Budgeting: The Dos and the Don’ts

March 24th, 2015 Posted in Investing|Personal Finance | No Comments »

Budgeting The Dos and the Don'tsStrict Budgeting Does Not Work

It would seem that anyone giving financial advice always begins by saying “use a budget”. Unfortunately, this to many seems restrictive and cloying, and few people do it when times are good. Budgeting is associated with periods of low income, but in reality, if you budget during the affluent times too, the benefits can be huge.

If budgeting does seem to be too restrictive for you, then introduce a flexible budget. Instead of saying that X amount will be spent on X every month, try saying between X amount and X amount will be spent on X every month. For example, a strict $300 for groceries can become $300 to $350 a month for groceries. Studies have shown that even this slight difference is enough to make people feel released from the confines of a budget.

A budget doesn’t need to be strict. Instead, it can be more of a general guide If you aren’t struggling financially, then you can make your budget as vague as you like, while the practice of actually having a budget and sticking to it will be stored for future use should your circumstances change. There’s no need to write down the exact amount of money for everything you could possibly spend it on; some budget “$10 per month for magazines”, which is a little extreme.

Why not budget just for the essentials?  . These are simply amounts that rarely fluctuate and are essential. When you know roughly how much you need for these each month, the real budgeting begins.

At this point, the most common mistakes of budgeting arise. People make the limits of their budget too strict or not strict enough. The only way to avoid this is by trial and error. Split your non-essential expenditure into different groups, rather than specific sets, to begin. Allow amounts for entertainment, going out, clothing and other such variables. At the beginning, it really is best to just guess – find an amount that you think “sounds” right. This might sound a little pie-in-the-sky, but there’s no set figure that is ideal for each person. You have to find out what works for you.

With this done, go through a month on your non-essential budget, then evaluate it. Are there areas where you have a lot of money left over, or areas where you spent more than you were expecting? Within reason, simply alter your budget for the next month to fit the discoveries you’ve made. After three or four months of this, you should have a pretty good idea of the patterns to your expenditure. After six months, you’ll have learned enough to set a semi-permanent budget. After all, if you keep changing your budget forevermore, the point of it is lost slightly!

With your personalized budget in hand, you’re ready to begin. But there’s one final addition that should be in every budget; miscellaneous. You can never know what exactly might appear over the coming months – be it an unexpected bill, or something more exciting like a gadget you just can’t resist – so by always including a miscellaneous amount, you’ve got that covered. If nothing of this type appears over the course of a month, simply roll this amount over. With a plan designed to suit you and a miscellaneous figure allowed for, you’ll soon wonder how you ever managed without a budget.

To streamline and minimize blog maintenance, I will be discontinuing maintaining the Canadapersonalfinancewebsite.com website (however, I will still hold the domain). I will gradually move all articles from this site to A Dawn Journal. This article originally published on the above website on Mar 7, 2009.

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Top Ten Emerging and Frontier Markets

March 22nd, 2015 Posted in Canada|Global Economy | No Comments »

Bloomberg's 2015 Top Market Lists

Bloomberg’s 2015 Top Market Lists

Bloomberg Market recently published its lists of top 25 and 19 emerging and frontier markets. These lists are made based on several factors, such as investing climate, ease of doing business, GDP growth, and so on. Let’s look at the top 10 countries from both emerging markets and frontier markets lists.

Top Ten Emerging Markets

1. South Korea
2. Qatar
3. China
4. U.A.E
5. Chile
6. Malaysia
7. Panama
8. Peru
9. Latvia
10. Poland

Source: Bloomberg Market

Top Ten Frontier Markets

1. Saudi Arabia
2. Estonia
3. Slovakia
4. Lithuania
5. Bahrain
6. Slovenia
7. Bulgaria
8. Vietnam
9. Kazakhstan
10. Romania

Source: Bloomberg Market

The term “emerging market” refers to market or country that is not yet fully developed, but has some elements of a developed market and on is its way to become a developed market in the future or was a developed market in the past. A frontier market or country refers to a developing market that is slower than an emerging market.

For example, MSCI, a leading provider of indexes, considers Saudi Arabia a frontier market, but considers Qatar and UAE emerging markets. South Korea, a widely considered developed market, is still considered emerging market by MSCI due to market restrictions in Korea.

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Real Estate Property in Costa Rica

March 21st, 2015 Posted in Global Real Estate | No Comments »







Costa Rica? Si, Muy Rica.

