Tag Archives: FIRECracker

Nov 20: Best from the blogosphere

I finally found time to clean out the 700+ emails in my in box and here are some of the gems from both the mainstream media and the blogosphere I found hiding there.

The federal government has announced expanded parental leave and new caregiver benefits that will come into effect December 3rd. Eligible new parents will be able to spread 12 months of employment insurance benefits over 18 months after the birth of a child. However, the government will not increase the actual value of employment insurance benefits for anyone who takes the extended parental leave.

The change in leave rules will automatically give the option of more time off for federally regulated workplaces, which include banks, transport companies, the public service and telecoms, and is likely to spur calls for changes to provincial labour laws to allow the other 92% of Canadian workers outside of Quebec access to similar leave. Anyone on the 35 weeks of parental leave before the new measures officially come into effect won’t be able to switch and take off the extra time.

How do you know when it’s the right time to retire? Retire Happy’s Jim Yih advises boomers considering retirement to have a plan that includes both lifestyle issues and money issues.  He says, “Too often the retirement plan focuses only on the financial issues. You can have all the money in the world but if you don’t know how to spend it or have good people around you or you don’t have your health, what good is the money?”

In the Globe and Mail, Morneau Sobeco actuary Fred Vettese says Few Canadians are destined to hit their retirement income ‘sweet spot’. What is an adequate income level to retire? According to Vettese for most people, it means having enough income to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living for the rest of their lives. “Put another way, spendable income in retirement would be 100% of what it was during one’s working years,” he says. “We’re unlikely to hit the 100% target every time, so let’s consider anything between 85% and 115% to be in the “sweet spot.”

If you sometimes get discouraged reading about “wunderkind” who save millions and retire super early, FIREcracker, writing on Millenial Revolution says Don’t Let Comparisons Derail Your FIRE (financial independence, retire early) Journey. “Don’t compare your beginning with someone’s middle or end. Instead of comparing yourself to other people, look back at your own journey and see how far you’ve come, she says. “And remember, even though there are hordes of people in front of you, there are also hordes behind you. They would switch places with you in an instant.”

And finally, make sure your retirement savings plan includes adequate amounts for health care. Health spending in Canada will likely hit $242 billion in 2017, says a report from the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI). CIHI calculates that health spending in Canada is expected to reach $6,604 per capita this year – or about $200 more per person compared to last year. The report also says total health spending per person is expected to vary across the country, from $7,378 in Newfoundland and Labrador and $7,329 in Alberta to $6,367 in Ontario and $6,321 in British Columbia. The public private split remains fairly constant with 30% covered by private out of pocket payment or private insurance and 70% by the public purse.

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

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

June 19: Best from the blogosphere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Mar 20: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

This issue of Best from the Blogosphere draws on the work of several of the over 60 personal finance bloggers/experts who belong to the Canadian Money Bloggers Facebook Group. While many are old friends, today we introduce you to several bloggers who are new to us that we have recently started reading.

Alyssa Davies on Mixed up Money writes about Why She Still Avoids the Mall 1 Year After Becoming Debt Free. In order to pay off $10,000 in debt arising out of a shopping addiction she had to quit cold turkey. Even going to the mall was too much temptation. She rewarded herself with a new $80 wallet when she paid off her debt, but since then she prefers to shop for clothing online as a form of damage control.

11 Ways to Lower Your Power & Utility Bills by Dan on HowToSaveMoney.ca is a very topical piece for any season. Dan suggests that to conserve water you use low flow toilets and make sure you have no leaky taps. Energy efficient blinds and window upgrades can help keep the cold out and the heat in. And weatherstripping, adding solar panels and smart thermostats are other options for better managing utility bills.

We’ve read a lot lately about Sean Cooper’s book Burn Your Mortgage. In fact I recently posted a podcast interview with him on this site. But FIRECracker chats with Cooper for the Millenial Revolution about what it actually takes to publish a book. Instead of finally relaxing after paying off his mortgage, he spent 3-5 months writing the book; 4 months editing and re-writing it; plus 6-8 months working with a publicist and literary agent on marketing. In addition, he put $20,000 of his own money into the project.

The blogger and founder of Family Money Plan Andrew Daniels says part of his plan to become financially free involves making more money. Taking surveys is one side hustle that is helping him reach this objective. There are a lot of different survey companies out there and each of them compensates differently. But if he is waiting for an oil change or for his kids’ activities to wrap up, he pulls out his smartphone and earns while he would otherwise be just killing time.

