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September 17, 2019 | Dr. Garth

A best-selling Canadian author of 14 books on economic trends, real estate, the financial crisis, personal finance strategies, taxation and politics. Nationally-known speaker and lecturer on macroeconomics, the housing market and investment techniques. He is a licensed Investment Advisor with a fee-based, no-commission Toronto-based practice serving clients across Canada.

The Doctor is IN. Nurse, please restrain and drag in the first patient.

Garth, I was wondering if you think it’d be a better idea to go with a 5 year fixed mortgage at 2.59% on a 30 year amortization or a 10 year fixed mortgage at 2.99% on a 30 year amortization? I got TD to offer me 2.59 on a 5 year, but HSBC is offering 2.99 on a 10 year (without negotiating). Thanks for your help, I’m curious on what you think!

First, understand that a 10-year mortgage comes open after five years. That’s the law. If interest rates are lower in half a decade, you can walk away, find a better deal and pay TD off. No penalty. But if rates are higher, the bank has to honour the 2.99% deal for another five.

That suggests it’s a no-brainer to go for the ten because of upside insurance. But, it comes at a price. Taking a decade-long term means paying a premium in the first five (2.99% vs 2.59%), so you shell out $141,819 in payments as opposed to $135,738 on a half-million loan. The cost of the insuring against rates possibly being higher in five years in that instance is $6,081.

Is it worth six grand? The money is real. The threat is nebulous. And this is why I could never sell insurance.


I met you at a talk you gave in Vancouver and my husband has been following your blog for a good portion of the last decade. I have a question to ask. What would you do in the following situation:

My dad died 6 years ago and I am about to get part of my inheritance (just sold a commercial piece of real estate at a capital loss). I am about to get about 250K for my third share of the deal (gold-digger widow gets 1, half sister gets 1 and I get 1 share).

We have a mortgage of 267,000, 20,000 in credit card debt and 4 young children with some RESP but not a lot. No TFSAs and very little in RRSPs. My husband still has student loans. So…no brainer, we will pay off the debts, but would you pay off the mortgage, or max out both our TFSAs? I am 33, my husband is 42. I am a lawyer; he does privacy and records. He wants to pay down the mortgage given the recession that is coming. Please let me know what you would do, as I won’t have this kind of money handed to me again and it could make a big difference for our family.

He’s wrong. Given current rates, the mortgage is probably cheap. Returns on investment portfolios have been far greater, and are likely to continue. Paying off your mortgage won’t help your retirement savings (lawyers usually have no pension) or finance the kids’ education. A recession (don’t count on one anytime soon) won’t make one iota of difference to your real estate debt. Hubs is just being a typically emotionally fragile male. Tell him to woman up and understand what his priorities are – to care for spouse and family.

Pay off the debts. Fill up the TFSAs. Top up the RESPs and apply for missed grant money. Put funds into the RRSP of the most-taxed spouse. And ignore the damn mortgage.


I really want to thank you for everything you do it has really helped us.  My question however is about my mom in her early 70s, she has always had her money invested with financial companies but not banks but I did some research on them and not only are the MER’s extremely high but they’ve probably switched company names 5 times in the last 15 years or so. She’s managed to save up a sizeable portfolio with them (close to 500k) but now she’s just sold the family home and has downsized to an apartment (rental) and has pocketed 1.2 million. I don’t want her nest egg to be eaten up by fees etc so I’m looking to you for advice.

Do I get involved and try to get her invested in low cost ETF’s do I stay out of everything? Let her stick with her current financial guys and their high fees?  I even went along with her to a credit union and the lady didn’t even know what ETF meant? Seriously. Would appreciate some insight on the matter thanks so much.

Of course you should get involved. Start by sending her this: Dear Mom, because I love you and happen to be awesome, let me help with your money. The financial dudes have been ripping you off and [email protected] is a thirsty vampiress. Now that you’ve got almost two million let’s get professional help to manage the cash, give you a steady income, keep taxes low, wipe away the stress and protect what you’ve got.

Use the words “save tax” and “preserve capital” a lot. Wrinklies love that. Try to keep her from stashing this all in a low-return, high-taxed GIC or worrying about losing part of her OAS payment. That amount of money should be giving her an income of ten grand a month – so who needs government pogey? Get an advisor who doesn’t sell anything, flip stocks or have facial hair.  And obviously she needs a will and POA in place. Mom looked after you during the vulnerable years. Pay it back.

          Election update          

Throughout the last four years of economic growth the feds have been unable to balance the books. We are tens of billions more in debt as a result, and a slowdown is inevitable.

The political response? Spend more and reduce taxes!

New evidence shows the Conservatives ‘universal tax cut’ will cost the federal government at least $6 billion a year in lost revenue.  Now the Liberals have announced a $1 billion increase in the Canada Child Benefit, which already costs $24 billion a year. In addition, employers will have to give adoptee parents the same parental leave as birth parents receive, plus we’ll have a Guaranteed Paid Family Leave program in place.


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September 17th, 2019

Posted In: The Greater Fool

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