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How much do you need to save for retirement?

MoneySense | posted Tuesday, Nov 17th, 2015

Here’s somewhat of an intimidating question: Are you on track to achieve your retirement savings goal?

If you don’t quite know the answer, take heart—most Canadians don’t know either. In fact, only 42% of us agree that we understand how much we need to save for retirement, according the latest results of a BlackRock global investor survey that tasked 2,000 Canadians with this question.

Based on BlackRock’s findings, part of the disconnect appears to come from Canadians not quite clear understanding of how much they should rely upon government plans to meet their retirement needs versus how they need to be actively saving on their own. For instance, very few (only 18%) of the survey respondents thought the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) would sufficient to fund their post-working lives for 25 years.

On this latter point, Canadians are absolutely right—government benefits alone won’t be enough for most retirees. According to pension expert Malcolm Hamilton, a senior fellow at the C. D. Howe Institute, only low-income earners making minimum wage or less throughout their entire working lives could count on government benefits providing them with the standard of living they’ve always been used to in retirement. Few Canadians, though, will actually fall into this demographic.

According to BlackRock’s survey, Canadians have annual retirement income expectations of about $47,000 in after-tax income—and the good news is that level of income will be more than enough for couples with basic retirement needs. That includes affording a car that’s used for eight years or more, taking driving holidays and even the occasional jaunt outside of Canada.

If you have that kind of retirement in mind, government benefits won’t get you all the way there—but the average Canadian couple can count on at least $30,000 in combined annual CPP and OAS payments once they stop working, according to Hamilton. (Don’t worry about the future of CPP and OAS, either. Both of these programs are very secure and sustainable, notes Hamilton.)

That means that you and your partner would only need to save up enough to provide yourselves with an additional $17,000 of annual after-tax dollars in retirement—not the full $47,000, for those who aspire to that goal.

Read more about retirement lifestyles—for couples or singles—and the savings required »

Keep in mind, too, that your level of retirement savings required will also be much less if you’re lucky enough to be enrolled in a workplace pension or savings plan. In fact, for some it could be enough to bridge the gap between a government pension and what additional level of savings you need.

For most of us, though, a diligent savings plan will be required to top-up our retirement nest eggs. And while you often hear retirement planning boiled down to a single figure (“you need $1 million to retire well”), a better approach is to calculate your must-haves in retirement versus your nice-to-haves—and then determine a specific savings goal based on the amount you actually require.

Hitting your target number might mean working an extra year or two longer than you planned, or you may find you can stop working earlier than you expected. And don’t forget, once you’re retired you’ll have considerably less living expenses: the home should be paid off, the kids will be financially independent, you probably won’t need that second car anymore, there’s no more commuting or business attire costs—and, of course, you’ll no longer be saving for retirement.

Calculate how much you really need

Want to get a handle on how much income you can expect in retirement? Try using this free online program called ESPlannerBASIC, which was recently made available to Canadians through a partnership between its creator, legendary economist Laurence Kotlikoff, and Jack Mintz of the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. It’s an elaborate financial projection calculator that allows you to enter the details of your particular situation, such as your age, your salary and when you hope to kick off your golden years. It then calculates how much you need to save each year, what your nest egg will be worth and how much you’ll need to live on. It automatically factors in Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) payments, and also accounts for mortgage payments, your spouse’s income, taxes and other factors.

How to boost your immune system naturally

Cityline | posted Thursday, Nov 5th, 2015

With cold and flu season around the corner, it is important to keep your immune system strong and your body in tiptop shape. By doing so, you will have a far better chance of fighting off any nasty bugs that you may be exposed to over the next fall and winter months.

What is the immune system?
In short, the immune system is a combination of cells and organs that work together to help you avoid sickness and disease, which can lead to coughs, colds and flus. The immune system can be likened to a powerful army that has various weapons such as anti-bodies and white blood cells. When an invader “attacks” in the form of a bacteria, virus or allergenic food, a response is issued by the immune system to protect your body. Conditions such as sleep deprivation, stress, poor diet, lack of exercise and an excess intake of alcohol can weaken the immune system response and leave you susceptible to getting sick.

