Tag Archives: Sean Cooper

5 Common Home-Buying Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Buying a property can be fun and exciting. If you’re buying a new property, you can choosing everything down to the design of your countertops and the type of flooring. If you’re buying a used (resale) home, you don’t get as much choice with the property itself, but you can choose to buy a neighbourhood with everything that you’re looking for (provided it’s within your budget).

While purchasing a property can be a lot of fun, there are costly home-buying pitfalls you can make along the way. By making these costly mistakes, it can set you back months or even years in your finances. You’ll have less money to save in the SPP and for other goals like an early retirement.

Without further ado, here are five common home-buying mistakes and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Not Getting Preapproved for a Mortgage
Before going house hunting, don’t forget to get preapproved for a mortgage. Without being preapproved, you’ll have no clue about how much you can afford to spend on a property. You could buy a home for $600K, only to find out that based on your income and down payment amount, you can only spend $550K on a home. Yikes! Don’t let this happen to you.

When you get preapproved for a mortgage, you also benefit from something referred to as a rate hold. With a rate hold, if mortgage rates go up while your preapproval is in effect (typically 90 to 120 days), you’re guaranteed the lower rate (or the spread if you’re preapproved for a variable rate mortgage). You have absolutely nothing to lose.

Just because your lender preapproves you to spend $550K on a home, doesn’t mean that you should go out and spend that much – or even more. Take the time to prepare a mock budget (or if you’re already a homeowner, use your current budget as a mock budget for the property you’re thinking of buying). See what your budget would be like if you actually moved into the home. Budget for ongoing costs like your mortgage payments, utilities, property taxes and home insurance.

You’ll want to leave some breathing room in case you run into any financial difficulties along the way like costly home renovations or losing your job. You also don’t want to find yourself “house rich, cash poor,” with no money left over to save or have fun.

Mistake #2: Buying a Home for the Looks
Purchasing a property based solely on looks is a lot like dating based solely on appearance. Sure, looks are important to a degree, but other factors like compatibility matters, as well.

When you step foot inside a property the first time, it’s easy to get distracted by the wrong things. Sure, it’s nice to find a home with hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances, but what about the “bones” of the property? I’m talking about the roof, furnace, windows and structure. Anyone can hire a contractor to put in a new kitchen, but if the roof is leaking and the windows are old, ask yourself, do you have the money to invest in upgrading them? If it’s a house flip, it’s not unheard of for corners to be cut on renovations. Pay special attention on everything  to stay clear of a home that’s a money pit.

Mistake #3: Not Putting Enough Money Aside for Closing Costs
When buying a home, it’s easy to overlook closing costs, but they’re anything but a drop in the bucket. Closing costs typically add up to between 1.5 and 4 percent of the purchase price of your home. For example, on a $550K home, you’d be spending up to $22K on the so-called “transactional costs of real estate.” And it’s your responsibility to have the funds for closing costs. Your lender won’t foot the bill for your closing costs.

The most common closing costs for homebuyers incur are land transfer tax, real estate lawyer fees and home inspection fees. If you’re buying a home the first time, the good news is you may be eligible for a rebate on land transfer tax depending on the province you’re buying in. Nevertheless, closing costs can still add up to a lot. Don’t forget about them!

Mistake #4: Forgoing a Home Inspection
In more competitive housing markets, you may be tempted to forgo your home inspection. When you find a property that you like and 5 other people are interested, it’s tempting to skip the home inspection and make a clean offer (an offer without any conditions). While a clean offer can help you come out on the winning end in a bidding war, you’re also leaving yourself open to all sorts of costly repairs you may not have anticipated. For example, your new home could have issues with the structure or a knob and tube wiring that an inspector could have flagged.

Hiring a certified and experienced home inspector is money well spent. You’re making the single largest purchase of your lifetime after all. If you’re afraid you might not get the home if you make it conditional on inspection, why not get the inspection done ahead of time? If the inspection is good, you can make an offer knowing that you’re investing in a property that’s a good long-term investment.

