Managing Money as a New Canadian

Moving to a new country and becoming a new Canadian is incredibly intimidating. Not only do you have to know a whole new currency, you have to learn to manage it as well. This blog features a story from a new Canadian from India who breaks down what they learned by establishing their financial well-being in their brand new home. 


Humble Beginnings

On January 22, 2018, I landed in Regina as a new Canadian on a cold night with my husband and my 10-year old daughter. In 2019 alone, approximately 85,000 immigrants landed in Canada from India making it one of the main source countries for new immigrants to Canada. I am so excited to be one of them.

Our family of three came to Canada carrying around $30,000 CAD (~1.7M INR) of survival funds. We knew that if we weren’t careful, we could spend all of it in the first six months – especially if we did not secure a job so it was important to be cautious with our spending until we got our legs under us in our new country. We educated ourselves about spending money in Canada by not shying away from asking questions to colleagues, neighbours and fellow immigrants.

Little did we know, that $30,000 could quickly dwindle on things you didn’t even expect to purchase when adjusting to a different environment. For instance, the three of us had never purchased winter jackets before but it was an essential buy as we had moved midway through winter in Canada. We had a choice to make between thrifting or buying. “Frigid” would be an understatement when it comes to Saskatchewan winters so buying new jackets to last us for years was a reasonable choice.

We leased a condo apartment in the first week of us having landed in Canada. Putting cash down on a used van to ensure we were mobile and independent was also important to us. We shopped for kitchen supplies from the dollar store and our furniture shopping ended after buying a box spring and a few mattresses. We were ready to take on the world and build our new nest each day, piece by piece!

Budgeting

Finding a job as a new Canadian is hard. It took us five months to get stable jobs that covered our monthly expenses and allowed us to begin our savings again.

Being salaried employees in our previous jobs, my husband and I were well-versed in the principles of budgeting and saving for retirements and emergencies. Having a conversation about budgeting and setting strict spending rules was a great place to start. Our google spreadsheet had titles like groceries, gas, utilities and even alcohol & salon expenses. Every little detail mattered and was essential for us to plan better. We now use the Conexus Budget Calculator. This is a wonderful tool that allows you to get a clear picture of monthly expenses in percentages.

A perception survey conducted by Insightrix in 2020 stated that 62% of Saskatchewanians say money causes stress and 61% say their top financial concern is not having enough savings for emergencies. Being disciplined in saving money may seem like a hassle at the time, but it quickly transforms into hope, security and confidence as you know you are covered for emergencies and you can take comfort in the fact that you are actively contributing to your future (ie: down payment on a future home).  We have learnt over time that categorizing savings in different accounts and naming them after our goals/purposes (ie: “vacation”, “home expenses”, “miscellaneous”, “emergency”) is helpful for staying on track. Here’s a helpful tip: you can save emergency savings in a TFSA account as well as the interest earned on that account will not be taxed.

Building Our Credit

As a new Canadian, it’s important to start building your credit score as soon as possible. In most cases, the credit history you’ve built in your home country does not transfer into Canada and unless there is enough cash to pay up front for all purchases, a family will need to work towards building a decent credit score.

To get credit, you need history and to build history, you needs to get credit. This is a vicious circle!

We were lucky to get approved for basic credit cards with no annual fees under the newcomers’ program.  In cases when a financial institution does not have a program like this, you can opt for a secured credit card.

When building our credit score, doing these things helped build it up faster:

  • We ensured that we paid out the card fully every month before the due date
  • Avoided cash transactions
  • Used no more than 30% of our credit limits
  • Avoided unnecessary credit applications

Our First New Car

As we were taking baby steps towards settling here, we were yearning to buy a new car. Being avid road-trippers, getting rid of the van and buying an SUV was at the top of our list.

We thought a six-month credit history was enough and started car shopping around summer. However, we soon found out that six months was not going to cut it. After trying four different dealerships, 11 hits on our credit report and waiting for an additional three months, we managed to get a loan from Ford Credit after we accumulated nine months of credit history. We did manage to hit the road before fall with our first camping trip to Moose Mountain in our brand new black Lincoln MKX Reserve.

My experience of working in a credit union helped me understand the importance of saving and having a good credit score. However, a few things should be left to the experts. For instance, I wish we had met with an advisor for the car loan before venturing out on our own. The 11 hits on our credit report knocked our score down further and that cost us time to rebuild the credit.

Buying Our Home in Regina

Coming into a new country – you are faced with the decision: “Should I buy or rent?” Our decision depended solely on the fact that we needed stability, preferred paying a mortgage versus renting, and having a place we could call “our home”. A mortgage seemed like a better option and a better use of our savings. We used money saved from our survival funds and extra savings from our jobs for a down payment. Researching the importance of having a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) was also crucial for us. We opened our RRSP account as soon as we started working and set up direct debit contributions into the RRSP account. RRSPs can help you save for retirement, save taxes and you can withdraw from an RRSP account for a down payment under the first time Home Buyer’s Plan. This withdrawal helped us with extra wriggle room for buying new furniture and paying lawyer fees. A first-time home buyer can withdraw up to $25,000 from their RRSP account without worrying about taxes as long as they pay back the withdrawn amount within 12 years. We managed to get keys to our new home in July 2019!

We Are Still Unfinished

Financial literacy is a critical life skill. I was lucky enough to learn a lot by working for a credit union and could pass it down to my husband. We often wonder how things would have shaped up differently if my career path took me to a different profession. We try to financially educate every new Canadian we come across and try to make the transition easy for them. Our friends believe we have a story with a happy ending. We believe that we are still learning the fine skills of being financially healthy and staying on track while continuing to do what we love – traveling, camping, and living each day as it comes!

If you are a new Canadian and are on your own journey, I wish you the best of luck. If you have any questions – don’t hesitate to reach out to a Conexus financial advisor who are here to help you out, every step of the way.

Celebrating 100 MONEYTALK Blogs: Top 10 Blogs

Can you believe it!? We’ve made it to MONEYTALK Blog #100! For our 100th blog, we are going to look back at ten of our most viewed and relevant blogs that provides relatable financial literacy advice for a variety of different topics, events and life stages. 


Money is stressful and everyone is experiencing their own unique life stages and financial situations. There is no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to providing financial advice.

In November 2017, we launched the Conexus #MONEYTALK Blog with a purpose to share expert advice, practical help and real-life experiences for relatable topics and life stages. Time flies when you are exploring financial literacy from a different lens because it’s hard to believe that three and a half years later – we are celebrating our 100th Blog! From blogs on money saving hacks at Rider games to renewing your mortgage during a global pandemic, our authors have explored topical and relevant events and have provided advice to ensure you are best equipped to navigate your financial well-being through whatever life throws at you.

To celebrate this milestone, blog #100 is looking back at ten of our most popular and still relevant blogs that have been published over the past three and a half years. These ten blogs approach financial literacy from a number of different perspectives so it is no surprise that eight of our authors are featured in this list. Enjoy our walk down memory lane and here’s to the next 100 blogs!

