Group benefits are an investment in your company and employees’ well-being

As a small business owner, you rely on your employees to help build your business. You have a great team behind you, so how do you protect your employees and build employee satisfaction and loyalty?

Offering wellness programs may be one way to retain employees, but over the long term may not be seen as important. Giving your employees a pay increase is another option, but is it the most cost-effective compensation method?

Group benefits are an investment in your company and employees’ well-being.

Consider a group benefits plan – an attractive overall compensation package. Health care and dental care benefits within your plan can help your employees bridge the gap between provincial health insurance and the coverage theyGroup Benefits to Attract and Retain Employees need.

Group benefits are an investment in your company and employees’ well-being. At any time, employees may be dealing with mental health concerns, serious illnesses, and physical ailments or finding the right work-life balance. These issues can lead to reduced productivity, growing absenteeism, disability, rising costs, and workplace accidents. Group benefits are a key element to building employee satisfaction, improving morale and can help support the physical, mental and financial needs of your organization and your employees.

According to a 2015 Sanofi Canada Healthcare survey, 77 per cent of respondents say they would not move to a job that did not include health benefits1.

Attract valuable employees

An employee benefits plan can help you maintain a competitive position in the marketplace by helping you retain good employees and attract new ones.

A group benefits plan is an important part of your business’s financial security plan. Flexible and innovative benefits plans – featuring benefits like health care, dental care, disability and employee and family assistance plans – can be tailored to fit the specific needs of your company, whether it’s large or small.

Talk to me about the options available and how you can add value to your business.

A stronger, better you: Why it’s important to look after your financial health

We all know how important it is to take care of our physical health – it keeps us strong and helps ensure we’ll be around for years to come. But what about looking after our financial health? It’s just as important but often doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.

Even if it seems like you don’t have enough money to invest or buy insurance, it doesn’t take much. If you cut down on extra lattes or meals out, you could set yourself up with a plan for a successful financial future.

Build your personal road map

When it comes to financial security planning, it pays to start small. If you change your spending habits, even just a little bit, the long-term results could be big.

For example, let’s say you made your morning coffee at home instead of picking it up on the way to work. It may not seem like much but the amount you save could be enough for a $500,000 life insurance policy.1

If you cut down on your dining-out expenses by even $20 a week and invested that money, it could grow to almost $37,000 over a 20-year period.2

No matter what you’re saving for, you’re on the road to achieve your future goals.

Other savings ideas:

  • Leave the car at home, carpool, use public transit or ride your bike
  • Shop around for better auto and home insurance rates
  • Install LED light bulbs to reduce energy costs
  • Go to the movies on “cheap Tuesdays”
  • Clip coupons for groceries or buy in bulk
  • Cook at home instead of dining out

With those savings each month, you could:

Invest and watch it grow

A small but regular contribution into something like a tax-free savings account (TFSA) or registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) could grow substantially, if it’s invested wisely and given enough time to grow. Use this money to help fund your retirement or perhaps go on the dream vacation you’ve always wanted.

Protect your family

What would your family do if something happened to you? Insurance is a flexible and cost-effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones financially. It can help pay down your mortgage, cover outstanding debt or fund education or retirement plans.

How we can help

Spending money feels good, but knowing you’re not only protecting yourself and loved ones – but unlocking future potential – feels even better.

I can help you build a customized financial security plan to help you achieve your goals.

1Cost of coffee based on $1.70 per cup. Assumes 30 cups a month. This comparison is based on London Life term 10 life insurance, male and female, up to age 45, non-smokers, standard risk, monthly premium payments. Monthly premium depends on your age, amount of coverage and general health information. Life insurance coverage amounts represent the policy’s death benefit. Rates as of December 2015. Term 10 life insurance premiums increase on renewal after 10 years. The example provided is not complete without the London Life illustration, including the cover page, reduced example and product features pages all having the same date. Read each page carefully as they contain important information about the policy.

2Assumes $80 is invested in a balanced mutual fund portfolio on a monthly basis with a six per cent annual rate of return. Rates of return are hypothetical and provided for illustrative purposes only. Mutual funds are not guaranteed; their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. Unit values and investment returns will fluctuate.

