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The first Canada Child Benefit payments were sent out just about a year ago. Have families noticed any difference in their finances as a result of this signature promise from the Liberal platform in the last federal election campaign?

To find out, I asked members of my Facebook personal finance community (scroll down to July 19). Some people said the non-taxable payments are helpful, including an accountant who said she notices the payments making a huge difference for low and middle-income families. But there was also some push-back and anger.

Some people question the whole idea of governments using tax dollars to support young families. Others take exception to the fact that the new benefit pays them less than previous federal programs to support young families. The explanation here is that the new benefit diminishes as your income rises and eventually disappears altogether.

Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Financial, says the new child benefit provided a one-time lift to incomes and spending that was equivalent to roughly 0.3 per cent of GDP, "which is indeed significant." But the comments on Facebook highlight a risk for government in introducing programs that benefit a targeted segment of the population. Those who don't benefit directly or feel disadvantaged can be resentful.

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Ask Rob

The question: "My wife and I have been retired for more than a year now and I've been looking for information on managing our finances both in and outside our RRSPs and TFSAs. Specifically, when should we convert to RRIFs, and how do we use TFSAs effectively when withdrawing and contributing? Can you recommend a good book which covers managing one's finances after retirement from a Canadian perspective?"

The answer: "Take a look at Your Retirement Income Blueprint, by financial adviser Daryl Diamond, who I interviewed for a column a few years back on generating retirement income. But I'm not sure a book is what you really need. How about consulting a fee-for-service financial planner who can take a look at your situation and make suggestions based on what you want and need? Here's a directory of fee-for-service financial planners."

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.

What I've been writing about

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