What I Learned From My 90 Day Spending Freeze

We’ve all heard of “cleanses” or “detoxes”. Although traditionally meant for weight loss or breaks from social media, spending freezes are gaining popularity as a means to cut spending and flush out bad money habits. Here’s a personal story where one of our writers was forced to check herself before debting herself and what she learned from a 90-day spending freeze. (Author: Melissa Fiacco, November 2020)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

More COVID-19 Scams to Monitor

During this pandemic, it’s not just your physical health at risk, your financial health may be as well. Throughout times of uncertainty we are seeing fraudsters launch sophisticated scams, exploiting public fears for targeted attacks – and we’re definitely in uncertain times.  In addition to the scams we went over earlier, here are five more of the most prevalent COVID-19 scams we’re seeing used to attack people’s financial health and how you can protect yourself from being a victim. (Author: Rachel Langen, April 2020)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

3 Key Money Tips for High Schoolers

No matter how old you are – you likely aren’t satisfied with the amount of money you have and you want more. When you are in high school, you want to be able to buy the things you want, go out with your friends, and maybe even save for your future education. So, if you are a high schooler – here are a few things you can do with your money to make it work best for you!  (Author: Kailyn Carter, January 2020) 

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

How Take Out Almost Took Out My Budget

With so many options for ordering meals via delivery, it’s becoming increasingly hard to resist the convenience of take-out and maintaining the discipline to stick to your meal prepping schedule. Let’s look at a real-life example of how creating and sticking to a budget can save your bank account from landing in the trash with your leftover to-go containers. (Author: Mason Gardiner, November 2019)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

The Cost of Being Single

Single and ready to mingle? Well, if you didn’t need another reason to despise Valentine’s Day,  I’m about to give you one more – independence is expensive. Whether you are choosing to live the single life or you just haven’t met the right catch yet, you’ve probably experienced some of the nuisances that come with taking on the world on your own. (Author: Mason Gardiner, June 2019)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

The Real Cost of Carrying a Balance on a Credit Card

Do you know what it actually costs when you carry a balance on your credit card? We’ve broken it down and even have a tool to figure out how long it might take you to pay off your balance. (Author: Kailyn Carter, May 2019)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

5 Activities for Young Kids: Introduction to Money

Introducing your kids to money early on can create a foundation for financial knowledge and positively impact how they manage money later. (Author: Laura McKnight; June 2018)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Purchasing your first home is a big life decision. Our Mobile Mortgage Specialists share advice for first-time homebuyers on what to know and consider when purchasing your first home. (Author: Nicole Haynes-Siminoff, March 2018)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE 

The Importance of Having an Emergency Fund

Life happens and sometimes an unexpected curveball is thrown our way, threatening our financial well-being and causing stress. Having an emergency savings fund helps us be prepared for these unexpected life events. (Author: Courtney Rink, March 2018)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

Credit Unions vs Banks: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to managing your finances and choosing where to bank, there are many things to consider including whether you should choose a credit union or a bank. (Author: Francis Dixon, December 2017)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

Conquering the Resale Market & Building a VarageSale Empire

Ready to make a little extra money and declutter your space and mind through a resale empire? You don’t need to have a history of garage saling on your resume to take advantage of this and rule Facebook Marketplace, VarageSale or Kijiji. In this blog, I’ll share the benefits of reselling your items in order to turn the unused and unwanted into vacation funds or a new wardrobe.


The Day the Empire was Born

As a kid, one of my favourite things to do in the summer was to go garage saling with my mom and sister. Although Spice Girls merchandise (don’t act like you didn’t collect the stickers from the bubble gum) or rare Pokemon cards to bring home to my brother were on the top of the list, we also kept our eye out for hidden gems or brand new items to snag for a fraction of the price.

As a trio we weren’t just treasure hunters, we had garage sales of our own. Every year we’d play the game of “keep or sell” with our toys in order to decide which ones we’d be willing to part with. The decision was a bit easier to make knowing that we’d get to keep the money we made to put towards something else we had our eye on – another Ty beanie baby, a fresh Skip-It, or save up to buy Mario Party for Nintendo 64.

Back then I had my first taste of what it was like to resell my items and use that money to buy something new or save up for a bigger ticket item. Fast forward to 2015 when I discovered an app called VarageSale. For those of you who don’t know, VarageSale is essentially an online garage sale where you can buy and sell locally. After a quick review, I HAD to share with my mom and she was quickly on board to try this out with me – this will forever be the day the empire was born.

Started from the Bottom Now We’re Here

App downloaded, check. Profile created, check. Items to sell (we can thank many years of low-key hoarding for this one) – check! If the rush of selling our first items wasn’t enough, it was seeing items we no longer use or wear turn into money. On top of that, the amount of space cleared after the decluttering and the quality time my mom and I spent together bonding and reminiscing over years of possessions were so valuable.

What started as a mother and daughter cleaning spree turned into a mini side hustle. We were not only selling our own stuff but we started to sell for my sister, brother, and a couple aunts. Even my dad was getting into it! I know you must be thinking, doesn’t this take time and effort? The answer is: yes it does, but I would also say it is worth it. According to this article, 82% of Canadians participate in second-hand transactions and this has grown steadily over the last several years. If you’re willing to put in a bit of effort you will see a big return! Let’s talk about some of the benefits of reselling your items.

Benefits of Reselling

Money Maker

This is probably the most rewarding benefit – you make money! Depending on the quantity, size and quality of items you’re selling, you could be bringing in an additional income ranging from $20 a week to a couple hundred dollars a month or more. According to that same article, Canadians have earned an average of $961 and saved an average of $723 each year through buying and selling second-hand items. This is tax free money in your pocket – and if you think about it, you’re getting paid to declutter your home!

It wouldn’t be a #MONEYTALK blog if I didn’t talk about what you could do with this extra money. For me, I’ve graduated from those Ty beanie babies and N64 games to putting this money aside to feed my travel bug. When it is safe to fly again, these savings will go directly to a flight to Hawaii and a couple cocktails on the beach.

This is a short-term savings goal I have my eyes set on. Your short-term savings goals can range from purchasing a few new pieces for your wardrobe, to buying a treadmill for your home gym, to adding dollars to your kitchen renovation fund. It’s also important to consider topping up your emergency savings fund as this comes in handy when your furnace needs repairing. Living in Saskatchewan, we all know how important that is!

Another option is to put this collection into something long-term like an RRSP for your future self or an RESP for the future of your little one. If you’re looking to set a savings goal, this “Kick-start your finances: goal setting” blog will help get you started!

Reduces Clutter in Your Space and Mind

If you’ve ever gone through the process of decluttering and reorganizing, you understand the both calming and energizing feeling that comes from the result.

I’m sure everyone has their own method to their madness but if you’re looking for a tip, I’d suggest starting the decluttering and organization process with one section or category of the house at a time. For instance, starting with your closet first and working your way to each room of the house. It is a little less overwhelming and makes you feel like you are finding success as you are accomplishing smaller, attainable goals rather than one big one.

I find it helpful to put items in each room into piles of keep, sell, donate or toss. If you get stuck, just think to yourself “what would Marie Kondo do?” If you haven’t been introduced to Marie Kondo, now is the time you become familiar– you’ll thank me later!

Ballin’ on a Budget

As I mentioned, VarageSale is a way to buy and sell. As a budget conscious person, using this app provides access to buying used items that are almost brand new for half the price. After all, you’ve worked hard for this extra money and here you’ll get more bang for your buck.

Ready, Set, Sell – Tips for Resell Success

Now that you’ve identified the items that you are wanting to sell, let’s get you set up to best position your products and connect you to buyers on apps and websites such as Varagesale, Facebook Marketplace, eBay and Kijiji. Here are some tips when reselling your items to set you up for success:

Good Quality

To be a reputable seller, you want to make sure the items you are selling are in good shape. Avoid selling items that are broken, torn or missing pieces – these should end up in your “toss” pile. By misleading buyers on the quality of the items you are selling, you are setting yourself up for a bad review and a horrible reputation which will deter buyers from trusting you. You will not find long-term success as a reseller without positive seller scores and reviews.

Clear Description and Photos

Be transparent! Include a clear description of what the item is, color, size, condition, and for everyone’s sake, hold the phone still when you’re taking photos. Nothing is worse than a blurry photo of the floor titled “brand new t-shirt”. To set yourself up for a smooth transaction, it also wouldn’t hurt to include the area of the community you are living in and how you prefer transactions to take place. For example, a mailbox transaction with an e-Transfer as payment is a popular choice. These are all questions that will be asked when the buyer negotiates with you so you can save yourself some hassle by listing it up-front.

Price Fairly – Have Some Wiggle Room

Ultimately you get to decide what price you are willing to part with your items. If you price a bit lower, it may get rid of the items quicker. I recommend pricing a little higher than your goal for each item. Part of the fun of garage saling is bargaining and by allowing the seller to negotiate the price down a bit, they will feel better about the purchase.

Answer Quickly and Friendly

You’re more likely to make a sale if you respond promptly and friendly to potential buyers. I find this makes the transaction a lot smoother and more enjoyable.

Leveling Up

As I mentioned earlier, my Mom and I started selling for my sister, brother and aunts and as much as we love the time spent together – it’s still a lot of effort. We charge a 50% commission rate to manage the resell of their items. When an item sells, we keep 50% of the total sale price and 50% goes to them. If you’re looking to level up your reselling game, reach out to friends and family and watch that side hustle grow!

