Pay Day
  • Canadians are reluctant to give up cash in their portfolios and see home ownership as the best investment, according to a newly released investor sentiment survey from Manulife Financial.

    The survey shows Canadians are more conservative than Americans in their investments, which makes sense given the difference in economic growth outlooks between the two nations. Canada’s economic growth is picking up, but not as quickly as many economists expect, research shows, while the U.S. economy is rebounding more strongly. Canada’s main stock index has also underperformed the main U.S. indexes over the past year.

    About one-third (34 per cent) of Canadians surveyed by Manulife said now is a good time to hold on to cash, compared to 13 per cent of Americans. Canadians aren’t avoiding equities, but the survey shows only 44 per cent said it was a good time to invest in stocks, compared to 60 per cent of Americans.

    The results are similar to a survey Manulife released earlier this year showing 

    Read More »from Canadians continue to see home ownership as the best investment: survey
  • Taxes aren’t fun to deal with at the best of times, but you may find yourself even more irked if you get a T4 amendment in the mail.

    The good news is that it’s not uncommon to receive such a notice.

    “Amended T4s are generally sent out to correct errors,” says James Bell, director of Tax Solutions Canada, who worked at the Canada Revenue Agency for 22 years before starting his company in 2013. Those errors are on behalf of the employer, which means there’s nothing you can do to prevent getting one.

    “T4s get amended because of an oversight on the part of the employer,” Bell says. “It’s a routine occurrence,” he adds. “It happens all the time.”

    Reasons a “Statement of Remuneration Paid” could be amended are wide-ranging; examples include improper classification of an amount (such as the under- or over-reporting of income), improper calculation of benefits to employees who participate in a stock-purchase plan, or the lack of inclusion of other taxable benefits or an incorrect tally of those

    Read More »from Tax error? What to do when you have to refile
  • Strong markets have given Canadians high hopes for their portfolios, but a new study suggests investors might be prone to making knee-jerk decisions in the face of a market disruption, such as a sharp drop in the price of oil that takes a bite out of their holdings.

    According to Paris-based asset management giant Natixis, 54 per cent of respondents worry about further declines in the price of the commodity. But even with that awareness, investors also seem rather, ahem, optimistic about their future overall returns in the current market.

    The study shows investors believe they need an average annual return of 9.3 per cent over and above inflation to cover their costs in retirement, and that 80 per cent believe this goal is achievable. Eighty-seven per cent, meanwhile, expect their returns this year will be the same or stronger than last year.

    At the same time, however, 60 per cent say they struggle to avoid making emotional decisions during market shocks.

    According to Natixis, what this

    Read More »from Canadian investors have high expectations, but may be prone to panic: study
  • Forget wrinkles and sagging skin, running out of money in retirement is one of the biggest fears working women have these days, and it’s not completely irrational, experts say.

    So-called “bag lady syndrome,” or becoming pathetic like Cate Blanchett’s character in the film Blue Jasmine, is more of a fear for women because they earn less than men, live longer than men and usually spend more time out of the workforce then men while caring for children and elderly parents. 

    That combination curbs their earning power over the years, especially when they likely need to stretch out their savings longer than most men.

    “Women of all economic walks of life have a shared fear – and that’s the fear running out of money,” says Caroline Dabu, vice president and head of the BMO Wealth Planning Group.

    She cites statistics showing 80 per cent of men die married, while 80 per cent of women die single. Divorce is also on the rise, and more women are choosing to be single.

    “The incidents of women spending

    Read More »from Lower earnings, longevity put Canadian women at risk for ‘bag lady syndrome’
  • People look at boards displaying flight information in Barcelona's airport, August 8, 2014. (Reuters)People look at boards displaying flight information in Barcelona's airport, August 8, 2014. (Reuters)

    It’s become a common refrain among travellers trying to book flights on points: they can’t get seats because airplanes are all packed or because of blackout dates.

