Book Review: MANAGING ALONE

17 Apr

By Sheryl Smolkin

Making a will and getting our financial affairs in order is something we all know is important, but many of us never get around to it. Younger people in particular often feel they are invincible and that it is too soon to think about death and dying.

But people die as a result of illness or accidents at all ages. And where they have not done the necessary planning, spouses left behind may not have the money or information they need to pay the mortgage, support their children and move on with their lives.

“Managing Alone” is a self-published book by Manulife Certified Financial Planners Jennifer Black and Janet Baccarani (co-owners of Dedicated Financial Solutions). The authors use 10 fact scenarios to help both young and old widows and widowers in different situations coping on their own without the help and support of their partners.

The book is short (119 pages) and easy to read. The stories are based on actual situations encountered by Black and Baccarini while advising clients. Each chapter focuses on two or three critical financial issues for the widow or widower profiled. Only a few of the many topics covered are how to:

  • Locate and access your deceased spouse’s assets.
  • Claim government benefits available to widows/widowers and their children.
  • Deal with final expenses and your spouse’s final tax return.
  • Establish your own credit and financial identity and why this is important.
  • Obtain the right insurance coverage at the lowest possible cost.
  • Manage if your spouse did not leave a will.
  • Get family affaris affairs in order when death of one spouse is imminent.

A story that should resonate with younger readers is about Kayla and Jacob, a couple in their 20s with three young children. When Jacob drowned on a fishing trip without a will, Kayla had no idea how to manage the family finances. To compound matters, all of Jacob’s bank accounts were frozen. The bank also refused to pay on the mortgage insurance policy because he had traces of alcohol in his blood at the time of death and was engaged in “a dangerous activity.”

This chapter discussed in detail how Kayla met with a financial planner who advised her to use the proceeds of Jacob’s small insurance policy to cover expenses until she could get a job. He also helped her to develop cash flow projections and cut back on expenses so she could get by without selling the house.

Several years later she remarried and her new husband adopted the children. As part of their financial planning, the couple opened joint bank accounts; switched the ownershp of Kayla’s house to joint ownership; made beneficiary designations on company pension and insurance plans; purchased life and disability insurance with named beneficiaries; and drafted wills and powers of attorney.

Another interesting scenario features Walter and Anna, a financially well-off couple in their 60s. Anna died suddenly of bacterial meningitis. Eventually Walter felt ready to meet a new companion again, but his family was concerned that unscrupulous potential partners may try to take advantage of a grieving spouse. Working with his lawyer, accountant and financial planner in consultation with his children, Walter set up a trust to protect the estate. This section clearly explains the different kinds of trusts and how to set them up. He also updated his will and powers of attorney.

At the end of every chapter, there is a work sheet where you can fill in points to think about that may apply to you and questions to ask your advisor.

In addition to the book, the authors have established the website widowed.ca, a free online resource for widows, widowers and their loved ones, providing an easy way to locate a wide variety of information and services needed after the loss of a cherished companion.

You can find articles, event notices, Q&As, discussion forums and links to government websites on this frequently updated and valuable resource.

I highly recommend this book for couples, the recently widowed and their family members. The website covers an added continuum of valuable information and networking opportunies. Information on purchasing a print or electronic copy of the book can be found here. The ebook for Kobo can also be purchased from Chapters/Indigo for $10.99.

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Jennifer Black

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Janet Baccarani

Apr 14: Best from the blogosphere

14 Apr

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

With spring finally in the air, high school and university students are pounding the pavement looking for work.

The pros and cons of unpaid internships have been all over the news lately with prominent publications cancelling illegal internships that were little more than free labour. On his blog youth and work Toronto lawyer Andrew Langille writes about The Growing Influence of Canada’s Intern Rights Movement.

Talentegg’s Sidneyeve Matrix says instead of waiting for opportunity to knock, students should get out there and create their own career luck. She gives four DIY opportunities that give young people ways to take the initiative and open doors for themselves.

Spring is also the time when many homes are bought and sold. When you apply for a mortgage, the bank will probably try to sell you mortgage insurance. Brighter Life blogger Helen Burnett-Nichols considers whether mortgage insurance or increasing life insurance will give you the best protection.

