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Guest Post – Personal finance, goals, and the relationship factor

NOTE: Today’s guest post is from Robb Engen who writes about Canadian personal finance at Boomer & Echo, as well as at

We all know that teenagers are out of touch with reality, expecting to earn $90,000 per year by age 30. In my experience, many single 20-somethings are just as clueless when it comes to creating a realistic financial plan.

I read an article recently about a 22-year-old man named Sean who just graduated from college and started working for an investment bank. His goal was to be financial free by age 33, and here’s how he planned to do it:

Sean had a great starting salary of $75,000 per year, with the potential to earn an additional $50,000 in bonuses. To maximize his income, Sean’s brilliant plan included working 85-hour weeks for the next 11 years. He shared an apartment near his office downtown so he could walk to work.  Sean planned to save money on food by bringing his lunch and dinner to work so he could eat at his desk.

The end result of Sean’s financial plan was to save over 60 per cent of his income and have an investment portfolio worth $1.5 million by the time he reached age 33. I’m all for setting lofty goals, but this plan doesn’t stand a chance. It’s just a dream.

I can remember when I was in my early 20’s and single, dreaming of financial freedom. I worked long hours, socked away money inside my RRSP, and lived on Pizza Pops and Kraft Dinner. I was going to retire young and wealthy, and then live it up over-seas. But then something happened that usually foils the financial dreams of all single men; I met a girl.

The one thing that is rarely accounted for in the financial dreams of young singles is the relationship factor. Suddenly you have to consider someone else’s needs other than your own. I don’t know about you, but my significant other wouldn’t really appreciate me working 85-hour weeks while sharing a cramped two-bedroom apartment with my old college roommate.

My financial priorities have changed dramatically in the last 10 years. When I was single I put any extra dollar into my RRSP without even thinking about my short term financial needs. Now that I’m married and have a family, I find myself more concerned with paying off our mortgage, building an emergency fund, and saving for a nice family vacation. I’ll stop myself before I end up buying a used mini-van.

I’m not suggesting that young single folks can’t make their financial dreams come true. Just remember to have a back-up plan that includes a significant other in your life.

**NOTE: I absolutely agree with Robb. Everything you thought you knew and wanted in life can be turned upside down once you meet someone special. I think even the biggest relationship skeptic can change if the right person comes along. But maybe that’s just me wanting to believe that it’s true. :)

Robb Engen lives in Lethbridge, AB and writes about Canadian personal finance at Boomer & Echo. Together with his mom, (she’s the Boomer, he’s the Echo) they offer their own unique perspectives on saving, investing and personal finance. You can follow him on Twitter @BoomerandEcho.

Guest Post: Freelancing is hard, maybe you shouldn’t bother

What did you do last night?

I’m not asking because I’m some sort of creeper. I mean, I am kind of a creeper, but that’s not why I’m asking. Let me tell you what I did last night.

After getting home from my day job, (at 5:30) I cooked up some Kraft Dinner and ate it. Once my gourmet dinner was eaten, it was time to start the side hustle. From 6:30 until 9:30 I researched a couple of blog posts, responded to advertiser inquiries, brainstormed future post ideas and did a little under the desk tweaking of my blog. Oh, and I watched a Taylor Swift music video, but that’s because I’m a little obsessed with her. Remember the part where I said I was a creep?

Now, compare that to what you did last night. Many of you are fellow bloggers, so you know exactly how the life is. The rest of you probably came home, sat down on the couch and started watching some horrible reality show. Let’s go with Project Runway, since that show makes me want to hit my head with a shovel. Finally, you played some Farmville on Facebook (do the kids still do that? I’m so uncool) and then called it a night. The next day you woke up, and life went on.

I think just about everybody dreams about starting their own business, at least a little. Life without a boss would be sweet. Imagine making all your own decisions. If you don’t like some task, you can either outsource it or choose to not bother doing it. You won’t have to deal with Shelia, who always comes by your office to ask you the stupidest questions, all while having some stanky coffee breath. We all hate Shelia.

You fantasize about it, but are you doing anything to accomplish the dream?

Who has better odds at success as a full time freelancer? Someone like Krystal, who’s been at this for years now, or someone who quit their job in a fit of rage one day? Moonlighting teaches you all sorts of stuff about time management and motivating yourself. Maybe, after spending a few months working on weekends, you’ll discover you really hate your side gig. Or, as you keep working on it, you’ll watch it grow into something a little bigger, and then a little bigger still.

I’m a great example of this. I’ve been blogging for close to 2 years now. The first year, I didn’t take it very seriously. There would be weeks in between posts, because I was lazy. My blog got some visitors, but never that many. I was a pretty crummy blogger. I basically didn’t make a cent off my blog until 6 months ago. I’m on pace to make about $5,000 off my online efforts this year. It’s not a life altering amount of money, but who couldn’t use a few thousand dollars?

