March 1, 2017

2016 Taxes

Filed under: Uncategorized — MikeT @ 9:05 am

Happy tax time! I look forward to assisting again for all your tax prep and filing needs.

February 7, 2017

Markets, Statements and Taxes

Filed under: Uncategorized — MikeT @ 11:00 am

The beginning of widespread Internet use in the 1990s brought us into the age of information. With gadgetry now in the palm of our hands, many believe we now live in an age of entertainment. All the information I seem to be getting these days has left me feeling anything but entertained though. Whether you’re pro or anti Trump, I’m sure you realize the new President of the United States (and former star of The Apprentice) will play a major role in global events over the next several years. Reality TV appears to be degrading society in a much greater way than first thought…

Trump’s move into the white house has had some upbeat spinoffs – investment markets, mostly North American, experienced large gains in late 2016 (Dow Jones 18.4%, S&P 500 12%, S&P/TSX 21.1%). This on talk of tax reforms for corporations and general business-friendly mood of the new administration, which has left investors feeling confident. Several fund managers we invest with see short to mid-term upside in the US (meaning good potential for positive returns). But beyond the promise of lower tax rates, corporations are strong and sit well in a global economy that has room to grow. Many global equity funds hold vast amounts of US names in their portfolios and seem content to remain invested in this part of the world for now. It’s the main thing I continue to keep my eye on for two reasons: 1) Trump’s protectionism could hinder the US economy 2) portfolios could get too overweight in US allocation as fund managers become too bullish. It’s a developing situation and rest assured I will continue to monitor and make recommendations to your holdings.

For those who do not access accounts online and mainly track investment assets through physical statements, note that Worldsource has been delayed by a week with year-end statements. There have been many changes in the presentation of these statements in order to provide investors with greater insight into their holdings. I welcome the change as I found previous statements to be quite vague. Should you have any questions on these statements upon arrival, don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m also happy to assist anyone who does not have or has forgotten login information for online accounts.

We’re also moving closer to tax time…April 30th will be here quicker than you think! If taxes is something I have assisted you with in the past, or is something you would like me to being processing this year, please feel free to let me know once all your tax stubs are in and you are ready to go.

Thanks for taking the time to read – I appreciate your business and value the opportunity to continue working with you in the future!


February 15, 2016

2015 Taxes

Filed under: Uncategorized — MikeT @ 12:58 pm

Happy tax time! Contact me once you have all your tax slips – the sooner the better to get everything processed before the rush!

January 15, 2016

2015: The Year of Words

Filed under: Financial Planning,Investments — MikeT @ 12:57 pm

The study of the history of words is called Etymology and includes the study of word origins, how words are formed and how their definitions have changed over time. Although the written word was invented in southern Mesopotamia, c. 3500 -3000 BCE, words continue to evolve every day. On the topic of words, American poet Emily Dickinson once wrote, “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word”. Little did she know when she penned these words how quickly the world of words would evolve. Today we live in a world where information is readily available through many mediums. But even as advances in technology have enabled us to quickly enlighten ourselves, communication and news is still driven by the words used by journalists, politicians and policy makers. As a result, it is words that will forever shape our lives, help us form opinions and provide us with the information that we need to make the decisions that affect our future.

To this end, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2015 is “emoji”. Yes it’s true, a pictograph that is often used to express joy, sadness, anger and mischievousness, beat out traditional letter-based expressions. While the use of the proper emoji was on our minds in 2015, so too were other words, such as the Merriam-Webster dictionaries Word of the Year which for the first time named the suffix “ism” as its annual award winner. This choice illustrated that in 2015 a commonality existed in its most searched words: socialism, fascism, feminism, capitalism, racism and terrorism. The popularity of these words reflects the impact that events such as the troubling acts of terrorism in Paris in January and November had on 2015 as well as the resurrection of the word “socialism” in the same breathe as American politics.

However, ism’s and emoji’s were not the only words that dominated the political landscape in 2015, as terms such as “Grexit” (which references the potential exit of Greece from the Eurozone monetary union) and “Migrant Crisis” (which summarizes the movement of over a million migrants and/or refugees from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe) were used throughout the year.

