Is The American Express Gold Rewards Credit Card A Good Hybrid Card?

May 28th, 2016 Posted in Credit Cards|Rewards Cards|Debts | No Comments »

How Good Are Hybrid Cards?

A common question everyone asks is how the American Express Gold Rewards Card holds up when compared to other hybrid credit cards. Today, I will look at a few points you should consider before pledging your allegiance to any hybrid credit cards.

Because of many big rewards sites and TV ads promoting the Amex Gold Rewards Card (I wrote more on this here: What Rewards Canada Is Not Telling You About Its Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards), many of us think that it’s the best hybrid credit card out there because it offers 2 points on maximum categories, such as gas stations, grocery stores and drugstores, flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and more. However, the problem with this is that you should not purchase big-ticket travel items such as flights, hotels, cruises, etc. with your Amex Gold Rewards Card because it does not offer Trip Cancellation Insurance. Keep in mind it charges a hefty $150 annual fee.

Also, Amex rewards transfer partners are very limited. For example, 6 frequent flyer programs (British Airways Executive Club, Aeroplan, Asia Miles, Delta SkyMiles, Alitalia, Etihad Airways) and 2 hotel programs (Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest).

A better option can be the Amex Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, which lets you transfer Starpoints to frequent flyer miles with more than 30 airlines or redeem Starpoints for free nights at over 1200 Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 100 countries. However, keep in mind that this card does not offer Trip Cancellation Insurance either.

Another hybrid card, the RBC Visa Infinite Avion ($120 annual fee), offers full suite insurance coverage and offers transfer partners such as WestJet, Asia Miles, Avios points, AMERICAN AIRLINES AADVANTAGE miles, Esso Extra points or Shoppers Optimum points, etc. So for many, the appeal of this card may be higher due to its insurance coverage.

So picking the best hybrid card depends on what you are looking for from your credit cards, whether it’s the most points, the most transfer partners, or the most insurance coverage.

What To Expect From Your Lawyer When Buying A Condo?

May 23rd, 2016 Posted in Global Real Estate | No Comments »

What To Expect From Your Lawyer When Buying A Condo






What Does A Condo Lawyer Do?

To streamline and minimize blog maintenance, I will be discontinuing maintaining the 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 Nov 14, 2010

When you are buying a condo, you need to have a lawyer because they will help you get through all the complicated parts of the condo purchasing process, helping you make sure you get exactly what you want when you buy a home.

The lawyer is going to talk to you about several things that will be of interest to you, many of which you may not know about. Knowing these things will help ensure you get what you want out of your purchase.

HST is something that many people do not understand, nor like. It is also something to consider when you are buying a condo. There is an HST Rebate that is meant to give you money back on large purchases like a house, but if you don’t know how to file for this rebate, you could lose out big time. A condo lawyer can help you get the rebate, which will help you pay for that new condo of yours.

The contract can be very complicated and you may feel as though it is written in a different language. A condo lawyer is going to be able to go over that contract with you and give you help in understanding what is being said in the contract. One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they are buying a house or a condo is they just buy the condo and sign the contract without reading it. However, did you know about things like caps? Just like a salary cap in the NHL, a cap on fees keeps you from paying too much. Cap costs have gone up by nine times in ten years, but if you just sign a condo contract without having a lawyer look at it first, you could end up paying as much as $10,000 more than what you needed to, just in closing cap costs like gas hook ups.

There are going to be several fees associated with your purchase and developers love these fees because it is essentially free money for them. As a result, if you don’t read the condo contract properly, you could end up paying thousands in useless and unwanted fees. A condo lawyer knows what developers try to do and they know how to keep you from paying for fees. Everything from purchase fees to fees on utility hookups are going to be charged, and you don’t want that to happen. Have the lawyer look over the contract carefully because the savings you get from not paying too much for your condo will offset the amount you pay for a lawyer immensely.

