A Money Coach in Canada

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According to Stats Can on Friday Oct. 5th, we Canadians are nearly all employed!

In September, we dipped below the 6% unemployment rate. Not only that, but our employers increased our hourly rates by an average of 4.2% (did yours??) while the cost of living increased by only 1.7%. Oh Canada!

Corrina is a young professional in Vancouver. Last year, the unexpected happened. In this two-part post (to be continued next Saturday) Corrina tells the story of how she coped financially when her husband became a quadriplegic.

PART ONE

I’ve been a lot of things to a lot of people in my life. You know… the roles that are typical for most women these days: wife, mother, friend, boss, colleague, chef, organizer, chauffeur. I’ve been quite successful in most of my responsibilities, however the one area I’ve always missed the mark: household financial manager. I am absolutely useless.

Recently my life changed. Back in November my husband had an industrial accident that left him quadriplegic. The moment I heard the news I (temporarily) lost all ability to think, plan, act. I didn’t return to work for a few months, and during that time I let my already precarious finances take care of themselves (thank goodness for automatic payroll deposits and preauthorized payments). Amazingly, when I finally looked at my finances ten weeks later nothing had bounced and I had much more money than I expected! What had happened? I mean, I was buying all my meals at the hospital, spending a ton of money on parking every day, and much more on gasoline than usual. Surely these expenses must be at least equal to what I was spending before, if not more.

After not a lot of consideration it occurred to me: the only thing that had changed in my financial world was that I had not intervened in it. Clearly I was the problem!

I realized that I would not have the band-width to take care of my own finances for quite some time, and asked my Dad to take it on for me. He agreed, and so I handed over to him all my fancy tools: my fancy spreadsheets with calculated fields and hidden columns, my detailed list of creditors and expenses, balances and interest rates, and my bank card. My dad so very generously took it on and within six months we were in a much better financial position than before….I mean, in six months we had saved two full months net salary! What was going on? Again I have to say, clearly I was the problem.

I sat down with my dad and asked what the heck I was doing wrong. All my fancy spreadsheets, lists, outlook popup reminders…..they weren’t doing me any good. My dad can barely use a computer mouse or make a cell phone call, but apparently when it comes to personal money management tactical skills win out over technical ones. My dad started to talk to me about saving my receipts, and then actually LOOKING AT THEM. He talked to me about staying in touch with my bank account (sound familiar?) My dad talked about doing the mental math when I make a withdrawl. What a concept! Did he mean that I shouldn’t just withdraw and withdraw until I get a ‘declined’ message????

After listening to my dad tell me these things I realized that I had heard these messages in snippets somewhere before…..of course you know it was in learning about Your Money By Design.

Now I am on the program. Hello, my name is Corina and I am a spendaholic. I have been saving my receipts and I am appalled at my habits. After adding them up…who do I think I am? Paris Hilton?? No wonder my finances got better without me around!

There is more to our financial story….not only did I need to really get a handle on things to ensure a stable future for our now-different family, I needed to look at our future and income in a whole new way. I needed to learn what disability benefits, tax breaks, grants or allowances would be available to my husband. Not an easy task, and not much out there in the way of learning resources to help the layperson.

j0400293.jpgI don’t even know where to start. …… to be continued next Saturday!

I got tagged by David Drucker!

And the deal is: come up with 5 ideas for courses you’d take … if only they were offered! The courses have to be something that will ‘fix up your life’ in one way or another. Since I’m a money coach, I thought I’d think of money-oriented courses I’d take.

Revenge on the Phishers

This course will teach you how to hunt down, skewer and permanently put out of commission (possibly including bodily damage to the offender) the originators of those phishing e-mails we get. Besides the original offense, it’s also an insult: we’re not that stupid.

Warranties 101

Some warranties are worth paying to extend. Some are a waste of money. This course teaches you how to distinguish between the two.

Diplomatic Relationships: Family and Money

hi-mom-send-money.jpgEver wished you could tone down Christmas, yet keep the spirit alive with your family?

Ever secretly wished your adult child would pay you back the down payment you helped with 10 years ago?

And what about that secret credit card debt your spouse thinks you don’t know about?

This 25 year program will help you navigate the diplomatic difficulties of money and family.

ATMs: beat the system

Banks need to pay fewer tellers since they implemented ATMs … so why do they need to charge us $1.75 every time we use one from another bank? This course teaches the dark arts of beating the ATM system. For more information, quote the secret password ATMFEESSUCK.

