Tag Archives: Alan Whitton

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.

May 18: Best from the blogosphere

18 May

By Sheryl Smolkin

Over the last few weeks, the Globe & Mail has featured an interesting series on debt, and how it is affecting both individuals and the economy. If you haven’t been following it, take a look at some of the stories below:

A taste for risk: Looking into Canada’s household debt

In deep: The high risks of Canada’s growing addiction to debt

Are you drowning in debt? See how you compare to other Canadians

Laurie Campbell: Credit Canada CEO shatters debt myths

I particularly like Rob Carrick’s article There’s no such thing as good debt. Mortgages, investment loans and student loans have traditionally been characterized as “good” debt. Carrick agrees borrowing for each of these purposes can be a rational thing to do and you may end up wealthier as a result. But he concludes there are too many pitfalls today for any one of them to qualify as a no-brainer financial decision.

Big Cajun Man (Alan Whitton) on the Canadian Personal Finance lists several articles about the evils of debt among his personal favourites. In 2008, he wrote Debt is like Fat. He says that just like his weight gain occurred a little at a time over 14 years, if you are not careful, debt build up can occur slowly without your noticing it.

If you are facing a mountain of debt and don’t know where to start, take a look at How I Paid Off $30,000 of Debt in Two Years, The Blog Post I’ve Been Waiting to Write  and What a Year of Being Debt-Free Has Taught Me  by Cait Flanders, who blogs at Blonde on a Budget.

In 2013, Krystal Yee at Give me back my five bucks wrote  How do you fight debt fatigue?. Debt fatigue is a mental state that can happen when you’ve been in debt for so long that you think you’ll never dig yourself out of the hole you’ve created for yourself. She quotes financial expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade who often tells people on her television shows to try and make a plan to get out of debt in 36 months or less – because anything more than three years, and you’ll likely suffer from some form of debt fatigue.

And finally, in a guest post on the Canadian Finance blog, Jim Yih from Retire Happy wrote that Debt Can Be A Problem For The Baby Boomers’ Retirement Plans. He says baby boomers who are getting ready for retirement need to get serious about planning for the best years of their lives.  Part of getting serious is addressing debt head on and taking the necessary steps to develop good habits around debt. His five tips on how boomers can deal with the debt epidemic are: stop overspending; increase your income; get support; focus on you before your kids; and, take one step at a time.

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 with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Apr 6: Best from the blogosphere

6 Apr

By Sheryl Smolkin

As I write this on March 31st, it is for the second time because I closed the completed document the first time without saving it. I can only attribute this oversight to an early April Fools’ Day joke from cyber space!

Here are some interesting blogs I read this week:

For those of you who prefer cash back credit cards over travel cards, Tom Drake on the Canadian Finance blog rates the Best Cash Back Credit Cards of 2015. Top of the list is the Scotiabank Momentum VISA Infinite Card which offers a full 4% cash back on gas station and grocery store purchases. You also receive 2% cash back on your recurring payments and on drug store purchases. All other purchases earn a 1% cash rebate. 

The Big Cajun Man aka Alan Whitton writes on the Canadian Personal Finance blog about his daughter’s experience trying to find a student line of credit to attend Chiropractic College. The only financial institution willing to fork over enough money was the National Bank of Canada. However, by mistake they set up the loan as a personal line of credit. As a result, the very next month there was a demand for payment. Although the error was fixed, Whitton had to co-sign on the loan.

Five unconventional ways to get your financial act together from Kerry K. Taylor aka Squawkfox resonates with me. She suggests we can save money by throwing out fewer grocery products and curbing our collecting. We just renovated our kitchen cabinets and I couldn’t believe the number of stale-dated packages we pitched and how many marginally useful kitchen gadgets we have collected. Did we ever really need  six sets of barbecue skewers?

Why “Healthspan” trumps “Lifespan” by Dan Richards is a guest blog on the Financial Independence Hub. Financial advisors spend a great deal of their time with clients who ask, “Will I run out of money?” But Richards says according to new research, an equally pressing question is “How can I enjoy life in my 60s before health issues creep in.?

RRIFs 101: Using your nest egg by Preet Banerjee on Tangerine’s Forward Thinking blog fills in the blanks for readers who understand how RRSPs work but were not aware that they must be converted into RRIFs at age 71 and that beginning the year after, minimum fully taxable amounts must be withdrawn.

