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.”

A nation of financial illiterates?

By John Shmuel, Managing Editor,

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Do you consider yourself financially literate?

When we posed that question to Canadians last month in an IPSOS survey, the overwhelming majority — 78% — said yes.

Canadians are clearly confident about their financial knowledge. But their actual knowledge, unfortunately, is lacking. When we followed up our initial question with a quiz, comprised of 15 intermediate questions about financial products, the majority of Canadians (57%) failed.

It should be noted that these weren’t simple questions. But they also weren’t questions that require special certification or an advanced knowledge of finance. One question asked whether there were financial institutions in Canada that offer free chequing accounts (there are). Another asked whether you needed a special license to buy stocks (you don’t).

Failure to know the answers to these questions shows that Canadians are confused about financial products. And financial institutions take advantage of that.

Let’s return to the question on chequing accounts. About 34% of those surveyed said they thought all banks charge you money to have a chequing account. Another 14% said they didn’t know the answer. With nearly half of Canadians not realizing free chequing accounts are an option, it’s no surprise many financial institutions continue to charge for them.

Then there is the issue of mortgages. Of our 15 questions, Canadians struggled with ones related to mortgages more than any other. For instance, we asked whether a mortgage term refers to the length of time you need to pay off your mortgage. 51% of Canadians answered incorrectly. Another 18% said they don’t know. (For those wondering amortization refers to the length of a mortgage, a term is how long variables such as your interest rate are in effect.)

So what?, you might say. What does a mortgage term have to do with being knowledgeable about finance?

It all comes down to empowerment. If you’re familiar with how a financial product works, you’re more likely to be confident in getting the best deal for that product. Knowing what a mortgage term is you probably know that you can negotiate mortgage rates, or that you can go online and see different rates from rival banks and brokerages. Continue Reading…

Top 10 tips to Save on Car Insurance

By Anne Marie Thomas

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Car insurance is one of those costs of owning a vehicle that everyone wants to save money on, and with these tips from you’ll be able to ensure that year after year, your premiums are the lowest they can be.

1.) Compare rates annually at renewal

For the sake of convenience, you may be tempted to simply renew with your current auto insurer when your policy is about to expire, but this could end up costing you big time. Rates often change and the insurer who offered you the best rate two years ago, or even last year, may no longer offer you the best deal today.

2.) Don’t wait for your renewal to shop around

A lot can happen over the course of a year, and as a rule of thumb, you should shop around anytime anything that could affect your insurance rate happens. For example, you should spot check your premiums when you move, get a ticket (or are involved in an at-fault collision), get married, change jobs or retire.

Tip: If you find a better rate when you shop around mid-policy, make sure the savings are more than the fee you’ll be charged for cancelling your policy. If the fees are higher than the savings, then it might be better to wait until your policy is set to expire before switching companies.

3.) Bundle it

We all know bundling phone and television services nets a lower bill, and the same is true for insurance. If you get your property insurance (home, condo, or tenant insurance) from the same company as your auto insurance then you’ll likely qualify for a discount that could save you from five to 15 per cent off of one, or even both of your policies.

4.) Review your deductibles Continue Reading…

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…