My Four Best Investments

Over my financial career I have made many mistakes investing, however there are a few very good investments that I can point to as successes.

My first investment (but not my best) is buying into the Federal Public Service Pension Plan. Thanks to blind luck, I was able to do this, and while it is my biggest investment (yes, even more than my house), it is not the investment that I am most proud. As I outlined in a previous post, thanks to some excellent timing (read luck) on my part I was able to transfer my Nortel Pension into the Federal Public Service Pension plan, and that will (hopefully) allow me to actually retire.

Trent University

Trent University

My 3 other investments (of which I am equally proud) are:

  • A Bachelor of Arts Degree from Wilfrid Laurier University
  • A Bachelor of Kinesiology Degree from Acadia University
  • An Honours Bachelor of Science Degree from Trent University (and hopefully a teaching diploma from Queens University)

As you can tell from the list these are the three degrees that, thanks to some help from my RESPs ,that I helped my daughters’ receive. My youngest daughter has just graduated from Trent University, and as I mentioned in the post I did for me eldest daughter’s degree So That is What $50,000 looks like, it was another excellent investment. Whether my son goes to post-secondary education, we shall see (we are hopeful), but so far aside from being able to retire, I feel I have gone 3 for 3 on these investments.

This is not to say, that if you have decided not to help your children with their post-secondary education you are a bad parent (far from it, many folks just cannot afford to help their kids), just that I have made some awful investments in my time, luckily I have made a few good ones as well.

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Automatic Withdrawal Audits

After attending my youngest daughter’s graduation, I decided to check on my son’s RESP to see just how much money we have so far for his post-secondary education, and thanks to that, I found out that my “Automatic Deposit” (set up many years ago), mysteriously stopped depositing November of 2015.

RESP Piggy Bank

RESP

I called my friendly TD Mutual Fund rep (yes, the RESP is still with TD Mutual Funds, even after I have ranted about them all along, feel free to comment “Do as you say!”), and they don’t know why this happened as well, just that the automatic deposits stopped on November 19th. There has been a problem ticket opened on this issue, and someone will be getting back to me about this.

This really does underline why it is important to check (periodically) on your saving mechanisms, to make sure they are still working as planned.

Moral of the Story: You should always check your automatic withdrawals are still working as you have planned. You should also be checking this for automatic bill payment systems (although your creditors might tell you quickly if you are not paying them as expected).

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Proliteracy.ca – Like Cheese on Vegetables

Let me preface this, that this is a Guest Post from a group of chaps I tripped over a while ago. Sounds like an interesting idea to me teaching folks about the costs of University, they are looking for feedback, have a read and see what you think.

Feels like cheese

by Alfred Yang

For those of you who lived through the 90’s, remember that old Cheese Whiz commercial where kids are reluctant to eat their vegetables until they’re garnished the amazing product? Well, that commercial kept replaying in my head as I worked on Proliteracy.ca, a free tool that helps Canadians plan finances for post-secondary education.

I can’t help but get the feeling that personal finance education is a lot like vegetables.  We all know it’s good for you, but it isn’t that appealing, especially to young people.  I feel like our team at Proliteracy.ca is trying to create the secret sauce that makes something dry and boring more consumable.

Fortunately, from the start of our journey we’ve met many organizations and individuals who share the same passion for promoting financial literacy.  Subject matter experts in the field of personal finance, like Big Cajun Man, gave us the motivation to continue our work.   Today, Proliteracy.ca is available to all Canadians looking to understand post-secondary financing.

The secret sauce?

Despite the rapid evolution of financial technology, it has yet to change the way most consumers educate themselves about personal finance.  The internet gives us incredible access to information, but it can be overwhelming.  The Proliteracy.ca team wanted to find a way to help people filter through the noise to focus on what’s really important to their own situations.

Our team wanted to start by helping students and young parents, a demographic that is arguably the least motivated to learn about personal finance.  Ironically, most members in this very same demographic have a major financial hurdle to overcome – financing post-secondary education.  Tuition has been increasing steadily in the past two decades and according to the Canadian Federation of Students the average new grad from university owes over $28,000 in student debt.

Through extensive research, we found plenty of information on financing post-secondary education, but when considering our own personal situations, a number of questions still remain unanswered:

  • If I have a young child today, how much should I be saving towards?
  • How does studying in a different school or different city impact my cost?
  • How much money should I set aside each month so that I am not too late by the time my child is ready for college?
  • Beside savings, what other financing options are available?
  • How does borrowing impact my child’s financial future?

Proliteracy.ca aims to help forecast the cost of education based on each student’s personal situation. We do the heavy lifting to organize data that’s freely available so that it’s more accessible and easier to understand.

First, we prompt you to answer a few questions, including programs and schools of interest, and the year of enrollment. Then we forecast the cost of tuition, books, and other expenses based on historical data. The end result is a good estimate of the financial target you or your family should be aiming for when planning for post-secondary education.

