Category Archives: Blogosphere

June 19: Best from the blogosphere

Whether you are traveling by car, bus, train or plane to your vacation destination this summer, confirming that you have appropriate travel insurance coverage should be an item on your “to do” list. Several years ago we had to return home after one week of a two week river cruise due to a family tragedy and fortunately the trip interruption coverage under our travel insurance policy reimbursed over $10,000.

You may think that if you are travelling within Canada you are adequately covered by your Saskatchewan or other provincial medical coverage. However, Skipping travel insurance when travelling within Canada could cost you by Angela Mulholland for CTV News highlights that medicare does not cover services like an air ambulance to get you home if you are severely injured outside of your home province. If this service is necessary it could cost you thousands of dollars.

In Travel Insurance – The 6 Most Important Things to Know, life insurance advisor Jane Stygall notes that people in certain age groups may be required to answer medical questions when purchasing medical insurance. She says even when you think something is unimportant, declare everything! An inaccurate statement, even if it does not have anything to do with your medical emergency will cause your entire policy to be void.  And your medical emergency for any reason will not be covered.

If you are planning extended travel to exotic places, not just any travel insurance will do. Cost Of Travelling the World For 1 Year, Part 4: Travel Insurance by FireCracker on Millennial Revolution gives readers the benefit of her research when she and her husband Wanderer were looking for travel insurance that would support their nomadic lifestyle. One reason they selected World Nomads is that their policy covers 150+ activities like scuba diving, mountain climbing, bungee jumping, skiing, surfing, and many more.

In an extensive interview previously published on savewithspp.com, Martin Firestone, President of Travel Secure discussed What Snowbirds Need to Know About Travel Insurance. “The biggest problem with credit card coverage is there is no underwriting at time of application, because there is no application. You have a credit card. It has a travel insurance element, but it’s very difficult to understand what the fine print means,” Firestone says. “In that scenario you have a claim, and then you apply for payment. That’s when the true underwriting happens, and when you may find out that in fact you do not actually have coverage.”

And finally, if you use a wheelchair, require an oxygen tank to breathe or have other health limitations or requirements, check out Insurance Canada’s Tips For Travel With Special Needs. If you don’t have existing travel insurance through a group plan, or if your existing travel insurance doesn’t provide sufficient coverage, you may require individual travel insurance.

For example, Ingle International of Toronto markets insurance for conditions such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes, or physical disability, including plans that require medical underwriting. Medically underwritten plans may be more expensive, but help reduce the risk of a claim being denied.


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.

June 12: Best from the blogosphere

In the mid-1990s when I obtained my Master of Laws (LLM) from University of Leicester via a distance degree I traveled back and forth to Europe for five extended study weekends. That’s when I first got an Aeroplan number and a CIBC Aeroplan Visa and began aggressively collecting points.

As a result we were able to get almost free flights to many wonderful places including South America, Italy and the U.K. But recently convenient flights have cost more points and additional fees have increased so it has become more and more difficult to use up Aeroplan points in a cost-effective way.

Therefore, several years ago I traded in my Aeroplan VISA for a Capital One MasterCard that offers two points for every dollar spent and travel rewards of $1 for each 100 points accumulated.  I haven’t looked back since then.

But many of you who have stuck with Aeroplan through thick and thin will be affected by the announcement that beginning June 30, 2020. Aeroplan will no longer be the loyalty program for Air Canada.  Instead Air Canada has decided to launch its own loyalty program upon the expiry of its commercial agreement with Aimia, the operator of Aeroplan.

Many details of how the program will be phased out remain unclear, but the collection of media articles and blogs below may answer some of your questions.

A two-part series on Rewards Canada explores what we know now and questions that remain outstanding.

