Tag Archives: MoneySense

Sept 18: Best from the blogosphere

In early September the Bank of Canada raised its key interest rate by another .25% up to one percent from .75%. This decision followed the first hike in July and could be just the second in a string of increases, some economists have predicted in light of the announcement.

In this issue of Best from the Blogosphere, we sample several interesting media articles and blogs that will help you understand how rising interest rates will impact your both ability to manage debt and carry a mortgage.

Robert McLister, mortgage columnist at the Globe and Mail offers 10 things to ponder now that the Bank of Canada has put every mortgage lender on alert. He says adjustable-rate borrowers (whose mortgage payments float with prime rate) will see their payments jump about $12 a month for every $100,000 of mortgage balance.

He also notes that variable rates can still make sense for strong borrowers with a financial cushion or those who might need to break their mortgage early (since variable-rate penalties are usually lower).

But to justify the risk of a variable mortgage, McLister suggests that you look for a rate that’s at least two-thirds of a percentage point less than your best five-year fixed option. That buys you insurance against three more rate hikes.

Kerry K. Taylor aka Squawkfox discusses 6 ways an interest rate hike affects your finances. For example, variable-rate mortgages, or adjustable-rate mortgages, will see an increase as financial institutions increase their lending rates. Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and lines of credit will cost more. Student loan interest rates can be either fixed or variable (floating). As with mortgages, Taylor says those repaying a variable-rate student loan will see their interest rate go up immediately, while those on fixed rates won’t see a jump until it is time for renewal.

In MoneySense, Martin MacMahon and Denise Wong consider What the latest rate hike means for you. Economist Bryan Yu with Central 1 Credit Union told the authors that people carrying a lot of debt on their credit card will probably start to notice higher interest charges. “They’re going to be facing the quarter-point increase on terms of that debt for their servicing… That’s a quarter point on an annual basis. So, it is going to be a bit of a pinch going forward, ” he says. “In these circumstances people should be looking at paring back some of that debt over time.”

The Globe and Mail’s David Berman explores why even though interest rates are rising, your savings account isn’t growing. Many financial institutions have already passed along this week’s central bank quarter-percentage-point hike to borrowers, raising their prime lending rates to 3.2% on Thursday – but you may need a powerful microscope to see any increase in your savings rates. “Why? The simple reason is because lenders can get away with it,” Berman says.

James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub.ca and president of CanWise Financial mortgage brokerage believes at some point, as rates in Canada continue to rise, there will be an adjustment to all deposit and savings products.  “But it just seems to be that [financial institutions] just don’t look at it as closely as they do on their lending side,” he concludes.

The bank’s decision to raise its key lending rate to one per cent on September 6th, from 0.75 per cent, apparently surprised the markets, which sent the loonie soaring. The Canadian dollar, which had been trading around 80.5 cents U.S. in the morning, spiked by more than a cent to around the 82-cent mark immediately after the Bank of Canada’s announcement. It’s the highest level the currency has seen since June 2015.

So If you have invested in U.S. stocks or have American dollars socked away in a bank account for your next vacation south of the border, the spike in the value of the loonie as a result of the interest hike is bad news. But the soaring loonie as a result of the Bank of Canada’s interest rate announcement is great news if you are planning a U.S. vacation that is priced in American dollars. However, a higher loonie could also slow Canada’s economic momentum, as it will make exports more expensive.


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.

Aug 21: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

If you want to take a break from swimming and sunning in the waning days of summer, here is our latest selection of personal finance vides for your viewing pleasure.

There was a lot of panic recently after the Bank of Canada finally raised its overnight rate after seven years. In her  latest video, Jessica Moorhouse gives a quick recap on what this interest rate hike was all about and what you should do about it (especially if you’re in debt!).

The Globe and Mail’s personal finance columnist Rob Carrick offers several ideas to reduce the impact of the interest rate increase on your finances. If you have a mortgage, he suggests paying down the principal, even with money you were planning to put into an RRSP.

Father Jonathan Chevreau and his daughter Helen are interviewed on CBC Business news about what it is like when “boomerang kids” move home years after they left the first time.

Click here to listen

Kornel Szreibjer, host of Build Wealth Canada interviewed Randy Cass CEO of Nest Wealth, a robo advisor service. Robo-advisors are a class of financial advisers that provide financial advice or portfolio management online with minimal human intervention. For more ways to listen to the podcast click here.

 

And finally, couples manage finances in different ways. MoneySense profiles three different couples who talk about their financial goals and steps they have taken to meet 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.

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.

Burn your mortgage: An interview with author Sean Cooper

By Sheryl Smolkin

Click here to listen
Click here to listen

If you think you can’t possibly afford to buy a home or that paying off your mortgage is a pipe dream, Burn Your Mortgage is the must-read book of the year. Today I’m pleased to be interviewing author Sean Cooper for savewithspp.com.

