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Advice for New Grads?

I got called by Insight Magazine to give some advice to new grads on what they should be doing about their finances, many years ago. It was so long ago, the magazine no longer exists. I gave some answers to the interviewer, but as usual, I was not sure I was very clear or eloquent, so now I will attempt to be more clear to those that might have read the article.

Get The Heck Out of Debt

You have just graduated from University, and you might be carrying upwards of $70K in debt (hopefully in student loans only). You most likely won’t be paying that debt off in your first year of working (should you find a job right away). If you can pay it off, good for you! However, you should put together a plan on how you are going to pay off that debt and WHEN it will be retired.

Carrying debt is a drag on your finances, and the sooner the debt is retired, the easier your financial life will be. You should not aspire to “get used to living in debt”, this is the one thing my generation does NOT want to hand down to you.

Don’t Fall In Love With Having Money

Just because you have graduated from University and you no longer have to eat Kraft Dinner with Hot Dogs for dinner, does not mean you must go out every night to eat. You have lived a frugal lifestyle as a student (I am assuming), but if you continued that frugal lifestyle for a while longer, you may be able to pay down your debt faster and then be on a much stronger footing financially.

Yes, you deserve to enjoy life, but it is very easy to get used to the “Let’s go out to dinner tonight we deserve it” lifestyle, and once you are in that lifestyle the habit is very hard to break (speaking as a 49 year old, I can attest to that issue).

You cannot live your parents’ lifestyle (yet) so don’t try. It took them 30 years to get where they are, don’t rush your spending habits to mimic their spending habits.

If your parents paid for you to have a Samsung or an iPhone or paid for your Cell phone bill, maybe it’s time to get rid of this expensive toy? You don’t need $120 a month cell phone bills. Discretionary spending (i.e. money haemorrhage) is a bad thing which you must watch diligently. Middle age mens’ wastes spread, but their spending spreads like that as well, don’t let it happen to you.

Have a Savings Plan

The sooner you start saving, the better it will be for you when you reach my age, however, saving while still carrying discretionary debt (i.e. non-mortgage debt) is paying Peter to feed Paul. Lowering your debt is first and foremost, if you have left over moneys from your year, yes, starting an RRSP early is a good thing to do, but pay your debts first.

Savings is good, getting out of debt is better.

Get the Heck out of Debt

Did I mention this yet?

Banks Can be Negotiated With

As I have pointed out before Free Banking is possible, but it is more likely for old farts like me, who have a good track record with the bank already.  Paying $12-$25 a month in bank service charges you should try to avoid, since you most likely don’t use enough services with the bank to justify this charge. Go with as cheap banking as you can.

The Three Worst Ideas After Graduation

  1. I deserve a new car! -or- I deserve a vacation in Las Vegas!
  2. I’m a little short until my next pay cheque, I’ll get a pay day loan
  3. I am only carrying a few hundred dollars on my credit card balance this month

Keep this in mind, did I mention Get the Heck Out of Debt?

Last Pieces of Advice for New Grads

Originally published in 2010

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Tuition Fees Down

Stats Canada put out their yearly report Tuition fees (in Canada) for degree programs, 2019/2020 a while ago. It has some interesting data including the fact that Tuition Fee costs for undergrad students dropped for this year (with a caveat).

Ontario led the way with a 9.9% Tuition drop. In fact in the rest of Canada Tuition went UP? Isn’t it great how large data sets can skew things?

Table 37-10-0045-01UndergraduateGraduate
 annual % changeannual % change
Canada-5.3-4.5
Newfoundland and Labrador2.30.0
Prince Edward Island2.02.0
Nova Scotia3.52.9
New Brunswick7.33.5
Quebec3.73.8
Ontario-9.9-9.1
Manitoba5.33.6
Saskatchewan3.34.1
Alberta0.03.3
British Columbia2.01.3
Yukon8.5..

Remember we are only speaking of Tuition Fees and the Business of University Fees encompasses far more than just tuition. Evidently those fees have dropped slightly as well, but I am skeptical.

The other factor in Ontario is the revamping of the OSAP pay outs, so students get a large amount less than they have in previous years.

International Students face a tuition hike, which is where a lot of Universities are making their money.

Most Expensive Degrees

A very good graphic explains that.

Tuition Fees
If your Child wants to be a Doctor or Dentist, better have an RESP

The above graphic should emphasize the importance of an RESP for parents who think their kids might go to a post-secondary program. Don’t expect Tuition Fees to drop again any time soon.

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My 5 Best Investments

I have written previously about my 4 best investments, but I feel it is important to update and follow up on that statement. I now feel I have 5 best investments that I can boast about. No, this is not another 5 best stocks to invest in right now article. Plenty of other places to find that information.

5 Best Investments

In 2018 one of my daughters graduated as a Chiropractor, so now my 5 best investments are

The last 2 investments I didn’t actually spend that much on. The previous three investments I feel were mostly my investments. I did have a rule that I pay for the 1st degree (and if I pay for a degree I don’t pay for a wedding). As with all rules they have not been adhered to verbatim.

My parents invested in my education, and for that I am eternally grateful. I have had folks comment that if a child pays for their own education, they are more invested in the process. In my case, letting my parents down was actually a strong motivating factor. That makes it a wash in terms of arguments.

I like the fact that it wasn’t a foreign investment either. I don’t think I could have afforded sending my kids outside of the country. It was expensive enough out of the city.  If you are planning on helping your kids, an RESP is where you should start with your plan, and then look into CO-OP programs, OSAP and the Scholarships out there (and there are many).

