Category Archives: Blog

Money Fights in Relationships

Since Adam and Eve, every couple has had arguments in their relationship. But the topics of the arguments are an accurate predictor of divorce risk.

In a study of more than 4,500 couples by Kansas State University (for the National Survey of Families and Households), money, finances and debt are the big red flags to trouble. In previous studies, it’s been found that 70% of couples can’t go a week without a money-issues related fight.

In the words of Sonya Britt, assistant professor of family studies, “arguments about money is by far the top predictor of divorce.” That’s not actually breaking news, but just one more study to confirm what’s been known for decades.

The study actually controlled for income, debt, and net worth. It didn’t matter how much you made or how much wealth you had. Arguments about money are the top predictor for divorce because it happens at all income and wealth levels. Money arguments last longer, they’re more intense and it takes a lot longer to recover from them in any relationship.

The study found that the predictor is accurate right from the start of a marriage. No matter how long ago that was, money fights plummet the quality of a relationship. Then, the increased stress, even setting aside the impact on kids, leads to even less financial planning, less getting onto the same page, and exasperates the situation.

The Money Tools book has an entire section on relationships. The before, the during, and the after – if sadly it comes to that. The basics are that each couple needs to:

-have a joint bank account – yes, some don’t and it works fine, but for most it just becomes a ‘my money’ and ‘your money’ when relationships are about US as a couple and a team

-have their own ‘me’ money to blow or save. Whether it’s $30 or $300 – then nobody starts with ‘you spent WHAT on a manicure’ or how can you waste that much on dinner with your buddies.’

-have an agreement on what debts you’re working on paying off, and which ones you’re fine with at minimum payments, such as a credit line or the car or mortgage.

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com

Mortgage Rates Are Down…Sort Of…

It seems like a lot of people got really excited when the Royal (now matched by a number of others) dropped their mortgage rate by 0.15% last Thursday.

Any time rates or prices drop, it’s great for buyers, but this one isn’t anything to get excited about. It’s a rate drop for new mortgages and not a drop in the prime rate. So if you’re on a variable rate mortgage, it’s not likely your bank will drop your payment starting next month. Even if they did, it’d amount to $5.60 on a $250,000 mortgage. If they choose to drop your line of credit rate, you’d save $1.20 a month on an average $36,000 credit line.

Any tiny drop in rates isn’t going to rescue the housing market in 80% of the country. What needs to change is the mortgage stress rules that force borrowers to qualify for sticker rates when their actual rate will be about two percent lower. That rule certainly makes sense in overpriced housing markets.

It was designed to slow down the market. But what it’s done is not only slow it down, but stop it, and then shrink it in a big way. Toronto sales down 16% last year, as well as prices – Vancouver sales down 32%. Overall, sales are down 47% and mortgage applications are now at a 22-year low. One of the big banks’ mortgage applications are down by half over a year ago.

Is THAT what the goal was? The desire to own a home hasn’t changed, but the ability has. Now there are many signs that the federal government is running scared – and should be.

The stress test might still have a purpose but should be set by postal codes so the slow housing markets don’t keep getting killed. Plus, we’re pretty much done with rate increases. Sure, there might be one or two more, but we’re much more likely to have a recession in the next year than to have another huge wave of inflation with the corresponding rising rates.

It’s an old stat, but someone buying a home spends an additional $10,000 in everything from furniture to painting, renovators to appliances. None of that happens if the housing market has grinded to a halt. And I still maintain that there are tons of younger people who would love to get into the housing market but can’t. And if they don’t buy an entry level home, the people selling those can’t move up when they can’t sell…and none of the dominos to a healthy housing markets move!

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com

Understanding Millennials Financial Stress

1/15 Understanding Millennials  

Hi George: We spoke for a minute after your radio show with Phil Johnson today and you asked me to email you.

I am a 23 year old full time university student and I am on a full ride scholarship. I also work a part-time job and am lucky that it pays well. I have lived with my girlfriend, who is also a full time university student that serves on her weekends and volunteers once a week at KGH, in a modest apartment in downtown Kelowna. I am a millennial and I understand a lot of the frustration pertaining to the “zombies” of my generation.