Can I improve my immune system?
Yes! Absolutely – your immune system can be strengthened (or weakened) by various food and lifestyle approaches. To keep your immune system function strong, simply implement a few of the steps below:

Go for garlic: Garlic is an immune boosting superstar. Eaten in raw form or in capsule form, research has shown garlic to be a very powerful preventative agent against coughs, colds and chest infections during the winter months. Odorless garlic capsules are available at your local health food store.

Get your zzzz’s: Sleep is the time where your body repairs and re-builds. If you are sleep deprived or suffer from interrupted sleep, the immune system can become depressed and an increase of inflammatory chemicals can occur. In order to get some sound sleep, opt for lavender on your pillow, sleep in a room that is completely dark, and avoid watching TV before bed.

Supplement with vitamin D: Canadians who live in colder climates typically have limited sunny months and can become deficient in the immune-boosting vitamin D. According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people with low levels of vitamin D are more susceptible to catching colds. For supplementation reasons, most experts suggest supplementing with a minimum of 1000 IU per day.

Avoid white sugar: Eating too much white sugar can cause fatigue, weight gain and can suppress immune system function. An excess amount of white sugar found in pop, candy and other refined food dampens your white blood cell response, referred to as your leucocytic index response. White blood cells are part of the “army” that the immune system uses to ensure harmful microbes such as bacteria or viruses do not grab hold. Instead of eating white sugar, turn to natural sweet foods such as berries, mangos, apples, apple sauce and naturally dried fruit for a healthier type of snack.

Additional immune boosting tips include:

  • Hydrate with a minimum of 2 liters of water per day.
  • Add probiotics (“good bacteria”) into your daily diet such as those found in yogurt or in capsule form.
  • Be with your friends! Research show those who socialize and spend time with loved ones enjoy better health and longevity.
  • Lighten up your eating. When you are under the weather, your body does not actually have to eat a lot of food. If you do fall ill this winter, drink warm liquids and eat organic chicken soup until you feel stronger.
  • Remember to wash your hands! Infections can be transmitted via contact such as sneezing, coughing or touching surfaces that have been sneezed or coughed on.
  • Boost your vitamin C intake by eating citrus fruits and broccoli, as well as in supplement form.
  • Sweat it out: Engage in physical activity on a regular basis to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that when over secreted by the adrenal glands, can cause your immune system to weaken.

Thinking about getting the flu vaccine this year? Cityline guest expert Dr. Joelene Huber recently talked about the vaccine on Breakfast Television Toronto — watch the video below to learn more.

Courtesy Dr. Joey Shulman
drjoey.com

Five must-dos to prepare your garden for winter

Sarah Nixon | posted Tuesday, Nov 3rd, 2015

This year I had seven gardens where I grew flowers for cutting. It was fantastic. I love my job. But there are aspects of it that I enjoy less than others. High on the list of least favourite things to do is preparing the gardens for winter. The weather is chilly and often rainy, the work can be less than exciting and most of all, unlike spring tasks, there is no immediate gratification.

But in autumn’s past, when I have given in to my laziness, I pay for it in the spring. Perrenials and shrubs can suffer, disease can spread and I’m left with a big wet mucky mess to clean up. In order to make it seem less daunting, I have come up with five simple things we can do to get our gardens ready. So get those rubber boots on!

1. Remove most annual plants and cut down some perennials. I say some and not all because the birds will thank you if you leave a few plants with edible seed heads such as echinacea, rudbekia, sunflowers and zinnias to feed on. They also look pretty in the snow. For others, pull them out by their roots. Remove any leaves infected with rust, powdery mildew or black spot from the ground so the spores don’t overwinter in the soil. Be sure not to compost plants or leaves that appear diseased or buggy.

winter gardening tips mildew garden flowers

2. Cut back dead branches on your shrubs. But hold off on pruning roses until spring.

3. Remove leaves from your lawn. If they’re not infected with tar spot (seen as black spots), they can be put around plants to act as a winter mulch. In early spring before new growth occurs, you can remove what is left of the leaves.

winter gardening tips tar spot leaves

4. Protect roses or other more delicate shrubs from freeze-thaw cycles. Pile those leaves up around the base of the plant to a height of a foot or two. Remove them in early spring.

