Home for sale sign

Mortgage stress tests: what to know

Keep hearing the term mortgage ‘stress’ test but unsure what it means to you. In this blog, we break it all down for you and provide advice on what you should consider when it comes to your mortgage.


There has been a lot of talk about the new mortgage restrictions aka “mortgage stress tests”. But with all the coverage and information out there, what does this actually mean and how does it impact you?

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, if you’re applying for a new mortgage (e.g., buying a new home), re-advancing an amount on your mortgage (e.g., renovations), or switching your mortgage to another financial institution, you’ll be subject to a “stress test”. What this means is that your advisor will assess your finances and qualifications based on a higher interest rate than what they are today.

What many don’t know is this process is already in existence for people applying for mortgages with a down payment of less than 20% of the home purchase price or those with a term of less than five years. The new restrictions will now include those who have a larger down payment and longer term time.

Credit unions are not governed federally, and provincially are not legally bound to comply with these new restrictions. However, as a mindful and trusted community partner, many credits unions already have similar policies to ensure our member’s financial well-being is a long-term focus.

“Approving a member for a mortgage that they could not afford to repay over the long term, simply to satisfy a higher purchase price, does not agree with our values as a credit union, nor increase a person’s financial wellness,” said Kris Wanner, Manager, Financial Services, Conexus Credit Union. “Also, it doesn’t promote community growth, all of which are key components to our cooperative.”

This “stress test” is being put into place to protect homeowners from rising interest rates which may impact their overall finances.  Lending rates have been at a historically low level for a number of years. Lately, we’ve seen a rise in interest rates which speaks to the why behind this stress test.

By factoring your ability to repay, and in turn how much they can spend on a home purchase, at a higher rate of interest provides you peace of mind knowing the greatest asset (and largest borrowing) you will ever have is something you can afford to repay.  It also presents the opportunity for you and your advisor to discuss the difference between “What I qualify for” and “What I can afford”.

“Being aware of your finances and your plans will give you a better understanding of what you can afford and not feel stressed,” said Wanner. “It’s also important to think of all variables when looking at affordability. Many times people forget of other expenses, which can cause them financial stress in the future.”

When it comes time to applying for a mortgage or renewing your mortgage, take a broad look at your finances and your plans – look back at what’s changed and where you want to go. Don’t forget to also look at all other factors and expenses that may be associated with homeownership, such as:

  • Property taxes;
  • Condo fees;
  • Utility bills;
  • Insurance; and
  • Home security.

Other expenses such as loan and credit card payments, food, entertainment, etc. are also important to consider.

Homeownership all starts by understanding the money you have and what you spend. Once you have an understanding, you can then create a holistic plan that works for you.

If you have any questions on what you just read or would like further information on mortgages, ask in the comments below or click the ‘Talk to us about banking button’ below to contact us.

homemade holiday gift

The secret ingredient is love: DIY gifts

Homemade is always the best type of gift. Here are a few DIY gift ideas sure to impress those you love and help you to save money.


We all know that the holiday season can be stressful. Trying to find that perfect gift for the ones you love, while also not breaking the bank. Sometimes the best gifts are the ones we personalize and that come straight from the heart with love. Here are a few DIY gift ideas that are sure to impress the ones on your list, and help you save a little on your gift giving this year.

Holiday baking

 

Nothing says I love you more than a delicious, homemade treat. The Food Network Canada has several tasty recipes that make perfect gifts this holiday season – check them out here. Consider making a few different items and packaging a variety of deliciousness in a holiday tin.

Edible gifts in a jar

Know someone who is on the go all of the time and needs a quick-fix meal? Or someone that wants to bake but without all of the hassle of buying the ingredients, etc.? Consider putting together an edible gift jar specially made for the person in mind. There are so many different options you can do from muffins, brownies, soup, salsa, jams and more. Check out 30 recipes by the Taste of Home here.

Date night jar

Date night ideas on sticks in a jar

Date Night Photo by Meaghan Morris @MeaghanMorris.com

We all know date night can get expensive – dinner, activities, babysitter, etc. The planning also can become quite exhausting. A great idea way to ensure date night does happen, without having to break the bank each time is a ‘Date Night Activity’ jar.

To create, first make a list of different date night activities – check out 101 examples here. Be sure to include items that won’t cost you anything such as going for a walk or items that will cost you very little such as going for a coffee. Organize your list into three groups: $0 Dates; Under $20 Dates; and Over $20 Dates. Then paint large popsicle sticks three different colours. Each will represent one of the groups above. Once dry, write the different date activities on the sticks based on their group colour. Put in a jar that you have decorated to say Date Night.

