Hey there again, you punks
So with a tip coming from some of the moderators on the board, I've decided just to quickly update this FAQ that I wrote a few months back since TI is next week and I'm sure many of you still have a ton of questions. I've gotten some more information that I can pass down to you in regards to Vancouver but also now TI as well, including updated marijuana laws and beer recommendations.
Two quick notes:
This summer has been an extremely hot season in Vancouver (at least in Vancouverite standards). Like anyone who attended in Seattle last year, there is noticeable smoke in the air in the city due to the fires all over the Pacific North West. If you have breathing issues or health related problems do to particles in the air, be advised that there is currently an Air Quality Advisory in effect so act accordingly. Wind/Rain will most likely clear up any issues going into next week, but just a heads up in case new fires flare up or we aren't blessed with some light rain. Forecast is looking to be sunny through midweek and the finals, with an average of about 23-25C.
THE PACIFIC NATIONAL EXHIBITION IS OPEN!
A staple for Vancouver residents since 1910, the PNE will be open from August 18th-September 3rd (closed on August 20th & 27th). If you're looking to do something after a midweek day, the PNE is the perfect place to go checkout for a fun night out filled with events, concerts, beer gardens, crazy carny food, rides, maybe BSJ, shopping and a lot more. This article will tell you everything you need to know about the PNE, how to get there and what's going on. ALSO BOYZ II MEN AUGUST 18TH GET HYPED.
PLACES TO STAY
- Is there AirBnB in Vancouver?
Yes, but it's not exactly regulated by AirBnB. Feel free to stay at one through AirBnB
but know that it might be a little tricky to deal with issues if they come up with your rental. Also while you're at it, check out VRBO
- How far away from Rogers Arena should I stay?
The general piece of advice you'll get from any local about where to stay for TI is going to be anywhere that's on the Skytrain Expo Line
(the line in dark blue). The Expo Line will take you to Stadium-Chinatown station, which is where Rogers Arena is 30 seconds away. As in Seattle, the closer to downtown you are, the more expensive it is to stay.
- Where are the cheaper hotels like Holiday Inn, Mediterranean Inn or Travelodge like in Seattle?
Unlike Seattle Center, there aren't very many budget hotels left, if at all in the Downtown core. The cheaper hostels are available, though fair warning, many of them are placed on Granville Street, which is a place that many Vancouverites will tell you to avoid while you're here (Though I have never stayed at a hostel on Granville, if anyone has an experience, feel free to share). Check out the Ramada Inn and the Days Inn near Waterfront for some cheaper-ish options.
- Are there any areas in Vancouver that we should specifically avoid?
In my mind, there are two places that I would keep a look-out for avoiding while you visit Vancity.
- Granville Street. During the day time it's normally fine, filled with some cool shops (Golden Age Collectibles, The Rock Shop, Movieland Arcade) but it's packed to the absolute max with dumbasses at night due to the amount of night clubs. There's police around every weeknight, but since you're in Vancouver for a good time, head towards Gastown, Chinatown or Main Street for places to party.
- Downtown East Side. If you've researched anything about Vancouver, you'll know that this area as where a large portion of the cities homeless reside. There is rampant drug use, poverty and sex work in this neighborhood, focused mainly between 5-10 blocks in the area of Main/Hastings. That being said, the community is an especially strong one, with fantastic human beings supporting the less fortunate. Though there isn't too much danger in terms of being robbed, you might want to just avoid the area at night. Be respectful to the people of this community and you'll have no problems.
Sadly, no there isn't. We know, it absolutely sucks and everyone in Vancouver is aware. Your options are public transit or a taxi.
- What's the parking situation like around Rogers Arena?
Super shitty if you don't like paying for parking. If you can, park outside of the Downtown core near a Skytrain and then head over to the Arena. Commercial Drive is pretty good for this if you can find certain spots. Tinseltown as well if you buy a movie ticket on non-event days.
- How does Transit work? What do I need?
If you've ever been to any major city, you'll notice that Vancouver shares the same load-up card/tap system that places like London share. It's called Compass Card
and it's fairly easy to use. Just load up money onto the card, tap it when you enter and tap when you leave. It'll do all the calculations for you. Note that certain zones will cost more just due to how far you're traveling.
- Does Vancouver have car-sharing?
Yes it does! Car2Go
are two of Vancouver's most popular car share services. Hot tip would be to register before you head over to Vancouver and it'll help mitigate the fact that UbeLyft aren't in Vancouver just yet. Just drive safely.
- How do I get from the Airport (YVR) to Downtown Vancouver?
The easiest way to get to downtown from YVR, if you aren't getting picked up/taking a taxi is to take the Canada Line
. It will take you directly to Waterfront station, from there you can take multiple buses, the Expo Line (the main line that will take you to Rogers Arena) or the Seabus (going to North VancouveLonsdale).
- What's the drinking age in Canada?
19 years old.
- I'm new to Canadian beer culture, what would you recommend?
Vancouver has an exploding craft beer culture and you'll be happy to find that the variety of different beers/ciders to drink is absolutely massive, probably to the point of being intimidating.
Here are some of my favorite breweries and the beers that you should look out for when you're at the liquor store/pub: Twin Sails Brewing
Dat Juice Pale Ale
Two Straws MilkShake IPA
Short Pants Mosaic IPA Brassneck Brewing
Passive Aggressive IPA
Bjorn Again Farmhouse Ale Steel & Oak
Passive Agressive IPA
Bjorn Again Farmhouse Ale Bomber Brewing
Bomber Parklife Passionfruit Ale
Bomber Snow White IPA
- Does Vancouver have any specific rules about drinking that I should know about?
Yes. First, there isn't any drinking in public if you already didn't know. Second, you must have TWO
pieces of ID on you whenever you go to buy drinks in case you're asked for your ID. First piece must be photo ID, the second piece must be something with your name on it (in order for bartenders/servers to validate the first piece). I see a lot of tourists thrown off by this, so just know that Vancouver's liquor laws are much more strict than other places.
I've heard from a few Vancouver residents that this isn't exactly enforced harshly, but just to note that it is an actual law. Piece of mind.
