Tag Archives: Brighter Life

May 25: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Due to the holiday Monday (yeah!) and other days away from my desk for random reasons, this issue of Best from the Blogosphere is being written super early. So, on no particular theme we present some great content from the last several weeks.

The Apple watch has received a bad tap from many reviewers, but Retired Syd reports on Retirement: A Full-Time Job that the device works for her. She likes being able to do all sorts of things without digging in her purse for her iPhone like paying for coffee; listening to music; getting directions from Siri; dictating error-free texts; and just lifting her arm to display her boarding pass.

In a guest post on the Financial Independence Hub, Michael Drak writes about one thing he wishes his father had taught him. While he learned about the need for working hard, saving and eliminating debt as quickly as possible, his Dad didn’t teach him about the important concept of Findependence (financial independence) and how it could positively impact his life once it was achieved.

Freedom Thirty-Five is authored by a nameless late-twenties male living in Metro Vancouver. He recently wrote about succumbing to lifestyle inflation. It seems he’s ahead of schedule by one year to reach financial freedom by his 35th birthday. So he has decided to succumb to lifestyle inflation and increase his food expenses from $100 to $150/month; eating out from $25 to $50/month and phone and entertainment from $75 to $100/month. Could you get by on these modest amounts?

Boomer & Echo blogger Marie Engen says unless there is room for occasionally splurging in your budget, becoming too frugal can ultimately undermine your budgeting efforts. Don’t banish nice things from your life. Occasional guilt-free splurges can help you stay on budget if they don’t detract from your other goals. When you don’t feel deprived you will likely find it a lot easier to stick to the plan.

And finally, on Brighter Life, I wrote a piece about Five smart ways to use your tax refund. You can start an emergency fund; top up your RRSP; pay down credit card debt; pay down your mortgage; or, open a Registered Educational Savings Plan for your child.

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 27: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

If you haven’t filed your income tax return yet it’s really getting down to the wire. Whether you take advantage of them this year or next, here are some tax tips that could put more money in your pocket,

Are you entitled to a tax refund for your medical expenses? by Brenda Spiering on Brighter Life draws on her experience following her son’s accident when she learned that the part of his dental bills not covered by her health insurance at work could be claimed as a tax credit along with a portion of her health insurance premiums.

Tax accountant Evelyn Jacks addresses The Mad Dash to April 30th in Your Money. Your Life. She says once you have filed your taxes, the most important question is how you will spend your tax return. Some options are: pay down debt; save in a TFSA; use RRSP room; invest in an RESP; or invest in a Registered Disability Savings Plan.

Hey last-minute tax filers: Don’t make these common, costly mistakes says Stephen Karmazyn in the Financial Post. For example, only eight percent of taxpayers are planning to claim the Canada Employment Amount (which is a credit for work-related expenses such as home computers, uniforms, supplies) even though anyone with a T4 income can make a claim.

In a timeless blog on Retire Happy, Jim Yih offers RRSP and Tax Planning Tips. He recommends that only one spouse claim charitable deductions. That’s because the credit for charitable donations is a two-tiered federal credit of 16% on the first $200 and 29% on the balance (plus provincial credits). Spouses are allowed to claim the other’s donations and to carry forward donations for up to five years. By carrying forward donations and then having them all claimed by one spouse, the first $200 threshold with the lower credit is only applied once.

And in a Global news video Smart Cookies: Last Minute Tax Tips, Kate Dunsworth shares last minute reminders for people who have been procrastinating with their taxes. She says if you are expecting a refund and you are not planning to file on time because you don’t owe anything, you are basically giving the government a tax free loan. And if you owe money, you will be penalized for every single day you file late. Also, repeat late offenders will be penalized up to double.

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 13: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

There were several interesting provincial budgets this week with provisions impacting the cost of health care for seniors.

The Saskatchewan budget removed 6,000 seniors from the province’s drug plan. Previously the threshold of $80,255 was the cutoff for the drug plan. Anyone with a taxable income in excess of that amount was not eligible for the program. Now, the threshold will be lowered to $65,515.

