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Sir John A Macdonald: First Manulife President
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Ontario Getting Ready to sue Tobacco Companies
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# Wednesday, 23 September 2015
Wednesday, 23 September 2015 20:51:59 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Humour )
This blog article takes a walk on the lighter side of life and offers up some humourous quotes about this journey we are all on. These rather witty sayings come from all walks of life. So, read on and enjoy a good laugh!
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# Tuesday, 09 June 2015
Tuesday, 09 June 2015 21:23:12 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )
This article compares and contrasts whole life insurance plans to term life insurance plans. We discuss their pros and cons and also suggest some situations that these life insurance plans are best suited for.
Comments [0] | | # 
# Monday, 19 January 2015
Monday, 19 January 2015 18:58:07 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Medical Conditions )
Thyroid cancer is a rare form of cancer that affects our metabolism rates, among other things. Did you know, however, that people who have had thyroid cancer and are in remission for several years can still apply for a Canadian life insurance plan at standard rates?
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# Wednesday, 12 November 2014
Wednesday, 12 November 2014 20:47:24 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Humour )
Think you've heard it all? Check out these six examples of hard-to-believe insurance policies held by various celebrities around the world. These are some expensive body parts!
Comments [0] | | # 
# Monday, 06 October 2014
Monday, 06 October 2014 19:45:48 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Medical Conditions )
COPD, an acronym for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, causes difficulty with breathing. When it comes to getting a life insurance policy, COPD does affect a life insurance application. However, if symptoms are mild to medium then it is possible to still get coverage. Read on for likely underwriting outcomes and tips when it comes to applying for life insurance when you have COPD.
Comments [0] | | # 
# Monday, 21 July 2014
Monday, 21 July 2014 21:01:45 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )
Joint life insurance plans are plans where there is more than one (usually two) insured persons on a single policy. There are several types of joint life insurance: "first to die" plans, "last to die" plans and combined plans. These joint plans offer a small premium discount when compared to the sum of separate life insurance plans and should be considered as viable options when it is important that the death benefit is paid out when either the first or last insured person passes away.
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# Thursday, 03 July 2014
Thursday, 03 July 2014 19:34:24 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Medical Conditions )
Hypertension, also referred to as high blood pressure, is a common medical condition that often occurs as we get older. A person with high blood pressure is not automatically excluded from getting a life insurance plan however. In fact, getting life insurance at standard rates is possible if the hypertension has been stabile for a substantial period of time (1 or 2 years). Read on for likely underwriting outcomes as well as factors looked at during the underwriting process for an applicant with hypertension.
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# Monday, 26 May 2014
Monday, 26 May 2014 16:36:03 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Humour )
Since the dawn of life insurance there has been life insurance fraud. People try to fake their own deaths and then split the payout with a family member, relative or friend. Think you've heard it all though? Just check out these truly bizarre and incredible stupid attempts at life insurance fraud! (Here is a teaser: if you submit your own death certificate wear gloves).
Comments [2] | | # 
# Monday, 05 May 2014
Monday, 05 May 2014 20:13:16 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Smoking )
As insurance brokers we get many questions about smoking and life insurance from Canadians. Is there an "occasional smokers" rate? How much more do smoker's rates cost? What about smoking cigars or marijuana? Read on to find out answers to these questions and more.
Comments [0] | | # 
# Friday, 21 March 2014
Friday, 21 March 2014 18:43:07 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Medical Conditions )
Asthma rates have been steadily increasing the last couple of decades, especially among children. At least 8 million Canadians and 25 Americans now have some form of asthma. The question this blog article answers is how asthma will affect a life insurance application. Read on for more.
Comments [0] | | # 
# Monday, 20 January 2014
Monday, 20 January 2014 16:35:39 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Mortgage Insurance | Term Life | Whole Life )
Please use this article as a guide to making a Canadian life insurance claim. How to make a claim is outlined and there are also tips to help you avoid processing issues. In addition we list possible sources of life insurance policies that could be overlooked.
Comments [0] | | # 
# Monday, 02 December 2013
Monday, 02 December 2013 18:48:29 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Medical Conditions )
Diabetes has now been described as an "epidemic", and affects almost 1/4 of North Americans (when including pre-diabetes). Not surprisingly, this increase in diabetes goes hand in hand with rising obesity levels and our consumption of junk food. What might surprise you is that people with diabetes can get life insurance protection as long as blood sugar levels are controlled!
Comments [1] | | # 
# Monday, 04 November 2013
Monday, 04 November 2013 18:53:21 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Medical Conditions )
Movember is prostate cancer awareness month and men the world over are growing their mustaches. In keeping with this initiaitve we discuss how prostate cancer can affect a life insurance application. We list likely outcomes depending on the health of the applicant.
Comments [0] | | # 
# Thursday, 04 July 2013
Thursday, 04 July 2013 20:41:18 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Hazardous Activities | Term Life | Whole Life )
Millions of people around the world enjoy scuba diving. There is fresh water diving, ocean diving and other activities like diving in caves and around old ship wrecks. Read on to find out how the risks involved with scuba diving will be looked at by underwriters, as well as their most likely decisions.
Comments [0] | | # 
# Friday, 07 June 2013
Friday, 07 June 2013 19:22:54 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )
Avoid these common life insurance mistakes that can result in denied claims and applications. Always be forthright when applying and use these tips to navigate the "life insurance" waters.
Comments [0] | | # 
# Tuesday, 07 May 2013
Tuesday, 07 May 2013 21:37:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )
There are major differences between group life insurance (obtained from employee benefits) and personal life insurance. While group life is either free or cheap, there are situations where a personal life plan is needed.
Comments [0] | | # 
# Friday, 25 January 2013
Friday, 25 January 2013 16:19:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )
There are many things that Canadians can do to save money on a life insurance plan such as considering annual versus monthly premiums. Leverage our many years of experience and knowledge and save yourself some money!
Comments [2] | | # 
# Monday, 12 November 2012
Monday, 12 November 2012 19:16:33 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )
It is common knowledge that having a serious medical condition will affect an application for life insurance. But what conditions are specifically looked at by insurance companies? In addition, will a person with a serious health condition always be declined coverage, or is it possible to purchase a life insurance plan regardless? Please read further to find out!
Comments [0] | | # 
# Thursday, 18 October 2012
Thursday, 18 October 2012 19:20:54 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( Finance | General Life )
Why is the Canadian life insurance and financial sector in as good a shape as the American financial industry is in bad shape? There are two primary reasons for this: tight government regulations and prudent investing on the part of Canadian life insurance companies!
Comments [0] | | # 
# Tuesday, 02 October 2012
Tuesday, 02 October 2012 21:06:33 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( Finance | General Life )
Sir John A Macdonald, the first Canadian Prime Minister, is know for many things like the Great Canadian Railway, Confederation and a National Policy. But did you know he was also Manulife's first president?
Comments [0] | | # 
# Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 21:21:15 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )
People often wonder how much life insurance coverage they should have. A simple way to calculate this is to: add your financial obligations to the desired amount of income replacement; subtract any assets to be put towards costs; and then round up that value to the nearest $100,000!
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# Thursday, 09 August 2012
Thursday, 09 August 2012 20:20:53 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Insurance Brokers | Term Life | Whole Life )
Here are several tips when looking to buy life insurance. First, purchase life insurance while you are healthy. Second, determine the purpose of the coverage. Third, know about health classifications. And finally, shop hard and compare plans from many different life insurance companies.
Comments [0] | | # 
# Tuesday, 17 July 2012
Tuesday, 17 July 2012 17:58:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( Finance | General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )
A life insurance plan should be updated when any major life changes occur. How much coverage is required is affected by things such as; selling or purchasing a property; changes to credit card debt; the birth of children; and changes to employment status, just to name a few. Calculating how much coverage is required to protect your loved ones is quick and easy to do using our life insurance calculator!
Comments [1] | | # 
# Monday, 09 July 2012
Monday, 09 July 2012 20:46:15 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( Finance | General Life | Term Life )
Many Canadian small businesses rely heavily on one person. This can be a man or woman who is instrumental to the success of the business and would be difficult to replace, at least for the short-term. Examples of key people are managers, directors, and in some cases IT people that are responsible for maintaining and running legacy systems.
Comments [0] | | # 
# Monday, 11 June 2012
Monday, 11 June 2012 18:27:56 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( Finance | General Life )
While Canadians differ in their opinion of Quebec protesters, one good point has been raised: should Canadian post-secondary (university) education be affordable to all Canadians?
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# Thursday, 17 May 2012
Thursday, 17 May 2012 19:18:09 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )
Taxation of an estate when a person dies can be significant. In some cases the amount of tax owed can be so severe that part or even all of an estate must be liquidated in order to pay the taxes owing. One way to minimize estate taxes is to leverage life insurance. The following describes several methods of doing this.
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# Friday, 21 January 2011
Friday, 21 January 2011 21:56:14 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Whole Life )
In a world of way too much tax there still a tax strategy that Canadians should take advantage of. This strategy is to decrease your tax burden, and the tactic is purchasing a life insurance policy that allows for tax deferred growth. Many insurance companies have life insurance contracts that can be used as a tax advantage and an investment tool.
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# Wednesday, 24 March 2010
Wednesday, 24 March 2010 14:27:24 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )
The January earthquake in Haiti, followed shortly afterward in February by a major earthquake in Chile has shown just how charitable donations are essential and necessary world-wide. Haiti was struck by the most powerful earthquake it has seen in a century with a magnitude of 7.0. Chile was struck by a very destructive 8.8 magnitude earthquake. These 2 earthquakes alone left millions of people homeless and without food and water; thousands have sadly also died.

Fortunately, Canadians and people from all corners of the world swiftly began to donate money, as well as medical supplies and food. People also donated their time and expertise, from soldiers to doctors, nurses, etc. Due to the generosity of people all across the world, lives were saved and rebuilding will be able to begin.

The Canadian Revenue Agency offers tax deductions for donations to qualified charities as an extra incentive for Canadians to donate money and/or property. Donations that are made to Canadian registered charities or other qualified donees may help reduce the amount of income tax paid at the end of the year; make sure the charity qualified by visiting the CRA website. The Income Tax Act permits qualified donees to issue official donation receipts for donations received; qualified donees include:

•    Registered Canadian charities;
•    Registered Canadian athletic associations;
•    Tax-exempt housing corporations resident in Canada that only provide low-cost housing for seniors;
•    Municipalities in Canada under proposed legislation for gifts made after May 8, 2000, municipal or public bodies performing a function of government in Canada;
•    The United Nations and its agencies;
•    Prescribed universities outside of Canada;
•    Charitable organizations outside of Canada to which the Government of Canada has made a donation to in the tax year, or the previous tax year;
•    The Government of Canada, a province and/or a territory.

In order for a donation to be eligible as a tax deduction, ownership of property (cash, gifts in kind such as goods, land, securities, etc.) must be transferred voluntarily. Donations can be in the form of money, securities, land, properties, as well as life insurance policies. Gifts of services are not considered property and do not qualify for an official donation. If the registered organization/charity provides something of value in return for a monetary donation, the eligible amount of the donation for income tax purposes is usually reduced. The amount will be reflected on the official donation receipt; the monetary value of the gift to the donor will be subtracted from the amount donated. Currently, the first two hundred dollars donated is eligible for a federal tax credit of 15% of the donation; the federal tax credit increases to 29% of the amount over two hundred dollars. Donors are also eligible for a provincial tax credit; this varies among provinces.

To learn about how to use your life insurance to donate to charity, please visit our page on Charities and Life Insurance which has in-depth information on this topic.

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# Sunday, 28 February 2010
Sunday, 28 February 2010 18:11:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )
Once again, tax season for Canadians is drawing near. As the past 12 months have been financially challenging for most people, choosing the right financial tax options are especially important this year. The deadline for getting a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) is coming up; many people now have to decide whether or not an RRSP is the right choice for them.

Canadians can now choose between a RRSP and a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA). Each option offers its own advantages, as well as disadvantages. Having detailed knowledge about both choices is vital for making the best financial decision for your situation. As financial situations can fluctuate, what was the best choice last year may no longer be the best choice for this year; don’t simply rely on what has worked in the past.

The TSFA has become a popular financial planning tool since it was introduced. The TFSA is being recommended for those who make forty thousand a year and under; at this income rate there won't be very much saved on taxes. As well, there is a possibility of being penalized later on when a large amount is withdrawn from this retirement savings. The TFSA does not penalize any withdrawals at any time, making the money much easier to access if it is needed. The government declares how much can be withdrawn from a RRSP; these withdrawals are then considered income; money withdrawn from a TSFA is not.

When making under forty thousand the TFSA is considered the better savings plan; however when the yearly income grows past this point, this money can be withdrawn and then invested into a RRSP. Conversely, for those making the higher income now with the understanding of making significantly less in the retirement years, the RRSP can be the better savings tool then; it can later be withdrawn and then deposited into a TFSA.

It is important to remember that a healthy financial plan includes the fact that your planning must be flexible in order to accommodate the financial fluctuations that occur. Different financial savings products do become available; research your options every year to find out what is now available that would be beneficial for you. As well, during different stages of life, a different financial plan and budgeting will be needed. Such things as buying a home, starting a family, etc. can all have a major impact on our finances, as well as our financial savings strategy. Consult with a financial advisor or another professional who is educated and well versed in the financial field.

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# Saturday, 20 February 2010
Saturday, 20 February 2010 19:11:07 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )
While some people view Valentine's Day as a day that focuses on love and romance, others may view Valentine's as nothing more than a time to make money by companies trying to cash in on 'yet another holiday'. Regardless of what your personal views about Valentine's are, it does seem that a 'successful' Valentine’s does seem to correlate with the amount of money spent. Some people want to have that 'one special night' that can easily run up a huge bill.

Spending a large sum of money on Valentine;s might also not fit in with the couple's yearly budget as. For couples who are planning to buy home, a car, etc. or planning their wedding, financial obligations may mean cutting back on other expenses. Many Canadians also have student loans that have now become payable as well. So while the romantic side of a person may be to spend the extra money and 'go the extra mile', i.e. buying a larger diamond ring that really isn't financial feasible. The more financially responsible thing to do may be to buy a'‘nice, but not extravagant' ring and use any extra savings towards the wedding, honeymoon, purchase of a home, car, etc.

While openly and honestly discussing finances may not be considered very romantic, it can be more beneficial in the long term. It is also important to realize that the larger diamond companies are at their high point in the advertising season; for them this is the number one season for the high sales items. The same also rings true with other expensive items such as cruises, honeymoon getaway packages, etc. This means that for approximately a month before Valentine's Day, the media will be bombarded with advertisements and commercials regarding all the romantic things to do and buy, as well as spending money to impress the other person. But it is also important to understand what each other considers to be a necessity and what is considered a luxury. For some it may be more important to save for a down payment for a home, for some it will be getting out of debt as quickly as possible, and for some others as well, it may be buying a new car or going on an expensive vacation.

Having a successful financial plan may be a little tricky and some hard work, but it doesn’t have to take the romance out of the relationship. By both people taking an equal share in the financial planning, both parties have an equal stake in the couple’s financial health. This can be a great opportunity in making the future plans meet realization, and therefore can actually be a positive bonding experience for both.

Comments [0] | | # 
# Sunday, 31 January 2010
Sunday, 31 January 2010 23:27:36 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )
When it comes to reading the small print in financial contracts, very few people actually bother to read the document in whole. Whether the paperwork relates to business or personal finance, being able to have comprehensive understanding of the information included is inherent to making the best financial decisions possible. For those who cannot fully understand the language, and/or those who have difficulties with reading may suffer financial consequences if they sign a contract that is not in their best interests. For those who have competent literary skills, many tend to lose interest after a couple of pages and discontinue reading the contract.

According to the Canadian Council of Learning, almost half of Canadian adults have low literacy skills. This non-profit organization estimates that 12 million people in Canada are below the internationally accepted standard of literacy that is required to effectively cope in a modern society. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development defines literacy in five different levels; they report that the average Canadian score is 2.5 within this range. The five different levels are:

•    Level One: Very poor literacy skills. Individuals operating at this level of literacy may not be able to correctly determine medicine dosage as given on the packaging, for example.
•    Level Two: The ability to deal with only simple, clearly defined materials that involve uncomplicated tasks. Individuals operating at this level of literacy may have developed everyday coping skills but are challenged with the acquisition of new skills. Individuals at this level may find it difficult to learn new job skills, for example.
•    Level Three: The ability to adequately cope with the skills required for everyday life and work in an advanced society. Individuals at this level of literacy have about the same level needed to finish high school and enter college or university.
•    Levels Four and Five: Very strong skills. Individuals at this level of literacy can successfully process complex and demanding information. Individuals who are in this range generally experience less unemployment, earn more money and rely less on government transfers.

There is no common denominator when it comes to literacy skills. People with low scores can be seniors or young adults, employed or unemployed, etc. Surprisingly, twenty percent of university graduates have literacy skills that score below level three. Many who score low have not completed high school, although some have pursued some form of post-secondary education.

It is important to fully understand and comprehend any and all forms of financial transactions. This includes life (and health) insurance policies. When purchasing life insurance coverage, make sure to read all written materials that are provided, and have a good understanding of what those materials mean. For individuals who may have problems understanding these types of documents, make sure you have someone who is trustworthy to fully explain the material before signing the contract. Individuals may also want to inform their insurance broker that they need further clarification of the contracts and policies as well.

Comments [1] | | # 
# Friday, 22 January 2010
Friday, 22 January 2010 19:52:28 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )
As Canada is now facing an aging population, insurance companies are now focusing on preventative rather than reactive measures when it comes to potential health issues. Insurers are now building comprehensive databases of health information for the clients that they insure. These databases contain the details of health issues that can range from drugs that are prescribed, chiropractic visits, etc. This information will be used for the purposes of being able to more accurately predict those who may be at risk of having and/or developing major health issues, i.e. chronic diseases.

By focusing on preventative measures, insurers hope to be able to effectively intervene before the health problem becomes severe, which usually also means more expensive, in order to help the individual take action to either manage and/or prevent the health condition from becoming worse. Not only is this strategy beneficial to the person, but also to the insurance company by keeping costs lower. Some insurers are also planning to take even more immediate action; Manulife Financial is implementing a new program that will benefit providers by setting up a workplace clinic which will be able to provide employees with the resources to test such health concerns as cholesterol levels, blood pressure rates and body mass levels.

One of the issues that insurers are hoping to accomplish is to quantify the value of good health by attaching a dollar value to activities that promote a healthy lifestyle. By using this strategy, insurers hope to be able to convince employers to establish wellness programs for their employees that would ultimately result in the cost of employee benefits being reduced. This would ultimately save money for not only the insurers, but for the business, and of course the employees benefit from being able to access services that improve their health.

With new medical breakthroughs and treatments, Canadians now have a longer lifespan. However, living longer does not necessarily mean that this population is living a healthy lifestyle. Medical costs tend to rise for people as they age; they also tend to be more expensive for health conditions that are more advanced. Healthy living as well as early detection practices are beneficial not only for the individual, but for those who cover these expenses.

As life and health insurance rates are based in part by health status, premiums are lower for those who are healthy. Consult with your employer about ways to promote health in the workplace, and ways to encourage these practices.

Comments [1] | | # 
# Monday, 28 December 2009
Monday, 28 December 2009 17:08:59 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )
2009 has definitely been a financial roller coaster ride for many Canadians. Many experienced financial stress; all the uncertainty did make many Canadians review their financial planning.

RBC recently did a survey through Ipsos Reid to assess how Canadians felt about their existing life insurance coverage. Out of more than 1000 Canadians polled, only 68% said that they felt confident that they had enough coverage for them and their family's needs. Adults who have children were more concerned about life insurance coverage in regards to the death and/or disability of a parent. 75% of parents polled said this is one of their biggest financial concerns.

As well, those polled showed that more than half of Canadians felt that they suffer from too much stress in their lives; parents felt particularly vulnerable to stress. 7 out of 10 Canadian households that have children admitted they experience too much stress; 51% of households without children reported these unhealthy levels of stress. They also are aware that high stress levels can contribute and/or exacerbate health problems as they get older.

When it came to the challenges of what these people would do to reduce their stress and lead healthier lives, the poll showed at:

•    55% were not willing to give up television watching time;
•    45% were not willing to give up eating red meat;
•    34% were not willing to give up their alcohol consumption
•    More than 75% of those polled felt they maintained healthy eating habits most of the time;
•    Men seemed to experience less willpower when it came to indulging in unhealthy behaviors; half were unwilling to give up red meat to add five health years to their lives, 4 in 10 women were willing to make the change.
•    39% refused to give up alcohol in order to improve their health; 28% were willing to.

As the holiday seasons have traditionally been a time when people eat foods that they know are bad for them, overindulge in alcoholic beverages, etc. this may also be time to reflect how your lifestyle suits your life insurance coverage. Especially owing to the uncertain financial times other safeguards such as savings may no longer be in place or at the right dollar amount. After the holiday season may be the perfect opportunity to review your financial planning strategy and make sure that your coverage is reflective of your needs for the upcoming year.

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# Monday, 16 November 2009
Monday, 16 November 2009 15:06:27 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )
With an estimated 2.6 millions being self-employed, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development has announced that the Government of Canada has introduced the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act. This new legislation is intended to extend Employment Insurance (EI) special benefits which will include maternity, parental, sickness and compassionate care benefits for those Canadians who are self-employed.

Traditionally, Canadians who are considered self-employed have had little and/or no income protection in regards to major life events. Situations such as sickness or injury, giving birth, caring for a newborn and/or a newly adopted child, or assuming the care for a gravely ill family member have usually only been covered for those who are employed by an employer and who are entitled to EI benefits through paying via their weekly deductions.

The Fairness for the Self-Employed Act is aimed at rectifying these situations which face not only those who have employers, but also those who are self-employed. This act is in response to the Federal Government's 2008 pledge to help provide improved economic security as well as support for all Canadians who are self-employed. These changes will allow self-employed Canadians to voluntarily opt into the EI program in order to be eligible for these special benefits. These special benefits are intended to closely mirror those that are currently available to salaried employees.

Through the new legislation, self-employed Canadians who opt into the EI program will be eligible to receive special benefits that are currently available to salaried employees such as:

•    Maternity Benefits. 15 weeks are available for birth mothers and covers the period surrounding birth; a claim can start up to 8 weeks before the expected due date.
•     Parental/Adoptive Benefits. A maximum of 35 weeks are available to biological or adoptive parents for caring for either a newborn or a newly adopted child; this may be taken by either parent or shared between them. If the parents are sharing, only one waiting period must be served.
•    Sickness Benefits. A maximum of 15 weeks are available for a person who is unable to work due to sickness, injury and/or quarantine.
•    Compassionate Care Benefits. A maximum of 6 weeks for a person who temporarily has to be away from work in order to provide care and/or support to a family member who is gravely ill and has a significant risk of dying.

In order to be eligible for these benefits, self-employed Canadians will be required to opt into the program at least one year prior to claiming benefits. They must also be responsible for making premium payments starting with the tax year in which they apply to the program, i.e. a program start date of January 2010 mean that claims can be made as early as January 1, 2011. In order to access EI special benefits, self-employed Canadians will need to earn a minimum of $6,000 in self-employed earnings over the preceding calendar year.

Self-employed people can also opt out of the EI program at the end of any tax year if they have never claimed benefits. For those who have claimed benefits they will have to contribute on self-employed earnings for as long as they remain self-employed. Self-employed Canadians will pay the same EI premium rate as salaried employees, but will not be required to pay the employer portion of those premiums as they will not have access to EI regular benefits.

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# Tuesday, 03 November 2009
Tuesday, 03 November 2009 16:53:36 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )
Starting in 2010 Canadian banks will be prohibited from selling insurance products via their primary websites. Currently Canadian top banks such as the Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank of Montreal, CIBC and the Toronto Dominion Bank offer their customers the option of purchasing insurance online from their main banking websites. The Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty announced that the new rules regarding the sale of insurance products over the internet will become applicable when the next budget comes into effect in early 2010. This will essentially reverse a decision that had been made in favor of the banks earlier this year.

The Bank Act prohibits the banks from directly selling insurance in their branches; however the Office of the Superintendant of Financial Institutions (OSFI) ruled in June that a bank website is not the same as a bank branch, thereby allowing for the sale of insurance products online. However, Flaherty considers a bank’s primary website a virtual bank branch, making the sale of insurance against the rules. Recently Flaherty faxed letters to the CEOs of Canadian banks requesting that they change their websites to preclude the sale of insurance; most banks have not complied with this request. Flaherty has stated that he intends to change the Canada’s Bank Act to prohibit banking websites to sell insurance, making this current practice illegal.

The Canadian Bankers Association, which represents 50 Canadian banks, claim that Flaherty made this recent change without any consultations with either the public or the banking industry. In an emailed statement, the CBA said they were “shocked that Mr. Flaherty would want to limit how and where consumers can access information about insurance.” Flaherty’s decision to amend the current legislation came as a result of Liberal MP Alexandra Mendes introducing a private member’s bill, which, in her opinion, would level the playing field between independent insurance companies and Canadian banks. The insurance brokerage industry has previously complained to the federal government as well as lobbied MPs about this issue.

While some members of the insurance brokerage industry are welcoming these proposed changes, others fear these new rules will impede Canadians from being able to make informed choices due to insurance information being restricted. The internet affords Canadians the opportunity to quickly and efficiently be able to compare insurance quotes, the type of insurance products offered, etc, without being pressured by a sales agent. Currently people can ‘surf the net’ and research the different types of insurance that are available, and can compare the not only the costs of available insurance policies, but to also compare the different types of policies available. This allows people to benefit from having the most information available in which to make their decisions. It also allows for people to become aware of different types of insurance which they may not have known was available. As well, a healthy competitive market means that the consumer benefits from no one specific company being able to monopolize the industry.

It is important for anyone contemplating purchasing insurance to do their own independent research and compare quotes as well as what those specific policies offer. While it may make sales a little more competitive for the insurer, it allows for the consumer to benefit.

