Tuesday, September 22, 2015

8 Things New Homeowners Waste Money On

August 26, 2015
Donna Boyle Schwartz, Bob Vila
Even the most experienced homeowners can get sucked into spending a lot of money on maintenance costs or home improvements that just don’t deliver. For those who take pride in their homes, it’s important to make improvements that enhance functionality, save time, or make a big design statement. Unfortunately, some of the most common renovations and additions are just a waste of money. Here are some of the major items that can fritter away your funds.
     1.The Grass Is Not Always Greener
Professional lawn-care services lure trusting homeowners with promises of a vibrant, lush carpet of soft grass. These services, however, can cost as much as a couple of hundred dollars per month for weekly trims, plus extra fees for various treatments. Save on expenses by making a modest investment in over-the-counter fertilizer, a good-quality mower, and weekend cuttings.
2.     Don’t Take the Plunge
Lounging in your own backyard swimming pool might sound like the ultimate luxury. But before you throw a lot of money into a big hole in the ground, be realistic about the true costs of installation and maintenance. Not only is there the cost of the water, but there’s cleaning, chemicals, and heating to consider. What’s more, a pool isn’t a draw for all home buyers, so it won’t add much resale value when it’s time to sell.
3.     Not Too Bright
A sunroom makes a lovely place to kick back in an Adirondack chair with a refreshing drink. Yet homeowners who invest in this expensive addition can expect to recoup only half of their costs, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2015 Cost vs. Value Report.
4.     Alfresco Additions
For those who love backyard entertaining, an outdoor kitchen might seem like a no-brainer. But before you install a pricey new cooktop, brick pizza oven, or other major appliances on the patio, weigh the expense of the project against how much you’ll truly use a second kitchen. If you’re unsure, remember that a top-of-the-line gas grill offers a little luxury at a fraction of the cost of a full kitchen.
5.     Trust the Grid
It’s great to be prepared for any kind of emergency, but buying a backup power generator may not be a necessary investment. An integrated backup generator costs a pretty penny but doesn’t build much value when it’s time to sell your home. If you live in an urban or suburban neighborhood where power outages are rare, consider skipping the expense.

6.     Don’t Spend to Extend
When you’re purchasing a new appliance, chances are the salesperson will try to upsell an extended warranty. But is it worth the extra cost? Most major appliances don’t break down during the extended warranty period, so you’ll never collect any money. If you still feel like you need the extra coverage, review your credit card policy as many already offer a year of extended warranty protection on purchases.
7.      Feel the Pain of PMI
When homeowners pay less than 20 percent on a down payment, they are often required to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI). This expense can add a substantial monthly cost on top of their mortgage payment. Try to get rid of the PMI as soon as possible by making a few extra mortgage payments during the first two years of ownership. Paying a little extra per month will also reduce the total amount of interest that you’ll pay over the life of the mortgage.
8.     Out the Window
No one would willingly throw money out the window, but with improperly insulatedwindows, you might be doing just that. Take control with a home energy audit; focus on the attic, doors, and windows to identify where you can improve efficiency. A little insulation and weatherstripping could save a lot on monthly energy costs.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

To owe or not to owe, not such a simple question: Mayers

Popular wisdom says you should be debt-free when you retire. But sometimes it makes more sense to carry some debt than to pay it all off.
Adam Mayers Personal Finance Editor, Personal Finance Columnist, Published on Wed Aug 12 2015

One of the big questions for Canadians who are heading into retirement and are carrying mortgage or credit-line debt is whether to pay it off right away, or do it gradually over time.
Seniors were once a group with low or no debts, but no longer. Now they’re the demographic with the fastest-rising levels of borrowing. Here’s a scary statistic: A report from bankruptcy trustee Hoyes, Michalos & Associates this spring found that three in 10 bankruptcies are coming from the over 50s. Of the 6,000 bankruptcy cases the firm looked at, the over 60s were in the worst shape.
Conventional wisdom has it that you shouldn’t owe anybody anything when you retire because your ability to pay it off is diminished. Your income is fixed and if your pensions are not inflation-indexed, the real amount you’re living on is falling over time. Diverting cash to pay what you borrowed long ago isn’t wise.
But as with most things to do with personal finance, one size doesn’t fit all. In some cases, it could make sense to pay the debt off slowly.
Here’s an example:
A reader named Stuart and his wife retired three years ago and between them have good pension income of $105,000 a year. They also have $100,000 in RRSPs. They are mortgage-free, but owe $17,000 on a line of credit.
They’ve been making good progress chipping away at the loan. Three years ago, they owed $40,000. They pay it down at $500 a month.
“That leads to my question,” Stuart said. “Is it better for us to continue clearing off the debt the way we are, or would it be more advantageous for us to use our RRSP?”
The interest rate on Stuart’s line of credit is under 3 per cent. On the other hand, cashing in the RRSP means paying tax — the flipside of that of those refunds over the years. The amount withheld depends on how large the withdrawal is.
If the withdrawal is $5,000 or less, you’ll be subject to a withholding tax of 10 per cent. The tax is 20 per cent if you take out more than $5,000 and less than or equal to $15,000. Above $15,000, the tax is 30 per cent.
You may pay more tax when you file your return or get some back, depending on your bracket.
“If it makes sense to use our RRSP, is there an optimal amount to remove?” Stuart asked. “And, should the funds come from the person with the higher pension? Or the lower pension? Or some sort of split?”
I asked Dan Hallett, a financial planner and principal with Oakville’s Highview Financial Group, for his opinion. “It makes more sense to keep servicing the loan,” he said.
Since the interest rate on the credit line is less than 3 per cent and the payment is $500 a month, the loan will be paid off in less than three years, he says. The interest expense will be about $760.
The RRSP route is more expensive. In order to get $17,000 in hand, Stuart would need to withdraw $25,000, because almost $8,000 would be withheld in taxes.
Hallett says that between the taxes and missing out on the potential growth of the $25,000 in his RRSP, paying $760 of interest is a better way to go.
“So keep paying the loan,” he says. “If the goal is to wipe out the loan as quickly as possible, make extra payments. In less than three years, it will be gone — with more than 95 per cent of the payments going directly against the principal.”
Hallett says that even if interest rates rise by a point each year, the gradual repayment is better.
“The outcome isn’t materially different,” he says. “This is mainly because so much of each payment pays down principal.”

