Insight
  • Canadian March Breakers seem to be more concerned about leaving their smartphones behind than making sure they have travel insurance.

    According to a recent poll by Ipsos and RBC Insurance, 53 per cent of vacationing Canadians say they never leave home without their electronics while 45 per cent say the same of travel insurance.

    Luckily for the more than half of Canadians who shun travel insurance – they might be covered by their employee benefits, their credit card or even a CAA membership.  

    “A lot of people just don’t want to ask questions, they don’t want to look stupid,” says Robin Ingle, chairman of Ingle International and a specialist in risk insurance, travel security and healthcare. “Don’t assume, ask.”

    He points to employee benefits as one of the first places to check if you’re covered for your upcoming trip.

    “A lot of employee benefit plans have travel insurance built-in which is usually an annual travel medical insurance,” says Ingle, pointing out that travel medical

    Read More »from March Breakers may have more insurance coverage than they think
  • Starting in April, Aeroplan members will be able to use their points to cover the taxes, fees and surcharges associated with their bookings.

    The move follows a series of horror stories surrounding surcharges including a Nova Scotia man’s complaint that the Air Canada-run loyalty program charged him an additional $800 in fees after he spent 75,000 points on a flight from Halifax to England.

    “A lot of people when they’re redeeming their miles think ‘okay, I’m going to get a free trip’… but when they try to book it and get hit with those charges they’re really ticked off,” says Jeffrey Kwok, a travel agent and blogger behind Canadian Kilometers. “I think this might be something (Aeroplan) is doing to improve that public perception that they have.”

    Aeroplan has a policy where collectors must earn or redeem at least one mile a year to keep an account active. Air Miles, which competes with Aeroplan, has taken a harder edge. As of Dec. 31, 2016, points older than five years will begin to

    Read More »from How to pick the best travel rewards program and get the most out of it
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    With the tax deadline less than two months away, it’s time for a roll-call of the changes Canadians will need to navigate this year.

    From short-lived changes to Tax-Free Savings Accounts to a juggling of tax credits for families, Sam Seidman, a Toronto-based accountant, walks us through the changes.

    For families

    Changes to how and what families can claim is the big one on Canadians radar for the 2015 tax season says Seidman.

    Last year, the Harper government eliminated the Child Tax Credit, which was worth an average of $337 per child, and replaced it with the Enhanced Universal Child Care Benefit. The UCCB, which came into play in July, gave families $160 per month for each child under six years old and $60 per month for each child aged six through 17.

    “They propped up the money they’re giving you and now the Child Tax Credit is gone,” says Seidman.

    While the Liberals have promised to introduce a new, tax-free Canada child tax benefit this summer, families will still have to account

    Read More »from Tax changes you need to know this year
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    Highclere Castle (photo: Insight Vacations)

    This week, British TV series “Downton Abbey” aired it’s final episode. 

    And while we may have seen the last of the Crawley family, fans of the show can now celebrate the show’s birthplace by hopping on a nine-day tour of England courtesy of Insight Vacations. 

    “This March, Insight Vacations, a leading purveyor of luxury travel will take guests on a nine-day whirlwind tour of the Grantham universe.”

    Departing from multiple Canadian destinations on March 28, the itinerary includes a trip to Highclere Castle, otherwise known as ‘Downton Abbey,’ as well as numerous locations where the show was filmed, like The Swan Inn, where Lady Sybil and Branson eloped, St. Mary’s Church, the village pub, the Library, and Matthew Crawley’s House.

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    For those who enjoyed the show but also want to see some other iconic British things, the trip also includes stops in Oxford, Bristol, Bath, Stonehenge and London.

    “In London, fans can relive tense moments with Anna

    Read More »from Visit the real Downton Abbey on a nine-day trip to England this March
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    As reservation technology proliferates, restaurants already beleaguered by rising food prices have a growing challenge to grapple with – the no-show.

