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Posted January 25, 2021
Canadian wallets have taken a wallop as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recently released Financial Literacy Month survey from the Financial Planners of Canada:
Although the country’s economic recovery is underway, many Canadians may feel uncertain about their employment prospects, especially as local coronavirus flare-ups disrupt business activity.
Planning ahead can offer some peace of mind during uncertain times. Here are 5 coronavirus relief programs every homeowner should be aware of: four government programs that can help make up for financial shortfalls arising from illness, childcare responsibilities or lost wages; plus one additional option – mortgage deferral – that’s worth thinking hard about with the help of a mortgage professional.
Who qualifies: Workers who logged a minimum of 120 insurable hours during the past 52 weeks, who lost their job through no fault of their own, or who left work temporarily due to maternity or parental leave, sickness, etc.
Approximate benefit amount: At least $500 per week, $300 per week for extended parental benefits
How to apply: Get more program details on the federal government’s Employment Insurance and Leave page.
Who qualifies: Workers who aren’t eligible for EI (including self-employed freelancers and gig-economy workers), who can’t work, or whose income has dropped by 50%, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This benefit replaces the Canada Emergency Recovery Benefit (CERB), which ended in late September.
Approximate benefit amount: $500 per week for up to 26 weeks
How to apply: Learn more about CRB on the federal government’s Canada Recovery Benefit page.
Who qualifies: Workers who are unable to work because they caught COVID-19; or who must self-isolate due to COVID-19-related reasons; or who must stay home due to another condition or medical treatment that makes them more susceptible to COVID-19.
Approximate benefit amount: $500 per week, with a two-week maximum
How to apply: Find out if you qualify for CRSB on the federal government’s Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit page.
Who qualifies: Workers who have to stop working or who must work less than 50% of the week due to caregiving a child/family member under age 12 whose school or daycare is closed due to COVID-19, or who is sick or required to quarantine for COVID-19-related medical reasons.
Approximate benefit amount: A maximum of $500 a week for up to 26 weeks per household
How to apply: Learn if you qualify for this income support program on the federal government’s Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit page.
TIP: Don’t forget that some COVID-relief benefits are considered taxable income.
Finally, let’s take a look at one non-government COVID-relief program that was in the news a lot this last year:
Who qualifies: Homeowners experiencing financial hardship can apply for up to six months of mortgage-payment deferrals from participating lenders. Deferred payments (including principal and interest) are added to your mortgage and repaid (by you) down the road. This means that you’re likely to end up paying more over time than if you had not sought a deferral.
One alternative worth considering is mortgage refinancing .
Refinancing at today’s lower interest rates may lower your monthly payments, with or without extending your amortization period.
If you’re also carrying high-interest consumer debt , refinancing allows you to pull equity from your home to pay it off. You’re trading high-interest “bad” debt for low-interest “good” debt and eliminating a couple monthly bills that may have been causing you financial stress.
A mortgage professional can help you determine what mortgage solution is best for your situation.
Approximate savings: Varies
How to apply: Visit the 8Twelve Mortgage site for more info or to reach a Mortgage Strategist who can offer personalized advice tailored to your circumstances.
If you have concerns about your financial health and wellness this November, research your options today – you’ll feel more secure knowing what help is available should you need it.
Posted January 18, 2021
Canadians have faced surprises and uncertainty in 2020, reinforcing the value of basic financial awareness and planning. Here are 5 things you need to know right now to get ahead in 2021.
FAST STAT: Canadian households owe $1.77 for every dollar of disposable income. (Source: Statistics Canada)
If the idea of tallying up your debt makes you want to bury your head in the sand, first, know that you’re not the first person to feel this way. Second, fight the urge and add it all up.
The most common forms of debt include mortgages, car loans, personal loans, lines of credit, credit cards , student loans and money owed to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Knowing how much you owe – and at what interest rates – allows you to prioritize debt reduction goals and strategies .
FAST STAT: The average Canadian household spent just over $86,000 on living expenses in 2017, the most recent year for which data was collected. (Source: Statistics Canada)
Subtracting your fixed and variable expenses from your income will help you determine whether or not your spending habits are sustainable and if they align with your short-, mid- and long-range goals. Check online for budget worksheets or download one to your smartphone to get started.
If you’re not doing this already, adjust your budget so you can allocate savings to a household emergency fund to cover you in the event of job loss, illness and other unforeseen circumstances. The FCAC recommends saving three to six months of income or of living expenses (whichever you prefer).
FAST FACT: 29.2% of mortgage holders increased their credit score in the first quarter of 2020. (Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation)
Strong credit benefits you in a number of ways. If you’re a homeowner (current or aspiring), it’s your ticket to the best mortgage rates . If you’re a tenant, it can make or break your rental application. As a consumer, it can impact whether or not you’ll be approved for a credit card , car loan or line of credit.
According to Equifax, one of Canada’s two primary credit reporting agencies: “credit scores from 660 to 724 are considered good; 725 to 759 are considered very good; and 760 and up are considered excellent.”
Monitor your credit score regularly to ensure you’re on track with your financial goals.
Back this up by ordering your credit report annually and checking to ensure all listed creditors are legit; this can alert you to potential identity theft.
FAST STAT: Canadian employment income fell by nearly 9% in the second quarter of 2020, but household disposable income grew by 11% as a result of government support programs. (Source: Statistics Canada)
As Canada experiences the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic , the government and many financial institutions continue to address financial concerns stemming from illness, reduced income and/or job loss.
Plan ahead by knowing what support you may be entitled to if your income is impacted by the pandemic:
FAST STAT: Canada regained 378,000 jobs in September 2020. Pandemic-related job losses are down to (a still-significant) 720,000 jobs compared to pre-pandemic February 2020. (Source: Statistics Canada)
The good news is that Canada is well on the road to economic recovery. But, as the country continues to respond to regional virus surges with actions including business restrictions, it’s good to plan for the unexpected.
This may include an honest assessment of your employment prospects: the restaurant, entertainment, hospitality and tourism sectors don’t look great right now, while tech, gaming, groceries and home decor all are booming.
Consider what skills could help you transfer to a new industry, or if now would be the time to get more training or education. Consider how you might fund more education – mortgage refinancing or a CHIP reverse mortgage are two options.
Could you build your income by taking on a side hustle like food or grocery delivery, starting an Etsy shop or starting your own business walking dogs or tutoring online?
A Plan B can provide peace of mind during uncertainty, but another side benefit is, it may just lead you to fulfilling new opportunities you hadn’t even considered.
Want to learn more about financial literacy? Visit the FCAC’s Financial Literacy Month site.