New Media Channel – I’m on YouTube!


Thanks to the camera in my iPhone and a free editing program I downloaded, I am know able to record my thoughts on video!

Here is the first of what I hope will become a new way to communicate my message to the world.  Check out my first Vlog – “What I do and Why I do It.”

Let me kow what you think!  Feedback is always appreciated.

7 Tips to Recover from a Financial Setback


why-meBad things happen to good people. Overcoming financial challenges – in whatever form – takes dedication, patience and planning.

In life, you will have trouble, that’s a given. This can include losing your job, going through a divorce, or experiencing a serious illness. Then there are all those unexpected expenses life throws at you. A leaky roof, flooded basement, major car repair – any one of these could cost thousand, with no time to waste and room to negotiate.

And to add insult to injury, often times, more than one of these situations occur at once. It’s fairly obvious to think that these challenges often affect your finances – so how do you recover?

Here are seven tips for getting back in track after a financial setback, as recently published in “Solutions for Financial Planning”, a periodical publication from Manulife Financial.

  1. Get Professional Advice – A professional perspective can be invaluable, no matter the size of your problem. An financial advisor can help you assess the impact on both your short-term and long-term plans, adjust your goals, and develop a plan that helps lead to recovery. Getting advice first, will help you avoid making bad decisions like, racking up a large credit card balance that could only serve to prolong your troubles. Your advisor should help you gain perspective, relax a bit and offer constructive solutions to your problem.
  2. Tighten You Budget – Your budget probably has some slack. Regardless of the cause of your troubles, it’s time to eliminate that slack and get your budget back in balance. Take a hard look at your non-essential costs. I encourage all of my clients to play a little game call “Every Dollar Has A Name” in order to find the margin in their budget. Are there free or lower-cost alternatives to the things you do on a regular basis? Borrowing books, magazines and videos from the library, activities in a local park or at a community centre, or the ever popular staycation versus expensive vacation can all help save thousands. You could even take a look at negotiating a better deal on certain products and services without cutting back.
  3. changesExplore Big-Ticket Cost Savings – If things look as if they could have a lasting impact, and a high cost, it may be time to make some significant changes to your lifestyle. Changes that go beyond simple trimming and include some of the biggest line items in your budget. Consider moving to a smaller home a more affordable area and can you make do with one car? Major changes are difficult, but they may be the key to helping protect your future.
  4. Earn Extra Income – Spending less can only go so far, can you bring in more money? Can you sell something of value like art, an antique or a collectible? Maybe you can work more hours or even take a second job. Or course, working more takes time away from other commitments and might increase certain expenses like child care. And don’t forget the tax implications of earning more income. Ask your advisor to help you run all the numbers to ensure your extra income will more than pay for those extra costs.
  5. Talk To Your Mortgage Provider – If you have a mortgage, you may be able negotiate more manageable terms. You could switch from accelerated to more standard payments or if you’ve made lump-sum prepayments in the past, you may qualify for a short-term holiday from payments. It might also be possible to lengthening your mortgage’s amortization and add any payments you’ve missed to your balance. Lastly, if you are close to the renewal date on your mortgage, a full scale consolidation and change of provider may be in order.
  6. Talk To Other Creditors Too – Don’t letting bills slide, call your creditors, explain your situation and ask to lower your interest rate or reduce your payments. Most companies recognize the value of keeping you as a customer long term and are willing to negotiate rather than take a hard line and risk losing your as a customer forever. This can give you the breathing room you need to get through the worst of a setback and help protect your credit rating.
  7. Borrow Sensibly – If you simply can’t find any more savings or increase your piggywaterincome and you’ve run through your savings, check into the lowest-cost sources of borrowing. This can usually take the form of a secured line of credit or the aforementioned consolidation loan. Your advisor can help you identify the best solution for you.

 

Recovery from a financial shock is a journey. It will likely take several months or even years to get back to where you once were. But with a little determination, patience, planning and hard work, it can be done!

As things start to improve, make sure you stick to a streamlined budget and put extra money towards your long term debts. Start building a substantial emergency fund (three to six months of expenses) so you have resources on hand the next time you hit a financial speed bump.

Once you are in a stronger position, with more a bit more margin, look at other ways to help protect yourself from future shocks, such as various forms of personal insurance including, health, dental, critical illness and disability coverage. Start to set some money aside for the future too in one of the many government sponsored tax advantaged savings vehicles like a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA), Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or even a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP).

