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Aug 8: Best from the Blogosphere

8 Aug

By Sheryl Smolkin

And just like that, it’s August! The days are getting shorter and families are starting to think about getting the kids back to school and getting serious about the upcoming round of fall activities.

Those of you sending your kids off to college or university will be interested in The Business of University Fees by Big Cajun Man aka Alan Whitton on the Canadian Personal Finance blog. Did you know if your child is still in school he/she is probably still covered under your group medical plan at work and most universities will allow you to opt out of the university’s plan?

If you have received your first child benefit cheques and haven’t already spent them on back-to-school supplies, here are 3 Great Ways to Use Your Canada Child Benefit Payment  by Craig Sebastiano on RateHub. RESP contributions, TFSA deposits or charitable donations, anyone?

And talking about TFSAs, take a look at Robb Engen’s TFSA Dilemma and Solution on Boomer & Echo. Like many of us Robb has a ton of TFSA contribution room ($50,500) He plans to turn his $825 monthly car payment – which ends in October – into future TFSA contributions, starting in January 2017. That’s $10,000 per year to stash in his TFSA, which at that rate would catch-up all of his unused room by 2027.

Have you reviewed your life insurance lately? Are you and your partner adequately covered so if one of you dies, the other can continue to pay the family bills? Bridget Eastgaard from Money after Graduation says Cash-Value Life Insurance Is For Suckers, Buy Term Instead.

And finally, Should you work part-time in retirement? by Jonathan Chevreau on moneysense.ca includes an analysis commissioned by Larry Berman, host of BNN’s Berman Call and Chief Investment Officer of ETF Capital Management. It illustrates the powerful impact of earning just $1,000 in part-time income each month between the age of 65 and 75; or in the case of couples $2,000 a month between them.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Jul 25: Best from the Blogosphere

25 Jul

By Sheryl Smolkin

There’s lots of good reading in the blogosphere this week if you get tired of skimming romance novels on the beach or binging on your favourite Netflix series after dark. We’ve just started on the series Sherlock  and Spotlight and Trumbo are two great movies we saw from the comfort of our couch.

In other news, financial maven, television personality and blogger par excellence Gayle Vaz-Oxlade has retired at 57. While we will miss her valuable voice and sense of humour, it is encouraging to see has followed her own personal finance advice and can look forward to time for grandchildren and gardening.

Cheques started arriving in mailboxes across the country and Rob Carrick at the Globe and Mail says high-income families have reason not to like the new Canada Child Benefit, but it’s a win for most everyone else. Here’s how much the benefit will give you.

An interesting post on Canadian Budget binder explains How To Become Financially Secure So You Forget It’s Payday. While there is no magic formula, the checklist includes: start using a budget (no surprise); know where your money is going; understand your bills and how interest works; pay your bills on time and earn extra money if you can.

Cait Flanders sums up what she learned as a result of her two-year shopping ban in Two Years Without Shopping: What I Bought, Donated and Learned to Be True. She explains the rules for each year and details the few necessities she did buy. “For two years, I avoided all mindless and impulse spending decisions. But in a two-year period of time, I also learned you are bound to need some stuff – and that’s ok,” she says. “What I learned from tracking all my purchases this year is that there is a huge difference between talking yourself into thinking you need to buy something and actually needing to buy it.”

On the Financial Independence Hub, Kollin Lore says Millennials can learn from Boomers’ reinvention of retirement. Referring to Jonathan Chevreau’s new book Victory Lap, he says many millennials grew up during the recession and were set back earlier in their careers by student debt, so working past age 65 will be as much a necessity for them as for any other generation. Boomers can teach millennials how to stay motivated and take care of themselves in their senior years

And finally, on Retire Happy, Jim Yih asks: What are your family financial values? He and his wife are very open about money with their children but he suggests that because it’s easier to talk constructively about money from a unified front, a family financial value system might be useful. He shares a helpful series of questions that can help you create one under the headings: spending, debt, saving, income and money management.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Jul 18: Best from the Blogosphere

18 Jul

By Sheryl Smolkin

We recently posted the blog Rent vs Buy: A Reprise, but the subject of when, or even if millennials will ever buy homes seems to be a continuing theme in both the blogosphere and the mainstream media.

Its not surprising that issue is still a live one, particularly in cities like Vancouver and Toronto where housing prices have gone through the roof and only young people with great jobs and a hefty gift from the Bank of Mom and Dad can get their foot in the door.

