Monthly Archives: May 2017

A Millennial’s Jump Start on Personal Finance

By Trevor McDonald

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Most millennials aren’t taught personal finance beyond the few who soaked up “lessons” from having an allowance or chores while growing up. Given the increasing use of digital currency, from tapping phones together to send money, depending on Venmo and utilizing bitcoins, ask a millennial how to write a check or balance a bank account and few can give a succinct answer: but does that even matter? Has personal finance changed so much in the past few decades that its definition is due for an overhaul?

Financial literacy and well-being is and always will be vital. How it’s defined and its best practices evolve as we do. Just like any type of “health,” financial health requires setting a strong foundation, teaching and practice. It’s strange that we have an entire generation in full-fledged adult categories without a clue of how to handle their finances.

Consider this the starter kit for millennials:

1.) Credit score management

 The importance of credit scores isn’t going anywhere. In fact, they’re more important than ever with some employers using credit scores to narrow down job candidates. Make sure to monitor your credit score, check your credit report regularly for errors, and make your payments on time. This will help ensure you maintain a healthy score. There are other ways improve your credit score that you might not know, too, such as snagging a tradeline where you’re added onto a person’s credit account who already has a solid score. A tradeline company can manage this, linking paying customers to a tradeline account so any messiness of blending finances with personal relationships is avoided.

2.) Buffering that nest egg

Having at least three months’ worth of living expenses in “liquid cash” that’s easily accessible is a reasonable starting point. Some financial experts recommend one year, but a year’s salary can sound very overwhelming. Start socking away funds in an emergency account by using an app that rounds up purchases and siphons funds to this account so you don’t even notice.

3.) If possible, entrepreneurs and business owners should seek out life in specific states or overseas

Millennials are the generation of entrepreneurs, and this makes personal finance even stickier. Where you live plays a huge role in your ability to build wealth. Obviously some regions have higher costs of living than others, but every state also has a different income tax. There are seven states, including highly desirable ones like Florida, that boast a zero per cent income tax rate. Moving abroad often allows for foreign earned income exemption in which you don’t pay any state income tax (of course) but also no federal taxes except social security and Medicare.

4.) Budget, budget, budget

Continue Reading…

When does your Business need a Merchant Account?

(Sponsored Content)

Credit and debit cards are among the most common payment methods, whether you run a retail store, an online store, or a combination of both. They are convenient and easy to carry, not to mention relatively easy to obtain. They make shopping easier because customers don’t have to worry about carrying enough cash.

But if your store isn’t accepting credit cards, you risk losing millions in revenue. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure that your business has everything it needs to accept credit-card payments. And to start accepting credit cards as method payments: a bank account, a payment processor, and a merchant account.

As a savvy business owner, you probably have a business bank account. But what about a merchant account? In this post, we’ll explain what exactly a merchant account is and when you may need one.

What exactly is a Merchant Account?

In short, a merchant account allows you to accept credit-card payments. Once a card payment is made, it passes through the merchant account and is deposited into your checking account after the funds have been cleared through the merchant account, which usually takes a few days.

You may be wondering why you need a merchant account when you can simply use a payment processor like PayPal or Stripe. However, having your own merchant account, which can be set up through payment providers like OnlineMerchantsHelp, offers more flexibility, control, and better security with online payments.

So, is your business in need of a merchant account? And when you should you get a quote?

When Does Your Business Need a Merchant Account?

Continue Reading…

The rising cost of buying homes near Schools

By Penelope Graham, Zoocasa

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Buying real estate is a stressful enough endeavour,  but throwing kids into the mix adds a whole new layer of complexity to the house hunt.

While most buyers have a lengthy wish list of must-haves, usually centred around size, access to amenities and location, living close to a highly-rated school is a top consideration for 39 per cent of Canadians contemplating their next real estate purchase.

And you can certainly expect to pay more to live within a coveted catchment area, even in regions with softer conditions than the red-hot Vancouver and Toronto real estate markets.

