Aug 18: Best from the blogosphere

18 Aug

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

In this week’s Best from the blogosphere we revisit some of our old favourites who have appeared repeatedly in this space.

First of all, congratulations to Robb and Marie Engen who are pioneers in the world of personal finance blogging. This week they are Celebrating Four Years Of Boomer & Echo. Their articles have been featured in the Globe and Mail, MoneySense, the National Post, and MSN Money.  They’ve been interviewed and quoted in numerous online and print magazines, and recognized as one of the best personal finance blogs in Canada.  Robb also writes a bi-weekly column in the Toronto Star.

On retirehappy, Jim Yih crunches the numbers to find out if it makes good financial sense to Rent or own vacation property in Vernon, B.C. He concludes that the amount of $16,000/year it would cost to carry the property probably cannot be recouped by renting the unit for part of the year. He also decides that renting makes more sense because the property may not increase significantly in value over time.

Tim Stobbs keeps us up-to-date on his retirement journey on Canadian Dream: Free at 45. Therefore I was initially surprised when I saw I Hate Hard Work is the title of one of his recent blogs. But it makes more sense when he clarifies that he would rather work smart than work hard. That means even at the office he tends to focus most of his efforts on high impact items, so although he doesn’t work hard Tim says he is more effective than the majority of his co-workers.

“I just refuse to spend lots of time working on something when in fact if I focus on the core items I can get 80% of the work done with a mere 20% of my effort,” he says.

The Big Cajun Man, Allen Whitton reminds us that Lifestyle Creep is like “Feature Creep,” a term used in high tech development teams, where someone keeps trying to shove more and more into a release of software or hardware, thus slowing things down, and eventually making the whole thing unusable. In other words, if every time you get a raise or pay off a debt you use the money to buy a bigger house, a newer car or more consumer goods, your financial picture will never really improve.

And on Brighter Life, Kevin Press asks the perennial question, Why is financial literacy such a stubborn problem? He shares the following thoughts:

First, he thinks it’s a mistake to argue that personal finance is uniquely difficult to teach and learn. It is a complex and technical subject certainly, but so are dozens of others. We could just as easily be sweating about why so few Canadians understand how to take care of their cars.

Second, the complexity of the subject is not the issue. The problem is the way we are trying to teach it. Adult learning theory explains a number of things about how adults prefer to be taught new information.

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.

Dan Wesley knows how to save a buck

14 Aug

By Sheryl Smolkin

14Aug-saveabuck

podcast picture

Click here to listen

Hi,

As part of the savewithspp.com continuing series of podcast interviews with personal finance bloggers, today I’m talking with Dan Wesley, author of the personal finance blog “Our Big Fat Wallet.”

Dan is in his late 20s, he recently got married and he lives with his wife in Calgary. Finance isn’t just his hobby, it’s his career. He currently works in the corporate finance group of a large petroleum company.

A couple of unique things you should know about Dan:

  • He’s an accountant with a professional designation and a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
  • He’s never had any consumer debt.
  • He pays his credit cards in full every month.
  • He is able to get discounts on virtually everything he buys.

Welcome Dan.

Thank you.

Q: First of all, tell our listeners, why is your blog called “Our Big Fat Wallet”?
A: I guess the name originally began as a joke. When I was in college, I had a roommate who used to say I had a big fat wallet because I carried a lot of coupons and that made it look bigger. And I still do carry coupons. So that’s where the name comes from.

Q: Why did you start blogging and what are your goals for the blog?
A: I started my blog because I’m passionate about all things related to finance and I wanted to empower people to take control of their own finances no matter what their age or their financial situation is. I’m hoping my blog will be a place people can learn about all topics related to finance, but also have fun and interact with others as well.

Q: And how long have you been blogging?
A: Four months.

Q: How frequently do you post?
A: I usually post three times per week on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. It was a bit of a struggle keeping that up during tax season, but I managed to pull it off so I’m hoping to continue that schedule in the future.

Q: Tell me about the range of topics that you blog about.
A: I write about everything related to personal finance with more of a Canadian focus, and specifically focusing on saving, investing and frugal living.

Q: There’s probably over a dozen well-known personal finance bloggers in Canada. What do you think is different about your blog and why do you think it’s a must-read?
A: I think the main difference with my blog is that I’m a professional accountant and I work in the finance sector, so readers are getting two perspectives. They’re getting my own personal opinion, but also the technical side as well. But I also try to make my blog as much fun as possible. So I’ve been doing some random company facts articles that tend to get a lot of attention.

