Category Archives: Money saving tips

What apps are the most helpful for retirees?

A bunch of us old guys were shooting the breeze after a round of golf when the topic of apps came up – what apps did we find the most helpful/useful, and why?

Going quickly around the room, our gang liked Microsoft Translator, which you can get here. This is a handy app if you’re going out of the country and is a lot of fun to fool around with – it talks to you in many languages and goes slow to help you learn better.

More practically, all of us liked having a good blood pressure log app, here are a few, to track our BP results, and to share with the doc. Some of the newer BP machines can actually send your results directly to your app, one of our golfers noted.

One of us had MapMyRide, a cool app for tracking your bicycle ride – it counts off every kilometre you ride, giving you time and speed, shows you a route map at the end, and sends you monthly stats on how you have been doing.

We all had banking apps, fitness/calorie trackers, investing apps, and apps to watch TV (Netflix, CBC, etc.) which made Save with SPP wonder what other retirees have on their phones.

According to the A Place for Mom website, EyeReader by Netsoft is a great magnifying app. Hold your phone over a book, a menu or other printed text and it not only magnifies it, it lights it up.

A CBC news story mentions Fongo, a free Canada-wide phone app that lets you make calls using WiFi. The story quotes Diane Thomson, who lives in Ontario, saying that “It’s amazing…I can call my family back in Nova Scotia for free.”

The SeniorNet blog likes an iPhone app called Park and Forget, which logs where you parked your car in a parking garage so you can find it later.

Many seniors don’t really get how phones, tablets and apps work. For them, there is the Oscar Senior app which provides an easier-to-use interface that simplifies the process of using mobile communications. In other words, an app that helps you understand how to work your phone.

There are, of course, zillions of apps out there and this represents only a small sampling. If an app eliminates time-wasting note-taking, helps you remember things, or makes it easier to stay in touch with family and friends, it may be worth checking out.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

A look at the fascinating world of “extreme couponing”

On an almost daily basis we are all inundated with coupons – 10 per cent off this, that, and the other – that we sometimes remember to use. But there’s a group of people out there who take part in “extreme couponing,” a gang that seem to have the discipline to make maximum use of this everyday savings tool.

An article in the Globe and Mail describes the world of extreme couponing as “a no-holds-barred pursuit of savings that has earned itself a weekly TV series and countless obsessive Internet followers who strive to maximize their savings at the checkout by spotting the best sales and by hoarding coupons.”

It takes work, the article notes. In the piece, a woman called Aimee Geroux, who has her own blog called Extreme Couponing Mom, says she has walked out of stores with $300 worth of goods that cost her $20 of her own money.  She tells the Globe that she totes a binder full of coupons when she goes shopping, but also employs “price matching.” That’s when stores match the sale price from other stores – you get a lower price if you can show the flyer, the article notes. Another trick is the “scanning code of practice,” the article says. If the item’s price on the shelf is more than the scanner says, you can get it for much less, even free, the article notes.

If you don’t feel like cutting coupons out of flyers and newspapers, there are online sites that can save you a lot of trouble. The Balance Every Day blog lists 11 Canadian sites that give you access to savings coupons and other deals.

If you like shopping online, going through the E-bates portal first gives you automatic discounts that are mailed to you by cheque every couple of months.

Like everything else that’s good for you – exercise, proper eating, and balancing the budget – extreme couponing requires commitment. Sue Neal of Investors Group recommends putting all your savings in a fund, the Globe article notes. “Now you can really see the savings you’re making,” Neal said. “It could actually get you more excited about using the coupons.”

It’s also a great way to save some money for retirement. Maybe some of your coupon coinage can be directed to your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account – visit SPP to find out how.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

How to move to a bigger place without spending money – declutter!

Isn’t it funny how that new apartment, condo, or house seems to get smaller with each passing year?

It’s not because the place is shrinking – it is usually because of all the stuff you have accumulated. So rather than packing up everything and moving to a bigger, more expensive place, Save with SPP sought out some expert tips on how to save big by decluttering the space you’re already in.

