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It’s a cliché in personal finance that people don’t like to talk about money.

What they actually don’t like is the feeling of shame that so often arises after talking about debts and investments with other people. Inevitably, there’s someone in the crowd who has a mountain of savings or contributes the maximum to their tax-free savings account and registered retirement savings plan every year, without fail. If you struggled to hit $5,000 in your TFSA, it’s demoralizing to hear about someone pushing toward seven figures.

Still, it can be helpful to know where your peers stand in a financial sense. Can it be done in private? This is the goal of a project The Globe and Mail personal finance team is working on. In a previous newsletter, we asked readers to tell us how much debt they carried, and how much they had invested. Now, we want to refine the investing data by asking readers to tell us about their investments and savings on an individual basis, and not per household.

Our questionnaire is totally anonymous – it requires neither your name nor your e-mail address. Just tell us your age and the balance in your TFSA, RRSP, non-registered account (if applicable) and cash savings. This information will enable us to build an online tool that shows people in various age groups how the amount they owe – on mortgages, credit lines, student loans and more – compares with peers, and how their investments and savings stack up. Call it a kinder, gentler way to benchmark your finances.

Here’s a link to the survey.

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Call out

Are you a millennial or Gen Z who recently moved from Ontario or B.C. to Alberta for a more affordable lifestyle? The Globe’s personal finance podcast Stress Test wants to hear from you. E-mail if you’d like to chat.

Rob’s personal finance reading list

Owning vs. renting across Canada

A comparison of housing costs in cities across the country for both renters and owners. “On average, renters spend $289 [per month] less than owners on shelter expenses.” As far as I can tell, the expense of home upkeep and maintenance isn’t included.

How NOT to choose between a variable and fixed-rate mortgage

A money manager tackles this key question facing home buyers and people renewing a mortgage: Go with a fixed of floating interest rate? His take is interesting – don’t try to predict where interest rates are going.

A new spending-saving hybrid bank account

CreditCardGenius takes a look at the EQ Bank Card, which I wrote about recently. It offers a way to turn a high interest savings account into an everyday spending account.

These credit cards are points-earning machines

I can’t remember whether it was Patrick Sojka at RewardsCanada or me who coined the phrase “points-earning machine” for credit cards that generate big amounts of reward points. In any case, the term has come up a lot in our conversations in recent years. Now, Mr. Sojka has produced a list of three cards that deserve this description.

Ask Rob

Q: We are heading to the U.S. for six weeks. What’s the best way to save money on the difference in the dollar? Should we open a U.S. account or credit card?

A: Six weeks should be enough time to consider and, if you want, apply for a credit card that doesn’t charge the usual foreign-exchange fee on purchases outside Canada – that’s a 2.5-per-cent markup over the card issuer’s own exchange rate. A card like this is a money saver on travel not just in the United States, but elsewhere around the world.

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 and clarity.

Today’s financial tool

A review of 30 high-interest savings accounts. Worth a look if you’re hunting for the best rates and features.

The money-free zone

Marquee Moon by the New York alt-punk band Television is a classic album from decades ago that still sounds fresh and original. The lead guitarist for Television, Tom Verlaine, died recently. Check out the song Torn Curtain to see what Television was about.

Watch this

This video explains how to use The Globe’s personal finance calculators in less than a minute.

Who I’m following on Twitter

Ramit Sethi – he consistently has a sharp, real-world take on personal finance.


More Rob Carrick and money coverage

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Even more coverage from Rob Carrick