Robb Engen (Boomer and Echo) also has a new blog called Earn Save Grow. It is still very much a personal finance site, but it focuses less on frugality and more on topics like how to increase your income, and how to save wisely in the areas that impact your finances the most. Check out his latest post Long term outlook: Where do you see your finances in 20 years?

And last but not least, if you use a Keurig or other one cup coffee maker with disposable K-cups or pods you don’t even have to do the math to know you are over-paying for the small amount of coffee contained in the excessive packaging.

But in case you never gave the subject any serious thought, check out Squawkfox where Kerry K. Taylor calculates that if you use Starbucks French Roast Ground Coffee in the K-cup mini reusable filter it only costs 26 cents per cup, while using a K-cup will ratchet the cost up to 67 cents for eight ounces of java.

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.

Apr 7: Best from the blogosphere

7 Apr

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

Do you have a spring or summer wedding coming up? Squawkfox aka Kerry K. Taylor discovered H+M now has a Grecian style wedding gown on sale for USD$99. This happily married lady says if she were looking today she would say yes to this dress! The 38 comments (the last time I checked) are even more interesting with lots of great ideas on how to save money on a beautiful dress you may only wear once.

Whether or not to tip the people who provide you with services and how much is a perennial dilemma. On When Life Gives You Lemons Add Vodka, Sarah Greesonbach discusses how much it costs to get a massage and why your tips may be an important part of your massage therapist’s compenstation. Money saving idea: If you need a massage for therapeutic reasons, make sure you see a registered massage therapist in case you can claim all or part of the cost on your employee benefit plan.

In a recent Globe & Mail column Preet Banerjee had some great information on discounts for seniors and you don’t always have to be over 65! For example, by signing up for a membership with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), you can get an annual gym membership to GoodLife for $400 per year (plus tax) as long as you are 45 years or older. The cheapest CARP membership is $14.95 per year.

Tim Stobbs writes an interesting blog on Canadian Dream: Free at 45 about adjusting to having a higher self-worth as your savings grow. He says the first most obvious change is that you gain the ability to self-insure for more minor events. For example, you don’t have buy the extended warranty on your appliances because if something stops working you can just buy a new one.  Later on when you have even more saved, you can raise your home insurance deductible since you can comfortably handle greater risks.

There has been considerable press recently about the number of illegal, unpaid interns in both Canada and the U.S. However Cait, a Blonde on a Budget says that an unpaid internship, writing her own blog and writing posts for other blogs she is really passionate about have led to her current full-time job with RateHub.ca.

“My boss saw that I could manage numerous projects with multiple deadlines, I obviously want to learn new things, and she loved that she never found any spelling mistakes in my posts.” Of course, Cait had been trying to build up her writing portfolio, but until that job offer came along she wasn’t conscious of the fact that her blog was a portfolio in itself.

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.

Why some employee benefits are worth more than others

3 Apr

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK

You just got a job offer and in addition to a hefty salary increase you are getting all kinds of new perks like life insurance, free parking and a cell phone. The company even has a subsidized cafeteria where you buy lunch and pick up dinner- to-go for the family.

But not all employee benefits are created equal. In some cases the value of the benefits is viewed as taxable income by Canada Revenue Agency when you file your tax return.

Here are seven things that may form part of your compensation and how they are taxed by CRA.

