All posts by saskpension

Part 1: What you need to know about CPP disability benefits

Employed and self-employed Canadians must pay into the Canada Pension Plan or Quebec Pension Plan* throughout their working career. The standard age for beginning to receive your CPP retirement pension is the month after your 65th birthday. However, you can take a reduced pension as early as age 60 or begin receiving an increased pension after age 65.

But many people do not realize that if they are under age 65 and become disabled, they may be eligible for taxable monthly CPP disability benefits.

Eligibility
To qualify for a disability benefit under the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), a disability must be both “severe” and “prolonged”, and it must prevent you from being able to work at any job on a regular basis.

  • Severe means that you have a mental or physical disability that regularly stops you from doing any type of substantially gainful work.
  • Prolonged means that your disability is long-term and of indefinite duration or is likely to result in death.

Both the “severe” and “prolonged” criteria must be met simultaneously at the time of application. There is no common definition of “disability” in Canada. Even if you qualify for a disability benefit under other government programs or from private insurers, you may not necessarily qualify for a CPP disability benefit. Medical adjudicators will determine, based on your application and supporting documentation, whether your disability is both severe and prolonged.

Benefit levels
For 2017, the average monthly CPP disability benefit for new beneficiaries is $952.51 and the maximum monthly amount is $1,313.66. If you are receiving a CPP disability benefit, your dependent children may also be eligible for a children’s benefit. In 2017, the flat monthly rate your child can receive is $241.02.

If you are aged 60 to 64 and you think you might qualify for a CPP disability benefit, you may also want to apply for a CPP retirement pension. While you cannot receive both at the same time, you may qualify to begin receiving a retirement pension while you wait for your CPP disability benefit application to be assessed, which usually takes longer.

If you are already receiving a CPP retirement pension when your application for a disability benefit is approved, Service Canada will switch your retirement pension to a disability benefit if:

  • You are still under the age of 65.
  • You were deemed to be disabled, as defined by the CPP legislation, before the effective date of your retirement.
  • You have been receiving your CPP retirement pension for less than 15 months at the time you applied for your disability benefit; and
  • You meet the minimum contributory requirements.

Should your disability benefit be approved, you must pay back the retirement pension payments you received. According to Service Canada, the retirement pension payments are normally from your first disability payments.

Waiting period
It takes approximately four months for a decision to be made from the date your application and all the necessary documents is received. See how disability benefit applications are assessed. A Service Canada representative will call you to explain how your application will be processed, the type of information required and answer any questions.

Medical adjudicators may also ask for additional information or ask you to see another doctor who will evaluate your medical condition. How long it takes for them to receive the requested information will impact the time it takes for your application to be processed.

If you are eligible under the terms of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) legislation, your disability benefits will start the fourth month after the month you are determined to be disabled. You may receive up to a maximum of 12 months of retroactive payments from the date your application was received.

While on CPP disability benefits
Without having any effect on your CPP disability benefit, you can:

  • Do volunteer work
  • Go back to school to upgrade or complete a degree, or
  • Take a re-training program.

You can earn up to a certain amount without telling Service Canada and without losing your benefits. For 2017, this amount is $5,500 (before taxes). This amount may increase in future years. If you earn more than the amount allowed, you must contact Canada Pension Plan.

Your CPP disability benefit may stop if:

  • You are capable of working on a regular basis.
  • You are no longer disabled.
  • You turn 65 (it will automatically be changed to a CPP retirement pension)
  • You die (it is important that someone notify Service Canada about your death to avoid overpayment).

What if my claim is refused?
If your claim is refused there is a reconsideration and appeal process. (See Part 2 in this series).

*This article focuses only on CPP disability benefits and does not further explore similar disability benefits available under the QPP.

 

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Aug 14: Best of savewithspp.com summer blogs

SHUTTERSTOCK

This second installment of the best of savewithspp.com focuses on some of my favourite summer blogs.

By late August, the “getting out of school for the summer” euphoria has worn off and both kids and their parents are looking for inexpensive things to do.  Summer activities for kids on a budget has lots of great ideas from a community parks tour to an all day pajama party to backyard camping.

Staying on budget can be a challenge at any time of year. But when souvenirs and snacks beckon on vacation or the hotel you booked ends up being much more than you expected, your bottom line may suffer an unexpected hit.

A 2016 study from BMO  reports that as temperatures soar so does our spending, and while many don’t feel guilty about enjoying the season, half (52%) admit that their summer habits have negative long-term effects on their savings.

