Tag Archives: Statistics Canada

10 Top Productivity Tips for Telecommuters

By Sheryl Smolkin

In recent years technology has made working remote for all or part of the week a practical option for a broad spectrum of employees ranging from customer service representatives to travel agents to professionals such as lawyers and accountants.

CBC News reported last year that more than 1.7 million paid employees — those not self-employed — worked from home in 2008 at least once a week, up almost 23% from the 1.4 million in 2000, according to the latest Statistics Canada figures released in 2010.

While the ability to more easily juggle work and family responsibilities may make telecommuting attractive for many people, the fact is that individuals who work from home must have the right tools and be able to minimize distractions in order to effectively do their job.

Here are 10 tips for to help you be more efficient working from home.

  1. Keep regular working hours
    The advantage of working from home may be that you can set your own hours. But even if you have to work “the night shift” after your kids are in bed, you will accomplish more if you establish a regular routine and stick with it.
  2. Dress for success
    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting heels and a business suit. But get out of your pajamas, shower, shave and brush your teeth. When you sit down to work you will feel more wide awake and focused.
  3. Remind people you are working
    Tell friends and neighbours you are working from home and not available for coffee klatches and other social get-togethers during your work day. Also, if you have young children, arrange full or part-time childcare to ensure you have the uninterrupted time you need to do your job.
  4. Optimize your work space
    Not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated home office. However working at the kitchen table or sitting on the couch with your lap top and papers spread out around you are not in the long run conducive to good posture or good work habits. If at all possible set up a dedicated desk or table in a corner of your bedroom or another available nook.
  5. Have the right tools
    A cell phone, a lap top and the internet are all most people need to work anywhere these days. But there are lots of other tech tools and apps can make your life easier. For example, I couldn’t possibly function without a headset. Dropbox allows me to both store files in the cloud and share them with work colleagues and external clients. Google drive is a free resource I use to create documents and spreadsheets that I can give clients and associates permission to access and edit.
  6. Stay in touch
    Depending on the nature of your job, stay in touch and communicate frequently with colleagues and clients. Always Skype or call in for important meetings. Inform co-workers and supervisors of your core working hours and availability. Make sure you understand what your manager expects and consistently deliver on those expectations.
  7. Make a list
    I am a huge fan of “To Do” lists both at home and at work. If you are working offsite it is particularly important to keep a revolving list so you can prioritize and track multiple requests from co-workers who are also working remote or in the office. By keeping your lists (paper or digital) even after you have checked things off, you have a record of what you have actually accomplished each day.
  8. Take a break
    I have found that often I work harder and longer at home because there are fewer interruptions. Get up every hour. Move around. Take time to go to the gym or participate in a yoga class. While pjs may not be acceptable work-at-home wear, a track suit and running shoes are fine, particularly if they facilitate fitting a workout into your day.
  9. Human contact
    Working alone at home without any other adult contact day in and day out can be detrimental to your mental health. Telephone people instead of always sending emails. For a change of scenery take your lap top to a local coffee shop or library. If you are self-employed you might benefit from a co-working space which will provide you with shared resources like meeting rooms and networking events.
  10. Manage food intake
    Access to a fully-stocked kitchen can be both a pro and a con for telecommuters. If you shop wisely and prepare yourself a healthy lunch each day, then working from home can improve both your health and your bank account. But if you are constantly raiding the refrigerator or the pantry, you may discover the great outfit you bought on sale at the end of last season no longer fits.

Why sitting is the new smoking

By Sheryl Smolkin

Click here to listen
Click here to listen

Today I’m interviewing Avinash Maniram, a partner and senior group benefits consultant in the Vancouver office of PBI Actuarial Consultants. Avinash is a frequent speaker on health and wellness topics at educational seminars and industry conferences.

We are going to talk about the health implications of the sedentary lifestyle many of us lead. In particular we’ll learn why “sitting is the new smoking” from a health risk perspective and what we can do about it.

Q: So before we start, let’s look at some vocabulary. How would you define physical activity?

