Could your cosmetics be bad for you?

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Most people are concerned about their food intake. A lot is written and said about what we should be eating, what we should avoid, what is “good”, what is “bad” etc..etc…

But, what about the stuff we put on our bodies, namely moisturizer, soap, shampoo, make-up?

Because it is for sale doesn’t necessary mean it is good for you or safe.

LOOSEY-GOOSEY REGULATIONS

Shocking? I know. In North America, regulations are minimal and losely enforced. I have lived here for 12 years and I have yet to hear about a beauty product being recalled because it was deemed unsafe.

Yet, a lot of cosmetics contain components that shouldn’t be in there in the first place. These components are well-known to cause allergies and act as hormone-disruptors.

I recently did a mass clean-up of my bathroom cabinets, after educating myself about some dangers of our everyday cosmetics. Here are some tips.

LESS IS MORE

Cosmetics companies are very good at convincing us we “need” one product for each part of our bodies. We “need” day-cream, night-cream, lip balm, make-up remover, hand-cream, foot-cream, body lotion, eye-cream, neck-cream….the list is endless.

This is simply not true. Using too many products will be ineffective and will result in an “overload” on your skin. It will also increase the risk of allergic reaction. Not to mention the strain on your bank account.

You can replace all of the above by coconut oil, which is 100% natural and way cheaper. Both your skin and your wallet will thank you.

THE FEWER INGREDIENTS THE BETTER

Have you noticed the sheer number of ingredients on many beauty products? The more ingredients, the more processed the product is. Chances it contains “scary stuff” that shouldn’t go anywhere near your skin.

It is also best to choose a product that does not have an extended shelf-life, ideally it should be between 6 months and 1 year.

INGREDIENTS TO AVOID

Unless you are a chemist, the list of ingredients in your beauty products most likely sounds like a foreign language to you. Here is what to avoid:

  • BHT & BHA: hormone-disruptors; possible carcinogens. Banned in Europe, not in Canada.
  • DEA ingredients: allergens
  • Phthalates: whether as a single word or chain ones. Hormonal disruptors; potential cause of birth defects.
  • Formaldehyde: allergen; carcinogen
  • Parabens: whether as a single word or chain words. Hormone- disruptors.
  • Fragrance/Parfum: companies are not required to disclose the composition of fragrance/parfum. Allergen. Possible hormonal disruptors.
  • PEGs: carcinogen
  • Petrolatum (petroleum): Allergen; carcinogen
  • Siloxanes: hormonal disruptors
  • Triclosan and triclocarban: these are like pesticides. Yikes! Disrupt thyroid function.

If you want to use safe cosmetics – I bet you do!-, you can check EWG Skin Deep.

My health is my most precious asset

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I have had some health issues lately, requiring quick action on my part. It also put things in perspective, and not just heatlh-wise.

OUR HEALTH LARGELY DETERMINES HOW WE LIVE OUR LIVES

When we are not doing well, whether on a temporary or chronic basis, there are many things we cannot or no longer can do. Physical ailments can impact our mind and conversely.

It may cause us to move-out of our home, relocate, be bedridden, switch to part-time work or quit our job altogether.

OUR HEALTH IMPACTS OUR PERSONAL FINANCES

Medical treatments are costly, and more so if they are not covered by public or private healthcare providers.

Our capacity to earn income is our best insurance for both our present and future. Disability insurances are not nearly adequate to provide any real financial safety.

THERE IS NO PRICE TAG ON HEALTH

The personal finance community is obsessed with net worth, savings, stocks, bonds, ETFs and mutual funds.

Health cannot be quantified or bought on the stock-exchange.

Health is priceless.

My health is my most precious asset, and I will strive to keep it that way for as long as possible.

Handling an at-fault car accident in BC

 

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Please note that I am not a lawyer, nor do I work for ICBC. This post is based on my own experience only. 

British-Columbia is one of 3 provinces in Canada that has an at-fault system when it comes to car accidents. In legalese, it is called tort.