Several months ago BMO published the report Rent-Weary Millennials Not in a Hurry to Become Home Owners; Need to Save Accordingly. In the prairie provinces, people age 19-35 gave the following reasons why they are delaying home ownership:

  • 27%: Don’t feel comfortable making such a large purchase at this point in my career
  • 46%: Other priorities take precedence (such as traveling, continuing education or starting a business)
  • 33%: Don’t want to be left with no disposable income
  • 40%: Not sure where I want to settle down
  • 27%: Have to pay off debt first

In a Huffington post blog, Jackie Marchildon asks Are Millennials Choosing To Rent, Or Just Choosing Not To Buy?  She argues that renting is its own lifestyle and although currently dominated by millennial city dwellers in Toronto and Vancouver, it is not unique to this generation, nor to their respective cities.

On the Financial Independence Hub Helen Chevreau (daughter of well-known personal finance guru Jonathan Chevreau) says she is  Young, saving, and hopefully one day will buy a house. She critiques an article about “Tony” in Toronto Life who would rather spend his generous pharmacist’s salary on exotic trips and lavish spending than be shackled by a mortgage. She advocates for a happy middle ground: “somewhere between throwing down $1,500 on a meal and stealing toilet paper from the bathroom of the bar to save a few bucks.”

Another perspective comes from a young married couple who is saving up for a cottage because “they don’t want to invest their money in a shoebox.” They are also paying off student debt ($700/month) and spending $300/month on dog walking for their new Labrador mutt puppy.

Rent to Own | Option to Purchase is an interesting article by Saskatoon lawyer Richard Carlson. “There is no such thing in law as a ‘rent to own agreement.’ The idea was made up by people who wanted to sell to someone who did not qualify for a mortgage,” he says. “There is a good chance it will lead to a problem and a dispute.” He also distinguishes “rent to own” from an “option to purchase” which comes with its own set of challenges. Bottom line is, get independent legal advice before you enter into one of these questionable arrangements!

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Jul 11: Best from the Blogosphere

11 Jul

By Sheryl Smolkin

The world was shocked to learn that the UK voted to exit the European Community. Nobody really knows what will mean for investors yet but Robin Levinson King at the Toronto Star suggests four ways Brexit could affect Canadans. They are fewer exports, lower returns, a stronger U.S. dollar and a continuing white hot real estate market if interest rates stay low in this country.

Do you have a special skill set or do you own something that someone else wants? Trade it for something you need writes Marie Engen on Boomer and Echo. Bartering for goods and services instead of paying cash is a concept that is alive and well today. It can also save you a bundle.

For many people, paying off debt is one of life’s biggest challenges. Jessica Moorhouse blogs about four women who will inspire you to crush your debt. For example, Amanda D. from Ottawa paid off $64,000 in seven years. She consolidated all her debt with one bank, negotiated a lower interest rate and accelerated her pay down by doubling monthly payments and making periodic bulk payments.

How to purchase life insurance and what kind you need is a potential minefield for many people. On Money after Graduation, Bridget Eastgaard says buy term life insurance and avoid cash-value life insurance at any cost. That’s because cash value life insurance is much more expensive. Also, even one missed payment can void the policy which means you will lose both your insurance coverage and your premiums paid to date.

And since some of you still may not have planned a vacation for the summer or the balance of this year, take a look at Barry Choi’s blog The cost of travel: How to pick a vacation destination. He says daydream a little bit and pick your destination but be realistic if you can’t afford it or it really doesn’t make sense to go to Thailand in typhoon season. The easiest and most cost effective destinations may be locations where you have friends or family.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Jun 27: Best from the Blogosphere

27 Jun

By Sheryl Smolkin

I was noodling around the internet today when I came upon Rock Finance, which scans 200+ articles about money and daily and links to the best ones they think will motivate and inspire readers. Cait Flanders who formerly blogged as “Blonde on a Budget” has partnered with j.money (Budgets are $exy) to populate this site.

Here are a few of the “best money blogs” they have featured recently:
In Revisiting the Latte Factor: The Power of Daily Routine Trent Hamm says giving up your latte and bagel once and saving $8 isn’t a big deal. However, if you cut out 250 purchases, it adds up to $2,000. That’s why he says examining your regular routine and finding ways to save on recurring purchases is important.