When it comes to date night, leave the planning up to the jar. Determine what type of date it will be – $0 date, Under $20 date or Over $20 date. Then select the corresponding coloured stick and away you go.

Movie night in

movie night at home gift basket

Movie Night Gift Basket Photo via Kidsz Paradise Inc.

Going to the movies can add up by the time you buy the tickets, drinks, popcorn and of course, paying for extra butter! A great way to save a few dollars is a ‘Movie Night In’ gift basket. Pick up a few of your favourite drinks and treats and put together in a homemade gift basket. Include a DVD or a coupon for one Netflix movie night in. The best part is that you can cozy up on the couch in your pajamas!

Gift certificates of time

Nothing beats the time we spend with our loved ones. Consider giving the gift of time by creating activity or ‘time’ gift certificates. You can include activities such as going for a walk, doing a craft or going tobogganing – the options are endless. Not only will you save money, but the memories you make will last a lifetime.

There are many different ways you can save money this holiday season and these are just a few ideas for you to use. Another great place to find homemade gift ideas is Pinterest.

Have another DIY gift idea? We’d love to hear them – share with us by commenting below.

teal piggy bank with christmas to do list

Making a list & checking it twice

Finances can be stressful, especially during the holiday season. We’re here to help. Here are a few tips and tricks to help get you through the holiday season without breaking your bank or your sanity.


Set a budget and stick to it

  • Ask yourself, “what am I comfortable spending without feeling stressed?”. Consider the gifts you will need to buy and the holiday events you will be attending. Take this amount and write it down.
  • Don’t try and plan the perfect Christmas, but instead create a budget you’re comfortable with and work in the details from there.
  • Don’t let this amount be negotiable. Set a personal goal to stick within your budget and hold yourself accountable.

Make a list & check it twice

  • Make a list of every person you plan to buy for – don’t forget to include gifts for gift exchanges, teachers, bus drivers, etc. Beside each person’s name, jot down gift ideas and the maximum amount you are willing to spend on that person. Ensure your individual amounts don’t total more than the budget you created earlier.
  • Set a small portion of your budget towards an ‘Other’ category. Use for expenses such as gift wrap, cards or for expenses incurred from holiday events such as food, drink and a safe ride home.
  • Consider homemade or personalized gifts. Make cookies or create gift certificates to spend time with your loved ones doing activities they enjoy such as reading, going for a walk, tobogganing, etc. Not only will you save money, but the memories you create will last a lifetime.

Earn extra money

  • Consider picking up a part-time job during the holiday season. Many retailers hire seasonal help, allowing you to work a few extra hours each week to earn extra cash. Put this money directly towards your holiday spending budget or into your savings account.

Start saving now

  • Open up a gift giving savings account. Each payday put a set amount into this account that you can then use to purchase gifts.
  • Put money into an account all year round. Set up automatic payments to go into an account every payday and build your gift giving savings fund for future years.

Shop around & start early

  • Don’t leave your shopping to the last minute. This can cause you to go over budget due to rushing and grabbing whatever items you can to get your shopping done in time.
  • Compare retailers that offer the same products you are wanting to purchase. Check locally or online for the best price.
  • Shop local. Not only will you find great gift ideas, but you will also be supporting local businesses within your community.
  • Take advantage of sales such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Check your local flyers for sales near you as many start their holiday sales early.
  • If shopping online, be aware of shipping minimums and purchase multiple items at once to save on shipping and/or qualify for free shipping.
  • Local craft shows are a great place to find personalized gifts at a great price. If you find an item over your budget, talk to the vendor and see if they can customize a piece within your price range.

Not only can these tips save you money, but also time and stress when it comes to the holiday season.

hands with money

Kids & Money: Have the #MONEYTALK today

It’s important to have the #MONEYTALK with your kids. We talked with Jacques D. to learn how he talks to his kids about money and the tools he uses.


Teaching your kids about money when they’re young can help set them up for success in the future. Not only will they have an increased knowledge and understanding of managing money when they become adults, it can also positively influence their behaviours when it comes to managing their money.

The biggest questions parents ask are how early should I start talking to my kids and what things should I teach them? We sat down with Jacques DeCorby, Conexus’ Vice President of Retail Banking, and Dad of three, to learn more about how he has the #MONEYTALK with his kids and the tools he uses.

When did you first start teaching your kids about money and what are some of the things you are teaching them?

We started talking to our kids early teaching them about the value of money and the power of savings and giving behaviours. We also talk a lot about a need vs. a want and have discussions on how money makes them feel, whether they’re saving it or spending it.

Do you give your kids an allowance? If so, when did you start and how did you determine an amount to give?

