Blogosphere

Feb 24: Best from the blogosphere

February 24, 2014

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

RRSP season is almost over for another year so remember to make your Saskatchewan Pension Plan contribution by Monday, March 3, 2014 in order to get a tax deduction on your 2013 income tax return.  But the need to spend carefully and save regularly is an important part of everyday living.

On retirehappy.ca, Jim Yih reports that 7 Causes of Financial Stress including high debt levels, low savings rates and increasingly complex financial markets are keeping many people up at night.

In The Insanity of “RRSP Season” Young and Thrifty blogger Kyle says anyone with a basic handle on grade 9 math ought to know that making periodic contributions to a registered plan (either a TFSA or an RRSP) is a better choice than procrastinating until the last minute and then trying to scratch together the money to fit in under an arbitrary deadline.

Blogger Krystal Yee on givemebackmyfivebucks.com says she will have to dip into her emergency fund and suspend TFSA and RRSP payments for some time because she was recently laid off. But 44 comments from her fans leave no doubt that she will land another great gig before long.

The pros and cons of withdrawing RRSP contributions are explored once again by Tom Drake on the Canadian Finance Blog. While the lost opportunity cost of taking out money and losing RRSP room are important, he acknowledges that in some emergencies RRSP withdrawals may be unavoidable. The good news is that if you need money because you lost your job, you will pay taxes on the money at a lower rate.

Many of you may be aiming for early retirement as early as age 55. However Dave Dineen on Brighter Life reminds readers that some sources of retirement income don’t kick in for another five years or more so you need to have a plan to bridge the gap or early retirement could be a financial nightmare.

And on Boomer & Echo Robb Engen identifies 6 Fees Worth Paying and notes that trying to avoid fees can sometimes be false economy. For example, the return on investment if you buy a Costco card, use an annual fee credit card or join the CAA can easily exceed the initial amount you have to pay.

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.


Feb 17: Best from the blogosphere

February 17, 2014

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

Whether you are saving for retirement or for other long-term goals, the key is that you have to spend less than you earn.

In What is “Saving?” Gail Vaz-Oxlade says it’s also important to distinguish between saving to buy a car or go on a vacation which is planned spending and saving for another chapter in your life like retirement.

Big Cajun Man says in I did my RRSP and TFSA Now What? that opening accounts and depositing money are just the beginning. Unless you develop an investment strategy and make sure you aren’t paying exorbitant fees, your money won’t grow the way it should.

The Toronto Star’s Ellen Roseman recently wrote a great column about How to plan for retirement on a low income. She says people who expect to receive the guaranteed income supplement (GIS) to top up their old age security (OAS) pension after age 65 should save in a TFSA and not an RRSP because TFSA withdrawals will not impact GIS eligibility.

First Foundation is an Alberta and Saskatchewan based financial services company. In their owngrowprotect blog they have started a 52 week money challenge. The author of Go To Disney Land or Pay Bank Fees, Your Choice! calculates that his family can save over $500 per year by shifting to no-fee banking which in ten years will add up to a family visit to Disneyland.

And Mark Seed from My Own Advisor asks the million-dollar question how much money do you need to retire well? He says that the magic number is indeed $1m or more. Even if some costs disappear in retirement like saving for retirement itself and mortgage payments there are costs in your future like property taxes, utilities, gas and food that are going to grow over time.

For those of you who think saving $1m before you retire is an unattainable goal, frugal lawyer Dave explains how he reached $1M net-worth by the age of 34 in this post on the Million Dollar Journey blog. It helped that he rode his bike to work instead of buying an expensive car like many other young lawyers in his firm.

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.


Feb 10: Best from the blogosphere

February 10, 2014

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

It’s only February 11th and it feels like personal finance writers should have run out of things to say about RRSPs by now, but somehow they still find more to write about.

One of the more interesting things I came across this week was the results of a BMO survey that reported 69% of Canadians expect the Canada Pension Plan (or Quebec Pension Plan) to cover their retirement costs with nearly one-third, planning to “rely heavily” on it. This is despite the fact that CPP has an average monthly payout of less than $600 a month! And many people are also pegging their hopes on an inheritance or a lottery win to fund their golden years.

Well, someone once told me that lotteries are “a tax on the statistically challenged,” so you should probably take careful note of Brenda Spiering’s blog on brighterlife.ca discussing how much you can contribute to an RRSP.

