Family Formation & Housing

For young couples starting families, buying their first home and/or other real estate. Covers mortgages, credit cards, interest rates, children’s education savings plans, joint accounts for couples and the like.

Lowering the first rung on the housing ladder

Image courtesy of CMI/Envato Elements

By Kevin Fettig

Special to Financial Independence Hub


A recent report by Ontario’s Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) highlights the scarcity of homes under $500,000 in Ontario.

In 2013, 74% of residential properties had a value below this threshold. Today,  just 19% of homes are valued below $500,000.  While this situation varies from province to province, it highlights the significant challenges faced by first-time home buyers who find the first rung of the property ladder is nearly unreachable.

Most urban centers would benefit by encouraging lower cost paths to home ownership. One avenue for this is building properties on leased land. In certain areas of Vancouver, we already see this practice, often on First Nations or university-owned lands. Leased land provides two primary paths to homeownership: one involves placing mobile or manufactured housing on the leased property, while the other entails constructing permanent homes on the leased land.

More than 50 years ago, manufactured housing made up as much as 6% of Canadian housing completions. Today, it represents less than 1%. In the U.S., supporting the availability of manufactured housing is a key component of the administration’s effort to ease the burden of housing costs. Most of these initiatives focus on improving mortgage financing for these homes through housing finance agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Currently, Americans must rely on personal property financing (chattel lending) rather than conventional mortgages.

CMHC launched Chattel Loan program in 1988

In Canada, we’ve had a mortgage insurance product for these loan types for some time. The Chattel Loan Insurance Program (CLIP) was first launched by CMHC in 1988 as a 5-year pilot program. However, CMHC has never actively promoted the program, leading to a lack of awareness among lenders. Moreover, consumer preference for traditional stick-built housing and resistance from local communities to mobile home park developments have further hindered the adoption of the program.

Although the eligible amortization period can extend up to 25 years, some provinces have not allowed longer-term leases, making it challenging to finance structures on leased land, whether stick-built or manufactured. Even with an insured mortgage product, securing financing for manufactured homes can be difficult. Financial institutions often lack understanding of these structures, and the constraints on amortization period restrict the type of homebuyer. Consequently, the market has primarily targeted retirees seeking to downsize from larger family homes to smaller units. However, with appropriate financing options, these properties could also appeal to first-time buyers.

Building permanent homes on leased land is a second avenue to reducing home-ownership costs. Leased land communities are typically located close to small urban centres. The design ranges from townhouses to single family dwellings, and from traditionally built to manufactured. There are some larger institutional groups in this sector, including Parkbridge, a leading Canadian developer and operator of 106 residential and recreational communities across the country. CAPREIT, a Canadian real estate investment trust, also manages leased land communities but is not a developer. Continue Reading…

Estate Planning Mistakes that could Jeopardize your Findependence

Image by Unsplash: Melinda Gimpel

By Devin Partida

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Estate planning is crucial for anyone looking to secure findependence and leave a lasting legacy for their loved ones. It involves making deliberate decisions about who will inherit your assets and how executors should handle your affairs after you’re gone.

However, many overlook the finer details, leading to common mistakes that can have significant financial and emotional impacts on those left behind. Understanding and avoiding these pitfalls ensures your estate plan fulfills your wishes and supports your loved ones without unnecessary stress or financial burden.

Common Estate Planning Oversights

Navigating the complexities of estate planning is no small task, and it’s all too easy to overlook crucial details that can make a big difference. Here are some common estate planning oversights that could derail your intentions and how to steer clear of these potential pitfalls.

Neglecting to Update Beneficiaries

Regularly reviewing and updating beneficiary designations on life insurance, retirement accounts and other financial assets ensures your estate plan reflects your current wishes. Life events — like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or the death of a designated beneficiary — can alter your intentions for asset distribution.

Failure to update these designations can lead to your assets going to unintended recipients — like an ex-spouse or estranged family members — instead of supporting your current loved ones or preferred charities.

Underestimating the Value of a Comprehensive Will

Having a will that comprehensively covers all assets and wishes is fundamental to effective estate planning. Despite its importance, only about 32% of Americans have taken the step to create a will.

This document ensures your assets are distributed according to your desires, provides clear instructions for caring for minor children and appoints executors to manage your estate. An incomplete will — or the absence of one — can lead to family disputes, as loved ones may have differing opinions on the distribution of assets.

Such disagreements often result in extended legal processes, which can deplete the estate’s value through legal fees and other costs. Additionally, without a will, state laws dictate the distribution of your assets, potentially leading to outcomes that starkly contrast with your wishes.

Failing to Establish an Advanced Health Care Directive

An advanced health care directive guides medical decisions if you can’t communicate your wishes, providing physicians and loved ones with clear written instructions. Healthcare providers especially value this foresight, ensuring your care aligns with your preferences and alleviating the burden of decision-making from your family. Continue Reading…

Financially Surviving a High-Net-Worth Divorce


By Devin Partida

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Navigating a divorce can be stressful, especially if you have considerable financial assets. While legal separations can be nasty, they don’t have to be.