We started giving our children an allowance all around the same time, with the oldest being about ten and our youngest being five. I don’t recall how we settled on an amount to give them, but it was an amount that we could fit into our budget as well as help our kids see the value of money. We haven’t adjusted this amount, but it does make sense to periodically review the amount as it could illustrate the influence of inflation.

When teaching your kids about managing money, are there any tools you use?

We use the save-give-spend tool – pay yourself first with savings; give back and support your community; and, the remainder can be used for discretionary spending. In our household, we agreed on the split of 40-10-50 but another common split is 20-10-70.

We use this tool when splitting any money they receive including their allowance and money as gifts. With my oldest starting a part-time job, we also use this tool to help him manage his pay cheque. Though we have set these split percentages, they do have the option to put more into their savings if they chose. With three boys, it is interesting to see their different personalities – our oldest can’t spend it fast enough while our younger two are more focused on saving.

Another tool that we have introduced is the Conexus Credit Union app. At a certain age, our kids started getting their own electronic devices and phones and we made sure they added the app to their device to show them how to use it. It’s always fun to watch their reactions as they see their savings grow.

What advice do you have for parents wanting to teach their kids about money?

Save. Save. Save. Plan. Plan. Plan. Budget. Budget. Budget.

When talking to your kids about managing money, identify savings and set targets and milestones. Expose them early to different short- and long-term savings vehicles. Most importantly, let them make some spending decisions on their own after you’ve had the discussion on needs vs. wants. For example, if they really want that pack of gum at the store, have them purchase it using their own money. Be sure to follow up from time-to-time to talk about their spending decisions and ask them how it made them feel and if they’d do anything differently.

Also, as your kids become older (teens), I recommend parents start introducing the concept of credit ratings and the importance of building and maintaining a strong one.

By teaching your kids about money, what impacts can this have for them later in life?

By teaching your kids about money they’ll have an increased knowledge and understanding of managing money as they get older. More importantly, they will build positive behaviours and money management skills that will help minimize stress later in life that tends to affect so many other aspects of our overall health and well-being – physical, mental, social/family, occupational to name a few.

Any other advice you’d like to add?

It’s important that young people also start to build a strong network of trusted advisors around them including financial advisors. Talking about money can be hard, and introducing them early to money allows them to gain confidence and not be scared to ask questions when it comes to money.

Thanks Jacques! These are all great tips and advice. Financial literacy is important for all ages. We can’t wait to start having the #MONEYTALK with our kids and using some of the tools you shared with us today!

Do you talk to your kids about money? Share with us in the comments below including what age you started talking to them about money, tools you’ve used, other advice you have and more.

image of fraud

Keeping what’s yours, yours

Protect yourself from fraud using these tips on detecting scams and protecting your information.


Dora the Explorer was a show that played over and over in our home. Though many of our kids are now older, we still know all of the lyrics to “The Map Song” and who can forget Dora fending off Swiper every episode by saying “Swiper No Swiping” three times. If only it was that easy in real-life when protecting ourselves, and our information, from scammers.

With the ever-growing digital technologies, we’re also seeing an increase in the number of scams out there. Malware, Trojans, phishing attacks and more – it seems to be each new day is another new scam. But how do we keep up with all that’s going on around us? How can we tell what’s a scam and what’s not?

Below are a few tips on how you can keep yourself and your personal information safe. Check them out below.

Look for spelling and grammar mistakes.

Most scam emails contain spelling mistakes, bad grammar or altered logos. A phishing email may look real at a quick glance, but there’s usually something wrong.

Hover over the sender’s email or links to URLs to see if legit.

If you hold your cursor over the sender’s email or a URL that is the email, it should display the full email address or URL. If the email address or link address looks weird, don’t click on it. If you’re unsure about a website, instead, go directly to the company’s website and log in. If there’s something that needs to be taken care of, you’ll usually have a notification within your account.

Don’t give up personal information.

The majority of companies will never ask you for personal information by email or phone. Fraudsters will many times use scare tactics to make you panic and give up the information. Don’t give in.

When it comes to your banking, set up online banking security alerts.

You can set up online banking security alerts so that you can receive a text or email when there is suspicious activity on your account.

Never disclose your PIN or password to anyone.

This information should be kept private. Create strong passwords using a combination of letter, numbers and symbols. Never tell anyone your passwords and when using your pin, prevent others from seeing it by shielding with your hand.

 

Most importantly, if it feels wrong, it most likely is wrong. If you are ever unsure, contact the company directly.