A: Well when we’re looking at physical activity from the perspective of the World Health Organization, we’re referring to undertaking at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of more vigorous exercise per week. Moderate exercise includes walking, swimming, mowing the lawn, washing your car or gardening.  Things like running and aerobics are characterized as vigorous exercise.

Q: So what’s the flip side, for example, physical inactivity?
A: Physical inactivity, is really the failure to achieve that guideline of either 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of more vigorous exercise per week.

Q: What would you consider to be a sedentary lifestyle?
A:  A sedentary lifestyle is one that’s involves an excessive amount of sitting throughout the day.

Q: We’ve been hearing a lot in the media lately about the health risks of sitting too much. Is sitting actually that bad and how much is too much?
A: Recently a lot more studies have shown direct correlations between sedentary lifestyles and the incidence of various types of diseases and heart conditions. Research from the University of Toronto indicates that the impact of sitting on a person’s lifestyle or their health really kicks in for those who have been spending at least eight hours a day in a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, the average Canadian adult spends close to 10  hours a day in a sedentary state.

Q: What actually happens to our body when we sit too much?
A: Our circulation system is really developed to operate when we are in motion so when we’re spending too much time in a sedentary state, our muscles are no longer load-bearing.  They begin to atrophy and they become weaker.

Q: You mentioned heart disease but what other health conditions can too much sitting trigger?
A: What the studies have shown is that a sedentary lifestyle can impact the risk of certain types of cancers, most predominantly colon cancer and breast cancer. In the case of cardiovascular disease in Canada, approximately 25% of all cases are directly linked to a sedentary lifestyle. There are also links to diabetes. In addition, the more sedentary your lifestyle, the more prone you are to anxiety and depression.

Q: What about the impact of sitting on mortality rates? By the way, I want you to know that since we’ve started talking I’ve decided I can do this interview standing just as well as I can do it sitting so I got up from my chair.
A: That’s fantastic. Statistics Canada and the Conference Board of Canada did a study which found that if we could lower the proportion of the time that we spend sitting or in the sedentary state by just 10%, that could result in a 30% lower risk of mortality.

Q: Does sedentary behavior also impact productivity?
A: It certainly does. You can imagine if you’re sitting at your desk in the usual crunched, hunched over thinking position, over time,  circulation is impacted and as a result your brain gets less oxygen. So colloquially I guess we would call this “foggy brain. Resulting  poor mental health and sore backs can also have an impact on productivity.

Q: The other thing that really surprised me is that sitting is viewed as an independent risk factor. So even if I’m getting my hundred and fifty minutes a week, that’s not enough if I sit all the time.
A: Absolutely. So much of the mainstream media has been focused on getting those 150 minutes of moderate activity in a week. But if you’re sitting at a desk for eight hours a day and then you head to the gym for one hour afterwards, that doesn’t undo the eight hours of damage caused by sitting. So for every 30 minutes of sitting we should be getting up and walking around for about five minutes. Those periodic intervals of activity do a lot more to reverse the damage done by a sedentary lifestyle.

Q: Are there any guidelines for the kind of activity we should be interspersing throughout the day and how frequently? Can you give me some examples?
A: This is the neat thing. So often when we go to sessions or we read about these things, the solutions often times are so impractical that it puts them out of reach. This is one of the areas where the fixes are actually quite simple. One of the things that we can do is we can set up some mental triggers so when the phone rings, if you’re in the office, instead of taking that call sitting down you can stand up.

If you are in an office tower you can walk up or down the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Another obvious one is limiting the amount of time that you spend watching TV. For those in office settings, instead of sending an e-mail to your colleague across the floor or instead of phoning to ask them a question,  get up and walk over to have that discussion.

Q: What if any guidelines are there for parents with children who want to ensure that their kids are sufficiently active?
A: Well this is one of the biggest challenges that we have right now. If you look at the guidelines for children, they should be getting at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day. The experts also recommend less than two hours of screen time daily.

One suggestion is to replace the video games with outdoor activities. Sometimes you can use it as a bargaining chip. Often I find that when the kids go outside, I end up having to call them back in, because they’ve forgotten about their screens and they’re back to being playful children again.