Remember to have fun when building your empire. After the novelty wears off, it can feel like a lot of tedious work so keep track of your progress, celebrate the victories and enjoy connecting with buyers from across your community. Good luck!

An image showing growing investments

Should I Be Investing During a Pandemic?

One of the most popular questions we have been asked by our members during COVID-19 is “If I can, should I be investing during this pandemic?” This is a bit of a complicated question but we’re here to break down this intimidating conversation.

But if you want our short answer, the best time to start investing is between the hours of “right now” and “as soon as possible”.


The short answer is “Yes.”

If you’re saving money by making coffee at home instead of going to your favourite coffee shop then you should start investing. Are you working out at home and saving money on your $50 gym membership? Then you should start investing. If you have any extra money due to the pandemic and are comfortable that your income will remain sustainable then, you guessed it,  you should start investing. And here’s why…

Investing has more to do with how much time you have to invest, rather than the time at which you start investing.

Even though the pandemic has had an impact on the world economy and global markets, it does not mean that investing is a bad idea. Investing has been, and always will be, about focusing on an “average rate of return” versus a “fixed rate of return”. The markets may go down (for instance, due to a pandemic) but they may rise again afterward. It is the average between these years that measures the success of an investment, not the lows or highs by themselves. That is why,

The best time to invest is always going to be as soon as possible.

The sooner you invest the better. Whether it is a lump sum of $10,000 when you’re 25 years old or $25/month for 30 years. If you have money to invest, start today because it will be more than worth it and I’ll show you why:

Time is your friend

Time is the great equalizer.

To understand this in more detail, let’s have a look at the graph (2018.11.23) below from our good friends at Credential. From 1960 to 2015, we see the markets have had many ups and downs, but the average rate of return rises over time. They also point out that “markets continually bounce back from crisis.” Are we in a crisis with the pandemic? Yes. Is it likely the markets will bounce back?  Absolutely. So what can we learn from this?

  1. Long term investing produces the best average rate of return. Someone who started investing in 1990 will have gone through the same 2008 global recession as someone who invested in 2002. But as we can see, both people, if they remain invested, will still receive a profitable average rate of return by 2015.
  2. Starting to invest during a crisis often means the price of shares and stocks are low. This means you will be able to purchase more units for a lot cheaper than during times of economic growth and stability. If you’re already invested, the key is to not panic, remain focused on your long terms goals and remain invested. The worst thing you can do is pull out your investments before they have a chance to recover.

This image shows how the market quickly recovers and continues to grow after a crisis to help with investing.

*Image provided by Credential®. Issue Date: 2018.11.23

Rates of return: Average vs Fixed

You may be asking yourself: “What is so important about the average rate of return? Why not just place your money in a term deposit and guarantee a 1.5% return? Why not keep your money in a savings account?” For starters, the average rate of return for a mutual fund in Canada is between 6% – 7% on your original investment. This is dramatically better than that of a term deposit which is often much less than 2%. If you are planning to save for a long period of time then you will want to maximize your rate of return. One of the principle reasons for this is due to inflation. The average inflation rate in Canada is 2%. So if your retirement savings is making anything less than the rate of inflation (2%) you’re in trouble. If you find yourself in this category, we advise you to meet with a Financial Advisor as soon as possible.

That being said, term deposits and savings accounts have their place in a saving strategy. If you have some short term savings goals were you need access to your money within a few years then one of the these options may be the perfect fit. You will guarantee a return on your money in a couple years and you’ll shelter yourself from the ups and downs of the market; however you will not see nearly as high of a return on this investment. That is why these are great tools for short term saving goals (ie: saving for a trip, buying a new car). Either way, before you save, you should have a conversation with your advisor. If the primary goal of your savings is to have your money make money then a financial conversation needs to be one of the starting points for you.

Ready to invest, but don’t know where to begin?

When most people begin their journey with investments they often start with mutual funds. Mutual funds are often referred to as a “managed portfolio”. What this means is someone manages your portfolio of investments for you. While there are fees attached to mutual funds, there are many benefits. We’ve already discussed one benefit being the often higher rate of return. Other benefits include having a financial advisor to work with you and having multiple mutual funds to choose from to fit your savings goals and risk tolerance. Options include low risk mutual fund which give investors a more secure rate of return but there will be lower volatility in the investment. There are still ebbs and flows with the low risk fund, and your returns might not be as high, but they are often protected from market volatility due to the way the portfolio manager invests your money. If you have lots of time and don’t mind a higher level of risk, you can enter into a higher risk mutual fund. These have the opportunity to gain more return on your investment, however they are more prone to market volatility as the majority of your money will be invested in markets and securities versus things like government bonds. Again, the starting point will be to book an appointment to ask more about investing and mutual funds with a financial advisor and they’ll work with you to establish your risk tolerance before you leap.

What about Wealth Simple?

You may be reading this and asking yourself, “What about something like Wealth Simple? I see lots of commercials about them advertising low fees?” Essentially, Wealth Simple is a robo advisor company. This means it is a machine learning platform. There is no “portfolio manager” behind the scenes, but rather a robot. For those not looking for any advice or planning, this type of investment platform can be an option. Credit Unions have access to a similiar tool called VirtualWealth and can be found at www.virtualwealth.ca. I highly recommend speaking with a financial advisor before jumping into investments, especially high dollar ones. Using a solution like Wealth Simple is like buying/selling a house without a realtor. A financial advisor gives you the peace of mind that your big chunk of change is not going to be mismanaged and your bases are covered.

“I’ve always wanted to buy stocks in a specific company.”

For the bold and the brave, you may have a desire to buy stocks in a specific company, or you’ve seen the Questrade commercials and are curious what it is. Questrade is an online broker that allows you to register an account and buy and sell stocks directly. If you wanted to buy a single stock in Apple or Amazon, you could use an online broker platform. Credit unions have access to Qtrade Investor. Qtrade Investor has been the leading online broker in Canada for over 20 years! Visit www.qtrade.ca to learn more.

Similar to robo advice, there is no financial advisor or portfolio manager when purchasing stocks directly so that is why I say, “for the bold and the brave”. When it comes to buying stocks directly, you will want to have a good understanding of what you are doing, how the markets work, along with the tax implications and so forth. A financial advisor can help answer some of these  questions, but for the most part, you’ll be on your own. We advise most people who are interested in buying stocks directly to balance this with something more secure such as mutual funds. It’s never a good idea to put all of your eggs in one basket. If you drop your basket, your chances of breaking all of your eggs is much higher than having a couple of different holders.

In conclusion

We started with the question, “Should I invest during a pandemic?” I hope this blog has shown you that when it comes to investing you can never start too early.

The key is to start when you can, with as much as you can, as soon as you can.

Investing isn’t the goal, it’s the vehicle in which you reach your savings goals. If I haven’t said it enough, before investing, the best thing you can do is have a conversation with a financial advisor about your savings goals.

If you’d like to talk to someone about your savings goals give us a call at 1-800-667-7477 or, if you already have a trusted financial advisor, we encourage you to reach out to them directly and start the conversation.

I wish you all the best with your savings journey and if you are looking for some more relatable financial literacy tips, check out the rest of our blogs here.


Mutual funds are offered through Credential Asset Management Inc. Online brokerage services are offered through Qtrade Investor. Mutual funds and other securities are offered through Credential Securities. Qtrade Investor and Credential Securities are divisions of Credential Qtrade Securities Inc. Credential Securities and Qtrade are registered marks owned by Aviso Wealth Inc. VirtualWealth is a trade name of Credential Qtrade Securities Inc. The rate of return is used only to illustrate the effects of the compound growth rate and is not intended to reflect future values of the mutual fund or returns on investment in the mutual fund. The information contained in this report was obtained from sources believed to be reliable; however, we cannot guarantee that it is accurate or complete. This report is provided as a general source of information and should not be considered personal investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any mutual funds [and other securities]. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Credential Asset Management Inc., Credential Securities or Qtrade Investor.