For more tips on protecting yourself including tips for computers, smartphones, wi-fi and more, visit Protect Yourself.

young family in park

What to know when it comes to RESPs

A Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) is a great investment allowing you to put money aside for your child’s education. Here are a few things to know when it comes to RESPs.


When looking at your child’s future, it may become overwhelming especially when you start thinking about all of the costs related to their post-secondary education. A Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) is a great investment to help you put money away for your child’s education.

What is a RESP?

A RESP is a tax-deferred, savings account that can be used to save money for your child’s post-secondary education. You can contribute as much as you’d like (up to a lifetime maximum of $50,000) and watch it grow.

To help your money grow faster, the federal government also contributes a percentage of money to the RESP each year based on your contributions.

What types of RESPs are there?

There are two different types of RESPs available – family plans and individual plans.

A family plan is available for families with multiple children, allowing you to add multiple beneficiaries to one plan.

An individual plan can be set up for one beneficiary, and can only have one beneficiary. A common scenario for an individual plan would be in a blended family situation. More details on the two plans can be found here.

When is the best time to start saving for a child’s education?

Starting early, and contributing often, is key. The sooner you start to save, the sooner you’ll start earning interest on your money and receiving federal contributions to your RESP.

If you don’t start early though, it’s never too late to start. There’s no better time to start than today. By just saving as little as $5 each week, it can add up quickly and help your child in their post-secondary dreams.

How much should I save?

Conexus’ education savings calculator can help you figure out the cost of your child’s post-secondary education and map out what type of savings you’ll need to help meet your financial goals.

I’m not sure I can afford a RESP. Is there a minimum amount I must contribute each month or yearly?

Some types of RESPs have no minimum deposit requirements, while other RESPs do. It’s important you talk to a financial advisor to determine what RESP works best for you and what you can afford, whether monthly or yearly.

Where can I go for more information or set up a RESP today?

To learn more on RESPs visit the Government of Canada’s website.

To determine what RESP is best for you and set up an RESP, talk to your financial advisor today.

 

Have a question regarding Registered Education Savings Plans? Ask below in the comments section or contact us today.

Bowl of ramen noodles

It doesn’t just need to be ramen noodles

Money can be stressful when you’re a student but that doesn’t mean you need to live off ramen noodles. We sat down with Braden, a University of Saskatchewan student, to learn more about how he manages money while going to school.


We all know post-secondary education can be quite expensive. In the 2016-17 academic year, a Canadian undergraduate student paid, on average, $6,373 in tuition. And that’s not including the additional costs related to textbooks, school fees and living expenses.

When having the #MONEYTALK with students across the province, we heard over and over the challenge of managing money while going to school. What can a student do to reduce money-related stress caused by tuition and living expenses?

We recently sat down with Braden C., a 3rd-year University of Saskatchewan student and Conexus member, who told us how he manages money while being a student.

Tuition can be expensive. How have you been able to manage the costs of tuition?

My parents have helped me out greatly when it comes to paying for tuition. They’ve been putting money into an Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) since I was born, knowing I would need it at this point in my life. This has definitely relieved a lot of stress when it comes to paying for school.

That’s great to hear! What else can a student do to help cover the cost of tuition or save money for things such as textbooks?

Scholarships are a great way to reduce your tuition costs. There are many different scholarships available from the schools, local businesses, etc. It can take some time to apply but can be worth it in the end by offsetting some of the costs you need to pay.

When it comes to textbooks, a great way to save money is buying used. For example, the U of S has a program where you can sell your textbooks back to the store. Often you can find a used textbook at a lower price than a new book and from my experience, many of the used books look like new.

What about other expenses such as living costs – how do you make or save money for all of the additional expenses you face?

To allow me to focus on my studies during the school term, I only work during school breaks, such as the summer, and put the money I make into savings. I work as many hours as I can in the summer to provide enough money I’ll need for the eight months I’m in school. I know not everyone can do this, and some may need to work part-time while going to school, but I recommend putting as much as you can into savings during the off months so you can work a bit less during the school term.

Are there any tools you use to help you manage your money?

I use several tools including online banking and Conexus’ Personal Financial Management tool. It allows me to set budgets and track how much I spend relative to those budgets. Each month, I look at what I spent in the previous month and make decisions and changes based on what I think will be coming up in the next month. For example, if I know a band I want to see is coming, I adjust my budget so that I have some money set aside for entertainment. This may mean I don’t eat out a couple of times that month, but I’m also not going over my budget.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a student with your money?

My biggest challenges with money are probably in the area of groceries. When I know the upcoming week is going to be busy for me, I tend to buy foods that require little to no preparation. I have found, over the past three years, these meals are usually less healthy for me and also cost a little bit more than if I were to buy basic ingredients and make the meals from scratch. I also tend to impulse-buy things when I have cravings.

