Tag Archives: moneyville

May 28: Best from the blogosphere

Of the 500+ blogs I have written for savewithspp.com, monitoring the blogosphere to link you with the best of the personal finance world has been the most rewarding. While some personal finance bloggers generate money from google ads on their websites,  forge corporate relationships, sell courses or develop an enhanced reputation in their chosen field, the vast majority write for free, just because they have information they want to share with others.

Here is a completely unscientific list of some of my favourites who I have featured time and time again in this space. If you want to continue following them, sign up to receive emails notifying you when their latest blogs are posted.

Boomer&Echo: Rob Engen and his mother Marie Engen are the writing team that generate a consistent stream of always engaging blogs about everything to do with saving and spending money.

Cait Flanders: Cait Flanders has written about all the ways she continually challenges herself to change her habits, her mindset and her life. This includes paying off debt, completing a two-year shopping ban and doing a year of slow living experiments. And in January 2018, she published her first book, The Year of Less  (a memoir), which became a Wall Street Journal bestseller.

Canadian Dream: Free at 45: I have been reading Tim Stobbs since we blogged together on moneyville for the Toronto Star. He has beat his initial target, retiring recently at age 40, but his blogs about retirement are still a great read.

Jessica Moorhouse:  Jessica Moorhouse is a millennial personal finance expert, speaker, Accredited Financial Counsellor Canada® professional, award-winning blogger, host of the Mo’ Money Podcast, founder of the Millennial Money Meetup and co-founder of Rich & Fit. Don’t miss How I Survived a Trip Across America Using Only Chip & Pin.

Millenial Revolution: Firecracker and Wanderer are married computer engineers who retired in their early 30s. They blog on Millenial Revolution. They opted to not buy a home because they believe home ownership is a money pit. Instead they travel the world living on their investment income. Reader case studies where Wanderer “maths it up” are particularly fascinating.

Money After Graduation: Money After Graduation Inc. is an online financial literacy resource founded by Bridget Casey for young professionals who want to build long-term wealth. Whether readers are looking to pay off student loans, invest in the stock market, or save for retirement, this website has valuable resources and tools including eCourses and workshops.

Retire Happy Jim Yih and his team of writers publish top quality financial planning information. They believe there is a need for timeless information because too many financial and investing sites focus on minute-by-minute investment ideas, changing markets and fast paced trends.

Sean Cooper: Sean Cooper’s initial claim to fame was paying off his mortgage by age 30 which he has documented in his book “Burn Your Mortgage.” Since then much of his writing has focused on real estate-related subjects. He has recently qualified as a mortgage broker and will be leaving his day job as a pension administrator to launch a new career.

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For me, retirement beckons. This is my last Best from the Blogosphere for savewithspp.com. My own blog RetirementRedux has been dormant for some time as I have focused on writing for clients but I plan to revive it now that I have more time. Feel free to subscribe if you are interested.

May all of your financial dreams come true, and when the right time comes, I wish you a long, healthy and prosperous retirement.

 

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.

How SPP changed my life

Punta Cana: March 2018

After a long career as a pension lawyer with a consulting firm, I retired for the first time 13 years ago and became Editor of Employee Benefits News Canada. I resigned from that position four years later and embarked on an encore career as a freelance personal finance writer.

In December 2010 I wrote the article Is this small pension plan Canada’s best kept secret?  about the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for Adam Mayers, formerly the personal finance editor for the Toronto Star. The Star was starting a personal finance blogging site called moneyville and he was looking for someone to write about pensions and employee benefits. I was recommended by Ellen Roseman, the Star’s consumer columnist.

The article about SPP was my first big break. I was offered the position at moneyville and for 21/2 years I wrote three Eye on Benefits blogs each week. It was frightening, exhausting and exhilarating. And when moneyville began a new life as the personal finance section of the Toronto Star, my weekly column At Work was featured for another 18 months.

But that was only the beginning.

Soon after the “best kept secret” article appeared on moneyville, SPP’s General Manager Katherine Strutt asked me to help develop a social media strategy for the pension plan. Truth be told, I was an early social media user but there were and still are huge gaps in my knowledge. So I partnered with expert Leslie Hughes from PunchMedia, We did a remote, online presentation and were subsequently invited to Kindersley, Saskatchewan, the home of SPP to present in person. All of our recommendations were accepted.

