Best Savings Account – Tangerine vs. President’s Choice. The Ultimate Showdown!

Best Savings Account -President’s Choice Financial or Tangerine?

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When it comes to savings accounts, in my view there are only two valid options today. It’s either President’s Choice Financial or Tangerine (or Bank Formerly Known As ING DIRECT). I would never consider opening a savings account at any other bank simply because none of other banks offer completely free savings account with all features included without fees of any kind. These two are your best options because:Continue Reading

Book giveaway! David Bach – Smart Couples Finish Rich

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Hey, who doesn’t like free stuff?

 

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I’m giving away a copy of David Bach’s Smart Couples Finish Rich book along with Finish Rich Workbook (both Canadian edition, eh?). If you’re struggling with money and would like to change your financial life, I think this would be a great book to read to start your journey to recovery and towards greater financial success.

What’s more important, this book focuses on couples. I’ve always thought agreement on financial matters is absolutely crucial for couples because seen many times what disagreements can do to couple’s finances. David explains how to properly communicate with each other about money, and how to get the dialogue going.

This book would be a great help to you if you are in a long-term committed relationship and don’t have open, frank discussions with your significant other about money. The entire book focuses on ways to open up this discussion and make it go easier, particularly in the early steps of the plan. The raw financial advice is pretty basic; the power of this book is found in the strengthened relationship that it can facilitate.

 

About David Bach and his books

 

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away when I was taking yet another night course in college, I was searching frantically for an article about automatic electronic relays (don’t ask me what that is!). By accident, I came across a book review on David Bach’s Automatic Millionaire. Being a curious person, I clicked on the link and quickly scanned through it and thought it’s worth checking out later – especially since back then I was dealing with being in debt, and one of the chapter was specifically addressing that problem.

David Bach’s style of explaining personal finance matters was very appealing to me – not judgmental, action-oriented, and very positive. He didn’t say I was a bad person for being in debt, he didn’t try to present me with some sketchy concept of attracting money by imagining yourself rich (Yuck!). He simply broke down personal finance into milestones, and walk through them. All I had to do was to follow along.

Later on, I’ve read a lot of personal finance books. But Automatic Millionaire will always be the book that changed my life after I stumbled upon it completely by accident. Sometimes I wonder how our lives would be different if I didn’t click on thank link. Where my net worth would be right now, if I’d still be in debt, if I’d start investing money with a great dream of becoming financially independent one day?

 

 What do you have to do to get this book?

 

All you have to do is to leave a comment (or send me an email at financialunderdog@gmail.com) and tell me your most important issue with money. What you find the most difficult thing to tackle? What frustrates you the most? Maybe it’s your debt, maybe it’s fear of investing, maybe it’s your secret addiction to Big Whoppers that drains your bank account. Simple as that!

I will pick a winner on Friday, June 20th and will contact you shortly for your mailing address.

Why do immigrants save more money?

Immigrants save more money 2

Did you know that Canadian immigrants save more money?

 

WARNING: This article is full of stereotypes, generalizations, and simplifications. Just like all of my stories.

Usually, immigrants are portrayed by the media as struggling households, working low-paying jobs and barely getting by. Well, here’s some rather shocking statistics for you:

– According to BMO Harris Private Banking, roughly half of all wealthy people in Canada are immigrants or 1-st generation Canadians. This means they either immigrated to Canada or were born here to immigrant parents and thus inherited some of their habits. At the same time, 7 out of 10 of them built their wealth from the ground up. They started at zero, and reached the millionaire status with their hard work.

– According to study done by Purvi Sevak and Lucie Schmidt, immigrant households are ahead of native households in terms of wealth accumulation. In simple terms, immigrants save more money than native Canadians/Americans of the same age. They might not make as much money as their counterparts, but they end up with more wealth in their coffers.

How’s this possible? How come people who came to Canada/US from third world countries sometimes barely speaking English and in most cases with no marketable skills are so far ahead in terms of personal finance than people who lived here for generations and thus supposedly should be ahead of them? Let’s figure it out together.

 

Immigrants save more money

Immigrants save more money

 

I happen to be an immigrant myself. Years ago, my family (dad, mom, me, and my brother) moved to Canada from Russia. My parents thought Canada provides more opportunities for people, and is also more stable socially and economically. So trust me, when it comes to being an immigrant, I have firsthand experience.