The Becoming Minimalist blog  offers some great tips on how to take on the overwhelming task of decluttering.

Decluttering is a financial thing rather than a neatness thing, the blog notes. “The idea of living a simplified, uncluttered life with less stuff sounds attractive to many,” the blog advises. Many have “considered the benefits of owning fewer possessions: less to clean, less debt, less to organize, less stress, more money and energy for their greatest passions,” the blog states. However, the blog continues, the big question is “where in the world do I begin?”

On their list of top approaches to decluttering are giving the job a solid five minutes per day, giving away one item every day, filling one trash bag every day, and “the four-box method.” In every room, the blog notes, place four boxes – one for trash, one for giveaway, one for relocation, and one for keeping.

The Home Storage Solutions blog  suggests getting rid of the easiest stuff first, namely garbage, things that are broken or don’t work, duplicates, and “items not used for a year.”

The Life Hack website says clear floors first, then countertops. Move onto furniture last. Again, the advice is “toss, donate, or keep.” To clean a closet, take EVERYTHING out and then go through those same three steps – get rid, give away, or hang on – before you put things back in.

If you find you’ve got a lot of things to give away, why not hold a garage sale? The proceeds from clearing your living space can be tucked away in a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account, invested, and then enjoyed thoroughly in the future when you’ve retired! For more details, visit www.saskpension.com.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

What’s on your bucket list for retirement?

We often hear about “bucket lists” and what should be on them – things that people want to do, boxes they want to check off, all before they reach the end of life’s runway.

So what’s on some of these bucket lists? Save With SPP took a look around the Internet to see a few examples.

In the UK, Mature Times lists three ideas – seeing the Northern lights, buying a dog, and travelling the country by train. The article is based on a study of 2,000 Brits. “Many Brits view their later years as a chance to do all the things they’ve wanted to do for ages, it is considered to be one big long holiday,” the article notes, gently reminding readers that you still have to pay the bills and taxes once work is in the rearview mirror.

The late chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain once said a tour of Newfoundland and Labrador should be on everyone’s bucket list. The province, he once told the Chronicle Herald, has “that perfect mix of culture, cuisine and landscape that travellers want to experience.”

From the Personal Excellence blog, the top three are travelling around the world, learning a new language and trying a new profession. Number four – achieving your ideal weight – is also noteworthy. 

Forbes magazine recommends making a pilgrimage, eating a meal “good enough to be your last,” and climbing a mountain.

The Great Canadian Bucket List recommends seeing polar bears in the wild, walking the seabed at Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick, and cycling across PEI.

Have you already done any of these bucket items? Remember, in order to do your list to its fullest, it’s wise to save for your golden years. A great way to do that is by signing up to be a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

How SPP changed my life

Punta Cana: March 2018

After a long career as a pension lawyer with a consulting firm, I retired for the first time 13 years ago and became Editor of Employee Benefits News Canada. I resigned from that position four years later and embarked on an encore career as a freelance personal finance writer.

In December 2010 I wrote the article Is this small pension plan Canada’s best kept secret?  about the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for Adam Mayers, formerly the personal finance editor for the Toronto Star. The Star was starting a personal finance blogging site called moneyville and he was looking for someone to write about pensions and employee benefits. I was recommended by Ellen Roseman, the Star’s consumer columnist.

The article about SPP was my first big break. I was offered the position at moneyville and for 21/2 years I wrote three Eye on Benefits blogs each week. It was frightening, exhausting and exhilarating. And when moneyville began a new life as the personal finance section of the Toronto Star, my weekly column At Work was featured for another 18 months.

But that was only the beginning.

Soon after the “best kept secret” article appeared on moneyville, SPP’s General Manager Katherine Strutt asked me to help develop a social media strategy for the pension plan. Truth be told, I was an early social media user but there were and still are huge gaps in my knowledge. So I partnered with expert Leslie Hughes from PunchMedia, We did a remote, online presentation and were subsequently invited to Kindersley, Saskatchewan, the home of SPP to present in person. All of our recommendations were accepted.