While the threat of a Grexit reached its climax in the mid-2015 it subsequently diminished after the Greek government accepted a three-year, 86 billion euro rescue plan from its Eurozone partners in July. With the threat of a Grexit (at least) put on hold we can now draw our attention in 2016 to a similar play on words, that of “Brexit” which refers to, the potential of Britain’s exit from the EU, which will be voted on in a national referendum to be held perhaps as early as the summer of 2016.

The end of 2015 also saw the US Federal Reserve implement the word “tightening” for the first time since June 29th, 2006, when on December 16, 2015, they increased interest rates from an upper bound of .25 per cent to .50 per cent.

While the US tightened much of the rest of the world “eased”, as the Bank of Canada (BOC), European Central Bank (ECB), the Bank of Japan (BOJ) and the People’s Bank of China continued to maintain their easing biases.

In 2015 it also wasn’t just linguists who chose to create and popularize words; other organizations such as the National Football League coined words such as “Deflategate” (created to enlighten football fans on the amount of air pressure required to inflate NFL game ready footballs), while pop culture popularized the word “Yas” to vocalize ones approval of the subject at hand.

Like any year, 2015 had its share of highs and lows. It was a year that according to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration saw average temperatures in the US rise to the second highest level on record (only 2012 was hotter), marking the 19th year in a row that average temperatures have exceeded the 20th century average.

It was a year where the words used by global leaders such as Angela Merkel commanded the spotlight while others used by US presidential hopeful Donald Trump perplexed us. It was a year that on August 24th saw the Dow Jones Industrials Average have its biggest fall in four years, plunging more than 1,000 points at the open to eventually settle down 588 points on the day. And, as a result, saw the increase in the use of the word “volatility” by the financial press.

And finally, 2015 was the year that the “Force” finally “Awakened”, giving young and old alike, a new (and old) set of heroes to cheer for.

July 1, 2015

A Greek Tragedy

Filed under: Financial Planning,Investments — MikeT @ 12:52 pm

Now that the first half of 2015 is in the record books, it is a perfect time to reflect on what has happened so far and contemplate what the rest of 2015 will bring. Movie buffs will remember how “Back to the Future Part 2″ depicted 2015 – with flying cars and fusion power, which back in 1989, when the movie was produced, seemed ridiculously farfetched. While we may not yet have flying cars, 2015 brought the FIFA Women’s World Cup to Canada, and made it the runaway hit on our “smaller screens”.

The first half of the year also saw the retirement of another small screen icon. David Letterman retired from his late night show in May after a 30 plus year run. We also saw the release of Canada’s federal budget in April which, among other things, increased the amount that Canadians can contribute to their Tax Free Savings Account from $5,500 each year to $10,000. Yes the first half of 2015 has certainly had a little something for everyone. There have been ups, downs, and a lot of drama.

Greek politics once again dominated the headlines in the second quarter with each new deadline to repay its creditors and introduce new austerity measures coming and going, without resolution. While growth throughout the Eurozone was showing signs of a modest recovery prior to the latest “Greek Tragedy”, following the introduction of Quantitative Easing, the sustainability of that recovery is now in question given the escalation of the Greek crisis and potential contagion.

However, it must be said that despite the return of volatility in financial markets in Europe, the direct impact from a default on Greek debt is much less today than in 2012, as European bank holdings of Greek debt are only a fraction of what they once were. As well as the financial condition of peripheral countries such as Spain, Italy and Portugal have improved significantly over the last few years.

Perhaps overshadowed in the second quarter by Greece, was China. After the Shanghai Composite index rose approximately 150% from June 2014 to the middle of June 2015 it decreased sharply, causing concerns about the Chinese economy going forward. Should the economy not stabilize, it is expected that China will continue to introduce stimulus measures in a controlled and directed manner to try and achieve its targeted 7.0% growth rate.

Meanwhile, the United States remains the single bright spot in the global economy with solid economic data, albeit with a softer than expected start to the year. The timing of the Fed’s first rate hike remains the subject of continuous debate. Given the data-dependent nature of the decision and the recent firming of data points, it is expected that the Fed will begin to moderately raise the Fed Funds rate by year-end, assuming the Greek crisis is contained. The Fed’s ability to balance the gradual tapering of monetary stimulus without interrupting the U.S. recovery, or damaging investor sentiment, will be a key driver of the U.S. economy and equity markets.