Here are a few things you can expect from a lawyer:

– Explain, prepare and register all related legal documents, such as purchase contract, title, HST rebate etc.
– Scrutinize that there are no liens, easements, covenants, unpaid taxes, unpaid utilities etc against the condo.
– Arrange title insurance protection, review all the closing papers you need to sign, and ensure your registered
ownership does not make you liable for more than what you have accepted.
-  Explain and advice you on your rights, obligations and protect your interests in case of a dispute.
– Assist you to close the transaction through province’s electronic registration system.

Before you hire a condo lawyer, you should talk with friends and families to find out any lawyers they have used and whether or not you should need one. You can also talk to your realtor but it is better to get a lawyer who is not affiliated with a realty agency. Finding a good condo lawyer will ensure you do not pay too much and you get exactly what you paid for.

Myrtle Beach Vacations, Retirement and Real Estate

May 21st, 2016 Posted in Global Real Estate, Retirement 101 | No Comments »

Just Completed Myrtle Beach Trip

Just returned from Myrtle Beach about two weeks ago. Today, I am posting my Myrtle Beach short video film and will talk about a few things based on my experience.

Lots of Canadian snowbirds go to Florida every year to spend the winter and they own properties in Florida as well. However, I never hear that much about Myrtle Beach. After visiting Myrtle Beach, I am convinced that Myrtle Beach maybe a better place than Florida to go on vacation, escape the harsh Canadian winter, and buy properties.

For those who want to go for vacations, the reason I like it better than Florida is because of its shorter distance (only one and a half hour flight from Toronto) and the sort of people I have seen are mainly family-oriented beach/ocean loving people. Florida is nice; though you possibly will come across lots of party lovers and it can be overcrowded as well. Of course, it depends on where you go and different places may have different appeal.

For the same reasons I mentioned above, snowbirds will find more peaceful neighbourhoods in Myrtle Beach and can spend quality retirement time in isolation if you live little bit off the main city core. The main beaches surrounding the city centre can be crowded in the summer, but it’s still a lot less crowded than big beach attractions in Florida.

Another thing that astonished me was the low value of real estate properties. I have seen many one bedroom ocean front condos, literally in front of the ocean and with a 30-second walk to the beach, going for $60,000 to $100,000. This is hard for someone like me who lives in downtown Toronto to believe, as in my area a tiny one bedroom lake-view condo would start at $400,000.

If I plan to spend my winter in retirement in a warm location, Myrtle Beach will definitely be on my list to consider. And for going on a vacation again? I will consider that again as I really liked Myrtle Beach and wouldn’t mind going back again.

The Shard of Glass London Skyscraper

May 17th, 2016 Posted in Global Real Estate | No Comments »

The Shard of Glass London Skyscraper







Shard of Glass

To streamline and minimize blog maintenance, I will be discontinuing maintaining the 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 3, 2011.

It may not be the tallest building in the world, in fact it is less than half the height of the tallest building in the world, but the Shard of Glass, also known as Shard London Bridge, is a truly beautiful building.

Currently under construction in London, England, this skyscraper is scheduled to be finished in 2012 for the Summer Olympics in London. Upon its completion, it will become the 45th tallest building in the world, the second-tallest freestanding structure in the United Kingdom after the Emley Moor Transmitting Station and the tallest building in the European Union.

The tower will stand 1,017 feet, or 310 meters and have 72 floors. In addition, there will be an additional 15 radiator floors that sit on the roof.

One of the more interesting factors about this building, and its defining characteristic, is the fact that it has an irregular triangular shape. As well, the building is completely covered in glass, which is where the name Shard of Glass comes from.

The skyscraper, which will have an open-air observation deck on the top of the 72nd floor, was designed by noted architect Renzo Piano who considers the slender form of the skyscraper a positive addition ot the skyline of London.

Piano created the unique angles of the Shard of Glass so that it will reflect light and the changing patterns in the sky, depending on the time of day, year and season.

The public viewing gallery on the top is expected to draw over two million people per year. The skyscraper, along with its smaller companion building known as London Bridge Place, are part of a revitalization project for the surrounding area, which also includes a museum, a concours and a public piazza.

