Personal Finance Tips Delivered Weekly
December 15, 2014
The power of compounding
I wish I had learned about the power of compounding a long time ago. As a kid I walked dogs in the neighbourhood, earning $5 a week. If I'd started investing that weekly $5 from age nine until 65, it would have grown to approx. $258,000, assuming an eight per cent return.
December 1, 2014
Cut your holiday expenses
The closer the holidays loom, the less time harried families have to buy gifts, plan seasonal events and make travel arrangements. Unfortunately, when time is at a premium and you're forced to make last-minute decisions, it's usually your budget that suffers.
November 17, 2014
Go on an energy diet and save money
Like many Canadians, you're probably dreading the upcoming winter's heating bills and already anticipating the lower costs of spring. As I head into my first winter living in a new (but older) home, I wanted to look into some ways consumers can conserve energy - and cut utility bills. Here are some of their money-saving tips.
November 3, 2014
Before You Rent, Do Your Homework
Maybe you're a college or university student looking to rent your first apartment or a downsizing homeowner re-entering the rental market for the first time in decades. Whatever your situation, there are many precautions you should take before renting any property. The last thing you want is to be saddled with a 12-month lease you can't afford or to be stuck in a neighborhood you've come to dislike.
October 20, 2014
Keeping Funeral Costs Affordable
Anyone who has put a loved one to rest knows that funerals can be expensive. The overall cost will depend on the goods and services selected by you and your family, but can add up quickly with considerations such as transportation of the deceased from another province or territory or out of the country, using the funeral home's facilities, embalming, casket, cemetery plot, headstone, flowers, obituaries, limousine and more.
October 6, 2014
Put your financial windfall to good use
Statisticians say the odds of winning the lottery are about the same as being struck by lightning. There are many other, smaller financial windfalls you're much more likely to experience – everything from tax refunds or inheritances to a raise or bonus at work.
September 29, 2014
Direct payment can ease the hassle of paying bills
Paying bills is not a popular pastime. Aside from departing with your money, it can be a tedious routine of travelling to your local financial institution or writing and mailing cheques. I've also experienced a few late fees when payments got stuck at the post office and didn't arrive in time.
September 15, 2014
Coping with Expensive Kids' Extracurricular Activities
When budgeting for back-to-school expenses, parents generally include routine fare like clothes, school supplies and maybe a new backpack. But if your kids participate in extracurricular activities, whether it's sports, music lessons or art classes, you could be on the hook for hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars in additional expenses throughout the year if you're not careful.
September 1, 2014
How to Replace Important Documents
If your wallet has ever been lost or stolen, you know what a pain it is to replace your driver's license. That goes double when other vital documents like your, passport, birth certificate or car registration are misplaced or destroyed in a natural disaster. Without the proper ID, you can't start a new job, buy a house, apply for insurance or a host of other common transactions.
August 18, 2014
A crash course in credit card basics for university students
University students have many sound reasons for getting a credit card: It's a good way to start building a solid credit history, safer than carrying large amounts of cash and can be a lifesaver in an emergency. But inexperienced credit card users who don't fully understand how they work, or the need for restraint and responsible spending, sometimes dig themselves into a deep hole.
August 4, 2014
Should You Become Executor of Someone's Estate?
One of the most important decisions you'll make when writing your will is determining who should be named executor of your estate. Even if you're just leaving behind household goods and a small savings account, someone – whether appointed by you or the government – must settle your affairs.
July 21, 2014
Protect your personal finances during divorce
Divorce is often referred to as the No. 2 most stressful life event, second only to death of a spouse. And no wonder: Besides its obvious emotional impact, getting divorced can also be a financial nightmare as you're forced to deal with nagging details like separating your finances, acquiring your own health insurance and deciding who will claim the kids as tax deductions.
June 30, 2014
Graduating to 'the real world'
Anyone who's graduated from university understands the relief of leaving behind years of cramming for exams and living on dorm food. With the next chapter of their lives now at hand, this year's grads deserve kudos for successfully negotiating the twists and turns of higher education. Now the fun begins.
June 16, 2014
Creating Your Vacation Budget
Summer vacation is right around the corner. And while some prefer to plan every detail of their travel plans, sometimes the best vacation moments are spontaneous. But unless your rich uncle is paying for the trip, you'll need to do a certain amount of budgeting. You do have a vacation budget right? If not, start with a travel calculator like the one found on Practical Money Skills for Life: http://practicalmoneyskills.ca/travelcalculator.
June 2, 2014
Don't hear wedding bell money blues
Many people recall their wedding day as one of their happiest, filled with cherished memories and promises of a bright future. But at an average cost of more than $32,000 (according to a recent survey by Weddingbells magazine), it's not surprising that some weddings start couples off on the wrong financial footing, setting the stage for future money problems.