    “I think it’s so easy, people can just cancel on a whim – you open your phone, hit a button and the reservation is cancelled,” says seasoned restaurateur and owner of trendy Toronto staple Farmhouse Tavern. “There’s no interaction, no guilty feeling talking to someone or explaining, I think the ease of cancelling has increased cancellations.”

    Last Saturday evening, MacDonnell says he lost thirty guests as a result of cancellations and no-shows.

    “If I only have 44 seats and lose 30, that’s a turn and a half in one room,” he says.

    An estimated 15 per cent of those who make reservations don’t show up. It’s reached a point where the industry is looking for ways to innovate and try to recover some of that lost revenue.

    “They’re a necessary evil – part of the benefit of a reservation to a restaurant is there’s some predictability,” explains

    Read More »from Restaurants could soon be charging for reservations
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    (Instagram/gadventures)

    Coinciding with International Women’s Day, Canadian travel company G Adventures is launching three development projects centred on supporting women across the globe. 

    “Women are the most influential and economically powerful group of consumers in travel and tourism, but they are underrepresented in leadership positions across the industry,” says G Adventures founder and leader Bruce Poon Tip.

    “Together with our trailblazing partners in countries around the world, we are eager to bring more female talent into the tourism supply chain and help change that.” 

    Morocco Community Lunch

    A stop in Meknes will be added to a number of trips touring through Morocco, allowing visitors access to the village of M’hoya. Here, women from the community will cook lunch, using seeds provided by G and local partner AFER (Association Des Femmes et Enfants Ruraux), as well as teach visitors basic Arabic. Along with providing work and income to these women, additional funds will support

    Read More »from Canadian travel company launches three new global projects to empower women
  • Gold sell-off a sound investment for Canada: experts

    [Royal Canadian Mint]

    The Canadian government said this week it has sold off nearly all of its gold, the latest indication that the precious metal has lost some of its lustre as a solid investment.

    The finance ministry said on Thursday that the gold stockpile held by the Bank of Canada have fallen to just 77 ounces, less than US$100,000 at today’s prices, after the sale of 21,851 ounces in February.

    Gold was already a small part of the government’s piggy bank, known as its official international reserves. Canada actually added US$108 million to its overall holdings in the month, bringing its reserves to nearly US$81.3 billion.

    Ian Nakamoto, director of research at 3Macs, said for long-term investors like the Canadian government, gold isn’t as attractive as interest-paying securities such as U.S. government bonds.

    “Central banks around the world don’t always want to hold things that don’t have a return,” he said.

    Before 1971, central banks held gold in part because of a direct relationship

    Read More »from Gold sell-off a sound investment for Canada: experts
  • [Photo credit: New York Times]

    A secretly recorded video of a teacher yelling at her first grade student for failing to explain how she answered a math problem has ignited both awe and backlash.

    The New York Times recently ran the video, which shows Charlotte Dial, a teacher at the Success Academy charter school in Brooklyn ripping a student’s paper in half, telling the child to “go to the calm-down chair and sit” sharply and: “There’s nothing that infuriates me more than when you don’t do what’s on your paper.”

    Dial, who was later promoted as a “model” teacher in the Success Academy network and enlisted to train other teachers, follows up the outburst by telling the little girl “You’re confusing everybody – I’m very upset and very disappointed.”

    The video, recorded by an assistant teacher concerned with Dial’s teaching techniques, has spurred debate causing #StopBashingTeachers to trend on Twitter and critics of the teaching practices in the video to respond with #StopHarmingStudents.  

    Read More »from Yelling in the workplace: What are the rules for teachers?
  • For the most part, the Canada Revenue Agency knows what Canadians are making. Banks and employers often submit T4s (income from an employer), T4As (income from a pension) and T5s (income from investments) to the CRA right around the time you’re getting your hands on them.

    But there’s a whole score of other documents the CRA is willing to take the word of T4-less entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners as being filed away somewhere. That is, until you inadvertently raise a red flag or are just plain unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of a CRA audit.  