Four things to consider before accepting your first job

As a new graduate, navigating the job market can be a challenge. After the often lengthy search and application process, you might feel accepting your first offer is the only choice. While taking the first position you’re offered may be the right option for you, there are several factors worth considering when evaluating a job offer.

Workload and work-life balance

Throughout the interview process, it’s important to ask questions that will help you evaluate the day-to-day responsibilities of the position. You’ll also want to determine the company’s policies on work-life balance.

Four things to consider before accepting your first job

Four things to consider before accepting your first job

Is this a position that requires you to be connected 24/7 and available at a moment’s notice? Will the stress-level and hours of work be compatible will your lifestyle and personal commitments? What’s the company’s position on flexible working hours? While there may be an element of ‘paying your dues’ associated with your first job, make sure the workload and corporate philosophy on work-life balance is right for you.

Culture and fit

Workplace culture is a key consideration for many millennials who want to feel their work is meaningful and not just a nine-to-five destination. If you fit that profile, it’s a good idea to inquire about things like teamwork, philanthropy and social events.

Does the organization encourage collaboration or will you be working on your own? Does the company participate in charitable giving or give back to the community in other ways? Will there be organized events to socialize with your colleagues to encourage engagement? Remember that determining the right fit is a two-way street. If you don’t gel with your prospective boss or team members, it might be worth continuing your job search.

Establishing good financial habits early in your professional career can help you stay on track for years to come.

Development and progression

While it’s generally accepted that millenials will change jobs more often than previous generations, considering progression opportunities within an organization is an important factor that can impact your future success. You’ll likely also want to consider the organization’s stance on personal and professional development.

It shows initiative to ask about your potential growth trajectory within the company during the interview process. If you see yourself in a leadership role in the future, for example, ask about the potential for in-house leadership workshops, mentorship opportunities or tuition reimbursement to help you get there.

Compensation and benefits

While salary and benefits are top of mind for most job seekers, there may be a gap in reality vs. expectations for recent graduates. In most cases, entry-level salaries aren’t very negotiable and reflect limited experience. If you know you can provide some advanced level of expertise, you may want to consider negotiating for a better offer.

If you feel you’re in a position to negotiate, make sure you can present a strong case as to what you’ll bring to the company. Non-financial compensation including vacation, benefits or bonuses are other elements that can, in some cases, be more flexible than salary. In any negotiation, make your genuine interest in the job known when asking for an increase in salary or benefits. If the offer is firm, consider asking about the frequency of performance appraisals and salary reviews.

Entering the workforce after graduation can be challenging and exciting, both emotionally and financially. When beginning your first professional job, it’s a great time to develop a financial plan that can adapt as your needs change. It’s important to consider how you’ll afford your everyday expenses while setting enough aside for the future. I can help you plan for your financial future and offer you valuable tips about topics like budgeting, saving, investing and the power of compound interest. Establishing good financial habits early in your professional career can help you stay on track for years to come.

Your roadmap to a student debt-free future

You’ve got the diploma, but now you have to deal with your student debt. Depending on the size of your loans, this could take months, years or decades to repay. With road blocks like changing interest rates and unexpected expenses, imagining yourself student debt-free may seem like something in the distant future – but it doesn’t have to be.

There are many ways you can shorten your path to becoming debt-free. Follow these tipStudent Debts and a student debt-free future could become your reality much sooner than you think.

Starting off – where are you now?

Whether you’re a new grad or you’ve been in the working world for a while, you’ll eventually have to begin your journey to repay your student debts. Like a road trip with friends or a hike into the wilderness, it’s best to start by assessing where you stand. Take inventory of your student debt from all institutions and your available finances. Having a clear picture where you stand today is an important first step when looking towards the future.

It can seem like a long trip, but with the proper planning and financial guidance, you can reach your debt-free destination sooner than you think.

Planning – create your repayment roadmap

Now that you know where you stand and where you want to go, it’s time to start the planning process. It’s a great idea to use a loan repayment estimator to map out how much you owe and make a monthly repayment plan that works for you. As soon as you can, you should establish a concrete plan for repaying your loans and pay as much as you can, as often as you can.

