Tag Archives: Robb Engen

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.

Apr 18: Best from the blogosphere

18 Apr

By Sheryl Smolkin

We’re back and there is more than ever to share with you! We took a two-month break, but our favourite bloggers were still hard at work. So we have lots of great stories to tell you about in the weeks to come.

The Liberal government’s first Federal Budget was tabled last month. It eliminated some measures enacted by the Conservatives and others will be phased out over time. On the Financial Independence Hub, Paul Phillips from Financial Wealth Builders gives a financial planner’s perspective on Budget 2016. One surprise he notes is the elimination of the tax deferral on fund switches within a mutual fund corporation.

The significance of not having a great credit rating may not hit until you apply for a credit card or mortgage and are either turned down or not approved for the amount you need. Blogging on Money after Graduation, Bridget Eastgaard discusses five easy steps to build good credit. Because 18% of credit reports contain errors, she regularly checks her credit report to ensure her student loan payments have been properly recorded, no credit cards were opened under her name through identity theft, and that companies have complied with her requests to close credit accounts.

Robb Engen is a well know blogger at Boomer & Echo and over the years he has shared lots of ideas about how to more effectively earn and save money. While he does not encourage calls from his office on evenings and weekends, he says it is a fair trade off because his employer covers his cell phone bill. In fact, he estimates that he has saved more than $9,500 over the last 12 years (144 months x $66 per month) because in a series of jobs over that period he has never spent a dime out of his own pocket on a cell phone plan.

As the balance in your RRSP grows over time, it can be hard to resist the temptation to tap into your nest egg in an emergency or just because you “need” something that is above and beyond your current budget. Retire Happy’s Sarah Milton gives three good reasons why withdrawing money from your RRSP before retirement is not a great idea.

And finally, personal finance maven Gail Vaz-Oxlade recently announced she has written her last blog. While we know from personal experience that blogging week in and week out can be challenging, her fans (myself included) will miss her consistently great advice. Fortunately, most of the archived blogs are timeless.

So for those of you who are considering buying a home this spring, we are linking to one of her better articles. She makes a great argument for spending a little time saving for a down payment rather than locking yourself into a mortgage payment that strangles your cash flow while you pay exorbitant amounts in interest and insurance premiums.

*****

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.

Dec 28: Best from the blogosphere

28 Dec

By Sheryl Smolkin

This is the last Best from the Blogosphere for 2015 and I’m taking a break, so the next one will be published on January 25, 2016. We wish all savewithspp.com readers a healthy, prosperous New Year.

As we look back on 2015 and ahead to 2016, there is much to think about. We have a new Federal government, the loonie is at an all-time low and Canadians have extended extraordinary hospitality to Syrians and other refugees from war-torn lands.

Here are some interesting stories we are following:

In TFSA vs. RRSP: How are Canadians saving? I interviewed Krystal Yee (Gen X), Tom Drake (Gen Y) and Bonnie Flatt (Boomer) to find out how Canadians are taking advantage of the tax-sheltered savings vehicles available to them.

In What Sean Cooper Really Achieved By Paying Off His Mortgage In 3 Years Robb Engen from Boomer and Echo tells us that Sean Cooper didn’t just pay off his $255,000 mortgage in three years; he taught us all a lesson in personal branding. Mr. Cooper, a pension analyst by day, mild-mannered blogger by night, took an almost Machiavellian-like approach by achieving fame through mortgage freedom at age 30.

Jim Yee offers some Year End Finance Strategies that will take advantage of ongoing changes to our tax rules. For example, in 2016, the new Liberal government will be lowering the tax rate on the middle income bracket from 22% to 20.5% so those individuals making more than $45,283/year but less than $90,563/year, deferring income to next year might save some tax dollars.

On the Financial Independence Hub, Doug Dahmer writes about the timing of CPP benefits. He says the CPP benefit for a couple can be in excess of $700,000 over their lifetime and the study demonstrates that the difference between starting your benefit at the least beneficial date and starting at the best date can be more than $300,000.

And finally, Rob Carrick at the Globe and Mail offers some thoughts on how to prepare for a frugal retirement. Frugality is assumed to be a virtue in the world of personal finance writing, but on the outside, frugality is sometimes a synonym for cheap. He refers to a blogger on Frugalwoods who argues that making the choice to be frugal is about asserting your independent thinking about money.

