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Here’s something to add to your pandemic mental health plan for this fall and winter: A free app for your smartphone or tablet that lets you borrow and read books from the library.

Check with your local library and find out what app it’s using to lend out ebooks and audiobooks to cardholders. I’ve been doing this for years. I downloaded the Overdrive app on my phone and tablet and keep a running list of library books on a “wish list.” I also have a few books on hold. When a hold becomes available I get an e-mail advising me I can either download the book right away or postpone for a period of time.

If I’m looking for something to read, I scan the wish list and download a book that’s currently available. Ebooks are virtual, but libraries have limited numbers of copies they can lend out.

The flaw with virtual reading is that some books just aren’t available from the library. If I want a book badly enough, I’ll buy it for an e-reader like Kobo or in paper form if I think others would like to borrow it.

The library’s ebook selection will likely give you all you can handle, though, and at zero cost. Check it out if reading is part of your fall/winter pandemic escape plan.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list

‘How do you get rid of the thrift store smell?’

The award-winning non-fiction story Value Village by Jonathan Poh is an edgy account of racism, classism and consumerism. Highly recommended.

Suddenly, everyone loves the suburbs

Documenting our new pandemic-driven appreciation of having more space indoors and out. Lots of Tim Hortons and Subway outlets in the suburbs, too.

Presidents and the stock market

You may have noticed some financial commentators speculating on whether a Democrat or Republican president would be best for the stock market. Here’s a neat little chart that answers the question once and for all.

Pensions are great, but some people want out

A look at the ins and outs of commuting a pension, which means giving up the money-for-life feature of a defined benefit pension in exchange for a lump sum of money you invest on your own. This is a well-detailed post that reflects the many facets of whether to commute a pension.

Guest Q&A

Our guest today is Enoch Omololu, the man behind the Savvy New Canadians blog. Readers of this newsletter should be familiar with Mr. Omololu because I have included several links to his posts in the past couple of years. His work is so thorough and well-explained that savvy old Canadians should check it out as well. Here’s an edited Q&A we did recently by e-mail.

Q: What’s your background and why did you start your blog?

A: Originally from Nigeria, I work full time as a livestock veterinarian for the Province of Manitoba and live in Winnipeg. I also have postgraduate degrees in finance and economics. I started Savvy New Canadians in the fall of 2016 because I wanted to document my understanding of Canada-specific personal finance subject matters. As I was reading and learning, I wanted a summary I could revisit and point other newcomers to.

Q: How welcoming to newcomers are Canadian banks and investment firms?

A: Many of the banks seem to do OK with their Welcome To Canada bank packages and discounts they offer to permanent residents, international students, and foreign workers.

I have seen no newcomer programs specific to investing, but there may be some out there.

Q: What could these financial companies do better to ensure newcomers get off to a good start?

A: They should be more proactive about offering cost-saving newcomer benefits to those that qualify. I am referring to their no-monthly-fee chequing offers for 12 months and free international money transfers. These offerings are often part of the bank’s newcomer banking plans, however, they weren’t mentioned to me when I opened an account. Also, upselling newcomers who have barely gotten their feet wet to get expensive products they do not need should be avoided.

Q: What are the most common questions you get from your readers about banking and investing in Canada?

A: How to save on bank fees. For many immigrants, paying a monthly maintenance fee on a chequing account is a new concept and there is a sticker shock that comes with it. A few others include how to invest their TFSA and RRSP, where to find good savings rates and how retirement income programs (CPP/OAS) work. And, how to get out of a group RESP.

Q: What advice would you offer any entrepreneurs thinking about starting a personal finance blog or website?

A: I’d advise to not start out focusing on just making money from the blog. If the site offers useful material that addresses pertinent reader questions and solves actual problems, the monetary aspect will take care of itself.

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.

The money-free zone

If you’re looking for books to add to your library hold or wish list (see above), the Literary Hub website is phenomenal. Full of essays, reviews, lists and more.

Video of the week

Financial literacy advocate Kelley Keehn talks to Moira Sommers, a Winnipeg-based psychologist who coaches executives, investment advisers and high-net-worth families, about the top financial skills for the modern family.


What I’ve been writing about
  • Introducing a new bank account that looks like it was designed for pandemic life
  • Here’s how much Canadian content the pros are putting in their portfolios (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)
  • The outlook for preferred shares is looking a lot brighter (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

More Rob Carrick and money coverage

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