Mistake #5: Choosing a Mortgage Only for the Rate
When you go to the supermarket to buy bread, do you buy the cheapest loaf? I hope not. You look at other things like carbs, sugar and dietary fiber. So, why do so many of us do the same thing when looking for a mortgage? We look for the mortgage with the lowest rate when there are so many other factors to consider – mortgage penalties, prepayments and portability to name a few.

Mortgage penalties are probably the last thing on your mind when signing up for a mortgage, but you should care. Here’s why. If you’re signing up for a 5-year fixed rate mortgage like most Canadians, 6 out of 10 Canadians who sign up for that mortgage type will break it before the end of their mortgage term. If you asked those same 10 Canadians whether they’d break their mortgage when signing up, all 10 would probably say, no way!

That’s why if there’s a chance you could break your mortgage, it’s a good idea to choose one with a fair penalty. That’s where a mortgage broker comes in handy. A broker can help you choose the ideal mortgage based on your financial situation. You may be better off paying a slightly higher mortgage rate if it has other features that are important to you like prepayments and a lower penalty.

This post was written by Sean Cooper, bestselling author of the book, Burn Your Mortgage. Sean is also a mortgage broker at mortgagepal.ca.

May 28: Best from the blogosphere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

What to look for in a real estate agent

Spring has sprung, and with it a flock of for sale signs have appeared in every neighbourhood. Whether you are selling in order to upsize or downsize, a critical decision that can ensure your house sells at the right price within a reasonable period of time is a great real estate agent.

Home purchases and sales are for most people among the most significant financial transactions they are ever involved in. Therefore, a difference of even 0.5 per cent in real estate commission can significantly impact the amount you actually realize on the sale of your property.

First and foremost, you must be comfortable with your real estate agent and feel confident he/she is acting in your best interest. It is typically preferable not to have the buyer and the seller represented by the same agent. You may meet an agent you like at an open house or be referred by a friend or family member who has been satisfied with his/her services.

In a recent video interview on the Global News Morning Show Sean Cooper identifies online sources such as realtor.ca and feeduck.com to help you with your search.

Realtor.ca is owned and operated by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), The site which is accessible online and on mobile devices is popular with sellers, buyers and renters. Features such as the mortgage calculator, social sharing, neighborhood demographics, and ability to connect with local realtors, are all available to assist you.

FeeDuck is a real-time auction that connects you with professional real estate agents who bid down their commissions, or bid up your buyer cash back offer. You are not obligated to sign with the agent – this is simply an introduction based on the criteria you entered. There is also no cost to the home seller or home buyer. You can find a series of frequently asked questions about feeDuck here.

Here are 20 questions to ask a prospective real estate agent before you sign the listing agreement on the dotted line:

  1. Are you a full time real estate agent?
  2. How many clients are you currently working with?
  3. How long have you been working in my neighbourhood?
  4. How many homes have you listed/sold in the last year?
  5. How long do your listings remain on the market?
  6. What professional credentials do you have?
  7. How will you market my home for my best advantage?
  8. Will you hold open houses? Public, broker only or by appointment?
  9. How do you plan to advertise my home?
  10. How will you help me stage my home?
  11. How will you arrive at the listing price?
  12. Can you provide a comparative market assessment?
  13. What’s your sold-to-list-price ratio?
  14. Can you give me some references?
  15. When does the listing agreement begin and end?
  16. What happens if my home does not sell in the specified time?
  17. What happens if I change my mind about selling my home?
  18. What are your commission fees?
  19. Do I need to consider any other fees or charges?
  20. What makes you different than anyone else?

Also see:
26 questions to ask your Real Estate Professional before you sign on the dotted line
How to Interview a Real Estate Agent
10 questions to ask when hiring a real estate professional
7 questions to ask a real estate agent before you commit

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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.

Jan 29: Best from the blogosphere

One of the key pieces of advice financial writers offer readers is to fund and maintain an emergency fund to help you survive job loss, unexpected house repairs and other major expenses you haven’t budgeted for.

