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Tax Free Savings Accounts should be 2nd on your list

There are over 10million TFSA accounts in Canada according to this article in the Financial Post.   Wow, it’s great to see that level of savings….

But hold on…..is this the right strategy for those of us with a mortgage?    Well, if you have a mortgage on your principal residence and the interest is not tax-deductible, then I think it’s NOT the right strategy.

For most of us, the interest on a residential mortgage is not tax deductible (I say for most of us because if you rent out part of the home or use it for your business then you may be able to claim a tax deduction).

Take those after-tax $$dollars and pay your mortgage first before putting them into a TFSA… reduce the amount of non-deductible debt and then focus on a TFSA….   If you own an investment property, then this strategy may vary slightly…. but for most of us, let’s get rid of that mortgage first…

And yeah, for those higher income earners looking to diversify, then sure.. A TFSA makes sense.  But for most Canadians, I would suggest getting rid of the mortgage is a better strategy.

Your best interest is my only interest.   I reply to all questions and I welcome your comments.  Like this article?  Share with a friend.

Steve Garganis 416 224 0114 steve@mortgagenow.ca

Looking back 5 years.. which mortgage product did your Banker recommend in 2008?

greedy bankerRemember 2008?  It was almost 5 years ago that the U.S. sub-prime mortgage scandal erupted.   October 2008, to be exact.  That’s almost 5 years ago…  And with October and November 2013 renewals being less than 120 days away, we can now lock in some rates for those upcoming renewals.  So I thought this would be a great time to see what sort of advice and recommendations the Banks were giving to their mortgage customers.

THE BANK’S ADVICE

The funny thing is, Banks have never changed their advice or strategy.  ‘Take a 5 year fixed rate’.  That’s all the Banks seem to want to promote.  And with good reason… it’s the most profitable product FOR THE BANKS.   But historically, it’s NOT the best product to take.   There is no historical data that I am aware of that shows taking a 5 year fixed is the best strategy.  But I’ll get into that in more detail later. Continue reading “Looking back 5 years.. which mortgage product did your Banker recommend in 2008?”

A change of strategy… Fixed rates… 5yr or 10 yr?

For years, I have recommended Variable rate mortgages over Fixed rates.   The reasons are simple:

  • Variable rate outperformed Fixed rates in over 88% of the time.
  • You could lock into a Fixed rate at anytime should interest rates go up.
  • you could exit the product at anytime with a maximum 3 month interest rate penalty (compared with Interest Rate Differential penalties for Fixed rates that vary depending on current rates.. we’ve seen 10, 14, 16 and even 20 months interest penalties charged in recent years).
  • If you were in a Variable rate the last 5 years, then you have enjoyed an average rate of around 2.92% compared with a 4.37% fixed rate (annual average rate over last 5 yrs).    It’s been the least expensive way to own your home…  (my clients have saved between 1.45% and 3.00% per year on their mortgages over the past 5 years based on my recommendation).

But then, in August 2011, the Banks caught on.  They decided they wouldn’t offer those great Variable Rates or Prime less 0.75% (3.00% less 0.75% = 2.25%).  They all raised the price on new Variable rate mortgages to Prime less 0.00%.    And this year we have seen 5 year fixed rates hover at around 3.19% to 3.39%…  10 year fixed has also come down to 3.99% and 3.94%.

So what’s the strategy today?  What’s the least expensive way to own your home?     Here are some answers…

If you have Prime less 0.50%  or better, then considering sticking with it.

The fact is, over 80% of my clients are in a Variable rate mortgage of Prime less 0.50% or better.   They have enjoyed huge savings, especially over the last 5 years. I’m not too anxious to have them start paying a higher rate….. Instead of locking into a 5 or 10 yr Fixed rate, why not set your Variable rate payment based on the higher Fixed rates…  You’ll pay more towards principal and pay the mortgage off faster.

If you’re getting a new mortgage or your mortgage is coming up for renewal, then I would consider a Fixed rate term..

This might shock many of my clients and regular readers, but I can’t recommend taking a new 5 year Variable rate based on today’s pricing…  It’s time to look at Fixed rates…  The term will depend on your own personal situation, goals and needs.   5 year fixed (currently 3.29%) is looking like a good choice for many today… But a 1 year fixed (2.89%) might also we a good choice…   One product that is attracting more attention is the 10 year fixed rate (3.89% to 3.94%)… It’s never been under 4.00%… so many people are recommending it… But I’m not so sure about it…. After all, if you were to pay this mortgage out before the first 5 years, you would be faced with a monster penalty!   10, 14, 18 months worth of interest … maybe more…  On the positive side, if you paid the mortgage out after 5 years, the penalty is capped at 3 months interest.

If we compare the 5 yr fixed vs the 10 yr fixed, we can look at a number of different scenarios… but here’s a really simple one to look at…The question is, how much will rates have to increase by in order for you to be further ahead?

If you took a 5 yr fixed rate today at 3.29% but set your payments based on today’s 10 yr fixed of 3.94%, then at the end of the first 5 years, you would have to renew at a rate of 4.75% or higher, before you start to win with a 10 yr fixed rate.     So this is where the unknown comes in to play…  and the unknown can cause fear and panic…     But it can also mean opportunity…  Will interest rates be 2.00% higher than they are today??   Will Variable rate pricing come back to normal and again be the product of choice?  Will there be a new product that is even better than today?    I don’t know the answer… but I think 10 years is just too long of a term to commit to…Things change faster today…   Can we really make plans for 10 yrs?  Remember, if we need to refinance or sell, there is mortgage penalty to deal with….this can blow the savings right out the window…  A lot of what if’s…    I’d probably stick with 5 yr fixed today or go shorter term…

A last thought and point of reflection..

