Tag Archives: Dave Dineen

June 16: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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This week we have a potpourri of blogs dealing with a variety of money-related topics topics you can read on these long late spring evenings.

On Brighter Life, Dave Dineen brings us up to date on his travels in Slow money: A richer way to travel in retirement. He says renting from a local, not a corporation and adopting a local lifestyle means he and his wife can afford weeks instead of days on a beautiful Italian island.

Retire Happy’s Jim Yih reminds couples getting married this summer that they need to talk about money. You or someone you know can certainly benefit from his list of things to talk about to help build the foundation for a better relationship.

We usually post Robb Engen’s blogs from Boomer & Echo but he also writes about lots of interesting issues on his blog Earn Save Grow. For example, he recently shared How an annoying pop up saved his business. By adding a “pop up” form allowing readers to sign up to receive updates from Boomer & Echo, he increased the number of subscribers from 250 to 1,600 in under six months.

Avoiding and paying off debt is a recurrent theme in all personal finance blogs. In Payday Loans: Think Twice Before Entering This Cycle of Debt Tom Drake reminds us that these high interest, short term loans can turn into serious long-term term debt, because the interest payable is astronomical. For example, the fees for payday loans are between $51 to $72 on a $300 loan, which works out to annual percentage rate of 443% to 626%!

And last but not least, Tim Stobbs finally bit the bullet and accepted a work cell phone because he is more offsite more frequently and he needs it to communicate with the office. However, he has devised A Leash for the Beast and turns it off outside of business hours. He also uses an app that separates his work and personal email.

I’m off to cottage until after Canada Day, so the next Best from the Blogosphere will appear on July 7th. Until then, throw another steak on the barbecue, pour yourself a tall cold one and don’t forget the sun screen and mosquito repellant.

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.

Feb 24: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 3: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 14: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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From almost the first day you started working, you began saving for retirement by paying into a pension plan or an RRSP. But now that you are on the “home stretch” to life after work, have you decided what you are going to do with your time?

Brighter Life’s Dave Dineen says now that he is retired, “What do you do?” is the question he dreads the most. Read how he seizes the day, does whatever he likes and makes up for lost time.

On FreefromBroke, Brianna discusses 9 things to do when you retire. Go back to school, travel, volunteer, start a business or start a blog! Suddenly your options are endless.

Huffington Post, senior editor Ann Brenhoff ponders how so many aspects of her personal life flow from her work. She says, “For my retirement equation to balance, I need the sense that I am essential to something or someone. And that’s what I fear trips up a lot of us. Is taking a photography class at the library really going to rock my boat?”

Daniel, a guest blogger on Boomer and Echo took a package after a 40 year career. Since then, he has had opportunities to work part-time but he is so busy with hobbies that he no longer wants to be tied down to a calendar.

And David Ashton notes in an August 2012 MoneySense article that Canadians can no longer rely on pensions, government benefits and bull markets to carry them through their golden years. He offers 7 strategies to make your money last including reinvent your job and cash in on the equity in your home to move to a less expensive area.

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.

Aug 5: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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The weather is about as good as it gets across Canada in early August, but it won’t be long before the leaves start to fall and temperatures plummet. That’s when some of us start wondering if we can afford retire somewhere warm.

If you are starting to do the research, take a look at the two part series The Pros, Cons, and Considerations of an International Retirement and 10 Best International Places to Retire on TopRetirements.com.

The pros and cons of Ecuador as a retirement destination is on the Wall Street Journal blog called MarketWatch so it is primarily geared to Americans, but there is also lots of useful information for other expats.

Another interesting U.S. post from the N.Y. Times considers how you can go abroad to places like Vietnam and Australia but keep working during at least the early part of your retirement.

But when it comes right down to it, even a tropical climate can’t replace close friends and family. That’s why you may decide to stay put and retire where everyone knows your name.

Regardless of where you decide to hang your hat for the next chapter, see seven habits of happily retired people shared by Brighter Life blogger Dave Dineen. He advocates trying new things, looking after yourself, caring for others and staying engaged.

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.

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 10: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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After two weeks away, my inbox is chock full of great new blogs.

For sheer entertainment, you can’t beat Kerry K. Taylor’s account of how she got evicted from WalMart while taking pictures for her latest Squawkfox blog Target vs. Walmart: Where’s the best deal?

It turns out the answer depends on what you are buying, but Kerry preferred the shopping experience at Target including designer-style fashions and Starbucks coffee on tap.

If you are working hard to save for an early retirement, check out Tim Stobbs’ blog Know Thyself on Canadian Dream: Free at 45 to find out what personality traits may help you to meet your financial goals.

Many people believe downsizing in retirement will free up capital needed for travel and everyday living expenses. However, on Brighter Life, Dave Dineen explains why downsizing in retirement doesn’t always work.

Other financial decisions like taking on a super-sized mortgage, a second job or going out of your way for a bargain also may not make good financial sense, according to Boomer.

And if you do have savings but you don’t like the investment returns you are getting, on RetireHappy.ca Jim Yih shares some ideas on how to be a better investor.

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.