Friday, December 30, 2011

The Gold Standard: An Austrian School Contradiction?

One of the chief arguments of the Austrian School of economic thought is that a free market should be allowed to determine prices of its own accord. Fixing of prices leads to adverse effects on other areas of an economy that are not immediately obvious. For a detailed description or if you are not familiar with the argument against price-fixing (a form of economic planning), please read pages 190 to 209 of the following PDF of Economics for Real People by Gene Callahan:

In the pages above, the author describes a scenario in which a person proposes fixing the floor price of a stock at $10 per share. A conversation about this topic ensues, outlining why this would be a bad idea. Accepting the premise that fixing prices is a bad idea, I'd like to explore if it's also a bad idea to fix the rate of change of prices. In the example above, this would be equivalent to limiting daily stock price movement to a range of, for example,  -5% to +5%. Suppose the opening stock price is $100. This would mean that a floor price for the stock during that day would be $95 and a ceiling price for the stock during that day would be $105. In other words, fixing the rate of change of a price is equivalent to fixing simultaneous price floors and ceilings.

In my previous blog post "Inflation and the Optimal Money Supply", I outline the case for attributing inflation to rapid changes in the size of the money supply, and how fixing interest rates (a form of price fixing) is equivalent to tinkering with market supply and demand for cash holdings. Many Austrian School economists advocate the return to a gold standard to resolve this problem. In other words, every dollar should be redeemable for the equivalent amount of gold. Since the amount of gold in the world is fixed and only so much gold can be mined per year, then the money supply won't be able to change size so quickly.

One Warren Buffett quote that got me thinking was the following: "[Gold] gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head."

If we want the same effects of a gold standard without needing to mine the actual gold, we would simply need some sort of law or restriction that the money supply can only grow by a certain amount per year, similar to how only a certain amount of gold is mined every year. In essence, we would want to fix the rate of change of the size of the money supply, which is a form of economic planning. As I've outlined above, fixing a rate of change of a price is essentially fixing the price to a certain range. Upon realizing this, I noticed a contradiction: the Austrian School advocates against price fixing and economic planning, and the Austrian School advocates a gold standard, which can be seen as a way of fixing the rate of change of the size of the money supply through economic planning. This seems to be a contradiction.

I don't know the answer to this conundrum, nor am I entirely certain that I haven't misinterpreted or mis-stated the beliefs of the Austrian School of economic thought. Comments are welcome, as I would love to know more about this particular topic.

Edit: I've thought of some additional insights on this topic; see my other blog post.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Inflation and the Optimal Money Supply

In recent months, I have learned much about fractional reserve banking, central banks, inflation, interest rates and money supply. In this blog post, I'd like to explain some aspects of inflation, its relation to the money supply, the gold standard, and some considerations on the optimal size of the money supply. In order to accomplish the goal of a discussion on these topics, some background information is necessary.

To begin, I will give a brief overview of fractional reserve banking. To my knowledge, all banks in Canada today are fractional reserve banks. In the early days of banking, customers of a bank could deposit their gold at the bank for safekeeping. To facilitate easy economic exchange between parties, banks began to issue promissory notes representing a certain amount of gold, so that two parties wishing to exchange gold between themselves would not need to withdraw, transport and deposit physical gold. An individual could exchange the note at the bank for the corresponding amount of gold at any time. This is called full-reserve banking with money tied to a gold standard. The promissory notes issued by the banks functioned as currency because their validity was universally recognized within the community, and because the holder of a note equated to the owner of the gold it represented. As people began to use these promissory notes more and more often, the banks noticed that not many people actually came and exchanged their notes for physical gold. As a result, the banks issued more loans to people by distributing more promissory notes for the gold they had just sitting in their vaults. This is called fractional reserve banking, where the bank "loans out" the gold sitting in their vaults. Eventually, banks began to loan out more money than the total gold they had, in effect loaning out more than 100% of their gold deposits. In modern day, money is no longer exchangeable for gold, instead fiat money is used. Fiat money means that the government has declared the bank notes legal tender, and the government's central bank can print more money if they so choose. Most of the money in circulation today comes from loans issued by banks, which is characterized as money creation through lending of credit (since only the central bank can truly "print" money). An astute reader might also notice that this means that interest must be paid on all money created through lending of credit. The total of these two amounts of money issued is called the money supply.

