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APR 12: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

April 12, 2021

Canadian millennials now focused on long-term saving: report

It’s hard to find many silver linings to the dark, terrible cloud that is COVID-19, but a report from Global News suggests the crisis has caused millennials to think longer-term when it comes to savings.

Carissa Lucreziano of CIBC tells Global that Canadians aged 24-35 “are very committed to saving more and investing.” That’s great news for this younger segment of our society, she states, “as actions now can have long-term benefits.”

The report also cites data from Semrush, an online data analysis company, as showing 23.6 per cent of millennials regularly visit their online banking websites, as compared to 20.7 per cent of older Canadians aged 35 to 44.

Semrush’s Eugene Levin tells Global this suggests younger people “are more conscious moneywise… they are using this time (the pandemic) to plan out their finances to either mitigate their financial insecurity or improve their financial security.”

Other findings – more people are searching for information on Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs), and investment apps like Wealthsimple and Questrade, the article reports.

CIBC data noted in the Global report found that 38 per cent of millennials have decreased spending, 34 per cent plan to add to TFSAs or Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), and to establish emergency savings accounts.

While there is also interest in topics like payday loans and installment loans, the article finds it generally positive that younger people are thinking about long-term savings.

For sure it is positive news. Data from Statistics Canada reminds us why long-term savings are so important.

The stats show that as of 2019, 70 per cent of Canadians are saving for retirement, either on their own or via a workplace savings program – that’s up from 66 per cent in 2014, Stats Canada reports.

“Interestingly, this may reflect the fact that over the past five years, Canadians have become increasingly aware of the need to save for retirement,” reports Stats Canada. “For example, almost half of Canadians (47 per cent) say they know how much they need to save to maintain their standard of living in retirement—an increase of 10 percentage points since 2014 (37 per cent).”

Those who don’t save for retirement on their own (or via a workplace plan) will have to rely on the relatively modest government benefits, such as the Canada Pension Plan, Quebec Pension Plan, and Old Age Security, the article notes. And surely, the terrifying pandemic era has more of us thinking about our finances, both current and future.

So that’s why it is nice to see the younger generation is focusing on these longer-term goals. The best things in life, as the song goes, are free, but many other things carry a cost. The retired you will certainly be thankful that the younger you chose to stash away some cash for the future.

If, as the article notes, you don’t have a workplace pension plan and are saving on your own for retirement, there’s a plan out there for you that could really be of help. For 35 years, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has been delivering retirement security; the plan now manages $673 million in assets for its 33,000 members. Check them out today!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Remembering the good old saving days of 1981

April 8, 2021

Before the pandemic, we read countless stories about how the savings rate among Canadians had fallen to its lowest level in decades.  Now, possibly due to the fact that the pandemic has limited our ability to spend money, the opposite is now true. We are reaching the highest personal savings rate we’ve experienced in 35 years.

According to a report in the Toronto Star, Canadians in 2020 “saved a greater chunk of their income than they had in three and a half decades.”  Canucks put away 14.8 per cent of their income last year, representing about $5,000 per person in savings.

“People weren’t able to spend on a lot of things they normally can, because of the lockdowns. And in some cases, they chose not to spend,” Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, tells the Star.

Save with SPP can still remember 1981, but at that time, working as a cub reporter, one’s focus was not on the long term, or savings. So, we had to check back to see what it was like the last time we had a high national savings rate.

At RatesDotCa, there’s a nice article that recaps what it was like 40 years ago for Canadian savers.

For starters, the article notes, interest rates were the opposite of what they are today – at all-time highs.

“If you’re not old enough to remember the recession of the early 1980s, your parents certainly will. In 1981, mortgage rates peaked at more than 20 per cent,” RatesDotCa reports.

“Many people whose mortgages were up for renewal during that period found themselves signing up for mortgage rates that were twice as high as they were just five years prior. Some resorted to paying hefty upfront fees to get private lenders to offer them rates in the mid-teens,” the article continues.

