blog30sep2007

Hot Off the Web
Rob Carrick in the Globe and Mail lists mutual funds which despite their Canadian sized management fees beat the indexes over the past 15 years in “Give a cheer for these index-beating mutual funds”  . (These funds are certainly would be preferred ones to consider if you were planning to buy mutual funds, however the data is backward looking and we have no guarantees that the outperformance will continue in future years, but we do know that we’ll be paying higher fees than with corresponding ETFs)
Financial Post’s Chevreau in “Let seniors unlock pensions, CARP tells candidates”  reports that a head of steam is building from various directions to allow individuals transfer 100% of their locked-in pension plans to the RRSP/RRIFs. The drive is focused at Ontario’s upcoming election; however this is a Canada-wide issue (except for Saskatchewan which already permits the transfer).
In Financial Post’s “New type of retirement” Barry LaValley is quoted on the seven keys to planning a transition to retirement: “Clarifying the vision, understanding healthy aging, taking a different view of work, maintaining and nurturing your relationships, balancing your leisure, reviewing your home to make sure it meets your needs, and financial comfort.”
John Authers of the Financial Times in “Structured vehicles may be way forward”  discusses how emphasis may be shifting from hedge funds damaged by credit derivatives to structured products in the wealth management business. He predicts a boom in structured products that promise to protect the downside (guarantees) yet allow you to participate in the upside. (Just remember to check the fees and that guarantees are not free)
In “Skill or Luck; Benchmarks” on pp.17-18 in Canadian Snowbird Association’s fall issue Magazine , I have written an article answering the questions: What is a benchmark? Why are benchmarks important? How you can use them to evaluate your portfolio’s, fund’s or advisor’s performance?
Jonathan Chevreau in Financial Post’s “Perfect opportunity to diversify assets” discusses the question of hedging of Canadian dollar (read more about this in one of my recent blogs Hedging of foreign currency exposure: To do or not to do retirementaction.com/Hedging.aspx ) The consensus of various experts that he quotes is that at parity there is greater risk of downside rather than upside to the Canadian dollar. Those looking to lock in some of their gains the Canadian dollar, can consider buying unhedged U.S. and EAFE equities from proceeds of the sale of some of their appreciated Canadian equities.
Another Canadian dollar appreciation related story is Financial Post’s Jamie Golombek who reminds readers in “Rising loonie will affect foreign holdings” that they should consider doing the conversion from foreign currency transactions using both the exchange rate in effect on the day of transaction and, if multiple transactions occurred during the year, then annual average exchange rate; one may then use the more advantageous one for the taxpayer.
In a WSJ headline article Conor Dougherty asks “Is Florida over?” . He tables a long list problems plaguing Florida today: high (though now falling) real estate prices, discriminatory property taxes against non-residents and new arrivals, risk of hurricanes, high insurance costs for hurricane protection, net population outflow from the state. He argues that other Sunbelt states may now seem more attractive. (Most of Florida’s problems happen to be man-made and are fixable by man; a possible formula is to move taxation from the constitutional amendment to the legislative realm, introduce the principle of “Same Value- Same Taxes” and then with a tax-increase sensitized voting population just let the voters throw out of office the free-spending politicians)
And still on Florida, it could almost feel a little like watching a soap opera (if I wasn’t a participant). Legislators put a rushed “super-exemption” on next January’s referendum to “fix” the current flawed property tax system by introducing an even more flawed one. Well this week we read that a “Judge knocks property tax off ballot” because he finds it “misleading and confusing”. So the super-exemption vote is off the January 29 ballot (for now). But then the next day we find that “Ruling on tax ballot appealed” and perhaps the legislators might even introduce new property tax legislation in the October session. All this, for an uninterested observer might seem comical, but property taxes are a very serious matter to those non-homesteaders carrying an unfair share of the tax-load resulting from Florida’s discriminatory, two-tier system. Working in the background is the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission which as indicated in “Low profile panel set to step into the tax fray”  could put an Amendment on November 2008 ballot with 17 votes and send new property tax law for vote to the legislature with 13 votes out of 25, while citizens’ groups need 611,000 signatures to get one on the November ballot; and of course, non-homesteaded property-tax paying snowbirds have no vote at all.
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