By day, Sean is a mild-mannered senior pension analyst at a global consulting firm. By night he is a prolific personal finance journalist, who has been featured in major publications, including the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and MoneySense. He has also appeared on Global News, CBC, CP24 and CTV News Network.

Thanks for agreeing to chat with us today Sean.

My pleasure, Sheryl.

Q: As a 20 something, why did you decide to buy a house?
A: Well I guess a lot of people strive for home ownership. My parents were my biggest influence. We always owned a home growing up, so I thought that owning a home was kind of the path to financial freedom.

Q: How much did your home cost, and how much was your down payment?
A: I purchased my home in August 2012 for $425,000 dollars. My down payment was $170,000, leaving me with a mortgage of $255,000. I didn’t go out and spend the massive amount the bank approved me for. I could have spent over $500,000 dollars but I found a house with everything that I needed for $425,000 and because of that I was able to pay off my mortgage in three years.

Q: How on earth did you save a down payment of $170,000 dollars? How long did it take you to save it, and how many hours a week did you have to work to do so?
A: Yes, it was definitely a sizable down payment for one person. I pretty much started saving my down payment while I was in university. I was able to graduate debt free from university and while I was there, I was working as a financial journalist. I was also working at the MBA office, and employed part-time at a supermarket. When I got my full-time job I was saving probably 75%-80% of my paycheck. I wasn’t living at home rent free. I was actually paying my mother rent.

Q: Kudos for your determination and stamina. Do you think working three jobs is actually a practical option for most people, particularly if they have young families?
A: No. As I emphasize in the book, that’s how I paid off my mortgage as a financial journalist on top of working at my full time job. While for somebody like me who is single it makes sense, it’s probably not realistic if you have a spouse and children. But there are plenty of things you can do to save money.

Q: Many people again think they would never, never be able to save up enough for a down payment. Can you give a couple of hints or tips that you give readers in your book that will help them escalate their savings?
A:
Definitely. First of all, you absolutely have to be realistic with your home buying expectations. You can’t expect to be able to buy the exact same house that you grew up in with three or four bedrooms and two stories. But you can at least get your foot in the door of the real estate market by perhaps buying a condo, or a town house, and building up equity, and hopefully moving up one day. Think about creative living arrangements. Rent a cheaper place than a downtown condo. Find a roommate.

Q: How can prospective home buyers use registered plans like their RRSP or TFSA to beef up their savings and get tax breaks?
A: If you are a first time home buyer, I definitely encourage you to use the home buyers plan. The government allows you to withdraw $25,000 dollars from your RRSP tax-free (it has to be repaid within 15 years). If you are buying with your spouse, that’s $50 000 dollars you can take out together. That’s a great way to get into the housing market. The caution I can offer is when you withdraw the money, make sure that you fill in the correct forms so you are not taxed on the withdrawal. If you’re not a first time home buyer, then I would definitely encourage you to use a Tax Free Savings Account, because it’s very flexible, and although you don’t get a tax refund, the balance in the plan accumulates tax-free.

Q: After shelter, which means mortgage and rent, food is a pretty expensive cost. How can people manage their food costs while still eating a healthy, varied diet?
A: I offer a few tips in my book. First of all, try to buy items like cereal and rice in bulk and on sale. Another tip I offer is to buy in season. I probably wouldn’t buy cherries during the winter  because they would cost me a small fortune. Try to buy apples instead, and during the summer if you enjoy watermelon, definitely buy it then. Try to be smart with your spending, and that way you can cut back on your grocery bill considerably.

Q: I enjoyed the section in your book about love, money, and relationships. Can you share some hints about how couples can manage dating and wedding costs, to free up more money for their house?
A: People like to spend a fair amount on their weddings these days, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you just have to consider your financial future, and how that’s going to affect it. Also, when it comes to dating, make sure that you and your potential partner are financially compatible and have similar financial goals. For example, one might be a saver while the other is a spender. Sit down and make sure both of you are on the same page financially, and then find common financial goals, and work towards them.

Q: How can prospective home buyers determine how much they can actually afford?
A: If you are ready to start house hunting, I would definitely encourage you to get pre- approved for a mortgage. Basically, the bank will tell you how much money you can afford on a home. That way you don’t waste time looking at houses out of your price range. However, just because the bank says you can spend $800,000 doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend that much.

Also don’t forget you will have to pay for utilities, property taxes, and home insurance plus repairs and maintenance. Come up with a mock budget ahead of time, and see how that will affect your current lifestyle. I would say if over 50% of your month income is going towards housing, that’s too much.

