Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Stuck With No Extended Health Benefits?

We are lucky enough to live in Canada and have pretty decent medical coverage through our provincial health care plans but there's still a long list of things that aren't covered. Most employers offer some sort of group benefits but if you work on contract, are self-employed, just graduated, or are in between jobs you'll want to make sure you're prepared for any medical expenses that might come up. 

Let's just talk quickly about Alberta Health Care coverage. It's FREE, you just need to make sure you register for it. You can check here for the forms you'll need to fill out and then it's just a quick trip to the registry. If you grew up in Alberta you'll be covered under your parents until you turn 21 (or 25 if you're a full-time student. Once you get to that age you'll need to register yourself to prevent any lapses in coverage. Consider yourselves lucky, when I aged out of my parents plan I actually had to pay for it....Alberta Health only got rid of the premiums in 2009. 

If Alberta Health Care is all you've got you're going to want to look into other options to cover any gaps. There's definitely options out there if you don't have coverage through work, you'll just have to pay for it. One option is to save up an emergency fund for medical expenses, but I've got some reservations about this. For the small things it's fine but you can get stuck with a pretty massive bill if you have to take a ride in ambulance or get an emergency massage ;) And, at least in my case, if I actually had to pay out of pocket every time I went to the dentist, optometrist, etc. I would not be going nearly as often as I should. Routine check-ups can save you a ton of money in the long run but it's pretty tempting to skip that dental cleaning if it's going to cost you a couple hundred of bucks. 

First off you'll want to think about what types of things you actually need to be covered for. Wear glasses? See a physio? Have a history of mysterious injuries? These things cost money but you can avoid the bill if you get the right coverage (ok, maybe not for ALL mysterious injuries...) You can find a pretty extensive list of services / procedures that are NOT covered by Alberta Health Services here. Once you've got an idea of what you need it's time to start looking at plan options. 

If you have a pre-existing condition there are plans available that will cover it but you're going to pay more for it (obviously). If not, you can go with the full underwriting process and you'll get a lower rate (as long as you're healthy). One thing to note, if you've aged out of your parents group insurance plan there is often a grace period of about 60 days where you can get signed up for your own plan and skip the whole medical part. 

Pricing for individual health benefits will vary dramatically depending on your age, medical history, type of coverage, etc. so you'll want to get a few quotes before making a final decision. There's lots of companies out there that offer individual benefits, here's few to make things easy:

Once you're armed with some quotes you just have to figure out which coverage / pricing option is best for you. And remember, if you're paying the insurance premiums make sure you actually take advantage of the coverage...don't let all those free massages go to waste! 

Side note: if you're also interested in insurance for any fur babies in your life, I did a post on pet insurance here. Might as well take care of two insurance projects at once! 

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Personal Finance (ish) Reads

Maybe you are feeling inspired to get your money matters in order or maybe you just want some summer reading that's a little less fluff and a little more substance. Whatever has brought you here looking for a new read I've got some good ones for you. Here are my top reads for all things finance; most of these are personal finance based but there are a few that venture out of that world and look bigger picture (let's be honest, there's only so many times you can read advice on making a budget!) I find that sometimes the books that inspire me to save the most and rework that budget aren't actually personal finance books at all. 

Have I missed any of your favourite money books on the list? Feel free to comment below, I'm always looking for great reads! 

Wealthing Like Rabbits by Robert R. Brown

This is a really great intro to personal finance and covers all the basics you will need to get going. It's also a pretty entertaining read so it wont bore you to death. 

The Big Short by Michael Lewis
This isn't exactly a personal finance book but it does delve into why the 2008 financial crisis happened and gives a little perspective on how what happens (or doesn't happen) behind the scenes in the investment world. Michael Lewis is a fantastic writer and is really good at explaining complex issues without making you feel stupid. The book was also created into a movie so if you're not up for reading you should check that out, it's also really great. 

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley & William D. Danko
This book takes a look at the seven traits / habits that are most commonly found in people with high net-worth. The big takeaway from this book is that those who maintain wealth throughout their lives do not live extravagantly. It's not the most exciting read but is backed with solid research and will motivate you to adjust your lifestyle to fit your future goals.  

The Wealthy Barber Returns by David Chilton
This is another personal finance read that is enjoyable to read and actually funny in parts. You'll notice a bit of a trend here, my favourites tend to be written with a casual / relaxed tone. It's written more like a novel than a step-by-step guide to your finances but still provides lots of valuable info. 