- What's the legal drinking limit in Vancouver?
%.05. There will be a ton of pubcrawls and side events going on for people that are attending TI and I'm sure that you'll be blasted one night or another. Please don't drink and drive. If you need a cab, here are the numbers you can contact in order to grab a taxi from downtown. Yellow Cab: (604) 681-1111 Black Top Cab: (604) 731-1111 MacLure's Cabs: (604) 831-1111
Also, a note for people from outside of Vancouver: the cab drivers in this city are notorious for being hard to deal with at times. Broken debit machines, cash up front, not providing receipts. Use your common sense to get you through pushy cabbies. If they have a broken debit machine and they are still driving, kindly reject them and give your business to another cabbie that will. UbeLyft will be here soon and karma will bite them back.
If at anytime you are in an emergency and don't know what to do, please DM me and I will provide my contact info.
- What're some places you recommend?
Vancouver is a glutenous paradise of places to eat. Instead of giving you specific places to go eat, here are some links that you might find helpful in terms of recommendations: Meowjin's Guide to TI8 The 38 Essential Vancouver Restaurants It's To Die For List
- Can I bring food into Rogers Arena?
This is not confirmed at the moment, but if the rules were anything like Seattle, you will be able to bring outside food into the arena. You are not permitted to bring liquids into the venue. You'll have to dump out your water bottle and refill it once inside. Rogers Arena might have different policies, but thankfully the venue has twice the amount of food stalls including a much more varied selection.
- What's a secret you have from being a lifelong Canucks fan for eating in the area?
Everyone from Vancouver attending will hate me, but this is going to be one of the hottest tips I can give you: there is a Costco food court
DIRECTLY across the street on the lower level of Rogers Arena that DOES NOT require a membership in order to buy food. It is the only Costco food court in Canada that doesn't need a membership to eat there. Hot dogs, poutine, pizza, soft drinks, ice cream and it's all lovingly Costco cheap. Enjoy!
- What sort of credit card/tap options does Vancouver accept?
Visa/Mastercard are widely accepted everywhere. Cards such as American Express/Discover are also accepted most places, though a few places might reject them for whatever reason (higher charge rates, issues with their machines etc..) Best case would be to make sure you have a Visa/Mastercard with you at all times as a back-up in case you run into any issues. Most places in Vancouver also allow you to use Android/Apple Pay now as well. No bitcoin though.
- How much money should I bring?
Well, that's entirely up to you. If you're staying the full week, a few hundred dollars in spare Canadian currency won't hurt you, especially if majority of your spending is going to be on plastic. There's going to be the Secret Shop, but that'll be done through online ordering and not cash payments. Just don't come with nothing. Worst case, always have at least $30-$40 cash on you just in case you run into a bind. It's really entirely up to you and how you plan on spending your time here. Do note that because of the low Canadian dollar, don't be surprised if the price of certain things is higher than usual.
- Where can I exchange money?
By far it would be the Vancouver Bullion & Currency Exchange
due to their lower exchange rates. Banks will more than likely charge you higher rates than the VBCE.
Due to the amount of fires that have started in the Pacific North West the past month or so, please do not throw your cigarette/joint butts into the street, sidewalk, bushes or wherever that isn't a proper garbage. You'll get a ton of dirty looks by locals if you do otherwise.
- Are there any huge cultural differences in Canada that I should know about?
Canadians are known to be rather polite, we'll answer questions for you or guide you in the right direction (as long as we aren't in a huge rush). As long as you're respectful of the people around you, take care of your hygiene, don't spit on the ground, talk over people in conversation or just avoiding being a total dick, you'll be fine. Though Vancouver is a somewhat socially cold city, that's mainly in dating circles. Get some new Bumble photos up!
- What's the tipping policy like in Vancouver?
Most places won't have the tip included in your bill. It's common courtesy to tip between %10-%15
of your final bill if you enjoyed your meal/drink/service. Feel free to go higher if you had a really excellent time. Some places do include the tip in the bill, but will have it noted usually at the bottom of the menu.
- I'll be taking public transit while I'm here. Any tips?
A few. Remove your backpack when you're boarding a bus/SkyTrain in order to create more space for the people around you. Hygiene again is a big one. Remember to fill your Compass card and check your remaining balance at least once a day in case you're transiting a lot. If you see elderly/disabled/parents with strollers attempt to come on board, the polite thing to do would be to offer your seat etc..
- My English isn't great and I need to ask a question, what should I do?
Don't worry at all! Vancouver is an extremely multicultural city and the residents here are used to hearing many different languages daily. Best bet is if you struggle communicating with anyone for any reason, download the Google Translate app and use it to answer questions you might have in a discussion.
- I want to ask for a playetalents autograph and I'm standing right beside them. How should I ask?
Use common sense. Most players/talent would be more than willing to sign an autograph or pose for a photo with you. But also be aware that much of the on-screen talent (Slacks, Kaci, panel members) will often have to be running from segment to segment, taking in matches and so on. If they seem to have a minute, ask nicely, thank them for their time and cross one off of the bucket list.
- I want to throw things at Slacks!
Don't throw things at Slacks.
- Will there be an outdoor screen showing games?
No update on this. Rogers Arena is mainly a concrete concourse, surrounded by a viaduct and multiple lower roads. Unlike Seattle Center (which had multiple fields and smaller available venues), the only place large enough outside the Arena that could hold a large crowd with a big screen would most likely be the "main" entrance through Expo Blvd/Pat Quinn Way.
There are a few other options in the area, but we're going to have to wait to see how creative Valve is with the space around the Arena. Perhaps they rent out the adjacent parking lots?
- Will there be a beer garden?
No update on this also, but again, there's a lack of outdoor space beyond the concrete concourse. Sportsbar Live will be open, which also gives a view of inside the Arena while you're eating/drinking. But again, it's indoors.
- Can I charge my phone inside of Rogers Arena?
From what I remember from Canucks games, yes, there are stations where you can plug your phone in to charge. But don't be surprised if a company like NVIDIA pops up a charging station outside much like in Seattle.
- What is the capacity for Rogers Arena?
- Where will I be able to see players? Will there be an open-area to ask for autographs?