  1.  Air Canada to launch own loyalty program in 2020! Aeroplan should continue to be a partner includes excerpts from the Aeroplan news release and questions whether the new Aeroplan will have access to Star Alliance members’ award inventory or if it will become exclusive to Air Canada’s new program.
  2. Further thoughts, insight and tips on the split between Air Canada and Aeroplan suggests that perhaps Air Canada will pad their loyal flyers account with some miles to begin with, or they may put in place some sort of transfer option. However it seems from the news provided by both Aeroplan and Air Canada there will be no way to transfer between the two programs, at least for the time being.

The Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick explores rewarding replacements for those of you who are bailing on Air Canada. He says, “Figure out which program works best for you and start watching for special introductory offers to lure new clients. Competition between programs will heat up as we move closer to Air Canada’s departure from Aeroplan.”

Stephen Weyman on HowToSaveMoney.ca says Aeroplan has committed to keeping your miles safe and will allow you to continue redeeming them for flights on Air Canada even after the 2020 deadline. But what could change is the cost in miles for doing so. He says, “I expect the cost will increase substantially, so if you want to fly Air Canada or Star Alliance, you should try and redeem most of your miles before 2020.” Weyman also explores which Aeroplan credit card is really the best.

And finally, read about how a family of four collected one million travel reward points in 12 months and is travelling the world on business class . Global News multimedia journalist Emanuela Campanella writes about Pedro Pla, 35, from Puerto Rico and Grace Cheng, 36, from Singapore who began their odyssey with their two toddlers in January 2017.

“We made it our family goal at the start of 2016 to collect a million air miles through travel hacking. In order to reach this goal, we had to research and plan meticulously so that we were able to maximize the earning of credit card points or miles per dollar of spending,” Pia says. “The bulk of our one million miles was earned from the ground, which means that we earned them as credit card rewards points or miles when we use our credit cards to pay for purchases.”


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.

June 5: Best from the blogosphere

This week it’s back to basics with some of our favourite bloggers.

On HowToSaveMoney.ca Heather Clarke shares Budget Home Decorating Ideas. She says you can often make a “knock off” of a pricey designer item and a little bit of spray paint goes a long way. She also reminds us that there are some hidden gems at the dollar store.

Rona Birenbaum, a financial planner at Caring for Clients offers 5 reasons why you should negotiate your severance package. She notes that there may well be more money and protection available to you, but only if you ask. Also, she says the cost of legal advice is tax deductible.

In Jim Yih’s retirement seminars, even participants close to age 65 are often concerned that they have not saved enough for retirement. His Advice for Baby Boomers who are not ready for retirement is to get a plan, revise their retirement date and think about a phased retirement. He also tells readers to focus on their cash flow and consider finding another job if they do not love what they currently do.

Boomer & Echo’s Marie Engen suggests Frugal Summer Fun For Canada’s 150th Birthday. For example, Parks Canada is offering free admission to all national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas for the entire year. If you haven’t got your Discovery pass yet, you can order one online, or you can pick one up on arrival at any Parks Canada location.

And finally, Tom Drake answers the question What Is the CPP Death Benefit and Who Should Apply? Typically the death benefit is paid to the estate of the deceased, but where he/she does not have an estate, it can go to one of the following three entities:

  1. Whoever paid for the deceased’s funeral expenses. The death benefit is mainly designed to offset funeral expenses, so it makes sense that it will be paid out to the person or institution who covers these costs.
  2. Surviving partner: The spouse or common-law partner left behind by the deceased can also apply for, and receive, the CPP death benefit.
  3. Next of kin: Finally, if the other two circumstances aren’t met, the deceased’s next of kin can apply for the death benefit.


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.

May 29: Best from the blogosphere

I got married in November, but the fact is that the spring and summer are the prime season for weddings. Whether you are planning a wedding or have been invited to attend one this year, it probably didn’t take you long to realize that weddings are not cheap.

Of course, the all time classic budget wedding story that went viral is Kerry K. Taylor’s How to get married for $239.00. This is based on the cost of a marriage license and services of a marriage commissioner in B.C. several years ago. While she threw in a few extras, getting married on the family farm and ruthlessly paring down the guest list kept the wedding costs to hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.

