Tag Archives: MoneySense

Dec 23: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Wreath

As the year draws to a close, I am pleased to join brighterlife.ca in celebrating some of the best Canadian retirement writers in 2013. I thank them for including me on the list.

Week after week we link to these and other fine bloggers who freely share their time and considerable insight with us. To get to know some of these people a little better in 2014 savewithspp.com will present a series of podcast interviews with prominent personal finance bloggers.

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Retire Happy. Follow financial expert, author and speaker Jim Yih on Twitter: @jimyih

MoneySense. Follow MoneySense Magazine editor Jonathan Chevreau: @JonChevreau

Boomer and Echo. Follow mother-and-son financial writers Marie and Robb Engen: @BoomerandEcho

Sheryl Smolkin. Follow this lawyer and financial journalist: @SherylSmolkin

Unretired Life. Follow coach, consultant, speaker and author Eileen Chadnick: @unretiredlife

I’m a sonic boomer… not a senior. Royce Shook writes about issues important to Boomers, grandparents and others, who are changing what retirement looks like.

Canadian Dream Free at 45. Follow engineer and financial writer Tim Stobbs on his journey to early retirement: @canadiandream

Everything Zoomer. Follow executive editor and travel writer Vivian Vassos (@vivianvassos) and associate editor and arts and culture writer Mike Crisolago (@MikeCrisolago)

Grey Routes and Tips. Follow travel-for-grownups writer Jane Canapini: @janecanapini

Best from the Blogosphere will be taking a three week break, but I look forward to bringing you more great retirement and money saving ideas beginning again in mid-January.

Have a happy, healthy holiday season with friends and family.

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Real or artificial Christmas tree? The pros and cons

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK

I am probably the wrong person to be writing about the pros and cons of real vs. artificial Christmas trees because we never celebrated Christmas or had a tree. Instead we lit Chanukah candles for eight nights and ate too many potato latkes (pancakes).

However, my research reveals that that the “real vs. artificial tree” debate is a perennial one, and the issues are somewhat different than I initially expected.

From purely a cost perspective, there seems little doubt that purchasing a well-constructed, long-lasting artificial tree is less expensive than buying a real tree every Christmas. In fact, in a Moneysense article published last December, Stefan Dubowski suggests that an artificial tree can be as much as $400 cheaper over 10 years.

He also notes that artificial trees are cleaner, there are no needles to gather up and no water reservoir that leaks or spills all over the presents. And it is less of a hazard because most artificial trees are fire resistant, whereas real trees dry out, making them more likely to burn.

He outlines characteristics you should look for in an artificial tree and recommends a pre-lit tree so you can avoid wrestling with tangled strings of lights each year. After reviewing four high-end trees sold last year at major Canadian retailers, he concludes that the Martha Stewart Living Pre-Lit Sparkling Pine Tree from Home Depot ($289) has the longest warranty (five years on the tree and two years on the lights) and is the best value overall.

But what about the environmental impact of real vs. artificial trees?

Some might make the case for fake trees because they are re-used every year and thus don’t generate the waste of their real counterparts. But fake trees are typically made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is one of the most environmentally offensive forms of non-renewable, petroleum derived plastic.

Several known carcinogens may be generated during PVC production polluting neighbourhoods near factory sites, many of which are in China. Furthermore, fake trees are not recyclable or biodegradable, so when they are disposed of they will fill up landfill sites for an indefinite period.

In contrast, the Saskatchewan Christmas Tree Growers Association reminds us that:

  • Real trees are a renewable, recyclable resource.
  • For every real Christmas tree harvested, up to three seedlings are planted in its place the following spring.
  • Real trees are environmentally friendly. They produce oxygen, sequester carbon, provide shelter for wildlife, help control erosion and are biodegradable.

However, what is more important is that selecting, bringing home and decorating a real tree is an important part of the holiday tradition for many families. Buying a tree at a department store and reassembling it every year may be a cheaper option over time, but opting for a real tree instead of an artificial tree is a decision you make with your heart.

