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Shop and Support GEN1 with the Canadian’s Women Foundation #WinCA

Last month I was at the National Women’s Show and stopped by the Canadian Women’s Foundation booth. It was great to speak with an organization that invests in women and girls. They were getting excited as they partnered with Winners and Homesense to raise funds to support GEN1. What is GEN1?

The Canadian Women’s Foundation has a dream, a dream to create the first generation of Canadian girls to experience real gender equity. Did you know even here in Canada we have issues with gender equality? Seriously,  many women are still earning less than men for the same jobs, and that needs to change as does violence against women.

To get there, they empower girls. How? A full 100% of the net profits from Shop for GEN 1 goes to the Foundations programs, that is over 450 programs and shelters, breaking the cycle of violence and empowering our young girls. Great cause right!

Now this holiday season, you can help.

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Visit your local Winners or HomeSense and shop. It’s the holiday time, and we are all celebrating with families and friends. So get your party on for a good cause. From party horns, hats, napkins and paper plates to gift bags and wine boxes there is something for everyone whether you are host or guest. Think all the funds go to such a great cause.

Now, here is some good news.

I am giving away one of every the entire line away here on my blog. To enter just fill out the rafflecopter and tell me how you are celebrating the holiday season.

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RESP Rules: Everything You Need to Know

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A Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) is a great way for your family to start planning for your child’s future. As tuition fees across Canada continues to rise, it’s a good idea for your family start preparing for the day when your child is ready for university or college. RESPs are not just valid at universities, all accredited post-secondary institutions (college, technical school, certificate program, etc.) are eligible.

As parents we should evaluate our expectations – how much do you want your child to pay towards their education? Do you want them to have a part-time job or work in the summer? There is no right answer, but consider your personal beliefs when setting an education savings goal.

It is important to note that money is increasingly becoming a barrier for students wanting to attend school. Over half a million Canadians have student-loans with the average degree holder incurring around $20,000. Student loan debt is a burden on young adults trying to start their lives, and prevents them from reaching life’s milestones such as owning a house and getting married.

If you feel that you want to ease the burden for your children you should consider a RESP – it’s one of the best ways to save for post-secondary education. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about RESPs.

How much can I contribute?

As of 2007 there is no limit to how much you can contribute on an annual basis. There is a $50,000 contribution limit for the lifetime of the RESP. In most cases, if you are financially able to, or if you feel like your child will need more resources, it pays off to still invest up to the $50,000 limit. There are tax implications for contributions over this amount. You should check with your RESP provider to see if they have a deposit minimum or a minimum month contribution amount.

How do I qualify for grants?

There are two main grants available for Canadians who start RESPs: The Canada Education Savings Grants (CESG) and the Canada Learning Board (CLB). The CESG matches your annual contribution by 20 per cent up to $2,500. CESG grants caps out at a total lifetime maximum of $7,200 per child. The CLB works differently and is available to each child who qualified for the National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS). The CLB will provide $500 immediately when you start your RESP and $100 a year until your child turns 15 if you qualify. There are also provincial grants available to residents in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Quebec.

What if my child does not go to school?

Let’s break down the answer based on the three ‘pots’ of money in an RESP. First off, your contributions can be withdrawn with no penalty, and remain non-taxable. Each RESP provider will have different rules regarding the withdrawal of contributions, so it’s important to ask.

If your child does not go to school, you have the option to change beneficiary and transfer the grant money. Should you choose to close the RESPS, the grant money is returned to the government. Any money received from the CLB must be returned and cannot be transferred.

Any investment income remaining in the plan can be withdrawn as an Accumulated Income Payment or transferred to your RRSP, provided you have contribution room. It’s important to know that AIPs will be taxed at your current nominal tax rate plus an additional 20 per cent penalty.

Setting up an RESP does not have to be difficult but it’s always a good idea to speak with a professional at Knowledge First Financial who specializes in RESPs and can help get you started.

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Breaking News AIRMILES No Longer Expiring

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Back in February, I shared that AIRMILES older than five years would expire. As of today, that is no longer the case.