Upon its completion, it will surpass the Frankfurt Commerzbank Tower, which is currently the tallest building in the European Union, and has been since 1997. It was hoped that the Shard of Glass would also be the tallest building in Europe, taking into account cities in Russia including Moscow, but this may not be the case. The Triumph-Palace and Naberezhnaya Tower have both been completed and both are taller than the Shard of Glass. Another building in Moscow, the Mercury City Tower, will also be taller than the Shard of Glass when it is completed.

Needless to say, the Shard of Glass will be the tallest building in the European Union but not for long. It is expected that the Hermitage Plaza, which will rise to 323 metres, will become the tallest building in the European Union when it is completed in France in 2016.

Due to the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001, a complete re-evaluation was done on tall structures across the planet and the Shard of Glass is among the first in the United Kingdom to be built using the US National Institute of Standards and Technology report on the WTC collapse, meaning it will withstand the most difficult conditions nature and man can put up against it.

Canadian ETFs Explode

May 15th, 2016 Posted in ETFs|Mutual Funds | No Comments »

WisdomTree ETFs Canada

WisdomTree ETFs Canada

The Canadian ETF market passed a milestone by adding 400 available ETFs trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). As average investors are gradually realizing the significance of paying low fees on ETFs, they are ditching high-fee mutual funds in favour of low-fee ETFs. After all, why would someone want to pay a 2.50 percent MER on a mutual fund when they can obtain a very similar ETF with a 0.10 to 0.25 percent fee? It’s no wonder assets under management for ETFs on TSX have passed or are close to passing $100 billion.

Big mutual fund companies, which have been in denial of getting into ETFs for decades, are coming to the realization that there is no other choice but to enter the ETF arena. Their excuse was that, due to its low fees, no money could be made from ETFs. However, the change of heart happened when they finally (although they were late) realized that people are shifting from mutual funds and ETFs and if they don’t change now other providers will keep grabbing market share and they will be left out in the middle of nowhere. Big mutual fund companies like CI Investments and Mackenzie are now active in ETFs.

BMO (Bank of Montreal) deserves credit for recognizing ETF potential many years ago, before any other banks or mutual fund companies. And it has been awarded generously for its far-fetched decision. BMO is the second largest ETF player in Canada today after iShares and before Vanguard with $27 billion assets under management.

Also, WisdomTree, a major ETF provider in the US, has announced that it will launch its ETFs in Canada and is awaiting Canadian regulatory approval. You will see more ETF players from within and outside Canada to offer ETFs for Canadian investors in the future.

More players mean more choices, more competition, and better value; that’s good for everyone and that’s what we want in Canada.

Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)

May 11th, 2016 Posted in Retirement 101 | No Comments »

The Guaranteed Income Supplement









The Guaranteed Income Supplement

To streamline and minimize blog maintenance, I will be discontinuing maintaining the 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 Nov 7, 2010

As we get older in Canada, there are many things in place to ensure that you have money after you retire. The Canada Pension Plan, which you pay into, will help pay those bills, as will Old Age Security, which is taxable. However, if you are a low-income pensioner, with very little or even no income, then you can look at supplementing the Old Age Security you receive through the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). GIS is non-taxable and the amount you receive will depend on how much you make, whether or not you are married and the age of your spouse.

Currently, the maximum you can receive through the GIS program is $597.53 per month, and this is if you have no other source of income. If you and your spouse both collect from the GIS program, then you can each receive a maximum of $392.01.

Since your annual income changes each year, and since the GIS program is based on your income, you need to renew your GIS every single year.

Most seniors can easily renew their GIS automatically by filing their income tax return by April 30. If a tax return is not filed because there is no income, then you can request a renewal application to be sent to you. Once you do this, you will receive a letter in July that explains to you the new amount of your monthly payment.

In order to qualify for the GIS, you need to be first eligible for the Old Age Security pension, meaning you need to be over 65 years of age, a Canadian citizen, and have lived in Canada for the past 10 years.

Currently, the Old Age Security Act provides a GIS earning exemption of $3,500, up from $500 in 2007. This means that a single pensioner who earns $3,500 or more, will be entitled to keep an additional $1,500 in their annual GIS benefits.

