution if you are with drawing contributions or EAP (or both) so you can manage the taxes to some degree.
Please note there is no withholding tax on any kinds of RESP withdrawals, so if the student ends up in a taxable situation, they will have to pay the taxes at tax filing time.
A withdrawal limitation
First – one withdrawal rule to get out of the way – you are only allowed to withdraw $5,000 of accumulated income in the first 13 weeks. After 13 weeks, you can withdraw as much accumulated income (via EAP) as you wish. There are no limits to withdrawals from the contribution portion as long as the child is attending school.
Basic RESP withdrawal strategy
When planning the withdrawals, try to withdraw as much accumulated income money as you can tax free.For example when the student first starts school, they will have just completed a short summer (two months) so they probably won’t have much income for the year. That might be a good time to maximize payments from the accumulated income portion of the account (EAP).
On the other hand, if the student is in a co-op program and has two work terms in one year and only one school term, that might be a good year to take out contributions rather than accumulated income.
You don’t want to end up with accumulated income in the RESP account if the child is no longer going to school.
What if your child doesn’t go to school?
What happens if Junior decides that school is not for him? You have to collapse the plan and pay a pile of tax on it.
First of all you have lots of time to collapse the plan so don’t do it right away. It’s always possible that your child will give up on their pro hockey or musician career and will need the money for schooling later on. You can keep the account open for 35 years after the year in which the account was opened.
If you do collapse the plan, the contributions are tax free, anything else (accumulated income) is added to the subscriber’s gross income for taxation purposes.And on top of that, the accumulated income is charged a tax of 20%.
If you are retired or have any way to reduce your income in the year you collapse a resp plan, do it to save taxes.
What if the child does more than one session at school (ie multiple degrees)?
You are allowed to use the RESP for one degree and then keep some money in the account for future education. The only limit is the 35 year limit previously mentioned. Be warned that it’s not a bad idea to take out all the RESP money during the first degree so that there are minimal taxes and no penalties. If you save money in the RESP account for future degrees and the child doesn’t end up using the money, there will be increased taxes and penalties.
The regular RESP grants (CESGs), calculated at 20% of contributions, are available to all eligible Canadians regardless of their individual or family income. It doesn’t matter whether you earn $20 a year or $2,000,000 a year – you still qualify for the basic RESP grants.
Besides the 20% basic grant, the government offers additional grants based on family income.
There are a large number of middle (and lower) income Canadians who are eligible for these additional grants – and probably don’t know about it.
The income levels for additional grants apply to the primary caregiver of the child and not the person who opens the account.
These additional RESP grants apply to the first $500 of contributions each year, unlike the normal RESP grants, which are payable on the first $2,500 of contributions per year.
There are two different income levels to qualify for these additional grants.
Families with a net income between $42,707 and $85,414 are eligible for an extra 10% grant on the first $500 of contributions each year for a total of $50 per year.
Families with a net income of $42,707 or less are eligible for an extra 20% grant on the first $500 of contributions each year for a total of $100 per year.
These income ranges are for 2012. To get updated value for future years, please visit this CanLearn page.
The family income in this case refers to the primary caregiver, who might not necessarily be the subscriber or owner of the account.
Net income: This is the amount on Line 236 of your T1 general tax form. It is your income net of RRSP contributions, child care expenses etc.
You have to apply for the initial contribution within 6 years of the child being born and the subsequent contributions, 6 years after the birthdays. There is no income test for ACES grants.
Both the CLB and ACES grants do not require a contribution, so anyone who qualifies for them should take advantage of the program and get the grants. For the addition CESG grants, these require a normal RESP contribution to be made before getting the additional grant, so I would caution anyone who is in a lower income range to make sure that you have your own finances in order before contributing to an RESP.
Let’s look at an example!
Mary and Steve make a combined family income of $71,500 which makes them eligible for an extra 10% CESG grant on top of the regular 20% grant.
If they contribute $1000 in a year then they will get:
Normal CESG grant of 20% = $200.
Additional CESG grant of 10% on the first $500 of contribution = $50.
So the total CESG grant on their $1000 contribution will be $250.
More detailed RESP information
Check out the RESP rules page for a list of more detailed RESP articles on this site.
One of the main benefits of RESP accounts is the federal Canadian Educational Savings Grant (CESG). This grant is 20% of any eligible contributions in an RESP account.
How the RESP grant system works
Let’s say you open an RESP account for your bouncing new baby and contribute $1,000 into the account. Your financial institution will send the account and contribution information to the Canadian government for grant approval. If the grant is approved, the institution receives the grant money and deposits it into your account.
