What you should know about your credit score

What’s in it, who can see it, and why it’s important

We often hear financial experts advising people to check their “credit score.” It’s a good idea to do that every year. That will give you an idea of what kind of risk lenders think you are. It can also signal if you’ve been a victim of identity theft and fraud. But very few people actually have a good idea of what a credit score is or how it’s compiled. Here’s my summary of what goes into a credit score, who keeps track, who can see it, and what you can do to raise a low score. READ MORE

Three financial guidelines for new grads

You’re in charge – make the most of it!

After the ceremonies and speeches and mortarboard tossing, fresh new grads from colleges and universities have to leave their structured and sheltered life and start fending for themselves in the real world, many perhaps for the first time. It can be a slightly scary prospect, especially if you have to make your own way financially. But if you start with a few foundational personal financial principles, that path can be a lot smoother. READ MORE

Fraud prevention: recognize these 3 financial scams

How to avoid becoming a victim

March is fraud-prevention month in Canada, and unfortunately thousands of Canadians continue to fall victim to scams perpetrated online and by phone, often losing tens of thousands of dollars or in some cases, their entire life savings. Here’s a look at three of the most notorious financial frauds that are still widely active in Canada, and how to avoid becoming a victim. READ MORE

Junior achievement: Teaching financial literacy

More important than ever in a digital world

As society transitions increasingly to cashless transactions, using smartphones and online channels to pay for goods and services, parents have a bigger challenge than ever in teaching children the basics of financial literacy. How do you impress upon younger children the principle of “value” – the idea that the things you buy don’t just magically appear because you can tap, click, or swipe a device. It may sound daunting, but there are some basic principles that never change. And the sooner you start teaching these to your kids, the sooner they’ll become financially literate. READ MORE

How to overcome the post-holiday credit card blues

5 tips for putting credit cards on a leash

Starting with Black Friday in November and ending with Boxing Day in December, the holiday spending season is just about guaranteed to stretch the use of your credit cards. And come the end of January, you may be singing the credit card blues. You’re in a credit card crunch when you have multiple credit cards that you are unable to pay off in full and are having difficulty making minimum payments on some or all of them. You’re way past the “crunch” stage if creditors are sending past-due letters, calling you, or showing up at your door or place of work. Here are some tips on how to put a leash on your credit cards. READ MORE

The right financial advice doesn’t cost, it pays

Choosing the best financial advisory team

Once you’re established in your profession or career, and you’re accumulating a sizeable nest-egg, getting financial advice from your second cousin or the bank teller just won’t do. You need to get some professional money advice. But where to begin? There seem to be so many people offering advice, and you often read of people losing their investments through fraud or incompetence. Begin by asking yourself what you think you might need a financial advisor to do. Very likely, you’ll be running across some of these experts. Here’s a look at what they all do. READ MORE

Investing: How to deal with market risk

Can you really “live with the risk”?

In this day and age of “robo-advisors” and passive index investing, many investors seem to have forgotten the single immutable truth that equity markets are inherently risky. That’s simply because the share prices of stocks traded on markets are influenced mostly by expectations of future earnings growth. Many factors can come to bear on these expectations apart from a company’s competitive position, financial strength, and industry outlook. These include shorter-term geopolitical events (not as important) and longer-term economic and monetary policies (more important). Put it all together and it adds up to market-wide trends, oscillations, and fluctuations, which are often characterized by a wide amplitude from top to bottom. This is what’s broadly called “risk.” And it’s what most investors have trouble dealing with. READ MORE

Money Makeover: No plan and a high-risk portfolio threaten their retirement security

Robyn Thompson is regularly featured in The Toronto Star’s “Money Makeover” series by Deanne Gage. This month, Money Makeover takes a look at Victor and Shelly, who hope to retire next year, but have a risky investment portfolio and no plan. Read Robyn Thompson’s advice on how this couple can use their substantial pension income along with a sizable inheritance to ensure a financially secure future.

Money Makeover: This affluent couple can easily regain their financial footing

Robyn Thompson is regularly featured in The Toronto Star’s “Money Makeover” series by Deanne Gage. This month, Money Makeover takes a look at Janaya and Richard, an affluent couple with two young children. But they have a low-performance investment portfolio with a sizeable investment loan, and they are concerned about high daycare costs. Read Robyn Thompson’s advice on how this couple can regain their financial footing, provide for their kids’ education, and get on track for a financially secure retirement.

Stressed out over mortgages stress test?

Know the rules before you sign on the dotted line

If you’ve been shopping for a mortgage for your new home, you probably have run across something called a “stress test.” It raises the bar on your financial health a lot higher before you can qualify for a mortgage – even if you don’t have to be insured! This has been stressing us out many unprepared borrowers. But by understanding a few of the rules beforehand, you can smooth out the path to buying that home. READ MORE

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