Tag Archives: Michael James

Oct 31: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Last week we included links to blogs and articles discussing the implications of the new mortgage rules announced by Finance Minister Bill Morneau in early October. But the ultimate impact of these changes on individuals and the housing market are still emerging. Here is some additional insight you may be interested in.

RateSpy.com’s mortgage expert Robert McLister writes that the Feds Nuked the Mortgage Market. He calls it “a stealth rate hike” by federal policy-makers that is an end run around Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz  who has opted not to drive up Canadian interest rates.

Even Liberal MPs are concerned new rules will shut out first-time homebuyers  and they are wondering why Morneau didn’t consult the national Liberal caucus or the House Finance Committee prior to making the announcement intended to cool down the overheated housing market in major urban centres.

But Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen says Cool It. The Feds Aren’t Killing The Housing Market. He acknowledges that home builders are upset with the feds for introducing new rules, but says maybe this time the feds got it right. Commenting on this blog, Michael James from Michael James on Money says, “Maybe new rules will save some from the biggest financial mistake of their lives.”

If you or someone you know has been saving for a down payment, Canada’s New Mortgage Rules: This Is How Much You Can Afford in the Huffington Post includes a great chart that will help prospective buyers to determine how much house they can afford with 20% down based on a benchmark qualifying interest rate of 4.64%.

And finally, Sean Cooper says in spite of the new mortgage rules, First-Time Homebuyers Shouldn’t Throw in the Towel. He says, “While I’m not a fan of parents gifting their adult children their entire down payment, there’s even more reason now for parents to top up their child’sdown payment to reach 20% and avoid the stricter qualifying rate.” He also believes first-time homeowners should avoid buying “too much house.”


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 23: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

This week we are back to everyone’s favourite topic – how to get ready for retirement. If you haven’t already maxed out your 2015 Saskatchewan Pension Plan, RRSP and TFSA contributions, now is the time to make sure you are “on plan” before you start spending more than you can afford in the run up to the holiday season.

If you are not a Globe & Mail regular reader, check out the new Globe Retirement series. I particularly like Boomer retirement planning: A nine-step guide to ease your mind by our perennial favourite Rob Carrick. The publication’s online fee disclosure tool will show you how the advisory fees you pay compare with other investors.

Michael James on Money writes about Retirement Spending Stages. While there is evidence that older seniors spend less, he says spending too much in the early years of retirement could mean in your later years all you have left to live on is government benefits and any pension streams you may have.

In Save like this, retire like that – My story about early retirement in style Mark Seed interviews “RBull” from Canadian Money Forum who retired in 2014 in his 50s. He estimates that his savings rate averaged a little over 20% for about 20+ years. Approximately two years before retiring he sold almost all his stock positions to purchase broad market ETFs to simplify the portfolio, increase diversity and keep fees low.

Dan Wesley who blogs at Our Big Fat Wallet is in an enviable position. His TFSA and RRSP are Maxed Out and he is trying to decide where where to put his additional savings. Options include paying down the mortgage, opening a TFSA for his wife and opening a taxable investment account.

In MoneySense, Jon Chevreau discusses Saving mistakes you’re probably making. The single biggest mistake of course is NOT saving at all, says Adrian Mastracci, president of Vancouver-based KCM Wealth Management Inc. The easiest thing in the world is to spend 100% of what you earn or even worse, fall into debt. Chevreau says at the root of the failing-to-save mistake is the failing-to-live-within-your-means error.

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.

Sept 14: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Over the last weeks the stock markets have been bouncing all over the place and now we are told that the Canadian economy is officially in recession. While it is natural to be concerned, particularly if you are close to retirement, the general consensus from most experts is to have confidence in your financial plan and stay the course. Today, and in coming weeks we will provide you with information to help you weather the storm.

In How to make sense of markets gone mad, Toronto Star personal finance writer Adam Mayers says this is a market correction of significant proportions. It could be short and sharp, or it may be long and lingering depending on how the real economy reacts. It may be tough to take the gyrations, but what it does do is set the stage for the next big rise.

Rob Carrick at the Globe and Mail says It’s decision time for your ‘dead’ money. If the summer market decline hasn’t stoked your appetite to buy stocks, he suggests that all the cash piling in your account is pretty much dead money. That’s true if you’re leaving the money uninvested, and also if you’ve taken the good sense step of keeping your cash in a high interest investment account.

MoneySense authors Jessica Bruno and Dean DiSpalatro consider What the recession means for your portfolio. They interviewed Jay Nash, portfolio manager at Roberts Nash Advisory Group, National Bank Financial, in London, Ontario. Nash’s message to clients is straightforward: The recession was largely focused in the energy sector, with other areas of the economy performing well. Most importantly, June’s solid data—pushed along by consumer spending—was better than expected.

Protecting your retirement income from the stock market by Wayne Rothe is on Retire Happy. Rothe reviews “Your Retirement Income Blueprint,” by Winnipeg financial advisor Daryl Diamond. Diamond writes about the impact of market gyrations on the “retirement risk zone.” This is generally the five years immediately before and after retirement age. A big drop in the value of your investments during this period can be disastrous.

