By Chris Sorensen - Monday, October 18, 2010 - 0 Comments
The first of a six-part series on investing after the fall. After a lost decade, are there any safe investments?
With his pink shirt sleeves rolled up past his elbows, Jim Cramer, the hot-headed host of CNBC’s popular Mad Money program, hit the airways last summer just as the stock market rally began to sputter and offered viewers a tip on fixing a shredded portfolio. “Stocks as an asset class have become tarnished,” he said, referring to the gut-wrenching roller-coaster ride that average investors have endured over the past two years. “And I, as a noted stock evangelist, know that better than anyone. But, at the same time, I also know they are your best shot for making back all the money you lost.”
After plugging his book and punching up a few sound effects, the former hedge fund manager went on to suggest that investors “unlearn” the buy-and-hold philosophies made popular by billionaire investor Warren Buffett and start thinking like traders. That means buying on weakness and selling when things get too hot, taking advantage of short-term market fluctuations—just like the pros.
By Kate Lunau - Monday, October 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Around the world, happiness dips in mid-life. But how Canadian boomers experience it may be very different.
Everybody knows the stereotype: a person hits age 40 and trades in the minivan for a red convertible. Maybe they quit a high-paying job, leave a long-term spouse for a younger partner or obtain an unusual piercing. They’re the classic signs of a mid-life crisis, and the punchline for countless jokes.
But jokes and stereotypes aside, there’s some truth to the notion that our middle years can be tough ones: studies have found that happiness levels dip down at mid-life, and it seems to be affecting baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1965) more than previous generations. In Canada and the U.S., the boomer experience can be starkly different: one survey found that, while middle-aged Canadians felt relatively in control of their lives, Americans were close to panic. There, boomers have contributed to a startling rise in the suicide rate. Still, a number of studies show that, after age 50, happiness levels begin to climb, a period many boomers are now entering. In the third and final instalment of a series examining the well-being of baby boomers, Maclean’s takes a look at the “mid-life crisis,” and how baby boomers—who make up nearly one-third of our population—may well redefine it.
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
California Public Employees’ Retirement System is recruiting a long list of executives
It’s the investing equivalent of going to the bullpen. The $200-billion pension fund of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or Calpers, is recruiting a long list of executives who can be called on to serve on the boards of corporations in which the fund holds stakes.
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 10 Comments
You could have been my ticket to a lucrative literary niche, Squib. But you’re a tiny bit lazy.
An open letter to a member of my family.
This is difficult for me to write—although not as difficult as it will be for you to read, given that you are a) not especially bright, and b) a dog.
We’re letting you go, Squib. You’re fired.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 8:30 AM - 58 Comments
Greetings from Montreal, where, for the next three days, we’ll be hanging around the Liberal party’s Canada 150 conference. Herein a running diary of the proceedings. Day 1′s diary is here.
8:29am. Good morning. Montreal is chilly and quiet. In a few moments we will be roused by the dulcet tones of David “The Dodge” Dodge, former governor of the Bank of Canada.
8:36am. For those of you scoring at home, the colour of the lights today is orange. And the subject is Families.
8:45am. This conference was apparently the most tweeted subject in Canada yesterday. The Liberals are immensely proud of this. Continue…
By Patricia Treble - Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 5 Comments
India’s army chief, Deepak Kapoor, has been criticized
Lt.-Gen. Avadesh Prakash, one of India’s highest ranking army ofﬁcers, was just days from retirement when he was ordered to face a court martial recently over his alleged involvement in a controversial land deal. It is the latest in a series of corruption scandals to engulf India’s defence forces in the last few years.
