Tag Archives: MoneySense

Feb 1: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

In this space we typically provide links to interesting work by our favourite personal finance writers about topics ranging from money-saving tips to retirement savings to retirement lifestyle. But many of these prolific bloggers have also posted great videos on YouTube with helpful tips and tricks for people looking for ways to better manage their money.

So keeping in mind the old adage that “a picture can be worth a thousand words,” this week we identify a series of videos featuring pundits you already know well. While some of these videos are not new, they have stood the test of time.

Take a minute to watch at least a few of them, and let us know whether you would like to see more video content on savewithspp.com.

Sean Cooper is a pension administrator by day and a hard-working personal finance writer by night. Watch him burn the mortgage he paid off in 3 years and reveal his super saver secrets.

One of a kind blogs like How to get married for $239 by Kerry K. Taylor, aka Squawkfox have have been read by thousands of eager fans. In this video she discusses with the Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick, How to stop wasting money.

In Life After Financial Independence as part of his Tea At Taxevity series, actuary Promod Sharma interviews author and former MoneySense editor Jonathan Chevreau about his post-retirement projects, including the Financial Independence Hub.

TV personality and personal finance guru Gail Vaz-Oxlade is interviewed on Toronto Speaks: Personal Finance about spending beyond your budget.

Studies suggest that 6 out of 10 Canadians do not have a retirement plan. Why is that number so high? Retire Happy’s Jim Yih shares a couple of theories about why it’s hard to plan for 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.

Dec 21: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Recently Rob Carrick at the Globe and Mail wrote Prepare for the worst and make 2016 the year of the emergency fund. According to Carrick, the emergency fund is how you survive a financial setback without raiding your retirement savings, adding to your line of credit debt or borrowing from relatives. “Think of an emergency fund as insurance against a short-term setback that affects your long-term financial goals,” Carrick says.

20 Reasons Why You Need am Emergency Fund by Trent Hamm on thesimpledollar.com lists all of the obvious reasons (job loss, illness, urgent medical expenses) why you may need to tap into an emergency fund plus a few you never thought of. Some more obscure examples are:

  • Your identity is stolen, locking you out of your credit cards and/or bank account for a while until the issue gets straightened out.
  • An unexpected professional change forces you to relocate quickly.
  • A relative or friend of yours passes away suddenly in another part of the country (or the world).
  • You discover your partner is cheating on you, and for your own safety and peace of mind you have to pack your bags quickly and go.

How much do you need to save in your emergency fund? Typically financial experts suggest three to six months of fixed (as opposed to completely discretionary expenses). Emergency fund calculators from RBC and moneyunder30.com can help you figure out how much you should set aside.

Jason Heath at MoneySense is not a big fan of emergency funds if that means a substantial amount of cash sitting in a bank account doing nothing. He says, “I’m all for having the potential to cover 6 months of expenses in the event of an emergency. But I’d rather someone be able to do so through a combination of modest savings and ideally, a low-interest rate debt facility like a secured line of credit.”

Gail Vax-Oxlade believes the TFSA is a perfect place to stash your emergency fund. She says, “The best thing about the TFSA is its flexibility. You can take money out of your TFSA at any time for any purpose, without losing the contribution room, which makes this account the number one choice for socking away an emergency fund. So even if you take money out in one year, you can put it back the next, without affecting that year’s contribution limit ($5,500 for 2016).”

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 23: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

This week we are back to everyone’s favourite topic – how to get ready for retirement. If you haven’t already maxed out your 2015 Saskatchewan Pension Plan, RRSP and TFSA contributions, now is the time to make sure you are “on plan” before you start spending more than you can afford in the run up to the holiday season.

If you are not a Globe & Mail regular reader, check out the new Globe Retirement series. I particularly like Boomer retirement planning: A nine-step guide to ease your mind by our perennial favourite Rob Carrick. The publication’s online fee disclosure tool will show you how the advisory fees you pay compare with other investors.

Michael James on Money writes about Retirement Spending Stages. While there is evidence that older seniors spend less, he says spending too much in the early years of retirement could mean in your later years all you have left to live on is government benefits and any pension streams you may have.