Other things – most goods and services – kept going up. The Inflation.eu website shows that throughout 1981, the consumer price index went up by more than 12 per cent. While your pay tended to go up to address higher costs of living, it usually didn’t go up as fast as prices did.

Save with SPP recalls getting a car loan at 16 per cent interest from CIBC. The effect of the high cost of borrowing was that we got a little used Plymouth Horizon – a little car for a big interest rate. Today, it’s the opposite – people are getting big houses and cars because it’s a low interest rate.

But we also recall the benefit of high interest rates on our savings back in the early 1980s. You could get a Canada Savings Bond that paid double-digit interest. It was the same story with GICs. Your parents and grandparents were probably chiefly buying interest-paying investments in those heady days. It was a thing, and payroll Canada Savings Bonds were commonplace.

Recently, we have begun to hear that our historically low interest rates may be on the rise once again.

The Globe and Mail reports that inflation went up 1.1 per cent in February, and one per cent in January. Rising gas prices are part of the upward push, the article notes. The Bank of Canada, the article notes, is expecting a 1.7% rate of inflation this year.

Will inflation hikes bring with them interest rate hikes – a return to the 1980s? It’s unlikely, says RatesDotCa.

“Although it’s unlikely that rates will hit the likes of 15-20 per cent again, we may very well see 5-7 per cent in the long run. That type of a jump may still be two to three times higher than your current mortgage rate.  Do you think you could afford paying nearly three times as much as you do today for your mortgage, and still afford those other essentials like heat and groceries,” the article warns.

The takeaway here is that things change. We have had low interest rates for so long, only us greybeards remember when we didn’t. Will savers start to pile into interest-bearing investments once again if rates begin to tick upwards? We’ll need to wait and see.

A balanced approach makes sense when you are saving for the long term. When interest rates are low, other investment categories – Canadian and international equities, real estate, and so on – tend to do better. But when you’re in a balanced investment fund, the experts are the ones who figure out when to rebalance, not you.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has a Balanced Fund that invests your contributions in Canadian and international equities, infrastructure, bonds, mortgages, real estate and short-term investments. All this diversity at a management fee of just 0.83 per cent in 2020. Put your retirement savings into balance; why not check out SPP today?

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


NOV 16: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

November 16, 2020

Pandemic’s a worry for Canadians, and impacting their ability to save: survey

New research from CIBC and Maru/Blue finds that 40 per cent of Canucks are worried about how the pandemic will affect “their retirement and savings plans,” reports Wealth Professional.

Also alarming – 23 per cent of those surveyed have “been unable to contribute to their retirement plans since the pandemic began,” the magazine reports.

There are also subtle additional ways the pandemic may impact future retirements, Wealth Professional notes, again citing the survey’s findings. Thirty per cent of Canadians surveyed believe they will have to work longer than they originally had planned, and 32 per cent don’t think they’ll do as much travelling in retirement as they had hoped, the magazine reports.

This level of pessimism around retirement has not been seen since 2014, the article adds.

Other learnings from the pandemic include:

  • 20 per cent say they are paying more attention to their personal finances
  • 21 per cent say they “won’t panic when markets become volatile”
  • 19 per cent agree it is “important to save for retirement/their future”
  • 26 per cent feel the pandemic has “significantly increased the cost of retiring”
  • 24 per cent now feel they can live with less and will reduce discretionary spending

The amount needed for a comfortable retirement is, according to Wealth Professional, “10.9 times their final pay to maintain the same spendable income after retirement.” The magazine cites findings from actuarial firm Aon for this figure.

These figures are certainly not surprising. Many Canadians have had their income slashed, are receiving benefits, and have deferred repayment of mortgages as we all try to tough out the pandemic.

It’s encouraging that nearly 20 per cent of us – despite being downtrodden by the pandemic – still see the value of setting aside whatever they can today to benefit themselves in the future.

Another part of the equation, of course, is living on the retirement savings – the so-called decumulation side, where all the money you’ve piled up is turned into what you live on in retirement.

According to Benefits Canada, Canadians need to think about how to make their retirement income last.

