25 Oct

Making Your Mortgage Interest Tax Deductible


Posted by: Peter Puzzo

For US homeowners, mortgage interest is automatically tax deductible. But for Canadians, the write-off is not so straightforward. In order to make your mortgage interest tax deductible, homeowners must be able to prove that the money is being reinvested and is not being used for personal expenses.

A properly structured mortgage-centric tax strategy has several key elements – the most important of which is a multi-component, readvanceable mortgage or line of credit.

It’s best to have a single collateral charge with at least two components – usually a fixed-term mortgage and an open line of credit that can track and report interest independently. This is absolutely essential under Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rules and guidelines.

Second, the strategy must employ conservative leverage-investment techniques – which is why a financial advisor must be involved in order to comply with federal regulations. The financial advisor should be a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) who is experienced in leveraged investing, and able to actively monitor a homeowner’s portfolio on an ongoing basis.

Homeowners who opt for a tax-deductible mortgage interest plan make their monthly or bimonthly mortgage payments the same way they would when making any type of mortgage payment. The payments go towards reducing the principal amount of the mortgage and are then moved over to the line of credit as the mortgage is paid down. But in order to be tax-deductible, the funds must then be transferred to an investment bank account, which can be done automatically by your CFP.

Once the money is in an investment bank account, it can be reinvested and the money becomes tax deductible. Essentially, the homeowner is borrowing from the paid portion of the mortgage for reinvestment purposes.

On average, a typical 25-year mortgage can become fully tax deductible in 22.5 years.

If you have a rental property, you can also use this tax-reduction strategy even further. When you receive your rent, you can then use the funds to help pay down your personal mortgage. Once paid, the rental funds move to the line of credit and are then transferred to the investment bank account. They are then used to pay down the mortgage on the rental property. Using this method, it is possible to have your mortgage interest become fully tax deductible in only 3.5 years.



Ideal borrowers for an advanced mortgage and tax strategy are typically professionals or other high-income earners who have a conventional mortgage (have at least 20% of the cost of the home to put towards a down payment) and have built up substantial equity.

As high-income earners, their total debt-servicing ratio will be quite low and they will have excellent credit (700+ Beacon scores). These borrowers are financially sophisticated homeowners that are keenly interested in establishing a secure financial future and comfortable retirement. They also have good investment knowledge.



The financial benefits of tax-deductible mortgage interest are indisputable and justify the risks to the right borrower. That said, a problem can arise if a homeowner spends the funds as opposed to reinvesting them. As well, any tax refunds have to flow through the investment cycle in order to realize the benefits of paying down the mortgage as quickly as possible – and making as much of the interest payment as possible tax deductible.

Short-term financial risk is liquidity risk (sometimes referred to as cash flow risk). Cash flow risk addresses the possibility that interest rates will sharply drive up the cost of borrowing at the same time as markets falter, resulting in a negative client monthly cash flow for a brief period of time.

This short-term risk is typically only prevalent in the first two to four years because, after this period of time, the homeowner has stockpiled enough equity through annual tax refunds that other liquidity options exist and the risk is fully mitigated.

Liquidity risk varies widely based on the balance sheet strength of the homeowner. Highly qualified homeowners are easy to manage as these borrowers have no difficulty meeting the short-term cash flow demand should the need arise.

21 Oct

Leasing or Buying a Vehicle Impacts Your Debt Ratios


Posted by: Peter Puzzo

The question of whether it’s better to lease or buy a vehicle is a common dilemma. And do you buy or lease a new or used vehicle? The answer depends on the specifics of your situation.

It’s important to realize that many consumers overburden themselves with car leases or loans they simply can’t afford. While most of us require a vehicle to get to and from many destinations throughout the course of any given week, we don’t need a high-end vehicle to serve this purpose.

The key to remember when you’re looking to purchase a home and obtain a mortgage or refinance an existing mortgage is that, if you overspend on a vehicle, it affects your debt ratios and may restrict or negate your mortgage financing ability.

Leases and purchase loans are simply two different methods of automobile financing. One finances the use of a vehicle while the other finances the purchase of a vehicle. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.

When making a lease-or-buy decision, you must, therefore, look at your financial abilities in terms of your debt ratios. And if you’re unsure about how leasing or purchasing a vehicle will affect your ratios, it’s best to speak to a Dominion Lending Centres Mortgage Professional prior to making your decision.

When you buy, you pay for the entire cost of a vehicle, regardless of how many kilometres you drive. You typically make a down payment, pay sales taxes in cash or roll them into your loan, and pay an interest rate determined by your loan company based on your credit history. Later, you may decide to sell or trade the vehicle for its depreciated resale value.