Is it ethical to return stuff to the store like the dress you only wore once to the prom or unopened packages of food? When J. Money was a student he gave a used boombox back to Walmart several months after he bought it because he was flat broke and the store had a 90 day return policy. Nevertheless he was very embarrassed and made a vow not to return goods he purchases in future unless he immediately realizes he made a mistake or the goods are damaged.

Mrs. Frugalwoods has WAY more willpower than I do. She says she hasn’t purchased any clothes in 2.5 years and counting. Her initial reasons for enacting a ban on clothes-buying were financial, But then she realized she frequently used to buy clothes more for fun than anything else. And the unexpected benefit of her continuing decision not to buy clothes is that she is increasingly less concerned with her appearance. “I’d much rather save money than buy into the notion that I need to fix my appearance,” she writes .

Mr. Money Mustache offers wealth advice that should be obvious. Some of his colourful suggestions are:

  • Don’t try to gamble your way to wealth.
  • When you get a windfall, it should go straight to your highest interest debt.
  • Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford and don’t need.
  • Don’t pay to have stuff stored.
  • Don’t look at restaurants as an ongoing source of food.
  • Stock up on reasonable amounts of things you use when they go on sale.

And the Financial Samurai writes about slicing through money’s mysteries. He questions why Vacation Money Is Crazy Money. After discussing why his frugal habits fell apart on a recent trip to Paris, he offers some interesting suggestions for controlling vacation spending.

  • Create a budget in Excel.
  • Spend cash for food and entertainment
  • Don’t forget exchange rates
  • Where possible combine business travel and personal travel.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card and

 

Jun 20: Best from the Blogosphere

20 Jun

By Sheryl Smolkin

After several weeks of “theme” issues it’s time to check in with some of our favourite bloggers to find out what’s on their mind.

On Boomer and Echo, Marie Engen asks the perennial question RRIF Or Annuity? Which One Is Right For You?  She suggests combining both so an annuity covers your basic retirement expenses together with with your CPP, OAS, and any other pension income you may be receiving to give you a guaranteed income stream for life. This allows your RRIF to provide you with investment growth opportunities and easier access to your money for your more enjoyable lifestyle expenses.

Tax Freedom Day 2016 happened June 7th this year. Retire Happy’s Jim Yih says it’s another reason to celebrate summer. He explains where all of your taxes go because once you realize the severity of tax on your lifestyle, it is your job to investigate legitimate ways to reduce your tax bill. “I’ve often said that good tax planning is the foundation to any financial, investment or estate decision,” Yih concludes.

Bridget Eastgaard lives in Calgary where due to the drop in oil prices the rental market is very soft. On her blog Money After Graduation she shares One Simple Shortcut To Put More Money In Your Budget. Her research revealed a similar unit renting for $250 less in her building plus a half-dozen comparable apartments renting nearby for less. She succeeded in lowering her rent by 20%, saving hundreds of dollar a month that will be redirected to accumulating a down payment on a house.

Sean Cooper thinks Millennials Should Save Their Down Payment and Not Rely on the Bank of Mom and Dad. He says by showing your millennial child tough love, you’re teaching your kids a valuable lesson: not everything in life will be handed to them on a silver platter. Just like you did, he says they should to work for it.You won’t be there to help them forever.

And the Big Cajun Man Alan Whitten reminds readers to keep an eye on their bank account to make sure automatic withdrawals are being processed properly on an ongoing basis. When he checked on his son’s RESP recently, he found that TD Bank mysteriously stopped depositing in November of 2015. There has been a problem ticket opened on this issue, and someone will be getting back to him.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

 

Jun 13: Best from the Blogosphere

13 Jun

By Sheryl Smolkin

Next week Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau will again be meeting with provincial and territorial finance ministers to talk about options for improving Canada Pension Plan benefits. This protracted discussion has been going on for as long as I can remember, but the hurdles remain the same.

CPP changes require the support of Ottawa plus seven of the 10 provinces representing two-thirds of the population. When the finance ministers last met in December 2015, Ontario which is currently going at it alone, PEI, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick gave CPP improvements a “thumbs up.” Quebec, B.C. Saskatchewan and Alberta vetoed the idea.

Here are some links to recent articles in the mainstream media that will bring you up-to-date on the various arguments made by stakeholders in the debate.

Larry Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour says the proportion of their incomes that Canadians put into CPP, and will someday get back as pension payments, “is not enough.” Nevertheless he is optimistic since many Canadian politicians — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — agree there’s a pension problem because many Canadians can’t retire on what they’ll get from the CPP under current rates.