After enough time has passed and you have recovered emotionally from the stress, take some time to look back and think about what you might have done differently. Hindsight is 20/20 so use it to your advantage. Learn from the experience, without assigning blame and make sure you’re in a stronger financial position in case another difficult situation occurs.

balancingLastly, and I can’t stress this enough, go back to the very first tip and engage the help of professional financial advisor. Strong financial advice means a strong financial future. Households with an advisor are more likely to:

  • Have enough money to live the life they want (61 per cent compared to 31 per cent with no financial plan)
  • Be able to take an annual vacation (74 per cent compared to 44 per cent with no financial plan)
  • Have enough money for splurges (65 per cent compared to 31 per cent with no financial plan)

It doesn’t “just happen.” But it does happen if you have the right plan and support.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated a small farm, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, and has written 3 books on Economics, Ethics and Spirituality.  He has presented his ideas to business owners and leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He brings to his work a passion for people and a desire to teach everyone to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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Dress For the Weather, Live For the Climate.


The daily weather is comparably different from the climate. Weather is about the short run; climate is about the long run. And that makes all the difference. In choosing a climate in which to build a home, we would not be deflected by last week’s weather. Similarly, in choosing a long-term investment program, we don’t want to be deflected by temporary market conditions. – Charles D. Ellis; Winning The Loser’s Game – Timeless Strategies for Successful Investing

weatherandclimateCharles D. Ellis is an investment consultant and one of the world’s leading thinkers in investment management.  In 1972 he founded the international consulting firm, Greenwich Associates and began offering strategic investment advice to many of the world’s largest financial institutions. You could say that Mr. Ellis is the financial advisor to your financial advisor’s boss.

In 1975 Ellis published a book called “Investment Policy” in which he explained the financial “climate” around us and the essential steps investors should take to build long term wealth. The book was originally aimed at institutional investors, the people who make strategic decisions for banks, pension funds and the largest mutual fund organizations but with the advent of the 401k plan in the US and the increasing popularity of RRSPs in Canada he soon realized that more and more individuals were taking control of their own investment plans and could benefit from knowing the strategies being employed by his large clients. The third edition of Investment Policy was released in 1998 under a new title “Winning the Loser’s Game – Timeless Strategies for Successful Investing”, and marketed for individual investors.

losersgameEllis explains that a winner’s game is a game in which you out match an opponent and win because you are better than they are. A loser’s game on the other hand is a game in which players are evenly matched and the “winner” just makes fewer mistakes than the “loser”.  The best example I can think of to describe a loser’s game is to think about how children learn to play chess.  The game is complicated and mastery of it takes years, when they first start to play children are far more likely to win if they simply make fewer mistakes than their opponent.  Beginners don’t so much “win” a chess match as they outlast their opponent long enough not to lose.

The stock market is a loser’s game simply because there are so many smart players, all with equal access to information about the companies they are buying and selling. If you are trying to “beat” the market with your skill at stock picking you are essentially trying to outsmart some of the smartest people in the world. Not only that but those super smart people are looking at the same information that you are. Your only hope at “winning” is for a large number of the players to simultaneously make a mistake and for you to have the fortitude to resist the consensus.

It does happen once in a while, but not enough for anyone to consistently beat the market over the long run. In fact, over a rolling 15 year period dating all the way back to the mid 19th century the New York Stock Exchange has lost money only once. The Toronto Stock exchange has never lost money over a rolling period of 10 years or more. This makes beating the market, winning when everyone else is losing, exceedingly hard.   Nobody does it consistently for long so Ellis’ strategy is simple – if you can’t beat them, join them.

Ellis uses the analogy of weather and climate extensively throughout the book to explain the difference between short term and long term investing strategies. Weather happens and is largely unpredictable climate takes longer to unfold and is relatively predictable.

I can’t tell you if it might snow tomorrow but I can tell you that it is highly unlikely for it to be 30 Celsius for at least another 4 months. The more data you can bring to your analysis, the longer your outlook and the broader the sampling of stocks (and bonds) you can purchase, the more predictable your returns will be. It is through this extreme diversification and a long term outlook that you can virtually eliminate risk from your portfolio.

warrenbuffett1Warren Buffet, the oracle of Omaha once said, “Our ideal holding period is forever.” Buffet understands climate.

Will the stock market go down tomorrow – maybe, I really couldn’t say for sure. Will it rain? No clue. Will the stock market gain over the next 20 years? Again I can’t say for sure but it’s never lost over that long before so it’s a pretty good bet, just like it’s never been 30 Celsius in February so I think I’ll wear a coat.

