Tag Archives: Retire Happy

Dec 4: Best from the blogosphere

I had the pleasure of attending the 2017 Canadian Personal Finance Conference in Toronto in late November. It was a great opportunity to renew friendships with bloggers and financial writers from across the country. Here’s what some of them have been writing about lately.

Rob Carrick from the Globe and Mail writes about How e-transfers are ousting paper cheques. Isn’t that the truth! Since I started my writing business almost 10 years ago I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of cheques I have written. I use e-transfers almost daily.

On Money We Have, Toronto-based personal finance expert Barry Choi discusses the ins and outs of churning credit cards in Canada. Applying for credit cards to get bonus points and cancelling them soon after can affect your credit score but Choi says, “You could apply for 2-3 credit cards in one month and it probably wouldn’t be a big deal. Just don’t do it every month, and don’t apply for a ton of cards if you plan on getting a mortgage soon. Lenders will wonder why you need access to so much credit.”

Mr. CBB reports on how Mrs. CBB saved their Christmas budget $400 by shopping on line so far. She purchased a toy for a discounted price on Amazon Prime which was reduced by 50% on Black Friday but it would have cost $7.99 to return. Amazon customer service sent her a return label so she could by two new ones (one for a gift) for the same price. She also managed to purchase $600 worth of clothing for just under $200.

Wayne Roth on Retire Happy considers whether you should annuitize your retirement income. He is generally not a fan of annuities but acknowledges that an annuity can be useful for creating a secure source of retirement income. You lose some upside potential but an annuity allows you to eliminate major investment risks and it provides income that you cannot outlive – no matter how long you survive. Risk-adverse people don’t mind missing on those large gains in order to gain protection on the downside.

And finally, on another note, if you are in the Saskatoon area from now until January 7th, don’t miss the BHP Billiton Enchanted Forest Holiday Light Tour. It is one of Canada’s most spectacular drive-thru Christmas Light Shows and Saskatchewan’s top winter visitor attraction. 2.5km of animated light displays are scattered throughout an urban forest. Proceeds go to Saskatoon City Hospital Foundation and Saskatoon Zoo Foundation.

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.

Nov 27: Best from the blogosphere

Tim  Stobbs from CanadianDreamFree at 45 who met his FIRE (financial independence retire early) goal several months ago recently wrote:

“One particular lesson that has really hit home for me since I early retired is this: FIRE doesn’t change your core personality.  You see I had this lovely fantasy in my head that I would be more active and perhaps start exercising regularly when I left work. I would run or do yoga like every other day.  Of course, I’ve never made working out a priority earlier in life so this really hasn’t changed that much since I retired.” 

That must be why over 12 years since I left my corporate job and a year into semi-retirement my closets could still use a good cleaning and I struggle to make it to the gym three times a week.

That also may explain Why being rich makes people anxious. Kerry Hannon from the New York Times reports in The Toronto Star that multi-millionaire Thomas Gallagher who is retired from his position as vice chairman of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce World Markets says, “Emotionally, I don’t come from money; I got very lucky on Wall Street. I have more money than I had ever imagined, but I still worry — do I have enough, if I live longer than I thought?”

And financial anxiety among Canadians is not only surprisingly pervasive and but not limited to the very rich or the very poor.  Rob Carrick in the Globe and Mail discusses a survey by Seymour Management Consulting which reveals that One in two Canadians is a bundle of nerves about money. Low-income people are most stressed, but one in three people with incomes of $100,000 or more are on the list of worriers.

So How do you know when it is the right time to retire? Retire Happy’s Jim Yih says retirement readiness is not tangible. He notes that one of the most significant trends is that more and more people want to work in retirement, plan to work in retirement and/or are being pulled into work in retirement.

“There are more opportunities than ever to work in retirement.  In fact the new terminology that is not so new anymore is the idea of planning a PHASED RETIREMENT or a TRANSITIONAL RETIREMENT. Personally, I think it’s great and I think a lot of people are finding success with this idea,” he comments.