    Two Aeroplan members recently went to CBC’s Go Public after finding it nearly impossible to use their points to book certain flights. Toronto’s Michael Finkelstein, who’s been collecting points since 1992, told the public broadcaster he tried using his miles to book a trip for himself and his wife to Europe. He started looking in February of this year; nothing was available until March 2016.

    Finkelstein claimed that a supervisor told him that the company has grown so much that it can’t get the space allocation from airlines, thereby finding itself unable to meet customer demand.

    Ian Gill from Huntingdon, Que., meanwhile, complained that he couldn’t find business class seats 11 months in advance and that the Aeroplan fees associated with an Air Canada flight  were exorbitant.

    With more than 80 travel reward credit cards

    Read More »from Canada’s best travel rewards credit cards
  • With the Conservatives looking to double the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) contribution in the upcoming budget, Canadians will be able to sock away more money that can grow without incurring additional tax. So that’s great, right?

    Well, there are costs, too.

    Finance Minister Joe Oliver suggested in a memo to the Conservative caucus on Tuesday that the upcoming budget will include a doubling of the current annual TFSA limit from $5,500 to $11,000.

    Sounds great if you’ve got the money to sock away. But keep in mind, there’s no free lunch. If someone’s benefiting, someone else is getting stung, and with any policy announced in an election year, sometimes it’s the same people on both ends of the stick.

    A TFSA increase would be good for …

    So who will benefit? Well, investors will (duh). At least, investors who are already maxing out their current TFSA space and are looking to put in more. Remember, a TFSA lets you invests money that then grows without incurring either capital gains tax or

    Read More »from TFSA limits likely to double; should we be happy?
  • If you have a health condition—whether it’s physical or mental—are you obligated to tell your boss? And is your employer ever required to know about your medical issues?

    The questions raise all sorts of issues, touching on everything from employment law to human rights. And while the answers are not black-and-white, there are some generalities when it comes to the need to divulge illness or disability in the workplace.

    For starters, your medical information is private.

    “The privacy of someone’s medical records is deeply enshrined in all of our legal obligations,” says Fred Wynne, a lawyer at Vancouver’s Hamilton Howell Bain and Gould Employment Lawyers. “Disclosure has got to come from the employee; it’s got to be authorized.”

    However, Wynne says that employees often choose to divulge their medical status to their employer because they’re aware that there are certain benefits from doing so, such as protection from discrimination under human rights laws.

    “In my experience, most

    Read More »from Mental health dilemma: What employees need to disclose
  • With so many tax-related computer programs out there, filing your own income taxes doesn’t have to be complicated. But not even the most sophisticated software can prevent people from making the kind of dumb mistakes—or from telling little lies—that raise a red flag with the Canada Revenue Agency.  

    Here’s a look at common blunders that tend to trigger assessments or audits.

    Extra zeros:

    There’s a big difference between claiming $15,350 on meals and entertainment for business expenses and $1,530.

    “Accounting firms received an email from CRA last week about taxpayers adding extra zeros, resulting in huge tax liabilities,” says Christian Stewart, certified general accountant and founder of North Vancouver’s Stewart & Associates. Be sure to triple-check your return before filing.

    Fibbing about a pastime being a business:

    “Taxpayers will often claim a hobby business on their tax return, reporting losses year after year,” Stewart says. “Common ones would be an artist who never sells a

    Read More »from Common tax blunders likely to trigger an audit
  • A pharmacist pours Truvada pills back into the bottle at Jack's Pharmacy on November 23, 2010. (Getty Images)A pharmacist pours Truvada pills back into the bottle at Jack's Pharmacy on November 23, 2010. (Getty Images)

    One of the least-used tax credits is also one of the murkiest. By not claiming certain health-care costs via the Medical ExpenseTax Credit, Canadians could be losing big dollars.