Back to school shopping: A teachable moment was posted in 2013. It highlights that getting ready for the new school term is an ideal time for you to help your child learn the difference between “needs” and “wants.” It is also an opportunity to teach them basic financial literacy skills like budgeting and managing their money.

In September of the same year we featured Your kid’s allowance: Financial Literacy 101.  According to The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, exactly what you need to teach kids about money depends on the ages of the children. We include their suggestions on what financial lessons are appropriate for different age groups.

And finally, How Not To Move Back In With Your Parents reviews Rob Carrick’s book written in 2014. But the message still holds true. I said it then and I’ll say it again now. Every new parent should get a copy when they leave the hospital with their precious bundle of joy and beginning at a young age children should be taught the basic principles of financial literacy outlined in the book.


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.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Employees less satisfied with workplace health programs

As the battle continues south of the border to create a viable program that will allow the majority of Americans to access some form of health care insurance, Canadians continue to rejoice in the foresight of Saskatchewan’s Tommy Douglas, the father of Medicare in this country.

But many elements of health care like drugs, dental care and para-medical practitioners (i.e., physiotherapists and psychologists) are not universally covered by government programs. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), total health expenditures were expected to amount to $6,299 per Canadian in 2016, with about 30% of these expenditures coming from the private sector.

Employer-sponsored plans fill a significant portion of that gap. That’s why employee perceptions of their workplace supplementary health plans and how companies juggle priorities to meet these expectations is so significant.

The 20th Anniversary of Canada’s premier survey on health benefit plans, The Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey reveals surprising facts. According to a press release released by the company, the 2017 study highlights that barely half (53%) of employees say their health benefit plan meets their needs extremely or very well, down from 73% in 1999 when the question was first asked.

Surveyed employees would also like more flexibility in their benefit plans, and strongly support coverage for products or services that typically are not covered today, such as screenings to determine personal health risks, coaching sessions from health experts and adult vaccinations.

A clear majority (70%) — up from 58% just a year ago — would also consent to their benefit plan’s insurance carrier accessing their personal claims data (for instance, the drugs they are taking) in order to receive personalized information to help them manage their health (for example, information about their personal conditions). 

Traditional versus flex 
Currently, 77% of employees report having traditional benefit plans, which define what is covered and the levels of coverage. However, 54% of employees would prefer a flex plan, where employees can choose types and levels of coverage. Health spending accounts (HSAs), which provide employees with a certain amount of dollars every year to spend as they wish on allowable health-related items or services, are another way to bring some flexibility into benefit plans.

Employees with HSAs are more likely to agree that their plans meet their needs very or extremely well (60% versus 50% among those without HSAs). Currently, 31% of employers offer health spending accounts, increasing to 47% among employers with 500 or more employees.

“Today’s challenge is to find the balance between flexibility and complexity in an environment where more flexibility is being demanded,” notes Jonathon Avery, Director of Product, Group Benefits, Manulife Survey Methodology. “Technology has simplified doing business in virtually every industry, and has the power to make suggestions for plan members and guide their actions based on previous interactions and personal claims behaviour.” 

Chronic disease gaps and personalized treatment
Year after year, employers significantly underestimate the presence — and therefore likely the impact — of chronic disease in the workplace. More than half of surveyed employees (57%) report having at least one chronic disease or condition (such as depression or high blood pressure), climbing to 72% among those aged 55 to 64. Yet plan sponsors estimate that just 32% of their employees have a chronic condition.

More than a third (37%) of employees with chronic conditions take three or more medications on a regular basis and are therefore the most frequent users of drug benefits plan. A convincing 73% of them would be interested in coaching from a pharmacist to learn more about their medications and conditions, if this were covered by their benefit plan.

While the science is still in early development, 67% of employees are interested in a simple form of genetic testing (using a cheek swab) to help doctors prescribe drugs that are the most likely to work for them. This increases to 76% among those taking three or more medications.

Interest levels are high to participate in the following health risk screenings: for cancer (83%), heart disease (80%) and diabetes (71%). As well, employees are likely to take advantage of coverage for vaccinations to prevent disease, particularly for tropical diseases associated with travel (79%) and shingles (68%).

Positive ripple effect of wellness
More than four out of five (86%) employees say they work in environments that encourage wellness are satisfied with their jobs, compared to 62% among employees working in environments that do not encourage wellness. Employees in wellness-oriented work environments are also much more likely to agree that their health benefit plan meets their needs extremely or very well (62% versus 43%).