“We’ve had a number of tax rules and pension rules based on the age of 65 and that made a lot of sense years ago, but the issue is now, once you hit 65, you can live to 87 or even longer,” states economist Jack Mintz of the University of Calgary in the article.

“I think we need to allow people to put more money in tax-sheltered savings. I would like to see an increase in pension limits and [tax-free savings account] limits in order to help people save more for the future. I’d also like to see more rules around [registered retirement income funds], when you have to withdraw money out of your retirement accounts… to provide more flexibility,” Mintz states in the article.

These are solid ideas for making retirement savings last longer, and for helping Canadians accumulate even more savings than they have at present. If you are looking for a place to stash cash for your retirement future – a place where your savings will be professionally invested at a very low rate – look no further than the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP). The SPP has an impressive rate of return of nearly eight per cent since its launch nearly 35 years ago. And if money is tight today, you can start small and gear up when better times return. Take the time to click over and check them out.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Dec 2: Best from the blogosphere

December 2, 2019

Experts say retirement planning should start in one’s 20s

Ah, the joys of being in one’s twenties. You’re young, you’re healthy, you’re newly educated and you’re ready to make your way in the world of employment.

And, according to the experts, you should have your retirement planning well underway!

According to The Motley Fool blog via Yahoo!, “the saddest tale you can hear from baby boomers is the regret of having not prepared early for retirement.”

Not saving enough while young is something your older you will experience – in a negative way – later in life, the blog advises. “Many baby boomers found out belatedly that their nest eggs weren’t enough to sustain a retirement lifestyle,” the blog warns.

Without an early head start on saving, the Motley Fool warns, “you might end up with less than half of the money you’d need after retiring for good. The best move is to invest in income-generating assets or stocks to start the ball rolling.”

What stocks should a young retirement saver invest in? According to the blog, “Bank of Montreal (BMO) should be on the top of your list,” as it has been paying out good dividends since 1829. Other good dividend-payers recommended by the investing blog include Canadian Utilities (CU) and CIBC bank.

“The younger generation should take the advice of baby boomers seriously: start saving early for retirement. Apart from not knowing how long you’ll live, you can’t get back lost time. Many baby boomers started saving too late, yet expected to enjoy the same lifestyle as they did before retirement,” the blog warns.

So the takeaway here is, start early, and pick something that has a history of growth and dividend payments.

The bigger question is always this – how much is enough to save?

A recent blog by Rob Carrick of the Globe and Mail mentions some handy calculators that can help you figure out what your nest egg should be.

Carrick says that while seeing a financial adviser is always recommended for goal-setting, the calculators can help. Three he mentions include The Personal Enhanced Retirement Calculator, designed by actuary and financial author Fred Vettese; The Retirement Cash Flow Calculator from the Get Smarter About Money blog; and The Canadian Retirement Income Calculator from the federal government.

You’ll find any retirement calculator will deliver what looks like a huge and unobtainable savings number. However, if you start early, you’ll have the benefit of time on your side. Even a small annual savings amount will grow substantially if it has 30 or 40 years of growth runway before landing at the airport of retirement. For sure, start young. Join any retirement program you can at your work, but also save on your own. If you’re not ready to start making trades, a great option is membership in the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You get the benefit of professional investing at a very low price, and that expertise will grow your savings over time. When it’s time to turn savings into income, SPP is unique in the fact that it offers an in-plan way to deliver your savings via a monthly pay lifetime annuity. And there are a number of different types of annuities to choose from. Check them out today!

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Reality check – working past age 65 may not be the best solution

February 28, 2019

When you ask people when they plan to retire, many say that they’ll keep working, even past age 65. None seem to be concerned about things like their health, or whether or not their employer will still provide benefits, or if it might be a good idea to yield the job to a younger person.

A poll out recently by CIBC suggests that a surprising one quarter of Canadians who are retired regret that choice. “Twenty-seven per cent of retired Canadians regret having left their jobs and 23 per cent of retirees have tried to re-enter the labour market,” CIBC’s research notes. “When asked why they chose to return to work, 59 per cent said it was for intellectual stimulation and 50 per cent said it was because of financial concerns.”

