What’s Estate Planning Look Like to You?

What difference can a picture make in your life? Well, have you seen the future of film in 3-D movies like Avatar? What about the new age of high definition television? Isn’t time we had a new picture of estate planning?

Okay, before your head starts spinning, let me reassure you; I have solved this puzzle for you. You can benefit from my three decades of estate experience helping people like you. If you keep reading, I will give you a new picture you can use to take action.

But first, I’ll explain why you need a new way of looking at estate planning. I am excited about sharing this with you for many reasons. The principal reward for you is simple – you will see things differently. You will be more comfortable taking care of your family and yourself.

The traditional way of dealing with estate planning is less than inspiring. Like most people, you probably have a hard time visualizing what this subject is about.

What about a pen resting on paper showing a person signing a will? That is the kind of stock photo on many a law firm’s website. Does this really inspire you to action?

What Motivates You to Act?

For the traditionalists, estate planning has been all about being prepared. This works for those who like to be organized and prevent problems.

For those who live in the moment, a different approach is necessary. For people who count or measure things, saving taxes may be the right approach.

Those with responsibilities to protect vulnerable or minor children may feel a sense of obligation.

If you have a loving relationship, you wish to take care of your partner or spouse.

Why Professionals Disagree

It is difficult to get a consensus on what estate planning is about. Even professionals disagree on what the term may mean.

For example, if you ask an accountant what estate planning is, they will answer, “It’s all about making sure you don’t pay too much taxes.”

Ask a lawyer and you learn it’s as exciting as signing a will or power of attorney documents.

Do you have a business or substantial wealth? Then it may include preparing trusts and a succession plan.

Financial advisors want you to plan so your investments go intact to your beneficiaries. You should not run out of money while you still are breathing.

Insurance advisors offer you liquidity. You get a chance to create an estate instantly. Life insurance will pay your debts and financial obligations for those you care about.

To those in the trust industry, estate planning means having the right executor to manage estate investments. They can deal with turmoil and uncertain risks.

Are You Surprised By This?

This quick summary is a bit tongue-in-cheek. It shows you that different players in this industry have, surprise surprise, different approaches. Is there any wonder that people are confused? They get bombarded by different messages every day.

Each industry sector has different estate planning solutions or products to sell or promote. This is perfectly normal. However, an individual sales approach may not be the best way to encourage you to act. That’s why you will see players in the field joining forces or working in teams.

Making the best decisions in this team environment can be difficult. Objectivity and independent advice may be expensive and difficult to find.

Find a Simple Solution

What about a holistic approach to deal with the next generation’s financial needs? Can you address your own legal and moral obligations this way?

I speak to audiences across Canada. What I have learned is that people do not react well to sales approaches. They are more interested in the stories of real-life people. They want to know about their failures and successes when it comes to providing for loved ones.

In my book, Estate to the Heart, I created a new image to help you. If a picture can save a thousand words, this is what estate planning should look like:

How should you interpret this?

Most people want their money to go straight to the people they love. They want this to happen with the least amount of pain, expense and delay. This is the real benefit of having an estate plan.

I hope this new vision will work for you. Estate planning can be a user-friendly experience. You only need a new picture to focus your actions. Now you can get to the heart of what really matters.

A different view can change what you do.

Start by asking yourself these questions.

What do I wish to happen to my money?

What must I do for my loved ones?

Ask your advisors for a total – not piecemeal – plan.

Take action to carry out these wishes.

Put your heart back into your estate planning with a new purpose.

I have based my new business, EstateTherapy.com on providing simple solutions to estate matters.

I welcome your ideas for topics for future articles on estate matters.

Ed Olkovich Copyright © 2010

Ed Olkovich is an Ontario lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts Law. Ed is also the author of Estate to the Heart: How to Plan Wills and Estates for Your Loved Ones – quick and easy estate planning, in a nutshell.

He is known across Canada as “MrWills”, which is also the name of his law firm’s website.

Ed is also the founder of www. EstateTherapy.com, which provides simple solutions to estate matters.

What happens to Average and CAGR when deposits are made every year?

So let’s go back and do the next problem in looking at averages and CAGR – as noted previously, I am going to ignore Median results as they are completely without any justifiable foundation. So here we have the same rates and sequence of returns with the only difference being the addition of $50.00 to the fund each year. As you would expect, the end result in terms of dollars is higher – no surprise.

