Man and woman sitting on couch talking about finances

Honey, can we talk finances?

Does just the topic of finances with your significant other cause great stress in your lives?  In this blog, we will identify possible causes and how to turn “Honey, can we talk finances” from a negative to a positive.


What discussion topics are avoided in your household – politics, sex, in-laws… money??   I hear ya.  Do your money talks turn into the “Blame Game” or worse yet, don’t happen at all? Why is one of the most important things that impact our entire lives constantly being avoided?

We hear how money has been the leading cause of divorce/breakups for years but we still don’t talk about our finances as often as we should.  My co-workers laughed when I told them I wanted to name my blog “Just shut up and do it yourself” but sometimes that is exactly how we feel.   Am I right?

What’s the underlying issue?

  • Communication – Can you have an honest discussion about your financial situation without shaming, blaming or walking away? Struggling to manage one’s finances is common — but talking honestly and openly about it is not.  Do you only talk about finances when a disaster strikes?
  • Fear – Are you financial literacy savvy? What is your level of understanding? Nobody wants to look stupid or admit they don’t know.  Let’s face it, if your parents didn’t teach you and you didn’t learn it in school, how can you be expected to make informed decisions.
  • Upbringing – My parents never talked in front of us kids or taught us about finances. We had food, clothing, a roof over our heads – we never questioned how it got there. It just magically appeared. No worries. Depending on how the subject was approached or avoided in your household may impact your spending and saving habits.
  • Financial habits – Are you and your significant other financially compatible? Are you savers, spenders, or a combination? Two spenders without a plan – a harmonious relationship tend not to be had – unless you are a multi-millionaire at birth.  On the other hand, two savers might miss out on experiencing life.
  • Goals – Are you in it together? Do you have the same goals – homeowner, kids, early retirement? Do you share all the responsibilities and decisions or do you divide and conquer?

How can we fix this? 

  1. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate!
  • Commit to a time with no interruptions to discuss life goals – short and long term. What do you truly want out of life?  What is your current situation?  What is in the past is in the past; deal with the here and now.   Keep calm at all costs.  Experts suggest you do so on your 3rd date as this conversation is just as important as the marriage and children talk.
  1. Plan. Plan. Plan!
  • Schedule a monthly review of your short term finances:
    • Are all the bills paid and needs met – food, shelter, clothing?
    • Do you have any upcoming expenses – car repairs, insurance, taxes, dentist, renos?
    • Make a budget: don’t make it too restricted or you won’t stick to it. Factor in some fun and “nice to have’s” and an emergency fund for life’s uh oh’s.
  • Schedule a yearly review to look at the bigger picture, long term goals – buying a house, having kids/having more kids, investments, retirement. Definitely review sooner if you experience a life-changing situation.
  • Schedule a financial health checkup with a professional financial advisor at your financial institution. They will be able to ensure you are on track to meeting your goals and can also be useful mediators if need be.
  1. Educate. Educate. Educate!
  • Knowledge is money. We don’t deal with things when we don’t know anything about them or we make bad decisions. Pick a financial product and research it, attend workshops, watch YouTube, read more of our blogs or visit our website.  There is lots of great info and tools at your fingertips.
  1. Teach. Teach. Teach!
  • Talk to your children about finances, don’t exclude them.  You don’t have to divulge everything but your decisions do impact them. Teach them the basics and help arm the next generation with the tools they need to be financially successful.  Who knows you might be in their care in the future.  Make sure it is a nice place.

At the end of the day, talking to your spouse or significant other about your finances is important early on and continually throughout your relationship.  Don’t forget!!

Haven’t had a #moneytalk in a while!  What are you waiting for?  Schedule your talk now!!

What advice do you have to make the #moneytalk easier?  Share with us by commenting below.  We would love to hear them.

race track with lanes three and four

7 simple ways to improve your finances

Improving your financial situation won’t happen overnight and requires behavioural changes, patience and time. Here are seven ways you can improve your finances.


How can I improve my finances? A question many of us often ask ourselves. The answer? This lies somewhere between our intentions and the actions, we take. We’re all guilty of it – saying this is going to be the day, the month, the year where we spend less and save more. But the truth is, we often don’t live up to that. Why? It’s simple, our intentions don’t match our actions – we don’t actually take the steps (actions) to make the change and continue to tell ourselves tomorrow will be a new day.

