Oaken Update – August, 2018

A financial tune-up for fall

As we get ready to close up the cottage, clean off the barbeque and say farewell to summer for another year, now is also a good time to start thinking about personal finances. Many people let their finances coast during the summer months. There’s even that famous saying in investing: “Sell in May and go away”. So it’s good to get into the habit of using the fall as a reminder to revisit your financial situation, and to do a personal tune-up. Here are a few things to consider as we move into the home stretch of 2018:

Prepare for higher borrowing costs

Interest rates have started inching up after an unprecedented period of historic lows, and they look poised to continue climbing. You’ll see the effect of any increase immediately if you have a variable-rate mortgage or a personal line of credit, but even fixed-rate borrowers will ultimately feel the pinch when renewal time comes up. Keep an eye on your debt levels, and now more than ever, consolidate high-cost loans into a single low-interest payment.

Savings rates take time to rise

The good news about the increase in interest rates is that it usually signals better returns on deposits like GICs and high interest savings accounts. The bad news is that it can take some time for those returns to show up. Financial institutions don’t automatically raise savings rates just because the Bank of Canada rate has risen. They will also make their decisions based on competitive market pressures and their own financial needs.

Don’t believe the hype

This year has already seen major hype in two areas of investment: cryptocurrencies and marijuana stocks. And if you’ve been following the financial news, you’ll also know that a lot of investors in bitcoin have gotten badly burned in 2018. We don’t offer investment advice, but we can offer a little common-sense advice: be careful about chasing investment fads. It’s very easy to get caught up in short-term hype, especially in our ultra-fast media cycle. For most people, investing is for the long term.

Bonds and GICs provide stability

If you’re worried about volatility in the stock market, your best form of insurance is bonds and GICs. The returns on these investments may not be especially exciting, but fixed-income instruments deliver real peace of mind. This can be worth an awful lot when you’re depending on your investment portfolio for your income, especially with equity valuations having reached very high levels over the past year.

Take another look at your fees

The amount you pay for investment advice, portfolio management, trading, and commissions on mutual funds can add up over the years. Now might be a good time to look carefully at how much you’re paying in fees and investigate alternatives that might be cheaper.

Time to give your garden a tune-up, too

We’re sorry to be the ones who break the bad news, but…this sunshine and warm weather isn’t going to last forever. As we’ve already noted, fall is around the corner. And while we’re blessed with beautiful falls in Canada, the temperature is going to start dropping, and the daylight hours are going to get shorter. That means a lot of things, like sweaters, fall colours and pumpkin-spice everything.

It also means it’s time to get your garden ready for 2019—now. Essentially, what you do in your garden at this time of year will set you up for what lies ahead. That’s because failing to take care of some basic tasks in the fall will mean you’ll be paying dearly in the following spring. Here are the top five things to get cracking on now, so that next April is just a breeze:

1. Weed!

Weeding isn’t just a summer task. Even though weeds grow fastest during the summer, many of them lay their seeds down in the fall months. Keep at them into October and you’ll have a lot less weeding to do in 2019.

2. Don’t prune

When you prune, you’re priming a plant or bush for more growth. But that’s not the right thing for a plant to do during the winter, when it needs to conserve energy. In fact, it could be enough kill it. So let your plants sleep and then prune them in the spring, just when they’re ready to wake up.

3. Clean up the leftovers

Fruits and veggies should be eaten, but if they’re starting to rot in place, don’t leave them alone. Remove them, and don’t return them to the soil if they might already be infected. If you do leave them where they are, they’ll be feeding pests and diseases during the off-season, which will create big problems next year.

4. Plant your spring bulbs

Now’s the time to get those daffodils and tulips going! Plant your bulbs before the first hard frost, because they need a long period of cold to start the chemistry that lays down deep roots and causes them to bloom. 

5. Plant a cover crop

It’s not just professional farms that need to plant cover crops like buckwheat and clover. Your home garden can benefit from them too, and for the same reason, as they are excellent for restoring nutrients to the soil and suppressing weeds. You should plant these about a month before your first frost hits.

More apps, this time for the foodies

As part of our desire to let you know you some of the best digital apps around, we’ve scoured the web for a few based on a topic we can all relate to—food! Yes, like everything else, food has gone high tech. There are countless wonderful culinary apps available, but we think these four really take the cake (so to speak):

1. TastePlease is like a food version of Airbnb meets Facebook. Designed for both locals and travellers, it allows you to host a private dinner with strangers from around the corner or around the world. And if you don’t feel like being the chef, you can be a guest instead! It’s a great way to showcase your hospitality, or experience authentic food cooked by locals when you’re abroad. A must-have for the world traveller.

2. Calorie Mama is an amazing app that draws on Artificial Intelligence to help you understand what you’re eating, instantly. Simply snap a photo of what you’re about to eat (we all know about that on Instagram) and the app will provide you with the relevant nutritional information. It uses the growing number of uploaded photos in its database to identify food more and more accurately every day. Plus it includes recipes, meal plans and exercise routines to help burn those calories.

3. OLIO is an environmentalist’s dream. It connects people and businesses with one goal in mind: to share food instead of throwing it away. We’re not talking about wilted lettuce and mouldy carrots here. Think instead of spare home-grown vegetables, day-old bread, or groceries in your fridge when you’re about to leave on a trip. Take a photo, tap the app, and someone will show up at your door to take the food off your hands (and free your conscience).

4. Mixology is very much like one of those recipe websites that let you enter the ingredients you have on hand to find recipes that get you cooking right away, except it’s for drinks. Just enter the spirits you have at home, tap on the Mixers tab, and then tap Search. Voilà, a list of recipes that don’t require a trip to the liquor store. There’s information about the ingredients you’re using, descriptions of different glassware, and lists of things like bartending terminology. A great way to up your entertaining credentials.

The costs of closing a mortgage

The housing market in Canada has undergone significant change in the past few years. This is largely due to foreign-buyer taxes, new rules on mortgage affordability, and a small uptick in interest rates. These all affect prices, which are the real driver of any market. And it’s important to remember in this context that if you’re a buyer, price doesn’t consist entirely of what a seller is asking for their home, It also includes closing costs.

Mortgage lenders require buyers to show that they can manage all the costs associated with a home purchase, and not just the mortgage itself. Typically they require borrowers to set aside between two and four percent of the purchase price as a buffer. This amount includes costs incurred when making an offer, those that arise before the transaction is completed, and those that are due on closing.

We recently posted an article on our Oaken Blog which covers this topic, so you can read more about what’s involved by clicking here.

Reading corner

Ah, summer, we were just getting to know you! Squeeze the last bit of relaxation out of the season with these easy reads…


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