Private Equity & Life Lessons with Brent Belzberg on The Unlimited Podcast

In this special episode of the Unlimited Podcast, Brian welcomes Brent Belzberg, founder and Senior Managing Partner of TorQuest – one of Canada’s original private equity firms – to discuss leadership, culture, and the keys to success in both life and business.

Brent has been a supporter and mentor to Brian for almost two decades and we were honoured to have the chance to bring our listeners his story and his wisdom.

Brent founded TorQuest in 2002 after selling Harrowston, Inc., a publicly traded investment fund he started in 1992 to invest in and build businesses. Beyond TorQuest, Brent serves as a Director of Sinai Health System, where he was previously Chair. He is a member of the Investment Advisory Committee at the University of Toronto. His past directorships include CIBC, O&Y REIT, and Four Seasons Hotels. In 2018, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada for his work as a business leader and philanthropist. Brent received Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee Medal in 2023 for his significant contribution to Canada and the province of Alberta. Brent received a B.Comm. (Honours) from Queen’s University in 1972 and a J.D. from the University of Toronto in 1975. In 2023, Brent received an honorary Doctorate of Laws (LLD) from Queen’s University.

TorQuest is a private equity firm that focuses on middle-market companies in North America, investing across various industries. The firm collaborates closely with family owners, founders, and management teams, and specializes in entrepreneurship/family succession, corporate carve-outs, recapitalizations, and management buyouts.

This episode can be found here or find us in your favourite podcasting app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music.

If you like what you hear, please don’t hesitate to rate us kindly. And if there are particular topics you’d like covered, please let us know.

Ginsler Wealth Second Quarter 2024 Client Letter – Financial Literacy Edition

(An audio version of this letter can now be found as Episode 41 of The Unlimited Podcast by Ginsler Wealth. Use the link provided or find us on your favourite podcast app.)

To Ginsler Wealth’s Clients:

A few weeks ago, I experienced what all financial advisor parents dream of. I came home to find my youngest daughter’s Grade 8 Financial Literacy test on the dining room table. She had earned a mark of 95%. I couldn’t have been more proud, and thought about ordering Ginsler Wealth business cards for her right away!

But I might have gotten ahead of myself…

Later that day, my wife and kids were going to Walmart to pick up a few things they needed. Recalling the financial literacy test topic of “needs vs. wants” (see above), I reminded Penny that while she is shopping to truly focus on buying what she needs rather than everything she wants when she is there.

Penny looked at me stone-faced and said: “I need what I want.”

I guess I won’t be ordering those business cards just yet.

 

THE STOCK EVERYBODY WANTS

As we hit the mid-year mark of 2024, the U.S. stock market – as represented by the S&P 500 Total Return Index – has continued its positive run, up just over 15%. This is a fantastic 6-month return, more than a typical investor would need to prudently grow their wealth. (To be clear, this is a simplified example, as you know your Ginsler Wealth portfolios are far more diversified than having exposure to a single stock market.) Our Canadian equity market – as represented by the S&P/TSX 60 Total Return Index – has returned a fine, but relatively underwhelming, 4.9% so far this year.

However, the stock everyone wants is Nvidia, which is up over 150% in 2024 and which briefly became the most valuable company in the world with a market value above $3 trillion. In fact, it is important to note that Nvidia alone is responsible for approximately 30% of the S&P 500’s gain so far this year.[i]


Nvidia is a fantastic company that is powering the current artificial intelligence revolution. Most of our clients will have exposure to Nvidia through the broad market equity holdings in your portfolios.[ii] But we always caution investors against having too much exposure to a single equity, or any investment for that matter.

 

NEEDS-BASED FINANCIAL AND INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT

This is because our role as your financial and investment advisor is to approach the management of your wealth from the lens of “needs” as opposed to “wants”.

Our clients do not need 150% 6-month returns, nor do they want the corresponding risk that comes from striving for that level of return. In fact, most of our largest families ignore individual stock or stock market performance and focus instead on the performance of their diversified portfolios, which target steady growth—at a rate meaningful to their specific circumstances and needs. This is because they understand that meaningful wealth is typically created by operating and growing businesses or professions they control, rather than by picking the day’s hottest stock. And staying wealthy happens through prudent investing, and prudent management of their financial and tax affairs.

 

SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER

When you try your best, but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need

—Coldplay, Fix You

Speaking of tax affairs, the Coldplay lyrics above sum up our current Liberal government’s approach to fiscal management, the prime example being the recent increase to the capital gains inclusion rate.

As you know, we spent a significant amount of time this past quarter reviewing these changes and taking action in your portfolios with the goal of reducing the overall tax liabilities that these changes could create. (Listen to The Unlimited Podcast episode Federal Budget Breakdown featuring tax expert Ali Spinner, to get a refresher on what changed.)

