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Your air miles start expiring at the end of the year. What will you do with them?

David McFadden/AP Photo

The friendly folks at Air Miles sent me an anniversary note this week by e-mail. It was 23 years ago that I joined up for this popular customer loyalty program. How time flies when you're earning air miles at a rate of, wait for it, 174.2 per year.

Yup, my personal total after all this time is 4,007. It's not much, so I'm keen to maximize the full benefit before my points start expiring at year's end. I've played around with flight options, but struck out. Couldn't get where I wanted to go without making unappealing connections or stopovers. What do you suggest as an alternative – gas, groceries hotel rooms? E-mail me your thoughts at rcarrick@globeandmail.com.

I got the idea for doing this from a post by personal finance blogger Robb Engen, who was asked by one of his readers how to spend 52,436 Aeroplan points. He asked a bunch of loyalty reward experts what they'd do and got some great answers. I want to consult the everyday Air Miles experts – people who have been using the program for years and know the ins and outs.

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Who benefits from CPP changes?

Read this if you're wondering whether your retirement benefits will increase as a result of the enhancements to the Canada Pension Plan that were announced last month.

Shopping – you're doing it wrong

A list of six ways people overpay for stuff. Some common sense suggestions here for saving money.

No to a house, yes to a cottage

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A glimpse into the finances of a young Toronto couple who rent and want to buy a cottage before a house. I'm watching to see if this develops into a trend.

Two assumptions that destroy wealth

The folly of trusting people with your money because they work for a big firm and sell sophisticated products, or because they belong to the same church/temple/country club/ethnic group as you.

The wedding planner

By coincidence rather than design, we've had lot to say here lately about people spending excessively on weddings (here's one example). Now for some help for those who want to plan a financially responsible wedding. It's a free video produced by Shannon Lee Simmons, a certified financial planner (CFP) and millennial who works with a lot of millennial clients. You have to provide your name and e-mail to gain access, but there's practical information here on getting married within your means.

Retire here for $509 per month

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If Canadians retired abroad in the same numbers they clicked on articles covering this topic, we'd lose half the population. Highlighted here is a historic but easy-going locale – Battambang, in Cambodia. You're not too far there from the stunning sites of Angkor Watt.

That's $509 in U.S. dollars, by the way.

Today's featured financial tool

Questions about investment products like mutual funds and exchange-traded funds can often be answered by consulting documents like prospectuses and management reports on fund performance. The place to search for these items is a website called SEDAR, for System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval. You can also find annual reports and various corporate disclosures here.

Ask Rob

The question: "I'm a 30-year-old woman [in Toronto] who has recently paid off student loans and started investing. I have about $25,000 in ETFs and stocks. I am considering a financial adviser but have no idea how to select one. I don't think anyone in my family has ever used one before and most advisers' websites don't feel accessible to me. What is your advice?"

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My reply: Finding an adviser is hard work at any age, but moreso for young adults who have accounts that are too small to interest a lot of advisers. So I asked on Twitter for advisers in Toronto who work will Gen Y clients and got a number of responses. Check their websites, or call them up. Ask what services they provide, what their credentials are and how much they charge. Go in for a no-obligation chat to see if there's a fit.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Questions and answers are edited for length.

Featured Video

Can adult kids really drain your retirement savings? I get some answers from a financial adviser.

More Carrick and money coverage

For more money stories, follow me on Twitter and join the discussion on my Facebook page. Millennial readers, join our GenYMoney Facebook group.

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Send us an e-mail to let us know what you think of my newsletter.

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Editor's note: The original version of this article stated blogger Robb Engen was asked how to spend 52,436 Air Miles. In fact, they were Aeroplan points, a different program. This online version has been updated.

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