Inflation is defined as a rise in prices of consumer goods. There are many aspects to inflation, however the generally accepted cause of inflation is growth of the money supply. When more money is created, each new dollar represents a smaller fraction of the real wealth in the economy, and so more dollars are needed to pay for the same item than before the increase in the money supply. When the initial new money is created, there is an increase in spending as the money changes hands repeatedly. Entrepreneurs see this increase in spending and increase prices accordingly, in order to make a higher profit. According to the previous paragraph, there are two sources of money creation: printing of money by the central bank, and bank-created money by lending of credit. This may seem the case, but the real cause is only one of the above. Firstly, it may seem in the interest of fractional reserve banks to issue as many loans as possible to make more profit. This is not the case for two reasons. Firstly, fractional reserve banks are required to maintain an asset-to-capital multiple. Loans issued by banks are called assets, because they produce interest (income) for the bank. Capital is the amount of cash or easily-convertible-into-cash securities. Banks must maintain a certain amount of cash so that if everyone wants to withdraw their deposits at once, there won't be a run on the bank. (For an amusing example of a bank run, watch this YouTube video). Secondly, the central bank has the power to set the interest rate (called the key interest rate) at which banks lend money to each other. If this interest rate rises, it becomes more costly for banks to borrow money, and so they raise the interest rates on their consumer loans, which in turn discourages further borrowing and encourages paying back loans by consumers. If the key interest rate is lower, it becomes cheaper for banks to borrow money, and so they can issue more loans at lower interest rates, which encourages consumers to borrow and spend money. The central bank uses this key interest rate to control the money supply indirectly and speed up or slow down the creation of credit and the functioning of the economy.

So in essence, the central bank of a country controls the creation of the entire money supply, either directly or indirectly. But, there is a key difference between government-created money and bank-created money. When money is created through credit, the money can be paid back and consequently cease to exist. When money is "printed" by the central bank, it stays in existence. In addition, if the central bank keeps interest rates low, more loans and bank-created money are added to the system. For these reasons, one can blame the central bank for consistently increasing the money supply over the years, and consequently perpetuating inflation.

One might draw the conclusion that the money supply is "too big" and ask the question, what would be an optimal money supply? As it turns out, there is no "optimal" amount of money to have at the scale of today's economy. If central banks were to stop targeting interest rates and printing money when they deem prudent, the free market would determine the amount of money in circulation via supply and demand for money (or cash holdings). Similarly, supply and demand for credit would determine the market interest rates for loans. Inflation is not caused by a single increase in the money supply over the long term, it is caused by the fact that new money is not propagated across the economy instantly. When new money is created, those that hold it benefit by being able to spend the newly created money according to existing prices. Once the money propagates through the economy over time, prices tend to rise to adjust to the new total money supply. At some point, prices will reach a new range and tend to stay in that range according to the business cycle and other factors, provided no new increase in the money supply occurs. Due to central banks, the money supply changes constantly and rapidly, and so the new adjusted price range is never attained before the money supply increases again. The result is a constant increase in prices over the years.

