A few weeks ago, I asked for your help in figuring out what to do with my Air Miles points before they start to expire at year's end. The response was tremendous – more than 100 people e-mailed to suggest ideas for using my points, and to vent a little at Air Miles for not letting them keep their points indefinitely.
Here are four suggestions I'm going to consider for using my points. Note that my choices are limited because I have been accumulating Dream Miles as opposed to cash miles, which are more versatile.
1. Rent a cool car for the weekend: I like this one a lot. One reader said he has used Air Miles to rent cars as many as 10 times over the years.
2. Book a hotel room: Many people were frustrated by their attempts to do this, but some reported that they have managed it in places like Ottawa, Houston and even Venice. One person e-mailed me from the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto, where they were staying in a room booked with Air Miles.
3. Resort packages: Not my thing, but somebody mentioned using their points for Disney passes.
4. Merchandise: Readers pointed out that you get less value from your points with this option, but it's still worth a thought. One person used roughly the same number of points as I have to buy a watch they are quite happy with. Others bought vacuum cleaners and a deep fryer.
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The richest people in the cemetery
There's a problem of saving too diligently for retirement. Seriously, it's a thing. People scrimp and save so hard during their working lives that they can't enjoy their retirement.
Poor at 20, poor for life
Some U.S. research suggests that being born into a well-off family has a huge impact on your financial success in life, and that there is less upward mobility than there used to be.
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Concrete examples of how withholding taxes affect the returns on exchange-traded funds that invest in markets outside Canada. Mandatory reading if you're wondering which accounts – RRSPs, TFSAs, non-registered – are best for ETFs.
We're Number 10!
The dueling views of retirement readiness in Canada are that we have a crisis and that people are on the whole doing fine. Here's some additional perspective – a global comparison of countries on retirement security. We rank 10th out of 43.
Do you need medical insurance when travelling in Canada?
I'm raising this because some PR people recently e-mailed me this medical horror story to sell a product that insures you when travelling within the country. I asked Marty Firestone of NFP Canada about this and here's his response: "On the list of travel insurance needs, I think travel insurance within Canada ranks at the bottom." He also said workplace group medical plans typically cover out of province medical costs. Just for the heck of it, I got an online quote from Blue Cross for travel medical coverage in Canada for my wife and I (both in our early 50s) and the cost was $3.56 each per day.
It's not a housing bubble
House prices are hitting record highs in some U.S. cities, prompting worries about a bubble. Check out the reasons cited here for not worrying about an overheated market. They sure sound like what we're hearing about our very own hot markets, Vancouver and Toronto.
Today's featured financial tool
Keep track of deals and developments at Canada's online brokers on the Sparx Trading website.
The question: "Should I be managing my own investments, or let my adviser continue to invest in a set of mutual funds and bonds? My spouse and I are in our mid-40s, we both have steady jobs, a large-ish mortgage, and are busy with kids activities and volunteer stuff. I am somewhat financially literate, but with only a little spare time."
My reply: Advisers are ideal for people like you, so keep yours as long as you're happy with the advice you've received and the returns you're getting. You can reduce your costs if you manage your own investments, but you need both the time and investing/financial planning knowledge to make this work.
Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Questions and answers are edited for length.
I often hear longtime homeowners talk about how hard it was to afford their mortgages back in the early 1980s, when mortgage rates were in the high teens. In this video, an expert on housing talks about how the full load of housing costs, mortgages included, is significantly harder to carry today than it was in the 1980s.
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