Tag Archives: BrighterLife.ca

Aug 4: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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It’s hard to believe its August already and before we know it the kids will be back in school. But you know for sure summer is waning when it starts to get dark earlier and the temperatures begin dropping at night.

This week we feature a selection of interesting blogs from some of our favourite personal finance bloggers.

Tim Stobbs from Canadian Dream: Free at 45 has opted to work four days a week instead of five. In 10% Less Pay, But $8 Less on My Paycheque he tells us why at least for now, there has been hardly any impact on his take home pay.

Blonde on a budget’s Cait Flanders has undertaken a massive purge of her possessions starting with her bedroom closet as part of her commitment to a one year “shopping ban.” Find out what’s left and the few necessities she needs that will be exceptions to the rule.

Do you need a little extra money? Tom Drake says on Canadian Finance blog that you might already have it. He suggests Tracking your spending for one to three months. You might find that there are money leaks that are costing you big. Once you plug those up, you can essentially “find” more money in your budget.

In the  Weekend Reading: Banking Bonus Edition Dan Wesley at Our Big Fat Wallet highlights some deals at Tangerine, BMO, Canada Trust and RBC.

And finally, whether you are a new graduate looking for your first job or a seasoned professional looking for new opportunities, take a look at Ten steps to a productive information interview by Kevin Press at BrighterLife.ca.

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.

Dec 2: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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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.

Oct 7: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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There is lots of good reading this week from some of our favourite bloggers.

On retirehappy.ca, Scott Wallace reminds us why RRSPs should not be viewed as short-term savings accounts. Saving for retirement is hard. It requires sacrifice, long term vision and discipline. Short term gratification can be the ‘Achilles Heel’ for anyone’s RRSP portfolio.

If you have a defined benefit pension plan, you may think you don’t have to worry about additional retirement saving. But on boomer & echo, Robb Engen says he is saving outside his DB plan because there is no guarantee he will work for the same employer for the next 20 years. Furthermore, in the current economy, layoffs are always a possibility, even at educational institutions.

Another reason to accumulate additional retirement savings is to have a nest egg to spend on healthcare later in life. Canadians are proud of their healthcare system, but on Brighterlife.ca Kevin Press reports on the results of the 2013 Sun Life Canadian Health IndexTM. The study reveals that among Canadians who have received a serious health diagnosis, or who have had a bad accident, 40% said the experience caused them some degree of “financial hardship.”

For some people, saving for retirement is only the first hurdle to overcome. Then they have to figure out when to actually cut their ties with the world of work and take a leap into the world beyond. Tim Stubbs says on Canadian Dream: Free at 45 that fear of the unknown is natural, but you can do a little fear testing by playing the game: what’s the worst that can happen?

And finally, getsmarteraboutmoney.ca blogger Alison Griffiths says youth financial literacy is all the rage but the focus has been on debt, credit, budgeting and the like. This is important stuff; but families need to include investing with the lessons their children should learn before they leave home.

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.

Sept 16: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

blogospheregraphic

This week we share links to blogs about RESPs, insurance and applying for a first job.

If you are still paying off student loans and you don’t want your kids to be burdened with debt, you may be thinking about starting Registered Educational Savings Plans for them. On Retire Happy, Jim Yih discusses the RESP contribution and withdrawal rules.

As a result of flooding over the past several years Robb Engen says his home insurance bill is up by 30%.  In the end he decided to renew the policy as is and start budgeting more for house insurance premiums (and the deductible for possible claims) now and in the future.

In an archived blog, Gail Vaz-Oxlade explains why you shouldn’t buy mortgage insurance, flight accident insurance or accidental death insurance. Don’t forget to read the comments which are almost as interesting as the content.

Recruitment season can be very stressful for students in their final year. On BrighterLife.ca Christine Kang says applying for a first job is like going on a first date and give hints on how you can make a good first impression.

And when that long-awaited job offer comes, Andrew on $he Thinks I’m Cheap says it’s time to negotiate the best possible salary. That’s because a small increase can mean big money when you consider the benefits of compounding, pension contributions, bonuses and other benefits.

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.

Jul 8: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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This week we have a mixed bag of articles and blogs that will help you save more and spend less.

First of all, if you shop online (and who doesn’t), check out RetailMeNot’s new, dedicated Canadian site. Coupon codes from well-known retailers like Aeropostale, Banana Republic, J.Crew, Lowe’s, Roots, Sears and Starbucks can save you a bundle.

In Press Zero: How to get great customer service without losing it , Squawkfox aka Kerry K. Taylor reports that it took her less than ten minutes to cancel her home phone. During this time she spoke with two Telus customer service guys, shared a few laughs, got offered a 40% discount, and hung up victorious without having to wait the required full 30 days to be free of her phone bill.

If you’re willing to plan ahead and step outside your usual routine, you can take that trip of a lifetime and still manage to hold onto a good portion of your money. Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil from The Planet D give valuable tips in Summer travel on a budget on brighterlife.ca.

Are you heading off to university for the first time this fall? Don’t forget hidden costs like moving expenses, apartment insurance, laundry costs and stocking the kitchen with basic staples you may take for granted at home. Also check out the book  More money for beer and textbooks.

And finally, on Len Penzo dot com, offbeat personal finance blogger Len Penzo explains why he runs his household like a business (and why you should too) including a humorous but practical organizational chart which splits responsibilities between himself (the CEO) and his wife (the CFO).

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 on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Jun 24: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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Most of us would like to retire early and retire well, but it often seems like an unattainable goal. This week we feature blogs with advice from people who have either retired or are well on their way to that objective.

On retirehappy.ca, blogger Jim Yih presents essential information about CPP and OAS, government benefits that are the first leg of your retirement savings.

If you can’t imagine making the sacrifices required to save enough for retirement, see what Tim Stobbs has to say in There is No Sacrifice for Early Retirement, on The Canadian Dream: Free at 45.

The Frugal Trader has been thinking a lot about early retirement lately and what exactly would be required to walk away from his day job and live completely off his portfolio. On million dollar journey he provides a spreadsheet so you can calculate how much you need to save for early retirement.

A guest blogger on Boomer and Echo shares his  View Of Early Retirement. He says he has had opportunities to work part-time but he is too busy with hobbies and no longer want to be tied down to a calendar.

And finally, on Brighter Life, Dave Dineen says, Don’t listen to retirement naysayers. We all have our own ideas of what an attractive retirement looks like. So, don’t let naysayers define your 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 on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Jun 17: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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This week we provide links to blogs and articles for students and new graduates.

On GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca the Investor Education Fund provides Money essentials: A survival kit for students, including how to manage student debt so it doesn’t get out of control.

If you are trying to avoid student debt altogether, read Toronto Star consumer columnist Ellen Roseman’s profile of two young men who finished university without applying for student loans. They just wrote a book called More money for beer and textbooks.

Don’t miss the Harvard Business Review’s Twelve rules for new grads. My favourite is “learn to listen and listen to learn.”

Does every interesting job you apply for require experience you don’t have? Take a look at How to get hired if you are unqualified on New Grad Life.

Finally, Gerald McGroarty shares Five secrets to finding a better work-life balance on BrighterLife.ca.

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.