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# Monday, 26 October 2009
Monday, 26 October 2009 15:06:27 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

The WC is an indicator of health risk that is associated with abdominal obesity. There are greater health risks associated with excess fat around the waist and upper body (also recognized as an ‘apple’ body shape) than with excess fat located in the hips and thighs areas (also recognized as a ‘pear’ body shape).A WC measurement of 102 cm. or more in the male population, and a measurement of 88 cm. or more in the female population is associated with the increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease as well as high blood pressure.

Other health conditions can interact with obesity that greatly elevates the risk of developing a wide range of chronic health issues. Age and family medical history as well as other health conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and/or high blood sugar levels combined with obesity all increase the likelihood of developing more serious diseases and/or medical conditions. Lifestyle choices such as poor eating habits, lack of physical activity and/or smoking not only increase the risks of chronic health problems, but actually exacerbate the burden on the individual’s health.

Achieving as well as maintaining a healthy body weight is essential for good health. Healthy body weight is usually achieved through healthy eating as well as regular physical exercise. Some helpful ways to help control body weight are:

  • Find a way to incorporate regular physical activity into your daily routine. This can be achieved by such simple things as talking a walk during your lunch break, using stairs instead of the elevator, etc. Splitting up exercise time into shorter sessions starting with 10 minutes of activity 3 times a day may be easier to incorporate into your schedule. Set up an exercise routine that you can maintain; sporadically going to the gym is not going to give you the desired results.
  • Make your meal portions smaller. Many times people are not aware of how much they eat and how many calories they consume because they think they are eating a regular sized portion. Start serving smaller portions; those who are still hungry can always have ‘seconds’. Avoid eating out in establishments that offer ‘all you can eat’ and/or restaurants that serve very large portions. As alcoholic and other sweetened beverages are high in calories avoid them and substitute instead non-sweetened beverages.
  • Eat a nutritionally balanced diet. Pay attention to the labels on food products, many times what we think are low-fat and low in calories actually isn’t.

Remember that life and health insurance premiums are based on health status. Obesity, like smoking, lowers your health status meaning you may be paying higher rates. If you are obese, and have lost the weight, consult with your life insurance broker about this new development in your health status, you may be eligible for a reduction in your rates.

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# Saturday, 03 October 2009
Saturday, 03 October 2009 16:06:27 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

One of the longest ongoing health studies in the United States claims that obesity is now a bigger overall threat to adults’ health than smoking cigarettes. The study, which is conducted by researchers from Columbia University and the City College of New York, claims that obesity causes just as much, and possibly even more diseases than tobacco consumption. While smoking rates are starting to actually decline, obesity shortens the lifespan. While smoking generally impacts health in such ways as heart disease and/or cancer, the impacts of obesity are much larger.

The study was conducted over a period of fifteen years, and involved interviewing more than 3.5 million people. The study calculated the number of ‘quality adjusted life years’ (QALYs) that were lost due to obesity and smoking. Quality adjusted life years are a measurement of the quality as well as the quantity of a lived life; it assigns higher scores for good and/or perfect health and lower scores for illness, injury and/or death. The study showed that between 1993 to 2008 smoking in the American adult population decreased by 18.5%; meanwhile the proportion of obese American adults increased by 85%. There is no valid reasoning to suggest that these figures are not mirrored in the Canadian population. Statistics Canada has reported that two out of every 3 Canadian adults is either overweight and/or obese.

Obesity can cause such complex health problems such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes;
  • Liver disease;
  • Coronary heart disease;
  • Sleep apnea and/or other respiratory issues;
  • Joint issues, resulting in joint replacements;
  • Hypertension and/or high blood pressure;
  • Stroke;
  • Gallbladder disease;
  • Osteoarthritis;
  • Cancers such as breast cancer, colon and endometrial cancer;
  • Mental health issues such as low self-esteem and/or depression.

Health professionals assess a person’s weight status by using 2 tools, the body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC). These tools are used on all adults 18 years of age and older, with the exception of pregnant and/or breastfeeding women. The BMI is calculated on a weight-to-height ratio. Rather than directly measure the amount of body fat in the individual, it is an indicator of the health risks that are associated with being either under or over weight. In the Canadian weight classification system, there are four categories of BMI:

  • Underweight (less than 18.5);
  • Normal weight (between 18.5 and 24.9);
  • Overweight (between 25 and 29.9);
  • Obese (30 and over).

This article will be continues in Part II.

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# Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 17:02:49 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )
Many Canadians think of the environmental impact when it comes to purchasing products, but how many think of being eco-friendly when it comes to planning a funeral? Although this concept is quite new in Canada, there are now 2 cemeteries (one in Brampton ON, the other in Victoria BC) that offer green burial services. This includes such services as quick interment (which makes embalming unnecessary), as well as caskets that are made from natural wood products, or even cardboard, which allow for a natural breakdown of the elements. Wildflowers are used in lieu of traditional gravestones as well.

Many Canadians have not even considered the environmental impact of a traditional burial and/or cremation. Consider that the average burial/cremation has the following impact on its natural surroundings:

•    An average embalming consumes more than 15 liters of formaldehyde; North America typically uses over 4 million liters every year;
•    The equivalent of the Golden Gate Bridge could be built every year with the amount of metal used in North America every year to build vaults and coffins;
•    The amount of concrete used in traditional burials every year is sufficient enough to build a 2 lane highway between Montreal and Toronto, and back again;
•    For a typical 10 acre cemetery, enough wood is used that is sufficient enough to build 40 homes; it also typically uses 1,000 tons of casket steel and 20,000 tons of concrete;
•    Pesticides are commonly used in these traditional facilities;
•    The average cremation uses 27 liters of gas, the box containing the body is incinerated at temperatures from 760 to 1150 degrees Celsius;
•    The organs and soft tissue of a cremated body are vaporized and oxidized due to the tremendous heat used, and these gases are discharged through the exhaust system;
•    The United Nations estimates that 0.2% of global emissions of dioxins and furans are contributed through worldwide cremation, as well cremation is considered the second largest source of airborne mercury in Europe.

For those who do not live near a green burial property, there are still ways to reduce the impact on the environment for traditional burials. The Natural Burial Association recommends:

•    Plan  your funeral ahead of time, and let your friends and family know of  your intentions to have an environmentally conscious burial/funeral;
•    Include these burial plans in your will, so that there can be no dispute about your final wishes;
•    When selecting a coffin, try to choose one that is a simply made box out of local sustainably harvested wood, or even cardboard;
•    If cremation has been selected, ask for the removal of teeth that have mercury fillings in them beforehand, so the mercury does not get released into the environment;
•    Consider offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions with carbon credits;
•    Ask for donations to your favorite charity (or environmental project) in lieu of flowers.

For more information on green funerals and the association between funerals and the environment, visit the Natural Burial Association.

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# Thursday, 30 July 2009
Thursday, 30 July 2009 14:37:59 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )
The owners of an Orillia retirement residence have been charged with offences that stem from a January 2009 fire. The fire claimed 4 residents' lives and sent 11 people to hospital. 2 residents died from smoke inhalation, and 2 others died in March due to injuries sustained in the blaze. The Ontario Fire Marshal's Office have laid charges that include failing to ensure the exterior passageway/fire escape was properly maintained, failing to ensure supervisory staff were properly instructed in fire emergency procedures and 5 other charges. The facility was home to 24 residents, among them senior citizens as well as some middle-aged people who suffered from mental health problems. At the time of the fire, only one person was on-duty in a staffing capacity.

This tragedy brings to light not only the responsibilities of the retirement home, but as well the importance for potential residents to carefully choose their residence. If choosing a residence for a loved one who can no longer actively participate in the decision, the caregiver must give careful consideration to the type of facility they choose. A caregiver must take into consideration if the person who will be residing there will be happy; i.e. shared rooms, type of activities offered, etc.

When considering a retirement residence, the first thing to evaluate is the financial aspect. This includes savings and investments, as well as potentially selling the primary residence. The money required to maintain living in a retirement facility must be sustainable for a period of time, depending on the age and health of the resident. It is wise to check to see if the individual qualifies for government funded services such as a long-term care home. It is important to know that retirement residences are private pay; costs will vary depending on the type of facility as well as the level of services offered. If unsure of the potential long-term costs, it may be advisable to consult with a financial planner in order to make sure that the right facility is chosen for that individual’s financial needs.

Once the financial limits have been set, start interviewing prospective homes that fit within the budget. Make a list of potential homes, as well as services offered. Personally visit every candidate, and thoroughly inspect the facility. Ask detailed questions, such as how many staff is on duty at all times, fire safety plans, etc. Make a list of all questions to ask so you don't forget when you are visiting the facility and record the answers so you'll have all the details when making a final choice. You may also wish to research what the laws are in your province regarding retirement homes to ensure that the home you choose meets those laws. It is also advisable to check with your province to see if complaints have been lodged against the home, and if so, of what nature and the follow-up of the complaint.
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# Saturday, 18 July 2009
Saturday, 18 July 2009 21:15:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )
Every week Canadians across the country become aware of yet another mail, telemarketing and/or internet scam, in which people are fraudulently separated from their hard-earned money. Reports regarding credit card and debit card fraud are also prevalent. It is important therefore that all Canadians are knowledgeable about not only guarding themselves against not only physical theft, but identify theft as well.

The majority of Canadians use debit cards instead of cash in many financial transactions. While many financial institutions will cover consumer loss due to fraud, the consumer may still be liable for some losses. In order to safeguard from fraud it is suggested that:

•    Photocopies are made of all cards and stored in a safe place.
•    Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) should not be easily determined, i.e. using a birthday, address. Instead, choose a PIN that is harder to crack.
•    Safely store bank records and ATM statements; when throwing these out, shred them before putting them in the garbage. It is possible for a thief to go through garbage in order to retrieve these statements and gain access to personal information.
•    Always thoroughly go through monthly bank statements and credit card statements; report any discrepancies, even if it is for a small amount.
•    Remember to take not only your card after the transaction, but the transaction record as well.
•    Never write down your PIN or reveal to another person; if you do, most card agreements will hold you personally liable for any losses.
•    Cover your hand when entering your PIN to prevent not only others seeing it but in case the ATM has been tampered with and a camera installed in order to record your PIN.

Many people can also suffer financial losses as well as ruined credit when their identity is stolen. Once someone assumes your identity, they can gain access to your financial information to not only take your money, but to conduct financial business under your name. In order to protect yourself against this, it is recommended that you:

•    Store all documents that contain personal information (i.e. passports, social insurance number, and birth certificate) in a safe. If an item such as a health card expires, shred it immediately upon receiving its replacement.
•    Get a copy of your credit report every year and review it thoroughly to make sure it matches your financial records.
•    When leaving your home for any period of time, have someone you trust pick up your mail every day. Bills have personal information and account numbers on them which can be stolen and used.
•    Don’t carry items such as a SIN card in your wallet; rather store it in a safe. Any documents that are not regularly used should be stored; therefore if your wallet gets stolen, that information has not been obtained by the thief.

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# Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Wednesday, 24 June 2009 16:11:49 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )
Families in Canada who are raising children under the age of 18 are well aware of how expensive this can be. In order to financially help families with young children, the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) is designed to provide a monthly financial stipend in order to help meet these expenses. This benefit is available a month after birth right up until the month the child turns 18. For families who have the additional responsibility of raising a child that is severely mentally and/or physically impaired, the Child Disability Benefit is included in the CCTB. As well, the National Child Benefit Supplement is included for Canadian low-income families.

In order to be eligible for this benefit all of the following criteria must be met:

•    The child must be under 18 and residing with you;
•    You must be the person who is primarily responsible for the care and upbringing of the child, i.e. the child's daily activities, all medical needs and arranging for child care if necessary;
•    You must be a Canadian resident, and;
•    You or your spouse (including common-law) must be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, a protected person, or a temporary resident who has resided in Canada for the previous 18 months.

Family net income is a factor in determining the calculation of the CCTB entitlement. Spouses (including common-law) will have their income added from their tax return to yours in order to obtain the family net income. However, families receiving the Universal Child Care Benefit will have this amount excluded from their net income. If however, a portion of this benefit must be repaid, that amount will be included in the adjusted family net income.

It is advised to apply for the CCTB immediately after the child is born, the child begins to live with you, or you become a resident of Canada. Payments for this benefit are only retroactive for 11 months, unless there were circumstances beyond the parent's control for not doing so. Even those who feel that they are ineligible due to their family income being too high should apply. The entitlement is calculated every July based on the family net income for the previous year, which is determined by tax returns. Tax returns must be filed every year by the parent and spouse even if there is no income to report.

More information regarding the Canada Child Tax Benefit can be obtained at Canada Revenue Agency.

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# Saturday, 09 May 2009
Saturday, 09 May 2009 17:17:44 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )
As the Canadian population ages, awareness needs to be raised surrounding the issue of elder abuse. It is estimated that between 4 and 10% of seniors in Canada experience or will experience some form of abuse. A study conducted by the Environics for Human Resources and Social Development Canada showed some alarming statistics. Among these were included that:

•    96% of all Canadians think most abuse directed towards the elderly is either hidden or goes undetected;
•    22% of all Canadians thought that they knew a senior who was experiencing some form of abuse;
•    9 in 10 Canadians thought that elder abuse awareness should be a high priority for the Canadian government in order to help seniors live safely and protect their rights;
•    67% of all Canadians felt that women were more susceptible to abuse as a senior than older men;
•    12% of Canadians have sought information regarding a situation of elder abuse either for a specific incident or for general knowledge;
•    1 in 20 Canadians have searched the internet for information regarding issues around elder abuse.

The Government of Canada has announced their support for 16 projects across Canada under the New Horizons for Seniors Program to raise awareness around this issue. Four million dollars will be invested in Canada-wide programs to bring attention to elder abuse as well as to provide education and resources for those at risk. Some of the planned projects are:

•    The National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly plans to undertake a national project that will produce and distribute materials intended for elder abuse prevention and detection as well as intervention tools and resources for seniors, families, communities and service providers.
•    The Community Legal Information Association of Prince Edward Island plans to develop and distribute legal information and resources for seniors and their families/caregivers as well as service providers.
•    The British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres will develop awareness and educational materials and resources that are specifically targeted towards the Aboriginal communities to help reduce elder abuse within their population.

Elder abuse (or older adult abuse) is defined as any single or repeated acts, or lack of appropriate action that occurs in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm and/or distress to an older person. Financial abuse is the most common form of elder abuse, which includes frauds and scams, as well as the improper use of Power of Attorney. Neglect is the second most common form of elder abuse. Neglect occurs when the person who has custody or care for a dependent adult fails to meet the basic needs for that person. Signs that a senior may be suffering from neglect include:

•    Malnourishment, dehydration, emaciation;
•    Mentally confused;
•    Not dressed appropriately, unkempt appearance, soiled surroundings;
•    Medications not administered properly;
•    Unexplained open sores;
•    Lack of safety features in the home;
•    Being left unsupervised and/or without assistance when it’s required;
•    Not keeping scheduled doctors appointments and/or other obligations on a regular basis.

Signs that a senior may be being abused financially are:

•    Large amounts of money being taken from a bank account;
•    Suspicious signatures on cheques and/or other legal documents;
•    Unexplained debt;
•    Financial statements suddenly not being mailed to the senior's residence;
•    The senior suddenly unable to pay bills and other daily household expenses;
•    An unexpected change in a will;
•    Unexpected sale of the home;
•    Missing personal belongings, i.e. jewelry, clothing;
•    The senior being asked to sign legal papers without an explanation as to what they are signing;
•    Not remembering making financial payments, transfers;
•    Someone speaking for the senior and not allowing them to speak and/or answer questions;
•    Sudden isolation from family and/or friends;
•    Anxiety when discussing financial matters.

It is important to also be aware of any unexplained physical injuries, such as bruises, swelling, welts, lacerations, fractures, etc. While seniors can experience an increased number of falls, injuries that are consistent with being restrained will be very different, i.e. rope burns, grip marks. Emotional changes such as sudden low self esteem, agitation, sleep difficulties and unexplained fearfulness can be indications that the senior is experiencing psychological abuse.

If you suspect that a senior you know may be experiencing some form of abuse, contact a senior service in your province/territory. Seniors Canada is run by the Government of Canada and offers seniors information on a wide variety of topics. This includes finances, care facilities, health and wellness issues as well as legal matters. They also provide information for the caregivers of seniors.

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# Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 20:00:46 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )
Under the proposed taxation changes, Canadians can now claim a non-refundable tax credit on their 2009 tax return based on expenditures (must be eligible) incurred for labor performed and/or goods acquired for home renovations. The dates must fall between January 27, 2009 and before February 1, 2010 in respect of an eligible dwelling.  The HRTC is applicable to eligible expenditures of more then $1,000 but not more than $10,000; this will result in a maximum credit of $1350 ($10,000 - $1000) x 15%).

In order to determine if you are eligible for the HRTC consider the following factors:

•    The dwelling must qualify; any dwelling that you own and is used either by you or your family can qualify, including your home or cottage.
•    Eligibility for the credit is family based; a family will be allowed a single credit that may be shared within the whole family. If 2 or more families share the ownership of an eligible dwelling, each family will then be eligible for their own separate credit, each up to $1,350. This will be calculated on their respective eligible expenditures.
•    The expenditures incurred in relation to a renovation/alteration to an eligible dwelling (or the land that forms part of the eligible dwelling) must be of an enduring nature and integral to the building.
•    Expenditures must have been incurred after January 27, 2009 and before February 1, 2010, according to agreement entered info after January 27, 2009.

An eligible dwelling must be a housing unit that is eligible to be an individual's principal residence for the individual or one or more of their family members between January 27, 2009 and February 2010. It is eligible where it is owned by the individual and ordinarily inhabited by same individual, spouse, common-law partner, and/or their children. If a portion of the home is rental property (i.e. basement), only renovations that are done to the family's personal space will be eligible for this credit. If renovations are made that are considered common areas (i.e. roof) then the expenses will be divided between personal use and income earning use.

As all expenses must be supported by receipts, so make sure to securely save these items should they be required. Documentation like agreements, invoices and/or receipts must clearly identify the type and quantity of the goods purchased, and/or the services provided. Make sure the information you intend on submitting has:

•    Information that clearly identifies the vendor as well as their business address. If they have a GST/HST registration number, make sure that is included.
•    Description of the goods and the date in which they were purchased.
•    The date of when the goods were purchased, and/or when services were performed.
•    Description of the work performed; make sure the address of the dwelling is included.
•    The amount of the invoice and proof of payment. Receipts and/or invoices must indicate paid in full or be accompanied by other proof of payment, i.e. canceled cheque, credit card statement.

Eligible expenditures include, but are not limited to:

•    Kitchen, bathroom, basement renovations;
•    New carpeting and/or hardwood flooring;
•    New additions, i.e. garage, deck, shed, fence;
•    Re-shingling of a roof;
•    New furnace, boiler, fireplace, wood stove, water heater, water softener;
•    Painting of exterior and/or interior of home;
•    Adding a new driveway or resurfacing of a previous driveway;
•    Window coverings that are directly attached to the window frame, whereby the removal would alter the nature of the dwelling;
•    Laying of new sod;
•    In ground or above ground swimming pool;
•    Fixtures such as lights, fans;
•    Cost of permits, professional services, equipment rentals.

A worksheet is provided on Revenue Canada's website, as well as more detailed information regarding this tax credit.

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# Wednesday, 08 April 2009
Wednesday, 08 April 2009 14:26:28 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )
Starting July 1, 2010 Ontario will have a harmonized sales tax. This harmonized tax will replace the existing Provincial Sales Tax (PST) and the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Currently the GST is 5% and the PST is 8%; the combined sales tax will be 13%. While some items may not increase in price, many items that have been exempt from sales tax will no longer enjoy that exemption. The province of Ontario says that implementing a single sales tax will bring Ontario into line with what they call the most efficient form of sales taxation around the world. The finance ministry claims that this combined tax will reduce the cost of goods that Ontario exports, thus in turn making the province more competitive as well as boosting the economy.

Consumers in Ontario will have to pay tax on products that have traditionally been exempt, such as gasoline, heating fuels and electricity. Services such as haircuts, club and gym memberships and taxi fares have also been exempt in the past, but will be taxed starting in 2010. Childrens clothing, footwear, car seats/car booster seats and diapers will remain exempt from the provincial portion of the new tax, as well as feminine hygiene products and books. Basic groceries, prescription drugs, medical devices, rent and/or condo fees will remain exempt from both the GST and the PST. The purchase of resale homes will remain exempt from the PST; real estate transaction fees will be taxed however. Traveling by air and train will be more expensive as well due to the new blended tax.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce estimates that this fully blended taxation system will cost consumers approximately 905 million dollars per year in additional sales tax. The GST and PST tax bill for companies however, is estimated to decrease by 1.6 billion dollars annually. Under the current taxation laws, business are not allowed to deduct PST from the costs of materials and other purchased products; this cost is traditionally assumed to be passed along to the consumer. The blended taxation will allow these companies to claim tax credits for these purchases, potentially saving them 3 billion dollars per year. The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses says that this new harmonization will save businesses 100 million dollars per year in reduced 'red tape'. They will also save a further 500 million annually on the costs of administering a single tax as opposed to the 2 taxes. The Ontario Real Estate Association claims that this tax merger will add more than $2,000 to the cost of real estate transactions, which will hurt the resale home market, potentially prolonging the housing industry’s recovery from the current economic crisis.

Household expenses are predicted to rise in this new taxation system. In order to help Ontario families combat this expense, the province says it will be offering 10.6 billion dollars worth of tax relief over the next 3 years in the following manner:

•    Cash payments with a maximum of $1,000 in 2010 and 2011 for families who earn less than $160,000 per year;
•    A permanent $260 refundable sales tax credit for low and middle income adults and children;
•    An enhanced refundable property tax credit for low and middle income homeowners and tenants;
•    Exemption from the blended tax for new homes under $400,000, newly constructed homes with a worth between $400,000 and $500,000 will be eligible for a partial rebate;
•    1.1 billion dollars in personal income tax cuts.

Ontario's NDP as well as Conservative parties oppose this new taxation system. The NDP claims that the single sales tax method will leave Ontario families carrying the burden with higher household expenses, especially at a time where job losses are occurring. The Conservatives ideally are in favor with the harmonization, but say that this is the wrong time for Ontario to be raising taxes.

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# Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Tuesday, 17 March 2009 14:35:46 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )
Legislation was proposed on March 4, 2009 that would give Ontario the legal standing to sue cigarette companies in order to recover the money spent on tobacco related illnesses in Ontario. Approximately $1.6 billion dollars is spent every year by Ontario tax-payers in relation to smoking related illnesses. The new legislation introduced by Attorney General Chris Bentley would allow the Ontario government to seek billions of dollars in damages from the 3 biggest Canadian cigarette manufacturers: Imperial Tobacco, Rothmans, Benson and Hedges, and JTI-Macdonald. British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have all passed similar legislation. JTI-Macdonald is currently under bankruptcy protection which means Ontario has to act now or they lose their opportunity to sue this company. British Columbia has to get permission from the court to pursue this company in their claim.

The proposed legislation would allow Ontario to sue the tobacco companies for alleged wrong-doings by the companies and holding them accountable. British Columbia already has a bill that suggests the tobacco companies marketed light cigarettes as safer than the regular ones, as well as targeting their advertising towards children. It is also alleged that the companies conspired to hold back research regarding the harmful effects of smoking tobacco and undermining the health warnings that had been issued. These allegations have not been proven yet in court. Premier McGuinty has stated that Ontario is ready to sue the tobacco companies due to British Columbia's successes.

The proposed bill would give the Ontario government the right to sue the companies directly for any alleged wrong-doing as well as to allocate liability by market share and measure the health-care cost to taxpayers regarding tobacco-related illnesses. A successful lawsuit could potentially bring in a settlement as much as $60 billion dollars. The lawsuit could also bring about protective changes, i.e. no longer being able to use cartoon characters in their advertising that are targeted towards young Canadians, as well as other restrictions. A successful lawsuit would hold the companies accountable for health-care costs, which currently are estimated at $1.6 billion per year. Deaths due to tobacco related illnesses in Ontario are estimated at 13,000 per year or almost 36 deaths per day and almost 500,000 hospital days annually. The amount of money spent by the government in providing health-care for smoking related illnesses could provide funding for 8 large community hospitals or a year's funding for 2,000 MRI units.

4 U.S. states pursued the first lawsuit against tobacco companies in the mid-1990s, which ultimately led to a 50-state Master Settlement Agreement in 1999 with the tobacco industry. In this settlement, the tobacco industry agreed to pay $246 billion over a 25 year period for health-care costs incurred from use of their products. It also led to restrictions regarding advertising that was directed towards minors.

This proposed legislation follows other government initiatives to prevent Canadians from being exposed to second hand smoke. Currently in Ontario smoking is banned in all workplaces, as well as public areas such as bars and restaurants. A very recent ban made it a finable offence to smoke in a vehicle when minor passengers are present. As well, higher taxes for tobacco products are a deterrent for those who are unwilling to pay as much as $8 for one pack of cigarettes. Smokers also pay higher premiums for their health and life insurance policies, due to the increased health risk. Smokers who have quit for a year are entitled to have these premiums reassessed due to being eligible for a better health status. If you have recently quit smoking, consult with your broker to see when you can apply for a decrease in your premiums. For those who want to quit, consult websites such as the Canadian Cancer Society for help as well as support.

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# Wednesday, 04 March 2009
Wednesday, 04 March 2009 16:43:38 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Mortgage Insurance | Term Life | Whole Life )

As the economy is still dramatically fluctuating, people are now looking at ways to save money. It has been confirmed that the last three months of 2008 Canada did indeed experience a recession, and continues to do so. However, it is important for Canadians to ensure that short-term savings do not impact long-term financial goals and protection.

Some people may find it tempting to cancel their life insurance coverage in order to save on paying the premiums. This 'solution' however can lead to financial consequences later on. Should your health status change, you may find that in the future premiums will be more expensive, and can potentially cost more than what was initially saved; especially for those who purchased their coverage when they had excellent health status.

