Tag Archives: New Year’s resolutions

2018 New Year’s Resolutions: Expert Promises

Well it’s that time again. We have a bright shiny New Year ahead of us and an opportunity to set goals and resolutions to make it the best possible year ever. Whether you are just starting out in your career, you are close to retirement or you have been retired for some time, it is helpful to think about what you want to accomplish and how you are going to meet these objectives.

My resolutions are to make more time to appreciate and enjoy every day as I ease into retirement. I also want to take more risks and develop new interests. Two of the retirement projects I have already embarked on are joining a community choir and serving on the board; and, taking courses in the Life Institute at Ryerson University. After all, as one of my good friends recently reminded me, most people do not run out of money, but they do run out of time!

Here in alphabetical order, are resolutions shared with me by eight blogger/writers who have either been interviewed for savewithspp.com or featured in our weekly Best from the Blogosphere plus two Saskatchewan Pension Plan team members.

  1. Doris Belland has a blog on her website Your Financial Launchpad . She is also the author of Protect Your Purse which includes lessons for women about how to avoid financial messes, stop emotional bankruptcies and take charge of their money. Belland has two resolutions for 2018. She explains:
  • I’m a voracious reader of finance books, but because of the sheer number that interest me, I go through them quickly. In 2018, I plan to slow down and implement more of the good ideas.
  • I will also reinforce good habits: monthly date nights with my husband to review our finances (with wine!), and weekly time-outs to review goals/results and pivot as needed. Habits are critical to success.
  1. Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances and blogs at Money We Have. He says, “My goal is to work less in 2018. I know this doesn’t sound like a resolution but over the last few years I’ve been working some insane hours and it’s time to cut back. The money has been great, but spending time with my family is more important.”
  1. Chris Enns who blogs at From Rags to Reasonable describes himself as an “opera-singing-financial-planning-farmboy.” In 2017 he struggled with balance. “Splitting my time (and money) between a growing financial planning practice and an opera career (not to mention all the other life stuff) can prove a little tricky,” he says. In 2018 he is hoping to really focus on efficiency. “How do I do what I do but better? How do I use my time and money in best possible way to maximize impact, enjoyment and sanity?”
  1. Lorne Marr is Director of Business Development at LSM Insurance. Marr has both financial and personal fitness goals. “I plan to max out my TFSAs, RRSPs and RESPs and review my investment mix every few days in the New Year,” he notes. “I also intend to get more sleep, workout 20 times in a month with a workout intensity of 8.5 out of 10 or higher and take two family vacations.”
  1. Avery Mrack is an Administrative Assistant at SPP. She and her husband both work full time and their boys are very busy in sports which means they often eat “on the run” or end up making something quick and eating on the couch.  “One of our resolutions for next year is to make at least one really good homemade dinner a week and ensure that every one must turn off their electronic devices and sit down to eat at the table together,” says Mrack.
  1. Stephen Neiszner is a Network Technician at SPP and he writes the monthly members’ bulletin. He is also a member of the executive board of Special Olympics (Kindersley and district). Neiszner’s New Year’s financial goals are to stop spending so much on nothing, to grow his savings account, and to help out more community charities and service groups by donating or volunteering. He would also like to put some extra money away for household expenses such as renovations and repairs.
  1. Kyle Prevost teaches high school business classes and blogs at Young and Thrifty. Prevost is not a big believer in making resolutions on January 1. He prefers to continuously adapt his goals throughout the year to live a healthier life, embrace professional development and save more. “If I had to pick a singular focus for 2018, I think my side business really stands out as an area for potential growth. The online world is full of opportunities and I need to find the right ones,” he says.
  1. Janine Rogan is a financial educator, CPA and blogger. Her two financial New Year’s resolutions are to rebalance her portfolio and digitize more of it. “My life is so hectic that I’m feeling that automating as much as I can will be helpful,” she says. “In addition, I’d like to increase the amount I’m giving back monetarily. I donate a lot of my time so I feel like it’s time to increase my charitable giving.”
  1. Ed Rempel is a CFP professional and a financial blogger at Unconventional Wisdom. He says on a personal finance level, his resolution are boring as he has been following a plan for years and is on track for all of his goals. His only goal is to invest the amount required by the plan. Professionally, he says, “I want 2018 be the year I hire a financial planner with the potential to be a future partner for my planning practice. I have hired a couple over the years, but not yet found the right person with the right fit and long-term vision.”
  1. Actuary Promod Sharma’s resolutions cover off five areas. He says:
  • For health, I’ll continue using the 7 Minute Workout app from Simple Design.
  • For wealth, I’ll start using a robo advisor (WealthBar). I’m not ready for ETFs.
  • For learning, I’ll get my Family Enterprise Advisor (FEA) designation to collaborate better in teams.
  • For sharing, I’ll make more videos.
  • For giving, I’ll continue volunteering.

