Mar 31: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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Most of us assume that at some less than precise date in the future we will retire. However, on retirehappy.ca this week Scott Wallace questions whether or not you should retire.

He says that people who choose to continue some form of work for five years or more after they leave their full-time job are not as worried about money. Nevertheless, those who retire completely and fill their days with hobbies, volunteering and family may have an equally comfortable retirement.

In her Toronto Star column, Ellen Roseman profiles Annie and Rich English, a married couple with no kids, who since age 48 have been living the dream of early retirement in downtown Toronto. Their secret is saving ruthlessly for years and planning ahead for shortfalls. You can find tips in their new self-published book, Retired at 48: One Couple’s Journey to a Pensionless Retirement.

Guest blogger Dave writes on Canadian Dream: Retire at 45 that he and his wife have been living frugally so they can retire two decades before most Canadians. However, this week he acknowledges that some compromises along the way have been essential. “I am less of a stick in the mud around money, and my wife is not constantly being harped at for her excessive purchases of $8 ‘girl shirts’ (which are basically disposable clothes),” he says.

To help stay on course over the long haul, take a look at 5 free budget and personal finance apps for everyone reviewed by Kerry K. Taylor on Squawkfox. Keeping tabs on every dollar spent doesn’t have to be a drag or a lot of work. Your smartphone — the device you rarely part from — is the perfect tool to do the heavy lifting for you.

And don’t forget that every dollar saved is a dollar earned, particularly on your utility bills. Tom Drake gives 10 ways to reduce your electricity bills and 10 ways to reduce your water bills like don’t forget to turn off the tap while you are brushing your teeth and only wash full loads of dishes.

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

Kevin Press – BrighterLife.ca

By Sheryl Smolkin

27Mar-Kevinpress

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Click here to listen

Hi,

Today we’re talking to Kevin Press as part of our continuing 2014 series of SavewithSPP.com podcast interviews with personal finance bloggers. Kevin is the Assistant Vice-President of Marketing Insights at Sun Life Financial in Toronto.

His blog, Today’s Economy has appeared on Sun Life’s Brighter Life platform since 2009. Kevin started his career in 1998 at Rogers Healthcare and Financial Publishing; where he had several editorial and marketing positions, including over 3 years as editor of Benefits Canada. He has also volunteered for the Canadian Pension & Benefits  Institute for almost 15 years in many roles, including as National Chair.

Thank you so much for joining me today, Kevin.

Sheryl, thanks so much for the invitation. It’s good to talk to you again.

Q. A blog is a major time commitment. How often do you blog? 
A. These days, it’s just once a week. I’m up every Wednesday but over the years it’s been sometimes twice a week, sometimes even three times a week in the early days.

Q. Why did you decide to start blogging in addition to your more-than-full time job and your volunteer activities? 
A. I love my job. I’m so proud of the team that I lead. But, the truth is – and I think you can relate to this – I don’t think I ever stopped being a journalist. I was asked to launch the Today’s Economy blog back in early 2009, right in the heart of the financial crisis, and that was really a very easy decision.

Q. I can understand that. You can take the man out of journalism, but you can’t take journalism out of the man! What are some of the topics you cover in your blog?
A. As I say, my chief goal is to help readers understand what is happening in the global economy, and here in Canada. So, in that sense, Today’s Economy is not a personal finance blog in the way that some of the others are. I certainly post a lot on personal finance, but primarily what I’m trying to do is focus on explaining key economic trends to a broad audience.

The Eurozone has been an amazing story to follow, and, more recently, emerging markets – what’s happening there now as the U.S. government slows down its quantitative-easing program. That’s a fascinating story. If I’ve helped Canadians understand these big stories, even just a little bit, then I think the blog is a success.

Q. Since you’ve started blogging, the Brighter Life platform has been expanded to include a number of other blogs covering a broad range of subjects. Tell me a little bit about a couple of the other bloggers and what they write about.
A. One of my favorites is Dave Dineen. He writes a blog called ‘Dave’s Retirement Journey’. Dave was actually a member of my team years ago, before he decided to take early retirement I think he’s helped a lot of Canadians make the transition to retirement successfully – just writing in the first-person about his experiences, making that transition himself.