It would probably take most people quite some time to guess which country recently finished top of the pile when Happy Planet decided to list the happiest countries in the world. Admittedly amid a recession it may not be easy for anyone to guess, because the impression we are generally led to have is that everyone in every country is walking around under a massive dark cloud. It appears, however, that one place in which people are smiling their broadest smiles and talking about the future with optimism is a country with a name that – at least presently – seems perfectly appropriate. Costa Rica – “the rich coast” – is being touted as the place to be. It is green, it is thriving and it seems that nothing can wipe the smile off its face.

To buy real estate property in Costa Rica currently is to join in with an increasing number of American and Canadian citizens who are drawn by the promise of Paradise on Earth. It would be easy to point fingers and laugh at the hubris, the cliché, but unless there is something in the water in San José then it would appear that this is a country with an awful lot going for it. Certainly it appeals to more and more people as time goes on, and business investment as well as real estate are both seeing money being pumped into the country. The fact that there are tax breaks for foreign investors surely doesn’t hurt, but you don’t need to come from elsewhere to see the benefits of Costa Rica – when surveyed, Costa Ricans themselves revealed the highest life satisfaction in all the world.

Property prices for a condo are, in general, slightly lower than you would pay for one further north, with the added advantage that property taxes are low in Costa Rica as a means of attracting external investment, but it is in the housing market that you will really see your dollar go further, with houses of real beauty and luxury in splendid locations costing on average half of what you might expect to pay for similar in the United States. The cost of living in Costa Rica is reassuringly affordable, too. This may have something to do with the fact that the country long ago disbanded its military and puts every penny that would have gone into it towards social programs. As a result healthcare and public services are extremely good.

If you have the patience to live in a country that seems to be a lot more relaxed than most, yet doesn’t fall down on getting things done efficiently and effectively, and can speak Spanish (English is spoken here and spoken well, but it would be a shame to come to somewhere so welcoming and not assimilate at least a little), then Costa Rica is a place worth investing in. The work/life balance is pitched just about perfectly for anyone who likes to enjoy themselves but knows that this is only possible through earning the money to do it.

To streamline and minimize blog maintenance, I will be discontinuing maintaining the realestateexpedition.com website (however, I will still hold the domain). I will gradually move all articles from this site to A Dawn Journal. This article originally published on the above website on July 18, 2009.

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Beware of Collateral Mortgage

March 16th, 2015 Posted in Economy|Mortgage 101 | No Comments »

What Type of Mortgage Is Yours

What Type of Mortgage Is Yours?

When you shop for a new mortgage, pay attention to what type of mortgage your financial institution is registering you. You may be lured into collateral mortgage without knowing, as financial institutions may not disclose enough to let you know that’s it’s collateral mortgage you are registered for.

Traditional mortgage represents the exact amount you need to borrow – plain and simple. With a collateral mortgage, the amount you are borrowing is up to 125 percent to 150 percent value of your property. And for that reason the lender will have a promissory note and lien registered against your property. For example, if your mortgage amount is $100,000, the bank will register you for $150,000, although you are receiving only $100,000.

Banks or financial institutions will tell you that it’s a good thing to register you for more than what need because you will have easy access to credit in the future without reapplying or avoiding extra fees and credit.

However, what banks will not tell you is the following:

- Unlike traditional mortgages, collateral mortgages are complicated and expensive to transfer to another lender at the end of the term.

- You could be paying higher interest at renewal because your lender knows it’s difficult to switch mortgage and you will have to stay with them, so they can make pay you more.

- Because you can borrow only up to 80 percent of your property value, collateral mortgage will not be able to let you access you the extra money banks are registering you for if your down payment or equity is less then 20 percent.

- If you want to transfer out of collateral mortgage, you must hire a lawyer and pay $1,000 or more to discharge the collateral mortgage.

So when you are shopping for mortgages, always read the fine print and consult an independent mortgage professional before making your decisions.

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How To Organize Your Finances

March 13th, 2015 Posted in Investing|Personal Finance | No Comments »

Organizing Your Personal Finances

Organizing Your Personal Finances

When it comes to finance, the temptation to just ignore everything is quite simply overwhelming. In a modern world where speed is everything and time is a premium, letting money just sort itself out can be extremely tempting. You get paid, you pay bills, you sometimes squirrel some cash away in a savings account – and that’s that. As long as some people are in the black (or as close as can be), they see no need for any further attention to financial matters.