Thought Leadership - 6 Ways To Use Content To Improve Your Bottom Line..

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed more and more companies who have become extremely frustrated 
when it comes to selecting the best media outlet for their message.  Unfortunately, many of them end up doing nothing at all which is why today's topic is critical for anyone who is not clear on how to get your message out.

Bottom Line:
Creating content is the single most powerful tool in your toolbox and should not be neglected.  It is well worth the time invested and will certainly reward your company for years to come.

Let’s dive right in...  

I hope this is the shove you need to engage a content strategy immediately!!

6 Ways to Become an Industry Thought Leader

  1. Maintain an Active Business Blog:
    Launching a blog that covers important topics relating to the industry in which you're selling is perhaps the best way to establish and uphold your image as a thought leader. A well-written blog will make prospects and current customers confident that the products and services they buy from you are created using industry expertise. Not only will maintaining an active business blog reward you with a more credible industry presence, but when done right, it will also afford you additional business benefits such as improved lead generation and expanded reach achieved through a boost in search engine optimization.

  2. Contribute Guest Blog Posts:
    Once you start gaining traction as a credible business blogger using your own blog, it's also a great idea to seek opportunities to contribute guest articles to the blogs of other industry thought leaders. Being recognized by already-established thought leaders as a credible source and contributor will further legitimize your industry expertise.

  3. Publish Long-Form Content:
    Publishing longer form content such as ebooks, whitepapers, and even webinars shows prospects and customers that your knowledge about given topics expands beyond 600-word blog posts. By publishing well-crafted, educational ebooks or other downloadable content, you'll demonstrate that you're capable of thought leadership on an even higher scale.

  4. Launch Your Own Podcast:
    An alternative or complement to blogging, launching a regularly scheduled audio or video podcast is another great way to exhibit thought leadership. Consider discussing important industry-related topics or news and inviting other industry experts to join you as guests to create an even deeper level of credibility.

  5. Speak at Conferences/Events:
    Your thought leadership doesn't have to be limited to the web. Live, in-person conferences and events are valuable marketing assets, and a presence at these gatherings can be valuable to any business' marketing efforts. Apply to speak at these types of industry events. Start with smaller events to introduce yourself into your industry's speaking circuit, and work your way up to larger, more prestigious events once you've gained more experience and respect as a speaker. Once you've secured speaking engagements, always be sure to make your presentations as educational and non-promotional as possible to achieve maximum credibility.

  6. Answer Questions in Social Media:
    This is perhaps one of the easiest thought leadership tactics to keep up with on an ongoing basis. Social media is littered with people trying to learn more or find answers to questions they have. Monitoring social media sites for industry-related questions can help you identify opportunities to share your expertise.  LinkedIn Answers is the perfect platform for this, allowing you to search users' questions by industry and topic. Also consider using Twitter Search to find users' questions on Twitter. Quora and Facebook are also great places to search. Once you've identified questions for which you can provide a helpful response, answer it in an informative, non-promotional way. (Bonus points if you can link to a blog post you've written that expands on the topic in question!)

Leave Promotion at the Door

I've said it a few times throughout this blog post, but it's important to emphasize that one of the keys to becoming an authentic thought leader in your industry is to leave promotion at the door. Even the tiniest inkling of being too overly promotional can seriously undermine your credibility as an industry expert.

On the other hand, if people start to trust you and respect you as an industry thought leader, the indirect result will be greater trust in the products and services you have to offer, and ultimately, more business!