While the government wants the wealthiest Canadians to pay “just a bit more” (as it did in 2016, 2017, 2019, 2021, and 2023)[iii], what it actually needs are taxation and other policies to encourage investment and productivity. No less an authority than Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem said just last week, “figuring out how to make Canada a better place to invest is critical…”. Increasing taxes on the fruits borne from investment surely won’t accomplish this. While school is now out for summer, perhaps our country’s leaders could brush up on their financial literacy education as well.

 

WHAT GINSLER WEALTH NEEDS

This past quarter Ginsler Wealth was pleased to be named by Wealth Professional, a publisher focused on the Canadian wealth management industry, as an Excellence Awardee in the category of Holistic Advisory Team of the Year and a 5-Star Wealth Management Firm – a listing of some of the best wealth management firms in Canada.

   

Most firms want industry accolades, but we prioritize your satisfaction above all. At Ginsler Wealth, our main focus is ensuring you are happy with the service we provide. While industry recognition is nice, our greatest need is knowing that we’ve done a great job for you.

—————–

Have a wonderful summer. We hope you get to enjoy both what you need and what you want.

Thank you for your trust, support, and confidence. We are available 24/7 should you need us.

Sincerely,

Brian singnature

Brian Ginsler
President & CEO

 

—————–

[i] https://www.wsj.com/finance/stocks/ai-frenzy-propels-stocks-to-monster-first-half-620229cc?st=i80f4h4e79q2onh&reflink=article_email_share

[ii] For the balance of this letter, please recall that our clients have different investment goals, objectives, and risk tolerances, and therefore will have different portfolios, which may not include some of the strategies or securities detailed herein.

[iii] Years determined with the help of Perplexity AI, which scanned 15 sources to compile the applicable years, and with the help of OpenAI ChatGPT 4o, which conducted a similar operation. Sources included: Grant Thorton LLP Canada, The Fraser Institute, The Canadian Press, Reuters, The Financial Post, Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Reuters, CBC, CTV News, The Associated Press, Wealth Professional, The Liberal Party of Canada, among others.

 

Ginsler Wealth Named one of The Best Wealth Management Firms in Canada by Wealth Professional

Ginsler Wealth is pleased to have been named one of “The Best Wealth Management Firms in Canada | 2024 5-Star Wealth Management Firms” by Wealth Professional.

According to Wealth Professional, “The list recognizes all the work wealth management firms do to advance the industry and ensure that advisors can provide the highest level of quality service to their clients. The firms recognized on this list represent some of the best wealth management firms in Canada, who are constantly finding new and innovative ways to drive returns for clients.”

“We are very pleased to be named a 5-Star Wealth Management Firm,” said Brian Ginsler, CEO of Ginsler Wealth. “We are just days away from our three year anniversary of the launch of Ginsler Wealth and I am very proud of what we have accomplished – so far – for the benefit of our clients”.

Wealth Professional recognizes Canada’s best wealth management firms devising innovative and creative ways to provide returns for their clients.

Ginsler Wealth Named Excellence Awardee for Holistic Advisory Team of the Year

Ginsler Wealth is pleased to have been named an Excellence Awardee in the category of “Holistic Advisory Team of the Year” for the 2024 Wealth Professional Awards.

This award recognizes the advisory team that has best displayed excellence over the last 12 months offering a full suite of services including, but not limited to, investments, tax and estate planning, insurance advisory, succession planning, etc.

The criteria for this award include:
– Overall client service and relationship management
– Ability to demonstrate the variety of products and services available to clients
– Industry reputation

“We are very pleased to be named an Excellence Awardee for the second year in a row,” said Brian Ginsler, CEO of Ginsler Wealth. “I am especially pleased that this year it was in recognition of the whole Ginsler Wealth team’s unlimited focus on delivering the best wealth management experience to our clients”.

For 10 years now, the annual Wealth Professional Awards (WPAs) has been recognized as the leading independent awards program for the wealth management and financial planning profession.* Winners will be revealed at the celebratory awards show on June 6, 2024 at the Liberty Grand, Toronto. We would like to thank Wealth Professional and wish the best of luck to the other nominees!

 

*According to Wealth Professional’s website: https://wealthprofessionalawards.ca/

Ginsler Wealth First Quarter 2024 Client Letter – Free Money Edition

(An audio version of this letter can now be found as Episode 37 of The Unlimited Podcast by Ginsler Wealth. Use the link provided or find us on your favourite podcast app.)