However, check out the CAGR – IT HAS DROPPED from the 5.38% in the previous blog! Why – because there is an ever increasing amount of capital and the compounding effect of the ups and downs – particularly the downs, result in a lower overall calculated Compound Annual Rate of Growth – something that most people do not expect.

Year Rate . . . . . . .$1,000.00
1992 . . .7.8 % . . . . . .$1,131.90
1993 . . -4.6 % . . . . . .$1,127.53
1994 . . 29.0 % . . . . . .$1,519.02
1995 . . -2.5 % . . . . . .$1,529.79
1996 . .11.9 % . . . . . .$1,767.79
1997 . .25.7 % . . . . . .$2,284.96
1998 . .13.0 % . . . . . .$2,638.50
1999 . . -3.2 % . . . . . .$2,602.47
2000 . .19.7 % . . . . . .$3,175.01
2001 . . .6.2 % . . . . . .$3,424.96
2002 . .-13.9 % . . . . . .$2,991.94
2003 . .-14.0 % . . . . . .$2,616.07
2004 . . 24.3 % . . . . . .$3,313.92
2005 . . 12.5 % . . . . . .$3,784.41
2006 . . 21.9 % . . . . . .$4,674.15
2007 . . 14.5 % . . . . . .$5,409.15
2008 . . .7.2 % . . . . . .$5,852.21
2009 . .-35.0 % . . . . . .$3,836.44
2010 . . 30.7 % . . . . . .$5,079.57
2011 . .-14.4 % . . . . . .$4,390.91

Average . . .6.84 % . . . . . .$5,907.68

CAGR . . . . 5.01 % . . . . . .$4,390.91

As you can see the difference between the AVERAGE growth rate and the CAGR has now WIDENED to 1.83% – it may not seem like a lot, but in real dollar terms it is! If you re-run this table and substitute the Average Growth Rate of 6.84%, the resulting value after 20 years is $5,907.68 – a difference of $1,516.77 – or an increase of 33.5% over the actual value using the CAGR or the variable growth rates from the table. What a horrendous error rate!!

How can a potential error rate of this magnitude be justified in any financial plan – retirement, estate or any other component?? All I can suggest is that if you are going to use average rates, you will need plenty of E & O coverage within the next few years!

I am going to presume that readers are now satisfied with my statement that using historical average rates for forward-looking assumptions is a fools game – but remember, this discussion isn’t over as we have to examine the impact of inflation and then taxes – then to complicate matters I am going to compare the sequencing of returns during the both the accumulation phase and the withdrawal or decumulation phase of financial plans. More fun and games with numbers – I am going to stay with the same assumed growth rates in this table – but simply flip them end for end – and see what – if any difference this has on the end results!

Cheers

Average, Mean/Median and Compound Annual Growth Rate – what is the difference?

Greetings once again and welcome to the next discussion on these topics. I have created a small table (shown below) to illustrate the differences using a simple representative 20-year period that overlaps the market events of mid-2000 years. Charts and tables that project growth rates over long periods of time are always suspect, but we need to start somewhere. I have chosen 20 years as a period to which most people can relate. Most industry charts cover periods of 60 years and longer and show calculated results going back to day one – while interesting, I feel they are of very little value and clients find them confusing and relating to that duration is hard.

Average versus Median versus Compound Annual Growth Rate – initial investment of $1,000.00 January 1st, 1992.

1992 . . . . . . . 7.8 % $1,078.00
1993 . . . . . . .-4.6 % $1,028.41
1994 . . . . . . .29.0 % $1,326.65
1995 . . . . . . .-2.5 % $1,293.49
1996 . . . . . . .11.9 % $1,447.41
1997 . . . . . . .25.7 % $1,819.39
1998 . . . . . . .13.0 % $2,055.92
1999 . . . . . . .-3.2 % $1,990.13
2000 . . . . . . .19.7 % $2,382.18
2001 . . . . . . . .6.2 % $2,529.88
2002 . . . . . . -13.9 % $2,178.22
2003 . . . . . . -14.0 % $1,873.27
2004 . . . . . . .24.3 % $2,328.48
2005 . . . . . . .12.5 % $2,619.54
2006 . . . . . . .21.9 % $3,193.22
2007 . . . . . . .14.5 % $3,656.23
2008 . . . . . . . .7.2 % $3,919.48
2009 . . . . . . -35.0 % $2,547.66
2010 . . . . . . .30.7 % $3,329.79
2011 . . . . . . -14.4 % $2,850.30

Average . . . . .6.84 % $3,755.58

Median . . . . .9.85 % $6,546.38

CAGR . . . . . . 5.38 % $2,850.30

Total Growth Rate includes Interest, Dividend, Capital Gains and Capital Losses for a nominal portfolio based on 100% of the S&P/TSX. Rates are for illustration purposes only.