Financial protection, especially in regards to the wage-earners in the family are even more essential now. Should an unexpected death occur, it is important to have coverage in order to cover not only the funeral expenses, but to make sure that the family has enough money for living expenses, paying off debt, etc. For families with children, the remaining parent may want to take an extended leave from their employment, as well as have the financial resources to pay for additional expenses such as childcare, nanny, etc.

Health insurance is also a wise financial move at the current time. Sudden expenses, i.e. prescription medications, can quickly add up. This total amount per month can easily exceed your premiums, especially with the high prescription costs in some provinces. This coverage is also contingent on health status as well; should a health problem occur you may not be entitled to the same premiums as you once were should you cancel your existing coverage.

For Canadians who insure their mortgage through the lender, consider using term life insurance instead. Choose a term life policy that is compatible with the amount of time that is owed on your mortgage. Not only is this generally a less costly expense, but it offers added benefits. Most mortgage insurance policies only cover the existing balance that is owed; a term life policy retains its full value throughout the duration. Term life also gives the financial control to the policy owner; mortgage insurance is only used to pay off the mortgage should the mortgagee die. Term life offers the beneficiary full control of the money; this can be used to pay off the mortgage, pay off other debts, etc. Especially at a time of need, this flexibility can be essential. There is term life policies that can be converted into whole life insurance once the term has expired, thereby giving the policy holder continuing protection. Many of these policies do not require a new medical questionnaire to be filled out; therefore the rates will be consistent with the health status provided originally. This can be a great way to not only save money at the present time, but also in the future when the rates will possibly be higher.

Go through your monthly budget carefully when decided when and/or where to economize. Any items that are essential to your financial security and well-being should not be cut from your budget if at all possible; try and find other ways to save money. This can include not spending as much on items such as entertainment, clothing, vacations, etc. which, while possible causing inconvenience, will not impact your long-term goals.

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# Monday, 02 February 2009
Monday, 02 February 2009 14:14:35 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )

Canadian charities are facing a reduction in charitable donations due to the global financial crisis. An open letter was sent to the Prime Minister as well as the Finance Minister that was published in Canadian newspapers. The letter asked for tax breaks for corporate as well individual donations in order to increase charitable giving for Canadian charities.

Under the current laws, individuals and/or corporations can donate shares of publicly traded companies and do not have to pay the capital gains tax. The open letter asked for this same exemption for donations of private company shares as well as real estate. This would put Canada in the same playing field as the United States, and is expected to dramatically increase charitable donations. Currently a tax receipt is issued for donations of real estate and private shares, but a capital gains tax still must be paid on these types of donations.

Donating to charity is not only a great way to help the community, but also for financial planning due to the tax credits. In order to benefit from the tax credits, donors are required to donate to a registered charity. Currently qualified donees include:

• Registered Canadian charities;
• Registered Canadian amateur athletic associations;
• Prescribed universities outside of Canada;
• Charitable organizations outside of Canada that the Government of Canada has made a donation to in the current or previous tax year;
• The Government of Canada, a province, and/or a territory;
• Tax-exempt Canadian housing corporations that provide only low-cost housing for seniors;
• Municipal and/or public bodies that perform a function of government in Canada;
• The United Nations and its agencies.

Donations made to a registered charity do not have to be claimed in the current year, but can be used on any tax return for any of the next five years. Donations can only be claimed once. Tax credits that are carried forward from a previous year must be used before tax credits for gifts in the current year can be applied. When claiming a donation from a previous year, a note should be attached to the return indicating the year in which the receipt was submitted, as well as the portion of the eligible amount you are claiming for the current year and the amount that will be carried forward. Receipts can also be combined with those of a person's spouse/common-law partner and be claimed together on one tax return that will allow for the highest tax credit rate.

Currently, the first $200 that is donated is eligible for a federal tax credit of 15% of the amount donated. For amounts after the initial $200, the federal tax credit is increased to 29% of the remainder. All or a part of this amount is eligible generally up to 75% of the net income. Provincial tax credits are also available; these will vary among the provinces.

For those Canadians who wish to donate to charity and claim the tax credits, only donations made to a registered charity will be allowed. A list of registered charities can be found at the Canada Revenue Agency website. This also provides information regarding any charity that has had their status revoked, as well as new charities that have been registered within the past year. Life insurance policies can also be used to donate to charity, as well as property/cash gifts. When using a policy to donate the donor can either gift the ownership of an existing policy or allow the charity to take out a policy on the donor's life. In either circumstance the charity becomes the legal owner of the policy. When gifting an existing policy, the cash surrender value minus any outstanding policy loans plus any accumulated dividends and/or interest will be considered the fair market value. This amount will then be eligible for a tax receipt. If the donor pays the premiums for a policy in which the charity is the beneficiary, these payments are considered a charitable donation and can be issued a tax receipt yearly for the premiums paid. For more information regarding this charitable donation option, visit Life-Quotes.ca

 

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# Tuesday, 20 January 2009
Tuesday, 20 January 2009 13:58:49 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

Life-Quotes.ca published a blog in November regarding the new Tax-Free Savings Accounts that are now available to Canadians. The initial blog gave general information regarding this subject; this blog is intended to provide more detailed information.

The Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) gives Canadians more choice in how they wish to accumulate savings, retirement assets, etc. It allows all Canadians over the age of 18 to contribute initially $5000.00 per year into this account; this amount will increase in increments of $500.00 per year as inflation grows. The income derived from this account is exempt from taxation, including withdrawals; however there is no tax deduction available for deposits made to the account. Any withdrawals can later be replenished to the account without affecting that particular year's allowance.

This new type of account offers several advantages. As there is no taxable liability, 'income' taken from this plan does not increase your marginal tax rate. It also allows for long term financial planning; and as the added cash flow doesn't affect taxable income it can increase the after tax income you receive from other taxable plans, i.e. RRIFs. The TFSA can be a very effective estate planning tool as well as there is no taxable liability. While the language of the plan is somewhat unclear, it does suggest that there will be no tax on any income/gains accrued up until death.

The TFSA is almost as successful as an RRSP when used as a wealth accumulation tool. When the taxation is factored in, money saved in the TFSA is comparable to the RRSP due to the tax rates that are involved when withdrawing funds from the RRSP. As well, RRSPs can create other 'costs', i.e. loss of tax credits. As well, taxes can be higher on RRSP income due to the triggering of OAS when the minimum withdrawals are mandated. The total amount accumulated will be dependent on the tax rates that are applicable to withdrawing the funds from the RRSP; the TFSA does not incur any taxation costs upon withdrawal.

For Canadians who are trying to save money while earning a lower income, the TFSA can actually be more advantageous than an RRSP. The advantage of the RRSP deduction is reduced by the lower tax rates that this income bracket would pay. For people who will more than likely be earning more in their future, the TFSA can be a better financial planning tool and the RRSP room can be carried forward for future deductions at higher tax rates. For Canadians who are saving for their retirement, the TFSA has the advantage of allowing the individual to avoid the withdrawal penalties. Most people end up having to take more income from their RRIF due to the legislated minimums; the TFSA can be used as a way to continue to save these excess proceeds from future tax penalties, and does not affect any income-tested tax benefits.

The TFSA can be a great financial tool when it comes to financial planning for their child(ren). The parents can fund more of the education for the child with the agreement that the child save an equivalent amount in their TFSA. This allows the parents to benefit from the tax deductions and credits for funding their child’s education and benefits the child as they will begin to accumulate savings. As the majority of students are lower-income their contribution towards the TFSA comes with a very low after-tax cost and enables them to begin saving towards purchasing a home, starting a business, etc.

The TFSA gives all Canadians another tool when in regards to their financial planning needs. Alone, or combined with other saving strategies, this type of account can help Canadians save more money, especially when it comes to the amount of taxable income. It also allows for a more comprehensive saving strategy for those who are not only planning for retirement, but for other major financial transactions. When it comes to retirement planning, it's always a wise idea to ensure that your life insurance coverage is suitable for your estate planning needs.

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# Sunday, 04 January 2009
Sunday, 04 January 2009 14:48:18 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

The government of Ontario has launched a $1.1 billion over four year plan that is designed to help seniors reside in their own homes. The initiative was started at the end of August, 2007 and will help match the needs of seniors and their caregivers access the local support services they require to maintain their independence. The Aging at Home Strategy hopes to develop new ways to provide supports and/or services that ensure seniors can spend their final years living where and how they wish to.

The stated goals of the Aging at Home Strategy are:

• To ensure that seniors home support them;
• To ensure that seniors have supportive social environments;
• To ensure easy accessibility to senior-centered care;
• To identify innovative solutions to ensure that seniors are and stay healthy.

The Aging at Home Strategy will increase traditional services that enable seniors to be healthy and live independently in their homes such as:

• Community support services;
• Home care;
• Assistive devices;
• Assisted living services, supportive housing;
• Long-term care beds;
• End-of-life care.

This new approach will combine traditional services that are currently offered with new services that will be provided by Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) on a community-based level. Each LHIN will be required to allocate a minimum of 20% of the funding throughout the first three years in order to deliver innovative care for seniors. Innovation proposals must be either evidence-based and/or build in an evaluation component if previously untested. Ultimately the goal is for LHINs to assume more responsibility for the planning, managing and funding of senior healthcare services at a local level. Support at the local level is intended to help seniors, especially those with chronic health issues, remain living at home, avoid unnecessary hospital emergency room visits and as well as avoid/delay admission to a Long Term Care facility.

This program is targeted for seniors who are living with age-related health conditions and/or age-related disabilities. Consideration will also be given to services, programs and/or supports that allow the family, friends as well as neighbors to help care for seniors in their community. The strategy will be based on the senior population of the community in Ontario; therefore services will vary depending on where the senior resides. Funding for each LHIN will be allocated on estimates of the basis of age, gender, socio-economic status and rural geography and health status in order to estimate the demand for services. The funding will also depend on the estimated population growth as well as the type of seniors who live in a specific LHIN territory and the current service level that is already in place.

For more information regarding this initiative please visit the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

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# Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Wednesday, 17 December 2008 15:17:33 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

The Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP) is offered to eligible Canadians by Service Canada on behalf of the Labour Program. The purpose of WEPP is to reimburse workers for any unpaid wages as well as vacation pay that is owed to them but has not been paid due to the employer declaring bankruptcy and/or is subject to receivership. This program does not cover severance pay, termination pay, and/or any other employee benefits. The maximum payment is four times the Employment Insurance weekly average wage, less any amounts that are prescribed by regulations.

Applications for WEPP must be submitted within 56 days of the date of bankruptcy or receivership to Service Canada. This payment is taxable; a T4A slip will be issued on or before the last day of February the year following the payment. When WEPP is added to the Income Tax Act, the applicable tax will be deducted at the source. Eligibility for WEPP includes:

• If your former employer filed for bankruptcy or is subject to receivership on or after July 7, 2008.
• You are owed wages by your former employer which was earned during six months preceding the date of  bankruptcy/receivership.
• A trustee or receiver has been appointed to administer the former employer's bankruptcy/receivership.
• You have stopped working for a period of 7 consecutive days for your bankrupt/insolvent employer.

Please note that you are not eligible for WEPP if your employer has not declared bankruptcy. Other criteria that may make you ineligible for this benefit are:

• If you were an officer or director of the former employer.
• If you had a controlling interest in the now bankrupt business.
• You were a manager in which your duties included making financial decisions that impacted the business and/or made binding financial decisions regarding the payment or non-payment of wages.

If you are related to the now bankrupt employer, you may still be eligible for this benefit. You will be required to fill out the WEPP Supplementary Form (Additional Information Regarding Your Relationship to Your Employer) in addition to your application. This will help determine whether or not you were treated in the same manner as the other employees despite your familial relationship to the owner. You may also be eligible if you are currently working for the receiver/trustee as long as your employment was terminated for 7 consecutive days by the former employer and no wages were earned during that time period. If you have only been partially compensated for your wages and/or vacation pay you are still eligible for the outstanding amount owed.

If you are collecting Employment Insurance benefits, you must report the receipt of your WEPP payment. Any outstanding owed monies that were not paid under WEPP can still be pursued under the regular bankruptcy process. You will need to contact the trustee/receiver for more information on pursuing this action.

You will need to have a copy of the information that is provided to Service Canada by the trustee or receiver appointed in your employer's bankruptcy/receivership before applying for this benefit. This information, along with your application, will determine your eligibility as well as your payment. If your employer has declared bankruptcy, you must contact the trustee to file a proof of claim. This proof of claim is essential in order to process your WEPP application. You also may be entitled to compensation beyond the limits of what can be paid under the WEPP.

For more information about the Wage Earner Protection Program, please visit Service Canada.

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# Saturday, 29 November 2008
Saturday, 29 November 2008 15:29:42 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

Starting in 2009, Canadians will be able to contribute their money into a tax-free savings account. This type of account will be available to all Canadians age 18 and over (19 in some provinces where 19 is the age of majority) who have a Social Insurance Number. A tax-free savings account (TSFA) can be a great addition to retirement planning as well as other financial planning needs. Due to the flexible nature of the account it can be used for all savings purposes.

The new tax-free savings account offers several advantages to Canadian residents. As much as five thousand dollars can be contributed annually (this amount will increase with inflation throughout the years in $500 increments), and any unused room can be carried forward if the maximum contribution is not met. Withdrawals are tax-free as well as creating future contribution opportunities. While contributions are not deductible, capital gains as well as other investment income that is earned in the TSFA are not subject to taxation. As well, any income earned as a result of this account and/or withdrawals will affect the person's eligibility for federal income-tested benefits and/or credits. Contributions to a spouse's (including common-law) TFSA are allowed; assets are transferable to the account upon the death of the spouse.

The TFSA will be a great savings tool for seniors and those who are planning for retirement. TFSAs provide more financial flexibility, as withdrawals are not subject to taxation (i.e. RRSPs). As circumstances can quickly change in a person's life, having financial options that come without being 'penalized' can provide more options that will not have a negative impact on locked-in financial assets. Along with other retirement savings plans, the TFSA will be a great addition for this goal.

The TSFA will be available starting in 2009 at most financial institutions; discuss with your financial advisor/banker when this will be available for you. It’s a wise idea to research all of your retirement savings options, including the type and/or amount of your life insurance.

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# Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Wednesday, 19 November 2008 14:08:28 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

Canada Savings Bonds are an option for Canadians looking for investment options. These bonds are issued by the Government of Canada and can be a safe and secure addition to your investment portfolio. Canada Savings Bonds (CSBs) and the Canada Premium Bond (CPBs) both offer a variety of features.

Canada Savings Bonds can be cashed in anytime of the year; the Premium Bonds can only be cashed in once a year. Both types of bonds are backed by the Government of Canada which makes both types of bonds more safe and secure for investors. These bonds are available for purchase for six months per year, beginning in early October until April 1. Be advised however, that the Minister of Finance has the ability to end the sales of these bonds at any time.

CSBs and CPBs are available in either:

Regular Interest Bonds:  These bonds earn simple interest at the rates which are determined by the Minister of Finance until the earlier of maturity and redemption. The simple interest is paid to the bond's owner on each annual anniversary until maturity, or at the time of redemption.

Compound Interest Bonds:  These earn compound interest as well as simple interest. The compound interest rates are determined by the Minister of Finance until the earlier of either maturity or redemption based on the earned interest on each annual anniversary of the issue date prior to maturity. Compound interest is payable at the time of redemption.

Compound interest CSBs may be exchanged at any time before maturity for the same denomination in regular interest CSBs of the same series. Payment of interest as well as compound interest CPBs may be exchanged for the same denomination in regular interest bonds of the same series plus payment of earned interest. Prior to 10 months of their issue date, regular interest CSBs can be exchanged for compound interest CSBs of the same series; regular interest CPBs may also be exchanged for the same denomination in compound interest CPBs of the same series.

The ownership of bonds can be transferred in certain situations, such as:

• Name change due to divorce, marriage, adoption and legal name change.
• To a beneficiary due to the death of the registered owner.
• If the registered owner has a spouse, or the bonds are owned/held by spouses, in the event of divorce; they can also be   stipulated in the written separation agreement in a form that is acceptable to the Bank of Canada.
• If transferred to the Canada Retirement Savings Plan and/or to the Canada Retirement Plan.

Additional names may be added as co-owner with the right of survivorship; the Bank of Canada must be notified via completion of the prescribed forms. Be advised that the term 'surviving co-owner' is not valid or applicable in Quebec; transferring ownership must apply to specific provincial laws.

Canada Savings Bonds may be redeemed by the lawful owner at any time. This can be accomplished by contacting any authorized sales agent in Canada; proper identification must be presented. CPBs may be redeemed either on the annual anniversary of the issue date or within 30 days afterwards. If the CPB is cashed in within the 30 day period no interest will be earned for the following period of the anniversary date. CPBs may be redeemed at other times under the following circumstances:

• Death of the lawful owner.
• Court order.
• Redemption proceeds are required by the lawful owner for the purposes of:
    To avoid bankruptcy.
    To be used to purchase a home using the Home Buyer’s Plan.
    To be used in furtherance of pursuing education via the Lifelong Learning Plan.

If bonds are redeemed within the first 3 months after their issue date, no interest is earned on them. As well, no interest is earned on bonds for the calendar month in which they are redeemed.

Bonds may only be purchased with Canadian currency and can only be owned by legal Canadian residents. More detailed information can be found at http://www.csb.gc.ca/home.

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# Monday, 27 October 2008
Monday, 27 October 2008 13:18:49 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

The final installment in this 3 part series will focus on the Canadian Pension Plan Survivor Benefits. These benefits are paid to a deceased contributor's estate, surviving spouse or common-law partner and dependent children. There are three types of benefits:

• The death benefit. This is a one-time payment to, or on behalf of, the estate of the deceased CPP contributor;
• The survivor's pension. This is a monthly pension paid to the surviving spouse/common-law partner of the deceased contributor.
• The children's benefit. This is a monthly benefit paid for dependent children of the deceased contributor.

It is very important that these benefits be applied for; if they haven't been applied for you may lose benefits that are you are entitled to. In order for your survivors to be entitled to benefits there is a minimum contributory requirement of at least 3 years. If your Canada Pension Plan "contributory period" is longer than nine years, you must have contributed in:

• one third of the calendar years in your contributory period, or
• 10 calendar years, whichever is less


The Canadian Pension Plan death benefit

This is a one-time, lump-sum payment made to the estate of the deceased contributor. If there is no estate, then eligibility for this payment are as follows:

1. Person who is responsible for the funeral expenses.
2. The surviving spouse, common-law partner or next of kin may be eligible, in that order.

The amount of the death benefit will depend on how much and how long the deceased person contributed into the Canadian Pension Plan. The dollar amount is calculated by what the retirement pension would have been if the deceased had been 65 when death occurred; the benefit is equal to 6 months of this pension, up to a maximum of $2500.

The Canadian Pension Plan survivor's pension

The surviving legal spouse or common-law partner of a deceased contributor to the Canadian Pension Plan qualifies for this benefit. A person who is still a legal spouse but is separated at time of death may still be eligible if there is no current common-law partner. The amount the surviving spouse will receive depends on:

• Whether or not the spouse/common-law partner is also receiving a Canadian Pension Plan disability or retirement pension.
• How much, and how long the contributor paid into the plan.
• The age of the spouse/common-law partner when the contributor died.

CPP will first calculate how much the contributor's retirement pension is, or would have been, if he/she had been 65 when they died. A further calculation is then done based on the survivor's age at the time of the contributor's death. If the surviving spouse is:

• Aged 65 and over they will receive 60% of the contributor's retirement pension, if they are not receiving any other Canadian Pension Plan benefits.
• Aged 46-64, or under age 45 and disabled, or raising a dependent child, they will receive a flat rate plus 37.5% of the contributor's pension if they are not receiving any other Canadian Pension Plan benefits.
• Under the age of 45 and not disabled and not raising a dependent child, they will receive as above, but minus 1/120 for each month the spouse/common-law partner is under the age of 45 at the time of the contributor's death.
• Under the age of 35 and not disabled and not raising a dependent child, they will not be paid until they reach the age of 65, or become disabled.

The Canadian Pension Plan children's benefit

If a child has lost at least one parent who was a Canadian Pension Plan contributor, they may qualify for a benefit, provided that the deceased parent has met the contributory requirements. This benefit is paid as a flat rate that will be adjusted annually. If both parents are deceased and/or disabled and paid into the Canadian Pension Plan for the minimum amount of years, the child may qualify for 2 benefits. For children under the age of 18 this benefit is generally paid to the person that the child is living with. For children 18 years of age and older who are attending school fulltime (this includes college and university) the benefit will be directly paid to the child upon his/her application.

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# Friday, 10 October 2008
Friday, 10 October 2008 14:25:33 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is designed to provide basic benefits for contributors who retire or who become disabled. It is a taxable monthly benefit is paid to those who have contributed to the plan; it is based on how much and how long a person contributed to the plan as well as the age of retirement. Its function is to replace approximately 25% of the earning's of which the person's contributions are based.

Canadian Pension Plan offers 3 kinds of benefits:

• Retirement pension
• Disability benefits for contributors with a disability and their dependent children
• Survivor benefits which include the death benefit, the survivor’s pension and the children’s benefit

Retirement Pension

Qualification for CPP benefits requires at least one valid contribution to the Plan as well as:

• The applicant is at least 65 or
• The applicant is between 60 and 64 and meets the earning requirements

If the applicant is between the ages of 60 and 64 they must do one of the following in order to qualify for benefits:

• Stop working or
• Earn less than the specified amount ($884.58 for the 2008 year) the month preceding and the month following the month your pension begins.

Once pension benefits are received the applicant can work on an unlimited basis, however no more contributions to CPP will be eligible.

The age in which a person decides to take their Canadian Pension Plan determines the amount they will receive. The pension usually begins the month after the contributor turns 65. If you choose to receive this pension earlier than 65, the monthly payment will be smaller, if you choose to receive this pension later than 65 up to the age of 70 the monthly payment will be larger. The amount is adjusted 0.5% for each month before or after your 65th birthday from the time you begin to receive your benefits; this adjustment is permanent so if you choose to apply for your pension early the payments will not increase when you turn 65.

Several factors to consider regarding when to take your retirement pension are:

• Whether or not you are still working and contributing to the Plan
• The length of time in which you have made contributions
• How much you have earned (which may affect how much you’ve contributed)
• How much other retirement income you have
• The type of retirement you plan on having
• Your health

It is possible to get an estimate of your retirement pension at the CPP website. This can help you determine when to apply for retirement benefits, as well as give you an idea of how much you will receive should you apply for your benefits. If you decide to retire, it's best to apply for your Canadian Pension Plan benefits at least 6 months in advance; delay in application may result in lost benefits.

If you apply for your Canadian Pension Plan benefits after the age of 60, but before the age of 65 your pension starts at the latest of these following times:

• the month you specify on your application
• the month you stop working
• the month following your 60th birthday
• when your earnings are less than the allowable maximum pension payment for 2 months in a row

If you apply to begin receiving your benefits before you turn 65 or later you will begin to receive your benefits:

• the month of your 65th birthday
• the month you have specified on your application
• the 11th month prior to the month the CPP receives your application

Disability Benefits

The Canadian Pension Plan Disability Benefits provides a monthly benefit that is taxable to contributors who are disabled and to their dependent children. This benefit includes a fixed amount that everyone receives plus an additional amount that is based on your Canadian Pension Plan contributions during your entire working career; there is a maximum that can be received. Children under the age of 18 as well as children aged 18-25 who are attending school full time also receive a benefit (in 2008 the amount is $208.77); children can only receive this benefit if at least one parent is receiving the CPP disability benefit.

In order to qualify for this disability benefit the applicant must:

• be under 65
• have earned a specified minimum amount and contributed to CPP while working for a minimum amount of years
• have a severe and prolonged disability as defined by CPP legislation

The current legislation defines 'disability' as a physical and/or mental condition that is 'severe and prolonged' that regularly stops the applicant from being able to do any type of work. This relates to full-time, part-time as well as seasonal work; as well the applicant's disability is a long-term condition or is likely to result in death.

If the applicant has not contributed for enough years they may still qualify if:

• they have delayed applying and had enough years of contribution when they first became disabled and have been continuously disabled since then but now do not have enough contributions
• the applicant's CPP contributions were stopped/reduced due to raising children under the age of 7
• the applicant has obtained enough CPP credits from a former spouse/common-law partner through the credit sharing to make them eligible
• the applicant worked in another country in which Canada has a social security agreement and that when added to the CPP contributions equals the minimum requirement
• the applicant was medically incapable of applying

If a person is receiving Canadian Pension Plan disability benefits they will automatically convert into a retirement pension at the age of 65. There is no new application needed; however the retirement pension is usually lower than the disability benefit; applying for OAS benefits at this time is recommended. If the applicant is receiving retirement benefits when their disability benefits is approved CPP will automatically switch the applicant to disability benefits if it is clear that the disability started before the retirement pension began.

The next blog will address the Canada Pension Plan Survivor Benefits and will be posted in the next 2 weeks. For more information regarding disability insurance you can also refer to the information here.

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# Tuesday, 30 September 2008
Tuesday, 30 September 2008 14:08:26 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

Almost every senior in Canada will apply for their pension and benefits through Canada's Public Pensions. Basic financial assistance is also available to survivors and those who are too disabled too work, as well as their children through these programs. Canada's Public Pensions are delivered through the Old Age Security (OAS) and Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Having an understanding of the different programs as well as rules and regulations can help to determine what you are eligible for, and what will be required in the future.

Old Age Security Program

This is a monthly benefit that most Canadians are eligible for if they are 65 years of age or over and meet the residency requirements. Employment status and history are not factors that determine eligibility. Benefits paid out are subject to federal and provincial taxes; those with higher income will repay part or all of their benefits through this taxation system. Eligibility is determined solely by being 65, residing in Canada for at least 10 years once the age of 18 was reached, and:

• Being a Canadian citizen or legal resident of Canadian as of the day before the approval of the application or;
• If no longer living in Canada, having been a Canadian citizen/legal resident as of the day before they stopped living in Canada.

