Category Archives: Blogosphere

Jun 4: Best from the blogosphere

Whether you’re just starting out on your own, building your nest and populating it, or gearing down for the golden years, there’s one constant you can rely on. There’s always room for more money.

So how to save? The lady of this house has developed what she calls her Rules of Acquisition, which she thinks of before buying anything. Before paying full retail price, she asks – “can I get it on sale?” Better, she wonders, “can I get it used?” And finally, “can I get it free?” There’s no shame and much to be saved by checking out yard sales and thrift shops, she advises.

Here are some more suggestions from a quick search of the Internet:

The U.K. based Mumsnet site had a great discussion on the topic. The three most common ideas were shopping for sale items, reviewing insurance (home and auto) and looking for cheaper options, and avoiding restaurant meals – “packed lunches every day,” one poster advises. You can see the full website here.

Closer to home, the My Money Coach blog suggests collecting your change and depositing it in savings account, and thinking of savings more like we think of bills – putting a set amount aside each month. The blog offers helpful steps on this second point, the “pay yourself first” approach that can be automated, and concludes with discussion of the importance of a written spending plan. Here’s where you can have a look at the rest of the blog.

The Huffington Post agrees on the idea of less restaurant eating, and adds putting a nix on daily coffee shop indulgences and online shopping. Their post is here.

Our good friend Steve Martyn’s one-page financial plan focused on knowing how much you are making, and how much is going out. If you spend less than you make, you are winning the battle. Steve also advises paying very close attention to hidden fees.

Our late Uncle Joe advised us all to live on 90 per cent of earnings. “You will never have any problems in life if you do that,” he said.

Sifting through all this advice, three themes emerge:

  • You need to be aware of how much you are spending, versus how much you make – a plan
  • There’s usually a way to get things you want for less than full retail price – be a patient shopper
  • Just as you plan your spending, plan to save; pay yourself first

You can make good use of the savings. A great destination for retirement savings is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. If you’re a member, direct some of your savings there – and if you want to sign up, visit their site today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Happy Retirement Sheryl!

Last week Sheryl Smolkin announced her retirement and talked about how SPP has changed her life.  If you missed the blog you can read it here. Sheryl has been part of our Social Media team for the last seven years, helping us write our original policy, getting us started with Facebook posts, hosting on our YouTube channel and of course has being the voice of savewithspp.com since 2011.

Sheryl lives in the Toronto area, however she writes content that is relevant across Canada. Her writing style makes the blogs easy to read and packs a lot of information into a few hundred words. We covered many topics over the years, mixing current events with general topics that everyone in Canada should know about everything financial.

Sheryl and I have worked closely together on the blogs since the beginning; I have gained so much knowledge not only from reading her posts, but also from asking questions and getting advice for the writing I do at SPP. We both like traveling and seem to travel close to the same time which makes it fun to hit our deadlines for our weekly best of posts and our regular weekly blogs.  But we always got our “act together” so we didn’t miss a week, even if our inboxes were full of emails saying “Are the blogs ready for review I am leaving on Wednesday?”.

As I said to Sheryl, I have mixed feeling about her departure from savewithspp.com. I am happy she will be able to spend more time with her family and traveling, but I will miss hearing from her and reading her blogs.

Thank for you for being a mentor to me and putting up with me as I moved from a mid-20 something to an early 30 something. Enjoy your retirement and remember those of us who are still working.

Happy retirement Sheryl!

Stephen Neiszner

May 28: Best from the blogosphere

Of the 500+ blogs I have written for savewithspp.com, monitoring the blogosphere to link you with the best of the personal finance world has been the most rewarding. While some personal finance bloggers generate money from google ads on their websites,  forge corporate relationships, sell courses or develop an enhanced reputation in their chosen field, the vast majority write for free, just because they have information they want to share with others.

Here is a completely unscientific list of some of my favourites who I have featured time and time again in this space. If you want to continue following them, sign up to receive emails notifying you when their latest blogs are posted.

Boomer&Echo: Rob Engen and his mother Marie Engen are the writing team that generate a consistent stream of always engaging blogs about everything to do with saving and spending money.