Q: How many hits do you typically get for each blog?
A: It’s tough to say because it’s a pretty wide range. My most popular content has thousands of hits and seems to become more popular over time.

Q: What are some of the more popular blogs that you’ve posted.
A: The most popular content so far has been my “interesting facts” post on Costco. A couple of months ago, I posted some facts about Costco that a lot of people don’t know, and it was recently featured in The Globe and Mail and The Huffington Post. Some other popular content has been “Why I gave up on Air Miles,” “How to reduce your mortgage penalty” and “How I multiply my savings.”

Q: So tell me a couple of interesting facts about Costco that our readers might not have heard about.
A: Well, they don’t mark their products by more than 15%. They have some of the lowest staff turnover in all of the retail sector. They haven’t raised the price of their hot dog combo since 1985. Just things like that, people find really interesting.

Q:  As noted in your introduction, you say you can get a discount on anything. Share some of your secrets with us.
A: There’s lots of different ways that you can get discount. For example, when I book a flight, I use discounted flight credits that I bought online, and then I’ll wait until there’s a seat sale to book the flight. West Jet flight credits other people can’t use are sometimes sold at a discount on Kijiji.

Q: What are some other examples of unusual ways to save money that readers or listeners may not be aware of?
A: For groceries, I actually started trading coupons with people last year. I bought a coupon book and I traded with other people who had the same coupon book but didn’t need certain coupons that I needed. And so far I’ve saved over $300 this year on groceries just through coupon trading.

Big ticket items like furniture or a car or a house, I always negotiate off the list price. So when we bought our house, I managed to get about $30,000 in upgrades thrown in just through negotiating with the builder.

Another big way get a discount is to time your purchase. We bought our car later in the year when the new models were coming out, and the dealer was trying to get rid of cars from the previous year and we saved $2,500 off the list price.

Q: So how did you manage to graduate from University with no debt and $10,000 in assets? What are your secrets?
A: The secret is, there is no secret. I did that basically by living within my means and making a detailed budget and sticking to it. So I didn’t have a lot of income for most of those five years.

Q: Did you live with your family or did you live away from home?
A: I lived away from home during the school year, but I moved home during the summer to save money and I worked full time. I bought used text books. I saved on transportation costs by living on campus. We didn’t really go to any fancy restaurants ever. Oh, and I applied for scholarships, as many as I could, even if I didn’t think I had a chance.

Q: Did you work part-time as well when you were in school?
A: No. I wanted to focus more on completing assignments and extra-curricular activities. But during the summer, I worked full-time, probably more than full-time, sometimes at two jobs.

Q: What kind of jobs did you do in the summer?
A: I worked at a casino. And I also worked mowing lawns. Just odd jobs that students normally have, fast food, things like that.

Q: Do you have a mortgage on your family home?
A: Yes, but we managed to save 20% to the down payment to avoid the CMHC Insurance cost. And then we used the builder’s lawyer to avoid paying the legal fees, which saved us around $1,500.

Q: Do you have a favourite personal financial blogger that you read religiously?
A: It’s tough to pick one but I’d probably say Robb Engen’s blog, “Boomer and Echo.” I’ve followed it for years now and he’s been a big help to me. I like that blog because Robb deals with everyday financial issues that anyone can relate to. And he writes in a way that anyone can understand.

Q: Your blog is fairly new. Have you had any sort of money-making opportunities or spin-offs yet as a result of writing this blog?
A: I’ve been lucky enough to pick up a writing job. I’ve been writing for the website howtosavemoney.ca, just on basic tips and tricks on how to save money. And I’ve also received two job offers in the past couple of months, which is flattering, but I’m happy and not looking to leave my current job. But other than that, no. The blog is pretty much brand new.

Q: If you only had one piece of advice to give young people heading off to university or starting their first job, what would it be?
A: It’s probably tough to pick one, but two big things: live within your means and make a budget. If you do those things, I think your finances will take care of themselves whether you’re in school or just starting out in the workforce. And when I say making a budget, I mean make a detailed budget and stick to it.

Thanks very much Dan. It was a pleasure to talk to you.

Thank you.

14Aug-dan

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 Dan’s blog “Our big fat wallet” you can find it here. Subscribe to receive blog posts by email as soon as they’re available.

 

Aug 11: Best from the blogosphere

11 Aug

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

I’m on a mission to find new retirement bloggers to feature in this space who have interesting insight for SPP members of all ages who are planning to retire in the near or distant future.