By December 2011, I was blogging twice a week for SPP about everything and anything to do with spending money, saving money, retirement, insurance, financial literacy and personal finance. Since then I have authored over 500 articles for savewithspp.com. Along the way I also wrote hundreds of other articles for Employee Benefit News (U.S.), Sun Life, Tangerine Bank and other terrific clients. As a result, I have doubled my retirement savings.

All my clients have been wonderful but SPP is definitely at the top of the list. I am absolutely passionate about SPP and both my husband and I are members. Because I was receiving dividends and not salary from my company I could not make regular contributions. Instead, over the last seven years I have transferred $10,000 each year from another RRSP into SPP and I would contribute more if I could.

By the end of 2017 I started turning down work, but I was still reluctant to sever my relationship with SPP. However, as my days became increasingly full with travel, caring for my aged mother, visiting my daughter’s family in Ottawa, choir and taking classes at Ryerson’s Life Institute, I realized that I’m ready to let go at long last. After the end of May when people ask me what I do, I will finally be totally comfortable saying “I am retired.”

I will miss working with the gang at SPP. I will also miss the wonderful feedback from our readers. I very much look forward to seeing how both savewithspp.com and the plan evolve. My parting advice to all of you is maximize your SPP savings every year. SPP has changed my life. It can also change yours.

Au revoir. Until we meet again….

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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.

Robb Engen takes on new challenges

By Sheryl Smolkin

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Click here to listen

Hi,

Today in savewithspp.com’s continuing series of interviews with financial bloggers, we talk with Robb Engen. Robb is “Echo” from the very popular Canadian personal finance blog Boomer & Echo. He also has a bi-weekly column in the Toronto Star where his research focuses on budgeting, banking, credit cards, and debt management.

Robb is a happily married Dad living in Southern Alberta. Over the past five years he has gone from taking an amateur interest in personal finance and investing to working towards becoming a full-fledged money expert by taking the four-course Certified Financial Planner program online.

In addition to writing this blog, he appears regularly in the online podcasts Because Money.  He and his mother Marie have started a “fee only” financial planning business and Robb has a new blog called Earn Save Grow.

Thank you very much for joining me today Robb.

I’m glad to be here Sheryl.

Q:  Robb, you’re one busy guy. Before we start talking about your blogs, tell me a little bit about your day job.
A: Sure. In addition to all that you mentioned, I do have a day job, and I’m the Business Development Manager at the University of Lethbridge. That’s a fancy title saying I fund raise and generate revenue for our sports teams here in Lethbridge.

Q: When did you and Marie start “Boomer and Echo”, and why?
A: We started it back in August 2010, so we’ve been at it almost four years. My mom worked for a big bank for two decades plus, and we always chatted about personal finance and investing.

We just had our first child, so there was a lot going on financially, and I started reading a lot of personal finance blogs. My Mom and I thought we might have a unique spin on financial issues.

We wrote a couple of articles, just to get the feeling for putting that kind of thing together, and I did some research on how to start a blog. Then we just jumped into it, I guess.

Q: How many hits do you typically get when you post a blog?
A: We’ve built up a pretty decent-sized following, and most people follow us by Email. We have about 6,000 email subscribers, and of that, I’d say two to three thousand probably actually click through to the blog to read a new post, and some probably just read it by email.

Q: What have some of your most popular posts been about?
A: I’d say probably the more personal stories. When I talk about my changing careers and what that looks like and dealing with a pension plan versus in the private sector, trying to save on your own. I wrote about the challenges I had as a first-time homebuyer, and that got a lot of hits. My mom’s had the same success talking about personal stories.

Q: How have you been able to monetize your blog? What have some of the spinoffs been?
A: I saw that Google has their AdSense network, and that seemed to be the go-to place for monetizing a blog, so we’ve done okay there. It also seems to be that writing about personal finance and investing tends to find more advertisers than say, if you were to write about cats or maybe photography or something like that.

Q: You also blogged for the Toronto Star’s site “Moneyville” three days a week, and now you’re writing a column for thestar.com so those really are spinoffs from your blog as well.
A: Yeah, and what I noticed were some of the more profitable things that people search for information about are rewards cards and loyalty programs. I didn’t want to inundate my Boomer & Echo blog, with posts about air miles and aeroplan so I started a little offshoot called “Rewards Cards Canada,” and that’s where I talk about that niche area.

