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 superiority of Canadian “Robo Advisors” over mutual funds

By Dale Roberts, cutthecrapinvesting

Special to Financial Independence Hub

This is a battle between lower-fee Canadian Robo Advisor portfolios vs high-fee Canadian mutual funds. As you are likely aware, Canadians pay some of the highest investment fees in the world. Larry Bates, the author of Beat The Bank, calls those fees wealth destroyers. Lowering fees is one of the most predictable ways to increase your investment returns. More money stays in the right pocket; your pocket. By way of the Questwealth Portfolios (from Questrade) let’s have a look at the superiority of Robo Advisors over Canadian mutual funds.

Here’s the review of Larry’s Beat The Bank. That is a must read. On Larry’s site you will also find a tool that will calculate the cost of high investment fees.

The Questwealth Portfolios

There are three simple ways that Canadians can leave behind their advisor and high fee mutual funds. If you want investment advice and managed global ETF portfolios, you can look to one of the Canadian Robo Advisors.

Here is a post on what is a Robo Advisor? As you’re about to discover, this is a far superior approach to a typical high-fee mutual fund. Also consider that most high-fee mutual funds in Canada are offered by salespersons and not ‘real’ advisors.

Questwealth is one of the Canadian Robo Advisors. And don’t be fooled by that Robo word. While you can choose to do everything online from start to finish, real humans are available for investment advice and guidance. And at a shop such as Justwealth you’ll have a dedicated advisor, with financial planning available.

You can have it all in a low-fee environment.

Not investing with Mom and Dad’s guy

Questwealth offers the Questwealth Portfolios. They are the lowest fee Robo offering in Canada. And they are famous for their advertising. Many younger Canadians are not following their Mom and Dad, running into the bank, Investor’s Group or AGF (or other mutual fund sales shop) to fill the pockets of advisors and mutual fund creators. Nope, they are learning how to self-direct and how to take control of their own wealth building destiny.

In one commercial the younger brother turns to his embarrassed older bro and offers …

You’re not still investing with Mom and Dad’s guy, are you?

It’s nice to see many Canadians become their own advisor. Keep that 2% or more in your own pocket. You’ll need bigger pockets, by the way.

Questwealth Portfolios vs Canadian mutual funds

Questrade suggests (based on the simple fee math) that over time Canadians could retire 30% wealthier. That said, it’s a much greater benefit than that 30% suggestion. Based on the return differential to date, you’d be looking at returns that are 50% better (or more) over a 30-year period. Retiring with 50% more is obviously life changing.

And of course, a 5-year performance is a shorter period, but it aligns with the known underperformance of high-fee actively-managed Canadian mutual funds.

Also, past performance does not guarantee future returns.

You’ll find a calculator on their site.

Here’s the Questwealth Portfolios vs typical or average mutual funds in Canada, to the end of February 2023. The mutual fund returns are based on Questrade calculations, looking at the available data for the mutual fund space. That list and returns for the individual mutual funds was also provided to me.

And here’s Questwealth vs the RBC Select balanced mutual funds.

And here is a post that looks at Justwealth vs Canadian bank mutual funds.

The outperformance is outrageous.

Ditch your high-fee mutual funds

It appears to be a no-brainer: ditch your high-fee Canadian mutual funds. If you decide that a Robo option such as the Questwealth Portfolios is right for you, you’ll find it is an easy process to make the move. They can help you with the transfer process.

Here’s the link to Questrade.

But please pay attention to any tax consequences should you have any taxable accounts. You might consider Justwealth if you need to transfer considerable taxable amounts. They can accept your taxable account mutual funds and will drawdown the assets over time in a tax-efficient manner.

Create your own ETF Portfolio

If you want to leave your mutual funds behind, you can also create your own ETF portfolio. Here’s the performance of the core ETF portfolios.

Continue Reading…

5 Best Apps for Budgeting & Financial Planning

Image by unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

By Devin Partida

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Budgeting is hardly exciting, but it’s key to getting finances under control. However, making a budget and sticking to one isn’t always easy. That’s why we could all use some help now and then.

Consider using budgeting and financial planning apps to maintain disciplinary action. Here are the best budgeting apps on the market.

1. You Need a Budget [YNAB]

YNAB earns a spot on this list because of its proactive budgeting approach. It offers the ability to sync bank accounts, import data, and manually enter transactions.

Once users sign up, they can create a budget and assign each transaction to a purpose. For instance, they might like to use the app for car payments or mortgages.

The app’s goal is to get users one month ahead. That way, they spend money they earned over a month ago. Essentially, the app gives customers a complete budget overhaul. It also provides users with top security to protect their information and gives them additional resources for staying on track.