Prakash is accused of abusing his position so a close friend and developer, Dilip Agarwal, could buy a 30-hectare parcel of land next to the headquarters of the army’s 33 Corps in West Bengal at a bargain-basement price. The scandal ﬁrst came to light last year and Prakash was found guilty by a military court of inquiry in December. Though Lt.-Gen. V.K. Singh, the court’s convenor, recommended Prakash be ﬁred, India’s army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor decided that only light “administrative action” was warranted. As criticism grew that Kapoor was being too soft on Prakash, the defence minister, A.K. Antony, pushed for tougher disciplinary action against Prakash. Kapoor reluctantly agreed to a court martial for the three-star general: “The minister’s advice to [the] army chief amounts to being a direct order,” explained an unidentiﬁed ofﬁcial to the Times of India.
This is just one of the scandals to grip the 1.1-million man military force, in the midst of a multi-billion-dollar replacement of aged weaponry. There was the commander ﬁred for selling subsidized alcohol on the black market, and the “ketchup colonel” who faked photographs of successful battles against militants, thereby winning promotions, by pouring the red sauce on civilians. Then last year, it was revealed that the silent “reconnaissance vehicles” purchased for covert missions behind enemy lines were in fact nothing more than golf carts used at exclusive military courses.
By Rachel Mendleson - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 1:10 PM - 1 Comment
He and his wife of six decades, Shirley, were inseparable. Around her, he would really open up.
Charles Albert Hansman was born on June 30, 1926, in North Bay, Ont., to Albert “Ab” Hansman and his wife, Edith. The youngest of three children, and only boy, Charlie, or Chuck, as he was known, was soft-spoken and had a keen interest in “anything that moved, walked or flew,” says friend Bob Kennedy. Charlie’s father, who worked for the Ontario Northland Railway, was a founding member of the Laurentian Ski Club. Charlie “was absolutely fearless on a pair of skis,” says Bob, and often won local competitions.
In high school, Charlie focused on vocational classes. He began hanging around the Cottrill girls, six sisters who lived a few blocks away. Before long, he set his sights on Shirley, a tall, gregarious brunette with whom he shared piercing blue eyes and a love of skiing. Too shy to tell Shirley, three years his junior, how he felt, she heard from the other boys that she had, according to him, been spoken for. They started dating in 1947. He’d need another nudge to ask for her hand: when Shirley, who was working at ONR, found out that Charlie, then training to become a journeyman at North Bay Hydro, wanted a car and a boat first, she bought him a car. They married in 1950. (Charlie began building his boat in the basement.)
By Charlie Gillis - Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 10:40 AM - 1 Comment
Scott Niedermayer, the veteran
L ate last February, after a disappointing road game in Detroit, Scott Niedermayer strode through the basement of Joe Louis Arena to find a hockey legend waiting for him at the door of the Anaheim Ducks team bus. Steve Yzerman is a Hall of Fame centre and former captain of the Red Wings. But on this night he was speaking in his capacity as executive director of the Canadian men’s national team, and his message was blunt: he saw Niedermayer as a key leader—a potential captain, even—of the team that would carry Canada’s gold medal hopes at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
It was all but a guarantee of a spot on the team. This some three months before an evaluation camp in Vancouver where, officially, coaches and managers would start assessing the talent. But where Niedermayer was concerned, Yzerman wasn’t about to stand on process. Twice in the previous two seasons, he knew, the stylish defenceman had contemplated hanging up his skates altogether; in 2007, Niedermayer had spent a half-season considering his future, before returning to the Ducks in the New Year and resuming his usual stellar play.
By Philippe Gohier - Monday, January 11, 2010 at 6:07 PM - 14 Comments
Jacques Demers’ move to the upper chamber hasn’t gone smoothly
With his 65th birthday fast approaching, Jacques Demers had little else than retirement on his mind this past summer. In October, Demers would begin his final run as a hockey analyst for the French-language sports channel RDS. His contract was up at the end of the season and, after spending the better part of 20 years behind the bench and another 10 in the broadcast booth, Demers was planning on leaving the hockey world for good once this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs wrapped up.