The amount of benefits received is determined by the length of residency in Canada. Any person who has lived in Canada for a total of at least 40 years after the age of 18 may qualify for full benefits. For those who haven't lived in Canada for at least 40 years since the age of 18, they may still be eligible for a full pension if they were 25 years of age or over on July 1, 1977 as well as:

• Was residing in Canada on July 1, 1977 or
• Was residing in Canada before July 1, 1977 after reaching 18 or
• Was in possession of a valid immigration visa on July 1, 1977

In these cases, the person must have lived in Canada for the 10 years immediately prior the approval of the OAS application. Absences during this 10 year period may be offset if, after reaching age 18, the applicant lived in Canada before these 10 years for a time period sufficient to total three times the length of absence, as well as resided in Canada for at least one year before the application’s approval.

For those whose absence from Canada was due to working abroad for a Canadian employer, i.e. armed forces, banks, this time can be counted as residency. Qualification is based on returning to Canada within 6 months of termination of employment or having turned 65 while still employed. Proof of employment as well as proof of physically returning to Canada must be provided. This provision may also apply to spouses and dependents and Canadians who have been working abroad for international organizations.
For Canadians who do not meet the criteria for a full OAS, they may qualify for a partial pension. This is calculated at the rate of 1/40 of the full monthly pension for each full year lived in Canada after the age of 18. This amount cannot be increased as a result of added years of residence in Canada once it has been approved. However, late applicants for OAS may be eligible to receive retroactive payments for up to 11 months plus the month in which the application was received if all conditions of eligibility have been met. If clients cancel their OAS benefits and later wish to have them reinstated, they are not entitled to any retroactive payments.

Guaranteed Income Supplement

The GIS is intended for Canadians who are receiving a basic, partial or full OAS pension and have little and/or no other income. These supplemental payments may start in the same month as the OAS payments, but must be re-applied for every year or by filing an income tax return by April 30. As this supplement is based on income, it will increase or decrease yearly depending on any changes in reported income. Unlike the OAS, the GIS is not subject to income tax. This supplement is not payable outside of Canada for more than 6 months, regardless of previous residential history. Applicants for the GIS must be receiving an OAS pension; there are certain income limits for the applicant as well as spouse/common-law partner. Sponsored immigrants from countries that Canada has agreements with are not eligible for GIS during their sponsorship period (10 year maximum) unless:

• Has resided in Canada for a minimum of 10 years since turning the age of 18 or
• Has resided in Canada as either a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident before or on March 6, 1996 and is eligible for benefits January 1, 2001 or earlier or
• Has been receiving OAS benefits for the month of March 1996 or earlier

The amount of the supplement is based on marital status as well as income. Any other income that the person is receiving i.e. foreign pension, interest, dividends, rental income, wages, worker's compensation payments, etc will be calculated to determine eligibility and/or amount of the benefit. This also applies to any income brought into the family by a spouse/common-law spouse. Income from the previous year is generally used to calculate the benefit for the current year that runs from the current July to the June of the following year. In cases where the applicant has retired and/or incurred loss of pension income an estimate for the current year can be substituted for the income for the preceding year.

The GIS is paid out in 2 basic payment rates: Single (includes widowed, divorced and/or separated people) and Married (where the spouse/common-law spouse doesn't receive either the basic OAS pension or the allowance). Although the supplement rate is higher for single people, each spouse/partner is entitled to benefits; the combined benefits therefore are usually higher than that of a single person. The maximum monthly benefit for a single person will be reduced $1.00 for every $2.00 of other monthly income. If  both spouses/partners are receiving the OAS pension, the monthly payment will be reduced $1.00 for every $4.00 of other monthly income. For a person who is receiving a partial OAS pension, the supplement may be increased by the difference of the partial pension and the full pension. If a spouse is a pensioner but their partner is not receiving either the OAS pension of the Allowance, the pensioner can apply for the Singles rate of the GIS and the supplement will be reduced by only $1.00 for every $4.00 of the combined monthly income. The first $1.00 reduction will be made only when the combined yearly income of both people has reached 12 times the basic OAS pension plus $48.00.

Allowance and Survivor's Allowance

This allowance is paid monthly and includes an allowance for those whose spouse/common-law partner has died. This allowance is designed to help those who are facing financial troubles; i.e. the surviving member of the relationship as well as those couples living on the pension of only one spouse. This allowance must be reapplied for annually and are not considered as income for tax purposes. For people living outside of Canada, this allowance cannot be paid out for more than 6 months, regardless of how long the person initially resided in Canada. The Allowance is paid to the spouse/common-law partner of a OAS pensioner, or to another qualified survivor. The person applying for the Allowance must be between the ages of 60-64 and have been living in Canada for at least 10 years since the age of 18. The applicant must have been a Canadian citizen or legal resident of Canada on the day before the application's approval. To qualify for the Allowance, the annual income of the survivor or the combined yearly income of the couple cannot exceed certain financial limits; these are established quarterly. The Allowance will be discontinued once the recipient becomes eligible for their OAS pension at 65, leaves Canada for a minimum of 6 months, or dies. For couples who receive the Allowance, payments will be discontinued if the pensioner spouse/partner ceases to meet the eligibility requirements for the Guaranteed Income Supplement, or if the couple separates/divorces. The Allowance will also stop if a survivor either remarries or lives in a common-law relationship for a period exceeding 12 months.

A sponsored spouse/common-law partner of an OAS recipient or survivor between 60 and 64 with less than 10 years of residence in Canada after reaching 18 is not eligible for the Allowance for the period of their sponsorship (up to a 10 year maximum), unless:

• Was receiving a pension in or before March 1996 or,
• Was residing or had resided in Canada as a Canadian citizen or permanent resident before March 7, 1996 and will be receiving a pension in or before January 2001

This is an income-tested benefit; the maximum payable amount to the spouse/common-law partner of a pensioner is equal to the combined full OAS pension and the maximum GIS at the married rate. The maximum amount for a person whose spouse/common-law partner has died will be somewhat higher. The maximum monthly Allowance is reduced $3.00 for every $4.00 of the beneficiary’s monthly income for a widowed spouse/common-law partner, or the couple’s combined monthly income. This will happen until the OAS-equivalent is reduced to zero; then for a couple the GIC equivalent of the Allowance portion and the pensioner’s GIC are reduced by $1.00 for every additional $4.00 of their combined monthly income. For survivors, the GIC equivalent portion is reduced $1.00 for every $2.00 of additional monthly income.

In the case of non-sponsored immigrants, the benefit will be prorated. Entitlement will be established at the rate of 1/10th of the benefit for year of residence in Canada after attaining the age of 18; this will be increased an additional 1/10th for every additional year of residence in Canada. This applies for people who haven’t resided in Canada for 10 year after turning 18 and:

• Had/was not residing in Canada as a Canadian citizen or permanent resident before March 7, 1996 or
• Was residing in Canada on or prior to that date as a Canadian citizen or permanent resident but will not be receiving a pension in or before January 2001


Information regarding the Canadian Pension Plan will be featured in the next blog as Part 2 of this article and will be posted in the next 2 weeks.

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# Tuesday, 16 September 2008
Tuesday, 16 September 2008 10:59:35 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

 

 Life insurance is an important part of every Canadian's financial security. Life insurance will ensure that your survivors are not encumbered with your debt, as well as providing them the finances that will enable them to live without your income. Therefore, it is imperative to make sure that any claim made against your life insurance policy does not get denied due to incorrect information on the application.


 Life insurance rates can be based on factors such as your health status, habits and/or lifestyle. Higher premiums will be applied to people who smoke, are grossly obese, and/or engage in "high risk" activities, i.e. skydiving, car racing, etc. These higher rates reflect the greater likelihood that you may die earlier than what is statistically determined for your age. Your life insurance application will ask questions regarding your health status in order to determine which rates you are eligible for.

Some people may be unclear about what is considered a "smoker". If, for instance, you only have a cigarette once every several months, you most likely do not consider yourself as a smoker. Your life insurance carrier, however, takes a very different view to this. You are considered a smoker if you have had any tobacco products within 12 months of applying for coverage. This also applies to smoking marijuana. Having the "odd" cigarette or smoking marijuana will constitute you as a smoker when you apply for your life insurance; thereby running the risk of having to pay a higher rate.


For those people who have the occasional cigarette, it may seem unfair that they have to pay the "smoker’s rate" and just identify as a non-smoker. However, "fudging" on your life insurance application means you risk potentially having your claim denied and/or delayed while it is under investigation. Even if smoking in no way contributed to the death, the failure to honestly answer the questions on the application may cause the carrier to conduct an investigation; it may also be grounds for the carrier to consider denying the claim.


Honesty is definitely the best policy when it comes to applying for insurance. This will ensure that should a claim be made it will be processed quickly and your beneficiaries will not have to experience any delays. If you are unsure about what health status you should use on your application, make an appointment and discuss these issues with your broker. Remember to discuss any and all activities that may be considered high risk in order to avoid confusion at a later date. Also remember to consult with your broker if your status changes, i.e. you have been tobacco free for a minimum of 12 months. Full disclosure on your application means that you and your family will have the security of knowing that you are insured, and that should something occur, your family will not be subjected to an unexpected delay while the claim is being processed.

 

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# Thursday, 04 September 2008
Thursday, 04 September 2008 18:55:21 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

With many Canadian children entering university or college this September, many parents are concerned about the rising costs of tuition. Even with government grants and/or loans, you may need to help supplement your child's tuition, as well as supplies, housing, etc. Saving for your child's higher education should be a part of your budget in order to have the necessary funds when they are needed. An RESP also allows others to deposit funds into the account, i.e. grandparents, friends, other relatives.
 
One alternative you may want to consider is using a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP). This is a special savings account that you can set up that has the distinct purpose of saving money for your child's post secondary education. The Government of Canada allows this account to grow tax free until the child (the beneficiary) who is named in the RESP enrolls in their school of choice. Having an RESP also makes you eligible for such incentives like the Canadian Education Savings Grant and the Canada Learning Bond, which are only available to those who have an RESP.
 
An RESP can be opened through most financial institutions such as a bank or credit union. Some certified financial planners as well as group plan dealers may be RESP providers. Remember that some RESP providers may charge for service fees, and/or limit the amount and/or frequency of your contributions. Do some research to find the financial institution that will best suit your specific needs. All that is required to open up an RESP is your social insurance number as well as the social insurance number(s) of the child(ren) who will be benefiting from this plan. You will need to choose the type of RESP that will be the most beneficial for your specific needs. RESPs are available in 3 different types:
 
• Family Plan: This entitles you to name one or more children as the beneficiaries of this plan. A beneficiary must be related to you, but does not necessarily have to be your child; grandchildren and adopted children are also eligible for this program. A family plan will entitle you to name one or all of the children in order for them to be able to use the money while obtaining their post-secondary education. This is a good plan for those who do not wish to make regular monthly payments.
• Individual Plan: This is for one beneficiary only but does not have to be related to you. This plan also doesn't require monthly payments.
• Group Plan: This is administered by a group plan dealer; be advised that each plan will have its own rules. The group plan dealer typically will invest the money in low-risk securities, i.e. bonds, treasury bills and guaranteed income certificates (GICs). You will have to sign a contract agreeing to make regular payments into the plan over a certain time period. The group plan 'pools' your money with those of other participants (beneficiaries) who are of the same age. The total amount of money that each beneficiary gets is based on the amount in the pool, as well as the total number of students who are in school that year. You will be allowed to enter only one child (does not have to be related to you) in a group plan.
 
Once you have selected the type of RESP plan that is best suited for you, ask your RESP provider about all of your investment choices in order to fully understand the advantages and risks of your options. Some providers may offer a variety of investment options; others may already have a set investment plan in place.
 
The benefit of using an RESP is that the money will grow tax-free while it is in the RESP account. Any money that the investment earns will not be taxed until the money has been withdrawn to pay for your child's education. Money that is withdrawn from the RESP to pay tuition is taxed in the hands of the student. As students usually have little or no income, this withdrawal usually will be tax-free. The money that the investment earns while in an RESP will not be taxed until the RESP is closed due to the beneficiary not pursuing a higher education. If the beneficiary decides not to attend college or university, the money that you have contributed will be returned tax-free. The money that the investment earns while in an RESP will not be taxed until the RESP is closed due to the beneficiary not pursuing a higher education.

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# Saturday, 23 August 2008
Saturday, 23 August 2008 14:14:56 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

Statistics Canada is reporting that the rate of Canadians who smoke is on the decline. The highest decrease in smokers comes from the youth population, with teenagers aged 12 to 17 declining 14% in 2000/2001 to 8% in 2005. This decline is surmised to be from the fact that more Canadian teenagers are choosing not to start smoking, with 85% of teens reporting that they have not tried cigarettes. As the majority of smokers begin initially in their teenage years, these statistics are significant. Studies have shown that it is rare for adults to begin smoking if they did not smoke in their teenage years. This is the lowest rate of youth smokers in over 40 years in Canada.

Overall, the percentage of Canadian smokers age 12 and over has decreased from 23% to 22% since 2003. Canadian smokers are also reporting smoking less than previously as well. Canadians smoked an average of 13.1 cigarettes a day in 2003; the average in 2005 went down to 12.7 per day. The amount of non-smokers who are being exposed to second hand smoke is also decreasing, except for the youth population. While statistics show that fewer young Canadians even try smoking, they are more at risk of being exposed to second hand smoke. This is usually a result of being exposed to second hand smoke either in their homes and/or cars, or in public places that teens tend to gather at.

Smoking habits are also changing in Canada. More homes are now smoke-free, thereby reducing the number of people exposed to second hand smoke. In 2003 57% of Canadian homes did not allow smoking; this percentage has gone up to 64% as of 2005. With smoking now being banned in many public places, the risk of exposure has decreased from 29% to 23%. 68% of all Canadian workplaces are now smoke-free which is reducing not only the percentage of people exposed to cigarette smoke, but is also decreasing the amount of cigarettes being smoked throughout the day. The average amount of cigarettes smoked where smoking is permitted in the home and at work is 16 per day; when smoking is permitted in the home but banned at work, the number of cigarettes per day dropped to 14. If smoking was banned in the home but allowed in the workplace an average of 11 cigarettes were smoked daily. If smoking was banned in both the home and workplace, only 9 cigarettes a day were reported.

Recent studies have shown that 23% of Canadian men smoke; this rate is slightly lower for women at 20%. 28% of all smokers in Canada are between the ages of 18 to 34. British Columbia and Ontario have the lowest population of smokers at 18 and 21%; B.C. also has the highest rate of homes which have banned smoking (77 %). The territories have the highest rate of smokers; 30% of people living in the Yukon are smokers, 36% in the Northwest Territories, and 53% in Nunavut. While Nunavut has the highest rate of smokers, it has also experienced the sharpest decline in smokers, falling 12% since 2003. As well, 93% of workplaces in Nunavut have banned smoking as opposed to only 61% of smoke-free workplaces in Alberta. Quebec has the lowest rate of smoke-free homes, with only 47% banning smoking indoors.

This decrease in smoking is good news for Canadians. Fewer Canadians are picking up the habit, and those that do still smoke are smoking less. An improvement in health status can mean a decrease in your life insurance premiums; consult with your broker about this possibility.


 

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# Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Wednesday, 16 July 2008 18:01:10 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

Identity theft has quickly become one of the most fastest-rising crimes in Canada as well as the United States. By 2002, over 7000 Canadians had reported identity theft to the PhoneBusters National Call centre, with losses being reported at over $8 million. In the first quarter of 2003 alone, over another 2000 cases were reported, with estimated losses of more than $5 million. As well, 2 major Canadian credit bureaus have indicated that they have received approximately 1400-1800 Canadian identity theft complaints every month. The majority of these received complaints have been from residents of Ontario.

As Canadians are constantly becoming more reliant on using bank cards and/or credit cards, they can be leaving themselves at risk of someone gaining access to their data. As well, many Canadians are unaware of the personal information that their employer and/or government agencies have on file, which can also potentially be a target for identity thieves.

In order to protect yourself from identity theft you should be aware about how exactly most identity theft occurs. The most common ways that your information is accessed is:

• Theft of documents, credit cards, bank cards, etc. Theft of a wallet or purse is usually noticed very quickly. The owner can then call all of the credit card companies etc. to notify them of the theft in order to close those accounts. However, thieves have begun to also check people's mailboxes in order to steal bank statements as well as credit card statements, thereby gaining your information. Some banks also issue letters that contain "pre-approved credit card" offers; these can be stolen with the thief posing as you and asking for an address change. If you throw out any financial documents, including bill statements, make sure you shred them or otherwise destroy them first.
• Shoulder Surfing.
Thieves can look over your shoulder or from a location nearby while you are using an ATM and gain access to your PIN. Then, by distracting you, your card can be switched with another one, now giving the thief (or thieves) access to your bank account. Another common method is by installing a fake ATM device that reads your card's encoded data. When using an ATM machine, guard your hand with the other one when keying in your PIN.
• Skimming.
Your information can be stolen when thieves "skim" or "swipe" your credit card at restaurants, stores, etc with a device known as a skimmer. The skimmer records all your personal information data from the magnetic stripes on the back of your card. This information is then usually transferred to another location (commonly overseas) where it is re-encoded onto fraudulently made credit cards.
• Email spam. Most every Canadian has, by now, received an email purporting to be from their bank, paypal account, etc. that asks you to visit their website and update your information. Reputable banks or other financial institutions will never ask you to do this. This is a ploy for thieves to gather your personal information in order for illegal activities.
• Company and/or government database theft. There has been a significant increase of identity thieves trying to access large databases of personal information. This is happening in both the private as well as public business sectors.

To avoid being a victim of identity theft it is important to understand where the risk lies, and where you are potentially the most vulnerable. To minimize the risk of having your identity stolen:

• Sign any and all new credit cards immediately when receiving them and never lend them out to anyone.
• Keep a current list of all active cards you use and destroy ones that you longer use; update this list on a regular basis.
• Don't carry all of your identification with you if it is not needed on a daily basis (i.e. Social Insurance Number card, passport). These items should be stored in a secured environment until needed; they contain a lot of your personal information which if stolen, can be used to obtain fraudulent credit cards and bank accounts.
• Know your billing cycles. Notify your creditors and/or utility companies if your bills do not arrive at the same time each month (someone could be stealing them from your mailbox for the information).
• Closely check each itemized statement on your credit card bills in order to ensure that these actually are your purchases. Any discrepancy should be immediately reported to the issuing credit card company. Likewise, immediately report any card which you suspect is missing and/or stolen.
• Shred or otherwise effectively destroy any and all financial documents. This includes ATM receipts, credit card receipts, utility bills, as well as any other paper document that contains personal and/or account information. This also applies to any credit card applications that may be mailed to you.
• Make sure that any financial information you have in your home/office is stored securely, preferably locked up
• NEVER give any personal information over the phone, through the mail and/or over the internet unless it is you who has initiated contact and it is with someone you can verify. Reputable companies will never solicit you in this manner, so anyone who asks for your personal information in these ways is usually a thief.
• If you write down the passwords to your bank card, credit cards, etc. do not keep this information in your purse and/or wallet. If you need to have a written record of your passwords, store them safely, preferably in a locked storage space. This rule also applies to computer passwords.
• Check your credit report on a yearly basis in order to see that this information is correct and includes only your personally authorized activities.

If you have been the victim of identity theft, immediately report it to the bank and/or credit card issuer from which funds have been illegally obtained. You should also immediately report the illegal activity to your local police so that this information can be forwarded to the proper investigating department. Your creditor may require proof that you have made a police report in order to reimburse you for any unauthorized charges/withdrawals.

For more detailed information on identity theft, and to track the current trends in this area, Ontario residents can visit PhoneBusters. You can also use this resource to report any suspected criminal activity regarding your finances.

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# Friday, 13 June 2008
Friday, 13 June 2008 14:45:08 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

Having a budget that actually works for you can be a great tool to help achieve your financial goals. By having a spending plan that accurately reflects your goals, you can truly understand how and where you spend your money. Making a budget can also show you where you are unnecessarily spending money that instead could be going towards a more important purpose.

The first step in making a budget is to gather up all your financial statements. This includes bank statements, credit card bills, utility bills, etc. Also include items that may be paid on a yearly basis, i.e. car insurance, life insurance, property taxes, etc. The more information you have on your expenses, as well as income (i.e. bonuses), the more accurately you can define your spending and saving habits.

Calculate the amount of all sources of income. When using the amount of your paycheck, record the net amount (the amount after taxes).

Once you have all your documents together, create a list of monthly expenses. Items that are paid on a yearly, semi-annually or other non-monthly basis should be divided by 12 in order to figure out the monthly cost. Include this cost in your monthly expenses, as it is the amount you should be saving for that specific expense. Also include in this such financial items as retirement savings, RRSP contributions, etc.

Divide your expenses into 2 categories: fixed and variable. Your fixed expenses are the expenses that stay relatively the same each month. These include such items as phone, cable, electric bills, etc. as well as credit card payments. While these may change slightly, they will not increase or decrease dramatically throughout the year. For items such as car and life insurance, property taxes, etc. divide the total amount by 12 in order to find out the monthly amount of money that should be put away for that expense. This ensures that you are not stuck with a large bill that you have not budgeted for.

Your variable expenses are your expenses that tend to fluctuate more throughout the year, i.e. groceries, entertainment, clothing. This is also the category where you will be able to have more control over where to cut expenditures if necessary in order to reach your goals. This also gives you a more comprehensive understanding of your daily spending habits. You may be surprised to actually see how much, for instance, you spend on buying take-out coffee everyday when you see the weekly or monthly total.

People tend to only factor in the major expenses and bills. However, by keeping a daily log of how and where you spend your money, you will have a greater understanding of where exactly your money goes. By doing this for a week, you can have an accurate record of your daily spending habits. This is usually a category where spending habits can be changed in order to free up more money for either other expenses or for savings.

Once your expenses as well as sources of income are calculated and accurately identified, total the amount from each category. If your income is higher than your expenses, then you can prioritize this excess to such areas as retirement savings, paying more on credit card debt, etc. However, if your expenses are higher than your income, you will need to make changes in your expenditures.

Remember to review your budget on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. This will give you the opportunity to review your spending habits, as well as how well you stuck to your budget. You will always need to revise your budget for any financial changes, i.e. raise in pay, major expense (new car, etc) as your budget will have to be re-worked to reflect the changes.

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# Tuesday, 03 June 2008
Tuesday, 03 June 2008 14:56:17 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

While Canadian parents may be striving to achieve financial freedom as well as the "good things in life", we may be forgetting about what we are teaching our children. New studies are showing the correlation between a parents' attitude towards money and how this impacts the child's spending habits when they become adults.

A recent study out of the United States has reported that while 80% of parents described themselves as positive role models regarding money issues, only 19% had actually discussed issues such as budgeting with their children. As well, 48% had discussed the difference between 'wants' and 'needs', 36% revealed that they had never discussed any financial issues with their children.

While children will ultimately make their own decisions (and mistakes!) parents can help instill some sound financial ideals in their children. By simply being aware of some of the basic financial pitfalls, they can make better choices earlier on in life, and hopefully avoid those that quickly lead to large debt. It's also a great opportunity to help your child develop a healthy attitude about money, i.e. money doesn't buy happiness. It's natural to want to buy our children things that maybe we didn't have as children, but we also want our children to have respect for money and not be "spoiled".

The following tips are a guideline for not only discussing financial responsibility with your children, but also for parents to understand how their child may view the family’s financial patterns.

• Credit Cards: We are all bombarded with television advertisements and mailers regarding "low or zero interest rate" credit cards. Very few teenagers or young adults understand that this is a "teaser" rate and generally will rise to up to a 20% interest rate. At the appropriate age, you may want to get your child their "own" credit card on your account, with a low spending limit; this way you can monitor their expenditures, and help teach them how to responsible with credit. As most college/university students will obtain credit cards, this will offer your child the experience beforehand of being able to manage credit and not get into debt that they cannot afford to pay off.
• Being able to discuss money: Most teenagers will "tune out" if their parent(s) is yelling at them about their spending habits. Talking to them in a normal voice, and explaining where they made a mistake, instead of berating or using guilt, will usually accomplish a more positive result. Realize that mistakes will be made; by calmly explaining what happened, and what a better alternative would have been, will allow your child not only to learn more, but it will foster a more positive environment where your child can feel comfortable talking to you about money.
• Bribing your child(ren) with gifts: It's normal for parents to buy their child a gift or give them money as a special reward for an achievement, but beware of using this method every time. You cannot expect a child to understand the "value of a dollar" if they grow up with the expectation that every time they do something well, they get something. A better alternative is to discuss the price of the specific item they want, and then agree on what the appropriate amount of chores is required in order to earn it. This method allows your child to learn early on to associate the monetary worth of the items they want.
• Lead by example: Whether you intend to or not, your child will mimic your spending habits. For instance, you cannot expect a child to be responsible with credit cards if he/she has grown up in an environment where parents are constantly complaining about how high their bills are. This also applies to saving habits and budgeting. If you don't already have one, make a household budget, and discuss it with your child.
• Shopping is NOT entertainment: Teenagers especially can have the tendency to view shopping as a social event. While "hanging out at the mall" is not a problem, having your child view having to spend money in order to have fun can be a problem later on in life. Try to expose your teen to other forms of "fun events" that don't require them to spend money.
• Budgeting: This is a skill that will last your child a lifetime. Even with young children, giving them an allowance, and showing them how to keep track of their spending, can teach them this basic concept. As they grow older, you can help them introduce items such as savings, etc. If your teenage child gets a job, sit down with them and help devise a budget that gives them a savings component, as well as budgeting for clothing, entertainment, etc.

By talking to your children about finances you can give them the tools they need later on in life. Also include financial mistakes you have made; this will allow them to see that no one is perfect, and hopefully they will learn to avoid the errors you have made. By ensuring an environment where your child can easily and comfortably talk to you about money, they will be better prepared for when they are independent and have to be in control of their own financial destiny.

