Jan 30: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

January 30, 2023

Higher interest rates spell trouble in ’23 for borrowers

A wise colleague once told us that debt was “the slayer of retirement dreams.”

And, according to an article by Pamela Heaven in the Financial Post today’s rising interest rates are giving that slayer even more teeth.

The article notes that at least one more rate hike is expected from the Bank of Canada early this year, which will bring the policy rate to 4.5 per cent. That compares to a rate of 0.25 per cent at the beginning of 2022, the Post reports.

The article quotes a TD Economics report that suggests that the impact of a rising policy rate for Canadian borrowers has “only just begun.” That’s because there is usually a lag between the start of higher rates and the end of a mortgage period or car loan, the article explains.

“Debt service costs rise with a lag as mortgages and loan payments are renewed at current market rates,” state the authors of the TD Economics report in the article.

While household debt levels actually dipped during the lockdown years of the pandemic, they are experiencing a sharp rise today, the article notes.

“Canadians who piled on debt when it was cheap now have to contend with interest payments on debt that is more expensive, and could get even more so,” the article adds.

“Up to 18 per cent of fixed-rate mortgages come up for renewal (this) year and borrowers looking to renew will be facing the highest interest rates in 20 years,” the article says, again quoting the TD Economics report.

“In the third quarter of (2022), a borrower who took out a $500,000 mortgage in 2017 was paying $700 more a month on renewal,” notes the TD report.

Well, one might think, it’s good that we all saved so much money during the pandemic’s lock-downiest days, right?

“One bright spot is the personal savings that Canadians accumulated during the pandemic, which could provide a cushion to rising debt costs. However, with interest rates expected to remain at higher levels over 2023, TD expects much of these savings will go to paying debt costs,” states the article.

If there is any positive news about higher interest rates, it’s the fact that Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) are suddenly looking more attractive.

Writing in The Globe and Mail, noted columnist Rob Carrick asks why people are risking investment dollars in the volatile stock market when GICs and other fixed-income investments are offering interest rates close to five per cent.

“In the low-interest decades of the past, stocks were essential to reach your investing goals. But with 5-per-cent returns available from both bonds and GICs, how much do investors need stocks?” he asks.

It will be interesting to see, as we move along in 2023, whether more investors do begin to shift some of their investments towards less volatile fixed-income. Save with SPP can remember that crazy days of the late 1970s and early 1980s when interest rates were in the teens, and you could expect 18 per cent interest on a car loan. It doesn’t seem (today) like we are anywhere near those bad old days — thank heavens!

A balanced approach is usually a wise one when it comes for investing, and members of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan are aware of the “eggs in different baskets” nature of the SPP Balanced Fund. Looking at the asset mix of this fund, it appears that 40 per cent of investments are in Canadian, American and global equities, and the rest is in bonds, mortgages, private debt, short-term investments, real estate and infrastructure. Keep your retirement savings in balance, and check out SPP today!

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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