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Mortgage Regulations in Canada
Making a Budget
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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.

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# Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008 7:05:05 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) ( Mortgage Insurance )

Most Canadians throughout the country will at some point in their life will apply for a mortgage. As with any other financial transactions, it is a good idea to do your homework and understand the complexities of your mortgage. Having a solid understanding of your finances as well as the different mortgage products available can help you make the best choice. Your mortgage will probably be the most important debt of your lifetime; making a well informed decision will benefit you for years to come.

You must determine how much you are able to afford to spend when buying a home. This includes not only the purchase price of the home, but all of your other financial obligations. Do not assume that the maximum amount you are pre-approved for is an amount you can actually afford. Figure out what your monthly expenses are, including car payments, insurance, groceries, cable, telephone, etc. You may want to track these expenses for a few months in order to get an accurate total of your monthly expenditures. It's also a good idea to set aside money for emergencies, i.e. car repairs, house maintenance, etc. Subtracting the amount of the monthly expenses (including savings) from your monthly income will give you an estimate of how much you can afford for a mortgage payment. The general rule is to not exceed 32% of your gross monthly income for housing costs, and no more than 40% on monthly debt payments.

Once you've decided on the amount you can afford, you will need to shop around for a lender. Banks, mortgage companies, insurance companies, trust and loan companies as well as credit unions can all offer mortgages. Different companies will offer different prices as well as conditions; talk to several different lenders, as well as types of lenders in order to get the best product for your specific needs. You may also want to consider using a mortgage broker. A mortgage broker does not directly lend money, but rather finds a lender best suited for your needs. Because mortgage brokers have access to a wide range of lenders you will usually have more choices regarding products and terms. If you choose to use a mortgage broker, remember that not all brokers have the same access to financial institutions so you may want to consider consulting with more than one broker.

When shopping for a mortgage, obtain the information you will need in order to compare products. In Canada it is federally regulated that all banks, insurance companies and trust and loan companies must provide you with the following information before you sign a mortgage agreement. If you are shopping for a fixed-rate mortgage you must be provided with:

• The amount being lent
• The term of the loan as well as the amortization period
• Total amount of payments at the end of the term, as well as how much of that total you will have paid in interest
• Annual interest rate, including the real annual percentage rate which includes any and all extra charges (APR)
• The actual date on which interest will begin to be charged
• The amount of the payment and the due date
• If your payments are first applied to cover the interest and other applicable charges, and then to the outstanding principal
• Any optional services, i.e. disability or life insurance, that you have accepted, as well as the cost and the penalties, rebates and/or charges that will be applied if you decide later to cancel these services
• Any default charges that will be applied if your mortgage is in default
• Description of any property that is being provided as security for the loan
• Any broker fees that are paid by the lender to a broker that are included in the amount being lent
• The fee you will have to pay to discharge the mortgage after it has been paid off
• Any other charges that may apply, including the type of charge and the amount

If you are applying for a variable-rate mortgage you must be provided with:

• The annual interest rate of your mortgage as of the date of the disclosure statement
• How and when the annual interest rate is calculated
• How much your payments are based on the annual interest rate
• What your total payments will be at the end of the term based on the annual interest rate
• If the interest rate variations are linked to a public index you must be provided at least once a year with a disclosure statement that contains the annual interest rate and outstanding balance and the beginning and end of the period covered by the statement. You must also be provided with the amount of each payment and when it is due based on the annual interest rate that is applied at the end of the period

If you are applying for a variable-rate mortgage and the amount of your payment is not automatically adjusted to reflect changes in the annual interest rate you must also be provided with:

• The annual interest rate above which your payments will not be sufficient to cover the interest due on your loan for the period
• You must be made aware that negative amortization can happen. This occurs when your outstanding balance increases even when payments are made in full

Federal law also prohibits the financial institution from unduly pressuring you to buy their other products as a condition for accepting your mortgage application. For instance, the institution cannot deny your mortgage application because you choose not to buy your mortgage life insurance from them. You have the right to shop around for not only your mortgage, but for any other financial products that you may need for your new home. It's wise to always compare different products from different institutions, lenders and/or brokers in order to assemble the best package for your personal needs.


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# Friday, June 13, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008 2:45:08 PM (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, June 03, 2008
Tuesday, June 03, 2008 2:56:17 PM (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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