CPA Robin Taub frequently blogs for Tangerine Bank’s website Forward Thinking. In How someone stole my identity to commit fraud and what I did about it she tells a compelling story about Janice who was the victim of identity theft and fraud like 20,611 other people in 2014. It took her months to get her credit rating cleared so she could be approved for a mortgage and purchase a home. “To this day, I’m still not sure how my Social Insurance Number was compromised since I didn’t physically misplace or lose the card. But I’m much more vigilant now about protecting myself,” Janice told Taub.


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.

Nov 21: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Lots of interesting reading this week from bloggers both old and new.

On Millenial Revolution, FIRECracker writes about How to Succeed at Anything. She says success is not linear so you have to keep on trying and eventually things will click.

For example, in 2013 she and her husband had two failed children’s novels and 75 rejection letters. But since then, they have had three books published by Scholastic. Their blog has also been internationally syndicated by CNBC and in less than six months it has grown to 650,000 page views.

If you can never figure out where all your money went (a key requirement for budgeting), take a look at Jordann Brown’s blog 50 Ways to Track Your Spending. From personal experience she recommends Mint.com, and best of all, it is free.

As a new homeowner, Jessica Moorhouse says the one thing she wishes she had researched more thoroughly is mortgages. Read 10 Questions You Need to Answer Before Getting a Mortgage to benefit from her experience.

Jonathan Chevreau advocates for “Freedom, Not Stuff.” In Survey finds financial security beats milestones like buying a home and a car on the Financial Independence Hub, he is happy to report on a survey released by Credit Canada Debt Solutions and Capital One Canada that reveals the majority of Canadians agree with him that that financial security beats milestones like buying a home or a car.

Making Financial Decisions? Beware of Confirmation Bias says Tom Drake on the Canadian Finance Blog. When it comes to making financial decisions, confirmation bias can lead you to stay the course with an investment that has changed fundamentally for the worst, all because you are sure that you can’t make a wrong decision, or because you dismiss the reasons that the investment is no longer a good choice.


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.

Sept 19: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

The discussion about whether or not to buy a home and if home ownership is a good investment rages on, particularly among younger people living in expensive urban areas who may be contemplating the purchase of their first property.

While purchasing property is definitely a huge financial commitment, there is also a strong emotional component in every decision to make an offer for real estate. Even if the house turns into a “money pit,” it’s YOUR money pit and no one can kick you out unless you default on the mortgage.

Sean Cooper, who bought a house at age 27 and paid off his mortgage three years later, believes the home ownership dream is still alive and well. He says, “By being laser-focused on paying down your mortgage quickly, you can reach financial freedom years sooner…..A paid off home gives you choices: you can quit the rat race, travel around the world, start your own business or take a job you truly enjoy.”

On Millennial Revolution, FIRECracker does the math to see if she and her partner The Wanderer would be richer if they bought a house in 2012, instead of investing their $500,000 down payment and renting. Based on Toronto Real Estate Board figures for the period, she estimates she would have made a respectable 7.8% if she sold in 2016. However, expenses like real estate commission, lawyers’ fees, maintenance, utilities and additional furniture would have reduced their profit. so by investing instead of buying, their gains were 2.61 times the gains from the house.

On their very first outing with a real estate agent, Jessica Moorhouse and her husband bought their first place, officially becoming homeowners. They ended up buying a two-story stacked townhouse in Toronto’s west end. “We knew that if we found a place that ticked off all of our boxes and was within our budget, we needed to act fast,” she says. “Places like the one we got do not come around often, and I am seriously so thrilled we’re living in this place!”

Those of you who already live in your own home and want to move up face the classic homeowner’s conundrum: Should you buy first or sell first? The choice depends on the people, the house and the city, realtors say, though there are some constants that hold true for most situations. “If it’s a seller’s market, then you need to be buying first. If it’s a buyer’s market, then you need to be selling first,” Ara Mamourian, broker and owner of Spring Realty in Toronto says.

And once you do own a home (or at least the bank does) the next question you will likely face is Should You Save Money or Pay Extra On Your Mortgage? Bridget Eastgaard’s spreadsheet shows that after 25 years, homeowners who opted to put $5,000 extra into a their TFSA instead of towards their mortgage, would come out $80,000 dollars richer than the person who thought it was worthwhile to put the cash towards his mortgage, just to become debt-free five years faster. Nevertheless, she acknowledges it really only works this way because mortgage rates are so low in Canada.

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.