You can win the loser’s game. All you need to do is play not to lose and you’ll be just fine.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated a small farm, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, and has written 3 books on Economics, Ethics and Spirituality.  He has presented his ideas to business owners and leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He brings to his work a passion for people and a desire to teach everyone to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

 

 

Weathering Stormy Seas


stormatseaI start a lot of my initial client meetings with the following a metaphor.

Picture yourself on a sea voyage to a place called “retirement island”.  Our job today is to make sure your ship is sea worthy, that you have adequate supplies for the journey, (including life preservers) and that you bring enough cargo with you to survive once you get there.  As we all know,  retirement island, is a desert island and apart from the monthly visits of the S.S. Government Pension, everything you will need to live on retirement island will need to brought with you.

A lot of Canadians are jittery about investing. And who can say they’re wrong to worry? Between slumping oil prices, and the Canadian dollar’s dramatic ups and downs, the economy has taken a big hit in recent years. So has investor morale. Market volatility, along with economic uncertainty seems to be the new normal. The sea we are traveling on is choppy to say the least.

But even in a harder investment climate, diversification, with at least some stocks and bonds, is in my opinion the only way to beat inflation. This is specifically why today’s stormy conditions are leading some investors to consider taking a look at included segregated funds as part of the investment portfolio in the cargo hold of their ship.

A recent issue of “Solutions for Financial Planning” the client periodical from Manulife Financial, contained a fantastic article on the features and benefits of segregated funds. Much of the following information has been gleaned from that article and my personal experience in the financial planning industry.

What is a segregated fund? I’m glad you asked.

moneylifepreserverOne way to look at it is to say that a segregated fund is a way to put a life preserver around your money.

A segregated fund incorporates the potential for growth offered by a broad range of investment funds with the particular wealth protection features of a life insurance policy. Segregated fund contracts can help reduce vulnerability to loss through a number of different guarantees. These guarantees include things like income levels, death and maturity, potential protection from creditors, and estate planning, all from one product.

For most investors worried about market risk and volatility, a segregated fund’s most attractive features are it guarantees. After all, there are very few in guarantees life.

With a segregated fund contract, you will positively receive at least 75 per cent of your deposits (up to 100 per cent in some cases), minus any withdrawals, when the contract matures. This is called the maturity guarantee, and it applies on a set date. The maturity date occurs after a minimum number of years have elapsed or when the owner attains a certain age, (usually age 100). Even if markets decline during the period you will still receive the minimum guaranteed amount. If markets rise, your savings grow. Some contracts will even allow you to reset your maturity date so you can lock in growth.

One important detail about segregated fund contracts is that they are actually life insurance policies. Only life insurance companies can offer them, and only licensed life insurance representatives can sell them.

Segregated fund contracts vary widely. They can offer a diverse range of guarantees, features and fees. We are here to help and can explain the differences and recommend the various options that are available to you.

smoothsailingSegregated funds commonly suit more conservative investors, especially during stormier seas and more volatile markets. For investors who don’t want to lose sleep over the market ups and downs, the guarantees that come with segregated funds can provide some peace of mind and help offer smoother sailing. They also appeal to people for whom estate planning and the potential for protection from creditors is a top priority.

Segregated fund contracts also include a death benefit guarantee, similar to the maturity guarantee, if you die while the markets are down your estate or named beneficiary will receive a pre-determined percentage of the original deposit, regardless of the market value of the fund at the time. The guarantee can be up to 100 per cent, depending on the type of contract selected and the age of the purchaser. Your named beneficiary gets the death benefit in the event of your untimely passing. You can name anyone as your beneficiary, family member, friend or even your favourite charity.

Keep in mind that the guarantees are a type of life insurance, which you are going to pay for. Segregated fund costs are similar to the fees charged for comparable mutual funds and include management fees, insurance fees, operating costs and applicable sales tax. A contract might also include a charge for early with drawl. We can provide you with an itemized list of all fees prior to making any investment decision.

retiredcoupleonabeachGiven all of these advanced features a segregated fund contract could be just the answer for investors looking to minimize their exposure to risk and still take advantage of the upside potential of stock based investing. So that when you finally arrive at retirement island, your ship is intact and you can relax on the beach for the rest of your days. Given the ups and downs of today’s markets, they certainly deserve a closer look. Why not give me a call to discuss whether segregated funds are right for you?