However, barely half of employees (53%) agree their current work environment or culture encourages health and wellness, down from 62% in 2012. For their part, 64% of employers feel their corporate culture encourages wellness, down significantly from 90% in 2012, and 51% report offering specific wellness programs (such as onsite flu shots) or policies (such as flexible work hours). Just 31% of employers plan to invest more in health education or wellness in the next year, down from 51% in 2012 and 68% in 2011.

Danielle Vidal, Director of Business Development, SSQ Financial Group says, “With results that are clearly more favourable in workplaces that encourage health and wellness, it’s disappointing to see a decrease in the number of organizations that encourage wellness.” Vidal also questions whether employers are taking a sufficiently holistic view.

You can download the executive summary and full report here.

 

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Saskatchewanians who made their mark

I am proud to say that my Canada includes Saskatchewan. Not that I’ve actually spent a lot of time there. I’ve been to a couple of pension conferences in Saskatoon and Regina and in June 2011 I spent a memorable couple of days in Kindersley getting to know the folks at Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

But over the past six years since I started writing for SPP, the province has rarely been out of my thoughts for more than a day or two because I’m always planning my next blog. So when I was watching a recording of the Governor General’s Arts Awards on a rainy July 1st afternoon it occurred to me that Tommy Douglas couldn’t be the only Saskatchewanian who has made a major contribution to our country in the arts, sports, business or politics.  With a little research, I found the online magazine Virtual Saskatchewan and a series of by freelance writer David Yanko:

Saskatchewan’s Own 1
Saskatchewan’s Own 2
Saskatchewan’s Own 3

Each of these pieces lists 25 individuals who have made their mark on both the national and international stage. I have picked only five to profile, but take a look all three of these articles to learn more about the accomplishments of many of the best and brightest who at one time or another have called Saskatchewan home. 

Brent Butt (born August 3, 1966) is a Canadian actor, comedian, and writer. He is best known for his role as Brent Leroy on the CTV sitcom Corner Gas, which he developed. It was set in the fictional town of Dog River, Saskatchewan. The show averaged a million viewers per episode. Corner Gas received six Gemini Awards, and was nominated almost 70 times for various other awards. In addition, Butt created the hit TV show Hiccups and the 2013 film No Clue. At our place we never missed an episode of Corner Gas, so I’m happy to report that an animated version is in the works.

Brian Dickson was appointed a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada on March 26, 1973, and subsequently appointed the 15th Chief Justice of Canada on April 18, 1984. He retired on June 30, 1990. Dickson’s tenure as Chief Justice coincided with the first wave of cases under the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which reached the Supreme Court from 1984 onwards. He wrote several very influential judgments dealing with the Charter, and laid the groundwork for the approach the courts have since used to interpret the Charter. Through law school and when I practiced law, I read and cited a number of his important decisions.

Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, responsible for hits such as Both Sides Now and Big Yellow Taxi, was born on November 7, 1943, in Fort MacLeod, Alberta and grew up in Saskatoon. In 1968, she recorded her first, self-titled album. Other highly successful albums followed. Mitchell won her first Grammy Award (best folk performance) for her 1969 album, Clouds. She has won seven more Grammy Awards since then, in several different categories, including traditional pop, pop music and lifetime achievement. To this day, folk music is my favourite genre and songs like Chelsea Morning and Circle Game have become the soundtrack of my life.

Sandra Schmirler was a Saskatchewan curler who captured three Canadian Curling Championships and three World Curling Championships.  Schmirler also skipped her Canadian team to a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics, the first year women’s curling was a medal sport. Schmirler sometimes worked as a commentator for CBC Sports, which popularized her nickname “Schmirler the Curler” and claimed she was the only person who had a name that rhymed with the sport she played. Schmirler’s accomplishments caught my imagination and that of the whole country. Sadly, she died in 2000 at 36 of cancer, leaving a legacy that extended far beyond her sport.

It may seem arbitrary to mention two folk singers in an ad hoc selection of notable sons and daughters of Saskatchewan. But Buffy Sainte-Marie is so much more. This Canadian legend is 76 and still going strong. She is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, educator, social activist, philanthropist and visual artist, born February 20, 1941 on Piapot Reserve, SK.