May 19, 2014
Financial 'resolutions' not just for New Year's
By the summer, many of us have forgotten about our New Year's Resolutions. We've either successfully lost those 10 pounds, or given up until next January. But you still have several months to make good on your pledges, and a whole lifetime to reap the rewards.
May 5, 2014
For Mother's Day, Discuss Mom's Financial Future
On Mother's Day, children of all ages thank their moms for the many sacrifices made during their childhoods – and well beyond, considering how many adult children still hit up their moms for a loan or free babysitting.
April 11, 2014
Selling your home sweet home
Spring seems to be a typical time for people to test the housing market by listing their homes. Interest rates have remained low over the last couple of years, so more people have been thinking about taking the plunge before the rates start to rise.
March 31, 2014
The high cost of raising kids
The idea of what it costs to raise a child has been hotly debated in Canada in the past year. While some estimates have suggested $15,000 – 20,000 annually, last summer the Fraser Institute suggested that an annual cost of $3,000 to $4,500 is a more realistic figure. That report attracted a lot of attention, because it didn't account for the cost of daycare, or lost income from one parent staying at home.
March 17, 2014
Senior discounts not just for seniors
For a long time, my mother-in-law really resisted using 'seniors' discounts – after all, she didn't feel like she was a senior! Eventually the discounts and deals proved too good to ignore and she started to take advantage of what was on offer. But for her, and others like her – good news! The organization formerly known as the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP.) no longer requires its members to be returned. After all, life is changing – people choose to work longer or some are able to retire quite early! Now, anyone can join CARP (www.carp.ca) , and can take advantage of some of the great deals they offer.
March 3, 2014
How to catch a 'Phish'
Their names may sound funny but their financial consequences are not: "Phishing," "smishing," "vishing" and "pharming" are just a few of the ways criminals can gain access to personal information via your computer or smartphone. If you're not careful, identity thieves can use harvested information to open fraudulent bank or credit card accounts, take out loans, rent apartments or even charge medical procedures to your insurance plan.
Februrary 17, 2014
Foiling financial scam artists
You can hardly watch or read the news without hearing about the latest scam to separate folks from their hard-earned money. As criminals become increasingly more sophisticated, their schemes are more difficult to spot.
Februrary 3, 2014
Know when to lease or buy a car
When a tree recently fell on our car, we had to get a new car in a hurry. Like many people, we struggled between leasing or buying. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to understand your needs and payment habits before signing on the dotted line.
January 20, 2014
Teach your kids about interest rates
One of the most valuable financial lessons you can share with your kids before they leave the nest is to explain what interest rates are and how they work. The important financial transactions they'll conduct as adults will likely be affected in some way by interest rates, whether as a lender or a borrower.
January 6, 2014
How to Avoid Being a Bad Roommate
For many people, having roommates is a natural transition between leaving their parents' house and buying their own home. It can be a great way to trim expenses and save for the future. But if you're not careful, cohabitating can also devolve into constant bickering over finances and dirty dishes.
December 16, 2013
Protect yourself against identity theft
A fast growing and ominous crime in Canada today is identity theft, where someone steals your personal information and uses it to open a bank account or take out a loan, make purchases, secure false identification, or commit other offenses. Victims are often unaware it's happened for months, by which time their credit may have been damaged – or worse.
December 2, 2013
Make charitable contributions carefully
Getting the most bang for your buck is a badge of honour these days, whether you're car shopping, choosing a university or just comparing loaves of bread. One area where you really don't want to misspend your hard-earned dollars is charitable donations.
November 18, 2013
Avoiding Hidden Flight, Hotel Fees
The last few years have been tough economically for many people. Unemployment fears combined with declining home, stock and retirement account values caused many to forgo big vacations – even though stressful times are when we need to recharge our batteries most.
November 4, 2013
Boomerang kids? Get ready for boomerang parents
Boomerang kids. You've probably read articles about them or may even have one yourself. That's where parents reopen their formerly empty nests to adult children who are trying to pay off student loans or bills, save for a down payment or regroup after losing their job.
October 15, 2013
Teaching financial literacy, one goal at a time
Suppose your teenager came to you needing help answering homework questions on finance – would you be able to answer correctly or know where to find help?
September 30, 2013
Are your kids ready for a cell phone?
If your preteen child hasn't hit you up yet for a cell phone, you're among a rare breed indeed. Studies have found that roughly 70 percent of 11- to 14-year-olds now use cell phones. Closer to home, my young niece recently got her first smartphone... in fact, a newer model than mine!
September 16, 2013
Take the pain out of car shopping
I'd rather get a root canal than go car shopping. How to choose among so many models, options and financing alternatives? But it's worth a little homework to make sure you get a car you like and can truly afford; plus, it can save you thousands of dollars over the car's life. Here are a few tips.