Cait Flanders: Cait Flanders has written about all the ways she continually challenges herself to change her habits, her mindset and her life. This includes paying off debt, completing a two-year shopping ban and doing a year of slow living experiments. And in January 2018, she published her first book, The Year of Less  (a memoir), which became a Wall Street Journal bestseller.

Canadian Dream: Free at 45: I have been reading Tim Stobbs since we blogged together on moneyville for the Toronto Star. He has beat his initial target, retiring recently at age 40, but his blogs about retirement are still a great read.

Jessica Moorhouse:  Jessica Moorhouse is a millennial personal finance expert, speaker, Accredited Financial Counsellor Canada® professional, award-winning blogger, host of the Mo’ Money Podcast, founder of the Millennial Money Meetup and co-founder of Rich & Fit. Don’t miss How I Survived a Trip Across America Using Only Chip & Pin.

Millenial Revolution: Firecracker and Wanderer are married computer engineers who retired in their early 30s. They blog on Millenial Revolution. They opted to not buy a home because they believe home ownership is a money pit. Instead they travel the world living on their investment income. Reader case studies where Wanderer “maths it up” are particularly fascinating.

Money After Graduation: Money After Graduation Inc. is an online financial literacy resource founded by Bridget Casey for young professionals who want to build long-term wealth. Whether readers are looking to pay off student loans, invest in the stock market, or save for retirement, this website has valuable resources and tools including eCourses and workshops.

Retire Happy Jim Yih and his team of writers publish top quality financial planning information. They believe there is a need for timeless information because too many financial and investing sites focus on minute-by-minute investment ideas, changing markets and fast paced trends.

Sean Cooper: Sean Cooper’s initial claim to fame was paying off his mortgage by age 30 which he has documented in his book “Burn Your Mortgage.” Since then much of his writing has focused on real estate-related subjects. He has recently qualified as a mortgage broker and will be leaving his day job as a pension administrator to launch a new career.

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For me, retirement beckons. This is my last Best from the Blogosphere for savewithspp.com. My own blog RetirementRedux has been dormant for some time as I have focused on writing for clients but I plan to revive it now that I have more time. Feel free to subscribe if you are interested.

May all of your financial dreams come true, and when the right time comes, I wish you a long, healthy and prosperous retirement.

 

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.

How SPP changed my life

Punta Cana: March 2018

After a long career as a pension lawyer with a consulting firm, I retired for the first time 13 years ago and became Editor of Employee Benefits News Canada. I resigned from that position four years later and embarked on an encore career as a freelance personal finance writer.

In December 2010 I wrote the article Is this small pension plan Canada’s best kept secret?  about the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for Adam Mayers, formerly the personal finance editor for the Toronto Star. The Star was starting a personal finance blogging site called moneyville and he was looking for someone to write about pensions and employee benefits. I was recommended by Ellen Roseman, the Star’s consumer columnist.

The article about SPP was my first big break. I was offered the position at moneyville and for 21/2 years I wrote three Eye on Benefits blogs each week. It was frightening, exhausting and exhilarating. And when moneyville began a new life as the personal finance section of the Toronto Star, my weekly column At Work was featured for another 18 months.

But that was only the beginning.

Soon after the “best kept secret” article appeared on moneyville, SPP’s General Manager Katherine Strutt asked me to help develop a social media strategy for the pension plan. Truth be told, I was an early social media user but there were and still are huge gaps in my knowledge. So I partnered with expert Leslie Hughes from PunchMedia, We did a remote, online presentation and were subsequently invited to Kindersley, Saskatchewan, the home of SPP to present in person. All of our recommendations were accepted.

By December 2011, I was blogging twice a week for SPP about everything and anything to do with spending money, saving money, retirement, insurance, financial literacy and personal finance. Since then I have authored over 500 articles for savewithspp.com. Along the way I also wrote hundreds of other articles for Employee Benefit News (U.S.), Sun Life, Tangerine Bank and other terrific clients. As a result, I have doubled my retirement savings.