Taken from

Monday, December 12, 2011

Alternatives to Government Bonds

Just recently, I've decided to sell all my government bonds for three reasons. The first reason is that I believe there could be a government bond price crash on the way. Secondly, I've just finished reading an introductory book on the Austrian School of economics. The Austrian School differs in many respect to the mainstream views of Keynesian economics, one of the most significant being the idea of government deficit spending. Keynesian economics recommends a government borrow money (by issuing government bonds) and spend beyond its current means to kick-start a slowed economy. The Austrian School feels that this is unsustainable, and I decidedly agree. For more details, see the link above to my other blog post about government bonds. My last reason is related to the second: I feel a moral opposition to holding my own government in debt to myself. I disagree with deficit spending, and it doesn't feel right to me, similar to how a banker shouldn't feel right lending more money to an already debt-burdened borrower, knowing full well that the borrower can't pay it back.

So, having decided the above, what should I replace my government bond holdings with? Government bonds are the go-to fixed income investment. They're typically safe (just pretend to ignore what's going on in Europe right now), and make a good hedge against stock market price movements and the risks of the equity portion of your portfolio. After some initial research, I've come up with some possible alternatives to holding government bonds. An alternative should fulfill the same requirements that government bonds do: produce income, provide safety, and price movements are independent of the stock market. Not all the suggestions below fill all the requirements perfectly, but they're what I've come up with so far.

  1. Corporate Bonds - Most bond funds have some corporate bonds thrown into their mix. Corporate bonds tend to be riskier than government bonds, but they also tend to have higher yields. Corporate bonds satisfy the income requirement. However, corporate bond prices can take a hit just as hard as the stock market in an economic downturn. At least if a corporation goes bankrupt, the bond-holders are paid off first, then the preferred share holders, then the common share holders, so at least there is some safety.
  2. REITs and Real Estate - Many people are still very wary about real estate exposure since everything that happened in 2008. However, if you're holding quality real estate investments that produce income (such as an REIT), rather than buying for the sake of capital gains, real estate can easily make up a significant chunk of a portfolio. Typical model portfolios I've seen on the web always seem to have "just a smidgen" of real estate exposure. If one does proper research, I don't see why real estate can't compose 10-20% of a portfolio. Real estate prices are supposed to move independently of the stock market, although that hasn't always been true in recent years. If safety is important, consider real estate investments such as companies that rent out to grocery stores and other essentials. Even in 2008, people still had to buy food, which means grocery stores were there paying rent so they could supply food.
  3. GICs and Market-Growth GICs - While GICs typically offer very low yields, they are still a possibility. Another alternative is the market growth GIC. If you buy one of those, you could earn interest anywhere from 0% to some ceiling, depending on how the stock market performs over that period of time. While your principle is always guaranteed, you should be comfortable with the fact that at the end of the term, you may not end up earning any interest at all.
  4. Gold - This last list item doesn't produce income, although I'm starting to give it consideration. Gold prices tend to increase as inflation increases, and governments always seem to be printing more money to pay off their debts and causing inflation. This could make gold a safe investment. There are many ways to get exposure to gold, and I'm researching more on the topic.
My holdings in government bonds currently consist of mutual fund units that can't be sold for 90 days since purchase without incurring an early-sale penalty fee. I intend to stop purchases and wait the 90 days to digest the information I've stated above and to consider alternatives. I might post back again in 2012 about what I decide.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Coming Government Bond Price Crash

Today, I finished an introductory book on the Austrian School of economic thought. The differences in economic beliefs of the Austrian School compared to the mainstream Keynesian school of thought are quite stark. According to Keynesian economics, when the economy is slowing or has slowed down (recession), the government should use deficit spending and set low interest rates to kick-start the economy again. Ever since 2008, the U.S. federal funds rate has been quite low, and the federal debt has increased significantly. Canada has managed to grow federal debt at a much slower rate, however interest rates in Canada are also quite low.

Because both countries are in relatively large amounts of debt (although to different degrees), both countries have a significant portion of the federal budget devoted to interest payment on that debt. There are three ways a government can obtain income for the purpose of spending: taxes, borrowing, and printing money. Tax increases are quite difficult to implement due to typically fierce opposition. This leaves borrowing, and printing money. Since governments are aware of what can happen if too much money is printed (hyperinflation), printing money may still be used to service debt, but not likely in excess. All that is left is to borrow more money to pay the interest on currently borrowed money. The U.S. debt scare during the summer of 2011 is proof that borrowing will simply continue because it's the only way not to default on interest payments (never mind paying down the principle amount!).