Want to weigh in on the real vs. artificial debate? Share your tips with us at http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

13-Nov Holiday gifts Ways to save money on winter driving
20-Dec Transportation Ways to save money on gas
27-Dec Coupons Coupon websites that can save you money

Oct 14: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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From almost the first day you started working, you began saving for retirement by paying into a pension plan or an RRSP. But now that you are on the “home stretch” to life after work, have you decided what you are going to do with your time?

Brighter Life’s Dave Dineen says now that he is retired, “What do you do?” is the question he dreads the most. Read how he seizes the day, does whatever he likes and makes up for lost time.

On FreefromBroke, Brianna discusses 9 things to do when you retire. Go back to school, travel, volunteer, start a business or start a blog! Suddenly your options are endless.

Huffington Post, senior editor Ann Brenhoff ponders how so many aspects of her personal life flow from her work. She says, “For my retirement equation to balance, I need the sense that I am essential to something or someone. And that’s what I fear trips up a lot of us. Is taking a photography class at the library really going to rock my boat?”

Daniel, a guest blogger on Boomer and Echo took a package after a 40 year career. Since then, he has had opportunities to work part-time but he is so busy with hobbies that he no longer wants to be tied down to a calendar.

And David Ashton notes in an August 2012 MoneySense article that Canadians can no longer rely on pensions, government benefits and bull markets to carry them through their golden years. He offers 7 strategies to make your money last including reinvent your job and cash in on the equity in your home to move to a less expensive area.

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.

What to do on your staycation

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK

I am convinced that there are two kinds of people in this world. The first group includes workaholics who never use up all of their paid vacation days. The second group carefully plans how each vacation day will be used and yearns for more.

This dichotomy was recently illustrated in the results of the 2013 Expedia.ca Vacation Deprivation Survey which revealed that employed Canadians forfeit an average of two days of vacation per year which could be used to relax or travel. This amounts to 32 million untaken days and $5.1 billion in wages handed back to employers.

Yet many Canadians show a strong desire to take time off, with one in five employed Canadians saying they would take a lower salary for more vacation time (22 per cent). Also, “an extra vacation day” tops the list of perks employees would like to receive as a reward for company loyalty.

In many organizations vacation days cannot be carried over to the next year, so it’s “use it or lose it.” But even if you can’t afford to take expensive trips to exotic locations, there are plenty of good options for taking a staycation close to home.

Wikipedia describes a staycation as “a period in which you or your family stays home and participates in leisure activities within driving distance, sleeping in your own beds at night.” You might make day trips to local tourist sites, swimming venues or engage in activities such as horseback riding, paintball or visiting museums.

The benefits of staycations are that they are far less costly than a vacation involving travel. There are no lodging costs and travel expenses are minimal. However, to make it feel like a vacation, budget for local trips, one or two meals out and tickets to local attractions.

Since 2011 the Government of Saskatchewan has funded the “Saskatchewanderer” project. One creative, energetic and motivated student has been hired each summer to discover everything that makes Saskatchewan great. Their job was to visit, video and blog about special events, little known gems and remote locations in the province.

You can learn from their experience. Andrew’s 2011 Adventure, Jeff’s 2012 Adventure and Caitlin’s 2013 Adventure include lots of terrific ideas about things to do on your staycation regardless of what part of the province you live in. Also check out the The Saskatchewanderer on Facebook.

Already this summer, a few of the places and events Caitlin has visited include Regina’s 46th Annual Mosaic: A Festival of Cultures; the PotashCorp Children’s Festival in Saskatoon; Grasslands National Park; and Hudson Bay, SK.

In contrast, Jonathan Chevreau, the editor of Moneysense and author of Findependence Day has a different take on staycations. In a blog posted on June 17th, he says one type of staycation is where you continue to work, but on your own projects rather than for your employer. You can also tackle various chores or home improvement projects.