  1. Group benefits: Amounts your employer pays for your life, accident and critical illness insurance coverage are taxable benefits. But when the company pays all or part of the cost of your extended health care, dental plan, short-term disability (STD) or long-term disability (LTD) insurance you do not pay tax on the premiums. If you collect on your short-term or long-term disability insurance you will pay taxes if any part of the premiums were employer-paid.
  2. Pensions/Group RRSPs: Your company’s contributions to your pension plan are not taxable. However, your employer’s contributions to your Group RRSP account are viewed as additional taxable income by CRA. But you can deduct RRSP contributions (up to $23,820 for 2013) so you will not actually have to pay taxes on Group RRSP contributions made by your employer on your behalf.
  3. Service and recognition awards: Cash, gift certificates and things like gifts of stock certificates and gold coins are always taxable benefits. However, you can receive tangible tax-free gifts or awards worth up to $500 annually in some specified circumstances, such as a wedding or outstanding service award. In addition, once every five years you can receive a tax-free, non-cash long-service or anniversary award worth $500 or less.
  4. Tuition reimbursement: If you get a scholarship or bursary from your employer it will be a taxable benefit unless you took the program to maintain or upgrade your employment skills. For example, if you need an executive MBA to be promoted, no tax is payable on the value of company-paid tuition. Where the company gives your child a scholarship or bursary, generally neither you nor your son or daughter who benefit from the scholarship have to pay taxes on the amount.
  5. Parking: Employer-provided parking is usually a taxable employee benefit unless you have a disability or the parking spot is provided because you regularly need to drive a car for work. If you work in a shopping centre or industrial park where parking is free to employees and customers, a taxable benefit will not be added to your remuneration. Similarly, if there are fewer parking spots than the actual number of employees (scramble parking), free parking is not valued or included in taxable income.
  6. Mobile phone: Charges paid by the company for the business use of your cellphone are not taxable. If your phone is used in part for personal reasons, that portion of the bill should be reported on your T4 as a taxable benefit. However, if the cost of the basic plan has a reasonable fixed cost and your use does not result in charges over the cost of basic service, CRA will not consider any part of the use taxable.
  7. Subsidized meals: If the company cafeteria sells subsidized meals to employees, this will not be considered a taxable benefit as long as employees pay a reasonable amount that covers the cost of food preparation and service.

More details about the taxation of these and other employee benefits or allowances can be found on the CRA website.

Also see:

CRA Benefits and Allowances Chart

Income Tax Treatment of Taxable Benefits

Some workplace benefits come tax-free

Mar 31: Best from the blogosphere

31 Mar

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

Most of us assume that at some less than precise date in the future we will retire. However, on retirehappy.ca this week Scott Wallace questions whether or not you should retire.

He says that people who choose to continue some form of work for five years or more after they leave their full-time job are not as worried about money. Nevertheless, those who retire completely and fill their days with hobbies, volunteering and family may have an equally comfortable retirement.

In her Toronto Star column, Ellen Roseman profiles Annie and Rich English, a married couple with no kids, who since age 48 have been living the dream of early retirement in downtown Toronto. Their secret is saving ruthlessly for years and planning ahead for shortfalls. You can find tips in their new self-published book, Retired at 48: One Couple’s Journey to a Pensionless Retirement.

Guest blogger Dave writes on Canadian Dream: Retire at 45 that he and his wife have been living frugally so they can retire two decades before most Canadians. However, this week he acknowledges that some compromises along the way have been essential. “I am less of a stick in the mud around money, and my wife is not constantly being harped at for her excessive purchases of $8 ‘girl shirts’ (which are basically disposable clothes),” he says.

To help stay on course over the long haul, take a look at 5 free budget and personal finance apps for everyone reviewed by Kerry K. Taylor on Squawkfox. Keeping tabs on every dollar spent doesn’t have to be a drag or a lot of work. Your smartphone — the device you rarely part from — is the perfect tool to do the heavy lifting for you.

And don’t forget that every dollar saved is a dollar earned, particularly on your utility bills. Tom Drake gives 10 ways to reduce your electricity bills and 10 ways to reduce your water bills like don’t forget to turn off the tap while you are brushing your teeth and only wash full loads of dishes.

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.

Kevin Press – BrighterLife.ca

27 Mar

By Sheryl Smolkin

27Mar-Kevinpress

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Click here to listen

Hi,

Today we’re talking to Kevin Press as part of our continuing 2014 series of SavewithSPP.com podcast interviews with personal finance bloggers. Kevin is the Assistant Vice-President of Marketing Insights at Sun Life Financial in Toronto.

His blog, Today’s Economy has appeared on Sun Life’s Brighter Life platform since 2009. Kevin started his career in 1998 at Rogers Healthcare and Financial Publishing; where he had several editorial and marketing positions, including over 3 years as editor of Benefits Canada. He has also volunteered for the Canadian Pension & Benefits  Institute for almost 15 years in many roles, including as National Chair.

Thank you so much for joining me today, Kevin.

Sheryl, thanks so much for the invitation. It’s good to talk to you again.