Anna Sharratt does really good work for us on the health beat. She has a blog called Living Well. Gerald McGroarty writes about work issues, but I have to tell you, he’s written a piece recently about an extraordinary story. Last year, Gerald experienced a sudden cardiac arrest, and his wife, who is a registered nurse, saved his life.

Q. I’m going to have to look for that one.
A. It’s called ‘Could You Save a Life?’

Q. How many hits do you usually get when you or the other bloggers post?
A. It’s a really wide range. I’ve written posts that get no more than a couple of hundred visits and others have got well into the six-figures. I can tell you that after years of being a journalist, this blog reaches a larger audience by far than I’ve ever been able to connect with before.

Q. So what have some of your most popular blogs been?
A. The economic forecasts attract a lot of readers. Any of the retirement research we do like our Unretirement Index always scores well. Specifically, what we expected to learn from that research was that many Canadians will work past the traditional retirement age of 65 for lifestyle reasons. But because what we’ve actually ended up tracking are the evolving views of Canadians post-financial crisis it’s turned into even more of an interesting story.

Q. Poll after poll, particularly during RRSP season reveals that Canadians are not saving enough and that they’re worried about how they will live in retirement. Why do you think so many people find managing their finances so difficult?
A. We really believe that the way we can help Canadians most is empower them to act. So research shows, time and again, that adults want to do the right thing – they recognize that lifetime financial security is achievable. It’s just hard for them to get there, it’s hard for them to start. So our goal is to educate.

Q. You published 20 Smart Money Moves at the beginning of the year and you suggest that people maximize their employee benefits. Can you give me one or two examples where you think Canadians are really leaving money on the table?
A. First, a lot of employers sponsor capital accumulation plans – or defined contribution plans as they’re sometimes called – and match employee contributions up to certain limit. So, lesson number one – if you’re lucky enough to have one of those plans, take full advantage.

Lesson number 2 is if your employer offers a group registered retirement savings plan, do what I did. Move your individual RRSP funds over to the group plan – you save a lot in terms of management expense ratios.

The difference between the group environment versus individual RRSPs is quite dramatic. You still realize all the same benefits from your registered savings and you’ll get a better return in the long run.

Q. Interesting. I know the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has employer-workplace programs, and they also offer similar advantages.

Employers and insurance companies spend a lot of time and money communicating with benefit programs – why do you think so many employees are still not getting the message?

A. I think that a lot of folks struggle with the technical nature of the subject, and it really is incumbent upon financial institutions to keep working at finding ways to present information, in the most understandable fashion possible.

Q. If you had one piece of advice to help Canadians better manage their finances, what would it be?

A. One of the best things I ever did was take the Canadian Securities Course. The textbook alone is worth the price of the program. People who are interested in working in the industry very often take that as an early-stage educational opportunity. But what I took away from it was so much more. It’s just such a valuable learning experience. I think it will help you to understand your finances in a very meaningful way.

Q. The federal government is not interested in expanding CPP. A few provinces, Saskatchewan included, are rolling out the new pooled registered pension plans. Do you think PRPPs will be the carrot that helps more Canadians to save what they need for retirement?

A. I’m a big fan of PRPPs. I think they have that potential. The fundamental idea behind the PRPP is that too few Canadians (43%) have workplace pension plans. But even that number is misleading because so many of those folks are public sector workers. In the private sector, fewer than a quarter of workers work for an organization that sponsors a plan. So, the idea is that PRPP can fill that gap. And I’m very hopeful about their ability to improve the pension system in this country.

Q. Youth unemployment is a huge issue. Your Unretirement Index shows that older workers are working longer. Are seniors clogging up the pipeline? How do we get more young people into good jobs? How do we give them a good start?
A. This is such a tough story. I have to say this one of the stories, since I started blogging, that bothered me the most. The unemployment rate among young adults in this country has been stuck at about twice the national average since before the financial crisis.

But of course, this is not a new story. Youth unemployment hit 17.2 percent in the ’92 recession. It hit 19.2 percent in 1983. What’s interesting and what was a surprise to me is  that there actually is no evidence to support the notion that young people can’t find work because older workers are retiring later.