In Save like this, retire like that – My story about early retirement in style Mark Seed interviews “RBull” from Canadian Money Forum who retired in 2014 in his 50s. He estimates that his savings rate averaged a little over 20% for about 20+ years. Approximately two years before retiring he sold almost all his stock positions to purchase broad market ETFs to simplify the portfolio, increase diversity and keep fees low.

Dan Wesley who blogs at Our Big Fat Wallet is in an enviable position. His TFSA and RRSP are Maxed Out and he is trying to decide where where to put his additional savings. Options include paying down the mortgage, opening a TFSA for his wife and opening a taxable investment account.

In MoneySense, Jon Chevreau discusses Saving mistakes you’re probably making. The single biggest mistake of course is NOT saving at all, says Adrian Mastracci, president of Vancouver-based KCM Wealth Management Inc. The easiest thing in the world is to spend 100% of what you earn or even worse, fall into debt. Chevreau says at the root of the failing-to-save mistake is the failing-to-live-within-your-means error.

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 26: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

As I write this, perhaps the most newsworthy item of the last week has been the election of the new Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But it will be weeks and months before we know what impact the change in government will actually have on our day to day lives and the Canadian economy.

So today, we go back to basics and draw on the writings of many of our favourite personal finance bloggers and mainstream media pundits who day in and day out, produce articles that help us better manage our money.

The thought of being unemployed is terrifying, but the odds are it will happen to you or a close family member at least once in your lifetime. On Money We Have, Barry Choi writes about How to Prepare for Unemployment. He suggests that you have an emergency fund; a side hustle and that you improve your skills.

Gail Vaz-Oxlade tackles Parenting on a Budget. She says the trick to not letting kids’ expenses get way out of hand is to allocate a specific amount to each child’s activities and needs, and stick with the plan. Start by listing all the things your children do for which you must lay out some of your hard-earned bucks.

Krystal Yee has been vegetarian for almost two years now. She shares on Give me back my five bucks her one month experiment moving from vegetarian to vegan. She anticipates higher than normal grocery bills and that it will be tough to change her habits, but she is hoping that one month will turn to two months and the result will be a new lifestyle.

If you wonder where your money goes, you’ll enjoy The crunch years: Where the money goes by Matt McCleern on MoneySense. McCleern tracked every cent he spent digitally, over the last 12 years. He says transportation and daycare were real budget busters, but the best financial decision he ever made was to aggressively pay down his mortgage.

And in the Huffington Post, Pramod Udiaver discusses five major trends that will affect how you retire. They are increasing longevity; the lower return environment; fewer defined benefit pension plans; and growing health care costs.

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

Sept 14: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Over the last weeks the stock markets have been bouncing all over the place and now we are told that the Canadian economy is officially in recession. While it is natural to be concerned, particularly if you are close to retirement, the general consensus from most experts is to have confidence in your financial plan and stay the course. Today, and in coming weeks we will provide you with information to help you weather the storm.

In How to make sense of markets gone mad, Toronto Star personal finance writer Adam Mayers says this is a market correction of significant proportions. It could be short and sharp, or it may be long and lingering depending on how the real economy reacts. It may be tough to take the gyrations, but what it does do is set the stage for the next big rise.

Rob Carrick at the Globe and Mail says It’s decision time for your ‘dead’ money. If the summer market decline hasn’t stoked your appetite to buy stocks, he suggests that all the cash piling in your account is pretty much dead money. That’s true if you’re leaving the money uninvested, and also if you’ve taken the good sense step of keeping your cash in a high interest investment account.

MoneySense authors Jessica Bruno and Dean DiSpalatro consider What the recession means for your portfolio. They interviewed Jay Nash, portfolio manager at Roberts Nash Advisory Group, National Bank Financial, in London, Ontario. Nash’s message to clients is straightforward: The recession was largely focused in the energy sector, with other areas of the economy performing well. Most importantly, June’s solid data—pushed along by consumer spending—was better than expected.

Protecting your retirement income from the stock market by Wayne Rothe is on Retire Happy. Rothe reviews “Your Retirement Income Blueprint,” by Winnipeg financial advisor Daryl Diamond. Diamond writes about the impact of market gyrations on the “retirement risk zone.” This is generally the five years immediately before and after retirement age. A big drop in the value of your investments during this period can be disastrous.

