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Hidden camera investigation uncovers ‘atrocious’ investment advice

Posted by GuruDan on April 29, 2014

CBC
CBC – Fri, 28 Feb, 2014 9:58 AM EST

People walk in Toronto's financial district in Toronto, on Oct. 29, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

As RRSP season closes and many Canadians prepare for tax time, a CBC Marketplace investigation reveals that financial advisers at some of Canada’s top banks and firms are giving consumers inaccurate, misleading and inappropriate advice.

Meanwhile, consumers face a complicated patchwork of regulatory bodies if they want to complain about bad investment advice, as some investor rights groups call for more robust consumer protection rules.

Since a third of Canadians rely on advisers to help them make financial decisions, Marketplace sent a person wearing hidden cameras to visit the five big banks and five popular investment firms in Ontario. The full investigation, Show Me The Money, reveals how individual banks and firms performed. The show, including practical tips on how to hire a financial adviser, airs Friday at 8:00 p.m. (8:30 p.m. NL) on CBC Television.

“That’s one of the worst pieces of advice I’ve ever heard in my life,” financial analyst and former adviser Preet Banerjee told Marketplace co-host Erica Johnson when shown hidden camera footage of one of the tests. “That was atrocious. That’s the only word to describe that advice.”

The tests revealed a wide range in the quality of advisers. Some performed well, giving clear answers and asking appropriate questions about the tester’s financial situation and risk tolerance. Other interactions, however, Banerjee found troubling.

In some cases, information was incorrect or misleading – even in response to direct questions, such as how fees are calculated. Some gave unrealistic promises about returns, including one adviser who said that a $50,000 investment should increase by $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 in one year.

Others failed to adequately assess the customer’s risk profile, which advisers are supposed to use to ascertain the suitability of investment products they recommend to a person.

In an unusual twist, one firm tried to recruit the Marketplace tester to become an adviser herself. While some designations and certifications do require training, and individuals have to be licensed to sell specific products, “financial adviser” is not a protected term. There are currently about 100,000 advisers in Canada.

Several advisers in the Marketplace test neglected to include any conversation of paying down debt in their financial advice, which Banerjee says reveals a conflict of interest that most consumers don’t consider as they’re weighing the recommendations of an adviser.

“If you invest there’s a commission involved with that, or a percentage of assets,” he said. “But if you pay down debt, there’s no financial incentive for the adviser to do that. So that’s one of those conflicts of interests that people should know about.”

As a result of the Marketplace investigation, one firm suspended the employee and reported the behaviour to the regulatory body, the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC).

The Marketplace test was similar to a broader mystery-shopper test in the UK by the Financial Services Authority. That test included 231 mystery shopping tests of investment advice at six major firms. The results of that test, made public last year, found that more than 25 per cent of investment advice was of poor quality because it was unsuitable or because the adviser did not collect enough information to be able to make the recommendations.

Ontario firms could face a test this year, as the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) conducts a mystery shop to determine the quality of investment advice. While the OSC declined to provide specific details about its test to Marketplace, the results are expected to become public later this year.

However, investor rights advocates are critical of slow-moving efforts to provide better consumer protection. In a letter to the OSC, the Investor Advisory Panel pressed for reform, including how fees are structured and how complaints are investigated. “We have debated, discussed and studied the issues and their solutions for many years. It is time for decisions that will lead to a more robust investor protection regime in Canada.”

Among the most pressing issues: Financial advisers are not in fact required to act in the client’s best interest.

“There’s a big debate raging about that very issue right now,” says Banerjee. “So, it seems in a couple of years they will be bound to do what’s in the client’s best interest. But right now that’s not actually regulation.”

That runs contrary to the very reason many Canadians turn to advisers in the first place.

"If you walk into a financial institution, I think the average person on the street assumes they’re going to have someone who’s going to take care of all their financial issues,” says Banerjee. “But on the other side of the desk, there’s a wide range of people that you could see. Some of them are just order-takers or salespeople and others are true financial planning professionals."

For consumers struggling with the consequences of bad investment advice, a confusing patchwork of organizations oversee complaints, including IIROC, the Mutual Fund Dealers Association (MFDA) and provincial securities associations. Each body oversees different types of complaints, depending on the nature of the complaint or the type of product the adviser is licensed to sell.

The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) also investigates complaints, but only for participating banks and firms. And OBSI has limited enforcement powers, offering only non-binding recommendations, so it’s entirely up to the bank or firm to decide whether or not to comply.

OBSI’s 2013 report, released this week, reveals a sharp increase in the number of banks and firms refusing to compensate investors for mistakes.

According to the report, banks and investment firms refused to pay back investors even when OBSI found wrongdoing in 10 cases last year. In total, investors were denied more than $1.3 million in restitution. The OBSI report called this trend “disappointing.”

Marketplace notified all of the banks and firms about the test and approached some for interviews, but all declined. Some viewed the test as an isolated incident; others vowed to investigate and take appropriate measures.

