Hub Blogs

Hub Blogs contains fresh contributions written by Financial Independence Hub staff or contributors that have not appeared elsewhere first, or have been modified or customized for the Hub by the original blogger. In contrast, Top Blogs shows links to the best external financial blogs around the world.

5 small steps to improve your physical health & 5 for your financial health

Duke University conducted a two-year study of 218 healthy adults of normal weight to determine if a modest, sustained calorie reduction would show appreciable benefits. The plan was to reduce calories consumed by 25 per cent, but participants were unable to achieve that much.

(Author’s note: I sure couldn’t do it! A 25% reduction in my 2,000 daily calories would leave me staggering around at only 1,500 per day.)

Participants were able, however, to cut calories by an average of about 12 per cent.  This smaller change allowed them to stick to the plan without any adverse effect on mood (wherein lies a useful message in itself). The results? Lowered blood pressure; decreased insulin resistance; as well as a drop in several predictors of cardiovascular disease.

But the most appreciable result concerned C-reactive protein, a substance produced by the liver and a marker of inflammation in the body. The participants’ C-reactive levels plunged by almost half: a remarkable 47%!

It’s a no brainer that poor dietary habits would exacerbate internal inflammation. But very often this is an invisible menace (see my article ‘The Truth About Inflammation’, October 2015). Most of us remain blissfully unaware of any chronic inflammation cascading throughout our bodies. Yet this exposes us to chronic health risks as a result of knocking the body out of whack. In my case, I had the aforesaid silent inflammation and observable inflammation, which I felt in my poor old joints. And I am pretty convinced that chronic inflammation was one factor in my developing cancer.

An elevated C-reactive protein level can be a valid identifier of inflammation in the body. So, if just a 12% calorie restriction can reduce this marker by almost 50%, this is as good information as that available to an insider trader.

In the blindness of youth, so many of us can compromise our health in a mad dash for wealth. But from the other end of the lifespan, a good many seniors would gladly sacrifice some wealth for even a smidgen of better health. Those who don’t make time for their health early on in life more often have to make time for illness later.

5 ways to improve your physical health

So, if you are young, young at heart, worried that you are no longer young, here is some insider information. Five smart, little investments you can make, the aggregate interest of which, over time, will have compound into positive health returns. Continue Reading…

The Robo RRSP and 11 lame excuses for not maxing your RRSP contribution this year

Can you trust your retirement to a robot? Illustration by Chloe Cushman/National Post files

With the annual RRSP season coming to a close next week (the RRSP contribution deadline is March 1st), there’s plenty of media coverage to remind investors of this fact. Two this week came from my pen (or electronic equivalent).

Earlier this week, the Financial Post published the following column you can retrieve by clicking on the highlighted text of the headline: Can you Trust your Retirement Savings to a Robot? 

By robot, we are referring of course to so-called Robo-Advisers or automated online investment “solutions” that generally package up various Exchange-traded Funds (ETFs) and handle the purchase, asset allocation and rebalancing at an annual fee that’s generally is far less than what a mutual fund or two might deliver. (that is, usually 0.5% plus underlying ETF MERs, compared to 2% or more for most retail mutual funds sold in Canada.)

The piece begins with a fond nod to a topic I used to write about periodically in the FP in the 1990s, at the height of so-called Mutual Fund Mania. It was then that I would write about a set-it-and-forget it approach we dubbed the Rip Van Winkle portfolio, which was simply two mutual funds (Trimark Income Growth, a balanced fund) and  a global equity fund (Templeton Growth) that in effect did (and still do, I suppose) everything the modern robo advisers do. The difference is that because of ETFs, the robo services are about a quarter of the price of the old “Rip” portfolio.

But speaking of undercutting, and as the piece also notes, both “Rip” and the robo services have been undercut by the three new Vanguard asset allocation ETFs that were announced on February 1st, more of which you can find in the Hub blog I wrote at the time: Gamechanger? As I noted there, the Vanguard ETFs seem to be ideal for TFSAs (especially VGRO, the 80% equities offering) but of course they are also ideally suited for a “Rip” like RRSP core offering: VBAL (60% equities) for the typical balanced investor, VCNS (40% equities) for very conservative investors and perhaps those now in the RRIF stage who are required to make forced annual (and taxable) withdrawals.

Motley Fool Canada: 11 myths equals 11 lame excuses for not maxing your RRSP

Meanwhile, Motley Fool Canada has just released a special report I wrote titled The 11 Most Common RRSP myths.  The report builds on several RRSP myths that CIBC’s Jamie Golombek published earlier this year, which you can find here, and my FP commentary on them here.  The report adds several new myths submitted from veteran advisers like Warren Baldwin.

You can also view this promotional email on the RRSP report by Motley Fool Canada Chief Investment Officer Iain Butler.

Buying a condo in the GTA on one income? Here’s where It’s possible

By Penelope Graham, Zoocasa

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Looking to purchase a home in the Greater Toronto Area on your own? According to new data, the real estate reality for solo buyers is pretty heartbreaking, with most options out of financial reach for those earning the median single-household income in the region.

In fact, owning a condo within a GTA municipality will set a single homeowner back more than double the recommended shelter cost, even in the most affordable markets. With two incomes getting far more home for their buck than one, it’s no wonder buyers are increasingly partnering with family, friends, or even strangers to improve their real estate affordability.

Tough affordability throughout GTA

Check out this infographic to see how affordable condos are for both single and multi-income buyers throughout the GTA.

