A Money Coach in Canada

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I’ve long been a fan of money sense magazine.   They have just the right blend of the serious investing content with the more day-to-day information about money that I want.  If you subscribe to just one money-oriented publication, I recommend them.  It’s bimonthly so you won’t feel inundated, it’s written in accessible language, and comes in an attractive format. No, I’m not paid to promote them.  I genuinely like it.  That, and they used me as their guest expert last summer (ahem).

In their most recent issue,  they gave Canadians the scoop we all want to know:  Which Cdn. cities are more, or less, likely to enable us to get ahead. While I was able to keep on reasonably solid ground in Vancouver, every step ahead felt so very hard-won.  In contrast, Yellowknife is helping me to accomplish what I want a whole lot faster, in addition to a lifestyle of getaways and trips to Europe.

On to the juicy tidbits:

The top 10 Canadian cities for  good paying  jobs are these unassuming places:

  1. Wood Buffalo, AB
  2. Oakville, ON
  3. Vaughan, ON
  4. Markham, ON
  5. Richmond Hill, ON
  6. Yellowknife, NT
  7. Calgary, AB
  8. Whitby, ON
  9. Okotoks, AB
  10. Canmore, AB

Ave. Household Income is $139,254 in Wood Buffalo,  Yellowknife’s is $110,950  and 10th place is $100,089. Toronto is in 23rd position, Ottawa at 21st position at $85,475, Vancouver 35th position, Moose Jaw in 97th and Montreal is in 135th position.

But that’s not the whole story.   Another telling statistic, is which cities offer the greatest percentage disposable income.  In that category, Yellowknife is in the 27th spot, and Vancouver is 78th.    Turns out Estavan, SK offers the greatest disposable income.  Who knew?

But translate that into real dollars, and

  • Yellowknifers have $28,000 each year
  • Estavaners have $23,000
  • Canajun Finance Guy, you live in Ottawa, yes?  If so, your ave. real-dollars disposable is $21,616
  • Bargainista, in Toronto (proper), it’s $19,924
  • Vancouverites only have $18,000

Another related stat is average housing prices.  Notwithstanding tales of price plummets, Vancouver remains crazy-unafforable at 149th place, and an average price of $571,000.    Yellowknife is pricey in 121st place at $310857  and Canmore, Canmore is a breath taking $780,964.

Want the cheapest real esate in Canada?  How’s your francaise?  La Tuque, QC  has an ave. price of a mere $93,923.

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Readers – if you’re comfortable saying, which city do you live in, and do you feel it enables you to get ahead?

Each Saturday, I will be responding to a reader’s specific Money Question.  Today’s, from K, is about what to do with mediocre mutual funds – and they were mediocre before the market tumble.  I bet a lot of people will relate to her conundrum –

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Here’s my question:

Like many people, I have lost a lot of money (at least on paper) in my RSP account.

I don’t think I have a particularly good mix of mutual funds, and I had started the process of rebalancing into an ETF-based “couch potato” mix (by started, I mean I had thought it through, read up, and picked an asset mix but didn’t actually sell and buy) when the market tanked.
What should I do now?  I am still saving but currently holding them in an ING savings account.  Should I just accept my losses, sell my mutual funds and execute my plan (I hate to lock in the money I’ve lost but….)
Or, should I just wait it out with my current portfolio, and use my new savings to operationalize my couch potato portfolio?
If I wait for my current portfolio to bounce back (at least partway) , how long is reasonable?  1 year? 5 years?

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K – I need to be extremely clear on this:  I am not a financial planner, or financial advisor, or registered anything.  I’ll describe what I’m doing personally, and you can take what you want from that, but please consult a registered professional before making your decisions.  In short:  massive disclaimer!

Here’s what I personally have chosen regarding my investments:

  1. I rely on my own decisions and purchase individual stocks and bonds.  I’m nerdy, and I take my nest egg seriously, and I actually enjoy the process of researching and selecting companies to buy.   I realize not all people want to do the same, and so mutual funds in principle are still a good way to go for many people.  It sounds like you are interested in more of a do-it-yourself approach – join the club!  It’s exciting.
  2. I’m your average joe – a history major – with no formal training in investing.  I just use a lot of common sense.   I do, however, try to inform myself.  I muck around on the net a lot on sites like these:

So, if I were in your shoes I would do the following:

  1. Find out what is in my mutual funds. What companies are in there currently?  Using my own judgement, do I think those companies will make a comeback – are still really solid companies, but just went down because the whole market went down? (eg. I’m hanging onto my apple stock despite its tumble – although Steve’s illness concerns me)
  2. Revisit the ETF plan. Lots of cdn personal finances bloggers have done a lot of research and formed opinions on ETFs – like this by Canadian Capitalist .  How do the ETFs you are considering stack up to the mutual funds you currently hold?
  3. Start investing, using the funds in your ING account (assuming these funds are intended for your long term nest egg).   Personally, I’m going to invest aggressively this year.  If I can buy a lot of companies at today’s cheap prices, by the time I retire I should be doing very well, thank you very much.

