Tag Archives: Kevin Press

Apr 13: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

There were several interesting provincial budgets this week with provisions impacting the cost of health care for seniors.

The Saskatchewan budget removed 6,000 seniors from the province’s drug plan. Previously the threshold of $80,255 was the cutoff for the drug plan. Anyone with a taxable income in excess of that amount was not eligible for the program. Now, the threshold will be lowered to $65,515.

The Alberta budget added a new Health Care Contribution Levy payable through the income tax system that will cost each Albertan up to $1,000 per year. Coverage and eligibility for provincial public health care programs remain unchanged. Unlike the previous Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan premium eliminated after 2008 that was a flat fee for individuals, the Levy has a progressive structure (See Table at p.87). Each member of a family filing an income tax return who has income over $50,000 will be subject to the levy and seniors are not exempt.

On another note, Mr. Money Moustache, a Canadian blogger living in the U.S. was recently profiled in the Globe & Mail. He and his wife retired at age 30. He says A Lifetime of Riches is As Simple As a Few Habits. This means doing less pointless driving around in your car and making fewer visits to restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. He also says alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, TV watching, video game playing, procrastination, unhealthy eating, sedentary living, and unnecessary shopping are other habits that stand between the average person and a truly wealthy life.

On Brighter Life, Sun Life VP Kevin Press presents blogs that will refresh your understanding of employee pension plans and employee benefit plans. He notes that Canadians who do not enjoy employer-sponsored benefit plan membership are at a significant disadvantage because provincial plans provide limited levels of coverage. What’s more, your reimbursements for health and dental claims are not taxable. So you’re almost always better off if your employer sponsors a plan versus paying you a higher salary.

And finally, an interesting post on Our Big Fat Wallet about getting compensated for a flight delay. Dan booked his ticket with Travelocity and he was not notified when the return flight was cancelled. Fortunately, the airline re-booked him several hours later and he received a $100 rebate from Travelocity and $75 from his Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite card that provides coverage of up to $500 per trip for trip delays of four hours or more.

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.

 

Mar 30: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Lots of good reading this week from the blogosphere.

If you are not sure what kind of pension plan you have or how it works, take a look at how employee pension plans work by Kevin Press on Brighter Life.

Retire Happy guest blogger and pension analyst Sean Cooper writes about three costly pension mistakes and how to avoid them. For example, if possible wait until you vest in your pension benefits (two years in Saskatchewan) before leaving or taking early retirement.

Michael James on Money helps you to calculate the interest rate your annuity is actually paying. He likes the idea of reducing longevity risk by purchasing an annuity but he says that according to his calculations the payouts on annuities seem much too low.

You have the ring and you are planning the wedding but do you have a joint financial plan? Diane O’Leary, guest blogger on the Financial Independence Hub discusses financial planning for young couples serious about their future together.

And finally, on Million Dollar Journey, Frugal Trader shares how his family of four lives on one government salary. It certainly helps that they have paid off all of their student loans and they have been mortgage-free since 2010. He also thinks twice before making impulse buys at Costco.

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 18: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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In this week’s Best from the blogosphere we revisit some of our old favourites who have appeared repeatedly in this space.

First of all, congratulations to Robb and Marie Engen who are pioneers in the world of personal finance blogging. This week they are Celebrating Four Years Of Boomer & Echo. Their articles have been featured in the Globe and Mail, MoneySense, the National Post, and MSN Money.  They’ve been interviewed and quoted in numerous online and print magazines, and recognized as one of the best personal finance blogs in Canada.  Robb also writes a bi-weekly column in the Toronto Star.

On retirehappy, Jim Yih crunches the numbers to find out if it makes good financial sense to Rent or own vacation property in Vernon, B.C. He concludes that the amount of $16,000/year it would cost to carry the property probably cannot be recouped by renting the unit for part of the year. He also decides that renting makes more sense because the property may not increase significantly in value over time.

Tim Stobbs keeps us up-to-date on his retirement journey on Canadian Dream: Free at 45. Therefore I was initially surprised when I saw I Hate Hard Work is the title of one of his recent blogs. But it makes more sense when he clarifies that he would rather work smart than work hard. That means even at the office he tends to focus most of his efforts on high impact items, so although he doesn’t work hard Tim says he is more effective than the majority of his co-workers.