Q: What about standing or adjustable desks or treadmill desks? How useful are they and how can employees convince their employers to pilot them or make them available?
A: Well on the surface they are very useful because they combat the immediate problem which sitting at the desk for eight hours a day. When you’re trying to sell the idea of an adjustable desk to your employer, try to convince the company that this is the right thing to do. You really just need to point to the health benefits — less time off work and less presenteeism for those who probably should be off work but insist on coming in everyday. The studies have shown that there is really no decrease to productivity with standing desks.

Q: You’ve been doing a lot of work on the impact of sedentary lifestyles. You’ve made some changes in the lives of yourself and your children. You are also a partner in your firm. Are your colleagues getting the message and have you been the catalyst for some of these changes in your own office?
A: We did a presentation on the impact of sedentary living and you could see the light bulbs go off in people’s minds. It’s something that’s really taken our little office by storm.

We see the message is getting through, just judging by the number of associates who have requested standing desks. They are not mandatory by any means but if an associate wants one we will certainly make it happen.

I’ve also noticed a lot more in-person meetings and fewer phone calls and e-mails to discuss work with our colleagues. When I do performance reviews, we go for walk, we go outside to have the discussion. Whenever there are smaller internal meetings, we may get up, buy a water or something and come back to the office and finish up.

Thanks for chatting with me today Avinash on this fascinating topic. My pleasure Sheryl.

1dec-avinash

 

 

 

Avinash Maniram, PBI Actuarial Consultants Ltd.

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This is the edited version of the transcript of a podcast recorded in November 2016.

Legal Tips for Saskatchewan Renters

By Sheryl Smolkin

In Part 1 of this series for renters we looked at things to consider when you are looking for a rental property. Part 2 will focus on the legal rights of landlords and tenants in Saskatchewan. These legal obligations are prescribed in The Residential Tenancies Act 2006 and The Residential Tenancies Regulations 2007.

First of all, it’s important to understand the types of accommodation that are not covered by these rules. For example, if you are living in a school dormitory, hotel, motel, cottage or resort home rented for less than six months, these properties are excluded from the protections and responsibilities outlined in the legislation. Other exclusions are health care facilities, personal care homes and farm homes rented by people cultivating the land.

Here are some FAQs and answers about the rights and responsibilities of Saskatchewan landlords and tenants.

  1. Do I need a lease?
    You and your landlord can mutually agree to a fixed, periodic, month-to-month or week-to-week type tenancy and a signed lease is not required for periodic leases. A fixed term lease of more than three months has to be in writing, must detail the date on which the tenancy expires and, must contain the provisions required by the Residential Tenancies Act. If the lease is written out, your landlord is required to give you a signed copy within a period of 20 days of when it is signed.
  2. My future landlord wants a two month security deposit? Do I have to give it to him?
    No. Deposits that are collected by the landlord cannot exceed one month’s rent and they can be used to cover the cost of damages to the rental property. Your landlord can demand a security deposit, but only at the beginning of the tenancy. It is also unlawful to charge tenants key money.
  3. My one year lease is expiring. Do I have to give notice that I am leaving?
    Term leases always expire at the end of the set term. Your landlord has absolutely no obligation to give notice to vacate at the end of the period, nor do you. However, your landlord is required to provide you with two months of advance notice when telling you whether or not he is willing to renew your lease, and if the landlord is willing, he must provide you with the terms of the new lease.
  4. What if I want to break my lease early?
    You can end your tenancy by simply giving the follow notice:

    • A minimum of one month’s rent before the day of the month on which the rent is payable for a month-to-month tenancy
    • A minimum of one week before the day of the week on which the rent is payable for a week-to-week tenancy
    • One day’s notice if the landlord is in breach of a “material” term included in the rental agreement (for example, if the unit is in a state of disrepair and considered uninhabitable). In these circumstances, notice that is given must provide the reason the lease is being terminated, and if the breach can be remedied, you are required to give the landlord a reasonable amount of time to fix the breach before ending the tenancy.
  5. My landlord told me I have to leave in 15 days. Is that legal?
    It may be if your rent or utilities have been overdue for at least 15 days. Otherwise, a landlord may end a tenancy for any of the causes set forth in s.58 of the Residential Tenancies Act (i.e., repeatedly late paying rent; unreasonable number of occupants in the unit; putting landlord’s property at significant risk etc.) by giving the following notice:

    • At least one month before the day of the month on which rent is payable for a month-to-month tenancy.
    • At least one week before the day of the week on which rent is payable for a week- to- week tenancy.
    • Earlier upon application to the Office of Residential Tenancies.