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.

Dec 7: Best from the blogosphere

7 Dec

By Sheryl Smolkin

My beat is pensions, benefits, personal finance and workplace issues. I enjoy writing for my blog retirementredux.com and posting to my archive website sherylsmolkin.com, but I haven’t put much effort into turning them into a source of income. However, I do write for a living and the exposure certainly helps.

However, I was fascinated by Robb Engen’s presentation at Canadian Personal Finance Conference on how he turned his blog into a profitable online business. He says one general rule of blogging is that those who get into it strictly to make money tend to fail. A blog needs to be compelling enough not just for people to want to read and share your content but to keep you motivated to continue writing. But he says blogging can be fairly lucrative if you stick with it long enough, and the truth is there are lots of bloggers who make a pretty good living online.

After reading Robb’s story, I decided to see what other bloggers had to say about ways they have parlayed their personal interest blogs into a source of income.

Canadian Opportunity is a website geared to Canada’s work at home online community. The post How to make money blogging in Canada notes that it is important to blog about something that interests you. If you’re a stay at home mom blog about parenting, provide tips to new parents or about an illness one of your children experienced. If you’re a golfer, fisherman or runner you may want to provide interesting content on these subjects. One of the most popular ways to make money on any blog is with Google Adsense. It’s free and by joining you will allow Google to place various types of advertising on your blog that will be automatically targeted to your specific audience.

How Mommy Bloggers Make Money on Canadian Family reports that some of the best (and most addictive) bloggers gain recognition by pouring their hearts out on the screen. They report from the trenches of motherhood, with humour, unabashed honesty and style. Over time, with hard work, talent and perseverance, they hone their craft and build a sizeable audience. Some bloggers decide to sell merchandise to their fans through sites such as etsy.com and cafépress.com. You can buy your favourite blogger’s artwork and crafts or get their best quotes on a mug or T-shirt to help support them (so they can continue to bring you free content).

How To Create A Profitable Blog on Retire@21 focuses more on the technical side of getting a blog up and running like selecting a domain name and installing WordPress, using Google tools and setting up RSS, email subscriptions and a sitemap. If you are still intimidated, there are many small businesses that will help you set up your blog for a nominal amount or better still, your kid or your grandkids can probably wade through the technical details in a flash.

Can you make money without selling your soul? Jeff Goins says if selling stuff makes your skin crawl, you can use a blog to build an online presence and brand and then use it to land consulting or freelance writing jobs.. He has had several people contact him about things like writing an eBook, SEO, and other topics he has blogged about.

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.

Oct 19: Best from the blogosphere

19 Oct

By Sheryl Smolkin

One of the ways many of us try to stretch our dollars further is by taking advantage of rewards programs ranging from cash back or travel rewards on credit cards to points cards from your local supermarket or drug store.

I have been a big fan of travel rewards ever since I did a distance Master of Law degree in the UK in the mid 1990s that required me to travel to Europe half a dozen times in two years. But I have a collection of other loyalty cards in my wallet including a punch card from a bakery that rewards me with a free dozen bagels every time I’ve purchased ten dozen in total.

A September 2015 report from Montreal-based Aimia Inc., which operates Aeroplan and other customer-loyalty programs says of the 89% of Canadians enrolled in a loyalty program, 59% have done so with supermarkets, 22% have signed up with banks and 18% with restaurants.

On itbusiness.ca Brian Jackson reported in March 2015 on a research study conducted by Yahoo Inc. The average Canadian has four loyalty program cards in their wallets, the study found. More than half of consumers say they frequently use those cards to accumulate points and miles. Two-thirds of them go online to calculate the value of the loyalty program, and six out of 10 choose loyalty programs that come free-of-charge.

On Robb Engen’s say-so, I replaced my CIBC Aeroplan VISA with a Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard about 18 months ago. This week I was delighted to get an email from the company describing how their program has been enhanced by elimination of the the tiered redemption program and the introduction of partial redemptions. Read all about the changes on RewardsCardsCanada and why with these changes, Capital One has further cemented its status as the best value rewards card for everyday travelers.