Q. A blog is a major time commitment. How often do you blog? 
A. These days, it’s just once a week. I’m up every Wednesday but over the years it’s been sometimes twice a week, sometimes even three times a week in the early days.

Q. Why did you decide to start blogging in addition to your more-than-full time job and your volunteer activities? 
A. I love my job. I’m so proud of the team that I lead. But, the truth is – and I think you can relate to this – I don’t think I ever stopped being a journalist. I was asked to launch the Today’s Economy blog back in early 2009, right in the heart of the financial crisis, and that was really a very easy decision.

Q. I can understand that. You can take the man out of journalism, but you can’t take journalism out of the man! What are some of the topics you cover in your blog?
A. As I say, my chief goal is to help readers understand what is happening in the global economy, and here in Canada. So, in that sense, Today’s Economy is not a personal finance blog in the way that some of the others are. I certainly post a lot on personal finance, but primarily what I’m trying to do is focus on explaining key economic trends to a broad audience.

The Eurozone has been an amazing story to follow, and, more recently, emerging markets – what’s happening there now as the U.S. government slows down its quantitative-easing program. That’s a fascinating story. If I’ve helped Canadians understand these big stories, even just a little bit, then I think the blog is a success.

Q. Since you’ve started blogging, the Brighter Life platform has been expanded to include a number of other blogs covering a broad range of subjects. Tell me a little bit about a couple of the other bloggers and what they write about.
A. One of my favorites is Dave Dineen. He writes a blog called ‘Dave’s Retirement Journey’. Dave was actually a member of my team years ago, before he decided to take early retirement I think he’s helped a lot of Canadians make the transition to retirement successfully – just writing in the first-person about his experiences, making that transition himself.

Anna Sharratt does really good work for us on the health beat. She has a blog called Living Well. Gerald McGroarty writes about work issues, but I have to tell you, he’s written a piece recently about an extraordinary story. Last year, Gerald experienced a sudden cardiac arrest, and his wife, who is a registered nurse, saved his life.

Q. I’m going to have to look for that one.
A. It’s called ‘Could You Save a Life?’

Q. How many hits do you usually get when you or the other bloggers post?
A. It’s a really wide range. I’ve written posts that get no more than a couple of hundred visits and others have got well into the six-figures. I can tell you that after years of being a journalist, this blog reaches a larger audience by far than I’ve ever been able to connect with before.

Q. So what have some of your most popular blogs been?
A. The economic forecasts attract a lot of readers. Any of the retirement research we do like our Unretirement Index always scores well. Specifically, what we expected to learn from that research was that many Canadians will work past the traditional retirement age of 65 for lifestyle reasons. But because what we’ve actually ended up tracking are the evolving views of Canadians post-financial crisis it’s turned into even more of an interesting story.

Q. Poll after poll, particularly during RRSP season reveals that Canadians are not saving enough and that they’re worried about how they will live in retirement. Why do you think so many people find managing their finances so difficult?
A. We really believe that the way we can help Canadians most is empower them to act. So research shows, time and again, that adults want to do the right thing – they recognize that lifetime financial security is achievable. It’s just hard for them to get there, it’s hard for them to start. So our goal is to educate.

Q. You published 20 Smart Money Moves at the beginning of the year and you suggest that people maximize their employee benefits. Can you give me one or two examples where you think Canadians are really leaving money on the table?
A. First, a lot of employers sponsor capital accumulation plans – or defined contribution plans as they’re sometimes called – and match employee contributions up to certain limit. So, lesson number one – if you’re lucky enough to have one of those plans, take full advantage.

Lesson number 2 is if your employer offers a group registered retirement savings plan, do what I did. Move your individual RRSP funds over to the group plan – you save a lot in terms of management expense ratios.

The difference between the group environment versus individual RRSPs is quite dramatic. You still realize all the same benefits from your registered savings and you’ll get a better return in the long run.

Q. Interesting. I know the Saskatchewan Pension Plan has employer-workplace programs, and they also offer similar advantages.

Employers and insurance companies spend a lot of time and money communicating with benefit programs – why do you think so many employees are still not getting the message?

A. I think that a lot of folks struggle with the technical nature of the subject, and it really is incumbent upon financial institutions to keep working at finding ways to present information, in the most understandable fashion possible.