All my clients have been wonderful but SPP is definitely at the top of the list. I am absolutely passionate about SPP and both my husband and I are members. Because I was receiving dividends and not salary from my company I could not make regular contributions. Instead, over the last seven years I have transferred $10,000 each year from another RRSP into SPP and I would contribute more if I could.

By the end of 2017 I started turning down work, but I was still reluctant to sever my relationship with SPP. However, as my days became increasingly full with travel, caring for my aged mother, visiting my daughter’s family in Ottawa, choir and taking classes at Ryerson’s Life Institute, I realized that I’m ready to let go at long last. After the end of May when people ask me what I do, I will finally be totally comfortable saying “I am retired.”

I will miss working with the gang at SPP. I will also miss the wonderful feedback from our readers. I very much look forward to seeing how both savewithspp.com and the plan evolve. My parting advice to all of you is maximize your SPP savings every year. SPP has changed my life. It can also change yours.

Au revoir. Until we meet again….

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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 7:Best from the blogosphere

I comb the blogosphere every week to come up with interesting links for this weekly column. I continue to be fascinated by bloggers who document “early retirement extreme,” (ERE) often in their 30s and 40s. It is important however to recognize that for many people, this does not mean completely leaving paid work behind. It simply means that they have accumulated a financial cushion which gives them the freedom to work less or do something different.

For example, last month Tim Stobbs wrote I Don’t Have Enough Money, But I Retired at 40 Anyway.  He says, “What I’m doing really isn’t a full on ‘I never plan to work again retirement’ but rather an ‘I plan on doing some fun work during a semi-retirement.’  And that little shift of wording regarding what I planned to do made a huge difference between being able to leave now and being able to leave two to five more years in the future.” Stobbs is going to take a stab at writing fiction first for some income and if that doesn’t work out he will consider other options.

Firecracker and Wanderer are married computer engineers who retired in their early 30s. They blog on Millenial Revolution. The built a seven-figure portfolio and live off the passive income which allows them to travel the world and work on projects they are passionate about. They offer a free 53-part series of investment workshops on their blog and they have been widely quoted in the media. But they also write children’s books, develop apps for non-profits and teach children how to code.

In a recent blog, Firecracker interviewed Derek Foster: Canada’s Other Youngest Retiree. Foster, who is well-known to savewithspp.com readers retired at age 34 and he and his wife had eight children since then. He supports his family primarily with dividends generated by his stock portfolio. However, the self-identified “Idiot Millionaire” wrote six investor books and offers portfolio picks for a fee on stopworking.ca. He also accepts paid speaking engagements.

Some people who retire extremely early go back to work a few years into their retirement and take on short-term consulting assignments for a limited period. For example, Retired Syd who packed it in at age 44 in 2007 took on an assignment for several years and returned to full-time retirement in August 2012.

Can or should you aim for ERE? It really depends on your personality and your priorities. I freely confess that I’m very far from a minimalist and I was never prepared to forgo a really significant component of current consumption to fund a frugal very extended retirement.

As Ben Carlson writes in Some Thoughts on the Extreme Early Retirement Movement, “I have a ton of respect for these people. There are so many people out there today who have a hard time saving any money at all. The fact that these people are willing and able to save enough money to become financially independent so early in their years requires a combination of discipline, hard work and planning that is rare these days.”

But like me, Carlson doesn’t see the ERE lifestyle working for him. He says,” To me, financial independence means not having to stress about money all the time; it means having enough money saved so a one-off expenditure won’t be a huge issue; it means having enough money to pamper myself every once and a while without feeling guilty; it means living life in a way that is rich to me personally.”

What does financial independence mean to you? Are you contemplating extreme early retirement?

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.

April 30: Best from the blogosphere

Before the weather improves and we all want to be outside for the summer, get out the snacks because it’s time for one more personal finance movie night.

First of all, we feature the ever-engaging Bridget Casey from Money after Graduation. She explains why even in Calgary where public transportation is poor, she prefers to manage without a car. She says it saves her over $10,000/year and she is much healthier because she walks almost everywhere.

