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Your real estate

What you own, and how you own it, are also important considerations. For instance, the amount of debt against a property influences how you factor it in. A house or condo with no mortgage is more stable than one that has a large loan attached (as a percentage of the value). In the latter case, the home equity can double or disappear in a heartbeat.

How you categorize an income property depends on whether it produces a positive annual return (after expenses, depreciation, and taxes) or has only a modest (or negative) cash flow. The former can be slotted in with your stable income securities. The latter is a speculation on higher prices and belongs in your higher-risk bucket.

No hard-and-fast rules

A typical Canadian income portfolio that is heavily invested in utilities, banks, telecommunications and REITs is fuelled by the same forces as your real estate, namely the domestic economy and interest rates. You might consider holding fewer of these types of stocks (I know, this is sacrilege in Canada) and instead owning a higher proportion of foreign stocks. This will improve your overall diversification by giving you exposure to different countries and currencies, as well as industries like technology and health care, which are not well represented in the Canadian market.

Life insurance stocks are good income alternatives, as are reset preferreds. Both tend to do well when interest rates are rising, making them an offset to your real estate.