The Alberta budget added a new Health Care Contribution Levy payable through the income tax system that will cost each Albertan up to $1,000 per year. Coverage and eligibility for provincial public health care programs remain unchanged. Unlike the previous Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan premium eliminated after 2008 that was a flat fee for individuals, the Levy has a progressive structure (See Table at p.87). Each member of a family filing an income tax return who has income over $50,000 will be subject to the levy and seniors are not exempt.

On another note, Mr. Money Moustache, a Canadian blogger living in the U.S. was recently profiled in the Globe & Mail. He and his wife retired at age 30. He says A Lifetime of Riches is As Simple As a Few Habits. This means doing less pointless driving around in your car and making fewer visits to restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. He also says alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, TV watching, video game playing, procrastination, unhealthy eating, sedentary living, and unnecessary shopping are other habits that stand between the average person and a truly wealthy life.

On Brighter Life, Sun Life VP Kevin Press presents blogs that will refresh your understanding of employee pension plans and employee benefit plans. He notes that Canadians who do not enjoy employer-sponsored benefit plan membership are at a significant disadvantage because provincial plans provide limited levels of coverage. What’s more, your reimbursements for health and dental claims are not taxable. So you’re almost always better off if your employer sponsors a plan versus paying you a higher salary.

And finally, an interesting post on Our Big Fat Wallet about getting compensated for a flight delay. Dan booked his ticket with Travelocity and he was not notified when the return flight was cancelled. Fortunately, the airline re-booked him several hours later and he received a $100 rebate from Travelocity and $75 from his Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite card that provides coverage of up to $500 per trip for trip delays of four hours or more.

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 30: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Lots of good reading this week from the blogosphere.

If you are not sure what kind of pension plan you have or how it works, take a look at how employee pension plans work by Kevin Press on Brighter Life.

Retire Happy guest blogger and pension analyst Sean Cooper writes about three costly pension mistakes and how to avoid them. For example, if possible wait until you vest in your pension benefits (two years in Saskatchewan) before leaving or taking early retirement.

Michael James on Money helps you to calculate the interest rate your annuity is actually paying. He likes the idea of reducing longevity risk by purchasing an annuity but he says that according to his calculations the payouts on annuities seem much too low.

You have the ring and you are planning the wedding but do you have a joint financial plan? Diane O’Leary, guest blogger on the Financial Independence Hub discusses financial planning for young couples serious about their future together.

And finally, on Million Dollar Journey, Frugal Trader shares how his family of four lives on one government salary. It certainly helps that they have paid off all of their student loans and they have been mortgage-free since 2010. He also thinks twice before making impulse buys at Costco.

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.

 

Feb 26: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Well, one more week and RRSP season will be over for another year. But that doesn’t mean you should forget about contributing to your retirement savings plans including SPP for another 12 months.

In the three+ years savewithspp.com has been up and running, we have posted many blogs about the importance of paying yourself first and the mechanics of retirement saving in Saskatchewan Pension Plan, RRSPs or TFSAs.

Here are some of my favourites you can take a look at again to refresh your memory.

Pay yourself first
Save early, save often
FAQ: Employer-sponsored Sask Pension Plan
Can my spouse join SPP?
Why transfer RRSP funds to SPP?
What if I move away from Saskatchewan?
How do I know my SPP money is in good hands?
Pension Plan vs. RRSP?
SPP or TFSA?
Retirement savings alphabet soup
Understanding SPP annuities
Book Review: RRSPS THE ULTIMATE WEALTH BUILDER
How much can I contribute to my RRSP?
How to save for retirement, Parts 1, 2 and 3

You may also want to review some of these posts written by some of our favourite bloggers:

Retire Happy: RRSP Quick Facts 2015
Boomer & Echo: A Sensible RRSP vs TFSA Comparison
Canadian Personal Finance Blog: Pensions and Spousal RRSPs
Brighter Life: Six things you may not know you can do with your RRSP
Forward Thinking: Bruce Sellery on how to get excited about your RRSPs

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.

Feb 16: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

The days are getting a little longer, Valentine’s Day was this past Saturday and in Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan it’s a long weekend. So there is lots to be happy about in spite of the never-ending winter.

But politicians who commit serious crimes won’t be happy because the Bill to revoke politicians’ pensions passed in the House of Commons would apply to future occasions when an MP or senator is convicted of crimes such as bribery or fraud. But politicians convicted of murder or distributing child pornography would not be affected. What am I missing here?