I guess the issue I have is that I, like many other people my age, can only tread water and hope not to drown in financial debt. There is no way you can go to school today without access to a computer and internet. On top of paying for schooling, you have rent, utilities, food, insurance, gas, cellphone bills (another necessity in today’s world – and not the millennial’s fault) and so on.

If you do the math; a full time student spends 15 hours in class and is recommended to spend an additional 3 hours studying outside of the classroom which adds up to 45 hours/week of studying time. In addition, to keep a roof over your head, your belly full, and your vehicle that is required to transport you throughout your erratic schedule, you will have to work at least a 40 hours/week at minimum wage.

It is also recommended the average person gets 8 hours of sleep per day, or 56 hours/week. So we are now at 141 hours of our week dedicated solely to studying, working and sleeping while we only have 27 hours left to kill.

Hopefully you can fit all your driving, grocery shopping, cooking, eating, exercising, banking, personal hygiene, volunteer work, and maybe, just maybe, you will have the time to put your feet up and prey you don’t have any emergency expenditures. 

Now I cannot speak for all millennial’s, but the fact that I am on a full ride scholarship and still contemplating taking out a student loan frustrates me, and when I hear people on the radio commenting on how spoiled and lazy all of us millennial’s are, it frustrates me even more.

If you have any financial advice I would appreciate hearing it, and again, I apologize for the breadth of this email, but I thought you may be intrigued by a 23 year old’s perspective on why the majority of us millennial’s are broke.

A BIG thanks for your note. It’s so well written and thought out AND accurate! Sure wish I could magically insert your email into my book today!

You’re right that millennials get labeled. It’s mostly off US surveys of various degrees of quality and accuracy. In the next year or two, “you” will outnumber baby boomers so the world, including myself, really ought to be a little more careful in the generalizations. Thank you thank you! For every stereotypical millennial there are vast numbers of superstars and future leaders such as you.

Not sure when you’re done or if you read the Money Tools chapter If you’re about 25 or younger, but DO start thinking about the critical year after grad as outlined in there.

Nope, you can’t save right now. Reality sucks but it’s about financially treading water – of surviving and not thriving. And that’s you with a full scholarship, never mind the 90% or so that don’t have that “luxury.”

Do NOT let the need for some student loans depress  you! I know there’s really no such thing as “good” debt, but there is “better” debt on the proviso it’s not around for a decade. Everything in life is a trade-off and you’re not looking to use it for a three week Europe holiday. Just knowing that you hate doing it makes you more financially responsible than the vast majority of the world. Better sleep, less stress, a small cushion “in case” is worth using some student loan money!

The BIG goal, even if it’s funded with student loan money, as reasoned above, is to have a month of expenses in a savings account for any emergency. It’s fine if that’s half your savings, half your girlfriend’s for the time being. It’s worth the reduced stress and just knowing the next “emergency” will then be more of an inconvenience…

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com

Aeroplan Sale & Cell Phone Sales

A new update on Aeroplan for the five million of us Canadians who are in the program. It turns out that your points won’t likely depreciate in value, and you won’t need to have them all cashed out next year.

The re-purchase of Aeroplan was finalized yesterday. $450 million price and assuming the ($1.9 billion) points liability the (outstanding points IF they’re all claimed…and less than 70% will be, according to Consumer Report studies). But Air Canada received $622 million from TD and another $308 million for future points. CIBC also has a card that gives you Aeroplan miles, so they kicked in $200 million and another $92 million for future points. Right now, they’re still negotiating with Amex to continue with Aeroplan.

So Air Canada paid $450 million and received over $1.2 billion. As of the purchase date, they got the whole company AND made $772 yesterday. There’ll now be a lot of competition with PC Optimum and  Esso Extra points for your business. Those two are almost immediate gratification points. A month after I signed up for Esso Extra I had a free carwash already. Aeroplan miles are more dream rewards for the long term in hoping there’ll be enough points someday way down the road for a trip to Europe.