She was an important figure in the Greenwich Village and Toronto folk music revivals in the 1960s, and is perhaps best known for her 1964 anti-war anthem Universal Soldier, which was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. On the eve of Canada Day I had the privilege to hear this diminutive giant sing Universal Soldier plus many of her newer releases in person, at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. She and her music never seem to grow old.

 

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

July 31: Best of savewithspp.com interviews

Over the last 6+ years I have had the privilege of blogging for the Saskatchewan Pension Plan twice a week. That means there are over 500 articles archived on this site that you can access on topics that range from retirement savings to income taxes to how to save money.

Whether you have recently started following savewithspp.com or you have been with us from the beginning, you may not be aware of the wealth of information  in our archives. Therefore, beginning with this week, on an occasional basis I will offer links to some of my favourite “blasts from the past.”

Today’s selection includes a series of savewithspp.com podcast interviews.

I interviewed SPP General Manager Katherine Strutt in both January 2012 and February 2015. “The SPP gives members access to top money managers they may not be able to access on their own. SPP also gives members a strong investment product at a very low price,” Strutt said in the most recent interview. “The costs of running our plan are around one percent or less, and this compares to fees in a retail mutual fund that can be anywhere between two and three percent.”

In a July 5, 2012 podcast Derek Foster, author of several books including The Idiot Millionaire and The Wealthy Boomer explained how he retired at the young age of 34 and supports his wife and five children on $40,000/year. He also talks about the advantages of saving for retirement with SPP as opposed to an RRSP.

The Wealthy Barber David Chilton spoke to us in October 2012 long before he joined and then left the popular CBC series Dragons’ Den. He offered strategies for cutting down on discretionary savings to free up more money for savings. Using cash instead of mindlessly swiping a debit or credit card is one of his favourites.

The 2014 series of podcast interviews featured financial bloggers including Retired Syd who left work behind at age 44. Her original budget for retirement turned out to be overly generous, partly because she was kind of careful the first few years since she was so nervous watching the stock market go down. But as of the date of the interview, she and her husband were still spending less than their original retirement budget.

And finally, after I read most of the books in the Joanne Kilbourne mystery series, in March 2015 I interviewed the author and Saskatchewan success story Gail Bowen.  Also a retired professor and playwright, Bowen’s writing career did not begin until age 45. She is still writing in her 70s – truly a role model for all of us who are pursuing encore careers.


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.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Keeping the cottage in the family

If your family has a cottage you probably have idyllic memories of swimming in the lake, roasting marshmallows around a campfire and picking berries in the woods. But these days with two-parent working families rarely taking more than a week or two of vacation together each year, cottage visits may be limited to the occasional long weekend. And for many people it’s a stretch to cover rent or mortgage payments for their primary home without taking on the expenses and upkeep of a second one.

That’s why when parents bequeath the family cottage to their adult children, it can be a mixed blessing, particularly if one or more of the siblings no longer resides in the same geographic area as the rest of the family. In these circumstances, experts recommend that co-owners negotiate and sign a cottage agreement that contains formal rules and regulations for how everyone uses and pays for the cottage.

Some of the topics covered may include:

  1. Who pays what: Like any other home, typical cottage expenses may include mortgage payments, insurance, heating, hydro, taxes and major repairs. Add this up and decide how to split up the bills. Will the split depend in part on frequency of use or does everyone have to pay their share? What if major repairs are required like a new roof or a new dock?
  2. Occupancy: Address when each family gets to use the cottage alone. If Jane opts for the first two weeks in July, does she get the same two weeks every year? How are long weekends split up? Does an adult parent have to be present if a teenager wants to bring up a bunch of friends?
  3. Management: Who pays the bills and manages the paperwork? In what condition should occupants leave the cottage when they return home? Do bed linens and towels have to be washed and dried? Who will open and close the cottage and take care of routine maintenance like cutting the grass?
  4. Decisions: What if owners disagree? Who will mediate their differences? What happens if one or two siblings want to renovate but others do not want to contribute? Can one owner force a sale if he wants out and the co-owners are not prepared to purchase his share?
  5. Succession: Can a sibling will her share to a spouse (who may later remarry) or only to their offspring or another owner? What happens if one of the owners is divorced?

There may also be tax considerations and probate fees on death, that can place a burden on beneficiaries, particularly if the property has increased in value since it was purchased. Furthermore, if a vacation home is in the U.S., it may be subject to U.S. estate tax.