J. Money from Budgets are Sexy lists some of the guilty pleasures that he spends money on and those he items he rarely wastes money on like vending machine snacks, Uni-Ball EYE Rollerball Pens and yard sale splurges. A “no-spend month” and having kids helped him realize what’s really important in life.

Mr. Frugal Toque on Mortgage Freedom is a guest blog on Mr. Money Moustache. A year after the author paid off his mortgage he is happy he has stuck to his plan.  RRSPs topped up. Check. TFSAs maxed out. Check. And the family’s overall consumer spending has not increased.

On Personal Dividends, Miranda Marquit asks the age-old question Can Money Buy Happiness? She acknowledges y that you don’t need to live an extravagant lifestyle to be happy. However, she says that doesn’t mean that money has nothing to do with happiness. Financial security can have a lot to do with how great you feel.

And finally, if you are apprehensive about retirement or you had to take early retirement sooner than you expected, a year from now you may be happier than you could ever imagine. Why? Retirement could be your gateway to a new job says Susan Yellin on Brighter Life.

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.

Feb 9: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Rufus at home – photo by Charles Troster

Well it actually reached +1 degree yesterday and I had a “spring” in my step. However its back to -15 plus who knows what wind chill, so I’ve had to downsize my expectations and put on another layer. Even in his new sweater, our cockapoo Rufus says it’s too #’%!@ cold to stay out for long.

By the way, if you’ve never watched the Rick Mercer clip RMR: Seven Day Forecast – YouTube, it’s a “must see” that will warm up your day.

I’ve just discovered Patricia Gass’s blog Let’s talk About Money. If you are close to retirement or already there, you will enjoy her Reflections From The Early Days Of Spending In Retirement, Part 1 and Reflections From The Early Days Of Spending In Retirement, Part 2. She says running out of money in retirement is NOT an option, especially for the “conservative accountant” in her.

On a similar theme, Kira Vermond from the Globe and Mail writes about Personal financial rules that help stop you from spending too much money. Many of us play simple mind tricks on ourselves and create rules to save money, whether at the checkout counter or in our bank account. How about the Costco customer who decides she will forgo a push cart while shopping there so she’s not tempted to overspend? Her rule: If she can’t lift it, she won’t buy it.

Don’t Buy A Pre-Sale Condo. Ever. says Nelson Smith on Financial Uproar. His blog was triggered by story in the Toronto Star this week about local home buyers who put a $40,000 deposit on a condo in 2011 and four years later got their deposit back, but no condo because the developer decided to convert it to a rental building.

Mr. CBB on Canadian Budget Binder writes about a Free Trial Offer that Cost a Woman $232 in Credit Card Charges. It seems that she paid $12.00 U.S. for a couple of bottles of diet pills to help get off her post-baby weight. However, she didn’t read the fine print and she was charged $116 twice on her credit card which pushed it over her $500 credit limit. So don’t believe everything you read unless you read everything, and remember rarely, if ever, is there a free lunch.

And if you are still wondering How the Bank of Canada rate cut will affect consumers, wonder no more. Brighter Life editor Brenda Spiering says its bad news for interest-based savings accounts and GICs. But it’s good news for variable rate mortgages and lines of credit.

As for vacations, with the loonie in the cellar and low fuel prices, Rob Carrick at the Globe and Mail says this is the year for a big road trip in See Canada and save money. I think he is onto something. Beautiful Saskatchewan, here I come….

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

Dec 1: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Black Friday (imported from the U.S.) will have come and gone when you read this, but if you haven’t already started your holiday shopping, the beginning of December means the pressure is on to get it done without breaking the bank.

Kerry K. Taylor says on Squawkfox that using the Flipp app on your Android, BlackBerry or IPhone is the easiest way to browse flyers/weekly ads and save money. With more than 80 of your favorite Canadian stores at your fingertips, you can quickly search for the items you need, highlight the best deals and clip items straight to your shopping list.  Some retail stores found on Flipp include: Target, Walmart, Best Buy, IKEA, Macy’s, Sports Authority, Big Lots, Kroger, Sears and many more.

In Easy ways to save money this holiday season Jill Buchner from Canadian Living suggests creating a photo book through a site like picaboo.com, where albums start at about $10. Or, enlarge a special photograph for just a few dollars and frame it to make a personal piece of art.

