Tag Archives: RBC

How much should you contribute to your child’s education?

According to a May 2017 Globe and Mail Report average university/college tuition in Saskatchewan is over $7,000/year but you need to also factor in living expenses, books etc. And if your child is just starting kindergarten, it is not easy to predict how costs will escalate over the next decade or more.

Many parents wisely take advantage of the tax breaks and grants available by saving in Registered Educational Savings Plans. But they also expect their kids to contribute to the cost of their post-secondary education by applying for scholarships, working part-time and taking out student loans.

Therefore it is interesting to note the results of a recent poll conducted on behalf of RBC® that found students who receive less than one-quarter of their funding from parents feel more confident in their financial decision-making and are more likely to make and stick to a budget compared to their peers who receive more family financial support .

Students whose parents contribute less than 25% Students whose parents contribute 25% or more
I feel confident in my financial decision making 50% 41%
I make a budget and stick to it 42% 33%

 

Expectations after school
Students receiving more financial support not only have more expectations of parental assistance during school but are twice as likely to expect some help from their parents post-graduation (21% compared to 11%).

“While contributing financially to your child’s education is a wonderful gift, being clear on expectations from both parties is really important. Make sure you discuss the ‘terms’ including when financial support will end,” says Laura Plant, RBC Director, Student Banking

Tips for Parents

  1. Have “the talk”: Start talking about budgeting and money management with your child early on. The earlier you get the conversation started, the more prepared everyone will feel when it comes time to start paying for tuition and other expenses. The transition to post-secondary education is significant – reducing money stresses is one way of easing the change.
  2. Start saving early: If you plan on contributing to your child’s education, save early and save often. One way of getting started is by opening up a Registered Education Savings Plan.
  3. Set the expectations: If you plan on contributing to your children’s post-secondary education, set the expectations on what you will contribute and what you expect them to contribute. Getting everyone on the same page is an important first step.

Tips for Students

  1. Don’t leave free money on the table: No matter how you are funding your education, there are lots of resources out there to help you access free money, including scholarships. Resources such as ScholarshipsCanada.com and StudentAwards.com will help you on your journey to free money.
  2. Save, Save, Save: Develop a habit to save on a regular basis. No matter how small the amount, saving can help you achieve your short and long term financial goals – whether it’s paying for tuition, rent or saving up for a reading week vacation. Let your money work harder for you by setting up automatic transfers from your daily chequing account into a separate high-interest savings account or guaranteed investment certificate to be used towards your goals.
  3. Talk to an expert: Let’s face it, as a post-secondary student (or soon to be student), you have a lot on your plate. Speak with a financial advisor on how to start saving and what options make the most sense for you and your family. This will help set you up for success.

We contributed to our childrens’ university education using RESP savings and current earnings. While I didn’t keep track of how much we gave them or what percent of their educational expenses we covered, they were able to graduate from their first degrees debt free.

Both kids also have Masters degrees and took post-graduate professional college programs which they self-financed. My son had scholarship money and my daughter worked for a major public sector union that paid for her tuition as she successfully passed each course.

I am quite confident that the financial lessons they learned living on a student budget and helping to support themselves were just as important to their future success as the programs they formally studied at university.

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.

Why you should closely monitor your bank account

I love online banking because I like to visit my money every day to make sure it’s still all there. So imagine my surprise when the RBC account I share with my mother and sister went within a couple of days from half a million dollars in arrears to a balance of +$500,000!

My sister discovered the deficit initially when in late May she tried to take out a small amount of cash for my mother and she was locked out of the account.

In fact, in mid-May at our request CIBC Investors Edge had processed a transfer of $512,000 from the RBC account to our CIBC investment account. This was the proceeds of sale from my mother’s condo. But then CIBC initiated a second transfer of the exact same amount on May 29th and since there was only a few thousand dollars in the RBC account to pay monthly bills, we were left with a huge negative balance.

When I contacted CIBC, our IE representative told us that as a result of “a bank error” thousands of May transfers into CIBC IE were duplicated and that the problem would be rectified within a day. Meanwhile, RBC said not to worry, because the second transfer out would be sent back and the negative balance in the account would be reversed as we do not have overdraft protection. However, just to make sure I was advised to notify any vendors with automatic withdrawals that their cheques may bounce temporarily.