Certainly, leaving a full-time job means leaving colleagues and friends behind. But the financial concerns are perhaps more telling.

Recent Bank of Canada figures cited by Better Dwelling show household debt is an eye-popping $2.16 trillion, with most of the debt on mortgages. Even if you were planning to retire at 65, that debt is a factor that could throw a wrench in your plans.

An article in The Province suggests that carrying debt into retirement may be a reason people are thinking of going back to work. “When you need more of your retirement income to service debt, there is less left over to enjoy your golden years,” the newspaper points out. “Some think that they’ve got savings to help them top up what they’re short on after they retire, but that’s not necessarily the best strategy. If you need your savings to generate enough income, depleting your savings multiplies the negative impact on your financial situation at a time when you’re least able to manage through it.”

So what options do seniors have to deal with post-retirement debt? Going back to work is one, and another is a reverse mortgage. “On a national basis, reverse mortgage debt stood at $3.425 billion outstanding as of October 2018, marking its highest point in 8 years,” reports Real Estate Professional magazine.

The Money Ning blog says that while there are pros for employers in keeping older workers on the job, such as retaining their experience, and reducing government program spending, there are also cons.

“For workers who are either not passionate about their work, or who are working in a job that is physically demanding or extremely stressful, the idea of keeping that job for longer is not a pleasant one,” the blog notes. “In some cases, working past the mid-60s may not even be entirely safe,” the article continues.

Will employers still offer the same benefits to those age 65 and older? It’s certainly worth checking before you decide to stay put.

Other negatives are preventing younger workers from advancement, which affects their own ability to grow their income and save for retirement. These kids often can’t afford to buy and end up back home with their retiring parents.

So let’s recap. Boomers are carrying record debt levels as they approach retirement. Once retired, they must use their pensions or personal savings to pay down debt, leaving less money for fun and travel. That makes many crave the workplace once again, or have to do reverse mortgages to make ends meet.

Sure, it would be great to retire without debt, but it seems less possible than a generation or two ago. The takeaway here is that notwithstanding debt payments, we all need to put as much as we can away for retirement. Those savings give us options and more wiggle room at age 65, and maybe the ability to enjoy life without meetings, commuting, performance reviews and other workplace drama.

If you don’t have a pension plan at work, or if you do and want to supplement it, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a great place to start, with low fees, a strong investment track record, and flexible ways to turn savings into income at retirement. Check them out today at 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 and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Feb 4: Best from the blogosphere

February 4, 2019

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Just six per cent of Canucks plan to save for retirement in 2019

A mere six per cent of Canadians intend to make retirement saving a top financial priority in 2019, according to research from CIBC published in Benefits Canada.

The reason? They’re swamped with debt, the magazine notes. Paying down debt was the top priority in the research, followed by “keeping up with bills and getting by, growing wealth, and saving for a vacation,” the magazine reports.

CIBC’s Jamie Golombek, who was interviewed by Save with SPP last year,  says debt can be a useful tool, but if you are using it for day-to-day expenses, “it may be time for cash-flow planning instead.”

Golombek, who is Managing Director of Financial Planning and Advice at CIBC, says despite the fact that paying down debt is a legitimate priority in any financial plan, retirement savings can’t be totally overlooked.

“It boils down to trade-offs, and balancing your priorities both now and down the road. The idea of being debt-free may help you sleep better at night, but it may cost you more in the long run when you consider the missed savings and tax sheltered growth,” he states in the article.

Obviously, paying off debts in the short-term does feel more like an imperative than saving for the future. After all, the telephone company and the credit card folks will certainly let you know if you’re late with a payment with helpful, blunt little emails and terse phone messages. No such calls come from your retirement savings team.