And finally, Michael James on Money questions How Much Diversification Do You Need? He says, “Diversification is simple for indexers like me. We own all stocks for as low a cost as possible. There is no such thing as ‘di-worse-ification’ because we have no opinions about one stock being better than others. There is no reason to fret over active mutual funds because index funds are cheaper and cover the same asset classes.”

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.

BOOK REVIEW: Wealthing Like Rabbits

By Sheryl Smolkin

I don’t often review personal finance books because it seems to take an inordinate amount of time to wade through yet another statement of the obvious just to glean enough cogent information to give readers a taste of what the book is all about.

But when I read accolades from the likes of Gail Vaz-Oxlade, Preet Bannerjee, Roma Luciw, Dan Bortolotti plus a whole bunch of my other favourite personal finance bloggers in the introductory pages of the book, I thought I’d better keep on going to find out what all of the fuss is about.

Author Robert R. Brown says Wealthing Like Rabbits is written to be a fun and unique introduction to personal finance and suggests that any book that includes sex, zombies and a reference to Captain Picard is “an absolute must read,” regardless of genre.

Brown starts out by asking how many rabbits there would be after 60 years if 24 rabbits were released on a farm on a great big island. Before providing an answer to this question, he introduces the need to save for retirement, although he doesn’t begin to predict how much you or I will need. His only conclusion is that “more is better” because it is better to be 65 years old with $750,000 saved than 65 years old with $75,000 saved.

Then he reveals that there would be 10 billion rabbits after 60 years and launches into a discussion of the history and key features of registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) and tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs). Subsequently he riffs about how many zombies there would be in England if France sent 100/week for 40 years.

If you are still with me, you may wonder — what is the point of all this?

Not surprisingly of course, it’s to illustrate the power of compounding, whether in relation to rabbits, or money or zombies. We learn that just $100/wk deposited in an RRSP earning 6% for 40 years will add up to a nest egg of $624,627.

But the positive and the negative impact of compounding interest are also very cleverly brought home in later chapters. I particularly liked the comparison of brothers Mario and Luigi who both had similar incomes and $100,000 for a down payment on a house. They went to the bank to find how big a mortgage they were eligible for.

Mario’s banker told him “he could afford” to buy a house for $525,000. Luigi told the mortgage specialist he needed $10,000 for closing costs and the $90,000 balance had to cover at least 20% of the purchase price of the house so the most he would be willing to spend is $450,000.

The story continues with Mario buying a 3,000 square foot home for $525,000. Luigi sticks to his budget and buys a 1,600 square home nearby for $350,000. Over 20 years, compound interest on the mortgage means that Mario ends up paying $807,538 for his house while Luigi only has to fork out $538,359.

Similarly, when it comes to debt, Brown illustrates that high interest credit card debt can quickly escalate if balances are not paid off every month. Even I did not realize until recently that if you miss your payment due date by even as little as one day, the interest-free grace period completely disappears. In fact you have to pay interest on the amount of each transaction from the date each and every purchase was made.

Brown also reviews the characteristics of a line of credit; a home owner’s line of credit; bank loans and consolidation loans. While generally he believes all of these can cause severe damage to your financial health, he recognizes that when handled properly, they each have their place.

But he draws a line in the sand when it comes to payday loans. Never, ever get a payday loan, Brown says.

He gives the example of Buddy who borrows $400 from a payday loan place because his furnace broke down. He is charged $21 for every $100 he borrows for just two weeks. Two weeks later he pays the payday lender $484. That’s 21% for only 14 days, which works out to 546% annually. And that’s only the beginning.

If Buddy can’t pay in two weeks the payday loan company will charge him an NSF penalty and continue to accumulate stratospheric interest rates on the whole amount. Further defaults mean he will likely be hounded both by telephone at home and at work day and night. The file may be handed over to an even more aggressive collection agency.