The Simple Dollar’s Trent Hamm lists 20 reasons why you need an emergency fund. Some situations that I hadn’t thought of until I read this blog are:

  • Your identity is stolen, locking you out of your credit cards and primary bank accounts.
  • You have a domestic crisis and have to move out of your home.
  • A relative or friend passes away suddenly in a different part of the country.
  • You get your dream job but it means a steep drop in pay.

Sean Cooper’s recent blog The Joys of Home Ownership: Replacing My Dishwasher illustrates precisely the kind of situation where an emergency fund is so valuable. Cooper rents the first floor of his house and lives in the basement apartment. A relatively innocuous email from his tenants in December notified him that the dishwasher was leaking. This problem snowballed into $2,000 of expenses for plumbing, other home repairs and a new dishwasher. Luckily he had cash on hand in his emergency account.

Debra Pangetsu on MyMoneyCoach offers 7 Steps to Saving Money in an Emergency Fund. For example, she suggests:

  •  Breaking your savings goal into smaller steps,
  • Open a separate account,
  • Automating deposits into your emergency account, and
  • Using the emergency savings only in an emergency.

How much do you need to save? Two cents blogger Kristin Wong says that experts don’t always agree. Money guru Dave Ramsey believes you should save for three to six months of living expenses in a liquid high yield savings account. Andrew, founder of Living Rich Cheaply agrees you should probably keep some money in a safe place, such as a savings account but he thinks six months of living expenses is a bit excessive. He would prefer to have more of his money invested in a mix of stocks and bonds. Nevertheless Suze Orman recommends eight months of basic costs because it usually takes that long to find another job if you are unemployed.

What’s an emergency? Ramsey says there are three questions to ask before you use your emergency fund. Is it unexpected? Is it necessary? Is it urgent? Money Under 30’s Choncé Maddox also says you should consider whether there is a better way to pay for the expenses and if the benefit of using the money outweighs the cost.

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.

Jan 22: Best from the blogosphere

I don’t know about you, but on these long cold winter nights, all I want to do is curl up on the couch under a blanket and binge on Netflix. But before you do, check out our latest collection of personal finance videos, both old and new. After all, a picture is worth 1,000 words!

If like me, you still haven’t figured out what the fuss is about bitcoin and other digital currency, Bridget Casey from Money After Graduation answers these question in a three -minute crash course: What is cryptocurrency? How does blockchain work? Does cryptocurrency have a place in your long-term investment portfolio? Why are Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and all the other cryptocurrencies is so popular and what are you supposed to do with them?

Three moms (Gillian Irving, Monika Jazyk, and Rachel Oliver) who are also real estate investors bring their expertise to the table as they interview Canada’s leading experts on creating wealth and financial security through real estate investing. On this episode: guest Sean Cooper (beginning at 7:40) , best-selling author of “Burn Your Mortgage” and a personal finance expert famous for paying off his home mortgage after just 3 years discusses the pros and cons of paying off a #mortgage when interest rates are so low and how people with kids can pay off their mortgage faster.

On Let’s Talk Investing, a joint project of Globe Investor and the Investor Education Fund, Rob Carrick interviews Gordon Pape about what investments you should hold in your TFSA. Pape says it really depends on what you want to use the plan for. He says there’s nothing wrong with using it as an emergency fund and investing it in low risk securities. However if you want to use it to maximize retirement savings, Pape suggests going to a brokerage firm and setting up a self-directed TFSA.

Jessica Moorhouse quit her day job over a year ago to concentrate on building her brand and her freelance business. She talks about finding balance in that year and acknowledging her own working style when setting her schedule. She was anxious every Sunday because her podcast and blog had typically been released on Mondays, but she realized there was no reason why she couldn’t shift these posts to Tuesday and reduce her stress.