As with anything, before you can get your finances running smoothly, you will need to invest a little time. With personal finance, the key is organization. You will need to set aside a little time to get a workable system in to place, but the rewards are ongoing. With a little initial time spent, your finances could look much healthier, and your mind could be better off, too. Knowing you have a secure financial strategy in place could put an end to those heart stopping midnight moments when you’re quite convinced you’re financially ruined. In a way, see the initial time as an investment, which is particularly apposite for what you’re trying to achieve.

To begin with, sit down and work out exactly what comes in every month. This may sound simple, but a surprising amount of people aren’t sure of the exact amount of money they have available to them each month – only realizing when there’s a problem. If your wage is variable, due to overtime or shift patterns, it is best to just start with your basic salary – anything on top of that can then be seen as a bonus. Don’t forget to include tax credits and other forms of income, too.

Then write down exactly what goes out every month, on things like your mortgage, groceries, bills and standing payments. Again, for variable bills – such as electricity – work off the basic level, remembering to increase it for seasonal variations.

When these two columns are complete, see how much money you have available at the end of the month. Your goal is now to increase this figure. To do this, look at each outgoing and see if it can be reduced. Is there possibly a cheaper energy plan you could be on? Do you have payments for things you don’t use, such as a gym membership? Is there a call plan that would reduce your telephone bill? Shop around on the Internet to find the answers, using comparison websites where necessary.

When you’ve reduced your outgoings to their lowest possible levels, the main work is complete. Set up a standing order to put a percentage of your surplus money into a savings account. Even if it’s only $10 a month, it may soon build up and can help cover fluctuations in your income and outgoings.

The final step is to write everything down. Every purchase, every bill payment and every time you use your credit card; put it on a spreadsheet. When bills and bank statements come in, check everything against what you were expecting. Errors do occur frighteningly often, and unless you are diligent, you may miss something. By keeping proper records of all incoming money and outgoings, you will see a pattern to your spending and will be able to prioritize more effectively.

Every six months or so, re-evaluate. There may be a new electricity plan that will work out better for you, so keep checking your statistics. The only way to keep your finances running smoothly is to give them the time they need and to remain vigilant to any changes. By paying close attention, you could save yourself a fortune.

To streamline and minimize blog maintenance, I will be discontinuing maintaining the Canadapersonalfinancewebsite.com website (however, I will still hold the domain). I will gradually move all articles from this site to A Dawn Journal. This article originally published on the above website on Feb 28, 2009.

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Why You Should Not Get Too Attached To Developed Property

March 11th, 2015 Posted in Global Real Estate | No Comments »

When Buying To Let, Don't Develop For Living

When Buying To Let, Don’t Develop For Living

Many real estate investors fall into a simple trap on their first development. Having purchased a property with letting it out in mind – or even the idea of selling for a quick profit – they behave too much like themselves. That may sound wacky, after all we are all told often enough to “be [your]self” when we are young, so why change? The problem comes with the fact that a buy-to-let real estate property may look wonderful to you when you are done with it – but you are not going to be letting it to you. It is all too easy to become personally involved with the development and make a mess of it. So remember to take a detached approach when it comes to development.

One thing to remember about real estate development is that it tends to involve homes. Even if only subliminally, a house conveys to us the feeling that it is for living in, and when we come to develop it we often do this based on what we would like to live in. This is fine, in small measures. To put it another way, you need to be able to look at the house and feel that people would be at home there. It is not about standing back and thinking that you would feel at home, because you are not going to be living there. Adding idiosyncratic touches to the development because you feel it gives the house some character may well be an artistic approach, but remember that your idiosyncratic touches will make the character of the house your character.

This is not to say that a new development should be bland and consciously inoffensive. There needs to be something innovative about it if you are to realize a profit. To get an idea or two, it is helpful to view a house or two in the same area, houses which are selling for close to the price you hope to realize. By doing this you will be able to see what kind of stamp you want to place on the property when it is finished. Location is important when it comes to the kind of touch you want to put on the house. If your development is in a neighbourhood that is by tradition the place for retired couples, then developing a classic bachelor pad or a house for a young family is obviously going to lose you profits.

It doesn’t need to be rocket science – you can do some very simple research and find the ideal development property, then with a few simple touches have the ideal house or set of apartments to sell to the local market. Don’t make the mistake of getting too attached to the house, or to your idea of what it should look like. The chances are the potential buyers will have tastes which differ with yours. Save those touches for when you develop a property for living in. that is when you will need them.