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TED Talks are influential videos from expert speakers on education, business, science, tech and creativity. Below we present videos of four excellent personal finance TED talks that are posted on YouTube.

Alexa von Tobel is the founder and CEO of LearnVest.com, the leading personal finance and lifestyle website that brings financial literacy to women. Since launching LearnVest, Alexa has been widely quoted as a personal finance expert and entrepreneur.

She takes you through the life of a very average new college grad, Jessica, and explains the pitfalls in each of the poor financial decisions Jessica makes and the way in which they affect her future.

Economist Shlomo Benartzi is a behavioral economist interested in combining the insights of psychology and economics to solve big societal problems. He talks about how we tend to want to spend money instead of saving which is fun in the present but causes major problems in retirement. In his talk, he asks: “How do we turn this behavioral challenge into a behavioral solution?”

The way people speak affects the way they save money. So many people view the future as a distant thing so they end up not saving for it right now. However, futureless language leads to the view that to get the future, it is important to think about the now. Saving money for the future is only possible if the money is managed properly right now. Keith Chen covers the whole topic extremely well. He explains just how those who use futureless language view the present and future as the same thing. It helps them take control of their finances right away.

So many parents give their children allowances, but it doesn’t really help them with their finances. This teaches children to think about a job, rather than expand their business ideas and build on their entrepreneurialism. Skills gained in younger years serve adults well when they’re looking into managing their finances.

Cameron Herald covers  how parents can help children become better entrepreneurs. He says that instead of expecting a set amount of money each week, it’s time to teach kids to start looking for the jobs that need doing around the house. The more they manage to do, the more they will make. They also get to negotiate the pay for doing the certain jobs.

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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.

April 23: Best from the blogosphere

On April 10, 2018 the Saskatchewan government tabled its 2018-19 budget. It forecasts revenues at $14.24 billion, with spending at $14.61 billion, leaving a $365 million deficit.

Provincial sales tax remains steady at 6% but the PST exemption has been eliminated for used light vehicles with the exception of used vehicles sold privately and purchased for less than $5,000. Exemptions will also be made for used vehicles gifted between family members.

However, the budget does restore the trade-in-allowance when determining PST. This means PST is only applied to the difference between the value of the trade-in and the selling price of the vehicle being purchased.

The PST exemption on Star Energy Appliances has also been discontinued effective April 11th. PST will also be applied to the retail sale of cannabis, although revenue generated from this has not been included in the budget because there is still considerable uncertainty as to how much will be raised.

The Saskatchewan Party government announced a 3.5% wage reduction to public sector employee compensation in last year’s budget, amounting to a projected savings of $250 million, but that plan does not appear in this year’s budget.

The government is aiming for $70 million in compensation savings over the next two years. It says this will be achieved through “efficiency initiatives” and “overtime management.” Saskatchewan Finance Minister Donna Harpauer told CBC, “There are no layoffs related to this budget.”

There will be $5.77 billion more for health care spending in the new budget with the biggest chunk for the newly created Saskatchewan Health Authority. The province is also committing $11.4 million in new money for mental health initiatives, which the province said will cover the cost of hiring 40 new full-time positions. Furthermore, HIV medications will now be 100%  covered at an additional cost of $600,000. In addition, children under the age of six with Autism Spectrum Disorder are now eligible for $4,000 in government money per year, which is a total investment of $2.8 million.

The Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement designed to help low income families and people with disabilities pay their rent will be replaced by a program co-developed with the federal government slated for implementation in 2020. As of July 1, 2018, the province will stop taking applications, but clients enrolled before then will continue to receive benefits.

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.

April 16: Best from the blogosphere

Spring almost sprung over Easter weekend, but as I write this blog it is the day after high winds and power outages. Today we woke up to snowdrops peeping through the snow on the ground. I think T.S. Eliot was on to something when he wrote in The Wasteland, that “April is the cruelest month.”

This week we preview a selection of blogs from a series of well-known Canadian personal finance writers.