To Ginsler Wealth’s Clients:

You may have heard the joke about two economists walking down the street and seeing a $20 bill lying on the sidewalk. The first economist says, “Look at that $20 bill.” The second says, “That can’t really be a $20 bill lying there, because if it were, someone would have picked it up already.” So they walk on, leaving the $20 bill undisturbed.[i]

The notion above is that there can’t be “free money” lying around in plain sight. The “markets” are efficient and opportunities like the above cannot exist.

I beg to differ.

A few weeks ago, I was in a long line at Burger Shack, our family’s favourite burger joint, to pick up food for dinner. There were at least six people ahead of me placing and collecting their orders. As I waited for my turn to order, my eyes gazed at the floor directly in front of the cashier and I saw a loonie and a quarter lying in plain sight on the ground.

With that old economist joke in my head, I watched in disbelief as person after person completely missed, or ignored (?), the FREE MONEY lying on the ground.

When it was my turn to order, I promptly reached down and picked up the free money, and placed it in the tip jar for the staff.

Clearly, $1.25 is not a large sum of money, but if you can find $1.25 in many places, it can add up. At Ginsler Wealth, we believe a critical part of our job, is to find you “free money”.

THE SEARCH FOR FREE MONEY

Investing is hard. What I have learned in twenty-five years in the business is that you should jump at opportunities to earn a risk-free return (the investing equivalent of “free money”). As we oversee your finances and investments, here are examples of what we are doing, and have done, to seek out free money for your benefit.

  1. Tax and Investment Holding Structuring

The first step is to ensure your family has the appropriate tax structure in place to conduct your activities – with the goal of the highest after-tax investment and financial outcomes. For example, we have helped many of you set up holding companies and family trusts. These structures aim to either defer the payment of taxes or reduce a family’s overall tax burden. Similarly, simply making use of government-provided registered accounts (like the RRSP, TFSA, RESPs, etc.) can save a dramatic amount of taxes over time. In the case of the RESP[ii], the government literally gives you “free money” when you contribute. When you structure, or maximize the use of registered accounts, to defer or save taxes, the result is money you get to keep instead of handing it over to the CRA.

  1. Negotiating Fee Reductions

We are very conscious of the investment management fees you pay, and we strive to keep them as low as possible. Once we have determined that an investment strategy is a suitable addition to our roster, where possible, we go to work negotiating the fee structure (and sometimes other terms). Our investing scale often results in our clients paying a substantially discounted management fee. For example, with one of the strategies we use, the management fee is reduced by 0.75% for Ginsler Wealth clients. This equates to an additional “risk free” 0.75% return on this investment in your portfolio.[iii] This fee reduction has, on average, represented an annual 8% enhancement to the return on that investment over the past 3 years. We utilize several strategies with discounted fee structures to benefit our clients.

  1. Taking Advantage of Discounted Dividend Reinvestment Programs (“DRIPs”)

Similar to a fee reduction, we love finding investment funds than enable our clients to automatically reinvest monthly distributions at a discount to their market value. A number of the strategies we use offer a 2% or 3% reinvestment discount. This means that you earn an immediate, risk-free return on each distribution that is reinvested. Like the small change on the Burger Shack floor, it may not seem like a lot of money, but—as the chart below shows—if you can collect small amounts every month in perpetuity, they can add up.

 

In addition, certain strategies we use will pay distributions, not in the form of income (which is taxable), but rather as a “return of capital”[iv] (ROC) which are not taxable in the year received. Instead, the investor will incur a higher, but more favourably-taxed, capital gain at a later point when the holding is sold. This ROC acts as a tax deferral and tax reduction mechanism. Which leads us into the next item below…

  1. Re-characterizing Income into Dividends or Capital Gains

As you likely know, interest income is taxed at the highest rates in Canada. That is why, in addition to the prospect for high returns, investing in equities—whose returns come in the form of capital gains only when sold—tends to be the most tax-effective way to grow wealth inside a taxable investment account. But for those who wish to invest in other potentially less-volatile or less-risky asset classes for a portion of their portfolios, we have found a few select investment strategies that either pay dividends instead of interest, or have a legacy legal structure that enables all returns of any type to be treated as capital gains. The above strategies can potentially reduce your taxes between 25%-50% on each dollar of income. Put another way, a 5% return on the aforementioned tax-advantaged strategy would be equivalent to a regular bond portfolio that returns 8% in the form of income. While 8% sounds better than 5%, ultimately, the net return after taxes is the true measure of portfolio performance and our effectiveness as portfolio managers.

  1. The Use of Whole Life Insurance, Especially Inside a Corporation

Whole life insurance is a permanent insurance policy that grows in value over time by participating in distributions from the insurance company’s pool of investments. This type of policy offers a significant opportunity to boost wealth and estate value, for two key reasons:

  1. The policy’s value grows tax-free and is typically distributed tax-free[v] upon death, and
  2. When held within a corporation, the proceeds can be paid to your estate on a tax-free basis[vi] without being subject to additional taxes like most other corporate assets.