    “Even though it can seem tedious, you’ve got to keep the records… keep everything for six years,” says Rita Zelikman, a Toronto-based chartered accountant. “Especially when you’re self employed and the risk of an audit is there.” 

    Yahoo Canada Finance sat down with Zelikman to look at the three categories of documents you should never throw out and what to do if the documents get misplaced and the CRA comes knocking.

    Read More »from Do not throw out these items at tax time
  • While the weakened Loonie is discouraging Canadians from heading south of the border this year, the upside is that we’re seeing more Americans spending their vacation dollars here, right? Well, actually no. Not really. “While Canadians follow the U.S. dollar, Americans do not generally track other currencies,” says David Rioux, Manager, Research & Business Data Analytics at Tourism Victoria.

    A study by Destination British Columbia shows that only 11 per cent of American visitors cite the exchange rate as a factor in their travel decisions.

    Americans may be travelling more, but that’s a result of the improved U.S. economy. The benefit of a stronger dollar when they come to Canada is just a nice, unexpected perk. “Very few Americans understand the currency differential when planning a trip,” says Rioux.

    We’re now trying to change that. The Government of Canada’s tourism marketing organization will spend almost $25-million in advertising in the U.S. in 2016. Here are the five Canadian

    Read More »from Five places in Canada that are happy about our lousy dollar
  • Would you pay for expired food?

    WeFood, the world’s first grocery store to sell expired foods, opened in Copenhagen, Denmark last week.

    Launched by Danish NGO Folkekirkens Nodhjaelp, the supermarket hawks food that is past its official expiry date or unlikely to be sold on other supermarket shelves due to damaged packaging or aesthetic flaws. The hook – prices are 30 to 50 per cent cheaper than other grocers.

    “The intent there is not just to reduce waste but to raise funds for the needy for regions that are actually food insecure like Asia, Africa and the Middle East,” Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food distribution and policy at the University of Guelph told Yahoo Canada Finance. “But I think the most interesting point of all is this retail store is for everyone – you don’t have to be a member, you don’t have to qualify because of your income.”

    A combination of overly cautious expiration dates and perception surrounding foods that look bad sends and estimated 700 million kilograms of edible produce to landfills.

    Read More »from Would you pay for expired food?
  • Earlier this week WhatsApp decided to celebrate its seventh birthday by breaking BlackBerry users’ hearts.

    The popular messaging app which boasts 990 million users and was bought by Facebook in 2014, announced it’d be ending support for BlackBerry, Nokia and early Android phones.

    “When we started WhatsApp in 2009, people’s use of mobile devices looked very different from today – about 70 percent of smartphones sold at the time had operating systems offered by BlackBerry and Nokia,” wrote the company in a blog post announcing the changes. “As we look ahead to our next seven years, we want to focus our efforts on the mobile platforms the vast majority of people use.”

    While BlackBerry users chattering away on WhatsApp may be a bit disappointed by the move, the announcement isn’t likely to cause too much concern at BlackBerry headquarters.

    The Waterloo-based company, which holds approximately one per cent of the consumer smartphone market, has pivoted towards the business-to-business

    Read More »from WhatsApp is giving up on BlackBerry
  • Lululemon founder Chip Wilson is famous for many things, one of them being his punctuality. According to the Vancouver-based billionaire, that trait is linked with integrity: Doing what you said you were going to do, when you said you were going to do it.

    Wilson credits Landmark, a personal and professional growth and development company, as helping him understand the connection between integrity and business performance. And being late, according to Landmark proponents, means “being out of integrity.”

    Here’s how Wilson explained it in a recent New York Times feature: What would happen if he were to arrive late to a design meeting? The designers might assume that it’s acceptable to deliver to the production department past deadline. Then the product would arrive late in stores, which could lead to items ending up on the clearance rack. Selling the product at a discount would result in less money to market the product and to put into its quality. Ultimately, there would be less profit.