After the finance ministers met in December 2015, Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), and Marilyn Braun-Pollon, Saskatchewan vice-president of CFIB told the Regina Leader-Post that small business owners are relieved that Canada’s finance ministers have put plans to expand the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) on hold. “They are relieved but they’ve expressed a desire to see a shift in the conversation,” Braun-Pollon said.

The Globe and Mail reports that a coalition of business groups and youth advocates is calling for an expanded Canada Pension Plan, but only if it is targeted at middle-income levels. The coalition argues that higher premiums to pay for more generous retirement benefits should kick in at annual earnings of about $27,500. They argue helping Canadians who earn less than that is better accomplished through Old Age Security and the related Guaranteed Income Supplement.

The Ontario government recently announced it is delaying the introduction of its Ontario Retirement Pension Plan until 2018 while it negotiates with the federal government and other provinces on an enhanced CPP. However, at this point, the government says it still intends to proceed with the ORPP as it’s unlikely that all provinces can agree on a CPP enhancement large enough to take the place of the ORPP. Here’s what you need to know about the ORPP:

And Fred Vettese, the Chief Actuary of Morneau Shepell writes in the Financial Post that he is actually in favour of CPP expansion if it is done right. He says one thing it will certainly do is to raise the under-savers (and there are many of them) closer to the standard of living they enjoyed while working. The unanswered question is how much closer should they be without having to save on their own?

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card and

 

Jun 6: Best from the Blogosphere

6 Jun

By Sheryl Smolkin

This weekend I happened to be in Ottawa when Run Ottawa was taking place. Over 47,000 runners did 2 km, 5 km, 10 km, half marathon and marathon runs in unseasonably hot weather – over 35°C!  We cheered on my daughter who ran 5 kms and it was also wonderful to see so many parents and very young children running hand in hand.

Because Canadian summers are so short, we all want to take advantage of them to do as many outdoor sports and activities as possible. So in this week’s Best from the Blogosphere I direct you to blogs/articles offering safe summer exercising hints.

In 8 tips for exercising in summer heat , Joe Decker advocates staying hydrated, wearing loose, light-coloured clothing and replenishing your electrolyte and salt intake while exercising.

Summer fitness dos and don’ts by Corrie Pikul suggests that you don’t protein-load before your workout because too much protein before a sweat session could elevate your basal temperature, making you feel even hotter. She says you are better off saving the protein bar for after your workout, when it will help you rebuild muscle.

Love Your Summer Workout: 10 Motivation Tricks by Hallie Levine Sklar recommends that you find a shady route if possible and try to walk, run, or cycle on dirt or gravel paths, since asphalt and concrete tend to radiate heat and reflect the sun’s rays, making you feel warmer.

Carolyn Williams  in 5 tips to keep you working out all summer long says a fitness buddy will help keep you from getting distracted by all the other tempting activities summer has to offer instead of exercising. She reminds us to stretch before running to help avoid injuries and set summer goals so workouts become more meaningful.

And finally, 24 tips for a fitter summer vacation by Kissairis Munoz gives lots of hints for healthy summer travel including try to avoid adding in extra meals to compensate for jetlag, beware of buffets and plan a getaway around a fitness event or competition like thousands of visitors to Ottawa who ran this past weekend did!

May 31: Best from the blogosphere

31 May

By Sheryl Smolkin

This morning when I took the dog for a walk I saw tulips, begonias, apple blossoms, pansies and rhododendrons and that was just in my own yard. My husband has a green thumb and knows how happy I am surrounded by flowers.

He also grows vegetables, so he and his good friend Russ pour over seed catalogues looking for heritage tomatoes and other delectable treats beginning in September. By March they can’t resist at least a couple of visits to the garden centre.

The official start of the gardening season in Canada is the May long weekend, so many of you have already planted hardy seedlings that you may have started inside under lights. But regardless of whether you have yet to put a spade in the ground, it’s always great to get advice from the experts.

And some avid gardeners like to write as much as they love to grow things. Believe it or not, there was even a Garden Bloggers Conference at the Beverley Hilton in Los Angeles earlier this month. Here is the GBC list of lists (albeit U.S.) of top garden blogs.

