Tag Archives: Financial Post

Dec 14: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

I’ve been thinking about the cost of health and long term care a lot lately because my 88- year old Mom recently had a bad fall and cracked five ribs. She is recovering at home but she is in a lot of pain, and requires 24/7 care for the foreseeable future.

The plan has always been to keep her in her own apartment as long as possible. Fortunately her wonderful, privately-paid caregiver (a registered practical nurse) who normally works 40 hours/week has virtually moved in and is helping us to take excellent care of her. But as costs mount up over the short run, we are beginning to wonder if this will be a luxury she soon can’t afford.

Access to public resources varies across the country, but in Thornhill, Ontario where she lives , I’ve been told that a maximum of one hour a day (and most probably only two hours a week) will be offered to her on the government dime. But I’m grateful that 22 in-house physiotherapy sessions to get her up and moving better and train her to avoid future falls have been approved.

So if health and long-term care are not in your retirement planning radar yet, I have put together a few recent articles that may get you thinking about what you can expect.

On Retire Happy, Donna McCaw writes about Your Health in Retirement: Asking for Help. She cites staggering statistics from the Vancouver based Canadian Men’s Health Foundation about men and heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, alcohol-related deaths as well as suicide. She interviewed recently-retired men who made it their first priority to get healthy and get rid of their “ring around the waist” by embracing fitness and learning to eat healthy.

Life after retirement: Health care costs require careful planning in the Financial Post is by Audrey Miller, the Managing Director of  http://www.eldercaring.ca/. She cites home care costs by the week and by the year (albeit in Ontario) and says as family members and professionals, we need to be better prepared. The cost of care is only going to become more expensive, especially as our public and private resources are reduced. Not only will we soon have more seniors than young people under 15, but our pool of those who are willing to be paid to do this work will also become smaller.

The coming health benefits shock for retirees by Adam Mayers at the Toronto Star reminds us that contrary to what many people believe, glasses, drugs and nursing homes will not in most cases be paid for by our universal health care. He quotes Kevin Dougherty, president of Sun Life Financial Canada who says one reason for the disconnect may be that we form an opinion of the health system through our use of it. Most of us are covered by workplace health plans and we don’t need much from these plans during our earlier years, and into middle age what we do need is covered.

Navigating Retirement healthcare is a comprehensive report from CIBC Wood Gundy discussing health care cost considerations in retirement. The study notes that long-term care is classified as an extended healthcare service under the Canada Health Act but the role of publicly-funded LTC facilities is changing as provincial governments limit the expansion of these facilities by reducing the number of registered nurses, maintaining or decreasing the number of available beds, and tightening the qualifications for acceptance into a facility.

Even if these policies were reversed, an individual’s current wait time of one year will likely increase unless significant expansion of the LTC provision occurs. The result is that a greater number of seniors are paying to enter more expensive for-profit private or semi-private facilities that can cost up to $7,000 or more a month.

Finally, Long-term care costs in Saskatchewan 2014 by Sun Life discusses how residential facilities, retirement homes/residences, government-subsidized home care, adult day care and private home care operate. Government subsidized options including home care are administered by the Regional Health Authority (RHA). As RHA resources are limited, many seniors don’t get the care they need from RHA services and have to rely on private home care services. The provincial tariff for skilled nursing ranges from $42-$70/hour while 24 hour live-in care can cost from $21-30/hr.

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.

Cheap, Clever Halloween Costumes

By Sheryl Smolkin

In October 2014, Hollie Shaw at the Financial Post reported on the $1-billion fright economy. Apparently Canadians have become so wild about Halloween we now spend more per capita on costumes, candy and décor than our U.S. counterparts do, with holiday-related spending that is second only to Christmas.

“In the past three years, the Halloween holiday has just gone viral in Canada — we have just seen it shoot up,” said Diane Brisebois, the Retail Council’s president and CEO told Shaw. “Adults have really, really gotten into it. Now it’s adults and their pets. In Canada, it has become so popular that people are pretty much decorating anything.