The method through which the government borrows money is to issue government bonds. Individuals and institutions buy these bonds, and receive their principle back plus interest at a later date. As with many other securities, bonds can be bought and sold on the market. Bond prices tend to move opposite of current interest rates at the time. To see why, consider the following. A bond yielding 2% interest is offered on the bond market for a certain price. Interest rates go up, and new bonds being sold yield 3%. Why would anyone buy the 2% bond when they could buy the higher-yielding 3% bond? To attract buyers, the price of the 2% bond must go down. If interest rates were to go down to 1%, the bond yielding 2% is now actually more valuable because it yields more interest. If this is the case, the price for the bond goes up.

As with any market good, bonds are subject to the laws of supply and demand. If there are few bonds being sold (small supply) and lots of people wanting to buy bonds (large demand), prices will tend to go up, and the highest bidders will get to buy the bonds. Conversely, if there are lots of bonds (large supply), and not many people wanting to buy bonds (small demand), prices will tend to go down to try and attract buyers.

At the current moment in time, it is difficult to tell what the demand for bonds is. Some consider bonds a pretty safe investment, and so may want to buy bonds. Others may not want to invest in bonds because they want access to their money right away, or they may not want to do any investing whatsoever due to all the horror stories about the economy not doing well. However, due to the government needing to borrow to service debt, it is safe to assume that the supply of bonds will in the best case stay constant and in the worst case increase.

Given the above statements, it is easy to summarize what will likely happen to bond prices in a chart:

Since it is more likely that the supply of bonds is going to increase, the price of bonds will either stay where it is if there is enough demand for bonds, or the price will fall (either somewhat or significantly). But remember the effect interest rates have on bonds! (Not represented in this chart). If interest rates go up, bond prices tend to go down. Interest rates are already low, and so have nowhere to go but up. So if we factor in that at some point in the future, interest rates will eventually go up, we can conclude that bond prices are in for a plummet at a certain point in time. This point in time will be when there is increased government borrowing and increased interest rates, both of which are almost certain to happen.

Success #3: Back To Business

Well, this blog of mine seems to have been feeling kind of neglected lately. It's because of many reasons, some of which are that I started blogging about finance on my work's internal blog not viewable by the public, I've been very busy with university, and I haven't had many funds available for investing.

Since I only started learning about personal finance about a year and a half ago, my views on how to invest have been constantly changing. In addition, I've been reading some books on value investing, as well as economics. Since it was my birthday in August and I changed from age 22 to age 23, I figured it was time to update my blog title. Not only that, I felt that a theme change would be fitting for my renewal in this blog's interest.

So what can you expect in the future on this blog? I'll be blogging about economics, as well as personal finance and investing. I'm decidedly a big believer in income investing and value investing, and I've learned much about how money is created, what central banks are, and some views on how those should play a role in the economy as a whole. I'll add a new "economics" label for posts so that there is a new category, as well as an "opinion" label. I hope you enjoy Starting Started at 22's revival!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Questrade Commission-Free ETFs, Not Yet

I've heard a lot about a couple brokerages in Canada offering no-commission ETF trades on specific ETFs lately, so I thought I'd ask Questrade if they had any plans to release such a feature. I don't want to switch away from Questrade's low commission fees, since I buy stocks as well as ETFs, but I don't mind waiting.

Here was my question:

I noticed that two brokerages in Canada have now begun offering commission-free ETF trades for specific ETFs. Does Questrade have any plans to offer a similar service? If so, I would switch my RRSP account to Questrade in a heartbeat, provided the variety of ETFs is good.