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Inside the Mind of Alan Greenspan

This guy is a spooky legend in his own time. “Inside the Mind of Alan Greenspan” leads you into the unmapped territory of Greenspan’s mind on economics, gdp, interest rates, politics, intuiting the mood of the entire US population, and very, very, very complex mathematical equations. 3 PhDs prequisite, preferably in Math, Physics and Psychology.

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OK, I tag these 5 :  Lowell Ann,   NetChickMiss 604MoneyRelations, and MJ!  You’re it!  come up with 5 fix-your-life type of courses you’d take if they were offered…. and tag 5 more.

smiley-kid.jpgToday’s guest post is from someone who spent time in my hometown, Yellowknife! It’s a belated post (mea culpa) but with fall routine really settling in, the timing is perfect for a post on how a babysitting coop can work, saving you money, and creating a very warm environment for your kids.
It’s June 8, which means my daughter turns 24 today. It’s made me
a bit nostalgic, and I’ve been wallowing in some memories of her
childhood. She was born when I was living in Yellowknife, NWT, far from
family, and although Yellowknife was a small and isolated “city” (pop.
8,500 in those days), we worked together in a caring way, with lots of
laughter and regular pot luck dinners and cross-country ski weekend
events. One of the Yellowknife gifts that came into my life during
Emily’s first year was a babysitting co-op. It was started by a woman who
wanted to ensure her child was left in a safe and caring environment
whenever she needed childcare. It worked so well that I wanted to share
it with your website readers.

It’s a simple idea: a group of parents get together and work out a system
of childcare that is free. Now it’s been more than 23 years since I was a
member but here’s what I remember about the main guidelines.

Our group in Yellowknife had 20 families in it, brought together by
several women who each contacted several friends and then we had
an early evening gathering of all the interested mothers and their
children. (It was all mothers in those days, though not all of them were
stay-at-home moms; we also felt it was important that everyone got a
chance to meet the children too as they were as much a part of the
babysitting mix as the mothers.)

We worked out the specifics during that first meeting: 1 point for each 30
minutes of babysitting, which meant you were always in either a credit or
debit situation; we’d meet once a month just to visit and not only get to
know each other better but to also let our children know all the adults in
a relaxed social setting (not just when their mother was leaving them),
and to check in with each other for a point overview to make sure no-one
was in either credit or debt overload. We put together a master list of
each woman’s availability, for example some women only wanted to babysit
during the daytime, others only on weekends, some only specific week
nights. (Email wasn’t an option in those days but now it would be easy to
have an email contact list.) We also talked about what would happen when
someone moved away or left the group – should they have to “clear” their
babysitting debt before they went? We put together a contact list, made
copies, and proceeded to have a very positive experience.

There are some great reference websites (just Google “babysitting co-ops”
and you’ll suddenly have about 34,000 sites to work your way through)
along with a variety of books, including Julee Huy’s “Smart Mom’s
Baby-Sitting Co-op Handbook,” which I haven’t read but which gets great
reviews. (editor’s note: it’s available at Abebooks.com
for about $7)

If you’re part of a babysitting co-op, your children will feel like they
are going over to a friend’s house to play, or that friends are coming
over to play with them. And as a parent, you can leave your child(ren)
with family’s you and they know and trust. It’s a win-win situation for
everyone.

Registered Education Savings Plans are savings accounts for future post-secondary education costs that can grow on a tax-deferred basis for up to 25 years. You can contribute annually with a lifetime ceiling of $50,000 per beneficiary.

The federal government wants to encourage families to save for their children’s education, so it offers an incentive. Opening an RESP makes you eligible to receive the Canada Education Savings Grant to top up your contributions by 20 to 40%, based on family income, on the first $2,000 of annual contributions.

 The earnings on RESP contributions and on the Canada Education Savings Grant are taxed upon withdrawal in the hands of the beneficiary. Since most students have little or no income, the RESP withdrawals do not create a tax burden for them.

 If the beneficiary does not go to university, the contributor can transfer $50,000 of the balance in the RESP account to an RRSP. What is the downside? If the contributor has insufficient RRSP contribution room the remainder must be withdrawn and the accumulated growth in the account will be taxed as income. Also, the contributor will have to repay all of the Canada Education Savings Grants received.

One thing to bear in mind is that contributions to a RESP are not tax deductible. RESPs differ from RRSPs in that contributions do not reduce taxable income. The main advantages of RESPs are tax-sheltered earnings, the grant from the federal government and a disciplined approach to saving.