Often the reasons for not taking action is because we don’t have the resources, knowledge or mindset to make the change. Here are 7 simple tips to help you bridge that gap:

1. Stop making excuses

Often, we use excuses as a crutch to get out of doing something – especially when we’re running late or don’t want to go to the gym! This is often also the case when it comes to being in control of our finances. Saying things such as, “banking is too confusing” or “I don’t know where to start.”

The first step to improving your finances is to stop making excuses. If you’re unsure where to start or think it’s too confusing, reach out to your Financial Advisor to start the conversation and set goals. Further your knowledge by challenging yourself weekly to learn about a new financial topic – you can find many resources at your local library, online and don’t forget about our #MONEYTALK blog!

2. Set limits on your purchases

Purchases have become very thoughtless in today’s world – it’s as simple as a quick tap of your card. Although this has many advantages, it also makes it very easy to lose track of how much you are spending.

By creating a budget and setting spending limits, you can stay in control of your spending. For example, if you eat out often, set a goal to only eat out twice this month. By doing this, it becomes something you can keep yourself accountable to – tip: tell a friend or take on this challenge with someone else, this way you can support each other and help each other be accountable.

3. Set savings goals

Setting saving goals is soooo important! If you don’t know what or why you are saving it can become very easy to give in to temptations and spend money. By having a goal in mind, you feel as though you are working towards something and gives you that sense of accomplishment once you achieve it.

Here are some simple goals to help you get started: saving for a planned vacation, having enough money to cover 3 months expenses, and saving 10% a month at least once a quarter. A good tip to help you follow through – automate your savings.

4. Pay off debt

Debt happens, and almost everyone carries some level of debt – but learning to manage it is important. Only take on debt that you can manage, and set expectations on how you’ll build debt payments into your budget.

Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Here is a great read on success habits for paying off debt.

5. Think long-term

Don’t let your short-term thinking, undermine your long-term success.

Short-term goals are great. They are often what help kick start you into improving your financial situation because you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, if you only make short-term decisions, you might be hurting your long-term success.

Create long-term goals for your future such as saving for retirement, and then set short-term goals (milestones) to help you reach these long-term goals – for example, placing $50/month into your child’s RESP and $50/month into an RRSP. Doing so, helps you to stay motivated as you’ll be continually working at and achieving your smaller goals, all while working towards your long-term goals.

6. Be realistic

Improving your financial situation isn’t going to happen overnight, similar to how it’s unlikely to lose 10 pounds overnight (unless you have a really nasty flu, which is a whole other conversation). Having this type of mindset is only going to set you up for failure. Creating habits and working at it over time is what will set you up for success.

Part of being realistic is giving yourself allowances. Improving your financial situation doesn’t mean your life is over. You can still spend money on a night out with friends or go to the movies – the difference is how you plan for it such as building it into your budget. Setting aside “fun money” can be a great tactic for allowing yourself to still have fun, while sticking to your budget.

7. Experiment

There’s no-one-size-fits all solution when it comes to your money. Everyone’s situation is different and what works for one person may not work for another. Finding what works best for you is going to ensure you are successful.

What does that mean? Try different savings tactics such as automatic savings or spending challenges. A couple of tactics that work well for me is having “no spend months” and setting short term goals that will help me reach my long-term goals.

 

We all have the power to improve our financial well-being, the question is, are we going to act on it? This Tedx Talk on 3 psychological tricks to help you save money, highlights that what we all really might need is just a change in perspective.

What are some ways you’ve been able to improve your finances? I am always up for trying new tricks – share with me by commenting below!

Person putting credit card into ATM

Cash advances | What to know and advice

Here are some things to know about a cash advance and tips before you withdraw.


It’s the first Monday of the month…payday isn’t until Friday…you’re already into your overdraft, and…your three kids forgot to tell you that school pictures are on Wednesday which they need $20 each in cash. Cash that you don’t have – what do you do? You start to weigh the options:

  1. Call the grandparents and ask for picture day money.
  2. Stop at a local Cash Store or Moneymart (but you already know the fees are outrageous and don’t want to get caught in the vicious cycle of payday loans).
  3. Borrow money from another parent at the school.
  4. Swing by the ATM and get a cash advance from your credit card.

Option #4 is your decision, and it’s what we’re here to talk about – The Cash Advance!

So what’s the big deal? You’ll be able to pay off the cash advance at the end of the month when you pay your credit card bill. True, but what will you be paying?