Loyalty One that is the company that ownsAir Miles has decided to cancel its plan to allow reward miles five years or older to expire amid blog posts like mine, lots of consumer complaints and new legislation that is in the works.

“There is uncertainty with provincial governments proposing or considering legislation across Canada, so we have decided to cancel the expiry policy so that all Collectors, regardless of location, can be confident that their balances will be protected,” said Bryan Pearson, President, and CEO, LoyaltyOne in a statement.

The change is effective immediately; this means if you collect AIRMILES you no longer have to worry about them expiring, and that is good news!

Had you cashed in your reward miles already or were you scrambling?

Personally, I am glad a brand listened to its consumers. I am also glad there is pending legislation that will protect consumers.

 

Dear Hollie: A Letter Inspired by the Ladies of Netflix

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What would you write to your former self? What guidance would you give? This month Netflix challenged the #StreamTeam to write to our former selves while watching some of the great shows that have come out this month. From a Young Queen Elizabeth who gets thrown into a role she was not expecting to the strong leading ladies of the Gilmore Girls to even the diverse ladies from Orange is the New Black. There is much inspiration that can come from watching some of your favourite Netflix shows.

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So what would I write myself?

To the University Student Me- have fun, build relationships, yes grades matter but do good. You were born to lead.

To the Young Single Me- Travel is good, so is giving. Do both.

To the Young Step Mom- You can do this, love given always comes back.

To the Broken Young Mom- Have faith, it’s okay to ask for help. You’ve got this.

To the Single Mom- Never Doubt Your Instincts. Be the Momma Bear. Money is not everything. Cherish time with your girl.

To the Dating Mom- Don’t kiss too many frogs. Look for quality, not quantity.

The inspiration for the lives we live come from many sources including the shows we watch. It comes from what surrounds us. So what have you been watching and how does it inspire you?

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One in Five Canadians Would Be Broke in a Week if They Lost a Job

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Ever wondered how long you would last without a job? What if you lost your biggest client if you are a freelancer? What would you do? Could you make it till you got your first EI cheque? Would you have to dip into emergency savings or do you even have savings?

The Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) recently did a study, and they found that four in 10 Canadians say they would run out of money in less than a month if they lost their job or main source of income.

I know first-hand how hard it can get. This summer I lost my biggest contract as a freelancer and then in September my ad network went bankrupt. It was a double whammy! Talk about tightening the belt! I was thankful I was smart and had a wee bit of savings, which helped me weather the storm. Did you know that one in five Canadians would last less than a week? A week. That is a scary fact.

These findings also concluded that more than two-thirds of Canadians believe the economy – and their own financial situation – has either stagnated or worsened over the past five years. Has yours? The survey also revealed that two out of every five Canadians worry about money at least once a day and about one in four say they worry “almost constantly.” How often do you worry about money? I have found by having a plan, a road map, I worry a bit less.

Less than half (41 percent) of Canadians feel they make more good financial decisions than bad ones. Have you ever thought of working with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional? When you work with a qualified financial planner, you don’t have to do things on your own. You also get some sound advice. One of the best ways to worry less and reduce the stress is to work with a financial planning professional. I like to think of them as a financial coach. They help develop a great game plan and advise you on the steps you need to make to get that home run. You do not want to strike out when it comes to your money.

Personal finance expert and author Kelley Keehn has said: “Thanks to online tools like FPSC’s FindYourPlanner.ca website, it’s never been easier to find a CFP®professional who can help create a personalized strategy tailored to your individual needs and life goals – and help ease your money worries.” Kelley also suggests you ask a potential financial planner these 10 specific questions. You can find lots more information and advice to get a handle on your finances at FinancialPlanningForCanadians.ca.

Have you made your own road map? Your game plan? Let me know where you are at: are you worried about your finances? Scared they won’t last or do you have a game plan?

*This post is sponsored by the Financial Planning Standards Council, however, as always my opinions are always my own.

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5 Tips to Winning At Black Friday Shopping

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It is hard to believe, Halloween and Remembrance Day are over so we are now in full holiday mode. We are making lists and checking them twice getting ready for that day all shoppers love or hate, Black Friday. There are several ways you can win at Black Friday shopping. It all starts with a little prep work.  Here are my tips and tricks for winning at Black Friday.