One of the more obvious differences that most people will find from Key Arena to Rogers Arena, is that unlike Key Arena, Rogers doesn't have an open space concept between levels. Meaning, you won't be able to just look up to the third floor and see players hanging out like you normally would. This year, they most likely will be held in the boxes above or in the dressing rooms in the lower levels. Look for autograph times scheduled throughout the week to see your favorite players.
- Is there anything being hosted at BC Place during TI?
The only thing right now is a Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS) game on August 18th and a BC Lions (CFL) on the 25th. So if you really feel inclined, now you know.
- Where, how and when can we buy weed legally when we arrive in Vancouver?
When: On October 17th, weed will officially be legalized in British Columbia and most parts of Canada.
How: Normally you need a medicinal prescription to purchase marijuana legally. Though, because of the soon to be legalization coming up in a few months, most dispensaries will most likely write you a prescription if you tell them a valid medical reason for the marijuana (Trouble sleeping, chronic joint pain, back pain, headaches, trouble eating etc.). My friends who smoke themselves told me that hot tip, so do with it what you will. Please DO NOT buy weed from a source that isn't verified by another trusted person or a licensed dispensary. You never know what your weed could be laced with.
Where: Here are some dispensaries located close to Rogers Arena. Bloom Medical Dispensary The Dub Dispensary The Medical Cannibis Dispensary
You can't smoke anywhere that frequents children, even if there aren't kids around. So no beaches, public parks, playgrounds etc..
So just, anywhere that's away from people that don't want to partake essentially.
- Yo dude, thanks for that help, hit this shit real quick.
- I wasn't able to buy any tickets. What should I do?
If you weren't able to buy tickets from Ticket Master, you have a few options.
Post in the TI8 Vancouver Subreddit
and ask if anyone has a spare ticket.
Buying tickets from scalpers in front of Rogers Arena is fairly easy and shouldn't be difficult if you understand the basics of haggling.
- Know what you're comfortable paying and stick to it. Always remember that number.
- Be prepared to just walk away. The longer you stay negotiating, the more you show the scalper how important it is for you to buy the tickets. Play the long game.
- The less you talk, the less information you give the scalper. If he says he's got a Midweek ticket for $300, shrug and say no thanks.
- Have money in your hand/wallet when you're trying to buy tickets. When they see that the cash is right there, they'll be more inclined to just make the deal and move onto the next one.
You will most likely miss the opening ceremonies, but after that the prices for Midweek tickets will normalize and scalpers will want to just get rid of their tickets at a lesser price.
The advantage you have in this instance is that Vancouver, outside of the LoL tournament at Pacific Colosseum, doesn't have much experience with esports tournaments. So scalpers themselves won't have the same level of patience. The longer you wait to buy your tickets from them, the cheaper you can get them for. Only downside is that you'll be missing games.
The other thing you can do is literally just walk around the outside of the Arena and spot non-scalpers with extra tickets. There are always people who buy extra tickets and are just wanting to get their money back (friends flake on them, they couldn't flip them like they thought). DO NOT
panic and end up buying an overpriced ticket from StubHub, Craigslist or wherever. Tickets will be available, you just have to keep your cool.
- I'm picking up my tickets at the venue. Where do I go?
The box office at Rogers Arena is located at the bottom of the venue on Expo/Pat Quinn Way at the Toyota Ticket Center. You can pick up your tickets between these times:
Mon, August 20th: 7AM - 9PM
Tue, August 21th: 8AM - 9PM
Wed, August 22nd: 8AM - 9PM
Thu, August 23rd: 8AM - 9PM
Fri, August 24th: 8AM - 9PM
Not sure about the box office times for the Finals. Will update that when I know.
FIRST TIME ATTENDING TI
- I'm coming to TI alone. What can I expect?
So first off, understand that EVERYONE there is going for the same reason you are, DOTA. Don't be afraid to go up to people, say hello and start conversations. If they shrug you off, fuck them, they don't deserve your brilliance. Enjoy yourself. Worst case, just create a thread on DOTA
saying that you want to go shotgun a few beers. My first TI was pretty much by myself, but the combination of a beer + a garden really did wonders.
Simply put, don't worry as much as your mind is telling you to worry. All the talent (casters/players) are incredibly friendly and are pretty much the same as us, just super stoked to be there. But do give them space if they're working or running around to the next thing.
- What else do I need my Ticket/Badge for?
During TI, after every First Blood in a match, there are potential drops given to in arena attendee's who have registered their badge with their Steam ID. There will be a Steam Link kiosk/section OUTSIDE of Rogers Arena, so look out for it. You must have tapped into the Arena in order to be eligible for those drops.
The link to register your badge to be eligible for these drops will be on the back of your badge when you receive it.
- What sort of stuff should I be bringing with me on an average day?
Try to pack as lightly and efficiently as possible. My two main staples during the last two TI's were a water bottle (usually given out in a goody bag for midweek + finals ticket holders) and a portable battery pack for my phone. Also know that you might buy things from the Secret Shop, do some shopping downtown and the last thing you want to do is carry that stuff around with you all day. Though consider bringing a sweater for inside the Arena, as Rogers is a fairly cold one. HOT TIP
Try checking with bell boys/concierge at any hotels if they can possibly check in some of your bags for you. I tried this at TI7 and was surprised how chill they were. I left them a $5 tip for taking my bags and was free for the rest of the day.
- When should I go to the Secret Shop?
Avoid the Secret Shop on the first day or else you'll just spend the entire day waiting in line. Midweek the shop lines will be much more reasonable.
Well formatted thread to get you started. Also a well-detailed Google Map of venues/places that should interest people attending TI for places all across Vancouver
- What else should I do in Vancouver beyond watching DOTA?
- I have an emergency and I need help. Who do I call?
Depending on your situation, here are numbers for emergencies in British Columbia.
Ambulance, fire, police: 911
Poison Control: Lower Mainland: 604-682-5050 Toll-free: 1-800-567-8911
Healthlink BC: 811 Deaf or Hearing Impaired: 711
Crisis Intervention & Suicide Prevention: Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) if you are considering suicide or are concerned about someone who may be.
