October 29, 2021

That's why it's so tough to save money!

Budgeting is tough, particularly when you're trying to actually set some money aside for the future.

Like losing weight or battling any addiction, saving money resides in the realm of behaviour that sometimes seems immune to rational solutions, says one ex-banker turned blogger. But it's often tough to get out of the gate without some help.

"My guess is that the best person to help you figure out how to save money is somebody who has suffered from living beyond their means in the past, and who has developed effective strategies for overcoming this problem," he says. 

But if that person isn't readily available to you, you still need to figure out what's holding you back. That means tricking that rational mind and helping it get with the program, he suggests, including developing a better sense of just what's going on upstairs. 

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October 18, 2021

Empty-nest syndrome may be a thing of the past

Once that last child is gone, parents often struggle with a profound sense of loss, not just because they miss the kids, but because their very identities have been significantly impacted, suggests psychologist Guy Winch.

But, rather than haunting their children's now uninhabited rooms, empty nesters are enjoying better social lives, traveling more frequently and have more financial freedom, a recent survey suggests.

As a whole, nine out of 10 empty nesters — defined as those whose children have permanently moved out of the home — indicated they're happy and look forward to more social and personal time now that the kids are gone. 

So much for the proverbial empty-nest syndrome. Other recent research indicates that, once that early sense of loneliness passes, parents tend to adjust quite nicely to a child-free household.

Rather than pining for soccer practice, empty nesters said they enjoy having more personal time (95%); lower grocery bills (91%); spending more time with their significant other or dating (85%); socializing with friends (80%); and no longer attending school-related functions (68%).

And they'd like this to be a permanent arrangement, it seems.

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October 17, 2021

Why your budget may not be working

Got that nagging feeling that you’re just not doing enough to manage your money? You’re probably right, which leaves you with two options. Keep writing cheques and melting plastic until your money runs out, or get a handle on things right now by establishing some sort of spending plan.

A reasonable spending plan can provide a shot in the arm for many households – particularly those where there are dissenting views as to where the money actually goes.

Once you've decided how much your family is likely to burn through in big-ticket categories like cars, housing and food, then you can work towards either predetermined savings goals or emergency planning.

Here's one story of how someone ended up suddenly without a job -- and without a firm idea of his household’s spending.

The important thing to remember is that money is fungible, maintains economist Emily Oster. In reality, all dollars are the same. There is no such thing as a gas dollar, a grocery dollar, or a “fun” dollar.

So simply slotting expenses into envelopes depending on what you think you might spend may actually hinder you in the long run since it doesn't allow for much flexibility.

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October 10, 2021

How to split the bill when eating out at a restaurant

It’s been a good time all around. The food was delicious, the company entertaining – and then the bill arrives. That often means an awkward moment deciding whether to divide things evenly or whether to add up the cost of each person's meal.

Anyone going out to eat in a large group has to be ready for someone suggesting a simple division of the bill by the number of the people at the table, even though studies suggest that most diners prefer to pay individually for items they had.

What's worse, when groups do end up splitting the bill evenly, there's often some chintzy *%$#@ looking to take advantage by ordering a more expensive, and therefore subsidized, meal. But maybe you're better off ignoring that one.

But then out comes that coupon that's been burning a hole in someone's pocket. Should the dollar value  reduce the entire group bill, or only how much they pay individually?

Does it make any difference if it's a gift card; a Groupon-like voucher that they purchased; or a discount from a previous visit? Yes, says Presh Talwalkar, the mind behind the site Mind Your Decisions.

Here are his suggestions for handling that one.

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September 25, 2021

Ex-Trader Joe president plans to open grocery store selling 'expired' food

Would you buy “expired” food? Doug Rauch, an ex-president of Trader Joe’s, is hoping you will with his new store, The Daily Table, launching next year in Dorchester, Boston.