The situation in Greece is not new to the Eurozone and Greece is not the only country to require aid from Eurozone members who seem intent on keeping the union together and in avoiding the spread of contagion to other countries. However going forward, it is likely that any headline news event will result in increased volatility in financial markets. Just imagine what the introduction of the first flying car will do!

March 1, 2015

2014 Tax Season

Filed under: Taxes — MikeT @ 11:36 am

Less than two months to get your tax return filed! Well, if you or your spouse don’t have any self-employed income during 2014. In that case, you have until June 15th to get your return in. Remember though, you still have to get any amounts owing paid by April 30th to avoid interest.

Did you know you can view your tax slip information, RRSP deduction limits, contribution space in TFSAs, as well as pay with pre-authorized debt and track your return and refund once it’s filed?!? Go to to register today.

July 16, 2014

The Perspective – Investors Rewarded with Strong Gains

Filed under: Uncategorized — MikeT @ 11:30 am

The first half of 2014 is now behind us! What started off as a banner year for Canadian athletes in the Sochi winter Olympics (where Canada won 25 medals including ten gold medals) has continued on the venerated grass courts of Wimbledon where young Canadian tennis players Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard broke through to the semi-finals and finals respectively.  While Canadian athletes reaped the rewards of their efforts during the first half of 2014, so too have Canadian investors who in the middle of June finally saw the S&P/TSX index close above its pre 2008 credit crises high. 

In fact, thus far Canadian equities have led the way in 2014. Tthe S&P/TSX Composite Index gaining 12.86% (Guardian Capital LP), handily outpacing most other developed markets such as the S&P 500 and MSCI world’s indices which were both up 7.54% and 6.58%, respectively (Guardian Capital LP). 

While the Canadian economy has continued to gain traction there is some concern about the US economy which, due to an unusually harsh winter suffered a drop in economic output in the first quarter of the year. This drop in economic activity in the first quarter was largely caused by weakness in the housing sector, net exports and healthcare spending and has changed course in the second quarter which has seen improved economic data led by higher employment. Financial markets are nonetheless still wrestling with the US economies ability to sustain growth especially with the continued tapering of quantitative easing as the US Federal Reserve once again reduced monthly bond purchases from $45 billion to $35 billion (in June). This is now less than half the $85 billion a month it was pumping into the economy in 2013.

While the Sochi Olympics captured our attention in the first quarter, geo political risks led by Russia’s efforts to reclaim the Crimean Peninsula from the Ukraine captured our attention in the second quarter as did the renewed fighting seen in Iraq.  

In Europe, the second quarter was dominated by elections and saw the rise of anti-Europe parties throughout the European Union especially in France where the “Anti-EU National Front”  gained 26% of the vote.  June also saw the European Central Bank (ECB) cut interest rates to record lows and announce that for the first time it will begin charging banks on overnight deposits, in an attempt to force them to increase lending to smaller businesses. While the ECB stopped short of promising a US style Quantitative Easing program it did announce its intention to do more in order to stimulate economic growth.

Meanwhile, China has also struggled as the economy continues to be weighed down by the housing market. In a recent survey by Bloomberg, economists expect that GDP growth in China will be the lowest level in 24 years.

Although, the sustained efforts of the world’s central banks in providing monetary stimulus to financial markets appears to have positioned global economies to continue upon a path of slow recovery, there are still risks. Perhaps the biggest of which is the lack of volatility across asset classes which can sometimes be interpreted as over optimism amongst investors. As always optimism needs to be paired with balance.

April 25, 2014

The Perspective – Spring 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — MikeT @ 11:28 am

Winter, Snow, Polar Vortex, Frost Quake!  Raise your hand if you are one of the millions of people whose fingers are crossed that these words are a thing of the past.  If you feel like this winter was one of the worst you can remember, you’re probably right. A “misery index” released by meteorologists from the U.S. National Weather Service shows  that the winter of 2014 was indeed one of the most miserable on record.

However, one bright spot is that while we hibernated, Canada put forth a tremendous effort in the Sochi Winter Olympics, and while we didn’t surpass our Vancouver 2010 gold medal count, gold medals won in men’s and women’s hockey satisfied a nation’s expectations and hopes.

