Posts Tagged ‘money’

Why are employees leaving free pension money on the table? – The Globe and Mail.

Fred Vettese is the chief actuary at Morneau Shepell, a human resources and actuarial consulting services firm.

Canadians are forgoing as much as $3-billion annually by not taking full advantage of employer matching contributions within their company defined contribution (DC) pension plans, according to a recent Sun Life Financial report. One has to wonder why employees would pass up free money when there are no strings attached.

Employees in most DC plans have the option of contributing extra, and if they do, the employer makes a matching contribution on their behalf. Sometimes it is a partial match, such as 50 cents for every dollar contributed by the employee, and sometimes it is a full match. Employers offer contribution matching to encourage employees to save more for retirement.

To gain some insight into why a significant percentage of DC participants balk at contributing more, I analyzed data from a number of DC pension plans for which Morneau Shepell does record-keeping. My investigation, which encompassed tens of thousands of employee records, turned up the following:

  • About one third of participants in a given plan do not make an optional contribution, even if it is 100 per cent matched by the employer.
  • Up to two thirds will not make an optional contribution if the basic required contribution they are already making is high, such as 4 per cent of pay or more.
  • One would expect older employees to contribute more since they will get their hands on the employer’s money sooner. But it turns out the impact of age is quite minimal, especially if we correct for salary differences. In some groups, a fifth of the employees in their 50s do not make optional contributions.
  • Salary level has a big impact on optional contribution rates but only up to the average national wage level – the low $50,000s. In one case, nearly half of employees in their mid-40s who were earning under $50,000 opted not to contribute versus only 18 per cent of employees in the same age group who were earning over $50,000.
  • In plans where the range of optional contribution rates is limited, the employee’s decision is practically binary. The vast majority either contribute enough to earn the maximum employer matching or they contribute nothing. This suggests that deciding how much to contribute is not based on ability to pay or on perceived retirement income needs, but rather on whether or not one understands the idea behind the optional matching.

What is noteworthy is that many of the employees who elect not to make optional contributions to their DC plans still contribute to their own Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs). According to Statistics Canada data, over half of the participants in pension plans, including DC plans, also contribute to RRSPs. A rough estimate is that several hundred thousand DC plan participants are forgoing employer matching contributions in their DC plans and instead make personal RRSP contributions that are not matched.

Read the rest of the article here…

Why are employees leaving free pension money on the table? – The Globe and Mail.

H&R Block has offered their top 10 tax myths:

Maternity leave income is not taxable. “You are required to report your EI benefits as income. In most cases, Service Canada withholds less than the lowest tax rate so you may have tax obligations at the end of the year.

RRSP contributions do not have to be reported if I do not use the deduction. “Even if you are not claiming a deduction for the contributions you made in the year, you are still required to record the fact that you made them. So all your contributions from March 2, 2012 until March 1, 2013 should be recorded on your 2012 tax return.”

Tips are not considered income. “Servers and others working in the hospitality industry are required to record and report their tips on their tax return. For servers, tips may be as much as 200-400 per cent of their income.”

Students get refunds on their tuition. “In order to receive a tax refund, you need to have overpaid your income tax during the year. If a student does not have taxable income, they cannot use their tuition and education credits on their return. They have the option to transfer up to $5,000 to a parent, grandparent or spouse or they can carry forward credits to use in future year.”

Mothers are required to claim the children first. “The lower income spouse is required to claim childcare expenses whether it is the mother or father. Either parent can claim the child tax credit.”

I earned less than $10,000 so I do not have to file a tax return. “Even if you did not earn more than the $10,822 personal amount, filing a tax return may trigger benefits like the quarterly GST/HST payment. And if you had tax withheld, you should receive a refund.”

I can claim a flat rate amount for my business mileage. “Self-employed Canadians are required to keep a logbook to calculate the auto expenses for their business.”

Child support is a tax deduction. “Unless your agreement is dated before May 1, 1997, child support payments are reported on your tax return but they are not a deduction or included in income.”