It means the non-faulty party has the right to sue the at-fault driver for various damages related to the car accident, such as loss of wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering etc…

This is what happened to me when I was involved in a collision 4 years ago, for which I was found 100% responsible. Both the other driver and their passengers claimed injuries and sued me 2 years later in the BC Supreme Court.

IF YOU ARE SERVED, BRING THE DOCUMENTS TO ICBC

in BC, people have 2 years to sue. I was served a Notice of Civil Claim 6 weeks before the limitations were to expire. If it happens to you, do not panic. Bring the documents to any claim centre. ICBC will take it from there.

This is why you pay them for basic third-party liability insurance. the crown corporation will cover the legal costs and any damage assessed up to $ 200 000. If you pay for extended third-party liability insurance, your coverage will be greater, up to $ 5 millions if you wish.

do not contact the other driver 

No matter how upset or surprised you may be, there is no need to contact the other party.

ICBC will handle everything on your behalf. You will not be consulted on how to handle the lawsuit. Your appointed lawyer will also not take any direction from you in the matter.

This is why you pay for third-party liability insurance. Precisely so that you don’t have to do much….which brings me to the next point.

DUTY TO COOPERATE

The only thing you have to do is cooperate. Depending on the accident and the lawsuit, you may be required to meet with your appointed lawyer, ICBC or to attend the trial. Also, return any phone calls and reply to any e-mails sent to you.

Not cooperating could result in a breach of coverage, i.e. ICBC will no longer cover you and you will be on the hook for the entire cost of the claim.

For my case, I attended 2 meetings with my lawyer, an examination for discovery and replied to a bunch of e-mails from both my lawyer and ICBC. I never saw the other party again.

FINAL WORD

All lawsuits will settle, whether it is before or at trial. My appointed lawyer indicated around 95% of claims settle out of court. I was no exception. I did not have to pay for anything beside the deductible.

Being sued as a result of a car accident will not have a significant impact on your life, in most cases. I am not talking about injuries here, but about the lawsuit in itself.

The only time it could be problematic is if ICBC breaches your coverage for one reason or another, or if the damages exceed your third-party liability limits.

 

 

Can money buy happiness?

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Back in 2010, the University of Princeton published a study on how people making $ 75 000 per year were reportedly happier than those earning less than this amount.  A lot of media outlets and people immediately jumped to the conclusion that money buys happiness.

Well, I kind of disagree with this statement…no point in writing a post otherwise!

you can’t buy happiness at the supermarket

Happiness is not a tangible product. It is not something you can see or touch. There are lots of variables when it comes to happiness.

If you ask 10 people what their definition of happiness is, I bet you will receive 10 different answers.

Before haters jump all over me, let me tell you about my personal story a little bit.

I actually grew-up poor. My parents were considered as low-income class. They didn’t have any money besides to pay for their bills, and even that was difficult at times. My parents were also terrible with managing the little they had.

They had no long-term vision or planning skills. Saving was a foreign concept to them. Growing-up I certainly did not wear designer clothes or vacationed in exotic, far-away places, unlike some of my friends and classmates.

YES, the lack of money can be a source of stress…

So yes, the lack of money was stressful and bothersome in my family. But it is actually not what made me unhappy at times. For the most part, I would say I was happy growing-up. What actually made me unhappy had absolutely nothing to do with money.  I will stop there with my childhood memories. There are many things I do not wish to share online.

…but having money does not automatically equate happiness either

Fast forward a few decades later, I reached that $75K mark. I didn’t necessarily feel happier to a greater extent, although it sure was nice to be able to save for retirement, pay for my bills and vacation in exotic, far-away places.

Except that, for me to be fully happy, I needed something else. Something that has nothing to do with money, and that money actually cannot buy.