And finally, Michael James on Money questions How Much Diversification Do You Need? He says, “Diversification is simple for indexers like me. We own all stocks for as low a cost as possible. There is no such thing as ‘di-worse-ification’ because we have no opinions about one stock being better than others. There is no reason to fret over active mutual funds because index funds are cheaper and cover the same asset classes.”

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 24: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

After several weeks of “theme” issues of Best from the Blogosphere, for the next several weeks we will get back to basics and check out what our perennial favourites have been writing about lately.

On Boomer & Echo, Marie Engen discusses 3 financial mistakes to avoid. They are buying too much home; raiding your RRSP; and, putting your child’s needs ahead of your retirement.

Retire Happy’s Sarah Milton describes Using the Lifelong Learning Plan. The LLP is a program that allows Canadian residents to borrow up to $20,000 from their RRSPs in order to cover the costs of a full-time further education program for themselves, their common-law partner or spouse. If the Harper government is re-elected, they have promised to raise this amount to $35,000.

The Frugal Trader gives a Financial Freedom Update on Million Dollar Journey. He says in the year since he has reached the million dollar net worth milestone it feels great but nothing has really changed. His family has recently decided to become a single income family and with tight fiscal management they are able to live on one government salary. 

Blonde on a Budget Cait Flanders moved from Vancouver to Victoria recently and she has established a final de-cluttering challenge for herself. Last year she purged 43% of her belongings in one month to embrace a minimalist lifestyle. She has given herself 20 days to see how much more stuff she can get rid of when she unpacks her moving boxes.

Finally, Michael James on money says Your Retirement Spending Plan is Critical. While working, if you don’t like the plan your financial advisor has set up for you, you can find a new advisor and make up for past mistakes. But if your advisor puts you on a bad retirement spending plan, by the time you figure out there is a problem, there’s little you can do. other than cut spending.

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.

 

Oct 27: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

In the last several weeks there has been a stock market correction and although the market has bounced back to some extent, for some investors it has been a bumpy ride. Here’s what several personal finance columnists and bloggers had to say about recent market gyrations.

The Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick says Balanced is best: Never doubt long-term portfolio gains. No matter what the markets do in the short term, the long-term potential from investing is not in question. He also says As markets plunge, it’s time to take stock of Investing habits that have become sloppy. For example, many people are too financially committed to their homes and lots of households owe too much

On Retire Happy, Jim Yih shared The Five Realities of the Stock Market. He says markets go up and down but they go up twice as often and twice as much.  Logically, when markets go down, the odds are in your favour to make money in the times ahead.

What Are You Doing With This Stock Market Pullback? Sorry, but no one can help you during a market correction says Robb Engen at Boomer & Echo.  Watching your portfolio drop from $100,000 to $90,000 over the course of a few weeks is painful, no doubt. But you’d be better off sticking your head in the sand and waiting it out instead of trying to “do something about it.”

In Stock Market Momentum, Michael James on Money says the recent downtrend in stock prices has many commentators saying that we are “in a correction.” But all we can say with any certainty is that we have had a correction. It may or may not continue. Saying that we are in a correction implies that falling prices will continue over the short term, which is far from certain.

Finally, Mark Seed at Million Dollar Journey interviewed Derek Foster, “Canada’s Youngest Retiree”. While the general consensus is that investing only in stocks is too risky, Derek is sticking with dividend stocks because at age 40+ he has other income streams from his books and speaking engagements. Foster says, “Many people point to the 2008-2009 downturn as evidence that bonds will save you during downturns, but what about the 5 years since then?  Look at the long-term returns of stocks over bonds – I think the stats speak for themselves.”

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.

Big Cajun Man shares RDSP, RESP expertise

By Sheryl Smolkin

Alan Whitton and his son Rhys
Alan Whitton and his son Rhys

 

podcast picture
Click here to listen

Hi,

As part of the savewithspp.com continuing series of podcast interviews with personal finance bloggers, today I’m talking to the “Big Cajun Man,” author of the Canadian Personal Finance Blog.

In real life, he is actually, Alan Whitton, a mild-mannered government civil servant and father of four, living in Ottawa. Alan has been blogging about finance and consumerism for about ten years, focusing on real life experiences.

As a result, he has written extensively about Registered Disability Savings Plans and parenting a disabled child.

Welcome, Alan.

My pleasure Sheryl.

Q: First of all Alan, tell our listeners where your alter ego name, “Big Cajun Man,” came from.
A:  Well, I was playing golf with friends and was wearing a straw hat and someone yelled at me, “What do you think you are, some kind of big stinking Cajun man?” and the guys I was playing with have called me that ever since.

Q: Why did you start blogging?
A: Well, I started initially just on BlogSpot as sort of an open letter to my mother because at the time, my wife was pregnant with our fourth child, who was a bit of a surprise. Then I realized I could write about other things and I was always interested in money so I figured I’d just start blogging about it.

Q: How frequently do you post?
A: I try to write four or five posts in a week. The Friday post is usually a ‘best of’ what I’ve seen during the week.