A cash advance works a little different than just paying with your credit card. The biggest difference being that interest is calculated the moment the money comes out of ATM until it’s paid back. You pay a fee to get the money and continue to pay interest until the money is returned. So, by the end of the month your $60.00 may end up costing closer to $70.00 when you pay it back!

CashAdvance_Shock_CreditCard_Interest_Monkeys

Yep, that’s how I felt, when I learned about cash advance interest.

In contrast…when you tap (or swipe) your card to make a purchase, and pay it back “in-full” by the end of the month, you only pay the amount you spent (no interest is charged) – we call that a grace period. A grace period is the period of time the credit card company gives you to pay your new charges without charging interest on the balance. This period typically runs from the end of a billing cycle to the next payment due date – for most credit cards it’s about 21 days. For cash advances though, there is no grace period.

So that is that short and sweet about cash advances, but not the end of our blog. Let’s take this one step further and give you some practical advice on how to avoid needing a cash advance.

Practical advice #1 – Create a budget

The best thing to do is to create a budget. The purpose of a budget is to help us manage the money we make, the money we spend, and the money we save. My budget includes things like rent, gas, groceries, entertainment, music gear and my tall, 1/2 sweet, non-fat, extra espresso shot, vanilla latte from Starbucks. Because let’s be honest with each other, there should always be a budget line for Starbucks coffee – maybe not all the time, but every so often to treat ourselves for a job well done.

Practical advice #2 – Add cash to the budget

Once you have your budget all figured out, think about adding cash or a misc. expense line into your budget. I run on a bi-weekly budget because I get paid bi-weekly and part of my budget is adding $40.00 – $60.00 of cash into my wallet. The cash isn’t there for a specific purpose, but for moments that I need cash – those miscellaneous expenses I didn’t plan for, such as picture day fees. If I still have the cash in my wallet the next time I get paid, I celebrate because I’m now saving money that I would have normally taken out as cash, which leads me to my final piece of advice…

Practical advice #3 – Save when you’ve over budgeted

What do I mean by that? Sometimes we set out a budget and at the end of the month, we didn’t spend all the money we budgeted and have money left over. I don’t know about you, but my first reaction is usually…

Though I’m tempted to spend it, what I’ve learned to do instead is put that money into my savings account, TFSA, or talk with my financial advisor to get advice on what I could do; especially if it happens often.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of cash advances, along with tips to help you prepare for those unexpected expenses. If you have any questions about a cash advance or budgeting, please ask in the comments section below. We’d be happy to chat with you!

Finally – here are a few additional action items that can help you improve your overall financial well-being:

  1. If you’ve never created a budget I would recommend you take 10 minutes and try our newly updated BUDGET CALCULATOR! It’s free to use!
  2. If you want some free financial advice fill out the form on the bottom of our site!
  3. Leave a comment and ask more questions! Conexus #MONEYTALK blog is meant to be a 2-way-conversation!
  4. Read Laura’s amazing blog on “10 Ways to Control Your Finances” 
  5. If you really want to take your financial journey to the next level why not Become A Member of Conexus, where your financial well-being drives everything we do!
filing system for income taxes

Why you should file an income tax return

Filing a tax return is important, even if you had no income for the year, as you may be eligible for credits that could result in a refund. Here are several reasons why you should file a tax return. 


It’s that time of year again – tax season. Whether you have income or not, there are many reasons why you should file an income tax return each year.

You owe tax or will receive a refund.

When you file your taxes, there are two outcomes – either you’ll owe tax or you’ll get a refund.

Of Canadians who have filed their 2018 income taxes, approximately 71% have received a refund, with the average refund being just over $1,600.

Owing tax is not as fun as receiving a refund, but it’s important to file a return and pay these taxes by the deadline to ensure you’re not charged interest which will increase what you owe.

Take advantage of non-refundable and refundable tax credits

You may be eligible to receive certain credits from the government but must file an income tax return in order to determine eligibility and your benefit amount.