Posted in Investment, Mortgages, Non-insurance, Retirement Planning, Tax Planning | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Benefits of Segregated Funds

Posted by GuruDan on March 27, 2013

Written by Independent Financial Concepts Group for Financial Advisors.

 

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When it comes to selling insurance, many advisors are heavily focused on the standard insurance products that they are comfortable with and that they are versed at selling. Sure, when a client calls you, the chances are they are usually looking to invest in some form of insurance – for a variety of reasons – but if you are only providing one product or a limited range of products, your ability to provide the service that best meets their needs may be limited.

If you work with a managing general agent, you already know the importance of maintaining your independence, and hopefully how to garner the benefits that should come from this type of partnership. But has your managing general agent discussed the benefits of selling segregated funds? If not, here are some things that you should know!

There are many benefits for your clients when they invest in segregated funds. Since segregated funds can only be sold by insurance advisors, it makes sense to diversify as much as possible and to add these important investment tools to your arsenal.

One of the major benefits of segregated funds is the low risk. For those clients who may be a bit hesitant when it comes to investing, either because they shy away from the risk or because they have no investment experience, segregated funds offer an important opportunity. Since they are low risk, and managed effectively by an outside source, segregated funds may leave clients much more open-minded since their capital is protected.

Another benefit of segregated funds is that they have maturity dates. Clients are often unsure of how to approach investing and being able to provide them with a product that offers a timeline for their returns is useful. Being able to tell them that they are guaranteed a return if they hold a segregated fund until it reaches maturity will help those conservative investors realize that investing doesn’t necessarily need to be stressful. Also important, segregated funds guarantee a return on principle, and clients can lock in the market value every 3 years for the death benefit.

Your clients will also be happy to learn that segregated funds are guaranteed at death, so if they pass away, their beneficiary is able to claim benefits from their investment. This can be an important product for those clients looking to provide for their loved ones in the event of their death.

If you work with a managing general agent and only sell insurance, you are limiting yourself. There are major benefits to your clients to selling segregated funds, and since being able to provide the best, most diverse service to your clients is what will set you apart, offering segregated funds will only increase your credibility and reputation.

 

Posted in Insurance, Retirement Planning | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The cost of taking CPP early

Posted by GuruDan on August 27, 2012

By Bruce Sellery | Online only, 17/08/12

Tags: CPP, Power of Advice, retirement

Does it make sense to take a lower Canada Pension Plan payment now to get more later? Bruce Sellery weighs into the debate.

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Question

Does it make sense to take out CPP at age 60 and invest the amount into TFSA’s or to wait until one needs the money? I have been retired for a couple of years and will be soon approaching 60, but with the new changes in CPP I’m not sure what to do.

Answer

As the saying goes, patience is a virtue. But in your case, patience may mean a profit. By waiting until age 65 to take CPP you could see more money in your bank account, even if you invest the early withdrawals in a TFSA. To walk you through the rationale in detail I turned to Matthew Ardrey, a CFP at fee-based financial firm T.E. Wealth.

The critical assumptions

To answer this question Ardrey has to make a number of assumptions. The first one, of course, is that you can afford to wait. This is implied by your comment that you would save the money in a TFSA versus needing the money to pay a heating bill that’s six-months overdue.

Ardrey also has to consider how the CPP changes will work. “The changes to the CPP are going to see the early retirement reduction gradually move from 0.5% per month up to 0.6% per month over the period of 2012 to 2016,” he says. Ardrey assumes you will be able to receive CPP in the middle of this transition and have a reduction factor of 0.55%. Under this scenario you would see a 33% reduction in your CPP at age 60, he says. Ardrey also assumes you will receive the average benefit for CPP, currently listed as $528.92 per month at age 65 and that you are in a 30% marginal tax bracket.

As for inflation beyond the next two years, Ardrey uses a long-term average of 3% and rate of return in the TFSA is assumed to be at 6%. And finally, with regards to your TFSA, he assumes you have $5,000 in contribution room a year between ages 60 to 70, increasing to $7,000 by the time you’re in your 80s.

The cost of taking CPP early

Waiting to take CPP at age 65 instead of age 60 is more profitable. But by how much? Ardrey figures the difference by age 73 would be in the range of $1,500, and the amount will grow over time.

Adjusting for inflation of 2% per year for two years and a reduction factor of 33%, at age 60 your CPP payment would be $368.69 per month gross and $258.09 after tax, he says. If you wait until age 65, your CPP payment adjusted for inflation of 2% for two years and 3% for five years would be $637.94 per month gross and $446.55 after tax.

Saving in TFSA to offset differential

Provided you did what you said and put the money you received into a TFSA (and not into vacations and fine wine) you would offset some of that differential. But will it be enough? Nope, says Ardrey.