Mike Collins on Debtroundup also discusses several  Simple Holiday Shopping Tips to Save You Money. Agreeing to a spending cap with friends and family and setting a gift budget and sticking to it are two valuable pieces of advice.

The Christmas break is prime time for Canadians to travel near and far, particularly if you have teachers or students in the family. On Moneyning, David Ning offers 50 Budget Travel Tips and Ways to Save Money on Vacations. For example, taking a train at night can save you the cost of accommodation and tons of prime daytime hours when you would rather be doing anything else except traveling from A to B.

And finally, Christmas is not just a time to give gifts but to give the gift of your time to those who are less fortunate. Brighter Life blogger Joanna Marie Nicholson writes about Giving back: How to find time to be a volunteer.

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

Oct 13: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

It was dark when I got up this morning and it won’t be long before it will also be dark before the end of the work day. So let’s shine a light on some interesting topics tackled by personal finance bloggers last week.

For most of your working life you’ve saved for retirement. But as that date nears, your focus shifts to using your savings to pay for life after work. Take a look at my blog What happens to my pension when I retire? on Brighter Life to find out how the money can be paid out when you retire.

GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca has a quiz that will help you build your retirement lifestyle profile — an analysis combining the range of income you’ll need and the level of readiness you’re at today.

In July, on Million Dollar Journey, Frugal Trader published his Canadian Online Discount Stock Brokerage Comparison, 2014. He mentions a number of major (cheap) discount brokerages in Canada including: E-Trade (now i-trade), Virtual Brokers, Qtrade, Interactive Brokers, and Questrade (voted #1 by Million Dollar Journey Readers).

Retire Happy blogger Sarah Milton discusses how to deal with the challenges of dating when you are trying to pay down debt and get your financial house in order. She says miscommunication can create a great deal of stress and tension.

And Retired Syd (Retirement: A full time job) writes about Her Short Career as a Landlord when after extensive preparations to rent out her vacation property in Napa she decided the small amount of money she would net was not worth the aggravation.

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.

Aug 25: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

backtoschoolpicture

 

Welcome to the back to school issue of Best from the blogosphere. Regardless of what part of the country you live in, days are getting shorter, nights are cooler and there is a touch of colour on the few leaves that are already drifting to the ground.

That can only mean that soon the kids will be back in school and your “to do list” includes school supplies and provisions for school lunches.

In the Toronto Star, Dana Flavelle reports on a survey that says back to school shopping is going to be more expensive this year. Just over half of Canadians polled said they will spend more $200 on their sons and daughters (at 54% and 56% respectively), while 12% will fork over more than $400 for clothing and school supplies. To help stay on budget you may want to re-visit Back to school shopping: A teachable moment posted on savewithspp.com last year.

On Brighter Life, Diana Mancuso writes about preparing your child for back-to-school. Whether this is the first time youa re sending your child to school or you are a seasoned pro, preparation is always key to ensuring a smooth transition from summer vacation to the classroom.  For example, easing into back-to-school bedtime and morning routines plays a crucial role at this time of year.

If your child is heading off to college, you may be interested in Tori Flood’s article on Yahoo!NEWS discussing the dorm gadgets you don’t want to forget when heading back to school. Some of these like a smart TV and a wireless router may seem pretty over-the-top, particularly for students on a beer budget. But I really like the hot pot that can boil water like an electric kettle and also cook food directly so hungry students can avoid having to use the hotplate in the communal kitchen. A white noise machine might also be useful in noisy dorms.

Should your child have a smart phone or a dumb phone or any phone at all? Yahoo tech columnist Dan Tynan says give younger kids a dumb phone. A simplified feature phone that lets you talk to them and get their location is more than enough for most pre-tweens. Like training wheels on a bike, dumb phones are an excellent way to teach kids how to communicate through technology.

And going back to school isn’t just for kids. If you have been thinking about taking courses to upgrade or change careers, take a look at 10 ways you can afford to go back to school on Canadian Living. For example, you can use the federal government’s lifelong learning plan to take money out of your RRSP – without paying a penalty – to help pay for your post-secondary studies. Also, you don’t have to be a kid to have a registered educational savings plan (although the government will not augment your contributions),

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.