Non-refundable tax credits:

Non-refundable credits lower your tax payable. They are named “non-refundable” as these credits cannot, by themselves, get you a refund. A few examples include:

  • Tuition
  • Charitable donations
  • First-time homebuyers amount
Refundable tax credits

Refundable tax credits are a specific amount of money deducted from the amount of tax you owe and is the same amount whether you owe $100 or $1000. For refundable tax credits, the government will pay you the refundable tax credit you qualify for whether you owe tax or not, meaning if you had no tax payable, theses refundable amounts would result in a refund on their own. Examples include:

  • Working income tax benefit
  • GST/HST credit

Recuperate any tax you overpaid from your pay cheque

If you’ve switched jobs part way through the year or worked multiple jobs last year, you may have overpaid taxes on your paycheque(s). When you file an income tax return, it allows you to recover any taxes you may have overpaid.

Carry forward or transfer any unused tuition, education or textbook amounts

If you attended a post-secondary level course, you may be able to claim the tuition credit. This credit is non-refundable, meaning if the tuition is greater than the tax you owe, the tax credit can only be used to reduce or eliminate what you owe. Any unused amounts can be carried forward to a future tax year, or you can also transfer to a spouse/common-law partner or parent/grandparent.

Even if you have no tax to pay, it’s important to file an income tax return to claim your tuition, education and textbook amounts so that you can update any unused amounts, and carry them forward to future years.

 

When it comes to doing your income tax return, there are many tools and resources to assist you including information on the Government of Canada’s website.  As well, often organizations within different communities offer free income tax preparation services which you can usually find through a quick Google search. Are there any free income tax preparation services available within your community? Share with us below by telling us which community and who offers the services.

Pile of sticky notes with New Year resolutions written on them

Adjusting your New Year’s resolutions

If you’re struggling to stick to your resolutions or have already failed trying, don’t give up. Instead, adjust or re-start your resolutions following these tips to help you succeed.


We go into the New Year saying this is going to be the best year yet. And it is…for the first few days anyway. Then the holiday excitement wears off, we go back to our normal routines and continue with the same habits we did before. By mid-January, we start to realize the resolutions we set were a bit more than we could chew and we soon give up on what we said we were going to do.

When it comes to sticking to our New Year’s resolutions, statistics show only 8% of people actually succeed. Why? Often the resolutions we make are unreasonable, unrealistic or we’ve set too many.

Does this sound familiar? If you’re struggling to stick to your resolutions or have already failed trying, don’t give up. Instead, adjust or start your resolution over. The only way to succeed is if you continue trying.

Here are a few tips to keeping your resolutions.

Have an action plan

Resolutions are goals and should have an action plan showing you where you want to go and how you’ll get there. Review these plans every so often and adjust your plan based on your personal situation, helping you to stay on track for success.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

We can only do so much at once. Instead of trying to do everything at once, prioritize your goals in order of what’s most important to you. Focus on completing one or a couple goals at a time to not feel overwhelmed with trying to do it all.

Celebrate the small wins

Create milestones within your plan and celebrate when you achieve them. Smaller goals are easier to reach and help keep you motivated in reaching your goals.

Ask for support

Share your resolutions with your friends and family. Ask them for support and to hold you accountable to these resolutions. Speak to professionals for advice on your goals and tips for achieving them.

Whatever your goal is, it’s important to be agile and take the time to pause and adjust as necessary.  We may only be a few weeks into the New Year, but now is a great time to re-examine your resolutions and make any adjustments to ensure they’re realistic, reasonable and set up for success.

Did you make any New Year resolutions this year? What were they and are you on track to achieving them? What are some of the challenges you’ve come across? Share by commenting below.

couple sitting on couch, looking at a computer

10 ways to take control of your finances

A New Year means resolutions and often times have a financial component to them. Here are 10 ways you can take control of your finances this coming year.


New Year. New financial you.

It’s hard to believe the New Year has already begun. With a New Year often comes resolutions – creating a plan for the future using lessons from the past – and many times have a financial component to them.

Here are 10 ways you can take control of your finances this coming year.

1. Set goals

We all have dreams of what we want to do and what we want to achieve. Make these dreams a reality by setting goals to achieve them. Organize your goals by priority and be sure they’re realistic and achievable. Tip: Start small. Small goals are easier to reach and help train your brain into believing you can achieve it, increasing your chance for success of future goals. Get started by checking out our Goal Setting Blog.

2. Take action

It’s one thing to say you’re going to do something and actually doing it. Put action to your words by creating an action plan setting dates you want to achieve parts/milestones of your goal by. Hold yourself accountable and reward yourself when achieving each milestone helping you to keep motivated.