That occurred within hours and our RBC account was unlocked. But the next day CIBC IE also “fixed” the problem by transferring $512,000 back into the RBC account, leaving us with a hefty, unwarranted surplus! Much as I was tempted to blow town and take an around-the-world cruise, I dutifully reported the new error to our CIBC IE representative. He said the second mistake would be quickly rectified.

Shortly after, I also got a call from the CIBC Director of Executive Client Relations apologizing for the inconvenience and assuring me the $512,000 erroneously deposited to our account would be out of the RBC account on Friday June 2nd. It took until June 6th for the extra $512,000 to disappear.

In spite of our conversation I still can’t figure out how similar mistakes possibly involving thousands of clients were never communicated to clients up front or investigated by the mainstream media. I was told CIBC had no idea there had been a computer glitch until their clients started reporting the mistakes.

This comedy of errors was reversed in a few days and the only residual effect that I am  left with is a great story. But it could have been much worse if I wasn’t able to track the errors online and quickly make the necessary calls to understand and correct the errors.   And it was also time-consuming and embarrassing to have to make multiple calls and stop payment on the monthly payment to my mother’s nursing home.

So the moral of the story is: Check your recorded bank account transactions frequently either in person or online. If something looks wrong it probably is. The sooner you intervene and get it fixed, the less chance there is that an error will go unnoticed, affecting both your cash flow and your credit rating.

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 we are spending our 2000 hours

By Sheryl Smolkin

Designed and crafted by Joel Troster 2016

A press release I read recently titled “What will you do with your 2,000 hours a year when you retire?” made me stop and think about how my husband and I have spent our time since I left my corporate job 11 years ago and he fully retired in mid-2015. 

An RBC survey of 1,500 working Canadians age 50 and older found almost three-quarters (73%) are unsure what they’ll do with that extra time. While the study found nearly two-thirds (64%) have done some planning for how they will finance retirement, less than half have planned for retirement lifestyle decisions, such as where they will live, where they will travel (44% each) and what activities they will do (46%). 

I was 54 when I retired from a benefits consulting firm with a reduced pension and post-retirement medical benefits. I never intended to stop working and had a job lined up as editor of an employee benefits magazine working from home. That eventually morphed into a freelance writing business. 

My husband had no pension other than government benefits when he retired from his position as a software engineer with a major telecommunications company at age 65. However, over the years he made maximum allowable contributions to individual and Group RRSPs. After a couple of months’ break he contacted his former employer about contract work, but no opportunities have materialized.

We moved to a new “infill” house in Toronto near the subway in 2001 and since then, the value of our two-story plus basement home has doubled in value. We’d love to renovate a large bungalow and stay in the area, but the prices of even much smaller homes have increased so much that we would end up with significantly less house for the same amount of money. 

Based on a previous mobility issue, I‘d like to be living on one floor sooner rather than later, but for now we are staying put. We go to the gym regularly and climbing stairs helps us stay fit. When we were both working we paid for regular housecleaning, snow removal and grass-cutting. We now employ outside help less frequently but we are prepared to ramp it up again if one or both of us has health problems. 

Vacations are a high priority for us and our favourite mode of travel is cruising. We want to see and do as much as we can as long as we are healthy and able to purchase comprehensive travel health insurance. At least once a year, we try to bring our daughter’s family living in Ottawa on holidays with us so we can spend more quality time with them. 

Paying for expensive travel is one explanation for why I continue taking on freelance writing jobs. But the other reason is that I thrive on deadlines and I really love to get paid for something I enjoy doing. My hobbies include reading, working out and singing in a community choir but interviewing and writing provides me with both structure and a creative outlet. I work about 30 hours a week so I have loads of flexibility to fit in personal appointments, travel and family time. 

In contrast, my husband has found a whole new creative outlet since he retired. He finished off a coffee table that he has been working on for years and there is a matching end table on the drawing board. He has also designed and a produced a series of beautiful cheese boards, bread boards and cutting boards (see above) that friends and family have received as welcome gifts. While in future he may consider selling a few of his pieces there is no pressure for him to do so. 