Right after last Wednesday’s segment, the Dow dropped 660 points and this time it wasn’t President Trump’s fault, but ours. It was started by Apple announcing that iPhone sales were way down. Yesterday, Samsung announced the same thing with a 22% drop in sales.

In the U.S., as we discussed last year, there are no more two or three-year locked-in plans with a so-called free phone. You need to pay for the phone and then get a month-to-month plan. It’s increased customer satisfaction with carriers a ton and reduces your cell bill by a lot. No more being locked in for two or three years and having the almost spit on you when it comes to customer service. However, if you need to buy your phone and can’t pretend it’s ‘free’ any longer, you’ll shop around more ,and will keep your old phone an extra year or two. That’s why Apple and Samsung stock has been way down, due to less sales volume. Apple was a trillion dollar company last fall – now they’re down 40% in stock values.

It’s also why Apple started discounting the price of their phones last month! If you can’t pretend it’s ‘free,’ a thousand dollar phone is quite the shock. You can also now get an Android for under $300 and apparently the Nokia 7-1 is really inexpensive and a great phone! That trend will continue with better phones at a much lower price, and the no-contract plans will come to Canada sometime soon – so don’t be stuck in a new two or three year contract. And avoid the big marketing starting soon on 5 G phones. It’s a much faster network – way faster than your home internet. But it’ll be three years before you’ll actually have the network to use it.

Update from first January segment to try some simply your life and get rid of 100 things:

I tried the Japanese method of decluttering where you hold something in your hands and if it doesn’t bring you joy, you throw it away. So far, I’ve thrown out all vegetables, my Amex bill, the scale and a mirror!

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com

Three New Year’s Suggestions

Happy New Year! I’m not going to urge you to make a bunch of resolutions, because most of them go by the wayside in the first month. They’re just as valid when you make then in March. In fact, they’re more likely to be successful when they’re not made January 1st based on societal pressure. But do remember to never set any goals that have an expiry date!

There’s an older book called Simplify Your Life. I loved it, and still re-read it every couple of years. Keep an eye out for it in any Thrift store for a couple of bucks – it’s worth the read. In that same spirit, look around your place at all the stuff you’ve accumulated. In the Money Tools book (page 216) is our family story when we had to throw out 14,000 pounds of this stuff when our parents had to sell their family home. I’ve done this a number of times, and want you to think about this for January. Walk around your place a few times this month and throw out, give-away, or donate 100 things. Do you need 26 coffee mugs for the two of you? How many sweaters are in your closet you haven’t worn in years? It won’t take long to get 100 things out of your place and you’ll never miss them! It’ll remind you that all this stuff cost big money and may get you to slow down buying even more stuff this year that just gets stashed away somewhere!

Change your thinking about getting out of debt just as much as your savings.

“Only rich people can save enough money.” If that’s your thinking, you can spend a lifetime proving that you’re right, and staying broke, but it’s just not true. The Royal Gazette recently had a story of a 92-year-old man who died after having worked as a gas station attendant and janitor his entire life. He had a pretty modest lifestyle, so his friends were stunned to find out that his estate was worth over $8 million! He just paid himself first every month, invested a small amount of money each and every month, and reinvested the dividends (which mutual funds do automatically through additional shares). If a minimum wage earner did it – you can, too. But first you need to change your thinking.

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com

Four Actually Useful Christmas Tips

This week before Christmas, you’ll hear a lot of logical Christmas tips: Drink a lot of water, skip the sugary pop with your drink, and have a healthy snack before all those cookies. Gee – thanks – but I don’t know anyone who actually does that.

Hopefully, here are four things that might be more practical:

Speed kills. That’s not just a traffic rule, it also applies to your Christmas shopping. The faster you want to do it, or the later you leave it, the more it’ll cost you when you overpay just to get it over with. If you’re close to any stores, change your lunch hour one or two days this week to go at 10 or 11 AM, instead of noon, or trying to get into stores when the rest of the Okanagan is going at the same time. Even better is to take a morning off and do it then. Take a list, take the cash and have a plan.