For someone with a corporation, the additional after-tax value of dollars invested in a whole life insurance policy can be potentially double what could be achieved without the use of insurance.[vii] Now that’s what I call “free money”!

For a deep dive into whole life insurance, along with a more concrete example of the above, please listen to the latest episode of The Unlimited Podcast—Insurance 201 with Sterling Park.

—————–

Why am I telling you about all this? First, we want to ensure you know what we are doing and how we are thinking around meeting your long-term wealth and investing goals. Second, we have always been clear that we don’t have a crystal ball and can’t predict the future. To mitigate this limitation (which we believe all investors and forecasters have, whether they admit it or not), we want to stack the deck in your favour by taking advantage of as much risk-free money and opportunities that we can find. This approach is akin to shifting the starting line of a race closer to the finish line.

Now, if only I could get that line at Burger Shack moving a bit more quickly!

 

THE ONLY THING “LIMITED” ABOUT YOUR GINSLER WEALTH EXPERIENCE…

 

Like most other businesses, Ginsler Wealth can be found on popular social media platforms including LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and X (formerly, Twitter). And of course, we have The Unlimited Podcast that is available to all as well. While we are active on those platforms, over the past few months I have realized that I have a lot I would like to share with our clients and closest “friends of the firm”, but not necessarily with our large number of public followers. And I wanted to do so in a way that would not bombard your email Inboxes.

So contrary to prevailing social media wisdom, we have created @ginslerwealthx, a private X account, to provide you with inside access to what we are thinking about and working on – on your behalf. Please note that while the account is private, once you follow it (and we let you in!), you will be able to see the other Followers and vice versa.

Think of it as the only thing “limited” about your Ginsler Wealth experience.

—————–

Finally, I would like to congratulate my colleague Safal Bhattarai—who many of you know well—on becoming registered by our Regulator, the Ontario Securities Commission, as a Portfolio Manager[viii], and as such his promotion to Portfolio Manager at Ginsler Wealth.

 

Thank you for your trust, support, and confidence. We are available 24/7 should you need us.

Sincerely,

Brian singnature

Brian Ginsler
President & CEO

 

 

 

 

——————————

[i] Text taken from: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/efficient-market-thinking-is-inefficient/

[ii] Registered Education Savings Plan.

[iii] The additional 0.75% return is “risk free” because it is a direct subsidy by the manager and does not depend on the underlying performance of the investments themselves, which of course always carry some level of risk.

[iv] This return of capital (ROC) may be a full (i.e., 100%) or a partial return of capital, depending on the fund.

[v] The tax-free nature of whole life insurance may not be absolute under certain circumstances, including in shorter duration insurance policies. This letter is meant only to provide a high-level overview of the benefits of whole life insurance and is not comprehensive. Please speak with Ginsler Wealth Financial Services Inc., a FSRA licensed insurance agency, or your own insurance advisors for more specific details.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] The precise outcome of utilizing these types of insurance policies will depend on the age, gender, and medical profile of the insured(s) at time of entering into the policy and the age of death of the unsured(s) amongst other factors. Talk to Ginsler Wealth Financial Services Inc. or you own insurance advisor for more precise details.

[viii] Technically, the registration category is called “Advising Representative” but is known in the industry as a “Portfolio Manager” registration.

Charlie is the “Real” Architect: Lessons from Buffett’s 2023 Annual Letter

On February 24, 2024, Warren Buffett issued his always-anticipated, and widely read annual letter to shareholders. This letter, began with a special tribute to Charlie Munger, who passed away on November 28, 2023, just 33 days shy of his 100th birthday.

Of note, Buffett very clearly, and without any reservation admitted (or revealed) that Charlie was and has always been the brains behind Berkshire’s entire strategy (Buffett calls him the “architect”), while Buffett was (in his own words) simply the “construction crew”.

In other words, while for decades the world has lavished enormous praise on Buffett for being the world’s genius and best investor, it appears that all along, the accolades should have been going to Charlie.

Each year Buffett uses his letter to provide an update on Berkshire’s activities, but – we believe – it is really a platform for him to attempt to educate other investors on how to achieve success. Here are four top themes and lessons that we’ve identified from his latest letter. (All quotes below are from this years letter).

  1. Buy Wonderful Businesses at Fair Prices, Not Fair Businesses at Wonderful Prices

Perhaps Charlie’s most important strategic instruction to Buffett, or as Buffett says “abandon everything you learned from your hero, Ben Graham”. Does this mean value investing is not the right approach? We don’t think so – it just means having an intense focus on the “value” you are paying when buying what you believe to be great companies.