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 with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

 

Mar 23: Best from the blogosphere

23 Mar

 

By Sheryl Smolkin

Spring is definitely in the air and every day the piles of snow and patches of ice in my neighbourhood get smaller. This week we report on a potpourri of interesting blogs and articles from some of our favourite bloggers.

We usually catch Robb Engen on Boomer and Echo, but he also regularly writes for his blog  RewardsCanada. This week he posted an interesting article about why it is so hard to cancel a credit card. Credit card companies advertise great bonuses on points when you sign up with them but they are counting on inertia to retain you as a client once the deal is in the bag. If you are smart enough to want out, they make you jump through hoops before you can cancel.

On StupidCents, Tom Drake’s mission is to help you “turn wasted sense into common cents.” Recently guest blogger Michelle offered some ideas on how to save money on your wedding. She suggests you can barter many services in exchange for free wedding products. It can also help to chose something other than a diamond and buy a pre-owned wedding dress. In a previous blog she suggested that you get married off season and not on a weekend.

If you think you have to keep your income low in your 64th year because the OAS clawback is based on your income in the previous year, take a look at Understanding the OAS Clawback by Doug Runchey on RetireHappy. He says there is a provision in the Income Tax Act that allows the clawback to be based on your income for the current calendar year, if your income in the current calendar year will be substantially lower than it was in the previous calendar year.

In Thanks for the $2000 CRA on the Canadian Personal Finance blog, Alan Whitton aka the Big Cajun Man concludes that he and his wife are not eligible for income-splitting because his wife earns too much, but in any event he says this would not be enough to buy his vote because “As usual, the program is half-baked (much like the TFSA and other ideas), and I am not a one issue voter.

And finally, on get smarter about money, Globe and Mail columnist Rob Carrick writes about the gift of a debt-free education he and his wife are giving their two sons. There is no family fortune so they will not be living on Easy Street, but they will be able to graduate debt free from a four-year undergraduate program of their choice. He says if you can’t help your kids graduate debt-free, the next best thing is to help limit their debt. In today’s challenging world for young adults, that’s a great early inheritance.

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 with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Nov 3: Best from the blogosphere

3 Nov

By Sheryl Smolkin

November is Financial Literacy Month (FLM) in Canada, and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada is playing a role in raising awareness and mobilizing organizations across Canada to take part. Here are some blogs and other commentary on financial literacy.

Financial literacy means having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make responsible financial decisions. The FCAC recently released its “National Strategy For Financial Literacy Phase 1: Strengthening Seniors’ Financial Literacy.

The Toronto Star’s Ellen Roseman writes that, “Financial literacy for seniors is crucially important, but it’s not a panacea. Let’s put money into enforcing consumer laws and protecting the vulnerable from tricksters.”

Redux: Real World Example: Kids Allowances is one of Big Cajun Man’s (Alan Whitton) first bits of writing where he commented on how a simple idea about making his childrens’ allowances easier to administer taught him more about money.

Savewithspp.com also previously dealt with financial literacy for children in Your kid’s allowance: Financial literacy 101 and Back to school shopping: A teachable moment.

Back in November 11, 2011 in Financial Literacy Week teaches us about financial success Jim Yih shared 26 simple ideas to grow, manage and protect your wealth. Some of my favourites are:

  1. Know yourself first.
  2. It all starts with planning.
  3. Pay down and manage your debt.
  4. Save money automatically and regularly
  5. Understand how your money is taxed.

And last but not least, the Government of Saskatchewan’s Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority has a website with links and tools supporting financial literacy for young people/parents/educators, adults and seniors.

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 with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Big Cajun Man shares RDSP, RESP expertise

17 Jul

By Sheryl Smolkin

Alan Whitton and his son Rhys

Alan Whitton and his son Rhys

 

podcast picture

Click here to listen

Hi,

As part of the savewithspp.com continuing series of podcast interviews with personal finance bloggers, today I’m talking to the “Big Cajun Man,” author of the Canadian Personal Finance Blog.

In real life, he is actually, Alan Whitton, a mild-mannered government civil servant and father of four, living in Ottawa. Alan has been blogging about finance and consumerism for about ten years, focusing on real life experiences.

As a result, he has written extensively about Registered Disability Savings Plans and parenting a disabled child.

Welcome, Alan.

My pleasure Sheryl.

Q: First of all Alan, tell our listeners where your alter ego name, “Big Cajun Man,” came from.
A:  Well, I was playing golf with friends and was wearing a straw hat and someone yelled at me, “What do you think you are, some kind of big stinking Cajun man?” and the guys I was playing with have called me that ever since.

