Tag Archives: Financial Post

Nov 6: Best from the blogosphere

We are again going to sample recent material from a series of bloggers who participated in The Canadian Financial Summit in September.

This week headlines across the country blared that CRA has changed their position on allowing diabetics to claim lucrative disability tax credits in certain cases.

On Your Money, Your Life, accountant Evelyn Jacks discusses why these changes are being made and how audit-proofing strategies must be implemented by tax professionals and their diabetic clients.

Andrew Daniels writes at Family Money Plan about how he paid off his mortgage in 6 years. Five of the 28 things he and his wife gave up to quickly pay down his mortgage are noted below:

  • Eating out, largely due to food sensitivities and allergies with the added bonus that they saved big bucks.
  • For the first five years of the pay down period they gave up travel.
  • They went without cell phones for four of the six years of paying off their mortgage
  • They opted to repair their old cars as required rather than buying new ones.

Jonathan Chevreau, CEO of the Financial Independence Hub notes in the Financial Post that Only a quarter of Canadians have a rainy day fund, but more than half worry about rising rates.

This is based on a survey of 1,350 voting-age adults by Forum Research Inc. conducted after the Bank of Canada raised its benchmark overnight rate from 0.75% to 1% on Sept. 6, the second increase in three months. That said, 17% believe rate hikes will have some positive aspects: Not surprisingly, debt-free seniors welcome higher returns on GICs and fixed-income investments. Another 38% don’t think it will have an effect either way.

Do you know how long it will take to double the money you have invested? MapleMoney blogger Tom Drake explains the rule of 72 which take into account the impact of compound interest and  allows you to get a quick idea of what you can achieve with your money.

For example, if you were expecting a rate of return of 7% you would divide 72 by 7, which tells you it would take about 10.3 years to double your money at that rate. If you want $50,000, you would need to invest $25,000 today at 7% and let it sit for 10.3 years.

Kyle Prevost explores 5 stupid reasons for not getting life insurance on lowestrates.ca. If your rationale is that you are healthy and never get sick, Prevost says, “Glass half-full thinking is a positive thing, but pretending that your full glass is indestructible is a recipe for disaster.”

And if you have avoided buying life insurance because you have so many other bills you can’t afford it, he says, “You seriously need to ask yourself what sort of situation you’d leave behind if tragedy struck. Those bills that look daunting right now would look downright insurmountable.”

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.

Jul 24: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Feb 13: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

There is always lots of speculation prior to the federal budget about possible tax changes. Last week we noted that Prime Minister Trudeau publically backed off from rumoured changes to the taxability of employer-contributions to group health and dental plans.

However, in the Financial Post Jamie Glombek writes about more tax changes to watch out for in the upcoming federal budget. He covers tax rates, “boutique tax credits,” employee stock options, capital gains inclusion rates and possible changes that may be of interest to small business owners.

MoneySense has a great slide show profiling 10 personal finance heroes you really need to meet. For example, star tennis player Milos Raonic learned to save 90% of his income. Philippe Alberigo, from Whitby, Ont worked several jobs and started stock investing at a young age. When he hit 22 in 2014, he had a $100,000 portfolio.

Financial trainer and blogger Avraham Byers writes in the Huffington Post that The Snowball Method Can Help You Put Your Debt On Ice. Method 1 which he calls the Debt Avalanche prioritizes paying off your debts from the highest to lowest in order to minimize the amount of interest you pay. In contrast, Method 2 – Debt Snowball tells you to pay off your debts from smallest balance to largest — ignoring your interest rates. The idea is that paying off your smaller debts sooner will give you confidence and financial momentum to stick with your plan to the end.

Leo T. Ly, a blogger who is new to this space blogs at ISaved5k. He says the first step to save $1 M is for young people to research the jobs/career that have the potential to make six figures salary a year in the industry in which they want to build a career and get the required training. The second step is to minimize various kinds of debt.

In 2016, millennial personal finance expert and award-winning blogger Jessica Moorhouse announced she was quitting her 9 to 5 job to become a full-time entrepreneur. In Here’s What Happened to My Finances After I Quit My Job she explains that in 2016 she made just over $34,000 from her side business and she made sure she had an emergency fund of $25,000 before she took the plunge. She also embarked on a “spending cleanse” to simplify her life and be smarter with her 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.

Jan 16: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

With Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and the stock market’s long bull run in 2016, the big question everyone is asking is what is in store for the Canadian economy in 2017?

Well, it depends who you ask and on what day. Here are a few recent predictions in the mainstream media, which may or may not pan out. You be the judge.