  1. Buy, Hold and Measure for the Long Term

When you do find these wonderful companies, buy and hold them for the long term, with little focus for the daily “and, yes, even year-by-year movements of the stock market.” For individual investors, this means: don’t trade frequently (or speculate), and don’t have an intense focus on short-term results. At Ginsler Wealth, we also believe that even yearly reviews of performance can be too short-term. Investing is a very long-term pursuit. As our Q4 2023 Quarterly Letter pointed out, if U.S. equity investors (as measured by the S&P500 returns) reviewed their investments based on 2023 calendar year results, they would be ecstatic. But looking back just one further year to 2022, their overall 2-year results would be less than mediocre.

  1. Don’t Expect Home-Runs (from Berkshire)

Buffett goes to great lengths in this year’s letter to make clear that Berkshire’s size and lack of options of “moving the needle” means “no possibility of eye-popping performance”. He instead suggests that the future for Berkshire looks like “a bit better than the average American corporation and, more important, should also operate with materially less risk of permanent loss of capital. Anything beyond ‘slightly better,’ though, is wishful thinking.”

(Secretly, I believe Buffett is trying to signal to readers the type of investor he welcomes at Berkshire, and the type that should invest, or speculate, elsewhere.)

But his forecast doesn’t sound very optimistic. Or does it? You may recall from Ginsler Wealth’s Q2 2022 Quarterly Letter, if an investor can achieve average returns but avoid major losses, resulting longer-term returns could likely be great. In fact, we believe that is the formula for investing success. We advise our clients to expect “reasonable” long-term returns (not homeruns), but with a likely lower chance of large drawdowns. When this approach compounds over many years—not scrutinized over every single month, quarter or even year, as per #2 above—we expect our clients to come out ahead.[1]

  1. Ignore Pundits, Forecasters and the Like

Buffett says “pundits should always be ignored”. As an example, he later says “Neither Greg nor I believe we can forecast market prices of major currencies. We also don’t believe we can hire anyone [emphasis added] with this ability.” Anyone! At Ginsler Wealth, when asked to make any predictions of the future, our answer is always the same: “We don’t know”.

 

Our approach to “not knowing”, is to build diversified portfolios that we believe should perform well, held over the long-term, with less chance of capital loss or impairment. Seems like we’ve been listening to Buffett all along![2]

 

You can read Ginsler Wealth’s summaries of Buffett’s 2022 (last year’s) Letter and 2021 Letter at the links provided.

 

[1] Investing is inherently risky and nothing above should be viewed as a guarantee or promise.

[2] Nothing in this article should be deemed investment advice.

 

Image Credits:

A. Costanza: Dave Quiggle
B. Mosby: Architect Magazine
C. Munger: Lane Hickenbottom/Reuters from Business Insider

Brian Ginsler on the Real Human Project

An Unlimited Podcast twist! This episode is a podcast within a podcast…

This episode sees the tables turned on our host, Ginsler Wealth CEO, Brian Ginsler, as he switches from interviewer to interviewee. Brian is interviewed as part of The Real Human Project by Sam, an AI interviewer, with the goal of helping people share their stories and reveal the “real human” behind each interviewee.

The Real Human Project is on a mission to help people get to know each other better. Through AI-hosted podcast interviews, everyone has an opportunity to make an episode about what makes them who they are. These episodes can then be shared with anyone the participant would like to share their story with. Once an episode has been shared, listeners are encouraged to respond with their feelings about the episode.

The Real Human Project has extended a special offer to all listeners of the Unlimited Podcast: for $50 USD off your very own episode, enter code “Unlimited” at checkout.

To learn more about The Real Human Project, or to get your own episode, visit realhuman.io.

You can listen to this episode here or find us in your favourite podcasting app, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music.

If you like what you hear, please don’t hesitate to rate us kindly. And if there are particular topics you’d like covered, please let us know.

Ginsler Wealth Fourth Quarter 2023 Client Letter – The Coby Edition

(An audio version of this letter can now be found as Episode 32 of The Unlimited Podcast by Ginsler Wealth. Use the link provided or find us on your favourite podcast app.)

 

To Ginsler Wealth’s Clients:

My last quarterly letter was released on the evening of Friday, October 6. By the following morning, that letter couldn’t have been less important given the horrific atrocities occurring in Israel, and the resulting last 3 horrible months for Israel, Jews around the world, and innocent Palestinians – wholly and solely a result of Hamas’ atrocious attack on Israel and its citizens, and Hamas’ continued holding of hostages.

Because my last letter was just an evening too soon to address and discuss the above, I wanted to use this year-end letter to share a story about another Israel war, an Israeli tank commander, and how Israel and its soldiers conduct themselves.