Mental health support: Call 310-6789 (no need to dial area code) for emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health.
- Who's the guy with the statue outside the Arena?
That is Roger Neilson, former Vancouver Canucks head coach and the inventor of towel power. Please treat it nicely!
- Where does Arteezy live? Where did he go to school? Where does he hang out?
- What's your 2018 Album of the Year?
How sweet of you to ask! That would be Lush by Snail Mail
Please, if you feel like you need to ask any questions, or there should be things added to this FAQ, post here or DM me. There are obviously some things that no one knows right now in regards to potential additions or subtractions from moving the event from Key Arena to Rogers. But I'll try my best to keep this thing updated if people bookmark it for future use.
Enjoy planning your trip to TI!
I hope this will help some of you out. It's a summary of the most important Canadian Personal Finance lessons from my research for all of 2017. Most of these are key posts from The Greater Fool Blog, which I highly recommend as a daily read. Investing Strategy and Advice Random Advice
· Everybody should strive to maximize their TFSAs, then ensure the money stays in there, invested in diversified growth assets like equity ETFs. Remember – a hundred bucks a week invested here for 30 years making 7% will end up being $532,000. That should yield an annual income of $32,000 without depleting the principal and without reducing your CPP or OAS payments by a single penny. So this is job one.
· After that, shovel cash into an RRSP, using the refund to contribute to the TFSA. Unless you have a defined-benefit pension (guaranteed, stable employer-funded payments), this is an excellent way to reduce tax, invest for tax-free growth then support you efficiently when some dingdong CEO destroys your employer.
· Obviously having a cash reserve for an event like this would be a great idea, but establishing a personal line of credit in advance is almost as good. It costs you nothing to set up at the bank, zero to carry and can be tapped only as you require it. Go, get one now.
· The best way to own preferreds is through an ETF, where you can hold a basket of high-qualify assets. An example would be CPD (just an example – this is not a recommendation), which pays investors a dividend yield of 4.3%, which is twice the return of a GIC and it’s still 100% liquid. But there’s more. This exchange-traded fund has increased in value (besides the dividends paid) by 12.7% in 2017 – which far outstrips the 3.8% return of the TSX in general. Since the beginning of last year (when prefs were sooo cheap) the gain in capital value has been 28%. (CPD also went on sale Wednesday after the latest Bank of Canada report. Sweet.)
· But all he need do to effectively slash his long-term interest costs is to switch from a monthly-pay to a weekly-pay mortgage. Over the course of 12 months he’ll make the equivalent of one extra payment (no big deal) and it will end up shortening his amortization by years, saving more than a variable-rate loan ever would. He just needs to ensure he gets the right kind of weekly mortgage, since some of them are bank rip-offs. May 2017 – Current Recommended Weightings
· cash, 5%;
· corporate bond 6%;
· provincials 3%;
· short-term bond 5%;
· high-yield 3%;
· preferreds 18%;
· Cdn equity 16%;
· REITs 5%;
· US equity 21% (some hedged);
· international equity 18% (some hedged). Investment Portfolio Breakdown - Greater Fool – September 20th 2017
· Start with the TFSA. When that’s full split money between an RRSP (to shift tax into other years) and a non-registered portfolio (to benefit from capital gains and dividends). Stick with it, max the tax-free account with pre-authorized debits from your bank account and never, ever listen to [email protected]
, eschewing costly mutual funds and brain-dead GICs.
· Have a balanced portfolio, with 40% in safe stuff and 60% more growth-oriented. Since rates are rising, keep the bond exposure slim (they pay nothing but reduce volatility) but have lots of rate-reset preferreds which swell along with bond yields. Carefully weight Canadian, US and international assets, taking into consideration that we’re currently on fire, Trump’s a time bomb, the US is expanding, Europe’s in recovery and nobody should bet against China. Never hold individual stocks (unless you have seven figures to invest and can achieve diversification – which requires about 60 positions).
· If you have a little money, hold three or four ETFs. If you have a lot, then 17 should be about right. And keep a small cash position, since that’s a defensive asset as well as ammo if an opportunity arises.
· So, 2% cash in a HISA, 20% in a mixture of government, corporate, provincial and high-yield bonds plus 18% in preferreds make up the safer stuff. Put 5% in REITs, then hold 16% in Canadian equities, an equal amount in US markets and 23% in internationals, for the growth portion. Rebalance once a year. Put higher-taxed stuff (bonds) in a tax shelter. Reserve the TFSA for fast growers (like emerging markets). Enjoy a 50% tax break on capital gains in your non-registered. And don’t forget about income-splitting with your squeeze, which can be done through a spousal plan or maybe a joint account. Why TFSAs are the #1 Priority
The long-term growth, free of tax, is epic. Invest $5,500 this year, then add $100 a week for the next three decades in growth assets making 7%, and you end up with $576,338 of which $414,838 is growth. Besides tax-free compounding of investment returns, the real benefit of this thing is that it will throw off income in retirement (or anytime else) which is not counted as income. So in the example just given, forty grand a year could be earned with zero tax payable on it.
Now let’s look at two 40-year-olds who have wisely maxed their TFSAs with $52,000 in each. If they keep their accounts topped up and full of ETFs giving the same return, at 65 they’ll claim $1.26 million, of which almost nine hundred grand is taxless growth. In retirement that amount can provide an annual income of about $90,000, and these guys can still collect their CPP and OAS without having any of it clawed back (assuming no other income source). If they had $1.26 million in RRSPs, the after-tax income would be about $52,000 and they’d have a marginal tax rate of 29.65%. No contest.
For anyone with a good company pension plan, and especially for the Aristocracy Among Us with gold-plated, defined-benefit schemes (teachers, cops, retired finance ministers) investing in this vehicle is far better than feeding an RRSP. At age 71 all registered retirement plans must be partially unwound, with the income being added on top of pension payments, often boosting you into a higher tax bracket. But no matter how much is skimmed off a fat TFSA, nothing is taxed or even recorded as income.