This app costs US$98.99 per year or $14.99 per month and offers a 34-day free trial. [All figures below are in US$]

2. Goodbudget

Goodbudget has a free version with ads. Or, users can pay for an ad-free version that costs $7 per month or $60 annually.

Goodbudget is a useful budgeting app that allows users to create and stick to budgets – and keep track of their debt to pay it down faster.

In addition, it helps with money management. That way, users know where their funds are and how they perform.

Users also have easy access to their accounts, as they can use them on the web and on multiple phones. In turn, people can easily share their accounts with others and stay financially connected. This is valuable for some, as it prevents miscommunication and mishaps.

The app also syncs each transaction to the cloud. And some reports show the finances in greater detail – as well as pie charts and other updates to track spending.

3. Mint

Mint is another great budgeting app, as it has high ratings in the App Store and Google Play. It’s also free and syncs with various bank accounts, including checking and savings, loans, credit cards, and more.

Mint works by tracking users’ expenses and placing them within budgeting categories. You might have categories of your own ready to go in a spreadsheet. Mint lets users more fully personalize their categories and set limits to maintain their budgets. Once users approach those limits, Mint will notify them within the app. Continue Reading…

 Budget and Stick to it: 18 Steps

Image courtesy Terkel/Pexels Kindel Media

To help you create a budget and stick to it for achieving your financial goals, we’ve gathered advice from 18 professionals, including CEOs, founders, and VPs. From leveraging public accountability to reviewing and adjusting your budget regularly, these experts share their top steps to take for effective budgeting and saving. 

  • Leverage Public Accountability
  • Negotiate Lower Fees
  • Celebrate Budgeting Successes
  • Automate Your Savings
  • Identify Cost-Cutting Opportunities
  • Track Expenses and Income
  • Eliminate Unnecessary Expenses
  • Create a Realistic Budget
  • Prioritize Necessary Expenses
  • Monitor Financial Metrics
  • Automate Savings Consistently
  • Use the 50/30/20 Rule
  • Utilize a Monthly Bill Calendar
  • Limit Online Shopping Access
  • Establish a Purpose and Set Goals
  • Use Cash Stuffing With Discipline
  • Create Organized Sub-Budgets
  • Review and Adjust the Budget Regularly

Leverage Public Accountability

In my personal journey toward financial wellness, one of the most effective strategies I’ve employed is leveraging public accountability to create a budget and stick to it. I started by sharing my financial goals with my circle of trusted friends and family, which made the goals feel more real and tangible. 

Whenever I felt tempted to stray from my budget, the thought of explaining my overspending to them motivated me to resist. In fact, one time I was really close to buying an expensive gadget on a whim, but the idea of having to admit this unnecessary expense to my accountability partners made me rethink, and I decided against it. 

Using public accountability in this way can be a powerful tool to reinforce your commitment to your financial goals, and I encourage you to try it.  Antreas Koutis, Administrative Manager, Financer

Negotiate Lower Fees

One example of a strategy not commonly undertaken when creating a budget is to negotiate lower fees on existing bills such as cable, internet, or cell phone plans. 

As the market becomes increasingly competitive, companies are more likely than ever before to reduce customer bills if they know they may otherwise lose that customer’s business. 

This can lead to significant savings without having to decrease spending on existing items. With the resulting saved money, you can then allocate it towards your financial goals, more easily allowing for what was once considered unattainable! — Carly Hill, Operations Manager, Virtual Holiday Party 

Celebrate Budgeting Successes

Creating a budget and sticking to it, in my opinion, is difficult work. Celebrate your accomplishments along the way. In the long run, I believe that this will make it easier for you to stay on your budget and will help keep you motivated. 

Treat yourself to a small reward if you reach a savings goal or pay off a debt, for example. Just make sure the prize is within your financial constraints! Bruce Mohr, Vice-President, Fair Credit

Automate your Savings

A lot of people tell you to pay yourself first. I think a better approach is to save for yourself first. Set up automatic transfers to your various retirement and savings accounts. That way, the money isn’t just sitting in your checking account and tempting you. 

This works even better when you have high-yield savings accounts and retirement funds that aren’t linked to your main bank account. Spending habits are hard to break, but it can be easier to form new ones if you automate your savings. Temmo Kinoshita, Co-founder, Lindenwood Marketing

Identify Cost-Cutting Opportunities

Of course, the goal of budgeting is to save money, but one step you need to take in order to be successful and reach your financial goals is to look for ways to save. You can do this by reviewing your budget and pinpointing areas where you can cut costs to save money. 