 

What 3 Saskatchewan Businesses Learned From Navigating COVID-19

To say that this past year has led to financial uncertainty for many businesses and individuals would be an immense understatement. We virtually sat down with three local Saskatchewan businesses (22Fresh, Zu and Stone’s Throw) to learn how they are navigating COVID-19 and what they’ve learned through it all. After all, understanding your finances is the first step to gaining financial confidence and taking back control. 


A lot of stigma exists around talking about finances, specifically financial struggle. In fact, in a recent study we conducted, 63% of Saskatchewanians (it’s a technical term) say they aren’t comfortable talking about money with friends, family or co-workers. This past year disrupted everything we thought we knew leading to financial uncertainty for many. During times of struggle is when we need to rely on the support of others most, but this often isn’t the case with financial struggleIn the same study, we found that 29% of individuals say they find it embarrassing to ask for help with their finances which further enables the stigma.  

Before we jump in, I first want to introduce you to these three amazing businesses and their leaders: 

  1. Kip Simon, President & CEO of 22Fresh, a branded clothing and apparel manufacturer based in Saskatchewan.
  2. Albert Jame, Strategy Director of Zu, a Saskatoon based digital consultancy company focused on tech innovation and digital solutions.
  3. Kim Zacaruk, Owner of Stone’s Throw Coffee Collective, a local Regina coffee shop and café (or how Kim put it: “WHAT we do is community, kindness and making people feel welcome and part of something; coffee and food is just HOW we do that.”) 

At first glance, you might think these businesses have nothing in common, but when I sat down to talk with each of them I found there were a lot of similarities. No, not in the products they sell or services they offer, but in their experiences, emotions and fears of navigating uncertainty and how they responded. We took what we heard from each of them – the challenges, stories of resilience, learnings and success, and summarized it into four things you should know during times of financial certainty. Let’s get into it! 

Keep track of your money

Budgeting is a great tool for keeping track of your money. It empowers you to be in control by guiding your spending so you can understand where your money is coming and going. In times of financial uncertainty, this is especially important because where your money was once coming and going from may not be true anymore.  

 This was the case for 22Fresh:   

 “Right off the bat we knew we were going to be losing a few streams of revenue, so it was a matter of how we are going to survive off just one stream,” said Kip. Much of their business relied on wholesaling products to local storesmany of which were now closing, and custom team apparel, which was also no longer happeningThis meant a lot of budgeting and going over different scenarios to understand what they might look like two or three months down the road 

Kip continues, “… we had to pay attention not on a month-to-month basis, but day-to-day in order to weather this storm. But, if there is a silver lining, it was forcing us to get out of cruise control and really start doing a deep dive into our expenses, cost of goods sold and what amount of revenue we can survive off of in our current landscape.”

Minimize your expenses as much as possible

This can be easier said than done and often means the “fun stuff” gets put aside. However, COVID-19 made some of the decisions easier on us. With social gatherings restrictedthis meant saved costs from no events or parties (especially the ones we didn’t even want to go to in the first place). With people working from home, some businesses were able to save on operational costs of office spaces and are now realizing maybe they don’t need office space at all anymore.  

When we think about how this translates into personal finances, the decisions become a little more difficult. Albert shared perspective that really hit home for me, which was that we all need to learn to “accept our finances and love the things we have.”  

COVID-19 forced us to slow down, which although difficult, had positive impacts. When we are moving at full speed all the time, we don’t necessarily take the time to stop and think. This leads to impulse shopping and over-consumption. I like buying clothes (okay, I LOVE buying clothes) but our new reality has helped me realize that I often buy things just to buy them and not because I need them.  

So, I want to challenge you to stop and think: “Where could I minimize my expenses?” Take five minutes (after reading this blog, of course) and jot down 3-5 things you currently spend money on that you could likely live without. I challenge you to go one month without buying these things and see if this was a need or a habitual want. You might be surprised with your results! 

Don’t forget to focus on your mental well-being

COVID-19 disrupted our lives in many ways, both personally and professionally. Kip mentioned “I never had to think so deeply about whether or not this was the end of our company” which was likely the case for many other businesses. On top of the stress of trying to keep your business afloat, many people were working from home while also trying to homeschool or care for kids and were feeling isolated and anxious about not connecting with people in the ways we were used to. Heavy stuff. 

Kim shared “Our 24-year-old daughter had just moved to New Zealand and couldn’t get home. My parents were in the United States and I felt (and still do) a huge responsibility to staff and public safety, both physically and mentally and I wanted to lead with kindness and empathy.”  

That is a lot for one person to carry alone. A common response I heard from all three businesses was the importance of leaning on others for support: “It’s impossible to be everything, and there is no shame in reaching out and asking for help.” said Kip. It’s important to recognize what your strengths are and when you need to rely on the strengths and experience of others 

Build good financial habits

 It’s never too early or too late to start. As humans we seek gratification, but when building new habits, we don’t get gratification right away.” said Albert. “It’s progress and progress often looks like a bunch of little failures overtime, until one day when we get it right. But what’s important is that you start.” Ain’t that the truth.  

But building good financial habits starts with understanding. “It really is amazing if you take the time to dig in to understand your finances.” said Kip. For Kim and her team at Stone’s Throw, they have also learned a lot from their internal introspection: “We now have a better idea of revenue levels, customer eating and drinking habits, traffic patterns, and where we can save time to focus on other things.”  

Being comfortable is a scary place to be. Understanding and staying on top of your finances is what can make all the difference during challenging time. “Keep it simple, educate yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help” says Albert.  

Let’s talk

Understanding your finances is so much more than just knowing your income and expenses. It’s messy. There are emotions intertwined with every decision because it impacts our relationships. Now throw in a pandemic and it just became a whole lot messier. If there is one message you take from reading this blog, let it be this – start talking. Kip, Kim and Albert all made mention about the positive impact that asking for help and talking about their financial stress had on them. We all have our differences but this past year has taught us that we’re stronger together and are united by this shared struggle of the pandemic. Share your experiences, talk about money with your kids, ask for help from your financial advisor and don’t be afraid to rely on the support of others When you do this, it opens the door to understanding and taking the first step to improving your financial well-being.  

What Emergency Funding is Available for Businesses & Ag Producers

The COVID-19 pandemic is making a significant impact on the Canadian economy, especially with small and medium sized businesses. The federal and provincial governments have announced different support efforts to relieve businesses and agricultural producers during these anxious times. Let’s help you break down these different measures so that you can brave this storm and best protect your business’ financial well-being.

UPDATED: May 21, 2020


Due to the nature of COVID-19, how it spreads, and how self-isolation is the best way to fight against it, businesses across Canada are facing difficult decisions. Over the last week, many provinces and municipalities have announced measures to stop the spread of the virus that resulted in business closures and massive layoffs. The Government of Canada has also announced multiple initiatives to support businesses to provide economic stability during this time. Agricultural producers are also feeling the weight of the pandemic as they approach the beginning of spring seeding and how to get their goods from a difficult 2019 growing year to market. Most of the information below and how to apply for benefits from the Government of Canada can be found here.

Supports for Businesses

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

Canadian businesses, including non-profit organizations and charities, whose March revenue has decreased by at least 15% due to COVID-19 and facing employee layoffs can access a temporary wage subsidy. Business owners can receive 75% of wages per employee to a maximum of $58,700 during the 3-month period, to a maximum of $847/week per employee. These payments will be back dated to March 15, 2020. Businesses will have to apply for the program through the My Business Account portal on the Canada Revenue Agency’s website. They will also need to apply each month. To qualify, they will need to prove that their revenues have fallen at least 15% in March, as compared to January and February’s revenues.For non-profits or charities where revenue verification will be more difficult, may be able to access the subsidy by proving donations have reduced. However, the specific details for these organizations is still being worked out.

The 10% wage subsidy that the government announced earlier this month is still in effect. Small businesses can continue to claim the 10% wage subsidy, to a maximum of $25,000 or $1,375/employee. Businesses do not need to have experienced a decrease in revenue for this and can access this support immediately by adjusting the remittances of income tax that they withhold from employee pay. If a business is already receiving the 10% wage subsidy, they can also receive the CEWS, however the amount they receive will  be adjusted down accordingly so that they receive a maximum of 75% subsidy between both programs.