Retired actuary Anna Rappaport identifies the same trend in an opinion piece Moving To The Next Step: Reboot, Rewire, Or Retire? for Forbes. She suggests that while many people may seek to continue working at traditional jobs into their 70s or 80s, others may wish to leave their career positions to build new career paths. People who held senior roles during their careers often find rewarding a period of professional activity with less responsibility, before totally leaving the labor force. Some seek memberships on corporate and/or nonprofit boards. Other people seek volunteer or not-for-profit roles, working in areas that are meaningful to them.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Nov 20: Best from the blogosphere

I finally found time to clean out the 700+ emails in my in box and here are some of the gems from both the mainstream media and the blogosphere I found hiding there.

The federal government has announced expanded parental leave and new caregiver benefits that will come into effect December 3rd. Eligible new parents will be able to spread 12 months of employment insurance benefits over 18 months after the birth of a child. However, the government will not increase the actual value of employment insurance benefits for anyone who takes the extended parental leave.

The change in leave rules will automatically give the option of more time off for federally regulated workplaces, which include banks, transport companies, the public service and telecoms, and is likely to spur calls for changes to provincial labour laws to allow the other 92% of Canadian workers outside of Quebec access to similar leave. Anyone on the 35 weeks of parental leave before the new measures officially come into effect won’t be able to switch and take off the extra time.

How do you know when it’s the right time to retire? Retire Happy’s Jim Yih advises boomers considering retirement to have a plan that includes both lifestyle issues and money issues.  He says, “Too often the retirement plan focuses only on the financial issues. You can have all the money in the world but if you don’t know how to spend it or have good people around you or you don’t have your health, what good is the money?”

In the Globe and Mail, Morneau Sobeco actuary Fred Vettese says Few Canadians are destined to hit their retirement income ‘sweet spot’. What is an adequate income level to retire? According to Vettese for most people, it means having enough income to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living for the rest of their lives. “Put another way, spendable income in retirement would be 100% of what it was during one’s working years,” he says. “We’re unlikely to hit the 100% target every time, so let’s consider anything between 85% and 115% to be in the “sweet spot.”

If you sometimes get discouraged reading about “wunderkind” who save millions and retire super early, FIREcracker, writing on Millenial Revolution says Don’t Let Comparisons Derail Your FIRE (financial independence, retire early) Journey. “Don’t compare your beginning with someone’s middle or end. Instead of comparing yourself to other people, look back at your own journey and see how far you’ve come, she says. “And remember, even though there are hordes of people in front of you, there are also hordes behind you. They would switch places with you in an instant.”

And finally, make sure your retirement savings plan includes adequate amounts for health care. Health spending in Canada will likely hit $242 billion in 2017, says a report from the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI). CIHI calculates that health spending in Canada is expected to reach $6,604 per capita this year – or about $200 more per person compared to last year. The report also says total health spending per person is expected to vary across the country, from $7,378 in Newfoundland and Labrador and $7,329 in Alberta to $6,367 in Ontario and $6,321 in British Columbia. The public private split remains fairly constant with 30% covered by private out of pocket payment or private insurance and 70% by the public purse.

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.

Sept 11: Best from the blogosphere

As the leaves change colours and we gear up for the busy fall and winter season, it’s time to check in on what some of our favourite personal finance writers have been discussing this summer.

With the announcement that CIBC has gobbled up PC Financial which will be rebranded as CIBC Simplii Financial on November 1st, Stephen Weyman says on Howtosavemoney.ca that it will be banking as usual in the short term but you can expect CIBC to sneak in a few fees here and there to make sure they’re profitable and try to cut costs where they can.

On Boomer & Echo, Marie Engen offers 25 money saving tips. A couple of my favourites are:

  • Turn off the “heat dry” on your dishwasher. Open the door when the cycle is done and let the dishes air dry.
  • Learn some sewing basics so you can make minor repairs and alterations to your clothing – hem your pants and skirts, sew on a button, sew up a torn seam, put in a new zipper.
  • Buy some time. Set aside the purchase you are considering for a few hours (or a day or two) before you decide whether to buy it. Often you may decide you can easily live without it.

Bridget Casey (Money After Graduation) has recently welcomed a new daughter and she is already thinking about saving for her college education. She writes about the importance of setting up your child’s Registered Educational Savings Plan as a trust so it will be covered by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation in the event of financial institution failure up to $100,000 per account.

