Moving Target

Big international business or small local business – customers are at a premium and always considered a moving target. Know your client, know your customer and know your Canadian financial marketplace.

So what went wrong with the biggest North American big box mall maneuver ever? Target came in like a lion and left like a lamb. This was the biggest, and apparently the best, attempt to dominate an already vibrant retail market in Canada with one fell swoop. Like a powerful army with skilled and experienced generals alongside the most up-to-date equipment and technology. This massive show of force was readied to fight both established Canadian giants, known rivals and opposition forces with less time, money, patience and planning than required.

It’s been less than 2 years; don’t they know most businesses fail in the first two years. It’s unfortunate but we did call them through our sales department at MONEY® to do business. And none was to be found, hard to reach, no call back from Target head office lead them to a self serving, American style of advertising and marketing, and evidently to their demise.

Coming to Canada in a big way you need the support of ‘friendlies’, allies and ground troupes that know, understand and consistently work with Canadian’s as a different breed. Canadian’s love American football, baseball, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Mickey Mouse. But not everything made in the U.S. is a sure fire hit in Canada. Even the Excited States of America and other strong foreign brands will be surprised about our harsh land and simple, loyal people. It’s not so easy to be successful in anything, anywhere. There are some basics that we can all learn whether you are a well-branded box mall retailer or a mom and pop location.

Know your local Canadian and they will tell you for free, over coffee, what ever you want to know. It’s always a good idea to get advice. Good local advice and knowledge is usually proven to be wise and helpful to most foreign travellers and businesses. Enough said – there was always good, smart and local advice a bound but it wasn’t asked for nor taken. Heads will roll for this failure and retreat at the bunker and command centre in Minnesota.

How embarrassing! And at what cost to the giant retailer and the Canadian government that would allow such a thing. The next time a politician talks about jobs, jobs, jobs. Ask them how many jobs, if they are low paying, without benefits, part-time and how long will these jobs be around.

 

 
I understand the world is a small place after all, and they always said there would be more of a global economy, but this is indeed a strange story that takes place over 2 years and winds down in another year or so.

It may be studied in accounting and business courses in Canada over the next 10 years. Target moving leaves many Canadian’s out of work and with more questions than answers for now; like why and how could this happen and who really is culpable for this now North American business decision disaster.

The Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario where 800 mostly
full time American’s and Canadian’s worked is now on a skeleton staff with most of them in contingency roles helping to liquidate and wind down the companies affairs with a road map to exit Canada faster than they came in.

Target Corporation announced Jan. 15 that it was pulling out of Canada, less than two years after opening its first stores. Instead of turning a profit within a year as expected, the company has lost $7-billion.

It was supposed to be the Minneapolis based discount retailer’s first international expansion attempt. Canadian stores were run through
a wholly owned, indirect subsidiary called Target Canada Co. The Canadian subsidiary will be filing for bankruptcy in Canada or commonly known as Chapter 11 in the U.S. Target is to present a motion to the court in early February asking for approval to appoint a joint venture of liquidation companies to sell off the contents of its 133 stores across Canada.

According to the court documents, notices of termination have been sent to the vast majority of 17,600 employees – almost half of who work at Target stores and offices in Ontario. The head office in Mississauga is being operated with a reduced team focused on winding down the business in an orderly fashion. The liquidation is to be completed no later than May 15, 2015 but sales at some stores are expected to be finished as early as the end of March, according to the documents.

A few bargains will exist for consumers and liquidators over the next few months. The usual suspects and giant retailers are ready to celebrate and some of them spinning offers of more part-time and low paying jobs with few benefits and no guarantees.

Seven Habits of a Happy Retirement

So often, questions about retirement centre around money. While money is definitely a key factor in retirement planning, it is only one piece of a much bigger picture. I’ve talked to a lot of retirees in my career and, when it comes to those who are truly enjoying their “golden years”, I’ve noticed that there are similarities in the ways they have approached retirement and most interestingly, most of their success is not all about the money! Here’s my list of seven habits that are key to a happy retirement.

1. Stay Busy
The happiest retirees I meet tend to be the busiest. I’m sure you can think of many retirees today that are busier in retirement than before they retired. Rather than sitting around wondering how to fill all those hours between breakfast and dinner that used to be taken up with working, happy retirees spend their days doing the things they love to do. Whether those things are home-based such as cooking, reading, crafting or gardening or based outside the home such as spending time with friends or travelling doesn’t really matter. Staying busy gives a purpose to each day and gives you things to look forward to.