But those plans suddenly changed in mid-July when an official in the Conservative government got in touch, offering him one of the nine Senate seats that were due to open up. Of Stephen Harper’s selections, Demers’ was by far the most surprising, even to those around him. “When he told me about it,” says Mario Leclerc, Demers’ biographer and one of a handful of people the former coach went to for advice in the following days, “I nearly fell out of my chair.”
Never mind that Demers had never shown any interest in or aptitude for politics. As Leclerc revealed in his book, En toutes lettres (Spelled Out in Full), Demers spent much of his life hiding an inability to read or write. As a result, when Demers’ nomination was officially announced that August, it was widely panned by Quebec’s commentariat as a cheap dig at the chamber Harper so eagerly wants to reform. “Does the poor esteem in which we hold the Senate make it so the sole quality of being a ‘damn good guy who’s overcome some terrible challenges’ qualifies you?” asked one columnist at La Presse. “Jacques Demers lands there like a hunting trophy who hasn’t even figured out he’s the stuffed moose in the place.”
By Chris Sorensen - Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 2:11 PM - 20 Comments
Retiring comfortably requires big savings. How much is enough?
Stu Lach’s retirement dreams were relatively modest. The former heavy equipment mechanic wanted to be able to eat well and dress “sharply.” He also wanted to go see classic rock legends Kiss. But when the ’70s band comes to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in mid-December, with its face paint, spandex and copious pyrotechnics in tow, the 61-year-old won’t be soaking it in from the front row. Instead, he plans to be at home, in his recliner, staring at the TV set. “I would love to go see them, but at $95 a pop I’m not going to do it,” says Lach. “I will hear them on the radio now and again and that will have to be good enough.”
Like many Canadians, Lach has recently discovered that retirement plans can fall well short of retirement reality. While he never envisioned himself trotting the globe or playing daily rounds of golf, he also didn’t foresee himself foregoing simple pleasures like a live music event. He and his wife have already sold their house and downsized to an apartment in the city. They pay constant attention to their monthly spending and have put off plans for an annual trip to Eastern Canada this year to visit relatives. “I’m not where I thought I would be,” Lach says. “I’m pinching pennies.” Suffice it to say, it’s not the sort of “freedom” typically portrayed in glossy retirement planning brochures.
Lach blames a combination of factors for his predicament: a retirement savings plan that was slow to get off the ground, last year’s devastating market crash and government rules that limit the amount he is allowed to withdraw from his pension funds each year. But while his experience is unfortunate, it’s far from unusual at a time when companies are backing away from gold-plated pensions, putting the onus on employees to make sure they have enough socked away for their golden years.
By Jason Kirby - Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 9:33 AM - 17 Comments
A home is seen as a ticket to retirement. But is that wise?
It may be winter, but Vancouver’s love affair with real estate is in full bloom. After a brief pause to mark the recession, the hot topic over lattes is once again square footage and million-dollar views. Which is roughly the price tag Michael Lin kept coming across last week as he and a friend sat in a Granville Street café surfing MLS, the real estate listing website, on his laptop.
Lin, a computer programmer in his late 20s, has watched the ups and downs, and then ups again, of Vancouver’s housing market from his rented apartment. Now, with the economy in repair mode and mortgage rates still near record lows, he’s eager to take the plunge into the city’s condo market. He admits prices are higher than he’d like, but believes he can easily cover the mortgage payments even if interest rates start to rise. But when asked whether he will have enough left over at the end of the month to save for retirement, he chuckles. He wasn’t saving much before, either. “This way,” he says, “I’ll be forced to save.”
Lin has plenty of company. A growing number of Canadians have come to view their homes as the ticket to a secure retirement. There’s a lot to be said for that approach. Your house is the biggest investment you’ll ever make, and it compels you to watch your pennies. It’s also true that those Canadians who had all their money tied up in their homes instead of stock markets have come through the financial crisis with their household balance sheets largely intact.
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 11:10 AM - 10 Comments
Behind many savings plans lurk steep costs. Who can you trust?