To create some balance between employers and employees, the Government of Saskatchewan will allow businesses to not have to provide notice or pay in lieu in the event of a public emergency when the layoff is 12 weeks or less during a 16-week period. Additionally, if an employee is laid off for more than 12 weeks in a 16-week period, they will be considered terminated and entitled to access federal employment insurance programs.

Businesses also qualify for payment deferrals on loans, skip-a-payment, and interest only payment plans. You are encouraged to reach out to your financial institution to determine what supports are available to you and what makes the most sense with your financial situation.

Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance

The Government of Canada has announced the Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, in co-operation with Canada’s Provinces to provide much needed commercial rent relief to small businesses during this unprecedented time. This program will lower rent by 75% for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19, in co-operation with the property owner. The program provides commercial property owners access to forgivable loans if they cover 50% of the rent payments for eligible small business tenants.

The commercial property owner must agree to reduce the tenants rent by 75% for the months of April, May and June under a Rent Forgiveness Agreement. The property owner would not be able to evict the tenant under the agreement, and the tenant would cover the remaining 25% of rent owed. Tenants must be paying less than $50,000 a month in rent, have ceased operations or experienced a 70% decline in revenues due to COVID-19. Non-profit and charitable organizations also qualify for the program.

To apply and find more information, visit the CMHC website.

Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment

The Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment program provides much needed financial assistance to Saskatchewan’s small businesses that had to close or reduce operations due to the public health order during COVID-19.

The payment can be used for any purpose, including covering fixed costs or the costs associating with re-opening after the public health order has lifted restrictions. Payments are based of 15% of the businesses’ monthly revenue in April 2019 or February 2020 to a maximum of $5,000. Seasonal businesses 15% payments are based off the average monthly sales revenue for their 2019 operational months.

To be eligible, a Saskatchewan business or not-for-profit must:

  • Have been carrying on business in Saskatchewan on February 29, 2020;
  • Have been ordered to temporarily close or curtail operations through a COVID-19 public health order;
  • Have less than 500 employees:
    • Seasonal businesses:
      • In the year before the COVID-19 public health order; or
      • When averaged for the 3 years before the year in which the COVID-19 public health order;
    • Attest that they:
      • have experienced a loss in sales revenue from business activities due to a COVID-19 public health order;
      • plan to reopen operations following the cancellation of the COVID-19 public health order; and
      • have not received any payments or amounts from any other sources, including insurance, to replace or compensate for the loss of sales revenue other than amounts from other government assistance programs; and
    • Apply on or before July 31, 2020.

Applications can be completed on the Government of Saskatchewan website.

Business Tax Filing

Like the measures taken for filing personal income taxes, businesses will be able to defer the payment of income tax until September 1, 2020. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts owing. The Canada Revenue Agency will also pause most of its audit interactions for businesses for the next 4 weeks. For businesses requiring assistance understanding your tax obligations, help will be administered over the phone or through webinar.

Businesses and self-employed individuals can defer payments of the Goods and Services (GST)/ Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) until June 30, 2020. Businesses will also be able to defer customs duties owing on imports until June 30, 2020. Details about remittance schedules and how they qualify can be found here.

The Saskatchewan Government is also providing relief for you if you own a business and are unable to submit your Provincial Sales Tax (PST) remittance over the next three-months. You can submit a request for relief from penalty and interest charges here. Like the federal government, they are also pausing audit and compliance programs for businesses.

Credit Services

Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)

This emergency loan program will allow businesses to access interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to cover operating costs while revenue is down due to COVID-19. Contact your business advisor or financial institution to learn more about the CEBA and what it means for your business.

What is the CEBA loan?

  • $40,000 interest-free loan to help you cover operating costs you were not able to defer because of COVID-19
  • $10,000 (25%) of the $40,000 loan is eligible for complete forgiveness if $30,000 is repaid on or before December 31, 2022
  • If the loan cannot be repaid by December 31, 2022 it can be converted into a 3-year loan with an interest rate of 5%
  • Once your loan application has been reviewed and submitted the process for funding will take up to 7 days from completion.

How does the CEBA loan work?

  • The loan will be funded as a $40,000 term loan, 0% interest and no payments until December 31,2022
  • No interest will apply until January 1, 2023
  • Beginning January 1, 2023, interest accrues on the balance of the term loan at the rate of 5% per annum, payable monthly on the last day of the month
  • If you pay 75% of the balance of the term loan on or before December 31, 2022, the remaining balance of your term loan will be forgiven. For example, if your balance is $40,000 on January 1, 2021 and you repay $30,000 on or before December 31, 2022, the remaining $10,000 will be forgiven
  • If you do not repay the 75% of the balance of the term loan on or before December 31, 2022, the full loan balance and all accrued and unpaid interest will be due and payable on December 31, 2025.

What’s the eligibility criteria?

The eligibility criteria are as follows, per the Government of Canada’s requirements:

  • You are a Canadian operating company (ie. not a holding company) registered and in operation on or before March 1, 2020
  • Your Annual payroll expense is between $20,000 and $1.5 million, as evidenced on your 2019 T4 Summary of Renumeration Paid (T4SUM). If you cannot locate your T4SUM contact Revenue Canada for reissue
  • A 15-digit Canada Revenue Agency Number also shown on your T4SUM
  • Conexus is your primary financial institution – meaning your everyday business banking account and cash management activities are held with Conexus, and opened on or before March 1, 2020
    • If your everyday business banking account is held elsewhere, please apply for funding through the Financial Institution that holds your primary Business Operating Account
  • Your account must be in Good Standing as an existing member

Expanded eligibility as of May 19, 2020

The criteria for access to the CEBA Loan Program has been expanded to include businesses with sole proprietors, those that rely on contractors or family owned businesses that pay employees through dividends. To be eligible, applicants with payroll less than $20,000 must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a business operating account at a participating financial institution
  • Have a Canada Revenue Agency business number
  • Filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return
  • Have eligible non-deferrable expenses such as rent, property taxes, utilities and insurance that equal between $40,000 and $1.5 million

Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) Co-Loan

On March 27th, the Federal Government announced the BDC Co-Lending Program to support Canadian businesses of all sizes that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.  Eligible applicants can access up to $6.25 million CAD (max loans amount dependent on business size) in loans to cover operating expenses such as rent and payroll and working capital needs such as inventory.  The loan will be jointly funded by BDC and your financial institution.

 

Business with less than $1 Million in Annual Revenue

Businesses with $1-50 Million in Annual Revenue

Businesses with over $50 Million in Annual Revenue

Up to $312,500 Up to $3.125 million

Up to $6.25 million

How does the BDC Co-Lending Program work?

  • Eligible business members can apply for financing to support their operational and liquidity needs
  • Term Loan
  • First 12 months to be interest only

What’s the eligibility criteria?

  • Been a member with your financial institution as of March 1, 2020
  • Been a viable business as of March 1, 2020 prior to COVID-19 impact
  • Meet the necessary requirements that will form part of the application process

More information can be found on the BDC website here.

To further ensure Canada’s businesses have access to credit services during this time, the Government of Canada is relaxing its parameters for certain funding:

  • The Canada Account ensures Canadian Exporters have access to loans, guarantees, and insurance policies during this time.
  • The Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) is allowing the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada to support small and medium businesses with an additional $10 billion. In addition, BCAP and BDC will work with private sector lenders to ensure credit solutions are offered for individual businesses, specifically businesses that operate in the oil and gas, air transportation, and tourism sectors.
  • Canada’s individual banks will be able to access $300 billion for the economy by lowering the Domestic Stability Buffer of risk-weighted assets by 1.25%. This is in addition to the Bank of Canada reducing its interest rate to 0.75% to support the economy. Further reductions to the interest rate are expected, but not known at this time.

More details on market support measures taken by the Government of Canada can be found here.

