Tag Archives: Alan Whitton

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.

March 26: Best from the blogosphere

I’m just catching up after a few weeks in the Punta Cana sunshine. The resort where we were staying had excellent wifi everywhere so there was no escaping the relentless news cycle, especially in my home province of Ontario where the Progressive Conservative party elected Doug Ford as their new leader.

Shifting the focus back to Saskatchewan, Advisor.ca reports that there will be no longer be a provincial sales tax on agriculture, life and health insurance premiums. Premier Scott Moe pledged to bring in the exemption during the recent Saskatchewan Party leadership race. He said in a statement that the government is committed to helping families and small businesses. He added it will not impact the government’s three-year plan to balance the budget by 2020. The exemption covers premiums for crop, livestock and hail, as well as individual and group life and health insurance. It is retroactive to Aug. 1, 2017, the same day the province started adding the 6% PST to insurance premiums.

Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen did the math on investment fees and he says the results weren’t pretty. Readers who shared their portfolio details with him revealed accounts loaded with deferred sales charges (DSCs), management expense ratios (MERs) in the high 2% range and funds overlapping the same sectors and regions. Portfolios filled with segregated funds were the biggest offenders. Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers professional fund management for 1% per year on average.

If you are planning foreign travel in the near future, Rob Carrick’s Globe and Mail article One bank dings clients who travel, while another lightens the load is a must read. He notes that Scotiabank recently introduced a strong new travel reward credit card that doesn’t charge the usual 2.5% fee on foreign currency conversions. In contrast, TD has been advising account holders that effective May 1, it will raise the foreign-currency conversion fee on ATM withdrawals and debit transactions outside Canada to 3.5% from 2.5%.

On Money After Graduation, Bridget Casey offers tips on how to hustle as a new parent. As a self-employed individual she didn’t qualify for government-sponsored leave which means she had to self-fund her own maternity leave. She has managed to get her baby on a schedule (the EASY Baby Schedule, if you’ve heard of it), and she says her days of procrastination are gone. She has also stopped working for free for “exposure” or attending events to “network.” Finally, she has hired a part-time nanny.

Alan Whitton aka BIGCAJUNMAN started the Canadian Personal Finance Blog 13 years ago and he says he is still financially crazy. He believes debt is a bad thing, he doesn’t buy individual stocks and thinks pay day loans are the devil’s work  (all of which sound pretty sane to me). He links to previous blogs he likes to re-read and enjoy plus blogs he has posted that have received the most views.  Take a look here. No doubt you will find some interesting reads.

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.

Oct 23: Best from the blogosphere

Sustaining a blog for months and years is a remarkable achievement. This week we go back to basics and check in on what some of our favourite veteran bloggers are writing about.

If you haven’t heard, Tim Stobbs from Canadian Dream Free at 45 has exceeded his objectives and retired at age 37. You can read about his accomplishment in the Globe and Mail and discover how he spent the first week of financial independence here.

Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen writes about why he doesn’t have bonds in his portfolio but you probably should. He acknowledges that bonds smooth out investment returns and make it easier for investors to stomach the stock market when it decides to go into roller coaster mode. But he explains that he already has several fixed income streams from a steady public sector job, a successful side business and a defined benefit pension plan so he can afford to take the risk and invest only in equities.

On My Own Advisor, Mark Seed discusses The Equifax Breach – And What You Can do About It. In September, Equifax announced a cybersecurity breach September 7, 2017 that affected about 143 million American consumers and approximately 100,000 Canadians. The information that may have been breached includes name, address, Social Insurance Number and, in limited cases, credit card numbers. To protect yourself going forward, check out Seed’s important list of “Dos” and Don’ts” in response to these events.

Industry veteran Jim Yih recently wrote a piece titled Is there such a thing as estate and inheritance tax in Canada? He clarifies that in Canada, there is no inheritance tax. If you are the beneficiary of money or assets through an estate, the good news is the estate pays all the tax before you inherit the money.

However, when someone passes away, the executor must file a final tax return as of the date of death.  The tax return would include any income the deceased received since the beginning of the calendar year.  Some examples of income include Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS), retirement pensions, employment income, dividend income, RRSP and RRIF income received.