3. Create a budget

A budget helps you manage your money, showing you how much you’re bringing in each month and where you plan on spending your money. It can help you not spend above your means and focus on what’s important to you. To make budgeting easier for you, we recommend using our online Budget Calculator.

4. Track your spending

By tracking every nickel you spend, you’re able to get an accurate picture of your spending habits – sometimes it can be very shocking how quickly or how much your purchases add up. Tracking your spending will also help you create a more precise budget based on your spending habits and allow you to identify areas where you may need to change your spending behaviours.

5. No-spend challenges

Each month challenge yourself to a spending freeze for a day, weekend or even the full month for all non-essential items. Or pick a different non-essential category to not spend on such as ‘No Eating Out March’.

We recommend challenging yourself for a day or weekend if doing for the first time. Check out our No-Spend Weekend Challenge Blog helping you succeed in taking an entire weekend off from spending.

6. Save for an emergency

Life can sometimes throw us a curveball, threatening our financial well-being and causing us stress. Set money aside each month into an emergency savings fund for those unexpected life events. Having a fund ensures if your car breaks down or your furnace goes in the middle of winter that you’re prepared and gives you peace-of-mind knowing you won’t need to stress trying to find money to cover these unexpected expenses.

7. Prepare for retirement

We all dream of the day we’ll retire – no more alarm clock, being able to take a nap whenever we’d like and playing that golf game on a Wednesday afternoon. Being able to retire the way we want though requires some planning in advance. Start preparing now by checking out our blog, Retirement: will you have enough?

8. Save your extra money

Throughout the year we come across extra money such as an income tax return or a cheque from our Grandma for our birthday. Though we may be tempted to treat ourselves, consider putting any extra, unexpected money you come across into savings – you’ll thank yourself at the end of the year when you have extra savings in the bank!

9. Invest in a TFSA

A tax-free savings account (TFSA) is a great way to save for just about anything, whether it be a short-term or long-term goal. What you save is not tax deductible nor are you taxed when you withdraw your earnings. As well, in 2019 contribution maximums have increased to $6,000. Learn more here.

10. Plan/review your estate

We often think that planning our estates is something we do when we’re older but in fact, everyone young or old should have an estate plan in place in case something unexpected were to happen to us. Having an estate plan helps our loved ones understand our wishes and how to carry them out if we were to pass. This can include naming guardians for children, instructions for your burial/cremation and how you’d like your property divided up and should be updated at each life event such as marriage, children, divorce, retirement, etc. Start your plan by speaking with a local estate planner or lawyer today.

A New Year symbolizes a fresh start and new beginnings. Hopefully, these quick tips help you feel more prepared to take on the new year and take control of your finances. For more financial advice, we encourage you to check out some of our other blogs or contact us today to set up an appointment with a financial advisor.

Hand scrolling through social media on a tablet

The financial pressures of social media

Social media has transformed the way we see things and how we share things. It’s important to understand our true identity vs. digital identity and how social media impacts us in order to keep balance in the digital world.


Have you ever scrolled through your social feeds and saw something that you wanted? Or saw photos of what your friends were doing such as a recent vacation or night out and started comparing your life to theirs. For many, the answer is yes.

Social media has transformed the way we see things as well as how we share things. The digital world allows us to capture every moment on camera and social media has caused us to feel the need to share all of these experiences. How much of what we share though paints the full picture of our true selves?

In reality, what we share on social media is what we want others to see – the food we’re eating, the vacations we’re taking and all the family and friend experiences we’re having. We create a digital identity that often differs from our true identity.

What’s not being shared is those not-so-good things, our behind the scenes – the food mishaps that caused for that pizza to be ordered, the credit card debt we have from going on that vacation or the meltdown we had trying to get our child out the door to their activity on time and realizing team fees were also due that day. We create a false sense of reality and the picture we’ve shared is only giving part of the story to those seeing it.

Outside viewing in

From the outside, when seeing these photos we tend to forget that there’s more to the image than what we’re seeing. Most often, we forget to look at the fuller picture and make ourselves believe what we see is a reality. We don’t think about all the unknown behind the scene details. We start to compare our own lifestyles and experiences to those of others and at times, start doing things outside of our comfort zone to keep up with those around us. We then share these experiences on social to show that we are doing fun, exciting things as well, creating our own digital identity.