If you’re a grandparent, your demographics have a reputation of buying too many gifts for the grandkids. Of course, you mean well, but stop a second and think of the unintended consequences: You’re setting an impossible expectation and template down the road for the parents, and you’re probably wasting a bunch of money. Lots of studies show that small kids play with the latest toy for less than half an hour. After that, they go back to the simple stuff, like that huge empty box, all that string, or the blankets to make a fort.

For us adults, I saw a wonderful Facebook picture last week. What lots of us really want is financial security, a raise, a stronger sense of purpose and a long, undisturbed nap. If you didn’t draw names, don’t kill yourself trying to buy a dozen presents. Just find a way to let us have a nap a couple of days in a row…

And lastly, I hope you remember something for the entire next year: For at least the first six years of your life you had an unshakable belief in Santa Claus. Could you find that same faith again in yourself for just a year to turn your finances around?

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com

Online Reviews, Story Ads & Amazon’s Problem

Someone last week emailed me an article by a pretty good financial tools website called Motley Fool. It was an article featuring a new credit card that they described as having “lucrative rewards and monstrous perks…sign up today while the card is still available…”

Sorry, but nothing in there is monstrous or lucrative and even more bad news: If you scroll down to the very last tiny font line it states that “this is a promotional message.” In other words, the company is being paid to send out this ad in the form of an article! No need to compare cards as this pretend article is guised in the form of a review.

Most people that buy online do look at a few reviews before they make a purchase. And, since Amazon is the giant in the online purchasing world, that’s the place people need to be careful. Since vast numbers of shoppers do the purchases on their phone, they tend to only look at the first two or three reviews and then buy, without scrolling down to pages and pages of other feedback.

The rumours have been around for some time that Amazon’s reviews are manipulated and can’t be trusted. Now, as first reported by Clark Howard, Amazon has admitted to it. Employees have taken bribes to take down negative reviews.

Why does it happen? You have to remember that most products are sold by 3rd parties on Amazon. Those sellers list on Amazon and mostly have the items shipped through Amazon for big fees and commissions. It’s their main source of sales and if the top two reviews are negative, people will move on.

For other sites, it might not be manipulations, but you have to remember that many – if not most – are sponsored sites. The sites get paid by companies to be prominently featured. If they’re not – they’ll stop paying to be on the site! In other words, you’re not getting a full or accurate rating on them. That’s something that the Wall Street Journal has documented for years.

Two of those are Canadian mortgage rates comparison sites:ratesupermarket.ca and rate and ratespy.com. Lenders pay to be on there, so you will see what those who are paying want you to see!

The best evidence of this is a recent ad by Angie’s list. It’s a site to find a variety of home contractors. “Angie’s list has selected millions of customer reviews…” Did you catch that? The words are: has selected – because they’re known to cut negative reviews, or those contractors won’t pay to be on their site! An investigative report found that they do that some years ago already.

Be careful when you’re looking at reviews or paid ads that seem like articles, and always scroll down to more than the first two or three reviews before you make a purchasing decision.

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com

The Rules of Purchase Returns Are Changing

How much of a hassle should it be to return something you purchased? There’s a fine line between the few who massively abuse it, and those of us who need to return something that doesn’t fit, won’t work, turned out to be overpriced, or needs to be exchanged. And retailers are tightening up on all of us.

Over $400 billion of merchandise is returned for a refund in North America each year. That’s a ton of product! Retailers claim that costs them $400 billion in sales, but that’s just not true. Lots of the merchandise is put back on the shelves to sell again, and a part of it goes to the secondary market, to places such as Marshalls or Winners.

Habitual returners are about one percent of customers. But, because of them, all of us are going to pay the price through more hassle to return something. Retailers have been really generous with returns, thinking it’d have a big impact on increased sales. Costco and Sears with their incredibly generous return policies led the way that all retailers matched to some degree or another. That’s going to change to a new way of thinking that returns aren’t going to be a right, but a privilege. That’ll take a lot of re-educating and push-back.

The coming new way will be that you’ll earn the right to return something by how much business you give that store and whether you’re part of their loyalty program. So, they’ll have to track your purchase history, which means you’ll have to give up your privacy rights in order for them to do that.