“School districts have become a large factor that buyers consider when searching for a home. As a result, homes in better school districts tend to have greater demand and a larger buying pool,” says Chantel Crisp, broker of record at Zoocasa Realty. “Parents are motivated to get their children into great school districts even during economic downturns, so neighbourhoods with better school ratings are sought after in both times of economic growth and decline.”

Higher prices for higher learning

Just how much more do homes fetch in top school neighbourhoods? Buyers can expect to pay a whopping premium of over $800,000 in some cases, according to data collected via Zoocasa’s school search function. The fact that it’s not always clear whether a home lies within a school’s boundary can be a point of frustration for buyers trying to harmonize their home buying ambitions with their academic needs says Zoocasa CEO Lauren Haw.

“Homes across the street from one another may be in different catchment areas. Understanding where your home is within a certain boundary can help with long-term transition planning and reduce unnecessary moves,” she says. “Not to mention wealthy accumulation – school rankings are highly correlated to real estate prices.”

To get a better idea of how much living near a top-rated school will impact buyer budgets, check out the infographic below, based on the sale prices of homes with more than three bedrooms, and top EQAO-rated elementary schools in each of Toronto’s six boroughs. Continue Reading…

A cure for the Retirement Blues

Whaaaat? Is it possible that this whole retirement thing can be a letdown once you finally get there — that some people may experience the Retirement Blues?

My latest MoneySense Retired Money column looks at the problem of having too much free time in your golden post-employment years, which you can find by clicking this highlighted headline: Retiring frees up 2,000 extra hours a year.

In the piece, I describe at least one senior who felt in retrospect that he retired too early: he had a great pension so money wasn’t a problem but he soon realized he had started to miss the many benefits of work. In short, he had a mild — or not so mild — case of the Retirement Blues.

As you’ll see, the column references an RBC program called Your Future by Design (See

The 2,000 hours is the result of a simple calculation: 50 weeks multiplied by 40 hours a week equals the amount of “found” leisure time freed up by no longer working full-time. The 2,000 hours figure was referenced in a survey by the Royal Bank last year. Those with long commutes can add a few more hundred hours a year of “found” time.

Keep in mind that if you don’t work at all in retirement you’ll have a lot more than just those 2,000 hours a year to fill. Subtracting 3,000 hours for sleep, you’ll have a total of 5,840 waking hours every year. So if you live 30 more years after retiring, that’s 175,000 waking hours to be occupied.

Little wonder that 73% surveyed by RBC aren’t sure what they’ll do with all that time. We spend more time planning vacations (29%) or weddings (19%) than on retirement!

5 top retirement activities, plus a sixth that should be considered

RBC finds the top five activities for replacing work are health & fitness, travel, hobbies, volunteering and relaxing at home,  but I suggest in the column that many recent retirees may discover they want a sixth activity: work, if only on a part-time basis.

Imagine that: doing a little more of what you may have done too much of during your primary career, but enjoying it for its own sake, its networking properties and social stimulation. And, incidentally, adding a little to your retirement nest egg while you’re at it.

Continue Reading…

Me, retired? No way!

The other day I was at my local bank branch doing some business and the teller asked me how I was enjoying my retirement.

Hearing that surprised me but then I realized they had a message on their computer system that identified me as a retired employee of the bank.

For some reason I felt the need to defend myself and started to explain that I in fact was not retired, that I was busier than ever running my blog, selling my book, serving as a retirement coach and doing public speaking. But then I had a sudden change of heart and decided to stop what I was doing. I realized that defending myself was the OLDME raising its ugly head again and I don’t like OLDME anymore.

Label Me Anything But Retired!

The word retirement is being thrown around these days, describing so many things from the old style “full stop” retirement to everything but the kitchen sink. I believe lack of clarity is causing confusion for a lot of people these days.

Why should we automatically label someone retired just because they decided to leave a job which in my particular case lasted for 36 years? Continue Reading…