By December 2011, I was blogging twice a week for SPP about everything and anything to do with spending money, saving money, retirement, insurance, financial literacy and personal finance. Since then I have authored over 500 articles for savewithspp.com. Along the way I also wrote hundreds of other articles for Employee Benefit News (U.S.), Sun Life, Tangerine Bank and other terrific clients. As a result, I have doubled my retirement savings.

All my clients have been wonderful but SPP is definitely at the top of the list. I am absolutely passionate about SPP and both my husband and I are members. Because I was receiving dividends and not salary from my company I could not make regular contributions. Instead, over the last seven years I have transferred $10,000 each year from another RRSP into SPP and I would contribute more if I could.

By the end of 2017 I started turning down work, but I was still reluctant to sever my relationship with SPP. However, as my days became increasingly full with travel, caring for my aged mother, visiting my daughter’s family in Ottawa, choir and taking classes at Ryerson’s Life Institute, I realized that I’m ready to let go at long last. After the end of May when people ask me what I do, I will finally be totally comfortable saying “I am retired.”

I will miss working with the gang at SPP. I will also miss the wonderful feedback from our readers. I very much look forward to seeing how both savewithspp.com and the plan evolve. My parting advice to all of you is maximize your SPP savings every year. SPP has changed my life. It can also change yours.

Au revoir. Until we meet again….

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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.

Wedding Insurance: Why you need it and what’s covered

You have been planning a wedding for months. The venue has been booked, invitations sent and the flowers selected. Then an immediate family member becomes very ill and the event has to be postponed. Or the banquet hall goes belly up and a hefty deposit is lost. These unfortunate events happen rarely, but when they do the extra expense can put a strain on an already tight budget.

According to an unscientific survey by Weddingbells magazine, there were 162,056 weddings across Canada in 2014, each with an average price tag of $31,685. Furthermore, a survey conducted in the same year by a Bank of Montreal subsidiary suggested that people in Saskatchewan and Manitoba planned to spend, on average, $27,200 on a future wedding. That figure was the highest in the country.

You insure your car, your home, your life and your health. But you may not be aware that you can also insure your wedding. Coverage may range from a wedding guest’s slip and fall to stolen wedding gifts to extreme weather on the day of the event that causes 50% of the guests to be unable to attend the wedding or reception. But there is a specific exclusion if a bride or groom gets cold feet and does not show at the last minute.

Pal Insurance Brokers Canada Ltd. is one company that offers Weddinguard insurance online. This insurance provides financial protection against many of those things that can go wrong with your wedding plans, subject to policy wording. You are eligible if you are getting married within 1 year and the reception date is at least three days in the future. You can see a pdf of the full policy and what it does and does not cover here.

You can get an online quote here. While researching this article I completed the online questionnaire for the four different levels of coverage and got the following pricing information, including up to $1 million of liability coverage.

Weddinguard Insurance

Potential reimbursement up to stated amount + premiums
Silver package Gold Package Diamond Package Platinum Package
Cancellation expenses $4,000 $10,000 $30,000 $50,000
Honeymoon cancellation $2,000 $2,500 $5,000 $5,000
Loss of Deposit $2,000 $3,000 $5,000 $6,000
Wedding photos and video $2,500 $5,000 $7,000 $7,500
Loss or damage to bridal attire $2,500 $2,500 $5,000 $7,000
Wedding presents $5,000 $5,000 $7,000 $8,000
Rings $1,000 $1,500 $3,000 $5,000
Cake and flowers $2,000 $2,500 $5,000 $6,000
Wedding stationery $1,000 $1,500 $3,000 $4,000
Rented property $1,000 $10,000 $15,000 $20,000
PREMIUM $250 $400 $650 $950

For destination weddings, PAL says underwriters must manually review the request for coverage which can take three or four days. There is also a special exclusion for Florida, Georgia and Caribbean weddings due to hurricane force winds in August, September and October.

Matt Taylor, general manager for PAL Insurance company recently told The Canadian Press that PAL sells between 1,500 to 2,000 wedding policies each year. Front Row Insurance also offers wedding insurance with policies starting at $105 and up to $5,000,000 in General Liability Coverage to cover damage to the wedding venue and injury to third parties.

