Tag Archives: Tom Drake

Dec 11: Best from the blogosphere

It’s getting close to the end of the year and the holiday season is upon us. Here are some examples of subjects  personal finance bloggers havw been writing about recently.

Marie Engen (Boomer & Echo) offers tips on How To Leverage Technology Into Good Financial Habits. She notes that most banks have a budgeting app that tracks your spending so you get a better idea of where your money is going. If all your accounts don’t reside with just one financial institution, there are lots of mobile apps and budgeting software available, such as the popular Mint.com, GoodBudget and You Need a Budget.

Chris Nicola on the Financial Independence Hub tackles the perennial question, Should you take early CPP benefits or defer as long as possible?  Using Statistics Canada figures, he calculates that a woman maximizes her total CPP payout by waiting until age 70, resulting in an average of $75k (36%) more than if she took it at age 60. A man maximizes his total CPP a little earlier, at age 68, receiving an average of $50k (27%) more than at age 60.

Maple Money’s Tom Drake addresses the question: Should You Invest in Group RESPs? He concludes that the risk with group plans comes if you drop out early. Many of these types of RESPs have high enrollment fees. It’s not uncommon to pay up to $1,200 in fees. With Group RESPs, you don’t pay that amount up front. Instead, it is deducted from your returns when you close the plan early. Therefore if you withdraw from the plan before it matures, you could face big penalties — and even have  your contributions eaten up by the fees.

And getting back to how to save money and still enjoy holiday entertaining and gift giving…..

Holiday décor hacks for having a dinner party by personal finance writer, on-air personality, speaker and bestselling author Melissa Leong suggests that you create your own decor very cheaply, whether by gathering some greens or acorns from outside and dumping them in a vase or using wrapping paper to wrap empty boxes, make napkin rings or use as a table runner.

What If This Christmas… You Didn’t Have to Worry About Money? by Chris Enns on From Rags to Reasonable offers the following suggestions:

  • Figure out how much you want to spend.
  • Figure out how much you can afford to spend.
  • Buy a prepaid credit card and use it as the ONLY way you pay  for Christmas-related materials.

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 6: Best from the blogosphere

We are again going to sample recent material from a series of bloggers who participated in The Canadian Financial Summit in September.

This week headlines across the country blared that CRA has changed their position on allowing diabetics to claim lucrative disability tax credits in certain cases.

On Your Money, Your Life, accountant Evelyn Jacks discusses why these changes are being made and how audit-proofing strategies must be implemented by tax professionals and their diabetic clients.

Andrew Daniels writes at Family Money Plan about how he paid off his mortgage in 6 years. Five of the 28 things he and his wife gave up to quickly pay down his mortgage are noted below:

  • Eating out, largely due to food sensitivities and allergies with the added bonus that they saved big bucks.
  • For the first five years of the pay down period they gave up travel.
  • They went without cell phones for four of the six years of paying off their mortgage
  • They opted to repair their old cars as required rather than buying new ones.

Jonathan Chevreau, CEO of the Financial Independence Hub notes in the Financial Post that Only a quarter of Canadians have a rainy day fund, but more than half worry about rising rates.

This is based on a survey of 1,350 voting-age adults by Forum Research Inc. conducted after the Bank of Canada raised its benchmark overnight rate from 0.75% to 1% on Sept. 6, the second increase in three months. That said, 17% believe rate hikes will have some positive aspects: Not surprisingly, debt-free seniors welcome higher returns on GICs and fixed-income investments. Another 38% don’t think it will have an effect either way.

Do you know how long it will take to double the money you have invested? MapleMoney blogger Tom Drake explains the rule of 72 which take into account the impact of compound interest and  allows you to get a quick idea of what you can achieve with your money.

For example, if you were expecting a rate of return of 7% you would divide 72 by 7, which tells you it would take about 10.3 years to double your money at that rate. If you want $50,000, you would need to invest $25,000 today at 7% and let it sit for 10.3 years.

Kyle Prevost explores 5 stupid reasons for not getting life insurance on lowestrates.ca. If your rationale is that you are healthy and never get sick, Prevost says, “Glass half-full thinking is a positive thing, but pretending that your full glass is indestructible is a recipe for disaster.”

And if you have avoided buying life insurance because you have so many other bills you can’t afford it, he says, “You seriously need to ask yourself what sort of situation you’d leave behind if tragedy struck. Those bills that look daunting right now would look downright insurmountable.”