But even if retirement savings isn’t a squeaky wheel today, you’ll depend on it one day. A Globe and Mail article from a couple of years ago noted that half of Canadians, then aged 55 to 64, did not have a workplace pension plan, and of that group, “less than 20 per cent of middle-income families have saved enough to adequately supplement government benefits and the Canada/Quebec Pension Plan.” The Globe story cited research from the Broadbent Institute.

Government pensions won’t usually replace all of your workplace salary, so if you don’t have a pension at work, you really need to find a way to save. An excellent choice is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, where you can start small and build your savings over time. You can set up automatic deposits, a “set it and forget it” approach. All money saved by the SPP is invested, and when it’s time for you to start drawing down your savings, they have an abundance of annuity options to produce a lifetime income stream for you.

Be a six per center, and make retirement savings a priority in 2019!

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

Gifting money to your children now, rather than later

September 28, 2017

According to a recent CIBC poll, the majority of Canadian parents with a child 18 years or older (76%) say they’d give their kids a financial boost to help them move out, get married, or move in with a partner, with nearly half of them giving an average of about $24,000.

And, when given the option, almost two-thirds of parents would prefer to give cash rather than have their adult child and partner/spouse live with them. Yet, most Canadians (68%) either misunderstand or say they don’t know the tax and other financial implications of gifting.

“The poll findings show that while many parents are thinking about giving their kids a financial boost to leave the nest, there are a lot of misconceptions about gifting,” says Jamie Golombek, Managing Director, Tax and Estate Planning,  CIBC Wealth Strategies Group.

In his new report, Give a Little Bit, he says, “Unlike in the U.S., we don’t have any kind of gift tax, which means if you have what’s called ‘never money’ – money you’ll never spend in your lifetime – it’s worth considering making a financial gift while you’re alive to help your kids get started in life.”

Mr. Golombek addresses the misconceptions about financial gifting and provides important tips on tax considerations in his Give a Little Bit report and accompanying video.

Key poll findings:

  • 76% say they’d give financial support to help an adult child move out, marry or live with a partner, while 24% wouldn’t provide any financial support.
  • Of parents providing financial support:
    • 47% would give money in the form of a financial gift
    • 28% would let their adult child and his/her partner live with them
    • 25% would act as a guarantor on a mortgage
  • 65% of parents would prefer to give a financial gift than have their adult child and spouse/partner live with them
  • $24,125 is the national average gift size. Those with household incomes of more than $100,000 gift nearly double that amount ($40,558) with as many as 25% giving over $50,000.
  • 68% of Canadians either misunderstand or don’t know what taxes exist on financial gifts

Gifting risks
The poll finds that parents are split on whether or not to tie a financial gift to major or special milestones like buying a home, graduation, birth of grandchildren, or settling down with a spouse. Further, more than half (55%) of parents are concerned about gifting to their children, with two-in-five of them admitting they may need the money later and almost a third (29%) worrying that their son or daughter won’t use the money ‘wisely’.

As well, more than a third (37%) of all parents say they’re comfortable taking on debt to help their kids get a good start. However, few parents will actually tap into their credit lines or borrow from family and friends and most (80%) of those giving money will draw from cash and savings to fund their gifts.

“The caveat to making any financial gift is that you generally don’t want to put your own finances at risk,” says Golombek. “You need to map out the lifestyle you want in retirement and the money you’ll need before making a financial gift.”

Bequeathing Boom
Over the next decade, baby boomers are expected to inherit an estimated $750 billion, according to a CIBC Capital Markets report. Based on the findings from the CIBC Gifting Poll, likely a good chunk of the bequest boom will skip a generation as 74% of parents aged 55+ say they would pay forward their inheritance or a portion of it to their children or grandchildren if they received an inheritance today.

“When you gift during your lifetime, you’re able to enjoy seeing your beneficiaries use the money while at the same time reaping potential tax savings opportunities,” Golombek says. “In addition, by gifting assets before you die, these assets will not be subject to probate fees because they will not be part of your estate.”