Not surprisingly, there’s one risk that “Trumps” them all for Canada’s economy in 2017, said Royal Bank Chief Economist Craig Wright in early January at the Economic Outlook 2017 event in Toronto.

The impact of U.S. growth on Canada depends on the policies that are put in place across the border under President-elect Donald Trump, but at a minimum Wright noted the U.S. is headed in a more competitive direction, while Canada seems to be moving the other way. “So it’s not yet clear whether Canada will see a ‘Trump bump’ or perhaps a ‘Trump slump,'” he told iPolitic reporter Ainslie Cruickshank.

The Financial Post reports that the best loonie forecaster in the world believes the Canadian dollar will beat all its G10 peers this year. The loonie will nudge an additional 0.75 per cent higher to 75.75 US cents by the end of the year, according to Konrad Bialas, chief economist at Warsaw-based foreign-exchange broker Dom Maklerski TMS Brokers SA, who topped a Bloomberg ranking of Canadian dollar forecasters in the fourth quarter. That would extend the loonie’s three percent gain from last year, which made it the best performer among its Group-of-10 peers.

In the Globe and Mail economist Todd Hirsch makes a series of bold (and some not-so-bold) predictions for Canada’s economy in 2017 and beyond. For example:

  1. Canada-U.S. trade disputes will intensify.
  2. The Canadian dollar will dip below 70 cents early in the year, but finish 2017 at 78 cents.
  3. The Keystone XL pipeline will get Washington’s approval.
  4. And for sports fans, Montreal will win the Stanley Cup; University of Calgary Dinos will win the Vanier Cup; and, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will win the Grey Cup.

On CBC News, Paul Evans offers the following  five reasons why Canada’s economy is looking up in 2017.

  1. The job market is recovering.
  2. Oil could be headed higher – finally.
  3. Despite of predictions to the contrary, the loonie could be headed higher.
  4. Trade is picking up.
  5. The TSX is near an all-time high.

Nevertheless, analysis from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (a UK think tank), published in co-operation with Global Construction Perspectives says Canadawill have the world’s 10th largest economy in 2017, but will be overtaken in a few years by South Korea.


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.

Jun 13: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Next week Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau will again be meeting with provincial and territorial finance ministers to talk about options for improving Canada Pension Plan benefits. This protracted discussion has been going on for as long as I can remember, but the hurdles remain the same.

CPP changes require the support of Ottawa plus seven of the 10 provinces representing two-thirds of the population. When the finance ministers last met in December 2015, Ontario which is currently going at it alone, PEI, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick gave CPP improvements a “thumbs up.” Quebec, B.C. Saskatchewan and Alberta vetoed the idea.

Here are some links to recent articles in the mainstream media that will bring you up-to-date on the various arguments made by stakeholders in the debate.

Larry Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour says the proportion of their incomes that Canadians put into CPP, and will someday get back as pension payments, “is not enough.” Nevertheless he is optimistic since many Canadian politicians — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — agree there’s a pension problem because many Canadians can’t retire on what they’ll get from the CPP under current rates.

After the finance ministers met in December 2015, Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), and Marilyn Braun-Pollon, Saskatchewan vice-president of CFIB told the Regina Leader-Post that small business owners are relieved that Canada’s finance ministers have put plans to expand the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) on hold. “They are relieved but they’ve expressed a desire to see a shift in the conversation,” Braun-Pollon said.

The Globe and Mail reports that a coalition of business groups and youth advocates is calling for an expanded Canada Pension Plan, but only if it is targeted at middle-income levels. The coalition argues that higher premiums to pay for more generous retirement benefits should kick in at annual earnings of about $27,500. They argue helping Canadians who earn less than that is better accomplished through Old Age Security and the related Guaranteed Income Supplement.

The Ontario government recently announced it is delaying the introduction of its Ontario Retirement Pension Plan until 2018 while it negotiates with the federal government and other provinces on an enhanced CPP. However, at this point, the government says it still intends to proceed with the ORPP as it’s unlikely that all provinces can agree on a CPP enhancement large enough to take the place of the ORPP. Here’s what you need to know about the ORPP:

And Fred Vettese, the Chief Actuary of Morneau Shepell writes in the Financial Post that he is actually in favour of CPP expansion if it is done right. He says one thing it will certainly do is to raise the under-savers (and there are many of them) closer to the standard of living they enjoyed while working. The unanswered question is how much closer should they be without having to save on their own?