There are some things you should consider when you’re finalizing your plan:

  • What’s your interest rate? Your interest rate is perhaps the most important factor when it comes to creating your repayment roadmap. A higher interest rate means you should try as hard as possible to pay your loan off faster to avoid needlessly paying interest. For example, if you take 10 years to pay off a loan of $10,000 at 3.5 per cent, you’ll have paid $4,878 in interest. Compare this with an interest rate of 7.5 per cent on the same $10,000, on which you’ll pay $7,565 over the same amount of time. That’s a difference of $2,687.
  • How much income are you currently bringing in? Bringing in more cash means you can make higher payments on your loan – simple as that. Figure out what your current income is from all sources and how much of it you can safely put towards your student loans.
  • Do you have other debt at a higher interest rate? If you do, it’s wiser to pay this off before putting everything you can into your student loan. Financially, it’s smarter to pay off $1,000 in credit card debt at a 19 per cent interest rate before putting all of your available money into your student loan at 3.5 per cent.
  • Do you have student loans from the government? If your loan is from the government (federal, provincial, or territorial), a non-refundable tax credit is available for the interest paid on the loans each year. You may be eligible to claim this amount for the year the interest was paid, or preceding five years. Unfortunately, this tax credit does not apply to interest payments made on student loans held with private lenders, such as banks. Regardless, this is a great bonus – you can put the money you receive from your tax return directly towards repaying your student loan.

Setting off – repaying your loans

You’ve assessed your situation; you’ve planned your journey, now it’s time to hit the road. Your first step will be to set up loan repayments with your financial institution. This can be done in several ways – from weekly, bi-weekly, to monthly. Bi-weekly is often considered a smart option, but can be tougher to manage due to the higher frequency of payment withdrawals.

Once you’re set up and making payments, your trip shouldn’t end there. Instead of coasting until you’re debt free, consider shifting gears on your plan if your financial situation changes over the course of your repayment period. Get a promotion? Inherit some extra cash? Win the lottery? Take that windfall and increase the amount you’re repaying.

There’s one more important thing to know – you don’t have to take this trip alone. I can help make your journey more bearable. I can help you design your debt repayment roadmap, help sort out possible roadblocks, and potentially help you find ways to repay your debt faster. It can seem like a long trip, but with the proper planning and financial guidance, you can reach your debt-free destination sooner than you think.

Wedding costs to consider when planning your big day

In 2014, the average Canadian wedding cost a whopping $31,685. But that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank on your big day. Here are some ideas to keep costs in check before you tie the knot.

What’s the plan?

Newly engaged? Sit down with your partner early and talk about your hopes and dreams for the day. Make a list of what you’d like to do and be sure to keep it handy. This can help keep your plans rooted in reality when you get the urge to splurge. Ultimately, weddings can be expensive, so make sure this conversation is also about money. You and your partner may have very different ideas about what you want to spend.

Go big, where necessary

It’s okay to splurge on the things that are important to you and your partner. You can always find savings elsewhere. If Wedding Planningyou’re not a big foodie, splurge on the cost of a photographer and consider serving hors d’oeuvres rather than an entree. Have a dream venue in mind, but feel flexible on the day of the week? Venues often charge less to have a wedding on a Friday or Sunday rather than a Saturday.

Focusing your budget on the things that matter most can help you keep expectations in check and ensure your special day is all that you dreamed about.

Watch that guest list

Do you plan on having 30 guests or 150? Will your meal cost $50 or $100 per person? This can make all the difference on the final bill. Often, couples feel pressure to invite all of their family, friends and coworkers, but that doesn’t need to be the case.

Sit down with your partner and create a realistic guest list that works with your budget. Be sure to do this before you start sharing your wedding plans with your family and social circle because it will help manage guest expectations.

Be sure you have a conversation with your partner about your wedding day hopes, dreams and expectations.

Honeymoon – now or later?

As you plan your special day, you may find your costs ballooning beyond your budget. One way to balance these extra costs is to reconsider how or when you take your honeymoon.

Can you live without an extravagant getaway following your wedding? There are a number of ways you can save when considering a postnuptial vacation. Here are a few ways to make the most of your travel savings.

Waiting to take your honeymoon could give you more time to save for your dream trip, help balance your time off work and save on child, house or pet care costs. This extra time to plan and save could also make for a more relaxing (and therefore romantic) experience for you and your partner.