2. Develop a Healthy Lifestyle
Many studies have shown that the human body is better able to repair and maintain itself when you keep it well conditioned through good nutrition and regular exercise. This is especially important for retirees. A lot of age related problems such as muscle loss, deteriorating bone density and declining strength and flexibility can be combatted through regular exercise and it’s also been shown that exercising boosts your mood. Whether it’s walking, cycling, yoga or something else altogether, even a small amount of activity every day can make a huge difference.

3. 80% Routine and 20% Impulse
Routine becomes increasingly important you age and move further into retirement. Routine gives structure and simple habits such as a weekly club meeting or a monthly dinner date with friends can make retirement more enjoyable. Routines and structure give you things to look forward to. As important as routine is to retirement, it is also important to step outside of that routine and try new experiences. Spontaneity adds an element of fun to life and, if retirement is a reward for decades of hard work, it’s only fair to incorporate a healthy dose of fun into the mix.

4. Talk to People Every Day
Often, one of the biggest challenges for new retirees is leaving behind a busy work environment filled with opportunities for social interaction. Human beings are social by nature and even the most introverted person needs the energy boost that comes from interacting and talking with others. For some, it can be hard to build a social network in retirement but whether you’re chatting in person, over the phone or via the internet, it’s important to find a way to interact regularly with others.

5. Volunteer and Give Back
The beauty of volunteering is that it is often just as rewarding for the volunteer as it is for the organization that you are helping. Whether you have time once a month or several times a week, chances are there’s a volunteer opportunity that’s perfect for you in your local area. Volunteering can be an opportunity to share your expertise or to learn new skills and it often provides the added benefits of exercise and social interaction that are so important to good health in retirement.

6. Live Within Your Means
Financial stress can be debilitating. It can be especially hard in retirement when taking on a part-time job to relieve the pressure may not be an option. A key component of good retirement planning is to establish how much money you will have coming in each month and a key component of good retirement living is not to spend more than that amount. This is especially important in the early years of retirement when investment and savings accounts look extremely healthy.

7. Automate Your Income
Managing income or paying bills automatic, can be powerful because it takes the responsibility for remembering out of your hands. It also helps ensure that your financial goals don’t get derailed by a poor memory, a great opportunity or a bargain that was just too good to pass up. Automating income in retirement allows you to create a regular income stream that meets your needs and it reduces the risk that you will spend more than you planned to without realizing.

In the same way that each of us is an individual, so each person’s experience of retirement is an individual one. What makes retirement happy may vary dramatically from person to person but I believe each of these habits can definitely make our retirement years more enjoyable and more rewarding.

Jim Yih is a best selling author, fee only financial advisor, a professional speaker and the founder of the award winning blog RetireHappy.ca. You can find him on twitter @jimyih.

So-called “Financial Experts” are anything but!

Five dozen financial “experts” tracked by CXO Advisory Group LLC of Manassas, Va., over the past two years were right only about 48% of the time incalling the broad direction of the U.S. stock market.

Mad Money’s Jim Cramer saw the future with 47%  accuracy, while bond king Bill Gross’s public forecasts were on the money only 46% of the time. If the gurus tracked by CXO were taking a fortune-telling class, they would flunk out of soothsaying school. But their unimpressive showing demonstrates an important truth: The stock market stumps even the best minds. 

Even the patterns that do emerge usually sucker us all. Consider emerging markets. Stock markets in developing countries handily outperformed those in the developed world from 1988 to 2009. So does that mean you should jump into emerging markets now? Slight alterations of starting and ending points can radically alter your conclusions.

As mentioned above, emerging markets outperformed developed markets from 1988 to 2009 – but they lagged behind from 1985 to 2006. It’s small wonder that most people don’t spend much time mulling these baffling patterns. Unfortunately, they do something even more dangerous: They simply jump on board whatever is hot or sell whatever is cold. 

During the 1990s, anyone who mentioned dividend paying stocks was laughed at, derided as a relic and left in the dust by the fast growth investors who were loading up on the hot dot.com stocks. This trend lasted for ten years and many called even people like Warren Buffett an old fuddy-duddy.

Today, with dividend-paying stocks all the rage, many investors are doing the opposite. They’re abandoning growth stocks and stocking their portfolios full of utilities, consumer staples companies and other “can’t miss” propositions. They may be right, but we strongly suspect that dividend-paying stocks will, at some point, lag the market for years, simply because they’ve been bid up so high. When that happens, many recent converts to the style will abandon it. That’s a pity, but it’s a predictable – and costly – reality of human behaviour.

The Chicago-based research firm Dalbar found that the average investor has underperformed the market, each and every year, since it began compiling data in 1990. The S&P 500 index returned an average 9.14 per cent over thepast 20 years, while the average investor earned only 3.83 per cent.