I discovered Your retirement income blueprint today. This week’s blog Donor-directed taxes – You decide who gets your money! Is fascinating. If at age 71 you don’t need your mandatory RRIF withdrawals to live on, melt down your registered account and the tax liability through a donor-directed charitable giving fund and direct your tax dollars to causes you care about. The net result may also reduce your income to a level where you can avoid the OAS clawback.

GetSmartAboutMoney.ca tackles the perennial question How much you need to save for retirement? It also includes 7 tips for last minute savers including some tough love. The author suggests if you have to choose between saving for retirement and your children’s education, put money in your RRSP first. Let your children get jobs or borrow to help pay for their education. Later, you may be able to help them pay off their student loans, which carry lower interest rates.

On My Own Advisor, Mark tells Gary’s story about how he and his wife retired comfortably on less than $1 million in invested assets which seems to be the big, scary number these days. They bought a 35’ 5th wheel and a truck to tow it a they spend winters in Myrtle Beach and come back to Canada in the summers. They also can afford occasional cruises to warmer climates.

The Blunt Bean Counter Mark Goodfield is posting “the best of previous blogs” while he concentrates on improving his golf game this summer. In One Big Happy Family – Until We Discuss the Will he tackles the taboo subject of whether you should discuss your will with your family.

And Retired Syd who writes Retirement: A full time job, just finished up a five-week visit to Manhattan on her annual home-exchange vacation. She saw the city with the fresh eyes of a tourist, as she guided friends around. The notes she receives from readers help her to also view her retirement (six years and counting) in a new and more appreciative way.

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.

BOOK REVIEW: THE REAL RETIREMENT Why you could be better off than you think

7 Aug

By Sheryl Smolkin

7Aug-The+Real+Retirement

The Real Retirement by Morneau Shepell Chief Actuary Fred Vettese and Bill Morneau, Executive Chairman of Morneau Shepell was released and extensively reviewed by the media in 2013.

However, I decided to circle back to this book over a year later because it is much more optimistic than many of the personal finance books I have reviewed since January.

Most financial writers seem to be trying to guilt readers into forgoing consumption during their working lives in order to accumulate sufficient RRSP savings to generate 70% of pre-retirement income.

In contrast, Vettese and Morneau present well-reasoned arguments to illustrate that income replacement of 50% or even less post-retirement will result in a “neutral retirement income” (NRIT), i.e. similar patterns of consumption for retirees.

Initially, they note that there are three phases of retirement:

Phase 1: From retirement age to the mid or late 70s or even later if you are healthy you are most likely to travel to exotic locations and pursue expensive hobbies. Therefore your income requirements will be highest in this phase.

Phase 2: In the second phase of retirement you may have diminished physical or mental capabilities. If so, you will travel less and cut back on strenuous activities. Therefore you will spend less money.

Phase 3: In the last years of your life you may be more physically or mentally impaired. You may need to be in a nursing home, or if you are wealthy enough, in an upscale retirement home with nursing care.

As a result, planning to spend more in the first decade of retirement will not necessarily mean that you will run out of money before you run out of time.

I thought it was particularly interesting that when considering available resources that can generate retirement income for Canadians, unlike many other personal financial writers, the authors also factor in the value of “Pillar 4 assets” including real estate, business equity and non-registered savings.

They use the following population breakdown in their calculations:

Income Quartile Average total income (couple)
Quartile 1 $29,000
Quartile 2 $53,000
Quartile 3 $78,000
Quartile 4 $110,000
Quartile 5 $204,000

The bottom quartile is dropped out because it is assumed that government benefits such as CPP, OAS and the GIS will provide better than average income replacement.

For the most part, Quartile 5 is also excluded since a couple with an income of over $200,000 has typically saved in RRSPs and has other Pillar 4 assets that can augment retirement ravings.

Vettese presents an example of a couple in Quartile 3 with $78,000 in annual income at age 65 and assumes they saved 6.5% annually in an RRSP from age 30 until retirement, Once their RRSP balance is converted to a RRIF at age 65, including government benefits they will have an income after retirement of $48,600/year.

Although retirement income for this couple is just 62% of their pre-retirement income, they no longer make RRSP and CPP contributions; have EI deductions and other employment costs; and pay a mortgage or child-raising costs. Their income taxes are also much lower.

The net result is that they have $14,000 more in disposable income to spend post-retirement! Although each family’s financial situation differs, the authors conclude that an NRIT which equalizes consumption before and after retirement generally only requires about 50% of pre-retirement income.