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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.

Personal finance writers share 2017 New Year’s resolutions

By Sheryl Smolkin

Several years ago Globe & Mail columnist Tim Cestnick listed what he considers to be the top five opportunities for anyone looking to get their financial house in order:

  • Create a pension
  • Own a home
  • Pay down debt
  • Start a business
  • Stay married

So I decided to ask 10 money writers to share their top personal finance New Year’s resolution with me, in the hope that it will encourage readers to establish and meet their own lofty goals in 2017.

Here, in alphabetical order, is what they told me:

  1. Jordann Brown: My Alternate Life
    I’m still in the process of ironing out my New Year’s resolutions but here is one I’m definitely going to stick to. I plan to save $10,000 towards replacing my vehicle. It’s always been a dream of mine to buy a car with cash and as my car ages it has become apparent that I need to start focusing on this goal. I never want to have a car payment again, and that means I need to start saving today!
  2. Sean Cooper: Sean Cooper Writer
    I  paid off my mortgage in just three years by age 30. My top personal finance New Year’s resolution is to ensure that my upcoming book, Burn Your Mortgage, reaches best-seller status. A lot of millennials feel like home ownership is out of reach. After reading my book, I want to them to believe buying a home is still achievable.
  3. Jonathan Chevreau Financial Independence Hub
    My top New Year’s Resolution, financially speaking, is to make a 2017 contribution to our family’s Tax-free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). This can be done January 1st, even if you have little cash.  Assuming you do have some non-registered investments that are roughly close to their book value, these can be transferred “in kind”, effectively transforming taxable investments into tax-free investments.
  4. Tom Drake Canadian Finance Blog
    My New Year’s resolution for 2017 is to increase my income through my home business. But this can be done rather easily by anyone through side-gigs and part-time jobs. While saving money by cutting expenses can be helpful, you’ll hit limits on how much you can cut. However, if you aim to find new sources of income in 2017, the possible earnings are limitless!
  5. Jessica Moorhouse Jessica Moorhouse.com
    My personal finance New Year’s resolution is to track my spending, collecting every receipt and noting every transaction down, for at least 3 months. Doing this really helps me stay on track financially, but for me it’s definitely something that’s easier said than done!
  6. Sandi Martin Spring Personal Finance
    I don’t expect much to change in our financial lives over the next year. I hope to avoid the temptation to build a new system because the boring old things we’re already doing aren’t dramatic enough. I’m prone to thinking that “doing something” is the same as “achieving something”, and I’m going to keep fighting that tendency as 2017 rolls by.
  7. Ellen Roseman Toronto Star Consumer Columnist
    My personal finance resolution for 2017 is to organize my paperwork, shred what I don’t need and file the rest. I also want to list the financial service suppliers I deal with, so that someone else can step into my shoes if I’m not around. It’s something I want to do every year, but now I finally have the time and motivation to tackle it.
  8. Mark Seed My Own Advisor
    I actually have three New Year’s resolutions to share:

    • Eat healthier.  We know our health is our most important asset.
    • Continue to save at least 20% of our net income. We know a high savings rate is our key to financial health.
    • After paying ourselves first, simply enjoy the money that is leftover. Life is for the living.
  9. Stephen Weyman HowToSaveMoney.ca
    For 2017 I’m looking to really “settle down” and put down roots in a community. I believe this will have all kinds of family, health, and financial benefits. The time savings alone from being able to better develop daily routines will allow me to free up time to focus more on saving money, growing my business, and better preparing for a sound financial future.
  10. Allen Whitton Canadian Personal Finance Blog
    I resolve to keep a much closer tab on my investments and my expenses, while planning to retire in four years. I have a pension, I have RRSPs, but I still have too large a debt load. Not sure this is possible, but I will try!”

2016 Financial New Year’s Resolutions

By Sheryl Smolkin

As the old year draws to a close, many people resolve to reduce stress by getting more sleep, working out more often and eating a healthy diet. But for others, the financial pressure of taking from Peter to pay Paul is what keeps them awake at night.

If they could only find ways to get their finances under control and be sure that their family is properly protected, their anxiety level would plummet. If you fall into that category, here are some resolutions you can make to improve your finances, free up cash to save for longer term goals like retirement and give your family more financial security.

