Weekend Reading_ We Are Here For You Edition

My inbox has been flooded with emails from companies telling me “we are here for you” during these difficult times. Banks, credit card companies, airlines, restaurants, Galen Weston Jr., that retailer you bought a shirt from three years ago. They’re all here for you. 

What does it mean?

For some, it’s public relations and a true sense of caring. The message from Galen Weston resonated positively across Canada as the Loblaw CEO promised stocked shelves, clean stores, and a commitment not to hike prices (that one might be tough to swallow coming on the heels of a massive bread price-fixing scandal). 

For others, it’s blatant marketing. Like when Canada’s big banks joined in solidarity to announce a six-month mortgage payment deferral option for vulnerable Canadians. Details were sparse, and when pressed for more information the banks refused to elaborate, saying each situation would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

It turns out the six-month deferral is simply an already existing ‘mortgage payment vacation‘, where interest still accrues and the deferred payments are just added to the end of mortgage amortization period. Still, that might be much needed relief for some Canadians who find themselves with no or low income in the coming months.

The problem is, CBC reported that customers who began to inquire about mortgage payment deferrals faced confusion, delays, and outright denials from Canada’s big banks. 

“Alyson Whittle of Cochrane, Alta., said her bank, B2B, which is a subsidiary of Laurentian Bank, told her she could defer her next mortgage payment but then the following payment would be double.”

This is not helping.

Canadians need money in their pockets now. The new Emergency Care and Emergency Support benefits announced this week as part of the federal government stimulus package won’t be available until April. Provinces and municipalities will try to fill in the gaps, but for many vulnerable Canadians it simply won’t be enough. 

There have been 500,000 applications for EI this week, compared to just 27,000 the same week last year.

Some businesses will voluntarily step up and offer customers a lifeline, like Apple and Goldman Sachs offering to cover interest payments for Apple Card customers.

But why can’t government work with big business (banks, utilities, telecoms) to immediately pause payments for three months (act now, figure out the details later) and truly provide financial relief to struggling Canadians?

We already know the financial bailouts and stimulus packages needed to survive this pandemic will be massive. We also know that government programs require applications, delays, and endless red tape. 

Big businesses are already set-up to provide direct relief because they have automatic recurring payments scheduled for their customers. Put a hold on payments for three months and send the bills to the federal government. 

Yes, that’s unprecedented. Yes, some people don’t need direct relief. But now is not the time to worry about that. The government can always clawback the payments from high income earners on their taxes next year.

“We are here for you.” Canadians don’t need platitudes. They need immediate relief. These don’t need to be empty words. We are all in this together.

This Week’s Recap:

On Tuesday I shared my pension decision, whether to keep a deferred pension or take the commuted value and invest on my own. Many thanks to Alexandra Macqueen for the expert guidance.

On Thursday I wrote a comprehensive post to explain how to apply for EI benefits.

Over on Young & Thrifty I offered my best financial advice amid the coronavirus crisis.

From the archives: Coping with stock market losses

Promo of the Week:

Friend of the blog Mike Heroux is the author of The Dividend Guy Blog and the owner and portfolio manager at Dividend Stocks Rock (DSR). He also worked for 10 years as a private banker and financial planner. 

Mike has put together a free webinar exclusively for Boomer & Echo readers this Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. EST. 

In this webinar you’ll hear about Mike’s dividend growth strategy, including some of his top dividend stock picks. The end of the webinar includes a free Q&A session with Mike where he will gladly discuss any investment topic with you.

Register for this exclusive (and free) live webinar here at Dividend Stocks Rock.

Weekend Reading:

Smart stuff from our friends at Credit Card Genius, who share the credit card combos for saving on essentials and earning cash back during a pandemic

Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the RRIF minimum withdrawal rules will be 25 percent lower for 2020.

The How To Save Money team put together a guide for those who are dealing with an unexpected job loss due to Coronavirus layoffs.

Millionaire Teacher Andrew Hallam says the financial media is doing more harm than good with COVID-19.

Ben Felix explains why every market drop feels different thanks to the power of a compelling narrative:

Retirement planning expert Wade Pfau offers some wisdom on what to do when markets plummet:

“We tend to make long-term decisions based on short-term performance. Large recent market gains lead us to be optimistic about our chances, while market losses have the opposite effect.”

David Aston shares three things retirees can do now to protect their cash flow and portfolio.

Should you buy stocks now? Nick Maggiulli explains what one important market signal is saying.

Tim Cestnick shares five ways you might benefit as interest rates drop like a rock.

Travel expert Barry Choi explains how COVID-19 affects insurance policies.

My Own Advisor Mark Seed offers some great advice on how to get through a stock market crash – and benefit from it.