Recently, I decided to switch to part-time work. Working full-time was simply no longer sustainable for me. Doing so means a huge pay-cut and possible depletion of my savings. Guess what? I am happier now than when I was earning a full income.

attempting to define happiness

As mentioned above, everyone’s definition of happiness is different. I personally like the definition offered by Happiness International:

Happiness is when your life fulfills your needs“.

Money is not the only need we have; not all our needs require money either.

FINAL WORD

It is probably more accurate to say that money can contribute to happiness to a certain extent. The Princeton study that started this post also revealed that people earning more than $75 000 per year did not report increased levels of happiness…..

That time I decided to work part-time

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As I previously wrote, a few things have changed in my life recently.

I became consumer-debt free, decided to obtain an MBA and recently switched to part-time work.

BUT, WHY DID YOU DO THAT?!

You might ask. Well, studying for an MBA is not the same as studying for a certificate or a diploma. A lot more reading and researching is involved, and it is definitely more challenging.

But it is not the only reason.

i desperately needed better work-life balance 

Working full-time was sucking all my time and energy. For the last 2 years, I would leave my home at 7.00 am and would never be back before 5.00 pm, from Monday to Friday. I was constantly tired and had not much energy for anything else during the week.

I was only living for the week-ends and vacation. A lot of personal matters were put on the back burner and my health also suffered. This is simply no way to live. I started resenting my job.

Other issues within my workplace made me resent my job even more. I reached my breaking point in February.

I FINANCIALLY PLANNED FOR THE TRANSITION

Although I was at my breaking point, I decided not to hastily quit my job. Been there, done that!

While I was paying off my consumer-debt, I also saved money. It was equally important for me to also have some serious savings. My full-time income allowed me to do so.

It definitely took me more time to get rid of my debt, but I also built a nice cash cushion that could allow me to remain without any income whatsoever for several months.

If I made any type of income, I would be able to work part-time for about 18 months with said cash cushion.

If I had kept working full-time, said cash cushion would have paid for my MBA. But I switched to part-time, so it is a moot point.

i waited for the last car payment to go through

I wanted to become consumer-debt free with my income rather than dipping into my savings.

i refinanced my mortgage

Since I had decided I would work part-time, I had to figure-out the tuition payment. I did not qualify for student loans, but I actually didn’t want to take any. I also did not want to do a line of credit or another personal loan.

So, I refinanced my mortgage and slightly leveraged against the equity of my condo.

By doing so, I only have one monthly payment to take care of. A portion of said payment is also going right back to the equity in my condo.

Most importantly, I can afford to pay for my MBA and to work part-time for the next 2.5 years.

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I have been working part-time for a month now and am already reaping the benefits. I have more energy and feel  more positive. My health is improving as well.

 

That time I refinanced my mortgage

 

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Note: this is not a sponsored post, but if you need a mortgage broker, I recommend Alex McFadyen and his team at the Mortgage Pug

I recently refinanced my mortgage. Refinancing basically means paying-off a mortgage with a new one. There are several reasons why one might want to do so, including myself.

getting a lower interest-rate

Despite being in a rising rate environment, it is still possible to obtain a low rate, primarily on variable-interest mortgages. At the time of writing this post, rates for a 5-year variable mortgage were as low as 2.20%.

Obtaining a lower rate will save you thousands of dollars in the course of your mortgage. Do not let the mortgage penalty deter you. Do the math before deciding.

getting better terms

Mortgages can be complex products. The good news about this is that you can find a mortgage that will fit your personal needs.

My previous mortgage was not doing anything for me in terms of prepayment privileges.  I could only make one extra payment, once a year! Although I am in no hurry to burn my mortgage, I wanted more flexibility in terms of prepayment.

leveraging, a.k.a. borrowing against equity

The PF police will most likely be all over this, but leveraging is not necessarily a bad financial move, if done correctly and with caution. In my own situation, I called this”utilizing my assets to the best of their abilities”.

