A Personal Spending Surplus ?

Before the previous Federal Election, the Tories claimed they had a “surplus” I read over the Annual Financial Report of the Government of Canada Fiscal Year 2014–2015 is the statement of the National Debt and saw that one of the ways a surplus was possible in the fiscal year 2014-15 was by ministries delaying spending, which made me wonder if it would be possible to do the same thing with our own personal finances?

Debt Subliminal

This is NOT a Debt Reduction Plan

Suppose we look at a young family, with a Home Line of Credit which holds the debt on their house (as opposed to a regular mortgage, this is an important part of my scenario). This young family goes to a financial planner, who tells them they needed to cut down on their spending and get to a point where what they spend is less than what they earn (similar to the concept of this government’s surplus).

The family is lucky in that their Home Line of Credit’s minimum payment is the Interest Charge for that Month (and luckily their Line of Credit interest rate is nice and low). The young family does have a lot of expenses, with small children, car payments and a large amount of discretionary spending (and the debt that accrued because of that spending). The family decides the best way to reach the zen of spending less than they earn is by not paying down their largest debt (their house), so that they can pay for all of their other spending (cars, vacations, nice clothes, cable, etc.,).

This idea actually works well (assuming the bank doesn’t call the line of credit and ask for all of their money), in that the family is not spending more than they make, but there is a problem. Their debt load isn’t actually dropping, and they will eventually have to pay down the debt on their house, which is a huge problem. An even bigger problem will be when interest rates go up, so in the end, this family is living in a financial fool’s paradise.

At the end of it, the Tories “surplus” didn’t really come to fruition, and thanks to a new Government, we are back to deficit financing programs and such, but there are promises of balancing a budget some time soon. This might well be how our example family ends up as well (i.e. much farther in debt).

Remember as I always say, Hey we got extra money, let’s spend it! (No, I don’t I am being sarcastic).

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Another Quarter Richer but Deeper in Debt

You could sing that title to the tune of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s 16 Tons, but Stats Canada published another interesting and information filled report that the main stream media is howling about how Canadians is going to be foreclosed (on). (report National balance sheet and financial flow accounts, fourth quarter 2015)

Sixteen Tons

Tennessee Ernie’s Greatest Hits
from Amazon

The report itself has a great deal of useful information about the Valuation (for lack of a better term) of Canada and Canadians, and well worth having a read.

The major line in one of the tables that is being touted as the reason that Canadians are going too far into debt. While these numbers are quite sobering in that the percentage of Debt to Disposable income is increasing and it is currently at 168% (i.e. for every $1 of disposable income, Canadians owe $1.68), however in another part of the report you can read:

On a per capita basis, household net worth was $263,200, up 1.5% from the previous quarter.

Thus my statement that we are Richer and also more in debt.

Quarterly Table of Debt and Income Comparisons
   3rd Q 2014 4th Q 2014 1st Q 2015 2nd Q 2015 3rd Q 2015 4th Q  2015
% % % % % %
Household sector
Debt to disposable income† 165.07 165.23 163.87 165.14 166.61 167.60
Credit market debt to disposable income 162.75 163.00 161.61 162.96 164.46 165.44
Consumer credit and mortgage liabilities to disposable income 155.36 155.59 154.20 155.50 156.99 157.96

What the ratio tells us: This ratio compares debt to annual household disposable income. In general, the ratio suggests that the lower the ratio the greater the ability to manage debt through current income.” 

The simplistic explanation overall is that Canadian assets have been increasing in value, with the housing bubble (in many areas, not Alberta though), the recovering stock market and the recovering loony as well. Are we actually saving more? I doubt it, I do believe that we are further in debt though (so yes I am agreeing with many financial pundits who are sounding warnings from this data).

The fact that debt is increasing vs. our disposable income is a more sinister issue. Are we simply deluding ourselves that since we are saving, we can also still build up more debt?

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Debt Cash Grabs and Your Bank

A while ago, Gail Vaz-Oxlade put out a simple Facebook post that blew my mind.

I had heard this could happen, but evidently it happens a great deal, when folks build up large debts, or get too delinquent with their debts. The terms of your banking agreements make this all legitimate (so read them over closely to see what other interesting things your bank can do, I am sure there are others), but it does seem interesting that banks want you to consolidate your banking in one bank, and they will entice you to do this with great “deals” on things.