Of course, TFSAs can be used for income-splitting, too. You can gift your spouse or your adult kids money to invest in one. None of the gains will be attributed back to you. You can withdraw money and, unlike an RRSP, put it back the following calendar year. Unused room can be carried forward indefinitely. And a tax-free account can hold almost any investment asset, so keeping a moribund high-interest savings account or a brain-dead GIC in there is a big fail. Why Mutual Funds Suck:
S&P regularly provides its SPIVA Scorecard, which examines the performance of actively managed Canadian mutual funds versus that of their benchmarks and corrects for survivorship bias. Survivorship bias? Yes, mutual fund companies have this habit of discontinuing funds that have poor performance thus, ostensibly, wiping away that unflattering data forever. The SPIVA Scorecard attempts to account for this performance, essentially holding the mutual fund companies’ feet to the fire. The data reveals, unsurprisingly, that the vast majority of mutual funds underperform their benchmarks—with high management fees being the main reason. The table below shows their dismal long-term track record. S&P, by the way, also does a scorecard for US mutual funds with similar results.
📷No doubt, there are financial advisors who have a careful and highly effective system for identifying the 9% or so of equity mutual funds that actually do outperform their benchmarks over the long term. More power to these advisors. However, what I’ve seen more often is a less rigorous due-diligence system of simply selecting the funds that are ranked highest by Morningstar, the industry’s most widely known mutual-fund evaluator. However, as a recent article by The Wall Street Journal has shown, chasing the best star ratings has its drawbacks. The Journal pointed out, after examining the performance of thousands of funds, that only 12% of 5-star-rated funds maintained this rating after five years. Basically, the Journal highlighted that the Morningstar five-star rating is not a good indicator of future outperformance. Source: The Wall Street Journal
Here are a few things to remember. First, on mutual funds (since most people own them): fees are significant, and buried in the cost of ownership. The person selling you these animals at the bank will tell you s/he doesn’t charge anything to perform that charitable service. In reality, the funds turn out trailer fees so every month you stay invested, somebody gets paid. To Rob’s point, mutual fund fees aren’t tax-deductible. So if you own a fund with a 2.5% MER and you’re in the 40% tax bracket, that’s actually costing 3.5%. Ouch.
The same principle applies to ETFs, all of which have embedded fees which are not deductible. The big difference is the average fee across a portfolio made up of exchange-traded funds might be 0.2% – or one tenth of the cost of owning a mutual.
What about other fees and investment costs?
Management fees, charged by fee-based advisors, are 100% deductible from taxable income on non-registered accounts. With RRSPs, the money taken to pay an advisor is not counted as taxable income. That means you got a tax break for putting that in, but there’s no tax when it exits – so the government is also subsidizing you. Fees on TFSAs, however, are non-deductible. Somebody in the top tax bracket, then, with accounts run by a professional offering tax advice and portfolio management who charges 1% will end up paying closer to 0.6% – while the poor single Mom with a few grand in the bank’s funds will shell out 2.6%. Unfair? You bet. But that’s the law.
So, fees are deductible. Commissions are not. MERs are embedded, invisible and can kill returns. If you remember just those three facts, they’ll serve you well. More on Mutual Funds – Dec 11 2017
What’s a mutual fund? It’s a pot of money made up of contributions from many investors that a manager then uses to buy stuff. Like stocks or corporate and government bonds. Managers charge big money to do this job (they have Porsches, too) which is charged back to the investors, and in return try to add ‘alpha’. That’s financial speak for ‘special sauce’, which means they attempt to get better returns than you’d achieve just buying the same assets and holding them. In doing this job they buy and sell frequently, often generating capital gains taxes, which the unitholders also pay.
Trouble is, most of these cowboys fail.
Last year, for example, the number of Canadian mutual funds which focus on US stocks and which outperformed the index was… zero. Nada. Donuts. Not one. In the States almost 70% of fund managers investing in large-cap stocks failed to match the index and yet charged big bucks to do so. Over the last 15 years, the failure rate among managers is 90%.
Ouch. Makes you wonder what you’re paying for. What also hurts is that the fees these non-alpha dudes charge are buried within the funds themselves, unseen by investors who cannot even deduct them from any gains they might make for tax purposes. Meanwhile the so-called advisors who collect the trailer fees from selling funds do not actually engage in any investing themselves and often collect an extra upfront fee for selling them to folks, or create a seven-year mutual-fund prison that penalizes anyone trying to get out. Difference between Mutual Funds and ETFs
Simple. ETFs are like Teslas – they drive themselves. There is no manager, so there’s no fat management fee for investors to pay. They don’t compensate some fancy guy to try and beat the market, then have to explain why he didn’t. They just pace the market itself. What the S&P 500 does this year, for example (up 18.4%), is what an ETF holding those 500 companies does. Plus, they’re traded on the stock market, which means you can buy or sell with the click of a mouse and get instant liquidity. Try doing that with a mutual fund (you can’t). In fact, most funds have the ability to halt redemptions, so if a crisis emerged you might not be able to sell when you wanted (just like Bitcoin).
ETFs are not free, however. Across a balanced portfolio you can expect to pay an embedded cost of about 0.2% – which is a hell of a lot cheaper than 2.0%.
Now, mutual fund salesguys, for obvious reasons, hate it when they hear such talk. And being in sales, they are daunting adversaries, able to woe naive investors with tales of giant, throbbing Alpha and heaving bosoms. (I may have exaggerated there.)
Jane, in fact, encountered exactly this schtick after she told her mutual fund guy she was leaving to embrace ETFs.
“I talked to him today for the formal “thank you and best of luck” nicety and needless to say he thinks I’m making a huge mistake. I feel quite defenceless when it comes to talking to financial advisors. My boyfriend tried to do his best to help explain it and then reverted to “Ask Garth.” For ease I will just lay out what was said by mutual fund guy in bullet form and hopefully you can help me out
- ETFs are cheaper but that is because they have a much lower rate of return. So if you compared mutual funds to ETFs, Mutual funds are far better.
- Fee-based advisors are cheaper because they do not actively manage my account, unlike mutual fund account managers. He said the MER is to pay for someone to manage my account. ETFs don’t charge this because no one is managing anything.
- ETFs are for old people in their 50’s that can’t absorb a loss.