Lacie Glover who blogs at  nerdwallet offers the following tips for buying the right policy for your wedding:

  • Look over your existing homeowners and renters insurance policies — or those of any relatives hosting or paying for the wedding — to see whether existing liability insurance will cover you.
  • Check the deductible, which is the amount deducted from a claims check. If one vendor doesn’t show up, and the deductible is higher than the deposit for that vendor, you’ll swallow the cost for that lost deposit.
  • Look at coverage limits. For cancellation coverage, you’ll want the limit to be close to your wedding budget, including the honeymoon.

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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.

The Cost of Funerals in Saskatchewan

In 2017 the life expectancy for the total Canadian population is projected to be 79 years for men and 83 years for women. Of course, some people will die younger and others will live into their 90s and beyond. However long you live, eventually your funeral expenses and other debts must be paid for before your executor can distribute your estate to beneficiaries. 

How much does a funeral cost?
Canadian Funerals Online (CFO) notes that historically the funeral industry has not openly disclosed funeral prices, and many funeral home websites do not even publish a price list. However, these days you can find more funeral homes providing open disclosure of the cost of various funeral packages. Nevertheless, the cost of a funeral can still vary significantly depending on where you live and which funeral services provider you use.

There are two corporate funeral companies operating in Canada – Service Corporation International [Branded as Dignity Memorial] and Arbor Memorial.  Although not a rule, CFO reports that typically corporate funeral homes can be more expensive than family-owned funeral homes and that in the funeral industry, economies of scale do not always operate in favour of consumers.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that you investigate prices from more than one funeral home. Of course, this may not be practical or possible in the stressful period following the death of a loved one.

In a recent article on lowestrates.ca, Rebecca Lee discussed how much it costs to die in Canada. She reported that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for the dozens of after-death decisions you’ll have to make. There’s also no one-size-fits-all price tag.

In an interview with Lee, Founder and CEO of Basic Funerals, Eric Vandermeersch, said that after-death costs can be as low as $1,500 or as high as $20,000. And while he pegged the average overall cost at $8,500, he admitted that the number varies wildly based on each person’s preferences, values, and culture.

“It’s like saying I want to buy a car, what should I budget for.” Vandermeersch explained. “There are a lot of options. There are people looking for just the basics and there are people looking for more traditional ceremonies.”

Lee enumerated some of the after-death arrangements you or your family will have to decide on. Some are required and others are mandatory. All costs are approximate and will vary based on city, province, and personal preference.

  1. Death certificate ($15-$22) and registration (about $55).
  2. Transfer services ($100+).
  3. Shroud, casket, or urn ($0-$3,000+).
  4. Body preparation ($125-$525)..
  5. Formal ceremonies (visitation, memorial, funeral) plus staffing fees ($2,000 and beyond).
  6. Burial plots and niches ($1,000 and beyond).
  7. Burial or cremation services ($1,000 and beyond).

Burial vs. Cremation
According to CFO, as a very general guide a cremation is likely to cost a quarter of the cost of a burial.  A simple, direct cremation in Canada can start at around $600, whereas a cremation with a service, and extra disbursements (obituary notice, viewing, funeral flowers, etc), may cost in the region of $4,500.  As mentioned above, cremation service costs will vary depending upon your province and area. The cremation rate in Canada is at 65% making cremation by far the popular choice for families today.

Direct cremation is becoming more popular.  A direct cremation is when the deceased is simply collected from the place of death and transferred to the funeral home or crematory for an immediate cremation.  No service is conducted prior to the cremation [although sometimes a brief family viewing is conducted].

The cremated remains are returned to the family within a few days in a basic urn.  This is the least expensive means by which to conduct a funeral.  It can even be arranged online today, without the need to visit a funeral home.  Family can then arrange their own memorial at a later date at a place that suit the family.  This also puts the family in control of the memorial process, instead of paying a funeral home for this service.