Alan Whitton, aka BigCajunMan writes about Serial Refinancers. Serial refinancers just keep going back to the well and refinancing their debts with consolidation loans or similar debt vehicles. Much like serial murder (or murder in general), he says this is very bad! Consolidation or refinancing of a debt is supposed to be something you do once (if ever), not every 2 years.

In Paying Off Debt: An Effective Budgeting Approach, Doris Belland (Your Financial Launchpad) discusses two families to illustrate that cutting back sports activities in one family to save money is not necessarily the appropriate solution for the other household. According to Belland, two things are necessary to slay the debt monster: an understanding of why you got into debt in the first place, and knowledge of what you value.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?  Your will reflects how you want your estate to be distributed upon your death. However, when you die intestate, the distribution is decided by a formula laid down by the Provincial Government—not you—and this formula can vary from province to province. “When you die intestate, an estate administrator will be appointed to wind up your estate and make any distributions to your beneficiaries,” Robin Taub explains. “Dying intestate may mean higher costs and delays in distributing assets to beneficiaries, compared to having a will appointing an executor of your choice.”

Once you stop working, your objective shifts from growing your investment portfolio to generating income from it. Many retirees obsess over generating enough retirement cash flow from their investments. They prefer a predictable stream of income to partially replace their previous salary income. Marie Engen explores some strategies for Generating Retirement cash flow from your Investments on the Financial Independence Hub. For example, you can withdraw only income (interest or dividend income); reinvest income, dividend and capital gains, take the amount you need for their annual living expenses and then rebalance; or purchase an annuity.

Planning a train trip? Money We Have’s Barry Choi offers 10 Train Travel Hacks You Need to Know . He suggests that you book early, use all available discounts, pack some food and don’t forget to bring your portable charger to avoid running out of juice. If you’re on an overnight train, earplugs and a sleeping mask can be helpful. Having your phone or tablet fully loaded with music and videos will keep you entertained.

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.

April 9: Best from the blogosphere

By now you have likely been profoundly saddened by media reports of the Humboldt crash that killed 15 members of the Broncos hockey family and  the subsequent vigils . You may be a friend or relative of at least one of the 15 victims. At Saskatchewan Pension Plan we share your grief and mourn with you.

In this space, we typically write about money – how to save it and how to spend it. But in reality, the heart and soul of our content is families. You learn about budgeting, paying down debt, registered educational savings plans and registered retirement savings plans so you can provide a good life for your family and remain independent when you retire.

You plan your finances so you can help your children mature into responsible adults and support their dreams to be professional athletes, farmers, electricians, teachers or nurses. You imagine attending their graduations, weddings and the birth of your grandchildren. And with the death of a child you are suddenly robbed of that future. In time dealing with their intense sorrow may become a little easier for parents of the Humboldt crash victims, but they will never forget.

I offer the link to a YouTube video of Rise Again by East Coast composer Leon Dubinsky, as sung by the Rankin Family. To me, the words of this beautiful song captures the role that our children play in our lives and in our hearts.

RISE AGAIN (WE RISE AGAIN)

When the waves roll on over the waters
And the ocean cries.
We look to our sons and daughters
To explain our lives
As if a child could tell us why.

That as sure as the sunrise
As sure as the sea
As sure as the wind in the trees.

We rise again in the faces of our children.
We rise again in the voices of our song.
We rise again in the waves out on the ocean,
And then we rise again.

When the light goes dark with the forces of creation
Across a stormy sky.
We look to reincarnation to explain our lives.
As if a child could tell us why.

That as sure as the sunrise
As sure as the sea
As sure as the wind in the trees.

We rise again in the faces of our children.
We rise again in the voices of our song.
We rise again in the waves out on the ocean,
And then we rise again.

We rise again in the faces of our children.
We rise again in the voices of our song.
We rise again in the waves out on the ocean,
And then we rise again.

And then we rise again.

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As I write this, a gofundme campaign for families of the victim has exceeded its $4 million target but remains open. In memory of the deceased you may also wish to make a donation of time or money to the sports organization or another charity of your choice supporting young people in your community.

 

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.