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Personal finance pot pourri

Published on 07-22-2019

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Thoughts on cryptocurrency, healthcare, and seniors in debt


Here’s a roundup of recent investing and personal finance topics of interest that I’ve come across recently.


This is a space where some have made lots of money and others have lost a lot, but it remains very speculative, and fluctuations are fast and hard. If you are looking to invest long term, this is probably the wrong place because it has looked more like speculative gambling thus far. The most well-known cryptocurrency is Bitcoin. Some new cryptocurrencies are looking to enter the market, one which is the Libra from the well-capitalized social media company Facebook Inc. (NSD: FB) with billions of users and a global reach.

You can buy cryptocurrency and hold it in the hope of selling it at a profit. But until you can use it to buy groceries or buy gas, it isn’t really a store of value. That is where it differs from traditional currencies, which you can use to pay your bills and buy goods and services. Cryptocurrency has been used by crooks and criminal organizations when a company’s data has been breached, but still hasn’t been accepted as a store of value that is a widely accepted form of payment.

I often see players in this space advertise with high performance numbers. If all they can offer is performance, I am leery because the value of cryptocurrency rises and falls, and what does this “investment” offer when it isn’t going up? Does it employ top money managers, a blue-chip bank, or an investment company with 100 years in business and a reputation to uphold and protect? Cryptocurrency offers none of the above, which heightens the risk for investors.

Where this goes from here is anybody’s guess, but the goal to “cut out the middleman” doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. Be very careful about speculating in this area and do so only with a small percentage of your capital if you decide to wade in.

Seniors’ healthcare

Our country is struggling to keep up with the tsunami of Baby Boomers who will be in need of complex healthcare as they age. But options are limited and expensive. Canada has about 950,000 seniors (over 65) now, and this figure is expected to grow to 1.6 million by 2040. The next 25 years will be tough for people looking for care options.

Most seniors want to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. This requires more and more home support as seniors age. This is easier to navigate in provinces where home support is free, as is the case in most of Canada, but it costs $38 an hour currently in Metro Vancouver. This can work out to $9,000 a year (for once-a-day visits). For those with incomes of less than $40,000, this works out to 25% or more of their income, which can be unaffordable for many.

If you require more homecare services. it sometimes makes more sense moving to a long-term care facility, which isn’t what most seniors want. At that time, discussions with family would typically take place to see if children could “subsidize” these costs, which would allow the parents to stay in their homes longer.

This situation is also putting tremendous stress on caregivers when money isn’t available for the required home support. B.C. remains a wonderful place to live, but if you are thinking about coming this way in retirement from a province with free home support and your funds are limited, I would take this possible future cost into consideration.

A positive stat is that only one third of seniors over 85 years old end up in care facilities. Further statistics suggest there is only a 50% chance that someone age 65 will live to 85, which brings the percentage down to one in six, or 17%.

Debt in retirement

Canadians are still carrying too much debt, even in retirement, which is a fairly recent phenomenon, compared with previous generations of seniors. Reduce any debt, but especially higher-interest debt that is likely coming from “wants,” not “needs.”

In retirement and with a fixed income, the only debt you should normally have is a small mortgage. If you are carrying credit card debt or having a growing credit line, something is amiss, and a potential crisis could be looming on the horizon. In your senior years you can’t work your way out of debt with a big pay increase, promotion, or bonus. Your parents have probably passed away already, so the option of an “easy fix” to debt becomes much more limiting on a fixed income.

It is always important to live within your means, but in retirement it becomes even more important. Retirement is supposed to be stress free, but carrying consumer debt, having credit card balances you can’t pay, or a growing credit line will all add to your levels of stress and put a major dent into your retirement savings.

Bruce Loeppky is based in Surrey, B.C. and is registered with Portfolio Strategies Corporation as a mutual funds person. He is a regular contributor to the Fund Library. He can be reached at

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The foregoing is for general information purposes only and is the opinion of the writer. No guarantee of performance is made or implied. This information is not intended to provide specific personalized advice including, without limitation, investment, financial, legal, accounting or tax advice. However, please contact the author to discuss your particular circumstances.

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