- In 2008 ETFs took a much harder hit than mutual funds (50% compared to 20%)
- Young people should be aggressively investing and diversity is for old people and wusses
“Can you shed some light on this for me? My mutual fund guy did make me feel a touch uneasy. I would appreciate the insight just for building my own knowledge and confidence.”
You betcha, Janey. ETFs are cheaper because they don’t come attached to some Bay Street smartie with three kids in private school. They are pure reflections of a transparent market. The rate of return for nine out of ten has been higher than an actively-managed mutual fund, at a fraction of the cost. Fee-based advisors (who should collect a fee of no more than 1%) actually build and manage client portfolios. They all shop at Costco and recycle their socks.
ETFs for old people? Did he mention dwarfs?
As for the 2008-9 crisis, a balanced ETF portfolio declined 20% while the stock market slid 55%. It recovered all lost ground in a year, then advanced 17%. It’s not the structure of the asset that is owned (active or passive fund), but the weightings between various asset classes that will protect you in declines. You can be as conservative or aggressive as you want with either kind of funds. But if you like paying more for less, mutuals are for you. (He was really zooming you on that one.) The benefit of Bonds in a Portfolio
Bonds help reduce volatility
One common way to measure volatility is using standard deviation, which measures the variability of returns around the long-term average – the higher the number the higher the volatility. Over the last 10 years, the TSX has exhibited price volatility of 14.1%, meaning that TSX returns have been 14.1% above/below the long-term average return over the last 10 years. Volatility (standard deviation) has been 11.4% for the S&P 500 over this period. And for the average Canadian balanced portfolio, the standard deviation has been much lower at 8.3%. So, we prefer balanced portfolios to an all-equity portfolio since the ride is much smoother and with more consistent yearly returns.
📷Volatility of Different Investments
The other important reason we like balanced portfolios is because bonds often zig when equities zag. This dynamic is why a balanced portfolio exhibits lower volatility.
In good economic times corporate profits rise and investors feel more optimistic about the outlook that they are willing to pay higher multiples (e.g., P/Es) for stocks. This combination of rising corporate profits and valuations pushes stock prices higher.
Central banks in turn tighten monetary policy by hiking interest rates. This helps to push bond prices lower (prices move inversely with yields). So stocks go up and bond prices go down, generally, in a strong economy.
📷Conversely, in a weak economy stocks typically decline and central banks lower interest rates to help spur growth which leads to higher bond prices. Again, bonds zig when equities zag. This is perfectly captured in the chart below which shows the relative performance of Canadian bonds and the TSX. Note how bonds will outperform stocks over certain periods (in green) and underperform stocks in other periods (in red). This chart captures the essence of why a solidly constructed and well-managed balanced portfolio works!
Bonds/Equities Out/Underperform Over Time
Finally, how should investors structure their bond holdings in this rising interest rate environment?
First is to focus on lower duration bonds. Duration measures a bond’s price sensitivity to changing interest rates. If a bond (or in our case a bond ETF) has a duration of 8, it means the bond will decline approximately 8% for every 1% increase in interest rates, or rise 8% for every 1% decrease in rates; the higher the duration the higher the price sensitivity to rising rates.
Given our view that rates are going to continue to slowly rise, we are positioning our balanced portfolio with lower duration bond ETFs so as to minimize the impact of rising rates. Later when interest rates are higher we’ll look to reverse this call and shift into higher duration/yielding bond ETFs.
The other key strategy for bonds in a rising rate environment is to overweight corporate bonds versus government bonds.
With the Fed and BoC now hiking rates, government bond yields are moving up and prices lower. This of course weighs on all bonds but corporate bonds tend to outperform when rates rise. This happens for a few reasons. First corporate bonds offer higher coupons (yields), which help lower the duration relative to lower yielding government bonds. Second, because investors are feeling more optimistic about the economy and financial markets they are more willing to buy corporate bonds, which pushes up their prices relative to government bonds resulting in compression of the yield spread over government bonds.
Below is a chart comparing US investment grade corporate bond yields to comparable US government bond yields. Currently with US corporate bonds yielding 4.25% and US government bonds yielding 2.35%, this results in a “spread” of 190 bps. As the economy picks up this spread compresses which results in corporate bonds outperforming government bonds. We believe this spread could compress a bit further resulting in additional outperformance from corporate bonds. We’ll look to reverse this trade as we start to believe the economy is rolling over.
US Credit Spreads
📷We get it. In a raging bull market like we’ve been in for some years, bonds can be disappointing and cause us to deviate away from a balanced portfolio, focusing more on equities. But as we’ve shown, the benefits of including bonds in a portfolio are to reduce volatility and provide more consistent returns. And we’re not always going to be in a bull market so you’ll need protection against this inevitability. I feel confident that our client will call me up to thank me for our recent portfolio adjustments, likely when that dreaded bear market rears its ugly head. How are you positioned for this eventuality? Well, here are ten of my fav ways to reduce your tax bill thanks to two simple words – income-splitting (as opposed to sprinkling).
10 Ways to Reduce your Tax – Oct 29
- If you make more money than your spouse (in a higher tax bracket) take your piteous crumbs and use them to pay the household expenses. Have your spouse devote all of his/her take-home income to investing. Because your squeeze has a lower marginal rate, your family will keep more of the investment gains.
- Open a spousal retirement plan for a less-taxed partner. The full deduction comes off your bigger income but the other person gets the money. Wait three years, and it can be withdrawn at the lower spousal rate. Can result in big savings.
- Swap stuff. She gives you her departed mother’s irreplaceable jewelry (for God’s sake, don’t lose it) and you give her a bunch of ETFs. Now the financial assets are still in your family, but taxed in her hands at a lower rate (assuming there’s an income disparity between you).
- Take the beefy monthly cheque T2 now sends you for having kids and invest it in growth assets in their names. Capital gains made here will not be attributed back to you. If they grow up and become rock stars, you keep it.
- If you’re a wrinkly, split your CPP or pension with your spouse.
- Give money to your adult children. No, not for a condo down payment, but instead to maximize their TFSAs – on the understanding they give it all back (with gains) when they turn 50 and leave the basement.