CPP Death Benefit
The Canada Pension Plan death benefit is a one-time, lump-sum payment to your estate that can help to pay for funeral costs. The amount of the death benefit depends on how much and for how long you contributed to the CPP.  In January 2016, the average death benefit paid was $2,296.85 and the maximum was $2,500.

To calculate the amount of the death benefit, Service Canada first calculates the amount that the CPP retirement pension is or would have been if the deceased was age 65 at the time of death. The death benefit is equal to six months’ worth of this calculated retirement pension up to a maximum of $2,500.

If an estate exists, the executor named in the will or the administrator named by the Court to administer the estate applies for the death benefit. The executor should apply for the benefit within 60 days of the date of death.

If no estate exists or if the executor has not applied for the death benefit, payment may be made to other persons who apply for the benefit in the following order of priority:

  • The person or institution that has paid for or that is responsible for paying for the funeral expenses of the deceased.
  • The surviving spouse or common-law partner of the deceased.
  • The next-of-kin of the deceased.

The death benefit is equal to six months’ worth of this calculated retirement pension up to a maximum of $2,500.

Also see:
Saskatchewan Funeral Costs Guide
The Prepaid Funeral: Advantages & Disadvantages

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

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

What to look for in a real estate agent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to choose a diamond ring

Wedding Bells reports that 20% of engagements take place in December, but Valentine’s Day is also a popular time to pop the question. Historically people have used other types of jewelry and gems to propose, but in 2013,  the Jewelry Industry Research Institute reported that 75% of brides wear a diamond ring.

If you propose with a diamond ring, it is largely as a result of a hugely successful advertising campaign from De Beers, one of the largest diamond companies in the world. In 1947 De Beers launched its promotion for diamond engagement rings with the slogan “a diamond is forever.”

Between 1939 and 1979, the company’s marketing budget soared from $200,000 to $10 million per year, according to The Atlantic. Over the same period, its wholesale diamond sales in the United States grew from $23 million to $2.1 billion. Also over the 40 year interval, De Beers went from recommending spending one month’s salary on an engagement ring to two month’s pay.

I was not able to find Canadian data, but according to the Knot’s 2015 Real Weddings Study, Americans spent an average of $5,871 on engagement rings, up from $5,855 in 2014. Wedding bands for the bride and engagement rings combined cost between $5,968 and $6,258.

Each individual must decide how much to budget for an engagement ring, but regardless of the amount you plan to spend, you need to understand what to look for when you are shopping for rings. First of all, the price and value of diamond jewelry is influence by the 4Cs: color, cut, clarity and carat weight.

It is of primary importance when you select stone(s) and a setting that you are dealing with a reputable jeweller. It may also be advisable before you finalize the transaction to have an independent gemologist appraise the stone(s) to ensure you are getting good value.

In addition you should receive a certificate from your jeweler (sometimes called a grading report). This is a complete evaluation of your diamond that has been performed by a qualified professional with the help of special gemological instruments. Each stone bears its own recognizable, individual characteristics, which is listed on the certificate.

Here are some other important things to consider when selecting stones and a setting for an engagement ring.

  1. Understand your partner’s taste in jewelry
    White or yellow gold? Old fashioned or modern? Chunky or delicate? Diamonds only or embellishment with coloured stones?
  2. Ring size
    Borrow a ring he/she already owns and trace the size. You can always have the ring re-sized after you propose but there may be additional cost. Also, who wants to take the ring off and part with it for days or weeks while adjustments are made?
  3. Favourite shape and cut
    Diamonds come in a myriad of cuts ranging from square, round and oval to pear shaped. A diamond’s cutting style refers to its facet arrangement, rather than its shape. The fewer the facets, the more visible any inclusions will be, so a cutting style such as a step cut (a.k.a. emerald cut), for example, requires higher clarity in the diamond.
  4. Setting
    The setting can vary from a solitaire or single stone, to a large stone with small stones on each side to three stones of the same side. A halo stone is where a center stone is surrounded by tiny gemstones  (usually diamonds), to add sparkle and give the appearance of a larger center stone. The setting you select will depend on a combination of preferred style and your budget.

