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 what, when and why on the new Debit Card Chips

By Jessica Kane

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

For years, we got used to swipe, type and go. Then, all of a sudden, we were forced to insert our cards and wait, like we’ve been thrown back to the Stone Age. Well, you will be pleased to know that it was not a step backward. This is real progress for the protection of the cardholder.

What makes the chip so different?

The difference between the chip and the magnetic strip is bigger than just your experience when you check out. When you swipe your card at the terminal, your personal information is vulnerable. We have seen this numerous times in major department stores over the years. All it takes is one good hacker, and all of the information on every card ever swiped within that database is up for grabs.

Yes, that means identity theft.

With the new chip, all of that information is encrypted before it is processed. What does that mean? In a nut shell, your information is transmitted as a one-time-use code. No more hanging your personal info out there for someone to grab a hold of. This doesn’t mean the codes are unbreakable, just that it takes a whole lot more to crack them.

In addition to that, the chip can’t be counterfeited. That magnetic strip on the back of your card, which you’ve been swiping forever, can easily be duplicated. If someone gets their hands on your card, that one strip could quickly turn into hundreds. If you have a chip card stolen, the culprit must have your personal identification number (PIN) in order to use it. And because it can’t be copied, there will only be one bad guy to track down.

When did the chip come into play?

The United States just adopted the more secure way to pay in 2015. But, believe it or not, the chip card has been around since 1994. Fraud was a huge problem in Europe, so they decided to change the way they make transactions by using this seemingly new technology. Since they made the change, Europeans have saved millions that would have been lost to fraud and counterfeiting. Slowly but surely, the rest of the world is following suit.

Why do I have to use them?

Continue Reading…

How to set long- and short-term financial goals

By Angela Baker

Finances are always problematic, and everyone struggles to find balance in this field.

At the beginning of our professional careers, we are on a tight budget with little perspective for any progress. As time passes, our financial goals get higher and desires may seem unrealistic.  There are many ways to plan finances and to set long-term and short-term financial goals. Below, we will try to explain steps for success in this activity.

Define goals and objectives

If you decided to set financial goals, start with clear contemplation about what you need and how you will achieve that. This is the first and most important step. Decide how much money you want to possess each day, month or year. Then after you have determined the amount, start to plan the way for realizing the financial goal.

This may include a new activity like running a website, opening a store, renting houses or finding a well-paid job. No matter what is it, you need a lot of planning and counting. Also, you must research a lot, listen to advice from friends, people around you, and acquaintances. Only with fully-planned action will you be on the way to achieve short- and long-term financial goals.

Identify your financial requirements

The second strategy in setting your financial objectives includes identifying personal needs about money. Everyone spends a certain amount of money daily for basic needs as food, car, hygiene, or meetings with friends. If you live alone, it will be easier to recognize personal requirements because we all know our own needs. Otherwise, if you have a big family and  have to maintain all of them, it will cost you days to count how much money you need. Also, you should not leave out extra spending for a holiday, services in the house, clothes, etc. The final list could make you scared or nervous, but you must face it.

Improve your saving habits

Continue Reading…

Millennial Money: How I deal with my Financial Anxiety

How do I deal with my Financial Anxiety? Other than “I don’t.”

As a ‘mature student’ and a Millennial I find myself really struggling to maintain any sort of enviable lifestyle on a basically non-existent budget. At 25, it feels beyond embarrassing to still be relying on my parents, especially after having had a 1-year contract (in Hong Kong) which kept me self-sufficient. Though it has felt at times like a back-track, I know that in the long run this step back into financial dependence will be worth it.

In discussions with some of my friends, it became clear that I was in no way alone in feeling a little lost and hopeless in the finances department. It has been said time and time again that as millennials, we are meant to be discovering our passions and taking risks with our careers, but clearly all of this does little to dissuade those of us in the midst of these struggles from feeling as if we’re doing something terribly wrong.

Stop comparing yourself to your peers

How am I meant to reconcile these feelings with the facts I know to be true ( it’s just temporary! As soon as you’re finished school you’ll feel so much better about your finances)? One of my closest friends had some helpful words when I came to her with how I was feeling: You have to stop comparing yourself to people around you.

I’m sure that response has elicited at least one “duh!” from this audience, and even I myself am well aware of this simple truth. It is, however, a different thing to actually put into practice.

We’re at the age now where half of us are well into our careers, purchasing first homes, getting married, and even starting to have children. Meanwhile the other half (the camp I fall into) are running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to find one stable thing in our lives to grab hold of to keep us steady. Continue Reading…

Is a fixed-rate or variable-rate mortgage right for you?


By Alyssa Furtado,

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Interest rates in Canada have rarely seen such lows, which makes borrowing money to buy a home pretty attractive. But when you start looking around for the best mortgage rates, homebuyers face a choice of going with a variable-rate or a fixed-rate mortgage.

So what’s the difference? A variable-rate mortgage follows interest rates as they move up and down. And a fixed-rate mortgage is locked in for a certain term. Sounds simple, but deciding which option works for you can depend on a number of factors. Here are some essential pros and cons:

Fixed-rate mortgages

Pro: Added security

You don’t have to worry about whether your payments will change because of economic factors you can’t control during the mortgage term. This makes long-term financial planning much easier.

Say you get a five-year fixed-rate mortgage, with a 2.5% interest rate. Regardless of whether interest rates go up or down elsewhere, the rate will stay at 2.5% for the entire five-year period. This allows you to set it and forget it until it comes time to renew your mortgage, at which point you’ll need to renegotiate your rate. At this point your rate could be higher or lower.

Con: Added expense

The luxury of knowing your rate will remain the same will likely cost you, as fixed rates tend to be higher overall.

Variable-rate mortgages

Pro: You can save a bundle

Although by no means guaranteed, historically borrowers save more money over time with this method. Your rate is correlated to the prime lending rate, which can fluctuate. Your rate is quoted as the prime rate plus or minus a certain percentage, such as prime minus 0.4%. In this instance, if the prime rate is 2.7%, your mortgage rate will be 2.3%. Such a small percentage might not look like it will affect your payments, but the savings will add up significantly over time.

Con: Rates can always go up

The variable-rate option comes with a certain risk. If your bank’s prime lending rate changes, the interest moves up or down in conjunction with it. The amount you actually pay your lender on a regular basis (biweekly, monthly, etc.) won’t necessarily change. If the interest rate goes down, more money from your payment will go toward paying down the principal. If the rate goes up, more of the payment will be eaten up by interest, and sometimes your regular payment can also rise. Continue Reading…

Choosing ETFs: the best ones are diversified and have low MERs

If you want to include the best ETF investments in your portfolio, then it’s important to consider a variety of components. That’s because all Exchange-Traded Funds aren’t created equal

ETFs are one of the most popular and most benign investing innovations of our time: and the best ETF investments can be great low-fee ways to hold shares in multiple companies with a single investment.

The best ETFs practice “passive” fund management

The best ETFs practice “passive” fund management, in contrast to the “active” management that conventional mutual funds or some new ETFs provide at much higher costs. Traditional ETFs stick with this passive management: they follow the lead of the sponsor of the index (for example, Standard & Poors).

Sponsors of stock indexes do from time to time change the stocks that make up the index, but generally only when the market weighting of stocks change. They don’t attempt to pick and choose which stocks they think have the best prospects.

This traditional, passive style also keeps turnover very low, and that in turn keeps trading costs for your ETF investments down.

We think you should stick with “traditional” ETFs.

The best ETF investments have lower MERs

The MERs (Management Expense Ratios) are generally much lower on ETFs than on conventional mutual funds. Continue Reading…