Sep 072017
 

Whoa, climate change? On a finance blog? Yep it’s come to this. First, lets get this out of the way. Is climate change real? Maybe, maybe not… Just kidding. It’s totally real and anyone who says otherwise has been reading too many blogs. I mean… well… this blog is fine.

Don’t believe in climate change? You are free to believe in whatever you want but the objective truth doesn’t change based on what you believe.

Anyway this article isn’t for climate science it’s about profiting from the inevidible!

 

You’re saying I can make an unethical buck profiting off the suffering of others?

Not exactly, we aren’t buying stock in cigarettes or leaded gasoline here. Based on my own research into climate change and seeing this emerging denialist attitude, it’s my opinion that the future planet is going to be warmer and there is nothing that you as an individual can do about it. Might as well watch the world turn to hell with a few extra bucks in your pocket.

Alright, I’m listening…

Before I start blindly listing energy stocks we need to define how the world will change as the climate warms. First, lets think of the worst case scenario where average temperature increase dramatically:

  • Hotter summers
  • Warmer Canadian winters (yay!)
  • Stronger storms
  • Rising sea levels
  • Water shortages (fewer glacial sources)
  • Crop failures/famine
  • Mass human migration away from the coast
  • Extinctions
  • Increased vegetation (from higher CO2)
  • Cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria!

Well that’s a scary list, except for #2. What kind of products and services might be in more demand in this new world?

  • Air Conditioners
  • Storm resiliency planning/construction
  • Storm recovery
  • Sunscreen
  • Moving/immigration services
  • Construction
  • GMO crops (resistant to climate changes)
  • Desalination
  • Energy efficiency
  • Green energy
  • Higher elevation land
  • Short shorts

As an engineer this list makes me excited. Lots of investment opportunity here. Finally lets rank them in terms of the greatest potential for short-medium term gain:

  1. Storm resiliency planning/construction
  2. Storm recovery
  3. Energy efficiency *
  4. Construction
  5. Green energy *
  6. Air Conditioners
  7. Sunscreen/short shorts
  8. Moving/immigration services
  9. GMO crops (resistant to climate changes) **
  10. Desalination *
  11. Higher elevation land

*These ones might have fantastic potential if a bright young person comes up with a miracle invention. Unfortunately we can’t rely on that for investing.

**If people weren’t so scared by GMOs this would be higher (especially those that don’t even know what GMO means)

Finally lets go through the points and identify some companies that provide these services:


1, 2, 4 – Storm resiliency planning/recovery/construction

 

Storms and flooding damaging coastal cities is one of the first things we’ll start noticing in the coming decades. Already Hurricane Harvey has flooded Houston and Irma is on its way. Lets find some companies involved in rebuilding and resilience:

Tetra Tech – TTEK – Consulting and Engineering services with lots of disaster planning and recovery services. Up about 19% in the past year

Ch2m (now Jacobs) – JAC – Also consulting and engineering with lots of resiliency work.

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Mar 212017
 

I’ve been getting a lot of similar questions lately. What are bonds? Why should I care? Why are you wasting your time on this silly moose website?

I’ll answer some of those questions. Turn on the thinking part of your brain…. now… and here we go with bonds!

Not that kind of bond

Not that kind of bond

What is a bond?

A debt issued to some entity where YOU act as the issuer and collect interest. (You loan money and they eventually give it back plus some extra)

 

Wait what?

You give the government or a corporation some money, say $1000, and they promise to pay you interest, say 6%, over a specified time frame, say two years. At the end of the two years you’ll get your $1000 back plus $60 interest for a total of $1060.

Bonds are issued by governments and corporations to gain access to cold hard cash for various long term projects like World War II. Corporations prefer bonds over direct bank loans because bonds offer more flexibility. Banks are strict on what you spend their money on and won’t give you anything more till you pay back the first loan.

Governments typically don’t take loans from banks and thus will normally issue bonds to raise cash or cover a deficit. Alternatively the government can just print more money but that’ll weaken the currency on the open market and thus weaken the country.