Retire Happy’s Jim Yih writes a thoughtful piece on Minimizing Your Old Age Security Clawback. The maximum monthly OAS benefit in 2017 is $578.53 ($6,942.36 annually). If you earn between $74,788 and $121,070/year the OAS benefit will be clawed back. He explains that with pension splitting, spouses can give up to 50% of their pension income to their spouse for tax splitting purposes. This is a very effective way to reduce income if you are close to the OAS clawback threshold.

When Sean Cooper, author of Burn Your Mortgage paid off his mortgage, he promised himself he’d stop putting off travel. His first major trip was to San Francisco this summer. Nevertheless, he still travelled frugally booking his $700 roundtrip flight through PC Travel. He also got from the airport to downtown on Bay area rapid transit for less than $10. In San Diego, he opted for a four-bed mixed dorm room at USA Hostels for less than $60 a night as opposed to $200/night in a hotel.


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.

June 5: Best from the blogosphere

This week it’s back to basics with some of our favourite bloggers.

On HowToSaveMoney.ca Heather Clarke shares Budget Home Decorating Ideas. She says you can often make a “knock off” of a pricey designer item and a little bit of spray paint goes a long way. She also reminds us that there are some hidden gems at the dollar store.

Rona Birenbaum, a financial planner at Caring for Clients offers 5 reasons why you should negotiate your severance package. She notes that there may well be more money and protection available to you, but only if you ask. Also, she says the cost of legal advice is tax deductible.

In Jim Yih’s retirement seminars, even participants close to age 65 are often concerned that they have not saved enough for retirement. His Advice for Baby Boomers who are not ready for retirement is to get a plan, revise their retirement date and think about a phased retirement. He also tells readers to focus on their cash flow and consider finding another job if they do not love what they currently do.

Boomer & Echo’s Marie Engen suggests Frugal Summer Fun For Canada’s 150th Birthday. For example, Parks Canada is offering free admission to all national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas for the entire year. If you haven’t got your Discovery pass yet, you can order one online, or you can pick one up on arrival at any Parks Canada location.

And finally, Tom Drake answers the question What Is the CPP Death Benefit and Who Should Apply? Typically the death benefit is paid to the estate of the deceased, but where he/she does not have an estate, it can go to one of the following three entities:

  1. Whoever paid for the deceased’s funeral expenses. The death benefit is mainly designed to offset funeral expenses, so it makes sense that it will be paid out to the person or institution who covers these costs.
  2. Surviving partner: The spouse or common-law partner left behind by the deceased can also apply for, and receive, the CPP death benefit.
  3. Next of kin: Finally, if the other two circumstances aren’t met, the deceased’s next of kin can apply for the death benefit.


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.

April 17: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

In a guest post for the Financial Independence Hub, Certified Financial Planner Gennaro De Luca writes that based on his experience, men and women approach taxes and investing differently. For example, he says nine times out of 10 it is the woman who takes the bull by the horns to get the family’s taxes done. Women tend to be more involved and are much more apt to ask questions of their accountant or tax preparer about tax credits and government benefits the family may be eligible for.

Robb Engen on Boomer & Echo discusses which accounts to tap first in retirement with Jason Heath,  a fee-only financial planner. Heath says it may make sense for people who retire early to withdraw funds from their RRSPs first and defer CPP and OAS until age 70.

Retire Happy veteran blogger Jim Yih outlines the top 5 new retirement trends and how they will affect your retirement. For example: retirement is not about stopping work; many people are “phasing into retirement.” Furthermore, long term care is an essential component in a retirement plan.

10 simple ways to save money at the gas pump was recently posted by Tom Drake on the Canadian Finance Blog. Who knew that avoiding unnecessary weight in your car; using cruise control on highways and driving under 100 km/hour could save you money?

And Sean Cooper recounts the story of his unexpected $1,300 furnace repair bill in the depths of a Canadian winter. Luckily, he is mortgage-free, so he had the necessary money sitting in his savings account. But his experience shines a spotlight on the importance of saving up an emergency fund in advance.


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.

Mar 13: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Well another RRSP season is in the bag, but that doesn’t mean you should put saving for retirement on the back burner for another year. If you haven’t done so already, it’s a great time to review your finances and arrange to have both registered and unregistered savings deducted at source so your nest egg continues to grow even when you are busy doing things that are a lot more fun than financial planning.