Ask for help

Remember, family, bridesmaids and groomsmen are here to help. This could mean having them run around to pick up decorations or making invites or centrepieces. Remember, your closest friends and family members are a part of your big day because you love them and they love you. Many are willing to lend a hand, so be sure to delegate if that’s possible.

If you’re still not sure where to start, I can help you stay on budget.

Protection from the unexpected

When it comes to cancer, heart attack or stroke, you may think: “That couldn’t happen to me.”

The risk of experiencing a life-threatening illness is very real.

But the truth is, the risk of experiencing a life-threatening illness is very real. Did you know:Protect Family from a Critical Illness

  • Two out of five Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime?1
  • Every four minutes, someone in Canada is diagnosed with cancer?1
  • More than 400,000 Canadians live with the long-term implications of a stroke?2
  • Your financial security plan can include protection for the unexpected?

Chances are you know someone who’s experienced cancer, a heart attack or stroke. Most of us have. A critical illness can affect almost anyone – including people who are in otherwise perfect health.

While it’s not fun to think about what might happen if you, your spouse or child experience a critical illness, it’s important to have a plan in case the unexpected occurs. This plan should help ensure you/your family can:

  • Pay important bills (mortgage, hydro, gas)
  • Cover medical expenses not covered by government or workplace health benefit plans
  • Afford alternative treatments to help with recovery
  • Avoid dipping into retirement funds or savings to cover expenses
  • Concentrate on recovery, rather than worry about finances

I can help you create a plan – including critical illness insurance – to help protect yourself and your family from any financial, or non-financial issues that might come up.

1 Canadian Cancer Society, “Cancer statistics at a glance”, http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-101/cancer-statistics-at-a-glance/?region=on.

2 Heart & Stroke Foundation, “Statistics”,http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3483991/k.34A8/Statistics.htm#References.

Golf tips to line you up for financial success

With golf season upon us, you may be looking for ways to enhance your game for the year ahead. In many ways, golf strategy is a lot like the principles of investing. If you have a love for the links, then you’ve already got a head start on how to manage your investments effectively.

Your golf game and investment portfolio require continued tune ups to help bring you positive results. Here are some tips to set you up for success – both on the course and in the market.

Hire a great coach

Golf is a game of precision. Your clubs, stance and swing all play a part in reaching the green. With so many elements to consider, it’s beneficial to consult a pro to make sure you have a strong foundation. Even seasoned golfers can benefit from lessons now and then for tips and tweaks to improve their performance.

Similarly, when building a financial security plan, there are multiple factors to assess to make sure it works for you. I can give you aGolf Tips and Investing primer in all the investment options available to help you achieve your financial goals. It’s always a good idea to touch base with me a few times each year to keep up to date on your financial progress.

Make a game plan

Consider the course layout, terrain, roughs and other hazards you may encounter. Do you have the right club to make the shot? How much risk are you willing to take given the environment and your competition? Should you play it safe, or can you afford to take some risk? These are all important questions to answer before teeing off.

Just as you select the right club for each shot, you should ensure you pick the right types of investments to reach your goals. Once I have helped you cover the basics, you can work together to create your financial plan. It’s also important to consider other key factors like your tolerance for market fluctuations, debt management and your time frame for investing.

In both golf and investing, there will always be an element of unpredictability. Developing a strong foundation of the basics – and revisiting them regularly – can help you master the game.

Don’t psych yourself out

In the game of golf, you can’t be ruled by your emotions. Maybe the front nine was great, but the conditions changed on the back. Even the best laid plans can go awry when ground or weather conditions change. You may be tempted to make a bold move to compensate, but there’s no guarantee it will pay off. Don’t let one bad hole affect the next or make you change your strategy.

Like a stroke of bad luck on the golf course, changing market conditions can cause investors to make irrational decisions. Emotional investors often panic when markets fluctuate and can be tempted to make hasty decisions. A financial plan that is well diversified and suited to your personal investment style can help you manage the ups and downs of the market. I can help you review your plan so you can focus less on changes in financial markets and keep your eyes on the long game.

Reassess your strategy

What are your goals for this season? Are you looking to master a new shot or try out some more challenging courses? Perhaps you’re slicing the ball too often and you need to meet with your coach to revisit the basics. Even if you’ve been happy with your performance, you can’t always base future success on the past. People who take their golf game seriously understand the importance of continual development.