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# Tuesday, 20 May 2008
Tuesday, 20 May 2008 15:04:40 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

For many retiring Canadians, living outside of the country either full-time or part-time can be an attractive option. Whether choosing to winter in a warmer climate, or altogether moving to a different country, you need to be aware of the financial issues surrounding these decisions. Canadians can reside in another country without having to give up their Canadian citizenship; however you will still be subject to Canadian taxation laws. It's important to understand the taxation and financial regulations of either living abroad.

There are many things to consider when deciding where to spend your retirement years. If you are planning on living outside of Canada, you should do some research on the country where you plan on moving to. You will need to research that particular country's immigration regulations, as these vary greatly depending on the country chosen. You should also familiarize yourself with that country's laws, as well as political climate. Realize that countries you've enjoyed vacationing in may not offer the type of lifestyle you are accustomed to when it comes to actually residing there.

Financial and taxation issues are very important as well when contemplating to live outside of Canada. Some developing countries may seem to offer a lower cost of living; however many lack the resources to collect taxes on foreign sourced income, and instead will impose high consumption taxes and/or import duties. Especially for those who will be living on a fixed income and/or budget, you will need to thoroughly understand the financial implications of the country you are considering. You should also factor in the costs of traveling back to Canada as well as items such as larger phone bills to maintain contact with your friends/family.

Another major financial consideration will be health care and insurance. As Canada offers a very high standard of medical care, some countries may be considered inadequate by our terms. If you have specific health problems, i.e. diabetes, heart condition, you will need to ensure that your country of choice has medical facilities as well as physicians that are capable of giving you quality care. You will also need to obtain full health coverage as you will no longer be entitled to your Canadian provincial health care benefits.  Be aware that even if you have supplemental health insurance (to supplement your provincial healthcare plan), this will not be enough coverage when leaving Canada. If you are planning on living abroad only part time, remember that your provincial healthcare only provides limited coverage for up to only 3 months. Your level of provincial benefits will probably not be enough to fully cover any medical expenses that you may incur; it is advisable to have your own health insurance even when leaving Canada on a temporary basis. Depending on the length of your absence from Canada, you may also have to wait for your provincial health plan to be reinstated, which will temporarily leave you without health insurance coverage.

If you are planning on leaving Canada to live in another country (either full or part time) you will need to ensure that your passport is valid, and doesn't expire while you are out of the country. You will also need to open a bank account in your new country; it is a good idea beforehand to research their banking regulations. You may also want to have a safety deposit box in order to safeguard copies of your documents, i.e. birth certificate, identification which bears your photo, etc. You should also have the numbers of the Canadian consulate on hand should you require these in an emergency. As well, have a copy of your visa (if it is required).

If you are planning on permanently residing in another country, you will need to establish a legal status there, i.e. permanent residency or citizenship status. Requirements for legal status vary greatly from country to country, but usually will be based on principles such as employment status, investment status, and/or family connections. Some countries may recognize people such as retirees with a guaranteed minimum income as potential immigrants. Many countries will require proof of guaranteed income in order to establish sufficient support for the retiree and any dependents. You will need to provide financial documentation supporting your claim that you meet these requirements; have copies of bank statements, investments, RRSP’s, etc ready in order for submission.

You can still receive your Canadian Public Pensions while living abroad, provided that you still qualify for the benefit. Old Age Security (OAS) requires that you lived in Canada for at least 20 years after the age of 18; as this benefit is subject to an income test, you will need to file an annual tax return which reports your worldwide income. Canada does impose a withholding tax on "passive" income paid to nonresidents from Canadian sources. This includes interest, dividends, RRSP income, rental income, RRIF income as well as pension income. This rate is usually 25%; but may be reduced depending on the terms of any tax treaties that exist between Canada and your new country of residence. You will also be required to file tax returns in Canada if you are still receiving income that originates in Canada, i.e. income from a business in Canada, the sale of taxable property, or any income that is earned. However, you may also be entitled to a tax refund on such items as rental income and/or pension income if your taxable income is low enough to qualify.

If you are planning on retiring and living outside of Canada, you may want to obtain advice regarding the financial and taxation issues. Do your own research about any potential countries you are interested in, either on a part or full time basis, so you can better plan ahead. Remember, the earlier you start planning, the better prepared you will be when you actually retire.

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# Thursday, 01 May 2008
Thursday, 01 May 2008 21:27:46 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

The majority of working Canadians have Employment Insurance (EI) deducted from their wages. This insurance is intended to provide temporary financial assistance to those who are unemployed and looking for work and/or upgrading their skills. EI also provides financial assistance for other reasons though; such as maternity leave, work absence due to illness, caring for a new child, as well as short-term help for those who need to care for a family member who is seriously ill with a significant risk of death.

Compassionate Care Benefits are intended to help those who are employed, but who need a short leave of absence in order to care for a relative that is gravely ill and at risk of dying within 26 weeks. People who are collecting EI at the time can also ask for this benefit. This benefit is payable up to a maximum of 6 weeks; however, it can be shared among eligible family members (i.e. 3 siblings can each claim 2 weeks to be used in succession.)

In order to be eligible for Compassionate Care benefits, you must be able to prove that your regular weekly earnings have decreased by more than 40%. As well, you must have accumulated 600 insured hours within the last 52 week period, or since the start of your last claim. This is known as the qualifying period. There is a 2 week waiting period; however if the 6 week period is shared by family members, only the first person will serve the waiting period.

EI recognizes family members as either your blood relative or a blood relative of your spouse (if common law spouse, you must have resided together for at least one year). These relatives include:

• Your child or the child of your spouse
• Your wife/husband or common-law partner
• Your parent or the parent of your spouse
• Step-parent or common-law partner of a blood parent
• Sibling or step-sibling, as well as sibling or step-sibling of your spouse
• Father or mother in law, either married or common-law
• Son or daughter in law, or your spouse's son or daughter in law
• Uncles and aunts, as well as their partner; or your spouse's uncle or aunt, or their partner
• Nephew and nieces; also a nephew or niece of your spouse
• Current or former foster parent; current or former foster parent of your spouse
• Current or former foster child as well as their partner
• Current or former ward; current or former ward of your spouse
• Current or former guardian or their partners

There is also a provision for someone who although they are not "related" they do consider you as a family member, i.e. friend or neighbor. In this case, a Compassionate Care Benefits Attestation is required from the person who is gravely ill and requesting your help. Care/support is defined as providing psychological/emotional support, arranging care through a third party, and/or directly providing or participating in care.

When applying for Compassionate Care benefits, you will be required to provide documentation proving that the ill family member is in need of care/support, as well as being at risk of dying within 26 weeks. 2 forms will be required to be submitted:

• Authorization to Release a Medical Certificate which is completed and signed by the ill relative or their legal representative
• Medical certificate for Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits which is completed and signed by the ill relative's medical doctor to confirm the significant risk of death within the prescribed 26 weeks

These forms must be submitted at the same time; as well, the applicant assumes the cost of any fees charged by the doctor/legal representative. Only one Medical Certificate is required even if several family members are sharing the 6 weeks leave. If more than one is submitted, the first one submitted will determine the beginning and end of the 6 week period. Compassionate Care benefits end when either the 6 weeks have been paid up and the time period has expired, you have exhausted the maximum payable benefits allowed for your claim, or if the family member dies or no longer requires care and support. If the family member dies while you are receiving this benefit, it is your responsibility to immediately inform the administrator of your benefits in order to prevent EI overpayments.

For more information regarding eligibility as well as the complete list of requirements regarding this benefit, please visit the Service Canada website.

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# Monday, 21 April 2008
Monday, 21 April 2008 17:30:01 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

If you're like the majority of  Canadians, funeral planning is not a topic you wish to think about. Whether it's your own funeral, or that of a loved one, it's a subject that we all put off planning. But do you even know how much a typical funeral costs? What are your options? What about pre-paid funerals? These are all questions that do require some thought as well as financial planning, and should also factor into the amount of your life insurance coverage.

Pre-paid funerals do have certain advantages. It ensures that your wishes are specifically carried out, and takes the pressure away from your loved ones of making plans during their time of bereavement. It also removes the financial burden from your family. Pre-paying your own funeral also gives you the time to shop around for the best prices and to decide your own budget. If you do choose this option, make sure you inform your family of these arrangements, who you have pre-paid, and give someone copies of all the necessary paperwork. While pre-paid funerals are designed to give everyone involved peace of mind, there are some disadvantages to this option. For instance, there is no guarantee that the service provider you have pre-paid will still be in business at the time of your death. If you die before all the payments have been completed, the service provider may demand that your survivors pay the outstanding balance before they will honor the contract. As well, if you happen to move outside of the area that the service provider services, you run the risk of not being able to get a refund and/or transferring the services. Penalties may also be assessed for any late payments, and if you change your mind, there is a chance that you will be refunded substantially less than what you have paid in. Canadian provinces may have different regulations regarding this topic, so research what the current law is in your home province.

An alternative to a pre-paid funeral is to set up an interest bearing account that is specifically earmarked for your funeral expenses. This choice will still give you the time to decide on what type of service you would like, as well as pricing the various options you have. If you choose this type of planning however, you must keep in mind that the prices of what you have chosen will probably increase as time goes on, and plan accordingly. Once again, if you die before enough money has accrued in the earmarked account, your loved ones will be faced with either going against your wishes, or having to pay the balance themselves. As well, your loved ones must be able to quickly access the bank account, as well as be informed and able to carry out your wishes.

In order to either plan your own funeral, or plan one for a loved one, you must be aware of all your options, and what these cost. The average funeral in Canada today can range in price from $2,500 to $6,000. This price range does not include such added expenses like a burial plot, headstone, etc. Burial plots can range in prices depending on the location of the cemetery; as well not all burial plots are priced the same, some "desirable" locations within the cemetery are usually more expensive. Likewise, the size and detail of a headstone will determine the cost. The cost of a funeral will depend on what type of service you want, whether you choose burial or cremation, etc.

The 2 most common choices are funerals and memorial services. Memorial services are generally less expensive, as there is no casket, no embalming and no grave liner costs involved. A typical memorial service will cost around $2500, depending on what type of service you are planning. This does not include the cost of cremation however, which can cost anywhere from $500 up to $2000.  A memorial service is simply a service to commemorate the deceased's life; usually the body has already been cremated. Because there is no body present, there are more choices available regarding the location of the memorial service. This type of service tends to be more informal than the more traditional funeral.

Funerals have long been the most commonplace option when a loved one dies. Depending on the type of funeral planned, the cost can run from $2500 to over $7500. Although this is a more expensive alternative to a memorial service, funerals offer the advantage of the funeral home bearing most of the responsibility for the arrangements. They will arrange for the transportation of the body to the funeral home, as well as file the necessary paperwork such as the Declaration of Death. By law, Canadian funeral providers must present you with an itemized list of the prices for all the services and products that they offer. It is important to ascertain whether or not the funeral provider is what is known as an immediate disposition funeral provider; this type of provider has limited facilities and does not offer all services. Legally, a funeral provider must disclose that the facility is not allowed by law to provide full-range funeral services.

Choosing a funeral home, especially when planning the funeral for a loved one, can be difficult. If no previous arrangements have been made, and you need to acquire the services of a funeral home, asking the following questions will help you to choose the right facility:

• Can the funeral home accommodate all your needs? Do they have a chapel, visitation room, reception room, catering facilities, etc?
• Who have your friends and/or family used in the past and can recommend?
• Is the funeral home in good standing with an applicable professional association?
• How long has the funeral home been in your community? What is their professional and personal reputation?

It is important to understand what exactly a funeral home does when assisting you with a funeral. Typically, a complete funeral service requires 80 hours of work; this does vary depending on the individual needs of the family as well as any personal and/or religious requests. The majority of the funeral costs are incurred by charges for professional service, merchandise and final disposition. A qualified funeral director will be able to explain these costs, and assist you with planning a funeral that conforms to your budget.

The professional fee that is charged by the funeral home should include such services as:

• Transfer of body from place of death to the funeral home
• Obtaining the medical certificate of death and completion of government forms, registering the death and obtaining any necessary permits
• Sanitary care of the body, including embalming, restoration, and readying the body for viewing if requested. Embalming is not a legal requirement, but it may be required in instances where the body is being transported after 72 hours.
• Use of the funeral home and all necessary facilities such as: arrangement office, reception area(s), preparation room, chapel, selection room, parking, etc. This should also include the use of service vehicles (i.e. hearse).
• Transfer of the deceased to the crematorium and/or cemetery
• Complete personal supervision of all service arrangement details that precede as well as follow the services: the arrangement conference with the family, preparing and placing an obituary notice, consulting with clergy, cemetery and/or crematorium, arranging and caring for floral arrangements.

The other major expense is the merchandise, i.e. casket, urn, etc. It is important to remember that by law, a funeral home must display their lowest priced caskets and urns. They must also have a book/brochure illustrating the entire product line of caskets that they sell.

Using a reputable funeral home can make the time of bereavement much easier as they will take care of all the details for you. They can also help you make arrangements that are within your budget, as well as helping you to honor any specific requests that may have been made by the deceased.

It’s important when choosing the amount of your life insurance coverage that you incorporate the funeral expenses. You may want to consult with a funeral director in order to understand what all will be involved, and what expenses your survivors will be facing. You may also want to consult with your life insurance broker about ensuring that you have the right amount of coverage.

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# Tuesday, 08 April 2008
Tuesday, 08 April 2008 20:11:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

For many Canadian seniors, maintaining their independent residence sometimes isn't a feasible option. Health issues may make living alone a dangerous situation for some people. Children and/or caregivers of seniors who are facing this issue may be confused as to what is entailed, what level of care is needed for that individual, and what is covered by provincial insurance and what isn't.

Some seniors may be able to live in their home (at least for a period of time), provided they have In-Home Care services. Many different programs are available; some are funded by government agencies or non-profit organizations, while others are offered by for-profit private service organizations. The home care services that are typically provided include:

• Personal nursing care
• Physiotherapy and/or occupational therapy
• Speech therapy
• Counseling
• Day programs
• Friendly visiting
• Transportation
• Foot care
• Homemaking and/or home maintenance
• Information and/or referrals
• Meal programs (i.e. Meals On Wheels)
• Respite Care
• Emergency Response Service

If you think that the senior you care for may need these types of services, contact a local agency to get an assessment. Some services may be covered under Ministry of Health funding, regardless of income; as well, some may offer a subsidy for those who fall within a certain income bracket. Some however, will have to be paid for out-of-pocket if you do not have private insurance coverage.

For seniors who are no longer able to live on their own, a retirement residence may be the best solution. This can be the ideal arrangement, giving the senior the level of support and security they require while being able to maintain their independence and privacy. A retirement residence can also offer the social aspect for those seniors who are feeling lonely and isolated. Retirement residences can greatly vary in terms of what services they offer, as well as the types of accommodation they offer (i.e. single or shared rooms), as well as prices. The majority of retirement residences are privately owned and operated with no government funding, which means you and/or the resident must assume all the costs.

If you are looking into a retirement home for a loved one or someone you provide care for, it is essential that the senior is actively involved in the selection process. Some things to remember when choosing a retirement residence are:

• Make a list of all homes you plan on visiting; also make a list of questions you want to ask, so you won't forget when you are there. Keep notes on the different homes you visit.
• Ask questions not only of staff, but of the residents. Ask their perceptions of the residence, as well as what they like and dislike.
• Don't visit just once, plan another visit, but at a different time of day (i.e. go for a lunch or dinner)
• Ask to view all of the residence, not just the room and common areas. Checking the kitchen and stairwells can give you a good indication of the level of cleanliness and how often things are maintained.
• Ask if they will allow the prospective resident to actually spend a night at the residence, so that they can get a better idea of what to expect.
• Ask for a list of families who will give the facility a recommendation.
• Ask about the neighborhood, i.e. how close are such things as hospitals, churches, dentists, etc.
• Ask about the fees, i.e. is everything included in the price quoted, or will you have to pay extra for additional services, and if so, how much
• Ask how often are their rates increased, and how much notice do they provide for the increase in price

Long-Term Health Facilities (formerly known as nursing homes) are different than retirement residences. A long-term facility is needed for those seniors who have significant health issues and who require a greater deal of care. This type of care is needed for those who, because of age and/or level of disability, can no longer be properly cared for in the community. This is an ideal solution for those seniors who require care on a regular basis, but who do not require long-term hospitalization. Some long-term facilities are publicly funded, while others are not.

If you are facing the challenge of finding services for a senior in your care, you need to find out what exactly their insurance will cover. You may also want to consider the possibility of needing these services in the future, and have the right insurance that addresses this issue. Tangible offers a hybrid policy that combines life insurance with a long-term care component. If needed, a certain percentage of the policy converts into LTC insurance, if not, it simply remains as life insurance. This type of policy offers you the flexibility and security of being able to ensure that you will have the right type of coverage for whatever your needs may be.

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# Friday, 07 March 2008
Friday, 07 March 2008 16:08:07 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

An important part of any financial plan is dealing with your debt. For most Canadians, debt is a fact of life and is not detrimental to their overall financial goals. However, too much debt can negatively impact financial health. Missing payments may end up hurting your credit rating; as well you may not be able to save and/or invest the money you need to in order to accomplish your long-term goals.

Not all debt should be considered "bad". Debt that is incurred for the purposed of attaining assets that will more than likely increase in value is considered "good" debt. This includes buying a home, borrowing money to invest (stocks, bonds, RRSP's) that can end up making you more money than what you spent on the interest payments. These assets can also be used to secure the debt in order to qualify for lower interest rates. Money borrowed for investment purposes may also be tax-deductible.

Debt that is viewed as "bad" comes in the form of purchasing items that depreciate in value (cars, electronics, etc), or is used for daily spending habits. Debt is usually incurred this way in the form of credit cards. In fact, debt in this form can actually hurt your chances of getting a mortgage and/or the amount you are qualified for. Credit cards that have really high interest rates can keep you in debt for a long time if you cannot afford to pay off the balance immediately. 

There are ways to manage your debt without having to to take the drastic measure of declaring personal bankruptcy. The following tips can be used as a guideline not only for those currently in debt, for also for those who wish to avoid having their debt become out of control.

• Spend less than you earn. Keep a running log of everything you spend. Make sure to factor in expenses that may only occur once a year (house insurance, vacations, Christmas spending, etc). These expenses should be divided by 12 and added to your monthly total of what you spend. Your log will be able to help you determine your earnings/expenditure ratio, and give you an idea of where you can cut back, i.e. taking lunch to work, etc.
• Restructure your debt. Almost half of Canadians are paying more interest than necessary due to the fact that they haven't shopped around. Invest some time researching getting a cheaper interest rate for not only credit cards, but for your loans. 
• Refinance your mortgage. You may be able to get a lower interest rate on your mortgage by refinancing it. You also may want to consider using a home equity loan and use the money to pay off credit card debt, which is generally higher in interest payments.
• Personal line of credit. This can be one of the cheapest ways to borrow money. Lines of credit can be secured against your assets, or unsecured. The rates do vary with the prime, but will be considerably less than the interest charged for credit cards. Money obtained through a line of credit is available for any purpose.
• Consolidation loans. Unlike a line of credit, this money is borrowed for the specific purpose of paying off debts that carry higher interest rates. The bank may directly pay off your creditors in order to insure that the money is spent in the manner for which it is intended. The bank may also require that you cut up your credit cards and/or that no new debt is incurred.

The amount of your debt along with the amount of your income will determine the best way for you to manage your debt. The end result will be a healthier financial plan, and the realization of your long-term goals.

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# Friday, 22 February 2008
Friday, 22 February 2008 16:06:41 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

Midnight of February 29, 2008 is the deadline for RRSP contributions for the tax year of 2007. RRSPs give Canadians a tax break, as well as letting your hard earned money grow tax-deferred. This differs from capital gains and interest accumulated on other investments, which are added to your taxable income for the year. As RRSPs are deducted from your taxable income, it effectively reduces the total amount that is subject to taxation. Waiting until retirement to cash in your RRSPs means that you are now in a lower income bracket, therefore you will pay less taxes, as your RRSPs are only taxable upon withdrawal.

RRSP is an acronym for Registered Retirement Savings Plan. It is not a specific financial product. It is rather a number of investments that are registered with the federal government specifically earmarked for your retirement. The Income Tax Act has a current list of eligible investments from which you can choose; the most popular is mutual funds, guaranteed investment certificates, accumulation annuities , segregated funds, and equities. However, you have a wide range of possible investments to choose from, depending on the financial risk you are willing to take. Some investment choices are quite volatile; they can make you a lot of money, but you must be prepared to take the risk of losing a lot of money. Others are more conservative; you may not make as much, but the risk factor is lower. Talk to your financial advisor about which types of RRSPs are best for your retirement savings plan.

Due to last year's federal budget, Canadians can now contribute to RRSPs until the end of the year in which they turn 71 as long as they are still earning income. This is a 2 year extension from the previous deadline. Once this deadline has been reached, 3 choices will be available:

1. Converted the RRSPs into a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) which is a tax-deferred retirement plan. Like RRSPs, the RRIF account is registered with the Canadian Revenue Agency. RRIFs are used to generate income from savings accumulated from the previous RRSPs. Once an RRSP has been converted into a RRIF, no further contributions can be made. RRIFs offer an annual minimum withdrawal which is cashed out and sent to the accountholder; this amount is tax free.
2. Purchasing an annuity. This is a good financial idea when interest rates are higher.
3. Cashing out. This is not recommended as taxes will have to be paid on the whole amount.

The 2007 tax year for the first time also offers senior couples the option to split their pension income. They can now allocate up to 50% of their eligible pension income to their spouse/common law partner. This includes company pension plan payments, RRIF payments as well as annuity income. For those who are still working and contributing to their RRSPs, it may be advantageous to contribute to a spousal RRSP if your spouse/partner has either no or little income for the year.

You can "over-contribute" by up to $2000 to your RRSP without being penalized. While you will not be eligible for the tax deduction, you will benefit as the earnings will be tax-free. Consider the option of borrowing money if you do not have the available funds to contribute the maximum amount; you may be able to make more money than you will spend on the interest for the loan. To calculate what your maximum allowable contributions are, use the calculator found at the Canadian Savings Bond website.

It's also important to decide who will be the beneficiary of your RRSP. By naming your spouse/common law partner, dependent child or grandchild, the proceeds upon your death may be tax-deferred even longer. Discuss this with your financial advisor in order to set up the most beneficial plan.

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# Tuesday, 12 February 2008
Tuesday, 12 February 2008 18:35:16 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

Most people assume that only those with wealth need a financial planner. However, everyone can benefit from professional financial advice, especially when it comes to retirement planning issues. Hiring or consulting with a financial planner can help Canadians avoid costly financial mistakes that can greatly affect their future.

A qualified financial planner will have a broad range of financial knowledge, including such issues as insurance, tax planning, investments and estate law. He or she will be able to help you coordinate your financial strategy with the other relevant parties, such as your estate lawyer, insurance broker, investment professional, etc. The financial planner you choose will be able to cover all aspects of your financial health, and make sure all these areas are sufficiently covered.

It's important to recognize that many provinces do not regulate the term financial planner. There is however a not-for-profit organization known as the Financial Planners Standards Council (FPSC) which sets the professional standards for the industry. The FPSC sets, enforces and promotes the highest competency and ethical standards in the financial planning industry. Planners who are recognized by the FPSC are denoted by the letters CFP, which stand for Certified Financial Planner. Financial planners who have this credential have passed a national examination for financial planning and are held to a strict professional ethic.

Whether you want to consult with a financial planner, or plan on hiring one, the following  tips will help you choose the planner who’s right for you:

• Have a basic idea of what you want. While your financial planner will help you come up with a concrete financial plan, have a general idea of what your goals are as well as thoughts regarding insurance, estate planning, investing, etc.
• Be prepared. Do your homework to familiarize yourself with various financial planning strategies as well as the terminology.
• Get referrals.  Ask your friends and/or colleagues who they use for their financial planning. You can also contact the FPSC for a referral to a professional financial planner.
• Ask to see qualifications.  A professional will have no problems disclosing their education status, what their degree is in, as well as if they are qualified as a Certified Financial Planner.
• Shop around. Plan on interviewing several financial planners. Ask such questions as how long they’ve been in business, whether their assistants will be handling your account, etc.
• Do a background check. You can contact their professional associations to see if complaints have been lodged against someone, and if so, what the outcome was.
• Ask for references. If the financial planner you plan on using has associations with other professionals i.e. insurance agents, investment counselors, etc., ask for their phone numbers so you can ask them questions.
• Know what to expect. Get a document in writing about the method of compensation, qualifications, etc. so you know exactly what the financial planner is offering, as well as the method of payment.
• Reassess the situation on a regular basis. If you are hiring a financial planner on a long-term basis, know what's going on. Schedule regular visits with your planner so he or she is aware of your changing needs, as well as time constrictions.

Once you have decided on which financial planner you will be using, whether for a consultation or a long-term relationship, you’ll need to do some thinking on your own about your finances. While your planner is there to give you valuable advice, you need to be knowledgeable about your financial status, as well as the areas you need the most help with. The areas that are most common in financial planning are:

• Budgeting: Regardless of income, everyone should have a household budget. Making and following a budget will let your financial planner know exactly how much money you will have every month to invest or save. This will help your planner to set up a plan that will best suit your needs. Your planner will also have suggestions about how much money you will need every month in order to reach both your short and long term financial goals.
• Saving and investing: In order to reach any sort of financial goals, this needs to be determined. You will have to decide on short term financial goals such as savings for a vacation, new cars, etc. You also need to decide on long term financial goals such as age of retirement, university education for your children, etc. A financial planner will be instrumental on helping you figure out the exact amounts, and the best investing plans for you in order to reach your goals. You and your planner will also have to decide what level of risk is going to be involved in your investment strategy.
• Insurance: Your planner will be able to look at what you currently have insurance for, and whether or not it is sufficient coverage. It's important that you have the right coverage so that your assets are protected, as well as coverage for if you can no longer work, etc. The proper amount of life insurance is also important should anything happen. Your financial planner can work in conjunction with your insurance broker to make sure that all your insurance needs are covered.
• Debt: Your goal should be to get out of debt, and your financial planner can help you devise a way to make that happen. Make sure you have all the information such as credit card balances, loan statements etc. in order to accurately calculate the total amount you owe.
• Taxes: This is an important part of your financial plan. Your planner will be able to help you with a strategy that can minimize your tax liability. Proper tax planning is essential to a successful financial plan.
• Estate: Your financial planner can help you make sure your plans are carried out as you wish. Depending on the size and intricacies of your will, your financial planner may also be one of your executors. You can also get advice on the taxation issues that will be applied to your estate.
• Retirement: In order to enjoy your retirement, you will need to have money saved. Letting your planner know at what age you want to retire, and the type of lifestyle you would like to have will enable him/her to set up the proper investment strategy for you.
• The whole financial picture: It's obvious that are many factors to consider when setting up a successful financial plan. This is where a planner is the most help; to put together all these components and give you the best advice in order to attain all your goals.