Customer Retention

Don’t put all your eggs in this one mousetrap

Does this mean you should go out and diversify your assets and your debts so that they are at least arm’s length away from each other? Might not be a bad idea, if you are the kind of person that builds up large personal debt loads and is very likely not to pay those debts back (or has a tardiness streak in you), but then again, if you were that kind of person, would you think of this?

It seems there are folks who try to game the system, and will bounce around from bank to bank attempting to stay one step ahead of debtors prison (or the bill collectors), but I haven’t met many of those folks. Is your bank suddenly garnishing your money a real concern? Not for most folks, but it is something you should keep in mind, just like if you buy your lottery tickets with a credit card, it is treated like a cash advance.

File this one in your TIL file (Today I Learned).

 

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Optimize Your Budget for Any Debt Level

You’re not going to believe the trick I use while budgeting to pay down my debt load.

Optimized Budget

Your Budget Will Be Optimized

This may solve your debt problems simply and if you want to know how it works, click below.

👀 Click here if you want to find out this amazing trick 👀

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Financial Hauntings

Do you realize that you drag your financial past decisions around like Jacob Marley did in a Christmas Carol ? All of those odd decisions that you made in the past build a chain that you are now hobbled with, and will continue to be hobbled with. Dickens had Marley’s chain signify the horrible decisions he made about mankind, and while that is a lovely sentiment, the financial chain that you create for yourself here and now is just as crippling (if you continue to make bad decisions).

Jacob Marley

Jacob Marley and his Chains (Sir Alec Guiness)

Getting the point across to younger folks, that pretty much all the odd decisions that they make early on in life will follow them one way or another, in pretty much all aspects of life, but especially in financial terms, is not an easy task. When you are young you have all the time in the world, and if you make a few mistakes it won’t caused you any issues later in life, or will it?

  • If you decide to forego putting money in your RRSP, and decide to get a nicer car when you were 25, you then have more links in your financial chain to carry. You will have to save more later in life to retire the way you wish.
  • If you don’t quit smoking until you are 40, you have 20 years of spending money on your habit, and shortening your life (and paying more for your life insurance as well). More links in your financial chain. You might want to look up how much term insurance costs for a smoker over the age of 50, if you think I am being alarmist.
  • Every debt that you think you will pay off at a later date, or worse each month you carry credit card debt, you forge many more strong links in your financial chain.
  • Every lottery ticket that you have bought over the years adds more links to your chain.

The financial chains you forge in your youth, are a heavy weight to carry into your golden years.

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Symptoms Your Debt Load is Getting Out of Control

I have had a lot of folks comment to me about how “… I didn’t know I was in trouble financially until I was in the middle of it…”, which is (unfortunately) true for many folks. In trying to help folks understand some of the warning signs that their debt load is starting to get out of control I will give you some personal examples of when you should really start doing something (i.e. make a plan, or talk to someone) about your debt load.

Wile E. Coyote

The Coyote Didn’t See it Coming Either

  • If you have yelled at your spouse because they bought the “expensive” toilet paper. If you are that close to the edge that whether you get “ass ripping” or “soft on my bum” toilet paper matters, you are in trouble.
  • You start devising plans to transfer monthly credit balances  from one credit card to another one with a lower rate of interest. You shouldn’t be carrying debt on your credit card (even if it has a low-interest rate), and if you are thinking of consolidation loans, you are in trouble and should go get help.
  • You try to put together a financial plan, or at least a list of known expenses, and you can’t remember all the places where you owe money, this is a big problem. More than once I have heard an associate tell me, “… I forgot that I had to pay the property tax this month..”. Really? Any bill that is bigger than $100 should be on your calendar with warnings on when to pay it.
  • Your need to have a new vehicle fools you into allowing your car sales rep to “blend and extend” or “fold in” your previous car lease into your new one, because it’s only $50 more a pay (and you are paying every two weeks).
  • If the phrase, “pay day loans aren’t that bad” is ever used by you and not in a sarcastic way, you are really up feces creek without a canoe or a paddle.

I realize very few folks make the conscious decision to let their debt get out of control, but it is scary to think just how simple it is to have things get out of control when it comes to your finance. Diligence is the watch word for your money.