For example, if you find that you spend a lot of money on going out to eat, you can cut down spending here and instead cook your meals, which ultimately will be the cheaper alternative. 

You may also cancel subscriptions you don’t use or negotiate your bills with your service providers to see if you can get a discount. Overall, there are multiple ways to cut down your spending and save money—you just need to figure out which areas you can negotiate or compromise! Bill Lyons, CEO, Griffin Funding

Track Expenses and Income

You can find areas where you might be overspending or where you can reduce expenditures by keeping track of your expenses and income. Additionally, you may utilize this data to make wise decisions on future purchases and investments, ensuring that you are deploying your resources as effectively and efficiently as you can. 

You may keep yourself motivated and on track to accomplish your goals by routinely evaluating your financial accounts and your progress toward them. Additionally, it can assist you in seeing future difficulties or obstacles, enabling you to modify your plan and change the route as necessary.Michael Lees, Chief Marketing Officer, EZLease

Eliminate Unnecessary Expenses

A major problem people have when sticking to a budget is the little purchases they make along the way. Many of us are guilty of ordering takeout after a long day of work, picking up a daily Starbucks order, or wasting groceries. 

While these small purchases may seem innocent enough, they quickly add up and get you off track toward reaching your financial goals. Before making a purchase, ask yourself, do I need this? Or if you need extra motivation, consider how many hours of work it takes you to purchase these daily items. 

By cutting out or at least reducing some of these mundane purchases, you’ll notice your bank account feeling a little healthier and lower stress knowing you have enough money to put towards your financial goals and still pay your bills. Brandon Brown, CEO, GRIN

Create a Realistic Budget

Often, I see people attempting to budget just for the sake of budgeting without considering its implications on their overall lifestyle. If you want to religiously follow your budget, make it realistic. Realistic financial goals will provide you with a head start in creating an achievable and sustainable budget.

Create a budget that takes into account not only your financial goals but also your lifestyle behavior and the situation you are in right now. If you regularly eat out, set aside money for that based on how much you anticipate spending and how much you are willing to spend.

Moreover, don’t make your spending plan too strict. What’s the purpose of working if you can’t occasionally treat yourself to a sumptuous meal or a new pair of boots? After all, you deserve to feel human.

If you don’t make room for the things you want, you’ll eventually give in and ruin your spending plan. Just make sure to plan ahead and remember that the ultimate goal is financial security and independence.Jonathan Merry, Founder, Moneyzine

Prioritize Necessary Expenses

Pay all your bills before buying anything discretionary. When you’re trying to save money, it’s essential to cover all necessary expenses before you try setting money aside. This way, you have a better idea of how much money you have left for casual spending and savings. 

Paying any obligations first allows you to avoid surprise expenses after you’ve already started spending, which in turn helps you avoid having to pull money out of your savings. The best way to stick to your budget is to pay what you need to first. Max Ade, CEO, Pickleheads

Monitor Financial Metrics

Entrepreneurs should track financial metrics to monitor their success. A metric for entrepreneurs to measure is customer lifetime value, which is the total amount of revenue that one customer generates during their entire interactions with the business. 

Monitoring this metric helps entrepreneurs understand how much revenue can be expected from a single customer and what marketing strategies are most effective at keeping them engaged. 

Additionally, tracking customer lifetime value allows entrepreneurs to maximize their returns on investment as they can target customers who spend more money and reward existing customers who have already demonstrated loyalty and commitment.Julia Kelly, Managing Partner, Rigits

Automate Savings Consistently

Automating savings is a surefire way to help you stick to saving money and reaching your financial goals. Too many situations can thwart your best intentions to regularly add to your savings yourself: mainly forgetfulness since an additional task is the last thing anyone needs.

If you don’t automate, you may rationalize not regularly adding to your savings account because of an extra purchase you think you need or deserve. That could snowball into a pattern of doing it less than you initially wanted or not at all.

“Out of sight, out of mind” is an advantage of automating your savings: If you don’t see that money sitting in your checking account, you won’t spend it.

Disabuse yourself of the notion that you need a large amount of money for an automatic savings plan. Start with $5, $10, or $20 at a time. You can increase that by looking for ways to decrease your expenses, such as comparison shopping for your car and home insurance or requesting lower interest rates on credit cards. Michelle Robbins, Licensed Insurance Agent,

Use the 50/30/20 Rule

To create a budget and stick to it, prioritize your expenses and allocate your income with the 50/30/20 rule. This rule suggests that 50% of your income should go towards necessities like rent, utilities, and groceries, 30% should go towards discretionary spending such as dining out and entertainment, and 20% should go towards saving and paying off debt.  Continue Reading…

How to Live Life to the Fullest when you don’t have a Lot of Money

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By Beau Peters

Special to Financial Independence Hub

They say that money doesn’t buy happiness. But when funds are tight it sure can feel as though life is a little constrained. You may constantly feel as though you’re missing out on opportunities or fun events.