It becomes a domino effect. Just like you’re feeling the pressure to keep up and share all the ‘fun’ experiences, others – including those you’re trying to keep up with – are watching your feeds and feeling the same pressures to keep up with you.  The cycle is never-ending as everyone continually tries to keep up with others and at the same time, fails to provide some of the truths of the behind-the-scenes.

Staying balanced

This never-ending cycle can impact us mentally, emotionally and financially. It’s important to stay focused and live the way that works for you, not the way others make you feel you need to live or how you feel you need to share with others. Here are a few tips to staying balanced in today’s digital world.

  • Know the difference between a want and a need. Do you really ‘need’ that pair of shoes you saw on Instagram? Before making a purchase on something you saw, ask yourself if it’s a want or a need? How will it make you feel and will this feeling last or be short-lived? Asking these questions help you be mindful when shopping and could prevent you from making a purchase spontaneously that you later regret.
  • Don’t just do it to check off the box. We grow up thinking we need to check the box based on where we ‘should be in life’. We find ourselves trapped by the mindset that we should have the house, the car, the family, etc. by a certain age, especially if we’re seeing our friends doing it on social media and it can normalize the movement of over-spending. Reality is we’re all at different life stages and all have different goals and priorities. Just because someone else is checking that box doesn’t mean you have to do so as well. Remind yourself of this and do things on your terms – when you’re ready and feel it’s the right thing for you mentally and financially.
  • Quit comparing yourself to others, especially financially! Do you actually know how much each one of your friends makes? Most likely not, yet we make assumptions and then compare ourselves to them. We think ‘well I make about the same as so-and-so, so I too should be able to take a hot vacation each year’. This creates an unhealthy relationship of what reality is, as we don’t really often know the behind-the-scene details. Instead of comparing yourself and keeping up to what others are doing, understand your well-being and set goals for you. Taking a hot vacation may be possible every year but do it on your terms and ensure you create a financial action plan to help you achieve this goal.
  • Be present and make personal connections. Our digital identity is just one piece of the story. By being present and interacting with friends outside of the digital world, you’re able to connect with their true identity. Often times, you’ll start to see the fuller picture of those posts – the behind the scenes – and get a better sense of the true reality of what’s being shown.

Social media impacts everyone’s mental, emotional and financial well-being differently. Understand how it affects you personally and be conscious of this next time you’re scrolling through your social media feeds. Remember that what you’re seeing is just what others want you to see and there’s usually a lot more to the story.

Like what you read and what to hear more? Check out our recent The FOMO Effect – A Panel Discussion, where we spoke with four, amazing local Saskatchewanians to hear their views on the pressures of social media and the impact it can have on our financial well-being.

We want to know – has social media had an impact on you financially? Share your experiences and your tips & advice on staying balanced in a digital world below.

building with credit union logo

Why I made the switch to a credit union

Not happy with your bank, but scared to make the switch? Read the experiences of one of our members who recently switched financial institutions after realizing her bank was not helping her to achieve her financial goals.


My financial institution was determined at a young age and like most, who I banked with was the same as my parents. As I got older, my banking needs changed yet I continued to bank with the same financial institution. Was my inherited bank actually doing what I needed it to though?

I started to realize how important this decision was. As I’m trusting an institution with my hard earned money, it shouldn’t be about staying with the bank that was chosen for me but instead being sure that who I was banking with was an institution that met my financial needs. That’s when I began to understand what type of bank I needed for me, and if I needed to make a change.

What I took into consideration

  • Is my bank listening to me and addressing the financial needs that benefit me – not my bank?
  • What are my financial goals and how is my bank helping me to achieve these?
  • Does my banks’ values align with my personal values?
  • How is my bank contributing to my local community?

I soon came to realize that I didn’t have a relationship with my bank. My account was very transactional but the bank never made me feel like I was anything but a number. I did some research about other financial institutions and through this research, I discovered a few key differences between credit unions and banks.

Here’s what I learned.

  • Credit unions are member-owned while banks are owned by its shareholders. What this means is you have a say on how your credit union operates while banks answer to its shareholders.
  • Credit union profits go back to their members such as offering No-Fee Chequing Accounts.  They also invest their profits back into the local community. Bank profits are paid to their shareholders and your local community rarely benefits.
  • Credit unions are driven by their members. They take the time to listen, ask questions and help you achieve your financial goals. You are their number one priority.
  • Credit unions have a one team model approach and are all part of the Ding Free network, allowing members to access a number of ATMs across Canada for free. With banks, you can only use their products and services and you will be charged for using other banks’ resources.