If unlike your jet setting neighbours, you travel infrequently, you may be interested in the blog on familyfuncanada.com about the best loyalty programs for infrequent travelers. Helen Early says Airmiles can bring you plenty of rewards. According to Early, the best thing about the Airmiles program is that you can earn points almost anywhere, through activities that you probably already do. She also notes that hotel chains like Faimont, Starwood, Best Western and Hilton offer great deals and discounts for even the lowest tier of members.

Krystal Yee wrote a sponsored post on Give Me Back My Five Bucks about how you can be rewarded for everyday purchases when using your debit card. She reports that while there are very few debit rewards in Canada, Scotiabank offers three.

  • The SCENE Debit Card allows you to earn accelerated points through Cineplex online and in person (5x based on purchases) as well as at a few other select locations including Sport Chek, Milestones and East Side Mario’s. You will also earn one point for every five dollars spent in other locations.
  • With the Moneyback Debit Card you can earn 1% on every purchase you make – up to a maximum of $300 per year. Those that open up an account before October 31st will earn double the rewards – $600 – through to that day.
  • With every purchase made on a ScotiaHockey NHL® debit card, you will be entered to win grand prizes including four 2016 NHL® All-Star Game packages, four 2016 Stanley Cup® Final packages, four 2016 Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off™ packages as well as 45 monthly prizes.

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.

Jul 13: Best from the blogosphere

13 Jul

By Sheryl Smolkin

Back from two weeks of vacation and back in the saddle! While it’s hard to get re-establish anormal routine, it’s not difficult to find many interesting personal finance stories and blogs to share with you because all of our favourites kept on blogging when I was away.

On Boomer & Echo, Robb Engen wrote about The Evolution of Loyalty Cards. Scanning weekly flyers and clipping coupons is a great Canadian tradition but he says that like the landline telephone, VCRs, and analog TV – coupons and flyers are on their way out. Retailers are moving online and developing smart phone applications to get more personal with their offers.

In Is Paying Down a Mortgage Underrated? on Our Big Fat Wallet, Dan says the real value of paying down the mortgage isn’t the interest savings. With rates as low as they currently are, the interest you save will likely be minimal. He suggests the best approach for anyone looking to use extra funds to pay down their mortgage is to consider a ‘hybrid’ approach – using the money to reduce the mortgage and then putting more money each month towards investing.

Blond on a Budget’s Cait Flanders has finally finished her year-long shopping ban. In a herculean 6,000 word blog The Year I Embraced Minimalism and Completed a Yearlong Shopping Ban she explains why she did it and how it changed her life. Flanders says, “There is nothing I need right now that could make my life better than it already is and that’s a great feeling to end this year-long challenge with.”

Globe & Mail reporter Ian McGuigan agrees that accumulating wealth is a challenge but he says that “decumulating” it can be trickier still. In a recent article he refers to the paper Making Sense Out of Variable Spending Strategies for Retirees written by Wade Pfau, a professor of retirement income at American College in Bryn Mawr, Penn. McGuigan notes that spending only 4% a year works out pretty well if you don’t want to outlive your money. It also keeps your spending at a constant level, in after-inflation terms. However, it’s not so good if you’re interested in being able to live as well as possible in retirement.

Guess who’s saving for retirement? The kids  reports Adam Mayers at the Toronto Star. While we often point the finger at young people as having limited interest and understanding of their personal financial affairs, Sun Life finds that’s not so. Younger workers know a good deal when they see one and like all smart consumers they’re snapping it up. Only 40% of those in their 40s and 50s are taking full advantage of matching Registered Retirement Savings Plan or pension money in plans Sun Life administers. On the other hand, 90% of those in their 20s (presumably new employees) are opting in.

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.

Jun 15: Best from the blogosphere

15 Jun

By Sheryl Smolkin

This week we have a mixed bag of offerings from some of our favour bloggers and media pundits. First of all, Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen discusses Why Multiple Income Streams Is A Better Emergency Fund For Millennials.

Engen says that instead of having 3-6 months worth of expenses sitting in a savings account for an emergency fund, a better way for Millennials to combat the threat of job loss – or job uncertainty – is to build up multiple income streams outside of their traditional day jobs.

There are plenty of articles that focus on things women need to know about life after work. But in a role reversal, on Retire Happy Donna McCaw writes about Issues that Men Face in Retirement. Her interviews with a number of men about their experiences with retirement reveal that for many, identity issues are paramount. Those who do not replace the status, position, role and job satisfaction with something else once they are no longer employed can have a real challenge regaining a sense of who they are and how their lives are meaningful.

