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Ten financial details that need your attention by the end of the year

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My sense from years of personal finance writing is that people are most keenly interested in money and investing in the first several months of the year. Maybe it's the combination of RRSP season – the rush to invest in a registered retirement savings plan before the deadline, usually March 1 – and the tax-filing deadline of April 30. But there are quite a few money matters that are best attended to before the end of the year.

I like this particular year-end checklist because it's so wide-ranging. There's advice for parents – contribute to a registered education savings plan; for employees – use up money in your workplace flexible spending account for health care; and, for investors – consider postponing purchases of exchange traded funds or mutual funds.

Another good point is to make a TFSA withdrawal, if you've been thinking about doing so. People still get tripped up by the rules for re-contributing money to a TFSA after a withdrawal. A good rule for avoiding over-contribution penalties is to wait until the next year to make a re-contribution. If you make a TFSA withdrawal in December, you can put the money back in January.

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Rob's personal finance reading list…

How kids affect your paycheque
U.S. research shows that starting a family can be one of the most costly career decisions a woman can make. Wages are markedly lower for women with children than for their male counterparts.

Bitcoin and the dot-com crash
A look at the soaring price of the cryptocurrency bitcoin and how it recalls the rise of internet stocks in the late 1990s. You remember how that turned out.

15 killer tweets about money
Real-life thoughts on money based on what it's actually like out there, and not on the usual nagging to save more and spend less.

How students can save money with loyalty programs
A practical look at how a wide variety of programs, including Air Miles, Scene, PC Plus and Petro-Points, can be used by students to save money on groceries, gas and other expenses. The emphasis here is on how students can earn rewards based on their modest levels of spending.

Today's featured financial tool
Find the right bank account for your needs using this tool from the federal Financial Consumer Agency. Useful for double-checking to see if there are better accounts than the one you're currently using.

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Ask Rob
The question: "I am looking for some advice re student loan payments. I currently have around $15,000 in a TFSA (and $3,200 in an RRSP) and owe around $15,000 in student loans. I am 27 years old and net around $3,200 per month. Do you suggest I pay off my student loan depleting my TFSA and then start saving and investing or do you suggest I invest and continue to pay down the debt based on [the current schedule]?"

The answer: "I like the idea of using the TFSA to pay off the student loan. Once the debt is cleared, you can redirect your monthly payments into your TFSA. I often hear people say the rate of return on their investments is higher than the interest rate on their debt, but I'm skeptical. Debt repayment is a guaranteed return on your money. See the video below for more on this."

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can't answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

Featured Video
I talk to bankruptcy trustee Doug Hoyes about whether it's better to invest or pay down debt.

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance stories
- Why are these companies paying off their employees' student debt?

- Divorce can make a mess of tax benefits

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- How the wealthy are structuring their portfolios now

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About the Author
Personal Finance Columnist

Rob Carrick has been writing about personal finance, business and economics for close to 20 years. He joined The Globe and Mail in late 1996 as an investment reporter and has been personal finance columnist since November 1998. Rob's personal finance columns appear in The Globe on Tuesday and Thursday, and his Portfolio Strategy column for investors appears on Saturday. More


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