My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humour/sarcasm. You've been warned. Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, April 6, 2020

COVID-19 Government Program Updates – Plus: Why Emotions are a Poor Guide to Investing

It is extremely challenging to write financial posts on COVID-19 as the situation is fluid. Whatever the challenge in writing, it is far more difficult for Canadians and small businesses who are adapting to changes on the fly.

The programs Canadians intend to rely upon are upgraded and changed daily by governments, who themselves need to adapt to constantly changing economic conditions. This has caused significant confusion among Canadians about the qualifying conditions and application process for these programs.

For small businesses who are facing gut-wrenching decisions on staffing, the lack of clarity has been a significant issue, as they are not sure whether to lay off staff or to hold on and hope for financial assistance.

Government Program Updates

As I write this post, the original Emergency Care Benefit (ECB) and Emergency Support Benefit (ESB) programs have been replaced by a single more generous program known as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

On wage subsidies, the original 10% Employer Wage Subsidy Program (EWSP) has been maintained, but a sister program called the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) was announced that introduces a 75% wage subsidy. These two programs will co-exist. It is hoped the CEWS has been upgraded to a level that will allow small businesses to keep their employees on payroll, rather than laying them off, and be incentive enough to rehire employees previously let go. See this detailed article to understand the CEWS and how it works with the EWSP.

Here is an update as of April 8th for the changes to the CEWS.

There have been multiple filing and payment extensions for tax returns, from personal tax, to corporate tax to HST returns. This document is an excellent summary of all the new deadlines and extensions.

If I had to suggest one thing you should do, it would be to watch this webcast by BDO - Part 2: Cash Flow Strategies and Government Incentives in the time of COVID-19. It is an oral breakdown of all these programs with questions. Register then watch here.

There are two other important programs, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit I noted earlier (This program will provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic) and the Canada Emergency Business Account (loans of up to $40,000). Please check back during the week as I hope to have links or further details added in the next few days.

The pace of change is so quick that some parts of this post may be overtaken by current events by the time you read it. To stay updated, I recommend this hub of COVID-19 coverage created and updated regularly by BDO.

Why emotions are a poor guide to investing

The roller coaster ride the stock market has taken us on has been far less exhilarating than the roller coaster at your favourite theme park. As of April 3rd, the Dow is down 26% for the year and the TSX is down almost 24%. However, on March 23rd, those numbers were down around 35% and 34% respectively. 

This ride really tests our risk tolerance - see the discussion in this blog post under equity exposure - and makes many of us emotional wrecks.

I have always been interested in the emotional side of investing and this topic came up during a conference call I was part of, put on by Tacita Capital, one of the investment managers on the BDO Wealth Advisory platform. The call’s main theme was COVID-19 and the state of the market, but one slide featuring a graphic by Russell Investments really caught my attention.

The graphic’s purpose was to point out how our emotions are a poor guide to investing, which I think most of us agree is a very true statement.

We start out with optimism, and the curve starts to move upwards as we get excited and moves higher as we are thrilled. We then hit a point of euphoria, which Tacita noted is the point of maximum risk. It is also the point where many people plow more money into the market assuming the good times will continue forever.

The curve then turns downward to anxiety, keeps moving downward to fear and from fear to panic, which I would suggest many of us reached on March 23 or earlier (based on what many friends, acquaintances and clients have told me). Unfortunately, the graphic reflects one more step on the downward slope, that being despondency.

The good news is despondency is also the point of maximum financial opportunity (assuming you have cash resources available). From there we thankfully start back up the curve, from hope to relief to optimism.

Every investor is sitting at their own individual stage. Whatever your investing mood and whatever your portfolio’s performance, I keep telling everyone - including myself - that the stage of hope will arrive. Here’s hoping that it arrives sooner rather than later for all of us.

The content on this blog has been carefully prepared, but it has been written in general terms and should be seen as broad guidance only. The blog cannot be relied upon to cover specific situations and you should not act, or refrain from acting, upon the information contained therein without obtaining specific professional advice. Please contact BDO Canada LLP to discuss these matters in the context of your particular circumstances. BDO Canada LLP, its partners, employees and agents do not accept or assume any liability or duty of care for any loss arising from any action taken or not taken by anyone in reliance on the information on this blog or for any decision based on it.

Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation.

BDO Canada LLP, a Canadian limited liability partnership, is a member of BDO International Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, and forms part of the international BDO network of independent member firms. BDO is the brand name for the BDO network and for each of the BDO Member Firms.

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