Overall, the biggest thing I learned was that credit unions and banks offer similar products and services. The way they operate though and treat their members are different. To learn more about the differences between credit unions and banks, I recommend checking out Credit unions vs banks: What’s the difference?

After considering what my current bank offers and evaluating the difference between credit unions and banks, I wondered why I hadn’t started looking into this earlier. Why hadn’t I made the switch – by switching to a credit union, I’d be able to save $185 each year just in bank fee savings – so what was holding me back?

My fears

  • Time! I didn’t want to spend a lot of time having to switch all my payments over or learning a new bank’s products such as mobile and online banking.
  • Was it really worth the effort to make the switch? How much work was involved?
  • What if I missed payments due to the switch resulting in added interest or canceled services.
  • Would I have to give up my credit card? I liked the credit card that I had at my other bank and didn’t want to cancel it.

I started to realize that most of my “fears” were excuses and if I really wanted to take control of my finances I needed to take the time to invest in myself. Ultimately, I liked how a credit union was local and I felt that their values aligned to my personal values. I decided to reach out to Conexus Credit Union, and after speaking with a financial advisor I soon realized they really did care about my overall financial well-being and knew that it was time to make the break up with my current bank and make the switch.

Making the switch

Switching over to Conexus was quite easy, especially with their tool called Click Switch. It allowed me to switch over all of my payments within a few minutes and just the click of a few buttons. My fear of time quickly disappeared.

Tips

If you’re like me and some of your fears include missing a payment due to switching or losing a credit card you love, consider some of the tips below before making the switch.

  • Do not close your current bank account until all of your payments are switched over. Keep the account open for a few months to ensure you haven’t missed anything.
  • Leave a small amount of money in your old account to cover any payments you may have missed switching over to avoid non-sufficient funds.
  • You don’t have to switch everything over at once. It’s perfectly fine to keep your loans or mortgages with your old bank until they expire or are paid off.
  • You can keep your current credit card if you’re not wanting to depart from it quite yet. Check to see if you can link your credit card from another bank to your new credit union account. This will allow you to still view your credit card balance in your new account and help you manage your finances in one spot.
  • If you are looking at getting a new loan to pay out a previous loan at your bank, make sure you get all of your approvals and payout amounts first before closing out your account or changing your direct deposit.

In the end, I made the decision to move to a credit union because I believed in their values as an organization. I felt it was easier to have an open and trusting conversation and it saved me money on bank fees. Ultimately, when determining your financial institution consider how your financial institution can impact your overall financial well-being. For me, choosing a credit union was the perfect fit.

mortgage documents and pen

Fixed vs. variable: picking a mortgage that’s right for you

Fixed or variable? When it comes to picking the type of mortgage rate you want, there are many things to consider. 


There are many questions and decisions to make when buying a house. How much can I afford? Where do I want to be located? How much can I put down? Something you may not be considering though is the type of mortgage rate you want – a fixed rate mortgage or a variable rate mortgage.  Understanding and picking the type of mortgage rate you want is a big decision, and without the proper knowledge and resources, can be quite difficult to make. When choosing the mortgage rate for you, it’s important to look at your situation and ask yourself what you are comfortable with.  Like any big decision someone makes in their life, it often starts with a good old-fashioned pro’s and con’s list.

Fixed

A fixed mortgage rate is one that remains the same throughout the entire term of your mortgage, no matter how much the market fluctuates. With a fixed rate, you’ll know exactly what you’re paying towards the principal and the interest on your mortgage.

  • Pro: Known as the ‘set it and forget it choice’, a fixed rate mortgage provides no risk if interest rates change and can provide a sense of security for people, especially if raising interest rates cause you stress.   
  • Con: Fixed mortgage rates often are higher than variable mortgage rates and are locked-in, meaning if interest rates were to decrease, you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the lower rates. They typically have higher payout penalties than variable mortgage rates if having to break a mortgage prior to the term being up.

Variable

A variable mortgage rate is one that fluctuates with the market interest rate, known as the ‘prime rate’. What this means is the amount of your mortgage payment that goes to the principal and towards interest can change month-to-month.

  • Pro: Generally, variable mortgage rates are lower and can result in interest savings and provide you with the option to pay your mortgage off faster. Variable mortgage rates also have a lower payout penalty (3 months interest) if the mortgage is broken prior to the term being up.
  • Con: Variable rates have a bit of risk associated with them, as they’re unpredictable due to fluctuating markets. If interest rates increase, the amount you pay towards interest will also increase.