This week we feature more money-saving tips from some of our favourite bloggers.

Guest blogging on Retire Happy, Tom Drake reports on 10 financial success stories from 2016 to inspire your new year. One of my favourites is how Jason Heath who blogs at  Objective Financial Partners is raising his children so they place more emphasis on experiences rather than stuff. And Brenda Hiscock from Objective Financial Partners has been energized since she took a month off to complete Yoga teacher training at an ashram in Nassau.

Robb Engen from Boomer & Echo gives his take on the “the latte factor” and how it impacts the savings habits of millennials. He says, “At the risk of offending an entire generation, here’s what’s really going on: If you’re buying coffee every day, or ordering $22 [avocado and feta cheese] toast several times a week, maybe you’re just too lazy to brew your own coffee at home and cook for yourself.”

As you pull together the documentation to file your 2016 income tax return, you may be looking forward to a big tax return. Mark Seed, author of My Own Advisor says, “When it comes to tax planning my advice is: Don’t assume a big fat tax refund every year is good. If you’re always looking forward to the juicy refund it simply means the government kept some of your money and you could have had it working for you instead throughout the year.”

Big Cajun Man Alan Whitton admits to being a bit of a pack rat which creates clutter and can can lead to hoarding. So in this Lent season he is trying something new. For each day of Lent he is going to fill a bag (of any size) with things he no longer uses and donate the contents to charity. Other ideas for Lent are pay with cash for all 40 days or go for at least a one mile walk every day.

And finally, Barry Choi who blogs at Money We Have shares 6 things he bought used (and you should too). They include a three year old Subaru Impreza Hatchback ($18,000 instead of $30,000 new), a re-sale condo (stable maintenance fees and more space) and used video games online for about 25% less.


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.

Feb 06: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

One issue on our radar this week of concern to many Canadians is the possible change to the deductibility of health and dental care insurance premiums for tax purposes in the upcoming 2017 budget. Currently these premiums are not a taxable benefit if they are paid for by your employer and they are a deductible medical expense for individuals purchasing private plans to supplement provincial medicare benefits.

On December 2, 2016 a National Post article noted that the Federal Liberals are eyeing a tax on private health and dental plans, a move that would take in about $2.9B. Journalist John Ivison reported that proponents of eliminating the credit argue that those with lower incomes but without private health plans are subsidizing those with employee-sponsored coverage. On the other hand, he said there is a strong economic case for encouraging employers to provide health coverage for employees.

Later in the same month, a coalition of health care service providers warned of the potential negative implications of taxing the premiums paid on employer-provided health and dental benefits. Ondina Love, CEO of the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association said, “When benefits were subject to provincial income tax in Quebec in 1993, almost 20% of employers dropped their coverage, including up to 50% of small employers. This loss of coverage can significantly impact the lowest-paid employees who will have trouble paying for drugs, dental and needed health care out of pocket.”

And now a Conference Board of Canada report commissioned by the Canadian Dental Association calculates that millions of Canadians will each pay at least $1,000 more if Ottawa taxes health and dental plans . And according to the National Post, the potential exists for a massive political backlash. The Canadian Dental Association reports that 50,000 protest emails have already been sent to local MPs and Bill Morneau, the finance minister, through its donttaxmyhealthbenefits.ca online petition.

Let’s hope that Prime Minister Trudeau’s comments on February 2nd suggesting that his government doesn’t plan to tax employee health and dental plans as reported in Benefits Canada will put this issue to bed once and for all for the benefit of all Canadians.

In another health-care related story this week, Marie Engen at Boomer and Echo makes The Case For A Universal Canadian Drug Program. She correctly says that prescription drug coverage in Canada varies widely depending on where you live, your health status, your income, and your age. Right now, each province has its own pharmacare program and there is no consistency. A universal prescription drug plan could not only reduce total spending. It would also cover everyone at an affordable price.

Finally, in a post on Retire Happy, Sean Cooper tackles the question  Should You Take a Deferred Pension or the Commuted Value? He says many people go to their investment advisors to seek assistance on deciding what to do with their pension. But there is a clear conflict of interest.  “Your advisor can be a good source of information for deciding which funds to invest the commuted value in should you decide to take it, but at the end of the day the decision should be yours and yours alone,” he concludes.