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.

Jan 30: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

The thing about January is that everyone is either trying to get physically, mentally or financially fit, although some people are closer to the end game than others. Here’s what some of our favourite bloggers wrote about saving money and reaching other goals in 2017.

In How to Save Money on Groceries: 10 Easy Ways to Cut Your Bill in Half Tom Drake gives the usual advice, such as make a list and stick to it, try private label brands and buy case lots of products you use regularly. But he says you can also kill two birds with one stone by eating less so your grocery bill goes down.

Stephan Weyman says one of the reasons he shops at Costco is the company’s “no questions asked, crazy return policy.” For example, the company took back a three year old recumbent bicycle that broke down two years before and he got a $500 refund. He has also successfully returned a bicycle purchased for his wife that turned into a garage ornament for $200; cushioned floor mats, and frying pans that were supposed to be professional quality and didn’t hold up.

On Give me back my five bucks, Krystal says her primary 2017 goals are to have a fun year full of travel and adventure. She plans to stay debt free and continue to save save at least $1,650/month in her RRSP/TFSA. She also resolves to curb impulse spending, continue to be active and keep in better touch with friends.

Cait Flanders (formerly Blonde on a Budget) who paid off her $28,000 of debt in two and a half years and in July 2014 completed a year- long shopping ban, plans to make 2017 the year of slow living.

Each month, she is going to experiment with slowing down in one area of her life. Some of the different things she will experiment with are: slow food, slow mornings, slow evenings, slow movement, slow technology and slow money. “The only thing I won’t do is make a list of what I’m going to work on each month. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s to trust my gut,” Flanders says.

And finally, Tim Stobbs has documented progress towards his early retirement goal on Canadian Dream: Free at 45 for several years. He hopes 2017 is the last year of his full-time working career. However, he is beginning to notice a new emotion in the people around him: fear. He gets the usual well-meaning queries like:

  • Are you sure you have enough saved?
  • What happens if you don’t get a part time job?
  • What will you do with unexpected expenses?
  • Maybe you should work just one more year?

But Stobbs figures the worse that can happen is that he will have to go back to work for a few years. “I fully admit I may not have enough saved to head into semi-retirement,” he says.  “But I don’t want to live a life based on fear of the unknown.  I’m willing to try out something new and see what happens. “


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.

Jan 9: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Fireworks on Parliament Hill and across the country ushered in Canada’s sesquicentennial or 150th birthday. I’ll never forget babysitting on New Year’s Eve in 1967 and hearing Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy for the first time. It’s still one of my favourites!

As our contribution to Canada’s big birthday, in this space we will continue to direct you to the best from Canadian personal finance bloggers from coast to coast with an occasional foray south of the border. We hope you will let us know what you like and what we may have missed.

Recently Ed Rempel addressed the perennial question, Should I Delay CPP & OAS Until Age 70? and included some real life examples. While he illustrates that many Canadians can benefit from waiting until age 70 to start their government benefits, he agrees that if you are retired at 65 and have little income other than these two government pensions, you may have no option.

Barry Choi on “Money We Have Have” explores 5 differences between cheap and frugal people. He thinks calling a frugal person cheap is pretty insulting. “Frugal people understand the value of money and are willing to pay when it counts,” Choi says. “On the other hand, cheap people are only looking for ways to save money regardless of how it’s done.”

With credit card bills that reflect holiday excesses hitting mailboxes this month, many of us are looking for ways to save money. Canadian Finance Blog’s Tom Drake breaks down ways to save money both monthly and annually.

Think about your energy use and your water use to figure out ways to save money on your electricity billgas bill and water bill. Two other services that have many opportunities to cut back include the cable bill and cell phone bill.

“Reducing these five bills could easily save you over $100 a month, or more than $1,000 in a year. That’s not too shabby at all,” he notes.

For Alyssa Davies at “Mixed Up Money” an emergency fund (which she calls money to protect your other money) of three months pay is not enough. She has another account called her “comfy couch” for the months she overspends or under-saves.

When Davies wrote the blog she only had $583 in her comfy couch account but that small amount was all it took to make her feel comfortable. She says, “Whenever I need to use some of that money, I simply take it out, and replace the amount the next time I have available funds to do so. If you’re anything like me, you will want to find a magic number that allows you to breath without feeling like a giant horse is sitting on your chest.”