There are lot of good ideas out there about how to help young Canadians. I think the best relate to the choices that young people make in terms of their careers and their education.

There are certain areas of the economy that are more dynamic. There are certain skills that are more marketable. And I think if young people are as strategic as possible, and as parents, I think if we can help our kids be as strategic as possible in making education and career decisions, then they will be well positioned to transition more easily to the workforce. 

Q. So, one of your New Year’s resolutions was to write a Today’s Economy e-book. How’s that going for you?
A. Oh, I love you holding my feet to the fire. What I’ve done is I’ve put together a collection of posts that are not quite so time-sensitive, that still stand up over time.

A lot of what I write is about what’s happening right now and probably won’t have relevance a year, two years down the road. I think that we can help to tell the story of what’s been happening in the economy since 2008 and I’m targeting the second half of the year to pull that together.

Q. You’re ahead of me on that one. Thank you very much, Kevin. It was a pleasure to talk to you today.

A. So good to talk to you again, Sheryl. Thanks for talking to me today.

This is an edited transcript of the podcast you can listen to by clicking on the graphic under the picture above. If you don’t already follow BrighterLife.ca, you can find it here and subscribe to receive blog posts by email as soon as they’re available.

Mar 24: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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Whether you simply can’t face the pile of paper on your desk or you are waiting for the last few T5s to come in the mail, the deadline for filing your income tax return is on the horizon.

In Income Splitting 101: Tips On Keeping It In The Family Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen discusses the Conservative government’s proposal to permit income-splitting for families with children and some legitimate income-splitting strategies that are already available under the Income Tax Act.

Many young people are considering post-secondary education with a co-op component. On canadianbudgetbinder.com Mr. CBB tells us How his co-op program at a zoo shaped his work ethics.

He says one of the greatest parts of his co-op program was when he was feeding the animals and visitors to the zoo asked him questions he learned how to interact with people and share his knowledge freely.

Blogger Krystal Yee has a new job working close to the downtown Vancouver core. She says Having a car is expensive, particularly now that she has to rent a downtown parking spot. But her home is in the suburbs and she’s not ready to give her car up yet.

Brenda Spiering the editor of brighterlife.ca has some great ideas for spring cleaning your finances. Begin by digging out all of your essential financial documents. If you are unsure what they are, check out Twelve key documents you need to gather.

And as wedding season comes into full bloom, take a look at How I Made 100 Wedding Invitations for Under $60 on whenlifegivesyoulemonsaddvodka.com. All it took was card stock from a stationery store, an online template and a new printer cartridge.

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

Should you buy extra life insurance at work?

By Sheryl Smolkin

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Suppose your employer pays for group term life insurance equal to one times your salary. You also have the opportunity to buy more. How do you know how much additional life insurance you need and whether buying it at work or independently makes the most sense?

The following basic calculation can help you assess your insurance needs:

Insurance coverage required = total outstanding debts + funeral costs + education funding for children + (annual cash flow needed by the survivor to remain debt free x number of years cash flow is required).

You can also plug more detailed numbers into this online calculator. Once you know how much insurance you need, you have to consider the pros and cons of additional group term life vs individual coverage.

While employer-paid premiums for your basic coverage are typically lower than individual life, you may be surprised to learn that this does not necessarily apply to employee-paid additional optional group life insurance. That’s because you will have to undergo a medical examination in both cases, and your age and health status could drive up the cost of optional group life to the same or higher levels than individual life.

Furthermore, if you need coverage for an extended period, group insurance is often more expensive than individual rates since group rates tend to increase annually or on an age-banded basis while individual life premiums remain the same for a specified period.

Even when you compare individual polices to group rates, if you look at the total cost over the needed coverage period group plans rarely come out ahead. Although an individual policy may be slightly more expensive, the value of the policy is greater because the employee owns it outright and premiums are guaranteed for a specific period – say 10, 20 or 30 years.

It is also important to recognize that unlike optional group life, individual policies can offer preferred rates to people who are in good health and have an excellent family health history. In these circumstances, it may be a smart decision to buy up on individual term insurance instead of adding optional group life coverage.

Conversion of optional group life insurance can also be a problem if you change jobs or are out of work. Some group policies allow you to convert the coverage into an individual policy within 30 days of leaving the company without medical underwriting.