A financial planner, whether for a consultation or a long-term relationship, can be a great asset. Even if you don't have a complex financial situation, getting some help and clarity on your financial issues can make sure that you have the latest information and advice available. Your planner will be able to consider all the aspects involved and help you attain your goals. For more information on financial planning and choosing a qualified planner visit the Financial Planners Standards Council, you can also obtain a list of qualified professionals in Canada.

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# Wednesday, 23 January 2008
Wednesday, 23 January 2008 18:42:48 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )
Although planning your will can be an unpleasant idea, it is the only way to protect your loved ones and ensure that your wishes are carried out. Choosing an executor is a very important component of planning your will. The executor (or executors) will be responsible for all the financial arrangements and notifications. It is important that who you choose is aware of what exactly is entailed with this job, and that everyone is comfortable with this decision.

So, who should you choose? You can choose more than one person. You may decide to choose a close friend or relative that you trust, as well as someone who is experienced in financial matters. This can be a wise choice if you have a complex estate that will require the time and effort of more than one person. However, make sure that the co-executors will be able to work together effectively. You can also opt for a family member or friend that you trust to work with a professional in the finance industry who will be paid a set fee for their service.

It is important to choose someone who has the time to devote to administering your estate. There are many responsibilities that your executor must take on, and be able to do during business hours. This includes such tasks as meeting with your lawyer, your insurance agent and/or financial advisor. For someone who works fulltime and/or has a lot of commitments, this may be an imposition to them.

The person(s) you choose should have a high probability of surviving you. It's a good idea to revisit this idea every few years; circumstances very often change. For instance, you may have chosen someone who 3 or 4 years later has serious health concerns, has started raising a family, etc. and can no longer devote the necessary time. If choosing a financial advisor/consultant as one of the co-executors, it is important that the specific person or business is still practicing and available.

The person(s) you choose must be aware of exactly what is entailed in being the executor(s).  Problems can arise if the person(s) you have chosen is not aware of the duties and responsibilities that are involved. Before accepting the role of executor, they must be willing and able to:

•    Obtain the death certificate and be able to participate in or fully arrange the funeral. If you have specific   requests about the service you would like, they need to be aware of these arrangements.

•    Find and review your will. This may entail meeting with a lawyer who can apply for probate.

•    Inform the beneficiaries that they have been included, as well as updating them on the progress of the probate. This can be a big job depending on the size of your estate and the number of people you have included in your will.

•    Notify all businesses and institutions of your passing. Banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, landlords, etc. must be notified as soon as possible. Items such as the phone company, internet, etc. must be notified and any pre-authorized payments stopped.

•    Apply for all life insurance benefits as well as any Canada Pension Plan death benefit if this is applicable.

•    Compile a list of the estate's assets. This is one of the most time consuming parts of being an executor. This list must include every bank account, investment, pension, registered plan, property and anything and everything else of value that you own. Each asset must be located, secured and valued. Detailed records must be kept of any transactions made on behalf of the estate for the courts and beneficiaries.

•    Paying the estate's debts, expenses, and taxes. All debts that are owed must be paid, including funeral expenses and the final tax return.

•    Administer any trusts set up in the will. The executor will be responsible for this task for as long as the trust is in existence.

•    Distribution of bequests, including any personal items (family heirlooms, etc) as well as property, stocks and bonds.

As you can see, the role of executor is complex and time consuming. Depending on the size and complexity of your estate, it can take months (sometimes years) before all issues are settled. If you choose a financial professional as executor or co-executor, they will specify the amount they need to get paid for their services. With friends and family members however, issues can arise revolving payment for their time. Specify an exact amount in your will that will sufficiently compensate them for their time and efforts. It is important to state the amount so there will not be any disagreements among the family and/or beneficiaries.

Once you have selected your executor(s), make sure that you have all your required documents together i.e. bank account numbers, insurance policies, deeds, and any other financial documents, as well as your current will. You also have to make it known where these documents are stored (lawyer’s office is usually advisable). Include in this a current list of all beneficiaries' addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. You can also compile a separate list of the information that will be needed such as:

•    The provincial location for your Canadian Pension Plan
•    Revenue Canada (for taxation information)
•    Your banking representative
•    Insurance broker
•    Service providers (phone company etc)
•    Charities that you have specified in your will

Remember that the more organized your will and documents are, the less stress will be incurred by your family and friends. Make people aware of your intentions to avoid confusion later on. Consult with a lawyer and/or financial advisor about your wishes, and the correct way to construct your will. Also consult with your life insurance representative to make sure that your coverage is sufficient to carry out your plans.

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# Tuesday, 15 January 2008
Tuesday, 15 January 2008 11:19:21 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )

Each January brings with it the usual resolutions: more exercise, spending more time with family, etc. However, January is also a good time to look back at your finances and re-evaluate your financial strategy.

Re-evaluate your health and life insurance coverage. If you have successfully quit smoking/ and or lost a significant amount of weight, you may be eligible for cheaper rates. You  may want to apply for disability insurance so you’re protected in the event of illness or injury.

Review all your insurance policies. For instance, if you belong to AAA Auto Club, which includes a towing service, remove the towing service on your auto insurance. For those who have health insurance as well, you may not need the medical insurance that's included in the your auto insurance plan. By removing these unnecessary items, you can reduce your premiums. Know exactly what is covered in your health, life, and auto insurances so that you have the coverage you need, and aren't paying for unnecessary items. Consult with your insurance broker about any new insurance products that have become available and may be beneficial for you.

Review your spending and saving habits. Set a fixed amount that goes directly into a savings account every payday. If you need a debit card for this account, get one that allows you only deposit, not withdraw, to avoid impulse buying.

Pay your bills online. You save money on postage and checking costs, and have immediate access to your records and payment history. It's also more environmentally friendly!

Review your credit report annually and try to raise your credit score. Cancel any unused credit cards as well as limit the amount of credit lines that are in your name. Set up loans with automatic payments so you will not be penalized for late payments.

When interest rates are low, add to your mortgage payment to pay down your balance. See if your bank or credit union will allow you to convert your mortgage to biweekly payments that match your pay periods. This method gives you the opportunity to make one extra monthly payment each year, and pays down the principal and saves on interest. Be advised that some institutions may charge a fee to set this payment method up.

Start the new year off with a financial plan in place that realistically reflects your goals. Discuss your goals and other financial concerns with your insurance broker in to make sure that you have the correct coverage.

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# Monday, 31 December 2007
Monday, 31 December 2007 15:15:48 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Term Life )

As the year 2007 nears the end, it's a good time to evaluate your business. Begin the new year with a detailed business plan in place, as well as defining your goals. Go beyond the profit and loss figures; maybe it's time to research using new suppliers, a new marketing strategy, etc.

Use the arrival of the new year as a time to step back and re-focus. By financially planning for your business, you give yourself an advantage. Being proactive rather than reactive can have positive results. You need to have a budget in place to ensure a positive cash flow. This needs to cover not only expenses such as payroll, but contingencies as well. Money will need to be set aside for taxes, capital expenditures, overhead, etc.

Look ahead to what you wish to accomplish in the coming year. You may wish to buy new computers, or upgrade your technology. This is also a good time to consider whether you need to hire more people to accomplish your new projections. If you don't already have it, group insurance can be a useful tool in attracting and retaining qualified personnel. It's also a wise decision to decide on changing your corporate identity. Changing your corporate identity may mean different liability and tax considerations; many of which are required to be done in the first few months of the year.

If you are partners in a small business, it can be beneficial that all partners have a term life insurance policy. These can be taken out, with the other partner named as beneficiary in order to insure the business. Agree on the amount and the length of term you wish to purchase; this will safeguard your business should something happen to one of the partners.

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# Monday, 17 December 2007
Monday, 17 December 2007 15:09:46 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )

Chances are, if you have employee benefits, you have some type of life insurance coverage included. While great attention is paid to the details of the health insurance component, many people don't pay attention to the life coverage. It's important to know exactly what your group insurance covers, and to be sufficiently insured.

Group life insurance has it's own advantages and disadvantages. It can be cheaper because the costs are pooled. This means that everyone enrolled in the plan, regardless of gender and/or health habits will pay the same amount. As well, marketing and sales costs may be absorbed by the insurer.

However group life insurance usually has a maximum coverage amount. Most plans will offer coverage around $25,000 and may not go any higher than three times your salary. Depending on your needs, you may require additional insurance coverage. Use the insurance calculator to figure out how much you really need, and purchase additional coverage if needed.

Another important factor is whether or not your group insurance is renewable. Most group life insurance is issued as renewable term, which means the premiums can increase at a steady rate. There is usually no guarantee of renewability and/or the cost of premiums. The master policy may also be revised without consulting the employees, which means you may not consistently have the same coverage and/or rates.

Your group life insurance will usually only cover you for as long as you remain with the same employer. This means that you may find yourself without coverage when changing employers but not having the same optimal health status as when you first started. This could be reflected in higher premiums if you apply for individual life insurance coverage. This is also applicable if your employer changes their insurance carrier. If you retire, you may not be covered anymore, and at a time when life insurance is important.

It is important while you are still in good health, are planning on getting married, buying a home, etc. to know how much coverage you need. If your group benefits does not sufficiently cover you, then you may want to consider buying an additional policy to make sure all your needs are met. This can be done with either a term life or a whole life policy; talk to your broker about which is best for you. If you are planning on retiring and do not have any other life insurance, you can apply for Guaranteed Issue coverage. If you were not sick and/or injured when your group life was terminated, you will eligible to apply for the same amount of FollowMe Life coverage as you originally had. Your spouse can also apply with this program.

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# Wednesday, 28 November 2007
Wednesday, 28 November 2007 14:51:47 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Term Life )

No one likes to think about the possibility of divorce. Unfortunately, however, it does occur, leaving emotional and financial uncertainty in it's wake. As with any major life change, attention needs to be paid to your financial plans and goals.

Due to the emotional nature of divorce, it can be hard for some people to concentrate on the financial aspects of their life. However, as hard as it may seem, some decisions need to be made regarding savings, housing, etc.

If you have children, you will need to work out a financial plan with your ex regarding support. You will also need to factor in such expenses as post-secondary education, and arrange some sort of savings plan in order to provide for future expenditures. Also consider such items as vacations, car insurance for teenagers, etc. Both parents should have life insurance in order to protect the children's financial interests should something happen to one of you.

If you are just recently separated, do not rush out and purchase a new home. Rent for a few months, and house hunt, but avoid the impulse purchase. Buying a home that you later decide you don't like, or have decided to move to another area, etc. can seriously affect your finances. Allow yourself some time to get acclimated to your new situation, and avoid making any big purchases. Wait until you are more certain of what's in store for yourself, and then make a decision on home buying. If you are planning on selling the marital home that already has a mortgage, you may find it hard to acquire a new mortgage until the first has been settled.

Obviously, you will need to make a new financial plan, based on your earnings, not the combined earnings you had. Re-evaluate your spending habits as well, they should reflect only your income. Many people find themselves deeply in debt when they keep spending the same amount, but with only half the income coming in. As well, consider your long term financial goals, with a view towards retirement. It's advisable to consult with a financial planner at this point in order to ensure a secure financial future for yourself.

Both parents can purchase term life insurance policies that are specifically designated for the care of their children in case of death. Both parents can buy term life in an amount that takes care of the children until they are adults. Disability insurance is a good idea as well, as there is only one income in the house. Should you become ill or get injured, you will need to still have money coming in to take care of the household responsiblities.

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# Friday, 16 November 2007
Friday, 16 November 2007 17:07:40 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

Many Canadian homes have both parents working; either by choice or financial necessity. If you are planning on having one parent stay home full time, it's important to plan for it financially and emotionally. Although reducing your family income can be a rough transition, being prepared can help you adjust to the new changes.

Don't just quit your job. It's a good idea to actually try living on one income before actually quitting your job. Do a "dry run" for 3 months living solely on the one paycheck, and bank the other. This gives you the option of changing your plans if necessary without having to look for another job, as well as some savings!

Review your financial plan. You will need to re-work your financial plan, as your yearly income will be decreased. This change in income will affect not only your short-term finances, but your long term goals as well. Expensive items, such as cars, vacations, etc. will need to be discussed and planned for. As well, long term financial goals such as retirement may need to be reworked.

Make a new budget that reflects the change in income. Your new budget should cover all the household expenses as well as savings based on the one salary. It is recommended that 60% of your gross income goes to committed expenses, i.e. taxes, mortgage, utilities, credit cards, etc. 10% should be saved as an emergency fund (ideally this fund covers 3-6 months of living expenses). 20% should be committed to your long term plans and retirement fund. The remaining 10% of your income should be spending money to cover expenses that are not considered a necessity. Each spouse should have their own bank account, in which they each receive 5% of the "fun" money each month to spend as they please. This gives both partners some financial independence.

Review your insurance before quitting your job. The stay-at-home parent needs to maintain adequate insurance. Life insurance not only covers lost income in case of death, but the costs required to maintain the family. Should the stay-at-home parent die, expenses such as daycare, home maintenance, etc will need to be covered. Disability insurance at this stage is also recommended in case the working parent suffers an accident or illness. It is also important to review health insurance policies to ensure that the working parent has sufficient coverage that covers the whole family. If the parent who is quitting their job has been the sole provider of health coverage through their employer, other insurance is available. HealthQuotes.ca offers FollowMe, which does not require a medical questionnaire if applied for within 60 days of discontinuation of group insurance. This policy provides health and dental insurance at an affordable rate.

As family finances change, it is important that all financial goals are reconsidered. Your insurance coverage needs to reflect these changes in order to best provide for your family. Before making any major decisions, consult with your insurance broker in order to ensure you have the correct coverage, and to make the necessary changes.

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# Friday, 19 October 2007
Friday, 19 October 2007 19:02:06 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Whole Life )

Life-Quotes.ca is pleased to announce a new insurance product available for Ontario and Quebec residents. Ontario Blue Cross has released a life insurance policy that can be combined with Long Term Care and Critical Illness Benefits. Until now, life insurance and LTC insurance policies were purchased separately.

Tangible offers the policy holder some very unique options in their insurance planning. With a hybrid policy, you have insurance that reflects your different needs throughout your life. You have life insurance coverage with a level and guaranteed premium. Coverage starts at $5,000 and goes up to $1,000,000 in increments of $1,000, so you can choose the amount that best suits your individual needs. It also gives you payment options such as whole life, 20 years, paid up at 65, and the rates are affordable.

As well as having life insurance coverage, you have the option of combining Long Term Care coverage. By having this hybrid policy, should the need arise; your policy can be converted to suit your changing needs. By having this plan, you can avoid the traditionally more expensive LTC rates, as this plan only converts if and when needed. The rates are leveled and guaranteed, so you can avoid purchasing a separate LTC policy with rates that are subject to being raised. If you suddenly find yourself needing LTC, you can convert either 2 or 5% of the initial amount. Benefits are paid monthly and are tax-free. Critical Illness coverage can also be purchased with this policy, thereby covering every possibility that may occur in your lifetime.

There are some health questions needed in order to be eligible for this type of coverage. If you currently suffer from such conditions as HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, Angina, have suffered a stroke and/or heart attack, you are not eligible. Be advised as well that for people with a family history of certain genetic hereditary conditions, you may still qualify for these valuable benefits, at an adjusted premium. Please call Life-Quotes.ca for more information, or consult with a broker to see if this coverage is right for you.

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# Monday, 01 October 2007
Monday, 01 October 2007 18:48:49 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )

As parents get older, circumstances can sometimes be reversed, and the children assume the care of their parent(s). Loss of a spouse, health concerns and/or advanced age are factors that can affect your parent(s) independence. This role reversal can be a difficult transition for both the parent and the child. However, with open communication and patience, this transition period can be made less difficult.

An issue that can be difficult to discuss with your parent(s) is their financial status. However, in case of sudden death or illness, you need to be aware of insurance policies, bank accounts, etc. If you need to talk to your parent(s) about their finances, here are 5 questions you should ask them in order to obtain the information you need.

Ask for a complete and thorough list of all their assets. Besides the obvious assets, such as a home, cottage and/or vehicles, you need to know exactly what their assets are. This includes bank accounts, real estate investments, pensions, RRSP's, etc. Get copies of all their financial documents, and keep them together in a file folder. In case of illness or death, you will need to have access to these documents.

What are your parents total liabilities? You need to be aware of any current debts that they owe. This is also a good time to discuss different finance options, such as debt consolidation. If they have co-signed for another person's debt, make sure you obtain this information as well.

Are your parents going to need financial support in the future? Realistically look at their income from pensions and/or savings. Will this be enough to support them, and for how long? How much income is generated from their investments? If your parent(s) have not managed to adequately save enough, this is the time to talk to your sibling(s) or other family members about financial support. You may want to consult with a financial planner about investment options.

Do your parents have insurance coverage? Ask to see all current insurance policies your parents have. Health insurance is critical at this stage in life, as well as life insurance. This includes any policies that they may have from employee benefits, as well as any that they have purchased. Check to see what kind of coverage they have, and any terms and conditions of the policies. If they have term life coverage, check to see when this expires. If they do not have adequate coverage, this is the time to consult with your insurance broker and obtain the policy that is right for them. You also need to be aware of who is named as the beneficiary, and update this if necessary. Get copies of all insurance policies so you have access to the information if needed.

Discuss Power of Attorney. Although this can be a very sensitive topic, you need to discuss what will happen in case of sudden and/or prolonged illness. Talk to your parents about who they would like to take on this responsibility, as well as their wishes. Talk to them as well about their wishes in regards to a living will.

It is important to discuss these financial issues as soon as possible. By having a complete picture of your parents' financial status, you can make plans accordingly. If you discover that your parents don't have sufficient life insurance coverage, you may want to consider a Guaranteed Issue policy. There is no medical questionnaire and acceptance is guaranteed. This is beneficial for those who have current health issues. There is also Guaranteed Issue Health Insurance, for those who do not have coverage. This also does not require a medical exam. Health insurance is imperative for the elderly, as their risk for developing health problems increases. Talk to your parents and your insurance broker to ensure that they have adequate coverage.

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# Monday, 24 September 2007
Monday, 24 September 2007 16:12:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

The health problems associated with obesity are quickly rising, leaving Canadian healthcare facilities ill-equipped to deal with the issue. It is estimated that 11 million Canadians are overweight, with a half a million being morbidly obese. Statistics Canada has reported that 2 out of every 3 adults are overweight or obese. The obesity rate in children has tripled in the past 25 years.

Canadian clinics and hospitals are being overwhelmed with the volume of patients needing healthcare due to being obese. Experts are calling for a major infusion of money into the healthcare system in order to be able to deal with the added burden on clinics and hospitals. The effects of obesity on the healthcare system is rapidly rising, and could soon eclipse those of smoking. Being overweight or obese means an increased risk of serious diseases and/or conditions such as:

• Hypertension
• High blood pressure
• Coronary heart disease
• Diabetes
• Stroke
• Gallbladder disease
• Osteoarthritis
• Sleep apnea
• Respiratory problems
• Breast and colon cancer

For most Canadians, being overweight or obese is a reflection of the changes in society. The workforce is more technologically oriented, with more people sitting in front of a computer. For children, TV and video games have replaced more physical activities. This means more people are living a sedentary lifestyle. Hectic lifestyles make less time for exercise, with the added option of fast food/takeout food. Quite simply, Canadians need eat less and be more active.

Being overweight or obese can impact your life insurance rates. When applying for a life insurance policy, you will be asked about your health status. Higher health risks means higher premiums. As with smoking, behavior that has a negative impact on your health means you will not be eligible for the preferred health status.

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# Wednesday, 05 September 2007
Wednesday, 05 September 2007 21:13:02 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Whole Life )

Many Canadians receive group insurance, otherwise known as employee benefits, from their employer. These plans usually include some form of health and/or life insurance coverage. Group insurance comes in different funding formats. Employers can choose from different funding methods to suit their company's needs.

There is a wide range of funding methods. Fully pooled plans are where the insurance company sets the premium and also absorbs all the risk. Self insured plans have the employer bearing the risk, with the insurer paying the eligible claims. Experience rating occurs where all or part of the risk is shared by both parties. The funding method that is best for your company depends on many factors, such as:

• Number and/or type of employees
• Type of risk you wish to cover
• Premium volume
• Prior claims patterns
• Employer’s ability to accept risk

For a business with a smaller number of employees,  a non-refund or non-retention accounting plan is a good option. Benefits which are payable infrequently (i.e. death or long-term disability benefits) are usually pooled so that these claims are combined with those of other groups. Due to the low incident rate of these types of claims, it is better for the insurance company, rather than the sponsor (employer), to determine required premium rates based on analysis for the entire block of business. There is some funding flexibility available for short-term disability benefits. The sponsor can purchase a weekly indemnity benefit, as well as be self-insured through a sick leave and/or salary continuation plan. Additional supplementary health and dental benefits are usually insured, although their cost will often be adjusted to reflect your actual experience. The larger your employee group is, the more likely your plan will be experience rated, with past claims patterns establishing your future premium requirements.

A fully pooled basis plan does not participate and/or share in the financial results generated by the experience of the plan. The insurance company keeps any profits generated if the amount of premiums paid exceeds claims and expenses. However, the insurance company is responsible for absorbing the costs of any losses if claims and expenses exceed the premiums paid.

For a business with a larger amount of employees, there are different options for group insurance. Benefits such as accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) and business travel accident are typically fully insured due to the fact that these claims are infrequent and usually in high amounts. As a group grows in size, more funding methods become available as the claiming patterns tend to be more predictable.

Prospectively Rated Approach: This is similar to a fully pooled group in all aspects except for the setting and/or renewal rates. However, unlike a pooled group, premium rates for a prospectively rated plan are determined either in whole or part by the group's claims experience. Although future rates are determined by past claims, this plan is similar to the pooled approach in that the insurer assumes the risk of any shortfalls, but also benefits from any surplus.

At the other end of the spectrum are plans for large employers where a large amount of small claims are expected. This plan can be set up on an ASO Basis "Administrative Services Only". With this arrangement the employer bears the expense of the total amount of claims paid each period plus a handling charge to the insurance company. An ASO account can be set up in 2 ways, depending on what works best for you.

Billed In Advance: Rates are established based on prior claims activity. At the end of the policy year, total premium paid is compared to claims paid. The sponsor is fully refunded any surplus, and assumes immediate responsibility to pay the insurer any deficit which may be owed. This plan offers the sponsor the advantage of level plan funding throughout the year.

Monthly Billed In Arrears: A float of approximately 6 weeks of estimated claims is taken. At the end of the month a bill is produced showing actual paid claims plus expenses. At the end of the policy year an accounting is done, with any surplus being refunded to the sponsor, and with any deficit being the responsibility of the sponsor. Under this plan, there should not be a substantial surplus or deficit, as actual claims are being billed on a monthly basis. These benefits can be insured, but their ultimate cost will equal the client's actual expenses, plus the reserve charges, a cancellation risk margin and premium taxes. There is no pooling and as such, the long term cost can be considerably higher than that under an ASO arrangement.

Larger employer's group life insurance and long-term disability typically are insured with some form of experience rating or partial pooling being applied by the insurer. The characteristics of a group and it's premium volume determine the financing method(s) chosen. A partially experience-rated contract is the closest to the fully pooled method, which recognizes the employer's experience, whether it is good or bad. If a surplus is realized at the year's end, a refund could be issued, or the premium rates could be lowered. This arrangement is known as "retention" or refund accounting.

Refund accounting establishes the rates based on prior years claims similar to a regular experienced rate account. However, it differs with regards to the sharing of the risk. At the end of the year, an accounting is performed with total claims paid being compared to the premiums paid after all the expenses and reserves are removed. If a surplus remains a certain percentage is made available to the policyholder either in a rate reduction for the following year, or in a lump sum. Deficits are the sole responsibility of the sponsor and are usually amortized over a 2-3 year period under a deficit recovery component which is built into the future rates. This type of funding arrangement requires a Claims Fluctuation Reserve, which is a specialized buffer as a safeguard against financial deficits. This is a fund established by the insurer with the sole purpose of offsetting any deficits. It is funded from previous plan surpluses. This provides the insurer with protection against shortfalls due to future poor experience, as well as the possibility of the plan terminating in a deficit. Once the CFR is fully funded, and future surplus is available to the sponsor in the form of a refund, and the "risk charge" is usually reduced.

Stop Loss – ASO and Retention: Most plans, whether fully insured, ASO, or somewhere in between have some sort of protection against catastrophic claims. Stop loss protection is a part of the financing methods which places emphasis on the maximum level of claims to be recognized by the insurer in its experience rating claims. Stop Loss is an arrangement whereby claims are either self-insured or experience rated up to a certain dollar value, after which additional claims are pooled by the insurer. The insurance company calculates the probability of absorbing this loss and charges an appropriate stop loss premium.

Stop Loss – Fully Insured Plans: As newer and more expensive drug therapies have become available, many employers experienced severe financial loss due to only a few employees making claims. This is a new addition that is available to sponsors which limits the claim amount used in premium setting to approximately $10,000, after which it is pooled by the insurers.

If you are an employer who wishes to start up a benefits package, or are looking for a new group insurance plan, please contact one of our brokers for assistance.