Therefore whether you are planning to will a property to your children or you are one of a group of siblings negotiating a cottage agreement, it is wise to consult a knowledgeable lawyer before you sign on the dotted line.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Jul 24: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

When you are finally ready to come inside to beat the heat on a hot, steamy July day, here are some personal finance videos and podcasts for your viewing and listening pleasure.

CBC’s Asha Tomlinson interviews consumer advocate Ellen Roseman who answers questions about what Air Canada’s break up with Aeroplan could mean for you.

On the Money Mastermind Show, Linda P. Jones (Be Wealthy & Smart) interviews Hilary Hendershott from Profit Boss Radio. Although  Hendershott was working as a certified financial planner, she was unable to pay her own bills during the 2008 financial crisis. She worked her way out of this crisis and now offers her solutions to others.

Trips to the grocery story keep going up with the price of food. The CBC’s Marivel Taruc looks at how you can save some money on your grocery bill with the help of your smartphone.

In a Save your #@%* money video for the Financial Post, Melissa Leong hits the streets to find out the stupidest ways people lose money.

And finally, perennial favourite Jessica Moorhouse shares some of the ways she and her husband manage money together without getting into heated arguments.


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.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Workplace tips for new graduates

You’ve got your degree. You’ve emptied the contents of your student apartment into the back of a van and you are ready to hit the road. If you are one of the fortunate minority of graduates who already have a job lined up in your field, contacts made through internships or co-op placements may have facilitated that process.

Nevertheless, you will typically be on probation for several months so it’s particularly important in the early days to gain a good understanding of the corporate culture and what is and is not acceptable in your new workplace.

Hours
Find out how many hours a day employees are required to work and the start and stop times. Flexible hours are very common now in many establishments, but be vigilant to better understand what that really means. Theoretically, you may be able to work 8-4, 9-5 or 10-6, but if your supervisor and co-workers are all early birds you could miss a lot of networking and useful socializing if you work the late shift. Also, if work-at-home days are permitted they may only kick in once your probation period is over. 

Dress code
In high tech companies, casual dress is the norm. In fact if you turn up in a suit and tie your coworkers will likely start making cracks about whether or not you are looking for another job. But muscle shirts and torn jeans even on more casual Fridays are rarely a good idea. In contrast, if you work in a large urban law firm, business suits and ties for men and stockings and heels for women may be the dress code on even the hottest summer day.

Speaking out
You got the job because the hiring manager believes you have something to contribute based on both your education and experience. By all means, answer questions and offer ideas at team and client meetings. However, particularly in the beginning, do more listening and taking notes than talking. In some cases it may make sense to pull someone aside after a meeting to discuss your brainwave rather than blurting out a half-baked thought or embarrassing a co-worker.

Personal vs. private
You are being paid to work for your employer. Keep personal telephone calls, texting and social media posting to an absolute minimum. If possible step into a meeting room or out in the hall to have a conversation. Most offices these days are open concept cubicle farms and loud private calls will not only bother others, but could result in over-sharing of personal information. 

Company gossip
Many offices have factions or cliques. Try not to align yourself with one group to the exclusion of others. Be positive and do not gossip! Negativity about people or company processes will give you a bad reputation. Finding and working with one or more mentors can give your career a boost, but developing positive relationships with as many people as possible can be just as valuable.

Chances are that you will end up working at something completely different than you envisaged when you started college or university. And you also probably won’t stay in your first job for more than two years. In fact, according to Workopolis, if current trends continue, Canadians can expect to hold roughly 15 jobs in their careers.

But your performance and the relationships you make in your first job will form the foundation of your career, so tread cautiously. After all, you will never get a second chance to make a first impression!

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

July 17: Best from the blogosphere

Many prolific personal finance bloggers don’t hesitate to share a surprising amount of information about their family finances and the milestones on their journey to financial freedom.

In his Net Worth Update: 2017 Mid-Year Review, Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen reports that he is well on his way to meet his, “big hairy audacious goal of Freedom 45.” To do so, his savings rate will need to remain high and he’ll have to avoid the evil temptation of lifestyle inflation. Currently his net worth is $574,296.

Tim Stobbs is an engineer in his thirties with two kids living in Regina, Saskatchewan who decided working until 65 sounds like a bad idea. At first he thought Freedom 45 might work, but he is now aiming to retire on his 40th birthday. Since he is mortgage free, and his May 2017 Net Worth is $972,000, early retirement could be right around the corner.

