Thursday, July 2, 2009

Good timing, for once

I've bragged in the past about my market timing acumen, which tends to favour the party sitting opposite me in any transaction. I tend to dwell on my past decisions, but only to the point of nodding sadly in lament of my knack for choosing the wrong time to pull the trigger. These decisions don't consume me, but I can easily count them off for you on a moment's notice.

Not this time, however.

The Loonie household mortgage was up for renewal last month, so Ms. Loonie and I checked out the rates available to us. We were able to renew with our current lender for a 3-year fixed rate of 2.65%, more than 2% lower than our previous rate. The day after we signed the papers, rates jumped by 50 basis points, so we literally slid in just under the wire, and guaranteed ourselves three years of low-rate home ownership. I'm sure a strong negotiator with excellent credit could still have secured a lower rate, but given the ease of the transaction, I'm pretty confident in saying that we locked in "at the bottom".

But that's not all. Since I was at the branch anyway, I decided I would talk to the bank about managing our own property tax payments. Since our mortgage is high-ratio (more than 80% loan-to-value), the bank has been collecting property tax payments from us, and paying the city on our behalf. Now that we've mastered the art of partitioning our savings, we decided that we'd rather pay the city directly, and have more control over the balance in this account (and hey, why not earn some interest on it while we're at it?). This change turned out to be very straightforward as well. The tax portion of our bi-weekly mortgage payment has been eliminated, and I've set up a bi-weekly transfer of the appropriate amount to a dedicated savings account.

We're now making much faster progress on the mortgage, and we're in control of our property tax payments. Easy as pie, right?

Until I realize that, as a side-effect of the CUPE strike currently underway in the GTA, there's nobody manning the phones in the city revenue office to take our lender off the tax account.

Great timing.

June update

Happy belated Canada Day! We're now halfway through 2009 (today is the 183rd day of the year), Canada is 142 years old, and the country has mourned the passing of a pop icon.

Now that summer is well under way, let's see how I did last month:
  • Reduced my revolving debt to $12,182.64 - We had some financial hiccups this month, so progress was slower than we might like, but we still managed to carve away more than $500 in revolving debt.

  • Emergency Fund dropped to $1,678.36 - Some car repairs and other expenses needed to be paid from savings. My Freedom Account was able to bear most of the burden, but the Emergency Fund took a small hit as well. We should still be able to hit $2,000 by year-end.

  • Wedding Fund dropped to $2,958.88 - I had to pilfer the wedding account for some of the car expenses. We should still hit the $6,500 target by year-end.

    NOTE: Since this money is earmarked to be spent on our wedding next year, any valid wedding expense that we pay for from this account will not reduce my progress on this goal. This may seem like funny accounting, but the real goal here is to pay cash for the wedding, so I don't plan to penalize myself for using these funds as intended.
Now, on to my month-end update:

Online Savings - $1,941.24
Self-Directed RSP - $40,640.05
Employer Group RSP - $16,104.12

Revolving Debt - $12,182.64
Student Loans - $19,214.44

Net Investable Assets: $27,288.33
Net Liquid Assets: ($29,455.84)

Once again, my RRSP was buoyed by the market rally this month, although the stumble in the third week of June kept the investment growth in check. Liquid savings took a substantial hit, for a net increase of $1,267.21 in my investable assets, accompanied by a $1,102.58 drop in my non-mortgage debt.

Overall, my net investable assets increased by $2,369.79, and my net liquid assets increased by $494.60. My NetworthIQ profile has also been updated (including loose cash, home, car and mortgage).

One additional metric that I track (on top of my net worth, net investable assets, and net liquid assets) is my after-tax net investable assets. Since my retirement investments would be taxed at the full marginal rate if I withdrew them, I assume the maximum Ontario MTR of 46%*, and only count 54% of the value of my retirement accounts. This essentially adds 54% of my retirement savings to my net liquid assets number. This month, for the first time since I've been tracking my finances, my after-tax net investable assets are actually positive, coming in at $1,186.01. That means, if I were to sell everything in my RRSP and use it, along with our cash savings, to pay off our student and revolving debts, we would end up with nearly $1,200 in the bank. That's another milestone on the road to solvency, a step up from when I first came out of the red last April.

* I'm not actually in the top tax bracket, but using the current maximum of 46% gives me a "worst-case" scenario for the taxes I would have to pay if I cashed out my RRSPs.