With an understanding of cost, we’re able to suggest a variety funding options starting with the least expensive options: savings, grants and scholarships.  We build awareness to great federal programs like the Canadian Learning Bond (CLB) and Canadian Education Savings Grants (CESG) and highlight the impact they have on RESP savings.  We also perform grants and scholarships matching, allowing families to take advantage of resources that are otherwise unknown to them before taking on debt.

Eat your vegetables, they’re good for you

In October, we ran a pilot program at three different high schools in the Greater Toronto Area.   We found that students and many young parents are generally not motivated to learn about personal finance and most are not prepared for the high cost of post-secondary education.  Tuition is increasing well beyond the rate of inflation, and a child’s college or university education a decade from now could easily set a family back by over six figures.  Most individuals we spoke to admit that they are planning finances for post-secondary education too late.

Like eating vegetables, financial planning needs to start early in life.  When confronted with a significant financial hurdle like cost of post-secondary education, families need to get into the rhythm of saving, learning about funding options and understanding the implications of debt.

We need your help

Since our pilot launch, we’ve received a lot of encouragement and feedback on how we can improve. While our team is making great strides towards creating an amazing planning tool, we can get there a lot faster by working with individuals and organizations who share the same passion for financial literacy.

So, if you have any feedback at all, we’d love to hear from you.

www.proliteracy.ca

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Mutual Fund Order Rejected (again)

My friends at TD Mutual Funds ended my year with a bang, by cancelling a Mutual Fund order that I had put in for my son’s RESP Account. You remember the last time I tried to do this, I ran into issues that my Trading Profile was not up to date, and thus my order was cancelled, well, it happened again, thanks to my Trading Profile (or Risk Profile).

I was following my own end of year advice, trying to put money into my son’s RESP account, and decided it would be prudent to do this on-line, and attempted to by some TD E-series Funds for the account. I put in my orders and in less than an hour an e-mail arrived outlining why my order was refused, my Trading Profile (or Risk Profile was not up to date. The cry of anguish from me could be heard in Orleans.

Transacation Cancelled

Transaction DENIED!!

One of my new goals for this year, is to fight through the red tape, that is set up to stop me from getting what I want, so I dutifully called the number supplied (in the rejection e-mail), and after a bunch of “security questions”, the young man on the phone told me he could help me “update my investing profile”, which allegedly had not been updated since 2007. I could have asked what I was doing last year when “updated my profile” for another account, but I did not.

I then spent 10 minutes answering questions about my investing beliefs and ideas, of which, two of the questions were specific to this investment account (an RESP). Those  two questions were only specific in that it was, “When do you need this money” question, but I suppose they are savings vehicle specific (in an obtuse way).

Was that all that needed to be done? No! My wife also had to go through the exact same interrogation, as the account is jointly held by her and I (for my son). She then had to answer 10 minutes of the exact same questions. After about 1/2 an hour, I was informed that I was allowed to resubmit my mutual fund purchase (yes, I had to resubmit the purchase, they could not simply reuse the rejected request).

What have I learned from this:

  1. I should follow my own advice, and move this account somewhere else, as I refuse to go through this inquisition again.
  2. TD needs to revamp their Mutual Fund Investing profiles to cover all Mutual Fund accounts held by someone instead of forcing folks to keep more than 5 investing profiles up to date (yes, evidently I have 5 investing profiles). Given the questionnaire has 12 questions and only 2 have to do with the specific investment that is the least that can be expected here.
  3. I should re-read my old posts and remind myself how painful these process can be.

A wonderful way to end 2015. For those of you hoping I write less whining and ranting articles this year, sorry, doesn’t look like that will happen.

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Back To School and RESP Time

If your child is starting Junior Kindergarten this week (or next), and you have not opened an RESP for them, can I ask why you haven’t?  Go to my RESP page, and read some of the stories there about how simple it is to open this kind of account, and how helpful it can be (and how much of a pain it can be to extract your money), but if you think your child has a chance of going to a post-secondary program, you need to start saving right now.

CIS Rugby

Those Tuition Fees do fly high like #7 in this photo!

Some provinces are talking about changing their “student loan” system so that there are more grants given out, but I suspect the business of post-secondary education is going to keep out-stripping inflation for a good long time.

I must however warn you off many of the RESP savings systems offered by many of the banks especially those that only allow you to purchase the banks “value added” mutual funds, and yes, there is going to be another rant about this real soon now. Find somewhere that does not have a lot of extra fees, where you can grow the money you get from the government, because it is not going to be enough, to pay for a full education. Interesting that one Insurance company that had a Giraffe as their mascot, seems to have gotten out of the RESP business?

Start saving for that education, if you plan on paying for it, if not, relax and enjoy the upcoming NFL season.

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