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember a third-party called Telecheque. If you wanted to pay by cheque, they’d phone in your name and bank info and that company would authorize your payment. For returns, the company is called Retail Equation. Smaller stores or chains will track your purchases and it’ll be this third-party that will decide if you can return something or not.

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com

Two Christmas Tips & Calgary’s Olympic Bid

Two Christmas tips that only work now, and not Christmas Eve: As there are three paydays left for most of us, take a couple hundred bucks out of each pay and stash it away for your Christmas bills. It’ll make budgeting for it a lot easier and lets you pay cash, instead of using your credit card this year to avoid the hangover in January!

And this year, as it’s early enough, get your family to pick names. No, you’re not obligated to buy presents for everyone including your third cousin’s girlfriend’s parents! Honest! You can leave out the young kids from the draw, but for adults, get your family to agree that you’ll pick one or two people and not gift-give the whole world.

So 56% of Calgarians voted yesterday to not proceed with their Olympic bid. My gut reaction is that it was a good move for the tax payers of the city. Sure, it would have had some significant benefits for the city, but many of those can’t be measured…

It also seems like most Calgarians have access to the internet. In spite of all the talk and promises that the $5.1 billion gamble wouldn’t be over – that’s just nonsense. Anyone can take 10 seconds to see all the horror stories of EVERY city that’s hosted the games and their billions of cost overruns. I can barely predict my bills for next month and you’re telling me that a projection on that many projects, and that complexity, eight years out is totally accurate? Not a snowballs’ chance in h$%&.

If the bid committee had told Calgarians that the budget was $5.1 billion, but explained how they’d be able to make it at (for example) $8 billion, there would have been a lot more credibility. Plus, any internet search will quickly let anyone see that any glowing economic projections normally need to be divided by two or four to be close to accurate. It defies logic to state that it’ll inject x dollars into the local economy. Those projections have never been accurate for massive conventions, the subsidies for businesses to relocate, or Olympic bids. It’s always assuming people just “find” that money for tickets, restaurants, merchandise, etc. When half the country can’t find $400 for an emergency, this money isn’t “new” money – it’s just NOT being spent on something else, instead.

Yes, it would have been a big boost to the Calgary economy, but maybe it’s for the best to not ask Calgarians to write a blank cheque that they won’t be able to cash…

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com

Yes, Your Credit Card Terms Can & Will Change

A recent email from Barb reminded me of something we haven’t talked about for some time.

Her husband received a call from TD advising them that their credit card would now be charged an annual fee. Apparently, that should have been the case all along, but didn’t get charged for the first two years.

Needless to say, she was a little choked and thought they should be honouring the terms that they originally signed up for. She’s right, but she’s also totally wrong.

Card issuers don’t have any morals – they have profit margins to meet. She also, mistakenly thought that her business mattered to the card issuer – it doesn’t. They have a million plus accounts and one person being mad or leaving isn’t going to register on their financial results.

Annual fees are pure profit and it’s something they wish they could charge every cardholder for an ever-increasing amount each year. It’s kind of like bank service charge in their world.

But before you tell them to stuff it, you need to stop and think. If you do, your credit score will go down, and that will impact your line of credit rate and other borrowing. It’s not hard to understand if you read the credit score chapter in the Money Tools book, because your score impacts so much of your life.

If you have one or two credit cards, first apply for another card that’s more to your liking, lower rate, better perks, lower or no annual fee. That card issuer looks at your credit report with this other card you want to cancel still in existence. Once it arrives, then call the card issuer to cancel the one you want to get rid of.

Your credit score factors in the length of time you’ve had your cards. So if you’ve had one card for 10 years, and the other for two years, the average time is six years. If you cancel the 10-year card first, the average time drops to only two and that’ll drop your score. That’s also the reason to often consider keeping your 10-year card even if you don’t want to use it anymore…it has a big positive impact on your credit score. You can cut it up so you’re not tempted to use it, but don’t call to cancel it. Now, that’s assuming it doesn’t have an annual fee. If it does, take the small credit score drop for the big savings on the annual fees!

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com