While a solid financial plan can put you on the right path, it’s important to fine-tune your strategy over time. You may need to adapt your plan as your goals and time horizon change. Maybe you had more disposable income when you started your portfolio, but now you’re starting a family. Perhaps you’re preparing for retirement and are starting to consider your options for creating guaranteed income. Whatever your needs, I can help steer you in the right direction towards your financial goals.

In both golf and investing, there will always be an element of unpredictability. Developing a strong foundation of the basics – and revisiting them regularly – can help you master the game.

Make the most of your travel savings

If you’ve got the travel bug, chances are you’re already considering ways to save for your next adventure. With multiple responsibilities, it can be hard to ensure all the pieces of your financial picture are working together to help you meet your goals.

I can assess your individual situation and help you create a savings strategy as part of your financial security plan. Knowing you’re well positioned to save for the future means you can focus on planning your dream Travel Planninggetaway.

Consider these strategies to help you make the most of your travel time and budget. With the right preparation, your money may just take you further than you thought.

Compare airfare options

Theories about the best time to book flights are debatable, but the Airlines Reporting Corporation found that about six weeks before departure, prices are generally below average. Regardless of when you book, make sure you use multiple flight comparison sites like Skyscanner or Kayak to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Don’t forget to check airline websites directly as they sometimes have exclusive promotions when you book direct. Flights with longer connections will often cut costs, but you’ll have to assess whether the time spent is worth the money saved.

Consider a rental property

Sites like Airbnb, Homestay and Vacation Rentals by Owner often provide superior value to hotel accommodations. Staying in a more residential area can provide a unique travel experience, allowing you to discover hidden local hotspots. In addition to considerable savings on the nightly rate, the ability to cook and pack your own meals can help you minimize your dining budget.

The most valuable return on your planning effort is making the most of your time away.

Book attractions early

When visiting a new country, it can be overwhelming to decide which attractions to prioritize. Deciding upon arrival can be spontaneous and fun, but consider the precious time you’ll waste narrowing down the options while away. Before leaving, it’s a good idea to book your “must visit” destinations. Many travellers don’t consider the savings they’ll realize if they book popular attractions in advance, especially if the destination offers a combined admission pass for multiple museums or historical sites, for example. These passes often also allow you to avoid lengthy lines.

Map your route

Once you’ve decided on your top attractions, you may want to plot all your destinations on a map to determine how to cover the most ground per day. Tripomatic is a great app that will help you map your itinerary and visualize the best routes to take. Doing this will not only eliminate wasted time, but also can cut down on transportation costs if you hit destinations in close proximity on the same day.

Plan meals out in advance

While you’re planning your itinerary, take some time to browse nearby restaurants. Looking at various menus online will allow you to assess the average cost of dining, and ensure you don’t wander into high-cost tourist trap restaurants. While it may not be realistic to make reservations for every day, exploring your options will allow you to set money aside for special nights out. Familiarizing yourself with local chain restaurants and grocery stores is also a good idea if you want to stop for a quick, affordable bite, or stock your room with breakfast items and snacks.

Following these tips can certainly save you money on your next vacation, but the most valuable return on your planning effort is making the most of your time away. After all, the more you’re able to fit into one trip the better you’re likely to feel about your travel investment.

Top tips for preparing to sell your home – on a budget

Getting ready to sell your house can be an exciting process, but it isn’t without its stresses – and its expenses. There are ways you can make your home easier to sell and they don’t have to cost a lot. In fact, a big renovation might not always get you the return on your investment you were hoping for. Here are some budget-friendly tips to consider when preparing to sell your home.

Improve your curb appeal

You can’t change someone’s first impression of your home, so make sure it’s positive. This starts before potential Sell Your Homebuyers even walk through your front door. Make sure you cut the grass, rake leaves or shovel the drive, depending on the season. Consider planting flowers or hanging a wreath to make your entryway more inviting. Make sure your porch light works, paint your front door or railing if you haven’t updated recently, and install new hardware on your door to create a strong statement.

