What you should know about your credit score

What’s in it, who can see it, and why it’s important

We often hear financial experts advising people to check their “credit score.” It’s a good idea to do that every year. That will give you an idea of what kind of risk lenders think you are. It can also signal if you’ve been a victim of identity theft and fraud. But very few people actually have a good idea of what a credit score is or how it’s compiled. Here’s my summary of what goes into a credit score, who keeps track, who can see it, and what you can do to raise a low score. READ MORE

Is $1 million enough to retire on?

Let’s say you’ve accumulated a nest egg of $1 million at age 65, through pension plans, perhaps a significant RRSP, TFSA contributions, some inheritances, and possibly some money left over from downsizing your home. You’re ready to retire, and you have to decide what to do with it to make it last through retirement. Here’s what you need to know. READ MORE

How to retire with $1 million

Reach that magic number even if you start at 40

It’s sometimes said that you need at least a $1 million retirement fund to maintain the kind of lifestyle you want after age 65. But starting at, say, age 40, can that even be done? The good news is that it is possible to build a million-dollar retirement fund. But there five important principles you have to follow. READ MORE

Black Friday binge, Red Monday remorse

Financial literacy and the art of budgeting

Black Friday. It’s become a pop culture phenomenon. In fact, it’s one of the cleverest marketing gimmicks of all time. For U.S. retailers, the Friday after U.S. Thanksgiving Day has typically been the day they become profitable for the year. In other words, their ledgers go out of the “red” and into the “black.” Some clever marketers seized on this as a way to create excitement and ramp up pre-Christmas sales. They called it “Black Friday,” promoted it like crazy, and watched the frenzied crowds mob the stores. It’s now even caught on in Canada. For most consumers, though, it’s often a case of “Red Monday Remorse,” the day you realize you’ve blown your budget out of the black and (deeply) into the red. And it hits you right in your wallet, purse, bank account, and credit card statement, in about a month’s time. READ MORE

Putting a price tag on your dream home

Crunch the numbers before you make an offer

The big question for young couples just starting out is whether to move out of that downtown condo unit and borrow to buy a home. This becomes especially critical if you’re planning a family or if a baby is already on the way. Those new little people with all their gear take up an amazing amount of space, and suddenly the need for more room becomes pressing. READ MORE

Financial planning for newlyweds

How a financial planner can help with “the money talk”

There’s a lot to think about when you’re preparing to get married. And very likely, financial planning isn’t at the top of the list. That’s where a good financial planner can be invaluable. In my own practice, I counsel young couples on these and many other financial matters that will be specific to each couple. Setting out in marriage should be a happy occasion. And it will be a whole lot smoother if you get the “money talk” out of the way now. A Certified Financial Planner can provide invaluable help for young couples just starting out: READ MORE

Have GICs become an investment choice to consider?

The lure of rising rates and market-linked returns

Current 5-year GIC rates are being advertised as high as 3.50%. Given that most savings accounts offer much less than 1.00%, some investors have been wondering whether it’s time to move funds into GICs as part of their risk-free allocation. Others go a step further and are considering GICs linked to a market index that, according to the marketing sheets, offer much more than 3.50%. Have GICs become a good investment choice now? READ MORE

Real-world advice for new grads

A (very) short post-graduate course in personal finance

Here’s a commencement speech you won’t hear at most graduation ceremonies: As a new grad, the most important lesson you’ll have to learn after leaving school is to live within your means and not spend more than you earn. You do not need to make a six-figure salary to be financially successful, but you do need to be smart about spending and to set out a diligent savings goal and investment plan. READ MORE

How to choose a financial planner who’s right for you

10 topics to cover during the interview

Increasingly, younger people, especially businesspeople, professionals, and managers, are reaching the stage in their careers where they need the help of a financial planner. But where do you begin? And what kinds of questions do you ask when you interview someone for the very important job of looking after your finances? READ MORE

How to bring order to your personal financial chaos

Decide what you really, really want

Around this time of year, many people are beset by doubts and anxieties about their financial situation – especially after the no-holds-barred holiday spending season. But don’t despair – there’s a way to bring order to your personal financial chaos that doesn’t involve tedious budget lists and penny-pinching. It starts with a look at your financial picture from the top down. READ MORE

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