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Debts are Like Weeds

A short one for today

Dandelion

Bloody Weeds

Debts are so much like Weeds, removing them (one by one) seems like an insurmountable task, yet, if you go at it a little bit at a time, in a shorter period than you thought, they are all gone, but you have to stay diligent or they will continue to dominate everything.

There is your lawn and finance tip for the day, if you want a fitness tip read Debt is Like Fat .

 

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Canadian Family Debt is Increasing

Stats Canada published another one of their interesting long term studies about Canadians, and this one is of particular interest to me (and hopefully you), Study: Changes in Debt and Assets of Canadian Families 1999 to 2012 . The actual full report (which is also an interesting, but longer read) can be found on the Stats Canada Web Site, as well.

The full report outlines the following:


This paper examines changes in debt, assets and net worth among Canadian families with debt over the period 1999 to 2012, by selected family characteristics. It also examines the extent to which two key ratios of indebtedness, the debt-to-income ratio and the debt-to-asset ratio, varied over the period.

  • In 2012, the percentage of Canadian families with debt was 71%, up from 67% in 1999. The median debt held by these families was $60,100, up from $36,700 in 1999 (in 2012 constant dollars).
  • Between 1999 and 2012, median debt and median assets increased for most types of families, but not equally for all categories of families. Median debt, for instance, increased faster among those in the 35-to-44 age group, among couples with children under 18, and among mortgagees.
  • Between 1999 and 2012, the median debt-to-income ratio rose from 0.78 to 1.10, while the median debt-to-asset ratio remained stable, at around 0.25. Families in the 35-to-44 age group witnessed significant increases in both their debt-to-income and debt-to-asset ratios.
  • In 2012, 35% of Canadian families had a debt-to-income ratio above 2.0—meaning that their debt was at least twice the level of their annual after-tax income. This compared with 23% of Canadian families in 1999.
  • In 2012, 14% of families had consumer debt (i.e., debt other than mortgage debt) that was larger than their annual after-tax family income. In comparison, 8% were facing the same situation in 1999.

So the long and the short of it is yes Canadians are carrying more debt, their assets are worth more, but as usual you need to look a little closer at some of the data to see the more disturbing findings in the report (that confirm things we all keep suspecting, younger Canadians with young families (with kids) are starting to drown and the ocean continues to rise). I put that last bullet in bold to emphasize the growing consumer debt “balloon” that is inflating without control and when interest rates go up, wait for the big bang.

Debt to asset and Debt to Disposable Income ratio

Debt and Asset as a Ratio

As you can see the value of assets has gone up as much as debt, however comparing it to disposable income is a little more worrisome.

Percentage of families with debt, 1999 and 2012
Table summary
This table displays the results of Percentage of families with debt 1999 and 2012, calculated using percentage units of measure (appearing as column headers).
1999 2012
percentage
Families with debt 67.3 71.1
Age of major income earner  
15 to 34 79.6 78.6
35 to 44 80.0 84.7
45 to 54 76.4 80.7
55 to 64 60.9 70.3
65 and over 27.4 42.5

This table has some more worrisome number showing that folks 65 and over “with debt” has increased significantly. Seniors carrying debt loads? Why?

Table 2
Median debt and assets, families with debt, 1999 and 2012
Table summary
This table displays the results of Median debt and assets Median debt, Change, Median assets, 1999, 2012 and 1999 to 2012, calculated using 2012 dollars units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Median debt Change Median assets Change
1999 2012 1999 to 2012 1999 2012 1999 to 2012

2012 dollars

All

36,700

60,100

23,400

225,400

405,200

179,800

Age of major
income
earner
 
15 to 34 24,400 39,300 14,900 63,600 92,700 29,100
35 to 44 63,000 142,600 79,600 234,000 413,800 179,800
45 to 54 50,500 87,800 37,300 355,400 552,700 197,300
55 to 64 26,200 49,300 23,100 404,100 656,800 252,700
65 and over 8,500 18,000 9,500 310,100 484,300 174,200

The age group 35 to 44 has had it’s debt load double, and while it’s assets are up, they have not doubled. Is this a “debt bubble” that is going to go boom if interest rates go up?

So it seems our assets have increased in value (but that does include real estate, which has increased significantly over this period in most Canadian Cities).

Read the report, it is a worrisome read.

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