5. Start digging after the first frost. Dig up any tender bulbs and tubers such as canna lilies, dahlias, gladioloi and crocosmia. They can be stored over winter (lots of advice online about this) and replanted in the spring.

Bonus points! Empty, clean and store containers, garden hoses and garden tools. Now is a great time to make notes of what worked or didn’t work this year. Try making a simple map of the plants in your garden — I love my map in the early spring when I’m excited to start moving and dividing my garden but all my plants look identically brown and stumpy.

Now we dream as we wait for the seed catalogues to start rolling in — happy gardening!

Sarah Nixon is an urban flower farmer and designer in Toronto. For 12 years her flower company, My Luscious Backyard, has sustainably grown over 100 varieties of cut flowers in a micro-farm comprised of many residential yards in Toronto’s west end. Throughout the growing season My Luscious Backyard creates florals for weddings and events, delivers arrangements to flower subscription recipients across the city and provides flowers to several discerning florists.

What to expect when you’re electing: A voter’s election guide

Meagan Campbell | posted Thursday, Oct 15th, 2015

1. How to register

If you were mailed a burgundy slip from Elections Canada with your name on it, you’re automatically registered to vote. If you think it disappeared in the recycling bin, you will still be registered, but you should call or go to your local Elections Canada office to confirm. If you didn’t receive a slip, you can register by calling or going to the office with proof of your name and current address. Make sure to bring the correct proof.

2. Where to vote

Your local polling station is listed on your voter registration card, that white and burgundy slip from Elections Canada that came in your mail. If you didn’t get one, skip to tip number 5.

3. When to vote

To avoid the lines on Oct. 19, you can vote in the advanced polls between Oct. 9 and 12.  The operating hours of the advanced polls are stated on your voter registration card, or can be found at the Voter Information Service.

The operating hours on Oct. 19 vary by region:

  • Newfoundland, Atlantic, Central Time (other than Saskatchewan): 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Eastern Time: 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • Saskatchewan Time: 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Mountain Time: 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Pacific Time: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

4. Everyone’s special

Any day before Oct. 19, anybody can vote through a special ballot. You can do this at your local Elections Canada office or by calling the office to arrange a mail-in ballot or home pick-up option. This will be necessary for people who are travelling during the election or have physical disabilities preventing them from going to their polling stations.

5. What to bring

You’ll need to prove your address and name. You can bring your driver’s licence or two of the following: health card, passport, debit card, credit card or a bank statement, one of which must state your current address. There are dozens of other acceptable pieces of I.D. For a full list, visit the Elections Canada website.

Also, bring a friend to the polling station; voter turnout was a meagre 61 per cent in the last election.

6. Whom to vote for

Read about your local candidates on their websites or call their campaign offices to find out about chances to meet them. For a description of the parties’ overall platforms, read the Maclean’s election issues primers or transcripts of this year’s federal leaders’ debates, including  the Maclean’s debatethe Globe debatethe Munk debate, and the first French language debate.

7. Results!

Elections Canada will begin posting preliminary results on its website at 7 p.m. Eastern Time and will continue posting throughout the evening. Between Oct. 20 and 26, electoral officers will validate the ballots and post final results on the website as they become available.

As for your lawn signs, you can return them to your candidate’s campaign office, or, in most cases, call the office to have them picked up.