- Loan your spouse a whack of money to invest. You will need to collect a tiny bit of interest annually on the loan (the rate is just 1%) but all the money the other person makes will not be attributed back to you. So if your partner’s in a lower bracket, it’s a big win. Plus the interest paid is tax-deductible.
- Max your RRSP, of course. Not so much for retirement, but for tax-shifting between periods of your life. Layoffs, job losses, mat leaves, sabbaticals – there are many times when regular income drops and tapping into money which grew tax-free can save your marriage.
- Stick the max into an RESP for your kids. No deduction for doing so, but the money will grow without tax and the feds will send a grant worth up to 20% of what you contribute annually. Open a family plan, not singles. And beware the hospital-stalking baby vultures with their crappy offerings. Go self-directed.
- Hire your spouse or your kids to labour in your small business doing useful things. Yes, this is exactly what Bill Morneau is throwing a hissy-fit over, but you’ll get the immense satisfaction of watching some CRA goon burn up hours of time only to conclude that, yes, your wife is actually a productive, contributing human being worth being paid. Plus, she’s deductible. What a turn on.
- You can get free money to educate your children simply by opening an RESP using cash the government sent you because you have children. The guaranteed return on investment is 20%, which beats buying a semi in Toronto. The rules allow you to go back and make up missed contributions (collecting the grant a year at a time), and if your kid becomes a rock legend instead of a dentist most of the tax-free growth can be wrapped inside your RRSP.
- If you think income-splitting is kaput, you’re mistaken. You and your lower-income squeeze have a plethora of ways to starve Mr. Socks. If you make more money, pay your spouse’s taxes so s/he can invest at their lower tax rate. Ditto for the household expenses. You can certainly open a spousal RRSP, writing off the contribution against your high taxes but making the money the property of your less-taxed spouse. Open a joint investment account, splitting taxable gains instead of paying them at your fat rate. And lend your spouse money to invest at the CRA’s proscribed and silly rate of 1%. So long as s/he pays you interest (tax-deductible) no money made by the investments will be attributed back to you.
- Don’t forget the registered retirement account, either, which is actually more of a tax deferral device than a way to fund your later years. RRSP room jumps with your income, so it’s of greatest benefit to those old, rich, high-earning guys that everyone currently hates. Revenge. Sweet. Having a ton of RRSP room sure helps if you get a retirement package or a pension to commute, so bear that in mind. Meanwhile you can borrow money to invest, then use the refund to pay down the loan, ending up with free equity. Or just transfer assets you already own into an RRSP (called a ‘contribution in kind’) and Justin will send you money for selling yourself something you already owned. There are no words.
- Borrowing to invest increases risk, but it sure is tempting. A secured line of credit against your house costs 3.7% and the interest is 100% tax-deductible. Meanwhile a balanced portfolio in 2017 returned 11%. Last year it was 8.5%. Looks like more is coming. So you can keep all that equity sitting in a house doing diddly, or put it to work. Just promise me you will not buy Bitcoin.
- Do you and your squeeze both work? If one earns more than the other, have the chief breadwinner pay all of the regular expenses – mortgage, rent, food, daycare, weed, insurance, booze, clothes, rehab. Make the lesser-monied spouse the chief investor in the family, so the returns (capital gains, dividends, interest) will be taxed at a lower rate.
- Ditto for registered retirement savings. If you earn considerably more than s/he does, or have a defined-benefit pension, use up all your RRSP room for a spousal plan. You write the contribution off your higher taxed income while your spouse gains control of the money. After three years it can be withdrawn at their lower rate – so you’ve just sprinkled!
- Here’s another one, if there’s an income disparity between you: loan your less-taxed spouse a bunch of money for investment purposes. S/he puts it into a nice little non-registered account and starts collecting dividends and earning capital gains in a tax-efficient way. Even though it’s your money, none of that income is attributed back to you – so long as this is set up as a loan at the CRA’s prescribed rate of interest which is, believe it or not, just 1%. Interest must be paid annually by the end of January but all of that is tax-deductible. Yes, your spouse can write it off the investment returns. This works for kids over 18, too. More sprinkling!
- Also with income-splitting: if you are a wrinkly collecting CPP (everybody should start taking it at 60, no exceptions), this can also be split with your less-taxed spouse.
- If you didn’t listen to the advice on this blog, bought individual equities and were handed your rear end by Mr. Market, sell those dogs before Christmas in order to realize a capital loss which can be used to reduce taxes on capital gains. Losses can be used to neutralize gains not only in the current tax year, but going back three more years. This can help you recover taxes that you paid as far back as 2014.
- You can also take crap assets that dropped in value and dump them on your kid. Another great reason to have children! Investments can be transferred to a minor child and that will also trigger a tax loss in your hands which can be used to offset gains. Now your spawn has an asset that, when it recovers in value, will be essentially tax-free with none of the gain attributed back to you.
- Fill up your TFSA, obviously. Also that of your spouse. And your kids over the age of 18. Gift money to all of them with no gains TFSAs attributed back to you. Remember, $5,500 a year for 35 years earning 7% will result in $819,000, of which more than six hundred grand is compound growth. So ensure these are not savings accounts, but investment accounts – no GICs, HISAs or other dorky stuff. Also when you retire, a $819,000 TFSA will give you about $50,000 a year in taxless income which will not reduce your CPP or OAS by one cent.
- If you’re 71 and have to convert an RRSP to a RRIF, be thankful you robbed the cradle and married a babe younger than you. Your mandatory retirement fund withdrawals can be based on the age of your spouse, keeping them to a minimum and allowing your nest egg to grow larger, longer.
- Obviously put money into a RESP for your kids. The feds will give you an automatic grant equal to 20% – so for a $2,500 contribution you receive $500, up to a lifetime total of $7,200. Free money. Duh. Why would you not do this? If your kid grows up to be a rock star or a high-net-worth, Mercedes-driving plumber you can fold much of the RESP money into your RRSP. Remember to buy growth assets. Establish a family plan for multiple kids, not separate ones. And, for God’s sake, avoid the RESP-flogging baby vultures that skulk around hospitals. Go self-directed.