Export Development Canada Business Credit Availability Program Guarantee

As part of the federal government’s new $65 billion Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP), Conexus Credit Union and Export Development Canada (EDC) are partnering to provide small-and medium-sized Canadian businesses with financing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Access the credit you need to cover payroll and other operating costs during this global health crisis. The EDC BCAP Guarantee provides businesses with up to $6.25 million in credit to cover operational costs like payroll and rent. Proceeds from the BCAP-supported loan cannot be used to repay or refinance existing debt (further restrictions apply to other non-operational costs). Export sales are not required to qualify for the program.

EDC fees related to this guarantee will be deferred for the first six months, giving some short-term relief to your business. EDC will provide a guarantee to Conexus Credit Union on 80% of the value of your loan. By sharing risk with EDC, we can help your company access the financing it needs. Note that the guarantee is to our institution, not your business, so you remain responsible for the full value of the loan.

For more information on the loan and the eligibility criteria, contact your business advisor.

Information can also be found on the EDC website.

Regional Relief and Recovery Fund

The Government of Canada has announced additional funding for small and medium businesses who need additional relief due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) provides $962 million in relief funding delivered through regional development agencies. Specifically, $304 million is allocated to Western Economic Diversification Canada to assist Western Canadian businesses specifically in the tourism sector.

The objective of the RRRF is to assist Western Canadian businesses that do not qualify for other programs such as the Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA) or the Community Futures Emergency Loan Program. The RRRF will support businesses in two ways:

  • Provides up to $40,000 in repayable contributions to businesses that are not eligible to access other federal support programs. Businesses that receive funds from the RRRF and repay 75% of the contribution (up to $30,000) on or before December 31, 2022 will result in forgiveness of 25% of the contribution (up to $10,000).
  • Provide up to $1,000,000 in repayable contributions to businesses that can demonstrate a meaningful contribution to the Western Canadian economy and are experiencing liquidity issues. These companies may not have accessed other Government of Canada relief programs, or may have accessed them, but require additional funding to mitigate cash flow pressures. This contribution is fully repayable.

Further details, including eligibility criteria for each stream, and how to apply, can be found here.

Examples of business that are eligible to apply to the RRRF:

  • Pre-revenue firms (e.g. a company that has not had any sales to date)
  • Businesses that do not have salaried employees (e.g. a company with a workforce of contract employees)
  • Businesses with no payroll that do pay their owners a salary (e.g. a company that pays its owners through dividends)

Examples of businesses that are not eligible to apply to the RRRF:

Applications are being accepted through Western Economic Development Canada and can be found here.

Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility

The Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) is a program to support large employers through COVID-19. The program provides short-term liquidity assistance in the form of interest-bearing term loans through the Canada Enterprise Emergency Funding Corporation, a subsidiary of the Canada Development Investment Corporation. The assistance is available to large Canadian employers who meet the following criteria:

  • Make a significant impact on Canada’s economy by:
    • Having significant operations in Canada
    • Supporting a significant workforce in Canada
  • Have annual revenues of $300 million or more
  • Require a minimum loan of $60 million
  • Have never been found guilty of tax evasion

Assistance is available to large for-profit enterprises in all industries, except those who operate in the financial sector, as well as certain not-for-profit businesses. They must commit to minimizing loss of employment by sustaining their business operations through COVID-19 and provide an overall plan to return to financial stability.

For full information on LEEFF, visit the Canada Development Investment Corporation fact sheet here.

Canada Summer Jobs Program

On April 8th, the federal government announced changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program to do more for students and small businesses that rely on the program to deliver essential services. The program creates almost 70,000 jobs for Canadians aged 15 to 30. Temporary changes to the program for this year include:

  • Increase to the wage subsidy so that employees can receive up to 100% of the minimum hourly wage for each employee
  • End date for employment is now February 28, 2021
  • Employers can adapt their activities to support essential services
  • Hiring staff on a part-time basis

Supports for Agricultural Producers

Farmers and the agri-food sector will be supported by Farm Credit Canada and an additional $5 billion dollars provided by the Government of Canada. You are encouraged to contact Farm Credit Canada to discuss the supports available to you.

Eligible farmers who have an outstanding Advanced Payments Program (APP) loan that comes due on or before April 30 will receive an automatic stay of default, giving farmers an additional 6 months to repay the loan. Those farmers with outstanding interest free loans, under the $1 million cap, can also apply for an additional $100,000 interest free portion for the 2020-21 year.

Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund

Farm Credit Canada will be running the Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund, providing agribusinesses and producers much needed relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. $100 million dollars will be available in the form of convertible debt investments and other flexible financing options. Companies that have experienced business disruption can apply for up to $10 million.

Fish Harvesters Benefit

Fish harvesters facing a 25% drop in income due to COVID-19, will have access to $470 million in relief from the Federal Government. The Fish Harvesters Benefit covers up to 75% of losses to a maximum of $10,000. Additional relief in the form of non-repayable grants will be available and the rules for Employment Insurance claims in 2021 will be changed to reflect previous years income.

AgriRecovery Set-Aside Program

The Saskatchewan Government announced an additional $5 million dollars for participation in the AgriRecovery Set-Aside Program, supporting producers in the livestock industry that need to hold their livestock back from markets. Saskatchewan Livestock producers will be able to access a total of $12.5 million under the program. 40% of the program is funded by the Saskatchewan Government, with the remaining 60% funded by the Federal Government. The program will be delivered to Saskatchewan producers through Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation.

Western Livestock Price Insurance Program

The Western Livestock Price Insurance Program (WLPIP) supports livestock producers by reducing the price of livestock insurance purchased through WLPIP. $5 million is being provided by the Saskatchewan Government to offset the premiums producers are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 40% of the increased premium costs, back to February 25, 2020 will be covered by the government. Additionally, the deadline for obtaining calf price insurance through WLPIP is being extended to June 18, from May 28, 2020. Premium adjustments will be in place until September 1, 2020, and reviewed at that time.

Producers may also qualify for payment deferrals on loans, skip-a-payment, and interest only payment plans. You are encouraged to reach out to your financial institution to determine what supports are available to you and what makes the most sense with your financial situation.

Breaking Down the Emergency Funds for COVID-19: Individuals & Families

The COVID-19 crisis has produced a lot of federal and provincial government action in order to support Canadians through these unsettling times. However, unless you are already familiar with these supports, a lot of the terms and relief options can sound intimidating and may go unused if you do not understand them. Let’s break down the different emergency fund options for individuals and families, the qualifications for each and how you can utilize them to protect your financial well-being.

UPDATED: May 21, 2020


Over the last week, there have been countless announcements about financial support for both families and businesses across Canada. The increase in information can be a lot to take in when you are worrying about your job, family, and finances. Most of the information below and how to apply for benefits from the Government of Canada can be found here. I’ve done my best to compile and simplify the essential information so you can understand how local governments in our province and the provincial and federal governments are stepping up to help Canadians.

GST Credit

If you are a low-income single adult or family, you will receive a special top-up payment under the Goods and Services Tax (GST). This will double the maximum annual GST credit you will receive for the 2019-2020 benefit year. Payments will increase by almost $400 for single low-income adults, and almost $600 for couples. The one-time payment will arrive in early May 2020.

Canada Child Benefit

If you are entitled to the Canada Child Benefit, you will see payments increase for the 2019-20 year by $300 per child. On average, this will mean an additional $550 increase for families. This will be issued on the May 20, 2020 CCB payment.

Students

Student Loans

Canada Student Loans payments will be deferred for a period of 6 months. Payments will be paused, and no interest will accrue on the amount owing. If you also have student loans with the Government of Saskatchewan, a 6-month loan payment deferral has also been implemented, mirroring the federal relief. Student loans from your financial institution may also qualify for a skip-a-payment plan, but you should contact your financial institution to find out the options available to you and what makes the most sense with your financial situation.

Canada Summer Jobs Program

Students across Canada rely on the Canada Summer Jobs Program to find meaningful employment during the summer and develop critical skills to transition into the labour market. The 2020 program has been adjusted to allow flexibility to both applicants and employers in the following ways:

  • End date for employment is now February 28, 2021
  • Employers can adapt their activities to support essential services
  • Hiring can now include part-time positions
Canadian Emergency Student Benefit

On April 22, the Federal Government announced the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit which provides funding for Canadian students who do not qualify for the CERB benefit. This provides $1,250/month to students through the months of May to August. The amount increases to $2,000/month if you have a disability, have dependents or provide care for others. Students who are working and make less than $1,000/month also qualify for the benefit.