I have no formal writing training. I bet if you asked my grade 12 English teacher, she would have described my writing skills at mediocre. I’m just a guy who, thanks to an intense interest in the topic, has a decent amount of knowledge about business and finance. Through many hours of hard work, I’ve leveraged that knowledge into a decent sideline income. How many of you used that time to better yourself?

There’s still plenty of time for me to have a life. I don’t party, or drink, because large crowds and drunk people generally annoy me. I keep entertained in a variety of other ways – like watching all sorts of sports and even participating in a few. I’ve probably watched every single episode of The Simpsons, Futurama and How I Met Your Mother. My life isn’t lacking because I spend my spare time working. I just don’t have as much time to waste. A little direction isn’t such a bad thing.

If giving up your evenings and weekends seems like your personal hell, then don’t. Maybe your time would be better spent trying to get ahead at work or something. Spending your spare time working is hard, but the rewards make it worthwhile.

On second thought, don’t bother. I’m not sure I want more competition.

Nelson Smith once ate Chunky Soup with a fork, not a spoon. He only learned to tie his shoelaces last week, and only after a cute girl laughed at his velcro shoes. Oh, and he has a blog. It’s called Financial Uproar. He’s single ladies, so feel free to follow him on the Twitter, where he usually tries to be witty.

Guest Post: First-time home buyer freebies and credits

NOTE: The following guest post is from Kerri-Lynn McAllister, Community Manager for

It always amazes us in the mortgage industry how consumers will try to save a few dollars here and there via coupons, loyalty cards, etc – yet, when it comes to their mortgage, the same effort is not put forth. Not only should you compare mortgage rates and seek advice on products and terms, as a first-time home buyer, you should also be aware of the programs available to you that help recoup some of your investment, amounting to hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

Here are the programs and how you can apply for them.

1.     First-time home buyers’ tax credit

Who doesn’t want $750? It’s as easy as filling out a line on your tax return for first-time home buyers. The credit request must be filed in the same tax year the property was purchased, and you must not have owned a home as your primary residence within the last four years.

The $750 credit was created to help first-time buyers recover some of the closing costs on their first property, so recover away!

How? File under line 369 on your tax return [1].

2.     Land transfer tax rebates

Provincial land transfer taxes can hit you hard and unexpectedly, and if you live in Toronto, twice. [Toronto is the only municipality to have a tax on top of the provincial levy] Thankfully, much of this can be recovered through rebates if you are a first-time buyer in the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and the city of Toronto.

Land transfer tax fees are mandatory with any title transfer. First-time home buyers, however, can reclaim the full value of the tax up to a limit of $2,000 in Ontario, the full value for properties up to $425,000 in BC, and up to $3,725 in Toronto. In PEI, first-time buyers are exempt from paying the tax altogether if the property is less than $200,000 [2].

You can calculate provincial land transfer tax charges, including rebates, using a land transfer tax calculator.

How? Talk to your real estate lawyer.

3.     RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan

This last one is less a rebate and more a savings strategy for your down payment – but, it involves a number of tax credits worth including here. The RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) allows first-time buyers to withdraw from their RRSPs tax-free up to $25,000 for a down payment on a property purchase [3].  Any contribution that you make to an RRSP is, of course, tax deductible at the time, but if you try to withdraw these funds before retirement, you must repay the tax credits. Herein lays the magic of the Home Buyers’ Plan: you not only can withdraw the funds tax-free for your first down payment, but when you make contributions to your RRSP prior to this, you can re-invest your tax savings every year for the purpose of your future home purchase.

The HBP withdrawal is considered a loan and you will have to repay your RRSP within 15 years. However, you do not have to pay interest because you are essentially paying yourself back.

How? Print off a copy of Form T1036 online from the Canada Revenue Agency. Fill out Section 1 and get the financial institution that holds your RRSP to fill out Section 2. Your institution will then send you a T4RSP form, which will verify the amount you withdrew from your RRSP through the HBP.  Reference the form in your income tax return for the year you made the withdrawal.

A little effort goes a long way

Considering the time commitment required to cut out coupons that get you a few dollars in savings (unless, of course, you are an Extreme Couponer), filling out some extra tax forms hardly seems laborious! Plus, we’re not talking dollars and cents here: we’re talking hundreds and thousands of dollars at stake.

What other first-time home buyer freebies and credits can you think of?

Kerri-Lynn McAllister is the Community Manager for, a site that compares the best mortgage rates in Canada and provides first-time home buyer education and tools. Follow me on Twitter @RateHub_Canada.

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