He plans to help with food waste by using groceries close to their expiry date or slightly past and transforming them into healthy meals, such as soup, salad and casseroles. The store will also have a teaching kitchen to teach people how to create easy, healthy meals. They will also sell milk that’s past it’s expired sell date for $1 a gallon, according to the Boston Globe.

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September 17, 2021

Being poor saps people's ability to think clearly: report

Those dealing with day-to-day financial challenges may face much more than just a shortage of cash -- their brains may be overtaxed as well.

The mental strain of living in poverty and thinking constantly about tight finances can drop a person’s IQ by as much as 13 per cent, or about the equivalent of losing a night of sleep, according to a new study.

Struggling this way consumes so much mental energy that there's often little room to think about anything else, which leaves low-income people more susceptible to poor decisions when it comes to managing money.

Previous studies have documented that poor people are less likely to take medications, keep appointments, or be attentive parents so the findings aren't a complete surprise. But the mental strain may be even stronger than many think.

"While the poor may be experiencing a scarcity of money, at some level what they may really be experiencing is a scarcity of bandwidth, of cognitive capacity,” the study's authors conclude. "It’s the situation that’s creating the stress."

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September 09, 2021

Freshman entering college lack basic money skills: report

Most parents wish their kids could avoid making the same stupid money mistakes that they did as they head off to college.

The best way to go about that? Get them on the way in, suggests a new study from EverFi, a Washington D.C.-based education technology company.

Researchers surveyed 40,000 college students, most of them freshmen, from across the U.S. about their money habits. They found that nearly 80 per cent of students said that they “frequently” worry about debt and are experiencing debt-related stress in their daily lives.

And, despite the fact that school costs considerably less on this side of the border, Canadian students aren't doing any better.

“A freshman in college may benefit most from education around school loans, budgeting while in school, and credit card behavior, whereas seniors in college may benefit more from education around budgeting for life on their own, retirement planning, and mortgages,” the study says.

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August 08, 2021

Nine secrets to earning $100,000

There's no easy way to $100,000 in annual salary. But people who have reached that milestone are offering some advice on how others can get there.

One user on the Reddit website put out a request for anyone making at least $100,000 a year. "What was the smartest decision you ever made?" asked someone going by the name of RicsFlair.

The question generated a wide-ranging discussion about what it takes to climb the career ladder. Some of the predictable responses were in there — work hard, do a good job and the like — but users did have some decent advice for anyone trying to make it in the world.

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August 01, 2021

Is it possible to be just a bit too frugal?

Being frugal is smart, and these days, it's fashionable too. Witness this couple that claims to live pretty well on $14,000 a year.

Sometimes though, it just doesn't make sense to squeeze every last nickel out of every situation. Going too far in your attempts to save can quickly backfire. 

If you’re spending more time on being frugal than enjoying your family, for instance, you may want to re-evaluate the situation, suggests psychologist Lesley Lacny. This is particularly true where one partner has a different approach to saving or managing money.

"If your spending views or habits are on opposite ends of the spectrum, it may be important to find more of a balance. If a spender and a saver are in a relationship, this balance becomes crucial; they will need to blend two different ways of managing finances."

"Unfortunately, instead of bringing balance to the other's approach, they tend to end up arguing and feeling threatened or pressured to change," she says.

Sound familiar? Here are a few other signs suggesting that your frugality has morphed into something that may be a tad unhealthy.

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July 25, 2021

Should you be locking in your mortgage sometime soon?

Over the last few weeks, longer-term fixed rates have jumped by roughly half a percentage point.

The fixed-rate five-year closed mortgage, which was once as low as 2.99%, has risen steadily in the past few weeks and is closer to 3.5% at most banks. That may not seem like a big difference but it means a larger payment.

Even though rates aren't expected to jump significantly until next year, if you're coming up for renewal then it may be time to at least work in higher rates into your budget.

Mortgage debates used to centre around whether to go fixed or variable but the discussion these days is often not whether to lock in a rate but for how long? Most people choose a 5-year term. But is that the best option? You could, for instance, lock up a 7-year rate ... or even a 10-year term.

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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...