1. Set a Budget

The average family spends at least $750 on Christmas. Do you cash or credit? I suggest using cash on hand unless you are buying electronics or unless you are diligent in paying the full balance of your credit cards each month. Use your Christmas budget total to set your Black Friday spending budget. Know how much you are willing to spend per person and create a list of gift ideas for each person.

2. Check out the Ads Ahead of Time

The week of Black Friday your local newspaper will be full of flyers, coupons and ads. Did you know you can see some of these already? Some have been leaked. I love using my Flipp app. It always has the flyers ahead of any sale. It allows you to browse and make a list.

3. Make a List

One of my favourite features with the Flipp app is the shopping list feature.  I use it every week for grocery shopping and love it for that but when it comes to a major shopping day like Black Friday it is my lifesaver. Now, you can even share the list with a loved one. Love your paper list, you can capture your own list with the flipp app just in case you forget it.

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4. Divide and Conquer

So you have checked the flyers and found great deals at several different stores. With quantities in short supply, you want to set priorites and then divide and conquer. I am loving the newest feature of the Flipp app, my ability to share it with a friend or family member. This means my list can be divided and conquered!

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5. Go Early

I have found I get what I want when I go early. There is the rule that the early bird gets the worm. This is especially true on Black Friday. Last year I got in line at midnight to get the best deals.

 

 

 

 

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A Day at the National Women’s Show in Toronto

Every year I love attending the National Women’s Show in Toronto. Saturday was no different. With over 500 booths, lots of on stage speakers, shows, and entertainment there was lots to keep my friend Tammy and I busy and smiling!  We had a great time at the show.

We started the day browsing the booths. There were some great brands there. Lots to explore and so many new brands to try. I was very thankful for my swag bag full of goodies to try. Samples are always a great way to learn about new favourite brands. As you walk through the show there are so many samples. So many new things to learn about, see and explore and it is always a great place to start your Christmas shopping.

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Ran into my friend Heny We met Sam Dhutia the CEO of Sweets Canada gourmet chocolate bars which is a division of QFoods Canada. My girlfriend and I had a great time thrying to  choose from including their popular “Edible Flower” Chocolates, and of course their Fruit Covered Chocolate.  I came home with some Qbites. The taste and packaging is sure to impress even the most “sophisticated” chocolate connoisseur. I know I enjoyed them as I watched the election results.

First up on the main stage was since I am a single lady had to watch Laura Bilotta the CEO of Single in the City matchmaking as she reenacted the the classic tv show The Dating Game. I remember that show from when I was a kid. It was fun to watch and the bachelor ended up picking bachelorette number 3. I got a chance to talk to the bachelor when I ran into him later and we talked about his choice and the other 2. It was fun to hear his thinking behind his choice.

Here is a short video of part of the show.

 

After The Dating Game, my friend Tammy and I explored some more booths. One of the booths I stopped by was the DermVisage booth. Since I am starting to get older, skin care is starting to matter to me. I spoke with Ursula who spoke to me about DermVisage anti aging skin care products and the science of anti-aging skin care. She even did a skin analysis on me.

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What were the results? I have dry skin and it gets drier in the winter. Ursula talked to me about the DermVisage products and how they could help me. DermVisage products brighten the skin, reduce dark spots and even out the skin tone leaving the skin feeling smoother, hydrated and brighter. I have been trying the sample pack that Ursula sent me home with this week and it is making a difference.

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After the skin analysis, we hung out in the culinary and wine areas. We took in a great cooking tutorial from the Chicken Farmers of Canada and then it was time for wine! We tried out a new gin, some joiy, a slushie and some wine. All of it was good. While we were hanging out in the wine area we ran into some sexy firefighters who were there promoting their 2017 Toronto Firefighters Calendar. We even got out pictures taken with them. If you like hot men and women you may want to purchase a calendar. The proceeds go to support the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.

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Then it was time to head over to the Main Stage where we took in a fashion show with NARCES. There were lots of great evening fashions. Both my girlfriend and I enjoyed the show.