However, because no medical underwriting is required, group conversions are typically priced higher than standard rates.  Also, some group policies only allow employees to convert the insurance to a permanent policy, which is more expensive than individual term coverage and may not be what you need.

So do the math. You can compare quotes for individual term life on this website and then figure out what topping up your basic employer paid group insurance plan will cost you over an extended period. You may discover that individual life insurance will be cheaper in the long run as you age, even if you change jobs or poor plan experience drives up rates under your employer’s plan.

Also see: 

Group vs Individual Insurance By Cecilia Tsang

Group vs Individual Insurance By Chantal Marr

Individual Life Insurance vs. Group Life Insurance

Mar 17: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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The road to retirement is a long one with many twists and turns on the way. In addition to saving to pay for your retirement you have to think about where you will live, how you will spend your time and how much you will need for health care costs not covered by Medicare.

In Retirement: Who do you want to be when you grow up? on retirehappy.ca, Donna McCaw says we could be volunteering, mentoring, coaching, working part time, serving on committees or boards, engaging in politics at various levels, writing, taking courses, getting more fit, and taking on projects, challenges, or causes.

Dave Dinnen weighs the pros and cons of retiring early in his blog Should you retire early or retire late? on Brighter Life. Early retirement costs more and most of your friends will still be working. But he retired at 54 and loves that he is young and free with the time to make his own lifestyle choices.

For many people, getting ready for retirement is such an overwhelming goal that they simply can’t get started. Using cleaning her office as an example, Eileen Chadnick of Big Cheese Coaching says Tiny is the new big – when it comes to goals. It’s often better to set smaller goals, because you’re more likely to achieve them. This gives you something to celebrate and reinforces the habit of goal-setting in the first place.

Lent started on March 5th. Big Cajun Man suggests that for your financial Lenten journey you could go without lattes for 40 days; read four personal finance books and live on cash for 40 days. Even if Lent is half over when you read this, it’s not too late to commit to strategies that will save you money all year.

And, on another note, independent life insurance broker and president of Life Insurance Canada.com Inc. Glenn Cooke exposes three big fat myths about critical illness insurance on myownadvisor.ca that you need to know about. For example, you could be denied coverage for a heart attack because insurance companies use their own definition of a heart attack instead of the typical consumers definition of heart attack or even the medical industry’s terminology.

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

Book Review: STOP OVER-THINKING YOUR MONEY

By Sheryl Smolkin

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In his new book “Stop Over-thinking Your Money,” Globe and Mail personal finance columnist and television personality Preet Banerjee says personal finance is a lot like physical fitness. In order to be in better shape, everyone knows they have to work out and eat well. A personal trainer delivers results, not by showing clients a new way to perform sit-ups, but rather by simply making sure the sit-ups get done.

Similarly, in this book Banerjee discusses in five simple rules how to think about money and focus on the 20% of what you really need to know in order to be in top financial shape.

Rule 1: Disaster- proof your life 
Investing is only one of many factors that affect your personal finances. If you are going to retire well at age 65 you have to put away money for a long time. But if you die, lose your job or become disabled before then, your long-term plans could go up in smoke. That’s why he says disability insurance, life insurance and an emergency fund should be the foundation of your financial plan. Wills and powers of attorney must also be taken care of early on. 

Rule 2: Spend less than you earn 
Spending less than you earn is the cornerstone of financial stability. It allows you to eliminate money stress and begin creating wealth. Here’s where you learn how to budget. Banerjee highly recommends Kerry K. Taylor’s electronic spreadsheets on Squawkfox.com. By starting with your old or current budget, the many undesirable things you spend money on like take-out coffee, fast food breakfasts and debt repayments will jump out at you. Then you can create a new budget and start tracking your spending more diligently. Surplus can be allocated to savings. 

Rule 3: Aggressively pay down high interest debt 
Thou shalt not carry credit card balances! When you have high interest debt, the amount of cash flow it ties up on a monthly basis is painful to calculate. Banerjee shows how you can transfer high-interest balances to low interest balances using a line of credit. Then he recommends developing a plan of attack for paying down your debt. While he acknowledges that changing spending patterns to alleviate debt is easier said than done, he says the only way to keep your finances on an even keel is to save more before you spend. 