The annual maximum contribution for 2013 is the lesser of $23,820 and 18% of your earned income for the previous year. But you may also have unused contribution room from previous years that has been carried forward and you can over-contribute up to $2,000 without a penalty.

But don’t forget to save some RRSP contribution room to make your $2,500 maximum Saskatchewan Pension Plan contribution.

Also, check out Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s interesting  2014 RRSP Update. Did you know that kids CAN have an RRSP although they can’t have a Tax-free Savings Account until they’re 18? If a child contributes when she doesn’t have to pay any tax, don’t claim the deduction. Hold it for later when her income and her tax rate go up so she gets a bigger bang for her buck.

On moneysmartsblog.com Mike Holman pokes a few holes in the RRSP Myth that an RRSP is only advantageous if your marginal tax rate in retirement is lower than your marginal tax rate when contributing.

He gives examples to show that when you make a contribution to an RRSP the tax deferred from RRSP contributions is calculated at your marginal tax rate (or close to it, if your RRSP contributions span more than one tax bracket). However, when you withdraw money from your RRSP or RRIF – the tax is calculated using your average tax rate (after other income sources such as pensions) which is typically lower.

Finally on retirehappy.ca, blogger Scott Wallace weighs in on the new Pooled Pension Plans to be offered by the federal government and some provinces such as Quebec and Saskatchewan. PRPPs are intended to provide a savings vehicle for small business or self- employed people who don’t have access to larger pension plans..

Scott says the industry already has low cost Group RRSPs and DC pension plans. And of course my readers already know that SPP allows employers to set up an easy, no-cost workplace plan. That’s why I agree with Scott that the real issue is not creating new kinds of retirement savings accounts but finding ways to make more people save!

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.


Feb 3: Best from the blogosphere

February 3, 2014

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

The depths of winter (and this has been one of the worst I can remember) seems to be the time when we all wish we could retire somewhere warm but figure we will never be able to afford it. After all, post- Christmas credit card bills have to be paid and finding the money for SPP and RRSP contributions may not be at the top of your “to do” list.

But now is the time to set up an automatic withdrawal plan for next year’s retirement savings plan contributions so in February 2015 you won’t be faced with the same dilemma.

It is also important to make retirement savings a part of an overall financial plan that you review often to make sure it still works for you, says Dave Dineen at Brighter Life. When you make your financial plan, Robb Engen on Boomer & Echo says there are 4 Big Rip-Offs To Watch Out For including mortgage life insurance.

Kerry K. Taylor (aka squawkfox) has been saving in an RRSP for about 17 years or half of her life. She recently blogged about how a can of cat food scared her into saving for retirement.

“I always thought seniors eating cat food to afford food was a myth. I wanted to be sure. [So I asked a woman in the grocery store line who was buying 25 cans about her cats.],” says Taylor. “She threw me a side-eye and said nothing. Whether she ate the cat food or not didn’t matter. [Since then], my fear of eating Fancy Feast in retirement [has been] very real.”

And once you have contributed to an RRSP, don’t forget that you will completely defeat the purpose if you treat it like a normal bank account and make withdrawals for reasons such as paying down debt. In an excellent Financial Post column Should you raid your RRSP to pay debt? Melissa Leong does the math.

She reminds us that if you need $8,000 for credit card debt, you’ll have to withdraw $10,000 to have enough to pay the full bill. Furthermore, once the money is withdrawn the contribution room is lost forever.

One case where it may make sense to take a loan from your RRSP is to Help Pay for Your Education with the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP). However, as Tom Drake explains on the Canadian Finance blog, you are borrowing from yourself, but it is still a loan. You have to repay your RRSP, or face the tax consequences which can be quite hefty if you aren’t careful.

There is also a lost opportunity cost that comes with withdrawing money from your RRSP. While you can use the money for your LLP and education, you won’t be earning a return on it until you pay it back. You’ll have to decide if this approach is worth it for you.

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.


Jan 27: Best from the blogosphere

January 27, 2014

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

RRSP season is in full swing and since the beginning of the year, we have been bombarded with a media blitz suggesting few Canadians are saving enough and exhorting us to maximize contributions to our retirement savings plans by the end of February.

If you wonder what all this retirement planning is for, anyway, take a look at Sandi Martin’s blog or boomer & echo. She says planning for that inevitable day when you stop collecting a paycheque, or invoicing clients, or collecting ad revenue is an exercise that will let you spend more money than vaguely worrying about “saving enough” or “running out” will.