Discover what counts as a high-net-worth divorce, along with some tips to help you survive it with most of your financials intact.

What is a High-Net-Worth Divorce?

Traditionally, high-net-worth divorces are considered a split of US$1 million dollars between parties. Considering the increased property values and inflation in recent years, a high-net-worth divorce now involves several million dollars worth of financial assets. If you have assets amounting to this sum, you’re looking at a high-net-worth divorce in your hands.

What makes High-Net-Worth Divorces complicated?

Divorce in the U.S. is still prevalent, with estimates that 50% of first marriages will most likely end in divorce. That’s a lot of legal proceedings and assets to divide. Parties with fewer assets to divide often have more uncomplicated legal matters to resolve.

Divorce proceedings get more complex since you have millions of dollars worth of assets to take care of. Many factors come into play, like assets and liabilities acquired before and after the marriage, businesses owned by either or both spouses and investment or pension plans.

Tips on how to Safeguard your Interests during and after a High-Net-Worth Divorce

Wealthy couples typically have a lower divorce risk, but there may come a time when one or both parties decide to call it quits. Although high-net-worth divorces typically involve top-caliber lawyers and advisors, it’s still essential to research what to expect during legal proceedings. Doing so will help you prepare better for the process and safeguard your financials.

Get Expert Legal and Financial Advice

Divorce can be a physically, mentally and emotionally draining process. It’s also time-consuming if you have no idea how to proceed. Getting expert legal and financial advice can save you time and money, especially if you hire lawyers who have your interests in mind.

Hiring an expert mediator is one of the most underrated ways to ensure smooth divorce proceedings. Divorce mediation involves protecting both parties and safeguarding their interests from a neutral standpoint: each side gets what is rightfully theirs, no more and no less.

Know which Assets to Protect

Distinguishing between marital and separate assets is critical to protecting your financials in a divorce. You must ensure you know the value of your assets like properties, businesses, investments and so on. Catalog them depending on their classification so you know which assets to protect from division.

Here’s what you need to know about the difference between marital and separate assets. Continue Reading…

The Burn Your Mortgage Podcast: Home ownership, the Foundation of Financial Independence with Jonathan Chevreau


Below is an edited transcript of a podcast interview conducted late in 2023 between myself and Burn Your Mortgage podcaster and author Sean Cooper.

The conversation starts with our thoughts on the high price of housing in Canada and how newcomers trying to get on the first rung of the housing ladder can get a start by saving up in Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) and the new First Home Savings Accounts (FHSAs.)

From there we move on a discussion of saving for Retirement, my concept of Findependence (or Financial Independence) and Semi-Retirement: aka Victory Lap Retirement.

Click any of the links below to hear the full audio podcast on your favorite podcast app. Below that is a shortened edited transcript of the interview.

Partial  Transcript

Sean Cooper  

Let’s get started with our interesting discussion today on findependence as well as your daughter’s journey to homeownership. I remember you being on a segment of CBC on the money back in the day a few years ago, with your daughter. So yes, the first thing I want to ask you about is the challenge of younger folks buying a property around that housing affordability issue, so maybe we can talk a bit about your daughter’s journey to homeownership and also about the new First Home Savings Account (FHSA.)

Jonathan Chevreau  

Sure. first of all, as an only child, we remind her that eventually we’ll be gone and that this current house will be hers in any case. So that removes some pressure. Is it a challenge right now in places like Toronto and Vancouver to buy a first home? Yes, it is. Is it impossible? No, it’s like anything else in personal finance. It’s priorities. I think I’ve educated her to the point that she’s been saving in a TFSA and maximizing it since she was 18 years old.

The point is between the TFSA and now the First Home Savings Account, it’s a lot better to receive interest than to pay it out once you commit to a house, which is a lot more expensive than the baby boomers ever had to pay … We’d rather collect rent, in effect, or interest income than than pay it out.

FHSA versus TFSA and Homebuyers Plan

Sean Cooper  

Could you share your thoughts on how the FHSA compares to the TFSA and the RRSP homebuyer plan?

Jonathan Chevreau  

As you know, the FHSA has only been out for about a year. And it allows you to invest $8,000 a year into basically anything that an RRSP or a TFSA would allow you to invest in. So not just fixed income, but you can invest in stocks, ETFs, asset allocation ETFs, etc. And you get a deduction similar to how an RRSP generates one.

But the beauty of it is it’s very flexible, like a TFSA. You don’t have to buy a first home. But it’s only good for people who have never bought a home yet, so it’s a one-time only deal. I would say it would be a priority. But whether or not you think you’re going to buy a home, you certainly will want to retire at some point. And therefore the FHSA does double duty.