Try to kind of balance home ownership with your other financial goals, whether they are saving towards retirement, or even going on a vacation. That way all of your money won’t be going towards your house, and you will actually be able to afford to have fun and save towards other goals as well.

Q: You’re living in the basement and you rented the first floor. Why did you decide to do that, instead of vice versa?
A: Well I’m just one person living on my own, and upstairs there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms. I wouldn’t know what to do with all the space, so it made sense to live in the basement, because to be honest I lived in basement apartments for several years before that, so it wasn’t really much of an adjustment. I mean, personally I’d rather rent out the main floor than get a second or third job. It’s all about kind of maximizing all of the space that you have, and looking for extra ways to earn income.

Q: We rented the basement in our first house. Why did you decide to write the book?
A:
When I paid off my mortgage, a lot of people reached out to me for home buying advice. In the media, there seems to be a lot of, I guess, negativity surrounding real estate and big cities.

I always hear that the average house costs over a million dollars in Toronto and Vancouver. It seems like for millennials home ownership is really out of reach. I wanted to write a book to really inspire them and show them that home ownership is still a realistic dream, and it is still achievable if you are willing to be smart about your finances.

Q: Congratulations Sean. It’s a great book. I’m sure people reading and listening to this podcast will want to run out and buy it. Where can they get a copy?
A: They can order a copy on Amazon. It will also be available in Chapters and other major book stores across Canada.

Well that’s very exciting. Good luck.

Thanks so much.

 

 

 

 

 

You can purchase Burn Your Mortgage by Sean Cooper on Amazon.

This is an edited transcript of a podcast interview conducted in February 2017.

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.

May 16: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

For the last week, the images I cannot get out of my mind are the pictures and videos of Fort McMurray burning. Every week on savewithspp.com we post blogs that discuss retirement savings and how readers can fund their life after work. But the major asset most of us are depending on to augment government benefits is the equity in our family homes. Imagine having that wiped out in minutes as you flee to safety.

The only good news has been the incredible bravery and grace of everyone involved from first responders to neighbors to governments at all levels. Also, as the Globe and Mail reports, insurance companies across Canada have already begun deploying mobile response units and flying in personnel to the province from across the country to prepare to assess the damage and issue emergency cheques.

Money will never replace photos albums or family heirlooms, but it will go a long way to help people rebuild their lives. That’s why this week we are going to feature a few things you need to know about insuring your home and your possessions against loss or theft.

In a Toronto Star article, Home insurance: 10 things you need to know, Andrew Wicken says the cost to rebuild your home plays a big role in determining the amount you pay for home insurance. Check with your broker or agent to see if you have guaranteed replacement coverage. This ensures you will receive the amount that it actually costs to replace your home and not the amount on your policy. Not all policies have this coverage and rules vary across insurance companies.

What Every Canadian Should Know About Home Insurance Policies posted on InsuranceHotline.com points out the importance of “loss of use” coverage. If your home is uninhabitable after a claim, then loss of use insurance will help your family manage while your home is being rebuilt or repaired. Hotel expenses, meals, and incidental expenses are covered by this portion of your home insurance policy, typically for a specified period of time or to a maximum dollar amount.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada reminds homeowners that it’s your responsibility to report any changes to your property. Contact your insurance professional before you:

  • Renovate your home
  • Install a pool or spa
  • Set up a home-based business, such as a daycare
  • Lease all or a portion of your property
  • Purchase jewellery or art.

Keeping your insurance company informed with an accurate and up-to-date description of your home and contents can help speed up the claims settlement process after a loss.

The U.S.- based Hanover Fire & Casualty Insurance Company outlines some ways to save money on your home insurance. For instance things that might earn you a discount include:

  • A home burglary alarm system
  • Dead bolt locks
  • Fire alarms and sprinklers
  • Updated heating systems
  • Updated wiring and electrical systems
  • A home near a fire hydrant or fire department
  • A home located near a police department
  • Well-structured and maintained stairs, sidewalks, driveways, and entrances

And finally, MoneySense author Gabrielle Bauer describes Home insurance as defending your castle. When buying home insurance, she says you’re almost always better off using an independent broker who deals with a number of insurance companies, so he/she can get you the best price possible. Also, to keep your premiums more affordable, she suggests bundling your home and auto insurance policies together because it could cut 15% off your total bill.

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The Canadian Red Cross is accepting donations for the Alberta Fires Emergency Appeal. Ten banks in Canada are also accepting cash donations. All individual donations will be matched by the Government of Canada.

 

Feb 1: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

In this space we typically provide links to interesting work by our favourite personal finance writers about topics ranging from money-saving tips to retirement savings to retirement lifestyle. But many of these prolific bloggers have also posted great videos on YouTube with helpful tips and tricks for people looking for ways to better manage their money.