He offers five tips for gifting:

  1. Talk to your financial advisor to determine how much ‘never money’ you may have.
  2. Gift cash in Canada with no tax implications (gifting appreciated property may trigger capital gains tax).
  3. Minimize taxes for the entire family by gifting property to family members in lower tax brackets.
  4. Use strategies to avoid probate tax of up to 1.7% (depending on the province/territory) of the estate’s value.
  5. Help kids buy a home or pay down debt with a secured mortgage.

Also read: Déjà-Boom: Boomerang kids collide with retirement goals of boomer parents

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.

Sept 11: Best from the blogosphere

September 11, 2017

As the leaves change colours and we gear up for the busy fall and winter season, it’s time to check in on what some of our favourite personal finance writers have been discussing this summer.

With the announcement that CIBC has gobbled up PC Financial which will be rebranded as CIBC Simplii Financial on November 1st, Stephen Weyman says on Howtosavemoney.ca that it will be banking as usual in the short term but you can expect CIBC to sneak in a few fees here and there to make sure they’re profitable and try to cut costs where they can.

On Boomer & Echo, Marie Engen offers 25 money saving tips. A couple of my favourites are:

  • Turn off the “heat dry” on your dishwasher. Open the door when the cycle is done and let the dishes air dry.
  • Learn some sewing basics so you can make minor repairs and alterations to your clothing – hem your pants and skirts, sew on a button, sew up a torn seam, put in a new zipper.
  • Buy some time. Set aside the purchase you are considering for a few hours (or a day or two) before you decide whether to buy it. Often you may decide you can easily live without it.

Bridget Casey (Money After Graduation) has recently welcomed a new daughter and she is already thinking about saving for her college education. She writes about the importance of setting up your child’s Registered Educational Savings Plan as a trust so it will be covered by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation in the event of financial institution failure up to $100,000 per account.

Retire Happy’s Jim Yih writes a thoughtful piece on Minimizing Your Old Age Security Clawback. The maximum monthly OAS benefit in 2017 is $578.53 ($6,942.36 annually). If you earn between $74,788 and $121,070/year the OAS benefit will be clawed back. He explains that with pension splitting, spouses can give up to 50% of their pension income to their spouse for tax splitting purposes. This is a very effective way to reduce income if you are close to the OAS clawback threshold.

When Sean Cooper, author of Burn Your Mortgage paid off his mortgage, he promised himself he’d stop putting off travel. His first major trip was to San Francisco this summer. Nevertheless, he still travelled frugally booking his $700 roundtrip flight through PC Travel. He also got from the airport to downtown on Bay area rapid transit for less than $10. In San Diego, he opted for a four-bed mixed dorm room at USA Hostels for less than $60 a night as opposed to $200/night in a hotel.


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.

Why you should closely monitor your bank account

July 6, 2017

I love online banking because I like to visit my money every day to make sure it’s still all there. So imagine my surprise when the RBC account I share with my mother and sister went within a couple of days from half a million dollars in arrears to a balance of +$500,000!

My sister discovered the deficit initially when in late May she tried to take out a small amount of cash for my mother and she was locked out of the account.

In fact, in mid-May at our request CIBC Investors Edge had processed a transfer of $512,000 from the RBC account to our CIBC investment account. This was the proceeds of sale from my mother’s condo. But then CIBC initiated a second transfer of the exact same amount on May 29th and since there was only a few thousand dollars in the RBC account to pay monthly bills, we were left with a huge negative balance.

When I contacted CIBC, our IE representative told us that as a result of “a bank error” thousands of May transfers into CIBC IE were duplicated and that the problem would be rectified within a day. Meanwhile, RBC said not to worry, because the second transfer out would be sent back and the negative balance in the account would be reversed as we do not have overdraft protection. However, just to make sure I was advised to notify any vendors with automatic withdrawals that their cheques may bounce temporarily.

That occurred within hours and our RBC account was unlocked. But the next day CIBC IE also “fixed” the problem by transferring $512,000 back into the RBC account, leaving us with a hefty, unwarranted surplus! Much as I was tempted to blow town and take an around-the-world cruise, I dutifully reported the new error to our CIBC IE representative. He said the second mistake would be quickly rectified.