Interest rates have remained below average for the last 10 years…  They have been at record lows over the past 4 years due to the US sub-prime mortgage crisis and the longer than expected global and US economic recovery…..  Interest rates are expected to go up…  the big question is, when??   Regardless of the answer, shorter terms have ALWAYS been a better choice when it comes to mortgages… don’t be so quick to jump into a 5 or 10 year fixed rate… speak with your mortgage broker and get some advice.   Banks want borrowers to be afraid.. they want you to remain unsure…  They want you to lock into the longest term possible because this is where they earn the most $$profit….   Don’t be so quick to contribute the Bank’s profit margin….

Govt regulator says interest rates extremely attractive…

We can interpret a sentence to mean several different things…   Take for example the following comments made by the head of the Office of Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), Julie Dickson:

“current levels of interest rates have already made borrowing extremely attractive to all borrowers.”  (Wall Street Journal)

– “Extremely low rates will be with us for even longer than envisaged before the summer.” (Globe and Mail)

What does that mean to you?   To me, it simply means we are in a historic low interest rate environment.. with an economy that is better off than the rest of the world…  add it all up and it looks like a pretty good time to borrow, if you ask me… Borrowing for a house is NOT the same as borrowing for a car or a trip… A house is a tangible asset.. it appreciates tax-free.  It’s a good investment…

Borrowing to invest

Speaking of borrowing to invest…. rental properties have never looked more attractive…  Borrowing to invest is NOT a bad thing and it is NOT what the regulators and economists are concerned about… They are concerned about borrowers that have borrowed to their absolute maximum capacity and cannot afford to miss a day’s work without being in danger of defaulting on a payment…

Take a bow Canadians… we are doing great!

Last time I checked, Canadians were acting as conservative as ever…. paying down their mortgages faster and borrowing at a slower pace…  Look at these stats from The Montreal Gazette:

“In Canada, an average of 63 per cent of a household’s home value is equity, while in the U.S. this figure is just 39 per cent.” (Matthieu Arseneau, National Bank).

“In Canada, 40 per cent of homeowners have no mortgage debt; in the U.S. it’s 31 per cent.” (Matthieu Arseneau, National Bank).

“Debt amounts to just 24 per cent of a household’s average net worth in Canada, while it’s 29 per cent in the U.S.”  (Matthieu Arseneau, National Bank).

“Mortgage debt, which was climbing by 10 per cent or more through last year, has throttled back to a six-per-cent pace. Other consumer borrowing hasn’t grown at all over the past year.” (Benjamin Tal, CIBC World Markets).

–  “More than 70 per cent of all mortgage-holders are on an accelerated payment schedule, Tal says, adding: “That’s a smart use of low interest rates.” (Benjamin Tal, CIBC World Markets).

Hmmm… the economists tell us we are doing pretty good, judging from those comments….

Final thoughts.

If interest rates were 6%, 7% or 8%, what we would the media be saying?   ‘INTEREST RATES AT HIGHEST LEVEL IN 10 YEARS!’ … or something like that…  and I bet we would also see this headline…  ‘BANKS WARN THAT FURTHER RATE HIKES ARE ON THEIR WAY….BEST TO LOCK INTO A LONG TERM FIXED RATE NOW’…..

Use your own judgement… seek out professional, non-biased (non-bank) advice…. Hey, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather borrow at 2.60% for aVariable rate or 3.39% for a Fixed rate, than 6%, 7%, or 8%…..  We are experiencing historical low interest rates… they will be here a little longer but they won’t last forever.. enjoy them now… take advantage…

Uncover the hidden equity in your home

Turn on the TV, listen to the radio, read a newspaper or talk to someone at the office water cooler.   What are we hearing?  ‘House prices fall’….  ‘Mortgage rates are going up’…

Okay, are you ready to hear some good news?   Let’s talk about what’s really happening and how YOU can benefit.

Firstly, house values are actually stable according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).  The article goes on to say that House sales may cool this fall due to a robust Spring market and that house prices may fall.  Hey, that’s okay.. we don’t want to see a runaway market… but that should trigger us to do something now.   Take advantage of these incredibly low rates.

Interest Rates are at historical lows and yet I don’t see much news coverage about that…did you know that a 5 year fixed rate can be had for around 3.69% and in some cases even better for qualified borrowers….   Variable rate is also great… 2.30% is an excellent rate…. and Economists are forecasting for no real increases until the Spring…

REFINANCE WHEN RATES ARE LOW

It’s really no secret…. you’ve heard of buy low and sell high?… well, with interest rates it’s ‘borrow when rates are low and get rid of high interest rate debt’….. This is the best time to borrow money. Here’s how you can benefit….

Let’s suppose your situation looks like this:

  • have a house worth $350,000
  • a mortgage balance of $200,000 @ 5.00% with payments of $1,100/mth.
  • credit cards $8,000 @ 12.00% with payments of $240/mth
  • a line of credit $10,000 @ 6.00% with payments of $300/mth
  • car loan of $15,000 @ 6.00% with payments of $480/mth
  • you want to invest some money into rrsps or resps or some other GOOD investment for $20,000….
  • your monthly payments total $1,640.

Here’s what you could be doing:

  • increase your mortgage by up to $80,000 to $280,000
  • pay off all that debt and take the extra funds (up to $47,000) and invest or use as you require
  • your payment based on today’s 5 year fixed rate of 3.695 would be $1,427/mth
  • your payment based on today’s Variable rate of 2.30% would be $1,227/mth

Your cashflow would actually improve and you would put money in your pocket.

This is just one example of how you could benefit… we all have different needs and different situations…get your finances analyzed by a qualified Mortgage Broker.   See how you could benefit….It’s a great time to borrow…

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