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Next up was Fashion on Fire with the Toronto Firefighters. They were showing off fashions from Banana Republic. Lets just say these men were hot. They can rescue me anytime. Actually as they engaged the audience I even got bit of a lap dance from Mr December. Too bad there are no photos of that! My girlfriend Tammy did get a great short video though of the end of the show.

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After the firefighters, we cooled off and browsed a few more vendors and then it was time to head home.

 

 

 

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Are You Worried About Making Your Retirement Funds Stretch?

Many retirees are just like my mom; she has been retired for over a decade and is worried about making her retirement funds last. Yes, she has lots of fun and has a great life. She is an active member of a Red Hat Society group, has joined a couple local seniors clubs, she travels, and she has a large extended family that she gets to spend time with.  I would say she is the typical Canadian senior. She is doing the best she can with the income she has but she worries about the future, maybe even saying no to some of the things she loves because she is worried about what the financial future might bring. Some might say she is underliving like many Canadian seniors today.

According to a recent Investors Group Survey, 59 per cent of Canadian retirees are worried about making their funds stretch. In that same survey, 4 out of 5 Canadian retirees said that retirement is living up to their expectations. I know for my mom, retirement is living up to her expectations, but many Canadian seniors are underliving and foregoing activities as they worry about their financial future.

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When I think of retirement, I think of the things I want to enjoy, the plans to travel and volunteer. The plans to read lots and spend time doing the things I love. I am not that far from retiring. Fifteen years is not a long time.  There are many things to think about when it comes to retiring and I am learning what to expect from watching my mom in her retirement.

The study also shows that a vast majority of recent retirees are enjoying their retirement, with 80 per cent stating that it meets their expectations.

  • An overwhelming majority of retirees (90 per cent) are spending more time with friends and loved ones.
  • 84 per cent are able to spend more time on the hobbies they enjoy.

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Have you started thinking about your retirement? I know I am starting to plan now, because it’s not that far away!  One of the most important things I am learning is to be reasonable in my expectations. I already know that as a late saver I am behind the eight ball.

Many Canadian retirees are like my mom. They are worried about making their funds last. Sometimes she has even avoided doing some of the things I know she loves out of a fear of spending too much money. Debbie Ammeter, Vice President, Advanced Financial Planning at Investors Group puts it this way: “You might give up on truly meaningful experiences out of the fear of overspending. But this is a risk, too – the risk of underliving.”

“While a smart retirement plan requires prioritization and some tough trade-offs, it shouldn’t be an exercise in self-sacrifice.

  • 64 per cent of retirees find it hard to strike a balance between enjoying retirement and making money last.
  • More than half (59 per cent) are worried about making their retirement fund stretch for their remaining years.
  • If retirees came into an unexpected sum of money, more than one third (33 per cent) say they would pay off debt and 16 per cent would invest it, suggesting that money is an overriding concern.”

One of the interesting findings of the Investors Group survey was that those Canadian seniors who planned with a financial advisor worried less about money. “Making plans based on professional advice can help you avoid overspending or underliving,” says Ammeter. “An advisor will support you in making decisions based on fact, not fear and ensure you have access to all the strategies you need to live an enjoyable and rewarding life in retirement.”

Are you using a financial advisor as you plan for retirement? Or as you enjoy retirement?

Remember, we want to be able to enjoy retirement without too many worries about our finances. We want to be able to do those things we dreamed of while we are still healthy and able to enjoy them. Perhaps, it is time to include a financial advisor in your retirement planning. Pre-retirement life is rich and varied and retirement should be the same.

For more information follow @Investors_Group on Twitter or connect on FacebookLinkedIn and check out the YouTube channel. You can also visit Investors Group on their website.

 

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What Do the New Mortgage Rules Mean? Why Tighten the Rules?

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Last week I went out to lunch with my friend Marcy. She owns a Mortgage Brokerage here in Toronto, and of course, our conversation turned to the new mortgage rules that were announced in October. So what do the new mortgage rules mean? How is this going to impact most Canadians and what is coming in the pipeline? I have always told my readers and those that follow me, I always go to the experts for the answers. Marcy is one of those experts I turn too.

