• 403-380-2211
  • leung.e@mortgagecentre.com

Tag Archive Tips

Simple steps you can take to prepare for a recession amid coronavirus.

The fast-spreading new coronavirus has health authorities recommending that Canadians prepare a COVID-19 emergency kit. But they may also want to have an emergency fund.

With stock markets and oil prices plummeting to record lows, some economists are expecting a recession. RBC, for example, recently updated its economic forecast to predict Canada will experience a brief economic downturn before bouncing back somewhat in the latter months of the year.

While the bank is still optimistic that the economic pain will be generally short-lived, RBC warned of job losses in industries that have been particularly exposed to the virus-led disruption:

So what can Canadians do to soften the potential blow to their bottom line?

Perform a financial reality check

The first step is assessing your financial vulnerability. Income, says financial planner and best-selling author Shannon Lee Simmons, is “the most important piece.”

If you do, you’ll want to calculate how much money you’re eligible to receive through EI. If you’re a freelancer or business owner, try to estimate how much lower your income could go as work slows, says Lee-Simmons, founder of the New School of Finance.

Next, calculate how much money you’d need to get by until you found a new job or business went back to normal, she adds.

There are likely many ways in which you’d be able to cut back expenses in a lean time, said Robb Engen, a financial planner and author of the popular money blog Boomer and Echo.

For example, if your monthly revenue takes a dive, you may want to put contributions to your retirement account on hold, he says.

Go through your current budget and see which line items you could drop if you had to, Engen suggests. You’ll find you can probably do away with some of your current subscription services.

This is also a good time to review your monthly bills and see if you can lower any of them, he adds. For example, could you get a better deal on your cell phone plan or your home and auto insurance?

“Even if you could save yourself $20 a month on one of those recurring expenses, that’s $240 in the year.”

A few of those savings could buy you some flexibility during a spell of unemployment, said Engen.

They could also help you beef up or establish an emergency fund, he added.

Build an emergency fund

Engen recommends having at least three months’ worth of living expenses stashed away in a bank account. Having access to a home-equity line of credit (HELOC), is simply not enough, he adds.

While HELOCs, which have relatively low-interest rates and flexible repayment terms, can be a source of funds in a crunch, they shouldn’t be your first and only resource in tough times, Engen said.

Ideally, your emergency fund would allow you to ride out the rough patch without racking up any more debt, he said.

Debt payments

Paying down your high-interest debt is even more important than having rainy-day savings, according to Engen. Paying 20 per cent interest on your credit card carryover balance is what Engen calls a “hair on fire emergency.”

“You should get rid of that as soon as possible.”

Then if your income dips in a recession, at least you’ll have some room to borrow again, if you absolutely need it, he said.

But ramping up your debt payments isn’t always a good idea. Canadians with student loans are better off focusing on beefing up their emergency fund, Lee-Simmons says.

Government student loans are relatively cheap, she notes, and borrowers who can’t keep up can apply for repayment assistance.

If you lose your job, you can put your loan payments on hold and use your emergency fund to help carry you through without piling on more expensive credit card debt, she argues.

Buying a house

The flip side of the coronavirus upheaval is very low-interest rates. Financial market turmoil has pushed down the cost of borrowing, including for mortgages. Both five-year fixed rates and variable rates are currently hovering around an eye-watering 2.6 per cent, according to rates-comparisons site RateSpy.com.

If you’re in the market for a new home, this means you can now get a larger mortgage and buy a bigger house. But it also means you could easily become overstretched financially, Lee-Simmons says.

“Make sure that you buy a home you can afford and ensure that you can … put money into emergency savings once you’re in the house so that if there is a recession and you lose your job, you can make ends meet.”

Having a baby

A new mouth to feed will undoubtedly add to your budget, but Lee-Simmons says that’s no reason to let the economy dictate when to start or grow your family.

“There is no magic amount of money or income level that you need in order to be able to afford a kid,” she says.

“People make it work with a lot and people make it work with a little.”

For those approaching retirement

The gyrations of financial markets in the past few weeks have been bad enough to make anyone with money in the stock market feel sick.

For investors with a broadly diversified portfolio and a long time horizon, the advice is often to do nothing at all. With no need to withdraw funds, they can afford to wait out the market crash.

For those approaching retirement, though, it’s a different story. If you’re going to need to draw on your investments in the not-so-distant future, you need a plan to protect your portfolio from market declines, Engen says.

He recommends having enough to cover at least five years’ worth of expenses in a mix of bank deposits and cash-like investments.

Engen suggests putting one or two years’ worth of expenses in a savings account. In addition, investors can cover another three to five years with a so-called “ladder” of Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs).

GICs work like a special kind of deposit. Usually, investors lend the bank their savings for a set number of months of years and receive interest in return. With GICs you are guaranteed to get your principal back, which makes them one of the safest investment options out there.

If you need $20,000 to live on in addition to government retirement benefits and any pension you may be getting, here’s how a GIC ladder would work. You’d put $20,000 in a one-year GIC that would return principal and interest after a 12-month period. You’d put another $20,000 in a two-, three-, four- and five-year term GIC as well. Each year, the maturing GIC will provide for your cash-spending need.

The rest of your portfolio could be in a mix of stocks and bonds. Every year, you can draw from the bonds to buy a new five-year GIC. You can draw from your equity holdings to replenish your bond investments when the stock market is having a better year, Engen says.

“The nice thing about this kind of bucket approach is that you can ride out a period of volatility because you have … years’ worth of spending in more secure, guaranteed investments.”

Sylvane’s Top 10 Spring Cleaning Tips for 2020

Believe it or not, it’s time to start thinking about spring cleaning your home. Spring cleaning is important for everyone, particularly if you’re an allergy sufferer. You owe it to yourself and your family to enjoy a clean that’s more than dirt-deep. Think allergen-deep.