When the Canadian Personal Finance Blog’s Alan Whitton (aka Big Cajun Man) started investing, he was given a few simple rules that he says still ring true today. These Three Investment Credo from the Past are:

  • Don’t invest it if you can’t lose it.
  • Invest for the long term.
  • If you want safety, buy GICs.

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 10: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Last week I couldn’t resist buying bright yellow forsythia, pussy willows and stalks of purple iris from the florist at one of my favourite grocery stores. It will be a few weeks before the flowering trees in my neighbourhood burst into bloom, but when I walked the dog this morning I heard the rata-tat-tat of industrious woodpeckers and crocuses were already pushing through the damp earth on the sunny side of the street.

If it’s spring, Alan Whitton aka the Big Cajun Man says its time to revisit the idea of a spring financial cleaning. A few of his ideas include:

  • Think about rebalancing if you are a Couch Potato investor.
  • Clean out and shut down any superfluous bank accounts.
  • Consider how many credit cards you really require and close extra accounts you don’t need.
  • Is your mortgage about to be renewed? Time to go shopping for a better rate.

Minimalist blogger Cait Flanders decided to move to back to her hometown in Squamish this spring. Although her rented condo is not small, she says she is living small in her not-so-tiny home. To Flanders that means living below her means with less stuff and making do, mending and prioritizing her life. Her list also includes getting involved in and supporting her local community.

“Living small is essentially not chasing ‘more’, but  learning to find the more in less,” she  notes. “It’s about utilizing the space you have, shrinking your carbon footprint and being an active member in your community (whatever that looks like for you).”

Kerry K. Taylor aka Squawkfox says our accomplishments are not just a matter of luck whether they be saving enough for the down payment on a house, paying down debt or scoring the winning goal in a soccer game. She reminds readers that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” and urges each one of us to own our successes and accept the kudos we deserve.

Why it’s NOT okay to be in debt when approaching Retirement by Douglas Hoyes was recently posted on the Financial Independence Hub. In the most recent Joe Debtor report issued two years ago by his firm Hoyes, Michalos & Associates Inc., the company reported that seniors are the fastest growing risk group for insolvency and that’s still the case today.

Hoyes says if you have more debt than you can handle, talk to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee about filing a consumer proposal or personal bankruptcy.  In most cases, you can keep your RRSP even if you go bankrupt.  Also, he suggests that if you own a home, you should discuss a consumer proposal as a viable alternative to bankruptcy. Both solutions will allow you to eliminate your debt, and preserve your RRSP.

And finally, on My Own Advisor, Mark Seed explores whether Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) is right for him. He reviews the financial and social implications for his family of retiring significantly earlier than his current target date of age 50 (which is still pretty early) and concludes that he and his wife are not ready to make any radical changes.

In his early 40s now, he concludes that more time and freedom would be great but instead of rushing towards this, they are more or less inching in that direction.


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.

Mar 13: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Well another RRSP season is in the bag, but that doesn’t mean you should put saving for retirement on the back burner for another year. If you haven’t done so already, it’s a great time to review your finances and arrange to have both registered and unregistered savings deducted at source so your nest egg continues to grow even when you are busy doing things that are a lot more fun than financial planning.

This week we feature more money-saving tips from some of our favourite bloggers.

Guest blogging on Retire Happy, Tom Drake reports on 10 financial success stories from 2016 to inspire your new year. One of my favourites is how Jason Heath who blogs at  Objective Financial Partners is raising his children so they place more emphasis on experiences rather than stuff. And Brenda Hiscock from Objective Financial Partners has been energized since she took a month off to complete Yoga teacher training at an ashram in Nassau.

Robb Engen from Boomer & Echo gives his take on the “the latte factor” and how it impacts the savings habits of millennials. He says, “At the risk of offending an entire generation, here’s what’s really going on: If you’re buying coffee every day, or ordering $22 [avocado and feta cheese] toast several times a week, maybe you’re just too lazy to brew your own coffee at home and cook for yourself.”

As you pull together the documentation to file your 2016 income tax return, you may be looking forward to a big tax return. Mark Seed, author of My Own Advisor says, “When it comes to tax planning my advice is: Don’t assume a big fat tax refund every year is good. If you’re always looking forward to the juicy refund it simply means the government kept some of your money and you could have had it working for you instead throughout the year.”