Is it like this the government is worried about a housing bubble? They are worried Canadians are taking on more house debt then they can afford. This is real. You will see more of a rise in interest rates and that my friends mean some will possibly lose their homes.

Do you own your home?

Are you a current home owner? Are you think of refinancing so you can take care of some bills or do home renovations? If the answer is yes, this just became harder to do. With the new rules in place, you can only take up to 85% of the value of the home. A year ago this limit was 95%. Those days are gone.

Refinanced mortgages must be paid within 30 years. The old 35-year limit is gone.

What does this mean for you today? Are you thinking of refinancing? Now is the time to do it. There are more changes coming shortly, and the thing is we are not sure what they will be. I would say if you are looking at refinancing then the best time to do it is NOW.  Interest rates at the TD Bank have already gone up, and I think others will follow shortly. We can not have these low rates forever.

There are more NEW regulations coming as well. As of November 30th, the game changes once again. Until then buyers with a 20% down payment who opted for mortgage insurance have not been scrutinized. They had been able to get low-ratio insurance sold through 2 private insurers. That all changes at the end of the month.

Starting November 30th, there is a new criterion for low-ratio insurance. When you are spending less than 1 million dollars, your mortgage amortization must be for 25 years or less; the property must be owner occupied, and the buyer must have a credit score of 600 or better.

When looking at refinancing, I say look at using a mortgage broker like Marcy because they know the industry, the wide variety of products available and can steer you towards a product that works best for you. Will you not be using your bank? Possibly. It is always better to take a look at ALL your options.

Are you buying your first home?

With all these changes coming, if you are close to getting that first mortgage the time to get to the market is this month before the November 30th changes. It has been estimated that 1/3 of all first-time homeowners will have to put off that first mortgage with the changes. Stress tests are a good thing in the long run though, as they prevent you from being house poor. The stress test makes sure you can afford to pay your mortgage if interest rates go up. The stress test says we should not be spending more than 39% of our income on housing costs. This includes your mortgage, heat and taxes.

There are also new rules around taxes and the sale of homes as well. Beginning this year, all home sales must be reported.  The reason for this is to try and stop the flipping that often goes on.

Finally, more changes are coming. More regulation changes are expected as is a rise in interest rates so now is the time to take a look at what you have and what it means for you in the future.

PS. If you would like to talk with my friend Marcy from Mortgages from Women, she is one I trust. Tell her I sent you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Financial Literacy Month Matters

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Every November, Canadian banking institutions, educational institutions, and well even us ordinary citizens take part in Financial Literacy month. Why does it matter? Why should you be paying attention to the money conversations this month? Money matters.

Canadians go more in debt every year; there are changes to laws that deal with money on an ongoing basis and you need to know about these and as we age we need to have a clear plan for our futures. These are simply three good reasons to pay attention this month. There is always something you can learn from a money conversation.

Here on Common Cents Mom this month I will be sharing lots of money posts:

  • We will talk about budgeting and my favourite budgeting tools and apps.
  • We will talk about retirement and financial planning.
  • We will talk about talking to our kids about money.
  • We will talk about mortgages as this is an important topic with all the recent changes and with more to come in January.
  • We will talk about savings and the power of interest.
  • We will talk about talking money in relationships.
  • We will talk about wills and estate planning.
  • We will talk about having your own roadmap.
  • We will talk about managing debt and when to seek help.
  • We will talk about first jobs and payroll deductions.
  • We will talk apps that help me stay on track.

Most of these conversations are not branded so you will get lots of information and resources. My goal when I started my blog was to have real money conversations, after all, I was a mom on welfare when this journey began, and I had lots to learn.

Want to know more about financial literacy, there are lots of ways to join the conversations:

  • Follow the hashtag #FLM2016 on Twitter.
  • Join me for a Facebook Live conversation at 6:45 PM EST each Tuesday night on Common Cents Mom my facebook page.
  • Join me as I bring back the #CDNmoney chat on Twitter each Tuesday night at 7 pm EST.
  • Several brands will be having online conversations as well, as I learn of these I will share them on my social channels.