If I work outside of the country, I do not need to file a tax return. “The Canadian tax system is based on residency. If you are emigrating, you should indicate your date of exit on your last tax return. If you are working outside of the country but have substantial residential ties to Canada still, you will be required to file a Canadian tax return.”

Mortgage interest is a tax deduction. “Only self-employed Canadians who work from home are allowed to claim a percentage of their mortgage insurance as a business expense. The tax benefit of owning a home comes when you sell. Every Canadian receives a capital gains exemption on the sales of their principal residence.”

http://www.hrblock.ca/documents/TS13%20Media%20Advisory%20Tax%20Myths.pdf

 

Dollar cost averaging

Dollar cost averaging is a technique designed to reduce market risk through the systematic purchase of securities at predetermined intervals and set amounts. Many successful investors already practice without realizing it. If you participate in a regular savings plan, you are already using this tool. Many others could save themselves alot of time, effort and money by beginning such a plan.

 Dollar cost averaging can lower an investor’s cost of investment and reduce his risk of investing at the top of a market cycle.

The beauty of dollar cost averaging is that you buy more shares when prices are low and fewer shares when prices are higher. The result is an average cost that is better than trying to time the market with your investments.

What is Dollar Cost Averaging

Instead of investing all his money at one go, the investor gradually builds up a position by purchasing smaller amounts over a period of time. This spreads the average cost over the period, therefore providing a buffer against market volatility.

In order to begin a dollar cost averaging plan, you must do three things:

  1. Decide exactly how much money you can invest each month. To be effective, you should have sufficient funds to continue investing through the market cycle.
  2. Select an investment (index funds are particularly appropriate) that you want to hold for the long term, preferably five to ten years or longer.
  3. At regular intervals, weekly, monthly or quarterly, invest that money into the security chosen.

An example of a Dollar Cost Averaging Plan

Here’s how it works. The principle is simple: Invest a fixed amount of money in the market at regular intervals, such as every month, regardless of whether the market is up or down.

Let’s assume you have $12,000 and you want to invest in a stock. You have two options: you can invest the money as a lump sum now, walk away and forget about it, or you can set up a dollar cost averaging plan and ease your way into the stock.

You opt for the latter and decide to invest $1,000 each month for one year. Assume further that the stock started at $10 per unit and reaches $16 per unit a year later.

Had you invested your $12,000 at the beginning, you would have purchased 1,200 shares at $10 each. When the stock closed for the year in December at $16, your holdings would only be worth $19,200!

Had you dollar cost averaged into the stock over the year, however, you would own 1,643 shares as shown in Table 1; at the closing price, this gives your holdings a market value of $26,228.

 

Why Dollar Cost Averaging Works

The system works because it takes the emotion and temptation to time the market out of the process. You establish an amount that is comfortable for you to invest and let the market work for you. The system takes the decision-making elements of how much to invest and when to invest out of your hands. Dollar cost averaging solves this problem by eliminating the need to predict an entry point.

Chart 1 shows what happens when you invest $1,000 per month for twelve months in an investment that fluctuates in price. The average market price per unit is $8.08. Look at Table 1, your average cost per unit = $12,000/1,643 which is approximately $7.30. Thus, the example shows that you don’t have to guess when to purchase shares to get a better price.

Will dollar cost averaging guarantee you a profit? No system can do that. However, if you buy quality investments and continue dollar cost averaging over a long period, you will have a much better chance of success than trying to get in and out of the market at the right times.

Buy Low, Sell High

For long-term investors, dollar cost averaging is a powerful tool that takes much of the emotion out of investing and lets the market work for you. One of the major problems facing individual and professional investors alike is determining when to buy a particular stock or, in other words, how to find the bottom of a price swing. The problem is that no one is consistently correct in calling this point on individual stocks and certainly not on the whole market. If you miss this point and the stock begins to move up, you have lost some of the potential gain by not buying at the right point. Very few people buy at the bottom. Those who do, typically happen to have been averaging all the way down.