Q: Why did you start blogging?
A: Well, I started initially just on BlogSpot as sort of an open letter to my mother because at the time, my wife was pregnant with our fourth child, who was a bit of a surprise. Then I realized I could write about other things and I was always interested in money so I figured I’d just start blogging about it.

Q: How frequently do you post?
A: I try to write four or five posts in a week. The Friday post is usually a ‘best of’ what I’ve seen during the week.

Q: How long are the blogs and how complex are they? Do they vary?
A: Oh, it’s usually somewhere between four and eight paragraphs. What shows up, or what I read about or something that happens in my life is usually the catalyst for the more interesting ones.

Q: Tell me about some of the topics you write about.
A: Well, family and money and how families work with money, a little bit on investing, a lot more on disability and how families can deal financially with kids with disabilities or loved ones with disabilities. And that really, again, arose because when Rhys was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, I had to learn about all this so I figured I’d write about it too.

Q: And, how old is Rhys now?
A: He is 9. I have three beautiful daughters who are 24, 22 and 20, and my son who has just turned 9. It’s a multi-generational family. That’s why I end up writing about things like university costs and parenting a 9-year old.

Q: There are probably over a dozen personal finance bloggers in Canada. What’s different about your blog. Why do you think it’s a must read?
A: I don’t know. I mean, my point of view as a father of a multi-generational family is interesting. I always have had a different perspective on things. I leave a lot of the specific investing ideas to some of the more qualified chaps like Michael James and Rob Carrick. I mostly just talk about John Public’s point of view of things.

Q: How many hits do you typically get for your blogs?
A: Between 8,000 and 12,000 a month. It started off very slowly and I think with the backlog of over 2,500 posts there’s a lot of people who just search and end up finding me accidentally.

Q: What are some of the more popular blogs you’ve posted?
A: Well, anything under my RDSP and RESP menus are popular, like how to apply for your child’s disability tax benefits. And on the RDSP side of things all the fights I’ve had with TD about putting money in and taking money out. Also, surprisingly, I wrote one simple blog that just said “I am a civil servant,” and let me tell you, that one caused no end of excitement.

Q: What is the essence of that particular blog?
A: I was trying to blow up some of the very negative views people have about civil servants. I mean, I worked in the private sector for over 20 years. I‘ve been a civil servant for 4 years.

Q. Tell me some of the key features of Registered Disability Savings Plans and what parents of disabled children need to know about them.
A: Well, just that right now they’re sort of the poor stepson at most financial institutions. I mean they’re not very flexible. Typically, at worst, they’re really just savings accounts. You can buy GICs or the bank’s mutual funds, which usually have very high management fees.

From what I can tell so far, TD Waterhouse is the only trading partner or trading house that has an RDSP where you can actually buy whatever you want like ETFs. But even the TD plan is not very well set up. It’s pretty cumbersome to put money into.

Q: What’s cumbersome about it?
A: Well, I can’t set up a weekly automatic withdrawal. I have to put money aside into another TD trading account. Then I have to phone up every once in awhile and transfer the money from the trading account into the RDSP. And then I have to call back after the money’s cleared to say, “And now I want to buy these ETF’s or index funds.”

Q: Why is that?
A: I don’t know. I’ve asked TD that a whole bunch of times. It’s just the way the system works. I’ve poked at them as best I can. I’ve asked a few other people to poke at them, but I haven’t really received a satisfactory answer.

Q: Are there legislative rules about how you can invest RDSPs?
A: Not, necessarily. It’s just the banks are putting that kind of limit on things because it’s not a big money maker for them. They’re not going to make a fortune on amounts people deposit into RDSPs.  Whereas with RESPs, there are more people with kids going to university.

Q: What are the contribution limits on RDSPs?
A: The overall lifetime limit for a particular beneficiary is $200,000. Contributions are permitted until the end of the year in which the beneficiary turns 59. Up to a certain amount every year, depending on how much money you make, will be matched by the government.

Based on parental income, an RDSP can get a maximum of $3,500 in matching grants in one year, and up to $70,000 over the beneficiary’s lifetime. A grant can be paid into an RDSP on contributions made to the beneficiary’s RDSP until December 31 of the year the beneficiary turns 49.

