Monday, September 27, 2010

Do You Have A Plan?

No matter what stage of life you are in, a financial plan can help you direct your finances, identify where your costs are going and how to best take advantage of investing opportunities.

If you have student loans and credit card debt, a financial plan can help you figure out which loans should be paid off first, easing your cashflow problems and reducing the rates you pay. 

If you are buying a home or newer vehicle, a plan can help you know what you can realistically afford.  Too many people purchase homes or vehicles thinking of only what they want and not what they can actually afford.  A good plan will take into account bumps in rates as well, giving you some breathing room even with economic shocks.

If you are trying to figure out how and what to save for retirement, a plan can help you know what your goals should be and what you need to do to achieve them.  The longer you have to save, the more time your plan has to work to make financial security in retirement possible.

Even in retirement a financial plan can help you know what to do with your investments, how much you can withdraw every year to live on, and what you may have left of your wealth that can help your loved ones.

Every stage of life should have a financial plan.  With a plan, you know what you are building and what you need to build it.  Don't hesitate to contact a trusted Financial Planner while you are trying to build your plan for your future.  Jerry

Monday, September 20, 2010

Canadians Loving Debt?

If you have been reading any newspapers or news magazines over the past couple of months, you probably have read a few articles about how Canadians' household/personal debt is worrisome.  Since the economic troubles started 3 years ago, Americans have been working hard to both lower their personal debt and to increase their personal savings.  This is great because their personal debt had risen to around an average personal debt load of 150% of annual income and savings was around 0% for a few years leading up to 2007.  This significant economic event has shaken up the Americans and has caused consumers to change their spending and saving behaviour.

However, the economic event has not shaken up Canadians enough to change behaviour in the same way.  In fact, our reputation as savers is going out the window.  Over the past several years our savings rate dropped not only to 0%, but there were quarters where it was negative, meaning people were dipping into their savings to spend money on homes/vehicles or other items.  And our personal debt to annual income ratio has risen to just below that of the Americans with ours now at over 147%.  Much of this is because with today's low mortgage rates, people have been buying the largest house they could afford, not taking into account that rates won't always stay this low.

What does this mean for us?
  • As rates increase, and they will, servicing the debt at these high levels will become very difficult for most Canadian households, which will force Canadians to change their behaviour.  Many will have missed the opportunity to pay down debt during the lowest ever rate environment and will have to concentrate on being able to make the rising payments.
  • The activities that many Canadians have enjoyed over the past several years, annual trips, eating out a few times a week... will probably decrease as people try to decrease expenses.
  • The rising rates will encourage more saving as current low returns make people feel like they might as well spend the money as they don't make much saving it.
Hopefully, you have enough years left before retirement to pay down debt and improve your savings/investment nest egg.

Jonathon Chevreau, Wealthy Boomer columnist for the Financial Post, recently wrote an article trying to emphasize Freedom, not Stuff.  It's worth a read and may encourage some to review their own habits and what the future may hold for them.

Friday, September 10, 2010

7 Tips To Keep Safe While Online Shopping

Online purchases have grown dramatically over the past decade.  Whether you are looking for auto parts, books or even clothing, you can buy them online.  While many people want to see and touch the items they are buying, more and more feel safe about purchasing their goods over the internet.

 There are security risks, but if you follow the tips below you can have more confidence in your online shopping experience.
  1. Make sure your information is being entered on a secure site. 
  2. Look for the latest credit card password procedures
  3. Know who you are buying from. Use stores you are familiar with or people you know have dealt with.. 
  4. Beware of refurbished items, usually a detail buried in small print.
  5. Check the store’s return policies before you buy.
  6. Use a separate credit card for online shopping, preferably one with a low limit in case the number gets stolen.
  7. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Christmas is coming, so if you are looking for a specialty item you just can't get nearby, feel free to do some online shopping, but keep safe.  Jerry

Friday, September 3, 2010

5 Tips To Help In A Tight Economy

No matter how you look at it, the economy is going through some difficult times, and many Canadians are facing tighter budgets than they have seen in a long time.  The following are a few tips that can help people manage their finances through the ups and downs ahead.

Watch out for high interest rate debt
As of Oct 31, 2007, there were over 64.1 million credit cards in circulation in Canada.  Many of these cards charge standard interest rates of 18% or more.  The way most credit card payments work is that your monthly payment will cover the interest charged and 3% of the balance of the card.  If you have a balance of $2,000 on your card, and you make the minimum monthly payment, this means that after 5 years you would have paid over $830 dollars in interest, and still have $321 left to pay on the card.