  1. Write it down: At the end of a month, do you have any idea where your money went? If you tap your credit or debit card each time you buy a cup of coffee, fork over $20 for every baby shower at the office and bring home take-out three days a week because you are too tired to cook, it’s not surprising that your bank account is running on empty half way through the month. Make a note in your phone or on a spreadsheet of every dollar you spend for a month and you will be able to identify money wasted that could be saved instead.
  2. Use cash: It may sound old-fashioned, but if you withdraw a set amount of cash each week to cover transit, lunches, coffee, dry cleaning and other miscellaneous expenses, you will spend much less than if you use your debit card or your credit card to pay for every small expenditure.
  3. Avoid credit card debt: Credit cards are a wonderful convenience if you pay them off every month and don’t have to pay interest charges. However, if you do accumulate credit card debt you could be paying as high as 20% or more on your outstanding balance which compounds every month. Furthermore, if you do not make minimum payments on the due date, you may lose your “grace period” and interest will begin to mount from the date of purchase of each item.
  4. Pay off high interest debt: If you owe money, resolve to pay off high interest debt as soon as possible. In some cases you may be able to borrow money on a lower interest line of credit to pay down higher interest credit card bills. You may also be able negotiate with creditors to accept a fixed amount each month. If you are stressed because of your debts, struggling to make your minimum payments, and need a plan to get your finances back on track, the Saskatchewan Credit Counselling Society provides free, confidential debt solution services.
  5. Pay yourself first: Waiting until the end of the month to direct money into savings is not a productive strategy as by then, the cupboard is typically bare. Decide on the amount you want to add to SPP, your RRSP, TFSA or unregistered savings every month and have the funds automatically transferred. After a few months you won’t even notice the difference.
  6. Re-think your needs: Do you still have one or more landlines although every member of your family has a cell phone? Do you really need cable TV when all you have been watching is Netflix? Are two cars a necessity or a luxury if you are on a convenient public transit line? Will the party be more fun if you buy a new dress you may never wear again? There are loads of ways to cut corners without significantly compromising your quality of life.
  7. Review your insurance: Is your family protected in the event of the death of you or your spouse or both? Your workplace benefits may include some life, disability and health insurance, but is it enough? Understand your employee benefits and augment them where required. Critical illness insurance can provide peace of mind if you succumb to a listed condition and suddenly have unexpected bills.
  8. Talk to your partner: If you have a partner or a spouse, talk regularly about your finances. Make sure you both have access to each other’s computer passwords and any bank or investment accounts that are not joint. If you think managing your finances now is a problem, imagine if only one of you is left behind to provide for the family with no understanding of family finances and where important documents are kept.
  9. Teach your kids: None of us were born understanding the value of a dollar or knowing how to manage money. Children learn from their parents. Give them an allowance or pay them for doing chores above and beyond their day-to-day responsibilities. Establish what they are responsible for paying for out of their own money. Don’t be afraid to say, “It’s too expensive,” or “We can’t afford that.” As your children get older and get part-time jobs, require that they save a portion of everything they earn towards their post-secondary education. Encourage them to donate time and money to the charity of their choice.
  10. Make a will: Having an up-to-date will is essential to ensuring your estate is distributed as you intend it, and that your death doesn’t create a legal and administrative burden to your family. If you die without a will, a court will appoint someone to administer your estate and distribute the assets according to a formula set out in provincial estate and family laws.

Also see: Financial New Year’s resolutions

How to take full advantage of your gift cards

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK: You can sell unused gift cards online
SHUTTERSTOCK: You can sell unused gift cards online

Whether I am giving or receiving a gift, I have mixed feelings about gift cards. I like receiving cash because I can spend it on whatever I want, but often I just deposit gift cheques to my VISA card and don’t buy anything special with the money. Giving gift cards requires a bit more thought than just putting $50 in an envelope, but they are easily lost or misplaced.

The big problem used to be that many gift cards had expiry dates. However, since 2008 Saskatchewan (like most other Canadian provinces) has had legislation prohibiting expiry dates on all prepaid purchase cards and banning inactivity or dormancy fees that reduce the value of all cards bought and sold in the province.

Nevertheless, there are a few exceptions to the general rule:

  • An expiry date is allowed for prepaid purchase cards that are issued for charitable purposes, e.g. a charity auction.
  • An expiry date is allowed where the consumer has not given anything of value in exchange for the gift card or gift certificate, e.g. a retail business gives employees gift cards for store purchases as a holiday gift.
  • Retailers can charge a fee for replacing lost or stolen prepaid purchase cards.
  • Retailers can charge a fee for “customizing” a prepaid purchase card by adding personalized elements like names and logos.