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.

Nov 7: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Halloween is over, Remembrance Day is this week and the stores are starting to look a lot like Christmas. But keep the end game is sight and don’t be distracted by advertising for the latest hardware or fashions that may blow your budget out of the water.

On Retire Happy, Sarah Milton writes about “How to stick with your financial goals.” She says what makes the difference between success and stalling comes down to three things: knowing what you want; chasing your fears and building a tribe.

Mint’s blog Personal Finance Guide to Setting Goals and Sticking to Them notes that financial planning is all about goals. There are two islands: what you have and what you want. The bridge between the two is your personal finance budget. Getting to where you want to be requires vision, planning and discipline – the vision to know what you want, a plan to get there and the discipline to stick with your plan.

Big Cajun Man, author of the Canadian Personal Finance Blog says We Invest the Way We Vote. In both cases, we make a hurried, uninformed decision after being unduly influenced by people who have their own agenda on why they want you to do it. Typically the decision may even be made at the last-minute, using your “gut” to decide. Let’s hope our US friends make rational decisions when they go to the polls this week!

When Do You Stop Helping Your Adult Children? Marie Engen questions on Boomer & Echo. She answers, “If your adult children are asking for something, whether it’s babysitting services, money, or something else and you need to say no, say it clearly. Don’t hint around that you’re busy or you’ve had a lot of expenses lately.”

And finally, with the dropping temperatures and snow falling already in parts of the country, you may be planning a warm weather get away. Mark Seed at my Own Advisor has some great hints for how to save and splurge on a vacation. He suggests skyscanner and Chris Myden’s suite of sites for flight deals. And I bet you didn’t know you can get great deals on car rentals from Costco’s web site!


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.

Oct 3: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

The leaves are turning and the weather is changing. As fall visits us briefly before the long cold winter sets in, it’s time to re-visit recent posts from some of our favourite personal finance writers.

On Boomer and Echo, Marie Engen offers 5 Ways To Stretch Your Retirement Dollars. My favourite is to sign up for senior discounts. In Calgary an annual transit pass for seniors is just $95. BC Ferries gives a 50% discount on passenger fares (Monday to Thursday, except holidays). Retailers such as Shoppers Drug Mart have senior discount days. A number of universities and colleges offer free tuition, at least for non-credit courses.

Sara Milton writes on Retire Happy about Financial warning signs: Are you prepared for the worst?. She says before financial disaster hits, there have  usually  been warning signs for some time. Just like on the dashboard of a car, an individual’s financial “check engine” light was lit up like a Christmas tree and, either he/she didn’t notice or  deliberately ignored it in the hope that it would somehow fix itself and switch off.

While investors may be reluctant to sell stocks because the sale will trigger tax inclusions, Pat McKeough reminds us on the Financial Independence Hub thatCapital gains tax is one of the lowest taxes you’ll ever pay. For example, if an investor purchases stock for $1,000 and then sells that stock for $2,000, they have a $1,000 capital gain. Investors pay Canadian capital gains tax on 50% of the capital gain amount. This means that if you earn $1,000 in capital gains, and you are in the highest tax bracket you will pay about $247.65 in Canadian capital gains tax on the $1,000 in gains.

For most young people in college or university student loans are a necessary evil. But they can become a tremendous burden after graduation. How I worked my way through university by Robin Taub on Forward Thinking profiles Corey Barss (age 25) who grew up in Brantford and attended Ryerson University. By saving money while he was in high school and working nearly full-time as a cook and server at the Ryerson campus pub while he was in university, he was able to graduate with only $30,000 in student loans. Even when he got a full-time job he continued work 12 hours/week at the pub in order to become debt free in three years.

And finally, the Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick writes that one of the most important financial literacy lessons young people can learn is how to deal with banks. In Millennials, banks are not your friends his message to students is that banks aren’t your friend, and neither are they your enemy. They’re companies you do business with and that means you have to have to go in prepared to defend your own interests. He says students should look for ways to bank for nothing, and he gives  important factors to consider when evaluating student bank accounts.

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.