To borrow against equity, first you need at least 20% of equity in the property. An appraisal will be done to confirm the amount of equity. This is when things can get out of control, as a lot of people tend to borrow the maximum amount they are eligible for. This in turn results in a maxed-out HELOC or unmanageable mortgage payments.

Just like stocks in the stock-market, home-appreciation fluctuates. Sometimes, it will go up; and sometimes it will go down.

To minimize risk, I borrowed less than the amount I qualified for. The amount borrowed is also way less than what properties in my area currently sell for. I did not let the appraisal dazzle me.

I opted-out for a cash-out refinance instead of an HELOC. Why would I want to leverage, you may ask. I decided to obtain an MBA and will be using the money to pay for my tuition fees, as well as a top-up to my existing savings in order to work part-time for the next 2 years.

I will elaborate more on this in a couple of upcoming posts.

FINAL WORD

In order to determine whether refinancing your mortgage is the right option for you, you need to do the math and figure-out why you want to refinance. There are costs associated with doing this. As indicated above, you will need an appraisal and you will have to pay for a penalty. You will also need a lawyer or a notary.

Financial milestone: consumer-debt free!

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June 23rd, 2018 marked the day I officially became consumer-debt free.

I am not completely debt-free though. The only debt I have left is my mortgage. I am not too concerned about this one.

Being consumer-debt free feels pretty good so far, but it was not the big celebration I thought either.

I HAD BEEN UP AND DOWN THE DEBT ROLLER-COASTER

I started repaying my debt in late 2010. Back then, it was just a little over 20K, 12K being student loans. The rest was credit cards and line of credit debt.

At the same time, I was also building my emergency fund and modestly saving for retirement. I felt it was important to do so, given where I was in my life at the time.

Personal finances are just that…personal.

THEN CAME THE FIRST CONDO AND THE CAR

Fast forward to 2013, my debt level was steadily decreasing and my savings steadily increasing. My income was also good.

After careful considerations and calculations, I decided to become a homeowner.

The down-payment and closing costs put a serious dent in my savings, and because I moved to suburbia-where public transit was more limited- I bought a car, adding 16K to my overall debt.

But, I was able to handle all my obligations….thanks to my income and low interest rates.

THEN CAME THE SPECIAL ASSESSMENT

For those new to the blog, the first condo I bought was in a problematic building. Said building needed a lot of repairs and the corporation didn’t have any money to do them.

So, I found myself on the hook for another 6K of debt. I didn’t have enough savings back then. This happened 8 months after I bought the condo.

It was my lowest financial point. I felt like I would never get out of debt, never save enough money and would never able to do the things I wanted and live the life I had envisioned.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

In 2016, I decided to sell my first condo. Although some major repairs had been completed, the building still had issues and I didn’t see myself constantly paying for levies.

Thanks to an over-heated market, I sold at over-asking.

The proceeds of the sale allowed me to buy my second condo and pay-off my “consolidated consolidation-loan”. I felt more elated paying this sucker off, than paying my car off.

I realize it is probably due to my suffering from debt fatigue, after 7.5 years of continous consumer-debt repayment. It is also perhaps because I don’t have anything to show for that consolidation loan, except my Diploma.

LOOKING BACK AND FORWARD

With more perspective and a better grasp of personal finances, I certainly could have proceeded differently. That being written, it is a little too late to think about how things could have been. The past has come and gone.

I actually don’t regret what happened to me financially-speaking. I really learned and grew during these challenges.

I know I won’t make the same mistakes again with my money. I may make other ones, however.

 

 

Alternatives to big cable companies in BC

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Please note this is not a sponsored post.

Not so long ago, in the Lower Mainland – and I am sure it applies to the rest of BC as well-, people basically had 2 options when it came to cable, Internet and home phone services: Shaw and Telus. If we were very lucky, we could add Bell to that rooster.

I once lived in a building that was only serviced by Shaw. For many years, I alternated between the 2 above-mentioned providers and my bill kept increasing, despite skimming services to a bare minimum.