Rule 4: Read the fine print 
From today forward, he instructs readers to read every word on any document they put their signature on. Gym memberships, cellphone contracts, loan documents. You name it. He gives the example of a friend whose wife could not collect on his mortgage insurance because the policy was underwritten at the time of death. The policy said it was invalid if he had any alcohol in his bloodstream while operating a motorized vehicle (a snowmobile in this case) when he died. In contrast, a life insurance policy underwritten at the time of purchase paid out within two weeks. 

Rule 5: Delay consumption
The fifth rule is simply an extension of the first. Stop worrying about keeping up with the Joneses. As you earn more money or get a bonus don’t get caught up in lifestyle inflation. And avoid the monthly payment trap. Think seriously about whether house renovation is actually an investment and if the personal gain from expensive hobbies is really worth the cost.

Throughout the book Banerjee keeps returning to the message that if you wait to make a perfect plan you may never start. And in the beginning, building up lots of money depends more on putting money away than making money grow because of smart investment decisions. You can control how much you save but you have almost no control over market performance, he says.

This book is an accessible, quick read but like any guide, it is up to you to buy into Banerjee’s five financial rules and implement them. He calls them the roadmap to an easy “A” in personal finance.

But when you are ready for a more sophisticated “A+” strategy he would be happy to provide additional guidance along the way. Who knows? That could be his next book, But until then, you can find him on twitter @preetbanerjee. He is looking forward to hearing from you!

You can buy a hard copy of Stop Over-thinking Your Money online at Chapters/Indigo for $13.68. An ebook from Kobo can also be purchased and downloaded.

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Mar 10: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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This week we have a number of interesting blogs on a variety of topics relating to how you save and spend your money.

On Boomer & Echo Marie Engen asks How Safe Are Your Bank Deposits? Canada is widely considered to have one of the safest banking systems in the world.  But several large financial institutions have failed in the past, so it is  important to understand Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation limits for banks ($100,000/account) and provincial plans covering Credit Unions and Caisses Populaires.

Jim Yih discusses a hypothetical financial counselling session with Jack and Jill and how they decide to save their extra cash flow of $500/month. They choose to contribute $200 extra to their RRSPs for the long term as long as their incomes were higher than the 32% marginal tax rate.

Their tax saving will be used to pay down the mortgage unless they believe he markets will produce future returns of 7% or more. They will also allocate the remaining $300 per month to their TFSAs. This will give them flexibility to use savings in this account to pay a lump sum on their mortgage, top up their RRSPs or open RESPs in the future.

On Canadian Dream: Free at 45, Dave shares how he and his wife are living a (relatively) stress-free life. They live on one salary so if either of them loses his/her job they can still manage financially. The fact that they don’t have children or other dependants helps to make this a practical alternative.

If you have just opened a trading account with a new discount broker or you have accounts in different places and want to consolidate, you’ll need to transfer your holdings between brokers. The Canadian Capitalist has put together a detailed checklist on what you have to do to make this process as painless as possible.

And on Sustainable Personal Finance, Miranda questions whether there are times you should put your ideals ahead of your pocketbook. That could mean giving just a little bit extra to causes that are near and dear to your heart, or making a commitment to socially-responsible investing.

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

Tax tips for seniors

By Sheryl Smolkin

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Retirement income has to last a long time and stretch to cover the increasing need for care required by disabled or older seniors. That’s why it is important for seniors, their children and their advisors to fully understand and take advantage of available tax exemptions and deductions.

Here are two tax breaks you may not know about.*

1.    Disability tax credit (DTC)

The disability amount is a non-refundable tax credit that a person with a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions can claim to reduce the amount of income tax he/she has to pay in a year. In 2013 the maximum tax credit for people over 18 is $7,697.

To be eligible for the DTC, The Canada Revenue Agency must approve Form T2201, Disability Tax Credit Certificate. You can apply for the DTC at any time during the year. Retroactive payments may be made if the individual was disabled for several years before applying for the tax credit. Last year we got over $9,000 back for my mother.