If you get married, separate from your spouse, or your spouse dies, then you must contact the GIS program to let them know about the change. If you separate due to reasons beyond your control, like your spouse is put in a nursing home, then you can both be considered a single person and that will give you a larger monthly payment.

Since the GIS program is based on income, what counts as income then? Here is a quick rundown:

  1. Canada Pension\Quebec Pension Plan
  2. Private pension income
  3. Foreign pension income
  4. RRSPs cashed during the year.
  5. Employment insurance
  6. Interest on savings
  7. Capital gains and dividends
  8. Rental property income
  9. Employment income

If you want to get an application for the program, you need to contact 1.800.277.9914

The GIS program can help you get a little extra money to live on each year, making being in your retirement and golden years that much easier for you. All you need to do is apply and start receiving your benefits from the government.

Global Economy Updates

May 8th, 2016 Posted in Canada|Global Economy | No Comments »

World Economy

World Economy

The recent global economic outlooks provided by IMF forecast a grim picture for the upcoming months. The global economy will continue to recover, but at a slower and fragile pace.

Due to uncertain growth and confidence, advanced economies have deteriorated economic growth in the near future. Also, due to declines in commodity and prices, emerging economies will continue to suffer along with commodity-exporting countries.

As China is moving towards an economic growth based on consumption and services, there will be spills along the way that could affect other countries, especially emerging markets and developing economies. Emerging markets also suffer from slowing capital inflows and accelerating outflows.

Countries should emphasize accommodation monetary policies supplemented by complementary fiscal policies to boost economic growth and output.

However, another report published by Oxford Economies indicated that the global economy is no longer likely to fall into a full recession due to a surge in the global stock market, stable oil prices, and surging commodity prices. Economy health is at a better position now than it was in early January when oil prices were heading towards $20 a barrel and the stock market was in a free-fall.

The US Federal Reserve also keeps maintaining its current interest rate until at least June. Faith in the strengthening US economy makes the Fed believe that evolving economic conditions will make it possible to increase interest rates gradually in the future.

How An Actor and Composer Convinced Me to Join Instagram and Now I’m Hooked

May 2nd, 2016 Posted in Internet |Technology | No Comments »

Adawnjournal Instagram

Adawnjournal Instagram Is Ready

I used to be one of those who never tried or understood Instagram, as I never bothered trying it. While I was in Myrtle Beach last week, I was sending some pictures to my nephew Shayan Mannan, who is an actor and a music director as well. His link:

He insisted I should open up an Instagram account to let the world see these pictures. He kept asking me to sign up and I eventually told him I might try it some other time just as a way to avoid signing up for it. I had no intention of opening up a new account only to share pics, as I have been more concentrating on YouTube posts about credit cards and rewards points these days.

However, on April 20th all of my reluctance changed. When I was enjoying the Atlantic, sitting on the balcony in my Oceanfront suite in Myrtle Beach, I don’t know how or why, but something made me sign up for Instagram on my smartphone. After posting my very first picture, I got hooked on Instagram and since then I’ve been posting new pics almost everyday, even after coming back to Toronto.

The ease of using this app and sharing pics with the world is hard to ignore. According to my nephew, “It’s better than Facebook or Twitter. Endless array of pictures from around the world.”

Here is the link to follow me on Instagram:

I recommend you follow me, as I will be sharing pics from various walks of life and because I am a global traveler you will get to travel around the globe with me when I am traveling.

The Most Expensive Real Estate In The World

April 26th, 2016 Posted in Global Real Estate | No Comments »

The Most Expensive Real Estate In The World










World’s Expensive Real Estate

To streamline and minimize blog maintenance, I will be discontinuing maintaining the 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 Dec 7, 2010.

When you are looking for a place to live, you may want to look around the world, but when you have a lot of money, you may want to look in these locations, which are considered to be some of the most expensive cities and neighborhoods in the entire world.

San Diego, California

San Diego has beautiful weather, the Pacific Ocean and plenty of places to go and see in this world-class city. One of the most expensive areas in this city is La Jolla, where the average home price runs about $1.7 million per house. In this area you get a clear view of the Pacific Ocean and wonderful weather all year long.