I can’t say we exactly planned in advance how we would fill up our days when we left the world of work, but once our finances were in order, we had the latitude to make it up as we went along. We know that retirement in our 50s and 60s (the go-go phase) is likely to be different than in our 70s and 80s (the slow-go phase) or even 90s (the no-go phase) but I think we’re on the right track. I’ll know when it is time to send out the last invoice and together we will decide when it is the right time to sell our house and downsize. 

Have you thought about how you will spend your time once you leave the office for the last time? Tell us how you are spending your 2,000 hours by sending an email to socialmedia@saskpension.com.  We’d love share your story.

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.

Three Top Retirement Realities

By Sheryl Smolkin

If you are just starting to consider retirement you may be more focused on planning for the financial implications of leaving the world of work. But if you think you will get to pick the ideal day to walk off into the sunset without any regrets, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

According to the 2015 RBC Retirement Myths & Realities Poll, already-retired Boomers (aged 50+) identified three retirement realities that contradict the expectations of their counterparts who have not yet retired:

It’s not all about money: Retirees don’t miss their pay cheques from work as much as pre-retirees expect to, by a margin of almost two-to-one (26% compared to 49%).  What retirees do miss most is their social time with colleagues at work (51%).

Time is of the essence: While simply taking time for myself is how the majority of retirees (72%) report they are actually spending their time, travel tops the “expect to do in retirement” list for a similar majority of pre-retirees.

Choosing the date: Close to half (43%) of retirees didn’t get to choose their retirement date, in contrast to the 80% of pre-retirees who expect to have that choice. Retirees cited several reasons why they left their working lives behind before they were ready to do so, including health, the need to provide care to someone else and their employer’s request.

Through its annual poll and a separate research study, RBC also explored retirement income expectations of three specific groups of Canadians who are not yet retired: single women (not married, separated/divorced or widowed), business owners and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.

As pre-retirees, single women and business owners were equally concerned (41% each) that they would not have enough money to live well and do what they want when they retire. In a separate RBC-sponsored LGBT retirement study, conducted by the University of Waterloo’s RBC Retirement Research Centre, 30% of LGBT pre-retirees shared similar worries, stating they expected their funds would be inadequate or barely enough to achieve the retirement they have in mind.

“Each of these realities has retirement planning implications for Canadians, including how they will affect the lifestyle they hope to achieve when they are no longer working,” noted Yasmin Musani, head of Retirement and Successful Aging Strategies, RBC. “They raise important questions for Boomers to consider about their life goals and priorities as they approach retirement. For example, ‘What social network will you have in retirement?’ and ‘How will you spend your time?'”

More detailed survey results comparing national and Manitoba/Saskatchewan responses are presented in the tables below.

TABLE 1
MISS MOST ABOUT WORK
(Canadians aged 50+)
NAT’L MB/SK
Socializing/interacting with colleagues
Retired 51% 50%
Not retired 53% 51%
Not a thing
Retired 30% 29%
Not retired 15% 13%
A regular pay cheque
Retired 26% 23%
Not retired 49% 49%
Being mentally busy
Retired 20% 14%
Not retired 38% 30%
Getting out of the house
Retired 14% 15%
Not retired 30% 21%
Health benefits
Retired 12% 11%
Not retired 29% 30%
Being physically busy
Retired 12% 11%
Not retired 20% 16%
Having goals to work towards
Retired 9% 8%
Not retired 18% 17%
TABLE 2
SPENDING TIME IN RETIREMENT
(Canadians aged 50+)
NAT’L MB/SK
Taking time for myself
Retired 72% 73%
Not retired 64% 61%
Travel
Retired 62% 64%
Not retired 70% 86%
TABLE 3
NO CHOICE OF RETIREMENT DATE
(Canadians aged 50+)
NAT’L MB/SK
NET “NO CHOICE”
Retired 43% 38%
Not retired 31% 34%
Health reasons
Retired 14% 11%
Not retired 11% 13%
Employer’s request
Retired 13% 9%
Not retired 5% 2%
Reached mandatory retirement age
Retired 5% 9%
Not retired 11% 11%
Required as caregiver for someone
Retired 5% 6%
Not retired 1% 3%
Other
Retired 10% 11%
Not retired 6% 9%
SOURCE: 2015 RBC Retirement Myths & Realities Poll Selected National, Regional Findings

Also read:

Will you be working at 66?

