Friday Randomness

I have returned from a whirlwind tour of the Left Coast, I have fresh new interesting perspectives on traveling and how it has changed (and what you get for your money), but that is for another day.

  • This week’s main topic is the price of having healthy kids. My point was that it is not easy to be frugal and continue to have healthy kids (if I wasn’t clear enough). I don’t begrudge paying the money, but sometimes you need to know where the money is going to be able to control it, so this week was another me learning about what I do with my money by writing about something in my life (if you get my drift).
  • Bank of Montreal is really off this week which asks the question, is this a trend, or a buying opportunity? Sounds like they have been playing “silly games” to try to make some extra cash, and have gotten burned on Natural Gas (sorry could not help the pun). I hold this stock but mostly for dividends, it sky rocketing in value is a nice plus (but I bought it 4 years ago too).
  • Apologies for the tardy post today, but I may not be posting on Monday either, given it is a holiday, and I will show solidarity with the Working Proletariat on Labour Day (we will then be able to Control the Means of Production).
  • It is the end of the month, have you paid all your bills? How did your financial plan work this month? Go back and check, you might surprise yourself.

Enjoy this long weekend, which signifies the beginning of the Christmas season (well at least Thanksgiving).

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The High Cost of Healthy Kids? (part iii)

In my quest to figure out the cost of healthy kids we have two final topics to cover.

Limit their TV and Video Games (and Computers)

In this case, you actually can save money with a healthy kid, if you don’t buy XBox’s and their associated games, and don’t have a premium cable or satellite package. For a while we had digital cable full-blown and were spending upwards of $110 per month on cable alone! That is a big parcel of money.

My kids do have a PS2, but they don’t play with it much luckily, however, they do spend an awful lot of time on the computer (which I have not upgraded in 5 years) on MSN, Facebook and playing the SIMs, so that is not good (although not that expensive either). My view on High Speed Internet access for the house is that it is a necessary evil that I am willing to pay for to do my job, and the kids benefit from that. I may get them a new computer soon, but whether it is going to be allowed for MSN and such, is another question.

Limit their intake of junk food

Another interesting problem. Junk food is cheaper to buy usually, and the kids like to eat it, so putting together a healthy menu is not an easy task? Don’t believe me?

  • How much does a litre of coke cost? How much does a litre of Milk cost?
  • Given the high prices of fresh fruit compare that to a bag of chips?
  • Fresh Veggies? Good cuts of meat?

This stuff is not cheap folks, yes there are ways to get your healthy food cheaper (farmers markets, coupons, buying on sales and freezing), but that is all hard work for folks, and a lot of people just “cop-out” and take the easy route.

Our grocery bill is quite high I think, but if the food is healthy I am willing to pay the extra money.

Conclusions

Raising healthy kids is an important thing for parents to do. Having kids understand how to stay healthy, and live healthy lives (in a financially friendly way) is one of the most important gifts parents can give their kids.

If you are having problems financially look where you can cut the unhealthy things like TV and such and then use that money on more healthy practices. It’s important, so work at it, to get it done.

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The High Cost of Healthy Kids? (part ii)

Yesterday I introduced the topic for the rest of the week, The Cost of Raising Healthy Kids. I naively summarized all that needs to be done into 4 simple categories (no, I am not saying this is all you need to do, but it is easier to write about this way). I will try not to argue the health issues, however, I will argue the financial aspect of these 4 concepts.

Make sure the kids are active at school in sports

When I was a kid, school sports and Gym was where you got in shape and where you stayed in shape. Good things like the Canadian Fitness Test and intramural floor hockey were staples for me to get my exercise during high school and I really enjoyed myself. As has been pointed out a lot of road hockey helped during the summer as well.

Do kids today have this kind of access? Kind of, governments are starting to figure out that maybe it would be good for kids to have Gym more often and make it mandatory for more of their academic career and that I applaud, and think it is a good idea.

Intramural? That depends on whether the school has teachers and/or parents willing to help run these programs, and I would bet there are some schools that either don’t have the equipment or volunteers to do it either.

In I Thought Public School Was Free? I outlined some of my costs of having kids on the competitive teams at their High School. Now I know at my kids school if there are kids who want to play that can’t afford it, there are attempts to help them out, but the kids’ parents have to be willing to ask for help as well. Having kids in these kind of activities no longer simply consist of buying them a pair of running shoes, it is some major moneys, and that is for school teams.