    Read More »from Clearing time: The controversial thinking behind Lululemon
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    [Upper Kananaskis Lake in Kananaskis, Alta.]

    As March Break nears and the loonie hovers around $0.75, Canadians are getting creative with their holidays.

    “Families on a tight budget can still find great trips for the break,” says Heather Greenwood Davis, the travel blogger behind family-focused Globetrotting Mama. “(But) at this late stage, they’ll find the best deals closer to home.”  

    She suggests doing March break “Canadian style” this year to save on the exchange rate and costs of last minute flights and gas.

    “In Ontario and Quebec, it’s a great time to do maple syrup-related outings,” she says. “Most museums across the country are offering discounts, camps or programs as well.”

    Abi Paul, the Calgary-based blogger behind budget adventurer site Larky Canuck agrees, pointing out that local and provincial tourism boards are working hard to woo tourists both from the states and closer to home.

    “In Alberta, Banff and areas are booming right now due to an influx of foreign tourists (so)

    Read More »from Where the best deals are hiding this March Break
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    [Rise and shine the way the rich and famous do in the Palm Beaches, Florida. / Tori Floyd]

    Canadians have been flocking to Florida for decades now as snowbirds seek a reprieve from the cold and blizzards back home. But for many, two main Florida destinations are top of mind in south Florida: Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

    North of those two counties, however, is the Palm Beaches, with its 16 miles of unbroken beach stretching along Palm Beach Island in the Atlantic.

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    [Palm Beach County extends from Jupiter in the north all the way down to Boca Raton in the south, and includes Palm Beach Island, where many of the area’s most famous residents live. / Google Maps]

    The area has gone through a revitalization in the last ten years, seeking to broaden its appeal beyond the golfing crowd. On a recent trip to the Palm Beaches, I expected to see little for me, a twenty-something who doesn’t make six-figures and who doesn’t know a wedge from a nine-iron. (Or ever want to).

    [No future golfer here. I’m just

    Read More »from The Palm Beaches offer a luxurious Floridian getaway unlike any other
  • [A sign board displaying Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) stock information is seen in Toronto June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch]

    If youre the panicky type and you have anything invested in the Canadian stock market right now, chances are youre already pulling hair out and checking your pulse on a regular basis.

    Following an 11.1 per cent decline last year that doesn’tt really tell the tale (since it started in a rut and finished in a deeper rut), the S&P/TSX Composite index has only picked up the pace of its decline in 2016, currently on track for its third straight month of decline. And with oil in the toilet and the Canadian dollar worth a few U.S. coins at this point… well, at least we have hockey, right?

    In historical terms, the drop so far isn’t really a crash (yet?), so were not talking bankers out on ledges. But the outlook is tricky. With demand for oil well below supply and interest rates about as low as they can go, it’s tough to see where the endpoint is.

    So, whats an

    Read More »from Rocky stock market not a reason to change up your RRSPs and investments
  • There are only two good reasons to withdraw from your RRSPs early.There are only two good reasons to withdraw from your RRSPs early.

    As their name implies, Registered Retirement Savings Plans are intended for retirement. But it turns out that thousands of Canadians have cashed in some of those funds well before reaching that stage in life.

    Thirty-four per cent of us have withdrawn money from RRSPs in advance of retiring, according to a new BMO Financial Group study.

    The top reason was to buy a home, with 25 per cent of Canadians withdrawing for that purpose. Twenty-one per cent withdrew to pay off debt; another 21 per cent withdrew to help cover living expenses. Fifteen per cent, meanwhile, withdrew funds to cover emergency costs like those for a car crash or house flood.

    According to the study, Canadians have, on average, withdrawn $15,908 from their RRSPs. One third have paid back the money, but 25 per cent expect they will never pay it back.

    The highest rate of early withdrawal was in Atlantic Canada (40 per cent), while the lowest was in Alberta (32 per cent). People living in B.C. withdrew the most: an

    Read More »from More than a third of Canadians are withdrawing from their RRSPs before retirement

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