1967: THE SIX DAY WAR

In June of 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on three of its neighbouring Arab states to counter what it perceived was an imminent threat from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

Egyptian forces were caught by surprise by Israeli airstrikes, and nearly all of Egypt’s military aerial assets were destroyed, giving Israel air supremacy. Simultaneously, the Israeli military launched a ground offensive into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. After some initial resistance, Egypt’s President Nasser ordered an evacuation of the Sinai Peninsula; by the sixth day of the conflict, Israel had occupied the entire Sinai Peninsula. (Israeli provisional control over the Sinai Peninsula ended in 1982 following the implementation of the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, which saw Israel return the region to Egypt in exchange for the latter’s recognition of Israel as a legitimate sovereign state.)[i]

Part of the ground offensive included the Armored Corps of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) – IDF’s tank division. During the Six Day War, Israeli Tank Commander Iacov Sucher led a battalion of tanks in the Sinai Peninsula. They were successful in defeating the Egyptian forces and had captured several Egyptian soldiers.

With the heat of battle still raging, and sensing that tensions between his IDF troops and the captured Egyptian soldiers could easily escalate, Commander Sucher climbed to the top of his tank in full view of his troops and ordered that no Egyptian soldier shall be harmed from that moment forward; and any IDF soldier doing so would answer to him.

——————–

Six years later, during the Yom Kippur War, Commander Sucher would fight for Israel once again, this time in the Golan Heights.

——————–

Iacov got married, had two daughters in Israel and then immigrated to Canada, where he had a son. With his engineering degree from the Technion University in Tel Aviv, he eventually became certified as an engineer in Canada.

Almost 30 years after the Six Day War, Iacov went to pitch his engineering services to an architecture firm in Toronto. Upon seeing Iacov, the Egyptian-Canadian owner of the firm said to him, “I know you. Were you in Sinai in 1967?…You saved my life.”

——————–

Twenty years later, upon Iacov’s passing in 2017, during the shiva (the 7-day mourning period following a Jewish funeral) that same Egyptian-Canadian architect knocked on the door of my father-in-law Coby’s (nickname for Iacov) house to pay his respects for the man who saved his life…by doing the right thing.

This is how Coby protected his enemies’ lives during war, and how I believe the world needs to view the actions of Israel and its army today, which embraces life as opposed to terror and death – both then and now.


DO THE RIGHT THING

The work that we do managing your wealth is in no way comparable to Coby’s or any soldier’s actions during wartime. But Coby’s clear example of doing the right thing is applicable to every action we take. Ensuring we act in your best interest is our Guiding Principle, even if it means we don’t look good in the short-term, as illustrated by the example below.

Structured Notes in Your Portfolios

Over the past year – basically from the time interest rates started to rise dramatically – we have been investing on your behalf in securities called “structured notes”.[ii] I have previously written about these in my 2023 Q2 Letter, and 2022 Q3 Letter.

The specific type of structured notes we invest in are called Contingent Income Notes and they pay a high interest payment (e.g., 9-13%, with our client average being ~11%) as long as a certain “reference index” does not fall by more than 30% or 40% (the “Barrier Level”).

We will only buy structured notes where the reference index is an index of the Big Six Banks* or Canada’s large utility companies, as both indices tend to be reasonably stable and have a history of almost never falling below the above-noted Barrier Levels.

Based on almost 40 years of back-testing[iii] of historical returns of the Big Six Banks Index*, (as you can see in the chart below if you look very, very closely at the line along the bottom), the historic probability of missing out on coupon payments has been less than 4% over the life of the structured note. Similarly, based on the same data and history, the probability of losing money (i.e., any impairment of one’s principal investment) on this type of structured note held until it is called or until it matures, has been 0% (zero).

In short, in the current volatile economic and market environment, we are able to generate for you a high rate of interest with dramatic downside protection. But…because of how these structured notes are, well, structured, even though they will return to par over time, shortly after they are purchased they tend to trade below their purchase price. So, although you may be collecting the high income rate, those holdings almost immediately show a loss on your statements and drag down your reported short-term performance.

Put another way, we bought you a security that we know is likely to go down (temporarily), and we earn less in fees since our fees are based on the value of your accounts.

It would be easier for us to find something else to buy, or stick to only traditional asset classes, or heck, even just hold GICs! But that wouldn’t be doing the right thing. We are willing to show weaker performance and earn less fees in the short term to ensure your long-term investing success. This is because we are confident that these structured notes will deliver double-digit returns with dramatic downside protection[iv] – which is not easy to find these days!


JOMO AND FOMO

Speaking of short and long-term, the end of this calendar year may be a good time to re-assess your appetite for risk – by reviewing the short and (slightly) longer-term performance of the U.S. equity market.