 

Why do immigrants save more money?

 

Being an immigrant myself, I can completely understand the underlying causes for  this phenomenon. See, immigrants might wear the same clothes as you, and drive the same roads, but being outsiders gives us a bit of advantage due to cultural differences. Immigrants save more money because they think and live differently. They also have different habits when it comes to money, and as a result a lot of them end up wealthy.

 

1. Immigrants hate debt and have very little of it

 

People who grow up in Canada and USA are surrounded by debt. Let’s be honest, debt became a part of life here. People borrow money to buy houses, they borrow money for school, they borrow money to buy cars they drive to school, and they buy groceries on credit cards, and even buy dogs using in-store credit with 168 easy payments spread over 24 years. Immigrants on the other hand don’t borrow money. It’s cash all the way, baby!

First of all, not many banks will lend money to people without credit history/credit score. Banks only lend money to people with history of repaying their debts because they kind of want their money back plus a little something. But when you arrive here from another country, you have a completely blank history of borrowing. Banks see it as high-risk lending, and prefer to lend to more stable crowd.

Second, immigrants are not used to institutional credit as a concept and generally don’t trust banks. As a result, they tend to save more and generally are more disciplined with money. Cash is king, like your old-school grandmother probably used to say. If you don’t have cash, you don’t spend money. Immigrants save more money not just for retirement, but for all other major purchases because they save money instead of borrowing. You want to buy something expensive? You set money aside for months and sometimes years until you save enough to buy it outright. Borrowing from an institution is very foreign to immigrants.

If you have no debt, you have more money to save and invest. If you don’t waste money on interest payments just so you can have the latest gadget sooner, you end up with more money in your pocket. So, having very limited debt lets immigrants save more money.

 

2. Immigrants spend less money

 

Immigrants in most cases come to Canada/US from poorer countries and modest means (otherwise, why would you move here?). They’re used to having less and not enjoying finer more expensive things in life. What would be considered “poverty” by most people here passes for normal living in our countries of origin.

Example #1: Having only one car in your household or owning an older vehicle is considered as signs of struggle in Canada/US. But check this out – when I was growing up in Russia, we had no car at all. My brother and I walked to school every day (uphill both ways!) and my parents used public transit for going to work. Having a family car was viewed as utter luxury, and far from everybody could afford it. Ever since then I have very low standards when it comes to personal transportation and feel completely content with driving an almost 20-years old car with no power windows. As a result, I don’t waste money on lease payments or finance charges.

Example #2: Houses in North America are enormous. And you don’t have to be from a stereotypical “poor” country to say that, even people from Western Europe will tell you the same thing. Where I come from, living in an apartment is considered perfectly normal, while living in a single family housing is something that only very wealthy families can afford. So, now you can understand why most immigrants don’t need to buy large expensive houses and prefer to live in more economical dwellings and save more money as a result.

 

Immigrants save more money

Immigrants save more money

 

Same goes for most household spending. Having more than one television set in our house feels like overkill. Chasing clothing trends and latest electronic gadgets seem unnecessary waste of money. Going out to eat to a restaurant and spending money on food while there’s a perfectly good dinner sitting in your fridge is just weird to immigrants!

Call it “being cheap”. I call it “being efficient with money”.

 

3. Immigrants work their butts off

 

While immigrants don’t get the highly paid jobs, they compensate for it by working an extra job (or two!) on a side. They’ll come on weekends for some extra work, they’ll volunteer for working on stat holidays, and they’ll work side gigs in spare time – whatever it takes to bring more income.

It doesn’t mean they work like this all their lives! They might work like this for the first 5, 10, or even 15 years after coming here. But at some point their savings and assets grow to the point where wise investing takes over, and working for money becomes less of a priority. At this point, a lot of them ease off gas, and let money they’ve saved produce more money so they don’t have to. Makes sense?

Years ago, when I got in trouble with college debt, I worked two jobs all summer to pay it off. And by working all summer I mean every single day for four months in a row including weekends and holidays. While some of my friends though I’m a bit nuts, it was worth it when I paid off my debts completely with all my extra earnings.