Learning to live within your means is a hard lesson, but many people who achieve it never feel as though they are going without. In fact, most have found ways to live their lives to the absolute fullest. Sometimes all that is required is a change of perspective or a minor reorientation of values.

It may come as somewhat of a surprise, but having a great and fulfilling life often isn’t tied to how much money you make or the fancy things you’re able to spend it on. Some of the most important things that really make life worth living don’t cost much and many come for free.

Improve Life, Save Money

Entertainment can be one of the draining items on your budget. A couple drinks with co-workers after work one night, going to a show with a gal pal another, maybe paying for tickets to the big game the next. It seems like everything fun costs money and over the course of a week or a month that really adds up.

But not all hobbies have to cost a lot of money, or really any money at all. Rather than grabbing drinks after work, you can invite people over to your house to hang out around the fire pit and have a potluck-style barbeque. Or instead of going to a show with a friend, you strive to attend free local events like music in the park, farmers’ markets, or explore new neighborhoods. Maybe instead of paying for a ticket to the big game, you can invite your friends to a tailgate in the parking lot. Continue Reading…

How cent-sible mothers can give their children financial independence

Image by Unsplash

By Anna Smith

Special to Financial Independence Hub

As a mother, I know the importance of raising my daughter to be independent and confident. One of the most significant ways I can do this is by instilling in her the value of financial literacy. By teaching her to be financially independent, I am setting her up for a future where she can make sound decisions with money and have the freedom to achieve her dreams. I feel every mother should share this responsibility and nurture the financial skills of their children, especially when we consider the uncertainties of the current global economic climate.

Growing up and learning to manage money through lived experiences, I discovered that some of those life lessons can be painful. My immigrant parents were so focused on working hard to provide the basics for the family, financial literacy lessons weren’t really a priority for my sister and me. All we were taught was to save and keep on saving. In fact, my sister and I would sometimes skip lunch at school just to save the allowance our parents gave us. I learned the hard way that while saving is part of being financially literate, it can’t just stop there; a significant next step is to find safe, reliable methods to growing your wealth.

Not knowing better, when I was 18, one of the earliest financial mistakes I made was getting multiple credit cards, which eventually resulted in a lot of debt (because which teenage girl doesn’t like shopping?). I had to work hard to pay it off and it was a tough lesson to learn, but it was valuable because it made me realize the importance of being smart about money from a young age.

After that, I started seeking support to become more financially literate from any source I could get my hands on. The internet was my best friend and I got into the habit of listening to podcasts about investing and best financial practices. When I started working, I was lucky enough to find a trusted mentor who taught me that putting 75 per cent of my paycheque toward smart investments was smarter than spending the money on any big-ticket item immediately.

As I became better with money, I went from only knowing how to save money to growing my wealth through investing in stocks (ETFs) and real estate and having a diverse portfolio. When it comes to investments, I now know it’s important to maintain both passive and aggressive investments. Having said that, choosing between good investments and bad ones can be daunting and that’s where financial advisors come in. Engaging a trusted advisor who is experienced in investing in different asset classes can make all the difference in the world because they often have access to wealth management tools and data that make investment proposals more reliable and easier to understand.

Teaching children about saving and investing — and the mindset behind both

Although I eventually found my financial footing, others are not so lucky and many have never been able to recover once they get into debt, which can be crippling. Now that I have a family of my own, one of my top priorities is to make sure my daughter has a strong foundation in financial literacy, with all the tools she needs to make better decisions when managing money.

One of the things that we’ve started working on together is to get her to save regularly, like I did as a child. But more than teaching my daughter good saving habits, I believe what’s important is to show her the difference between the money-going-out and money-going-in concept. Very often, children are no strangers to the former because they see us making purchases daily and this makes it easy for them to learn spending (or worse, impulse spending). The latter, however, is more difficult to emulate because they rarely witness the act of saving. This is especially true now that we live in a world where most financial transactions are digital. Though this speaks to the convenience of innovation, how do we curb impulse spending in our children beyond merely saying “no” (and parents, I’m sure you’ll agree that saying “no” doesn’t always elicit the best response from children)? Continue Reading…