In the second last chapter, Brown offers a brain dump of financial tips (which he doesn’t call “Fifty Shades of Brown”):

    • Spousal RRSPs are cool.
    • MoneySense magazine is a great source of personal finance information.
    • Eat dinner at home. Then go out for a fancy coffee and desert to Starbucks.
    • Buy life insurance, not mortgage insurance from your bank.
    • Read Preet Banerjee’s book Stop Overthinking Your Money for the skinny on life insurance.
    • Use the noun“wealth” as a verb. So instead of saving $150/week in your RRSP you will be wealthing your money.

And finally, Brown’s parting words at the end of the book are “you’ve got to show up.” Put some money away for your future. Live in a house that makes sense. Be smart about how you spend your money. Spend less than you earn. Be comfortable living within your means. He says it really is that simple.

Wealthing Like Rabbits is funny and engaging and it hits all the personal finance bases. Regardless of whether you are a Millennial, a Gen Xer or a Boomer, you will find lots of tips on how to save more, spend less and still have a lot of fun along the way. 

The book can be purchased in hardcover for $16.95 and the epub and kindle versions are available for $7.99.

10 things you need to know about selling your home

By Sheryl Smolkin

One sure sign of spring is the “For Sale” signs sprouting on lawns across the country along with the dandelions and tulips. Whether you are downsizing or upsizing, you want to get the best possible price for your home.

If you live in a house long enough it is easy to overlook the watermark on the ceiling where the shower leaked or the wear and tear on the kitchen cabinets. But prospective buyers will notice everything. Unless you spruce the place up a bit, your house may take a long time to sell and the proceeds of sale might be much lower than the listing price.

Here are 10 things you can you can do to increase the odds that you will get top dollar for your house:[i]

  1. Internet ready: Most prospective buyers let their fingers do the walking first on the Internet and they want to see pictures. That means you have to make ensure your home is photo-ready and even hire a professional photographer.
  2. When to list: Spring and fall are typically the best times to list. Families with children often prefer to move at the end of the school year. The curb appeal of homes can be higher in these seasons and buyers may be more in the mood to house hunt when they don’t have climb through snow. However, in prime time there also may be more competing listings in your area.
  3. Improve curb appeal: Take down the Christmas lights. Put away snow shovels. Make sure the grass is cut and either plant flowers or buy flowers in pots. If the paint on the outside trim or the garage door is worn, arrange for touch-ups. House hunters will very quickly form a first impression of your home when they drive up.
  4. Clean it up: Wash carpets, walls, dust the chandeliers, clean bathroom grout. A 2010 Home Sale Maximizer Survey by the blog HomeGain estimated the cost of scouring and organizing a house at about $200 and the resulting expected home price increase at $1,700. That’s an 870% return on your investment!
  5. Declutter: The larger and more open your home appears, the easier it will be for buyers to imagine living there. Get rid of piles of magazines or newspapers. Thin out the books on your bookshelves. Put away or store kitchen appliances that take up scarce space on your counters.
  6. Paint: If your paint job is in poor condition or you currently have distinctive or dark colours, consider a paint job in a neutral colour or white. It will make your home look larger, cleaner and brighter.
  7. Stage right: You may have either too much or too little furniture and other stuff on display. Take the advice of your real estate agent or a staging professional. Put items in storage if necessary and change the layout of the rooms. Get rid of small items on coffee tables and side tables. If you have moved out, rent furniture so prospective buyers can envisage where their things will fit.
  8. Upgrade the hardware: Are your light fixtures outdated with burned out bulbs? How about the handles on your kitchen and bathroom cabinets or the mirrors? Upgrading small things at a small cost can often enhance the look of your home.
  9. Relocate the pets: Fleecy and Fido may be much-loved members of your family, but that doesn’t mean somebody else’s family will feel the same way. During the period your house is for sale, give your pets a vacation. And make sure all sign of them like balls of fur growing in corners and the kitty litter are removed.
  10. Fresh smells: If your house smells musty, of cigarette smoke, pet odours or last night’s dinner, buyers will be turned off. Air out the house. Get rid of old smelly carpets. Avoid air fresheners because many people are allergic to scents or find them offensive. A real estate agent once told me to boil cinnamon or bake cookies (and leave them on a plate) before an open house.

[i] See Get top dollar for your home