Here was their reply:

"Unfortunately, we currently still charge commissions on ETFs. We may look into the no commission ETFs; however, no discussions have occurred yet. Please feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Success #2: Rebalancing RRSP TD e-Series Mutual Funds for More Exposure

Last year, I recognized that my mutual fund fees were too high, and I switched my units over to the TD Canadian Index and TD Canadian Bond e-Series mutual funds. Since then, my investments have been doing well. However, I decided that since the S&P/TSX Index focuses a lot on financials, energy and mining, it might be a good idea to broaden my investment exposure. After all, true couch potato index investing states that one should invest in everything and diversify as much as possible. The S&P 500 (which the TD US Index e-Series fund tracks) has a pretty good balance across sectors that I wasn't exposed to with just the Canadian Index fund. I also decided to allocate a little bit of my portfolio to the TD International Index e-Series fund to get some exposure there as well.

Overall, I decided on the following balance between e-Series funds: 40% TD Canadian Bond, 30% TD Canadian Index, 20% TD US Index and 10% TD International Index. I did some reading on the experiences others had had with rebalancing their TD e-Series funds, and I came across a very useful spreadsheet:

If you Google search for switching fees regarding the TD e-Series funds, you will find many forum posts discussing the issue. I seem to have found an approximately equal amount of people that say the mutual fund units are First In, First Out (FIFO) and some say Last In, First Out (LIFO). With e-Series units, one cannot sell them before 90 days have passed since purchase without incurring a penalty fee for frequent trading. This includes units purchased through a Pre-authorized Purchase Plan (PPP). If the units are sold FIFO, that would mean that the most recently-bought units would be sold first. If the units are sold LIFO, the least recently-bought units would be sold first.

In my case, the units seem to have been sold LIFO, where the oldest units were sold first. I have made PPP purchases in the last 90 days, but the full dollar amounts that I transferred to the two new funds correspond exactly with their book values. I didn't see any kind of fee of 2% of the transfer balance.

Since I now have four different e-Series funds, I tried to figure out how I could contribute to them evenly, while keeping my RRSP contributions fairly low. I don't want to contribute too much to my RRSP since I'll have to start paying off my university student loans next year, and I still have one year of school left to do (tuition to pay, books to buy, etc.). Before, I contributed the minimum PPP amount ($25) to each of my two e-Series funds every month. Now however, I have 4 funds to contribute to. Even with the minimum PPP amount, I would be paying $100/month into my RRSP to contribute to each fund equally. This is more than I can handle, so I tried to see if there was an "every two months" option on the PPP form on TD EasyWeb's website. There wasn't, so I decided to call them and see if they could set something up for me. Unfortunately, whatever options are on the web form are the only PPP options. So I guess for now, I'll leave my two PPP transactions as is, and re-balance some of the units of those funds to the other two every 90 days or more.

Something strange I noticed about the e-Series funds is that I both sent an email and then an eService message to TD with regard to my PPP inquiry, and in both cases the reply was that "we are not trained in mutual funds, please call TD". I thought the point of e-Series funds was that they were to be managed online and online only. I really hope they don't try and revoke my e-Series agreement, but if they do, I'll point out how I tried twice to contact them through online means.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


In the past few months, I've been reading and learning about how to do fundamental analysis of a stock to determine its growth or value potential. I did some analysis of a few stocks listed on the TSX, and I came up with 15 potential growth candidates. I haven't done any deeper analysis yet, just some initial weeding out of stocks that didn't fit my basic criteria.

I decided to create a new portfolio in Google Finance and add my 15 hopefuls to it, just to see which ones outperformed the others. I added hypothetical transaction data to each stock so that the cost basis was around $500 for each one. This is my personal minimum amount to invest in a stock, since it makes brokerage fees around 1% of the total amount being invested. All in all, my hypothetical cost basis was around $7,700. In the two weeks since I started the portfolio, it has gone up to +3% and is now around +1.6%. While it's true that two weeks is a very short time frame for growth investing, I realized something as I checked on the portfolio every day.