In a 2014 CBC article, Nisha Patel offered additional tricks to trim wedding costs. She suggests ditching pricey paper invitations in favour of a digital solution. She also recommends that you “Say yes to a cheaper dress,” and “Say no to expensive extras from photo booths to late night snack bars when you have already provided dinner.”

While still lavish by most standards, the wedding profiled by Wedding Chicks on How Much Does a DIY Wedding Cost has lots of great ideas like making almost everything yourself, scouting out pre-owned items, spray painting decor to match with the theme and baking the sweets for the dessert table. Bouquets included blush pink garden roses, snow-white dahlias, and a mixture of wildflowers from a nearby fresh cut flower farm.

Participating in a wedding party or even just attending as a guest can also be an expensive proposition, particularly if you have to buy an outfit and travel to the event as well as paying for a hotel and costly engagement, shower and wedding gifts.

Pattie Lovett Reid gives six financial tips for wedding guests. In general, she says the closer the relationship, the more you should spend. “The old rules say to estimate how much the couple spent on hosting you, i.e. the price of your plate. But the new rules say to spend whatever you think is appropriate depending on your relationship with the couple,” says Constance Hoffman, the owner of etiquette and professional skills firm Social and Business Graces.

In 5 rules of gift giving on The Knot, group gifts are encouraged based on a survey of married couples who said their favorite gifts were big-ticket items purchased by a group of their friends that they would most likely never be able to afford on their own.

How You Can Reduce The Financial Stress Of Attending A Wedding? Book travel early. Consider unique gifts like pre-arranging an experience the couple can enjoy on their honeymoon like a local excursion or a surprise picnic on the beach. Wear what’s already in your closet. And if the wedding weekend includes several events, try wearing the same outfit but dressing it up with a pashmina or different jewelry.

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.

May 22: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

It’s that time of the month again. We present a series of personal finance videos for your viewing pleasure.

First of all, don’t miss Kerry K. Taylor aka Squawkfox’s two part TEDx Talk. “What do you collect?” can be viewed above. You can also watch “Is it worth it?” here where she discusses whether you should pay $700 for a Canada Goose coat.

In an interview with Breakfast Television, personal finance expert Lesley-Anne Scorgie puts together a procrastinator’s financial checklist for those who have a hard time getting around to dealing with their money situation.

Rubina Ahmed-Haq discusses survey results that reveal why women should be saving a bigger chunk of their pay cheque in their retirement fund.

Ed Rempel presents “The 6 steps to become financially independent.” This 50 minutes of financial education is based on his experience working with nearly 1,000 families to create detailed, personal plans for their journey to financial independence.

Money After Graduation’s Bridget Casey says the stock market doesn’t have to be scary. She suggests three different types of accounts to help you get started in the stock market, no matter the level of your skill, knowledge, or savings.


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 15: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

This week we present an eclectic mix of posts from Canadian money bloggers, some of whom have been posting for years but have not previously been cited in this space.

On HowToSaveMoney.ca, Heather Clarke offers 7 Ways To Declutter Without Spending A Fortune, Instead of buying costly clear lucite boxes, monogrammed fabric bins, or classic wooden divided trays, she says that using a little creativity and a few basic craft supplies you can make attractive, low cost storage solutions. But I’m not very crafty, so I think the two year rule is the best way to minimize clutter — if I haven’t used an item in 24 months, it’s time to get rid of it.

Recently governments in British Columbia and Ontario have enacted new laws to try and cap runaway house prices in some markets. Firecracker and her husband Wanderer who blog on Millenial Revolution are typically in favour of a laissez faire approach. But as reported in Your Thoughts on Government Intervention, the majority of their readers disagree. Of 356 readers who responded to a survey they conducted, 198 believe the government should intervene. And about one-third believe a tax on speculators is the most effective strategy.

