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Donít be fooled into mortgaging your home to buy stocks
Financial Post ^ | 04/01/2014 | Martin Pelletier

Posted on 04/01/2014 7:22:09 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

Investors seem to have completely forgotten about the concept of risk thanks to a prolonged period of ultra-low interest and stock markets setting new highs.

In particular, such an environment has a tendency to bring out the worst pieces of investment advice, such as taking out a mortgage to buy stocks.

One would think warning signs would flash when non-investment professionals such as mortgage brokers offer this type of advice. Therefore, while this may ruffle a few feathers in the industry, let’s tackle this recommendation head-on and hopefully show why it is a terrible strategy.

To begin, let’s divide your wealth into three buckets.

The first bucket contains lifestyle assets, such as your house, children’s education funds, vacation property, cars, etc., which must be protected at all costs. This means paying off any and all associated debts.

Into the second bucket go investment assets, including those that enable you to maintain your lifestyle. In many cases, this requires taking a globally diversified, pension-model approach to investing. Risk management is especially important, as these assets can often be a lifeline during periods of excessive volatility.

The final bucket contains the fun assets. This is where there can be excessive risk-taking if desired, including investing in private equity, start-ups, restaurants, etc. These can be the most satisfying types of investments when successful, but can also potentially lead to large losses.

The problem with taking out a mortgage to invest in the equity markets is that you are putting your lifestyle assets — the most important ones — at serious risk.

Suppose you have prudently just paid off all your debt. However, you listen to a mortgage broker or advisor who recommends taking out up to 75% of your $600,000 home, or $450,000, to invest in the stock market.

Say there is a mild correction of 10% in six months, which results in a $45,000 loss. This is approximately 20 months of payments in today’s current low interest environment. But you have also now taken a 7.5% hit on the equity you own in your home.

A more material correction, such as a 2008/2009 event, has a very low probability, but it’s a probability nonetheless. In this kind of scenario, you would have taken a $225,000 hit, representing more than eight years of mortgage payments.

To compound matters, your house in this latter environment will also probably fall in value. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a combined loss of nearly half the equity in your home if you had to sell it — all of those years of savings up in smoke.

For those with investments and debt, selling non-registered investments, paying off debt and borrowing to reinvest makes some sense given the ability to write off the interest expense.

However, I would take a different approach by selling these investments (likely locking in some healthy profits in today’s market) to pay off or reduce any outstanding debt and then replacing what you were paying per month to build up your investment portfolio, or bucket number two.

Finally, it is useful to take a closer look at risk like an investment professional would.

Assuming an average five-year mortgage rate of 3.5% essentially means earning a risk-free, before-tax return of just over 5.8%. This is nearly three times higher than the average five-year guaranteed investment certificate (GIC), which we think is a very fair comparison. Logic would dictate that taking a 5.8% risk-free return by paying off your mortgage is a no-brainer.

In addition, the general expectation is that interest rates will likely move higher in the years to come. Therefore, paying off low interest rate debt now frees up capital to invest in a higher interest rate environment down the road.

-- Martin Pelletier, CFA, is a portfolio manager at Calgary-based TriVest Wealth Counsel Ltd.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Society
KEYWORDS: home; mortgage; stocks

1 posted on 04/01/2014 7:22:09 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Investments should only be made with money you can afford to lose.

2 posted on 04/01/2014 7:24:29 AM PDT by SamAdams76
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To: SeekAndFind

Zillow just increased the value of our small farm in rural KY by about 50%. Real estate may be the next boom to benefit from QE infinity. And real estate and stocks do tend to compete for the same money.

Wouldn’t it be funny if the banks are now trying to get joe sixpack to mortgage his house buy stocks and then when joe is all in the banks sell, sell, sell, leaving themselves cash rich and the Joes broke with huge mortgages to pay off.

There really could be something like that going on.

3 posted on 04/01/2014 7:29:50 AM PDT by cuban leaf
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To: SamAdams76

Very true for many decades the standard advice was never but money into the stock market that you could not afford to lose.

4 posted on 04/01/2014 7:32:29 AM PDT by riverrunner
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To: cuban leaf

If someone offered me what Zillow says my house is worth, I could be out in 15 minutes

5 posted on 04/01/2014 7:33:47 AM PDT by AppyPappy
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To: cuban leaf

In the 90’s it was the dot com boom that went bust.

Recently both stocks and real estate were booming, then went bust.

People who got in late really got hurt.

Warren Buffet has said; “When people are greedy be fearful. When people are fearful be greedy.”

There is nothing real supporting the stock market, just as with the dot com boom in the 90’s and stocks in ‘08. Just wait for the crash THEN buy!

6 posted on 04/01/2014 7:36:47 AM PDT by (How many more children must die on the altar of gun control?)
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“There is nothing real supporting the stock market, just as with the dot com boom in the 90’s and stocks in ‘08. Just wait for the crash THEN buy!”

Nothing except all the inflated dollars that have been put into the global economy by quantitative easing. That money has to go somewhere.

7 posted on 04/01/2014 7:44:40 AM PDT by marktwain (The old media must die for the Republic to live. Long live the new media!)
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To: AppyPappy

If someone offered me what Zillow says my house is worth, I could be out in 15 minutes

In my case it actually went down about 5% for a couple of years.

Meanwhile, our house in Seattle that we left was valued, before the crash, at $525k and a couple of years ago it was down over 200k to less than $300k. I haven’t checked since then.

I don’t trust zillow, but when they shift significantly I am left to wonder what caused them to do it.

8 posted on 04/01/2014 7:46:56 AM PDT by cuban leaf
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“Just wait for the crash THEN buy!”

That’s what I have been doing, waiting, and missed out on a bunch of upside. Although I can sleep at night. So I’m doing nothing and do it very well.

9 posted on 04/01/2014 7:52:39 AM PDT by WinMod70
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To: SeekAndFind

No, please... go mortgage your home to get snookered in the stock market trading against a bunch of computers. Stupid should have a price.

It’s all fraud. What we have is Skynet and the WOPR trading the same 100 shared of Apple back and forth between each other 1000 times a second and this is being passed off as a healthy, liquid market. A fool and his money were lucky to hook up in the first place.

10 posted on 04/01/2014 8:06:07 AM PDT by Orangedog (An optimist is someone who tells you to 'cheer up' when things are going his way)
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