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# Tuesday, 28 August 2007
Tuesday, 28 August 2007 16:48:17 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )

Parents across Canada will be sending their children off to college or university in a few short weeks. For many, this will be the first time their child is leaving home. When considering what your child needs before they leave home, you may want to consider buying them a life insurance policy if they are not already insured.

Purchasing a policy for a young adult has certain advantages. By purchasing life insurance when you are healthy, you can take advantage of cheaper premiums. If you choose to purchase whole or universal life insurance coverage, you are also starting a solid financial investment for your child. This will give your child a head start on an investment plan for their future. You can also choose term life coverage, which will cover the debts incurred by your child in case of death.

While most government student loans will be forgiven in the event of an unexpected death, students generally have other debts that will not be. The majority of young adults incur debt in the form of credit cards, car loans, etc. that will still be owed. Term life coverage can offset these debts, as well as funeral expenses. Parents can purchase a term life policy which will cover their child during their university/college years until the child is in the workplace and able to afford their own insurance.

Buying whole life insurance for your college-aged child has a lot of advantages. Acquiring coverage while the insured person is in good health means that the premiums will be lower. The premiums for whole life cover can also be spread out over a long period of time. A parent can therefore cover the costs while their child is in school, and then allow the child to take over the payments. This will give your child the advantage of lower premiums because it was bought early on. Whole life policies also have a cash value, so your child will have a head start on financial planning. This can be especially helpful throughout your child's life.

You may also want to consider the benefits of purchasing universal life coverage. This will allow you to obtain coverage for your child which is flexible. Your child can adjust his/her policy as their needs dictate, such as getting married, having children, buying a home, etc. This type of life insurance allows your child the benefits of having a policy that builds up cash value, but is less rigid than whole life.

It is advisable to discuss these options with your child to determine which type of policy fits their needs and your budget. Take advantage of their current good health status, in order to save them money in the future. Consult with one of our representatives who can assist you with any questions or concerns.

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# Friday, 10 August 2007
Friday, 10 August 2007 16:06:48 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

As wedding season is here, many couples are facing not only decisions about wedding planning, but also about how to spend their money as a married couple. Combining finances and financial planning can be a tricky and daunting task. It is important for every couple to sit down and thoroughly discuss financial issues before combining their finances and agree on common financial goals.

Combining your finances with someone else brings with it new responsibilities and concerns. The money you spend is no longer just "yours", rather it now "ours", making you accountable to another person regarding your spending habits. Worrying about someone else's spending can be stressful, especially when it doesn't conform to your idea of how to spend joint money. In order to make this financial transition a little smoother, we’ve included some helpful ideas regarding shared money.

• Establish 3 bank accounts. With this system, each person has their own bank account, plus a joint account for household expenses, etc. This allows the couple to both contribute to the relationship, while maintaining some financial independence. Decide how much money each of you will contribute to the joint account every pay period, with the remaining balance to go into your personal account. You can also set up a fourth account, for joint savings if you wish.
• Decide on a budget as a couple. Make sure that your financial priorities are the same; one person may want to save for a house, while the other wants an expensive vacation, or new vehicles every few years. Devising a budget as a couple means that you must first decide on how much to save, what you are saving for, etc. Only after you decide what percentage of your incoming money you plan on saving can you then divvy up the rest.
• Discuss issues such as children, retirement, etc. Having children is not only a major step in life, but brings with it certain financial issues. Your financial planning for the future will be a lot easier if you have an idea of when you plan on having children, how much you plan on saving for future education, etc. Retirement is also a major event that requires certain financial planning to be put in place early. By discussing these issues early on, you can avoid financial pitfalls later.
• Cover all your bases. Major purchases, such as a home, bring with it certain additional expenses which need to be considered. For instance, are you factoring in how much you will need to spend for lawn care, general maintenance, etc? Do some research about what your major purchase will entail, and make sure that this purchase fits your budget. If you plan on owning vehicles, consider the cost of gas, insurance, maintenance, parking, etc.
• Communicate with each other regarding major expenditures. If you are spending money in the joint account, apprise each other beforehand in order to make sure you do not overspend. You may decide that purchases that benefit you as a couple such as furniture or electronics, will be purchased from funds in your joint account. Discuss these purchases before actually buying the items, in order to ensure that enough money is in the account, and that you are both in agreement.

By deciding together as a couple what your financial goals are and what your ambitions are, you can avoid some common pitfalls. Remember, as your family grows, and your assets accumulate, to consult with your insurance broker to make sure you have sufficient life insurance coverage that reflects your new status.

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# Thursday, 26 July 2007
Thursday, 26 July 2007 16:58:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has released a consumer protection document regarding the sale of insurance. Known as The Principles for the Sale of Insurance, this document details the consumer's rights which must be provided to the purchaser of any insurance policy. A copy of this document must be provided to the purchaser of any policy and with any renewal or cancellation notice. The government has asked that the insurance industry comply with this request by July 1, 2007.

For those residents of Newfoundland and Labrador who are considering purchasing insurance, or those who already have existing policies, we have listed the main points of this document. It is important for all residents to closely read and understand this document, as it outlines your consumer rights and obligations.

• The consumer's interest takes priority over the interests of the insurance company and/or their agents, brokers and representatives.
• The consumer's right to privacy shall be protected as outlined in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. The consumer's personal information shall only be used for the purpose in which it was collected. Written consent must be obtained for use of your information in any other regards.
• Coverage cannot be canceled, be refused renewal of policy, or be charged an increase in premium for an incident in which no claim was paid.
• The consumer has the right to the knowledge of which insurance companies the agent, broker and/or representative represents. The consumer must also be made aware of any present or potential conflict of interest the agent, broker, and/or representative may have.
• The consumer has the right to know the ownership and financing arrangements between agents, brokers, and/or representatives and the insurance companies that they represent. This includes disclosure of any and all compensation arrangements for the product which is purchased, as well as the amount of commission paid out.
• If insurance coverage has been denied, the consumer has the right to be informed in writing of the reason(s) why. This also applies to policies that are cancelled or not renewed.
• The consumer is entitled to be made aware of the complaint resolution process of the insurance company.
• Upon purchase or renewal of any insurance policy, the customer must be provided with the following:

I. The full range of deductibles available, and the cost of coverage with each of the deductibles.
II. All of the different types of coverage available, the costs of each different policy, and any discount that may be available.
III. The total amount of the premium for all quotes obtained for the policy being sold. Upon request, a detailed breakdown by coverage of the premiums quoted must be provided. The consumer is also entitled to all of this information in writing if they so request.


If you are not a citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador, but are interested in finding out your province’s own statutes on insurance, Life-Quotes.ca has information listed for each province. You can also contact us directly with your questions.

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# Tuesday, 10 July 2007
Tuesday, 10 July 2007 14:45:16 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

The gap between the life expectancy between men and women is growing. In 1920, women outlived men by an average of one year. Today the average difference has grown to over 5 years. The main cause of this discrepancy in lifespan can be attributed to attitude towards healthcare and preventative medicine.

Part of the reason that men live shorter lives than women is lack of a healthy lifestyle. They are more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior and less likely to regularly access medical care. It has been estimated that 60% of men are overweight or obese, which if not dealt with, can cause serious health problems. Men also have traditionally been employed in more dangerous occupations, exposing themselves to more work related injuries and illnesses, but yet often do not have sufficient health insurance coverage.

Recent studies show that more than half of premature deaths in men are preventable. By following a few basic health tips, men can improve their health and increase their chances of living a long, healthy, productive life.

Healthy Diet:  By simply cutting down on foods that are high in fat, salt, and/or sugar, you can decrease your cholesterol and lower your blood pressure. Try to incorporate more healthy foods, such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains into your diet. When you do eat foods that aren't healthy, try to stick to smaller portions.
Regular Exercise: 20 minutes of exercise 3 times a week can help improve your health. As well as helping to maintain a healthy weight, regular exercise is important for cardiovascular health. Team sports is a great way to great exercise and have fun at the same time.
Avoid getting sunburnt: Men need to use sunscreen just as much as women do. Even if you are not prone to sunburn, by protecting your skin from high UV rays will decrease your chances of getting skin cancer.
Hydration: Drink at least 8 glasses of water per day to ensure that you are hydrated.
Regular Doctor Visits: Get a physical at least once a year. Even if you don't feel sick, it is important, especially as you get older, to get examined on a regular basis. For men who are older, it is important to regularly get screened for prostate cancer. The earlier health problems are caught, the better chance of successfully treating it. Discuss these health concerns with your doctor and set up an appropriate schedule for testing.

A health calculator can be helpful in assisting you to live a healthier life. Standardlife.ca offers a health calculator, which provides information, quizzes and articles in order to help you live a healthier, longer life. Improving your health can also mean better life insurance rates.

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# Saturday, 16 June 2007
Saturday, 16 June 2007 13:59:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Whole Life )

Wealth Management Mistakes, And How To Avoid Them

We all dream of that day when we retire, and can finally relax and spend our time pursuing our long-awaited plans. With this is mind, it is important to understand your finances, and avoid making potential mistakes that can impact on your financial future. By taking control early on, you can ensure that your retirement years will be well provided for. This list of ten common financial planning mistakes will help you better prepare for your future.

Do not leave your assets unprotected. Your savings, investments, etc. can easily be wiped out due to illness, death, fire, or accident. As you accumulate assets, you need to ensure that you have adequate insurance that reflects your needs. Death or prolonged illness can quickly deplete your savings, leaving you in a financial crisis. Make sure you re-evaluate your coverage on a regular basis, and make sure that your policies reflect your current needs.

Do not mismanage your cash flow. Realistically devise a budget, and stick to it. It can be easy at times with a steady cash flow to spend more and save less. You need to remember that in the future, you will not be receiving a paycheck, and need to save in accordance. Impulse purchases of large items, such as cars, vacations, etc. can easily deplete your savings, thereby affecting your financial future. It may also be beneficial to consult a financial planner in order to devise your budget and investments. A financial planner can also help you invest your assets in such a manner that will minimize your taxes. During your years of employment, it is also wise to carry disability insurance, thereby protecting your assets in case of an accident.

Do not mismanage your debt. While debt is a normal part of life, too much debt can be financially detrimental. Your debt should not exceed your liquid assets, which is the combined total of your cash accounts, brokerage accounts and the cash surrender value of your life insurance policies. If your debt does exceed your liquid assets, it is advisable to try and consolidate your debt at a lower interest rate. Mortgages offer the advantage of a tax break on the interest, which will also help you.

Do not ignore your finances. Financial mistakes can easily be made simply by neglect. Commit time on a regular basis to review your financial status and investments. By simply paying attention, you can avoid any errors and rectify and mistakes.

Do not misjudge your risk tolerance when investing. The stock market can be highly profitable, but it also carries a higher level of risk. Once capital is generated, it must be protected and preserved. Realistically evaluate how much risk you can safely assume when investing in the stock market. Rebalance your portfolio periodically. If you are not comfortable with your current status of stocks and bonds, you may wish to move into a more secure investment practice. In the event that you do suffer a loss with your stocks, try to minimize the loss when you do your taxes.

Do not spend unexpected windfalls of money foolishly.  If you come into unexpected money, such as an inheritance, lottery winning or stock options, resist the urge to go on a spending spree. Consult with a professional on the taxation issues concerning the money, and plan accordingly in order to maintain as much of the money as possible.

Do not fail to maximize retirement plan benefits. The majority of participants do not put the majority contribution allowable into their company retirement plan. By doing so, you will have further savings for when you retire, as well as the tax benefits. Depending on where you work, you may also be able to take advantage of "nonqualified plans", which allow you to defer paying the taxes until a future date. It is important to remember that if the company you work for goes bankrupt, nonqualified assets are not protected. If you are planning on rolling over your retirement plan to an IRA, make sure you thoroughly understand all the taxation issues, in order to prevent taxation penalties.

Do not neglect to realistically plan for how much you will be spending once you retire.  You need to assess whether your current financial plan will adequately provide for the type of retirement you envision. In order to do this, you need to carefully assess on how much money will be coming in, how much you plan on spending, and whether your assets reflect this. By determining how much you plan on spending early on, you can then make changes if necessary in your financial strategy.

Do not forget to plan your estate. Failure to plan your estate ahead of time can lead to financial problems or tax problems later on. It can also leave your loved ones without financial security. Make sure that your estate includes consideration for potential disability as well as death. Include the name of the person who you wish to have power of attorney. It is wise to make sure that your plan is current, and make the necessary changes, such as beneficiaries, immediately.

Do not leave your heir(s) unprepared. Discuss with your family what your intentions are regarding their inheritance. If you are planning on leaving significant sums of money to your heirs, you may wish to teach them how to be financially responsible. When dealing with children, or young adults, setting up trusts may be a wise decision. You may want to set up trusts in installments, where they will receive certain sums at certain ages. By clearly stating your intentions orally and in writing, you can also avoid family fights later on.

By having a well thought out financial plan, you can avoid having to worry about money when you retire. Remember, the earlier you start planning for retirement, the less of a burden it will be later on. Consult with your insurance broker about your coverage, and whether it is sufficient for your plans and needs.

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# Tuesday, 29 May 2007
Tuesday, 29 May 2007 18:47:45 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )

Life Insurance for Your Children

As we journey through life there's school, post secondary education, marriage, children and numerous other events that satisfy our need for happiness. All of life's events require planning ahead in order to ensure the success. What many people don't plan on, is preparing for negative events that can turn our lives into instant chaos.

It has been stated by many life insurance companies that the main purpose of life insurance is to replace lost income so that your family can maintain their lifestyle and pay off debt. There are some websites that advise because children are not economic contributors to the household and don't have debt, it's not critical that they have their own policies. Unless your family has a hefty savings account or investments that can be quickly cashed in, having some life insurance on your child is crucial.

The loss of a child is the worst possible event that can happen in life. Imagine losing your child, you have no savings or investments to draw from to cover the funeral, burial or cremation. That leaves you with a debt anywhere on average from $5,000 to $20,000.

Before you rush out and purchase policies for your dependants, there are several considerations to keep in mind:

• Do you want insurance that will cover the basic cost of a funeral and burial (or cremation)?
• Do you want a policy that has an option for your child to buy additional insurance when he or she comes of age?
• If you do not want insurance, are you disciplined enough to regularly put money aside into an investment or savings account to cover a funeral in the event of death?

We all hope that our children survive us parents. Everyone's needs are different and doing what is right is an individual choice.

 
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# Wednesday, 09 May 2007
Wednesday, 09 May 2007 20:15:09 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

One of the most painful experiences we encounter in life is the death of a loved one. The grief can be overwhelming, leaving the survivor(s) in shock and disbelief. By pre-planning your funeral, you can help alleviate some of the stress. By discussing your final wishes with your spouse/family, and having a plan in effect, the survivors do not have to worry about making the final arrangements, especially when grief may hinder making good decisions.

Although this is a difficult subject to discuss with your loved one(s), planning ahead will help them when they need it the most. It also ensures that your wishes will be carried out. Issues such as organ donation should be discussed so that your family is aware of what you wish to have happen. The more that you plan beforehand means less that your loved ones have to deal with in the event of your death.

When planning your arrangements, you must first decide on how much money you can afford and are willing to spend. If you decide to pre-pay for your arrangements, ask whether or not interest will be paid on the money, and if so, whether the funeral home or your estate receives the interest. Compare the rates at various funeral homes before making your decision. It is also important to make sure that you are dealing with a reputable funeral home, that will in all likelihood be in business for years to come. Consider all aspects of your service, such as whether or not you will be using the funeral home's chapel or your own church, and whether their chapel will be suitable for your plans. Before signing the contract, make sure that all goods and services are specifically stated, in order to preclude further costs at the time of the funeral.

Clearly state your intentions of what you wish to have happen to your remains. If you wish to become an organ donor and/or donate your body to science, it is important that your next of kin is aware of this request. Make sure that your wishes are in writing, either by filling out the donor card on your driver’s license, or simply by stating these wishes in writing and signing the document. As well, discuss your "living will" with your next of kin in the event of an accident. This will allow your loved ones to carry out your intentions in the event that you are not capable of doing so, i.e. coma.

If you decide to be buried, you may want to consider purchasing your burial plot beforehand. If you choose to buy your plot in advance, you need to talk to your loved one(s) about their wishes. You may decide that buying adjoining plots will best suit your needs. Before you make your purchase however, ascertain whether or not you will be able to sell or transfer ownership of the plot(s) in the event that you change your mind for whatever reason.

Once you have discussed your plans with your loved one(s), make sure that it is documented. Make sure that all your papers, i.e. current will, insurance policies, etc. are together, and that your next of kin is aware of where these are stored. Make sure you include your insurance broker's name and number, as well as any other phone numbers that your next of kin may require at the time of death. This will enable your loved one to easily access the needed information.

Talk with your loved one(s) about your wishes, and also discuss what policy or policies you currently have. By providing your next of kin with all the information they will need to access, you will be providing them with the peace of mind they will need in their time of grief.

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# Thursday, 26 April 2007
Thursday, 26 April 2007 19:06:04 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )

Reviewing Your Retirement Plan

One of the biggest financial challenges is planning for your retirement. What you save for retirement will ultimately decide the quality of life once you stop working, and also determine when you stop working. Once you have a retirement plan, it is very important that you review your plan every few years to determine whether or not it is still reflective of your plans and needs. When reviewing your retirement plan, ask yourself these questions to determine whether you need to amend your original plan.

Are you still planning on retiring at the age you first decided on? Many circumstances, such as illness in the family, getting married, etc. can alter the original plan. Financial setbacks, such as unemployment, a loss in the stock market, supporting a loved one or whether or not your investments are growing at rate on which you accounted for can cause a significant change in your savings, thereby changing your original goal of when to stop working. Determine whether you need to re-evaluate this, and if applicable, decide on when retirement will be feasible.

Are your spending habits still consistent with your original retirement plan? Marriage, divorce, having children can significantly change your bank balance. Big purchases, such as a home or vacation home, new vehicles, etc. can also take a bite out of your savings. Also consider whether or not you have incurred new expenses, such as your children's education, etc. that you didn’t have when you first planned for retirement. It is important to evaluate your current financial obligations, and determine whether or not it is consistent with your retirement plan. You may want to consider cutting expenses where you can in order to save for your retirement.

Is your investment portfolio growing as originally expected? You need to evaluate whether your original investments are still relevant to your needs. Reassess whether or not your original portfolio is growing with your retirement goals. Factor in your age and retirement goal and decide whether or not you need to make changes in order to accomplish that goal. Depending on your target retirement age, and how close you are to that target, you may need to make changes in order to accomplish your goals.

How much can you expect from your government retirement plan? Get a statement of earnings so you know exactly how much money you can expect when you retire. By doing this beforehand, you can also determine whether your account information is correct, and deal with any mistakes before you need this income. Having an accurate dollar amount of what you are entitled to will greatly aid you in determining your retirement budget, and exactly how much savings you will need.

How about your company pension plan? You need to be fully aware of what type of plan it is, whether or not your employers offer matching funds, and whether or not you are contributing as much as you can. You need to research whether or not you can choose the investments and track how well they are doing, as well as what you are entitled to if you choose to leave your employment early. It is important to know how much your plan is worth, and how much it will grow between now and your retirement date.
What happens to your health and life insurance benefits? Determine whether or not your benefits are available after your retirement. Most benefits end upon termination of employment, just when life and health coverage is most needed. For those who are concerned about getting coverage with existing health problems, we offer a Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance plan that is affordable and requires no medical exam. We also offer FollowMe Life Insurance, specifically designed for those who lose their employee benefits. There is no medical examination required, providing you apply for coverage within 60 days of your employment termination. You can choose the amount of coverage you want, and it is guaranteed renewable up to the age of 80, regardless of health conditions. This coverage also provides a Living Benefit, at no additional cost. We also provide Guaranteed Issue Health Insurance; for more information please visit our website HealthQuotes.ca

The closer you get to retirement, the more often you should review all these criteria to ensure that your plan is still meeting all your requirements. Consult a financial planner if you are unsure whether or not you are maximizing all your options. If you are concerned about getting insurance coverage after you retire, please contact us for assistance.

 

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# Friday, 13 April 2007
Friday, 13 April 2007 14:57:43 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

Choosing The Right Charity

Many Canadians choose to donate to charities in an effort to make life better for those less fortunate. Charities play an important part of Canadian society, raising money for programs that would not otherwise be able to financially survive. Before donating, it is important to make sure it is a legitimate recognized charity, and that your donation is being spent properly.

Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous people posing as charities in order to illegally profit from donations. With so many different charities to choose from, potential donors need to exercise some caution before committing to donating their money. A simple way to verify if a charity is legitimate is to see if they are registered under the Income Tax Act. The Canada Revenue Agency registers qualifying organizations as charities, and handles auditing and compliance issues. All registered charities are required by law to file an annual tax return, which is available to the public. They must meet government requirements regarding their expenditures and activities. If a charity is registered, they are entitled to issue official receipts for donations, which can be used by the donor to reduce their payable income tax. If you would like to verify whether a charity is registered, you can call 1-888-892-5667 or visit the Charities Direcorate webpage.

It is advisable to do some homework on the charity that you are interested in. A reputable charity will offer information if asked, such as budget information, annual reports, etc. It is important as well to ask exactly how your money will be spent, i.e. how much goes to operating costs vs. directly going to the intended cause. Never give out your personal information to someone over the phone or internet. Beware of solicitors who pressure you into giving a donation immediately, without allowing you the opportunity to investigate the charity first. This may be an indication that they are not a charity at all, but rather a "scam" that relies on high pressure tactics to dupe unsuspecting citizens. These scams may also use "sound alike" names of reputable charities, trying to trick a potential donor believe that they are legitimate, when in fact they are not.

Once you have decided on a reputable charity, you may want to consider donating a life insurance policy. This can be done by either gifting ownership of an existing policy to the charity, or by having the charity take out a policy on the donor’s life. With either of these options, the charity becomes the owner of the policy. Choose carefully which option will suit your taxation purposes, as they carry very different results.

If you donate an existing policy, or have the charity take out a policy on your life,  a tax receipt can be issued for the fair market value. This is calculated by the cash surrender value of the policy minus any outstanding loans plus any accumulated interest. Premiums paid on the policy by the donor, either directly (by you to the insurer) or indirectly (funds paid to the charity that are specifically earmarked for payment of premiums) are considered charitable donations. The charity can issue an annual receipt in regards to these premiums. The beneficiary designation does not need to be irrevocable in order to obtain this charitable tax credit. The donor may also be entitled to a tax deduction for the value of the donated policy. Upon death however, the estate will not be entitled to any further tax benefits.

The other option is to purchase a policy and name your estate as beneficiary. You can then directly specify that the benefits go to your charity or charities. This option does not entitle the donor to a tax receipt for the premiums, but instead entitles the individual for a charitable donation tax credit on the proceeds on their terminal return. However, it is important to remember that there is no "carry-over" for gifts made in the year of death. If the full amount of the tax credit cannot be used, there is a provision in the tax laws to carry back any unused donation one year. The donation limit for the year of death and the preceding year is limited to 100% of the net income.

Donating a life insurance policy can be beneficial to both the donor and the charity. Discuss with your family your intentions of donating a life insurance policy to charity. It is also advisable to seek help from a qualified insurance broker in order to ensure that you understand your options, and can select the method which best suits your taxation requirements.

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# Monday, 05 March 2007
Monday, 05 March 2007 21:05:43 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Term Life | Whole Life )

In the past 50 years, the role of women in Canadian society has greatly changed. As well as continuing to be wives and/or mothers, women are now playing a vital role in the Canadian business sector.  It is now not uncommon for women to play a major role in the earning of the family finances, with either being the sole wage earner, or at least contributing a significant portion of the income.

Life insurance has traditionally focused on the family "breadwinner", to ensure that if something should happen, the family would be adequately provided for. As women are now assuming greater financial responsibility for their families, it is vitally important for them to examine their insurance coverage. Women need to adequately assess their financial role in their family, and insure themselves accordingly.

As either a sole wage earner, or as a contributor to the family finances, women need to assess not only the loss of income that would occur in case of death, but also what financial goals they wish to accomplish. Life insurance coverage should reflect the ever-growing role that women play in the workplace and the financial success of their families.

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# Tuesday, 13 February 2007
Tuesday, 13 February 2007 15:26:17 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Mortgage Insurance | Term Life | Whole Life )

Life Insurance Needs For Older Parents

In the past 25 years, there has been a growing trend to postpone parenthood until later in life. Many Canadians are choosing to focus on career, financial security, and other pursuits, before starting to raise a family.

For those who wait until later in life to start a family, certain financial considerations must be made.  The time a couple may wish to retire may also coincide with major expenses such as higher education, weddings, etc. Careful consideration must be given in order to ensure that not only the needs of the child(ren) are met, but also reflect the parents' retirement plans. It is therefore important to review your life insurance policy with these goals in mind.

Parents who have children later in life also need to consider the fact that health concerns may change as they get older. As well as sufficient health insurance coverage, older parents may wish to purchase disability insurance in order to provide for their family in case of prolonged illness. Disability insurance provides protection against serious illness or accident, and provides a monthly benefit when you are unable to work.

Having children later in life does not necessarily mean putting off retirement. With careful financial planning, both goals can be realized. With permanent life insurance you can achieve your retirement goals via the estate planning and wealth transfer options.
We recommend that you consult with your insurance broker to see if your current life insurance policy reflects your goals, and is adequate to provide for these needs.
 

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# Wednesday, 29 November 2006
Wednesday, 29 November 2006 12:09:13 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

Income Trusts: Proposed Taxation Changes

Recently, changes have been proposed regarding the current taxation practices regarding income trusts. Current tax laws have made income trusts a lucrative investment option for many Canadians. However, while the immediate reaction may be to look for other investment options, it is important to remember that these are changes are still in the proposal stages, and would not take effect until 2011.

Income trusts are generally defined as an investment trust that holds income producing assets. Its shares, also known as “trust units” are traded on securities exchanges, in the same manner that stocks are traded. The income is passed on to the investors. These distributions typically yield a higher profit than stock dividends, of up to 10% a year. Income trusts have the ability to generate a constant cash flow, which makes it an attractive option for investors.

