A Money Coach in Canada

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Dear Readers,

Most of you know that I moved from Vancouver to Yellowknife, NT, a couple months ago.  Non-Canadians, I’m very far north, as in, aurora borealis north.   Or golfing in the midnight sun, north.

Last Saturday, in typical northern hospitality I was invited to my first party … by a group of bloggers!

I thought I’d return the favour by introducing you to some of my fellow True North(ern) Voice blogging buddies.

Natalie, a maritimer (there are lots of them here!) writes about some unique facets of ordering at the local McDonalds:

  • But friends, this is the North! People are ridiculously friendly here. If that same situation had occurred in the South, I am certain the pubescent McD’s worker would have …. read more

Readers:  care to take a guess what’s up with the metal box?

Newfoundlander expat FerryTales (read into that…) was brave enough to poll some northerners about seal hunts for a living.

Readers:  … on second thought … never mind.  Moving right along now,

Megan, formerly from Novia Scotia (TOLD you there are a lot of maritimers up here!) retells an old bible story of famine and — well, I’ll let her tell it:

  • Boaz thinks Ruth is awesome. I’m not surprised: I think any man would feel this way about a hot young girl who appeared uninvited and volunteered to do whatever he wanted. Even better: She showed up at HIS feet, even though there are younger men around. (I’m not SAYING she’s the Old Testament version of Anna Nicole Smith, but I do have to wonder.) But Boaz points out that there’s another guy with first dibs on her. He says she should sleep over, and in the morning they can … read more

Failed Mommy comes up with a plan not to look like a poser when she recently took a holiday in a Phoenix Resort

  • Despite our best efforts, however, I have a feeling that the hotel staff and the other guests caught on to our facade. ..

And this completely captures some of what it is to be a northerner, thanks to Alex (who may, or may not be from the maritimes?) and found this great piece:

  • In summary: Be Northern. Build a house out of town. Wear moosehide and sealskin. Park your car in your yard. Pee by the highway. Take your dog to work. Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em. Say “the Yukon” (What gutless bureaucrat dropped the “the”?). Jaywalk. Commute on your quad. Look people in the eye. Don’t shave – and ladies, that goes for you. Curse. Spit. Enter without knocking. Eat bannock, dry-meat and tea. Build campfires in your yard. Shop at the dump. Call the rest of world “Outside.” Kill your cellphone. Kill your dinner. And stop acting like a goddamn southerner.

Photo Credit:  JL Gordey

All caught up in the Susan Boyles and Antwerp excitement,  I missed an interesting tidbit that was also in all the news (exception the National Post, quelle suprise):

A brand new report found that most Canadians are getting a great deal from public spending, and receiving more than they pay in taxes.  The implication is that “tax cuts” are a short term high but ultimately we’re the losers.

Here are some facts that may challenge our notions about taxes:

  • A typical Cdn family uses public services that would total nearly 1/2 their total family income if they paid for them directly
  • Each Canadian uses approximately $17,000 worth of public services annually
  • Households with net incomes below $110,000 would almost all have been better off if the gst had *not* been reduced, and the funds instead transferred to local governments (to support schools, for example), whereas households exceeding $200,000 gain an average of $200 annually by the gst cut.

So when we hear about “tax cuts” we need to ask ourselves:  Who wins?  and Who loses?  If it’s a federal tax cut, it’s likely lower income groups (child payments, employment insurance, seniors payments).   If it’s a provincial tax cut, it’s likely middle-income earners (school, health, roads).

Readers, what do you think?  Does this surprise you?  And are you using more than you are putting in, right now? (stage of life plays into this).

Better to live richly

Better to live richly,
originally uploaded by HaliUser.

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A couple weeks ago I spent a morning with HR going through all my benefits. Money Coach nature notwithstanding, my eyes glazed over as I made Xs by my choices, signed my name in triplicate, and submitted forms and more forms.

In light of that, I was grateful when twitterpal Tony Ratcliffe, a health insurance specialist based in Edmonton, offered to help my readers and me take a closer look at what our insurance options are.
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Understanding Living Benefits

What are ‘living benefits’? While the term may not be immediately known, you will likely have at least some familiarity. The living benefits most known to you may be a group insurance plan offered through your employer or an association. Plans vary, but common coverage includes health & dental as well as short and/or long-term term disability. Your risk of incurring unexpected expenses for health reasons is reduced by transferring some or all of your losses to an insurance company. I am going to lead with long-term disability and also touch on a couple of others. These are benefits you need and should appreciate while you are ‘living.’

1.  Long-term Disability

Your financial planning will include savings, investments, and providing for your family or other beneficiaries with life insurance, but how seriously have you considered protecting your assets and income stream while you are sick or injured? How do you ensure you do not have to use your savings or sell assets if your income is suddenly reduced or eliminated? I will dispense with the statistics, but you only need look around you to see sickness and injury affecting the ability to work. It can happen to you!