In order to save enough to retire worry-free, you need to figure out how much you will need. On the Canadian Finance blog Tom Drake suggests that for every dollar of annual income you need in retirement you should plan to have $20 in savings. That doesn’t include the value of your home because it is not earning income.

You can save in many different kinds of accounts including the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, employer-sponsored pension plans and RRSPs. But Jonathan Chevreau at MoneySense says investing in a tax-free savings account (TFSA) should be a priority for most Canadians. In fact he says the moment you make your January contribution, you should start accruing for the next year’s installment, even if it means parking in short-term cash vehicles and paying a little tax for the balance of the calendar year.

Brighter Life discusses how you can pay yourself from your retirement savings when you retire. Some of the options are annuities, registered retirement income funds, and payments from several kinds of locked-in accounts holding funds transferred from locked-in company pension plans.

And Jim Yih on retirehappy.ca reminds us that one area of tax planning that does not receive enough attention is the designation of beneficiaries when it comes to Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs).

When you open up an RRSP or RRIF, you are opening up a special contract under the Income Tax Act, which allows you to designate one or more beneficiaries. Far too often, this is done too casually and without enough thought. More importantly, as your circumstances change, like marriage, divorce or children, you should consider reviewing your beneficiaries to make sure you have the right people designated.

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.


Jan 20: Best from the blogosphere

January 20, 2014

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

“Best from the blogosphere” took three weeks off, but all of our favourite bloggers kept right on writing, so there is lots of great content for our first issue of 2014.

Many of you may have made financial New Year’s resolutions like paying off debt, spending less and saving more. On retirehappy.ca, Jim Yih says you will achieve your goals if you keep it simple, take responsibility and stay disciplined.

Krystal Yee’s top financial goal is to retire as early as possible. Therefore, on givemebackmyfivebucks.com she explains that she decided to divert $110 bi-weekly from excess mortgage payments to RRSP savings to ensure she saves at least $750/year for retirement. Then she will use her annual tax refund to pay down her mortgage.

Marie Engen at Boomer & Echo says you can save money by making major purchases at the right time of year. If you plan ahead you can realize substantial savings. For example, her Calendar of Saving Money suggests that January white sales are a good time to stock up on linens.

If you are looking for new ways to boost your earnings, a guest blogger on the Canadian finance blog offers 4 ways to generate income in your personal life. So if you have decided to finally clean out overflowing closets and drawers, you may be able to sell everything from good as new clothing to DVDs online.

And finally, if you are one of those lucky people who belong to a defined benefit pension plan, Sean Cooper’s blog on milliondollarjourney.com explains the financial implications of retiring early, depending on whether your pension will be reduced or you are eligible for an unreduced retirement.

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.


Dec 23: Best from the blogosphere

December 23, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin

Wreath

As the year draws to a close, I am pleased to join brighterlife.ca in celebrating some of the best Canadian retirement writers in 2013. I thank them for including me on the list.

Week after week we link to these and other fine bloggers who freely share their time and considerable insight with us. To get to know some of these people a little better in 2014 savewithspp.com will present a series of podcast interviews with prominent personal finance bloggers.

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Retire Happy. Follow financial expert, author and speaker Jim Yih on Twitter: @jimyih

MoneySense. Follow MoneySense Magazine editor Jonathan Chevreau: @JonChevreau

Boomer and Echo. Follow mother-and-son financial writers Marie and Robb Engen: @BoomerandEcho

Sheryl Smolkin. Follow this lawyer and financial journalist: @SherylSmolkin

Unretired Life. Follow coach, consultant, speaker and author Eileen Chadnick: @unretiredlife

I’m a sonic boomer… not a senior. Royce Shook writes about issues important to Boomers, grandparents and others, who are changing what retirement looks like.

Canadian Dream Free at 45. Follow engineer and financial writer Tim Stobbs on his journey to early retirement: @canadiandream

Everything Zoomer. Follow executive editor and travel writer Vivian Vassos (@vivianvassos) and associate editor and arts and culture writer Mike Crisolago (@MikeCrisolago)

Grey Routes and Tips. Follow travel-for-grownups writer Jane Canapini: @janecanapini

Best from the Blogosphere will be taking a three week break, but I look forward to bringing you more great retirement and money saving ideas beginning again in mid-January.

Have a happy, healthy holiday season with friends and family.

