Be An Owner, Not A Moaner

Nothing gets customers riled up like the announcement of a fee increase.  Banks and utilities often draw the ire of customers, and for good reason.  Canadians have been getting nickel-and-dimed by the big banks and utility companies for years

Scotiabank and CIBC will increase fees on personal bank accounts beginning March 1st and April 1st, respectively.  TD Canada Trust introduced similar changes last summer, which led me to ditch my chequing account with them and open up a no fee account with ING Direct.

Customers can always shop around for the best rates and switch banks or utility providers.  But usually we end up with a short-term promotional offer that expires after three-to-six months, and then we’re right back where we started; complaining about the fees!

Why You Should Own Bank And Utility Stocks

A good way to fight off inflation is to buy shares in these companies, particularly the ones you do business with.  Be an owner, not a moaner.

For example we get our Internet through Telus, and each year our bill increases by about 5%.  As a Telus shareholder, the pain of inflation is eased by the fact that Telus has increased its dividend by 55% since 2007, an average increase of 13.67% per year.

As John Heinzl explained in a recent Globe and Mail article, utility stocks like Telus are so predictable they have been announcing dividend increases years in advance.  Telus has plans to continue boosting its dividend twice a year – at a rate of about 10 per cent annually – until at least 2013.

The banks haven’t been as generous with dividend increases in recent years, but they will likely return to dividend aristocrat status soon enough.  All of the big banks announced dividend increases in the last 12 months.

It has proven to be very profitable to own bank stocks for the long term.  Tom Connolly, author of The Connolly Report, prepared this chart on Scotiabank that shows how dividend growth has driven the price growth of this stock since 1990.

Connolly believes that retirees shouldn’t be so focused on fixed income investments.  Dividend growth stocks, like many banks and utilities, provide a growing income that’s important to help fight off inflation.

He says, “Since 1982, without adding a penny to my stock portfolio, I have watch dividend payments climb 79%.  This more than compensates for a 35% rise in the consumer price index.”

David Chilton shares an amusing story in The Wealthy Barber Returns about an investor who was beating the market with an unusual approach.  He looked for mature Canadian companies with a long track record of paying dividends.  From there, he only bought shares in firms that he did business with, but hated.

His rationale was that if he hated these businesses but is still dealing with them, they must be in a great situation.

We’re still going to complain when prices climb, especially when our recurring bills go up.  It’s human nature.  In my case, I have a portfolio filled with stocks from banks, insurance companies, utilities, and even liquor stores to help offset my personal inflation rate.

For the record, I definitely complain when the price of beer goes up 🙂

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  1. Julie Gaudet on January 16, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Love the message, take action! So many people jump on the complaining band wagon instead of looking around to find a potential solution. Investing in the companies that are increasing profit margins is both creative and resourceful. Don’t we all want our investments to grow, what better way than to target the organizations that are increasing profits.

  2. Juan on January 16, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Haha increasing beer prices are never good 😛

  3. The Passive Income Earner on January 16, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I concur. Either shop around for no fees or reap the rewards by owning their stocks 🙂 Banks and Utilities are the core of my portfolio followed by U.S. conglomerates.

    I still pay bank fees for now but only because that’s where I have everything. I have started moving more accounts to no fees though. I used to get my fees waived but had to do it every year and then they stopped offering it. My solution, start moving accounts 🙂

    Note that some banks have made it on the Dividend Aristocrats list this year due to a change or criteria for the S&P Canadian Dividend list

  4. KC @ PsychoMoney on January 16, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Totally agree. Stop the wining and either shop around or pick up the stocks.

    I have had to move accounts a few times to avoid fees.

  5. David on January 18, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Interestingly enough, the thought of owning bank and utility stocks to offset expenses never crossed my mind.

    Your post has given me something to think about.


  6. Paula @ Afford Anything on January 23, 2012 at 9:18 am

    When I was in college and I didn’t know any better, I would complain about companies that would sell you a product that required you to buy THEIR brand of ongoing-follow-up-item.

    (Example: If you buy a Swiffer mop — a one-time purchase — you then become locked into buying Swiffer-brand attachments to fit the mop — an ongoing expense.)

    In other words — at the time, I was a moaner.

    As I got older, it occurred to me that I should learn from this business model and try to emulate it. What was once an annoyance turned into an inspiration.

    In other words — I started thinking like an owner.

    • Echo on January 23, 2012 at 11:22 am

      @Paula – better to buy Proctor & Gamble stock than to complain about the recurring costs of Swiffer cloths and razor blades. Thanks for stopping by.

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