As you can see in the chart below, 2022 was a terrible year for U.S. equity investors with a volatile ride ending in a negative 18% return. Aside from continuing volatility, 2023 was precisely the opposite of 2022, primarily driven by the Big 7 technology stocks (as detailed in my last quarterly letter), with the S&P 500 Index up 26%. This means – for most investors who were invested in the U.S. market throughout 2022 and 2023, their annualized return was about 1.7%.


Ginsler Wealth clients likely experienced JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out) on dreadful equity performance[v] in 2022, but conversely, may have experienced some FOMO in 2023…missing out on the full upside of 2023’s equity performance, given the much more diversified portfolios clients tend to have here at Ginsler Wealth.

Going into 2023, we were concerned about the resilience of equities. That concern hasn’t abated as we enter 2024. We believe the right thing to do for you is tactically diversify across numerous asset classes and strategies to first, protect against losses, and second, to grow your wealth prudently.

 

If Coby taught me anything during my time spent with him, it is to always do the right thing. And now more than ever, it seems like we need more Cobys in this world.

Wishing you unlimited health, happiness, and peace in 2024. Thank you for your trust, support, and confidence. We are available 24/7 should you need us.

Sincerely,

Brian singnature

Brian Ginsler
President & CEO

 

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[i] General historic details sourced from Wikipedia and with the help of ChatGPT.

[ii] For the balance of this letter, please recall that our clients have different investment goals, objectives, and risk tolerances, and therefore will have different portfolios, (and different results), which may not include some of the strategies detailed herein.

[iii] Back-tested index data provided by Bank of Nova Scotia. November 2023. Historical results may not be indicative of future results.

[iv] See endnote (iii) above.

[v] See endnote (ii) above.

Ginsler Wealth firmly stands with Israel

Following the abhorrent terrorist attack by Hamas in Israel on October 7, we have been watching the situation in Gaza and Israel with great concern. Ginsler Wealth does not wish to recite history or debate politics at a time like this. These are not our areas of expertise. But what we believe should be extremely clear to all humans, is that the killing, torture, and abduction of innocent civilians can never be justified – and the perpetrators of such acts must be stopped.

Most of all, we wish for peace and stability for all in the region – especially those who have had no involvement with or support of terrorist activities.

In addition to being vocal in our support of Israel, we have thought hard about how we can take action to support Israel in this time of need. As mentioned above, politics is not our expertise; but investing is.

So over the past week we have been speaking with the leadership of Canada-Israel Securities – the organization that sells Israel bonds in Canada – and have confirmed our ability to purchase Israel bonds on behalf of our clients. Ginsler Wealth will also waive our fees and cover any transaction costs for any Israel bonds purchased by our clients.

Israel Bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the State of Israel, which has always made interest and principal payments on Israel bonds since the first bond was issued in 1951—regardless of any instability or war they have faced.

While making a donation is certainly the most impactful way to assist Israel, “investing in Israel” may be the next best way to provide financial support for a period of time. And Israel needs our support now more than ever.

 

Ginsler Wealth Third Quarter 2023 Client Letter – Misunderstood Edition

(An audio version of this letter can now be found as Episode 29 of The Unlimited Podcast by Ginsler Wealth. Use the link provided or find us on your favourite podcast app.)

To Ginsler Wealth’s Clients:

As you all know, Ginsler Wealth produces The Unlimited Podcast, featuring investment and other topics we think would be of interest to you. This is especially true when we feature some of the managers and strategies we invest in on your behalf.[i] I love interviewing our guests and putting these together for you. I hope you enjoy them as well.

One of my favourite podcasts is Revisionist History, hosted by the famous journalist and author, Malcolm Gladwell. At the beginning of each episode, Malcolm describes his podcast as: “my podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood.”

As we take stock of the investing and economic landscape in 2023 so far, I would like to share with you what I believe is overlooked and misunderstood.

MISUNDERSTOOD: THE U.S. EQUITY MARKET HAS HAD A GOOD 2023 SO FAR

Looking at the S&P 500 Index, the main barometer of the U.S. equity markets, one might conclude that U.S. (public) companies are having a good 2023 – up 13%. This “misunderstanding” has been widely reported on so I can’t take credit for it. As you likely already know, the performance of seven large tech companies[ii] (which comprise more than 28% of the index’ weighting) has been strong. The “equal weight” S&P 500 shows quite a different picture – with the market up only 1% year to date. Excluding the Big 7, it’s been a pretty poor year so far.