    “The opportunity to save money is not used…because you’ve got to keep some records and have some efficient way to calculate the deduction,” says John Crawford, chartered accountant and chief financial officer of health insurer Pacific Blue Cross. “There’s a lot of interpretations as to whether something qualifies or doesn’t qualify in relation to the Canada Revenue Agency. Certain items need qualification and certain items are not quite clear. But things that are not claimed can all add up.”

    A good example is premiums paid to a provincial health plan.These are not eligible. However, premiums you pay to an insurer through workplacebenefits programs generally are.

    “Why is one deductible and why is one not? It depends what province you’re in as well,” Crawford says.

    Inconsistencies are another reason the Medical

    Read More »from Canadians missing chance for cash with medical tax credit
  • It must be hard being a Nigerian prince. I mean, every time you try to get someone to stash your cash – for a nominal fee, of course (wink!) – in an overseas bank account, you’re hit with skepticism thanks to all those scam artists trying to rip-off the average non-Nigerian-prince-knowing Canadian.

    These are the same sort of Canadians that account for the $70 million fraudsters pocketed in 2014, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Which is why Canada’s growing fraud problems – scam artists claimed $53 million in 2013 – keep Phil Norris, spokesperson for the Competition Bureau, up at night.

    “Fighting fraud is a never-ending battle, it does not discriminate, and no one is immune from it,” says Norris. “What that means is that whatever your education or income… no matter where you live, you can still fall victim to fraud.”

    And the perpetrators are only getting better at it.

    “Naturally, with the rise in popularity of online purchasing and social media use, we have seen a shift away

    Read More »from Money Minute: Canada’s top scams
  • Common myths are everywhere: sharks don’t get cancer (not true); the Great Wall of China is visible from space (ditto). They exist in the world of personal finance, too.

    Myth: I don’t need to worry about our budget or finances because my partner manages the money.

    Fact: “Even if someone else is in the driver’s seat, you should be an active passenger; not asleep in the backseat,” says Linda MacKay, senior vice president, retail savings and investing at TD Canada Trust. “Sit down at least a few times a year to review your finances, budget and goals. You should know where your accounts are and have access to your investment, credit, and bank statements. And even though you’re not the driver, you still might be responsible for any financial accidents, so taking ownership of decisions is important for everyone involved.”

    Myth: I should avoid saving until all my debt is paid off.

    Fact: “While it’s important to pay off your debt, it’s also important to save for your future,” MacKay says. “One

    Read More »from Top 10 personal-finance myths
  • When Adam Bacon finished his studies in digital animation in Vancouver last year, he had two options: take a job in his field in his hometown or accept one that paid less in Montreal. The 23-year-old didn’t think twice. He hopped on a plane and moved east.

    “I moved because I want to travel and experience the world while I’m young and able to, and this was a perfect opportunity to visit a new place and start my new career,” Bacon says. “The salary is comparable to what I would be making in Vancouver, although I did turn down slightly higher-paying jobs in Vancouver in order to take this opportunity.

    “Relocating has done wonders for my professional development,” he adds. “The job I originally took was basically an internship, but it has developed into a full-fledged career.”

    A lot of Millennials find themselves choosing between a local gig or a job further afield. Or they might have no other option but to leave home (and Mom and Dad’s basement) to gain work experience. Regardless of the

    Read More »from Relocating for work? The pros and cons to weigh
  • Forget unpaid internships: New ways to get your foot in the door

    As any job-seeker knows — or as Millennials may soon find out once the academic year winds up in a few months — sendingout résumés and waiting for anoffer is a strategy that’s likely to bomb.

    About 80 per cent of availablepositions are never advertised, according to While in the past unpaid internships were presented as a great way for young people to get their foot in the door, they’re in fact illegal in many provinces, according to the Canadian Intern Association, with few federal laws regulating internships directly. Besides, interns often find themselves running errands rather than doing real, meaningful work.

    But there are fresh ways of gaining work experience, and two Canadian companies in particular are taking new approaches when it comes to introducing the next generation to the workforce.