August 30, 2013
Improving your credit score
Many people suffered blows to their credit scores during the unstable economy of the last few years, whether because they missed payments, exceeded credit limits or, more seriously, experienced bankruptcy. Is this a big deal? Absolutely.
August 19, 2013
Start your student loan search now
If you've got a high school student, your household is probably knee-deep in activities – and expenses. Not to elevate your stress level, but this is probably a good time for you and your kid to start investigating how you're going to finance university – even if it's still a couple years away.
August 2, 2013
Credit card stolen? Here's what you do
Despite high-profile media attention, the odds of having your credit or debit card number stolen by crooks remains at historically low levels. That said, it's always good to know what to do in case lightening does strike and someone fraudulently uses your card. Left unchecked, they might try to run up bills, drain your chequing account or worse – steal your identity.
July 15, 2013
The financial challenges of divorce
Even in a strong economy, divorce is often difficult and costly; but in a prolonged recession, it can be financially devastating.
June 28, 2013
Make your vacation security checklist
With summer vacation right around the corner, you're probably busy planning itineraries, shopping for new bathing suits and finishing up work projects. But before you completely check out, take a few minutes to review a few financial safeguards that could save you a ton of grief and money – and protect your identity.
June 18, 2013
The 411 on prepaid cards
In today's society, credit and debit cards are becoming increasingly necessary, especially because we need them to do a lot of different things – shopping online, renting a car, booking a flight. Without a chequing or savings account, we'd be forced to carry around large amounts of cash, which isn't the safest or most convenient option.
June 3, 2013
Trim your vacation costs
To paraphrase Yogi Berra, when it comes to gas prices, this is like déjà vu all over again. Instability in Africa and the Middle East, among other factors, has continued to drive up pump prices to levels that make us all cringe a little.
May 17, 2013
Prepare Your Kids for Summer Job Expenses
High school, college and university students hoping to find temporary jobs may be in for a tough time this summer – once again – as they compete with older, more experienced workers in a still-struggling economy. But if your son or daughter is fortunate enough to find work, there are a few things he or she – and you – should know about the economic and tax ramifications of temporary employment.
May 10, 2013
Early savings reap long-term payoff
I found it hard to make my paycheque stretch in my early twenties. Saving didn't seem feasible – there were just too many expenses. And, like many, during my early workforce years I neglected to have a portion of my paycheque automatically put into a retirement account.
April 12, 2013
Put the brakes on debt
I hope this is one column you'll read and say, "Whew, I'm glad that doesn't apply to me." I'm talking about what can happen when someone's debt spirals out of control and they don't know where to turn next.
April 5, 2013
Find the right job – right now
I know people who love their careers and can't wait to go to work each day. And I know others who hate their jobs and feel underemployed, underpaid or overworked. No matter where you fall in that spectrum today, at some point you may want to test the waters for new opportunities. If you're wondering where to begin, here are a few tips.
March 15, 2013
Why You Need a Social Media Will
By most estimates, over half of adult Canadians haven't written a will stating how their assets should be distributed after death. Fewer still have bothered to appoint someone to make financial and health care decisions on their behalf should they become unable to do so themselves. And now we can add another necessary, but probably overlooked legal document: a social media will.
March 1, 2013
Get the facts first before buying a home
When I purchased my first home and took on a mortgage, I had to keep convincing myself that I was doing the right thing. Renting was safe, but buying a home was a major commitment with many big risks. I had long weighed the pros and cons of buying a home and ultimately decided to take the plunge.
February 15, 2013
Playing 'catch-up' for retirement savings
If you can remember when the Beatles first sang "When I'm 64," you're probably fast approaching retirement or already there, however when Paul McCartney wrote, "We shall scrimp and save," it may have just been wishful thinking. Today, more than half of Canadians admit to not feeing financially prepared for retirement, while only one third of Canadians confess to actually having a plan in place to meet their retirement needs.
February 1, 2013
Talking Finances with Your Valentine
As you and your spouse celebrate Valentine's Day over a candle-lit dinner, you may want to avoid romance-killing conversations that begin with, "Honey, let's talk about our financial future." That being said, you really should have that conversation sooner rather than later to help keep your relationship on a healthy footing.
January 18, 2013
A financial to-do list for the recently widowed
Losing your spouse is one of life's most stressful events. Unfortunately, it's during that time of grief, when you're probably not thinking clearly or ready to focus on such matters, that you're expected to make many important financial decisions that will impact the rest of your life.
January 4, 2013
Resolve to pay down your debt in 2013
Although New Year's resolutions can be a great way to make a fresh start, I've learned the hard way that if you set unrealistic goals, they'll likely fizzle out after a few months. Sometimes small steps are the answer to building momentum as you go.
December 14, 2012
Understanding interest rates can save you money
Unless you pay cash for everything, you're impacted by interest. Understanding the different types of interest can give you a clearer picture of how your money accumulates and what things really cost when financing is factored in.