In Diving Canadian Dollar Has Made Holiday Travel More Expensive, Sean Cooper quantifies the cold, hard facts about how poor performance of the loonie as against the U.S. dollar has made travel outside Canada a much more expensive proposition. With lower gas prices, he says this just could be the year to take the family on a road trip to learn more about what our beautiful country has to offer.

Globe and Mail personal finance guru Rob Carrick believes It’s time to get real about retirement planning. He poses the questions: What’s retirement really like from a financial point of view? How likely is an unexpected financial crisis, and how do people cope financially? How big a deal are health care costs? How feasible is it to plan on working in retirement?

According to Carrick, the answers to these questions can be found in a new report issued this week by the Ontario Securities Commission and prepared by Brondesbury Group, a consulting firm. It’s called Financial Life Stages of Older Canadians.

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 20: Best from the blogosphere

20 Apr

By Sheryl Smolkin

Spring has definitely sprung in our neck of the woods and yesterday I woke up to a neighbourhood of happy smiling people wbiking, jogging and cleaning garages.

This week we feature a blog from Blonde on a Budget Cait Flanders who is nine months into her shopping ban. Of course, as she notes in Nine Months Without Shopping and Takeout Coffee, she gets to make up the rules as she goes along. So she discarded a ripped pair of jeans and replaced them. She also broke her “no take out coffee” ban a few times when she was out with friends. Nevertheless, she has upped her savings goal from $100/month at the beginning of the period to $250/month and she has a nice little nest egg to show for it.

On Boomer & Echo, Robb Engen writes about how we can always find joy in the smallest things like using a cash back credit card for his everyday purchases. I know what he means. I prefer my travel rewards credit cards, but it feels great when I accumulate enough points at Shoppers Drug Mart or Longo’s and the cashier asks me if I want to take $20 or $30 off my bill.

Sean Cooper writes on Retire Happy about three More Costly Pension Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. They are: not updating your spouse and beneficiary designations; not joining your company pension plan right away; and, not starting your pension as soon as you are entitled to a unreduced pension.

The question that every person who is saving for retirement struggles with is Will they run short in Retirement? As part of the Masters of Money series on GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca, Allison Griffiths acknowledges that few working people have any idea how much money they will need and she offers an approach to budgeting that can help them nail down these elusive numbers.

Spring is the time when new university and college graduates hit the street looking for their first career position. On stupidcents.com blogger Tom Drake discusses best careers for the future. With baby boomers aging in the next 20 years, he says those who are involved in health care such as dental hygienists, registered nurses and physical therapy assistants will be in demand. But software developers and construction equipment operators are also growth areas.

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.

Jan 19: Best from the blogosphere

19 Jan

By Sheryl Smolkin

If you max out your SPP contributions each year, you know your money is invested in an easy to understand balanced fund. However, when you top up your savings with contributions to either workplace retirement savings plans or your personal RRSP, it is often challenging to figure out how to invest your money.

On Tangerine Bank’s blog Forward Thinking, Preet Bannerjee suggests Parking your RRSP contributions to beat the deadline. The money just sits there, “parked” inside an RRSP as a low-risk investment until you’re ready to figure it out. Some people may not realize that investments inside an RRSP can be changed later.

In My 2014 (and final) Portfolio Rate of Return Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen admits his dividend stocks did not match average market returns last year so he finally bit the bullet and sold “his babies,” replacing them with an easy two-fund solution.

With another take on passive investing, Holy Potato released his “Canonical Portfolio,” a simple recipe of four funds or ETFs for your portfolio. He presents a portfolio of four funds (bonds plus three equity classes) with a simple rule-of-thumb to determine the main split.

Sarah Milton specifically addresses the investment dilemma facing people saving in group retirement plans on Retire Happy. She presents 3 Investment options for passive group investors including guaranteed investments, asset allocation funds and target date funds.

And finally, Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s post How Do You Stack Up? refers readers to a tool on the Royal Bank website that measures how you stack up against your region and Canada in general when it comes to your income and net worth. Although it’s nice to get a benchmark of how you’re doing, she says that comparing your results to someone else’s means nothing if you aren’t dealing with similar circumstances.

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.