MISUNDERSTOOD: CANADA’S EQUITY MARKET PERFORMANCE IS BROAD-BASED

The chart below shows the performance of the S&P/TSX Composite Index, the broadest measure of Canadian equity market performance, along with the performance of the S&P/TSX 60, which only includes some of Canada’s largest 60 public companies.[iii] The two lines are almost indistinguishable from each other and show a meagre 3% return year-to-date. We don’t appear to have the issue of a few large companies materially contributing to equity market performance.

However, in 2023, Canada has experienced a similar issue as the U.S. Two of Canada’s largest tech stocks – Shopify (once Canada’s largest company) and Constellation Software – have contributed over 3% of Canada’s stock market performance so far in 2023. This means that the rest of Canada’s public companies, measured as a whole, have had a negative 2023.

OVERLOOKED: BONDS HAVE FAILED YET AGAIN TO ACT DIFFERENTLY THAN EQUITIES

For those invested in the “traditional 60/40” stock and bond portfolio (not Ginsler Wealth clients), 2022 was a horrible year, as both stocks and bonds moved in the same direction: down. This year has been more of the same. The chart below shows that so far this year the performance of the broad-based equity and fixed income (bond) indices are quite similar. (As you know, your Ginsler Wealth portfolios (also) include alternative investment and income strategies, with the goal of generating reasonable returns while not necessarily acting similarly to traditional stocks and bonds.)

MISUNDERSTOOD? CONSUMER SPENDING IN THE FACE OF LOWERED FINANCIAL CONFIDENCE

Given the pace of interest rate increases over the past year, it is surprising to me that consumers continue to feel good about current business conditions (Present Situation Index line below), but less surprising that they aren’t feeling so great about the near future (Expectations Index line below) …

Given consumers’ bleak expectations for the future, I would have expected to see (and government central banks are desperately hoping for) spending to slow down as people brace for impact. But what is happening instead? The highest spending levels in history continue. An October 1st Wall Street Journal article’s title says it all: American’s Are Still Spending Like There’s No Tomorrow.[iv] It is very hard to tame inflation if people don’t slow their spending.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Putting all these “things overlooked and misunderstood” together: we have equity markets that appear stronger than they actually are; bonds suffering alongside equities[v]; and persistent inflation causing consumers to expect tougher times ahead, but spend in a way that could very well lead to more interest rate increases, or at the very least, keep current rates higher for longer.


INVESTING IN GICs

So, is the best approach today to simply take advantage of 5%+ Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) rates? This is perhaps the most misunderstood course of action in long-term investing.[vi]

There are pros and cons when investing in GICs:

Pro: you are guaranteed to earn the stated interest rate.
Con: you are guaranteed to earn the stated interest rate.

In fact, the list of cons continues:

  • You will give away more than half your return[vii] to CRA, and therefore may not even earn an after-tax return above inflation,
  • You may need to lock your capital away for an extended period of time without being rewarded with a liquidity premium in the form of higher returns, and
  • You will potentially miss out on larger returns from other, more favourably-taxed, asset classes.

In short, for many investors, investing in GICs is the safest way to potentially not meet your long-term investing goals and objectives.

 

While the outlook may be uncertain (hint: it always is) and consumer expectations are being lowered, remember (as I reviewed in my last quarterly letter) that we are spending our time managing your investments with a focus on reducing volatility, protecting the downside, seeking tax-efficient high income-generating investments, and capitalizing on potential market stress/distress.[viii] We do the above while always maintaining exposure to equity markets[ix] as well because we don’t believe in trying to time the markets. We know from past history that equity markets will be the first to rise (and likely dramatically) upon the first hints of better times ahead. This should not be overlooked or misunderstood.

 

Thank you for your trust, support, and confidence. We are available 24/7 should you need us.

Sincerely,

Brian singnature

Brian Ginsler
President & CEO

 

 

 

[i] For the balance of this letter, please recall that our clients have different investment goals, objectives, and risk tolerances, and therefore will have different portfolios, which may not include some of the strategies discussed on The Unlimited Podcast or detailed herein.

[ii] Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta (Facebook), Microsoft, NVIDIA, and Tesla.

[iii] The S&P/TSX 60 is a subset of the S&P/TSX Composite. It has 60 constituents and represents Canadian large cap securities with a view to reflecting the sector balance of the S&P/TSX Composite.

[iv] Article may be behind a paywall and not viewable if you don’t have a WSJ subscription. Sorry.

[v] Listen to The Unlimited Podcast Episode 17: Bonds… Just Bonds with Richard-Usher Jones to learn how bonds work and what happens to bond prices as interest rates rise…they go down.

[vi] If you have shorter-term cash needs, by all means invest in shorter-term (and ideally cashable) GICs.

[vii] For investors in the highest income tax bracket.

[viii] See endnote i above.

[ix] Also see endnote i above.