Q. If you had one piece of advice to help Canadians better manage their finances, what would it be?

A. One of the best things I ever did was take the Canadian Securities Course. The textbook alone is worth the price of the program. People who are interested in working in the industry very often take that as an early-stage educational opportunity. But what I took away from it was so much more. It’s just such a valuable learning experience. I think it will help you to understand your finances in a very meaningful way.

Q. The federal government is not interested in expanding CPP. A few provinces, Saskatchewan included, are rolling out the new pooled registered pension plans. Do you think PRPPs will be the carrot that helps more Canadians to save what they need for retirement?

A. I’m a big fan of PRPPs. I think they have that potential. The fundamental idea behind the PRPP is that too few Canadians (43%) have workplace pension plans. But even that number is misleading because so many of those folks are public sector workers. In the private sector, fewer than a quarter of workers work for an organization that sponsors a plan. So, the idea is that PRPP can fill that gap. And I’m very hopeful about their ability to improve the pension system in this country.

Q. Youth unemployment is a huge issue. Your Unretirement Index shows that older workers are working longer. Are seniors clogging up the pipeline? How do we get more young people into good jobs? How do we give them a good start?
A. This is such a tough story. I have to say this one of the stories, since I started blogging, that bothered me the most. The unemployment rate among young adults in this country has been stuck at about twice the national average since before the financial crisis.

But of course, this is not a new story. Youth unemployment hit 17.2 percent in the ’92 recession. It hit 19.2 percent in 1983. What’s interesting and what was a surprise to me is  that there actually is no evidence to support the notion that young people can’t find work because older workers are retiring later.

There are lot of good ideas out there about how to help young Canadians. I think the best relate to the choices that young people make in terms of their careers and their education.

There are certain areas of the economy that are more dynamic. There are certain skills that are more marketable. And I think if young people are as strategic as possible, and as parents, I think if we can help our kids be as strategic as possible in making education and career decisions, then they will be well positioned to transition more easily to the workforce. 

Q. So, one of your New Year’s resolutions was to write a Today’s Economy e-book. How’s that going for you?
A. Oh, I love you holding my feet to the fire. What I’ve done is I’ve put together a collection of posts that are not quite so time-sensitive, that still stand up over time.

A lot of what I write is about what’s happening right now and probably won’t have relevance a year, two years down the road. I think that we can help to tell the story of what’s been happening in the economy since 2008 and I’m targeting the second half of the year to pull that together.

Q. You’re ahead of me on that one. Thank you very much, Kevin. It was a pleasure to talk to you today.

A. So good to talk to you again, Sheryl. Thanks for talking to me today.

This is an edited transcript of the podcast you can listen to by clicking on the graphic under the picture above. If you don’t already follow BrighterLife.ca, you can find it here and subscribe to receive blog posts by email as soon as they’re available.

Mar 24: Best from the blogosphere

24 Mar

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

Whether you simply can’t face the pile of paper on your desk or you are waiting for the last few T5s to come in the mail, the deadline for filing your income tax return is on the horizon.

In Income Splitting 101: Tips On Keeping It In The Family Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen discusses the Conservative government’s proposal to permit income-splitting for families with children and some legitimate income-splitting strategies that are already available under the Income Tax Act.

Many young people are considering post-secondary education with a co-op component. On canadianbudgetbinder.com Mr. CBB tells us How his co-op program at a zoo shaped his work ethics.

He says one of the greatest parts of his co-op program was when he was feeding the animals and visitors to the zoo asked him questions he learned how to interact with people and share his knowledge freely.

Blogger Krystal Yee has a new job working close to the downtown Vancouver core. She says Having a car is expensive, particularly now that she has to rent a downtown parking spot. But her home is in the suburbs and she’s not ready to give her car up yet.

Brenda Spiering the editor of brighterlife.ca has some great ideas for spring cleaning your finances. Begin by digging out all of your essential financial documents. If you are unsure what they are, check out Twelve key documents you need to gather.

And as wedding season comes into full bloom, take a look at How I Made 100 Wedding Invitations for Under $60 on whenlifegivesyoulemonsaddvodka.com. All it took was card stock from a stationery store, an online template and a new printer cartridge.