And finally, Retireby40 says he had a terrific 2016 and achieved 9 out of 11 goals. His approach for setting New Years goals is to set achievable objectives; make the goals specific and measurable; and, write them down so he can track his progress. Several of his goals for 2017 include increasing blog income to $36k, redesigning the blog and save $50,000 in tax-advantaged 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.

Personal finance writers share 2017 New Year’s resolutions

By Sheryl Smolkin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 19: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

I have just returned from a three week odyssey to Australia and New Zealand, so there is a significant backlog of stories from both old favourites and newer bloggers to share with you.

Sean Cooper is anxiously awaiting the release of his first book Burn Your Mortgage. He made headlines around the world when he paid off his mortgage at 30 on a house he bought just three years before. In a recent blog he says that in spite of inflated home prices particularly in Toronto and Vancouver, the home ownership dream is still alive and well. However it is taking twice as long to save for a house because we are buying bigger houses.

Toronto Star Consumer Columnist Ellen Roseman has had lots to smile about since her media articles, petition and blog were a catalyst for the Ontario Protecting Rewards Points Act effective December 5, 2016 which provides that loyalty rewards points can’t expire. Roseman found out about the changes when she was being interviewed on CBC Marketplace. However, to date similar legislation has not been tabled in Saskatchewan.

If you are planning a winter vacation this year, chances are one or more people will approach you about buying a timeshare week or two in paradise before you fly home. Tom Drake believes the purchase of a timeshare is usually a poor choice, since they can be hard to unload, and they depreciate in value so quickly. However if you can get a timeshare on the cheap on ebay or some other online site, it may be a better deal. But you might be required to pay the current year’s maintenance fee at purchase time, or you could possibly be on the hook for closing costs and transfer fees. Be sure to read the documentation carefully to ensure that you understand the terms and requirements.

In Episode 77 of her podcast series, Jessica Moorhouse interviews Steve Cousins from Arkansas who retired as a millionaire by working a regular 9 to 5 job for the same company for 40 years. She learned that he made sure to get a university degree in a field that has a high demand for skilled workers. Cousins also says you need to understand when it makes sense to stick with the same company or if you should move on. And finally, you need to live frugally, invest wisely and have a plan how to continue earning money during retirement. For example, he has become a serial entrepreneur with four different jobs now that he is retired.

And finally, Steve Weyman on HowToSaveMoney.ca describes how he ALWAYS does extreme price comparison to make she he gets the lowest price. Take a look at his 10-step process.

  • Choose your product
  • Start with a light google search
  • Track the lowest prices
  • Check ALL  flyers using Flipp.com
  • Use price comparison sites to compare prices fast
  • Do a manual search of well-known stores
  • Find the lowest past selling price
  • Price match to save more money
  • Tack on a coupon if you can

I guess I’m not up to Weyman’s standard because I don’t have the time or energy for extreme price comparison. But you’ve got to admire his persistence!


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 21: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Lots of interesting reading this week from bloggers both old and new.

On Millenial Revolution, FIRECracker writes about How to Succeed at Anything. She says success is not linear so you have to keep on trying and eventually things will click.

For example, in 2013 she and her husband had two failed children’s novels and 75 rejection letters. But since then, they have had three books published by Scholastic. Their blog has also been internationally syndicated by CNBC and in less than six months it has grown to 650,000 page views.

If you can never figure out where all your money went (a key requirement for budgeting), take a look at Jordann Brown’s blog 50 Ways to Track Your Spending. From personal experience she recommends Mint.com, and best of all, it is free.

As a new homeowner, Jessica Moorhouse says the one thing she wishes she had researched more thoroughly is mortgages. Read 10 Questions You Need to Answer Before Getting a Mortgage to benefit from her experience.

Jonathan Chevreau advocates for “Freedom, Not Stuff.” In Survey finds financial security beats milestones like buying a home and a car on the Financial Independence Hub, he is happy to report on a survey released by Credit Canada Debt Solutions and Capital One Canada that reveals the majority of Canadians agree with him that that financial security beats milestones like buying a home or a car.

Making Financial Decisions? Beware of Confirmation Bias says Tom Drake on the Canadian Finance Blog. When it comes to making financial decisions, confirmation bias can lead you to stay the course with an investment that has changed fundamentally for the worst, all because you are sure that you can’t make a wrong decision, or because you dismiss the reasons that the investment is no longer a good choice.


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.