Q: How long are the blogs and how complex are they? Do they vary?
A: Oh, it’s usually somewhere between four and eight paragraphs. What shows up, or what I read about or something that happens in my life is usually the catalyst for the more interesting ones.

Q: Tell me about some of the topics you write about.
A: Well, family and money and how families work with money, a little bit on investing, a lot more on disability and how families can deal financially with kids with disabilities or loved ones with disabilities. And that really, again, arose because when Rhys was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, I had to learn about all this so I figured I’d write about it too.

Q: And, how old is Rhys now?
A: He is 9. I have three beautiful daughters who are 24, 22 and 20, and my son who has just turned 9. It’s a multi-generational family. That’s why I end up writing about things like university costs and parenting a 9-year old.

Q: There are probably over a dozen personal finance bloggers in Canada. What’s different about your blog. Why do you think it’s a must read?
A: I don’t know. I mean, my point of view as a father of a multi-generational family is interesting. I always have had a different perspective on things. I leave a lot of the specific investing ideas to some of the more qualified chaps like Michael James and Rob Carrick. I mostly just talk about John Public’s point of view of things.

Q: How many hits do you typically get for your blogs?
A: Between 8,000 and 12,000 a month. It started off very slowly and I think with the backlog of over 2,500 posts there’s a lot of people who just search and end up finding me accidentally.

Q: What are some of the more popular blogs you’ve posted?
A: Well, anything under my RDSP and RESP menus are popular, like how to apply for your child’s disability tax benefits. And on the RDSP side of things all the fights I’ve had with TD about putting money in and taking money out. Also, surprisingly, I wrote one simple blog that just said “I am a civil servant,” and let me tell you, that one caused no end of excitement.

Q: What is the essence of that particular blog?
A: I was trying to blow up some of the very negative views people have about civil servants. I mean, I worked in the private sector for over 20 years. I‘ve been a civil servant for 4 years.

Q. Tell me some of the key features of Registered Disability Savings Plans and what parents of disabled children need to know about them.
A: Well, just that right now they’re sort of the poor stepson at most financial institutions. I mean they’re not very flexible. Typically, at worst, they’re really just savings accounts. You can buy GICs or the bank’s mutual funds, which usually have very high management fees.

From what I can tell so far, TD Waterhouse is the only trading partner or trading house that has an RDSP where you can actually buy whatever you want like ETFs. But even the TD plan is not very well set up. It’s pretty cumbersome to put money into.

Q: What’s cumbersome about it?
A: Well, I can’t set up a weekly automatic withdrawal. I have to put money aside into another TD trading account. Then I have to phone up every once in awhile and transfer the money from the trading account into the RDSP. And then I have to call back after the money’s cleared to say, “And now I want to buy these ETF’s or index funds.”

Q: Why is that?
A: I don’t know. I’ve asked TD that a whole bunch of times. It’s just the way the system works. I’ve poked at them as best I can. I’ve asked a few other people to poke at them, but I haven’t really received a satisfactory answer.

Q: Are there legislative rules about how you can invest RDSPs?
A: Not, necessarily. It’s just the banks are putting that kind of limit on things because it’s not a big money maker for them. They’re not going to make a fortune on amounts people deposit into RDSPs.  Whereas with RESPs, there are more people with kids going to university.

Q: What are the contribution limits on RDSPs?
A: The overall lifetime limit for a particular beneficiary is $200,000. Contributions are permitted until the end of the year in which the beneficiary turns 59. Up to a certain amount every year, depending on how much money you make, will be matched by the government.

Based on parental income, an RDSP can get a maximum of $3,500 in matching grants in one year, and up to $70,000 over the beneficiary’s lifetime. A grant can be paid into an RDSP on contributions made to the beneficiary’s RDSP until December 31 of the year the beneficiary turns 49.

Q: Do you have a favorite personal finance blogger that you read religiously?
A: I’ve got a couple. I like reading Michael James “On Money”, but he’s a friend of mine. I really like the Canadian Capitalist, but he’s sort of taken a hiatus. “Boomer & Echo” and the “Canadian Couch Potato” are quite good and so is “My Own Advisor.” I’ve met most of these guys at various conferences. I also read Squawkfox and have had extensive correspondence with her on Twitter.

Q: What, if any, money making opportunities or spin-offs have there been as a result of your blogging career?
A: Well, I don’t do this for the money which is obvious given how little I make at it. This is more of a cathartic thing for me.

Q: If you had only one piece of advice to readers or listeners about getting their finances in order, what would it be?
A: Get out of debt. Debt is a bad thing. There’s no such thing as good debt. It’s all bad. Don’t fool yourself into thinking there’s livable debt like a mortgage or maybe paying for your university. Somehow carrying debt has been normalized in the last 30 years or so but it’s still really not ok.

Thank you very much, Alan. It was a pleasure to talk to you.

Thanks for the opportunity Sheryl.

This is an edited transcript you can listen to by clicking on the link above. You can find the Canadian Personal Finance Blog here.