Shortly after, I also got a call from the CIBC Director of Executive Client Relations apologizing for the inconvenience and assuring me the $512,000 erroneously deposited to our account would be out of the RBC account on Friday June 2nd. It took until June 6th for the extra $512,000 to disappear.

In spite of our conversation I still can’t figure out how similar mistakes possibly involving thousands of clients were never communicated to clients up front or investigated by the mainstream media. I was told CIBC had no idea there had been a computer glitch until their clients started reporting the mistakes.

This comedy of errors was reversed in a few days and the only residual effect that I am  left with is a great story. But it could have been much worse if I wasn’t able to track the errors online and quickly make the necessary calls to understand and correct the errors.   And it was also time-consuming and embarrassing to have to make multiple calls and stop payment on the monthly payment to my mother’s nursing home.

So the moral of the story is: Check your recorded bank account transactions frequently either in person or online. If something looks wrong it probably is. The sooner you intervene and get it fixed, the less chance there is that an error will go unnoticed, affecting both your cash flow and your credit rating.

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.

Oct 19: Best from the blogosphere

October 19, 2015

By Sheryl Smolkin

One of the ways many of us try to stretch our dollars further is by taking advantage of rewards programs ranging from cash back or travel rewards on credit cards to points cards from your local supermarket or drug store.

I have been a big fan of travel rewards ever since I did a distance Master of Law degree in the UK in the mid 1990s that required me to travel to Europe half a dozen times in two years. But I have a collection of other loyalty cards in my wallet including a punch card from a bakery that rewards me with a free dozen bagels every time I’ve purchased ten dozen in total.

A September 2015 report from Montreal-based Aimia Inc., which operates Aeroplan and other customer-loyalty programs says of the 89% of Canadians enrolled in a loyalty program, 59% have done so with supermarkets, 22% have signed up with banks and 18% with restaurants.

On itbusiness.ca Brian Jackson reported in March 2015 on a research study conducted by Yahoo Inc. The average Canadian has four loyalty program cards in their wallets, the study found. More than half of consumers say they frequently use those cards to accumulate points and miles. Two-thirds of them go online to calculate the value of the loyalty program, and six out of 10 choose loyalty programs that come free-of-charge.

On Robb Engen’s say-so, I replaced my CIBC Aeroplan VISA with a Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard about 18 months ago. This week I was delighted to get an email from the company describing how their program has been enhanced by elimination of the the tiered redemption program and the introduction of partial redemptions. Read all about the changes on RewardsCardsCanada and why with these changes, Capital One has further cemented its status as the best value rewards card for everyday travelers.

If unlike your jet setting neighbours, you travel infrequently, you may be interested in the blog on familyfuncanada.com about the best loyalty programs for infrequent travelers. Helen Early says Airmiles can bring you plenty of rewards. According to Early, the best thing about the Airmiles program is that you can earn points almost anywhere, through activities that you probably already do. She also notes that hotel chains like Faimont, Starwood, Best Western and Hilton offer great deals and discounts for even the lowest tier of members.

Krystal Yee wrote a sponsored post on Give Me Back My Five Bucks about how you can be rewarded for everyday purchases when using your debit card. She reports that while there are very few debit rewards in Canada, Scotiabank offers three.

  • The SCENE Debit Card allows you to earn accelerated points through Cineplex online and in person (5x based on purchases) as well as at a few other select locations including Sport Chek, Milestones and East Side Mario’s. You will also earn one point for every five dollars spent in other locations.
  • With the Moneyback Debit Card you can earn 1% on every purchase you make – up to a maximum of $300 per year. Those that open up an account before October 31st will earn double the rewards – $600 – through to that day.
  • With every purchase made on a ScotiaHockey NHL® debit card, you will be entered to win grand prizes including four 2016 NHL® All-Star Game packages, four 2016 Stanley Cup® Final packages, four 2016 Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off™ packages as well as 45 monthly prizes.

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.