Sign them up for sports at home in their spare time

I do this for my kids, because I believe that if I left my kids to their own devices, they’d get into trouble (idle hands are the devils work, for lack of a better explanation).

My daughters play basketball, where if they play for in the house league this will cost about $150-$200 (and shoes another $100 or so). Most of these leagues will offer financial help, again if the parents ask for it.

If my girls make competitive teams, now we are going up a level in costs, double the team fees to pay for tournaments, and league dues. Shoes and such are the same cost, however, now they travel out of town 2-5 times over 7 months, where I have to pay to get them there, to stay in a hotel and to feed yourself. I budget at least $1200 for this (per child), which is conservative.

What if my daughters played hockey? In the words of Paulie Walnuts in the Sopranos, “Fugget about it!”, that is another level higher, just for house league, and if my son wants to play, it is even more insane. I won’t quote numbers, because I really don’t know (if anyone cares to comment, please feel free to enlighten, or shock us).

If your child (or children) play more than one sport, this is all additive, remember. Yup the Government has introduced a $500 write off for active kids (per child), which is very welcome, but it does not stop me from spending the money, and $500 is a small portion of the money going out as well.

Yes, I willingly pay this, because I think my kids want to do this (I do ask, “Are you having fun?”, because if they aren’t why am I paying this much money?), and because I think it is important too, but if I didn’t have the money to pay for it, what would my kids be doing?

Tomorrow we tackle:

  • Limit their TV and Video Games
  • Limit their intake of junk food

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The High Cost of Healthy Kids? (part i)

I have seen many articles posted lately in the “real” media complaining about obese kids and the implication that it is their parents fault that they are fat. I agree in some ways given that you as a parent should worry if your kid is morbidly obese, or way over weight (also knowing that some kids fill out and then shoot up in height, and there are sometimes extenuating health issues). Parents should most definitely be worried that their kids are not healthy, no argument there.

What I will write about here, is how the “real” media implies that it is a simple case of parents just not trying to get their kids healthy, and the simplest resolution to the problem is:

  • Make sure the kids are active at school in sports
  • Sign them up for sports at home in their spare time
  • Limit their TV and Video Game access
  • Limit their intake of snack foods and foods high in sugar and fat

Simple enough, and in an esoteric way, I agree, however, let’s look at this from a financial model.

The question to be answered is: is it cheaper to have healthy kids, or is it more expensive? I’ll give my opinions in the next couple of days.

New Month Coming

September is on the event horizon folks, that means we are in the final third of the year, maybe it is time to revisit your financial plans, and also start thinking about big ticket end of year items that could broadside you if you don’t think of it. What do I mean?

  • Christmas, better figure out what you are doing there, or you may as well get a pile of money and burn it.
  • When do your insurance policies renew?
  • What other yearly payments might come due on January 1? Do you have enough money to pay them?
  • How about your RRSP input goals? Reached them yet?
  • RESP Goals?
  • Savings in General?

A good financial plan is a living, breathing entity, that you must attend to monthly.

House Keeping

I will be out of town for a few days this week so I may miss a day or two this week, my apologies, if I could figure out how to do THIS full time and make a living, I’d gladly do it.

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We are Working Later

No, this is not a commentary about how folks work longer and later hours (although I suspect we are), but Stats Canada put out some interesting numbers about how our work force is aging and people who should be “retired” are continuing to work, even though they are collecting CPP benefits.

Perspectives on Labour and Income is available for free from the Stats Canada web site.


The study found that a substantial and increasing proportion of CPP/QPP beneficiaries did some work for pay the year following their retirement.


For example, in 1995, 39.8% of men who had started receiving a CPP/QPP pension had earnings. By 2004, this proportion had increased to one-half (49.9%). Among their female counterparts, the proportion rose from 37.7% to 45.8%.

Why is this is the more interesting question. Why are people still working after they are supposed to be “retired”?

  1. Do we need to work to make ends meet after retirement? This might well be the case, given the soaring costs of household upkeep on houses that are paid off (the property taxes in some cities are crippling to retirees on fixed incomes).
  2. Do we simply want to feel useful after we have finished our career? That is very possible, certainly the “Golden Agers” I know want to simply do something to fill their time.
  3. Given folks are living a lot longer these days, maybe the age of retirement (traditionally 65 these days) is too low?

Interesting numbers in this article, well worth reading.

Will I retire? I am not sure, I hope I reach an age where some time I can at least have the opportunity to make the choice for myself.

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