Eligibility criteria is as follows:

  • You have not received the CERB or Employment Insurance benefits
  • You are a Canadian citizen, registered Indian, permanent resident or protected person
  • You are studying in Canada or abroad
  • You are enrolled in a post-secondary educational program or completed your post-secondary program December 2019 or later, or completed or expect to complete high school in 2020 and have applied for a post-secondary program that starts before February 1, 2021
  • You are unable to work due to COVID-19 or your income is less than $1,000/month due to the pandemic

Applications can be submitted here and need to be submitted every four weeks. You can receive your money faster by signing up for direct deposit through your My CRA Account.

Canada Student Service Grant

The Federal Government also announced funding of up to $5,000 for students who choose to volunteer instead of work during this time. The grant depends on the amount of volunteer hours but can provide between $1,000 -$5,000 towards tuition for the 20-21 year.

Other Supports

Students will also see their Canada Student Grants double for all eligible full-time students to up to $6,000 and up to $3,600 for part-time students in 2020-21 school year. The Canada Student Grants for Students with Permanent Disabilities and Students with Dependents are also being doubled.

Funding will be increased by $75.2 million to support First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nation students, although there is no information about how that assistance will be handed out.

Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement Payment

Seniors who receive Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) payments from the Federal Government will receive up to $500 in a one-time payment to offset increased costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seniors will see an additional $300 for OAS and $200 for GIS automatically applied on the next payment they receive.

RRIF and RPP Withdrawals

Withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) are being reduced by 25% for the 2020 year. This also applies if you are receiving benefit payments from a defined Registered Pension Plan (RPP). You can view the minimum withdrawal percentage as of 2018 here.

Mortgages

The Canadian Government is providing $50 billion for the Ensured Mortgage Protection Program to support Canadians who are affected by COVID-19. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and other mortgage insurers are offering payment deferrals and special payment arrangements effective immediately on all CMHC insured mortgages.

In addition, many financial institutions in Canada are committed to working with customers to provide flexible solutions to your financial needs. This includes payment deferral on mortgages, auto loans, and personal loans for up to 6 months. You are encouraged to contact your financial institution to better understand your options during this time and what makes the most sense with your financial situation.

Utility Deferrals

Saskatchewan Crown Corporations that operate utilities in the province will offer a zero-interest deferral on all utility payments for a period of 6 months.

SaskTel – waiving data overage charges, offering news and family channels for free

SaskPower – stopped active collections and won’t be limiting power supply to customers

SaskEnergy – deferring payments and not limiting natural gas supply

City Supports

Specific measures for major municipalities in Saskatchewan can be found here:

Saskatoon     |     Regina      |      Prince Albert      |     Moose Jaw      |     Humboldt

Groceries

If you’ve visited a grocery store in the last two weeks, you’ll know that essentials like toilet paper, bleach, and disinfecting wipes are scarce. The major grocery stores in Canada have assured the public that the supply chain to keep stores stocked is strong. This has also been supported by the United States and Canadian governments’ commitment to keep the borders open to commercial traffic to ensure the flow of these goods.

In addition, major grocers have also committed to maintaining the price of goods instead of increasing prices as we usually see with an increase in demand. The President and CEO of Loblaws released this statement.

Childcare

The Government of Saskatchewan has announced that childcare facilities that are located within Saskatchewan’s schools will be re-purposed to assist with the childcare demands of health-care workers and essential services workers. This includes those employed in healthcare, child services, and emergency services. Read more here.

Personal Income Tax Filing

The date for filing personal income taxes for the 2019-20 year has been extended to June 1, 2020. However, to receive the new Canada Child Benefit payment and the GST one-time payment, you are encouraged to file your personal income taxes as soon as possible to ensure the amounts you will receive for the 2020-2021 year are correct. The Canada Child Benefit and GST payments are based off your 2019 taxes, and the amounts take effect in July 2020.

If you file your 2019 personal income tax, and owe money, you have until September 1, 2020 to make a payment on the taxes you owe. No interest will be accrued on any balances owing.

Where it applies, electronic signatures will be recognized instead of in-person signatures, to encourage social distancing. Measures will also be taken to encourage the public to file your income tax electronically and they have provided help with understanding your personal income tax over phone and webinar.

Trusts that operate on a December 31, 2019 taxation year, such as family trusts, have until May 30, 2020 to submit your 2019 trust income tax returns. This is extended from the March 30, 2020 deadline.

Employment Insurance

If you qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) Sick Leave Benefits, the requirements for EI are as follows:

Unemployed due to work closure?

REQUIREMENT TO QUALIFY: 700 hours worked in the last 52 weeks

  • Your employer will need to submit a Record of Employment to the Government of Canada.
  • The one week waiting period remains in effect.
Unemployed due to self-quarantine?

REQUIREMENT TO QUALIFY: 600 hours worked in the last 52 weeks

  • You do not need to provide a Record of Employment or doctor’s note.
  • The one week waiting period is waived

If you qualify for either of these situations, you can apply here. You can also call to apply, but wait times will be much higher than normal.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will provide up to $2,000 a month for the next four months if you don’t qualify for Employment Insurance. Administered through the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA), you may qualify if you are one of the following:

  • self-employed, quarantined, or sick with COVID-19
  • self-employed and caring for a family member who is sick with COVID-19
  • a parent of children and cannot work due to school or daycare closures, whether you qualify for Employment Insurance or not
  • have not received any income in the last 14 days including provincial or federal benefits
  • have not quit your job voluntarily
  • have earned $5,000 in income in the last 12 months or 2019, including benefit payments from Maternity or Parental leaves
  • facing reduced income due to the pandemic, working less than 10 hours a week
If you are facing unemployment and don’t qualify for EI:

You will not need to provide a doctor’s note to access these benefits and are encouraged to sign up to receive the benefit through direct deposit. The application will be available in early April, and applicants will need to confirm they meet the requirements when they apply. You will also need to reconfirm your eligibility every four weeks. You can apply in one of two ways:

  • Applying online
  • Calling toll-free at 1-833-381-2725

You can speed up your application by signing up for direct deposit through the Canada Revenue Agency and online banking. More information on how to sign up through Conexus online banking can be found here. When applying through My CRA or My Service Canada, you will need a secure PIN code. If you feel you qualify for this benefit and do not have access to either of these accounts, you can request your PIN here. It can take up to 10 business days before you receive it in the mail, so requesting it now ensures you’re ready to apply when the application opens.

It is important to note, that if you receive the CERB benefit, you have to re-apply every four weeks to continue to receive the benefit if you need it. The CERB program provides relief until October 2, 2020. If you are still facing unemployment after that, you can apply for Employment Insurance.

EI Work Sharing Program

If you’ve agreed to reduce your normal working hours because of your employer’s efforts to curb the impact of COVID-19, you can also take advantage of the EI Work Sharing program. This provides Employment Insurance benefits to you if you’re still employed but working less than you normally would. In order to qualify for these benefits, you will have needed to work 76 weeks (an increase in the standard 52 weeks).

The Government of Saskatchewan also passed legislation ensuring that if you need time off work because you are sick with COVID-19 or are required to care for a family member who is sick, you will not experience job loss. Even if you have been working with your employer for less than 13 weeks, you qualify for job protection under this legislation.

Self-Isolation Support Program

If you have contracted COVID-19, have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, or recently returned from international travel, you are required by law to self-isolate for 14 days. In this instance, the Government of Saskatchewan has announced the Self-Isolation Support Program that provides you with $450 a week, for a maximum of two weeks as income support. To qualify, you must also meet the following criteria:

  • you are ineligible for compensation from your employer through sick or vacation leave
  • you do not have access to private insurance to cover labour disruptions
  • you are not covered by the other federal income support programs that have been announced

Saskatchewan Temporary Wage Subsidy

The Government of Saskatchewan announced a $56 million program to provide a temporary wage subsidy to those who are currently working with vulnerable citizens. Those workers who are earning less than $2,500/month can access an additional $400/month for up to 16 weeks. The 16-week period is retroactive to March 15 and runs until July 4.