A hands-off policy for your portfolio amid market volatility is usually the best advice, but there are exceptions to that rule. When standing pat doesn’t sit well:

“The long-running equity market rally I think tended to make us all a little inert about making changes. It was easy to be comfy when everything was going up. We’ve had a little bit of volatility. So, I do think that if retirement is within the next five to 10 years for you, think about derisking your portfolio if you haven’t taken any steps to do so in recent years.”

Preet Banerjee offers some thoughts for those who are living paycheck to paycheck and worried about a loss in income:

Finally, Rob Carrick asks how an interest rate cut helps a population that has decided its number one priority is to buy toilet paper? Indeed.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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13 Comments

  1. Brad S on March 21, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    Do have a watch of the Ben Felix video.

    • Robb Engen on March 21, 2020 at 3:18 pm

      Hi Brad, I don’t understand your question.

  2. Lynda Williams on March 21, 2020 at 2:24 pm

    Big banks giving a break on fees and allowing customers to go under the minimum balance required would be a more tangible gesture.

    • Robb Engen on March 21, 2020 at 3:18 pm

      Hi Lynda, absolutely – it’s the least they could do.

  3. CanTe on March 21, 2020 at 2:37 pm

    Getting a little tired of every company I have ever dealt with telling me they’re here for me. I don’t care if you’ve locked the front door, hosed off your keyboard or dunked your mouse in Clorox, what are you actually going do that’s going to help me right now in my time of need? *

    * Not me specifically, we planned ahead. Lots of TP in the closet.

    • Robb Engen on March 21, 2020 at 3:17 pm

      I hear you. That’s what prompted the title of this post. If TD was here for me, they’d figure out a way for me to open a LIRA online instead of risking my health and the health of their employees by forcing me to visit a branch.

  4. Peter T on March 21, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    Looking across the pond at how the UK Govt will cover 80% of workers pay to encourage employers not to lay people off is ‘being here for you’. Inept Canadian Govt talking heads is helping now one. Shame we cannot have similar leadership here when we need it.

    • Robb Engen on March 21, 2020 at 3:15 pm

      Hi Peter, certainly some of the measures are not going to be strong enough. We need more and better solutions from federal, provincial, and municipal governments, and we need businesses to step up and do the right thing. Consumers will remember who was truly there for them.

    • fbgcai on March 21, 2020 at 4:29 pm

      And yet the “leadership” (questionable attribute) in the UK has waited until TODAY (March 21) to close social gathering places (pubs,bars etc. ) – it’s going to be VERY messy there in short order.
      Not that I think our “leadership” is anything to commend but we seem to be somewhat in control.
      The biggest disaster is going to be the USA – the orange airhead (I would have stronger descriptions but …) is doing his damned best to make matters worse – the social (death) toll, very unfortunately, is going to be staggering – Economic fallout -take a WAG (wild a$$ed guess).

  5. Aaron Hector on March 21, 2020 at 3:09 pm

    Hi Robb, Just wanted you to know that I’m here for you.

  6. Gin on March 21, 2020 at 6:27 pm

    Talking about red tape:
    Having been exposed to a confirmed Covid 19 cluster, we are in self isolation with mild but notable symptoms.
    By the way, unless you are (close to being) hospitalized, a healthcare worker or part of an investigation you will likely not get tested, and good luck trying to get through to 811.
    We needed a prescription and managed a virtual doctors consultation via the Maple.ca service (have your credit card ready). The doctor did the prescription and in the absence of a pre-selected pharmacy sent it via an automated service to a pharmacy 18 kms away.
    When we called our local pharmacy with the prescription details provided via the website (digital), we were told they can only fill paper prescriptions / fax is also acceptable.
    After escalating, multiple phone calls and spending significant time, we were helped and our neighbour was able to pick up the prescription. To be clear, there was no immediate life threatening situation to us.
    This process will not work well as pharmacy demands increase with higher numbers of self-quarantines, remote consultations and closing in forms of lock down.
    I am concerned about how our pharmacy system is going to cope moving forward unless these exceptional circumstances are further recognized and processes revised.
    Finances are important, cases of potentially life & death more so.

  7. Gordon Carpenter on March 22, 2020 at 6:12 am

    Just filed for EI on Friday after working at the same job for the last 12 years. Took several hours to apply online on /thursday due to delays and all day friday to get through to the covit-19 line. I was told that it could be until april 28 for my claim to go through. I am grateful for the fall back system we have and I am lucky enough to be in a position where this is not going to be an issue, but what about families that need assistance now, there must be a way to streamline this system that is only going to get worse in the coming weeks. Things are going to get crazy!

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