Q: How many hours a week do you spend on your own blog and the various other related personal finance activities outside your 9-to-5 job?
A: I’d say, for all the online activities, I probably spend about two hours a night from Sunday to Thursday. 

Q: Tell me how the “Because Money” series on YouTube works and the technology used to link Moderator Jackson Middleton with you and the other interview subjects. 
A: I attended the fantastic Canadian Personal Finance Blogger’s Conference in Toronto, and one of the takeaways I got was maybe, try to explore some different forms of media. Video blogging has really come into the forefront now.

Sandy Martin, a fee-only planner who writes at Spring Personal Finance knew marketing and social media manager Jackson Middleton, and so we all got together and decided to do this video series called “Because Money.”

It’s all done through the social network, Google Plus. Google owns YouTube, and they formed what they call “Hangouts on Air.” It’s like a Skype video call. You can get up to 10 people, video chatting on hangout at the same time, and you can put it live on air or you can just record it and play it later. We do it live every Wednesday night.

Q: What kind of hits are you getting on it?
A: Pretty good. We get a couple hundred views a week, and when we have better know people on, like Rob Carrick and Dan Bortolotti, we get a lot more views.

Q: You’re also taking certified financial planner courses, and along with Marie, you’re now offering a unique fee-only personal finance planning service online. How does the service work, and how’s it going?
A: What we found was, we built up quite a following over the years, and that people would Email us and ask about their own situation. Without knowing their complete background and history and their goals moving forward, it’s pretty much impossible to give that tailored, specific advice.

So we talked about this and came up with a fee-only model where we’d work with a client for a year. We develop a financial plan together. Clients get unlimited access to us by phone, email, Google Plus, Skype, whatever, and they can talk about their own financial issues without any pressure to buy anything. We are not licensed to sell products.

Q: You recently launched a new blog called “Earn, Save, Grow.” What do you hope to accomplish with this blog, and how is it different from subjects covered with “Boomer and Echo?”
A: I started a new blog because Boomer & Echo focuses a lot on frugality and money-saving tips and a bit of investing. But I don’t know that the audience is quite there for discussions about earning extra money. There’s always the debate whether you should try to earn more money versus spending less.

Obviously, I’m going to cross promote it a little bit with Boomer and Echo, but time will tell what kind of audience moves over there and is interested in how to make more money or do something on the side with their time. I don’t intend to monetize this site, so I won’t have any ads up there, at least for now.

Q: If you had one piece of advice for Canadians struggling to make ends meet and save for retirement, what would it be?
A: We talked about this in “Because Money” with Rob Carrick recently. The real estate market has gone up so much, and people just feel this need to be a homeowner, and without necessarily understanding the full financial costs.

You can’t spend 40% to 50% of your income on a place to live and still expect to save for retirement, have kids, save up for their education and still have some money left over to go out for a beer or go for a nice dinner. I think we have to rethink the idea of renting for a little while so that if you buy a home you can really afford it.

That’s great. Thank you very much for talking to me today, I’m sure the “savewithspp.com” readers will really be interested in what you had to say.

Thanks for having me, Sheryl. It was a pleasure.


This is an edited transcript of the podcast you can listen to by clicking on the graphic under the picture above. If you don’t already follow Boomer & Echo, you can find it here and subscribe to receive blog posts by email as soon as they’re available.

Should you buy mortgage insurance?

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK

There are many excellent articles about the pros and cons of mortgage insurance vs. term life insurance. But every year a new crop of first-time buyers begins their search for a perfect new home, so it seems like a subject worth revisiting.

The purpose of mortgage insurance (also known as mortgage life insurance or creditor insurance) is to pay off the mortgage when you die so your spouse and dependents are mortgage-free and have one less major expense to worry about. If both you and your spouse are working and want to protect each other, both of you need to be insured.

The first major advantage of term life insurance is that it is much less expensive than mortgage insurance.

I obtained quotes on the Cowan Financial Solutions website for standard non-smoker term life insurance for both a man and a woman aged 36 for $400,000 of life insurance for a term of 25 years. The lowest annual quotes were $556 for the man (Assumption Life) and $420 for the woman (Foresters Life), or $976 in total for both. Of course, if you plan to pay your mortgage off more quickly, you can request quotes for a shorter term.