 

How is this different from a GIC? Also, what’s a GIC?

A Guaranteed Investment Certificate(GIC) is an investment sold by a bank that provides a guaranteed return over a specified time frame.

GICs are normally issued by banks, not corporations or governments, and as the name implies is guaranteed. The word guarantee is a strong statement, but these banks have been pretty reliable these past few centuries. Bond values can change over time(more on that later) and thus their value is not guaranteed. A bond can also be SOLD at any time whereas a GIC is completely locked up for its duration.

 

Why should I buy bonds?

You’ve probably heard that people need 30% bonds and 70% stocks. There are reasons for that:

  1. Diversification – During wild market fluctuations bonds will normally do the opposite of stocks and owning both will make your portfolio less volatile. Some bond funds during the 2008 crash gained 11% while stocks fell 20%
  2. Stability – Bond prices may rise and fall slightly but they are seriously more stable than stocks. Check out the graph below.
  3. Income – Cash payouts from bonds remain fairly constant even if the bond price dances all over the place. Most bonds payout twice a year and can be used as a reliable source of passive retirement income.
Stocks vs Bonds

Stocks in Red vs Bonds in Blue. Bonds are low risk low reward which is a good thing

Ok I’m convinced, how do I buy bonds?

The easiest way to buy individual bonds is through your brokerage. Questrade offers zero commissions on bond trades. You will normally call the bond department of the brokerage to place an order. Government bonds can be purchased through the Government of Canada website. They’ll even mail you a fancy bond certificate! (Update: Canada Savings Bonds are being discontinued in November 2017. Dangit)

 

How else do I buy bonds?

ETFs – You guessed it, bonds also come in ETFs! With a bond ETF you can buy a small fraction of 1000 different bonds at once rather than a single bond. You can buy them just like a stock through your brokerage and can easily target a bond market, like government or corporate.

Vanguard’s Canadian Aggregate Bond ETF holds 770 different bonds, mostly government, it has an annual dividend (or distribution as they call it with bonds) of 3.3% which is paid monthly.

 

What else should I know?

  • Relationship between bonds and interest rates – Maybe you’ve heard that such a relationship exists. Well it does. And to put it simply, if the government reduces interest rates, bond prices go up, and vice versa. It’s an INVERSE relationship and one of the main reasons bond prices fluctuate.
  • Relationship between bonds and stocks – You should know this already, typically bonds will fall (slightly) when stocks rise and vice versa. Another INVERSE relationship.
  • Bond strategy – Infiltrate the Russian compound and steal the intel without alerting the guards…. wait…. wrong Bond again.
  • Bond strategy – Bonds are your safety net. A conservative profile will be mostly bonds. If you’re under 30 you should hold about 15% in bonds, gradually increasing that to at least 60% at the start of retirement. Thus if the market crashes you’ll at least retain some of your capital within the bonds.

 

Why would interest rates matter?

It will make sense with an example. Let’s say you buy a bond at $1000 paying 5%. You will eventually get back a total of $1050. But the next day interest rates rise to 10%. You decide to sell your first bond and buy a new one that gives 10%. Unfortunately you can’t find a chump to buy your sissy 5% bond when they can just as easily walk across the street and get 10%. The only solution is to lower your selling price to artificially give a 10% return.

You manage to sell your $1000 bond for $954.55. Had you kept it you would have earned $50, but the new owner will earn $95.45 ($50 plus your discount of $45.45) which is 10% of $954.55. Summarized below:

5% interest 10% interest (new owner) Difference
Value at purchase $1000 $954.55  -$45.45
Value at maturity $1050 $1050
Total interest $50 $95.45 +$45.45

 

Whoever issued the bond pays the exact same no matter who owns it. But as you can see the $45 was transferred between owners because of the interest rate change.

There! You’re now smarter! You can smugly talk about interest rates affecting your investments!

