Debt & Frugality

As Didi says in the novel (Findependence Day), “There’s no point climbing the Tower of Wealth when you’re still mired in the basement of debt.” If you owe credit-card debt still charging an usurous 20% per annum, forget about building wealth: focus on eliminating that debt. And once done, focus on paying off your mortgage. As Theo says in the novel, “The foundation of financial independence is a paid-for house.”

The stress of moving sideways in high-priced housing markets

By Penelope Graham, Zoocasa

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Think breaking into the Toronto real estate market is tough? Try making a lateral move; there’s a whole new crop of challenges facing those looking to cash in on their home’s equity, according to a recent bank report.

While much has been made over the plight of first-time buyers, they’re not the only ones feeling the pinch. Home owners with a long-term position in the market and who have become considerably house-rich — namely baby boomers — are also put off by the market’s challenges.

And while this generation has received criticism for hunkering down in their family homes rather than adding them back to the supply of low-rise, detached housing, the fact is many would love to cash out: but they face the same hurdles as their millennial counterparts.

According to a recent poll conducted by CIBC, two in five Canadian homeowners planning to sell their homes are poised to profit on their home sale — but 62% are reluctant to put it on the market due to the high cost of buying another home.

“In today’s market, homeowners are facing a conundrum as to whether to buy, sell or stay put,” says David Nicholson, vice-president of CIBC Imperial Service. “Buying or selling your home is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make. That’s why it’s important to make the decision for the right personal and financial reasons and see past the noise in the marketplace. Evaluating the pros and cons as part of an overall financial plan can help you decide what’s best for you.”

Sixty-seven per cent of boomers (aged 55 and up) indicated they wished to downsize to a smaller home, condo or nursing / retirement home.

The search for affordable options

Most downsizing boomers aren’t looking to acquire another million-dollar detached property, but recent price surges within the condo market may leave them feeling as though their options are limited. The Greater Toronto Area market has infamously experienced a 33% year-over-year price increase, and much of that double-digit growth has spilled over into the condo segment.

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Millennial Money: An experiment in money-saving hacks

As both a student and a millennial, my eyes are always peeled for helpful tips and advice on how to manage my finances. I recently came across this article from refinery 29 about “10 Bizarre Money Habits Making Millennials Richer.”

While I usually try and avoid this ‘listicle’ format, I was intrigued enough to look into it. The list surprised me in that it actually did include some new tips I hadn’t heard about before, like literally freezing your credit card (See image to the left).

I decided to run a little experiment based on this article, and I’m sharing the results with you now. I didn’t think it would be feasible to try and implement all ten of the habits. Besides, some of them don’t apply to me (I no longer have a car or any recurring payments coming out of my bank account), so I decided to focus on just a few of the tips to see how easy they really were to put into action.

Tip 1: Pick a denomination and save it

The first tip I implemented was to pick a denomination and save it, always. Unlike the article, I don’t get paid in cash (or at all really, apart from payment for blogs like this), so the only time I come into contact with physical cash is when I take it out of an ATM or get cash back at the grocery store.

I thought I’d start small: I would save all my £2 coins [the UK pound is the currency where I currently live, in Scotland] in a jar on my desk. This actually turned out to work quite well for me, as my current wallet is a card carrier without any space for coins. Every time I received change I separated out the £2 coins,  then made sure to move them into the jar every couple of days. After three weeks of this method, though, I had only saved around £12. Turns out, £2 coins aren’t given out that frequently as change.

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What first-time home buyers should know about FHA loans (U.S.)

By Cher Zevala

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

For most people, a home is the most significant purchase they will ever make, as well as one of the most complex. Finding a home is actually the easiest part in most cases, but financing the purchase can be stressful.

That stress is only amplified when you want to purchase a home, but don’t necessarily meet lender qualifications for an attractive mortgage. Simply put, it’s not always easy to get a mortgage for a home. Lenders have strict criteria in terms of down payment, income, and credit history, and failing to meet those criteria can mean disappointment, at least when you work with a traditional lender. Thankfully, there are other options for purchasing a home, such as an FHA mortgage.

What Is an FHA Mortgage?

An FHA mortgage or loan is a home loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration (in the United States).  Borrowers who get a mortgage under this program must purchase mortgage insurance, which protects the lender in the event of a default. The agency itself does not issue the loan, but instead works with traditional lenders, providing assurance that the bank will not lose money on the deal.

FHA loans are attractive to many home buyers because they typically have less stringent qualifications in terms of down payment and credit score, but still offer competitive interest rates. For instance, while a buyer who only has a 10 per cent down payment and a credit score of 600 is not likely to qualify for a traditional loan, he or she has a better chance of getting financing via an FHA loan. Continue Reading…

Why it’s NOT okay to be in debt when approaching Retirement

By Douglas Hoyes

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

While we all strive for a Victory Lap leading to our Findependence, a growing number of Canadians can only dream about getting out of debt.

Every two years my firm, Hoyes, Michalos & Associates Inc., releases our Joe Debtor report, where we profile our clients who have filed a bankruptcy or a consumer proposal.  In our report two years ago we reported that seniors are the fastest growing risk group for insolvency, and that’s still the case today.

Almost one in five insolvencies involve pre-retirement debtors in their 50s, and more than one in 10 (12%) involve seniors in their 60s and 70s.

What’s the problem?  Shouldn’t older Canadians have a lifetime of savings to rely on as they enter their Victory Lap?  Many do.  If you had a well-paying stable job that allowed you to save and build assets,  have an employer-provided pension, or have been fortunate enough to own a house during the current real estate boom, you are probably in great shape heading into your golden years.

Many over 50s still have dependents

However, not everyone in the over 50 crowd is as fortunate.  Continue Reading…

Is it worth it to skip a Mortgage payment?

By Alyssa Furtado, RateHub.ca

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Skipping a mortgage payment can seem like a good option, especially in an emergency if you don’t have a rainy day fund or savings to dip into. If you lose your job, your car breaks down, or you have any other type of unexpected expense, the option to skip a mortgage payment may look enticing. But is it worth it?

Some mortgage lenders allow you to skip a payment. Here’s what you need to know before deciding whether or not you should choose that option.

What does skipping really mean?

Sounds like a simple fix on a month when everything’s gone south, right? Not so fast. When you skip a payment, you’re not just pushing the expense back a month, you’re still racking up interest.

On a day-to-day basis, it looks like a simple monthly payment. But your mortgage payment actually has two component parts: The principal (the actual payment of the debt itself) and the interest. You don’t pay the principal, but your mortgage lender still charges you interest.

By skipping a month, you lose the chance to pay down the principal and you add on that month’s interest, which gets added to the total amount left on your mortgage.

You wind up with a higher mortgage rather than the number staying the same. The skip doesn’t freeze time. Any scenario where you add more interest should be looked at as borrowing more money.

Looking years down the line, the interest you pay after skipping will be even higher since your loan itself becomes larger. The increase won’t be huge, but if you just took on a mortgage with a 25-year amortization period, the additional interest will add up over time. If you’re close to paying off your mortgage, the interest costs won’t be as high.

Am I allowed to skip?

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