The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
Ok, this is not a fun and easy read like some of the's actually a bit of a slog. It is however kind of the bible of personal finance and a must-read for anyone who wants to get serious about building wealth through investing. Don't tackle this if you're just starting out, wait until you've got a little more of a base. 

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Another pick that isn't actually a personal finance book but the focus on how and why we make the choices we do is very relevant to money and saving. If you have a better understanding of how to make decisions you will be more apt to make the right ones.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
This is the book you want to turn to if you are serious about paying off debt and need a step-by-step plan of how to get that done. Dave Ramsey's system for paying off debt and getting yourself to start saving works and the book does a good job of getting you motivated to get going. I do find that he gets pretty preachy and the book gets repetitive but the basic concept are good. There are a lot of first-hand accounts of how Dave saved people's finances and those were a bit much so I ended up skipping over a bunch. 

The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Leiber
Now I haven't actually read this book but it is highly recommended and it's a topic that hits pretty close to home for me. Being an only child I have often been pegged as spoiled, even though I don't consider that the case, and when I have children I want them to be raised with a good understanding of money and a drive to succeed (on their own). This book definitely has a target audience of middle-class families and lays out some pretty good lessons on teaching your kids about money and not being spoiled. 

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Another not personal finance read that will impact the way you think about personal finance. A Black Swan is a highly unlikely event that happens and this book looks at why such events happens and why we never think they are going to. Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a brilliant writer and includes quite a few anecdotal stories to support his extensively researched subject matter, making this an interesting and entertaining read. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

May Loves

I cannot believe it's already the middle of May, kind of scary! Feels like summer is going to be over before it even gets started. Time to soak up as much outdoor-time as possible (I'm sitting on my deck while writing this so that's a start!) Since we are halfway through the month it's time for me to fill you in on what I'm currently loving, so let's get to it. 

1. Beyonce's Lemonade
Ok, but who isn't right? I've been listening to the album just about non-stop since it came out and am all ready for the big concert on Friday night here in Edmonton, rain or shine (forecast is definitely looking like rain...) I think the album is great and Queen Bey means business! Whether or not Jay-Z was cheating on her or not (my vote says yes, because why would she air all this dirty laundry if there wasn't at least some truth to it), the songs are good. Angry Bey might just be my favourite Bey. As of right now Lemonade is still only available on Tidal but you can get a free trial if you're up for it, otherwise I'm sure you'll figure something out!  

I am not a big fan of shorts, I can never find a pair that is that flattering and they always ride up (yup, my thighs touch) so when it's hot out you will most likely find me wearing a casual skirt just like this much more comfortable! This Joe Fresh one is nice and lightweight and even has pockets, bonus! 

I splurged this year and bought myself a good pair of sunglasses for the first time ever. Usually I just buy cheap-o ones, but wow, good ones really do make a difference. I got the Ray Ban Caravan's and they are perfect, comfortable and crystal clear. I always seem to need nose pads in sunglasses / glasses otherwise they sit to low so the Wayfarer's were a no go for me but I do love them, and they come in lots of fun colours. 

I'm not really sure how I feel about recommending this as it is crazy expensive, but I was able to get mine when they had a deal going on and it is a game-changer. My friends niece sells Monat products so I bought one of their systems and when I did they threw in the hairspray for only $10. I haven't been using the rest of the products for long enough to make a call on them but I'll get back to you. My hair is always really bad for having flyaways  and this hairspray locks them down like nothing else and actually keeps them in place without making hair crunchy. 

Ok, yum! They were giving out samples of this at Superstore awhile back and I tested it ok (because I will never pass up free chocolate) and this stuff is AMAZING. I've always liked the Brookside chocolate covered stuff but these new bars are even better. There's fruit in it that makes it healthy right? 

I feel like I'm full of iffy recommendations this month but maybe you'll feel the same way. These X-Hose's have pretty awful review and we actually had once last year that started leaking halfway through the summer, but...I was more than happy to buy another one this year around to save my sanity. We've got a big backyard and have flowers to water at the front of the house and the very back of the yard so dragging around a heavy rubber hose that gets kinks CONSTANTLY makes me insane...there have been backyard breakdowns! This hose solves all those problems; it's super light, shrinks up pretty darn small and never, ever, ever kinks. It is absolutely worth the $70 to me, even if I need to replace it every year.  