Regrets?

My guess is if I hadn’t put the money away that I used to help my kids’ educations I would have blown it on something stupid, so I am glad I can point to something tangible for where the money went. It has also been pointed out that I didn’t do any of the work (aside from repairing a few computers). Why is this a good investment? I have always relied on the good works of others.

Guess the title is a bit of clickbait, but at least it wasn’t 5 best stocks to invest in right now.

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Helping Kids With University Costs, Idea #214

If you are planning on trying to help your kids out with their University costs (or other post-secondary ideas), an RESP is a must (just for the free money), however, that is not the only way to ensure you can easily help out your kids reach their educational dreams (or your dreams for their eduction).

I have learned after 8 years of paying for children’s expenses for school, that the most debilitating university costs are not tuition, it is the cost of accommodation. At one point in the 8 years I was

  • Paying the mortgage on my house
  • Paying rent of 3 separate apartments across Canada

When did I become so rich that I could afford this (you might ask)? (sarcasm alert) I most assuredly did not, the RESP money helped somewhat, but these kind of costs can almost double your family living expenses. Living expenses for your kids at school really do add up.

There are remedies for this kind of expense (luckily):

  1. Do not allow your child to move away from home while they are going to University. Whether you really want to inflict this on yourself, is a question you must ask, but that will eliminate many of the living expenses. I know at least one set of parents that said, “I will pay for your tuition, and give you a car to use, if you stay at home. If not, it is all on you.”
  2. Pay off your house before your kids get to University, that way you are rich enough to be able to pay for the rent on “N” different apartments (or residence rooms) (where N is greater than 1).
  3. Make your kids pay for their living costs.
  4. Make your kids pay the whole shot. They want an eduction, time to learn about money at the same time.

Option (2) on the list is a very good target to try to hit, but kind of hard if you are maxing out your RESP, TFSA, and RRSP savings targets as well, but still something to keep in mind!

Options (3) & (4) sound heartless, but I know plenty of folks who paid for their entire University career, because their parents couldn’t help out, and they seem to have survived.

Keep in mind, University costs are not just tuition costs.

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The Business of University Fees

This is from 2016 so the University Fees here, are most likely lower than they are currently. Read the Bill from your Post-Secondary institution, carefully. Do you have to pay all those fees?

For those of us who have kids about to return to University we are about to see the onslaught of fees that are charged by all Universities (in Canada). University fees continue to be become more and more intricate, complicated and expensive.

There are many fees being charged, but the two that caught my eye (on my daughter’s university fees bill from Queen’s University) were:

Grad Health Insurance2016 Fall2016/09/30$280.00
Grad Dental Insurance2016 Fall2016/09/30$220.00
Seems a little steep

For those who do not want to do the arithmetic, that is $500 for 4 months.

university fees
Don’t see any beer taxes on the tuition bill (luckily)

Remember that if your child is in school your health insurance plan covers both Health & Dental (if you are covered that is), so you really don’t need to pay this fee, and most universities will allow your child to opt out of the charges (which seem quite high to me). I have checked with our friends at LSM Insurance who think the fees are a little high, but not too bad. Another factor to take into consideration is that a lot of Health Plans have positive enrollment clauses (I am with SUN Life for health insurance and that is the case), where you must every year (after a child turns 19 I think) go to the Insurers web site (or send in a form) stating that your child is still at school, or the child loses their coverage under the plan.

How easy is it to opt-out of the health and dental in the university fees schedule ? At most schools, not as simple as you might think, and deciphering which fees are optional, and which are mandatory is a real quagmire of data.

I remember folks opting out of fees when I was at University, but typically those were the folks that were paying their own way, and didn’t want to pay for things they weren’t going to use.

What are some other fees from Queens University ? These add up to almost 25% of the tuition bill we are paying (note that residence or living expenses are not here either). Still think you won’t need an RESP to help your kids go to University? I’d also like to remind those with younger kids that there is no legislation limiting the fee levels (tuition yes) or how much they can increase.

An Example Tuition Bill (2016)

ChargeAmount
Student Assistance Levy$40.15
Education Society Fee$10.00
Athletics$168.41
Student Wellness Services$58.93
Campus Observation$0.50
Work Bursary Program$5.38
Student Life Centre$21.50
SGPS Society Fee$45.72
Telephone Aid LIne Kingston$0.75
Legal Aid$5.00
Sexual Assault Crisis Centre$1.25
Canadian Federation of Student$16.24
SGPS Student Advisors$3.81
SGPS Accessibility$3.00
The Queen’s Journal$3.50
CFRC$7.50
Walkhome$19.86
Oxfam$0.87
Bus-It$66.25
Qns Internl Affairs Associatio$1.00
SGPS Sports Fund$2.00
Queen’s Food Centre$1.25
HIV Aids Regional Srvcs.$1.00
Union Gallery$3.00
Queen’s Daycare$1.00
Four Directions Aborig Stdnt C$1.00
Dawn House Women’s Shltr$1.07
Q Intern Stdnt Soc Bursary Pgm$0.71
Student Refugee Support$3.37
Reelout Art Project$1.80
Positive Space Program$0.34
Kingston Youth Shelter Project$1.00
Yellow Bike Action Group$0.60
Ban Righ Foundation$3.00
The Grad Club$20.00
Centre for Teaching & Learning$1.35
Sexual Health Resource Centre$0.92
SGPS Sustainability$1.50
Levana Gender Advocacy Centre$0.81
Kgston Loving Spoonful Charity$2.00
Grad Health Insurance$280.00
Grad Dental Insurance$220.00

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