Tokyo, Japan

One of the largest cities in the world, Tokyo has everything for person who wants to live in the island nation of Japan. Plenty of huge stores, high technology and amazing history, Tokyo is a great place to live. One of the best places to live within the city is the Shibuya Neighbourhood, where homes cost roughly $1.8 million.

Monte Carlo, Monaco

Sitting along the coast, complete with beautiful beaches, a thriving nightlife, a deep history and very favourable taxes for the rich, this is one of the most expensive countries in the world to live in. Monte Carlo often ranks as the highest priced city to live in with homes costing on average $4,420 per square foot.

Hong Kong, China

For a century, Hong Kong grew as part of the British Empire and in 1999 it transferred over to China. Since then, the city has continued to grow and prosper, bringing up some of the most expensive real estate in the world with it. Currently, the average home in the high class neighbourhood of Victoria Peak costs about $3.5 million.

Moscow, Russia

The economy of Russia is beginning to grow again thanks to high oil prices, and that has pushed the real estate prices in this city skyward. Moscow may seem cold and uninviting but it is actually a very beautiful city that has much to offer, even at $1,937 per square foot for real estate.

Jupiter Island, Florida

Probably the most expensive place to live in all of the United States, you are only a short drive away from Palm Beach, Jupiter Island has many golf courses, yacht clubs and places to spend oodles of money. Former president George H.W. Bush used to live here, where homes cost on average $5.6 million.

London, England

One of the most expensive cities in the world to live, London is a city of history, culture and more. It has everything you could possibly want out of a city but that comes at a very high price. In the area of Kensington Palace Gardens, where the average home price is a whopping $85 million, the richest Londoners live, including Middle Eastern royalty and business tycoons.

So, if you got the money then these are the cities you may want to move
to, where you can enjoy the good life that money buys.

What Is Rent To Own?

April 22nd, 2016 Posted in Economy|Mortgage 101 | No Comments »

The Rules of Rent To Own In Canada






The Rules of Rent To Own In Canada

When you want to rent-to-own within Canada, there are some things you need to be aware of before venturing down that road. First, a bit of an explanation of what rent-to-own actually is. Rent-to-own is an agreement where a rental lease and purchase agreement between a tenant and owner is put in place to purchase the property at a fixed price at a specified point of time. With rent-to-own, you agree that five years down the road, you will purchase the house for the price that it is valued at when you reach that point. When you pay rent on the house, the rent goes towards the value of the house, hence the term rent-to-own. So, you pay each month towards the payment of the house, then you buy the house for what it is worth at the point when the term ends.

As the renter, there are many reasons that a rent-to-own property would be a good idea for you. Obviously, the biggest benefit is if you have bad credit and want to buy a home but need to improve your credit first. As well, if you don’t have much money at this moment, or you don’t have a large down payment, then rent-to-own is a very good idea.

In regards to your down payment, the owner of the property is required to accept the down payment that you have. There is no minimum amount, within reason, and that is a big benefit of the rent-to-own system. The down payment typically will be two month’s rent on the home. So, if you are paying $1,000 per month, then you will pay $2,000 as a down payment. Obviously, the more of a down payment you have, the less you will pay for the house over the course of the terms.

The rent you pay is going to pay off the home. Each month that you put money into the bank for rent, you are paying off your home. Typically, you will have a term that is going to be five to ten years. Each month that you pay rent, you pay off the home towards the end of that term. Once the term is over, you then buy the home with a mortgage. Here is an example to help you. So, you agree with the seller that you will rent-to-own for five years at $1,000 per month. Over that five years, you pay off $60,000. That leaves $240,000 on the mortgage, minus your $2,000 down payment. At this point, you need to get a mortgage for $238,000.

Lastly, you need to agree on a price with the seller. The price you pay will depend on the market. When the market is up, you pay more. When the market is down, you pay less, it is as simple as that. Once you agree upon a price with the seller, the seller is committed to that price no matter if the value of the house changes. This can be good if the value goes up but bad if the value goes down.

Before getting into any rent-to-own program, always do your research and make sure this is the best option to be a home owner based on your situation.

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