It concerns me to see employees trying to opt out of long-term care coverage. Depending on the group, this may or may not be allowed. Either way, opting out is not a good idea unless you have a good personal policy. Note:  You do not receive this coverage from your spouse’s plan!  As an employee, you are likely covered by your province’s Workers’ Compensation plan for disability attributable to your work; however, outside of work hours, you likely rely on your long-term disability coverage. Since it is income replacement, it will provide a percentage of your pre-disability earnings. It’s important to take the time to understand this coverage.

Homework:  Please take a few moments to review your benefits booklet which is available from your Human Resources department if you have misplaced yours. Be sure to note

  • how much will be paid
  • when it will be paid
  • and for how long.
  • Pay attention to the definitions of ‘total disability.’ Plans often cover you for one or two years if you are unable to do your own job. After that, you may receive benefits only if you are unable to perform any reasonable job, according to your education, training, and experience. Sometimes a minimum income level is included in the definition, but not always. This will still likely result in a significant loss of income.

2.  Critical Illness Insurance

Less common in group plans is critical illness insurance. It provides a lump sum payment if an insured is diagnosed with a critical illness and survives a stipulated period, typically 30 days.

While the ‘big 3’ covered conditions are cancer, heart attack, and stroke, there are 20 or more other conditions that can be found in critical Illness policies. A larger benefit amount may allow you to travel to the USA or elsewhere for a particular, or more immediate, treatment. However, even a smaller payment may help ease the financial strain while staying close to home with our fine medical services.

3. Long-term Care Insurance
Not likely to be found in group coverage is long-term care insurance. This can pay a periodic benefit, or provide reimbursement for specific costs, when one is unable to perform two of the daily activities of living (bathing, dressing, toileting, eating, continence, and transferring) or suffers a cognitive impairment.
You may have also obtained personal, non-group, coverage for one or more of the living benefits through an insurance advisor, representing a specific insurance company or acting as an agent/broker for more than one company. At the time, you may not have had coverage through work or any other group plan, or you may have determined that your coverage was sufficient for your circumstances. A personal plan has many advantages that can be discussed at another time, but it will certainly fill gaps left by group coverage. I encourage you to review and understand the coverage that you have. Preferably with the assistance of an insurance advisor, determine what your needs would be if you were to be disabled.
Let me end with one point that I am passionate about. Obtaining personal insurance coverage generally requires evidence of good health and is less expensive at younger ages. If the need is there, you should look sooner rather than later.

Antony (Tony) Ratcliffe, is a Registered Health Underwriter (RHU) and operates as an independent life and health insurance broker, Ratcliffe Wealth & Risk Management, in Edmonton, Alberta. www.RatcliffeWealth.com.

Photo Credit: Scattered Sunshine

3111973939_7d19b848e9_mPhoto Credit: TMAB2003

This is a guest post by Nathalie Lussier who blogs as The Billionaire Woman, where she shares her journey to living a richer and more fulfilling life.

I’m a Canadian who was born and raised in a small town near the Canadian and American border.

No kidding, my aunt was born in the United States because that was the closest hospital at the time. Of course, these days customs officers won’t let you cross over if you look like you’re about to give birth!

Because of this proximity to the United States, I’ve always had a particular experience with US/CAD exchange rates.

If the Canadian dollar was stronger, it meant that we could cross the border into the USA and shop with a strong dollar. We might vacation in the United States, or even cross over to have a meal at a US restaurant.

If the US dollar was stronger, it meant that we would see more American tourists in our small town and the surrounding towns. It would create tourism jobs and support local arts and crafts.

Looking At Exchange Rates From a Personal Viewpoint

Now with the Internet, anyone can order from an American online shop. So really, the US/CAD exchange affects us even more. We no longer need to live on the border to be affected by fluctuations in exchange rates.

As consumers, we prefer to have a strong Canadian dollar. It means our dollar goes further, and we can afford to buy more stuff in the US.

Looking at Exchange Rates From a Global Viewpoint

When we look at a strong Canadian dollar in terms of a global impact, we might notice that other countries are less likely to do business with us.

Canadian freelancers might be inversely affected by a strong Canadian dollar, since American companies might chose to hire freelancers in other countries instead.

Just like in the case of Canadian freelancers, the strong dollar is actually a weakness for the country’s industry.

Exploring all of the ramifications of a fluctuating Canadian dollar is beyond this post, but it’s something I wanted to highlight. I never saw these side effects because I was too close to the border.

Thinking Global and Acting Local

Like with most things these days, it is best to think globally and act locally. If you can support the local businesses during times when the Canadian dollar is strong, you can still benefit from using your strong dollar abroad.

So the next time we’re out celebrating our strong Canadian dollar, let’s just remember what kind of impact this might have on our country.

** Readers, Have you noticed the rush to spend in the US when the Canadian dollar is on-par with the US dollar?

This was a guest post by Nathalie Lussier, a raw vegan, wealth-conscious kind of billionaire woman. Kind of.

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