A calculations using a couple in Quartile 4 ($116,000 before retirement) reveals that the NRIT is just 44%. Furthermore, they can achieve their NRIT with 35 years of RRSP contributions equal to 3.5% of household income. And in general the higher the income level, the lower the NRIT.

This book is an interesting read because it presents a different perspective on the perennial questions, “How much will I need in retirement?” and “How much do I have to save to accumulate the amount I will require?”

While Vettese and Morneau suggest the answers to these questions may be “less than you think,” it doesn’t mean you don’t have to save at all. And all of the scenarios assume you retire free of mortgage and other debt. They also presume a drop in employment expenses and taxes payable that may not apply in your situation.

But if you thought the only thing you have to look forward to is Freedom 75, reading this book will cheer you up. Retiring at age 65 may in fact be a perfectly reasonable objective and you might even be able to afford a nice annual vacation or two while you are still well enough to travel.

The Real Retirement can be purchased online from Chapters for $15.64.

Fred Vettese

Fred Vettese

Bill Morneau

Bill Morneau

Aug 4: Best from the blogosphere

4 Aug

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

It’s hard to believe its August already and before we know it the kids will be back in school. But you know for sure summer is waning when it starts to get dark earlier and the temperatures begin dropping at night.

This week we feature a selection of interesting blogs from some of our favourite personal finance bloggers.

Tim Stobbs from Canadian Dream: Free at 45 has opted to work four days a week instead of five. In 10% Less Pay, But $8 Less on My Paycheque he tells us why at least for now, there has been hardly any impact on his take home pay.

Blonde on a budget’s Cait Flanders has undertaken a massive purge of her possessions starting with her bedroom closet as part of her commitment to a one year “shopping ban.” Find out what’s left and the few necessities she needs that will be exceptions to the rule.

Do you need a little extra money? Tom Drake says on Canadian Finance blog that you might already have it. He suggests Tracking your spending for one to three months. You might find that there are money leaks that are costing you big. Once you plug those up, you can essentially “find” more money in your budget.

In the  Weekend Reading: Banking Bonus Edition Dan Wesley at Our Big Fat Wallet highlights some deals at Tangerine, BMO, Canada Trust and RBC.

And finally, whether you are a new graduate looking for your first job or a seasoned professional looking for new opportunities, take a look at Ten steps to a productive information interview by Kevin Press at BrighterLife.ca.

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.

July 28: Best from the blogosphere

28 Jul

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

This week we highlight a series of posts of particular interest to readers who are retired and those who are contemplating retirement.

The big question everyone has when planning their retirement is “how much can I spend so I won’t run out of money.” Mark at MyOwnAdvisor considers various approaches like the rule of 20 and the rule 0f 25. But he concludes there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to determining your retirement number other than taking the first step and figuring out what you’ll likely spend in retirement.

In a short video, Globe and Mail personal finance columnist Rob Carrick interviews Bruce Sellery, author of The Moolala Guide to Rockin’ Your RRSP. Bruce says if you save 10% a year you will probably have enough to retire. To calculated how much you must save, multiply the annual amount you need by 20. So savings of $1 million will be required to pay yourself $50,000/year.

On Boomer & Echo, Marie Engen writes about how downsizing might not be the way to finance your retirement. Moving to a smaller, cheaper place can free up home equity for living expenses and reduce annual housing costs.  But moving is expensive and often a new place can cost more than the one you sold.

Escaping work may be the dream you are working towards, but if you get bored or your investments take a dive you may want to find full or part-time work. Tom Drake on CanadianFinance blog gives five hints for retirees looking for a job. He advises you not to say you are retired as it will give the impression that your best working days are behind you.

If when to start payment of your CPP pension isn’t confusing enough, the answer is further complicated if you are currently receiving a CPP survivors pension. Jim Yih on RetireHappy presents  an interesting case study on combined CPP benefits where compared to the other two choices age 65 is never the best time to start collecting CPP.

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.

July 21: Best from the blogosphere

21 Jul

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

This week we bring you blogs from some old favourites as well as some new finds.

On the Canadian Personal Finance Blog, Big Cajun Man reminds us of some of the hidden costs of going away to university that you or your child may not have budgeted for. Don’t forget computers and other devices; trips home; and non-refundable activity fees.

The Frugal Trader shares on Million Dollar Journey how he finally hit the million dollar net worth milestone. Starting at about $200,000 in 2006 he reached his goal by spending less than he earned; aggressively paying off debt; and buying long-term appreciating assets.