If you still have a day job but have reached the point where you have several weeks of paid vacation a year, Chevreau says you may find a working staycation is an excellent trial run for retirement. He wrote the first edition of Findependence Day in the summer of 2008 during paid vacation weeks from his newspaper staff columnist job.

Whether you decide to travel on your vacation or spend the time working on pet projects closer to home, don’t forfeit paid vacation days. In years to come, no one will have fond memories of the extra time you put in at the office. But your children and your grandchildren will remember your quality time together, even if you went no further than the pup tent pitched in the front yard.

Do you have tips for people planning staycations? Share your tips with us at http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

8-Aug Garage sales How to make money on your garage sale
15-Aug Back to school Back to school shopping: A teachable moment
22-Aug College/University Stay at home or go away to school?

Apr 15: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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This week Jon Chevreau, the editor of Moneysense magazine celebrated his 60th birthday and the release of the U.S. edition of his book Findependence Day. You can listen to a podcast interview I did with Jon last summer.

In a “must read” blog he wrote to mark the occasion, Jon made an important distinction between early retirement and financial independence:

“Financial independence is not the same as retirement,” Chevreau says. “Ideally, it precedes retirement by decades. It means you continue to work because you want to, not because you have to.”

Exploring a similar topic, on Darwin’s Money, the author debunks some myths about extreme early retirement and says, “The problem I have with people declaring that they’ve retired in an ‘extreme’ fashion is that they’re either not really retired, or they’re relying on a spouse, which, well, isn’t really the same thing.”

So based on the discussion in the two posts above, did guest blogger Robert (a financial planner) on Canadian Dream: Free at 45 really retire at age 35, or has he simply achieved financial independence? To find a purpose in “retirement” he has gone back to school with the goal of eventually living and working overseas.

The same question may be asked of accountant “Retired Syd” who retired in her 40s. On Retirement: A full-time job she muses about the best place to live for the next chapter in her life. Because her priority is friends and family, she concludes that living close to the people she loves is more important than any dreams of settling in a more distant locale.

But She Thinks I’m Cheap has already made the leap to London with his wife and in his latest blog you can read about their experience relocating overseas and re-entering the workforce.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?”  Send us an email with the information to socialmedia@saskpension.com and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Feb 4: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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With RRSP season in full swing, you may be reviewing your budget projections to ensure you are saving enough for retirement. But are you factoring in the future cost of health care?

In Planning for health care in retirement, a guest post on Retire Happy, Sun Life Financial AVP Kevin Press suggests that some combination of disability insurance, critical illness insurance and long-term care insurance can help fill the post-retirement health care gap.

Understanding your family’s life insurance needs is another important element of financial planning. The blog Riscario Insider links to a LIMRA Quizz which you can take to test your life insurance literacy.

And if maxing your Sask Pension Plan and RRSP contributions are top of mind this month, tax season can’t be far behind. In Canadian Finance, blogger Tom Drake explores the mysteries of pension income-splitting, while in Boomer and Echo, Robb Engen discusses tax considerations for single income households.

Finally, if you’ve decided that this is the year you will finally buy a smartphone or trade your old one in for a newer model, on Engadget, Tom Stevens explains and evaluates the new features found in the BB10 which was released with great hoopla this week.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?”  Send us an email with the information to socialmedia@saskpension.com and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Jan 21: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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This week’s best blogs are a mixed bag.

If you have a give-away pile accumulating in your basement or garage, Marc Saltzman says you may be throwing away items that could be be sold on Kijiji or Craigslist.

Ellen Roseman reports on how ignoring a 3-cent balance affected a reader’s credit rating so she couldn’t get the mortgage she needed for her new house.

On Boomer and Echo, we learn the true cost of tapping into your RRSP nest egg early.

Jim Yih concludes Freedom 35 is possible but not likely unless you have sufficient passive income to support your lifestyle.

And if you are thinking about giving up on savings altogether, MoneySense editor Jonathan Chevreau says you may also be giving up the chance for financial independence while you’re still young enough to enjoy it.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?”  Send us an email with the information to socialmedia@saskpension.com and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.