And now we can finally look forward to spring which has already brought the vernal equinox which is the day of the year when light and dark are balanced. True or not, it’s said that on this day you can balance an egg on its end.  Although we still have a little way to go to really enjoy the warmth and light that spring brings, we can begin to think about what we can do to renew ourselves and to better balance our lives.

While the first quarter of 2014 has seen political unrest in Eastern Europe between Russia and the Ukraine, a new Prime Minister in Italy and weak news about the state of China’s industrial production, the story of the first quarter has really been about balance.

Under the leadership of new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen the US has continued to claw back their bond purchasing program known as “Quantitative Easing”. Designed to stimulate economic activity in the wake of the 2008 credit crisis, quantitative easing at its zenith called for the monthly purchase of $85 Billion of US bonds by the Central Bank. In December 2013 Ben Bernacke finally ended speculation about when the US Federal Reserve would begin to reduce Quantitative Easing when he announced his intention to reduce the amount of QE from $85 billion to $75 billion a month. Two federal reserve committee meetings later have seen the Fed continue along this course, tapering the purchase of Treasury bonds by a further $20 billion (down to $55 billion per month) and remain on course for a complete exit of Quantitative Easing by the end of the year.

The theme of balance was also echoed in Canada when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered what will be his last budget in February. In this budget he promised to bring balance to federal spending in 2015. Perhaps it is this balance that will form part of Flaherty’s legacy as if budget 2014 projections prove true; there will be a surplus in Federal spending for the first time since the 2007/2008 fiscal year.

So while the winter of 2014 saw consumers retreat to their homes, where they cozied up to their television sets to cheer on their favorite athletes, the spring has finally sprung and consumers are expected to spend once again, thus helping the global economycontinue to grow at a slow yet steady pace.

March 2, 2014

2013 Tax Season

Filed under: Uncategorized — MikeT @ 11:24 am

Tax time is here!  Contact me once you have all your tax slips – the sooner the better to get everything processed before the rush!

November 1, 2013

The Perspective – Fall 2013

Filed under: Investments — MikeT @ 12:09 am

At the end of the third quarter the S&P/TSX composite index had increased by 5.31% (CPMS) on a year to date basis while the S&P500 was up 23.83% (TD Securities & Bloomberg).

While there is always a desire to try to measure investment performance, doing so against a market index may not be the most appropriate measure. This is because an index is a representation, rather than a benchmark.  The representation the index makes is only possible without the factors that govern our day to day existence.  Unlike most investors the index feels no fear nor does it have taxes to pay.  The index does not put children through school, never buys a house, and never plans to retire.  An index, in short, makes a poor proxy for the goals of an individual investor over any period of time, be it short or long-term.

The factors that drive individual investment decisions are myriad; dividend payment, dividend growth, earnings per share, quality of earnings, the industry, and broadly that each of those individual criteria are improving each day.  An oft quoted maxim from popular investment icon Warren Buffet is “I never attempt to make money on the stock market. I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for five years.”  If indeed the market were closed for five years, it would be impossible to produce a value for the S&P 500, or the TSX, or any index for that matter.

Arguably investor’s should use vastly different criteria to measure their personal portfolio returns than index returns.  Instead of asking what the index did, investors should ask if the portfolio matches their personal objectives, and if the economies that the portfolio is exposed to, are better off today than yesterday?

Investors are not the only individuals that can use benchmarks to evaluate performance, as voters can also create benchmarks to evaluate their government’s performance. In creating political benchmarks voters can prioritize matters that are important to them such as taxes, social services, healthcare, humanitarian aid, deficit reduction, and how they worked with other government parties to better the economy and country.

While Canada’s federal government has of late been mired in spending scandals a more interesting study from a benchmarking standpoint might be that of the US government, who on Thursday October 17, came to an agreement on a deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. Without this deal, it was a very real possibility that the U.S. would default on its debt, which likely would have caused a financial catastrophe.

While nothing more than a short term fix, this deal does fund the government through January 15, and raises the debt ceiling until February 7. The reality is this deal did not fix any of the underlying issues. No progress was made on the budget, tax reform and the Tea Party’s view on Obamacare. It was 16 days of posturing and bickering and accomplished nothing.

With focus now back squarely on the economy until early in the new year, American voters must now ask themselves if the government is performing the way they want it to and if it not then just as with portfolio evaluation they must reassess their options.

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