What tips do you have for other students that are needing to manage their money while going to school?

The biggest thing is to set a budget and track your spending. When you are able to see where your money is going, you can get a better understanding of your needs but also find areas where you maybe don’t need to spend so much such as eating out or buying coffee.

 

Thanks Braden! Money can be stressful when being a student but that doesn’t just mean you need to live off of ramen noodles. With a bit of understanding and planning, you can set goals, budget and take control of your finances. Here are a few more ways students can save money:

  • Taking advantage of school discounts. There are many places on campus as well as local businesses that offer students a discount by showing their student card.
  • Walking or taking the bus to school. You can save money on gas and parking!
  • Using loyalty reward program cards for places you shop at frequently. For example, Superstore has a PC Plus program that allows you to earn points you can use to take money off your next grocery bill – and it’s free.
  • When shopping for necessities such as groceries, make your meal plans based on what is on sale. Sometimes you may need to buy in groups, but then that just means you can use for another meal the next week.

What other tips do you have for managing your money while going to school? We’d love to hear them – share in the comments below.

woman looking into the distance

Getting out of the pay cheque to pay cheque cycle

Almost half of Canadians say they live pay cheque to pay cheque. Does this sound familiar? What is the secret to getting out of this pay cheque to pay cheque cycle?


A 2017 survey by the Canadian Payroll Association showed that almost half of Canadians say they live pay cheque to pay cheque. Here in Saskatchewan, 44% of employees agree and stated if their pay cheque was delayed by just one week, they’d have a hard time meeting their financial obligations. So what is the secret to getting out of this pay cheque to pay cheque cycle?

The answer… there is no secret or quick win when it comes to your finances. Everyone is different – the bills we pay, our rent or mortgage payments, the food we eat and the things we like to do – one solution that works for someone else may not work for you. In order to break the cycle, you must first determine your individual situation and develop a personalized plan from there.

“The biggest mistake people make with their finances is trying to do it alone,” said Krista Schmaltz, Manager Financial Services, Conexus Credit Union. “The most important thing you can do is talk with your financial advisor regularly. They’re experts in their fields and can help you create a personalized financial plan for success.”

Schmaltz also says in order to be successful in reaching your financial goal, you need to be open and honest when talking to your financial advisor. When it comes to your finances, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. By being honest with your financial advisor, and yourself, you are able to understand your finances better, allowing you to identify areas of strength and things that you may need to work on. You can then set goals and create an action plan to help reach those goals. Taking the steps to reach these goals though, will be on you.

Accountability is key in order to see results. It’s not just about saying you’ll do it but actually taking actions to break bad habits or changing behaviours. For example, if you’ve identified eliminating your morning coffee purchase from your routine as a way to save money, you must change your behaviours. To break the spending habit, consider making a to-go coffee every morning to take to work. Not only will you remove the temptation to stop and purchase a coffee, but you will also save money to put elsewhere within your budget.

When it comes to your finances, there is no one-size-fits-all solution or quick win. In order to see change, you must first be honest with yourself and your finances. You can then set goals and an action plan to help you reach your goals. Once set, hold yourself accountable to get results.

So what are you waiting for? Contact your financial advisor and start the conversation today!

Welcome to Conexus #MONEYTALK

When it comes to finances, everyone is different – your wants and needs, goals and dreams – there is no one-size-fits-all model. That’s why we created Conexus #MONEYTALK, where we’ll be sharing expert advice, practical help and solutions on topics that matter most to you.


Money.

A small word yet one that plays a significant role in our everyday lives. It influences the way we act, how we feel and contributes to our overall well-being.

According to the Canadian Payroll Association 2017 Survey Results, 37% of Saskatchewan employees say they spend all or more than their net pay. Debt levels also continue to remain high, with 35% of working Canadians – 40% in Saskatchewan – saying they feel overwhelmed with the amount of debt they have. At Conexus, we understand money can be stressful at times but know you’re not alone.

When it comes to finances, everyone is different – your wants and needs, goals and dreams – there’s no one-size-fits-all model. That’s why we created Conexus #MONEYTALK, where we’ll be sharing expert advice, practical help and solutions on topics that matter most to you. Want to learn more about savings? Budgeting? Retirement? We’ll be tackling it all and more!

See something you like? Be sure to share with family and friends.

Have feedback on a blog or an idea for a future blog? Let us know by commenting below.

Unsure of where to start? Contact us today! We’d love to chat and help you achieve your financial best.

It takes courage to talk about money. We’re here to help! We can’t wait to start this #MONEYTALK journey with you.