The good news is that there are now alternative providers, particularly in the Lower Mainland. These companies will save you moolah.

VMEDIA

VMedia has definitely become a serious player in the telecommunication landscape. The company has grown tremendously over the last 2 years, and now services most of Canada. All their services are delivered via Internet -including home phone-. No contract and unlimited Internet data.

There are a few start-up costs (modem, adapter & TV box), but it is worth the future savings. I recently switched to VMedia and divided my bill by 2. I will write a review in a separate post.

UNISERVE

This company also provides all services at a much lower cost than Telus or Shaw. No contract and unlimited Internet data as well. You will need an Apple TV box.

NOVUS

This company also offers TV, Internet and home phone but their geographical scope is not very extended.

They primarily service Downtown Vancouver and a few select buildings in the Lower Mainland.

COAST CABLE

Another company offering “the triple”. However, they are pricier than VMedia, Novus and Uniserve even with a 2-year agreement. If you don’t sign a contract, your bill won’t be much lower than with Telus or Shaw.

If you are not interested in having “the triple”, or watch TV with a Roku or other streaming box, check these companies:

LIGHTSPEED

This company offers Internet and Home phone services. Their home phone price is unbeatable.

ALTIMA TELECOM

Same as above. Their home phone price is pretty cheap too.

TEK SAVVY

Same as above but their home phone price is higher.

FINAL WORD

Home phones are more and more becoming a thing of the past. With the advent of streaming boxes and VOIP systems, the glory days of cable TV are over.

There are no valid reasons for us, customers, to keep paying an exorbitant price for these 2 services.

It doesn’t seem like any of the big cable companies has taken this into consideration. It may very well be their downfall.

That being said, Canada still remains one of the most expansive countries for telecommunication services….

When Financial literacy is not enough

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A lot is being written about Financial literacy. In its basic definition, Financial literacy is is the possession of the set of skills and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with all of their financial resources.

There has been a lot of lamentations over the fact Financial literacy is not taught at schools. Although things are starting to change on that front, and I totally agree with the importance of this subject, I believe Financial literacy alone is not enough.

Let me elaborate a bit.

YOU NEED SOME MONEY TO APPLY FINANCIAL LITERACY CONCEPTS

Yep, that’s brutal and cynical but it is the (hard) truth.

You initially don’t need money to learn about Financial literacy, but you do in order to implement what you learned. For example, debt repayment and investing are 2 pillars of Financial literacy.

If you don’t have any -or enough-money to pay off your debt or to start investing, you won’t go very far with your personal Financial plan. The money conundrum needs to be sorted out first.

YOU NEED TO ADDRESS YOUR PERSONAL BELIEFS ABOUT MONEY

So you think your Financial decisions all come from a rational, logical, cold place? Think again!

A lot of our decisions come from deeply-ingrained beliefs we all have about money….as well as other aspects of our lives and ourselves. Some beliefs can be very limiting and hold us back.

Behavioral Finance is a relatively new subject field that studies the psychology behind financial decision-making. We all can learn a lot from this. Some common beliefs around money can trigger overconfidence, avoidance or inertia.

If you want different results with your money, look at the belief system behind what you are doing and how you are feeling. This can work in other aspects of your life, by the way.

The first step is to identify the belief and accept it. Then you can figure-out how to change it, if it is a possibility.

CONSISTENCY IS KEY

In order to be successful, you need to consistently apply the Financial literacy principles you learned as well as addressing your beliefs in an equally consistent manner.

This is where most people fall off the wagon. It can take time to change deeply-ingrained beliefs. Relapses are to be expected. If money is lacking, you may think it is pointless to apply these principles. Please, don’t do this!

Consistency and perseverance is what will yield results.

final word

I look at Financial literacy as being one leg of the “Financial chair”. If you are missing the 3 other ones -money, beliefs and consistency-, the chair will be, at best, shaky.

Financial literacy is a good start. But it simply is not enough.