Far be it from me to rain on anyone’s parade, but if you are having trouble making ends meet, or if you are trying to come up with ways to better afford a retirement savings plan, minimizing your expenditures at Halloween might be a good start.

Here are some helpful hints on some cheap, clever costumes, whether you and/or your children are planning to trick or treat close to home or attend a Halloween party.

  1. Princess costume: A sparkly crown from the dollar store, last year’s Christmas dress, make up and costume jewelry will go a long way to turn your pre-schooler into a princess. You don’t have to spring for the last Disney confection that in late October weather will probably be covered by a coat
  2. Doctor, lawyer: I am a lawyer and still have my court gowns, tabs and shirt. I can’t tell you over the years how many times I or my children have appeared as lawyers or judges on Halloween. The tools and “uniforms” of any other profession or trade can become a costume.
  3. Orange is the new black: If you can get your hands on orange scrubs (or dye some) and lots of fake tattoos you can masquerade as this hit Netflix show. A group can also select different characters in the show and add hairdos, make up or cheap wigs to enhance their look.
  4. Bag of jelly beans: I love this kooky costume. All you need is a bunch of colourful balloons, a piece of ribbon, a clear garbage bag and the ingredients list to write on the back. You cut two holes in the bottom of the bag, fill it with balloons and tie a bow around your neck. Voilà, you are a bag of jelly beans.
  5. Rubik’s cube: This costume requires that you be a bit crafty. The raw materials are a square cardboard box, coloured squares of construction paper and black electrical tape. The completed box is worn over a black top and pants or leggings.
  6. Superhero Underoos: I remember when my kids were little, superhero underoos were a highly coveted reward when they finally left diapers behind. Guess what – new superhero underoos for adults are not only functional, they can form the basis of a great costume for the comic book geek in your life.
  7. Sports: Whatever sports equipment and typical garb you have on hand can be used to dress you or your child as an athlete. For example, a tennis player will wear all white and carry a racket. A yoga instructor will wear yoga pants, a headband and carry a rolled up yoga mat. A golf pro will have plaid pants, a golf shirt, golf shoes, a sun visor and a putter.
  8. Olympic/Pan Am medalist: Did you buy sweats or other outfits from The Bay after the last Olympics or Pan Am games? Well get them out of the bottom drawer. Then fashion as many gold, silver and bronze medals as you like and hang them on ribbons around your neck. You can even put the name of your favourite world class athlete on the back of your jacket.
  9. Second-hand stores: If you have a good imagination, Value Village or other second-hand stores can be a great place to pick up costume components. An oversized sports jacket and a used fedora can turn your child into a detective or an investigative reporter. Old wedding or prom dresses are the stuff from which fantasies are made.
  10. Freebies and deals: The day after Halloween is over, stores bring out the Christmas paraphernalia. That means they need to free up floor space fast. If you have storage space and can guess-timate what size your kids will wear next year, you may be able to pick up ready-made costumes at greatly-reduced prices.

Also read:

Halloween on the cheap

Apr 27: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

If you haven’t filed your income tax return yet it’s really getting down to the wire. Whether you take advantage of them this year or next, here are some tax tips that could put more money in your pocket,

Are you entitled to a tax refund for your medical expenses? by Brenda Spiering on Brighter Life draws on her experience following her son’s accident when she learned that the part of his dental bills not covered by her health insurance at work could be claimed as a tax credit along with a portion of her health insurance premiums.

Tax accountant Evelyn Jacks addresses The Mad Dash to April 30th in Your Money. Your Life. She says once you have filed your taxes, the most important question is how you will spend your tax return. Some options are: pay down debt; save in a TFSA; use RRSP room; invest in an RESP; or invest in a Registered Disability Savings Plan.