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.

Should you buy extra life insurance at work?

20 Mar

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK

SHUTTERSTOCK

Suppose your employer pays for group term life insurance equal to one times your salary. You also have the opportunity to buy more. How do you know how much additional life insurance you need and whether buying it at work or independently makes the most sense?

The following basic calculation can help you assess your insurance needs:

Insurance coverage required = total outstanding debts + funeral costs + education funding for children + (annual cash flow needed by the survivor to remain debt free x number of years cash flow is required).

You can also plug more detailed numbers into this online calculator. Once you know how much insurance you need, you have to consider the pros and cons of additional group term life vs individual coverage.

While employer-paid premiums for your basic coverage are typically lower than individual life, you may be surprised to learn that this does not necessarily apply to employee-paid additional optional group life insurance. That’s because you will have to undergo a medical examination in both cases, and your age and health status could drive up the cost of optional group life to the same or higher levels than individual life.

Furthermore, if you need coverage for an extended period, group insurance is often more expensive than individual rates since group rates tend to increase annually or on an age-banded basis while individual life premiums remain the same for a specified period.

Even when you compare individual polices to group rates, if you look at the total cost over the needed coverage period group plans rarely come out ahead. Although an individual policy may be slightly more expensive, the value of the policy is greater because the employee owns it outright and premiums are guaranteed for a specific period – say 10, 20 or 30 years.

It is also important to recognize that unlike optional group life, individual policies can offer preferred rates to people who are in good health and have an excellent family health history. In these circumstances, it may be a smart decision to buy up on individual term insurance instead of adding optional group life coverage.

Conversion of optional group life insurance can also be a problem if you change jobs or are out of work. Some group policies allow you to convert the coverage into an individual policy within 30 days of leaving the company without medical underwriting.

However, because no medical underwriting is required, group conversions are typically priced higher than standard rates.  Also, some group policies only allow employees to convert the insurance to a permanent policy, which is more expensive than individual term coverage and may not be what you need.

So do the math. You can compare quotes for individual term life on this website and then figure out what topping up your basic employer paid group insurance plan will cost you over an extended period. You may discover that individual life insurance will be cheaper in the long run as you age, even if you change jobs or poor plan experience drives up rates under your employer’s plan.

Also see: 

Group vs Individual Insurance By Cecilia Tsang

Group vs Individual Insurance By Chantal Marr

Individual Life Insurance vs. Group Life Insurance

Mar 17: Best from the blogosphere

17 Mar

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

The road to retirement is a long one with many twists and turns on the way. In addition to saving to pay for your retirement you have to think about where you will live, how you will spend your time and how much you will need for health care costs not covered by Medicare.

In Retirement: Who do you want to be when you grow up? on retirehappy.ca, Donna McCaw says we could be volunteering, mentoring, coaching, working part time, serving on committees or boards, engaging in politics at various levels, writing, taking courses, getting more fit, and taking on projects, challenges, or causes.

Dave Dinnen weighs the pros and cons of retiring early in his blog Should you retire early or retire late? on Brighter Life. Early retirement costs more and most of your friends will still be working. But he retired at 54 and loves that he is young and free with the time to make his own lifestyle choices.

For many people, getting ready for retirement is such an overwhelming goal that they simply can’t get started. Using cleaning her office as an example, Eileen Chadnick of Big Cheese Coaching says Tiny is the new big – when it comes to goals. It’s often better to set smaller goals, because you’re more likely to achieve them. This gives you something to celebrate and reinforces the habit of goal-setting in the first place.

Lent started on March 5th. Big Cajun Man suggests that for your financial Lenten journey you could go without lattes for 40 days; read four personal finance books and live on cash for 40 days. Even if Lent is half over when you read this, it’s not too late to commit to strategies that will save you money all year.

And, on another note, independent life insurance broker and president of Life Insurance Canada.com Inc. Glenn Cooke exposes three big fat myths about critical illness insurance on myownadvisor.ca that you need to know about. For example, you could be denied coverage for a heart attack because insurance companies use their own definition of a heart attack instead of the typical consumers definition of heart attack or even the medical industry’s terminology.

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.

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