And you don’t have to dread spring cleaning. Just follow our top 10 spring cleaning tips and tricks for allergy sufferers:

1. Make a Schedule

Scope out your home: What areas need the most work? Where do you skip during routine cleaning? Those are the best places to start. Regardless of where you start, having a plan for when you’re tackling each room will keep you focused on the task at hand.

Our printable room-by-room Spring Cleaning Checklist can help. 

2. De-clutter

Decluttering makes you more efficient and keeps you organized. But more than that, clutter has psychological influences. It signals to your brain that work isn’t done. Studies have shown that a disorganized home adds to your stress level. The scientific implications of inhaling dust – combined with the psychological stress of coming home to a pile of unsorted laundry or cluttered desk – can take a toll.

Set aside some time to:

  • Organize your closets
  • Dust and organize your office
  • Look through that dreaded junk drawer

You may be surprised how fresh you feel after you eliminate unnecessary stress from your life.

3. Always Work from Top to Bottom

When you think about how to spring clean your home, it’s important to start from the ceiling down. This will force debris downward and keep you from having to re-dust or re-clean your space. If you have a vacuum with an extension hose, use it to get cobwebs and dust from your ceilings and fans first.

Then dust your furniture and other items before vacuuming all the dust and debris off your floors. It will save you time.

4. Use a HEPA Vacuum

Is your vacuum ready for spring cleaning? Finding the right vacuum is one of the most important parts of spring cleaning. Remove more than just dust and build-up when you vacuum. A high-quality HEPA vacuum catches particles you can’t even see. It traps pet dander, allergens and all household particles in your home.

It’s one of the best spring cleaning supplies you can arm yourself with. Using a vacuum with HEPA filtration will remove dirt and dust, but it will also remove allergens and impurities from your air.

You’ll see this suggestion on just about every spring house cleaning list.

If you don’t have a HEPA vacuum, look for one with attachments, like dusting brushes and crevice tools, and hoses that can be used to clean any location.

These tools make it simple to clean ceiling fans, cobwebs in corners, furniture, pillows, and tight spaces like behind furniture. Be sure to move your furniture too (or at least vacuum under it).

5. Think Green When You Spring Clean

You want to start spring off on a clean note, so don’t expose yourself to chemicals and toxins. A steam cleaner is one of the best green products for spring cleaning. It can be used to clean your microwave, tile, hard floors, kitchen appliances, bathrooms, and even outdoor areas.

Since steam cleaners only use hot water vapor, they are a 100% natural and chemical-free cleaning solution. But keep in mind – not everything can be steam cleaned.

If you don’t have a steam cleaner, one of the best natural combinations for cleaning is white distilled vinegar, baking soda, and water. These ingredients are affordable, non-toxic, and have worked for ages when it comes to cleaning.

See our top spring cleaning products for allergy-sufferers. They’ll clean your air, floor and furniture without a single chemical.

6. Walls and Windows Need Love too

People almost always clean their floors, but they typically forget about walls and windows. Not all dust settles on the floor and other surfaces. Just use a damp towel to wipe down walls and blinds (starting from the top). Remove and wipe down the window screens outside.

When it comes to the actual window, we don’t suggest using chemical cleaners. A steam cleaner with a squeegee is a great way to clean windows.

7. Don’t Be Scared of the Kitchen and Bathroom

Don’t fear cleaning your bathroom! Review our full list of spring cleaning tips to quickly hit these trouble areas. Here are a few common trouble areas:

Kitchens

  • Wipe down your cabinets.
  • Go through your pantry and refrigerator. Wipe down the shelves, and throw away any old items.
  • If you have stainless steel appliances, be sure to use gentle cleaners or a steam cleaner to avoid scratching or other issues.

Bathrooms

  • Change your shower curtain.
  • Go through your cosmetics drawer or medicine cabinet and throw away any expired items.

Consider installing or upgrading to a new bathroom fan. Replacing an existing fan or adding a new one can help to ensure your bathroom remains in top notch condition. They are great for ventilating moisture during showers and removing odors/vapor removal. Depending on the unit you select, it may even come with built-in lighting, automatic operation, and other user-friendly features.

8. Don’t Forget About Your Air

Replacing furnace and HVAC filters is one of the most important and overlooked parts of spring cleaning. In fact, replacing a standard filter with a more robust one with a high MERV rating will help keep you healthier as you enter spring.

It will catch smaller, irritating particles. Air conditioner ducts build up dust during winter, and upgraded filters catch unwanted particles so they don’t enter your space. It’s an inexpensive way to make sure you’re breathing clean, healthy air.

The best way to ensure healthy spring air void of allergens, indoor chemicals or odors is with an air purifier. If anyone in your home suffers from allergies or wakes up stuffy during allergy season, adding an air purifier to his/her bedroom will help.

9. Have Severe Allergies? Protect Yourself.

Cleaning will more than likely unsettle all the winter dust on furniture and fixtures. If you suffer from allergies or are using heavy-duty cleaners, be sure to read the labels. For safe spring cleaning, wear rubber gloves, masks, scarves and even hairnets. Protective clothing will help guard against skin irritations and allergic reactions.

10. Let Spring Cleaning Set a New Tone

If your space feels dark and heavy, you can make small changes to help make it light and fresh for spring. Adding new colorful pillows or art are great ways to change up your space. Replacing items like bedding, towels, table linens, and even window treatments are other ways to transform your rooms for spring and warm weather ahead.

In Summary

Follow these spring cleaning tips to make your season change a breeze. Top tips include make a schedule, start by de-cluttering, always work top-to-bottom and don’t forget about cleaning your air.