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A great way to see what people are thinking about money is to check the Personal Finance Canada page on Reddit. In a recent post, someone asked this question: “Why shouldn’t a young couple stretch themselves financially in order to own a home?” You won’t find a better or more timely debate on home ownership in an expensive market than this.

The national housing market as we head into the final leg of 2018 looks tired. A few cities like Ottawa and Montreal have strong markets, but Vancouver, Toronto and some other cities are weakening. It’s no surprise, given rising interest rates and the stress test introduced in 2018 for mortgage borrowers.

A recent analysis published on the CBC’s website does a good job of laying out both the risks to the housing market and reasons why prices won’t drop like a stone. For insights on how the economics of home ownership mesh with emotions, read that Reddit thread on young couples and home ownership.

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The Toronto resident who started the thread believes that Canadian real estate is rock solid, and that interest rates will remain stable and comparatively low. There’s a lively back-and-forth on these and other points from people on all sides of the home-ownership debate. My own two cents: Avoid stretching so much to buy a house that you can’t look after other financial obligations like saving for retirement.

I designed an online tool to help people see if they can own a home and afford to save – it’s called the Real Life Ratio calculator. Don’t buy a home in 2019 or any other year without giving it a try.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

How to spot a fake online review

Fake reviews are ruining the usefulness of online comments about travel, electronics and much more. Here’s some guidance on how to spot fake reviews.

Index investing vs. the critics

An investing columnist methodically refutes some of the critiques we’ve been hearing lately about index investing. Worth a read if you question the sense of buying the returns of the top stock and bond indexes by using low-cost exchange-traded funds.

Want to use ETFs, but don’t know where to start?

Investor interest in exchange-traded funds keeps rising, but there’s a problem. Many people have trouble choosing from among the hundreds of available funds. One answer is a new generation of balanced ETFs, each of which is a complete and balanced portfolio in a single fund. Here are details on the newly reconfigured balanced ETFs offered through BlackRock’s iShares family.

Don’t buy a new dishwasher

A top complaint about dishwashers is that they don’t dry dishes very well. Here are some ways to fix the problem rather than replacing your dishwasher.

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Today’s financial tool/app

Appropriate for a down year for stock markets: a calculator that shows you how it will take for your investments to recover their losses.

Ask Rob

Q: I’m buying exchange-traded funds in the next few weeks. At this time, in this market, do I buy hedged or unhedged?

A: Some quick background: Hedged ETFs give you the return of foreign stock indexes without any distortions caused by moves in the Canadian dollar. Returns from unhedged ETFs are vulnerable to changes in the value of the Canadian dollar compared to foreign currencies. If our dollar surges against foreign currencies, a hedged ETF is best. If our buck falls, your returns will be better in an unhedged fund. I have no idea which is better right now and anyone who says they do know is dreaming. The obvious comprise on hedging is to split your money between hedged and unhedged funds.

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.

Featured video

A money manager takes a behavioural approach to helping people decide whether buying or renting makes more sense, financially. If you rent, it’s important to have the discipline to save money on a regular basis.

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance-related stories

  • Celebrate the holidays by singing The 12 Claims for Taxes
  • A changing financial situation can trigger a legal fight between divorcees
  • Inside the fall of Fortress Real Developments, which raised $920-million from 14,000 Canadians who thought they were getting low-risk, steady income (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

More Carrick and money coverage

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