We follow Tom Drake on the Canadian Finance Blog, but in a recent interview we became aware he also owns and writes for Balance Junkie. In a recent blog on that site he shares the following three ways to change your lifestyle to save money: Less entertainment, more education; exercise more and eat healthy; and get enough sleep.

On July 7, 2014, Blonde on a Budget  started a year-long shopping ban. Her goal is to spend less, save more and learn to enjoy what she already has. Here are the rules of her shopping ban.

Finally, Kevin Mercadante’s blog Out of Your Rut is referenced in this space for the first time. He recently wrote an interesting post about breaking free of the constraints of being middle class.

Kevin says it takes a lot of time, effort and financial resources to maintain the stereo typical middle-class, suburban lifestyle. The resources that you devote to the chase can take away from other directions in your life that might not only be more productive, but might also better suit your personality and preferences.

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.

Big Cajun Man shares RDSP, RESP expertise

17 Jul

By Sheryl Smolkin

Alan Whitton and his son Rhys

Alan Whitton and his son Rhys

 

podcast picture

Click here to listen

Hi,

As part of the savewithspp.com continuing series of podcast interviews with personal finance bloggers, today I’m talking to the “Big Cajun Man,” author of the Canadian Personal Finance Blog.

In real life, he is actually, Alan Whitton, a mild-mannered government civil servant and father of four, living in Ottawa. Alan has been blogging about finance and consumerism for about ten years, focusing on real life experiences.

As a result, he has written extensively about Registered Disability Savings Plans and parenting a disabled child.

Welcome, Alan.

My pleasure Sheryl.

Q: First of all Alan, tell our listeners where your alter ego name, “Big Cajun Man,” came from.
A:  Well, I was playing golf with friends and was wearing a straw hat and someone yelled at me, “What do you think you are, some kind of big stinking Cajun man?” and the guys I was playing with have called me that ever since.

Q: Why did you start blogging?
A: Well, I started initially just on BlogSpot as sort of an open letter to my mother because at the time, my wife was pregnant with our fourth child, who was a bit of a surprise. Then I realized I could write about other things and I was always interested in money so I figured I’d just start blogging about it.

Q: How frequently do you post?
A: I try to write four or five posts in a week. The Friday post is usually a ‘best of’ what I’ve seen during the week.

Q: How long are the blogs and how complex are they? Do they vary?
A: Oh, it’s usually somewhere between four and eight paragraphs. What shows up, or what I read about or something that happens in my life is usually the catalyst for the more interesting ones.

Q: Tell me about some of the topics you write about.
A: Well, family and money and how families work with money, a little bit on investing, a lot more on disability and how families can deal financially with kids with disabilities or loved ones with disabilities. And that really, again, arose because when Rhys was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, I had to learn about all this so I figured I’d write about it too.

Q: And, how old is Rhys now?
A: He is 9. I have three beautiful daughters who are 24, 22 and 20, and my son who has just turned 9. It’s a multi-generational family. That’s why I end up writing about things like university costs and parenting a 9-year old.

Q: There are probably over a dozen personal finance bloggers in Canada. What’s different about your blog. Why do you think it’s a must read?
A: I don’t know. I mean, my point of view as a father of a multi-generational family is interesting. I always have had a different perspective on things. I leave a lot of the specific investing ideas to some of the more qualified chaps like Michael James and Rob Carrick. I mostly just talk about John Public’s point of view of things.

Q: How many hits do you typically get for your blogs?
A: Between 8,000 and 12,000 a month. It started off very slowly and I think with the backlog of over 2,500 posts there’s a lot of people who just search and end up finding me accidentally.

Q: What are some of the more popular blogs you’ve posted?
A: Well, anything under my RDSP and RESP menus are popular, like how to apply for your child’s disability tax benefits. And on the RDSP side of things all the fights I’ve had with TD about putting money in and taking money out. Also, surprisingly, I wrote one simple blog that just said “I am a civil servant,” and let me tell you, that one caused no end of excitement.

Q: What is the essence of that particular blog?
A: I was trying to blow up some of the very negative views people have about civil servants. I mean, I worked in the private sector for over 20 years. I‘ve been a civil servant for 4 years.

Q. Tell me some of the key features of Registered Disability Savings Plans and what parents of disabled children need to know about them.
A: Well, just that right now they’re sort of the poor stepson at most financial institutions. I mean they’re not very flexible. Typically, at worst, they’re really just savings accounts. You can buy GICs or the bank’s mutual funds, which usually have very high management fees.