Income trusts are structured to avoid the corporate taxes on distributions, thereby paying very little, if any, taxes on its earnings. Traditionally, distributions are taxed on both a corporate level and as dividends. With income trusts however, the trust avoids taxes on its earnings due to the fact that most of the income generated is distributed directly to the unitholders. While these trusts are not infallible, and carry their own brand of risk, the taxation laws have made them a popular choice when Canadians are looking at investment options.

The Tax Fairness Plan has introduced new taxation measures regarding income trusts. A Distribution  Tax will be implemented on all distributions from publicly traded income trusts as well as limited partnerships. For new trusts, this tax applies beginning in the 2007 taxation year. For existing trusts, a 4 year transition period has been proposed, with the new taxation being implemented in the 2011 taxation year. These new taxation laws were announced by the Department Of Finance as a means of curbing the growing trend of Canadian companies avoiding corporate taxes.

If you are currently investing, or are considering investing in income trusts, be aware of these new tax laws. By being informed, you can make the wisest choices in how to obtain your financial goals.

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# Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Tuesday, 31 October 2006 17:30:51 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )

Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance

For many Canadians, purchasing life insurance may appear to be a troublesome prospect. People who have health problems or are advancing in age may assume that they do not qualify for life coverage. Some Canadians unexpectedly find themselves without coverage once they retire, and no longer have group life ibenefits through their employer. Guaranteed life insurance may be the answer for people addressing these specific problems.

Guaranteed life insurance offers coverage regardless of health problems. The only requirements are that you be a Canadian citizen between the ages of 40 to 75. You do not need to fill out a medical questionnaire or submit to a medical examination in order to qualify for a guaranteed life policy. Coverage is available from $5000 to $25,000. Once your guaranteed life policy has been purchased, the premiums do not increase, but remain at the exact same price for the term of your coverage.

Your guaranteed life insurance policy includes a living benefit at no further cost. A living benefit allows the policy holder to receive a cash advance of up to 50% of the benefit in the form of an interest-free loan if the policy holder becomes diagnosed with a terminal illness. The only requirement for this benefit is that the policy must be in force for at least 2 years. The living benefit money can be used in any manner as the policy holder sees fit.

Once your guaranteed life policy has been purchased, it cannot be cancelled. If the policy holder’s health declines, the policy cannot be revoked. Your life insurance coverage can be renewed up to age 95 without having to submit additional medical information. At the age of 95, your insurance will be continued, but you will no longer be required to pay premiums.

All Canadians should have sufficient coverage in order to avoid any possible financial problems. For those Canadians that currently do not have life insurance, but wish to obtain it, ask one of our qualified consultants which life insurance option is the right one for you.

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# Tuesday, 17 October 2006
Tuesday, 17 October 2006 16:07:29 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Mortgage Insurance | Term Life | Whole Life )

Employee Benefits and Life Insurance

Along with group health insurance, group life insurance is a common benefit that you may receive from your employer. However, it is important to thoroughly investigate whether this coverage is going to be sufficient for your life insurance needs.  If the coverage that is being offered is based only on your salary, it probably will not be enough to provide complete financial protection for your beneficiaries.

Since the group coverage offered through your employer is free, it makes sense to accept it. However, it is important to calculate how much coverage you will need to have in order to sufficiently pay your existing debts and provide for your family. Group life insurance is usually calculated based on your annual salary, usually around 1.5 percent. Read through your policy to fully understand just what your coverage will be. If this amount is not enough, you will need to purchase additional coverage.

Additional coverage can be purchased either in the form of term life insurance or whole life insurance. Term life insurance, while usually cheaper, expires at the end of a certain time frame, and has no cash value. This is a good policy to buy if you need insurance for a specific debt, such as a mortgage. Whole life insurance does not have a time frame, and as long as the premiums are paid, will never expire. Whole life insurance also has a cash value, which can be useful in planning your finances.

Talk to your agent about your group life insurance policy, and whether or not it is providing enough coverage for your needs. You can always purchase additional coverage to top up the group policy, and thereby ensure that your family and loved ones will be provided for. If you are unsure about the amount of life insurance you require, use our calculator to determine your needs.

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# Wednesday, 04 October 2006
Wednesday, 04 October 2006 15:54:42 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life )

Living Wills

A "living will" is an important part of your will planning. Your living will states unequivocally your healthcare intentions if you are incapable of verbally stating them. In case of an accident or illness, your family will already know your wishes in regards to what measures you want taken or not taken, and can relieve the enormous burden from your loved ones in having to try and decide these issues.

Although the term "living will" is not a legal term in Canada, it is an important document in that your wishes are expressly stated. Consult a lawyer, and have a legal document drafted stating your exact wishes. In cases of progressive illnesses, such as Alzheimer's Disease, where you can no longer make these decisions, it is a written record of what your intentions to ensure your quality of life issues. A living will is an instrument in where you can retain control over your health care decisions in the event that you are incapable of making those decisions later on.

A living will can also be beneficial in case of an accident. It is important to discuss with your family what your wishes are in regards to such procedures as life support. You can state very specifically the treatments you wish to receive, and what measures you would like to keep you alive. You can also make provisions for not receiving these medical procedures if that is your wish. You can also state in your living will whether or not you would like to be an organ donor, and if so, what organs you would like to donate. Keep a record of these intentions in your wallet or purse, so that emergency medical services are aware of your wishes. It is useful to also discuss your wishes with your physician(s), so that they are aware of your intentions. You can revise your living will as your health care needs dictate. Review your living will, as well as your last will and testament on a regular basis, to ensure that your current wishes are stated. As medical science progresses, you may need to change your living will.

It is a wise decision to designate a living will power of attorney. This does not necessarily have to be the same individual you designate to take care of your financial needs. Discuss this issue with your family and loved ones, and come to a clear understanding of what you wish to happen to you in the event of serious illness or accident. We recommend that you also consult a lawyer, to ensure that your intentions are stated in a legal document. Remember that laws vary from province to province, and your lawyer will be able to advise you on what the laws are in your province.
 

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# Wednesday, 13 September 2006
Wednesday, 13 September 2006 19:30:07 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Mortgage Insurance | Term Life | Whole Life )

Financial Planning And Re-Marriage

Financial planning for your family can be difficult. However, when one or both spouses are entering their second marriage, finances can be a sensitive subject, especially when there are children from the first marriage involved. Decisions need to be made about what finances are to be held separately by each partner, what will be owned jointly by the couple, and what provisions are made for each partner's child(ren) from the first marriage.

One of the differences between first and second marriages is the accumulation of assets. When couples are young and just starting out, it is usually beneficial to pool financial resources. However, people getting re-married may have more assets, and therefore may need to make arrangements in order to determine who is entitled to those assets.

Wills also become a topic of concern. Partners may want to leave certain assets to their children from the first marriage, and not to the second spouse. Also, the beneficiaries of life insurance policies should also be addressed. You may want to purchase another policy for your spouse, while leaving the original policy for your children.

Although this can be a tricky topic, honest communication with both partners and the children (providing they are old enough to take part) is the key. Financial obligations from the first marriage may precipitate the new couple keeping some money separate. For instance, alimony and/or child support payments may not necessarily have to be a joint financial obligation. Another issue that needs to be addressed is any and all outstanding debt incurred before the second marriage. The partners in the second marriage need to be honest about what financial obligations of their new partner they are willing to assume.

Assets are another factor in the financial planning process. If the home is owned by one partner, but being used as the family home, decisions need to be made about who will be left the family home in the event of the owner’s death. If the family home is to be left to the owner's children, then plans and funds must be made available for the remaining spouse to be able to relocate. If both people own homes, and use one as the family residence, then plans must be made for the proceeds of the sale of the second home.

There is no set formula for these issues. Individuals entering into their second marriage must resolve these issues in the format best suited for their needs. It is important to realize that these issues need to be addressed, and to make sure that all parties involved come to an understanding of their new financial obligations, as well as making sure everyone is adequately provided for.

The old rural Canadian adage,  "If you leave your farm to your son, what of equal value can you leave for your daughter?" is taking on a whole new set of complications. The solution can still be very much the same: purchase life insurance.
 

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# Wednesday, 23 August 2006
Wednesday, 23 August 2006 17:32:31 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Mortgage Insurance | Term Life | Whole Life )

Life Insurance For "Non-Working" Spouses

Generally, when people think of life insurance, they think of insuring the potential income that will be lost when that individual passes away. However, serious consideration must be given to not only to lost income, but the amount of money it will cost to maintain the household when one member dies.

A stay at home parent can be overlooked in terms of financial planning. While technically there is no loss of income, there will be a significant increase in expenses if the caregiver should suddenly die. Therefore, we highly recommend that both parents carry life insurance, not only to protect the family assets, but also to ensure that it is financially possible for the surviving parent to provide quality care for the children.

In planning for the amount of insurance for the stay at home parent, ask yourself (and your spouse) these questions:

  • How long would I plan to take a leave of absence from work in order to make the transition smoother for my children?
     
  • What kind of care would be best for my children? A nanny, housekeeper, daycare? Remember that these needs will change as your children get older, so this issue needs to be revisited every few years.
     
  • Have we made the appropriate arrangements to ensure quality education for our children?

Talk to your spouse about how best to care for your children in the event of the death of the stay at home parent. Your insurance agent is a great resource in helping determine the amount of life insurance you will need in order to meet your projected needs. It is a good idea to remember that as the cost of living goes up, you should re-evaluate your needs every few years to make sure that you will be insured in the amount necessary to allow for the best care possible. Consider using our online insurance calculator to see how much term life insurance is required to cover your needs.

NOTE: Blue Vision from Ontario Blue Cross offers disability insurance to stay-at-home spouses. Contact us for more information.
  
    

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# Friday, 11 August 2006
Friday, 11 August 2006 17:59:03 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Whole Life )

Buying life insurance is the first step in preparing for the future. However, it is very important to ensure that your life insurance policy is distributed in the manner in which you intend. This can only be accomplished by a legal will. Proper will planning can not only ensure the preservation and protection of your assets during your life time, but also an effective transfer of assets in a tax-effective manner and the continued preservation of property.

Be aware that the laws differ depending on the province in which you reside. Before you start to plan your will, check with your province’s current legislation regarding wills. Remember that legislation does change, so make sure you are using the most current information available. Consulting with a lawyer is always recommended.

Your will serves several different purposes:

  • It designates who will administer your estate.
  • Sets out the manner in which you intend your estate to be distributed, and controls the time and manner in which your assets are to be distributed.
  • Designate the age when a minor is eligible to inherit.
  • Make provisions for a disabled minor.
  • Specify which outstanding debts which are owed to you are either forgiven or still outstanding.

Once your will is written, it is important to remember that it is not irrevocable. At any time, you can amend your will as circumstances change. A codicil can be added stating minor adjustments to your will. Remember to check your province's legislation regarding marriage; as marriage can revoke your existing will, unless specific provisions in contemplation of marriage are already stated. Also check your province’s definition of spouse to whether it includes common-law or same-sex spouses.

Division of your estate is a key consideration. It's a wise decision to have a consultation with a lawyer. A lawyer will help you determine the status of your assets and liabilities, and advise you on the distribution of your estate.

The value of your estate (residue of the estate) is the balance left over after expenses associated with burial, taxes, etc. have been paid. This is the amount that will be left to your beneficiary/beneficiaries. Depending on your province of residence, different legislation will determine the rights of your beneficiary/beneficiaries. Your lawyer will have the necessary statutes to advise you of the best way of dividing your estate. 

If you are planning on naming a minor as a beneficiary, it is usually advisable to set up a trust. Unless otherwise stated in your will, the minor will receive their bequest at the age of majority (ages differ according to province). In this case, you will need to appoint someone you trust as the trustee of the minor's trust. You can specify in your will the circumstances (education expenses, etc) in which the Trustee may use trust funds in order to provide for the minor.

If you are a parent, you must consider the guardianship and custodianship in the event that you (and your partner, if applicable) die at the same time. Consult with your lawyer about the laws in your province concerning custody and guardianship. It is important to remember that the trustee of your child's trust does not have to be the same person you designate as the custodian of your child. Choosing a guardian for your child/children is a very important decision, and requires careful consideration and planning. Discuss your thoughts and concerns with your lawyer, who can advise you of the best course of action.

Planning a will does not have to be a confusing experience. Even if you do not want a lawyer to draw up your will, and choose to do it yourself, we strongly advise consulting with a lawyer. A lawyer can help you through the legalities of your will, and also ensure that your wishes are carried out.


Please note that LifeQuotes.ca is NOT engaged in rendering legal or accounting advice.
 

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# Tuesday, 18 July 2006
Tuesday, 18 July 2006 17:22:56 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Mortgage Insurance | Term Life | Whole Life )

Health And Wellness Programs

Life insurance is more than just a policy to cover you in times of death. Your insurance carrier wants you to be healthy, happy and productive. This is why most carriers are offering health and wellness programs, aimed at educating and supporting their clients in maintaining healthy lifestyles.

Health and wellness programs are designed to educate both employers and employees. Studies show that employers who take an active interest in their employees health and well-being have reduced employee absenteeism by a significant number. Employers who implement programs to promote healthy lifestyles and stress reduction have happier employees with less "burn out" rates and increased productivity.

Standard Life offers a useful health calculator, as well as tips for a healthier lifestyle and diet. The calculator can help you determine whether you are eating a balanced diet, getting enough exercise, and offers help to prevent major health problems. It offers links to other websites that are helpful in education of such health issues as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, as well as mental health concerns.

Talk to your employer about health wellness programs, and ask what programs are available for you and your co-workers. Remember, your health is important not only to you but to your employer and your insurance carrier. Take advantage of these programs to ensure your health for years to come.

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# Wednesday, 05 July 2006
Wednesday, 05 July 2006 17:13:53 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Whole Life )

The Benefits of Donating a Life Insurance Policy to Charity

Life insurance policies cannot only be left to an individual beneficiary, but can be donated to charity. Along with the satisfaction of knowing that you are leaving money to a worthy cause, donating your policy will also have certain tax benefits.

Donating your life insurance policy can be accomplished in 2 ways. The donor will either gift ownership of an existing policy to a charity, or the charity will take out a policy on the donor’s life. In both scenarios the charity is the owner of the policy.

If an existing policy is donated, the cash surrender value of the policy minus any policy loans outstanding plus any accumulated dividends or interest is treated as the fair market value of that policy.  This is the amount for which a tax receipt can be issued.  Payment of the premiums due on the policy by the donor, which is owned by the charity are considered charitable donations.  The charity can issue an annual tax receipt for these payments, whether they are paid by the donor directly or paid to the charity with instructions that the money is used to pay the premiums.

Where the premiums are paid by the charity, or by a donor on behalf of the charity, these payments are not considered to be a charitable expense and do not count towards meeting its disbursement quota.  Investment income is not counted as part of income for disbursement quota purposes and therefore becomes very valuable to the charity.

If a donor takes out a policy and names his/her estate as beneficiary the donor can then direct the death benefits to go to one or more charities of his/her choice.  While there is no tax relief for the payment of premiums, the individual will be eligible for a charitable donation tax credit on the proceeds distributed to the charity on their terminal return.  If a donor takes out a policy and names the charity as the beneficiary, the donor does not qualify for a charitable donation tax credit for premiums paid.  The individual may, however, claim a charitable donation tax credit on their terminal return for the death benefit paid to the charity.

Finally, use permanent life insurance, and not term life. Term life is temporary insurance, and as such is not well suited for charitable gifting.
 

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# Tuesday, 27 June 2006
Tuesday, 27 June 2006 19:55:21 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Mortgage Insurance | Term Life | Whole Life )

No, You're Not Too Young

Life insurance is not a topic that people want to think about. Everyone would ideally like to put off this issue for "another year", "when I’m older and need it", or "when I get around to it."

However, purthe ideal time to purchase coverage is when you are young and healthy. Rates will be higher if you purchase your policy after health issues arise.  Policy rates tend to get more expensive with age, so purchasing life coverage at a younger age can be financially beneficial. Remember, you can't buy life insurance with money only, you buy it with your health!

Life insurance is an essential consideration when purchasing a home or borrowing money for business ventures. 

By purchasing your coverage at a younger age, you also have the benefit of choosing benefits that are best suited to you. Different types of insurance offer differing advantages and disadvantages. Take your time evaluating your needs, and projected needs for your future and then select the option that fits your life.

Whole life insurance policies are a viable option for people who are young and in good health. With a whole life policy the premiums are stretched out over a long period of time, minimizing the increasing cost. These premiums can either be spread out over your lifetime, or until a set-upon certain age. The earnings from a whole life insurance policy are tax-deferred, and the death benefit never decreases. These policies  have a cash value and can be used for wealth management and estate planning.

Universal life policies provide the purchaser with the option of being able to reduce or increase the death benefit amount. A great advantage to this type of policy is that the cash value tends to increase in a non-linear fashion, depending on how the purchaser invests his/her money.

Term life insurance is a temporary form of insurance, which covers the purchaser for a limited time span, usually 10 or 20 years, and may be renewable up until a certain age.

Term life insurance can be an attractive option when the insurer wants coverage for a specific debt for a specific time frame (i.e. mortgage). Although there is no cash value, the premiums are lower than for whole life insurance. Some policies allow for the option of converting a term life policy into a whole life policy. Premiums for term life policies will increase at 5, 10, or 20 year intervals with the age of the insured person. 

Just remember that the earlier life insurance is purchased, the more options are available to the consumer. Life insurance does not only provide death benefits, but also help you arrange for your long term financial needs and goals.
     

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# Tuesday, 06 June 2006
Tuesday, 06 June 2006 20:09:22 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Mortgage Insurance | Term Life | Whole Life )

New Smoke-Free Ontario Act

The Smoke-Free Ontario Act came into effect on May 31, 2006. The new law now bans smoking in all enclosed public places and work places, including Designated Smoking Rooms.  Tobacco use is the province's number one preventable cause of death and/or disease. The Ministry of Health estimates that roughly 16,000 Ontarians die each year from tobacco related causes.

The new legislation is designed not only to protect non-smokers from second hand smoke, but to encourage current tobacco users to finally kick the habit. By limiting where smoking is permitted, the government hopes that current smokers will finally get the message that it's time for the province to quit smoking.

For those who are trying to quit, here a few tips to consider:

  • Set a quit date.
  • Change your environment where you may be triggered to light up.
  • Ask family and friends for support and encouragement.
  • Drink a lot of water and other fluids to help flush toxins.
  • Talk to your family doctor about effective smoking cessation medications and products.
  • Remember that withdrawal symptoms are temporary, don't give up!

For more help in kicking the habit, these resources have been made available:

Along with the health benefits of becoming a non-smoker, quitting can also affect your life insurance premiums (especially term life). Depending on the carrier, upon 12 months of quitting smoking, you can apply for an amendment that will give you preferred non-smoking rates. Not only will you save your health by quitting smoking, you'll also save money!

For those people who aren't ready yet to quit smoking, HealthQuotes.ca offers guaranteed issue health insurance. Guaranteed issue health insurance does not require that a medical questionnaire be filled out, since acceptance is not dependent on your current state of health. The following individual health insurance plans are guaranteed issue:

  • FlexCare ComboPlus Starter Plan.
  • FlexCare DentalPlus Basic and Enhanced Plans.
  • Basic Blue Choice (for Ontario residents only).
  • FollowMe (employee benefits conversion insurance).
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# Friday, 26 May 2006
Friday, 26 May 2006 20:10:36 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Mortgage Insurance | Term Life | Whole Life )

It is a good idea to evaluate your life insurange coverage once a year.

Changes in your lifestyle, family, and income can affect the coverage you need.

Once a year, re-read your policy to determine whether your current coverage is adequate to meet all your needs. You should consult your insurance agent if any of the following have occurred or will be occurring:

  1. Change in marital status.
  2. The birth or expected birth of a child.
  3. Significant increase or decrease in income.
  4. Employment status.
  5. If you plan on becoming self-employed.
  6. Any move outside your current province or country.

Please call our toll free number 1-866-369-4474 to discuss your insurance needs with one of our qualified representatives.

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# Thursday, 13 April 2006
Thursday, 13 April 2006 20:42:15 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( General Life | Whole Life )

This article specifically discusses wealth management from the perspective of cottage owners, especially those who want to keep a cottage in the family.

When you pass away assets transferred to your children can result in a capital gains tax, which has to be paid before your children can get the inherited property.

In particular there is a major difference between a cottage and a principal residence, in that the principal residence can be sold tax-free, while the transfer of a family cottage is not tax exempt. Also, if the estate owes money (e.g. tax) then the cottage may need to be sold to pay the money owing.

You should strongly consider selling the cottage to your children while you have the chance. This sets a limit on the tax liability, and the cottage does not have to be sold upon your passing (if the estate owes money). In addition this will avoid probate fees.

NOTE: do not attempt to decrease the capital gain by selling the cottage for a very cheap price. The CCRA calculates the capital gain based on a fair market value.

Consider spreading out the payments for at least 5 years if you take the mortgage back from your kids. Also, you can make the mortgage interest-free, and forgive the left-over balance in your will so that when you pass away your children will own the cottage without owing any debt.

Another thing to consider is using permanent life insurance to help manage your wealth and estate (obviously this would include any cottages). Creditor protection and tax benefits are just a couple of advantages to permanent life insurance!

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# Friday, 24 February 2006
Friday, 24 February 2006 15:55:24 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Mortgage Insurance | Term Life | Whole Life )

Most Canadian life insurance companies use a 5-level health classification system, with the least expensive at the top and more expensive with each level drop in classification.

These classifications are generally as follows:

  1. Class # 1: non-smokers, only 5% of the general population qualifies for this rating. To qualify for this life insurance rate you have to be in fantastic shape and health.
     
  2. Class # 2: non smokers, about 20% of the general population qualifies. To qualify for this rate you have to be in above average shape and health.
      
  3. Class #3: 50% of non smokers qualify for this rate. The majority of the population qualifies.
      
  4. Class #4: Smokers (non-tobacco and non-marijuana users) may qualify for this rating.
     
  5. Class # 5: Cigarette smokers qualify for this rate.

Note:

  • Most life insurance companies will not accept marijuana users even if usage is for medically approved reasons.
     
  • If you quit smoking for one year , you can re-apply to most insurance companies and be granted a non-smoker rating.
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# Thursday, 16 February 2006
Thursday, 16 February 2006 16:49:04 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Mortgage Insurance | Term Life )

Term life insurance rates have been dropping in Canada for the last 10 years or so, due to a variety of reasons.

People are living longer, for one. Smoking, and the overall use of tobacco products has decreased, and rate decreases have been particularly significant for non-smokers.

Another reason is competition, which results in a lowering of premiums. An additional advantage of this is an increasing number of choices as far as term life products available to the public.

In fact, term life premiums are so low that many times we run into cases where people actually save a substantial amount of money by switching their bank mortgage insurance to a term life insurance policy.

For example, a 10-year term for $250,000 for a non-smoking, 25-year old female can cost as low as $125 annually, or $12 monthly (these are preferred rates).

But what about the future trends? Term rates seemed to have leveled out, and it is difficult to say if they will remain the same or start increasing.

If you are considering buying life insurance the time to act is now, while you are healthy and the premiums are low!

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# Tuesday, 31 January 2006
Tuesday, 31 January 2006 22:43:45 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Mortgage Insurance | Term Life | Whole Life )

Often times people buying their first home are not made aware that mortgage insurance does not have to be purchased from the lending institution (usually a bank).

In fact, term life insurance is almost always a better alternative to bank mortgage insurance. There are many reasons for this, including the following:

  • With term life the beneficiary is the person you name (e.g. husband or wife), as opposed to the bank.
  • The payable benefits remain the same for term life, as opposed to the bank insurance that only pays the remaining amount owing on the mortgage.
  • Term life policies can be renewed at a later time and converted to permanent life insurance. Bank mortgage insurance is not renewable or convertible.

Time and time again we have situations where people we talk to end up saving a lot of money by switching their bank mortgage insurance to term life (one reason for this is the low current term life rates).

The following relates the experiences of one of our clients:

"I recently purchased my first home 6 months ago. Like most first-time home buyers I was elated at the prospect of finally owning my own home and naturally financed my mortgage through my local bank. As the time of closing neared, the bank informed me that I would have to insure my mortgage which was for $350,000. I asked them how to go about this, and they told me that they would take care of the details and prepare the paperwork for me. Being somewhat busy with all of the other things that had to be done such as packing, getting ready to move, etc., I was more than a little relieved as it was one less thing to
worry about, and I signed the paperwork.

About 6 months later I was online at your life insurance web site looking to find out about web insurance. I contacted your company and was asked if I had any other insurance in place. I told him about the mortgage insurance and he informed me that the bank's mortgage insurance usually had three factors that needed to be looked at:

  1. The lending institution name themselves as the beneficiaries.
  2. The rates tend to be high.
  3. When a bank pays benefits it is only the remaining principal on the mortgage that is paid out.

I was informed that I could get term insurance to protect my mortgage instead, and that the rates would be much lower and that I could be the named beneficiary.

I applied for the term life, and I am now paying $78/month instead of the $142/month I was paying for my bank mortgage insurance (I cancelled that policy after my term life went into effect on the advice of your broker). I named my husband my beneficiary, and if something happens to me he will get the entire proceeds of my policy ($ 350,000 instead of the remaining mortgage principal)."

Ann Ritchie,
Toronto, Ont.

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# Saturday, 28 January 2006
Saturday, 28 January 2006 23:52:01 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life | Mortgage Insurance | Term Life | Whole Life )

Life-Quotes.ca is happy to announce the launch of our life insurance blog.

We will be posting life insurance related topics that we feel will be useful to the public.

We encourage comments, and would enjoy your feedback, as well as any suggested content or new articles you would like to see.

We've categorized into Term Life, Whole Life and Mortgage Insurance. Although we recommend term life for mortgage insurance we felt that this should have its own section, and topics particular to mortage insurance.

Cheers!
Life-Quotes.ca

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