To streamline and minimize blog maintenance, I will be discontinuing maintaining the realestateexpedition.com website (however, I will still hold the domain). I will gradually move all articles from this site to A Dawn Journal. This article originally published on the above website on July 11, 2009.

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Two Tax Scams to Watch Out for This Tax Season

March 8th, 2015 Posted in Life|Money Smart Tips | No Comments »

Tax Season Tax Scams

Tax Season Tax Scams

Hard-working Canadians are busy getting ready to file their taxes. And so are the scammers are busy getting ready to utilize this seasonal opportunity to make some money. Tax scams can come in various ways. Today, I will talk about two methods that are popular among con artists, as these methods are easier for con artists to use to get your money.

Tax Software Scam: If you are filing taxes via tax software, scammers can reach out to you via various methods like emails or phone calls. What usually happens is that they will tell you that you filed your taxes with the wrong information, password, or made terrible mistakes while filing and they need to fix the mistakes with the tax authority. So they will require your personal information to access your files. The emails they send can have malicious links to install a virus on your computer or would ask to enter a fake site that looks like your tax software site to obtain your password or other information. Sometimes they will make phone calls instead to obtain your information.

Tax Authority Phone Call: Scammers can manipulate phone lines to show they are calling from tax bodies like the CRA or IRS and will ask you for money to settle your issues, otherwise a warrant will be issued or a lawsuit will be filed. They can even provide you an 800 # to call back, which will look like a legit number. When such calls happen, scammers will have your previous tax information, your home address, and personal information – so you will think they are calling you from the tax authority for real. Then they ask for money right away to settle your case. Usually they ask to wire transfer money, but there are reported cases where scammers agreed to meet in person to receive the money.

Government agencies do not call or send email notifying you that a lawsuit or warrant is on its way and will never ask you to wire money or receive money in person. Any tax correspondences will arrive in the mail. Your best defence is your own common sense and vigilance. Look for suspicious behaviour and other elements from anyone contacting you for money in a sense of emergency and hurry.

If you are interested for more articles on how to detect and avoid scams, visit A Dawn Journal here:

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One Investment Market That Is Currently Doing Fine

March 5th, 2015 Posted in Investing|Personal Finance | No Comments »

one investment market

Investment Opportunities Exist Even In A Terrible Market

As global markets continue to pop like antique light bulbs, the value of some assets is beginning to slide south; even in a country, that has managed its economy as well as Canada. For people with money to spare who are worried that despite the security of Canadian banks their cash will begin to lose its value, it is therefore a tricky situation in which to invest wisely with any measure of confidence. Of course, investment is indispensable for an economy to thrive and grow, and if you’re not satisfied to see interest safely accrue on what you have in the bank then you’ll still be looking around to see where you can invest without having instantly to drop to your knees and pray. You’re not alone.

One investment market that is currently doing just fine is the buy-to-let market. This makes sense if you stop to think about it. With financial uncertainty clouding matters at the moment, renting a home has never been more popular. Fewer people are taking the considerable risk of buying a home, concerned that they might lose their job – particularly if exports begin to tail off as the global economy struggles. This makes it a potentially very profitable time to be a landlord. Real estate prices are falling, so if you have the spending power and the borrowing capability to buy up properties, now is a good time to do so, before doing the necessary work and turning them out on the rental market.

It is at least partly true that where one man is facing a crisis, another spots an opportunity. This may be cruel in some people’s eyes, but someone is always going to be getting rich when other people are having concerns, and when it comes down to it why shouldn’t you be that someone? Another thing to take into account is that property prices will by their very nature increase again at some point, and with senior analysts voicing the belief that the real estate market has bottomed out (or is at least about to) this might just be a fine time to get on the “property ladder”. Intelligent development could pay off in a big way a couple of years down the line.

One word of warning, however. To repeat the final words of the first paragraph, you’re not alone. There are a great many other people looking for an investment opportunity, and where there is a demand for something there will always be someone ready to profit from that demand. That someone will not always be as altruistic as might be hoped.

A competitive market is the ideal breeding ground for scammers and hustlers, and it is important to vet any investment opportunity more than once over before committing. A once in a lifetime, too good to be true opportunity might just be exactly that. Scammers will not always e-mail you pretending to be a retired Nigerian general with millions of dollars to invest – sometimes they’ll look you in the eye and smile at you. If you have doubts, contact the Investment Dealers Association of Canada. They police investment professionals, and there are few scams they haven’t seen.