10 things you need to know about buying a home

By Sheryl Smolkin

Buying a home is probably the most significant purchase most people make in their lifetime.  Whether you are buying your first house or you are a seasoned homeowner, it is important to understand your legal rights and obligations.

Buying and Selling a Home by The Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan (PLEA) and Buying or Selling Real Estate in Saskatchewan written by lawyer Kevin Rogers for The Lawyers Weekly are both excellent resources.

PLEA suggests that you keep the following 10 things in mind before you go house hunting.

  1. What can you afford? Generally mortgage lenders suggest that the cost of your mortgage payments, property taxes, heating and condo fees (if applicable), make up no more than 32% of your household’s monthly income before taxes. Lending institutions generally look at keeping total debt payments below 40% of a household’s gross income.
  2. Mortgage costs: It’s usually a good idea to shop for financing before you start house hunting to determine the maximum amount of money you can borrow and discuss payment schedules. Your lending institution may commit to a certain size of mortgage at a set interest rate. This is called a pre-approved mortgage and it will help you determine your price range.
  3. Down payment: Generally speaking, you will have to come up with a down payment of at least 20% of the purchase price to qualify for a mortgage. However, if you can obtain mortgage loan insurance through government programs such as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), or private mortgage insurers you may be able to obtain a mortgage with as little as a 5% down payment. Some restrictions apply.
  4. Ongoing Costs: In addition to mortgage payments you should budget for annual property taxes plus heating water and electricity bills. Therefore, the energy efficiency of the home may be one thing to keep in mind when you are considering properties. You may also have to buy furniture, appliances, window coverings and tools to do repairs and maintenance work.
  5. Closing costs: Closing costs are additional expenses that must be paid before the purchase is complete. Generally, buyers should budget 1.5% to 4.5% of the purchase price for these costs. Some of the closing costs include legal fees, including disbursements; pro-rated property taxes for the portion of the year the vendor paid for when you will be the owner; the GST for new homes or homes that have been substantially renovated or re-located; property insurance; mortgage life insurance; and, utility deposits and hook up charges.
  6. Real estate agent vs private sale: Generally speaking real estate commission is paid by the seller and free to the buyer. The advantage of using an agent is he/she can show you all of the suitable listed properties in your price range and preferred area. However, you can buy property directly from a seller and the price may reflect the fact that the seller does not have to pay a commission. But if you do purchase a home privately, have a lawyer review or draft the offer or any other documents to ensure that they are legally sound and contain only the terms you have agreed to.
  7. Caveat emptor: Generally when buying a home, the rule is “buyer beware.” Check out the home carefully and make the offer conditional on a home inspection. However, the seller must tell you about any defects he is aware of that could not be discovered by a reasonable inspection of the property. Things like past problems with water in the basement, windows that leak when it rains or faulty plumbing would likely be included in this category if the seller knows about the problem.
  8. Farmland or other non-residential property: Each type of purchase involves its own unique considerations. If you are considering the purchase of farmland, acreages, commercial, recreational or rental property, there may be additional things to find out about the property before making an offer to purchase. You should seek advice from a real estate agent or a lawyer to ensure that all the relevant factors are adequately considered.
  9. Building /renovating: If you are planning to purchase land where you can build a home, have the land inspected to ensure that it is suitable for the type of construction planned. Whether considering new construction or major renovations, it is important to find out if there are any municipal bylaws that may limit building plans. Whether you will be doing all or part of the work or using contractors, it is important to seek legal advice before signing contracts for materials or services.
  10. Condominiums: Condominiums are typically made up of individually owned units and common areas used by all the owners, as well as common areas that are set aside for the exclusive use of particular units (such as dedicated parking spaces). The cost of maintaining these common areas comes out of the condo fees all owners pay. The fund for major repairs is called the Reserve Fund. Satisfy yourself as to the state of repairs of common areas and the health of the Reserve Fund. Otherwise you may be in for a nasty surprise when you have to pay an unexpected levy of thousands of dollars.

Also read: Owning a home in Saskatchewan became more affordable in Q4 2014, RBC Economics

LTD for seniors hard to find

By Sheryl Smolkin

The abolition of mandatory retirement across the country has removed a major obstacle for people who want to work beyond age 65. But options for older workers who need to be insured for long term disability (LTD) late in their career are very limited.