10.And, yes, use RRSPs. They’re still the best tax-shifting vehicle around, allowing you to write off up to $25,000 in taxable income a year. You can borrow money cheap to contribute, then use the refund to pay much of it back. Or open a plan, shift in assets you already own, and get paid money by Bill Morneau for selling yourself stuff you already own. That should make his head all splody. Legal aspects of selling a house
If you’re selling a house – with more market declines ahead thanks to the new stress test – make damn sure the deal is solid. No long close. A mother of a deposit (ask for 10%). No buyer visits prior to closing. Deposit held in your lawyer’s trust account, not that of the listing broker. No condition on the buyer finding ‘satisfactory’ financing. And a clause giving you a day or two for legal approval of the offer.
Also do something radical – find out who the buyer is before you enter into a contract with them. Job? Circumstances? Background? Can they afford it? After all, you’d never rent your cheapo condo to someone without a credit application, references, credit check and income/employment verification. Why sell a $1.5 million house to a stranger and make huge life changes based on a closing months away that may never happen? HELOC & Risk Investment Strategy – August 7th
So he wrote me with an idea and a question:
I’m curious to know if you’d recommend pulling out 100k in equity in a house NOT to buy a rental house but to invest in a diversified portfolio and hopefully make a 6% to 8% yearly return only to turn around and put it back down onto the mortgage to pay it off faster? I’ve been contemplating on things to do to pay down the mortgage and create some income, no good having this equity just sitting here when it can be working for us! Seems starting a corporation is out of the question now thanks to T2 and his finance guru.
Given that real estate’s fat days are behind us but debt isn’t going anywhere, does this make sense? Maybe. Let’s roll it around.
Millions of people have, collectively, billions in real estate equity. When house prices stop going up, this becomes dead money. The only value you can really ascribe is what it might save you in equivalent rent. For example, a $1.5 million house can normally be rented for $3,000 a month. The family with a $500,000 mortgage and $1 million in equity is spending $2,400 (monthly) on the mortgage plus about $600 in property tax, insurance and utilities (water, sewer) that renters never pay. So they ‘own’ a home for the same monthly outlay as the family who rents it.
But they have put down $1 million to live there. If that were conservatively invested, and returned 6% annually, it’s $5,000 a month. So the house actually costs $8,000, and could yield a non-deductible capital loss as easily as a non-taxable capital gain.
In other words, in a declining, flat, comatose or normal housing market, the cost of ownership when real estate has climbed to these levels is insane. Renters who invest win, ten times out of ten. If interest rates creep up and mortgages renew higher, the economics of owning get worse. In the current environment, a lot of people have to be asking themselves – like Kevin – if there isn’t some way to use that dead equity which is no longer supporting a rising asset.
Yes, a HELOC is one way of unleashing equity. It’s a line of credit secured by real estate, which means the debt is registered against the property but also that it comes with a preferential rate of interest. That’s normally prime + 0.5%. These days that equates to 3.45% (and it may rise to 3.7% in October). The line’s rate is almost always variable, so it will increase along with the bank prime. And HELOCs are demand loans. If real estate prices truly collapsed or another credit crisis hit, the bank could ask you for the money back in, oh, 30 days.
The good news is all of the interest is deductible from your taxable income if the money is used to generate more money. Yup, that could be real estate paying you rent or (wiser) a balanced and diversified portfolio of financial assets. So, if you earn $120,000 and live in BC, for example, you effectively reduce the loan interest rate by 41%. Now the HELOC costs you just 2%.
Given that well-managed, non-cowboy, globally-balanced and diversified ETF portfolios have pumped out an average of 6.5% over the last seven years (two of which were market stinkers), this mean a spread in the 4% range. Last time I checked, that was better than the 0% home equity is currently paying.
So to Kev’s question. If he borrowed $100,000 on a HELOC and invested it for a 7% return, then used the cash flow generated ($7,000) to pay down his existing mortgage faster, would it make sense? Well, interest-only payments on the line would cost $3,450, but he’d reduce his income tax by $1,400 (if he earns enough). So he’s up five grand. That’s cool – it can be used as a pre-payment on the amortized mortgage. But wait. Kevin now owes another $100,000. But wait again. He has a $100,000 liquid investment portfolio.
By removing equity and borrowing, the Harley dude has (a) diversified his net worth, (b) reduced his income tax bill and (c) accelerated the mortgage payments, saving a whack of interest.
This is not a slam-dunk strategy for everyone. If rates rise and the payments get hard to make, you lose. If the world goes to crap and the loan is called, you lose. If your house craters and the bank finds out, you lose. If your job fades, you lose. If you invest in the wrong stuff (like gold, bitcoins, weed stock or junior oil & gas), you lose. If the feds drop the hammer on HELOCs again, you lose.
Debt is debt. The world’s soaked in it. Most people would be unwise to shoulder more.
The best strategy, history will show, is to trash debt by selling high. This is high. Complex home buying tax strategy, courtesy of Derek Holt – the chief economist at Scotiabank
· Make a $19.2k RRSP contribution just three months in advance of buying a home… • …assuming a 30% tax rate, deposit $6k tax refund back into RRSP… • …then withdraw the allowed $25k maximum under the HomeBuyers’ • …to be repaid to the RRSP in equal installments over 15 years starting 2 years after withdrawal with no interest penalty and the payments are not counted in mortgage serviceability calculations… • …at, say, a 4% rate of interest, this equals $8k in interest savings over 15yrs… • …which means the initial $19.2k RRSP deposit has been parlayed into an effective down payment of about $33k, or an extra 70%+ • No restrictions on the source of the original RRSP deposit (can borrow for it, ‘gift’, etc). • ie: the zero-down mortgage can still theoretically exist • If a couple, and both are first time homebuyers, double all of the math above (ie: turn $38k from liberally allowed sources into a $65k down payment)
· If a major bank’s showing clients how to take $38,000 and game it into $65,000 through exploiting the system, it might indicate we’ve all hit a tax wall. And this is even before T2 Hoovers out the savings of small business operators, vets, docs and the local John Deere dealership.
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