8 recipes for turkey leftovers

Today's Parent | posted Tuesday, Oct 13th, 2015

The exhausted parent’s guide to the election

Kathryn Hayward | posted Tuesday, Oct 6th, 2015

Your partner has to work late—again. You’ve managed to cobble together a reasonable facsimile of dinner, but the babyis crying in her high chair, your preschooler is feeding his broccoli to the dog and there’s a knock on the door. It’s one of your local candidates. Who has time to talk or read the pamphlets? Fear not: Here’s a crash course on the key issues so you can cram in time for voting day on October 19.

Childcare_Aiden-gallery

Child care

Child care has emerged as one of the main talking points in the election, as the parties have taken fairly different stances on this issue that’s near and dear to the 3.8 million families with children in Canada. Quality daycare is expensive—in Toronto, for instance, full-time infant care can run upwards of $1,600 per child a month. The NDP have thrown down the gauntlet with their $15-a-day plan.

CONSERVATIVES: Earlier this year, the Conservatives expanded the Universal Child Care Benefit. It now pays $160 per month for each child under the age of six and $60 per month for kids ages six to 17 (this money is taxable). They increased the Child Care Expenses Deduction under the Income Tax Act by $1,000. They have no plans for a national child care program (they say they don’t want to tell you how to spend your money).

LIBERALS: They would replace the Universal Child Care Benefit with a new Canada Child Tax Benefit that would give more money to families whose combined income is less than $150,000 (for example, a two-parent household with two kids and an income of $90,000 would receive $490 tax-free a month). While they have no explicit plans for a national child care program, they have proposed a 10-year, $20-billion social infrastructure fund that would include funding for daycare. There’s also a proposal to make parental leaves more flexible, allowing longer leaves (up to 18 months) at a lower pay level.

NDP: The New Democrats promise to create or maintain one million daycare spaces over the next eight years. The fees would be capped at $15 a day (so daycare would cost less than $350 a month). The plan would cost $1.9 billion, to be shared 60/40 between Ottawa and the provinces and territories. “Lots of parents would like affordable, accessible quality child care, and the lack of it means that women are often stuck making very tough decisions about their careers,” Thomas Mulcair told Today’s Parent. They would keep the Universal Child Care Benefit to help parents who don’t use daycare.

GREEN PARTY: They propose the creation of a universal child care program. The program would encourage incorporating child care at workplaces by adding a tax break for employers who offer daycare spaces. “Certainly, there is a lot of good empirical data that workplace productivity increases dramatically and quality time goes up when child care is in the same place where you go to work,” Green Party leader Elizabeth May told Today’s Parent. They support transferring more money to the provinces to increase the number of child care spaces available for at least 70 percent of children ages six and younger. They would also cancel the Universal Child Care Benefit.

Money_Ava

ECONOMY

What’s the best way to make the economy grow: government spending or tax cuts? The Liberals are taking a different tack from the Conservatives and NDP. One thing is certain: Money talks. The economy has been one of the most fiercely debated points in the campaign.

CONSERVATIVES: Their platform is largely about balancing the budget, and they’re bullish about the economy—if we stay the course. As Stephen Harper told Today’s Parent, “If we stay on the path that we’re on, there’s really not going to be a better place in the world to be than Canada for economic opportunity for young people.” They would keep current tax credits, like children’s fitness and public transit, and have promised to pass a “tax lock” law that prohibits increases to federal income tax, sales tax and discretionary payroll taxes for the next four years. Their income-splitting policy allows a higher-earning spouse to transfer up to $50,000 of income to the lower-earning spouse, which can net a tax credit worth up to $2,000. They’ve pledged enhancements to registered education savings plans, which would double the federal grant for low- and middle-income families.

LIBERALS: The party wants to ease the burden of the middle class. They plan to place “more money in the pockets of parents who need it every month, with a tax break that we are going to pay for by having the wealthiest pay a little more in taxes,” Justin Trudeau told Today’s Parent. Specifically, they would lower the tax rate on income between $44,700 and $89,401 by 1.5 percent to 20.5 percent and raise it for individuals earning more than $200,000. They’re also willing to go into a deficit to help boost the economy by investing in infrastructure programs. They plan to eliminate income splitting—they say it favours two-parent households and disproportionately helps people who don’t need help nearly as much as others do.

