The world of guaranteed investing

If you pick investments based on a popularity contest, chances are you would be on the hunt for something with a guarantee. In times where equity markets disappoint investors, investors will often search for guaranteed investments.

I am a believer that psychology plays a huge role in investing, and while I fundamentally believe that investors should not give up on the markets and mutual funds when times are tough. Here’s some key ideas on the world of guaranteed investing.

What does guaranteed investing mean?

Typically when the word guarantee is used, investors are referring to the guarantee of capital and that they will not lose capital under any circumstances. If they invest $100,000, then they will continue to have $100,000 at a minimum no matter what happens to the markets, economies, or interest rates.

Let me share with you some of the most popular strategies to guarantee your investment capital.

High interest bank accounts.

Those who are familiar with my articles and philosophies will know that I am a huge proponent of high interest bank accounts. Currently, Manulife Bank is paying 1.55% from dollar one with no fees and full liquidity. Tangerine (formerly ING bank) is paying a close 1.3%. President’s Choice rounds out the three most popular choices with an account paying 1.35%. In all cases, the interest rate is a floating rate but the capital cannot be lost.

Note: Rates are subject to change at any time

Conventional GIC.

Most investors will be familiar with the conventional GIC. You pick a term 1 to 5 years and you will be guaranteed a specific interest rate for that term. Today rates are well under 4%. The most important tip I can give investors looking to invest in GICs is to shop for the best rates. In many cases, shopping for rates can add over 1% everytime. Don’t settle for posted bank rates because they are usually the lowest rates on the market. One of my favourite sites to look for the best GIC rates is Fiscal

Personally, I think GIC investors should really use deposit brokers to do the shopping. Deposit brokers work like mortgage brokers but instead of shopping for the best mortgage rates, they shop for the best GIC rates. Investors will get the best rates without paying any extra fees. The deposit broker business is the fastest growing channel. To learn more about deposit brokers visit Registered Deposit Brokers Association

Index linked GIC.

The index linked GIC is an interesting product in that the capital is guaranteed. However, the return on the capital is dependent on the performance of an underlying index. Typically, you must choose between a 3 and 5-year term. The index is usually one of the major indexes like the TSX or the S&P500. When it comes to index linked GICs, it is important to read the fine print on how your return is actually calculated. The linked GIC appeals to investors who want to preserve the capital but are willing to risk the growth a little. At worst case you will get your capital back with no growth. There are many unique linked products on the market linking to the performance of some of the most popular mutual funds.

Related article: Understanding Index linked GICs

Related article: Create your own index linked GIC

Step rate GICs.

Step rate GICs are becoming increasingly popular. Often the advertisements for these products lure you in with a high interest rate in the last year. An example of a step rate GIC is a GIC that pays 2% in the first year, 2.5% in the second year, etc. If you calculate the average annualized yield, you will find that you probably could have found a better conventional GIC over the 5-year term. Step rate GICs are not bad, you just have to understand the true return behind the marketing.

Related article: Rate riser rip offs

Segregated funds.

Segregated funds are interesting because the guarantee of capital only occurs in certain circumstances. Most often, you are guaranteed your capital if you die or if you invest for a full ten-year period. Many investors have found that when they buy segregated funds their statements will show the day to day fluctuations just like any other mutual funds or non-guaranteed investment. You must be careful about getting too secure with segregated funds. While the guarantees do exist, you must also read the fine print and understand when the guarantees apply and how they are calculated.

Related article: Segregated funds – A dream incvestment or just hype

You also need to understand that the guarantees are not free and often they do not come cheap. Higher fees are standard when it comes to segregated funds. You must simply rationalize whether you perceive benefits in having mutual fund type investments with guarantees of capital.


  1. Cathy Summers

    Where can one get 4.5% on a 5 yr GIC or 3.5% on a three year?

  2. Cathy Summers

    No where can I find 4.5% annually on a 5 yr. GIC.

    • Sadie Kent

      You can’t. And you won’t be able to for the foreseeable future. Those days are over.

  3. Steve

    Hi Jim;

    Thanks for all the useful articles and information on your site!

    I personally don’t like GICs in the current environment for the following reasons: Any returns are fully taxed at your marginal rate if they’re kept outside of an RRSP or TFSA, and in the present low interest rate environment, why would a person lock up capital when rates are fairly certain to go up in the next year or two. The result is actually a negative return after tax, so the paradox is that by selecting “safe” returns, a person is actually choosing more risk.

    For those that are ultra-conservative, why not try a monthly income ETF like XTR for example which provides a tax favorable portion of return of capital, and with an MER of around .6% (point six percent), I think the yield is close to 5%. And it pays out every month! Mathematically, there’s more risk in bonds and GICs than in stocks right now, but Utilities(ZUT) 4.5% yield, or Real Estate Income Trusts(ZRE)4.7% yield, or even Preferred Shares (PFD) 4.5% yield, provide a much better return and receive a favorable tax treatment as opposed to straight interest income.
    Of course, as you indicated in past articles, balance is key, but why lock up capital for 5 years in a GIC and hope for the best when, alternatively, you can buy or sell an ETF in about 30 seconds.

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