“I just refuse to spend lots of time working on something when in fact if I focus on the core items I can get 80% of the work done with a mere 20% of my effort,” he says.

The Big Cajun Man, Allen Whitton reminds us that Lifestyle Creep is like “Feature Creep,” a term used in high tech development teams, where someone keeps trying to shove more and more into a release of software or hardware, thus slowing things down, and eventually making the whole thing unusable. In other words, if every time you get a raise or pay off a debt you use the money to buy a bigger house, a newer car or more consumer goods, your financial picture will never really improve.

And on Brighter Life, Kevin Press asks the perennial question, Why is financial literacy such a stubborn problem? He shares the following thoughts:

First, he thinks it’s a mistake to argue that personal finance is uniquely difficult to teach and learn. It is a complex and technical subject certainly, but so are dozens of others. We could just as easily be sweating about why so few Canadians understand how to take care of their cars.

Second, the complexity of the subject is not the issue. The problem is the way we are trying to teach it. Adult learning theory explains a number of things about how adults prefer to be taught new information.

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 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.

July 7: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

After two weeks of vacation in lovely (except for the mosquitoes) Muskoka, I’m back. And so are all of our favourite personal finance bloggers with lots of interesting material. In particular, we welcome back Kerry K. Taylor (aka Squawkfox) who has been on sick leave.

In her classic comeback post Kerry questions whether Dollarama’s $3 HDTV antenna is worth it.  The bottom line is that she was able to receive as many channels on the $3 antenna as on the $67 model she bought at Future Shop. Her readers also have made interesting comments about what worked and what didn’t in their part of the country when they ditched cable or satellite TV.

Alan Whitton (The Big Cajun Man) gives us three financial rules of thumb to live by: Spend less than you make; don’t confuse spending less with saving money if you are buying an item you don’t really need; and lifestyle creep is dangerous and an excuse to build up debt.

Sean Cooper wrote about how he reached $500,000 in net worth by age 29 in this post on Million Dollar Journey. He worked at multiple jobs, lived with his parents until he had a significant down payment on a house and rented out the top floor of his home while living in the basement apartment.

Mark Seed at My Own Advisor joins the legion of Canadians who are opting for VOIP telephone services instead of Bell or Rogers. For $4.95/month he got to keep his home phone number using Fongo Home Phone and after several months he states categorically that it was the right decision.

And last but not least, a free e:book Understanding Unretirement written by Today’s Economy blogger and Sun Life Financial Assistant Vice-President, Market Insights Kevin Press draws on six years of company research to explore why retirement in today’s economy is different and harder to achieve but could be better than ever before.

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 12: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

This week there were several interesting blogs about life insurance I’d like to share with you.

On Brighter Life, Kevin Press discusses Understanding life insurance. First of all he gives basic information regarding term, permanent and universal health insurance. But for Kevin, the question was never “term or permanent.” It was, “How much term and how much permanent?”

Robb Engen from Boomer & Echo outlines The 4 Best Strategies for Successful Life Insurance Applications including preliminary inquiries, multiple applications, a covering letter and an insurance broker who is knowledgeable and up to date.

In a Toronto Star column I wrote about Eight red flags when you apply for life insurance. If your application reveals you have or had a serious or life-threatening illness the insurer may charge you higher premiums or postpone coverage for specific conditions until you can show the condition has stabilized. Or, the insurer may refuse to cover you. However, you still may be a good candidate for a “simplified issue” policy.

In an archived article Retire Happy blogger Jim Yih tackles the question, Do you need life insurance in retirement? Several of the situations where he says life insurance makes sense for retirees are to:

  • Pay off debt
  • Cover taxes at death
  • Cover final expenses like funeral expenses
  • Provide income for dependants
  • Leave a larger estate
  • Equalize your estate
  • Business continuation
  • Provide for charities

And finally this week, thanks go to Dan on Our Big Fat Wallet who introduced his readers to The Secret Pension Plan: Saskatchewan Pension Plan. He gives a great summary of the main features of the program.