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated a small farm, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, has written 3 books on Economics and Ethics and presented his ideas to business owners and leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs and everyday families to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

 

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Five Smart Money Moves for the first 100 days of 2017


happynewyearA New Year will dawn in just over 3 more days. For me and many others who are close to me, the fresh start that a new year brings can’t come soon enough. Every year has its trials and triumphs but it seems that 2016 has had more than its fair share of the former and not enough of the latter. So I thought it was time to write about some strategic moves we can all make with our money in the coming year to make 2017 better than 2016 and set us up for many more good years in come.

With a new president in the United States we will likely be hearing a lot about the first 100 days of the new administration. Like a game of chess, the first few opening moves of a new administration are said to set the tone for the entire four year term. I like the idea of the first 100 days. It is long enough to measure and short enough not to drag on and on. The following are all moves you can make in the first 100 days of 2017 and set the tone for the rest of the year.

1 – Pay off consumer debt

Consumer debt (credit cards, personal loans, lines of credit etc) usually comes with a higher interest rate than your mortgage so that’s the best place to start. As of the last full accounting in 2015 Canadians were carrying an average of $21,164 in non-mortgage debt.

I’ve written at length in the past about various debt repayment strategies like the Debt Snowball and Debt Avalanche. Whether you need a series of small early victories or just want to get rid of your highest interest debt first doesn’t really matter. The key to both strategies is that once you have paid something off you roll the amount you’ve been paying over to the next one on the list and pick up momentum as you go, like rolling a ball down a hill.

Think of your debt repayment as an investment. Every dollar you pay toward a debt with a 19% interest rate is like earning that same 19% on your investments. At the end of the day it’s all about your net worth anyway and by reducing that debt you are increasing your net worth faster than you would be if you put that money toward an investment, even if you achieve an almost unheard of 12-15% on your money.

2 – Pay down your mortgagemortgage

Your biggest debt is likely your mortgage. The average mortgage in Canada is about $175,000. If your mortgage allows for it, consider putting a lump sum directly toward the principle. This could save you thousands in interest over the course of the term.

Alternatively, if you have at least 20% equity in your home you might also consider renegotiating or transferring your mortgage to a different financial institution and rolling some of your higher interest debt into the principle. Many financial institutions offer these kinds of mortgage consolidations that, even when you consider penalties to get out of your existing mortgages could save you thousands per year.

3 – Save for retirement

Money inside a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) can grow more quickly than non-registered money because you don’t have to pay taxes on any growth until you make withdrawals. The theory is that when you do finally make those withdrawals you will be in a lower tax bracket than you were when you made the deposits so you will always pay less tax than if you hadn’t registered the money in the first place. Not to mention the fact that you will get a tax deduction based in the amount of your RRSP contribution.

This is an important move for not just the first 100 days of the year but if you make the contribution within the first 60 days of the year (prior to March 1) you can report it on your 2016 tax return.

4 – Save for a short-term goal

shortermgoalThere are lots of things we can consider as a short-term goal; saving for a down payment on a house, a new car, vacation or building up an emergency fund. Open a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) for these types of things. All investment growth in a TFSA is tax-free and can be withdrawn at any time without incurring any taxes. And the best feature of these accounts is that you can withdraw money one year and put it back the next year without losing any contribution room.

As of January 1 every Canadian over 18 will receive an additional $5,500 of contribution room, bringing the total available room depending on your age to $52,000.

5 – Save for education

If you have children that are planning on going on to post-secondary education there is no better investment vehicle than the Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP). It is essentially guaranteed free money. Depending on your income level the government will add up to 20% to your investment. Consider an average investment earning 5% on its own plus the 20% in government grants and there is no other investment on the planet where you could reasonably expect a 25% annual return. Best of all the money is taxed at the student’s income rate when it is withdrawn, which should be next to nothing.

With these early moves you can set the tone for a successful 2017. For more information on how to implement these and other strategies feel free to contact me any time.

Mr. Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 20 years.  He is currently a Financial Security Advisor with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He holds dual licenses from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) for Life, Disability and Critical Illnesses Insurance and the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada (MFDA) for personal investments.  He is passionate about helping people to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsporject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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Quick Tip #30 – The Value of Advice


What level of risk are you willing to assume in your investment portfolio? By knowing your risk tolerance, your financial security advisor can help you build a balanced portfolio with the right mix of asset classes. When asked, 61 per cent of advised investors strongly agreed that their advisor had a positive impact on the value of their investments and their investment returns. [IFIC, The value of advice: report, 2011]