So keeping in mind the old adage that “a picture can be worth a thousand words,” this week we identify a series of videos featuring pundits you already know well. While some of these videos are not new, they have stood the test of time.

Take a minute to watch at least a few of them, and let us know whether you would like to see more video content on savewithspp.com.

Sean Cooper is a pension administrator by day and a hard-working personal finance writer by night. Watch him burn the mortgage he paid off in 3 years and reveal his super saver secrets.

One of a kind blogs like How to get married for $239 by Kerry K. Taylor, aka Squawkfox have have been read by thousands of eager fans. In this video she discusses with the Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick, How to stop wasting money.

In Life After Financial Independence as part of his Tea At Taxevity series, actuary Promod Sharma interviews author and former MoneySense editor Jonathan Chevreau about his post-retirement projects, including the Financial Independence Hub.

TV personality and personal finance guru Gail Vaz-Oxlade is interviewed on Toronto Speaks: Personal Finance about spending beyond your budget.

Studies suggest that 6 out of 10 Canadians do not have a retirement plan. Why is that number so high? Retire Happy’s Jim Yih shares a couple of theories about why it’s hard to plan for retirement.

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 21: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Recently Rob Carrick at the Globe and Mail wrote Prepare for the worst and make 2016 the year of the emergency fund. According to Carrick, the emergency fund is how you survive a financial setback without raiding your retirement savings, adding to your line of credit debt or borrowing from relatives. “Think of an emergency fund as insurance against a short-term setback that affects your long-term financial goals,” Carrick says.

20 Reasons Why You Need am Emergency Fund by Trent Hamm on thesimpledollar.com lists all of the obvious reasons (job loss, illness, urgent medical expenses) why you may need to tap into an emergency fund plus a few you never thought of. Some more obscure examples are:

  • Your identity is stolen, locking you out of your credit cards and/or bank account for a while until the issue gets straightened out.
  • An unexpected professional change forces you to relocate quickly.
  • A relative or friend of yours passes away suddenly in another part of the country (or the world).
  • You discover your partner is cheating on you, and for your own safety and peace of mind you have to pack your bags quickly and go.

How much do you need to save in your emergency fund? Typically financial experts suggest three to six months of fixed (as opposed to completely discretionary expenses). Emergency fund calculators from RBC and moneyunder30.com can help you figure out how much you should set aside.

Jason Heath at MoneySense is not a big fan of emergency funds if that means a substantial amount of cash sitting in a bank account doing nothing. He says, “I’m all for having the potential to cover 6 months of expenses in the event of an emergency. But I’d rather someone be able to do so through a combination of modest savings and ideally, a low-interest rate debt facility like a secured line of credit.”

Gail Vax-Oxlade believes the TFSA is a perfect place to stash your emergency fund. She says, “The best thing about the TFSA is its flexibility. You can take money out of your TFSA at any time for any purpose, without losing the contribution room, which makes this account the number one choice for socking away an emergency fund. So even if you take money out in one year, you can put it back the next, without affecting that year’s contribution limit ($5,500 for 2016).”

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.

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.

Oct 26: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

As I write this, perhaps the most newsworthy item of the last week has been the election of the new Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But it will be weeks and months before we know what impact the change in government will actually have on our day to day lives and the Canadian economy.

So today, we go back to basics and draw on the writings of many of our favourite personal finance bloggers and mainstream media pundits who day in and day out, produce articles that help us better manage our money.

The thought of being unemployed is terrifying, but the odds are it will happen to you or a close family member at least once in your lifetime. On Money We Have, Barry Choi writes about How to Prepare for Unemployment. He suggests that you have an emergency fund; a side hustle and that you improve your skills.

Gail Vaz-Oxlade tackles Parenting on a Budget. She says the trick to not letting kids’ expenses get way out of hand is to allocate a specific amount to each child’s activities and needs, and stick with the plan. Start by listing all the things your children do for which you must lay out some of your hard-earned bucks.

Krystal Yee has been vegetarian for almost two years now. She shares on Give me back my five bucks her one month experiment moving from vegetarian to vegan. She anticipates higher than normal grocery bills and that it will be tough to change her habits, but she is hoping that one month will turn to two months and the result will be a new lifestyle.

If you wonder where your money goes, you’ll enjoy The crunch years: Where the money goes by Matt McCleern on MoneySense. McCleern tracked every cent he spent digitally, over the last 12 years. He says transportation and daycare were real budget busters, but the best financial decision he ever made was to aggressively pay down his mortgage.

And in the Huffington Post, Pramod Udiaver discusses five major trends that will affect how you retire. They are increasing longevity; the lower return environment; fewer defined benefit pension plans; and growing health care costs.

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.