Archive for December, 2008

2008: A Retrospective

December 31, 2008

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History books will mark 2008 as a year that showed how quickly stock markets can go down. It is hard to believe but as recently as June of this year, the TSX Composite was higher than 15,000 and is trading around 8,830 now. Canadian stocks also have plenty of company — it is hard to find a single asset class apart from Government of Canada bonds that had a positive year.

European, Japanese and Emerging market stocks had a very bad year but US stock returns would turn out to be relatively better (if you can call a 20% or so fall “better”) due to the significant depreciation in the Canadian dollar.

If the rapidity of the stock market decline was stunning, the volatility was remarkable as well. The stock market fell or rose more than 5% all too frequently — especially during the months of September and October.

The bad news doesn’t end with the stock market, of course. With the major economies in recession, businesses started laying off workers and our pay checks were in danger as well. Add it all up and 2008 will end up as a horrible year from a financial perspective.

Amidst all this doom and gloom, there were some scraps of good news. Pretty much every asset class (again, except Government bonds) is now a lot cheaper now than at the start of the year. Softening home prices should be welcome news for first-time home buyers. And finally, the introduction of the Tax-Free Savings Account will turn out to have a significant impact on our personal finances.

Here’s hoping that 2009 turns out to be a better year. Happy New Year to you all!

QuickTax responds to complaints

December 29, 2008

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Last year, QuickTax frustrated a lot of loyal customers by drastically reducing the number of returns that can be filed with the Standard version. This year, Intuit seems to have listened to its customers: the number of returns that can be filed with all flavours of QuickTax is back up to 8 for the 2008 tax year. The marketing message is also much improved: the website now makes it clear that the more expensive Platinum and Unincorporated versions provide “enhanced guidance & tax-saving tips for investments and rental properties”. The pricing structure remains the same — Basic costs $19.99, Standard $39.99, Platinum $69.99 and Unincorporated $99.99. The Standard version should suffice for most users who have a bit of investment, rental property or self-employment income and don’t mind interacting with the forms directly.

Happy Holidays

December 19, 2008

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Just a quick post to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays. There will be no posts next week and regular programming will resume during the week of December 29th when we will wrap up what has been a rather depressing year from a net worth and portfolio perspective.