 

Oct 152016
 

 

Be sure to read Part 1 before continuing

What to hold in a frozen investment account:

Remember that in your frozen account there is no rebalancing, no buying, no selling, no withdraw. You can take no action until you return to Canada and unfreeze. Good thing you are read this before you leave Canada and it’s not too late! Your ideal frozen funds should have these characteristics:

  • No dividends
  • No re-balancing required
  • Steady, reliable growth
  • Low fees
  • Allocations: 15% Canadian equity, 40% US equity,  25% International equity, and 20% bonds

If you are under thirty I’d normally suggest 10% in bonds, but since you can’t re-balance it’s best to give your slower growing bonds a head start. In a few years your entire portfolio will be higher(probably), but the bonds will have grown at a slower pace, reducing their share of the total. Ideally that 20% will be closer to 10% or 15% where it belongs. (and yes that will keep shrinking, but there’s really nothing we can do about it if your account is frozen for ten years or longer).

I’ve come up with two options: One single balanced fund, or a set of three or four stable ETFs. Amix of both will also work well:

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Sep 152016
 

So you’ve finally decided it’s too cold here, or you’re sick of Tim Hortons coffee, or some beautiful person has stolen your heart and keeping it hostage in another country. Whatever the circumstance you’re exiting Canada for an unspecified amount of time. But what do you do with your massive swollen nest egg all tucked away in the Toronto Stock Exchange?

Option 1: Don’t Change Anything, Freeze Your Account

If your brokerage allows it you can keep your investment accounts as-is after you leave and potentially avoid:

  • Transaction fees
  • Account closing fees
  • Wire transfer fees
  • Currency conversion fees
  • Realized gains/loses from selling your investments
  • Lost growth during the lag time between selling in Canada and re-investing in your new country

That’s a lot of fees that can be avoided. But they might be pennies compared to the financial disadvantages. Normally if you leave your account it will become FROZEN, meaning you can’t do anything except watch what happens. Some of the implications of a frozen account include:

  • No rebalancing
  • Dividends sit as cash
  • Complex cross-border taxes
  • No access to funds if they’re needed

What about selling everything and closing the account?

Option 2: Liquidate Accounts and Re-invest in Your New Country

Depending on your brokerage, selling might be your only option (Questrade, for example, does not allow non-residents to hold a margin account). Taking your money with you has some benefits:

  • Lower taxes (maybe)
  • Access to better investments
  • Simplified tax reporting
  • Avoidance of jail time and/or $10,000+ fines (your Canadian investments might be considered offshore tax evasion)

Of course the tax benefit won’t matter if Canada is still taxing your worldwide income, and that’s the first thing you need to check:

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Sep 272015
 

A common fear for beginners is “what if I lose all my money?” Well friends, if you lose everything it’s entirely your own fault for betting it all on a single stock! With even a little diversification you’ll never lose ALL your money. You are more likely to lose “a lot” of money. And don’t forget that you haven’t lost a dime until you actually SELL. You can live in denial the rest of your life!

Here are a few creative ways to lose “a lot” of money:

 

1. Short Selling

Short selling is borrowing shares, selling them, and buying more to cover what you borrowed at a future date. It’s used to make money on a falling stock price. Unfortunately stocks tend to go up 70% of the time. If you buy stock, the worst that happens is that the company goes bankrupt and you lose everything. But what happens if you short the stock and the company does exceedingly well? Lets check a quick example:

  1. Short 100 shares at $10 – You put $1000 in your pocket
  2. Company discovers elixir of eternal life, stock price jumps to $100,000/share
  3. To cover those 100 borrowed shares, you now owe $10,000,000 (100 x 100,000)
  4. Total loss -$99,999,000

As you can see the loss is theoretically infinite, instead of only losing your initial investment in the case of stocks. In the case above a good scenario would be the stock dropping to $5 in step 3. You’d get to keep $500.

How to avoid: Don’t short sell. Remember that stocks go up 70% of the time.

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