NDP: Mulcair has said that the first NDP budget will be a balanced budget. They have promised to lower taxes for small businesses and raise corporate tax rates. As for income splitting, they would scrap it, choosing to invest that money in middle-class families instead.

GREEN PARTY: To address poverty and a widening income gap, the party would implement a Guaranteed Livable Income. They would replace several social security programs to establish a minimum income. In terms of the budget, May says, “It’s preferable, of course, to live within your means, but we are not ideologically wedded to always balancing the budget.” The party would also eliminate income splitting, reduce taxes for small businesses and raise the corporate tax rate. They also pledge to create a national pharmacare program and cover dental costs for low-income youth.

SafePlay_Beatrice

Crime

Overall police-reported crime has been falling for more than 20 years. In fact, in 2013, Statistics Canada reported that the country had experienced the lowest crime rate since 1969. It doesn’t mean, however, that we feel safer.

CONSERVATIVES: Over the years, the party has maintained a tough-on-crime approach. Firmly against the decriminalization of marijuana, they’ve pledged $4.5 million to crack down on grow ops and promised to launch a hotline for parents concerned about their kids using drugs. Their signature legislation, the controversial Bill C-51, which passed in June, increases the powers of the police and CSIS to conduct expanded surveillance, share information between different agencies and arrest without a warrant for suspected terrorist activities.

LIBERALS: The party supports mandatory minimum sentences for serious and violent offences. They are in favour of legalizing and regulating marijuana (arguing regulation makes it harder for kids to access it and takes profits away from organized crime). The party supported Bill C-51 but plans to implement greater oversight of security agencies.

NDP: The party has pledged to hire 2,500 more police officers across the country. They’ve called for an increase in restorative justice. As well, they’d strengthen rules for sentencing dangerous offenders. On the pot issue, they call for decriminalization but not full legalization.

GREEN PARTY: In their platform, the Greens argue it’s time to legalize the adult use of marijuana. In addition, they call for increased funding to safe-injection sites, treatment facilities and addict rehabilitation. They would like greater oversight of agencies involved in counterterrorism measures.

HealthyPlanet_Oliver

Environment

Canada has an abysmal record on the environment. In a recent report that compared 61 countries on their climate policies, renewable energy and efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions, we ranked very, very low—just ahead of Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.

CONSERVATIVES: This spring, the party pledged to ambitiously cut emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 (it’s a bold promise given that we haven’t been able to meet previous targets). They are strongly in favour of building gas pipelines to get oil from the tar sands to refineries and port. As well, they’d like to promote angling and hunting tourism and would work to improve the habitats of key species harvested by hunters and trappers.

LIBERALS: Trudeau has said he’ll work with the provinces to develop a national framework for putting a price on carbon. The party promises to invest $200 million to support innovation and clean technology in forestry, fisheries, mining, energy and agriculture. They will increase protected marine and coastal areas by 10 percent over the next five years, and they promise to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. The party opposes the Northern Gateway pipeline but supports the Keystone XL pipeline.

NDP: The party plans to eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and create a cap-and-trade system, which would put a market price on carbon (they wouldn’t, however, impose a system on provinces that already have a carbon strategy). They’d reinvest any money generated into green energy. While they support the Energy East pipeline from the oil sands to eastern Canada, the party opposes the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines. Mulcair has also vowed to strengthen laws to protect our lakes and rivers.

GREEN PARTY: The party wants to halt the use of fossil fuels by mid-century, including a rapid phase-out of coal-fired plants. They oppose all pipeline plans and would make all carbon fuels subject to a carbon fee. “If we approach addressing the climate problem aggressively, that’s a way to stimulate the economy and avoid a recession,” May toldToday’s Parent.

Read more:
Today’s Parent interviews Prime Minister Stephen Harper>
Today’s Parent interviews Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau>
Today’s Parent interviews NDP leader Thomas Mulcair>

Today’s Parent interviews Green Party leader Elizabeth May>

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