Does your financial advisor really ‘deserve’ to be paid? Doris Belland tackles this thorny issue in a recent post on Your Financial Launchpad. She notes that the financial advice industry is undergoing a profound shift in which several economists plus some of the worlds’ most successful investors and Nobel Laureates argue persuasively that the higher fees associated with traditional investment products have a negative effect on investors’ results.

Ed Rempel explains Why he will never own an ETF or index fund. He says that the average fund manager can’t beat the market, but superior fund managers clearly can. Based on his research and investment returns, he believes he has selected All Star Fund Managers who have consistently exceeded the relevant indices. “Performance fee models with a very low base fee give you the low fee advantage of an ETF or index fund – plus a good chance of above index returns,” Rempel concludes.

And finally, on Financial Uproar, Nelson introduces The Too Much House Equation. “We constantly rag on people who buy too many video games or finance vacations, but we cheer people who make a similar mistake with their houses,” he writes. “The fact is the easiest way for the average person with only a small net worth to save more is to cut their fixed expenses, starting with housing.”


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 8: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

In late April the Globe and Mail’s Globe Talks series widely advertised a panel discussion called “Invest Like A Legend” hosted by Report on Business editor Duncan Hood and featuring speakers David Rosenberg, William J. Bernstein and Prett Bannerjee.

When Kerry K. Taylor aka Squawkfox read about the session, she immediately blogged her displeasure in A woman’s place is on a panel.She wrote, “Despite The Globe’s inability to ‘find’ a lady investing expert, both my Twitter feed and my inbox exploded with prospective panelists. So I made a binder — a binder full of financial women.”

Therefore, in solidarity with some of the terrific financial women I have met over the last several years as a personal finance writer, this week’s Best from the Blogosphere highlights some of their work.

In her blog Want to cash-out on your real estate? Read this, Lesley-Anne Scorgie says, “When times are good in real estate there are plenty of reasons to cash-out. But, the cash-out only works to your financial benefit if you’re actually putting real money towards your net worth…that does not mean selling an expensive property and using the equity to buy a less expensive property.”

Toronto Star consumer columnist Ellen Roseman documents changes to Tangerine Bank’s no-fee money-back MasterCard that she says “wowed so many Canadians eager for innovation.” She notes that barely one year after the launch, Tangerine MasterCard is raising fees and cutting benefits – a move many customers call bait and switch. For example, the two percent rebate on two categories of purchases remains. But the rebate on all other purchases dropped to 0.5%, starting April 29.

Cait Flanders, who has previously written about her one year shopping ban and extensive decluttering says it’s now time for her to embrace slow technology. While she acknowledges freely that social media has played an important role in forging her personal and business relationships, she has committed to:

  • A 30-day social media detox (April 29th – May 28th).
  • Figure out the role she wants social media to play in her life.
  • Check/reply to email less often (also experiment with not checking on her phone).
  • Figure out the role she wants technology to play in her life (phone, computers, TV, etc.)
  • Read from a book every day

Jordann Brown, who blogs at My Alternate Life, recently shared her experience in How to Sell a Car in Canada as a Beginner. She researched how much her Volkswagen City Golf was worth and concluded she could sell it for much more than the $1,200 the dealership offered her when she bought her 2014 Subaru Crosstrek. She determined the car was worth $4,000, had the car professionally cleaned and did some small repairs. The car was advertised for $4,500 on Kijiji and after several days she happily accepted a $4,000 cash offer.

And finally, Jessica Moorhouse shares valuable information about banks and credit unions with free chequing accounts in Canada. You will not be surprised to discover that the list does not include the big five banks. However, Tangerine is now owned by the Bank of Nova Scotia.


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 1: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

As soon as the sun comes out and daytime temperatures hover above zero, Canadian gardeners get itchy to plant flowers and vegetables. But depending on the part of the country and how far north you live, the optimum dates for planting differ. And if you take a chance and put in your garden too early you run the risk of having delicate seedlings ravaged by an unwelcome frost.

