Thursday, April 28, 2016

Still procrastinating on your taxes? Last minute advice for filing on time

I spoke with CBC radio across the country this morning about the fact that Canadians are notoriously late with filing their tax returns.  If you find yourself in the same boat, you still have time to avoid a costly penalty.  According to a recent Turbo Tax Survey for Intuit Canada, most of us haven't filed our taxes yet.  Their top tax-filing trends survey revealed that only 37.7% of those in Ontario had already filed, 18.4% in Alberta and B.C. trailed at 17.3% (as of April 25th, 2016).

There's an app for that

If you're looking for a cheap and fast way to file your tax return (and get your refund if you have one coming), the Globe and Mail's personal finance columnist, Rob Carrick and BNN News spells it out here.

Overlooked deductions and tax credits

If you're going it alone, make sure you brush up on the 70 plus tax deductions and credits available to Canadians.  Robyn Thompson from Fundlibrary has a solid list for you to check here.

Why are we so last minute?

Jacob Hirsh, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto was quoted in this Toronto Star article saying, "Why wouldn't you put them off?  Unless you're expecting a big refund, there is no real positive incentive to do your taxes early. Normally, the things that motivate us the most are the things we're excited about: we perceive an opportunity for value."  Hirsh teaches organizational behaviour and human resource management.

A little peer pressure may help motivate you as the Canadian Revenue Agency states that 90% of Canadians actually file on time.  So even though we procrastinate, most of us are prudent enough to not be late, even if we file in the final hour.

What can you do to minimize the stress for next year?

Taxes are one of the largest expenses you'll face in your lifetime.  As the old saying goes, pay your fair share of tax, but not a penny more.  Consider utilizing the experience and guidance of a Certified Financial Planner.  A CFP can crunch the numbers and figure out how you may be able to pay less tax now and in the future.  To find a planner in your area, visit

You still have time to file

Because the April 30th deadline falls on a Saturday, you now have until Monday, May 2nd at midnight to get your return in on time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Beat the vactation blues - budget travel ideas from the Marilyn Denis show

To watch the video from my Marilyn Denis segment, click here.

Beat the Vacation Budget Blues

Kelley Keehn shares spending strategies to keep your vacation budget under control.

Budget Travel Tips

1. Make it an experience.

Get your kids a journal and have them record the journey, research in advance what they want to do, historical highlights, etc. With enough advanced planning, you and your family can savour your trip for months! If you have a teenager, consider splurging and paying for their BFF to come along.  That way they’ll be entertained and less likely to be bored and miserable.

2. Try a sort-of staycation.

Staycations have been recommended heavily since the 2008 recession and recently with our low dollar. However, people tell me that they rarely stick to “being a tourist” in their city and instead waste their week off with grouchy kids, spouses and end up catching up on chores and errands. What about a “sort-of” staycation? With AirBnB, you can still get away, just don’t go far. If you live in Vancouver, head to Victoria. Calgary – go to Canmore. Toronto – well…anywhere in Ontario could work. You’ll save on lodging and air travel and can likely use your own car.  Plus, you don’t have to eat out every meal if you book a place that encourages cooking.

Also consider asking the grandparents to take the kids on a vacation. This is a growing trend. That way, you and your spouse really can achieve success on your stay-cation.

3. Hit the grocery store as soon as you land.

Even if you have to spring for a taxi, you’ll save by loading up on bottled water, snacks, forgotten toiletries – all very expensive if bought at the hotel gift shop.

4. Maximize research and deals.

Can your kids get caught up on a week’s work of schoolwork early and duck out for maximum savings on off-peak times? Use flight alerts (try, Google Flights and Expedia or TripAdvisor for packages) to help save on airfare. Sign up for weekly deals like Travelzoo to take advantage of flash sales. Don't forget rewards programs – every dollar counts.

5. Use your age, student and membership discounts, and negotiate!

Always ask what the place accepts – sometimes that’s enough to get a deal. This also might be a great time to dust off all your points. I find sometimes they go further with hotels than flights. Upgrading to a club floor with your points might buy you breakfast at a great hotel for free for the entire family during your whole trip.

Always ask and negotiate – everything! If you can’t get a better hotel rate, can you get a free upgrade, ½ price on a second room, kids eat free offers, etc.  And keep asking every time. Sometimes a different person will say yes!

6. Insurance – always read the fine print.  

Check your credit card or call your bank to find out what type of coverage you have with your card – does it cover the car insurance when you’re renting, medical insurance, flight/trip cancellation? It all depends on your card, so don’t guess. Also, check your home/auto policy to see what’s covered that maybe you can say no to. And even if you’re staying within the country, you may wish to get provincial coverage for extras.

7. Book package deals and tours,

A cool tour/educational vacation is  It’s a non-profit that provides educational experiences with tour guides. They have some very reasonable experience packages in Canada.

8. Set a souvenir budget.

Set a budget in advance, as this forgotten cost can add another 10-20% to your trip. Get your kids to start a new hobby such as stamp, coin or postcard collecting. For adults, take time to take really cool pictures on vacation and blow them up and frame them when you get home as opposed to spending money on trinkets.

9. Research cash vs. credit.

In Canada, I’d highly recommend paying with your credit card as you have the extra layer of protection from your credit card company if something goes wrong or you don’t get something you were promised. But for foreign countries and depending on the exchange rate and fees associated with your credit card, even in the United States, it might make sense to pay in cash. Do you research before you head out!

10. Alternative between free and expensive fun.  

You should have a balance during any day of paid excursions/sightseeing and what can come at little or no cost.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Women & the sudden responsibilities of wealth management

It's estimated that at some point, 90% of all wealth will be controlled by women.  Yet, the financial industry (and that of accounting, law, banking and more) still primarily focus on men.

Women, by design, accident or choice are facing complex financial decisions during critical phases in their lives such as a divorce, death of a spouse, inheritance, or the sale of a business.  Without a firm financial footing, these pivotal points in her life can cause undue stress, leave her vulnerable to being taken advantage of and more.

So what do women need when they're facing the responsibility of managing sudden wealth?  I assembled a round table of women – from industry experts to government to female trail blazers - for a discussion on how to level the playing field. Insights were shared on how women can better equip themselves with a solid financial foundation and where much work still needs to be done.  This project was sponsored by BNN's, Larry Berman and his company, ETF Capital Managment.  You'll find a robust video discussion, industry report, and a plethora of resources on the micro site we created at

The aspect of "trust" came up often in our conversations and how to find a qualified financial professional.  Financial literacy leader Jane Rooney discussed the excellent, unbiased resources the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has developed (see the above link).

Cynthia Kett, a fee-only Certified Financial Planner and Partner with Stewart & Kett, informed the table that anyone in Canada can call themselves a financial planner (outside of the province of Quebec).  A frightening thought!

Understanding the fundamentals of financial planning will help women feel more confident about the process and better equip her to identify a qualified professional when facing the challenge of managing wealth suddenly.

For more information on the benefits of engaging in financial planning, and the value of working with a CFP professional, visit