You have recently been declined for life insurance. What are your options? Lorne Marr, director of business at LSM Insurance says the first thing to find out is why you were turned down. If you were declined for a significant reason like cancer, a heart attack or diabetes, you may want to look at a no medical life insurance policy. These policies fall into two categories: guaranteed issue coverage and simplified coverage.


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.

Oct 31: Best from the blogosphere

If you buy a house or re-finance your existing home beginning in 2018, you may need a higher income to qualify for a mortgage.  Borrowers who are renewing mortgages will not have to meet the new stress-test standard as long as they stay with the same bank. However, renewals done with another lender will have to qualify under the revised standards because they require new underwriting.

As Sean Cooper explains in What OSFI’s (Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions) Tightened Rules on Uninsured Mortgages Means for Homebuyers on RateSupermarket.ca, under these new rules, buyers with a 20% down payment or more will have to undergo a more rigorous stress test, and qualify based on the highest posted five-year fixed rate – 4.64%, roughly 200 basis points higher than actual mortgage rates.

“Last year, in an effort to cool down hot real estate markets in cities like Toronto and Vancouver, Ottawa introduced new mortgage rules on only insured mortgages – meaning those who put less than 20% down.” Cooper notes. “But since then, the uninsured mortgage market has grown. So, to help reign in this segment of the market, OSFI is now proposing extending the stress test to uninsured mortgages.”

Lowestrates.ca blogger Alexandra Bosanac further clarifies in This is how OSFI’s new mortgage rules will affect Canadian homebuyers that the new OSFI rules will apply to buyers who apply for uninsured mortgages including those with a 20% down payment or more and those buying homes worth $1 million or more. “They will be stress tested to show they can afford a mortgage, either at the five-year average posted rate, or two percentage points higher than the rate their bank or broker offers them (whichever one is higher),” she says.

Bosanac offers an interesting example of how the new rule changes will impact homebuyers. A couple buying a home for $500,000 with a $125,000 down payment would be paying $1,743 a month at the the current lowest variable five-year mortgage rate in mid-October available in Ontario of 1.99%. However, under the new rules, that same couple will be stress tested prior to qualifying to ensure they can pay the mortgage at two percentage points higher — 3.99%. That means they will have to be able to show they can afford to pay a mortgage of $2,165 a month. That’s a difference of $422 a month, or $5,064 a year.

Globe and Mail mortgage columnist Robert McLister offers 10 ways the new mortgage rules will shake up the lending market. He suggests  that unless provincial regulators follow OSFI’s lead (which if history is a guide they won’t), it will be a bonanza for some credit unions because many credit unions will still let you get a mortgage based on your actual (contract) rate, instead of the much higher stress-test rate. He expects to see a rush of buying before the end of the year from people who fear they won’t qualify after January 1.

Furthermore, critics say new mortgage rules will push borrowers to unregulated lenders according to Globe and Mail reporters Janet McFarland and James Bradshaw. They spoke with OSFI superintendent Jeremy Rudin who acknowledged that OSFI is offloading risk to the unregulated lending sector, which doesn’t come under federal control, “That would not be an intended consequence, nor would it be a completely unanticipated consequence,” he told reporters.

Former MP Garth Turner blogging at The Greater Fool anticipates that real estate values will decline across the country as a result of the changes, which means home purchases could be a potential wealth trap, particularly for first time buyers who cannot afford losses.

In After Mom, he notes that in order to avoid paying mortgage insurance, many young buyers borrowed from parents to get over the 20% line so they would not have to pay mortgage insurance. As a result CMHC-insured loans plunged more than 40% at the same time real estate activity rose, the number of borrowers increased and overall mortgage debt swelled.

He concludes, “The average down payment gift from parents to kids in households making $100,000 or more is now over $40,000. Let’s hope Mom has a bunch more money to bail junior out when prices fall, rates rise and that first loan renewal comes round. Stress, baby.”

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.

Oct 16: Best from the blogosphere

There is nothing like curling up on the couch to watch a good movie on a chilly, autumn evening. Before you move on to Netflix, here are some great new personal finance videos that will educate and entertain you.