Michael Popovich, a dentist, suffered a massive heart attack at age 52. His doctor, not surprisingly, told him that going back to work was a bad idea. Faced with the sudden prospect of losing several of his prime income-earning years, Popovich sold his dental practice in Thamesville, Ont., and began searching for a way to fund his unexpectedly long retirement.
Like many Canadians, he was attracted to the reliable monthly income stream that came with investing in income trusts (unlike corporations, trusts pay out most of their profits to investors). But he was forced to rethink his investing strategy after Ottawa said in 2006 that it would begin taxing the popular investment vehicles in four years, citing concerns about a loss of tax revenue. The value of Popovich’s holdings plummeted overnight.
Now, three years and one market crash later, he is one of millions of Canadians trying to retool their retirement portfolios. While some financial advisers are no doubt telling clients it’s a good time to get back into the stock market, you can’t blame people for being a little gun-shy. But playing it safe in an era of historically low interest rates isn’t a magic bullet either. “There are very few good options out there,” Popovich says. “Interest rates aren’t going to come back for a long time so you can’t count on that. Corporate investments are iffy because you don’t know where you’re going to go with those things.”
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, December 8, 2009 at 6:43 PM - 2 Comments
Since political columnists are always right, Stephen Harper has only a few weeks left to resign from politics in disgrace before the New Year. Better hurry!
Or perhaps you don’t recall the spate of commentary at the beginning of the year to the effect that Harper, having survived the Great Weird Coalition Crisis of Late 2008 only by strong-arming Governor General Michaëlle Jean into proroguing Parliament, was so badly wounded he would soon be forced to skulk away onto the retired-politico rubber-chicken circuit. One presumes the authors of those predictions, who perch at certain Toronto newspapers, will not hasten to remind us as Harper heads into 2010 in uncontested control of his party, with the Liberals struggling to get off the ropes and tantalizing hints of Conservative growth in Quebec and in a few carefully selected ethnic communities.
Quit? Harper has a better shot than ever at the parliamentary majority that has eluded him until now. So how’d that happen?
Back in January the predictions of a hasty Harper retirement didn’t seem particularly outlandish. Harper was indeed disoriented. The 2008 election gave him a strengthened minority and left Liberal Stéphane Dion’s leadership mortally compromised. Somehow Harper managed to provoke an opposition united front that threatened to congeal into a coalition government. He survived that threat only to do what he has always done when he is bitter: lash out, this time against Brian Mulroney, whose Conservative party membership status became the focus of a brief, bizarre controversy sparked by Harper’s PMO spokesdrones.
What saved him, Harper tells his entourage now, was the economic recession and the climate of uncertainty it provoked. Canadians were worried, and to the amazement of Liberals still congratulating themselves for beating the budget deficit more than a decade ago, much of Canadians’ confidence on matters of economic management has transferred to the Conservatives. Michael Ignatieff, the new Liberal leader, announced he would force Harper to report periodically on the status of the multi-billion-dollar coast-to-coast cash dump known as the “fiscal stimulus”; Harper, barely able to believe his luck, cheerfully obliged. At times the Conservative “information” campaign has been lurid to the point of being ethically questionable, with Conservative MPs handing out jumbo cheques, some bearing the Conservative party logo, to municipal dignitaries.
The Conservatives are amused by any ethical debates their behaviour has sparked. They are satisfied with the results. From June to September, according to a senior Conservative source, public awareness that the Conservatives have “an action plan” for dealing with the global economic crisis vaulted from 20 to 49 per cent. One voter in two is an unusually high level of public awareness for anything any government does. And the Conservatives have only the Liberals to thank for making them launch the public awareness program.
“What’s worth remembering is that most of our progress this year has been through self-inflicted Liberal damage,” the senior Conservative said. “There haven’t been a lot of Stephen Harper evil-genius traps, except maybe the gun registry”—a parliamentary vote on a Conservative private member’s bill to eliminate the registry for rifles and shotguns, which split the Liberals and the New Democratic Party caucus—“and that was more about splitting the NDP than boxing the Liberals in.”