Here are links to some helpful information about gardening in Saskatchewan:

The goal of the  Northern Saskatchewan Gardening Manual is to encourage people to grow gardens, specifically in Northern Saskatchewan where many people still think that the climate is too harsh for growing a prosperous garden. This manual can help you to:

  • Start and maintain a healthy and prosperous garden in Northern Saskatchewan
  • Start gardening in containers
  • Start gardening in raised garden beds
  • Learn more about gardening, plant basics, and/or
  • Work as part of a group to create a community/shared garden.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac Planting Dates Calculator for Saskatoon not only tells you when to sow vegetables indoors and plant in the ground, but also when to harvest — and it is customized to your location based on the nearest weather station. For example, lettuce can be planted outside in early May but wait until the first of June for peppers. You can also receive planting reminders and a copy of this planting calendar by email.

LandscapeSaskatchewan.com says when planting vegetables, find an area, which will receive at least five to six hours of direct sunlight daily. Take into consideration: the amount of space you have available as some vegetables need more growing room than others; your own requirements for canning, freezing or table use; local frost dates and climate conditions. For a longer harvest period, plant vegetables at staggered time intervals.

Interviewed by CBC last year, Rick Van Duyvendyk, the owner of Dutch Growers Garden Centre in Saskatoon suggested that customers try watermelons or cantaloupes for a change. “Put them in a pot [then] put them outside during the May long weekend,” he said. “Once you get to September, cover them with a frost blanket. Two weeks into September, you’ll have watermelons that are 17 pounds.”

And also on CBC News l Saskatchewan, landscape designer Heather Lowe, the owner of Heather Lowe: Landscape Design in Regina offered 5 tips on how to add beautiful fall colour to your garden. She says don’t worry about matching colours, because in nature all kinds of colours blend together beautifully. “You can plan a garden around any season but try to have it be at peak beauty in the season you use it most,” she concludes.


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.

April 24: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

It’s show time again! For your viewing pleasure, in this monthly feature we present links to a selection of personal finance videos.

For students who may be filing an income tax return for the first time (and there is still one week left), CRA offers a series of 10 short videos. For example, Segment 2: Do I have to file is geared towards helping Canadian students determine whether or not they need to file an income tax and benefit return.

Globe and Mail columnist Rob Carrick shares four steps for millennials to get started as  investors, including where to put savings for a home down payment and where not to invest  savings.

Preet Bannerjee, author of Stop Over-Thinking Your Money: The Five Simple Rules of Financial Success (Portfolio Penguin, 2014) offers five simple rules of financial success. Rule #1 is to “disaster-proof” your life.

And finally, a video from the Canada Deposit and Insurance Company interviews three couples about their financial hopes and dreams and ways that they are protecting their hard-earned 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 on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

April 17: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

In a guest post for the Financial Independence Hub, Certified Financial Planner Gennaro De Luca writes that based on his experience, men and women approach taxes and investing differently. For example, he says nine times out of 10 it is the woman who takes the bull by the horns to get the family’s taxes done. Women tend to be more involved and are much more apt to ask questions of their accountant or tax preparer about tax credits and government benefits the family may be eligible for.

Robb Engen on Boomer & Echo discusses which accounts to tap first in retirement with Jason Heath,  a fee-only financial planner. Heath says it may make sense for people who retire early to withdraw funds from their RRSPs first and defer CPP and OAS until age 70.

Retire Happy veteran blogger Jim Yih outlines the top 5 new retirement trends and how they will affect your retirement. For example: retirement is not about stopping work; many people are “phasing into retirement.” Furthermore, long term care is an essential component in a retirement plan.

10 simple ways to save money at the gas pump was recently posted by Tom Drake on the Canadian Finance Blog. Who knew that avoiding unnecessary weight in your car; using cruise control on highways and driving under 100 km/hour could save you money?

And Sean Cooper recounts the story of his unexpected $1,300 furnace repair bill in the depths of a Canadian winter. Luckily, he is mortgage-free, so he had the necessary money sitting in his savings account. But his experience shines a spotlight on the importance of saving up an emergency fund in advance.


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.