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One of the informal rules of personal finance is that the cost of rent is supposed to eat up no more than 30 per cent of your gross monthly income. In Toronto, 50 per cent is a more realistic threshold.

Rents are high and rising fast in Toronto. LowestRates.ca recently updated its look at how much it costs young adults to live in the city and rent for a single person came in at $1,672 per month on average, up more than $300 from a year ago. Average rent was calculated using figures for one-bedroom apartments and condos, bachelor apartments and two-bedroom condos shared with a roommate.

Other costs considered in the analysis included phone and internet, down slightly in the past year, and transportation, which was flat. Overall, the cost of living for a young person came in at $2,740 per month, or $32,885 a year. That’s almost $400 a month, or 17 per cent, more than the previous year.

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On a pre-tax basis, you’d need to earn at least $40,583 to make enough to live a young person’s typical life in Toronto. No, that doesn’t include saving money for retirement or for a house down payment. The LowestRates.ca analysis figures you’d need to gross roughly $50,000 a year to meet expenses and save aggressively.

All of this suggests a new theme in millennial personal finance: Can you find a job or arrange to tele-commute from a cheaper city than Toronto or Vancouver?

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

SUVs and retirement savings

An investing blogger and money manager wonders how people can afford to save for retirement while making payments on the expensive SUVs that are so popular these days. Me, too.

Money = happiness?

Here’s a chart showing how satisfied people in countries around the world are with what they have. Canada is among the wealthy countries with a fairly high satisfaction rating – there are plenty of other rich countries where people are unsatisfied. I’m looking at you, Luxembourg.

Life and death

What can a good investment adviser do for you? Beyond managing your portfolio and writing a financial plan, an adviser can help you through tasks like filing for a death claim on a life insurance policy after a loved one dies.

Crushed by student debt

Useful info here for young people struggling with a load of debt that includes student loans. A consolidation loan may be an option.

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Today’s financial tool

The Portfolio Charts website offers a lot of great tools for investors seeking portfolio-building ideas. One that stands out for Canadian investors is a list of nine different portfolios for different types of investors. You should easily be able to find exchange-traded funds to represent the various investment categories mentioned. The Globe’s ETF Buyer’s Guide might help.

Ask Rob

Q: “I know I am late to the party, but I want to learn about TFSAs. Is there a book, blog or other reference you could suggest for someone starting at zero knowledge?”

A: Here are some TFSA basics from GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca, which is run by the Ontario Securities Commission, and here’s the federal government’s introduction to TFSAs. A book to take a look at is The Ultimate TFSA Guide, by veteran investing writer Gordon Pape.

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.

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance stories

  • Horizons takes on Vanguard in launching new balanced fund ETFs
  • Joint ownership of a cottage can pose a host of unexpected problems
  • ETFs aren’t as risky as you think. Here are four safe options for income-focused investors (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

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