Market timing is a dangerous game, especially when practiced by beginners, who typically tend to over expose themselves to the market. Market timing is an attempt to predict future price movements through use of various fundamental and technical analysis tools. The real benefit of knowing what is going to happen is that your return from buying a stock before it takes off is better than if you had bought the stock on its way up.

Market timers are the ultimate “buy low and sell high” traders. Day traders, who move in and out of positions in minutes or hours, are the extreme market timers. They look for small profits by the dozens each day by capitalizing on swings in a stock’s price.Most market timers operate on a longer time-line, but may move in and out of a stock quickly if they perceive an opportunity.

There is some controversy about market timing. Many investors believe that over time you cannot successfully predict market movements. Market timing becomes more of a gamble in their opinion than a legitimate investing strategy.
Market Timers and the Next Big Thing

Some investors argue that it is possible to spot situations where the market has over or under valued a stock. They use a variety of tools to help them predict when a stock is ready to break out of a trading range. Usually, the market proves them wrong. Stock prices do not always move for the most logical or easily predictable of reasons.

An unexpected event can send a stock’s price up or down and you cannot predict those movements with charts. The Internet stock bull market of the late 1990s was a good example of what happens when investors in the excitement of the moment, consciously or not, overpay for their investments. Those who bought then are not likely to have made much money.

Everyone has a hot tip about the next “big thing” and investors are always jumping on stocks as they shoot up. Unfortunately, most of these collapse just as quickly as many investors typically hold on way too long. The disastrous result is usually the exact opposite of what they were hoping for. In the end, it is usually a case of “buying high and selling low”. For most investors, the safer path is sticking to investing in solid, well-researched companies that fit their requirements for growth, earnings, income, and so on.

In conclusion, dollar cost averaging takes the emotion out of decision-making and is a useful tool for the individual investor who wants to buy and hold a stock for the long term. Over time, it will usually result in a better entry price than timing when to buy.

If you look for undervalued stocks, you may find one that is poised for moving up sharply given the right circumstances. This is as close to market timing as most investors should get.

Gas Cubby FREE – Fuel Economy & Service Log

Gas Cubby by AppCubbyI discovered this app and I have been entering my fuel ever since. Very cool to see the cost per mile, see the gas mileage for each fill-up, and even interesting to see the graph of gas prices over time. This does everything my old mileage book did and more.

 

Features:

Tracks gas mileage and vehicle maintenance

Charts: MPG, stats, gas price, gas expenses, service expenses

Online Sync

Customizable service reminders

Supports multiple vehicles

Store vehicle data: VIN, License Plate, etc.

Excel compatible email reports (CSV attachment)

International Units: MPG (US), MPG (Canada), MPG (UK), MPG (Imperial), L/100km, gal/100mi (US), gal/100mi (Imperial), km/L, km/gal (US), km/gal (Imperial), and mi/L

 

via App Cubby • Hand Crafted iPhone Apps – Gas Cubby • Sensible Car Care.

Watch out for identity theft

Identity theft has become one of the fastest growing crimes in North America. There are a number of ways identity theft can happen:

  1. Card theft: theft of credit cards from wallets or purses or even newly issued cards from your mailbox.
  2. Shoulder surfing: looking over your shoulder for your Personal Identification Number and using a fake ATM device to read your debit card’s data.
  3. Skimming: using a special device to swipe your credit card at a restaurant or gas station which records the personal information from your card.
  4. Spoofing: creating fake websites or emails that ask for credit card information.
  5. Theft from databases: identity thieves stealing large databases of personal information.

There are steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Sign all credit cards when you receive them and never lend them to anyone.
  • Cancel and destroy credit cards you do not use and keep a list of the ones you use regularly.
  • Carefully check each of your monthly credit card statements and your bank statements. Immediately report lost or stolen credit cards and any discrepancies in your monthly statements to the issuing credit card company or bank.
  • Shred or destroy paperwork you no longer need.
  • Do not give personal information out over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you are the one who initiated the contact and know the person or organization with whom you are dealing.