“By age 80, the combination of excess CPP payments and TFSA savings is greater under these assumptions by taking the pension at age 65 than at age 60. Though I agree with the principle that contributing excess funds to save in a TFSA is a worthy venture, the loss in future CPP income does not seem to warrant it, especially with today’s population living longer in most cases,” he explains. He says it’s worth noting that if you wait until you need the money after age 65, the rate of payment increases by 8.4% per year or 42% by age 70. The new CPP rules start to come into effect by 2013.

Of course, these calculations are based on some general assumptions. There may be other factors to consider, like longevity, how long you’ve been out of the workforce, or whether you’re receiving any other government support. You have an important decision to make. It would be worth consulting a professional for some extra assurances.

But in the meantime, here are a few additional resources to help you prepare for that conversation:

Posted in Retirement Planning | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Down-to-earth tips for retiring

Posted by GuruDan on October 5, 2011

5 Tips From Early Retirees

usnews

Susan Johnston, On Tuesday September 27, 2011, 10:36 am EDT

How couple was able to retire by 43 retiring01

At 31, Robert Charlton had grown disillusioned with his job as a technical writer. "The idea of doing a desk job for another 30 years seemed painful to me, so I came up with this idea of trying to retire before 45," he says. He shared the idea with his wife Robin, who was then 31 and working as a travel agent.

Robert read up on personal finance instead of hiring an adviser and looked at taxable accounts they could draw from before turning 60. During that period, Robin completed an accelerated nursing program to become a registered nurse. By age 43, they’d gone from $16.88 in their checkbook at age 28 to saving up enough money to leave both their jobs and live off the interest.

Now, years later, they travel the world, skydiving in New Zealand, hiking through India, sailing through the Chilean fjords, and documenting their adventures on their website, wherewebe.com. Although many people struggle to retire in their 50s or 60s, Robert believes it’s possible for others to retire early as he and his wife did. "Really, we’re very average people," he says, admitting that it’s harder, though not impossible, for those with kids. "We never had power jobs. We just both took intelligent steps." Here are some of those steps.

1. Cut housings costs. The Charltons spent a year carefully tracking their spending to see where they could cut back. But as Robert says, "the truth of the matter is, we really didn’t have that much fat to cut out." Still, they agreed to rent out half of the bi-level starter home they owned in Boulder, Colo., so they could pay off the mortgage and pad their savings. Switching from a 30-year to a 15-year mortgage also helped the couple reach their goal. "You save so much on interest that it does result in a higher monthly payment, but not as high you would think," says Robert. They later sold their house and put the equity into a bond fund.

2. Agree on your priorities. Instead of buying new cars, the couple kept their old ones, and Robin stuck to grocery shopping lists instead of buying whatever caught her eye. "That’s how he shopped [without sticking to the list] so he was cut off from shopping," she says. Keeping their shared goal in mind kept their eyes on the prize. "We were both on the same page," adds Robin. "We both knew we wanted to put the money towards experiences." However, because they value travel so much, the Charltons didn’t completely deprive themselves while saving up for retirement. As Robert says, it’s important to "balance living for tomorrow with living for today." If saving feels like too much of a chore, it’s easy to fall of the bandwagon.

3. Live below your means. Now that they’ve left the workforce, the Charltons live modestly by staying in hostels and focusing on less expensive travel destinations. They estimated needing between $30,000 and $40,000 annually, and they’ve managed to stay in that range, though they’re averaging closer to $40,000. Earlier this year, they splurged on a trip to Italy and Switzerland for their 25th wedding anniversary. However, Robert says, "we typically have tried to travel places where the dollars goes further, like Argentina and Chile, where the exchange rate was in our favor." Destinations like India and Nepal have higher airfare but low day-to-day expenses so they stay for several months at a time to balance out the airfare costs.

4. Stay in the game. Although the Charltons’ portfolio has had its ups and downs, they’ve resisted the urge to try to time the stock market or get out altogether. "We did some of our best investing during the bear market of 2000 to 2003," says Robert. "We bought stocks ‘on sale’ and reaped the rewards afterwards." Although he says they could have gotten a higher return on investment if the timing had been different, they also underestimated future earnings, so that helped them reach their target more quickly than planned.

5. Don’t rule out temporary work. Dips in the market have made it more challenging for the Charltons to live off their interest. So when Robert was offered a six-month consulting project in 2009, he jumped at the opportunity to rebuild their capital. Although he’d once dreaded going to work, he actually liked the temporary arrangement. "I genuinely enjoyed working hard during that window because I knew it wasn’t endless, which was the thing I found challenging early on when I first came up with this plan," he says.

Robin adds that they’re open to making adjustments as they go or returning to work if needed. However, she values the change to travel and be active while they’re young and healthy. "Working as a nurse, I realize so many people save so much and a lot of people don’t get all the years they thought they’d get," she says.

 

Posted in Insurance related, Retirement Planning | 1 Comment »

 
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