Again, that’s what I would do, personally, but absolutely go have a talk with your financial planner, and continue to do your own research on the net.

Readers:  if you have a question about budgets, debt, smart shopping, relationship to money, relationships with others where money is an issue, please e-mail me at Nancy at Your Money by Design dot Com and I’ll answer next Saturday!

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Some readers will recall I joined the Green Party last year.   And, no j/k, in  a few years, I hope to run for office.

I was reading up on some of their policy statements.  What do you think of this:
The Green Party of Canada believes that taxation policies should send a strong message about what we value as Canadians. Currently, many tax policies work at cross-purposes to stated policy goals. We claim to want to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions but we place very little monetary value on keeping the air we breathe and water we drink clean. Instead we tax things we say we want, such as employment and income, creating disincentives to maximizing social goods.

Green MPs will shift the burden of taxes to better reflect the priorities of Canadians:

  • carbon taxes will encourage Canadians to leave their cars at home and use public transit, walk or bicycle; upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes; and adjust their consumption in favour of greener products. Carbon tax revenues will be used to provide incentives for home energy retrofits, subsidies for public transit infrastructure, and reductions in taxes on employment and other socially desireable goods
  • a GST Health Benefit Reduction will be applied to those items deemed to have significant health benefit such as sports equipment, fitness centre fees, and some health promoting health services.
  • Corporate Health Tax Reduction for workplaces that institute a qualified workplace health model or comprehensive healthy workplace settings approach such as that offered by the National Quality Institute

Readers:  what do you think? To me, this is a no brainer.  Do you agree or disagree?

What I suffer in produce prices up here I will make up for by eating at home more.   A lot more.

Much as I cheer for Yellowknife, it is decidedly lacking many good options for dining out (with a couple exceptions).  Mind you, Vancouver is a hard act to follow, as Raul will attest.   But I digress.  The point is:

I will be eating at home, a lot more.

Thank goodness for Chef at Home, Canada’s own Michael Smith.  Like Rachel Ray but with a more authentic kitchen, he manages to make gourmet cooking look easy.

Take his blue-cheese encrusted filet mignon :

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Does this not look gorgeous? (forgive my indiscretion, vegetarians.  And one of these days I’ll join the cause).

If i have it straight it’s as easy as this:

1.  Sear the steaks, after salting and peppering them.  Remove from pan.

2.  In food processor, blend equal sizes of blue cheese, hunk of bread (torn up) and butter.

3.  Put blue cheese mixture on top of steaks and put in hot oven (8 minutes or so?)

Tres easy, oui?   Even I could handle that.

Readers:  I’m looking for sites/videos/tv shows that give ideas on simple-yet-gourmet recipes.  Fast though please, and not too many exotic ingredients (I live in Yellowknife).   Suggestions?

ps:  photo credit:  adactio.   And adactio, keep posting pictures like that and I’m coming over, wherever you are.

Most of what we hear regarding the economy is doom and gloom.   Most recently there have been numerous articles pointing out that as Ontario nosedives, the implications will ripple to other provinces.  When I was in Vancouver, there were almost daily tweets about layoffs – Electronic Arts, Nokia, 24hours and I personally witnessed layoffs at my (then) employer, Citizens Bank of Canada.

It’s different up here.  Nearly boomtown-ish.  The diamond mines, while slowing, are still doing business.   The gov’t of the NWT, my employer and the NWT’s largest,  has and will continue to have less supply than demand for staff.  Generally, the mood, while somber, is nothing like the sense gloom I felt down south.

So if you know of anyone looking for a great career opportunity, good money and benefits, and an adventure for a year to two, would you point them to the GNWT’s employment site?

Here’s just a sampling:

Payroll Officer $60K plus great benefits (incl 3 weeks holiday 1st year)

Policy Analyst $77K plus great ….

Community Development Coordinator (term 1 yr) $82K …

Counsellor (college)  Salary under review – it will be very competitive, I’m sure

Highway Maintenance Officer $60K …

Oh – and if by any chance you know of an engineer with 15+ years working on bridges, please, oh please, get them in touch with me (they might know someone who might know someone)

And if they want some realistic conversation about life up here, my skype is moneycoachcanada.

Or leave me a comment and I can e-mail you.

Oh, and besides great jobs, do we not have the awesomest licence plates EVAR??

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photo credit: Woody1778a

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