Saturday, October 10, 2009

HST & Fund Folks


It is of course the oldest joke in the book when it comes to politicians (their lips are moving), however you can make a case for the fact that the fund industry is a much bigger source of disinformation than the local politician!

As for how blatant the lie can be....well we only need to look to recent events to see how little the industry respects the intelligence of the average investor. Failure to disclose all relevant information allows the industry to “stand up for the average investor” publicly while continuing to shaft the public by carrying on just like the folks the industry attempts to vilify!

How about this from a recent Globe & mail article....

” At the heart of the fund industry's lobbying effort is one of the simplest concepts in personal finance: the magic of compound interest. Take the example of a 45-year-old investor who puts $20,000 into a mutual fund in an RRSP. This hypothetical fund comes with very high fees (2.75 per cent) but nevertheless churns out some excellent gains; by the time the investor is 85, he has a nifty nest egg of about $835,500.
Here's the punch line: If not for the provincial government imposing its dastardly HST, that number would be $70,000 higher. “We would hope that the government would not want to take 350 per cent of your initial investment if they truly understood the consequence of this tax,” writes Patrick Farmer, chief executive officer of EdgePoint Wealth Management and the author of this example.”

So why is this less than complete disclosure….well part of dishonesty is telling only a sliver of the truth. You know the old saw about when I point my finger at you, 3 fingers point back at me! Well, the industry complaint is that the government can only get away with this because the fee is hidden from consumers. The point being if consumers saw this egregious fee they would surely storm parliament and have the Harmonized tax reversed.

In fact I absolutely agree with the Fund Folks on that point. And truth be known, the Fund Folks (FFs) know this because they have been charging the most ridiculous fund fees on the planet using exactly that same deceptive approach. All fund fees are hidden in the investment returns where an investor cannot see them….EVER! What the uninformed investor does NOT know WILL hurt the investor, but not the FF’s (nor the politicians of course).

So to summarize, when the government hides a fee of say 12% HST on the MER fee charged to a fund it is equivalent to theft from an unsuspecting investor…. but when a fund company hides a fee approximately 8.5 times larger from the same investor it is good business practice.

THE TRUTH: The truth is that the industry has used considerable pressure on the government to gain an exemption from disclosing its GST charges. Check other receipts and you will see the GST number and amount for virtually every purchase you make! Why not the MF MER’s that you currently pay GST on?

Well the FFs realize that the average investor may well discover that a $100.00 GST receipt means the fund fees were $2,000.00 last year. At this point the investor becomes “informed”, the advisor likely becomes “fired” and the FFs become “unemployed”! In fact, it only takes about $80,000.00 in MFs to generate those types of fees! A $100,000 fund portfolio at 2.5% MER generates $2,500.00 in MER, which taxed at the current 5% GST would be $125.00….etc,etc.

So back to another old parable….. The guy crapping on you (politician) is not always your worst enemy, and the guy helping to wash the manure off (the Fund Folks) is not always your friend. The only certainty is that it is always the investor who comes out smelling bad!
Raising a stink on HST…….sois mike!