Big Cajun Man Alan Whitton admits to being a bit of a pack rat which creates clutter and can can lead to hoarding. So in this Lent season he is trying something new. For each day of Lent he is going to fill a bag (of any size) with things he no longer uses and donate the contents to charity. Other ideas for Lent are pay with cash for all 40 days or go for at least a one mile walk every day.

And finally, Barry Choi who blogs at Money We Have shares 6 things he bought used (and you should too). They include a three year old Subaru Impreza Hatchback ($18,000 instead of $30,000 new), a re-sale condo (stable maintenance fees and more space) and used video games online for about 25% less.


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.

Aug 22: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

This week we have a pot pourri of stories from some of our favourite bloggers who have continued to write compelling copy through the now waning, long hot days of summer.

Are you a techno-phobe or an early adopter? Alan Whitton aka Bigcajunman writes about how old financial technology habits die hard on the Canadian Personal Finance Blog. Despite some lingering security paranoia, he now deposits cheques by photographing them with his cell phone.

One of the primary changes personal finance advisors suggest that clients make to save money is to put away their credit cards and start spending cash. On Money We Have, Barry Choi explores what happens if you decide to use cash and debit more. He says that depending on your personal situation, this may affect your credit score, you will forgo travel reward points and you also can lose out on other standard benefits like travel insurance and auto insurance covering car rentals.

Mark Seed on My Own Advisor answers a reader’s question, How would you manage a $1 million portfolio? His bias is to own stocks indirectly via passively managed Exchange Traded Funds for the foreseeable future to get exposure to U.S. and international equity markets.  However, he says his selection of investments will likely differ after age 65 and in future he might hire a fee-only financial advisor or use a robo-advisor to manage his portfolio.

I recently helped my son find an apartment in Toronto so I thought Kendra Mangione’s article From a house to a bedroom: What $1,000 a month can rent across Canada was particularly interesting. She says you will pay $950 for a single bedroom with an ensuite bathroom in a Vancouver suburb but $950 will get you a two-bedroom, 864 sq. ft. townhouse close to downtown Regina and the university.

And whether you have children who are new graduates or you are only beginning to help pay for your kids’ post-secondary education, check out Parents Deserve a College Graduation Present, Too in the New York Times. This piece explores a Korean-American tradition for former students to give parents sometimes lavish gifts, once they have their diplomas in hand.

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.

Aug 8: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

And just like that, it’s August! The days are getting shorter and families are starting to think about getting the kids back to school and getting serious about the upcoming round of fall activities.

Those of you sending your kids off to college or university will be interested in The Business of University Fees by Big Cajun Man aka Alan Whitton on the Canadian Personal Finance blog. Did you know if your child is still in school he/she is probably still covered under your group medical plan at work and most universities will allow you to opt out of the university’s plan?

If you have received your first child benefit cheques and haven’t already spent them on back-to-school supplies, here are 3 Great Ways to Use Your Canada Child Benefit Payment  by Craig Sebastiano on RateHub. RESP contributions, TFSA deposits or charitable donations, anyone?

And talking about TFSAs, take a look at Robb Engen’s TFSA Dilemma and Solution on Boomer & Echo. Like many of us Robb has a ton of TFSA contribution room ($50,500) He plans to turn his $825 monthly car payment – which ends in October – into future TFSA contributions, starting in January 2017. That’s $10,000 per year to stash in his TFSA, which at that rate would catch-up all of his unused room by 2027.

Have you reviewed your life insurance lately? Are you and your partner adequately covered so if one of you dies, the other can continue to pay the family bills? Bridget Eastgaard from Money after Graduation says Cash-Value Life Insurance Is For Suckers, Buy Term Instead.

And finally, Should you work part-time in retirement? by Jonathan Chevreau on moneysense.ca includes an analysis commissioned by Larry Berman, host of BNN’s Berman Call and Chief Investment Officer of ETF Capital Management. It illustrates the powerful impact of earning just $1,000 in part-time income each month between the age of 65 and 75; or in the case of couples $2,000 a month between them.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

May 18: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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

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

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

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

Laurie Campbell: Credit Canada CEO shatters debt myths

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

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

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

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

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

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Apr 6: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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

Here are some interesting blogs I read this week:

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

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

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

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

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

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

 

Mar 23: Best from the blogosphere

 

By Sheryl Smolkin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.