Even right now, working a “normal” Monday to Friday job, I feel guilty for doing nothing on weekends, and always look for ways to be productive. Heck, I think this blog came to be simply because I was looking for something to do in my spare time.

 

Want to save more money? Manage your money like an immigrant.

 

Work hard, spend less, and have no debt. Say no to unnecessary spending, and try to increase your income. This is how immigrants save more money. Any financial advisor will tell you these three things will put you on a road to wealth.

 

 

 

 

 

Mid-year update: Goals and Resolutions – 2014

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Goals and resolutions strike back!

 

Holy macaroni, does the time fly or what!? Feels like only few days ago I was putting together the list of our goals and resolutions for this year. And here we are, almost half way through the year. Somebody asked me other day – how am I doing on my goals and resolutions? Have I given up yet? Well, let’s take a look at the original goals:

 

1. Invest 30% of our income

 

Goals and Resolutions Update

Goals and Resolutions Update

 

HIT! This goal was smashed to pieces! For every single month starting from January to May we’ve put away 30% of our income towards investments for the future. It doesn’t include saving for future spending (new car or travel, etc.), it includes specifically saving money towards investments for our financial independence. Check out our latest investment in solar energy in Ontario!

In fact, we’ve increased it to 33% (weird number but whatever works!) few months ago after we realized we actually have some leftover money in our budget. Being debt free has an awesome effect of leaving more money in your pocket; money you can put towards your own goals, not your bank’s. Take that, big banks!

Most financial advisors recommend saving at least 10% towards retirement, but I really feel 10% won’t be enough – partly because we don’t make a lot of money, so it will take a larger portion of our income to save considerable amount of money. Not fair, but just means we have to work harder on this saving thing.  Years ago we’ve started with 10%, later increased it to 20%, and now we’re at 33% rate of savings. One day I’d like to get to 50% of savings through either increasing our incomes (can somebody hire me for $100,000/year? I’m great at making sarcastic comments and eating sandwiches), or cutting down our expenses – although we already live lean and mean.

BONUS HIT #1!: We’ve finished saving for a new car. Our car is a gazillion years old by now, and while it served us faithfully for years, the chances of it breaking down beyond reasonable repairs are getting higher with every kilometer. Heck, with almost 250,000 kilometers on its speed-o, the engine might fall out tomorrow. So, few months ago we’ve opened up a savings account just for this and been throwing whatever we can into it on a monthly basis, including our 2013 tax refunds. Now that we have $10,000 sitting in that account (I ain’t paying over $10,000 for a new car), I don’t really care if this one breaks down one day – we can simply write a check and buy a new one overnight. One less thing to worry about!

BONUS HIT #2!: We’ve also increased our mortgage payment by 10%. While it wasn’t on my original list of goals and resolutions, this is something we’ve been doing every year for the last 3 years. Thankfully, our mortgage company doesn’t mind us doing it unlike some restrictive banks out there. This is the trick I’ve learned from  one of my friends – by increasing your mortgage payment every year, you’re speeding up the repayment process by years. And while having extra money for fun might have been nice, seeing our mortgage being repaid is fun too, trust me. Besides, we can always find something cheap for fun, fun doesn’t have to be expensive. Heck, when I was a kid I played with a stick for fun…and it was fun!

 

2. Update my blog on a weekly basis

 

Goals and Resolutions Update

Goals and Resolutions Update

 

CLOSE CALL!: In five months (January to May) I’ve made eighteen entries in my blog, so it works out roughly 3.6 times/month which is a bit below my goal. Now, this goal really doesn’t change anything in my world, but the whole point was to work out a bit of a habit for myself. And I’m almost there! March was a bit of a miss with only one entry because I got incredibly busy at work. So, with some extra entries here and there, I hope to bring up the overall total to 5 (five) times a month by the end of the year.

 

Here are three of my favorite posts written in this period:

 

Why I Don’t Want to Buy a New Car – this blog entry was featured in Globe and Mail and caused a record number of comments (some of them were surprisingly angry).

How much money do Olympic athletes earn? – just something I’ve always been wondering about so I did some research on Internet.

Investing in solar energy – blog post about our latest investment, and why I hope to make some money with Ontario’s solar energy.