Krystal Yee has been sharing her financial goals and challenges for 10 years on Give me back my five bucks. Her recent blogs The real cost of moving in Vancouver, How I’m saving for travel this year and May 2017 Goals: Recap will give you some perspective on how this busy professional freelance writer is managing her finances and what she hope is her final household move until retirement!

Are you expecting an addition to the family? Personal finance and travel writer Barry Choi (Money We Have) and his wife have been Getting the baby room ready and buying all the necessary bits and pieces from furniture to car seats to strollers. He figures they have spent about $1040 so far. And these expenses are in addition to the costs of IVF which he estimated at $25,000. Although he says, “I’m on the hook for 20 years and I could do a running tally but the costs may terrify me,” he is thrilled at the prospect.

Bridget Eastgaard (Money After Graduation) is also contributing to the personal finance blogger baby boom. She notes that many millennials want to become parents, but their finances are holding them back. The combined burden of student loan debt and sky-high housing prices make having a family seem like an unaffordable dream, but it doesn’t have to be.

How to save for Baby? “You have an Emergency Fund, you have a Retirement Fund, and now you need a Baby Fund — a dedicated savings account to afford all pregnancy, birth, and child-related expenses.” Eastgaard advises. “Ideally, you would start this before you even begin trying to become pregnant, but even if you find yourself with an unplanned baby like yours truly, a Baby Fund is a crucial first step to ensuring your family starts off on the right financial foot.”


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.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

10 things to bring on a road trip

It’s been four years since I wrote Taking a road trip on the cheap for savewithspp.com so I thought it was time to re-visit the subject. This time around the focus is on 10 things (in no particular order) that will help to make your trip more comfortable.

  1. Prescription, non-prescription drugs: If you forget prescription drugs it may be possible to have a pharmacy in a different town call your local pharmacy to have the prescription transferred. But it is not always easy if you have left the province or crossed the border to the U.S. Also, some over-the-counter drugs in Canada like decongestants and codeine require a prescription once you leave the country.
  2. First aid kit: The Canadian Red Cross has a whole list of things you should include in a first aid kit for your home, cottage, car, boat or workplace. In addition to various types of bandages, sterile gauze and adhesive tape, don’t forget scissors, tweezers, safety pins, instant ice packs and a flashlight with working batteries.
  3. Audio books: You can take both children and adult audio books out of the library. You can also download podcasts. Listening to these can be a nice break from the CDs you have played multiple times after you lose reception from your favorite radio channels.
  4. Important documents: You must have your car ownership, driver’s license and insurance slip on you at all times when you are driving. This requirement is even more important when you are miles from home. Also make sure you have your provincial medical card and details about any supplementary travel medical insurance coverage. And don’t forget, everyone in the car needs an up-to-date passport whether you drive or fly to the U.S.
  5. Pillows and blankets: When you are sleeping in a different bed every couple of nights, there is nothing that will help you sleep better than your own pillow. Children often become attached to a particular blanket or soft toy and won’t settle down without them. Also, it can get chilly in the car and on a long drive, the alternate driver can cuddle up and get 40 winks.
  6. Car chargers: Cell phones, tablets, electronic games. They all have batteries that need to be recharged periodically and require internet access to be interactive. Make sure you have the right car chargers so you can keep all your devices juiced up and family members happy. When selecting accommodation, look for free wifi in the room, not just in the lobby.
  7. Wet wipes: Inevitably someone will dump their milkshake in the car or have a case of sudden onset car sickness. Paper towels and wet wipes are essential in these circumstances and you may also have to drive with the windows open for as long as possible to try and dissipate any odour.
  8. Change of clothes: If you travel with children, never forget to pack an easily accessible change of clothing for each child in the car instead of in the suitcase at the bottom of your trunk. Because accidents of various types are inevitable, you will be glad you did.
  9. Auto club membership: Even if your car is brand new or has just been serviced, never leave home without an automobile club membership. And don’t pick the cheapest one. A basic membership may offer a maximum towing distance of only 10 km but you will appreciate a premium membership that pays for towing your car 200 km or more if you have a breakdown on a lonely stretch of highway.
  10. Extra car keys: Make sure you bring several sets of car keys with you and your partner or fellow travelers know where you have stashed the other set. Many years ago it would have been easy to get a replacement car key made — a quick trip to the local hardware store was all it took. Now car keys are made using advanced technology, which makes them harder to copy and it takes much longer to get replacement keys. Replacing high tech keys can also cost hundreds of dollars.
Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.