A simple average of the Annual Growth rates, results in a number of 6.84%, the median/mean is 9.85% while the actual Compound Annual Growth Rate equates to 5.38%. Please note the comments/disclaimer at the bottom of the table.

So now the question becomes, which rate do we use for financial, insurance and estate planning – assuming that the portfolio described matches the risk and KYC profile of the client.

The mean or median rate is obviously not valid as this simply means that half the returns were higher than 9.85% and half were lower – and the answer is really – so what! That leaves the average or the CAGR.

The table shows that if we use the average rate of 6.84% and compound that for the 20 years, you or your client will only have $3,755.58 – significantly MORE than the actual result of $2,850.30 using the CAGR of 5.38%. An argument can be made for using either one, but speaking personally, my comfort with higher rates has reduced over my career and I would always use the LOWER of the two numbers and would recommend this approach to both consumers and advisors. If you use the lower rate, you are unlikely to be disappointed while using the higher figure introduces a higher level of uncertainty into all calculations. I will point out – that I am not satisfied with using the 5.38% rate either as you will see in the next couple of blogs – too many uncertainties still arise – but 5.38% is at least something closer to reality that what I see being used in most financial planning scenarios, software and insurance illustrations.

This discussion is far from over – there are four other issues to discuss in future blogs: first – what about the effects of inflation on the results; second – what about the impact of income taxes; third – so far I have only looked at a single lump sum deposit – what happens with periodic deposits or withdrawals; fourth – what are the effects of reversing this illustrated sequence of results?

BTW, here is a link to a website that can do all of these financial calculations without requiring a financial calculator – I use it regularly! The S&P/TSX Total Returns I pulled from Jim Otar’s Retirement Calculator – I provide a link to his excellent website in an earlier blog. http://bing.search.sympatico.ca/?q=calculating%20rate%20of%20return&mkt=en-ca&setLang=en-CA

S (and) P/TSX INDEX VERSUS DOWJONES INDUSTRIAL AVERAGE AND LET’S ADD INFLATION!

It has been said that there are Liars, Damn Liars and Statisticians – and you can throw in Economists for good measure! Another approach is to ask a mathematician, an accountant and an actuary the result of the formula 2 plus 2 equals what? The mathematician will say 4, the accountant will say that depends (explains a lot about some financial reporting!) and the actuary will ask, what do you want it to equal? Through creative choices, numbers can be made to say just about anything a person desires, if you apply enough “logic” – no matter how flimsy!

Apples to bananas! As we explore the effects of growth rate assumptions on financial, estate and insurance planning, I am going to take a slight detour to briefly discuss two benchmarks commonly in use – the most popular being the S&P/TSX – which is an INDEX, and the DJIA which is an AVERAGE – they are NOT interchangeable nor do they measure the same things!

The DJIA measures the 30 largest (by market cap) US Corporations – subject to annual reviews and adjustments. The S&P/TSX measures (allegedly) the 300 largest (by market cap and not necessarily purely Canadian) companies trading on the TSX. At last count, there are apparently about 290 companies included in the S&P/TSX Index. Finally, one is expressed in CDN currency and the other in US currency so variations in the DJIA, as usually seen in Canada, also reflect exchange rate movements.

As you can see, the DJIA is only a very narrow “measurement” of market value and movement while the S&P/TSX is, at least in theory, a reflection of a much broader market. Very different measurements yet for some reason they are entwined as being very similar, if not identical – and not just by the media, many in the financial services industry are also guilty of this “grouping” for comparison purposes.

The closest US market measurement to the S&P/TSX Index is the S&P 500 Index – as the name implies, measuring the movement of the largest 500 US Companies – also in US Currency and then converted to CDN $ for use here – again adding exchange rate movements to the changing index values.