If you are a victim of identity theft, immediately contact your bank or credit card company, your local police and the OPP/RCMP Phonebusters Unit at 1-888-495-8501, E-mail: info@phonebusters.com

http://www.dynamic.ca/eng/learning/Personal-Finances/Consumer-Watch-Out-For-Identity-Theft.asp

The Economics of Happiness – Jeffrey D. Sachs – Project Syndicate.

NEW YORK – We live in a time of high anxiety. Despite the world’s unprecedented total wealth, there is vast insecurity, unrest, and dissatisfaction. In the United States, a large majority of Americans believe that the country is “on the wrong track.” Pessimism has soared. The same is true in many other places.

Against this backdrop, the time has come to reconsider the basic sources of happiness in our economic life. The relentless pursuit of higher income is leading to unprecedented inequality and anxiety, rather than to greater happiness and life satisfaction. Economic progress is important and can greatly improve the quality of life, but only if it is pursued in line with other goals.

In this respect, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan has been leading the way. Forty years ago, Bhutan’s fourth king, young and newly installed, made a remarkable choice: Bhutan should pursue “gross national happiness” rather than gross national product. Since then, the country has been experimenting with an alternative, holistic approach to development that emphasizes not only economic growth, but also culture, mental health, compassion, and community.

Dozens of experts recently gathered in Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, to take stock of the country’s record. I was co-host with Bhutan’s prime minister, Jigme Thinley, a leader in sustainable development and a great champion of the concept of “GNH.” We assembled in the wake of a declaration in July by the United Nations General Assembly calling on countries to examine how national policies can promote happiness in their societies.

All who gathered in Thimphu agreed on the importance of pursuing happiness rather than pursuing national income. The question we examined is how to achieve happiness in a world that is characterized by rapid urbanization, mass media, global capitalism, and environmental degradation. How can our economic life be re-ordered to recreate a sense of community, trust, and environmental sustainability?

Read the rest of the Article ….

The Economics of Happiness – Jeffrey D. Sachs – Project Syndicate.

Why Free Trade Matters – Jagdish Bhagwati – Project Syndicate.

NEW YORK – Contrary to what skeptics often assert, the case for free trade is robust. It extends not just to overall prosperity (or “aggregate GNP”), but also to distributional outcomes, which makes the free-trade argument morally compelling as well.

The link between trade openness and economic prosperity is strong and suggestive. For example, Arvind Panagariya of Columbia University divided developing countries into two groups: “miracle” countries that had annual per capita GDP growth rates of 3% or higher, and “debacle” countries that had negative or zero growth rates. Panagariya found commensurate corresponding growth rates of trade for both groups in the period 1961-1999.

Of course, it could be argued that GDP growth causes trade growth, rather than vice versa – that is, until one examines the countries in depth. Nor can one argue that trade growth has little to do with trade policy: while lower transport costs have increased trade volumes, so has steady reduction of trade barriers.

More compelling is the dramatic upturn in GDP growth rates in India and China after they turned strongly towards dismantling trade barriers in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. In both countries, the decision to reverse protectionist policies was not the only reform undertaken, but it was an important component.

In the developed countries, too, trade liberalization, which started earlier in the postwar period, was accompanied by other forms of economic opening (for example, a return to currency convertibility), resulting in rapid GDP growth. Economic expansion was interrupted in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but the cause was the macroeconomic crises triggered by the success of the OPEC cartel and the ensuing deflationary policies pursued by then-Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.

Moreover, the negative argument that historical experience supports the case for protectionism is flawed. The economic historian Douglas Irwin has challenged the argument that nineteenth-century protectionist policy aided the growth of infant industries in the United States. He has also shown that many of the nineteenth century’s successful high-tariff countries, such as Canada and Argentina, used tariffs as a revenue source, not as a means of sheltering domestic manufacturers.

Read the rest here… Why Free Trade Matters – Jagdish Bhagwati – Project Syndicate