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 and

 

Dec 14: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

I’ve been thinking about the cost of health and long term care a lot lately because my 88- year old Mom recently had a bad fall and cracked five ribs. She is recovering at home but she is in a lot of pain, and requires 24/7 care for the foreseeable future.

The plan has always been to keep her in her own apartment as long as possible. Fortunately her wonderful, privately-paid caregiver (a registered practical nurse) who normally works 40 hours/week has virtually moved in and is helping us to take excellent care of her. But as costs mount up over the short run, we are beginning to wonder if this will be a luxury she soon can’t afford.

Access to public resources varies across the country, but in Thornhill, Ontario where she lives , I’ve been told that a maximum of one hour a day (and most probably only two hours a week) will be offered to her on the government dime. But I’m grateful that 22 in-house physiotherapy sessions to get her up and moving better and train her to avoid future falls have been approved.

So if health and long-term care are not in your retirement planning radar yet, I have put together a few recent articles that may get you thinking about what you can expect.

On Retire Happy, Donna McCaw writes about Your Health in Retirement: Asking for Help. She cites staggering statistics from the Vancouver based Canadian Men’s Health Foundation about men and heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, alcohol-related deaths as well as suicide. She interviewed recently-retired men who made it their first priority to get healthy and get rid of their “ring around the waist” by embracing fitness and learning to eat healthy.

Life after retirement: Health care costs require careful planning in the Financial Post is by Audrey Miller, the Managing Director of  http://www.eldercaring.ca/. She cites home care costs by the week and by the year (albeit in Ontario) and says as family members and professionals, we need to be better prepared. The cost of care is only going to become more expensive, especially as our public and private resources are reduced. Not only will we soon have more seniors than young people under 15, but our pool of those who are willing to be paid to do this work will also become smaller.

The coming health benefits shock for retirees by Adam Mayers at the Toronto Star reminds us that contrary to what many people believe, glasses, drugs and nursing homes will not in most cases be paid for by our universal health care. He quotes Kevin Dougherty, president of Sun Life Financial Canada who says one reason for the disconnect may be that we form an opinion of the health system through our use of it. Most of us are covered by workplace health plans and we don’t need much from these plans during our earlier years, and into middle age what we do need is covered.

Navigating Retirement healthcare is a comprehensive report from CIBC Wood Gundy discussing health care cost considerations in retirement. The study notes that long-term care is classified as an extended healthcare service under the Canada Health Act but the role of publicly-funded LTC facilities is changing as provincial governments limit the expansion of these facilities by reducing the number of registered nurses, maintaining or decreasing the number of available beds, and tightening the qualifications for acceptance into a facility.

Even if these policies were reversed, an individual’s current wait time of one year will likely increase unless significant expansion of the LTC provision occurs. The result is that a greater number of seniors are paying to enter more expensive for-profit private or semi-private facilities that can cost up to $7,000 or more a month.

Finally, Long-term care costs in Saskatchewan 2014 by Sun Life discusses how residential facilities, retirement homes/residences, government-subsidized home care, adult day care and private home care operate. Government subsidized options including home care are administered by the Regional Health Authority (RHA). As RHA resources are limited, many seniors don’t get the care they need from RHA services and have to rely on private home care services. The provincial tariff for skilled nursing ranges from $42-$70/hour while 24 hour live-in care can cost from $21-30/hr.

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.

Cheap, Clever Halloween Costumes

By Sheryl Smolkin

In October 2014, Hollie Shaw at the Financial Post reported on the $1-billion fright economy. Apparently Canadians have become so wild about Halloween we now spend more per capita on costumes, candy and décor than our U.S. counterparts do, with holiday-related spending that is second only to Christmas.

“In the past three years, the Halloween holiday has just gone viral in Canada — we have just seen it shoot up,” said Diane Brisebois, the Retail Council’s president and CEO told Shaw. “Adults have really, really gotten into it. Now it’s adults and their pets. In Canada, it has become so popular that people are pretty much decorating anything.

Far be it from me to rain on anyone’s parade, but if you are having trouble making ends meet, or if you are trying to come up with ways to better afford a retirement savings plan, minimizing your expenditures at Halloween might be a good start.

Here are some helpful hints on some cheap, clever costumes, whether you and/or your children are planning to trick or treat close to home or attend a Halloween party.