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Dec 17: Best from the blogosphere

December 17, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkinblogospheregraphic

If you are lucky enough to have a job you love, you have probably spent the last few weeks shopping and checking things off on your holiday list. But if you have been downsized or you are about to retire you may be holding off on major purchases until you are more settled.

Here are some blogs with hints for job seekers who are looking for a new career under the Christmas tree this year.

In Boomer & Echo, Robb Engen writes about how a lucky break launched a successful career. He worked his way up in the hotel industry, accepting a job in sales which eventually led to his current job at a university. He says rather than jumping from job-to-job, stick around and make your own luck by being in the right place at the right time.

Nicholas Zakas shares the best career advice he has ever received on NCZOnline. “Don’t accept a job where you’re told exactly what to build and how to build it. You need to work somewhere that appreciates your insights into the product as well as your ability to build it.”

On Recruiter.com you can find 10 career blogs you shouldn’t miss. A blog from an expert in careers can help you to find original ways to revamp your resume, find a new job, break into a new industry, wow a recruiter or anything else career-related that you need to know.

Even with retirement on the horizon, some people are still trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. Donna McCaw says almost half of us seek an encore career rather than volunteer work or hobbies.  Many people need to work to pay the bills. Others, however, seek further employment to give themselves a more positive sense of self worth.

And finally, as the world continues to mourn, we end this week’s Best from the Blogosphere with Career and life lessons from Nelson Mandela collected by Kevin Makra on Workopolis.

To honor this great man, we leave you with some of his words of wisdom:

 “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

“ “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”

 “Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.”

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

 “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

“Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.”

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.


Dec 9: Best from the blogosphere

December 9, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin

blogospheregraphic

Holiday shopping is in full swing. Even if you managed to sidestep the malls in November, few have been able to avoid the lure of Black Friday which seems to have crossed the border and taken root in this country.

But folks who blow their budget in December often regret it in January. Here is what some of our favourite bloggers have to say about ways to downplay consumerism and share more economically with the ones you love.

On Squawkfox Kerry K. Taylor has posted the introductory blog of five that will fire back at what she calls “seasonal nonsense.” She has 60 comments already on what bugs people about holiday consumerism. Stay tuned for the next four installments.

The Brighter Life staff offers some smart ways to combine a little thought with your thriftiness. For example, set limits, get cooking and give the gift of time.

Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist provides links to over a dozen websites and guides with hundreds of strategies for a simpler Christmas.

And Chris Tecmire who blogs on $imple Family Finance shares 14 ways to simplify Christmas that will help manage your laundry list of things to do so you can bring back your inner child and truly enjoy this time of celebration.

But Laura Vanderkam is not planning to mess around with her family’s Christmas traditions. She says she will not be simplifying Christmas this year Because it only comes once a year and because she is naturally cheap, extreme frugality is not needed or warranted.

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.


Dec 2: Best from the blogosphere

December 2, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin

blogospheregraphic

Whether you are early in your career or counting the months until you retire, all of us are searching for the magic elixir that will allow us to retire well and retire happy. Here are some retirement tips from the blogosphere that may help you on your journey.

On BrighterLife.ca, Dave Dineen says Retirement is the time to focus on your passion. It doesn’t matter what you are interested in whether it’s basket-weaving, skydiving, volunteering, quilting or oil painting. He also suggests that you talk to your financial advisor about reflecting your passions in your retirement plan. Retirement is no time to put off what makes you happy because you are not sure you can afford it.

Retirehappy blogger Jim Yih offers his Ten ideas to a successful and happy retirement. The top two on his list are plan ahead and be conservative in your assumptions.

Bob is retired and lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife of 37 years. His Retirement advice is 7 things you shouldn’t do. For example, he says don’t try to copy your parent’s or your friend’s retirement and don’t count on financial promises and performance to remain unchanged.

Diane explores what she has learned about retirement in the last two years on her blog A new chapter. She says quitting her job, selling the house, leaving friends and moving to a new city 500 miles away has been a lot of change.  Even now it’s a bit lonely living far away from those friends, but she tries to keep in touch. And she continues to work on making new friends.

Several years after Retired Syd retired the first time, she went back to work for two years. Now she is fully retired again. In Cycling through retirement she talks about how important it is not to get into a rut.

She says, “I can’t play piano, or go out every night, or stay home with the TV every night, or travel, or do anything day after day after day.  I need to cycle back and forth between new and old passions.  I need to cycle back and forth between periods of high activity and slower paced ones. Heck, I’ve even cycled between work and retirement in my retirement.”

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.