From what I can tell so far, TD Waterhouse is the only trading partner or trading house that has an RDSP where you can actually buy whatever you want like ETFs. But even the TD plan is not very well set up. It’s pretty cumbersome to put money into.

Q: What’s cumbersome about it?
A: Well, I can’t set up a weekly automatic withdrawal. I have to put money aside into another TD trading account. Then I have to phone up every once in awhile and transfer the money from the trading account into the RDSP. And then I have to call back after the money’s cleared to say, “And now I want to buy these ETF’s or index funds.”

Q: Why is that?
A: I don’t know. I’ve asked TD that a whole bunch of times. It’s just the way the system works. I’ve poked at them as best I can. I’ve asked a few other people to poke at them, but I haven’t really received a satisfactory answer.

Q: Are there legislative rules about how you can invest RDSPs?
A: Not, necessarily. It’s just the banks are putting that kind of limit on things because it’s not a big money maker for them. They’re not going to make a fortune on amounts people deposit into RDSPs.  Whereas with RESPs, there are more people with kids going to university.

Q: What are the contribution limits on RDSPs?
A: The overall lifetime limit for a particular beneficiary is $200,000. Contributions are permitted until the end of the year in which the beneficiary turns 59. Up to a certain amount every year, depending on how much money you make, will be matched by the government.

Based on parental income, an RDSP can get a maximum of $3,500 in matching grants in one year, and up to $70,000 over the beneficiary’s lifetime. A grant can be paid into an RDSP on contributions made to the beneficiary’s RDSP until December 31 of the year the beneficiary turns 49.

Q: Do you have a favorite personal finance blogger that you read religiously?
A: I’ve got a couple. I like reading Michael James “On Money”, but he’s a friend of mine. I really like the Canadian Capitalist, but he’s sort of taken a hiatus. “Boomer & Echo” and the “Canadian Couch Potato” are quite good and so is “My Own Advisor.” I’ve met most of these guys at various conferences. I also read Squawkfox and have had extensive correspondence with her on Twitter.

Q: What, if any, money making opportunities or spin-offs have there been as a result of your blogging career?
A: Well, I don’t do this for the money which is obvious given how little I make at it. This is more of a cathartic thing for me.

Q: If you had only one piece of advice to readers or listeners about getting their finances in order, what would it be?
A: Get out of debt. Debt is a bad thing. There’s no such thing as good debt. It’s all bad. Don’t fool yourself into thinking there’s livable debt like a mortgage or maybe paying for your university. Somehow carrying debt has been normalized in the last 30 years or so but it’s still really not ok.

Thank you very much, Alan. It was a pleasure to talk to you.

Thanks for the opportunity Sheryl.

This is an edited transcript you can listen to by clicking on the link above. You can find the Canadian Personal Finance Blog here.

July 14: Best from the blogosphere

14 Jul

By Sheryl Smolkin

185936832 blog

This week we have a mixed bag of posts for your summer reading from the world of the ever-prolific personal finance bloggers we track.

Brighter Life presents a series of both get your health and get your finances in shape tips from other bloggers. One of my favourites is from Jeremy Biberdorf, author of Modest Money. He says too many people think the path to financial freedom is to focus heavily on either frugality or earning more money. The trick is actually to find a healthy balance of both worlds. The more extra income you earn, the fewer sacrifices you have to make in your daily life.

Many of us are card-carrying members of the sandwich generation with responsibility for both elderly parents and young children. On Moneycrashers Michael Lewis discusses six must-have conversations you need to have when caring for elderly parents. If you have to tell a parent that it is time to stop driving or take over the finances of an aging relative, you will appreciate this information.

How much do you really need to retire? $1 million? $2 million? On Retire Happy Donna McCaw says your expectations may be too high.  Only about half of the Boomers polled by Scotiabank are doing any planning and most of that planning is only financial in nature, No one mentioned planning for their lifestyle, healthy living, building social networks outside of work or any of the other aspects this major transition brings.

Boomer & Echo blogger Robb Engen says  Investors Should Embrace Simple Solutions. He refers to a young investor seeking feedback on his investment portfolio. While he has wisely opted for low fees by investing in ETFs, seven funds are too many as it may require a lot of fine-tuning to keep the asset allocation in line with his original strategy.  

And finally, on the Canadian Finance Blog, Tom Drake exposes 5 Lies About Your Credit Report. Did you know that if you paid off your debt to a collection agency rather than paying the original vendor the information stays on your credit report?

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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