When people hear the term variable, many believe this means that your payment fluctuates. What many don’t know is that when choosing a variable rate you have the option to set your payment amount so it’s the same each time. What this means is that each payment date your payment amount stays the same, but depending on an increase or decrease in interest rates the portion of your payment that goes towards interest and to the principal may change. To learn more, talk to a mortgage specialist.

To help explain the difference between fixed and variable rates further, we recommend checking out this great Know How video by Ontario’s Northern Credit Union.

Your buying situation

There are many factors to consider when choosing between a fixed and variable rate. To help break it down, here are the three questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is your risk tolerance?
  2. What is your financial circumstance?
  3. What are the chances of you breaking your mortgage before maturity?

Risk Tolerance

Everyone’s risk tolerance is different and depends on your personal and financial situation. For some, a bit of risk may be scary, while for others they may be comfortable taking one. If you’re someone who lays awake at night worrying about increasing or changes to payments, choosing a variable rate may not be for you.

Financial Circumstance

Your financial circumstance can have a large impact on determining if a fixed or variable rate is right for you. Do you live pay cheque to pay cheque or frequently spending above your means? If so, a fixed rate may be the better option for you. If interest rates increase causing your mortgage payment to increase does this cause you to worry? If you can handle an increase, a variable rate might be better suited for you.

Breaking your mortgage before maturity

Life happens and things change that may cause you to break your mortgage before your term is up. It’s important to understand when choosing a mortgage the rules around payout penalties – the fee you would pay if you were to break your mortgage before the term ends. Variable and fixed rates have different payout penalty rules and a mortgage specialist can help you to understand the penalty payout rules, but also calculate the payment.

Consider factoring in your personal situation and future goals to help pick a mortgage term length (one-year, three-years or five-years) based on your situation. Ask yourself:

  • What stage of life are you in?
  • Are you purchasing the house with anyone? (e.g. friend, sibling, etc.)
  • Is this home big enough to grow into?
  • Do I plan on relocating for work anytime soon?

With any decision, it is always important to do your research and speak with a mortgage specialist. They can provide you with guidance and advice based on your personal situation, help you to understand market trends and forecasts and assist you in making one of the most important decisions of your life.

To learn more, contact one of Conexus’ Mobile Mortgage Specialists today.

computer by picture of stick figures with word finance

The power of financial literacy

Financial literacy is a critical life skill that helps you to make smart, responsible decisions about your money. Build your financial knowledge using these tips.


When it comes to your knowledge of finances, how confident are you? Would you be able to answer basic financial literacy questions, such as:

  • What’s the difference between a savings account and a chequing account?
  • What is compound interest?
  • What’s the difference between a variable rate and a fixed rate?
  • What is an emergency savings fund and how much should you save?

According to an Ipsos poll conducted in 2017 on behalf of LowestRates.ca, 78% of Canadians believe they’re financial literate. When it came to taking a basic financial literacy test though, almost 57% of Canadians failed.

Financial literacy is a critical life skill and just as important in life as any other basic life skill. Why? Because money is all around us and something we deal with every day. Being financially literate means you understand all things money – how it works, how it’s generated, how to manage it, how to invest it and more. It means having the knowledge and confidence to make smart, responsible decisions about your money.

Improving your financial knowledge

It’s never too early, or too late, to improve your financial knowledge. Here are a few ways you can expand your financial knowledge and confidence with money:

  1. Take the Fin-Lit Challenge: Testing your financial knowledge will you see how much, or how little, you may know. This will help you identify topics that you may want to focus on to expand your knowledge.
  2. Talk to a Financial Advisor: Your financial advisor is an excellent resource for advice and knowledge, ensuring you’re not alone when making financial decisions.  There is no such thing as a dumb question. Meet with your financial advisor often and ask questions to ensure you understand your money and financial decisions.
  3. Read a Conexus #MONEYTALK Blog: Each week, Conexus #MONEYTALK publishes a blog providing expert advice, solutions and guidance on financial topics important to you. Savings, budget, investment 101 – we cover it all. Commit to reading the blog each week to continually expand your financial knowledge.

What financial topics would you like to know more about? Share below and we’ll be sure to do an upcoming blog on them.