    The landlord must give you a reasonable period of time to fix the cause for which the tenancy is being terminated if the reason can be remedied. You may dispute the notice by giving notice to the landlord within 15 days after receiving his notice.

  6. Can I sublet my unit?
    If your tenancy is for a fixed term, you can sublet the property with the landlord’s written consent, and the landlord can only withhold consent when it is considered reasonable to do so. The landlord can charge you a fee of no more than $20 for considering or consenting to the sublease.
  7. I just moved in five months ago and my landlord wants to raise the rent effective immediately. Do I have to pay the increase?
    You do not. Landlords are required to give one year written notice of a rent increase in the event of a periodic tenancy, unless they are a member in good standing of the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Industry Association (SRHIA), in which case the landlord can give six months’ written notice of a rent increase. If a landlord ceases to be a member in good standing of the SRHIA during the six-month notice period, the notice given by the landlord will take effect after 12 months rather than six, and the landlord is required to inform the tenant of this in writing. Rent may be increased only once each year, unless the landlord is a member in good standing of the SRHIA, in which case rent can be increased twice each year. No notice of a rent increase can be served within six months of the start of the tenancy or the date of the last increase, whichever is later. Public housing authorities as well as non-profit corporations are exempt, as rent may vary with income.
  8. Can my landlord enter my apartment when I’m not home?
    Your landlord can enter your rented unit in the event of an emergency, or if you agree. Otherwise, the landlord is required to provide you with 24 hours advance notice in writing for entry that takes place between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. specifying a four hour period when they will be entering the premises.If you have provided a notice to terminate the lease, your landlord is allowed to show the property with your consent, or as may be agreed in writing with you or after the landlord has made a reasonable effort to give you two hours advance notice.
  9. Can I withhold rent for repairs?
    It is not legal for you to withhold rent for repairs and may warrant an eviction for nonpayment of rent. If you have requested that the landlord make certain repairs and the landlord has not done so, you have two options other than withholding rent.The first option is to bring an application to the Office of Residential Tenancies for an order directing the landlord to do the repairs, and you may ask for a reduction of the rent until the repairs are completed.The second option you have is to contact municipal authorities to determine if any local bylaws that set minimum standards for rental properties have been broken. If so, you can ask for the property to be inspected by an official. If officials find any repairs that need to be done, an order will be issued to the landlord to fix the problems immediately.
  10. Can a landlord  refuse to rent to me because I have a cat or I smoke?
    Yes. Pets are permitted in the rental unit only if they are explicitly allowed in the lease or if the agreement does not address this issue. The landlord can also include a no-smoking cause in the lease.

For general information about renting in Saskatchewan contact:

Office of Residential Tenancies
120 – 2151 Scarth Street
Regina, SK
S4P 2H8
Toll-free: 1-888-215-2222 (within Saskatchewan)
Toll-free fax: 1-888-867-7776 (within Saskatchewan)
Tel.: 306-787-2699
Fax: 306-787-5574
http://www.justice.gov.sk.ca/ORT
See Web site for contact information for all offices.

 

What you need to know before you rent an apartment

By Sheryl Smolkin

We’ve written several articles about the ins and outs of home ownership, but in fact Statistics Canada reports that 31% of Canadians rent. And although 82.4% of couple-family households own their dwelling, only 55.6% of lone-parent households have purchased a residence and less than half (48.5%) of non-family households own their own homes.

While at first blush, finding and renting an apartment may not seem particularly complicated, if you’ve ever had a terrible rental experience you probably asked a lot more questions the next time around.  So in order to give renters some food for thought, this week we present the first of a two-part series on “what you always wanted to know about renting an apartment but you were afraid to ask.”