To find out the extent of housing affordability for single buyers, Zoocasa calculated what’s called the home-price-to-income ratio in 17 of the markets tracked by the Toronto Real Estate Board. Crunching the average January 2018 condo price and median income earned in each municipality determines how many years of total income (as in, one’s entire annual salary) it would take to pay off a condo in that region. The higher the ratio, the tougher the home will be to carry financially.

The ratio recommended by most financial experts for shelter costs is three, but that’s well below what’s possible in the GTA market, the numbers reveal. The data finds that the minimum ratio for a single condo buyer is seven, available in only two markets: Milton and Clarington.

That’s not to say dual-income households have it much easier; coupled-up buyers have only three regions that satisfy the recommended affordability ratio (Milton, Clarington, and Whitby), while another 10 regions hover just above the four-point mark.

City Centre most challenging for all buyers

The toughest place to purchase for all Toronto condo buyers is Toronto central, which sets single buyers back a whopping 16 times their income, and seven times for multi-income buyers. And, while affordability varies throughout the region, it’s steep across the GTA; Mississauga condos command 10 times a single buyers’ income, while Vaughn costs 11 times the median household income.

Penelope Graham is the Managing Editor of Zoocasa.com, a leading real estate resource that uses full brokerage service and online tools to empower Canadians to buy or sell their home faster, easier, and more successfully.

 

 

9 ways to survive when money’s tight on Maternity Leave (or Pat Leave)

By Maria Weyman

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Being on maternity ‒ or paternity leave ‒ usually means you’re taking a pay cut, and that can leave you feeling perpetually broke.

Not only are you bringing in a smaller income each month, but you’re also shelling out for baby items you never had to buy before. Despite the crunch, many parents also struggle with the temptation to shop more than usual since they have extra time to spend wandering around the malls or browsing online.

However with some effort, it’s possible to get through maternity leave with your finances ‒ and your sanity! ‒ intact.

Challenge yourself

Saving money can be kind of fun if you make a game out of seeing how much you can save ‒ and then trying to beat your own record.

1.) Get your thrift on

Babies outgrow their clothes very quickly, and secondhand items are usually in nearly-new condition because they’re hardly worn.

So why not plan an outing at the thrift store, meet up with a friend (who’s also on mat leave) and dig through the bins and racks together.

2.) Try couponing

Even if you’ve never clipped a coupon in your life, there’s no better time to learn.

You can save on groceries once you learn how to find grocery coupons online, how to stack coupons, and earn money with cash-back couponing apps.

Pssst. Babies also come with some handy freebies if you know where to look.

3.)  Trim the budget

Sit down and look at where your spending could be tightened, and decide on a goal that’s going to help you spend less each month.

If you’re overspending on groceries ‒ after all, you are home all of the time now ‒ maybe you can set a strict budget and really stick to it.

If you’re visiting the coffee shop a little too often, make the effort to bring a hot drink in a travel mug when you head out the door.

Look for free fun

It might feel like every activity costs money, but there are so many ways to get out that are absolutely free.

4.) Take a walk

Walking is a great way to explore new neighbourhoods, get some exercise, and lower your stress levels by breathing in the fresh air.

Babies also enjoy going for walks, and usually the movement lulls them to sleep. If it’s too cold or rainy to walk outside, look for an indoor track. Often it’s free for people from the community to use, and you can bring the baby in their stroller.

5.) Try something new

Most gyms and fitness centres offer a trial membership, whether it’s a day pass or even a full week. By expressing interest in maybe joining their facility, you can get the chance to try out their equipment, sweat through a cardio class, and take a shower in peace.

Bonus points if you find a place that offers free daycare for your little one!

6.) Join a group Continue Reading…

Even more rookie mistakes that seasoned investors make

By Neville Joanes

(Sponsor Content)

Even though we all “knew it was coming” the precise timing of the market correction this month caught quite a few seasoned investors by surprise. Hey, it happens. No one can predict where the stocks go all the time. But how did you respond? Did you sell along with the herd — and lock in your losses? Or did you see this as a buying opportunity? How were you prepared for it in the first place?

Even the most experienced investors can get caught short in times like these. Recognize your investing biases that can lead to bad decision-making — and learn from them. Here are a few more that we didn’t cover last time. (See 3 rookie mistakes that seasoned investors still make.)

Confusing the familiar with the safe

Disney, Coca Cola and Starbucks are big brands. But are they safe, or even good investments — by virtue of their size?

Just a few years ago, you might have gotten the same feeling of rock-solid reliability about Nortel, Blockbuster or Kodak. Or Sears. Pan Am airlines. Netscape. Pets.com Or hundreds of other companies with billions in their war chests …  that aren’t even around today. By last year, just 60 companies remained from the original Fortune 500 list.

Investors have inherited the illusion of stability and power from size, possibly from our origins in hunting wooly mammoths with wooden spears. The big guys are hard to take down (we think). So even experienced investors will throw their money at blue-chip stocks and other institutional-style investments. It’s a half-baked hedging strategy.

When you have this bias, you don’t do the proper due diligence you would with other investments. Why look too closely, when the trading megafauna like Amazon or Apple just keep bounding onward and upward? Because the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

A big-name brand is not necessarily a bad bet. This is where a strategy of diversification comes in. By planting seeds in a range of investments instead of a single big-name brand, you’re in safer territory. Continue Reading…