7. Black Shirtdress
I've been looking for a good shirtdress for a long time and finally found one at Simon's last weekend. This one is is linen but is also lined so it's got a decent weight to it that covers any lumps and bumps and drapes really nicely. The small cap sleeves are also perfect for the summer. It's a great dress up or dress down option for work or weekend. 

8. Grizzly Paw Ginger Beer 
I love just about anything ginger and this ginger beer is super gingery and super delicious. When we were in Canmore last weekend we stopped at the Grizzly Paw Brewery and stocked up on beer and pop and this is my #1 pick. I've been a convert to the dark ginger ale but this is even better because it's even stronger. If that sounds like your thing you should pick some up. If you're in Canmore definitely stop by the brewery but the do sell it at a few Save-on-Food locations in Edmonton and they have it at Love Pizza (good pizza, good pop!) 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Compounding Interest: The Reason to Start Early

You've probably heard (over and over again) that you should start saving for retirement as early as possible but do you actually know why? It's a little thing called compounding interest, and it will make a BIG difference in how much money you can save up in the long run. Let's take a look at why this is the case. 

Compounding is basically how your money will grow by a bigger and bigger amount each year as long you are getting positive returns. Why is this? Well, as long as your funds are growing there will be more of them to move into the next year, and that means there are more dollars for interest to do its work on. 

Let's take a look at this in action, we're going to start off with an easy example that uses only a one time deposit. 

The formula we're going to work with for this first example looks like this: 

A = future value
P = principal (initial investment)
r = rate of return
n = number of compounding periods
t = term (number of years invested)

Now let's use some numbers...let's say you make a deposit of $10,000 and want to know how much it will be worth in 30 years (without not further deposits). We're going to assume a 5% rate of return and monthly compounding (so 12 periods in a year. 

Once you get that all input you will get a result of A = $44,677.44. Over four times your original investment...not too bad hey?

Most people don't save for retirement this way, though, it's much more common to make small deposits more now we're going to complicate things and look at making monthly deposits. Here's the formula we'll be using for multiple deposits: 

And now time to input those numbers; this time we're going to make $200 monthly deposits ($2400/year) for 30 years with a rate of return of 5% and monthly compounding. Without compounding this would be a total investment of $72,000 ($200/month for 30 years). 

This formula looks a little crazy, but once you get it all figured out the total future value will be $166,451.73. It's not as significant an increase as in the first example because you start out with a smaller amount but your money still more than doubles in that period so....worth it! 

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Mother's Day Gift Guide

Every year Mother's Day creeps up on me because it always comes up right after my Mom's birthday. This means that I usually use up my good gift idea for her birthday and end up giving her flowers for Mother's day...a little boring! Well, we've still got a week to go and I've put a little extra thought into it this year and have put together a quick gift guide if you are also running a little last minute. Everything on the list is local to Edmonton and, if you really want to leave things to the last minute, almost all of the sellers will be at the Royal Bison Craft Fair next weekend (just off Whyte Ave). The only one not there is MyDaughter Fragrances but her perfumes are sold in quite a few local stores. 

I gave my mom the Always Loved perfume as a gift and she will likes it. It's very floral (roses) so might not be everyone's tastes but it suits my mom perfectly. It also comes packaged up really nice in a gift box (see above) so just throw on some ribbon and you're good to go! 

Art can be really subjective but chances are you have a pretty good idea of your own mom's taste so I say go for it. Emily's work is quirky and fun and a small print would be perfect for a bathroom or office. 

I love the prints the prints Salgado Fenwick's shirts (and sweaters, leggings, etc.) and this porcupine one is one of my favourites. They will be set-up at the Royal Bison but also have a storefront on 124 Street if that's more convenient for you, plus you can grab a really good coffee on site. 

Jewelry is always a sure thing with my Mom and this necklace is so pretty and way more unique then anything you'll find at the mall (and better value too). 

Plain old flowers are boring but a cute little terrarium that will keep on living is anything but boring. They are easy to care for and there are lots of different options available. 

If you're just looking for a small gift or maybe something to bring along for dessert, look no further than Moonshine Doughnuts. You'll be able to pick them up fresh on Sunday from the craft fair and trust me, they are some of the most delicious doughnuts you will ever eat. The flavours change weekly but I've never had a bad one. 

Happy gifting, I hope I've given you a little inspiration for a unique (and maybe local) gift for Mom!