We all wish we knew what would be the biggest winners of tomorrow. We don’t and neither does anyone else. So we suggest to always invest in a diversified portfolio and rebalance annually and forget about trying to outsmart an unpredictable market. If you’re diversified enough, you will own both developed-world and emerging market stocks and more. You won’t have to guess the decade’s next great strategy. Best of all, you can spend your time playing with your kids or grandkids instead of asking questions about the direction of the markets.

But… forecasting has become like a sport (we want winners and losers). We tracked down one forecast that got 2012 mostly right (a winner). But…we caution you to place your future bets carefully…

— Adrian Reynolds is a 20 year vetran of the financial services industry; currently with DeThomas Financial Corp

HOW TO KEEP A LID ON INVESTING STRESS

Who would like more stress in their lives? We are all feeling overwhelmed with the credit crises, de-leveraging crises, housing crises, banking crises, etc. We want to help reduce your stress level, so here are four ways to help reduce your investment stress:

1. STOP TRADING SO MUCH

Over-trading is one of the surest ways to crank up your stress level – and hurt your portfolio returns. If the transaction costs don’t kill you, the stress will. In a study conducted by University of California finance professors Barber and Odean, active traders underperformed the market average by nearly seven percentage points.

“Our central message is that trading is dangerous to your wealth,” they wrote. It is far better – both for your emotional and financial well-being – to buy and hold high quality investments whose earnings and dividends rise over time.

2. STOP CHECKING PORTFOLIO EVERY DAY

Watching your portfolio like a hawk may seem like the thing to do, but it is a recipe for stress and disaster. Why? It has to do with basic math, and the way the human brain processes winning and losing. Suppose your portfolio returns 15% with a risk level (or standard deviation ratio) of 10% annually.

Given these assumptions:

  • your portfolio has a 93% chance of rising in any given year
  • In any given quarter there is a 77% chance of gains
  • In any given month the odds fall to 67%
  • And if you check your portfolio daily, the probability of it being up is just 51.3%.

In other words, you will be disappointed roughly half the time if you check your account daily.

Now consider this: Research has shown that people experience more emotional pain from a financial loss than joy from a financial gain. So…if you check your portfolio often, you are going to be stressed almost 50% of the time. And in a bear market, you will be downright miserable.

3. FIND A BALANCE

This is the simplest and most powerful investing truism when building portfolios: How much risk can you handle? Once you find the right mix, stick with it. That means re-balancing on a regular basis (suggested annually) which is less stressful than trying to guess which way the market is heading.

Finding the risk level you can tolerate is almost as stressful as the market itself. Everyone takes a stab at this “risk measurement.” We have found the more at stake, the more stressful investors become. After twenty years in the financial business, we think we have found the reason why: losing 10% on $10,000 is one thing but losing 10% on a million may be another thing. So…look at your risk loss limit (in terms of percentage losses and dollar losses) and determine what loss limit you can tolerate:

10% Loss

On $10,000, this is a loss of $1,000

On $1 million, this is a loss of $100,000

4. WRITE DOWN YOUR INVESTMENT PLAN

Much like a written blueprint for building a house, a written investment blueprint should be used when building a portfolio. This includes your risk level (see#3), your time period for investing, your income needs, return expected, when you will retire, etc.

When markets become volatile, pull out your plan and see if you are following your “blueprint” or if you somehow went off course.

Life Lessons – What happens if I get sick?

What is your biggest asset? Is it your house, your car, your boat? No, it is your ability to earn income. We buy home insurance and auto insurance, but often we forget to insure ourselves against the risk of being unable to work.
As a cancer survivor, I know all about the financial costs associated with being off of work. Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer, and the treatments took approximately one year to complete.

I was off work during that time, and luckily had disability insurance in place through my workplace. This ensured that I maintained a monthly income while off sick, to pay my expenses. What I didn’t realize was that there would be all kinds of additional expenses associated with my illness.
There were the numerous taxi rides, I chose to pursue homeopathic treatment, the medication costs above what my insurance covered, household help, meal and grocery delivery, to name a few.   Meeting these expenses was a huge challenge, and had I known better, I would have planned better.

So, where did I go wrong?

1) When selecting my disability benefits, I chose coverage of only 50% of my income, and I could have chosen up to 70%, for a few dollars more per month. I viewed myself as invincible, as most do!!
2) I did not purchase Critical Illness Insurance, which would have helped to cover the extra expenses associated with my illness.
Consider these facts:
1) Nearly 50% of all individuals 35 or younger will be disabled for 90 days or longer prior to age 65.
2) Approximately 30% of all people age 35 – 65 will suffer a disability for at least 90 days, and about 1 in 7 can expect to become disabled for 5 years or more.
3) Statistics say that 83% of business owners do not have disability insurance in place!