20% of the $1,000 contribution is $200, so you will now have an extra $200 in the account courtesy of the Canadian government. This basically gives you an extra 20% one-time return on your contribution.
$2,500 – Amount of annual grant-eligible contribution room accrued each year starting in 2007 or the year the child was born (whichever is later). The contribution room continues accruing up to and including the year when the child turns 17 years old. This amount is based on the calendar year and not the birth date.
$2,000 – Amount of annual grant-eligible contribution room accrued each year starting from the year the child was born or 1998 (whichever is later) up to and including 2006.
20% – Amount of grant earned on an eligible contribution. For example: a $1,000 contribution would earn a grant of $200, if that contribution is eligible for a grant. There are additional grants available for lower income families.
$500 – Maximum amount of grant a beneficiary is eligible to receive for each calendar year from the year they were born or 1998 (whichever is later) to the year they turn 17 years old. This amount was only $400 for years prior to 2007. A calendar year is from January 1st to December 31st.
$7,200 – Lifetime grant limit per beneficiary. If you contribute $2,500 every year, you will hit the maximum grant level in the fifteenth year, and no more grants will be paid to the beneficiary. This limit includes additional grants available to lower income families.
$50,000 – Lifetime contribution limit per beneficiary. Because there is no annual limit, you could potentially make one single contribution of $50,000 to an RESP if you choose.
Contribution room carry over. One of the great things about the RESP is that you can carry over unused contribution room into future years. However, there is a catch: Only one previous year’s worth of contributions can be used each year.
Contributions are not tax-deductible. You won’t get a tax slip, and you can’t deduct RESP contributions from your taxable income.
For example: If you start an account for your six-year-old child, you can contribute $2,500 (this year’s contribution room) plus another $2,500 (from previously unused contribution room) for a total of $5,000, to receive a grant of $1,000. You are allowed to contribute more than $5,000 in this scenario, but there will be no grant paid on the amount above $5,000. When calculating contribution room carryover from past years, don’t forget that the contribution limit was only $2,000 prior to 2007.
RESP contribution examples
Let’s do some examples to clarify exactly how this works.
Example 1 – Simplest example
Steve was born in 2010. His parents are broke, but one kindly grandmother decides to open an RESP account for him.
She opened the account in 2010 and has $2,500 of contribution room available. She contributes $1,500 to the account in 2010, so the RESP grant is $300 (20% of $1,500).
In 2011, she contributes $1,200, thereby qualifying for a $240 grant.
Example 2 – A more complicated example
Little Johnny was born in 2006. His parents decide in 2010 to set up an RESP account for him. They want to know how much money they can contribute each year to catch up on all the missed government grants.
Let’s add up the current contribution room.
2006 – $2,000 of contribution room
2007 – $2,500 (new rules)
2008 – $2,500
2009 – $2,500
2010 – $2,500
In 2010, the couple has $2,500 of contribution room for the current year plus $9,500 of contribution room from previous years.
Since the rule is that you can only contribute up to $2,500 of previously carried over contribution room each year in addition to the current contribution room, this means they can contribute this year’s amount ($2,500) and another $2,500 for a total of $5,000, which gives a grant of 20% or $1,000 for 2010. Since they only used $2,500 of their available $9,500 of carried over contribution room, they now have $7,000 in contribution room to carry over for the future.
In 2011, they can contribute another $5,000 for a $1,000 grant. $4,500 of contribution room is carried forward to the next year.
In 2012, they can contribute another $5,000 for a $1,000 grant. $2,000 of contribution room is carried forward to the next year.
In 2013, they can contribute only $4,500. $2,500 from the current year plus $2,000 they carried over from the past.
In 2014 and beyond, they can only contribute $2,500 each year and expect to receive the full grant of $500.
Summary of contributions they can make to get all the government grants:
If you have a family plan with two or more beneficiaries, you need to allocate each contribution between the beneficiaries. For example, you might want to set up all contributions to be divided equally between the account beneficiaries. Or you might have a particular contribution that should be allocated to just one beneficiary. You must set the allocation so the government can track the grants for each child.
When you open an RESP account or add a new beneficiary to an existing account, you can set up the default allocation to split the contributions equally among the children on the account. If you want to make a contribution with a different allocation, you have to indicate this on the purchase order.
More detailed RESP information
Check out the RESP rules page for a list of more detailed RESP articles on this site.