No matter how much you pay for your ring, speak to your home insurance company and decide whether you should have it specifically listed on your policy so it is insured in case of loss or theft.

I lost the pear shaped diamond from my ring at the gym several years ago. In spite of the fact that paying a premium to insure the ring was no fun, I was quite relieved when my policy reimbursed me for the considerable value of the lost stone.

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

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

5 to 9’ers supplement their income

Call it a side hack or a part-time job. A recent study from PayPal Canada and Barraza & Associates reveals that 2.5 million Canadian (about nine percent of the adult population) have embraced a “5-to-9’er” lifestyle turning their passions into profitable side-businesses in addition to working a full-time job.

This community of makers, creators, freelancers and service providers has gained notable traction in Canada. In fact, half of Canadian 5-to-9’ers started their business in the last three years. In the past 12 months, this small but mighty community reported combined median revenues of $2.5 billion dollars.

“The rise of digitization, cloud-computing, smartphone apps and e-commerce enables people to work when and where they want, over and above regular 9-to-5 jobs,” said Paul Parisi, president of PayPal Canada.

Canada’s 5-to-9’ers are online savvy and keen to grow
Young and driven to evolve, Canada’s 5-to-9’ers are eager to turn their part-time endeavors into a primary source of income. The research shows that these emerging entrepreneurs employ e-commerce tools to reach their vision of success. Their e-commerce arsenal includes extensive use of online marketplaces and social media networks, demonstrating 5-to-9’ers deep appreciation of the digital economy. From age to attitude towards selling online, Canada’s enterprising 5-to-9’ers differ greatly from traditional Canadian small business owners.

  • More than half (54%) of 5-to-9’ers surveyed have seriously considered making their part-time business into a full-time career. More than a third (38%) are actively testing out the idea of becoming a full-time entrepreneur, using this time in their small business journey as a launch pad.
  • 5-to-9’ers are selling where Canadians are shopping – online. Over a third of 5-to-9’ers accept online payments for their goods and services leveraging a variety of e-commerce tools, like online marketplaces (59%) and social networking sites (52%). Turning the lens on traditional small businesses, less than a quarter accept payments online.
  • The 5-to-9’er community skews younger compared to traditional small business owners. In some cases, there is a 30-year differential. More than half of 5-to-9’ers (54%) are between the ages of 25 and 44 years-old, which could explain why they are more comfortable using digital technology.

Despite their drive and determination, there are some barriers holding this community back from transitioning to full-time small business owners. Limited access to start-up capital is the main (58%) hurdle identified by this group.

Women are paving the way, yet disparity persists
Women are dominating the 5-to-9’er landscape, representing 66% of the community in Canada. Not only are women propelling this trend, the study revealed that they are more seriously considering full-time small business ownership, compared to their male counterparts. While it is encouraging to see women taking a leading role in shaping the 5-to-9er landscape, female 5-to-9ers reported significantly less revenue than their male peers.

Notably, 12% of women started their side business while on maternity leave. Women may be leveraging maternity leave as an opportunity to explore becoming entrepreneurs while simultaneously bringing in additional household income.

Shelley Jones, is one example. As the founder and CEO of dignify, a Calgary-based small business online store that sells hand embroidered quilts and throws, Shelley highlights e-commerce as a catalyst for her success.

“After the birth of my second child, I wasn’t sure I wanted to return to a traditional 9-to-5 work environment, so I used my maternity leave as a time to explore entrepreneurship on my own terms,” said Jones. “When you are busy raising two children and building a business there is no such thing as a set schedule – you have to work when you can whether that is at 5 a.m. or 10 p.m. I simply would not have transitioned dignify from a passion project to a full-time business without an online-first approach.”

Overall, the research points to a growing, thriving community that has organically formed by leveraging tools like e-commerce platforms, online marketplaces, freelance software and smartphone apps to find success. While small businesses tend to earn significant focus in Canada, the 5-to-9 community is a rising segment of Canada’s economy that has tremendous potential to succeed if nurtured.

Complete study findings and additional information can be found here.

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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.