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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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.
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.
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.
- 26-year-old film worker earns $73,000, but worries about his future
- Tips for finding cheaper protein in the meat aisle amid rising grocery prices
- Automakers want to charge you for subscriptions and aren’t giving up
More Rob Carrick and money coverage
Subscribe to Stress Test on Apple podcasts or Spotify. For more money stories, follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and join the discussion on my Facebook page. Millennial readers, join our Gen Y Money Facebook group.
Even more coverage from Rob Carrick
- 🎧 Catch up on Stress Test: Is the middle class dead for millennials and Gen Z? • Gas prices are soaring. Are electric vehicles an affordable solution? • Crypto is booming, but should you invest? • How are young Canadians dealing with soaring rents? • Inflation is squeezing our finances. What can we do about it? • Is a hot housing market squeezing Canadians out of their small towns?
- ✔️ The housing file: How bad is housing affordability? Even a crash won't help • Sell the family home to lock in profit and then rent? Better not • Why young adults can't afford houses: Hard work got you more in the past than it does now • Five reasons you should not buy a house till you're at least 30 • Now more than ever, owning a house is not a retirement plan
- 📈 Investing: The 2022 ETF buyer's guide: Best Canadian equity funds • The 2022 Globe and Mail digital broker ranking: Does the zero-commission revolution flip the script on who's best? • With bonds sinking, conservative investors are waking up to risks they never saw coming • A five-step plan for dealing with the sad fact that almost every investment is falling lately • The best financial advice in advance of retirement? Work on your marriage • One-year GICs are the best deal in town for safety seekers • What to do if the financial plan you paid thousands for disappoints
- 💰 Your money: Are you prepared for the pandemic wealth boom to blow up in our faces? • This hard-working 24-year-old is nailing it financially. But where’s the happiness? • Who should and shouldn’t worry about the wave of rate increases this year, and what every stressed-out borrower should do right now • Don’t make this potentially costly assumption about the CPP Survivor’s pension