In Money Left on the Table, Kerry Taylor, aka financial writer and blogger Squawkfox is interviewed on the CBC News Network about eligibility for Registered Disability Savings Plans and how to navigate the application process. She says, “There is really limited uptake for this program geared to people with serious, ongoing physical or mental impairment because applying for it is very complicated.”

This video from the Khan Academy clarifies what buying company stock means and clearly identifies the difference between stocks and bonds. The commentator explains, “In the general sense when you buy shares or stock you are essentially becoming a partial or part owner in the company. In contrast, bonds mean you become a lender to the business.”

Accountant and certified financial planner Ed Rempel discusses the meaning of financial independence, the huge difference it makes in your life and what it takes to get there. By helping almost 1000 families put together a financial plan he has gained insights that form the basis of his 6 Steps to Become Financially Independent.

Sean Cooper, blogger and author is interviewed on the Global Morning show about how homeowners will be affected by higher interest rates. Because Cooper paid off his mortgage by age 30 he does not have to worry about the personal impact of these changes. However, he says, “If you are in a variable rate mortgage and rising interest rates are keeping you up at night, it may make sense to lock in right now.”

Planning a vacation? Preet Bannerjee explains the meaning of dynamic currency conversion and why you should always pay in local currency when travelling. When a merchant gives you the option to pay in your home currency and you choose to do so, the process is known as dynamic currency conversion or DCC. You may think you will come out ahead and avoid the 2.5% conversion fee charged by the credit company. But in fact his examples show that credit card companies typically offer a better exchange rate than if the merchant applied DCC and charged customers in their home currency. And some credit cards charge 2.5% on every transaction anyway.


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.

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 20: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

This issue of Best from the Blogosphere draws on the work of several of the over 60 personal finance bloggers/experts who belong to the Canadian Money Bloggers Facebook Group. While many are old friends, today we introduce you to several bloggers who are new to us that we have recently started reading.

Alyssa Davies on Mixed up Money writes about Why She Still Avoids the Mall 1 Year After Becoming Debt Free. In order to pay off $10,000 in debt arising out of a shopping addiction she had to quit cold turkey. Even going to the mall was too much temptation. She rewarded herself with a new $80 wallet when she paid off her debt, but since then she prefers to shop for clothing online as a form of damage control.

11 Ways to Lower Your Power & Utility Bills by Dan on HowToSaveMoney.ca is a very topical piece for any season. Dan suggests that to conserve water you use low flow toilets and make sure you have no leaky taps. Energy efficient blinds and window upgrades can help keep the cold out and the heat in. And weatherstripping, adding solar panels and smart thermostats are other options for better managing utility bills.

We’ve read a lot lately about Sean Cooper’s book Burn Your Mortgage. In fact I recently posted a podcast interview with him on this site. But FIRECracker chats with Cooper for the Millenial Revolution about what it actually takes to publish a book. Instead of finally relaxing after paying off his mortgage, he spent 3-5 months writing the book; 4 months editing and re-writing it; plus 6-8 months working with a publicist and literary agent on marketing. In addition, he put $20,000 of his own money into the project.

The blogger and founder of Family Money Plan Andrew Daniels says part of his plan to become financially free involves making more money. Taking surveys is one side hustle that is helping him reach this objective. There are a lot of different survey companies out there and each of them compensates differently. But if he is waiting for an oil change or for his kids’ activities to wrap up, he pulls out his smartphone and earns while he would otherwise be just killing time.

CPA Robin Taub frequently blogs for Tangerine Bank’s website Forward Thinking. In How someone stole my identity to commit fraud and what I did about it she tells a compelling story about Janice who was the victim of identity theft and fraud like 20,611 other people in 2014. It took her months to get her credit rating cleared so she could be approved for a mortgage and purchase a home. “To this day, I’m still not sure how my Social Insurance Number was compromised since I didn’t physically misplace or lose the card. But I’m much more vigilant now about protecting myself,” Janice told Taub.


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