Q: Do you have a favorite personal finance blogger that you read religiously?
A: I’ve got a couple. I like reading Michael James “On Money”, but he’s a friend of mine. I really like the Canadian Capitalist, but he’s sort of taken a hiatus. “Boomer & Echo” and the “Canadian Couch Potato” are quite good and so is “My Own Advisor.” I’ve met most of these guys at various conferences. I also read Squawkfox and have had extensive correspondence with her on Twitter.

Q: What, if any, money making opportunities or spin-offs have there been as a result of your blogging career?
A: Well, I don’t do this for the money which is obvious given how little I make at it. This is more of a cathartic thing for me.

Q: If you had only one piece of advice to readers or listeners about getting their finances in order, what would it be?
A: Get out of debt. Debt is a bad thing. There’s no such thing as good debt. It’s all bad. Don’t fool yourself into thinking there’s livable debt like a mortgage or maybe paying for your university. Somehow carrying debt has been normalized in the last 30 years or so but it’s still really not ok.

Thank you very much, Alan. It was a pleasure to talk to you.

Thanks for the opportunity Sheryl.

This is an edited transcript you can listen to by clicking on the link above. You can find the Canadian Personal Finance Blog here.

July 7: Best from the blogosphere

8 Jul

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

After two weeks of vacation in lovely (except for the mosquitoes) Muskoka, I’m back. And so are all of our favourite personal finance bloggers with lots of interesting material. In particular, we welcome back Kerry K. Taylor (aka Squawkfox) who has been on sick leave.

In her classic comeback post Kerry questions whether Dollarama’s $3 HDTV antenna is worth it.  The bottom line is that she was able to receive as many channels on the $3 antenna as on the $67 model she bought at Future Shop. Her readers also have made interesting comments about what worked and what didn’t in their part of the country when they ditched cable or satellite TV.

Alan Whitton (The Big Cajun Man) gives us three financial rules of thumb to live by: Spend less than you make; don’t confuse spending less with saving money if you are buying an item you don’t really need; and lifestyle creep is dangerous and an excuse to build up debt.

Sean Cooper wrote about how he reached $500,000 in net worth by age 29 in this post on Million Dollar Journey. He worked at multiple jobs, lived with his parents until he had a significant down payment on a house and rented out the top floor of his home while living in the basement apartment.

Mark Seed at My Own Advisor joins the legion of Canadians who are opting for VOIP telephone services instead of Bell or Rogers. For $4.95/month he got to keep his home phone number using Fongo Home Phone and after several months he states categorically that it was the right decision.

And last but not least, a free e:book Understanding Unretirement written by Today’s Economy blogger and Sun Life Financial Assistant Vice-President, Market Insights Kevin Press draws on six years of company research to explore why retirement in today’s economy is different and harder to achieve but could be better than ever before.

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 with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

May 19: Best from the blogosphere

19 May

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

In our eternal quest to link you to the best in personal finance blogging, once again this week we combed the web looking for great stories that will incent you to watch your nickels and save more for retirement.

On Boomer & Echo, Robb Engen discusses his experience  Breaking Subconscious Money Habits. Something as simple as eating weekend breakfasts at home instead of at Tim Hortons saved his family over $500/year.

Sarah Milton writes on Retire Happy about how Impulsive spending can derail your finances. While it may be tempting to buy something on sale because it’s a bargain, it’s only a bargain if you need the item and will use it within a reasonable period of time.

Automated arrangements where money comes out of your account to pay bills or amounts are regularly charged to your credit card are a great idea until something goes wrong and you don’t catch the error. That’s why Mr. CBB on Canadian Budget Binder says it is essential to review automated bill payments every month. That way you can discover and rectify inadvertent overbilling, duplicate bills or amounts incorrectly charged to your account.

If you really want to decrease the amount of income tax you have to pay, Big Cajun Man, Alan Whitton tries the idea Work Less and Pay Less Tax on for size. He says he’d rather take an extra 10 weeks of vacation off than go down to a four or three day work week, because he probably would have to do the same amount of work in a shorter period of time. Nevertheless, rather than working less, he would be more inclined to try to earn more money, so the tax hike didn’t hurt as much

And finally, Dan on Our Big Fat Wallet discussed what everyone loves to hate – bank fees. In I Hate Bank Fees, So I Bought the Banks he admits being frustrated by all of the bank charges he pays each month. So he decided to buy bank stock. The big 5 Canadian banks have had stellar capital gains and paid great dividends over the last five years.

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 with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.