The reality is that if you stick with the same employer, your group LTD coverage will typically terminate at age 65. So I asked Lorne Marr, Director of Business Development at LSM Insurance* what’s available in individual LTD policies.

He told me that only one company (The Edge) he is aware of offers coverage to age 70 but the policy is less comprehensive than a more typical LTD policy from RBC ending at age 65.

Table 1: RBC LTD Quotes
Mid-level male manager
Non smoker

AGE ELIMINATION PERIOD BENEFIT PERIOD To Age 65 MONTHLY PREMIUM
30 30 days X $224.80
90 days X $128.68
45 30 days X $573.61
90 days X $261.14
60 30 days X $808.98
90 days X $519.62

Source: LSM Insurance

First of all, the RBC policy provides that insured clients are covered if they are unable to work at their own occupation until age 65. In contrast, The Edge only pays benefits for three years if a disabled individual cannot be employed in his/her own occupation and then he/she is expected to work in “any reasonable” occupation.

The premiums on the RBC LTD policy are also guaranteed for the life of the policy. The younger the insured is when the policy is taken out, the lower the monthly payments. The Edge plan is guaranteed renewable, but the premiums can be increased for the whole class.

Finally, The RBC LTD policy has residual disability provision allowing disabled plan members to work in a limited capacity both during the elimination period and once they are receiving disability benefit payments. The Edge does not have comparable flexibility.

It is also interesting to note that policies from The Edge with an age 70 benefit period split out coverage for injury and illness and only 30 day and 120 elimination periods are available. Therefore, to get similar coverage to the RBC policy (subject to the differences discussed above), an individual would have to buy both.

Table 2: The Edge LTD Quotes*
Mid-level male manager
Non smoker

AGE INJURY ILLNESS ELIMINATION PERIOD BENEFIT PERIOD To Age 65 MONTHLY PREMIUM
30 X 30 days X $67.50
X 30 days X $129.25
X 120 days X $47.50
X 120 days X $82.15
45 X 30 days X $67.50
X 30 days X $208.55
X 120 days X $47.50
X 120 days X $132.15
60 X 30 days X $67.50
X 30 days X $396.05
X 120 days X $47.50
X 120 days X $251.15

Source: LSM Insurance 

Table 2 illustrates that injury only coverage is relatively inexpensive. Furthermore, it is not displayed in the table, but The Edge’s guaranteed issue, injury only coverage is available to age 75.

In addition, Hunter McCorquodale offers unique solutions and high issue limits for executives and other highly-paid people still working beyond age 65 for as long as they are working. They will quote on full accident and illness coverage underwritten by Lloyd’s of London.

If you are applying for LTD at a young age, it may be difficult to predict if you will want or need to work beyond age 65. And with the limited, less than optimum types of polices with a benefit period to age 70 or beyond, you may eliminate such extended coverage from consideration almost immediately.

But Marr sees extending LTD benefit periods to age 70 as a good niche market opportunity for other carriers. “Because none of us can predict how long we might want to work, and coverage can be cancelled at any time, I’m hoping more companies will revisit their benefit periods and at least give clients the option to select coverage until age 70,” he says.

*LSM Insurance Brokers is located in Markham, Ontario. They have a working relationship with Delorie Jacobs and Gord Martens affiliates with the Sentinel Financial Group headquartered in Saskatoon.

Loyalty programs: Which one is best?

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK

Canadians love loyalty programs. The 2013 Loyalty Census from the industry research group Colloquy reports that 120 million consumers in this country belong to at least one loyalty program and the average number of loyalty programs per household is 8.2. But the challenge you face is selecting the loyalty programs that will give you the best bang for their bucks.

Typically websites that evaluate loyalty programs either rank programs based on the stated preferences of survey participants or by weighting various features like points per dollar spent and the value you can get when you spend the points in different ways.

But the research company Environics recently developed a “time to reward” algorithm for Colloquy that ups the ante by predicting how many months it actually takes to earn $100 CAD in rewards.

The calculation not only takes into consideration the potential payback from a program, but factors like usage patterns, the ability to double-dip (i.e. get points for the dollar value of your travel purchase plus the number of miles you fly) and how much you buy from a particular retailer.