I have read many times before how diversification in a portfolio is essential for mitigating concentration risk. I didn't actually realize the true value of diversification until I saw it in action. The worst of my 15 picks is currently down $62. However, my overall portfolio is up by $63. Just under half of my picks are in the red by small amounts, but from diversifying across multiple stocks I have managed to keep the overall portfolio value positive.

Since this is all hypothetical, it's purely for the sake of learning on my part. However, it made me re-examine my current strategy for my real stock portfolio. Up until now, I've been working on building a dividend growth portfolio. The dividend growth strategy is a valid strategy, however it takes a fair amount of capital before the dividends start to really pay off. The dividend growth strategy also takes patience, which I don't seem to have when I say that I'm considering switching strategies.

I have two excuses for moving away from the dividend growth strategy for the time being. Firstly, my whole investing experience so far has been all about learning as much as I can, both by reading about the vast amount of things there are to know about investing, and also to learn by doing. Learning investing through hands-on experience was my inspiration for starting this blog in the first place. Secondly, as I mentioned above, it takes a significant amount of capital to earn meaningful dividend amounts through a brokerage account every so often. It's a little different if you buy shares direct and can hold fractional shares, but that's not the case for me.

So after taking a good look at my diversified pretend portfolio, I saw the true power of diversification and the role it plays in growing your money. Since I have a very limited amount of money to invest with, I decided to try and grow my account more efficiently and effectively. Perhaps a few years down the road when I have more income available and a larger balance in my TFSA, I can consider re-implementing the dividend growth strategy.

If I want instant diversification and my TFSA is a discount brokerage account, what's the first thing that comes to mind? ETFs! I did a little research on what types of ETFs are available on the TSX, and what sectors and market caps they cover. I came up with a few choices and put them into a new hypothetical portfolio in Google Finance. Then I scrolled down to the portfolio performance window, and checked off the box for comparing portfolio performance with that of the S&P/TSX index. As it turns out, my ETF choices outperform the S&P/TSX by almost 10% over the past 12 months! I have yet to examine the risks associated with each ETF, and I also need to decide what percentage of my portfolio each ETF should occupy. I'm excited to try out a new strategy, and I've now given you fair warning for the types of posts you might see on this blog in the near future.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

RRSP First Time Home Buyer's Plan

Just recently, I was getting my taxes done at a tax preparation company, and was discussing my RRSP with the employee there. I mentioned that I was planning on using the RRSP's first-time Home Buyer's Plan (HBP) in the next few years for a down-payment on a house. The employee also knew that I have a Tax-Free Savings Account, and politely told me that in his opinion, I should be using my TFSA instead of my RRSP to save for a house down-payment.

His reasoning was that the money I currently have in my RRSP would disappear when I make use of the HBP, and then I would be missing out on years of growth in that account until I fully paid back the balance. I gave this some thought, and while that fact is true, it's also true of the TFSA, or any other account I might decide to use. Money spent is money lost, which is money that can't grow because it's gone, no matter what account you hold it in. However, his recommendation to use a different account still merited some further reading.

After reading up on how the HBP works, I have decided that I will make a change of plans, and use an account other than my RRSP to save for a house down-payment. The HBP is essentially a loan that you owe to yourself, and that loan remains even, if you go bankrupt. While I don't plan on going bankrupt, it might still be too stressful to have that loan hanging over my head. Around the time I decide to buy a house, I will probably have just finished paying off my student loan. I know that a mortgage is also a loan, but I wouldn't want to have that extra HBP loan tacked on to me as well.