  1. Princess costume: A sparkly crown from the dollar store, last year’s Christmas dress, make up and costume jewelry will go a long way to turn your pre-schooler into a princess. You don’t have to spring for the last Disney confection that in late October weather will probably be covered by a coat
  2. Doctor, lawyer: I am a lawyer and still have my court gowns, tabs and shirt. I can’t tell you over the years how many times I or my children have appeared as lawyers or judges on Halloween. The tools and “uniforms” of any other profession or trade can become a costume.
  3. Orange is the new black: If you can get your hands on orange scrubs (or dye some) and lots of fake tattoos you can masquerade as this hit Netflix show. A group can also select different characters in the show and add hairdos, make up or cheap wigs to enhance their look.
  4. Bag of jelly beans: I love this kooky costume. All you need is a bunch of colourful balloons, a piece of ribbon, a clear garbage bag and the ingredients list to write on the back. You cut two holes in the bottom of the bag, fill it with balloons and tie a bow around your neck. Voilà, you are a bag of jelly beans.
  5. Rubik’s cube: This costume requires that you be a bit crafty. The raw materials are a square cardboard box, coloured squares of construction paper and black electrical tape. The completed box is worn over a black top and pants or leggings.
  6. Superhero Underoos: I remember when my kids were little, superhero underoos were a highly coveted reward when they finally left diapers behind. Guess what – new superhero underoos for adults are not only functional, they can form the basis of a great costume for the comic book geek in your life.
  7. Sports: Whatever sports equipment and typical garb you have on hand can be used to dress you or your child as an athlete. For example, a tennis player will wear all white and carry a racket. A yoga instructor will wear yoga pants, a headband and carry a rolled up yoga mat. A golf pro will have plaid pants, a golf shirt, golf shoes, a sun visor and a putter.
  8. Olympic/Pan Am medalist: Did you buy sweats or other outfits from The Bay after the last Olympics or Pan Am games? Well get them out of the bottom drawer. Then fashion as many gold, silver and bronze medals as you like and hang them on ribbons around your neck. You can even put the name of your favourite world class athlete on the back of your jacket.
  9. Second-hand stores: If you have a good imagination, Value Village or other second-hand stores can be a great place to pick up costume components. An oversized sports jacket and a used fedora can turn your child into a detective or an investigative reporter. Old wedding or prom dresses are the stuff from which fantasies are made.
  10. Freebies and deals: The day after Halloween is over, stores bring out the Christmas paraphernalia. That means they need to free up floor space fast. If you have storage space and can guess-timate what size your kids will wear next year, you may be able to pick up ready-made costumes at greatly-reduced prices.

Also read:

Halloween on the cheap

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.

 

Feb 3: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

The depths of winter (and this has been one of the worst I can remember) seems to be the time when we all wish we could retire somewhere warm but figure we will never be able to afford it. After all, post- Christmas credit card bills have to be paid and finding the money for SPP and RRSP contributions may not be at the top of your “to do” list.

But now is the time to set up an automatic withdrawal plan for next year’s retirement savings plan contributions so in February 2015 you won’t be faced with the same dilemma.

It is also important to make retirement savings a part of an overall financial plan that you review often to make sure it still works for you, says Dave Dineen at Brighter Life. When you make your financial plan, Robb Engen on Boomer & Echo says there are 4 Big Rip-Offs To Watch Out For including mortgage life insurance.

Kerry K. Taylor (aka squawkfox) has been saving in an RRSP for about 17 years or half of her life. She recently blogged about how a can of cat food scared her into saving for retirement.

“I always thought seniors eating cat food to afford food was a myth. I wanted to be sure. [So I asked a woman in the grocery store line who was buying 25 cans about her cats.],” says Taylor. “She threw me a side-eye and said nothing. Whether she ate the cat food or not didn’t matter. [Since then], my fear of eating Fancy Feast in retirement [has been] very real.”

And once you have contributed to an RRSP, don’t forget that you will completely defeat the purpose if you treat it like a normal bank account and make withdrawals for reasons such as paying down debt. In an excellent Financial Post column Should you raid your RRSP to pay debt? Melissa Leong does the math.

She reminds us that if you need $8,000 for credit card debt, you’ll have to withdraw $10,000 to have enough to pay the full bill. Furthermore, once the money is withdrawn the contribution room is lost forever.

One case where it may make sense to take a loan from your RRSP is to Help Pay for Your Education with the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP). However, as Tom Drake explains on the Canadian Finance blog, you are borrowing from yourself, but it is still a loan. You have to repay your RRSP, or face the tax consequences which can be quite hefty if you aren’t careful.

There is also a lost opportunity cost that comes with withdrawing money from your RRSP. While you can use the money for your LLP and education, you won’t be earning a return on it until you pay it back. You’ll have to decide if this approach is worth it for you.

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.