Sean Cooper  

I agree completely. And the FHSA is a lot more flexible than the homebuyer plan, you can actually use both of them together. So if you have a lot of money in your RRSP, then you can use them in combination. But a couple cool things that I learned is that with the RRSP home buyers plan, there’s actually the rule that basically any contributions that you make, it has to sit in the account for 90 days before you can take the money out. But with the FHSA, it doesn’t have that same rule, you can essentially contribute money and then pretty much take it out. And you don’t have to wait 90 days or anything like that.

 Jonathan Chevreau  

The good thing about home equity and a paid for-home because as you know, Sean, I’ve written that the foundation of financial independence is a paid-for home, but once it’s paid for there is home equity, then, if you have to, in the last five years of Old Age would tap it to pay for, I don’t know, $6,000 or $7,000 a month for a nursing home or retirement home. Nice to have in the back of your pocket, the home equity.

My view is, there’s no rush to get out there and buy a first home at these high interest rates and home prices are also almost near record high though they’ve come down a bit.

Retirement savings, pensions, CPP, OAS

Sean Cooper  

Why don’t we switch gears and talk about the second topic that we want to discuss: financial independence.  If all the money is in the house, and you don’t have a gold-plated pension plan, you have a bit of a challenge there. Now, certainly you can downsize but then there is the cost of moving and the land transfer tax, and all that.

Jonathan Chevreau  

Well, I don’t have a gold-plated pension. I would call it more like a bronze-plated one. Mostly from National Post, since I was there for 19 years. My wife has no employer pension, but always maximized her RRSP. And we obviously eat our own cooking, so we have maximized our TFSAs since it began. We delayed CPP as long as we could, but didn’t quite wait until 70 because actuary and author Fred Vettese had an article in The Globe the last couple of weeks arguing that those who are 68 or 69 now are probably better off taking CPP a year or two earlier, so you get the inflation adjustment.

Most financial planners would say you should look at CPP and OAS really nice additions to savings and that can be the foundation or your findependence, especially if you don’t have an employer-provided Defined Benefit pension plan.  Some worry that if the worst happens, like Alberta leaving CPP, what if somehow they renege on the CPP promise? But I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Retiree money fears and Asset Allocation

Still, it doesn’t hurt to have financial assets so in the end, you’re not going to be dependent on the government or any one employer.  One thing you can count on is your personal investments like RRSPs/RRIFs, TFSAs, and non registered savings. Then of course, if you’re managing your own money , you have to worry about the fear of every retiree: running out of money or losing money if the stock market crashes. Asset allocation is the proper protection there: my own financial advisor recommends 60% fixed income to 40% stocks, I guess we’re close to that. Right now GICs — guaranteed investment certificates — are paying roughly 4 or 5%, depending where you go. If you ladder them so they mature one to five years from now, then you don’t have to worry about the reinvestment risk. You just reinvest whenever they come due at current rates. Continue Reading…

In the pursuit of financial security for all, we can’t overlook older widowed women

Image by Pexels: Andrea Piacquadio

By Christine Van Cauwenberghe

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Canada has a bold vision – to build a more accessible, inclusive and effective financial literacy ecosystem for all. The five-year plan, laid out in the National Financial Literacy Strategy 2021-2026, is an important step forward to achieving sweeping financial literacy. But one cohort is noticeably absent from this ambitious strategy – older widowed women.

During Financial Literacy Month in November, we had an opportunity to cast a light on financial education and empowerment for this often overlooked and underserved, but statistically significant, group. In 2022, there were approximately 1.5 million widowed women compared to the roughly 472,000 widowed men, reports Statista Research Department. As our nation nears “super-aged” status, where 20 per cent of our population will be 65 years or older, these numbers will continue to climb.

Longer life expectancies for women, paired with women generally marrying or partnering with older men, leaves them more likely to spend at least some of their retirement in widowhood. As such, it’s estimated that 90 per cent of women will become the sole financial decision-maker at some point in their lifetime, representing a substantial segment of Canada’s wealth management sector.

Lower financial literacy than male counterparts

However, this same group generally reports lower levels of financial literacy than their male counterparts. While many reasons account for this disparity, traditional societal norms play a significant role – older generations of women were more likely to stay home and rear children while men typically joined the workforce, granting them greater financial exposure.

Now, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to change this. Widespread financial literacy matters, but in our effort to educate the masses we can’t leave certain groups behind. By narrowing the knowledge gap, we can empower widowed women from and after the Silent Generation with a voice – we can give them a say in their own financial future.

Women will soon control half of accumulated Wealth

By 2026, women in Canada will control roughly half of all accumulated financial wealth, estimates Strategic Insights, up from one-third a decade earlier. While this is a welcomed shift, many women’s’ lack of core financial understanding and involvement is sobering. Too often, it’s men who assume a leading role in personal wealth management, specifically retirement and estate planning. This despite the fact that women, on average, survive their husbands by roughly five years. Yet, only 17 per cent of women in Canada over the age of 65 have an up-to-date will, according to a survey from LegalWills Canada. Continue Reading…