Hey last-minute tax filers: Don’t make these common, costly mistakes says Stephen Karmazyn in the Financial Post. For example, only eight percent of taxpayers are planning to claim the Canada Employment Amount (which is a credit for work-related expenses such as home computers, uniforms, supplies) even though anyone with a T4 income can make a claim.

In a timeless blog on Retire Happy, Jim Yih offers RRSP and Tax Planning Tips. He recommends that only one spouse claim charitable deductions. That’s because the credit for charitable donations is a two-tiered federal credit of 16% on the first $200 and 29% on the balance (plus provincial credits). Spouses are allowed to claim the other’s donations and to carry forward donations for up to five years. By carrying forward donations and then having them all claimed by one spouse, the first $200 threshold with the lower credit is only applied once.

And in a Global news video Smart Cookies: Last Minute Tax Tips, Kate Dunsworth shares last minute reminders for people who have been procrastinating with their taxes. She says if you are expecting a refund and you are not planning to file on time because you don’t owe anything, you are basically giving the government a tax free loan. And if you owe money, you will be penalized for every single day you file late. Also, repeat late offenders will be penalized up to double.

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

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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.

Nov 4: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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Within the last few weeks the push to expand the Canada Pension Plan has been gathering steam in Ontario and PEI. Here are some articles from the mainstream media that will bring you up to speed on the arguments pro and con.

Push to expand Canada Pension Plan gaining steam

Grow the CPP – A better way to save | Canadian Labour Congress

CPP expansion would be too late for poor retired Boomers: study …

Time to put Flaherty on the spot | Toronto Star

CFIB: Canada can’t afford CPP expansion | Financial Post

But I really like Tim Stobbs’ take on the argument that we can’t expand CPP because higher payroll taxes will kill jobs. On Canadian Dream: Free at 45, he says, “Raising a tax won’t kill jobs…it will likely shift some around, but not remove them from the total.  So don’t hide behind that as an excuse to avoid changing a program that will help the majority of people save for retirement.”

But even if CPP is expanded, it will take a generation or more for Canadians to realize the full benefits of an enhanced program. That’s why you need to save and invest on your own. Find out how to maximize your savings for retirement and other objectives in 5 Financial Principles from a 34 Year Old Millionaire Investor.

If you have a workplace pension and are wondering about whether or not you should also contribute to an RRSP, take a look at this archived blog from Gail Vaz-Oxlade.

And as the year comes to an end, many of us will be faced with the dreaded performance review. On Brighter Life, Gerald McGroarty offers 10 tips to help make your year-end appraisal an occasion for celebration, not frustration.

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.

May 13: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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The May 4th article Not your grandfather’s financial website: The new, fresh face of money sites in the Financial Post by Melissa Leong highlights a new wave of bloggers and personal finance gurus who are shaking up how young people get information about money.

She says some of the sites get millions of hits on any given month, embracing readers’ voyeuristic penchant for personal stories and catering to their  anxiety about money and hunger for information. We follow many of these bloggers already and we will follow more of them in future.

Consistent with this theme, today’s Best from the blogosphere draws your attention to some blogs that may be of interest to both parents and their offspring.

On Youth and Work lawyer Andrew Langille focuses on workplace law issues relating to young people, including his major area of interest which is illegal, unpaid internships. While he primarily focuses on Ontario law, his provocative ideas cross provincial boundaries.

One of the major problems that face Canadians approaching retirement is that they are often still supporting unemployed or underemployed offspring. On boomer & echo Boomer comments on Lending Money To Friends And Family.

For young people managing their own money for the first time, on BrighterLife.ca Brenda Spiering writes New grad? Four money tips you need to know.

If your kids are a little younger, you still have time to enhance their financial literacy. On retirehappy.ca, Sarah Yetkiner discusses Setting Kids Up For Financial Success.

And finally, from the mainstream media, check out this press release, Boomers risk straining finances to support boomerang kids: TD poll.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?”  Send us an email with the information to socialmedia@saskpension.com and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.