To streamline and minimize blog maintenance, I will be discontinuing maintaining the Canadapersonalfinancewebsite.com website (however, I will still hold the domain). I will gradually move all articles from this site to A Dawn Journal. This article originally published on the above website on Feb 22, 2009.

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What’s This New Browser?

March 3rd, 2015 Posted in Internet |Technology | No Comments »

Vivaldi New Browser Looks Promising
Photo Credit: Vivaldi.com

Vivaldi New Browser Looks Promising

Internet Explorer was history long ago, I gave up on Chrome because of concerns with Google, and I was not really too happy with Firefox. My quest for a brand new browser never stopped, but I found nothing good enough to replace good old Firefox. It seems like those days are over, as Vivaldi offers more than expected in a new, baby browser.

Opera’s former CEO, Jon Tetzchner, just launched this self-funding new browser with only 25 employees spread across the globe. Vivaldi shocked the tech world with 500,000 downloads in first ten days. You don’t need ads to spread good news.

Vivaldi uses Chromium as its backbone engine. However, its minimalistic looks and some brand new features make it a more distinctive browser than any other.

There is no menu on the top, but there is a menu strip on the left side panel to let you access bookmarks and other tools. This menu strip can be easily collapsed if you want.

There is also a note-taking feature built in that allows you to take notes for those sites you are visiting.

Tabs show thumbnails of the websites and stack on top of each other when you open more sites from the same tab. Also, the active tab shows the main color of the site you are browsing, making it easy to find a tab among others.

There are other features available as well, such as quick commands, email client, speed dial for one or multiple groups, etc.

As Vivaldi is at its early stage, there are lots of features still missing, but expect to get more features as time goes by.

We have seen many browsers in the past with a nice start, but they failed to live up to their expectations later on. Hopefully Vivaldi will not become one of them.


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Buying Property In A Foreign Country

February 25th, 2015 Posted in Global Real Estate | No Comments »

Home in the Country - But Which Country

Home in the Country – But Which Country?

There is a lot of importance placed on where a person lives. Where we live is something that identifies us as much as anything else – as much as our job, as much as our outward appearance and as much as our name. Our primary home address is asked for by any organization with which we seek to join up. However, a second home is something different. While our primary home may be something that plays a huge part in our everyday life, our secondary home is something that matters for an entirely different reason. The primary home is for function and for family. The second home, more than anything, is for fun. We can look to buy a second home elsewhere in the world, because a house in another country allows us to have somewhere to stay when we go on holiday, among other things.

The “other things” include somewhere to live during our retirement. Having worked all our lives for a chance to relax and let ourselves get a bit of time to  ourselves, we can put money into buying a house somewhere nice and warm – additionally, having spent time somewhere on holiday allows us to scope out a place for the future. If you have been somewhere before and know that you like it, then you have the awareness that the place will be to your taste. How many times have you been on holiday somewhere and thought “this is such a great spot, I wish I didn’t have to go home – I wish I could live here for the rest of my life!”. Although the rest of your life may be stretching it somewhat, getting a retirement property nailed down somewhere else is never a bad idea.

There are many countries where buying a property has become something that you can only do with a lot of money behind you. Banks and lending corporations are reluctant to give mortgages with the housing market still in an uncertain shape. There are more than a few nations where property is still a very manageable investment, and taking advantage of this is something that shouldn’t be beyond a wise investor. It is important to sit and think of where you want to go, and what your reasons are – a family link? A good business opportunity? A country that is special to you, for any other reason. it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get a plan into action.

Countries in North Africa have become highly popular with property investors in the last six months, with the region’s proximity to the Southern tip of Western Europe a big pull. But it isn’t just about being near to Spain, France and Portugal – there is a growing holiday industry in what is a beautiful part of the world. Then there is South America – although some of the continent has been either colonized by tourists or beset by the same economic problems as the rest of the world, there are great properties available at wonderful prices in Brazil, a country which is moving up in terms of business and has always been keenly thought of by tourists.

To streamline and minimize blog maintenance, I will be discontinuing maintaining the realestateexpedition.com website (however, I will still hold the domain). I will gradually move all articles from this site to A Dawn Journal. This article originally published on the above website on June 27, 2009.

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