If I decide to use my TFSA or some other account to save for a down-payment, I would highly enjoy having the option and not the obligation to pay back the amount I withdraw. This also frees the money in my RRSP of dual purpose. The money I have in there currently will just stay in there and grow for the main purpose it's there: to save for retirement.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Questrade Error: ECN Not Supported

Yesterday, I decided to try and place a market order to buy a stock outside regular market hours. Since I work full time and I'm not permitted to use the computer at work for stock trading at any time, I don't have access to the market during trading hours. So I logged in to my Questrade account, and decided to place a Good Till Cancelled (GTC) market order. This means that the order stands until it is fulfilled, or until you cancel it yourself. You can place a GTC type of order at any time, so that means that my buy order will take place Monday morning, when the market opens (since it is a market order, meaning buy at whatever the going price is at the time). I left the Preferred ECN setting on AUTO, and I checked off "All or none", meaning that the order should buy all shares at once, or wait until doing so is possible.

When I placed my order, I was met with the error: "Order rejected" and "ECN not supported". I tried once again, and got the same error. I decided to go on Questrade's live help chat to see if they could help me with the error. After waiting a while, the Questrade employee looked into my order history, and told me to try placing the order without "All or none" checked off. When I tried this suggestion, the order was accepted and in the "Queued" state. Monday after work, I should have my new stock.

Update: Turns out Monday after work, my order was rejected again with the error "ECN rejected". I Googled for this error and found that someone else had the same problem when placing a market order outside market hours. It was theorized that market orders are only meant to be executed immediately, so it was no surprise that a market order failed outside trading hours, even when set to GTC. I tried placing a limit order as GTC this time, set to the stock's closing price today. Tuesday after work, I should have my stock.

For information on Questrade's post-market trading policies, there is information at this link.

Update: Order succeeded.

Update: I had similar issues when trying to sell a stock outside market hours. I did everything I mentioned above in this blog post, and yet my orders were still being rejected instantly. I had been setting a limit order to sell at the closing price of that day, but I tried setting the limit price one cent higher than the closing price, and it finally worked. I came home the next day after work to find that the order had been filled, only at a different price than my limit price. Luckily my shares sold for slightly higher than I had put. All in all, very weird. I don't really like doing this trading outside market hours, but I guess I have no choice.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

RRSP vs. TFSA: Who cares?!

Now that the TFSA has been around for a while, people have some significant used or potential contribution room for their account. This has given rise to the debate between the RRSP account and the TFSA account. Which is better? Which should I contribute to? What are the benefits, risks, and best practices for me? What if I'm heavily taxed in retirement? What if I don't get as much Old Age Security?

If you're young like me (22 years of age), I say who gives a flying fig? I have both accounts, and I contribute to both evenly. Each account has its purpose, and I'll meet whatever complications arise 40 years from now when they come. What else can I do? There is absolutely no way of predicting what taxes will be in four decades, what income bracket I fit into, whether I'll be eligible for OAS. I say that it's essentially a guessing game as to whether taxes will be higher or lower when I start withdrawing from my RRSP when I retire. If I don't qualify for OAS because I have too much money that I can live off of on my own, isn't that fair?

My plan is this: Contribute to my RRSP for the purpose of a first-time-home-buyer down-payment. Contribute to my TFSA to build a dividend growth portfolio. Simple. Sound principle, should work out just fine if I'm disciplined in sticking to my plan. I don't give a hoot which is better.

Edit: An update on my RRSP plan: RRSP First Time Home Buyer's Plan

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Back to Investing

After a period of 4 months of unemployment, I once again have an income. I decided not to work during my school term at university, in favour of studying and improving my grades to attempt to renew my scholarship. I have set up Pre-authorized Purchase Plans (PPP) for my two RRSP mutual funds, alternating contributions to each every two weeks (every pay day). This way, I'll keep my allocation at about 50-50 equity and bonds. If I want to fine-tune the allocations, I'll have to save up $100 to contribute since that's the minimum contribution outside of a PPP. I've also started contributing small amounts to my stock-trading TFSA account. Once I get enough for a round of dividend stock purchase, I'll post another dividend stock analysis on what I decide to buy. Stay tuned!