  1. Location, Location, Location:
    A perfect apartment is not perfect if it is miles from work and family and not on a regular transportation route. Also, check to see if there are easily accessible grocery stores, a drugstore, schools and places of worship.
  2. Paying the rent:
    Make sure you can afford the rent. The landlord may have you fill out an application, do a credit check and ask you for references. One rule of thumb is that you should budget 25%-30% of your income for rent. Typically you will have to give a first and last month’s rent when you move in. If you are a student, a parent may have to co-sign the lease.
  3. What the rent covers:
    Ask about any additional charges for utilities or cable TV. Find out if you are entitled to a locker and or/parking or if there is an additional charge. Do you get a guaranteed parking spot? Is it indoors or out? Do the window coverings and the microwave stay with the apartment or go with the current tenant? How much does it cost to use the laundry machines?
  4. Fuzzy and Fido:
    Do you have devoted pets who are members of your family? Don’t take for granted that dogs or cats are allowed. Even if you have a very small, quiet, dog you will have to take him out several times a day and there is always a nosey neighbor who will notify management that you are breaching the lease.
  5. Property inspection:
    Make sure you get to inspect your unit before you sign on the bottom line. Check for leakage, insects and that all the appliances work. Test the faucets, hot water, the shower and the toilets. If you see any damage, take pictures and inform the landlord before you sign the lease. If possible, get it in writing when necessary repairs will be completed.
  6. Building maintenance:
    Is the building clean and in good repair? What condition is your unit in? Is there a superintendent in the building you can easily contact if you suddenly have no hot water or your refrigerator stops working? Ask other tenants about their experience.
  7. Decorating your apartment:
    Can you paint or wallpaper your apartment? Will you have to repaint it “boring beige” before you leave? What if there are holes in the wall from picture hangers? Will your last month’s rent act as a security deposit? In what circumstances can the landlord refuse to return all or part of your security deposit? Can you change the locks or put additional security locks on the door of your unit?
  8. Renter’s insurance:
    These days everybody has computers, tablets, TVs and other very portable electronics. Regardless of how good you think the apartment security is there is always the risk that your apartment will be broken into or your possessions destroyed by fire. Invest in a comprehensive tenant’s insurance package.
  9. Roomies:
    You may need to rent out a room in your apartment to help pay the rent. Does your landlord have to approve the roommate? Does the roommate have to co-sign on the lease? Are you responsible for the full amount of the rent if your roommate packs up and leaves in the middle of the night? Can you list the apartment on Airbnb?
  10. Other misc. questions:
    Can you barbecue on your balcony? Can you store your bike on the balcony? Can you control the heat? How do you let somebody into the building? Are there overhead lights or enough convenient outlets to plug in lamps and other appliances? Is there Wifi in the building? How is the cell phone reception? Where do you dispose of garbage? Is the building noisy? Is there a history of vandalism in the building or the area?

Next week we will talk about the legal rights of landlords and tenants in Saskatchewan.

 

10 questions to ask before your wedding

By Sheryl Smolkin

According to weddingbells 65% of weddings in Canada take place between June and September with 25% of weddings taking place in the month of August. I don’t know the month when the most divorces are granted, but according to 2008 data from Statistics Canada (the last year for which it was reported), the divorce rate has been relatively stable for the last 20 years, fluctuating between 35% and 42%.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of marriage. In November of this year we will celebrate our 40th anniversary. But considering what’s at stake, it’s well worth asking your prospective spouse a few important questions before you say, “I do,” so you don’t have to unravel the whole thing a few years later when you realize what you really meant was, “I don’t.”

Here are 10 things I thought of. No doubt you can think of others:

  1. Religion: How important is religion to each of you? If you are of different religions will one of you convert? If you have children, in which faith will you bring them up?
  2. Children: Do both of you want children? How many? How soon? If you cannot have children together is it a deal breaker? Would you consider adoption if all else fails?
  3. Childcare: Did one of your parents stay at home to care for you and your siblings? Do you believe there should be one stay at home parent in each family? If so, which one?
  4. Abortion: Legally a woman gets to make the decision if she is going to terminate a pregnancy. She may make this decision in a variety of difficult circumstances including personal health problems, lack of viability of the child or if she was a victim of rape. Do both parties share the same personal and/or religious views about abortion?
  5. Debt: There is nothing that can take the shine off a relationship faster than finding out later rather than sooner that one or both partners have significant credit card, student loan or other consumer debt. Be completely open about the state of both of your finances and consider how to get them in order before you walk down the aisle.
  6. Money management: How will you pay the family bills? Will each of you contribute the same amount monthly or pro-rate expenses based on income levels? Will you consolidate your finances or maintain different bank accounts? Who will be responsible for managing and reconciling accounts on a regular basis?
  7. Pre-nup: Is one of you older or more affluent? Have one or both of you been married before? Is one of you part owner of a family business? In these circumstances your prospective spouse may ask you to sign a pre-nuptial agreement giving up some of your rights on divorce. If so, be realistic and get independent legal advice before you agree.
  8. City vs. country: Where will you live? Are you willing to trade off a smaller apartment in the city for a detached house in the suburbs and a daily two-hour commute? Is living in a rural area on a huge lot a priority or is it important to you to be part of an urban community?
  9. Household chores: Are both of you neat freaks or is one of you a slob? Who is going to do what in the home and how often? If both of you are working are you open to hiring someone to do regular house cleaning for you?
  10. Resolving conflict: Can you discuss your feelings openly? Every couple has disagreements. How will you handle yours? Are you willing to consider counseling if problems arise the two if you can’t handle easily?

Relationships are dynamic and the discussions you have before the big day are not cast in stone. But if you build your life together based on open communication and shared values, chances are greater that when you encounter inevitable roadblocks down the road you will find a way to work together to overcome these obstacles.

 

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.

Financing Post-Secondary Education: It’s a family affair

By Sheryl Smolkin

21Aug-packingforcollege

Before your child heads off to university or college this year, you need to have a frank discussion about how much it will cost and how much you can afford to contribute to his or her tuition and living costs.

If you opened a registered educational savings plan (RESP) when Janice or Jasper was much younger, that nest egg will be a big help. Some young people have also had summer or part-time jobs for many years and have a healthy balance in their savings account.

But with the escalating costs of post-secondary education, chances are that most students will be looking to “the Bank of Mom and Dad” for some assistance, even if that only means living rent free while going to school in their home city.

According to the D+H Student Index survey of 752 Canadian high-school and post-secondary students, when talking to their parents about the cost of school, one in three students say the conversation revealed a gap between the cost of post-secondary education and the financial support their parents could offer. Students only realized the need to line up other sources of financing after having these family conversations.

Fortunately, it’s not taboo for Canadian families to talk about money. Four in five students (80%) say they don’t have any difficulty talking to their parents about money. For the majority of students (55%), the family discussion on how to finance post-secondary education happens in grade 11 or 12.

Reflecting on these conversations, Canadian students say if they could do it again, they would go in with a more realistic idea of the cost of post-secondary education (36%) and have the conversation earlier (26%).

According to Statistics Canada, on average, undergraduate students paid $5,772 in tuition fees in 2013-2014. Over four years, that is more than $20,000 for tuition, before considering other expenses such as books and additional academic fees or any living expenses.

Canadian students usually line up a variety of sources to cover the cost. The top five sources of funding are:

  • 43%: Parents are paying
  • 43%: Student savings
  • 41%: Government federal and/or provincial loans
  • 41%: Summer jobs
  • 39%: Scholarship money or grants

When parents offered financial support over 1/3 of students said the support was unconditional. However in some cases students were required to get good grades (41%); work in the summer (39%); and/or work part-time during the school year (19%)

Three-quarters of students who took out student loans say they could not afford post-secondary education without one. Nine in ten (89%) say the loans helped them pursue their education and career goals.

A recent CBC article reports that Canadians graduate with an average student debt load of $25,000. But for many others the amount is much higher, particularly if they study for professions like law, medicine or engineering.

High debt loads are not only a financial stress but can delay the time it takes individuals or couples to reach certain milestones, such as having children, getting married or owning property.

Therefore, the sooner parents and children talk about and begin saving for post-secondary education, the better. To the extent possible, students should also be encouraged to select a field of study leading to jobs where there is a healthy demand for new graduates.