Perhaps the best news came in mid-autumn, when the Conservatives picked up a seat in Rivière-du-Loup, a Bloc stronghold in eastern Quebec, confounding the impression that Harper’s modest breakthrough in Quebec in 2006 might be the high-water mark of his success there.
What we have learned about Harper in the past year should be dispiriting to the Liberals. Each time an election has seemed likely, support for the Conservatives has risen. Economic uncertainty helps the incumbents, not their rivals. And there are many more corners of the country where the Liberals are uncompetitive than where the Conservatives are. By autumn, Harper was making guest appearances on Ottawa concert stages and Bollywood dance shows. He looks set to keep surprising Canadians for a while yet.
By Jason Kirby - Monday, October 26, 2009 at 10:57 AM - 20 Comments
Retirement plans are being dashed by a new economic reality
Like most young men growing up in Thunder Bay, Ont., in the 1970s, or anywhere on the planet for that matter, Alex Cryderman was too focused on the next weekend to give much thought to his golden years. So, at 21, when he followed his father and brother into a job at the Abitibi paper mill, and learned that part of his paycheque would be held back to fund his pension, he was more annoyed than anything. That feeling changed over time, of course. And as the months turned into years and the years to decades, Cryderman, now 50, came to rely heavily on his pension savings for the retirement plan taking shape in his head. “I was going to be out of here in five years with a pretty good pension,” he says. “I was going to spend time on my boat, fish, travel with my wife, really live the good life like they say in the ads.”
Then one morning earlier this year, Cryderman awoke to frightening news—Abitibi-Bowater had filed for bankruptcy protection. Suddenly, his pension, along with those of 8,000 other employees at the company, was at serious risk. With the stock market collapse and the company no longer paying into the pension fund, the plan has become dangerously underfunded. Now Cryderman can only wait, and regret—wait to learn how much of his retirement savings he’ll be able to salvage, and regret not putting more money away on the side over the years. “If you’d have known what was coming down the pipe, you’d have lived your life differently,” he says. “We never thought this day would ever come.” Continue…
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 10:00 AM - 5 Comments
If retirement means freedom, then a new old folks’ home in Montreal may offer the ultimate liberation—sexual.
Pegged as Canada’s first residence for gay male seniors, Urban Home Rachel is on the outskirts of the city’s gay village. Demand has been so formidable that the developers are days away from closing a deal to immediately open a second gay old folks’ home.
“There’s a crying need,” says Suzanne Bienvenu, marketing and communications director for the Urban Home-Maison Urbaine project. Gays over age 60 “had a lot of trouble coming out of the closet,” she explains, “and then when they went to traditional residences, they faced tremendous discrimination. For them, it was like going back into the closet.” With the 50 apartments in Rachel oversold (leases start at $1,300 a month), Bienvenu and developer André Saindon believe the additional 135-unit building will ?ll up fast.
By Steve Maich - Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 11:16 AM - 0 Comments
So, I’m not much of a tennis lover (not got my head around that…
So, I’m not much of a tennis lover (not got my head around that silly scoring system) but I’ve got a lot of respect for Justine Henin’s decision to walk away from the game. I hate watching sports stars in decline. I even wrote about this once. Part of what makes great athletes great, is that they understand the importance of their legacy and their legend. The toughest thing of all is knowing when you’re hurting your legacy by continuing to play. Don’t give me all that “love of the game” stuff. when you’re past it, give it up and spare your fans the agony of watching you play into senior citizenship.
Most people I talk to remember Muhammad Ali for the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla’ in Manilla. But not me, I can’t forget about the beating he took from Trevor Berbick, of all people, in his final fight.
Henin’s only 25, and she could probably be a competitive player for years yet. But she never wanted to be “competitive”, she wanted to be a champion. Now, that’s how she’ll be remembered.
Good for her.