Many people are unaware that we (Canadians) do have a “large cap” index that is SIMILAR, but not identical to the DJIA – it is the TSX60 – which measures the 60 largest companies trading in Toronto. So, if comparisons about movements, trends, etc. are to be made, it is certainly far more appropriate to compare movements (net of currency exchange effects), between the DJIA and the TSX60. Other major exchanges around the world also have narrower, large cap sub-indices similar to the TSX 60.

For more specific information about the compositions of the various indices and market averages, please refer to their specific websites – or have fun with Wikipedia.

Inflation has been around since someone started to track changes in prices of various goods and services. In Canada, we use the Consumer Price Index as measured by Statistics Canada. All details can be found on their website plus additional information on Wikipedia. Obviously, the basket of “goods and services” in use today is very different than 50 years ago – even 20 years ago – consumer choices and options change – therefore so does the “basket”. In Canada, inflation is separated into a “full measure” of everything and then a variety of sub-indices such as “core” inflation along with others such Health Care, Education, Recreation, etc.

Comparisons between inflation rates amongst various countries is close to impossible – each country is measuring different items, then of course, we may have currency issues that could also affect published rates – check the websites for each country to determine how currency may impact published results.

All too often, people in our industry and in some cases the media, tend to use a single inflation assumption in our planning – which is patently incorrect. When people retire, the effects of inflation are typically higher due to probable higher costs for Health Care and Recreation, while some aspects of the total inflation rate will drop such as business transportation.

I will discuss inflation in planning in more detail in a future blog – my only purpose here is to caution people to be careful about your chosen basis for assumptions during different phases of the planning process – different rates for education costs, health care, recreation, housing, etc. are all appropriate – a single presumption is not!

BTW, I watch Business News Network each morning to catch Marty, Frances and Michael plus their various guests – plus I regularly use their website – www.bnn.ca – for other updates and information on various indices – including the TSX60.

So – average interest and growth rates – are they realistic or do they create misunderstandings for both clients and advisors?

Ever since I was a lad (yes, that long ago), all calculations for determining amounts of insurance, how fast savings and investments grew and how retirement income rates were deterimined, have used “average” rates of return – not even median rates – just average rates. And for about 100 years or so, people seeemed happy with that approach until the 1970s and 80s came along with rampant inflation, outlandish rates of return and then a wonderful market “correction” in the latter part of 1987.

No-one knew quite what to do, but a couple of smart young men came up with the idea to put this all on a chart so people could at least examine history – in one place – and hopefully make some better choices and assumptions while planning for their futures – and the ANDEX (copyright) chart was born! I loved it immediately (lots of pretty coloured lines and graphics too – I am easily amused)! Fortunately for our industry and our clients, this chart is not just still available, it has been expanded and updated to include even more useful information under the Morningstar banner (and no, I don’t get any compensation for saying this!

These charts (and other following competitor versions) also included the “average” rates of return for the various market segments for various time periods. While interesting to see the changes over time, I feel these “averages” actually took away from the validity of the material – which was to show that segments of the markets move randomly and that while “average” projections were interesting, they weren’t overly valuable for making long-term projections. These charts also provided all of the necessary proof that GICs and savings bonds were neither adequate on their own and that in order for a client to enjoy any reasonable probability of achieving their goals, other assets and products had to be considered.

Having received a great amount of both theoretical and experiencial education in this phenomenon, I have come to the conclusion – despite having been guilty (along with the rest of our industry) of using average growth rates in everything from growth in universal life policies, estimating future values for investments and planning for both retirement and estate distributions – sometimes 40 years into the future – this practice is now foolhardy in the extreme!

Stay tuned for the next collection of wandering thoughts as I explore this further using some actual numbers!

Welcome to my bog and some random thoughts!

As the newst blogger here, I would like to say that I am looking forward to sharing some thoughts and opinions (most of which are politically correct but some aren’t!) that will challenge a lot of conventional wisdom within the financial community and the industry at large. I welcome comments (pro and con) as well as suggestions for future commentary.

For my next blog, I will offer some opinions on “traditional” financial planning using average interest/growth rate assumptions and the move along to Monte Carlo simulations – are they really a major improvement? If anyone wants a “sneak preview” on those thoughts, I refer you to Jim Otar’s excellent website as noted under TAGS. As a follow-on, I next plan to look at what a reasonable rate (if you must use a fixed rate), makes sense and will stand the test of time!

Remember, I did say I was going to challenge some long-held beliefes and principals – to get us all thinking about how we work with our clients and their future plans!

Cheers Boom Boom