Here are some other great gardening blogs we found:

Gardens by Laura of Calgary Gardening Services supports sustainable gardening practices.  In a nutshell, she says her company follows practices that will allow future generations to meet their needs by attempting to protect, restore, and enhance landscapes to provide ecosystems that benefit humans and other organisms.

You Grow Girl was launched by Gayla Trail in February 2000 and has grown into a thriving project that speaks to a contemporary, laid-back approach to organic gardening that places equal importance on environmentalism, style, affordability, art, and humour.

In mid-May, Melissa J. Will, the self-styled Empress of Dirt  wrote about how to start a new garden pond for anyone installing a small (under 1000 gallons – about the size of 10-person hot tub or less) prefab garden pond or other little container pond on a patio or balcony.

For those of you in apartments or condos, balcony gardener focuses on smaller-scale gardening. She says, “My downtown city balcony garden is all about containers. It’s a different garden every year. It’s small. I spend a lot less time pulling weeds and watering. It’s fun, it’s challenging and it’s easy to try new things.”

Nikki Jabbour is part of the blogging team at Savvy Gardening. She has some interesting vertical vegetable gardening ideas to boost growing space, reduce insect and disease problems, and beautify decks and patios. In her veggie plot, she uses structures like trellises, stakes, and obelisks. These support vining tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, gourds, peas, and pole beans. But, she also has a vertical vegetable garden on her back deck and patio.

Finally, take a look at Little Green Fingers: A first-hand account of gardening with kids. Several charming recent posts discuss cake decorating with edible flowers, growing pea shoots with children and how to make ice mobiles.

May 16: Best from the blogosphere

16 May

By Sheryl Smolkin

For the last week, the images I cannot get out of my mind are the pictures and videos of Fort McMurray burning. Every week on savewithspp.com we post blogs that discuss retirement savings and how readers can fund their life after work. But the major asset most of us are depending on to augment government benefits is the equity in our family homes. Imagine having that wiped out in minutes as you flee to safety.

The only good news has been the incredible bravery and grace of everyone involved from first responders to neighbors to governments at all levels. Also, as the Globe and Mail reports, insurance companies across Canada have already begun deploying mobile response units and flying in personnel to the province from across the country to prepare to assess the damage and issue emergency cheques.

Money will never replace photos albums or family heirlooms, but it will go a long way to help people rebuild their lives. That’s why this week we are going to feature a few things you need to know about insuring your home and your possessions against loss or theft.

In a Toronto Star article, Home insurance: 10 things you need to know, Andrew Wicken says the cost to rebuild your home plays a big role in determining the amount you pay for home insurance. Check with your broker or agent to see if you have guaranteed replacement coverage. This ensures you will receive the amount that it actually costs to replace your home and not the amount on your policy. Not all policies have this coverage and rules vary across insurance companies.

What Every Canadian Should Know About Home Insurance Policies posted on InsuranceHotline.com points out the importance of “loss of use” coverage. If your home is uninhabitable after a claim, then loss of use insurance will help your family manage while your home is being rebuilt or repaired. Hotel expenses, meals, and incidental expenses are covered by this portion of your home insurance policy, typically for a specified period of time or to a maximum dollar amount.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada reminds homeowners that it’s your responsibility to report any changes to your property. Contact your insurance professional before you:

  • Renovate your home
  • Install a pool or spa
  • Set up a home-based business, such as a daycare
  • Lease all or a portion of your property
  • Purchase jewellery or art.

Keeping your insurance company informed with an accurate and up-to-date description of your home and contents can help speed up the claims settlement process after a loss.

The U.S.- based Hanover Fire & Casualty Insurance Company outlines some ways to save money on your home insurance. For instance things that might earn you a discount include:

  • A home burglary alarm system
  • Dead bolt locks
  • Fire alarms and sprinklers
  • Updated heating systems
  • Updated wiring and electrical systems
  • A home near a fire hydrant or fire department
  • A home located near a police department
  • Well-structured and maintained stairs, sidewalks, driveways, and entrances

And finally, MoneySense author Gabrielle Bauer describes Home insurance as defending your castle. When buying home insurance, she says you’re almost always better off using an independent broker who deals with a number of insurance companies, so he/she can get you the best price possible. Also, to keep your premiums more affordable, she suggests bundling your home and auto insurance policies together because it could cut 15% off your total bill.

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The Canadian Red Cross is accepting donations for the Alberta Fires Emergency Appeal. Ten banks in Canada are also accepting cash donations. All individual donations will be matched by the Government of Canada.