So even if you excavate your bottom drawer and find a stash of gift cards that are several years old, chances are they are still useable. But what if there is absolutely nothing you want to buy from the establishments that issued the cards?

Here are some ideas:

  • Re-gift the card to your brother because you know he is renovating his house and definitely can use something from a hardware store.
  • Sell the card to a friend who frequently buys from a clothing store that doesn’t sell anything in your size range.
  • Use the card to buy a wedding present for your cousin who has registered and made a selection at the gift store where the card was purchased.
  • Donate gift cards for books, cosmetics etc. to registered charities like women’s shelters and seniors centres. Registered charities can issue official donation receipts for income tax purposes for the eligible amount of gifts of gift certificates and gift cards under specific circumstances.

And if all else fails, you can sell gift cards on several online websites like cardswap.ca. CardSwap also accepts store credits for returned merchandise accompanied by the receipt of purchase.

Here is how CardSwap works:

  1. Enter the details of your gift card into the online form. There is a list of over 450 merchants in the pre-populated form, but if you don’t see the company that issued your card you can request that it be added.
  2. Mail your gift card to CardSwap using their free pre-paid shipping label. You will receive an email confirmation when they receive your gift card.
  3. CardSwap will mail you a cheque, credit your account with SwapPoints or the amount can be deposited directly to your PayPal account. A PayPal deposit is instant, but further charges may apply. If you select points instead of cash, you can redeem your SwapPoints for gift cards from your favourite Canadian merchants sold online by other CardSwap users.

Another Canadian website where you can buy and sell gift cards is giftah.com, developed by several University of Waterloo students. Before selling your gift cards online do your own due diligence to satisfy yourself that the site is on the level and delivers what it promises.

Do you have any other ideas how to use unwanted gift cards?  Send us an email to socialmedia@saskpension.com. If your idea is posted, 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 or sell a gift card that you forgot about before you read this article.

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

17-Jan Online shopping Ways to save by shopping online
24-Jan Home insurance What does your home insurance cover?
31-Jan Winter vacation 7 ways to protect your credit cards on vacation

Related:
How to turn unwanted gift cards into cash
7 tips for buying and selling used gift cards
These holidays, put those unused gift cards to work

What to look for in a gym membership

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK: A gym membership is a good investment if you use it
SHUTTERSTOCK: A gym membership is a good investment if you use it

In the aftermath of the excesses of the holiday season, January is prime time for gyms seeking new members. People who have resolved to lose weight and get fit in the New Year sign up in droves. But by the end of February most of these “resolutionists” are rarely seen and regulars no longer have to contend with line ups for classes and cardio equipment.

Committing to regular exercise at gym is only one way to get fit in 2013. Local recreation centres and schools offer a myriad of reasonably priced activities. For example, you can purchase an annual pass to the 100 metre indoor walking track at the Arcola East Community Association in Regina for $80/year or just $25 for the winter season.

However, if you decide that this is the year to join a gym, there are some basic things to remember that will increase the odds that you will actually stick with the program and get value for the money you spend.

First of all, find a gym that is close by with free parking and hours that fit into your schedule. A referral from a friend or listings in the online yellow pages are good places to start.

Also check out the equipment and classes included in at no extra charge by the gyms you are considering. Most gyms will give you a courtesy pass to try out the facilities before you actually become a member.

If you will never take a yoga class, swim laps or need childcare you may decide to join a more bare bones facility that costs less. However, the advantage of a full service gym with a broader range of fitness options is that trying new activities can keep you from getting bored over time and giving up.

Cost and the method of payment are important considerations. Beware of new member specials where you get a reduced rate for several months but have to sign up for a year and provide a credit card or bank account information to get the deal. You may get a better price if your employer has a corporate rate or if there are enough interested people to negotiate one.

And don’t forget to check out the company’s business track record.  A good place to start is the Better Business Bureau in your province.  If you choose to sign up for a year in advance, you’d like the gym to stay in business for at least that long.

Finally, remember that when you join a gym, you are signing a contract. As a consumer you need to ask yourself what your fitness goals are and what medical issues you should consider prior to entering into any contractual arrangement for a gym membership.