If you qualified for the disability amount for 2012 and you still meet the eligibility requirements in 2013, you can claim this amount without sending in a new Form T2201. However, you must send one if the previous period of approval ended before 2013, or if requested to do so by CRA.

You may be able to transfer all or part of your disability amount to your spouse or common-law partner or to another supporting person.

If you received attendant care and you are eligible for the DTC, there are special rules that apply for claiming those expenses. For more information, see Attendant care or care in an establishment.

CRA has an interactive online quiz you can take to find out if you or your family member may qualify for the DTC. Also see Who is eligible for the disability tax credit? for all of the requirements that must be met to qualify for the DTC

2.    GST/HST for homecare expenses 

The goods and services tax (GST) in Saskatchewan (or the harmonized sales tax (HST) in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador) is not payable on publicly subsidized or funded homecare services.**

However, if an individual is not approved for municipal or provincial homecare services, a private agency must charge GST/HST.

Nevertheless, if a government agency approves even a small amount of subsidized homecare services (i.e. 2 hours/week), then ALL public and private homecare services become GST/HST exempt.

That’s why Lorne Lebow, a partner in the accounting firm Stern Cohen LLP recommends that in any situation where an individual requires home care services, an application should be made to the relevant government agency for subsidized or free services before or at the same time a private home care worker is retained.

“Even if a government agency authorizes services for only one or two hours a week, it’s enough to trigger the GST/HST exemption for additional privately-retained home care services. With GST/HST rates ranging from 5% (Saskatchewan) to 15% (Nova Scotia), that can quickly add up,” Lebow says.

He also advises individuals receiving both public and private home care services to inform the agency they are working with and request that invoices do not include GST/HST.

In the event that someone you know has inadvertently paid GST/HST you can apply to the CRA for a rebate going back two years.  Saskatchewan residents must send the completed General Application for rebate of GST/HST CRA (Form 189) three-page form with a letter from the government agency confirming the client is receiving subsidized care plus copies of the original invoices to Summerside Tax Centre 275 Pope Road Summerside PE C1N 6A2. 

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*Also see Guide RC4064, Medical and Disability-Related Information and discuss your family’s situation with your accountant or other financial advisor.

** Effective March 21, 2013 the definition of “homemaker service” in the GST/HST legislation has been expanded to include cleaning, laundering, meal preparation and child care provided to an individual who, due to age, infirmity or disability, requires assistance in his/her home plus  personal care services such as bathing, feeding, and assistance with dressing and taking medication.

Also see:
Tax tips for seniors – getsmarteraboutmoney.ca‎
TaxTips.ca – Saskatchewan Income Tax
TaxTips.ca – Seniors Income Tax and Government Benefits

Mar 3: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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If you haven’t started to think about filing your 2013 income tax return, this week is as good a time as any. You’ve made your 2013 Saskatchewan Pension Plan and RRSP contributions and T4s are in the mail.

Last April, on Million Dollar Journey, the Frugal Trader wrote a great blog to help readers prepare for filing their 2012 income taxes. It is equally relevant this year – a great checklist to get all your paperwork in order before you sit down to complete your return.

If this is the first year your home was your principal place of business, you’ll want to read what Canadian Finance Blog’s Tom Drake has to say about how you can reduce your taxes with business-use-of-home expenses.

On a similar note, in Canadian Living, blogger Krystal Yee offers income tax tips for freelancers so those of you in that category you can get all of the deductions that you qualify for. She also warns the self-employed to put money away for taxes on a regular basis so there are no surprises at the end of the year.

Media-savvy accountant and author Evelyn Jacks writes about claiming employment expenses. Even employees may claim certain specific expenses, depending on whether their employer will verify that this was a necessary condition of employment. Allowable expenses may include travel costs, the cost of using an automobile to earn income, supplies used up in the course of employment, the cost of an assistant, and home office costs.

Retire Happy blogger Jim Yih reminds us to take advantage of the Pension Income Tax Credit. He says if you are age 65 and do not receive a pension (other than a government benefit) you should open a Registered Retirement Income Fund and transfer $12,000 from your RRSP. If you draw down $2,000/year until age 71 you will be entitled to the pension tax credit and effectively receive the money tax-free. An unused pension tax credit can also be transferred to your spouse.

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