On a side not, I’m really enjoying this whole blogging thing. I do like writing, and I’d like to think that my posts are somewhat informative and helpful for other people. Reading other blogs is also quite enjoyable, and I love little friendships with like-minded individuals I’ve formed in the last few months. Twitter is not exactly my thing, but I love being able to talk to people across the world who are facing same challenges and have similar goals when it comes to financial freedom.

 

Here’s some blogs I’ve been enjoying lately:

 

Million Dollar Journey – Awesome blog about smart investing towards financial independence.

Freedom Thirty Five Blog – Liquid blogs about out-of-the-box investing towards financial freedom and top 1% status. He focuses on less traditional investments such as investing in farmland in Saskatchewan, and mortgage investment corporations (something we’ve invested in ourselves). Fantastic read if you’re looking for something both informative and entertaining.

Budgets Are Sexy – hawk-sporting J. Money makes financial nerdiness cool. He’s a pimp daddy of personal finance blogs.

Stacking Benjamins – great blog and also podcast about financial matters run by Joe and OG. Before I found them, I thought I was the biggest movie nerd in history. These guys surely put me to shame with their movie references.

Mr. Money Mustache is a legend by now. Blogs about simple living and how he managed to retire by his 30th birthday.

 

3. Lose 50 lbs. of weight

 

Goals and Resolutions Update

Goals and Resolutions Update

 

EPIC FAIL!: Well, I failed miserably in this department. But it’s not going anywhere from my list of goals and resolutions for this year!

My original intentions were to carefully track my food intake to the point of weighing all my meals and at the same time to ramp up my gym visits. As far as tracking down food intake, it stopped around March (my excuse was being busy) and never resumed. Gym visits are sporadic – and while I truly enjoy working out once I’m there, sometimes watching yet another episode of Dragons’ Den on Netflix seems like a way better way to pass the time than lifting heavy things and putting them down. Seriously, that’s all people do there.

I find it funny (and sad at the same time) that I have enormous discipline when it comes to finances and can fight over a single dollar in our budget just to hit our goals (sometimes it backfires on me), yet when it comes to simple things like going to a gym or cutting down on cheese appear to me as incredibly hard things to conquer. Frustrating!

 

4. Read a new book every two weeks

 

Goals and Resolutions Update

Goals and Resolutions Update

 

HIT! While this goal doesn’t have anything to do with personal finance or investing, I’m proud that I’ve hit it. There are many ways to waste the time in this world, and reading books isn’t the worst of them. What can be better than acquiring new knowledge and being lightly entertained at the same time?

 

Here’s some of the books I’ve enjoyed lately:

 

Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort. This book was later turned into a movie by the same name starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi

The Behavior Gap by Carl Richards. Brilliant book that discusses how most people miss out on great returns by making some rather stupid things with their investments.

The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason. I’ve came to a conclusion that everything you need to know about personal finance is directly discussed in this book. If you read just this one book, you don’t need to read any other books on personal finance, seriously.

I’m planning on sticking to my schedule and making a point of reading two books a month.

 

 5. Cut down on unnecessary information intake

 

WORK IN PROGRESS!

The reason why I put this on my list of goals and resolutions, was because I’ve noticed that sometimes I spend way too much on Internet (and other ways too) reading up on something that is completely irrelevant to my life. I’d be listening to talk radio on the way to work discussing latest politics scandals. I would find myself reading news on subjects that have no connection to my life whatsoever.

Why waste this time on it? Why obsesses myself with subjects that will never affect my life in any way. Who cares about politics? Shouldn’t I focus on my dreams and goals before paying attention to anything else?

So, now on the way to work me and my wife mostly talk instead of listening to daily news. I stopped paying attention to news sites and anything to do with politics. It’s work in progress, but it’s slowly getting better.

 

 What’s next for goals and resolutions?

 

I’ll continue working on these goals and resolutions, and revisit the list once again, just around end of the year. I’m really hoping to make progress on all goals and resolutions I’m doing poorly right now, and I will try to excel at the ones I’m hitting already.

After all, if you’re a Financial Underdog and were not born with a silver spoon in your mouth and a nice trust fund to live off, the only thing that’s left to do is to keep working on improving yourself. And an occasional episode of The Walking Dead here and there, am I right?