Initially, over 1000 Canadians surveyed online in March 2014 by Environics were asked to select which of 23 top loyalty programs (14 of which have a non-credit loyalty card only) they used to collect loyalty rewards or dollars in the past three months. The programs in the list had membership of at least one per cent of the Canadian population and multiple programs could be picked from the list provided.

The top 10 selected were:

  • 72%: Air Miles
  • 35%: Shopper’s Optimum
  • 29%: Canadian Tire Money
  • 28%: Aeroplan
  • 28%: PC Points
  • 23%: Petro-Points
  • 17%: Scene Rewards
  • 17%: HBC Rewards
  • 13%: Club Sobey
  • 12%: Sears Card

However, once all 23 programs were assessed by Environics applying “time to rewards” metrics, rankings in some categories changed. Not surprisingly, the Air Miles and Aeroplan programs took the first and second spots for long and short haul flight rewards. Both are “coalition” loyalty programs (members can earn points through hundreds of retail partners, as opposed to just one).

But Aeroplan dropped to the number three spot after the Shoppers Optimum card when it came to how quickly cash equivalent rewards can accumulate. The Shoppers Drug Mart program regularly runs promotions where a large number of points is awarded for spending specified amounts on certain days.

The research also revealed the credit cards that will get a program member to a cash equivalent or merchandise reward the quickest tend to be retailer-specific or bank-issued credit cards. The Canadian Tire Cash Advantage MasterCard, the Best Buy Reward Zone Visa and the RBC Shoppers Optimum Card ranked 1, 2 and 3 in this category.

The Environics Research contains many more “time to reward” comparisons for loyalty programs and loyalty credit cards you can check out here. There is also an interactive online tool where you can test which Canadian loyalty programs will get you to your desired reward faster (i.e. travel rewards, cash or merchandise) using either your own spending pattern or pre-programmed Statistics Canada data.

Of course your favourite loyalty program may not have sufficient market penetration to even have been considered in the Environics study.

When I polled several prominent personal finance bloggers to find out the loyalty programs they use the most, Tom Drake (Canadian Finance) said his number one choice is a Costco Executive Membership, which is notably absent from the Environics study. It pays back two per cent of most purchases throughout the year in cash. “I also pay using my True Earnings Card from Costco and American Express which gives me another one per cent cash back or two per cent when I fill up with gas,” he says.

Robb Engen (Boomer & Echo) identified Scene Rewards which allows you to earn points that can be spent on free movies, concession food and music downloads as probably one of the most under-rated loyalty programs in the country. He also subscribes to Amazon Prime for $79/year because it gives him free two-day shipping on most items that Amazon carries.

And even though he is an avid Air Miles fan, Jim Yee (Retire Happy) believes it’s important to take a balanced approach to racking up points vs other important cost-saving considerations. “Safeway gives Air Miles but sometimes it’s more convenient or less expensive to shop elsewhere for groceries,” he says.

Aug 4: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

It’s hard to believe its August already and before we know it the kids will be back in school. But you know for sure summer is waning when it starts to get dark earlier and the temperatures begin dropping at night.

This week we feature a selection of interesting blogs from some of our favourite personal finance bloggers.

Tim Stobbs from Canadian Dream: Free at 45 has opted to work four days a week instead of five. In 10% Less Pay, But $8 Less on My Paycheque he tells us why at least for now, there has been hardly any impact on his take home pay.

Blonde on a budget’s Cait Flanders has undertaken a massive purge of her possessions starting with her bedroom closet as part of her commitment to a one year “shopping ban.” Find out what’s left and the few necessities she needs that will be exceptions to the rule.

Do you need a little extra money? Tom Drake says on Canadian Finance blog that you might already have it. He suggests Tracking your spending for one to three months. You might find that there are money leaks that are costing you big. Once you plug those up, you can essentially “find” more money in your budget.

In the  Weekend Reading: Banking Bonus Edition Dan Wesley at Our Big Fat Wallet highlights some deals at Tangerine, BMO, Canada Trust and RBC.

And finally, whether you are a new graduate looking for your first job or a seasoned professional looking for new opportunities, take a look at Ten steps to a productive information interview by Kevin Press at BrighterLife.ca.

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.