Get a new perspective

It can be easy to miss imperfections that you’ve come to accept as part of your home. A friend, real estate agent or professional stager can bring a fresh eye to your house and spot something you might not notice. That statement wall you love might be off-putting to potential buyers. A fresh coat of a more neutral colour may make your home easier to sell.

De-clutter your home

You want to create a blank canvas for people so they can imagine themselves in your space. Since you’re going to have to pack up to move, get started on the process early. Put personal items like pictures or keepsakes in storage, and where possible, try to take about half of the items out of your closets to make them appear larger. People are always looking for more storage, so it’s in your best interest to make it seem like your house has lots of options.

You can’t change someone’s first impression of your home, so make sure it’s positive.

Quick and easy upgrades

When you’re getting ready to sell, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to complete a total overhaul of an outdated room, such as the kitchen or bath, since you won’t always get a good return on your investment. If the rooms needing updating aren’t in bad shape, you may also consider reducing the price of your home to give buyers the option to renovate to meet their needs.

This is where little fixes can have a big impact. Make your house move-in ready by fixing chipped floors, patching cracks or nail holes in the wall, updating hardware on cabinets and doors, cleaning grout, and fixing leaky faucets. Make sure doors and windows are on track and open and close easily. A little TLC goes a long way towards making your house enticing to buyers. They are more likely to want to purchase your house if they don’t have a long list of things to fix when they move in.

Always be ready to show your house

It may be hard for your realtor to sell your house if it doesn’t show well. Having your house in show-ready condition at all times increases the opportunities for your agent to bring potential buyers through. Dust frequently, don’t leave dishes in the sink or dishwasher and make sure your bathroom is in tip-top shape.

Getting your house ready to sell can be an expensive process, but it doesn’t have to be. These tips can help you get the most for your home without spending a lot of money.

Five important money matters to discuss with your partner

When it comes to choosing a partner, everyone has a list of qualities they just can’t live without. A recent poll, revealed that having a financially responsible partner is a priority for both millennial (88 per cent) and Discuss Finances with Partnerbaby boomer (92 per cent) survey participants.

Despite the desire for financial compatibility in relationships, money can be a source of friction for both new and established couples. While it’s best to understand your partner’s financial picture before joining accounts, engaging in regular conversation about your finances is always beneficial.

Open communication and setting clear goals for your future can help you avoid conflict on the topic, but it can be overwhelming to start the conversation if you’re not sure where to begin. Here are five fundamental money matters you may want to address with your partner.

A recent poll, revealed that having a financially responsible partner is a priority for both millennial (88 per cent) and baby boomer (92 per cent) survey participants.

1. Discuss your assets

Having a grasp on your total combined assets (including salary, savings, investments, insurance and property) is important to making financial decisions as a couple. This simple discussion is an essential starting point in making a realistic plan for savings, spending and future goals.

2. Understand your debts

Managing debt effectively is a key aspect of wealth building. It’s important to know the total amount of your partner’s debt (such as credit card, line of credit, mortgage and student loan debt), discuss whether the debt will become a joint responsibility, and determine how it will affect your budget. It’s also a good idea to discuss your partner’s credit score, as it will affect your ability to get credit as a couple.

3. Set a spending plan

Creating a joint spending plan may shine a light on any differences between spending styles – perhaps you’re a saver, but your partner opens their wallet a bit more freely. Taking account of your individual and combined monthly expenses can start a realistic discussion about how to allocate any surplus – even if it involves some compromise.

4. Strategize your savings

Defining your individual and joint savings priorities is another essential part of building your budget, and ensuring that you’re well positioned to meet your goals. It’s also important to discuss which type of savings vehicle will best suit your needs; consider factors such as your tolerance for fluctuations in the value of your investments, and the amount of time you have to invest.

5. Plan for your future

Is travel a priority for you and your partner? Perhaps you’re dreaming of buying that cottage you always wanted, or you just want to make sure you can retire comfortably. If you don’t discuss your goals for the future then it’s hard to make them happen. While your dreams may differ, starting a dialogue can help you compromise so you can set your plans in motion.

Get a second opinion

As you consider these factors with your partner, I can provide a professional opinion on the best approach to help you achieve your financial goals. I can provide a holistic assessment of your joint financial picture, and offer a variety of planning services including cash-flow planning and investment analysis.