Workers who are considered essential workers, working as caregivers, cooks and cleaners in senior-care facilities, including private care homes and home care are eligible for the subsidy. Those who work in the same positions, caregivers, cooks and cleaners in licensed childcare facilities, group homes and emergency shelters are also included.

Applications will be accepted online, and more information can be found on the government website here.

“Ouch, My Budget!” – Tips for Getting Your Finances Back on Track

When the joy and excess of the holiday season fades, you might be left with a seriously depleted bank account or a bulging credit card statement. When the bills are piled as high as the presents were under the tree – what do you do?


Blue Monday got you down?

Whether it’s after an expensive holiday season, unexpected expense, or from simply getting a bit too lax about your money, here are some main strategies to get you back on track.

Reduce: Your Spending

This is probably the most important tip. Reducing the amount of money going out will help you cover your debt, get back to saving, or whatever your goal is. I find it helpful to list out the expenses in your life that you would classify as needs (housing, groceries, bill payments, transportation, etc.), and those that are wants (eight different streaming services, eating out every night, new clothes, etc.). Then, you can see what can be reduced. Maybe you only really use one streaming service regularly, or only during new seasons of your favourite show. It seems small but these monthly fees add up fast and furious.

 Modify: Your Behaviours

Do you find yourself automatically heading for the drive-through or coffee shop every morning out of habit? It’s time to modify your behaviour to push yourself toward saving rather than spending. Start adding bagels to your grocery list and pop one in the toaster before you head to work or take a different route that avoids your favourite stops. You can also incentivize yourself toward better financial habits. For example, you could charge yourself a fee (that goes into your savings) every time you make an unnecessary purchase or reward yourself for meeting savings goals.

My personal favorite that holds me accountable is to keep a running list on my phone of any purchases that I would have made if I wasn’t making an active attempt to save. For instance, if I typically would grab a morning coffee on my way into work and I successfully avoid the temptation, I will add $3.00 to my running total. It can scale all the way up to larger purchases as well. You know when you are trying on some clothes and you know that you don’t really need the item but would have likely bought it anyway? If you can push past the urge to whip out the credit card, you can add this to your running tally and before you know it – you’ll have a nice chunk of change saved and a note on your phone that applauds your impulse control and saving behaviour.

Add: Routine, Automation, & Income

Saving doesn’t always mean denying yourself of your favorite things! Both routine and automation are your best savings friends. Routine can be things like meal-prepping or taking your cash tips to the bank every week. Automation can be automatic bill payments or savings contributions that you don’t even need to think about. Just make sure before you automate, that your budget consistently allows for that money to come right out of your account. The final thing that you can add is income. See if there’s a way for you to use your skills, talents, or time to make a bit more money to pay down that debt or add to your savings. For me, it’s running a mini Varage Sale empire that allows me to create closet space while making some spare cash on the side.

All of these tips are meant to help you minimize stress and get back to a more comfortable financial place. Hopefully you see one or two that you know are do-able for you.

The Gift Of Goals & How To Reach Them

Tis’ the season for spending.  If it’s not school textbooks and parking passes, then it’s hockey fees and new skates for the kids. If you’re like me, you’ve already caught the holiday fever and you’re shopping for gifts and baking supplies. Among all this spending on others during this time of year there is one person we forget to include – ourselves. It’s important to make sure we are giving ourselves the gift of time and effort by setting up some of our own financial goals.


Make a List. Check it Twice.

Setting financial goals and how you plan to achieve them is an essential part of financial literacy. But how do you get started?

The easiest way to get started is by making a list. This study on goal setting found that we are 42% more likely to achieve our goals when we write them down. Don’t let bad hand writing stop you, writing down your goals can come in many forms; write in a notebook, type it into the notes section on your phone or save a spreadsheet. Don’t be afraid to get creative! What works well for me is to attach sticky notes on the fridge beside my grocery list. I find that with the amount of times I open the fridge, I’m constantly being reminded of my financial goals and it really helps when you are taking inventory of what you need to buy for groceries.

Your financial goals and how you plan to attack them are unique to you, so why wouldn’t the way you write them down be?  If all it takes to get some motivation to increase your chances of achieving your goals is by writing down a list then that is ink put to good use!

I’m also a big list person and to show you how serious I am about them,  I am going to give you some tips I’ve learned for setting financial goals in, you guessed it – a list!

Try These Tips!

Create SMART goals:

Setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely gives you a sense of direction, helps you organize and track your progress.

Set ‘sub goals’:

Achieving a long term goal can seem overwhelming when you look at it as a whole. Break it down by setting smaller goals that contribute to the long term. Achieving these help you see the progress you are making and keep up the motivation to continue working towards the larger goal. We all know there are times we need a little extra motivation so it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate achieving the smaller goals along the way.

Share your goals:

Sharing is caring right? By telling a friend or a family member our goals helps motivate us and holds us accountable. I might be slightly more competitive than the average person, but telling others makes me want to do anything not to fail, not only for myself but for them too. The same study referenced above showed that over 70% of participants who shared their progress on their goals with a friend actually accomplished or made significant steps toward accomplishing their goals. Bring on the goal gossip!

Speak to a financial advisor:

When in doubt, speak to someone who helps set financial goals for a living – a financial advisor. They are able to provide advice and different solutions you may have never thought of. They will also be a cheerleader in your corner and hold you accountable in your progress.

Check and cheer:

Make sure you monitor your progress, keep an eye on your current status and be open to adapting as your needs change. When you do reach that goal (big or small) – CELEBRATE! You’ve put a lot of time, preparation and thought into getting yourself into a better position financially so celebrate that feeling when you’ve saved enough for a hot vacation and can still afford groceries! For me, one of the best feelings I’ve had was when I was finally able to put a down payment on my house while leaving enough budget to furnish the place. Trust me – it’s worth it!


Now that you have the tools you need it’s up to you to get started! There is no better time than now to give yourself the gift of financial goal setting, especially during the high spend season!

In the spirit of sharing, we want to hear what tips have worked for you with your financial goal setting? Help the rest of us out!

The Key To Basic Savings

 Savings. We all know we should have them, but it’s hard. We’ve got bills to pay, lives to lead, and we’re bombarded every day with cool new stuff we could buy. So how exactly do you become one of those people with savings?


The “End of the Month” Trap

You’ve been there, right? “I’ll save whatever money is left over at the end of the month. Of course I will!” No. You won’t. Almost none of us can manage this strategy. You need to build your savings into your budget, and they need to come off your paycheque first, or after essential bills. Put that money somewhere that isn’t your chequing account. Most credit unions and financial institutions offer automatic savings programs you can set up so that you don’t even have to remember to save, it just happens. If you set it up so that the money comes out of your account the same day you get paid, it’s like it was never there at all.

How Much to Save

Where do you even start? A good amount to start with is 10% of your monthly earnings at least once every three months. So, if you make $2,000 per month after tax, you should be saving $200 every three months (about $67 each month or $17 each week). If you can save more, that’s great – but this is a great jumping off point that can help you get started with good savings behaviour.

Find Your Motivation

If you’ve struggled to save money, it can be helpful to have a goal in mind. An emergency fund is a good goal. What does that even mean? How much was your last big car repair or other unexpected expense? Start with a goal of saving that much. Another excellent goal is three months of living expenses. Imagine how comfortable you could be knowing that you can support yourself during a challenging time in your life such as job loss, injury or a family emergency. Every little bit matters, so don’t be afraid to start small.

Keep it Visible

Whether it’s a jar you stash your tips in, or a savings account, make sure you can see that money without difficulty. Watching that number rise or that jar fill up will help you stay motivated and see the progress you’re making, even if you feel like you’re only saving a tiny bit each month. To remove the temptation to spend, it is a good idea to regularly transfer your jar savings into a savings account.

Start Today

The best time to start saving was whenever you first got an allowance or income … the second-best time is today! Open a savings account or get a jar and put five bucks in there. Start with that and start today. Make saving a habit and you’ll be rewarded with lower stress and a comfortable future where you can handle a lot more with your financial safety net. Start with these easy tips and soon you’ll be one of those people with savings.


What savings strategy to you swear by? List it below!