The Saskatchewan Better Business Bureau gets frequent complaints from consumers who want to cancel their gym contracts but are unable to do so. They suggest you ask the following questions before signing on the bottom line:

  1. What are the terms of any introductory offers? Gyms use special introductory offers to entice new members. Ensure you understand the terms and the cost once the introductory period is over. Many gyms require multi-year contracts and don’t offer month-to-month arrangements, which for most consumers are probably preferable.
  2. Will my membership renew automatically? The BBB receives frequent complaints from people who joined a gym and didn’t realize that their contract would renew automatically and specific steps must be followed to cancel the contracts.  Early or mid-term cancellations may carry financial costs. Early or mid-term cancellations may carry financial costs.
  3. How can I get out of my contract?   Getting out of a gym contact isn’t as easy as getting into one, so ensure you understand what steps the gym requires to cancel your membership. Ask what happens if you are ill and have to terminate or put your membership on hold.
  4. What happens if I move?   Policies vary by company when a consumer is moving and how the gym applies the policy may depend on how far away you are moving and if they have another facility in your new community area.
  5. What happens if the gym goes out of business?   The BBB receives complaints from people when their gyms suddenly close taking their money with them. Ask the gym to explain what will happen to your money if they suddenly go out of business.

Also check out CBC Marketplace’s January 2011 exposé called Big Gym Ripoff which offers tips on how to avoid continuing to be charged after cancellation of membership and how to avoid being charged for services not requested or received.

How are you planning to get fit and stay healthy on a budget in 2013?  Send us an email to socialmedia@saskpension.com. If your idea is posted, 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 add exercise to your daily routine in 2013.

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

10-Jan Post-Christmas How to get the most out of your gift cards
17-Jan Online shopping Ways to save by shopping online
24-Jan Home insurance What does your home insurance cover?

Financial New Year’s resolutions

By Sheryl Smolkin

27Dec-payoffdebt
SHUTTERSTOCK: Paying off debt will mean you have more money to save

Are the papers on your desk a jumble of bank statements, utility bills and reminders that it’s time to make a dentist appointment?

Does the balance on your credit cards exceed your ability to pay off the balance every month?

Do you know how much discretionary income you have or do you simply write cheques hoping you have enough money in your account to cover them?

If managing your household expenses is an exercise in frustration, maybe this is the year to get your financial house in order.

Every year most of us make at least one or two New Year’s resolutions, but often they are not written down and we do not hold ourselves accountable. Maybe it’s because we make too many resolutions or our goals were not realistic to start with.

Here are some financial New Year’s resolutions that could help you better manage your money and begin saving for longer term goals, including retirement.

  1. Get organized: Two accordion files – one for outstanding bills and one for paid bills can go a long way to taming the mess on your desk. Keep a record of when each bill must be paid or when the amount automatically comes out of your account.
  2. Reduce debt: Commit to paying off your credit card balances every month. If this is not realistic, consolidate debt at the lowest possible interest rate and pay it off as quickly as possible. Most provinces have credit counselling services that offer free, confidential debt solution services.
  3. Understand your expenses: January is a great time to get a handle on your expenses vs. your cash flow. You have all of your 2012 credit card bills and bank statements. Once you figure out where the money went last year, you can more easily determine how you can free up dollars to repay debt and begin a savings program.
  4. Pay yourself first: If you set up automatic monthly withdrawals for Saskatchewan Pension Plan, RRSP or other pension contributions, the Canada Revenue Agency will allow you to pay less tax each month instead of waiting for a tax return at the end of the year. You will hardly notice the decrease in your disposable income.
  5. Saving at work: Employers offering the Saskatchewan Pension Plan or another registered retirement savings plan typically match all or part of your contributions — often up to 5 or 6%. If you haven’t enrolled, you are leaving money on the table.
  6. Benefit claims: Your workplace health and dental plans are terrific tax-free benefits. Resolve to immediately send in all bills for reimbursement so you don’t lose or forget about them. If your spouse also has a health plan, make sure to re-submit for the balance not paid by your plan. Even small amounts can add up.
  7. File your tax return early: If you have overpaid, the earlier you file your return, the sooner you will get a cheque back from CRA. However, if you have investment returns you may not get all of your tax slips until the end of March. Sending in your tax return too early could mean that you have to re-file later and even pay interest on taxes not paid by April 30th.
  8. Spending your tax return: Plan to spend at least part of your tax return to pay down debt, contribute to a tax-free savings account  or enhance your retirement savings.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Pick a couple of these resolutions that relate to your situation and put them on your “to do” list. Then send an email to socialmedia@saskpension.com with other suggestions you have for financial New Year’s resolutions. If your idea is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar for every resolution you make to get your financial house in order in 2013.

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

3-Jan Getting in shape What to look for in a gym membership
10-Jan Post-Christmas How to get the most out of your gift cards
17-Jan Online shopping Ways to save by shopping online