Because I didn’t have the best plan in place, I had to dip into my retirement savings during my time off to make ends meet. Certainly not an ideal situation. So, I decided to go into business for myself to educate people about the risks that we all face, and how we can best manage those risks.

Is your biggest asset protected?

Brenda Hiscock CFP
Guilfoyle Financial Planning Inc.
416-224-3437
Brenda@guilfoylefinancial.com

Pensions in Canada – A Sorry Tale

I have been involved as an actuarial assistant, actuary and pension consultant in Scotland and Canada since 1959. In this period I have observed the gradual deterioration in both the use of and problems relating to Defined Benefit Pension Plans. There are many villains in this story from Employers, Unions, Governments, Judges, Actuaries, Accountants, Federal and Provincial Pension Regulators, Pension Benefit Guarantee Funds and even Ben Bernanke. Indeed virtually all parties involved with Pension Plans have, in one way, shape or form, been a party to the present mess which constitutes Pension Plans in Canada and also applies in several other countries.

As far as this article and subsequent more detailed ones are concerned, the term “Pension Plans” will refer to Defined Benefit Pension Plans as against Defined Contribution Pension Plans which are essentially Group RRSP’s with a smear of lipstick.

So what went wrong? The answer, unfortunately, is virtually everything. There was certainly, for the most part, no malice intended nor was there a concerted effort by all parties at one specific point in time to rain hell and damnation on Pension Plans. Rather it was a series of totally unconnected acts by different groups to gradually whittle away one of the great financial concepts of all time, the Defined Benefit Pension Plan.

A Defined Benefit Pension Plan is a legal entity, established by one or more employers, in order to provide pension benefits to employees to provide them with an adequate retirement lifestyle. Such Plans generally supplement the subsistence pensions and means tested benefits which are provided by the Federal Government. Many Canadians are able to maintain a good standard of living in their retirement years as a result of membership in such Pension Plans.

Today, as a result of the actions of various Plan Sponsors, Advisors, Court Decisions, Accounting changes, Pension Benefit Guarantee Funds, which penalize good employers to the detriment of bad ones, the avarice of Unions, Court decisions, mistimed asset/liability matching by Plan Sponsors with the assistance of their Consultants, provincial pension regulators, Revenue Canada and ultra low Government set interest rates, the death knell of Pension Plans is nigh.

Not all is irrevocably lost. Whilst it may be difficult, if not impossible, to roll back the clock and correct many, if not most of the problems afflicting Pension Plans, there are at least partial solutions. Target Pension Plans which are a form of Benefit Plans but do not guarantee benefit levels may prove to be the best of several compromise solutions. They retain the basic elements of Pension Plans without placing the Plan Sponsor in a position of having to resort to writing blank cheques. These Plans are preferably funded 50/50 between Plan Sponsor and Plan Members and provide a King Canute solution to rolling back the present high tides which will ultimately bankrupt many Plan
Sponsors, Governments and taxpayers.

Gordon B. Lang, FCIA
President & CEO
Gordon B. Lang & Associates Inc.

Jim Yih is coming to the YOU and YOUR MONEY ® Blogoll

Helping People Take Away The Stress Of Money

Today, Jim devotes his career to developing ideas, tools and strategies to help corporations, organizations and people create more success, wealth and happiness through his company The Think Box. Jim spends most of his time helping employers and employees by bringing financial education into the workplace as a complement to existing benefit and wellness programs.

Although Jim’s expertise is rooted in the wealth and financial industry, he firmly believes that money is not everything. To be happy, you need to find balance between life and wealth. You need to remove the clutter and stress to live happier. Jim devotes much of his career to helping others find wealth, happiness, simplicity and balance in life. Life is about quality not quantity, inner abundance not material abundance, connecting and contributing not just communicating.

financial education workplace logo

Even before work, Jim is a family man. He finds inspiration daily through the support of his wife Elizabeth and his four boys Robbie, Connor, Jason and Brandon. Jim enjoys many sporting activities, especially golf and tennis.

Brenda Hiscock – You and Your Money – Financial Blogger – coming soon!

I am a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and have also completed my Registered Health Underwriter (RHU) designation, which provides me with a specialty in the areas of Disability, Critical Illness and Long Term Care Insurance. I also teach part time at Seneca College, where I teach Investments, and I also teach a Life Insurance Licensing prep program from time to time. This ensures that my knowledge is always current and up to date.

View my recent articles and profile page.

 

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You and Your Money

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