I compared this quote to mortgage insurance information on the TD Canada Trust website. Mortgage insurance premiums are calculated based on your age and the value of your mortgage. There is no discount for non-smokers or women. With a monthly premium of 21 cents per $1,000 for each borrower 36-40 years old, the annual bill for both spouses would be $1,512 (including a 25 per cent discount for two or more borrowers).

But the cost differential is only the tip of the iceberg. After viewing a YouTube video in which Cowan Financial Solutions advisor Rita Harris explains some of the other reasons why term life insurance is a better deal than mortgage protection offered by the banks, I gave her a call to get some additional details.

Here’s what she said:

Protection: When you die, your mortgage insurance is payable directly to the bank. Term life insurance protects more than just your mortgage. Your spouse (or other beneficiary) can use the money as is most appropriate in the circumstances.

Premium Guarantee: The term life insurance premiums and benefits are guaranteed for the life of the policy. Your coverage amount is constant but can be reduced at your request. Premium levels for mortgage insurance can be unilaterally changed by carrier. As your mortgage reduces your coverage goes down but your premiums do not.

Portability: If you take your mortgage to another company, you may lose your existing mortgage insurance and have to re-qualify for new mortgage insurance coverage. In contrast, individual term life insurance is fully portable even if you move your mortgage.

Repayment: You lose all your mortgage insurance coverage when your mortgage is re-paid, assumed or in default. As long as your term life insurance premiums are paid, you can convert your insurance to a permanent plan.

Underwriting: If you buy term life insurance, the insurance company will assess the risk and establish the premiums based on your health at the time the policy is purchased. In the absence of any fraudulent activity, you know your claim will be paid out when needed in accordance with the terms of your contract. Mortgage insurance is subject to post-claim underwriting, which means technically you could be declared uninsurable when you submit a claim.

Moneyville blogger Ellen Roseman’s story about the Feldmans is only one example of a case where a bank initially denied coverage after the fact for medical reasons. CBC marketplace also did a brilliant report called The Mortgage Insurance Game.

So caveat emptor! Remember, mortgage insurance is sold by bank employees who may not be trained to explain the legal intricacies of those insurance products. You could pay premiums and think you are covered, only to realize later you are not.

Do you have tips for people shopping for life insurance in order to protect their mortgages? 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:

25-Jul Telecommuting Jobs where you can work from home
1-Aug Vacation Staycation ideas that can save you money
8-Aug Garage sales How to make money on your garage sale

Feb 11: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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When I blogged for moneyville, one of the mantras that appeared over and over in the best-read stories were “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.” This week on Give me back my five bucks, moneyville alumni Krystal Yee makes a great case for negotiating salary in a new job instead of simply accepting the first amount you are offered.

If you are counting the days until spring when you plan to buy a new car, take a look at Robb Engen’s blog on Boomer& Echo where he tells you what you need to know before purchasing a new vehicle.

Alan Schram recently made a good case for saving money by using house brands of over-the-counter drugs instead of name brands on Canadian Finance Blog.

And I’m REALLY glad I didn’t read Mark Goodfield’s blog on the The Blunt Bean counter about how much it costs to own a dog before we got our darling cockapoo Rufus – even if he does wake us up at 5 AM.

Finally, don’t miss the latest rant from perennial favourite Kerry K. Taylor’s (aka Squawkfox) about credit cards that charge a $10 “inactive fee” for not shopping enough.

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 7: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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Happy New Year to all! This week’s roundup includes blogs that recap the best of 2012, and encourage “financial fitness” that can save you money in 2013.

If you ran out of vacation days long before the end of last year, you will not be surprised by results of a Mercer survey I reported on in my moneyville blog Eye on Benefits that reveals Canadians alone in preferring time off to a raise.

On squawkfox.ca Kerry K. Taylor reprints her top blogs in 2012 including “This is going to be expensive… but who cares!” which announces the adoption of her infant daughter Chloe.

Retiree Dave Dineen writes about ways we can add meaning to our lives in New Years- A time for rediscovery on brighterlife.ca

For those of us who struggle with making and following a budget, Boomer and Echo blogger Robb Engen makes the case for Why budgeting is not a waste of time.

And finally, for those of you who have budgeted for upgraded tech gadgets even after your holiday spending spree, moneyville blogger Marc Saltzman says there are rumours that New Apple iPads set to debut in March?.