When you lease, you pay for only a portion of a vehicle’s cost, which is the part that you “use up” during the time you’re driving it. You have the option of not making a down payment, you pay sales tax only on your monthly payments, and you pay a financial rate, called a money factor, which is similar to the interest on a loan. You may also be required to pay fees and a security deposit. At lease-end, you may either return the vehicle or purchase it for its depreciated resale value.

As an example, if you lease a $20,000 car that will have, say, an estimated resale value of $13,000 after 24  months, you pay for the $7,000 difference (this is called depreciation), plus finance charges and possible fees.

When you buy, you pay the entire $20,000, plus finance charges and possible fees. This is fundamentally why leasing offers significantly lower monthly payments than buying.

Lease payments are made up of two parts – a depreciation charge and a finance charge. The depreciation part of each monthly payment compensates the leasing company for the portion of the vehicle’s value that is lost during your lease. The finance part is interest on the money the lease company has tied up in the car while you’re driving it.

Loan payments also have two parts – a principal charge and a finance charge. The principal pays off the full vehicle purchase price, while the finance charge is loan interest. Since all vehicles depreciate in value by the same amount regardless of whether they’re leased or purchased, however, part of the principal charge of each loan payment can be considered as a depreciation charge. Just like with leasing, it’s money you never get back, even if you sell the vehicle in the future.

The remainder of each loan principal payment goes toward equity – or resale value – which is what remains of your car’s original value at the end of the loan after depreciation has taken its toll. The longer you own and drive a vehicle, the less equity you have.

With leasing, you may have the option of putting your monthly payment savings into more productive investments, such as your mortgage, an investment property or a vacation home, which will increase in value. In fact, many experts encourage this practice as one of the benefits of leasing.

11 Oct

The Trouble with Debit Cards


Posted by: Peter Puzzo

We live in a society of instant gratification. Unlike our parents or grandparents – who saved up for larger purchases – we are often tempted to splurge on bigger-ticket items simply because we have a debit card in hand when we head out “window shopping”.

And aside from overspending thanks to the advent of debit cards, consumers are also more likely to dip into overdraft, which ends up costing more thanks to fees and interest that banks charge whenever you spend more than you have in your account.

Basically, a debit card works like a cheque. The only difference is that every time you use it, you’re immediately taking money out of your account. That’s why when you overdraw it’s like bouncing a cheque – only worse because, unlike cheques, you probably don’t keep a record of every debit card purchase you make.

You may even make a bunch of small purchases before you realize you’ve spent more than you have. So before you pay for that coffee or lunch purchase with your debit card, make sure you have enough money in your account to cover it.

Revert to using cash for daily expenses

Cash controls spending, plain and simple. Using cash to pay for everyday purchases such as coffee, transit, lunch and magazines alerts you to the idea that you’re actually spending real money. You just don’t get the same cautionary sense when you haul out plastic, be it a debit or credit card.

There’s a distinct cognitive event that happens when you handle money – it’s called awareness. Over the counter goes the five dollar bill and back comes a loonie, a dime, two nickels and four pennies.

Did you just add up the change above to determine how much money you have left? Did you think about what that purchase could have been? You see, you are much more conscious of this imaginary purchase than if you had paid with plastic. 

Now, add in the awareness of the bills left in your wallet and you become attuned to your temporary wealth, or lack thereof. At the end of the day, what encourages or cautions many consumers about spending is knowing where you stand from a financial perspective. That’s why cash can help control spending. Using cash to pay for everyday purchases alerts you to the idea that you’re actually spending real money.

By allotting yourself a weekly cash allowance for entertainment and everyday expenses – such as that daily morning coffee or weekly movie – you are building a budget around what you can spend on these purchases. And once the money in your wallet has been spent, you have to ensure you fight the urge to withdraw more cash or resort back to using your debit card.

Be realistic about what you typically spend on these items in a week. If you routinely eat out for lunch or stop at Tim Hortons for coffee, count that as well. If you think you’re spending too much on these items, you can then decide to find a less expensive alternative, such as brown-bagging your lunch or making your own coffee.

Let’s say, for instance, that you start the week off with $50 in your wallet and you began to spend it on your purchases. You will see $50 turn into $40, $40 turn into $25, $25 turn into $15 and so on. Every time you look into your wallet, you will see what’s left over from your original $50 and be aware of how quickly your money is being spent. This alone can make you think twice before making a purchase.