    Ten Thousand Coffees is one of them. Created by young people for young people, it’s an online platform that links youth with professionals from more than 30

    Read More »from Forget unpaid internships: New ways to get your foot in the door
  • With the loonie slipping below US$0.80 it can’t help but feel like we will always be the cheaper, less successful (but better looking, obviously) younger siblings to the U.S.

    We know. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially for Canadians whose requisite remedy for the jealous sibling blues is stateside retail therapy or sipping mojitos in Fort Lauderdale.

    But a mere 35 per cent of March Break travellers are headed to international destinations this year, compared to 56 per cent last year, says a new CIBC poll. Of those travelling for the week-long hiatus, 26 per cent say the suffering loonie has impacted their travel plans.

    For those planning a cross-border jaunt, your biggest hope at getting the most bang for your buck is to focus on avoiding sky-high greenback-to-loonie currency conversion rates and fees, says Stephen Fine, president of 49th parallel hopping comparison site

    “The only thing people can really control is minimizing the fees and getting the

    Read More »from Money Minute: How to pocket more money when travelling outside of Canada
  • With news that Sears Canada and Hudson’s Bay Company are being investigated by Canada’s consumer watchdog because of allegedly-deceptive marketing practices, it’s no wonder consumers often find themselves wondering if a deal really is a deal.

    The Competition Bureau is looking into the two chains over alleged pricing strategies that made it look as if some products were being sold at a discount, when in fact, they were going for regular price. It’s early days of the investigation, and it may turn out that neither store did anything wrong, but even the idea of questionable pricing strategies makes it challenging for people to tell if a sale price is a good price.  

    Stores use all kinds of tactics to lure people into spending their hard-earned cash (while making them think they’re scoring a deal).

    Anchor decoy

    Consider the “anchor decoy”. William Poundstone explains the phenomenon in his 2011 book, Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It). He uses Williams

    Read More »from Shopping: When is a sale really a deal?
  • Ever combed through an auto insurance policy and gotten that awkward vibe that says, “this could be a scam and I wouldn’t know it.”

    Don’t worry; your skepticism is a universal thing or at least an inherent worry of your fellow Canadians.

    A survey by TD Insurance found that just over half of us (52 per cent) wouldn’t ask their insurance provider to elaborate on the things they don’t quite understand in the policy.

    Of those, 31 per cent think the details would be too complicated, 31 per cent say they don’t have time, 23 per cent are just straight up embarrassed for not knowing. Then there’s the 19 per cent of disinterested Canadians who don’t really care about their insurance policies or their stupid fine print.

    It probably all stems from the idea that we should know more than we do. Chalk it up to the age of “Googling” as a verb or maybe it’s the endless stream of comparison tools that do our work for us.

    That might be why 37 per cent of Canadians don’t bother to skim the fine print on

    Read More »from Money Minute: Why car insurance rates vary so much
  • RESPs: What happens if your child doesn't go to university?

    Many Canadian parents diligently put money aside every month for the kids’ post-secondary education. But what happens to that cash if those young ones later decide not to go to university?

    It’s a question Robert Armstrong, vice president and head ofmanaged solutions at BMO Global Asset Management in Toronto, hears all thetime.

    “The number one concern I get with all our clients is ‘Ifour children don’t pursue post-secondary education, do we lose our money?’

    “That’s one of the key reasons why some people are hesitant to open an RESP,” he adds. “Who knows what your child’s going to do in 18 years? That scares a lot of people.”

    Rest assured, parental units: You do not lose that money.

    “Whatever you put into your RESP you get back, no question, no tax, no issues whatsoever,” Armstrong says.

    But, keep in mind that whatever money the government kicked in through the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) or the Canada Learning Bond goes back to its rightful owner.

    But an added bonus is that any

    Read More »from RESPs: What happens if your child doesn't go to university?


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