He says the Saskatchewan Pension Plan is great for anyone looking to invest but not quite comfortable with DIY investing. It’s also useful for the self-employed who have no desire to handle their own investments. The costs of the plan are low and they offer lots of flexibility. You can also get potentially-lucrative cash back rewards for all contributions if you make them on your credit card.

Many employers also offer this easy-to-administer pension plans as an employee benefit. You can get more information on the Saskatchewan Pension Plan here.

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.

Nov 25: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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Today we report on a series of interesting blogs with no particular theme.

If reality shows like Income Property have you thinking about whether or not you should buy and rent out part of your house to help cover the mortgage, you may want to read Sean Cooper’s blog 5 Lessons Learned as a First Time Landlord on Million Dollar Journey.

There is a lot of media coverage lately about the merits of buying index funds to keep fees down and ultimately earn more than if you invest your savings in actively traded mutual funds. On Boomer & Echo, Robb Engen says active investing may not be dead yet in  Score One For Active Management? Check Out These Index Beating Funds.

Every dollar counts when you retire, so you want to make sure you get everything that’s coming to you from the Canada Pension Plan. But on Retire Happy, Jim Yih says that of the CPP audits that he has conducted in the past six months, almost half of the clients were receiving less than they were entitled to because not all earnings were included in the pension calculation. He has suggestions how you can ensure you are being paid the correct amount of CPP.

My Own Advisor gives a Financial Literacy month primer on Old Age Security benefits and offers his controversial wish for OAS:  keep it afloat but overhaul this sacred cow so any individual senior making $70,000 or more is ineligible for OAS benefits.

And finally, on Brighter Life, Kevin Press asks, Should we worry about seniors living in poverty? Answering his own question, he says that although one in five Canadians is worried about being able to cover basic living expenses in retirement, we live in a country considered a world leader in the fight against senior citizen poverty.

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.

October 28: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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This week we have random posts from some of our favourite bloggers that consider how you can save for retirement, invest your savings and spend your money after retirement.

Robb Engen on Boomer & Echo thinks that many media money makeovers are unrealistic, and that we really need to prioritize our financial goals. He shares his portrait of the ideal saver.

When it comes to spending and saving money, for many of us monthly mortgage payments take the biggest chunk out of our earnings. From the archives of the Canadian Finance blog, Nelson Smith offers 6 ways to save thousands on your next mortgage.

Saving is not enough. You have to invest your money in a way that both minimizes risk and maximizes growth of your account. A Young and Thrift blogger explains how he finally overcame his inertia and invested the $100,000 cash he had in his accounts. Spoiler alert: He topped up his TFSA and RRSP and then invested in ETFs.

But the Canadian Capitalist says we can learn a thing or two on how to invest our own money from the manner in which the CPPIB invests our surplus Canada Pension Plan contributions.

And finally, however much you save and whatever your plans are, Kevin Press tells us how you choose to spend your retirement will be a compromise. That’s because recent Sun Life research revealed seven ways men and women disagree about 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 21: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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Over the last year the blogs at savewithspp.com have focused on ways you can spend less and save more. By paying yourself first and allocating a fixed amount to savings each month, you can put your savings plan on autopilot. Here are some additional ideas from some of our favourite bloggers.

Before you start socking away your savings, most financial advisors will tell you to set aside a three to 12-month emergency fund. Tom Drake on Canadianfinanceblog.com discusses why an emergency fund really matters and how to build one.

In Where to find your savings Gail Vaz-Oxlade says nickel and dime-ing is really worth it. If you save $5 a day 20 days a month and put the money in your retirement plan earning 7% on average, in 20 years you will have $55,000. That’s got to be worth $5 a day, and a little time to find it!

Robb Engen on boomer& echo identifies lifestyle enhancers such as cable television, shopping at Costco, paying for a housecleaner and children’s activities as potential budget busters he is keeping a close eye on.

It’s fine to cut corners, but if you think the Fraser Institute got it wrong in a report that says you can raise a child for $3,000/year, you are not alone. Squawkfox blogger Kerry K. Taylor explains why daycare, accommodation and transportation costs have to be factored in to get a true picture.

Finally, Thanksgiving may be over for another year, but Canadians have much to be thankful for every day. Check out Kevin Press’ Brighter Life blog that summarizes findings of an OECD online report that outlines seven reasons to love living in this country.

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.